Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Well Read Wednesday: The Cheshire Cheese Cat

Several years ago I took a writing class from Randall Wright. Every Saturday a few of us would go and sit in the sunroom on the back of his house and learn about the craft of writing and workshop our novels in progress. Randall was working on his own book and he would read us excerpts from it. It was the delightful tale of a cat that lives in a pub in London where Charles Dickens comes to work on his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Randall was co-writing the book with Carmen Agra Deedy. The excerpts he read to us were wonderful, delightful, and creative. I couldn’t wait to read it. It has taken more than 3 years for that book to finally be in my hands, but it was worth the wait and it is worth a read.

Skilley is a delightful cat who takes up residence in Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, a pub favorite of local authors. Skilley is supposed to catch mice, but he prefers to eat cheese. A pact is arranged by Pip, a mouse skilled in reading and writing, where Skilley is provided cheese in exchange for a catch-and-release mousing ruse designed to appease the cook. It all goes well until a Pinch, a distasteful alley cat, also comes to live at the pub and discovers that Skilley and the mice are also harboring one of the queen’s royal ravens. Mischief and mayhem ensue as friendship and loyalty is tested. And finally, in the end, Charles Dickens has a timeless opening line for his novel.

Randall Wright is a wonderful person and a fabulous writing teacher, with a passion for good writing and knack for teaching structure and tension. I loved those Saturdays and I loved finally being able to read, The Cheshire Cheese Cat: Dickens of a Tale. It is witty. It is well written. It is amazingly seamless for a book co-authored by two different people. It is worth a read.

On a side note: Amy Hackworth sat by me many of those Saturdays in Randall’s sunroom. She has co-authored a book “Heaven is Here” with air plane crash survivor, Stephanie Nielson (from the well-known blog Nie Nie Dialogues). It is on pre-order now. I haven’t read it, but I’m guessing it is also worth a read.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Un-Bucket List #3: Go Winter Camping

We are in the throes of winter, and even though this winter (at least for us) has been a mild one, I’m still grateful to curl up in a warm bed. It would never, ever enter my mind that I might be fun to go out and camp . . . in the snow. There are people who feel differently, however. There are some people who think that camping out in below freezing temperatures could be a grand, exciting experience. I’ve never been one of those people. Winter camping has never, ever been on my bucket list, and yet, I have been winter camping. Why? Because I married a man who can talk me into almost anything and one year he talked me into going camping in the dead of winter.

“It’s not as cold as you think it will be,” he said.

“We can build a quinzhee,” he said.

“Winter shelters are so efficient, they actually get toasty inside.”

“It will be fun.”

These were all the lies that I believed, the lies that got me into a pair of cross country skis venturing out for a night of winter camping.

Guess what happens when you ski for miles and miles to your camping destination? You get hot and sweaty. Then you stop. And then you get COLD.

The promised warm quinzhee winter shelter did not work out as planned. The tent that was erected instead was not “toasty.” It was freezing.

I don’t know if any of you remember years and years ago when Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner wrecked his snowmobile and spent a night stranded in Wyoming in the snow and lost one of his toes to frostbite?

That was the very same night that I spent winter camping.

I’ve never been so cold.

The purpose of this un-bucket list is to outline some of the very cool things I’ve done that I never planned to do. This is one of those things, but instead of being “cool” it was cold. Most of my un-bucket list experiences were wonderful, great experiences. I can’t say that of winter camping. It’s not one of my great memories. I promised to never go again, but admittedly, there is something alluring about vast expanses of snow under moonlight and the quiet of winter. There is something to be said of waking up to a muted world and the intimacy of listening to your own breathing. There is something appealing about traveling to a place on your own, under the power of your own muscles, of seeing your own breath and finally getting warm enough to nod off to sleep.

There is something to be said for having experienced it.

And oh, how I love being warm again.