September 18, 2011

I haven’t seen very many monarchs this summer–no eggs or caterpillars or chrysalises. I’m not sure why–others have noticed the same thing.

I had a funny idea this week–funny only because it’s so obvious and took me so long to see it. Whenever I do a school or library visit that focusses on MONARCH AND MILKWEED, I take milkweed seeds and encourage the children (and adults) to plant milkweed for monarchs. It’s been a somewhat laborious and messy process: 1. let the milkweed pods dry and split open

2. take the seeds out

3. shake out as much of the fluff as possible (but there’s always some left)

4. put the seeds in little plastic bags, trying to guess the right number of seeds for individual children or for a classroom.

So–the other day I was picking milkweed pods, intending to gather the seeds for school children, and I LOOKED at what I held in my hand: a perfect container for milkweed seeds, nicely zipped up and probably just about the right number for a class of 25-30 kids to have ten or so seeds each. The pod itself is the perfect container!

So now, before they burst and send their seeds flying all around my neighborhood (I suspect my neighbors think I’ve sent enough milkweed seeds their way over the past ten or fifteen years)–I will put each pod in a plastic bag, left open so the pod can dry, but not exposed to wind, so the seeds will stay contained until I give it to a teacher or child.

And school custodians everywhere will thank me when they don’t have to vacuum up milkweed fluff in the wake of my visit.

Though I know I won’t be able to resist blowing just a few seeds out into the audience, always such a fun moment, when the kids scramble for the flying seeds as they parachute down.

August 9, 2011

This week I’ve been watching the olympics in the evenings, and going over the copyedited manuscript of SALT during the daytime hours. I’m glad to be a writer, rather than an athlete. We can take our time, and make our mistakes, without crowds of people watching us; there is teamwork involved (editors, book designers, and all the people who get our books into the hands of readers), and there are deadlines to meet; there is sometimes competition, but it’s different from athletic competition. I like the fact that the success of our work never comes down to how well we do in one specific moment. We can take weeks, months, even years, to think about something until it seems right.

This new book, SALT, is like that. I’ve been thinking about the story for over twenty years, trying to find a way to tell it in a way that children can understand and appreciate. Set in 1812, it explores a friendship between two 12-year-olds, a Miami (Native American) boy named Anikwa, and James, the son of a trader.

SALT: A story of Friendship in a Time of War, will be published next summer by Frances Foster Books/FSG/MacMillan. I’ll post the cover soon.

July 20, 2011

What a good month this is turning out to be.

I’ve just learned that I’ll be awarded the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, in the regional category, at an awards dinner and ceremony on October 29th. In addition to the award I’ll receive, there is an award to the library of my choice–what a wonderful way to celebrate libraries, books, authors, and readers!

We’ve just had another wonderful week of Miami daycamp. I learned some of the Myaamia language along with the children, who are delightful. This year, a highlight of the week was a bus trip to important Miami sites such as the Forks of the Wabash and Seven Pillars.

Not too many monarchs so far this summer. I’ve seen a few, but haven’t found any eggs on the milkweed.

June 14, 2011

The highlight of May was a two-week trip to Denmark! My grandfather came to America from Denmark in 1889, and I was able to meet his brother’s grandchildren, and see the places I have heard about for so many years.

I loved the light, and the colors of many of the buildings–warm yellows and oranges.

We saw the place where Danish fishermen smuggled Jewish Danes to Sweden during World War II, as Lois Lowry depicts in Number the Stars.

I met Bodil Bredsdorff, a Danish children’s author I love.

We visited the Hans Christian Andersen birthplace and museum.

We saw ancient stone circles and burial mounds, beautiful churches, wild and beautiful seacoasts, and carefully tended gardens.

Denmark is a beautiful country!

June 13, 2011

A baltimore oriole came to our backyard today. They seem to show up about once a year, often during the time the cherries are ripe. I suppose the birds can be forgiven for thinking the two cherry trees are giant birdfeeders. They always save a few for us.



May 10, 2011

First shoots of milkweed ready to welcome the monarchs.

Crabapple tree in full, beautiful, bloom.

A single purple flower I planted and forgot about popping out to surprise me.

Lilacs offering their “almost out” fragrance.

White Crown Sparrows at the feeders–probably migrating through, they’ve been here for about ten days.

DIAMOND WILLOW out in paperback today (published by Square Fish).

And: HIDDEN here at last, finding its readers.

Happy May 10th!

March 10, 2011

Allen County Public Library has done a very nice

10-minute interview about my writing process, how I work with editors, etc. At the end, I read the first few pages of HIDDEN.

They hope this will be the first in a series of author interviews that they can have in the library and put online.

March 1, 2011

A bluebird–a pair of them, in fact–has been visiting our back yard this past week or so. I’ve been putting out food they like, and a birdbath, and a bluebird house. Unfortunately the sparrows think the bluebird house is a sparrow house, and they are territorial, so I don’t have high hopes for the bluebirds to nest in our birdhouse. But maybe they’ll keep coming here for food.

I saw a downy woodpecker yesterday too–a female, no red on her head. Such a sweet little bird, very bright black and white.

January 19, 2011

Very exciting news! Ivy Tech Community College is sponsoring a Community Reads event based on Keesha’s House which includes scholarships up to $1000 for creative responses to Keesha’s House.

On March 31, Lisa Tsetse and Ketu Oladuwa will join me in presenting an arts workshop at Ivy Tech from 2-4 pm, followed by a reading and discussion from 7-9 that evening.

For more information, go to the Ivy Tech website: Community Read–Keesha’s House

December 20, 2010

A poem I wrote recently–

Where Grass is Pressed

When you’ve heard a door
creaking shut
and the wind is dying down
and the road is longer
than it should be, longer
than you thought it would be
and no one can tell you
how much farther on
the window in the welcome place
will be
look for a circle
where grass is pressed
into the ground, where it hasn’t
sprung back up yet–look
for the places where the animals
have slept. Rest is recent,
rest is possible again.
Close your eyes and nestle
into sleep, into love.

Helen Frost