Archive for the ‘In the Wild’ Category
Where in the world is TOUCHING THE SURFACE? Well, let me tell you…
Here are some of the upcoming events, where you can get signed copies of TOUCHING THE SURFACE and hang out with me and talk about writing, agents, publishing and books. You know I ALWAYS love to talk about books.
Fasten your seatbelt…here we go!
Right around the corner (THIS SATURDAY) is the 2016 Millbrook Literary Festival.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
10:00AM – 5:00PM
I’ll be hanging out all day, chatting with readers and signing books. And if you have the time, don’t miss this fabulous panel…
You’ve Written a Novel For Teens: Now What?– 4:00 – 5:00pm
YAModerator: Jake Wizner with panelists Gail Carson Levine, Jennifer Castle, Barbara Dee, and Kimberly Sabatini.
Join young adult author Jake Wizner (Spanking Shakespeare) as he talks to Newbery medal honoree Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted), and award-winning authors Jennifer Castle (The Beginning of After), Barbara Dee (The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys), and Kimberly Sabatini (Touching the Surface) about the paths that they took to get their work published. How did they decide which age group to write for? Find out what it takes to succeed in the world of young adult and middle grade literature.
There is so much to do in quaint Millbrook–visit the shops, grab some fabulous food and make a day of it! You can find the full list of authors and panels HERE.
* * *
And where in the world is TOUCHING THE SURFACE next?
I’ll be DOUBLE TROUBLE at B-FEST, the TEEN BOOK FESTIVAL at Barnes & Noble!!!!
What is B-Fest???
B-Fest is the place for teens to:
•Be in the Know and participate in fun, interactive trivia and games based on popular teen series and books
•Be First to receive exclusive content like chapter samplers and advance reading copies of upcoming teen book releases
•Be Part of the Story and participate in writing workshops, meet authors and illustrators and express their fandom through cosplay and photo ops with popular character standees
•Be Rewarded with prizes, giveaways and enter-to-win items
•Be Heard and Influential by giving Barnes & Noble and publishers feedback through social media campaigns and vehicles for their feedback in stores during the weekend
And what will I be doing at B-FEST???
Do you have a reader at home, who loves to write and might like to be an author someday? Bring them to see me at B-FEST. I’ll be sharing my insights on writing, agents and publishing. I can answer your questions about how to get started or where to go next on your current project. I’ll also be signing copies of TOUCHING THE SURFACE while I’m there. And of course, I love talking about anything involving YA Books–so stop by and we’ll hang out!
I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble (Poughkeepsie, NY) on:
Saturday, June 11 at 1 PM
2518 South Road
Poughkeepsie, New York 12601
Sign up on FB for event updates.
And I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble (Mohegan Lake, NY) on:
Sunday, June 12 — TBD
3089 E Main St
Mohegan Lake, NY
More info to come on B-FEST as the events get closer. Hope to see you there!
It’s taken me a bit, but I finally got my spring break photos put together and some I set up for your Throwback Thursday #TBT pleasure. Enjoy the trip back in time…
First stop Tucson for my birthday on…
you guessed it–3/19 LOL! This was a very perfect room number.
And my post about it connected me with a friend from home in the same hotel.
(We never saw each other in person.)
Then it was throwback time! With a visit to the University of Arizona. I had a wonderful time getting my Masters in Special Education while we were stationed in Arizona roughly 18 years ago.
The Education Building where I took all my classes.
And here’s a blast from the past…
The “old folks” in the family (out for a visit) in front of Old Main.
Heading to a Wild Cats football game.
My graduation in 1998 and hanging with my favorite professor Dr. Lane.
The next day we headed to Sierra Vista, where we lived while stationed in AZ. And we found our old apartment…
The trees have definitely grown and the paint colors have changed.
Ask my brother–we used to have a much more open view during our epic BBQ’s when he came out to visit. LOL!
More of the present and past in Tombstone.
It was a lot emptier when I came out with my mom. I wonder if that has anything to do with the movie Tombstone?
Doc Holiday is everyone’s Huckleberry now.
Also made a new and old visit to the Crystal Palace. This time with the boys but last time with high school buds.
And things had changed inside the O.K Corral too.
My first time around the shoot out reenactments occurred right on the spot where the shoot out happened. Now they have a model in the same place and the reenactment off to the side.
Back in the late 90’s.
Clearly the new models are having a bit of trouble. All of the figures have very interesting feet. The heat?
We then headed to the eclectic and artsy mining town of Bisbee. We didn’t make it in time to take the Copper Queen mine tour, but we did get to check it out and of course I had stories.
Not too much has changed.
Grandma and my Dad.
Mom and I.
Here’s a different Bisbee before and after shot.
And the rest of the pics are some quirky, random shots…
And this was our favorite restaurant and it was still there!!! Had a yummy dinner <3
Bisbee at night.
