Monday, February 28, 2011

Bird Sisters Pre-Order Special!

Signed Bookplates, Donations to the Audubon Society, check out The Bird Sisters Pre-Order Special! From February 28th--March 7th! Thank you, as always, for your lovely support.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Navel Gazing by Lisa Cihlar

Navel Gazing
By Lisa Cihlar

"Most poets write and publish far too much. They forget the agricultural good sense of the fallow period. . . " Irish poet Michael Longley

April is National Poetry Month and like many poets I write a poem a day.  In June a friend of mine suggests another 30/30 (30 poems in 30 days) and I jump on board.  I am a prolific poet even when not writing to challenges.  That noted, there comes a day in mid-summer when I begin to feel as if everything has been said.  My brain echoes empty.  It is time to step back and begin observing.

Close focus becomes the thing.  How does a bumble bee climb into a pink and white hollyhock and become covered with pollen? How do green beans manage to hide on the plants through five pickings and mature into full-size dry pods?  And the yellow and black garden spiders that come out in August to build their webs with the zigzag down the center making them look so much bigger than they really are; is that lemon yellow, or smiley face yellow on their abdomens?  These are things I need to see firsthand, year after year.  As a poet of images, my brain needs to re-catalog so that I can get things right on the page.   Think too of other poets you know who are masters of observation.  Elizabeth Bishop’s “Big Fish”:  his brown skin hung in strips/like ancient wallpaper or Mark Doty’s “A Display of Mackerel”:  like seams of lead/in a Tiffany window./ Iridescent, watery.  James Wright, Deborah Digges, Robert Frost.  I do not know if these poets took breaks from writing to just observe, but I know from the poems that they were indeed studying their worlds intensely.

It takes time to study things closely.  Not only the natural world, but the world of human relationships too.  You probably lived with your parents for at least 18 years as a child and young adult.  You are the best expert in the world on how that relationship worked and how it formed you and is still forming you.  That is your PhD in human behavior.  Call your current relationships continuing education.  Take time to study things and consider the past, maybe take notes, this will all inform your poetry.

I also need to saturate myself in other writers’ poems.  I read poems all the time.  To be a good poet I believe the writer needs to read a lot of poems, ones they like and ones they do not.  When I take time away from the writing I read even more, poems that are new to me, and poems that are not.  I memorize lines that I love.  I feel a need to say Do I dare to eat a peach? over and over to myself and to anyone within hearing range to make that rhythm part of my soul.  I need to find out for myself if the chickens and the rain glazed wheel barrow are really all that important (they are!)

Recently, I found myself taking an unintentional break from writing.  A medication that I was on was squashing my creativity.  The anxiety this caused was horrible.  I felt sick to my stomach every time I sat down to write and nothing came.  Taking an intentional break is a different thing all together.  You can even schedule it so that you have an appointment with the paper in exactly the number of days you choose.   Never call it writer’s block because you are not blocked, you are opening yourself to the world.

Not working on a poem every day is freeing and it builds up a kind of pressure that makes pens and blank paper look so inviting.  My hand fondles ball-points, clicking them over and over.  When I begin to get so annoying in my habits that I make other people crazy, it is time to begin again.  September feels right—back to school, the end of summer, leaves starting to color up, and birds flying frantic, practicing for the trip south.  Now I will write.  

**Lisa J. Cihlar's poems appear, or soon will in numerous journals including: The Pedestal Magazine, Green Mountains Review, Qarrtsiluni, elimae, and Pirene's Fountain. In 2008 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in rural southern Wisconsin.  She raises more tomatoes than she can possibly use, yet she always runs out of the ones she freezes sometime in March.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Starred Library Journal Review!!!!

