Super Quick Italian Bean Salad

Italian Bean Salad

This is my weeknightified version of a Foster’s Market recipe. It’s super simple and really hits the spot when I want a tasty deli-style salad with next to no work. You could dress it up as much as you like with fresh veggie add-ins. The original recipe is lovely, though not super fast (you cook the beans yourself and make their delicious dressing from scratch, among other things). Again, this is more a list of ideas than a real recipe, but it’s not hard to eye the proportions.

Ingredients:

Rinsed and drained canned white beans (I like navy beans)

Italian dressing—-I like the Penzey’s mix

Capers

Sundried tomatoes

Chopped fresh parsley

Mix beans with enough dressing to coat and enough capers and tomatoes to give it a little color. Let marinate a few hours if you have time. Add parsley. Enjoy!

Got some more feedback on my nonfiction manuscript this week. Things are finally moving forward. So excited.

And in other news this week, I’ve been talking to 4th and 5th graders about writing an early reader (i.e. Slowpoke). Fun times! Love getting their questions.

For more food-related posts, click here. Have a great rest of your week.

 

Book Signing at Park Road Books in Charlotte: Saturday, January 26

Cover-SlowpokeRevised-3

Please join me at Park Road Books for a book signing

on Saturday, January 26 at 11 a.m.

4139 Park Road
Park Road Shopping Center
Charlotte, NC 28209

Bring the kids! We’ll have snacks!

“This entertaining early reader features Fiona, a girl who really, really likes to stop and smell the roses…The text is interspersed with black-and-white illustrations that do a stellar job of conveying both leisure and frenzy. A clever early reader with challenging vocabulary and some food for thought to boot.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Pearce’s succinct text will amuse emerging readers with her only slightly exaggerated references to the hectic pace of modern life. Ritchie’s fluid, cartoon-style illustrations are equally adept at conveying the story’s speedy absurdities (Mom consuming an entire plate of meatloaf in one gulp) and its more relaxing moments (Fiona smelling the flowers). Best of all, everyone gains an appreciation of the other’s sense of timing—including where and when each is appropriate.” –Booklist

Dream a Little Dream: Writing About Dreams

Who is that strange woman sleeping on the job? And what is she doing in this blog? No, Emily hasn’t been blog-jacked; that’s me, Louise Hawes,  and Emily has invited me to guest write today’s entry! You see, years ago, at Vermont College, where I teach in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, I facilitated a workshop on dreams and writing. Emily, who was part of that workshop, wrote something that eventually sparked part of her novel, Isabel and the Miracle Baby. Which got us both to thinking – why not share the wealth of inspiration and lyricism that dreams can open to all of us ?

Jung and other dream work pioneers suggested that what our conscious mind knows is only half the story.  Dreams visit us to tell us the other half. That half, of course, isn’t actually “spoken,” but reaches us through vehicles with which we writers are intensely familiar:  myth and metaphor. Do we always know what these images are conveying or how they relate to our waking life? Not right away. Like our writing, our dreams often require the objective responses of others before we can “see” them clearly. Which is why, in my weekly dream group, we find we get as much out of looking at others’ dreams as we do to having our own analyzed. Whenever we respond to someone else’s dream, we begin our analysis with, “If this were my dream…” to remind ourselves that it isn’t, but that it speaks to us, too. Isn’t that the same way a good writing workshop critique begins? “If this were my story…”

As wordsmiths, writers may be particularly open to the vibrant but mysterious language of dreams. In addition, I know that, for me at least, dreams have been a fertile source of characters. Recently, on the informal faculty blog of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, I described a new and persistent dream visitor of mine: John the Baptist! For no reason that this Episcopalian turned Agnostic-Buddhist can ascertain, a small, powerfully built man with a voice much gentler than his shape, began visiting my dreams nearly a year ago. He’s become such a frequent visitor that he’s prompted a new project, a novel centered on the young woman whose dance led to his execution, the  Galilean princess, Salomé.

Little did I dream (hideous pun, unabashedly intended) that this admission of mine would lead to a flood of responses from blog readers who’d had similar dream visits:

Tim Wynne-Jones, a brilliant writer and my long-time colleague at Vermont, wrote that he once awoke with the entire plot of a middle-grade novel in his head.  “A prisoner in jail for a political crime who eventually mails himself out of jail, one piece at a time.” What later became one of my granddaughter’s favorite books, Ned Mouse Breaks Away, was, he claims, “all there,” even though he’d woken “without having any idea where it had come from.”