Speaking the truth…
Off to Phoenix…
These two cuties were not the best of friends.
The Easter Bunny?
A Gorgeous Harris Hawk named Hitman who worked on the Falcon Force Squad.
After an afternoon of swimming. This was one of our quieter days. We drove 1,200 miles from the southern part of AZ to Las Vegas, Nevada in a week.
Old Town Scottsdale
And the next morning, we hiked up Camelback Mountain.
Gorgeous views the whole way up and down.
Can you find the critter?
Meeting the challenge the 10yo was issued by a friend LOL!
We all made it to the top.
And then it was off to Sedona with it’s red rocks and a Pink Jeep Tour…
Our friendly and fun driver PJ!
Heading back to Sedona…
And here are my #TBT pics from my first time in Sedona…
And the next day it was a road trip to the Grand Canyon!
It was just as beautiful the second time around…
The size just blows your mind.
A last night in Sedona–one of my favorites <3 before heading out.
A pit stop at an IN-N-OUT Burger. I’d never been before. Yum!
And then it was the Hoover Dam, which I’d never been to either. It was a fascinating tour and an incredible architectural feat.
Some of the turbines.
Where the turbines are housed.
The Colorado River
My camera was looking down–not me!
You can see how dry it is and how low the water is in Lake Mead. This is the emergency spillway. It’s only been used twice–once when they tested it and only one other time. Not a risk at the moment.
And last but not least we made it to Vegas!
And you know what they say…what happens in Vegas happens to your best friends too. No, really I mean it. Imagine running into your 10yo’s best friend and his brother at the pool in Vegas. We knew they were traveling in some of the same places we were over the break, but we didn’t know their schedule at all and they could have been anywhere in those 1,200 miles. Unbelievably we randomly bumped into each other at the pool!
And a pit stop at the Stratosphere was on the agenda after a fun time here 18 years ago…
Back in the late 1990’s
He ate the WHOLE thing folks!
See–what happens in Vegas happens to your best friends too. LOL!
And some Vegas random. Very cool glass gallery.
Kind of think I should own these chairs of birdie awesome.
And after a night of David Copperfield and his magical illusions,it seemed like this New York, New York…
was destined to turn back into this one…
If you could do a Throw Back #TBT tour of a place you used to live or spend a lot of time, where would you go and what would you want to see while you were there???
Woo Hoo!!!! On Sunday (January 31, 2016) I hit a HUGE running milestone. I’ve officially traveled over 2,000 miles since I started running. I’m probably irrationally proud of this feat, but I don’t care. If you’re a runner you probably understand, but if you’re not, I’ll try to show you how epic this felt to me.
First off, I didn’t start running until May 21, 2010, which means that I didn’t start until I was 40 years old. So, yes–you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Over the years I’ve grown as a runner, and my runs now are much longer than they were in the early years (especially when my kids were younger–#runlikeamother) but ultimately I reached this goal in 403 runs and averaged 4.9 miles in the approximate 6 years and 8 months that it took me to do it. This was something I’ve stuck with, even when it was hard and it often was. Sometimes it still is.
I was also able to learn some other interesting things about my almost 7 years of running…
*I wasn’t fast, but I wasn’t slow either–averaging 10’15” miles.
*I burned a grand total of 204,241 calories which was still not the right amount according to my butt and my fascination with chocolate.
*I’ve run on every single day of the week, but Monday is my get it done day. And I don’t have a graphic for it, but I believe I’ve run more outside miles than treadmill miles.
*I’ve also become a morning runner which was not what I preferred when I first started. Now it’s how I like to start off my day, especially in the hotter months.
And the big question…how far would running 2,000 miles actually get me???
The closest match I could find would be an epic run from New York’s Empire State Building to Albuquerque, New Mexico which means that I could have passed out after getting a high five from my fellow writer/runner bud Caroline Starr Rose <3 How awesome is that????
And since I’m still having fun and don’t plan to stop, here are my future running goals…
*It’s 326 miles to the 2nd and my next Purple Milestone.
*It’s less than 1,000 miles until I hit 3,000!!!! Hopefully it won’t take me 3 plus years to get there.
*It’s 1,103 miles until I hit the black level on Nike+running.
*It’s another 3,106 miles until I hit VOLT status. *shakes with intimidation*
But what the heck–I’m planning on giving it a shot. If you had once asked me if I could run 2,000 miles I would have said you’re out of your mind. But I did it. So, I’ll keep shaking those rocks out of my socks and keep on moving. I wonder where it will take me next…
On mornings when I’m not running or running errands, after I get the boys all off to school, I look forward to plowing through my emails and knocking out a blog post so I can spend the lion’s share of the day working on my WIP. Doesn’t that sound delightful? Yeah, yeah–I know it’s not that easy. After all it is Monday (I wrote this yesterday) and every person in the house managed to drag a laundry basket upstairs in retaliation for my subversive parenting techniques…no one eats chips or watches football until their clothes are put away, their rooms are clean and their bathroom isn’t gross. So, now I have chores to do in-between my projects. But that’s not my only problem, there is also this guy…
By rights, he should be in a snow coma at the moment. He’s been outside non-stop for two days playing in the snow with the kids or by himself if every other human was exhausted. I figured by today, his get-up-and-go would most likely be his got-up-and-went and he’d pass out quietly in the corner, providing me with a quiet writing day.
