Tag Archives: Bandon

1,500 words in my extra hour…

I’m back.

That’s not bragging, that’s celebrating. The first few days of NaNoWriMo were off to a slow start. Now I’m excited. Finally get to use those vagabond youth I’ve been stalking since summer. Not to mention my obsession with the ocean and the Oregon Coast. I’m liking this book. It’s fun to spend time camping on the beach with a bunch of young hippies.

Now time for everything else in life– San Francisco friends here we come!

Thank goodness for the end of daylight savings time. That extra hour was always magical to me as a kid. My favorite non-holiday weekend of the entire year. I remember believing you had to find something incredible to do with your extra hour, (thanks to a special episode of Pete & Pete…). I guess I still hold that belief. This year I wrote with mine. What did you do with yours? Hopefully something good!

Happy Sunday.

Slimy inspiration.

This piece of driftwood was easily fifteen feet tall. The power of the ocean is incredible… More inspiration from the sea.


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At Least I’m Good At Cheering Myself Up…

Today a student brought me a note. At first, I barely looked at it, distracted in my attempt to convince the class that listening to the sounds of the ocean while writing is beneficial. Most of my students have never been to the beach, so when our peaceful CD started playing and they looked at me funny, I told them to imagine they were writing in front of the sea. Again, strange looks, until I said I was imagining myself there right then, the sun shining, the waves crashing, with a big old smile on my face. That time, they smiled back and nodded, finally getting the picture.

Then, I remembered to look at the note and realized it was a list of all the things the student likes about me, (much more interesting than the complaints I was expecting to read). See, when she was really upset with me last week, an administrator asked her to make this list. She wasn’t asked to share, so I forgot about it, but today she unexpectedly gave it to me anyway.

My favorite entry:

Mrs. M is good at cheering herself up. 

An astute observation, particularly as I sat there using the ocean to indeed cheer myself up, soaking in a few moments of artificially-created tranquility.

This was followed by:

Mrs. M is good at cheering the class up.

So, as easily as I sometimes fall into a funk, at least I’m good at cheering myself (and others) back up. This is probably the best compliment I’ve received in a long time. Thank you dear, bright, sometimes-angry-but-still-forgiving child.

I leave you with 22 crudely-shot seconds of the glorious Oregon Coast in Bandon from this summer. Maybe it will cheer you up too in its quiet simplicity.

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Oregon Coast: The Last Hurrah (For Now)

If you’re sick of me on vacation, stop here, save yourself the irritation.  If you want to be inspired to visit the Oregon Coast, read on.  Personally, I’m trying to hang on to every last second.  My summer vacation ends Tuesday, then it’s back to my classroom, school with the kiddos the following week, and a lot less time to write.

This morning, we left Bandon for a different vacation rental just north of Yachats, which thankfully means sun, and lots of it.  We went from foggy and cold to nearly 70 degrees without a cloud in the sky.  The microclimates along the coast always amaze me, although I also realize the weather can vary greatly from day to day.

Here was my pelican friend we said goodbye to in Bandon.  He refused to move from the parking lot, poor guy.  He had to be at least three feet tall and had an audience of onlookers.

On our way up to Yachats, we stopped in Florence’s old town, which is easy to miss if your eyes are busy searching for the Pacific.  The old town is tucked away on the other side of 101, along the Siuslaw River and is well worth the stop, with dog friendly shops and restaurants.  Our dog was not with us to enjoy this perk *insert sad face*, but we still had a lot of fun shopping at the farmers’ market, buying Quiddler at the toy store, and visiting our favorite coffee shop, Siuslaw River Coffee Roasters.

See, I’m not the only one in the family with a love for murals!  Here’s my sis in old town Florence.

Check out the little dragon on the Siuslaw River, her name is Susie…

Reaching Yachats, we were not disappointed.  Sunshine and whales just beyond the waves.

If you look closely, you can see two spouts. I drove myself crazy trying to catch them breaching, my camera just wasn’t fast enough, but they put on a show all afternoon.  Funny how special it feels to spot whales, every single time.

The view from our house, and, yes, it looks like my brother is dancing on the beach.

Told you, this song has haunted me for nearly a decade. No, really, that’s not the point of this picture.  The point is that I’m stealing every last second to write in my little notebooks.

Not a bad way to end a great day on the coast, just wish I could slow it all down…

So, what makes the Oregon Coast different than closer options in California?  It’s more rugged, less crowded, and lacks the same pretentious feeling that many California beach towns project. The restaurants and lodging are cheaper, often more basic, but still get the job done, leaving more emphasis on the outdoors, with hikes where the forest meets the sea on jagged cliffs and rocky shores.  To me, the Oregon Coast is magic, something pictures and words cannot capture.

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Staring into the turquoise waters off Kauai, our catamaran bouncing over the waves, I imagined a mermaid swimming alongside us.  She was beautiful but also frightening.  Seducing men, and maybe some women, to follow her beneath the surface.  It was then I decided to attempt my first fantasy story, a dark siren tale of two worlds, one on land, one beneath icy, deep waters.  Not Little Mermaid, or Splash, or anything of the sort.  Something more hypnotic, dangerous.

Nearly a week later, looking out at the Oregon coast, my imagination has already crafted these worlds and its two central characters, notes scribbled throughout pages and pages of my little purple notebook.  The mermaid, above, and a young man, soon to be missing to the human world, just another kid swallowed by the Pacific Northwest, little flyers posted in the towns, asking if anyone has seen him, assuming he ran away or got lost camping, like the others.

