Sunday, November 30, 2008

Perfect For Writing

There's a steady snow falling outdoors. I generally have hostility issues toward snow, but given that I don't need to be anywhere right now, the scene outside my window looks lovely. And it makes for a nice afternoon indoors with a cup of cocoa and a writing pad.

For the moment, let it snow!

Mitten Lit

In case you still have the old address, just wanted to pass on word that Bill and Ben Castanier's MittenLit blog is now at

Mittenlit is updated daily, and it provides information about new books by Michigan authors, books about Michigan, and news of authors touring in Michigan. Mittenlit also has tour information, author interviews, news of upcoming literary events at bookstores and libraries, and more. It's a great blog!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Face of a Turkey

Granted I haven't ever looked at a turkey close-up, but I've got to say this is a pretty amazing face.

His name is Pumpkin, and he's one of two turkeys pardoned yesterday by US President George W. Bush.

Found the turkey photo over on Andrew Sullivan's blog (where I'm often snagging the fun YouTube video links from). The photo is credited to Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just Wondering

Am I the only one on the planet who doesn't get the whole Trans-Siberian Orchestra mania thing?

Brain, Child: Free Back Issues

I subscribe to, and enjoy, Brain, Child: The Magazine For Thinking Mothers. The format of the magazine is primarily personal essays, many of which illuminate an aspect of motherhood you might not have thought about before. Occasionally controversial, the articles are almost always thought-provoking. Many are also humorous.

I've kept most of my back issues. But I have learned about myself over the years that I'm not the sort of person who ever really refers back to saved magazines. So... I'm thinking it's time to part with them. However, they're too good to just recycle.

Any takers? It's a quarterly, and I've got Winter 2003 to present, with a few gaps. You can have them for the cost of postage to send the stack to you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pardoned Turkey Thoughts

Here's a little Thanksgiving fun, offered in the hopes that it will distract you from the fact I'll likely be blog-absent for the next few days...

What with all the Thanksgiving turkeys being pardoned lately, at the national, state, and local level, it leaves one wondering what thought comes into a turkey's mind right after receiving dispensation to live.

An optimistic turkey might think, "With any luck, now I'll make it home for the holidays!"

Pessimistic turkey? "Whatever. Still can't fly."

Feel free to add your own Turkey Quotes in the comments section.

Honorary Chickdom

The Three Silly Chicks are not just silly (which you gathered from the name) and talented (which you knew already): they're also kind and thoughtful (this does not surprise you - you suspected it all along).

And you are kind and thoughtful, too, so go become an honorary chick and help make the world a better place at the same time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Looking for Lava in All The Wrong Places

First off, my apologies for no Michigander Monday this week. The feature will be back up and running real soon.

Second, any lava cake bakers out there? In our family, we're fond of small chocolate lava cakes for special occasions. I used to purchase the ones you can find in the grocery store frozen section. I'd pop them in the oven, and when served, once the fork dug in, they always produced a dependable chocolate lava flow. All was well. But then came nut allergies in the family, and the frozen lava cakes bear the dreaded "produced on equipment that also processes nuts" disclaimer. Which has led us into the dreaded "bake from scratch" territory.

My first go, prepared yesterday, wasn't too bad tastewise, and the cakes' centers were chocolatey and soft; but there was definitely no lava flow. It was much more of a dormant volcano experience. I may have cooked the cakes too long, or maybe I just need a new recipe.

So, if any of you are experienced lava cake bakers, I'd welcome your advice.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Author Binge

I'm a "binge" reader. I tend to find an author I like and then read, relatively rapidly, everything she or he has written. I'm currently on an Ann Patchett bender. I recently picked up a copy of Run, and have found it very absorbing. I'm about halfway through. I took a short break to read Truth & Beauty, her nonfiction work about her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy. Also absorbing, I read it in the course of one day. I still have Bel Canto, The Magician's Assistant, Taft, and The Patron Saint of Liars to look forward to.

