Friday, December 25, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cowboy Up, Sugar!

Hi everyone,
Good news: my short story "Cowboy Up, Sugar" is going to be appearing in the Mid-American Review's 30th anniversary issue this March. Check out the review here:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Teaching Fiction

For all of you who asked: yes, I will be teaching fiction again in the near future. I was asked to teach a fiction workshop for the Summer Writer's Institute at Washington University this summer. I believe the dates are June 14-June 25. Come to St. Louis if you get a chance. The program is reasonably priced, and I'll be here, of course. I can't wait!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I miss the hills but I'll see them soon...

I have to tell you: I am absolutely unable to contain myself because I get to go home to Wisconsin in two weeks and I haven't been back in over three years now, before Ava was born! Since then, my father and stepmom have moved from our house, which overlooked the river valley, to the Springs, which I used to run past when I was training for cross country in high school and college and which is equally beautiful and green. I never thought I would love Wisconsin so much, but here I am today dreaming about it more than I dream about my husband (sorry darling). This is not to say that I'm unhappy in St. Louis, but for me, it lacks the charm of hill country. I miss hearing the birds in the trees. I miss catching frogs in fields. I miss walking around barefoot. I miss seeing a lovely maple tree outside my bedroom window (as of now, I see an enormous transformer and a whole lot of concrete).

Most of all, I miss the sound of quiet. I miss the bird sisters, too.

Home: what an unsatisfactory word for all it really means. And yet, what would I do without it?

xoxo me

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Editing, Crosses, and State College!

I have just finished the first round of edits for Kate Kennedy at Random House, and boy am I glad to have that out of the way. They weren't nearly as painful as I thought they'd be, but still. I am always in a great hurry to make my novel better. I finished the edits in four days (and nights) and now I will be waiting for the line-edit round, which my editor assures me will be pretty painless. It's getting exciting, though, because we're beginning to talk about the design of the book, which makes the whole process feel more real to me.

Also, I will definitely be doing a reading for Penn State next, next spring! I got my offer from them yesterday and it was very generous. I can't tell you how excited I am to be able to go back to State College and stomp around a bit. I miss those hills! Below is what it looks like approaching St. Louis, where I live now...(yes, that's a cross!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

The wonder of pies: again.

I'm obsessed with pies! Help, somebody! I keep making them no matter the cost of the fresh filling. Tonight's was cherry. I'm crust crazy. I love making dough more than I love a lot of things I should love more than making dough.

Bird Sisters Contract!

Hi everyone,
This is just to give you all an idea of how long the publishing process takes. In August, I accepted the offer for the publication of my novel The Bird Sisters, and today (October 9th!) I just received a pdf of the contract. For anyone out there who is a bit antsy as a person, I say good luck in the book business. For the past month and a half, I have been biting my fingernails and had even begun to doubt the reality of my situation.

My book is being published? I'd think. Yeah, right; you had a wonderful dream, that's all.

Well, it is in fact being published. I have signed the document and sent it back to my agent this afternoon. But I don't think I will ever fully believe the manuscript I slaved over in private for so long is ever really going to being turned into a book, even when it is a book. Or maybe I know it will be a book, but it won't be just mine anymore. It will be belong to a combination of wonderful people: my agent, my editor, my publisher, my readers (crossing my fingers here), my family and friends, the people I love and the people I've stopped loving...

You get the point.

It will no longer be that secret thing of mine that I worked on in coffee shops and academic hallways, sleep and wakefulness, day and night. Its life, its longevity, won't be up to me anymore. I don't think my bird sisters, Milly and Twiss, will ever leave me completely, but they'll leave me a little, which will be both happy and sad, limiting and freeing.

Thank you, I'll say to them when they do. Be well, my dears.

I don't know what they'll say to me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

What are your favorite books?

Now, I didn't say earth shatteringly experimental or earth shatteringly important either. I said your favorites--you don't have to explain/defend yourself. Let's just assume we all have good taste!

My favorites, you know, the ones that sit on my nightstand always are:

1 & 2: Gilead and Home by Marilynne Robinson
3: The Progress of Love by Alice Munro
4: Plainsong by Kent Haruf
5: Tracks by Louis Erdrich
6: Owls and other Fantasies by Mary Oliver
7: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
8: Servants of the Map by Andrea Barrett
9. Eva Move the Furniture by Margot Livesey
10. Solar Storms by Linda Hogan

(If I'd had 11, I would have added Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, but you're right, must I inch closer to stalker status?)