No such luck.
Why doesn’t the dog understand that I NEED this writing day!!!! I’ve been a bad, bad writer and I’m in the middle of DRAFTVISION????
Wait, you don’t know what draftvision is? You do–your just blocking it out. It’s when you’ve drafted 75% of a manuscript and because you’ve struggled with some aspect of plowing forward to the end of the draft, you’ve started to revise the front end while still drafting the back end. Draftvision. It can be a cold mess. Ugly on the scale of the 2016 Blizzard Jonas.
I do have good news. Besides the fact that Jonas only dumped a mild 10 inches in my yard. (Thank you mother nature for the pass) I’m very pleased to announce that I’m no longer stuck on my work in progress, spinning my wheels on the big expanse of white page. I know what to write to get out of draftvision. But here’s the thing, even when you’ve finally been able to plot your escape–you’ve still got to shovel yourself out of that shit. There ain’t nobody coming along with a word plow who’s going to do it for you. Which ultimately leaves you with lots of work to do on your WIP, plus a blog post and mountains of laundry to climb and whether you want to be or not, you ARE outside with the frisky snow pup who just wants to play ball.
My compromise is to brainstorm my blog post while running the dog silly. Sometimes this means “mind-writing” a topic I’ve already been thinking about. And other times, like today, it means I’m hoping to be struck by inspiration while I’m hanging out in the good old outdoors.
Today my connections started firing when I tossed that first neon orange tennis ball across the field and into ten inches of snow. I hadn’t really thought it through. White snow. Orange ball. This was going to be easy. That’s what I thought until this happened…
Gone. I hadn’t expected snowball hide and seek. And it quickly became apparent (to me at least) that playing ball in the deep snow was a lot like struggling through draftvision. One minute your tossing your best stuff into the air and the next minute–BOOM! Ball is gone and you can’t find it anywhere. But you don’t panic because the snow is pretty pristine and there is a ball shaped space letting you know where to start digging to fix the problem.
But the dog isn’t close to being done yet and you realize you are still playing ball in the snow and the more you play, the more foot prints, dog paws and old ball holes there are lying around. Take your eye off that ball for a minute and you suddenly have to change your strategy for finding what you need. Now you have to begin looking for new clues to solve your problems. But eureka! You realize that as the snow packs down, initially it’s harder to see where the ball went, but now it’s easier to search by color. You wander around until you spot what you need to throw the next ball.
But now your sweating. Deep snow is tiring to trod through and the whole yard is starting to look a bit off. It’s just when you’re on the edge of leaving that ball out there until the spring thaw that you have to dig deep. You must get in there and start poking around until you find what you need. You do not have time to let that manuscript sit for a few months and lose momentum. Start moving stuff around until you make some progress. If you stumble around long enough (trust me–i know) you’ll eventually find something you can toss around, under all that mess.
And incidentally, as if finding these disappearing balls isn’t hard enough, you should also know that the balls you’re throwing aren’t traveling as far as they usually do. I’ve never been a major league pitcher, but momentum has always been my friend. I’ve relied on a little bounce, bump and roll to get some distance. But in draftvision, that ball stops where it lands, without getting a lot of milage or tiring out the dog and now you still have to go find it. Grrrr. After awhile, you may realize that even though you’re trying very hard, nothing seems to be working. In this case, you just might want a little help.
You NEED a critique or two to help you sort out what you’ve got going on. Sometimes that critiquer will tell you things you didn’t know, which is pretty freaking fabulous. Yay for new insights that solve old problems. But usually, the critiquer will do the same thing you are doing and tell you what you already know. Yup–it works like that sometimes. Believe it or not, you’re smarter than you know. But even though you’re a bright light, the black hole of draftvision has sucked the illumination out of your life. There’s no shame in it, some times it helps to have someone else flip your switch. It can help to see your process laid out from a different perspective…
Oh, that’s how you do it????
See–it isn’t magic. Do the work and you end up with a cold, orange ball at the end or a finished manuscript–whatever you prefer. Either way, you too, can get everything you’ve ever wanted. Be persistent. Believe in your story. Be willing to try different approaches as the rules for what your throwing on the page keep changing.