I've been very busy lately, and while there's plenty that still needs doing, and even more that I should be doing Right Now, sometimes taking a break from Accomplishing Things and just sinking into a book or two instead is exactly what one needs.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Poetry Friday

Guilty As Charged

It's not a crime
to write in rhyme --
but even if it were,

I'd find the nerve
to write and serve
each sentence I incur.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Michigander Monday: Kristin Nitz

This week we welcome Kristin Nitz!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Kristin: Since graduating from Michigan Tech with a degree in electrical engineering, I’ve moved ten times. One of the moves was to Merano, a spa town in the Italian Alps. Geographically and culturally, it’s about halfway between Verona, Italy and Innsbruck, Austria. Since my family made up the entire American community, this experience was a full scale immersion. My kids went to Italian schools; I went to Italian parent-teacher conferences. By the time we left, I was “conversant” in Italian—that’s a step lower than fluency—but my kids sounded like little Italians. Defending Irene, my first novel about a girl playing on an Italian boys’ soccer team, was set there.

Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your latest book!

Kristin: Saving the Griffin came out in the spring of 2007. It opens in a Tuscan garden with my main character coming nose to beak with a baby griffin under a laurel hedge. I actually finished a first draft of this book before starting in on my soccer novel. I accidentally pitched it to my editor at Peachtree over dinner one night when she was presenting at a conference in Missouri. Since I knew that her house didn’t publish fantasy, I was surprised beyond belief when she said, “Why don’t you send it along?” Saving the Griffin is on the master list of 24 books for the Mark Twain Children’s Choice Award in Missouri. I’ll find out sometime next year if it makes it to the final twelve nominees. Since I lived in Missouri before and after our time in Italy, this would be a dream come true.

Debbie: Other books, and and projects on the horizon?

Kristin: I have a young adult mystery called Stand-In for Murder, which will come out in 2010. It’s set at a bed-and breakfast in Missouri during a mystery weekend. Right now I’m working on a sequel to Saving the Griffin. This one is set in Egypt. I’m going on a research trip there this December. My sister lives in a suburb south of Cairo, so she’s been giving me the expatriate view.

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Kristin: I’ll be signing books at the Rivertown Crossings Mall in Grandville on January 24 at 1:00 P.M.

Debbie: Your favorite place in Michigan?

Kristin: After going to school for four years up at Michigan Tech, Houghton is close to my heart.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Kristin: It’s tough to beat Michigan Tech’s winter carnival with its snow sculptures, human sled-dog races, and other chilly events, but I’ve also learned to enjoy Tulip Time in Holland. My oldest daughter was a Dutch Dancer.

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Kristin: Goodness. There are so many wonderfully charming Michigan writers and illustrators. But the word “fun” really triggered a memory of going to Detroit’s Greek Town with Leslie Helakoski, Lori McElrath-Eslick, Shutta Crum, Sarah Miller and Ruth McNally Barshaw during the 2008 Michigan Reading Association. These are five gracious, talented, and funny women. Opa!

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state.

Kristin: My dorm’s takeoff on OKLAHOMA didn’t make the cut for Winter Carnival skits, but the judges agreed that our closing song was a killer. So with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein:

Oklahoton, where the wind goes rushing by the MEEM,
Where the northern sky is wide and high,
And the air is crisp and cold clean.
Oklahoton, every night my honey lamb and I,
Hit the books and cram for our exams
As the northern lights go flashing by.
We know we belong to this place,
And the place we belong to is great.
And when we say,
‘Ya to the U.P., eh?’
We’re only saying you’re doing fine, Oklahoton.
Oklahoton, okay.
Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Kristin: Despite going to MTU and living in the Holland area for the past four years, I still feel like a Minnesotan deep down. But I’m definitely married to a Michigander.

