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1.  So, I’m a month into the semester and loving it. I have students from Indonesia, China, Puerto Rico, rural Alaska, and the Dominican Republic. They are my teachers as much or more as I am theirs.

2.  I won’t be running the Equinox Marathon next weekend because of a slow-to-heal calf injury, but I did run three marathons in the past twelve months so I’m not too disappointed. Still, on race day I’m sure I’ll be missing it. It’s my all time favorite race and I’ve run it eight times.

3.  Fall is in full swing up here. The birches and aspens are a blaze of yellow, and strings of Sandhill Cranes are heading south interspersed with V’s of Canada Geese. And with the increased security on the borders I’m not sure what will happen. I mean, the geese will have no problem getting into Canada, but when they try to cross back into the states…could be trouble.

Goose in Police Car

"I've never needed a passport before on this flyway."

The garden is halfway harvested but there are still lots of potatoes to dig and carrots to pull.

And the cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse—we just eat them right off the vine.

And my writing….I’m hoping to dig into my WIP soon.

That’s what’s going on with me. What’s happening in your life, friends?

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The blog has been a little quiet lately but that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting around doing nothing.

1.  I had a wonderful two week visit with my family, one of the highlights being a trip to Grand Haven, Michigan to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. Yes, I took a dip in Lake Michigan.

2.  I ran the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Indiana in high humidity and 80 degree plus heat. I’m glad I crossed the finish line before they called the race due to hazardous heat conditions.

3.  While I was in the Midwest, I received some good news: My middle grade novel has been chosen as a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s Annual Contest. Winners will be announced in August at their annual conference.

4.  I accepted a job for the fall semester. I will be teaching English to the ELL (English Language Learners) students at West Valley High School.  It is a ¾ time teaching position and just for the fall semester, kind of perfect for me in terms of keeping my writing going.

5.  I’m going hiking in the Italian Alps in late July/early August.

6.  And, am I working on a new book? You bet I am!!

Interesting. Is that public information?

That’s all the news that fit to tell. What have you been up to lately?

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Who I Am

 Okay, I stole this idea from ali cross. She did this super-cool post for the benefit of her new followers. So, here are a few snippets—in no particular order—about who I am.

I’ve got a B.A. in English and Psychology from Indiana University and a K-8 Teaching Credential from the University of Alaska Southeast.

I was the Lead Teacher in a Therapeutic Day Treatment School in Fairbanks, Alaska. I worked there for fifteen years teaching and counseling junior high and high school students who’d been removed from the mainstream for various reasons: violence, drug use, defiance, depression…the list goes on.

I’ve been happily married for 14 years. Yes, I sometimes talk about my wife on this blog. She’s a teacher and a writer too. We exchange manuscripts and we still like each other. She’s my best friend.

A few other jobs I have held: salmon cannery fish-slimer, wilderness guide for teens, field biology technician, naturalist/outdoor educator.

I participated in a ten-day deep-ecology meditation retreat on an uninhabited island in Southeast Alaska. It was a mind blowing experience—that topic deserves a post of its own.

Places I lived before settling in Alaska: Pennsylvania, Indiana, Massachusetts, Idaho, California.

I write young adult and middle grade fiction. I hope my stories will speak to people across ages and gender; however, I often write with the struggling and reluctant reader population in mind. As a teacher I love opening the world of reading to non-readers by connecting them with books that speak to them. My personal sun shines a little brighter whenever this happens because that means they’ve just found a way to get to know themselves and the world in a new way.

A few more things: I love sea kayaking, and all kinds of wilderness travel, running, movies, good books, walking in big cities, and cooking for friends.

So, yeah, that’s a little of who I am. Thanks for stopping by today.

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Heather Ayris Burnell, author of  the recently released picture book Bedtime Monster, (Raven Tree Press), was kind enough to interview me on her blog, Frolicking Through Cyberspace. If you’d like to read the interview, here’s the link: Interview

Thanks, Heather.

And, I couldn’t resist showing off the cover of Bedtime Monster and a short summary:

A little boy doesn’t want to go to bed. He whines. He cries. He throws a tantrum. He begins to grow long claws and a tail. What? A tail? It’s true! This little boy is not only acting like a monster, he turns into one! He growls a scary growl. He grows a tail. But, his parents know what to do. They calmly cuddle, rock, and sing to him. Here is a monster you might actually want to snuggle with as bedtime draws near.

Thanks for stopping by.

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I came at writing slowly.

As a kid I spent most of my free time playing or watching TV. I liked to read but not in an obsessive way. And I didn’t write unless I had to for school.

