Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another YA surprise: The Underneath

The Underneath: My Reaction
It must be a good book. I've never finished a book before and been absolutely, compulsively driven to write a review. I am this time. But I hated the book.

The YA authors in my writing group agreed to each read one of the books nominated for the YA American Book Award. My choice/assignment was The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. I was completely excited: an award nominee about dogs and cats! Just my cup 'o tea.

Based on the following reviews, I guess I was expecting a beautiful, lyrical story about love for/between some animals. Thirty pages in, I felt slam-dunked.

"A mysterious and magical story; poetic yet loaded with suspense."-- Louis Sachar, Newbery Medal-winning author of Holes

"The Underneath is as enchanting as a hummingbird, as magical as the clouds." -- Cynthia Kadohata, Newbery Medal-winning author of Kira-Kira

"Rarely do I come across a book that makes me catch my breath, that reminds me why I wanted to be a writer -- to make of life something beautiful, something enduring. The Underneath is a book of ancient themes -- love and loss and betrayal and redemption -- woven together in language both timeless and spellbinding. A classic."-- Alison McGhee, author of the New York Times bestselling Someday

"Kathi Appelt's novel, The Underneath, reads like a ballad sung."-- Ashley Bryan, Hans Christian Anderson Award Nominee and Three-Time Coretta Scott King Award Medalist

All writers I respect. A lyrical story of redemption.

The writing is lyrical, alright. It's downright stunning prose, so much so that the only two comparisons I can make are Louise Erdrich and Toni Morrison. And the magic realism is comparable, too. It's a beautiful thing. It reads like a song.

But still, I hated it.

The song is so painful and so awful and so filled with despair, abuse, abandonment, death and revenge, that there's no room for redemption. I'm used to pain and sadness in stories. Conflict is what keeps us reading, right? But here, I had to keep setting the book down because it was too painful to go on.

Most of us are familiar with the phenomenon that watching animals suffer in a story or movie is worse than watching humans suffer. All too true in this novel. I felt as if my heart were wrenched out, flattened with a meat hammer and stuffed back into my chest cavity. Not once, not twice, but again and again and again. By the end of the book, my heart had no room to celebrate redemption. It only had room to lie there, flattenend but pulsing, relieved that the death and abuse and despair were over and that the three characters who had survived the course of the story could live in peace.

I remember, decades ago, seeing "The Fox and Hound" in the movie theater. When the hound falls off the bridge deep into the ravine to his certain death, I remember as a kid being acutely aware of the fact that in order to survive watching the story, I had to emotionally detach from the falling dog. I couldn't bear it. The dog survived, barely, but my heart had detached from pain too great to bear.
By the end of The Underneath, I had detached so many times, I had no attachment left.

The story is omniscient, but we have a third-person close view of nine different characters. Refreshingly, only one of them, is human. That's my favorite part of the story, besides the language.

The book crushed my heart. It must be a good book, if a week after I finished it, I am compelled to respond to it because of its emotional impact. But I still hate it.

Maybe it's not a story for obsessed animal lovers. It's just too painful. Maybe it's a great story if all creatures involved are metaphorical or just that--creatures. Maybe. This much I know: I sure don't ever want to read it again. I don't need that much pain.

I have another comment about the resolution of the story and even the magic realism being too much to swallow, and one physical conflict left completely unresolved, but there's no way to say anything about it without giving away the ending. If you want to hear it and have finished the book, please shoot me an email.

Monday, December 29, 2008

YA books, Twilight in particular

I finished Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I need to rant about it a bit.
It was spell-binding. I didn't want to put it down. I needed to see what would happen next, and I haven't started the second book yet. But I'm alarmed. has a faux-screeenplay spoofing the worst of the story. In it, the protagonist's father (faux characters) says:

So, the next generation of young women are currently flocking to see a female lead starring in a movie by a female director based on a bestselling book by a female author, and in this movie the main character wants to become completely submissive and self-sacrificing for a male.

