On The Trail 
Spent a day out on the Free Emigrant Road, and it was awesome! I went with Del Spencer, a man who has been studying this trail for 35 years. He is a library of information and stories, and I'm glad I remembered my tape recorder. We traveled 20 miles east of Oakridge, OR to Rigdon Meadows, the place where the Lost Wagon Train was camped when the rescuers reached them. Then we took off on an unimproved road to another part of the trail, The Chute, where the wagons had to carefuly negotiate a steep hill. Listening to Del, I could actually picture the long line of wagons slowly making their way through the mountains.

It was a great day, and it has inspired me to explore the story through writing. Currently, I am experimenting with different voices with which to tell this story. The jury is still out.

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Sitting, NOT! 
The revised A.C. Gilbert book is finished, so I'm sharing it with a few trusted people to get some constructive feedback before I move forward by sending it out to publishers. I like to let it sit a few weeks before looking at it with "fresh" eyes. The manuscript is sitting, but I'm not. I'm sending out queries for the wolf book, and I'm researching the Lost Wagon Train story. Next week I'll visit the trail the train used in 1853. Looking forward to it.

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Okay, so I spent most of this morning working on three paragraphs. That's the way it goes sometimes. The paragraphs had already been written; I was just trying to improve them. Take out a word here, add a word there. Slow going, but well worth the hours. This is a picture book, so each word is important. The shorter the book, the less room for error. That's why I think picture books are the hardest of all books to write. In any event, progress is being made.

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Back In The Saddle 
Okay, I'm at it, getting to my writing. I'm working on a piece I did a few years back. It's a picture book bio of A.C. Gilbert, a very interesting character who was a magician, Olympic champion, and the most famous toymaker of his time (remember the Erector Set?). Anyway, I have tried to find this manuscript a home for quite awhile, but to no avail. So, I am taking the feedback I got from editors and rewriting with their feedback in mind. It's great to get actual comments from editors regarding your manuscript. Usually it's a form letter, "Sorry, but this is not not write for our list. We wish you the best, blahblahblah." So, when you get real-life feedback, it means they must have thought there was some value there. The challenge, then, is to try to redo it blending what you think is important with what the editors think is important. We'll see what happens. It's good to be back in a working rhythm.

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Delayed Start 
Okay, so I'm really going to write on a schedule this summer, but I'm currently teaching a class on...guess what?...yep, nonfiction writing so that's been taking my entire focus. That's what happens with writers: other priorities rise to the surface. The challenge is to keep writing - even a little bit - every day, no matter what. And I have been able to do that, however minimally. The good news - no, the great news is that the class I am teaching is well worth the time away from my writing. I am working with eager, interested professionals, and I am fortunate to be able to facilitate this community of learners.

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Memorial Day / Summer Writing Plan 
It's a cool and cloudy Memorial Day here in Eugene, Oregon. This is the perfect weather to remember the thousands who have had their lives taken while serving our country, and to redouble our resolve to elect a leader who will remove our troops from the senseless war in which we are now involved.

I just returned from attending my son's graduation from San Diego State University, and I am a bit road weary, but I'm doing some writing planning for the summer months. With so many different ideas and projects started, it is very important for me to make priorities and focus my attention. However, this is easier said than done!

My plan for the summer has three components: writing, revising, and marketing. Writing involves the creation of new manuscripts. My priority for this summer is to create a book about the Lost Wagon Train, a group of pioneers who became lost in the Cascades on their way west in the mid 1800s. I have some great resources for information, including the great-granddaughter of one of the members of the party.

Revising involves finishing up manuscripts that I have begun. My plan is to focus on the picture book about A.C. Gilbert, the famous toymaker.

Marketing is about finding homes for the works I have already completed. There are many manuscripts in my files that need to be marketed. I think I will find five of the best (the wolf book will be one of them!) and start sending them out to publishers. I also have to find more sponsors for the Duniway book so that we can get it into as many classrooms in the county as possible.

It is important for me to block out time each day to do this work. I work best in the mornings so I'll work from 8-12, and I'll do this a minimum of five days a week.

Okay, so I have my plan. Now all I have to do is follow it. I'll be off for summer in a couple of weeks, so I'll be starting then. Here's to a fruitful summer of writing!


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A Healthy Pause 
After a short but needed break, it's time to reflect on Not Fair! The Story of Abigail Scott Duniway, my latest project. My first thought is that I had no idea how much time and effort this project would take. In a few of my earlier books, I was responsible for getting the pictures as well as the permissions, and I was amazed at how much energy that took. But doing the whole thing - illustration ideas, deciding on the layout, font type, what exactly would go on each page - well, this was a first. It has made me very appreciative of the work publishers do.

I just reread the book for the four hundreth (or so) time. I was a bit anxious about reading it after it was printed. What if I found a big error? What if I found something that, although not a mistake, I would like to change. I am pleased to announce that neither happened.
That doesn't mean that, in the future, I won't look again and find something to change. But for now, I'm good with it.

Writers do not work in a vacuum. It takes help to create a finished product. I am grateful for the help I got: people who read the text and provided useful feedback, an artist who was open to suggestions and willing to keep drawing until she got it right, a pre-press guy at the printers who made innumerable changes until I was satisifed. I could have done it without help, but the book would not have been as good.

I regret that a national publisher did not decide to add this book to its list, which would have made it available to many more readers. However, I'm glad I was willing to take on this project myself and at least make the story of this amazing woman available to some kids. Some is better than none. Much better...

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Okay, the Duniway book is finally done. Hurrah! I stopped by the printer yesterday and watched a very exacting young man load the signatures (two pages, front and back) into a machine that uses suction to pull the sigs up, put them in order, add the cover, staple, fold, then trim the finished books. Very clever machine, and quite fast. The operator not only loads the paper, but he also makes sure the machine is doing its job properly, then he picks up the finished books and places them into boxes.

As I watched the books spew out from the machine I couldn't help thinking about the journey that producing this book has been. It's taken longer, and been a lot more work than I had anticipated. Mostly, when I saw the finished books, a sense of relief descended on me. I'll need a bit of time to reflect on the journey, but I'll report on that next. Until then...

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Press Check, Pt. 2 
Went to the printers on Friday to do a press check. Basically, what happens is the printer runs a large sheet (which contains 8 pages) through the press and then you look at it to make sure all appears well. They do this to make sure they don't print 2000 copies and then you say, "Gee, I don't like the color." So, they have you sign the sheet, which is an approval of the text and color.

The printer runs all the paper through, then turns over the sheets and runs the other side. Each sheet of paper, therefore, will contain 16 pages of the book. They'll add another sheet and do the same thing, which will end up with the 32 pages the book contains.

This week I'll go back to see the sheets cut, folded, and the cover added. More to follow.

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Press Check 
The Duniway book is ready to go to press. What's been holding it up is getting the illustrations right. First, we had another accuracy issue - oxen were not driven, they were led - then we had some color issues. All of the illustrations had a yellowish tone to them. So, the printer rescanned the original art and that seems to have taken care of that issue. Of course, in the meantime, I have been making text changes everytime I meet with the printer.

A very common issue for writers is knowing when their work is done. It must be true of painters as well ("Should I add a little more color here? Should I take something from there?"). It's the same with writers, except we play with words, not colors. I must have gone over the text for the Duniway book more than 100 times. I know when it's done when I can't find anything more to make it better. And that's where this text is now. The trouble is, there's no telling I'll find something else after is gets printed!

Tomorrow I go to the printer and do a final check, where they print one copy and I give the go-ahead to print 1,999 more. I'll let you know how it goes.

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