What I have learned during recent months, while finishing up Expecting Happiness, is that I have to strike while the iron is hot.  Stories come and go from my mind and in order for them to come to fruition I have to get to work immediately.  I was already researching a mainstream, realistic fiction project with a different twist on the tormented world of human trafficking.  I had it roughly outlined, but then time passed while I finished my first book and now mermaids sound more appealing.

So, even as I finish that last read through my recent rewrites and prepare to send out queries, I’m also writing about mermaids.  I fear that if I wait, this idea will be swallowed up by another.  Besides, staring out at the crashing waves beyond my window, inspiration abounds.  I just wish Expecting Happiness would finish itself, because writing is the fun part, editing/revising, not so much.  I’ll leave you with a small peak at my dark mermaid.


He had watched her every night for nearly a week, unable to take his eyes off her as she swam, naked in the icy ocean.  From the cover of his driftwood structure, he peered out at her, squinting to focus on her smooth skin beneath the moonlight.  The first night, he thought she was a figment of his imagination, the result of shifting light beneath the fast moving clouds.  However, each evening after he put out his campfire and retreated to the make-shift shelter, she returned.

Some nights, he could see her better than others, depending on the moon.  Tonight, the moon was full, its light cascading over the sand, bouncing back toward the sky, a dull glow.  The stars shone bright above the beach, unobscured in a rare, cloudless moment.  Carefully, he pulled himself through the opening of his crude shelter, cautious not to knock over the paddles to his kayak, worried that any noise might scare her back into the water.

He was still uncertain where she came from.  She always appeared from nowhere, as though she climbed out of the sea.  He figured she must be camping up the way, his own small bay the calmest spot to swim.  Even so, he would not get in that water without his kayak, the roiling waves and icy cold too much for most strong swimmers.  He had watched more than one surfer paddle out in a full wet suit just to be pummeled by the waves and head back in.

Still, there she was, naked, riding in on the waves, diving beneath the breaks, emerging with her long, dark hair clinging to her breasts.  She was child-like in her play, alternating between the water and the shore, chasing the waves in and out.  He thought he heard her laughing as she ran, at first quiet like a whisper, then howling, alive and wild.

In truth, he had not emerged from the structure the previous nights because she scared him.  The freedom of her body, the rawness of her loud laughter, almost animal-like.  Eventually, she would disappear, leaving him aching to touch her cold skin…

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Something Worth Remembering: Digging for Childhood Memories

The importance of childhood memories has been bombarding me lately.  First, the suggestion by a careful listener to my book that my characters needed to be softened through their childhood memories, then bird by bird underlining the importance of conjuring up the past as a writing exercise, and then, finally, listening to The Perks of Being a Wallflower on our car ride to Oregon, paying special attention to how the protagonist recalls his own childhood woven seamlessly together with his present.

So, sitting in the car with my husband, brother, and sister, caravanning with the other half of our family in the car in front of us, headed toward what is a yearly family retreat up on the Oregon coast, I decided there was no better place to conjure up the past.  As a way to pass the time, I asked everyone to share the first childhood memory that came to mind, then we dug deeper, and deeper, until finally the memories were flowing, randomly associated to the ones before, bouncing us all around the sharp and smooth corners of our childhoods.

Thinking back on my own experiences, I realized my memories are already blurred.  It is hard to distinguish between fact and fiction, between what really happened, what I was told happened, and what I probably picked up from some other stories somewhere along the way.  Throughout the past couple weeks, I have been reading Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, which while often scattered, is also layered with the complexity of memory and how it propels us forward, even when blurred around the edges.

I’ll leave you with the first blurry memory that came to me playing this game in the car.  I invite you try the same thing with those you love or as a writing exercise.  You might find something important buried deep inside yourself, something worth remembering.


For a short period of time following my parents’ divorce, we lived with my aunt deep in the eastern foothills of California.  Maybe it was not that deep, but as a child it felt like it.  We were easily thirty minutes outside Placerville, which is really only a small town itself.  To reach Sacramento probably took about an hour and a half, although time is warped in childhood, so maybe it was not quite as far as I remember.  Regardless, it was a different world than my brother and I were used to.

In order to reach her house, you had to drive down a long dirt road that was covered in frogs during the late spring, precious little croaking green things that would get stuck in the tires, smashed flat across the dusty road, or worse yet, squashed unwillingly beneath your bare feet.  There were no other houses within eyesight, only trees and the kind of pond any kid would dream about.  Galoshes were a necessity for traversing the muddy banks, and a huge Border Collie, German Shepard, perhaps even Saint Bernard, mix of a dog named Muttly followed us around, keeping close eye on everything we did.

Save for the occasional encounter with a coiled, ticking rattle snake, it was a childhood heaven.  I can still smell the dusty, dry, hot earth in summer, taste all the treats my mom protested so much in the sugar drawer, feel the icy cold water of the swimming pool on my face.  But what stands out more than my tough aunt taking a shovel to a rattle snake or me coercing feral kittens to love me or watching chicks hatch or bottle feeding baby sheep was an evening spent with my dad on the steps of the wooden deck, staring up at the summer stars through a break in the large oak trees.

That night, my dad held my brother and me close, and told us to absorb this moment because it would soon pass.  I remember sitting there, just eight years old, loving my dad so much, sensing the sadness in his acute awareness of the brevity of life.  Of course, this same awareness was lacking in me then, but it was his insistence on how important that moment was that forced me to scrunch my little face together and force the memory of those stars and his love for us deep inside my brain.  To this day, this is the strongest recollection of my childhood.

New family memories in Bandon, OR

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