What terrifies me about the Twilight craze, is that I've had college girls tell me, "I want to find my Edward!" Ohmygod. That's saying that if you find your one true love, that's all that ultimately matters, even if it means that you give up absolutely everything, even your very life and any hopes, dreams, aspirations, your family, for him.

Yeah, the story is compelling. Yeah, I love meeting this intriguing vampire family. Yeah, Edward is hot...errrr, no, cold is more apt, but sexy, okay. But it's not a story to die for.

Harry Potter, yeah. The power of love--not sensual, sexy love, but LOVE--for friends, for family, for the good of humanity--overcomes the love of power in Harry Potter. Here, in Twilight, the great love of your life is truly all that matters. I can't push it as a great book. Pulp for teens? Yup. Good romance, yup. Great literature? Nope.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Freya swims!

It's Christmas, and what a lovely day. Blue sky, bright sun, brilliant white snow.
I have to tell you about Freya's first foray into the water! We went swimming at the PAW, the indoor dog resort on Tuesday.
As you can see, Freya was a little terrified at first! She spent several minutes clinging to my thigh for literal dear life. Then finally, I coaxed her to go after a ball where she couldn't touch bottom. Just a suddenly as she realized she was swimming, she took to the idea. She chased the ball over and over, swam to it, grabbed it, returned it to me, put it in my hand, and nudged my leg to throw it again. She was in heaven. I guess instinct is even more powerful than I imagined. She's a true Newfoundland, a great swimmer, and I can see the saving waterdog nature clearly! We're going to have to spend a lot of time swimming, I can see that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

so much depends

so much depends

a black Newfie

covered with snow

beside the red

with apologies to William Carlos Williams, "so much depends"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chasing AllieCat

George and his assistant Erica have sent out Chasing AllieCat. The waiting begins anew, but it's okay. When there's movement, there's hope.
And there's always Freya.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Rode outside yesterday--only a bit of snow on the gravel road. It was invigorating. Good to be out.
Makes me consider once again doing the 24-hour race in June. I'm thinking about it.

Freya is 15 weeks old today. She weighs 48 pounds and she's a delightful furball who at this moment is sleeping with her nose on my feet.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


She's fourteen weeks old and that means she has gained 22 pounds since I got her. This morning, I heard a big thunk on the deck and ran to see what had fallen over. It was just Freya, flopping down on the deck. I'm afraid to be too hopeful, but I'm excited that Chasing AllieCat is going out to some publishers this week!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chasing AllieCat

So....George (my agent)'s assistant Erica likes Chasing AllieCat.
Thank goodness! They're putting together a submission letter to send Sadie and Allie and Joe out to publishers. I'm nervous, but so, so, so glad they liked the story! Whew.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chasing AllieCat

I finished revising Chasing AllieCat this weekend. I spent most of two full days on it, one of which was a full day revising the climactic nearly final scene of the book. I'm happy with it. I think I addressed all the concerns my agent, George Nicholson, and his assistant Erica had with it.

I know the ending of the book is strong now. Now I'm nervous to see what happens.
I wonder if I'll ever write something and have it be right on maybe the third time? I believe this was my 15th revision of Chasing AllieCat. Maybe I'm just slow....but I am hoping it's all worthwhile.

Freya: She weighs about 40 pounds now. She's sleeping under the table by my feet while I type. Her paws are as big as my palm (which isn't too small) and her legs are as big around as my wrists, and she is three months old today. She's gonna be a big dog!! And she's adorably sweet.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Freya is distracting me!