And so you’re aware (because tough things exist even if we don’t acknowledge them) none of this process guarantees you anything, other than the completion of your art to your satisfaction. No matter how hard you work at writing or how diligently you learn your craft–publishing is a wild card. No one can predict it. You can work hard to stack the odds in your favor like an arsenal of snow encrusted tennis balls and that’s a great thing to have in the fight to get published. But it’s important that your goal is always to write the best book you can write, regardless of where that takes you.
And there’s another important reason to have your own measuring stick for your work. Sometimes we do not know when draftvision turns to revision, which then turns into TOO MUCH revision. It can be a slippery, ice encrusted, slope and once we are on it, we start moving ass-fast downhill and don’t know how to stop sliding and get off.
At the end of my blog post plotting, I pocketed both bright orange balls for another day, trading them for a large stick that I tossed up into the woods. Somewhere between the toss and the run to find said stick, the pup forgot what he was looking for and spent the next umpteen minutes looking for his ball in every conceivable place. He was completely unaware that the orange ball part of his story was already over.
It’s important to know that all good games of fetch and stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Looking back I’ve realized that sometimes draftvision is completely unavoidable–like snow. It’s one of mother natures challenges. But when we find ourselves walloped by the blizzard of draftvision, it’s great to have some tactics to help you shovel out of there as quickly as possible…
- Look carefully at what you already have for the clues you need to move forward.
- Be tolerant of where you are in your writing and forgiving of how you got there.
- Then be positive about where you are going.
- Don’t be afraid to go digging, no matter how big of a mess it makes–journeys are important.
- Keep your eye on the ball. But if you lose track of it, don’t be afraid to ask someone else to help you. Perspective is key.
- Know the real reason you are playing ball in the first place. Understand what is in your control and what is out of your control.
- Don’t keep playing when the game is clearly over. There is a time to stop or you end up chasing the wrong things. Send that work out when it feels done, not when you think it’s perfect. There is no such dog.
- Drink hot chocolate–it makes everything better.
Have you spent time in DRAFTVISION before? What are your tips for getting out? Do you have a dog that makes you throw balls in the snow? What other pets mess with your writing time? Aren’t you glad dogs don’t wear clothes and don’t add to the laundry pile?
Hang in there and keep tossing balls in the snow and words on the page.
Last year I bought a Passion Planner and optimistically blogged about it. You can read my 2015 Passion Planner post HERE. But now, it’s 2016 and I wanted to let you know how my planner worked out for me.
First of all, I had every intention of purchasing another one. I really love it a lot! But I became very excited at the end of the year, when I learned that there was going to be a mini passion planner on the scene in 2016.
The size of the planner was one of the main things I struggled with. I loved the space to write, but it took up way to much personal space on the counter near my computer. I tended to close it up and leave it behind my laptop, which kind of defeats the purpose of having the planner accessible.
Look at me now!
With the compact planner, it’s just the right size to keep next to me and accessible. I will admit that unfortunately, the writing space often feels a little squished. But there’s nothing I’d like to sacrifice on the page to get more space, so I think I’m going to pull out a pen with a finer point and see if that helps. In fact–one of these might do the trick…
And using these pens in my planner will make me happy because I had to STOP using these pens in my planner. I know, you’re confused, but I can explain. I LOVED sitting down and color coding all of my weekly events with my fabulous new pens! I really did, but it took up too much time. Time I didn’t have to fart around with–even when I was enjoying it. On a good day, it was time I didn’t need to waste.
So pretty! *pets page*
And on a bad day, when I didn’t have the time, my planner tended to look like this…
I wasn’t really good at finding a middle ground. Not helpful anyway you flipped the pages.
Instead of setting myself up for failure, I’m using one pen at a time and one pen only. No excuses!
But as I was writing this post I joyously realized that I could rotate through my gorgeous fine tipped pens and mix up my colors seasonally or as the mood strikes me. Best of both worlds. *high five please*
I’m also consolidating some of my other calendars. In the past, I have a tendency to place a printed monthly calendar on the cabinet in front of me to track my writing progress. That calendar is ALWAYS changing. Some days I need to tightly track my word count. Other days I need to acknowledge that I’m revising but not track word count details. Some days it’s a mix of several things I’m working on. My needs and my accountability is fluid with the calendar.
I also keep a white board calendar in a different location, reminding me of my blogging days and author related activities. This calendar used to be above my desk (where I did my writing.) But once I moved to my new house, it didn’t quite play out like that. So, in 2016 (since this mini version) is right next to me) I’m keeping track of all of this stuff on the monthly pages of the planner. It’s a work in progress–I’m just starting to dabble with it, but I think I’m going to like this even better than what I was doing before. And then I’ll have a place to keep that info without papers being lost–because if you know me–you know I stash them in the oddest of places. You know, to keep them safe.
