Posts Tagged ‘Open Hearts Big Dreams’

2018 dawns full of emotion and the messy glory of life

Mid-January, I was battling both rain and snow (which of course = ice) at Vermont College of Fine Arts and loving doing the picture book workshop at residency with ten students eager to learn about this quirky genre + Liz Garton Scanlon + Ashley Wolff showing us how life looks from the illustrator’s point of view. VCFA

As I always do, I had one of my own manuscripts open–a picture book I’ve been working on–and as I sat through lectures and readings about the amazing and complicated craft of writing, I was jotting down ideas and zingy snippets that came to me. Doodling and moodling.

On a break, I listened to a voice mail from the hospice nurse who had been stopping in to visit my mom for nearly a year. “Please call me,” it said. I texted my sisters and asked someone to give me a call. “Please call me,” one of my sisters texted back, a few hours later.

Oh, Mom.

She was always so ready to go for it. So hard to pin down and box in. Such a lover of words and books. Someone whose life was saved by reading and by being intellectually curious and open to learning more, more, more.

For her memorial, we are taking donations to print the first set of Ready Set Go books in the language of Dizi, heart language of Maji, where most of my sisters and I learned to read and put down roots in this life, where we acted out stories and fell in love with the earth and life and family with its messy glories, as one of my author friends put it.

dog 5

Dogs and chickens may run in front of you. The thief may take advantage of chaos. Life may slam you and knock your feet out from under you, but stories are something to cling to when everything else is shaking.

Or so it has been for us–my parents and siblings riding the rapids in the same boat.

camping

 

 

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Sorrow and what we do with it

Anna+was+HereIt was a super busy week–the ending of the semester for Vermont College of the Fine Arts students and faculty.  I don’t know where my brain was when I drew up the semester’s schedule.  Oh wait.  As I wrote to several of my students…it was on painkillers.  So when I got a box of the Advanced Reader Copies of my new novel, I didn’t even have time to open it.

About the only thing I let squeeze into the week was some phone conversations about the venue for the Seattle fundraiser for Ethiopia Reads, Open Hearts Big Dreams.

from CienIt started out as a fundraiser mostly to support the merkato school in Addis Ababa but has grown to be a fundraiser to support all of what Ethiopia Reads is doing.  SO important!  I loved having the conversations, too, and thinking about next Dec. 14.

But…now…

Eeeeeeeeeee.

A new book.  In some ways, this book began when we evacuated from our house in North Dakota because the Red River was sprouting through holes in the dikes.

neighborhood in floodIn some ways it began when we left Colorado and moved to North Dakota, taking our cat.  Or with the cat before that who was killed by a car, much to our sorrow.

Midnight H Cat

In some ways, it began when I was a kid in Ethiopia looking around and wondering…if God watches over sparrows and us, why do bad things happen to good kids?  Why do the girls in Maji mostly not go to school?  Why don’t some people have clean water to drink?  Why?  Why?  Why?

Off to Kololo 050

Sorrow.

What do we do with it?

Sometimes we volunteer.  Sometimes we suffer silently.  Or noisily.  Sometimes we pour all of our questions and our few puny answers into art.

Stories without words?

dancersI tell stories with words.

Words are the thing I moosh and goosh and smoosh around as potters smoosh clay…the things I shape and eventually–oh! I love that part–polish and smooth.

Words make us feel things.

Think things.

Words bubble in our blood and brains.

When I was in Seattle last weekend speaking at the Ethiopian Community Center about Open Hearts Big Dreams and Ethiopia Reads (www.ethiopiareads.org) I watched these dancers and thought about the ways we tell stories without words.

I thought that again when I got home and watched this book trailer about a book by a fellow VCMFA faculty member.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJeuXJqO-Lg&feature=youtu.be

young artistAnd as I got ready for the second Seattle event, an auction and dinner, with art donated by Stephanie Schlatter who creates opportunities for kids in Ethiopia to put color to paper for the first time.

In some ways, Stephanie is lucky.

When we work on book opportunities around the world, we have to think about what language the story is written in.   Someone may be able to look at the cover of one of my Lanie books and know it’s about a girl and plants and bugs and butterflies…but to feel much of anything, that person has to be able to decode black squiggles on a white page.

Or maybe a screen.

And unless those squiggles make a sound in that person’s brain…a sound that makes sense…even decoding is no good.

Reading starts in a deep down place where kids get a chance to notice shapes on paper and get to feel a jolt of communication even with someone who doesn’t speak the same language.

http://www.stephanieschlatterart.com/  Look at Stephanie’s page and see if that jolt doesn’t happen for you.

Seattle dancersHere’s hoping for lives full of telling

and dancing

and miming

and reading

and painting

and potting

and sharing

the stories of our special spots on this earth.

 

And here’s to teams in Seattle and Grand Rapids and Grand Forks and other places that are volunteering so much time to spread the ripples.