I did get some writing done this weekend. Amazing, because Freya can consume a lot of my attention. Who could resist? I mean, look at the little furball! She's too cute for words.
I hope I can think of some sort of story in which to use a Newfoundland dog. Maybe the story will just hatch itself as Freya's life unfolds...
Working on Slider's Son and Chasing rest for the wicked. I must be quite wicked. sigh.
I'd be fine if it weren't for grading papers!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

No more cast

My cast is off! Freya misses it, I think. She thought it was a chew-toy. My wrist is pretty weak, and my fingers are stiff like crazy, but now I can work to make them better. And I can type! I keep hitting colons 'cause my ringfinger on my right hand doesn't lift as high as it's supposed to, so when I hit the shift with my right pinky, the ring finger is naturally on the colon. :::

Freya is getting more and more adventurous. Scary when she romps around the shed and out of sight or in the general direction of the road, even though it's far away. I am a watchful dog mom.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Freya is here, in all her puppy-breath glory. She's so cute I can hardly stand it. She's unbelievable: a wookie, a bearcub, furball, all puppy. I'm not getting much done, and right now, I don't care!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My son Josh teaches high school in a very racist, still-mostly segregated county of North Carolina.

Josh called last night. One of his students woke Monday night to gunshots outside. He looked out the window to see a CROSS BURNING BURNING IN HIS YARD. As Josh said, "In 2008, Mom...and these are tough kids. And they're scared."

Race-related incidents have escalated lately in the area. Josh's theory is that it might be election-related, and the Southern white supremacists are terrified that a Black man might actually get into the White House.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Velo Press

The new editor at VP, the big cycling press in the country doesn't want to do Chasing AllieCat. They didn't even read a sample chapter! I'm not sure whether to bug them more or let it drop...or simmer....

Friday, September 26, 2008


I'm so glad it's Friday. No classes today. I'm working on Chasing AllieCat because my agent and his assistants and I agreed on some more edits before they shop it around to more publishers.

I also have a ton of school work to do.

I just heard from Holly and Charlotte in Nebraska, where I lived 26 years ago! Wow! What a treat.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Newfoundland puppy!

It's official. I'm adopting a Newfoundland puppy in early October. Check out her picture (scroll down to see "the girls" and you'll find (Purple) Freya).

Friday, September 12, 2008

President Palin????

Recovery and Poverty

So...I had surgery Tuesday, had a couple pins put in my hand to hold the broken bones in place while I heal. I can't deny it hurts. It feels like someone jammed a croquet wicket from my fingers to my elbow. But I still can't wait to get back on my bike. My friends have been spectacular.

And then there's this kind of information to put it all in perspective:

from Bill Quigley at TRUTHOUT:

We in the US who say we believe in social justice must challenge ourselves to look at the world through the eyes of those who have much less than us.
Why? Social justice, as defined by John Rawls, respects basic individual liberty and economic improvement. But social justice also insists that liberty, opportunity, income, wealth and the other social bases of self-respect are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution is to everyone's advantage and any inequalities are arranged so they are open to all.
Therefore, we must educate ourselves and others about how liberty, opportunity, income and wealth are actually distributed in our country and in our world. Examining the following can help us realize how much we have to learn about social justice.

1. How many deaths are there worldwide each year due to acts of terrorism?

Answer: The US State Department reported there were more than 22,000 deaths from terrorism last year. Over half of those killed or injured were Muslims. Source: Voice of America, May 2, 2008. "Terrorism Deaths Rose in 2007."

2. How many deaths are there worldwide each day due to poverty and malnutrition?

A: About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. - Hunger and World Poverty. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes - one child every five seconds. Bread for the World. Hunger Facts: International.

3. 1n 1965, CEOs in major companies made 24 times more than the average worker. In 1980, CEOs made 40 times more than the average worker. In 2007, CEOs earned how many times more than the average worker?

A: Today's average CEO from a Fortune 500 company makes 364 times an average worker's pay and over 70 times the pay of a four-star Army general. Executive Excess 2007, page 7, jointly published by Institute for Policy Studies and United for Fair Economy, August 29, 2007. The 1965 numbers from State of Working America 2004-2005, Economic Policy Institute.

4. In how many of the more than 3,000 cities and counties in the US can a full-time worker who earns the minimum wage afford to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment?