Overall I’ve found that the more accessible I keep the planner and the simpler I make my process, the more I use it. And the more I use it, the more I get out of it. So, despite some design incompatibilities (for me) and a lot of operator head space on my part–I’m still a HUGE fan of my Passion Planner and I’m always finding new ways to alter it to best suit my needs. I anticipate a January 2017 update coming your way next year.
Anyone else using a Passion Planner? Do you have another planner that works or doesn’t work for you? What are some of your best planner organizational tips? Do you LOVE colored pens as much as I do??? Tell the truth.
Usually, taking the extra step is a good thing. It’s about attention to detail and getting things done. It’s all about taking it to the next level, unless your me. *sigh* A couple days ago I headed up to bed, in the dark, carrying an armful of stuff. It’s dangerous to leave junk on the stairs where people can trip, right?
Well, it’s also dangerous to put it away. The only way I can explain how it went down, is to suggest that my internal navigation system for climbing the stairs was off line. Clearly, the auto-pilot button was in the off position.
I thought there was ONE MORE STEP. And I took that step. Which really threw me for a loop (literally) when my foot came down and that extra step wasn’t actually there. I sort of lost my balance.
The good news is I didn’t fall down the stairs. Instead I bounced across the landing while smacking my left hip against the corner of the next set of steps. The other good news is that I didn’t drop a thing–not even the mushy wet bowl of cat food I was carrying. Impressed with that feat, I stood up, shook it all off–I’m a Bumble–I bounce.
Fast forward a couple days…
My butt cheek has a bruise that looks like a rorschach ink blot test. The chiropractor is observing one leg being a wee bit shorter than usual making me kinda crooked. And I’m not supposed to run until the whole compressed and rather tight area in my lower back gets a little break.
Not cool at all. I’ve been in the mood to run. Instead…I’ll be stretching and resting my backside. Haha–I guess it’s the extra step I need to get back on my running feet again.
Looking on the bright side, I’ve got more time to keep those blog posts coming. You have noticed how diligent I’ve been in keeping up in 2016? It’s not really a resolution–more like me stepping up LOL!
What’s the most entertaining thing you’ve managed to do when your internal navigation system went off line?
Traditionally, when writers hear the phrase Working like a Dog, their minds go to coffee fueled, butt-in-chair, word sprints with fingers flying over keys. We picture grabbing a hold of the task at hand and refusing to let go until we find a book on the other end.
But having observed my pup, Riley, walk a half a mile down to the bus stop the other day, I’ve discovered there’s more to working like a dog then one might expect…
And it resonated with me. Sometimes part of working like a dog means needing to explore the world around us. When we do some mental meandering, we might find the spark that ignites our next story. Or, if not the actual spark, we may be filling our mind with all kinds of creative kindling. Which is just as important, because when the spark does arrive, it has something to ignite. There must be dots to connect–ideas to set aflame.
Dogs are smart.
It’s as important to give ourselves as much time to fill up, as we give ourselves to empty out between the pages of a book.
This is the balance of art and life.
And naps–don’t forget the importance of naps! Trust me, Riley knows what he’s barking about.
As a thanks for the canine guidance, tell me your favorite dog book. It can be anything from picture book to novel. I think mine is The Art of Racing in the Rain.
GRATEFUL EXPANSION: Vancouver, Disney Wonder and Alaska
I’m home! And it’s been a fabulous vacation and I want to blog about it for a couple reasons. First of all, I know a ton of people that are going on an Alaskan cruise in the next few weeks and a few are even headed out on the Disney Wonder. Since it was my first cruise and trip to Alaska, I would have loved a heads up on packing and protocol. Now that I know “stuff” I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with everyone else. My second reason for wanting to blog about the experience is what I call grateful expansion. Many of you know that when I was first married, my husband and I were stationed in Augsburg, Germany for four years.
Those four years were expansive for me. I learned to see the world and the people in it through a completely different filter and I am so grateful for that experience. Since then, this trip was the closest I’ve come to replicating that feeling. I saw amazing things. I met incredible people. And I was immersed in the experience with people I loved. Now I’d like to share a bit of it with you…
Vancouver, British Columbia is awesome. I swear the nicest people in the world live there. From the moment we stepped off the plane, people were friendly, helpful and welcoming. In addition to that, there are a million fabulous things to do. My favorite was to bike around Stanley Park. Bikes are easily available for rent and it’s worth the cost. But check with your hotel first because ours had a limited amount of free bikes available to sign out.
The trip around Stanley Park takes roughly an hour and a half if you rent from near the conference center. But, there is more to do in Stanley Park than ride bikes.
The aquarium. (Buy your tickets at the booth where you can purchase horse and buggy rides–then you don’t have to wait on line at the aquarium. Score!)
Check out the totem pole park. This was our favorite pole.
And as I mentioned above, take the horse ride around the park. You learn so much interesting information.