Kathi Appelt , friend, colleague, and National Book Award Honor winner, wrote that she prefers to do her dreaming in the daytime. When she hits a roadblock, she’ll often “just zone out, close my eyes for a few moments (or longer), and let my thoughts drift. Then, when I come out of that meditative state, there’s the clear path. “ I wonder if that’s what makes her writing so dreamy?!

A graduate of VCFA, author Terry Pierce, wrote to tell me she, too, frequently dreams of characters. In one memorable instance, a woman from her work-in-progress invaded her sleep to scold her for not finishing a scene begun that day—a scene in which the character had fallen off a cliff!

Yet another colleague, author Tom Birdseye, told me he knows that he dreams, but that he struggles to remember the messages his unconscious sends him each night. My advice to him is the same as it is to any of you who “lose” dreams before you wake: I can almost guarantee that, if you keep a dream journal by your bed and tell yourself (out loud and fearless) each night before you sleep that you want to remember your dreams, you’ll be dreaming up a storm within a week.

So once you’re up and dreaming, how can you apply your dream life to your waking work in progress? Everyone has their own ways of doing this, but one interesting exercise is to ask your characters for their recurring dreams or nightmares. Whether or not their responses finds their way directly into your work, or whether they simply help you hear your protagonist’s voice and language, free writes on dreams are a terrific way to get a glimpse of even the most recalcitrant character’s inner life!

If you’re interested in reading more about dreams and their connection to creativity, I highly recommend looking at Naomi Epel’s book, Writers Dreaming: Twenty-six Writers Talk about Their Dreams and the Creative Process. Also helpful is, The Natural Artistry of Dreams by Jill Mellick and Marion Woodman.

So what about you? Ever had a dream turn into a story? Do certain themes or characters run through your dream life? Do you have a favorite novel or story that includes a dream? Ever tried asking your characters what they think of your dreams?  Thanks for sharing, and….sweet dreams!

Thanks so much for sharing, Louise! In addition to teaching on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts, Louise is the author many books, including The Vanishing Point, Waiting for Christopher, and Black Pearls, a Faerie Strand. Find out more about her at www.louisehawes.com

Slowpoke Giveaway and Discussion Guide: Closed

Want to win a free book?

To celebrate the release of the discussion guide for Slowpoke, I’m holding a giveaway contest. That means you have the chance to win a hardcover, signed copy of my early reader for your very own.

Make sure to check out the discussion guide here, written by the fabulous Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a talented author in her own right. It’s a great teaching tool, relating Slowpoke to lessons in vocabulary, science, and art. The guide also includes questions for discussing the book with your child or students.

What are the rules?

  • Between now and Saturday, November 5, at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, answer this question in the comments section: What was the first book you remember reading to yourself (or your child to him or herself)? Or, share your favorite children’s book, or just say “hi”!
  • One entry per person, per household. EXCEPTION: You can be entered twice if you link to this post in your blog, facebook, or Twitter account (or other social media). Add the link (or tell me about it, in the case of facebook) in the comments section so I know about the link and can enter your second chance.
  • This contest is restricted to residents of the United States or Germany.
  • The winner will be chosen using random.org
  • The prize is just one book (not all the books in the photo).

Slowpoke is appropriate for boys or girls. It’s especially geared towards children who are learning to read, but it can be enjoyed as a parent read-aloud as well.

Booklist says: “Pearce’s succinct text will amuse emerging readers with her only slightly exaggerated references to the hectic pace of modern life. Ritchie’s fluid, cartoon-style illustrations are equally adept at conveying the story’s speedy absurdities”

School Library Journal says, “the writing in this easy reader is strong, and Pearce includes humorous examples and descriptions of Fiona’s predicament.”

 Good luck and have fun!

** Please note this giveaway is now closed.

Frühlingsfieber/ Patchwork Sneak Peek

Give me a couple of days of sunshiny, above-freezing weather, and I’m delirious with Fruehlingsfieber (spring fever). I’m superstitious even as I write this that Jack Frost is reading and will surely punish me for hoping spring is really on its way. I know the sunshine can’t last, but if gray weather will teach you anything (and actually, I think it can teach a lot, more on that some other time) it’s to make hay while the sun shines. Go out! Enjoy it! This is what the Germans do and so am I.

I’m also feeling the creative sap flowing. Recently I’ve been getting deeper and deeper back into my YA novel and motoring through chapters as fast as I can, trying not to look back and overpolish before I’ve got a complete draft. It’s a totally new way of working for me, and I have to ask myself why I never tried it before. I guess I just wasn’t ready.

Meanwhile I’m getting further and further along on the self-dyed patchwork I started awhile back. I’m so excited about the way it’s coming together. Hope I can share it in full soon. It’s for my son (3) and he’s loving it, which is just the best.