A: In no city or county in the entire USA can a full-time worker who earns minimum wage afford even a one-bedroom rental. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) urges renters not to pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. HUD also reports the fair market rent for each of the counties and cities in the US. Nationally, in order to rent a two-bedroom apartment, one full-time worker in 2008 must earn $17.32 per hour. In fact, 81 percent of renters live in cities where the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom rental is not even affordable with two minimum-wage jobs. Source: Out of Reach 2007-2008, April 7, 2008, National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

5. In 1968, the minimum wage was $1.65 per hour. How much would the minimum wage be today if it had kept pace with inflation since 1968?

A: Calculated in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, the 1968 minimum wage would have been $9.83 in 2007 dollars. Andrew Tobias, January 16, 2008. The federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008, and will be $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

6. True or false? People in the United States spend nearly twice as much on pet food as the US government spends on aid to help foreign countries.

A: True. The USA spends $43.4 billion on pet food annually. Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc. The USA spent $23.5 billion in official foreign aid in 2006. The US government gave the most of any country in the world in actual dollars. As a percentage of gross national income, the US came in second to last among OECD donor countries and ranked number 20 at 0.18 percent behind Sweden at 1.02 percent and other countries such as Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and others. This does not count private donations, which, if included, may move the US up as high as sixth. The Index of Global Philanthropy 2008, pages 15-19.

7. How many people in the world live on $2 a day or less?

A: The World Bank reported in August 2008 that 2.6 billion people consume less than $2 a day.

8. How many people in the world do not have electricity?

A: Worldwide, 1.6 billion people do not have electricity and 2.5 billion people use wood, charcoal or animal dung for cooking. United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008, pages 44-45.

9. People in the US consume 42 kilograms of meat per person per year. How much meat and grain do people in India and China eat?

A: People in the US lead the world in meat consumption at 42 kg per person per year, compared to 1.6 kg in India and 5.9 kg in China. People in the US consume five times the grain (wheat, rice, rye, barley, etc.) as people in India, three times as much as people in China, and twice as much as people in Europe. "THE BLAME GAME: Who is behind the world food price crisis," Oakland Institute, July 2008.

10. How many cars does China have for every 1,000 drivers? India? The US?

A: China has nine cars for every 1,000 drivers. India has 11 cars for every 1,000 drivers. The US has 1,114 cars for every 1,000 drivers. Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, "Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future" (2007).

11. How much grain is needed to fill an SUV tank with ethanol?

A: The grain needed to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a hungry person for a year. Lester Brown,, August 16, 2006.

12. According to The Wall Street Journal, the richest one percent of Americans earns what percent of the nation's adjusted gross income? Five percent? Ten percent? Fifteen percent? Twenty percent?

A: "According to the figures, the richest one percent reported 22 percent of the nation's total adjusted gross income in 2006. That is up from 21.2 percent a year earlier, and it is the highest in the 19 years that the IRS has kept strictly comparable figures. The 1988 level was 15.2 percent. Earlier IRS data show the last year the share of income belonging to the top one percent was at such a high level as it was in 2006 was in 1929, but changes in measuring income make a precise comparison difficult." Jesse Drucker, "Richest Americans See Their Income Share Grow," Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2008, page A3.

13. How many people does our government say are homeless in the US on any given day?
A: A total of 754,000 are homeless. About 338,000 homeless people are not in shelters (live on the streets, in cars or in abandoned buildings) and 415,000 are in shelters on any given night. The 2007 US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Annual Homeless Report to Congress, page iii and 23. The population of San Francisco is about 739,000.

14. What percentage of people in homeless shelters are children?

A: HUD reports nearly one in four people in homeless shelters are children 17 or younger. Page iv, the 2007 HUD Annual Homeless Report to Congress.

15. How many veterans are homeless on any given night?

A: Over 100,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. About 18 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans. Page 32, the 2007 HUD Homeless Report. This is about the same population as Green Bay, Wisconsin.

16. The military budget of the United States in 2008 is the largest in the world at $623 billion per year. How much larger is the US military budget than that of China, the second-largest in the world?

A: Ten times. China's military budget is $65 billion. The US military budget is nearly 10 times larger than the second leading military spender.