Just don’t expect it to be fast LOL! The walkers were passing us.
But the horses were awesome of course.
There’s also a gorgeous rose garden.
And watch for the regrowth. The new trees spring forth from the old stumps.
And don’t forget to walk through those majestic trees (off the exterior bike path, deeper into the park) to find Prospect Point. It’s an amazing view and there are refreshments up there too.
Stretching outside of the park into Coal Harbour there are lots more amazing sights…
The view is gorgeous day or night. Watch the sea planes take off and land. If you’re hungry, be sure to eat here…
The Cactus Club has the best buffalo chicken wings and lettuce wraps!
And the view from inside is pretty amazing.
Here’s the view of the outside looking in. Just like the Vancouver Conference Center, the Cactus Club has a living roof and you can climb up top and check it out after you’re full of yummy stuff. Other to-die-for restaurants in Vancouver were the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel. They had an amazing breakfast. We also loved Gotham Steakhouse, Cin Cin and Black + Blue.
On the other side is the Olympic Cauldron and on your way to the Cactus Club Loo you can check out three Olympic Torches on display.
You also don’t want to miss some fabulous gelato…
Bella Gelateria was the 2014 North American Gelato World Tour Champion! Expect to wait in a long line if you go in the evenings, especially if the weather is nice. As you might have guessed, it was worth the wait.
And at the end of the day, don’t forget to put on your plush hotel robe and take it easy. Because before you know it, your ship will have come in…
This is Canada Place and the spot where two cruise ships are parked every day. It’s right next to the conference center. Outside of Canada Place is the tourist center with lots of helpful people, internet access and free shuttles and transportation hubs to all kinds of fabulous local places. We took a shuttle to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Tree Top Adventure and Cliffwalk. We bought our tickets right in the visitor’s center before we got on the shuttle.
But now it’s time to get your head out of the trees and put your feet on the ship because you are going to ALASKA!!!!!!
I was worried about checking in, but the Disney Wonder made it easy. Be sure to read the booklet you are sent by Disney ahead of time and fill out all your paperwork online and print it out in advance. Also don’t forget to sign up for your port excursions on line. Some of them will sell out before you get to the boat.
If you have the chance, get a room with a balcony, it was lovely. We spent lots of time on deck, but we also used the balcony on a daily basis.
The bathroom is small (and in our case happily divided into two separate areas) but things can roll. I recommend packing things in small Ziplock bags so you can group things together but are still able to see what you have. A hair dryer was provided in the desk drawer. No need to bring one.
The space is tight without luggage, so be sure keep that in mind when you are packing.
Disney gives you all the information you need to know what’s going on on the boat. It shows up on your bed every night along with an origami towel creature AND CHOCOLATE!!!!
There is also a Disney Cruise app that you NEED to download ahead of time. Once you hit the ocean, internet and wifi is sketchy at best and expensive on the boat. Download the app NOW (the 12yo didn’t do this and it took us forever and some extra cash to get him straightened out) and when you get on board just follow the directions to get hooked up on Disney’s Navigator system. This is also great because in addition to activities, weather, and dinning menus there is a CHAT component on the app. THIS IS HOW YOU STAY IN TOUCH ON THE BOAT! Someone can help you set it up if you need assistance. But it’s pretty easy and once you have someone’s ID number you can chat with them. The only negative was you couldn’t group chat, so I spent a lot of time repeating my messages to each child. But that’s what copy and paste is for. Also, my 10 yo doesn’t have a phone, but he was able to use an old phone of mine as a fancy iPod.
Space is used very wisely on the boat, so come prepared to use it as smartly as you can. The trick I used to survive five people in a tiny area was to be organized. The boy’s suitcases were completely unpacked and each child had a shelf that fit all their stuff. Their suitcases were stored open (they didn’t quite fit closed) below the master bed. Their beds were convertible and were taken down every evening and put up every morning for space. The 0pen suitcases worked out really well because that’s where the boys then put their dirty laundry after I yelled at them. *shakes head* I do have a fabulous tip I’m going to pass on to you. Put an XXL Ziplock bag in everyone’s suitcase for dirty laundry (when you get home, just drop all the bags in the laundry room) and bring an extra for a laundry bag because there are laundry facilities on this boat! This will help you pack lighter which is important because there are so many weather possibilities.
Everything is done with a swipe of your card. Easy peasy, but I don’t recommend doing laundry ALL THE TIME. Don’t spend your fun time doing chores–trying to go home with a clean suitcase. It’s just nice to know your stinky workout clothes can be washed. It’s also great if you spill something on your only jacket or if you run out of a particular item.
Here are my best tips…
*Watch the times and the machines and be prompt or your laundry will get pulled out and dumped on the ironing boards, which I think is completely fair with so many people needing to use the machines.
*Use a bag for a laundry basket and check your machines twice for runaway socks.
