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,


"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."