17. The US military budget is larger than how many of the countries of the rest of the world combined?

A: The US military budget of $623 billion is larger than the budgets of all the countries in the rest of the world put together. The total global military budget of the rest of the world is $500 billion. Russia's military budget is $50 billion, South Koreas is $21 billion, and Irons is $4.3 billion.

18. Over the 28-year history of the Berlin Wall, 287 people perished trying to cross it. How many people have died in the last four years trying to cross the border between Arizona and Mexico?

A: At least 1,268 people have died along the border of Arizona and Mexico since 2004. The Arizona Daily Star keeps track of the reported deaths along the state border, and it reports 214 died in 2004; 241 in 2005, 216 in 2006, 237 in 2007, and 116 as of July 31, 2008. These numbers do not include deaths along the California or Texas borders. The Border Patrol reported that 400 people died in fiscal 2206-2007, while 453 died in 2004-2005 and 494 died in 2004-2005. Source The Associated Press, November 8, 2007.

19. India is ranked second in the world in gun ownership with four guns per 100 people. China is third with third firearms per 100 people. Which country is first and how widespread is gun ownership?

A: The US is first in gun ownership worldwide with 90 guns for every 100 citizens. Laura MacInnis, "US most armed country with 90 guns per 100 people." Reuters, August 28, 2007.

20. What country leads the world in the incarceration of its citizens?

A: The US jails 751 inmates per 100,000 people, the highest rate in the world. Russia is second with 627 per 100,000. England's rate is 151, Germany's is 88 and Japan's is 63. The US has 2.3 million people behind bars, more than any country in the world. Adam Liptak, "Inmate Count in US Dwarfs Other Nations'" New York Times, April 23, 2008.

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at

Friday, September 5, 2008

yet another crash...

Remember how my life was imitating my fiction? Well, if you read Jake Riley, you may remember Lainey got a "boxer's fracture" when she punched Jake in the nose? Well guess what and who? And who'd a thunk you could get a boxer's fracture on a road bike? And who'd a thunk it would be this hard to type left-handed?

So last night I went down (I'm not even going to try to tell this story left-handed) and broke 2 bones in my right hand. Cannot hold a pen in any way that it reaches a paper unless my elbow is above my head. Maybe the real cast will be better than the way they have me splinted, but this will be challenging.

Am going to go buy a digital voice recorder so I can work. I think it took me ten minutes to type this, or nearly so. I'm fine. It could have been so much worse. And I am officially the poster child for bike helmets now.

Monday, September 1, 2008

New Puppy pictures below!

The kennel website has been updated, with newer pictures. I'm pretty sure I'm getting one of these baby girls now. OMG.

I also met a 5-month-old Newfie last night. he was hilarious and cuter than can be believed. I'm sunk.

I did make my goal of riding 1000 miles in August. Got 1017 by the end of yesterday. Yippee!
A nice 50-mile ride this a.m., too.
Next weekend: The Jesse James Century ride in Northfield. Very much looking forward to this because I am more than ready. Rode a century last weekend, and I wasn't even too tired.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


So I took the plunge and filled out an application for a Newfoundland puppy. If I get one, shell arrive the second weekend in October. OMG! Look how cute they are.

Back to schoolwork.

And I have to get a ride in today. It rained cats and dogs yesterday (but no puppy fell my way except online), so I didn't ride. I'm in withdrawal.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

School, riding...

So far, my students this semester ROCK!
I've had two really good classes--Children's Lit. and Composition, and both groups seem alive and engaged. My comp class had no trouble--each and every one of them--verbalizing something about which they are passionate. So Yippee for me.

Got done with the day and rode 39 miles. Then I went to Cub Foods in my cycling spandex! I'm sure that was a sight, but I didn't have a choice.
Now, dishes and get ready for tomorrow.

I'm still thinking, 24 Hour race. I'm still thinking I want a Newfandland puppy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

school, riding, and dogs

I miss my dogs. Snickers and TommyBean are ever present because they're NOT present at home. I miss them.

Rode 134 miles all total yesterday and today. A couple wonderful rides. I'm still thinking about the 24 hour race next June.