Debbie: Kristin, thanks for the great interview, for the fun lyrics (which we're now all singing), and for being this week's Michigander!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Poetry Friday

Vantage Point

I'd like to think that if you took

all the mistakes I've made in my life,

if you gathered them up in a sunny field

and put colorful hats on each and every one

and then
if you flew up in a helicopter,
high overhead
to look down,

the large hatted herd

might actually be

a beautiful sight

to behold.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Deep Thought

Forget about building a better mousetrap. Invent a microwave popcorn that never burns, and the world will beat a path to your door.

(Incidentally, in searching for the origin of the adage about building a better mousetrap, I ran across an interesting article about mousetraps. I haven't finished the whole thing yet, but I've read enough to know that there's quite a bit more to mousetrap invention/sales than I realized.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Glimpse At My Day Job

The current email newsletter of Capital Gains features a film made by videographer Stephen Worsfold, who sat down with my boss, Joan Nelson, to talk about community development and sustainability on Lansing's Eastside.

I'm having trouble embedding the clip here; but if you follow this link, you can watch the film at YouTube:

The Lansing band Steppin' In It provides the music.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Story Times & Book Signings

I'll be at the Lansing Mall Barnes & Noble at 4 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 15. For those of you who have already had enough of me, there are some other options in the mid-Michigan area the same day:
  • Leslie Helakoski at Bookbug in Kalamazoo, Saturday, November 15th at 11AM (for details, click here)
  • Story Time and Signing with Laurie Keller, Saturday, November 15th at 1:00 p.m. at the Okemos Schuler Books (details here)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Michigander Monday Medley

Instead of a profile this week, I thought I'd share a bit about my experience on Sunday at the Monroe County Library System 10th Annual Writers on the River Book Fair. I've heard about this event for years, so being invited to participate was a real honor. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

I drove as far as Ann Arbor on my own, and then carpooled the rest of the way with three other Michigan children's book authors. Nancy Shaw and Shutta Crum are two delightful writers who have been a source of encouragement and inspiration to me for years; and our driver was Cynthia Furlong Reynolds, who I met for the first time when I climbed into her car, and I liked her immediately. After arriving at the Library, we enjoyed an author lunch along with Library staff and Friends of the Library.

When the book fair began, I had Nancy Shaw on one side of me. On the other was Wong Herbert Yee, an extremely talented author-illustrator who I've heard good things about for years; I was glad to have a face and voice to put with his name and books. As the afternoon went on, I met loads of wonderful people who came by the table, including some local Young Authors who also participated in the event. The entire library staff was topnotch, and I was thrilled to be there. A great day!

A rundown of all the children's authors present:

[Update - I had a typo in a name -- my apologies!!! -- it's fixed now...]

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Poetry Link

Know how to be a poet? I don't, but Wendell Berry does. Find out here.

The Writer's Almanac, with Garrison Keillor (who, if I can say it without sounding disrespectful, looks in some photos like The Pout-Pout Fish's distant cousin, does he not?) offers a free daily email with poetry and literary history. Delight your Inbox by signing up here. And consider delighting The Writer's Almanac by supporting them here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Poetry Friday

Passing By

It does not surprise me,
or at least not much,
when early morning my car and I

drive past an extended string of dead possums,
clustered like roadkill gems on the inert center line.

Their lifeless mounds stream by and my eyes turn back to the road
and my thoughts gallop ahead as ever and I am

unremarkably unmoved.

But what does surprise me, finally,
is a sudden, stretching reach of yearning:

a desire to know,
for the possums' sake --
or perhaps my own --

or at least, at last, for pity's sake --

whether they went all at once

or one by one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Book Tribute

Some of you may be readers of Amanda Snow's blog A Patchwork of Books. Though I don't know Amanda personally, I've enjoyed her blog frequently since discovering it earlier this year. Amanda is a librarian, and she writes thorough and thoughtful reviews of children's books.

This spring, Amanda and her husband welcomed their son to the world, born three months prematurely. Jacob lived his four-month life in a hospital, but he was surrounded by love, and by books, until his death in September.