Hello everyone! Lovely news from the wonderful Library Journal Review:

 Rasmussen, Rebecca. The Bird Sisters. Crown. Apr. 2011. c.304p. ISBN 9780307717962. $24. F
What a pleasure to become acquainted with Milly and Twiss of Spring Green, WI, as these aging sisters invite us to accompany them back to a summer in the mid-1940s when they were both at the threshold of adolescence. As their falling-apart family is in desperate need of repair, the girls try to patch up their estranged parents' relationship. Milly is as sweet as Twiss is contrary; the two have decidedly different approaches to the challenge. And both are quite taken with their older teenage cousin Bettie, who comes to spend the summer with them. Ripe with surprises, this visit will mold and shape the sisters' lives for years to come. Rasmussen's debut novel is full of grace and humanity. Her heroines are fearless and romantic, endearing and engaging, and her poetic prose creates an almost magical, wholly satisfying world. VERDICT While readers may desire to know more about the sisters' interest in "bird repair" (in their later years they tend to the needs of injured birds), this wistful but wise story is enchanting and timeless. A splendid choice for those searching for literary coming-of-age novels.—Andrea Tarr, Corona P.L., CA

Friday, February 18, 2011

Semper Fi (In Other Words: Have Some Heart, Rebecca)

** This is a blog post I did for the lovely Amanda Hoving and wanted to share it here, too.

Semper Fi (In Other Words: Have Some Heart, Rebecca)
By Rebecca Rasmussen

The first time I walked off the course and back to the starting line I felt justified in my choice to quit. I was in terrible pain. I had lost my breath. I had cramps in my legs, in my heart. Girls were passing me on all sides. Their ponytails were swishing right out of my view. So here’s what I did: I simply walked back to the place I’d started.
            The year was 1992, and I was a freshman in high school, thirteen years old. I had a shaky relationship with just about everyone in my family, though I remember my mother coming to this cross-country meet, my first. I remember she wore my dad’s boxy old yellow windbreaker, which I took from his closet the last time I visited him and my stepmom in Spring Green, Wisconsin, though I don’t remember why.
            “You’ll do better next time,” my mother said, when she saw me near the starting line.
            I’ll tell you this: a part of me wanted to get in the car with her. To stop and pick up pizza at Malnati’s on the way home. To rent a funny movie and eat sour cherry candies. To forget about cross-country and move on to field hockey or dance. Or chess even.
             But I’ll also tell you this: an even bigger part of me wanted something else entirely, something I couldn’t put a name to, but knew as a secret deep in my heart. And that’s what I got—exactly what I wanted—that early Saturday morning in September, while girls sprinted into the chute and parents cheered and brightly colored ribbons flapped in the breeze.
            “Come here right now,” my coach, Mr. Baker, said to me, in a voice I thought only parents were allowed to use.
            “I think I’ll take her home,” my mother interrupted.
            “Not yet,” Mr. Baker said and pulled me away from my mother, which I remember thinking was impressive. People didn’t say no to her.
            When we were alone behind a grand old Illinois oak tree, Mr. Baker asked me why I’d stopped running, why I came walking back, why I gave up.
I told him what I told you. Cramps. Pain. Breath.
            “I don’t care if you’re the last girl out there and you crawl in on your hands and knees,” Mr. Baker said. “You don’t ever give up like that, do you understand me?”
            “I couldn’t go on,” I said, looking at the electric leaves up in the tree.
            Mr. Baker put his hands squarely on my shoulders and looked me directly in the eyes, which nobody had ever done before. (I come from a long line of side-glancers.)