What are your favorite books?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's Pie Time

That's right, I'm making a raspberry pie this afternoon. Few things are more pleasing to me than making pies, specifically the dough. So I thought I'd share with you the world's greatest dough recipe care of our dear friend Martha Stewart. The trick is that you must make this dough the old-fashioned way, meaning with a bowl and your hands. No food processors, no forks, or pastry knives. Feel your way to the perfect consistency. Use your senses. Enjoy.

Henry Beecher on the art of excellent dough:
"Let it not be like putty, nor yet rush to the other extreme and make it so flakey that one holds his breath while eating for fear of blowing it away. Let it not be plain as bread, nor yet rich like cake. Aim at that glorious medium in which it is tender without being too fugaciously flaky; short without being too short; a mild, sapid, brittle thing that lies upon the tongue so as to let the apple strike through and touch the papilae with a more affluent flavor..."

Double Crust Batch of Dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Yum. Yum. Milly and Twiss, the bird sisters, would be proud! At least Milly would (Twiss would just eat it).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reading at Penn State!

All right folks, it is a bit early to say this, but I think I am going to be doing a Bird Sisters reading next year (spring, I believe) at Penn State in State College for their reading series sponsored by the MFA program. I have my wonderful old (well, not so old actually!) Fiction/Non-Fiction professors to thank there: Charlotte Holmes, Toby Thompson, Bill Cobb, and Josip Novakovich. They are the ones that made this book possible.

Thank you! Thank you! I am extremely excited about the prospect of returning to my alma mater and to Happy Valley, the one and only.

p.s. I want a latte from Saint's! I want the Victorian Manor! I want Mt. Nittany and Boalsburg! I want it all, every last drop!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Publisher's Weekly Announcement!

Rebecca Rasmussen's THE BIRD SISTERS, about two elderly sisters who rescue fallen birds and the one heartbreaking summer of their youth that has bound them together forever, to Kate Kennedy at Shaye Areheart Books, by Michelle Brower of Wendy Sherman Associates.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Glory of Teaching Literature from 6-10:30 p.m., Wednesday Nights

Instead of running a marathon this semester, I am teaching a marathon course on Wednesday nights. This, quite possibly, is my all-time favorite class so far, which is why I thought it deserved some mention in the venue of my passions, writing and what-not.

I have 26 students in the class -- some more mature (I told you I'd be nice, ladies!) and some, well, really young. Altogether, we have fifteen children, a handful of husbands, and brothers and sisters galore. We're a diverse group, which is why we're special. We like to eat food and drink sodas all night long. We kind of feel like we're at camp, with books instead of bunk beds and pencils instead of flashlights.

I didn't want to teach this class -- "4.5 hours?" I said. You've got to be kidding me. This is not how literature is taught. It isn't, except for here. Except for now. And I have only 8 weeks x 4.5 hours to survey world literature...Yikes!

So far, we're liking Flannery O'Connor and sad Kafka and his vermin son Gregor. One of my students wrote his very first short story last Wednesday and read it out loud to us with the biggest smile on his face. We're moving on to Munro and Updike soon.

God bless my class, I say! Each week, we survive what feels a little like a war, and each week we keep coming back begging (well, maybe not begging) for more.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


This is the landscape I'm writing about now.

And this is the opening of the new novel:

“To live in this world

you must be able to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go." -- Mary Oliver


Racina came after the water. She arrived on a cool morning in early September, asleep in a rowboat without paddles as if she knew the lake currents would carry her past the tamarack and black spruce forest, around Bone Island and the village of Sonamarg, across the mouth of the Red River, a fen, and a bog, all the way to Partway and to Hux, who found her on his morning walk to check his lines. Hux wasn’t certain the girl curled inward against a swarm of black flies was Racina until he saw the scar on her cheek, which looked like the leaf of a pitcher plant. Until then, the water had taken lives but had never returned one. Hux waded into the cold, gray of it but stopped at the point where cold met ice and gray met black. Seeing his niece again was what he’d spent thirteen years kneeling to Churchy’s lord for, and yet he couldn’t go to Racina and the little wooden boat floating in the reeds. He couldn’t do anything but stand on the edge of what he was most afraid of.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jade Plant, Tea Candle, Coffee, Wine

