Monday, May 31, 2010

We returned home from a party on Saturday evening and found a bunny on the front lawn. I snapped photographs as I crept closer until a car drove by and scared the little critter.

I have more exciting news to report. Today, I found the results of the CNW/FFWA Florida State Writing Competition online. I was totally psyched to find my unpublished chapter won 1st place in the childrens literature category. It's the same chapter that won the PEN Discovery award. They wrote "well-written, interesting, well-researched and appropriate to the age group." Also, I was pleasantly surprised that my published chemistry article won 2nd place.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Every now and then when I'm outside in my Adirondack chair revising, a friend will stop by and cause me to get up out of my chair and scurry into the house. It happened on Saturday and again yesterday. I always enjoy their visits, but they never stay long. Thankfully, I was quick enough retrieving the camera to get their photographs which I've posted here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Last night was certainly memorable at the PEN Discovery Award presentation. The good news is that I'm glad I remembered everything I wanted to say. I think I fielded more questions than anyone else and answered them the best I could. I learned the hard way that a back-up plan is necessary in case things don't go as expected. I read in Melanie's public speaking book that you don't want to hang onto the podium like you're driving an out of control vehicle. I looked down and AGGGHHHH! The hands were at the corner of the podium. Immediately I let go like they were on fire.

It was great to meet some very distinguished writers from the PEN Children's Book Caucus (or is it Committee?) who were all very nice and supportive. It was also an opportunity to congratulate Heather Jessen (in the middle) who I've exchanged emails with and Bette Anne Rieth (on the right) who I contacted through Facebook. I wished them both the best of luck with their works.

The ampitheatre was not a daunting auditorium that you might find at a large college, but more like a lecture room where roughly six rows of seats curved around and were close to the podium. Large AV screens hung from the ceiling. My mother brought me those beautiful flowers which are now on my kitchen table. That was a really nice touch.

Saturday, I worked all day on the article and detangled the bottom half. Walt wanted to go to a nursery to buy flowers, but I was disciplined and kept at it. I knew if I trotted off I would likely not pick it up again.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Iris and rhododendron

The beautiful frilly iris originated from my mother's garden. I wish I knew its name. The second photograph is a typical rhododendron, but what really amused me about that photo is that I was completely unaware that Miss Nosy was watching. That totally cracked me up.

I did some more research today, but I feel like I'm moving ahead like a snail. I'd like to email the near-complete article to my crit buddies on June 9th so that's what I'm aiming for even though I know it won't be complete with quotations. Next post, I'll tell ya about PEN Discovery night. Deep breath.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Seven Sisters, Hadley, Massachusetts

My legs are sore from yesterday's hike up four of the Seven Sisters on the Metacomet Trail in Hadley, Massachussetts. We started at J.A. Skinner State Park. Let me tell you those sisters on the Mount Holyoke range were brutal--up a mountain, down a mountain, up another mountain, down again, up, down, up, down. Repeat. The mountains were not that high, but the terrain was steep. Hiking was one thing, but I could not believe they hold a race across such treacherous terrain. Despite being short of time because we left late (10:30 a.m.) and needed to get back to meet friends at 6 p.m., we pushed it to get to that fourth peak. Devil's Football, in the bottom photograph, seemed totally out of place.

I am really happy (and relieved) with the way I've untangled this article. It makes much more sense, flows better, and it's more intriguing. Right now, I'm a little more than halfway.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm posting three more photographs from the Rio Grande Zoo. The top one is a lappet faced vulture, a flasher opening his trench coat. The second photograph is a klipspringer, a small African antelope noted for its leaping abilities. The third photograph is a big hairy tarantula.

It's been a struggle to accomplish anything this week. Numerous people and a car have been dropped off and picked up all week long. Despite the distractions, I reworked the beginning of the article and hopefully now it "gets right to the problem." As I added sentences I dug up a few more research papers and added them to the growing bibliography. Although I spent a good portion of today on the rewrite, I'm about as far as I was before. Sigh.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm posting some photographs from the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque New Mexico. We had a last minute change of plans due to crummy weather. Instead of taking a tram ride into the rain clouds on Sandia Peak, we explored the zoo. That's Julia trying to wake the sleeping chimp. The cat exhibits were excellent. That growling mountain lion was closer then I've ever been to one of those big kitties.

I've been thinking about how to change the start of the article. But I must have burnt myself out on a 5-mile run this morning and ended up asleep next to my own kitty (who was growling and bloody defending her turf last night).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Yesterday was one of those days where I could not make myself get into the writing world. My biggest accomplishment was painting a champagne cork. How sad. The cork came from the bottle of champagne I opened to celebrate winning the PEN Discovery Award. If nothing comes of the proposal, I will still have my ornament decorated like the subject of my chapter and every Christmas when I take it out I will remember. I also thought I'd post a photograph of an old ornament I made as a kid. Interesting that I sometimes use the logo of a jack in the box (Zajac in a box). Actually, that old ornament was more sophisticated than it looks. Jack was on a spring and could be lowered into the box and the box shut. Time moves on, but some things never change.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Indian paintbrush and manzanita

I'm posting some photographs of a few mesa-top plants. I'm not sure what the yellow flower is, but the flaming orange one is an Indian paintbrush. Dye is made from this plant. There's also an interesting legend about a young brave who receives a paintbrush from the Great Spirit then leaves it in the fields. The evergreen bush in the middle is the manzanita ("little apple"). People and animals eat the berries, but I found it even more interesting that tea made from the leaves has been used for bladder infections and for the treatment of poison oak. Here's a long list of how different Indian tribes used the manzanita.

The chemistry article is morphing again into a new shape. I guess I have to roll with the punches.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, New Mexico

Today, I'm posting photographs of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks in north-central New Mexico. This area was turned into a national monument in January 2001. Six to seven million years ago volcanic eruptions left layered deposits of pumice, ash, and tuff in shades of beige, pink and grey. Wind and water carved the canyon and surrounding area. It was a steep 630 foot hike to the mesa top, but well worth the effort. This is probably the first time I've ever posted a photograph of myself. I loved it here and could have stayed all day.

This morning I've been practicing my speech using a bottle of Shout as a microphone. I must admit after the first few times, I thought it was a pretty bad scene. Thankfully, I am improving.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I took this photograph of a tiger swallowtail butterfly today. I'm quite pleased I captured it with its wings wide open.

Outside on the arms of my Adirondack chair, I placed my notes, research papers, a book, blank paper, a pen, and a glass of iced tea. Then I sat down and fell asleep.

I did spend some time reviewing videos and reading descriptions of the place I'm writing about for the chemistry article I'm currently working on. After reviewing what to include in these kind of speeches, I wrote up a short speech for that PEN award presentation later this month. I have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to say, but it still needs work. I also made sure to find the correct pronunciation for a couple of words in the chapter I'll be reading. The two things I need to have are confidence and practice memorizing it. But if I have trouble finding the keys half the time.......Ut oh.

I found out the ampitheatre at Leslie University has 175 seats. Since I envisioned this gigantic room, that was a bit of a relief. Then I wasted some time trying to figure out the layout. My best guess is 17 rows of 10 with 5 seats for the handicapped (merely a guess). I sure hope the video equipment is off.