Recently, Charlotte at the blog Charlotte's Library, came up with a way to honor Jacob and his family. It's a lovely tribute. For details, click here.

Can We Go To Bed Now? Yes, We Can.

There was technically no need for me to stay up so late, glued to the TV set. I could have waited until morning to know the results. But there's nothing like watching it all unfold before you in real time. I am bleary eyed, and I count the hours to alarm time as less than five, but I don't feel tired at all. Because it's now well past midnight, which makes this, officially... A New Day. Hurrah.

Now, to bed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Live Blogging... Not

If this were a political blog, I'd be doing live blogging of election results. But although the national political scene is part of who I am, I recognize that this is not the forum for me to document my thoughts and reactions to the poll results.

But I have to say, it is indeed an interesting thing to be watching the results.

I'm sitting, as so many people are, on the edge of my seat. I'm old enough that I have Other Presidential Elections and other Election Night Results to compare my current experience with. This makes it all the more interesting to watch the results as they come in, and to try to calibrate where it is exactly I, and we, are.

I have a feeling I'll be up rather late.

So, You May Ask: Where's Your "I Voted" Sticker?

Yes, I voted. (As my kids would say, "Duh!") Only I'm a stickerphobe (ew! adhesive on paper!), so, as usual, I passed on the post-voting sticker option. (From what I understand, this counts me out of various latte and doughnut freebies, but such is the cost of neuroses.)

We had fun voting. It was a family affair. My husband and I picked the kids up from school and took them out for a democracy lunch. (Ironically, when they couldn't agree on where to eat, the grown-ups went dictatorial and decided for them. Tyranny does have its place.) After lunch, we headed over to the library for some new books for the kids to take with them to look at while waiting with us in long poll lines. We arrived at our voting location mid-afternoon, and we proceeded to wait a sum total of 30 seconds (that was my wait; I let my husband go first). Apparently they'd been busy in the morning, and expected to be quite busy later, but we had hit a nice lull. I only wish everyone voting today could have had next-in-line experiences.

Our polling place is at a church, and the church has a small outdoor playground. After we left the building, I kicked off my shoes and sat in the grass in the sunshine, watching the boys play on equipment now almost too small for their growing bodies. There in my shirtsleeves, breathing in the smell of the leaves, of the air, and of the day itself, I felt a sense of lightness and optimism.

All in all, it's been a great day already.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm a Winner!

It was a nice bit of Monday news to find out that I'd won the Three Silly Chicks trick-or-treat contest. (Especially cool to learn of it via my blog roll, over to the side: there's nothing like seeing the phrase "Debbie Diesen... Come on down!" pop up unexpectedly to get your mouse clicking!) I'm pleased to say that I'm the winner of an autographed copy of Carolyn Crimi's book Where's My Mummy?

You can learn more about the Three Silly Chicks (aka Andrea Beaty, Carolyn Crimi and Julia Durango) and all their wonderful books here.

While you're doing that, I'm going to imagine that winning the drawing also bestows upon me the temporary designation of Fourth Silly Chick. I'm off to look for an appropriate crown.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Michigander Monday...

I apologize, but there won't be a Michigander Monday profile this week. I've been remiss in sending out invitations (things got busy for a while), and I suddenly realized today -- as I got ready to format tomorrow's entry -- that I don't have a profile in the hopper!

So I'll be sending out some additional invitations this week, and hopefully will have something for you next week.

And any of you reading this who are Michigan children's book authors or illustrators, it's an open invitation -- so if you'd like to be profiled, you don't have to wait to hear from me directly. Just drop me a line: deborah[at] Thanks!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

No, I Wasn't In Texas Today

Methinks the Yahoo "Upcoming Events" listing service has a few bugs with its datacrawling. Today in my Google travels I bumped into a listing that had me at The O Henry Museum in Austin, Texas today.

For the record, I was not in fact in Austin today -- but I was at the fabulous Literary Life Bookstore in Grand Rapids. More details on this fun event soon.