Is it too early to be working on my second novel? Sometimes, I think "yes." Tonight, I think "no." In spirit tonight, I am in a bog landscape in northern Minnesota with leatherleaf and root hummocks, decidedly not sweating in a little sunroom in St. Louis. I am enjoying myself so much that I forgot about the teaching I have to do tomorrow and I'm reading sentences out loud, listening for their art. I wish I could be more masculine and intriguing about my adventures, but the truth is I put my toddler to bed, and put her to bed again and again and again, and in between all of this, I have been writing. Sometimes, it is the only way I can get anything done. Not that I think my male writer friends have it easy (okay, I think it just a little), but I know their wives (yay wives!), and I know they are the ones putting the children to bed. This is not to say my husband is a schlub; he has the flu, if you must know, and I have been playing soup kitchen because I love him -- most likely, he will be doing the same thing for me shortly. So, there is that elusive balance to try and achieve. And, and...

I love writing a new book! I really do!



Saturday, August 15, 2009


Okay, so my packages from Random House arrived. As you can see, I am thrilled! Enough that I got out the old camera. I can't wait to read these books! (And I can't wait to see what my cover will look like.) Of course, one worries about the process and prays A LOT, but I feel like I am in excellent hands with Kate Kennedy at Random House. And I made a squeaking noise when my husband showed me the box. Yes, I squeak. I am that enthusiastic. Yay, Kate! Yay, Kate!

In other news, my daughter got a Big Wheel bike today from her Glamma (yes, Glamma!) Patty and Grandpa John -- purple and pink -- and to her, nothing could be more thrilling than riding in circles around the driveway. Bless her heart.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Daughter Ava and me fooling around with the camera tonight. She wants to be a photographer or a "ring-pop" maker. Yes, you heard me right. The candy business.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cicadas and Open Windows: Childhood, Home

I know I am supposed to be writing about some part of my book process, but tonight I want to write about home, a concept I am thinking about as I listen to the cicadas outside my living room windows on this humid summer night. My husband, my daughter, and I recently moved back to the Midwest from Massachusetts so that my husband could go to graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis. H. grew up in Colorado and is necessarily a little bit put out by the flatness of the landscape and the heartiness of the cuisine. I grew up in Wisconsin and Illinois, so I get it. Biscuits. Fried chicken. Cornfields. Or at least the advertising of these things.

I know there must have been cicadas in Massachusetts, but I don't remember ever hearing them. Here in St. Louis, they are deafening at night ( and no, they don't connote the romance one might think). And yet, they remind me of home, of being a child. This is good and bad, of course, because it means that I am brought back to a time when I was afraid of almost everything and had panic attacks galore...

But it also means that I am brought back to the brink of experiencing unsurpassable things like first love (and first dumpage) and slumber parties. It means I am in the middle of having hurt feelings and hurting other people's feelings. It means I am trying to hunch my shoulders, so my mom doesn't take me to the bra ladies at the mall. It means I am listening to Guns N' Roses and trying to get my brother to pay attention to me, or at least punch me. It means I am convinced an old man sits at my desk at night and wants to slap me for no reason that I can understand. It means my goldfish Frisky is about to die because I dumped a freebie fair fish in with him. It means my grandmother is still alive and I still have feet that are too big for my body. It means I am discovering that I can run fast around tracks and through woods.

Mostly, I am relieved that I don't have to be a kid anymore. But sometimes, just sometimes, I hear things like cicadas or I see a high school track and I remember what it feels like to have somebody make a home for you and tuck you into it and sing you softly to sleep.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I am now a Random House/Shaye Areheart author! I accepted Kate Kennedy's offer this afternoon. I promise to write more on the topic and process, but right now I'm uncorking a bottle of wine. You know the rest...

Have a wonderful evening everyone!



Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Tale of Two Offers

I know. I know. I should have been writing about my experiences getting my book published. But here's the thing: I was waiting and waiting and waiting (and eating and eating and eating). I am a nervous person by nature, so all of this waiting has taken a toll on my figure. Don't worry, though, because I'm back at the gym and back to blogging.