School starts TOMORROW. Wow. The summer was spectacular, but it still went too fast.
I'm almost ready, but I have more work to do.

Friday, August 15, 2008

setting goals...writing, riding...

I had a bad, discouraging conversation with my agent last week, and I've had a really hard time writing since then. Finally, today, working my butt off outside (mowing, trimming, pulling weeds) and indoors ( painted a room and shampooed carpets this week) rode a couple hundred miles this week (have ridden over 500 so far in August, yippee!)...I finally started thinking in sentences and images again. So I sat down and wrote tonight. It feels good. Maybe I needed a break, but I had to love the words again, instead of thinking of selling books.

That's what this is all about: loving making pictures with words and shaping them into stories.
It's not about selling books, or we'd all quit in the middle of it.

And I'm also considering next summer's 24 hour race again. I think it's time to do it again. I'm riding well and lots. I need to not lose my fitness, so maybe this is the time to gear up and train. Hmmmmm.....

Monday, August 11, 2008

Random stuff

I got a new computer for my bike. It's Aug. 11, and I've ridden 383 miles this month. Not too bad. I think I'll get 5000 in again this season, which is my best summer for a few years.

I'm a great aunt! My brother is a grandpa. Ethan William Fjelland came into the world on Thursday. I'm headed to Iowa to meet the little guy today.

Watched "The Constant Gardner" last night with Tom. It's very thought-provoking, and worth the time. It's also very disturbing. I recommend it, but only if you want to think.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

School looms ahead--and Children's Lit.

So, I dread the beginning of school all summer. But now that it's looming up a couple weeks away, and I started working on my brand-new class--Special Topics in Lit.: Children's Lit.--I actually felt a twinge of excitement to teach this fall. I'm pretty thrilled to teach this class, actually. If anybody out there is reading this blog, I'd LOVE to hear your favorite books from childhood, or from reading to your own kids. the class will cover everything from baby picture books to YA/crossover with adult, so I'm open to hearing about ANYTHING in that range.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

sunrise, summer, and contemplating AllieCat

Not much better than summer. I have treasured every blue, green, and golden day this year. Still, as summer ebbs away and school looms before me, I have to doesn't get much better than sunrise on Lake Superior. Had an interesting talk with my agent this morning. Makes me more than ever determined to get the AllieCat story out in the world.
I felt as if I'd been punched, beat up actually in a ring, left limp. So I stepped back, assessed the damage, and realized only a few vital organs had been involved, rode my bike sixty damn hard miles and know what I can change in my story from this conversation and what I'll insist on keeping until an editor actually buys the story.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back to the grindstone!

Back to work. Hopefully I 'll get some news on AllieCat this week. And check out my newly revised website!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Well, I rode TRAM (The Ride Across Minnesota for MS) this past week. I had a blast. In spite of being sick as a dog one day, I got in some of the best riding of my life. A few over a thousand of us raised over a million dollars for MS research and programs for people with MS.
The total ride was nearly 300 miles. Our best ride was Thursday--70 miles of hills and rain and our average speed was 18.5 mph. Exhilirating and so much fun!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tour de France

Anybody watching the Tour??? I don't have cable, so I only watch when I can. Today at Scheels, to get a small repair done on my front wheel, I got to see the end of the stage. Cavendish is an unbelievable sprinter! How exciting. Watch the Tour if you haven't yet. It's on Versus.
Watch that Team Columbia.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

TRAM link


North Dakota was amazing. Many stories. Found the real sheriff's grave, talked to his sister on the phone, talked to people who knew the murdered guy in the main thread of my story, saw places, got town ideas, so much so that I'm sorting more than writing, still.

Next week, I'm takin' a break and riding TRAM...theRideAcrossMinnesota to raise money for MS. I resisted going so I wouldn't miss a week of writing, but I am going to do it anyway. I'll take my notebook and print the pages I've got...and let myself off easy for five days. And come back like gangbusters. I hope.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

North Dakota

I'm off to North Dakota to do research on my new novel, Slider's Son. At least, that's the current working title.