My senior year of high school I had an English teacher who really knew how to bring books to life through discussion, and I discovered that I liked thinking deeply about books.

In college I started keeping a journal, but only wrote in it sporadically about girls I liked but was too shy to ask out, or about what life is all about, or about how I needed to get off my butt and do something, anything.

Sophomore year I decided to major in English because I had to major in something and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life besides go camping and backpacking.

My last two years of college I wrote lots of old-style rhyming poetry, modeling the poets I was reading, and had two poems published in a student literary journal.

When I moved to Alaska a few years later and was living in a cabin outside of town, I wrote some really bad short stories about a guy living in a cabin where not much of anything is happening.

Yeah, writing what you know doesn't always work out.

Fast forward a few years: I’m teaching English in an alternative school and I discover Young Adult Literature. I start bringing home books by the arm-load, searching for a few my reluctant and struggling readers will connect with, and I fall in love with the genre.

Now that I’ve got my students reading, I’m looking for ways to turn my students on to writing so we start writing scenes using characters from the novels we are reading.

My students like doing the assignments, but I love doing the assignments.

I’m not sure I would’ve started writing YA if it weren’t for my students. Now, I’m hooked.

How did you come to be a writer? Did you love writing from an early age or did you discover it in a more roundabout way?

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Yeah, that's me at two. Love those PJs with the feet!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that I like to spend time in remote places, living close to the elements. The year following my college graduation I spent more nights sleeping in a tent than I did indoors.

But as a kid, besides sleeping out in a friend’s back yard a few times, I never went camping. The summer before my senior year of high school my older brother, Carl said he was going to ride his bike up the coast of Lake Michigan and camp out for a few days.

I was deep into summer basketball workouts, but reluctantly decided to invite myself along on Carl’s trip, not because I wanted to go camping, but because I didn’t want him to go alone. At least that’s how I remember it. Carl is just 21 months older than me and played a huge role in my life as a kid.

Our supplies: one sleeping bag, one blanket, a cast iron frying pan, and a plastic table cloth.

Our plan: one of us uses the bag to sleep, the other the blanket, and if it rains we’ll drape the plastic table cloth over a picnic table and sleep under it. We were brilliant.

Pretty Cozy Accommodations

We pedaled about 70 miles up the coast and set up shop just outside of Covert, MI.

For three nights we slept next to a campfire under the stars in the sand dunes. I had the sleeping bag, Carl the blanket. Yeah, turns out we’d brought that table cloth for nothing!

I almost didn’t go on the trip. And if it’d rained the whole time it would’ve been a completely different experience, but that trip touched me in a way I’d never been touched. Fast forward three years later—I spent the whole summer in a tent in Alaska.

My first home in Alaska, 1984.

What are your early influences? Is there a person or a place or an experience that awakened a part of you that you didn’t know existed? And, have you ever slept under a picnic table? I haven’t, but I came pretty close.

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I’ve been at my parents’ house in South Bend, Indiana for twelve days now, sleeping in the room I slept in when I was growing up. One more night and then I’m heading home to Fairbanks, Alaska. If you’re curious how I ended up in Alaska, I’ve written about it here.

I visit for long stretches because Alaska is so far away from Indiana. And the older my parents get, the farther away it feels. (My dad just turned 83 a few days ago.)

I try to visit three times a year for ten or twelve days. When I visit, we usually go to Lake Michigan at least once—a place I visited often when I was growing up.

Last summer I took my parents up to Pentwater, Michigan for a couple nights.

Last fall we spent the day in St. Joe, Michigan and I ended up with a new friend.

This winter we didn’t get up to the Lake, but this was what it looked like last February when we did.

I try to balance my writing with visiting, writing early in the morning or late at night, but inevitably, the writing falls off. I start off strong, then I hit a few fragmented days where I get nothing done. Then I get back into it, but the writing often feels clunky. That’s the way this blog post feels.

A couple years ago I was writing the first draft of a novel set in the mid-west and wrote sixty pages while I was here. That was cool.

But rewrites, like the one I’m working on now, are more difficult because I’ve got lots of notes, or I want to print out some pages and can’t, or I suddenly have to research something.

While I’m here, I accomplish what I can during the down time. A big thanks to Jill Kemerer, Jody Hedlund, and Natalie Bahm for keeping me on my writing toes via twitter these past twelve days. A few encouraging tweets went a long way. I rewrote five chapters. I was hoping for ten, but as Kim Stanley Robinson wrote: “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

What about you? Where did you grow up and where do you live now? And, how does your writing routine change when you are away from home?

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