*Detergent is available in the machines. Just swipe your card to purchase. But I guess you can bring your own, especially if you’re scent sensitive. I am, but did okay with the Tide.
*Try to use the laundry at unusual times for the best results. My kids were out late doing activities and it was a good time to get it done while I was trying not to fall asleep. That ship air knocks you out.
But let’s talk about what to pack. The weather is unpredictable and you’re told you need dinner clothing and excursion clothing and coats and swim suits etc… It was enough to make me want to pull my hair out. Grrrrr I talked to people who had been on an Alaskan Cruise the week before us and the weather was in the 80’s and they were in shorts. I’ve also heard about trips with lots of cold and rainy weather the whole time. Our cruise was somewhere in between but erring on the side of good weather. But since you’ve got washers and driers, in my humble opinion, this is what I would bring if I were doing it all over again…
*For outdoor gear–think layers. I brought a mid weight sweat shirt that I ended up using all the time. And then a heavier fleece that I also used a lot. Then over either of those, or both if needed, I had a thin, packable down jacket and a thin, water proof rain jacket. Along with a hat and gloves and fingerless gloves for extra photo mobility– I had endless combinations I could layer and peel off. I also recommend you bring a small waterproof backpack to carry those layers and other small items during excursions. I found a lot of success with these Geckobrand Waterproof bags I found at Dick’s Sporting goods.
We all had one and the boys used them as carry on bags for the plane. They were inexpensive and every time we went out they packed up what they needed for the day and I ended up carrying less and everything stayed dry.
*I also had a lot of success with packing thin, versatile sports/hiking style pants. My personal faves are Athleta’s Shasta pants. I own them in every color. They can be full length or capri and they have multiple pockets with some that zip and are big enough to hold my iPhone 6. The pants are on the expensive side, but I asked for gift cards for Christmas and my birthday and they are worth every penny. You can also find other similar type pants at LL Bean, Lands End and Title Nine. But I think you can get them in lots of places if you look. Having said that, I did bring one pair of jeans and one pair of knee socks and I wore those on the days I had colder excursions. This was when the laundry came in hands.
*I didn’t wear any of my shorts, but I’d still throw a pair or two in knowing I had the washers if needed.
*Shirts–I wore a mix of short and long sleeves depending on the day and my layering.
*I went nuts, bringing the boys and myself enough dress casual dinner wear for the dinning rooms. In my opinion, a total waste of my time and packing space. We had one dress up night and then the rest of the time we all wore whatever we were wearing that day. BUT…having said that, there were some families that did dress up a little bit more because they wanted to but there were plenty of people in dress that was even move casual than mine. Whatever floats your boat is what you should do. My boat floats in comfy casual wear and sneakers.
*Speaking of footwear. This was my go to shoe…
These are my running shoes and they were perfect for walking around on deck, running the track, going on excursions or even to dinner. I also brought a pair of flip flops for the pool and one pair of dressier shoes. I’d leave the other three pairs I packed home if I was doing it again. The boys had dress shoes, flip flops and sneakers with them.
*I never used my swim suit, but there were adults in the pools pretty regularly–especially on the warmer days. My kids went in often. I would still bring my suit on the off chance I decided to take a dunk, but I preferred running and reading on deck in my free time.
*Speaking of running, there is a gym and a running deck so feel free to bring a couple work out outfits. I brought two and had planned to rinse in the sink, but was happy for those washers again.
Also, when you run on deck 4, in addition to the amazing sights of British Columbia and Alaska, you get to see all the incredible people who work to keep the ship clean and safe. These folks are amazing.
Part of the run includes this room at the front of the boat which appears to function as a work room for repairs. It was always fascinating to watch and someone was always waving at me or smiling.
*Bring magnets! I should have taken a picture, but ALL of the doors in the endless hallways of rooms look almost identical. My kids tried to join other families on several occasions. The doors of the rooms are magnetic and lots of people decorate their doors with magnets or pictures hung with magnets so they could find their room. Brilliant!
*You also get a Key to the World card (kids too!) and that’s your room key, credit card and ID for entering and exiting the ship. Most kids wear lanyards with card holders around their necks. You can buy these at the gift shop (once you hit open water) but if you have a lanyard at home–bring that puppy and save yourself some bucks. You can see my 12 yo’s lanyard around his neck as he grabs a selfie with Mickey LOL!
Now it’s time to go on some excursions!!!! First up was Tracy Arm Alaska and the South Sawyer Glacier. AMAZING!!!!
We hit the opening of the Tracy Arm Fjord at lunch time, so we were on deck having a BBQ when I SAW TWO ORCA WHALES IN THE WILD!!!!
I miraculously caught a picture (not as easy to see this small) but they are there. Start watching for those orcas as you enter and leave Tracy Arm. It’s my understanding that this is the best time to spot them.