Above is a little peak from the back. Do you notice those finished edges? I realized since it wasn’t going to be quilted that I needed to do something to keep it from fraying. So I’m zigzagging every last little seam. Yep. Crazy, isn’t it? But somehow so satisfying. Aren’t you proud of me for being such a stickler?

A few more random updates:

  • just finished The Hunger Games trilogy. Whew! What a ride! I can’t believe it took me so long to pick them up. Although, it’s kind of nice to be able to read the whole trilogy at once rather than wait for a year or so in between installments. This isn’t my “normal” favorite type of read, but these were way way awesome, very fine writing in addition to the exciting plotlines. They were also progressively engrossing. By the second half of the third novel the world just sort of fell away, dinner went uncooked, children made messes.
  • just discovered a new-to-me design-y/ crafty/ arty blog with a good sense of humor that I’m really enjoying: aesthetic outburst. Thanks go to Meg of elsie marley for the hot tip.
  • oh, um, in case you were trying to reach any of those links on my “projects” or “writing exercise” pages, they have now been fixed. Gotta tell me when these things are messed up, okay?
  • enjoyed this opinion piece by Mark Bittman in the NY Times re: the new dietary guidelines. It’s called “Is ‘Eat Real Food’ Unthinkable?”

Max and Moritz: Great Uncles of the Comic Strip

File:Max und Moritz.JPG

You know the Brothers Grimm, but maybe you haven’t heard of some other famous German brothers: Max and Moritz. They’re some of the most beloved characters in all of German literature.

Published in 1865, Max and Moritz is the story of two naughty brothers whose adventures range from mischievous to vicious. Their darkly comical story is told in a series of seven pranks, and in the end….well, let’s just say they don’t get away with their crimes. It’s not exactly a Disney fairy tale.

The subversive  humor of the book and the boys’ flippancy toward adults represented a departure in the children’s literature of the time, which was strictly moralistic.

The book’s action-filled sequential line drawings are paired with relatively little text. It’s widely believed that Max and Moritz was the direct inspiration for the Katzenjammer Kids, the “oldest American comic strip still in syndication and the longest-running ever.” (from Wikipedia)

The other day I made a date with myself to go to the Wilhelm Busch Museum here in Hannover. The creator of Max and Moritz, illustrator and poet Wilhelm Busch, lived in and around Hannover for several years of his life. The museum is located on the edge of the royal Herrenhauser Gartens. It’s my favorite kind of museum: small, intimate, a beautiful space with really strong exhibits. It houses some of the original Max and Moritz sketches—I love seeing the rough beginnings of things.

Here’s the museum below:

The museum also hosts temporary exhibits of illustration and caricature, and I was lucky enough to catch the show of Lisbeth Zwerger, famed Austrian illustrator. I’ve been a fan of her whimsical fairy tale illustrations for a long time, so it was really interesting to see them in person. Along with German and English editions of Max and Moritz, I couldn’t resist getting Zwerger’s Noah’s Ark, also in the original German—I guess it’ll be good for my language skills.

Also on display, and equally interesting, was a large retrospective show of  influential British carticature artist Ronald Searle. I snapped a quick pic of this machine in the corner of the gallery:

What do you think it is? I’m guessing it’s a hygrometer to make sure the air doesn’t get too damp and damage the artwork, but I don’t know.

I can’t wait to get back to the museum for the next exhibits.

The Max and Moritz image above, which is in the public domain, was found at wikipedia. Information in this post comes from the English and German wikipedia entries for Wilhelm Busch.

Slowpoke Update and Skype Author Chat

Slowpoke has gotten a couple more positive reviews, from Booklist :

“Pearce’s succinct text will amuse emerging readers with her only slightly exaggerated references to the hectic pace of modern life. Ritchie’s fluid, cartoon-style illustrations are equally adept at conveying the story’s speedy absurdities…and its more relaxing moments”

and from School Library Journal (scroll down after clicking on the link).

Also, I just found out that Slowpoke now has an Accelerated Reader test (you have to enter the title into the search feature to see it).

Last week, I did a Skype author chat with Carver Elementary School in Florence, SC. It was really fun. The students are third-graders and had all read Slowpoke ahead of time. Their teachers helped them compile questions about the writing process. I missed being able to interact in person with the kids, but it was a good experience. The learning goes both ways with these kinds of things, and it’s always great to hear from readers. I’d like to do more of them in the future. For tips on hosting a Skype author chat, check out this article. If your school wants to host me, please contact bettyasmith (at) bellsouth (dot) net and put “author visit” in the subject line.

The picture above is me on the big screen in Carver’s library. Special thanks to librarian Debra Heimbrook for working with me on this inaugural Skype chat.