I finished AllieCat, went through it for a 15th draft. I sent it to George, my agent, last night. Feels GOOD!

I'm excited for this trip. I'll report when I get back, or when I next have internet access!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In Memorium: Snickers Dog

In Memorium

This morning, I had to put the dear old SnickersBar dog to rest. I cannot begin to tell you what a big hole her absence leaves in the BeckyFarm kitchen though so many of you have lost dear pets, that you have a pretty good idea.
My eyes are so tired and bleary from crying that I can hardly see to write, but I needed to do this.

So I need to finish this dang final draft of AllieCat. After I finished cutting, I am combing through once more, attaching stray pieces and threads that might be dangling after all the dead darlings have been excised. Sooooo...of course yesterday, I reworked the scene where Allie's dog Siren gets killed...and here I am. Second time that my life is immitating my darn fiction in this rewrite. ENOUGH. I want to be done with this book and live no more in Allie's and Sadie's shoes!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Judy Blume

Last night, I went with Kirstin and Angie, my dear writing friends to hear Judy Blume at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul. I was glad I went, but I was disappointed in some thing.

My disappointments:

1. Judy Blume is 70, which is AWESOME. She's had a facelift, which is not. I mean, from our spot in the audience, she looked really good, and I mean REALLY good, but I thought, I THOUGHT everything she stood for in her stories and in her fight against censorship and in life was HONESTY. I think maybe I have a prudish side or something, but jeezuz, isn't a facelift sort of NOT HONEST? It's like cheating in my book. But I guess that makes me a huge hypocrite, because then I shouldn't color my hair. Same thing, right?So I guess I have to think about that some more. I was just disappointed, wanting to see this face that was a map of all the stories she'd thought out and all the characters' traumas that she had weathered. A face can be a beautiful signature of where we've been. I was sad that hers wasn't. On the other hand, she looks great and is taking tap-dancing lessons, so more power to her.

2. Kerri Miller was not at her best. I felt like she completely dropped the ball on some wonderful, funny things that Judy Blume said. I felt as if she had an agenda of questions and was afraid to deviate from them.

3. Kerri Miller seemed as if she didn't "get" so much of what Judy Blume said. For instance, JB said that a seven-yr-old could read Hello God, It's Me, Margaret, but wouldn't get it all emotionally because she wouldn't be "in that place" yet. Kerri said, "What place is that?" Duh! Wanting a training bra, wondering about God, starting to think about boys and wondering if she'd ever menstruate! I could have answered that and it's been a few decades since I read the damn book! I would venture a gues that Kerri has not read ANY of Judy Blume's books. I couldn't tell any familiarity with the stories from the conversation. (With Sherman Alexie, she had specific, funny, poignant bits of the story to refer to. With Judy Blume, she had NONE).

4. My take on the lack of energy between the two women is perhaps overreaction, but there was a time I was sitting there thinking, "there is absolutely no connection between these two. There is NO electric thought or feeling between them whatsoever." That was disappointing. With Sherman Alexie, it was fairly crackling. So My take is that Kerri Miller is a big flirt and when she can't flirt, and isn't attracted or even envious of a 70-yr. old woman, she has no energy to invest, and that pissed me off.

So, I needed to vent. Judy Blume is no less amazing than I expected, and no matter what her face looks like (who should be so cruel as to be disappointed that their idol looks great? What's wrong with me!?), she's still a genius and one of the most hones, amazing writers of all times. I'll read her forever, and I'm going to get "Summer Sisters" asap. She read an excerpt and wrote twenty drafts of it, so I'm all the more eager to read it!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Write what you know!

