Posted in Idaho, IdahoAuthors, PostaDay

“Honey, out here we pronounce that ‘Iowa’…”

I actually got that response once, from an older lady (you know, probably about the age I am now) at a campground on the east coast, when I responded to her friendly where-ya-from by answering “Idaho.”  Unsure whether a third-grader were allowed to correct a Grownup, I defaulted by abruptly removing myself from the conversation, and the presence of the Idiot Grownup.  A few years later, at a national conference of high-schoolers, I scoffed at some other kids who asked me (entirely in earnest) whether we had electricity or indoor plumbing.

the state's single north-south "highway"

Truth be told, though, I know a few people who live without either–and the public restrooms along some of our roads are hole-in-the-ground outhouses.  For that matter, the single road which connects the northern and southern halves of our state is a windy little affair (often impassable due to rockslides or snow) that might not be deemed worthy of the name “highway” by folks in other regions of the country.

So although I have no wish to feed any stereotypes about a rural state, I do have to observe that there are some admittedly humorous peculiarities to be found here.  Take, for example, the two-week “Spud Break” we had from school every September in eastern Idaho, when the older kids and most of the school staff were needed in the fields for potato harvest.  Or the fact that, when I moved into my first Boise home just half a mile from the capitol building, my next-door-neighbors had a herd of goats in the backyard, while a number of horses pastured just down the street.  Well within city-limits, mind you, in the state’s capital city.  (I’m debating whether to use quotation marks around “city” in that sentence.  If Idaho HAS a city, Boise is it.  I’ll leave it at that.)

My sister and I used to play a “Travel Bingo” game on car trips; it was a scavenger hunt of sorts, setting us to look for items in an ascending hierarchy of difficulty.  But the game must have been manufactured on the East Coast, because the “easy” level included things like a traffic clover-leaf (which we’d never laid eyes on), while the most difficult level included “covered wagon” and “outhouse”…  Not a game designed for Idaho, where the “tractor crossing” sign is commonplace.

My other car-trip memory is my mother attempting to read aloud to us from books by Idaho outdoorsman Pat McManus.  As I wrote to him decades later, when I was setting up an internet chat with the students of my “Idaho Literature” class, my mom would get to such a point of wheezing, choking laughter that she’d have to pass the book to the backseat so one of us could continue the reading.  I still have my treasured copy of “They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?“–signed by him at a Young Authors’ Conference in my gradeschool years.  If you’re up for some classic Idaho humor, his books will make any fisherman howl with laughter.

live bait vending machine
the Live Bait vending machine in front of our Grocery

With a nod to Jeff Foxworthy (whose Redneck observations are so funny because of the truths behind many of them), I offer the following observations on my home state:  

You may be in Idaho if…

  • The local car dealership offers a free rifle with your new truck-purchase.  (Not joking.)
  • Back-yard-chicken classes are advertised on your street corner.
  • There’s a Live Bait Vending Machine in front of your grocery store.
  • The roadside signs along the highway sport bullet-holes.
  • A man who loses his leg to a thresher buries it in the local cemetery, with the rest of him joining it later.  (Not joking.  You can visit Ben Waldron’s headstone AND his, er, legstone in Samaria ID.)
  • Participants in a mountain-man rendezvous, Indian pow-wow, or cowboy-poetry fiddle-fest are not people “dressing a part.”

When it comes down to it, though, how I REALLY know I’m in Idaho is that people don’t lock their doors, and strangers smile at each other.  (In fact, there’s still a law on the books in Pocatello ID that “a person may not be seen in public without a smile.”)  And on that cheery note, I’ll leave you with a little bit of hard-earned Idaho Wisdom: Don’t squat with your spurs on.

My (quirky) Home State!

Posted in PostaDay, writing

Versatile Blogger (Verbosity “R” Us)

Versatile Blogger AwardIt’s a colorful week–yesterday I painted the web pink, and today I get to forward some green! (Sorry, guys–not money…) Better than money (right? right?)–today I am honored to bestow the Versatile Blogger Award on 15 fellow bloggers!

First, my humble thanks to Lynette at Wordtabulous, who honored me with the award last night (just when I was “coming down” from my flamingo-flurry). This, too, is a pay-it-forward award, with the following rules:

  1. Thank your nominator with a link to her blog.
  2. Bestow the award on 15 bloggers (sharing links to their sites, and letting them know).
  3. List seven things about yourself.

