September 4, 2009

We had a wonderful conference in Fort Wayne last weekend about “Community-Based Language Revival.” So many of the languages that were once spoken on the land we now call America are no longer spoken by very many people. The speakers at the conference acknowledged the deep sadness of this, while challenging the notion that the death of such languages is inevitable.

We had speakers from Canada, Ohio, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Indiana.

A few notes:

Daryl Baldwin told us about the Myaamia Project at Miami University, and about “family immersion” as a way of bringing back a language that has been called extinct. He and his family speak Miami in their home, and his children have grown up knowing how to converse in Miami.

“Language” is not a noun in all languages.

“I want to demonstrate a strength of purpose when I use this language I was given.”

Donald Perrot, one of 6 fluent speakers of Potawatomi, out of 34,000 tribal members–he spoke the language exclusively until he was 6 years old; he’s 70 now.

Other speakers: Chad Thompson, Gretta Yoder Owen, Scott Shoemaker, and Paul Stone. (I wish I’d taken more and better notes, as I don’t want to mis-quote anyone, so I’m not being specific about what each speaker said. (I also spoke about the use of English and Dinak’i in Telida, Alaska, 1981-1884.)

July 28, 2009

I was asked to write a short piece of advice for someone who is writing, or wants to try writing, a verse-novel. I thought I’d share my response here:

I usually call my books novels-in-poems rather than verse-novels.

It’s important to learn the craft of poetry, and become adept at using all the tools in the poetry toolbox.

I love the music of language, the intricacies of the way sound patterns and patterns of meaning intersect and weave together, the way language brings it’s own history into a story so that the story becomes multi-layered–the story of the narrative and the story of how the narrative takes shape within language.

It’s not easy, but if it’s done well, the effort can–in the most glorious moments of writing and reading–become unfelt and invisible. That happens when you go so deeply into the story-poem that language is doing all the heavy lifting. Language can do that for you because it has evolved through eons of specificity. Our job is to trust it.

January 18, 2009

We’re having an unusually cold winter in northeast Indiana this year. Just before Christmas, we had an ice-storm that left about 80,000 homes without power for 4 or 5 days, and now we’re having sub-zero temperatures, so everyone is scrambling to keep pipes from freezing, or to thaw them out once they have frozen.

It makes me remember my years in Alaska, when this kind of weather was the norm for five or six months each winter. In Fairbanks, the schools had indoor recess if the temperature was colder than 20 below zero, but when it was warmer than that, everyone just bundled up in snow-suits and Sorel boots and fur hats and went outside to play.

In Telida, the small community where I lived and taught school for three years, we didn’t worry about freezing pipes because we didn’t have running water in our homes. We didn’t have electricity, so power outages were not a problem. But we did have to be sure to keep a good woodpile, a mix of spruce to get a fire going, and birch to keep it burning hot. When the temperature was 40-60 below, I’d get up several times each night to stoke the fire, and still my water bucket would be frozen in the morning.

I’m a little nostalgic for the coziness of those winter nights, the northern lights sweeping the sky, moose tracks in the deep snow, and everyone helping each other get through the winter.

November 25, 2008

I’m remembering my mother, Jean Timmons Frost, who lived from March 30, 1917 to November 16, 2008. She raised ten children and had 24 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, most of whom gathered in Los Alamos, New Mexico last weekend to honor and appreciate her.

Think of the time-span of her life. She recalled the first time she saw an airplane–at a demonstration by the Wright brothers in Minneapolis when she was a child. She was born before women could vote, and lived through WWI, the depression, and most of WWII before she began the 40 years of her life that would be primarily, but never exclusively, devoted to her children.

She and my father had a loving, fun, supportive marriage, and I feel exceptionally lucky to be a part of the family they brought into the world.

October 29, 2008

And now I can show you the final jacket art for Crossing Stones. Isn’t it beautiful? The story takes place in 1917, in rural Michigan. The book will be out next fall, Frances Foster Books, FSG.

 

 

October 3, 2008

My next book, Crossing Stones, is beginning to seem real. The initial sketch of a possible jacket design gives a sense of the time (1917) and the form (water flowing over stones).

September 28, 2008

Crock Pot Apple Butter

“Marlene’s recipe” from Diane Schmucker

Core and slice apples.
Heap in crock pot.

Add:

  • 2-2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves

Put lid on crock pot.

Cook on low for 12 hours.

Take lid off crock pot.

Cook on high for 2 hours.

Remove from crock pot and put in blender.

Store in freezer.

September 17, 2008

Where did summer go?

The bluejay family entertained us for weeks, and is not so much in evidence now.

Our pear tree had it’s most prolific year yet.

Crossing Stones has been copyedited, and I’ve seen the sketches for the cover design, by Richard Tuschman–just beautiful! It makes the book seem so real. It will be out in about a year.

And this weekend is the Johnny Appleseed Festival here in Fort Wayne, one of my favorite weekends of the year–old-time music, food cooked over wood fires, great craft booths, fresh apple cider, warm caramel corn, and a crowd that always seems both large and intimate.

 

June 22, 2008

We were in Scotland for two weeks, mostly on the Isle of Barra. I was able to renew old friendships and share the places I love with Chad, as well as discovering new places and meeting new people. Especially delightful were the young people we met in Castlebay School.

I noticed much more Gaelic being spoken than I remember from my last visit, four years ago. I didn’t learn much myself, but I think if I spent a year or so there, I could learn it.

Since we’ve been home, we’ve been picking cherries from our two trees. The birds got more than we did–it was fun to see the birds, and this evening I saw a family of fledgling blue jays on the branches as I was picking.

 

February 21, 2008

Something that made me really happy this month:

the announcement of the 2009 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for Diamond Willow. There were so many great books of poetry for children published in 2008; the knowledge that this particular committee read all of them and selected my book fills me with gratitude. And I always find that deep gratitude is a firm standing place from which to launch new work. So, thank you, to:

* Lee Bennett Hopkins

* this year’s committee

* the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.

Congratulations to Margarita Engle and Patricia McKissack whose books are also honored.