Sunday, June 17, 2012

In the Words of Lao Tzu, The Longest Journey Begins With a Single Step

I read Pride and Prejudice this past week, and every time Elizabeth Bennet went for a walk though the English countryside, which is at least once a chapter, it seems, I practically swooned. I love walks. I'm actually a non-driver, so walking is what I do. And taking a long, leisurely walk in the UK, especially when I'm alone, with a Moleskine in my pocket to jot notes about my current work-in-progress as I wander and think, is, in the words of my MIL, so romantic.

Going for a walk in West Texas in the summertime is not romantic. Going for a walk in West Texas looks something like this:

Walking along edge of park near my house.

ME [melts in 100 degree heat, and ignores passing cars filled with immature red-necks hooting and honking]: ...

[Passes a father walking with two sweet-looking, smiling daughters who are waving and making me think of my own sweet daughters. Waves back, and admires lovely day]


ME: Hello!

THE FATHER: Do you have a place to go?

ME: Do I have a place to ... what?

[The Father says something to older daughter, and older daughter runs over]

THE DAUGHTER: Excuse me, but do you need any help?

ME: Um... no, I don't need any help, thanks.

THE DAUGHTER: But do you need a place to stay?

ME [horrified as it dawns that they think I'm HOMELESS]: I'm going for a walk.

[The Daughter rushes over to The Father and relays information.]

THE FATHER: Oh, sorry! Thought you might need a little help! [rushes off]

Yes, that's right, folks. I go for a walk in West Texas, having just showered and put on clean jeans and a t-shirt, and passers-by think I'm homeless. And those who don't think I'm homeless, or who aren't just hooting at me, ask me if I want a ride wherever it is I'm going.

But not in the UK! They have public footpaths all over the place! And do you know what people do on said footpaths? They take leisurely walks, just like Elizabeth Bennet did hundreds of (fictional) years ago. No one hoots. No one mistakes me for a vagrant.

So, the other day, with notebook in pocket, I set off for the nearest footpath. I passed a darling little river, with wild foxgloves and other purple-y flowers along the edge. Charming, I thought, as I followed the footpath signs into a field. Everything here in the UK is just so very charming.

Approximately 2 minutes later it began to rain.

No, pour. 

But I wasn't about to give up on my romantical afternoon walk, so I side-stepped cow poo (because the field was actually a cow pasture) and ran around seeking shelter of some kind. I found it under a copse of hawthorn trees, which naturally brought back my romantic mood, so I pulled out my notebook and jotted ideas until the rain subsided.

Still only about .015 miles from my starting point, I got back to my walk.

Except here's the thing: there aren't any signs in a cow field. Yeah, the public footpath signs led me in, but then they just went away. Poof! So I walked and walked, through mud and wet grass and cow poo, searching for the rest of the foot path. Even the cows thought I was insane as I wandered, I could tell. And, while J. R. R. Tolkien reminds us that not all who wander are lost, sometimes wanderers are lost.

Very lost.

In an enclosed field, which makes it all the more ridiculous.

At this point, I would have loved for a family of thinks-I-am-homeless people to come walking by to lead me out of the field, but all the sensible people were probably at the pub.

When I did find the way out - or the way in, rather, because I finally ended up back where I started - I was ready to be done with my dang walk. And I was in desperate need of dry socks.

The bright side: I found some really cool trees beside the entrance of the field for the girls to climb! I took them to the cow field today and it didn't rain and they loved it.

And the next time I go for a walk along a public footpath, I'll be sure to ask for directions beforehand.


Monday, June 11, 2012

In Which I Meet My Favorite Author and Completely Spaz

I've always had this irrational fear that when I one day get to go to an author event, I'll get to the front of the line to have my book signed, say hello to the much-adored author, and then pull a Marisa.

In case you're wondering what pulling a Marisa might look/sound like, well let me just tell you: it begins with nervous, incoherent babbling, then turns to awkward silence when I realize how much like an idiot I sound, which leads to RED FACE and blood pounding in my ears, which leads to me laughing it off, but the laughter ends up the creepy, awkward kind -- the kind that when Gracie hears it, she goes, 'Mom, why are you laughing like that?' -- which leads to more nervous incoherent babbling and/or laughter, which leads to me wishing I could flee the premises, track down Hermione Granger, steal her time-turner, and have a do-over.

So silly, right? I'm too old for this kind of behavior.


Yesterday, I had the privilege of going to my first author event, and get this, folks - IT WAS MY FAVORITE YA AUTHOR! Yep, that's right. Maggie Stiefvater, author of Lament, Ballad, the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, and The Scorpio Races, is here doing signings in the UK, and, as luck would have it, yesterday she was at the Hay Festival (which was very close by the house I'm staying at this summer).

Let me just say, Maggie S. is brilliant when it comes to author talks - I've heard this from friends and crit partners who have seen her speak, and she definitely had yesterday's audience captivated.

Then it was time for her to do book signings. Naturally, this is when I pulled a Marisa. Like for instance, when she asked my name and I gave her my critique partner's name instead (I was having the book signed as a present for my critique partner, who gave the same book to me last year after Maggie's LA signing).