With no further ado (at YOUR end, Dear Reader; I assure you there has been much ado at MY end in narrowing down my lo-o-o-ong list of favorites), I am now pleased to share with you the next generation of Versatile Blogger Awardees:

  • HamakkoMommy With her family cast of characters (His Royal Highness, Me First, and Me Too), she shares adventures of parenting in Japan. And did I mention, Adventures of Parenting…
  • Greg at Real Men Wash Tights (“Life of a Dance Dad”) whose description of juggling twin babies in a parking lot had me howling with laughter.
  • The ladies at Gem State Writers (yep, that’s my home state of IDAHO), providing a steady stream of writing tips and guest authors.
  • The hilarious cultural observations of He Shat, She Shat, serving up the “poop” like no one else.
  • Angie at Doodlemum, who journals the Adventures of Parenting in her humorous sketchbook.
  • The “Dilbert of Bloggers” at Evil Boss, whose trials any cubicler will find painfully funny.
  • NotaCrazyCatLady, whose kitty-cartoons make me giggle (and Suzy-cat purr).
  • Emmie, the fabulous redhead at Emmie Mears, who authored my favorite micro-post of all time (“omit needless words.”) and whose writing is as vibrant as her hair color.
  • CheapAss fiction, “a one-person cheerleading squad for web fiction authors everywhere,” and always on the look-out for budget-reading-material. YAY from this broke-ass Reader.
  • The itinerant duo at Cosy Travels of the Viking and his Kitten, traveling together and sharing their tales.
  • OneFunnyMummy, whose parenting challenges include the “va-jay-jay” word.
  • Mooselicker, whose sometimes cynical (and always observant) writing makes me grin, and whose blog handle I’m dying to have explained someday.
  • Tanya at Domestic Dyke, family-blogger with a twist.
  • Sparklebumpsthebookwhore, whose blog recently got her fired (which tells you it’s worth reading), and whose posts are as lively as they come.
  • Elise at On Living in a Box, chronicling the adventures (and living arrangements) of a full-time writer.

To all of you: THANKS FOR THE READING! Consider yourselves, officially, Versatile Bloggers! (As if you needed a little green stamp from me to know that about yourselves…)

And to complete the required elements of my award acceptance, here are 7 random facts about myself…

  1. In the last five days, I’ve written articles on OC-192 bandwidth service, yeast infections, bankruptcy, Pilates (“No, Honey–Mommy isn’t writing about PIRATES”), credit repair, African music, home security systems, and Traveling with Toddlers (yay, a subject I didn’t have to RESEARCH!). Freelance writing is… educational.
  2. I have a Master’s degree in Creative Writing, which doesn’t hang on a wall anywhere. The drawing titled “Mommy, you rock!” DOES hang on my wall.
  3. I studied marine biology at University of Hawai’i Hilo, living the whole time in the same rainforest town as my current husband… Married a guy from my classes (hey, the wetsuit was irresistible), ended up back in Idaho with him–where 16 years later I finally crossed paths with my REAL husband. In rehab. In Idaho. God has a sense of humor.
  4. I sing in the shower. When my husband and I owned a Hawai’ian restaurant, we used to sing duets in the kitchen. (I didn’t mind an audience when I couldn’t SEE them.)
  5. My seven-year-old thinks that every book should have CHICKENS in it.
  6. Apparently I am a “pantser.” (I know, I pledged not to blog about NaNoWriMo till it’s over, but this doesn’t count, does it?) I understand from other bloggers that there are two types of NaNoWriMo-ers: plotters (who have all their details worked out before the 12:01 November 1 start-time), and “pantsers” (who fly by the seat of their pants). My NaNoWriMo file is currently empty except for a four-word title (if such it can be called): “Hell if I Know.”
  7. A SMILE is my facial “default setting.”

With that, I leave you to blog away! My thanks to ALL of you whose writing enlightens and enlivens my days. :)

Posted in PostaDay, travel, writing

Travel Writing: our “Pirate Code” for the Road

[This post is featured as a “guest blog” at Clan Elves of the Bitterroots.  Please stop by to check out their other authors!]

Surely I have the world’s best job: I get to Travel, and I get to Write about it. My Travel Sidekick (a.k.a. Husband) and I have sketched out some “road rules” for these trips–though, like Captain Barbossa’s Pirate Code, they “be more like guidelines than actual rules.” Here’s our formula, if you will, for deriving the best experience out of the trip, and the best story out of the experience…

  1. "Sawtooth Scenic Byway"

    Understand the difference between drive-time and travel-time. If you get into your vehicle and diligently follow the directions to your destination, you’ll arrive in about the amount of time that MapQuest says it will take. That’s drive-time. We, on the other hand, prefer to Stop along the way. We stop a LOT. We turn the car around to investigate whatever eye-catcher just passed, we pick up rocks, we hike up hillsides, sit on tractors, chat with people, take pictures, nose our way down side roads, find things to eat… All in all, we probably spend four or five times the MapQuest estimate on inquisitive adventuring. That’s travel-time. We enjoy experiencing the places we travel.