I have two very lovely offers from two large New York publishing houses! I am currently in the process of deciding between the two houses, a process that must come to a close by tomorrow. Yikes! I hope I make the right choice. Before the offers, I thought my nervousness and anxiousness would stop when I knew my novel would be published. Wrongo! The neurotic parts of me have stepped it up a few notches, those weasels. Don't get me wrong -- I am thrilled! Truly. I just want to make sure I'm making an educated choice. A part of me feels like I am on the Price is Right trying to guess the right price of a refrigerator, so I have a chance at the Showcase Showdown. I miss those days -- you know the ones -- sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream and a mother to make you dinner and solve your problems for you. The bottom line is this: I feel like a goat on a rope (someone, I maah, please take me home to the right place).

In order to stunt my anxiety, I have been going to the gym A LOT! I have been eating low calorie, low taste ice cream bars, too. I keep going back to the basics: two people want to publish your book, Rebecca. That's a good thing. And it is.

A funny thing happened to me the night before I got my first offer. I was reading Eat, Pray, Love, and had just gotten to the part where the narrator is at the Ashram in India and really ups her prayer efforts. I grew up Catholic. It didn't occur to me that it was all right to pray for something as seemingly superficial as the success of my novel, until Elizabeth Gilbert said so.

Pray. I did. But not for the success of my novel, as it turned out. I prayed that I would find peace on the subject of my novel and not let a "no book deal" situation absorb my happiness or diminish my hard work. I prayed for peace. Who would have thought?

And I have to say, beyond the offer I received the very next day, my belief in God or a Godlike presence shifted. It has been a long time since I have even thought to pray for anything. Not only did I feel a great sense of peace when I let my intention go that night, I felt love.

Now, in the midst of great news, I am taking some time to return to prayer each evening (in my own, religious/non-religious way). I seek peace. I am the peace seeker.

Wish me luck, as I wish all of you luck!

More to come,


Friday, April 3, 2009

Say Your Prayers or Cross Your Fingers

All right; I said I would keep you all updated about the publication process and I have failed you thus far! My agent is sending out my book early next week and says the process will take about three weeks. At this point, I just sit back and wait for her to call or email me; if you like to be in control, the part where your agent sends your book to editors will drive you crazy! But I'm happy that the submission time has finally come. I feel like there is something stopping me from getting on with my life, and so...I wait. It's like Dr. S' book Oh, The Places You'll Go. You'll get stuck waiting...

and waiting...

until you decide you don't want to wait anymore.

That's me right now. Not a decent line of prose or maybe just one in the last two days.

--- me/me/me

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When you don't have a job, learn how to trade...

A lot of my friends have been asking me how I have been making ends meet these days. The answer is not what they expect. No teaching, tutoring, or general help giving. No indeed. I am trading financials on the NYSE (well, on my computer). My father traded for a very long time until the crash in 1987, so this is one more way I am like him, which is wonderful!

Do I like trading? Yes and no. I know things I feel are unnatural for a writer to know. For instance, I know the intraday highs and lows for FAZ (Direxion 3x Financial Bear ETF) for the past two weeks in a row. It's my thing, I tell my husband, who cheers me on when I am able to buy him a new Mac, which I did last week. But my brain kind of hurts from all of these numbers and I really just want to write, so...

That's where I am right now -- playing the stock market in after hours and doing just fine.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting Ready...

My literary agent Michelle said it perfectly the other day: "the process of publishing a book is all hurry up and wait."

And wait.

And wait.

This has been my feeling about spring these last few weeks; can't a single obliging crocus pop up for me? My receipt from my local greenhouse answers that question for me. But at least I have some new plants and pots to keep things cheery around here. My African violets are definitely looking better already and the succulents look like they despise me less after getting some new soil. So...spring...I know it will come and I know my book will go out into the world, but damn! I am impatient. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I know my first post should be something a bit more inspiring/interesting than "welcome," but that's all I have in me this morning. So -- welcome! I am going to try to capture here my experiences with writing a novel, finding an agent, and going through the publication process. For all of those people writing, querying or just biting your fingernails down to stubs for general reasons, hold on...more info is to follow! 

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."