“You can always go on,” he said very seriously.
            I don’t know why, but I wanted to wrap my arms around this man. His strength and strange, unwarranted belief in me was what I’d been looking for in members of my family and what members of my family couldn’t give me just then, and here Mr. Baker was, a man I barely knew, a man with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen.            
“I wasn’t going to win,” I said, knowing then that that was the real reason I’d quit.
Mr. Baker smiled. “This is the first brave thing I’ve seen you do.”
            “What?” I said, beginning to smile, too, though I didn’t know why.
            “Tell the truth,” he said, and hugged me so securely I thought I’d turn blue. “You’re a good kid, you know. I think you’re going to be all right.”
            (Words that were so wonderful I started to cry.)
            I don’t know if you can teach someone to have heart or not, but that’s what Mr. Baker did for me that day and that strength of heart is what I’ve carried with me all these years. If a door closes, I find another one to try to open. If ponytails are passing me, I go after them instead of giving myself over to negativity and turning away.
Crossing the finish line, having guts and grit, is what’s important to me. Knowing that I didn’t quit—that I don’t quit—makes me proud, confident, happy.
            These days, I’m a writer more than I’m a runner, though I still try to hit the pavement four or five times a week. Writing, I’ve learned, takes the same tenacity, the same hard work and hard-won belief in one’s self. I’ve seen so many talented writers give up, and I want to grab them by the shoulders and look directly in their eyes and tell them what Mr. Baker told me. Keep writing even if you have to crawl on your hands and knees.
            My first novel is coming out with a large New York press in April. From the outside, my story looks so easy and breezy and, well, full of beauty. The truth is that I fought for my book every single step of the way. I fought for it when people kept saying no for months and months and months. I fought when they said, “we need to think about sales figures.”
I am fighting for it even now.
            And you know what: it probably won’t sell a million copies, I probably won’t be able to quit my job and shop at Whole Foods for herbs and nuts and fish, and I probably won’t wake up and see my name in The New York Times any time soon.
            But on April 12th, I’ll be smiling. I promise you that.
Writing a book, finding an agent and an editor, finding my way through all of the no, you can’ts! has been the longest race of my life and I’ll have finally made it to the chute—without fanfare, maybe—but on my own two feet.
(A thought so wonderful I know I will cry.)
            I haven’t seen Mr. Baker since I was a senior in high school. Is he alive? Is he still coaching running? I don’t know.
That warm September day at the cross-country meet was the beginning of a relationship that changed my life. He taught me about being brave, about being bold, about fighting for what you want and deserve in life. He taught me about nourishing myself in every sense of the word.
He told me about his time in Vietnam, about never giving up even when people around him were dying in muddy rice paddies.
I’ll never forget what he said.
            Right before the next cross-country race, Mr. Baker and I exchanged presents, if you can call them that. I gave him my father’s old yellow windbreaker, which he wore to most every meet for the next four years, and he gave me a Semper Fi flag he’d had since the war and which I still keep in my treasure box in the closet.
Whenever I find myself alone on the course now, in the middle of a race that’s even less defined than when I was a teenager, I think of Mr. Baker—those blue eyes and that flag—and I keep going.
I keep hearing him say, have some heart, Rebecca.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nature's Creative Influence by Melissa Crytzer Fry