Write what you know! Right? I seem to be taking this idea to the extreme. I just edited a scene in AllieCat where Sadie crashes during her first mountain bike race. Then about four hours later, look at me! Not that I really needed to crash again to understand how it feels. The thing that hits me everytime I crash (I've lost count--but broken bones twice and stitches twice), once you've lost control, the ground rushes at you really fast!
Not broken bones this time. Just some missing skin on face, both elbows, my kneee, and my shoulder.
I feel very well qualified to write about crashes!
Posted by Rebecca (Becky) Fjelland Davis at 5:06 PM 0 comments

Monday, June 2, 2008

I'm back from a ten-day, whirlwind tour of Italy and Greece: We went to Rome, Florence, Pompeii, climbed Mt. Vesuvius (a still active volcano), Sorrento, and Brindisi in Italy. We took a ferry from Brindisi to Patros, Greece. We drove to Delphi, and on to Athens. It was overwhelming and exhausting, but absolutely amazing.
This is one of my favorite photos: a dog and bike on a balcony in Rome.
I'm home, and working on my novel AllieCat, in which biking and dogs feature prominently. So right now, I'm very partial to this Roman dog and bike.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Italy and Greece!

I'm leaving for Italy in five days. I can hardly wait--even knowing that I have to be in charge of 82 students/travelers. We do have 7 chaperones, thank goodness. Michelangelo, here I come. I'm going to cry when walk into the Sistine Chapel, I think.
Stay tuned for pictures!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Reading last night

South Central College had a reading at the Coffee Hag last night. HUGE success. Packed house, standing room only, and some really good stuff read. How rewarding is that. I read the first chapter of Jake Riley, becasue I hadn't read it to that student group before. It was fun.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Sunday, I rode the Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride. 100 miles. The first 83 were a blast. Even when it started to rain. We felt like we were flying along in the rain...and on rutty broken pavement...but then...

Snow. Then sleet. Then wind. My friend David and I just looked at each other and laughed. It was so miserable, we couldn't even begin to complain.

We did, however, check on each other periodically: "Can you feel your feet? Okay, good. It's not just me." "Are your hands numb? Is it shooting up your arms?" "My legs are like frozen tired pistons. They only have one speed and there's no way they're going faster." (That last was me; David probably could have gone faster. I couldn't).

Fun, let me tell you. But we survived!

Carol, David, Rachael, Loretta, Lisa, Steve, Danielle, Lee, and all the friends who also rode--we are ironpeople!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Funerals and Getting Over God

Marla's funeral was something. A real tribute to an amazing woman, rather than a weeping and wailing mourning service. I saw people I hadn't seen for 34 years, and had to introduce myself to lots of people.

Some of you know, I'm working on a memoir about my life as a Pastor's Wife. That chapter of my life ended twenty years ago; however, the effects of it linger...I don't feel as if there are any lasting negative effects, once I got over my guilt for leaving the life.

Now, I think the effects are simply that I think seriously about spiritual matters. I can't take them lightly, even though sometimes I'd like to. I read any essay by Julia Sweeney (thanks, Stever), and many of her struggles were exactly parallel to mine. Her final conclusion is that there can be no god. I guess I still struggle with reaching that final conclusion, but I'm thinking about it a lot. Maybe I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I'm heading to Iowa this afternoon. My cousin Marla died, and I need to be down there with my family. It's hard to believe. She died of cancer and has been sick a long time, but she was only two grades ahead of me in school. It's very strange.

I'm reading The Secret Life of Bees right now and I don't want to put it down. I should never start a good book when I'm this close to finals week and grading research papers! Ack! But I recommend the book. Great voice, great main characters. Complex emotions, and Sue Monk Kidd's prose is amazing. Beautiful.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Welcome to my blog.

I have always felt that these blog things were a bit self-involved, like gazing at one's own belly-button. I'm on a couple joint blogs, but haven't ventured into my own until now. I guess it's time to hop on the bandwagon and blog.

It's rainy and chilly tonight, but it's finally spring. Finally! I got 90-some miles in on my bike this week, so I can't complain too much. Ironman bike ride this Sunday. I'm registered for 100 miles.
And best of all: I wore flip-flops to school!

Italy countdown: I leave in three weeks and three days for Italy and Greece with 82 students (yes, I know I'm insane) and six other chaperones. I have to survive finals and research papers first.

Then, it will be summer, and I can work on my writing projects! More about those soon...