  2. Don’t fixate on the experience you expected and ignore the one actually in front of you. Sometimes the most story-worthy experiences are the ones we just stumble into, so we make it a point never to be in a hurry to get somewhere else.
  3. Preparation before a trip allows for spontaneity during it. I read ahead comprehensively, as if we might want to see absolutely anything (because we might), and we pack as if we might do absolutely anything (because we might). I do a lot of web-reading before we leave, to get an idea of what sights or attractions are in our path (and what hours those can be seen), so when we’re on the fly we have a menu of ideas. Not a have-to-hit-it checklist, but an awareness of options. With the same philosophy, our “daytrip bag” is packed for options. If we have some snacks and a blanket, we can picnic; if we have tackle and poles, we can fish; extra maps allow us to navigate when we veer off our expected route; swimsuits and jackets and hiking sticks give us options to make spontaneous choices. The more we experience, the more I have to write about.
  4. Follow the map... Or not.

    Take notes. Three-quarters of my travel write-ups stem from our comments, observations, and jokes along the way. I’m jotting things down almost continuously so I can “unpack” the whole experience when I sit down to write about it. I confess I’m an iPad addict–on any given trip I’ll be scribbling notes on the screen, snapping “information”-pictures (of signs, historical markers, etc.), recording conversations, and geo-tagging our track while we go.

  5. The journey is about the stories. Ask questions. Read everything. Eavesdrop.We don’t really hit the road to look at pretty mountains or flowers; scenery by itself would become boring pretty quickly. What makes travel worthwhile is the stories we uncover (and the ones we play out)–whether it’s a geological story encased in the rocks, a place’s history, the stories of people we meet, or the story of our own thoughts and observations, the journey isn’t measured purely by the map.


LADIES ONLY: Wanderlust and Lipstick has a travel-writing contest on!  They’re offering a Mexican get-away to the winner.  Sorry, Guys.  :)

Posted in IdahoAuthors, Reading Reviews

Bang-up Spin-off: “An Assembly Such as This” (Idaho Writers series)

Check it Out!
coming up: Jane Austen week

I suppose one way to measure the popularity of a Classic is to count the number of spin-offs it’s spawned. Gauging by that measure, I’d have to say that Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice surpasses “popular” and rings in at “obsession;” a quick bookstore-search turned up more than 50 novels based on Austen’s golden oldie. And what a selection!–the Darcy/Bennet gang are recast in sequels, family sagas (including an account of Mary Bennet written by a Catholic nun), re-tellings from different points of view, spin-offs based on minor characters, modern settings, mysteries, bodice-rippers, even vampire and zombie novels. While I’m not quite ready to entertain the idea of “Mr. Darcy, Vampyre,” I’ll ‘fess up to a deep enough enjoyment of Austen’s original that I’m open to the knock-offs… IF they actually give me more of what I so enjoyed in the first place.

Not all of them do. Take, as a dreadful example, Linda Berdoll’s Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife. Or, as a fellow blogger ironically observed, “Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: in the bath, in the carriage, on the dressing table…” I don’t have any aversion to steamy scenes in and of themselves, but for heck’s sake serve them up with some Plot! (Ruminations on the discomforts of a long carriage-ride after a long sex-session aren’t a satisfactory substitute for actual storyline…)

In the middle of the spectrum are some of the have-fun-with it tales like Carrie Bebris’s Suspense and Sensibility, which combines characters from two of Austen’s novels and adds a touch of supernatural mystery. What I enjoy about this one is the fact that Bebris carries forward the wit and humor of the verbal exchanges between Elizabeth and Darcy, so although the plot is decidedly un-Austen, the characters remain themselves.

Mr. Darcy: a favorite across the centuries

Which leads me to my favorite, the Top-Notch Knock-Off: Pamela Aidan’s trilogy, told from Darcy’s point of view. (Icing on the cake for me: Aidan is an Idaho Author, woot!) The opening novel, An Assembly Such as This, encompasses all of my favorite scenes and banter from Austen’s original, and adds more in the same vein. My interest, ultimately, in reading a spin-off stems from my wish that Austen had written more of it–and Aiden supplies just that. Elizabeth Bennet is her saucy self, Darcy confounded and frustrated that he can’t seem to gain the upper hand in their verbal sparring, Caroline Bingley as wickedly catty as ever, and still scheming to draw Darcy to herself… Add to the cast a few new characters, most notably Darcy’s valet, Fletcher; perpetually proper and unruffled, though not above a little “orchestrating” of events from the behind-the-scenes vantage point of the servants’ quarters, Fletcher occasionally risks his master’s ire by dropping advice and hints hidden in quotes from Shakespeare. The entire trilogy makes for an engaging read–one that I think Austen herself would have enjoyed, which is about the highest compliment I can think of to pay it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling an urge to pop in my well-worn disc of the BBC production of Pride & Prejudice. I imagine Austen would approve of Colin Firth as well. :)

Check out the book on Amazon!