Nature’s Creative Influence

By Melissa Crytzer Fry

When a peregrine falcon circled over my head during a jog this week, words began to swirl in my mind, matched only by the intensity of each hurried wing beat above me. I realized my writing topic was right before my eyes. Birds!

These feathered creatures play an unmistakable role in Rebecca’s upcoming debut, THE BIRD SISTERS, but they also symbolize what I feel can be a writer’s best creative inspiration: nature, the outdoors, unbridled open spaces, wildlife, fresh air.

There’s just something about nature and its ability to inspire – the way it can tug at your heart, leave you breathless, awestruck, and hungry for more. A simple walk in the park, a jog in the wilderness, or a glimpse out the window at the birdfeeder … For me, these brushes with nature somehow lead to a magical free flow of ideas, an ability to see more clearly, providing life lessons and writing inspiration – both freelance and fiction. All fodder for our novels.

The following excerpt documents an emotionally inspiring experience I had with a roadrunner pair that nested in our house-under-construction. I just happened to be outside when I heard the faint clack clacks of the first grounded fledgling:

I found myself caught in a dance of watch-and-see vs. stop-and-help. From the start, I wanted simply to observe nature, not interfere with it.

The hours passed as I regularly checked on Rocky’s whereabouts, my eyes constantly scanning and my ears tuned to his calling, though my physical presence hidden. Despite the loudest chirping Rocky could muster, his now waning attempts to reach his parents were in vain, despite their close proximity.

When dusk fell, my stomach knotted. I knew what lay outside the perimeter of our house: coyotes, owls, hawks, rattlesnakes, bobcats, gila monsters. Had I done the right thing by simply letting nature take its course?

Relief flooded over me the next morning at the sight of Rocky’s toes and tiny claws peeking from beneath the rocks where I left him. I realized, however, that something was terribly wrong. His feet were rigid, extended.

When my husband helped me gingerly lift the large rock off his tiny body, I was assaulted by guilt. I should have stepped in – with tweezers and fresh bugs, a warm makeshift bed. Surely he’d have let me feed him, if I had only done it.

With a warm washcloth, I picked up Rocky’s stretched body, his eyes closed, his feathers limp, but his chest still moving. He was clearly in for the fight of his life. As I tried to warm him, he attempted to lift his little head and made a faint squeak, giving me hope. All I needed were kissing bugs, longhorn beetles, harvester ants. They were in abundance on our property!

But as I sat with him in the sun, my tears fell freely, plunking onto his little body. I knew that I was too late. And when his body shuddered, that last little breath escaping from his beak, I knew I had a decision to make. Return him to nature? Give him a proper “human” burial?

My poor husband did not know how to console me as I sat sobbing with the precious gift that rested in my hands. At least, I reasoned, he hadn’t died alone. He had the warmth and comfort of another creature next to him in the end.

But even with the sadness wrapping its way around me, I still knew, in that moment, that I had witnessed something miraculous. I was a close-up observer to nature’s beauty and its cruelty, to the desert’s awe and its ire. I was privy to this little bird’s beginning, his parents’ devotion, their fatal mistakes.

I realized that this delicate dance between life and death that occurs in the desert every day – this fragility – is probably exactly the reason so few people have that rare opportunity that I was afforded. To see nature in its rawest form. To experience it with the heart.

As we contemplated what to do, we decided to stay true to our commitment as respectful observers of nature. Through wet eyes, we gave Rocky back to Arizona’s harsh Sonoran Desert, hoping his life might sustain other life.

Melissa Crytzer Fry is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist living out her writing dream in southern Arizona, among wildlife ranging from javelina, bobcats and quail to mountain lions, coyotes, tarantulas and Gila Monsters. She is the author of the What I Saw nature/writing/creativity blog (, owner of AZCommPro Communications, and a fan and writer of women’s literature (currently chasing the publishing dream).

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Last Thursday, I was a very lucky girl and got to have dinner with these talented ladies!
 Tanya Egan Gibson, Barbara Drummond Mead, Therese Fowler, Siobhan Fallon, Rebecca Rasmussen, Heidi Durrow, Eleanor Brown, Caroline Leavitt, and Sarah Pekkanen 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Booklist Review!

Here is the Booklist review! Yipee!! 

Rasmussen, Rebecca (Author) Apr 2011. 304 p. Crown, hardcover, $24.00. (9780307717962).
Born to two star-crossed lovers turned emotionally estranged parents in rural Wisconsin, Twiss and Milly grow up in poverty, continually trying to forge a bridge between their mother and father. Things turn south the summer their father gets into a car accident that cripples his burgeoning professional golf career. Their cousin Bett comes to live with them for a few months and brings with her a storm of knowledge about love, truth or consequences, and something even more devious, which threatens to cripple the family. As Twiss and Milly reach late adolescence, they must decipher the world of relationships on their own, causing Twiss’ wild-woman tendencies to grow stronger and pushing Milly toward Asa, the doctor’s son who mows their lawn and seems to share her affections. This novel is told from the perspective of the sisters as girls and old ladies still living in the same house, looking back on their young lives. A charming yet sober tale of two girls struggling to grow up amid family turmoil and poverty, this is a welcome debut from Rasmussen.
— Julie Hunt

"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."