Saturday, 26 May 2012

At Yellow Lake--How Lucky Am I? Very!

A few months ago, I launched my first book in the US. It was an absolutely joyous occasion, as I was on home turf, and in the company of my immediate family and many lifelong friends. I was able to launch at one of the US's most celebrated children's bookstores, Wild Rumpus, and hold an additional event at a leading regional independent bookseller. The good will and support, the enthusiastic turnout, the amazing cakes--it was more than any writer could ask for.

But I've always been greedy.

So, less than 2 weeks from now, I'm doing it all again!

I'll be celebrating the UK launch (which should have come first, anyway, as the US date was re-arranged due to my travel plans) of At Yellow Lake. Again, there will be many long-time friends in attendance, as well as my husband, children and other family members. Again the venue will be a highly-celebrated children's bookstore--Independent Children's Bookstore of the Year 2012, the delightful Book Nook in Hove.

Again, there will be cake....

And this time there will be wine, too!

Yes, I am very, very lucky. I'm  very, very grateful, too.

Friday, 11 May 2012

At Yellow Lake and the Beer Bottle Sized Tree

This beer-bottle sized tree is one of many that my sister and brother-in-law have recently planted at Yellow Lake. It's a sign of hope to me. A symbol of the way we move on after the shocks and surprises that life and nature can spring on us. The way we pick ourselves up, buy some trees, plant them in the ground, wait for them to grow.

Many of you are aware that some of my fellow writers and I received a different kind of  shock recently--the news that Frances Lincoln Children's Books' children's fiction list is to be discontinued.

Other Frances Lincoln authors have already blogged about this: Chris Westwood, Zannah Kearns and
Keren David have all written eloquent posts about a corporate decision that has led to heart-breaking disappointment for many talented writers, and created a sense of frustration and anger among people who value the kind of unique list that Maurice Lyon and Emily Sharratt were developing.

Chris, Keren, Zannah and other Frances Lincoln writers have also, of course, expressed their determination to carry on--to continue creating unforgettable characters, spell-binding plots, thrilling stories.

As for me, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the wonderful team at Frances Lincoln. At Yellow Lake would not have been published without Maurice's enthusiastic support and would not be the book that it is without Emily's skill and insight as an editor. I know that anyone who's lucky enough to work with either of them in the future will feel as lucky as I do.

So, it's almost time to launch At Yellow Lake and I'm determined that the event it will be a great celebration--not just for my book or for me, but for all of us who've been able to work with such magnificent people.

So let's drink some beer, my friends. And then let's plant some more trees!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

At Yellow Lake--A Final Look at Last Summer

Last week I wrote about the terrible windstorm that hit Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin last summer and created a wide swathe of destruction that travelled from Minneapolis to the Great Lakes. .

Today I want to write about the aftermath. I’m not talking about the immediate mess—the smashed roofs, the flattened buildings, the 100 year old trees that were uprooted or sheared in two. I’m talking about what was left behind after the effects of the initial carnage had been cleared away. The sandy, chewed-up earth. The tree-stumps. The craters. The desolate… nothing.

I haven’t looked at these pictures (taken by my sister at the end of the summer) for awhile. When I opened the file this morning I expected to be reminded of the long, hot and stressful summer of 2011: of waiting weeks for electricity (and therefore, water) to be restored; of hauling away brush, wood, and debris; of dealing with bids for reconstruction and tree clearance; of coping (or not coping) with the overwhelming shock and heartbreak of seeing such a beloved landscape destroyed.  

And so I was….

But looking at these pictures nine months after the event, I’m reminded of good things, too.
I’m reminded of the lake’s beauty, how that can never be changed. 

I’m reminded of the care and craftsmanship my grandfather used to build our cabin—and how strong and solid it is, many years later, both inside and out.

I’m reminded of the friends and family members who came to our aid straight away, donating their time, expertise and equipment to help.

I’m reminded of the workers who were contracted to repair the cabin’s walls, roof and chimney, and who spent days clearing away the logs and digging out stumps. These workers were the heroes of the summer, labouring in temperatures that were often reached  38C/100F. They also cared about the cabin, sensing how important it is for my family, and treating it with real respect. .

 Buba, the Ojibwe mason who rebuilt the fieldstone chimney that had been toppled by trees, included among in the modern processed stones, several of my grandfather’s original stones as a way of honouring his memory and his workmanship. When Ryan the roofer came back to work after a short break on another job, I gave him such a massive hug that my brother-in-law thought Ryan was a visiting friend.

There were occasional Bobcat wheelies, too...

So, looking at these pictures has actually brought back a flood of happy memories. Of how my sister and I got through the many tense moments by using our shared sense of humour (let’s just say the word “wood” was often used in a way that didn’t necessarily relate to making fires or building homes…) Of the way everyone in my family rallied around each other, quickly forgetting any squabbles, keeping an eye on what really mattered.

So there we are.

My sister and brother-in-law are now planting new trees, and I'm looking forward to seeing Anne's photos of the new babies.  It will take an awful long time for them to get to the size of the trees we lost.

But they will grow, because that’s the way these things go. Change comes. Things are renewed. We just have to wait...