And then she looked at me all puzzled, and said, 'No, what's your name.'

And I realized how dumb I sounded, so I spazzed, and sputtered, and turned red, and could barely remember my name enough to choke it out.

Now Panic and Freak Out print 

Someday, I'm going to be really cool. The RED face and creepy, nervous laughter will not rear its ugly, tomato-y head. That day is going to be awesome.

But for now, I'll have to settle with my constant facepalm... which I mentally did only two seconds later, when she asked me how it was going with my critique partner (who I mentioned I'd met via Maggie's blog), and I replied with,

'Oh, great. Yeah, great, she's great. We're very... (stop sounding dumb, Marisa, just STOP) ... happy together?'

[insert creepy, nervous laughter when I realize how strange that sounds]

[insert even more creepy, nervous laughter when I realize how creepy I sound when I creepily laugh]

'Ah. Good.' she said as she quickly finished scribbling her signature and pushed the book across the table at me.

Creepy or not, I still got my picture.

Then I grabbed my camera and the signed book, and quickly fled the premises.

*cringe* I don't know why I act so moronically.

Maggie S. was, of course, very nice. Also, I really hope people act spazzy at each and every one of her signings, so that I just joined the masses, and blended right in.

Happy Monday, folks!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

10 Things to Say About the UK

Updating my blog whilst in England and Wales has proved to be a challenge - not because I don't have a few minutes to do it at the end of the day, but because it's been two weeks across the pond and I already have a billion and one photos to sift through, and a million and two great adventures to highlight.

So I'll just do a 10 Things post - not top ten, because there are too many tops to equal just ten.... but here are a handful of highlights so far!

*CAUTION - boatloads of photos ahead*

1. Gracie shares my love for old cemeteries - and 1000 year old tombs of Welsh princes. 

In fact, Gracie shares my love for the UK in general, and has informed me that when she is in college, she wants to study abroad. I said perhaps we can send her away earlier, like high school. Will suggested, over the phone, that we send her sooner than that... like second grade. (he was kidding, but I don't think Gracie would mind)

2. The beach! 

Or more importantly, Southerndown Beach! This is where Will lived in Wales when he was a teenager, and where he took me on our very first date. 

3. St. Fagans, and the Museum of Welsh Life

Where my girls got to imagine life as old fashioned Welsh girls

... and boys.

4. Castle carvings and statues and gargoyles, oh my! 

in Cardiff, Wales

Gorgeous interiors in Cardiff Castle

Medieval graffiti in the Norman fortress inside the Cardiff Castle walls  

I can't stop taking pictures of these things!


 (Cardiff Castle, Wales)

Which are, apparently, the best places to do headstands.

 And also, apparently, the best places to play dress up.

The girls have been to three castles so far - Cardiff Castle, St. Fagans Castle, and Castle Coch (which I'm super jealous about, as I missed it due to a rotten sinus infection)

They would have added the ruins of Ogmore Castle to their list, but as we drove past, there was a horse riding party going on nearby, with a large tent and Native American teepee beside it... so when I said, 'Look at the castle!' Gracie excitedly shouted, 'The castle is a TEEPEE!' and Annelie excitedly shouted, 'The castle is a WHITE TENT!'

By the time I got them straightened out, we'd passed the castle, unseen by all but me.

Oh well.

6. Welsh coal mine! 

Or more importantly, the Lewis Merthyr Colliery, which is in the Rhondda Valley, where the girl's Grandad lives (he's the one who awesomely showed us all around Wales for a week), and where the Hopkins family has lived for generation after generation after generation, ect... and also where Will took me on our very first date.

7. We've had the best time seeing our British friends and family 

And the girls have had the best time being spoiled by everyone.


With peas and mash. I am in love with the stuff.

9. Jubilee parties GALORE.

The girls' favorite party was the village party... because of the boys, I'm afraid.

I was watching Gracie, my boy-crazy 7-year-old, merrily jumping in a bouncy castle...

...when she stopped, and shouted, 'I AM NOT A LITTLE GIRL' and the next thing I knew, she was tackling a band of 8-10 year-old boys.

This led to a British-American war that entertained everyone for at least an hour. The war only ended when it was time for the races....

And the two Americans took the GOLD! I was quite proud of my girls for winning - Annelie took first prize in the 5 and unders race, and Gracie beat out all the 6-8 year olds. GIRL POWER.

10. We went to London to see the Queen! 

First on Sunday to see the pageant on the river Thames, which was great fun.

We also went to London to see the end of Jubilee carriage procession - hoping to be at Buckingham Palace, but were instead caught up in a giant mob of people at Trafalgar Square.

Gracie and Annelie, happily sitting on shoulders, did see the Queen's carriage and soldiers! But I only saw the back of the heads in front of us. Ah, well, that's okay. At least I waved to the Queen and the other royals during the pageant on the river.

And that is more than enough pictures for now.

Two weeks down, approximately six weeks to go! We're having an amazing time. Hope you are all having a great summer so far, as well!

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