Can’t you see how happy I was to have witnessed those beautiful creatures in the wild???? Bucket List–CHECK!
Keep your eyes open all the time because everything is amazing.
The further in you get the more icebergs you’re going to see.
And then you’re going to see the South Sawyer Glacier…
All I can tell you is that these little pictures do not do it justice. You will be in awe. Be sure to get to the front of the boat early so you have a prime spot for watching as you approach the glacier. And be sure to dress warmly because it was cold, especially with the wind. Bonus, the fabulous Disney staff came around with coffee, hot chocolate and soup in bread bowls to help keep you warm. I love them. <3
Can you see all the layers I’ve added as we’ve moved closer to the glacier? We made it to .6 of a mile, the closest the Wonder has gotten so far this season.
If you can’t take the wind, there is a break in the front, but I was outside in front of the glass. I was willing to be chilly to fully enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.
And while my kids thought the whole thing was amazing, they were also entertained by being able to play on the sports deck with the glacier in the background. The 10 yo would score a goal and then take a selfie with the glacier in the background. *head thunk*
Disney also grabs a 200 yo piece if iceberg that had calved off of the glacier. Then they brought it aboard for the kids and *clears throat* me to touch and explore.
And lastly, after a perfect day, don’t forget to look for the iceberg at the end of the rainbow. It’s magical.
Our next excursion was to Skagway, which was our first trip off the Disney Wonder.
Skagway is a tiny little town that I loved.
Our first stop of the day was the White Pass & Yukon Route train ride. Learn all about the history of folks racing to Dawson City for the gold rush.
Our train car came with a stove, bathroom and complimentary water bottles. This was also the first time we had phone service since we departed Vancouver (unless you bought a plan on the boat.)
Each car had a platform so you could get outside pictures. Some of the drop offs were very high and steep, making me really glad I didn’t have the job of building that rail line.
Gahhh!!! We are headed to THAT bridge and tunnel way up there!!!!
Here we are–ready to go in.
And don’t forget to look backwards from time to time. The view is incredible.
The ship to the left is the Disney Wonder.
Near the summit, keep an eye out for the Trail of ’98. This was an original, primary route to the Dawson gold fields.
On the way back down from Fraser (the stopping place for the White Pass) you get to freeze your butt off in front of 1 of the 5 Welcome to Alaska signs in the state. *fist pump*
And once you get back to Skagway, known as The Place Where the North Wind Blows, it is much warmer than at the higher elevations.
We decided this is about as far as we’d happily travel the Yukon Trail LOL! And just so you know the folks who made the trip were carrying enough food and supplies with them to last a year. (Canadian entrance requirements) Which meant that each person was toting 2,000 lbs of supplies.
Even though Skagway is small, it’s BIG in history and you’ll learn all about it.
And if you get hungry from all that history and shopping, stop by the Red Onion Saloon for some awesome nachos. I’ve never seen food disappear as fast as those did LOL!
And last but not least…
Don’t forget to get back to your ship for all aboard–THEY WILL LEAVE YOU IN SKAGWAY WITHOUT 2,000LBS OF SUPPLIES AND YOU’LL HAVE TO FIND YOUR WAY TO JUNEAU ON YOUR OWN.
Next up on our trip was Juneau. Juneau is super cool because the only way you can get there is by boat or plane. You can not drive a car to Juneau. In fact they have one 60mile road in town that dead ends. It’s called *drum roll* The Road. They also have The Bridge and The Channel. Juneau is also in the rainforest, so they get approximately 42 non-precipitation days a year. Unfortunately for us, I was told that they’d already used them all up for the year LOL!
Make sure you get out early in Juneau because the all aboard time is very early due to the distance the ship has to cover that night. To compensate for the early departure, we went into town for two hours before our 10:30 excursion meet up. My only frustration with this plan was that we still didn’t have enough time to explore the town the way I wanted to.
But I did find a book store!!!! And of course I stopped in to say hello to the wonderful folks at Hearthside Books. Make sure you support Indie Bookstores and stop by when you visit. I’m sure they would love to see you.
Next up was our excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier in Tongass National Park.
We only had an hour here, so we didn’t have time to go to the museum and see the movie. Bummer. But we did hike out to Nugget Falls for an up close look.
I also want to give a shout out to the best bus driver ever–Whitney Houston!!!! It was totally NOT your fault that those 10 people didn’t make it back to the bus on time. ((((hugs)))) She also taught us the five finger method for remembering Alaska’s salmon. You can quiz me later. And so many hysterical stories I may never love another bus driver more. Forever.
Next up was whale watching and lots of singing of the Gilligan’s Island theme song…a three hour tour. LOL!
I may have been so hungry I ate a reindeer dog on the boat. So, an FYI, limited snacks are available on board. I suggest you grab them right when you get on the boat if you’re starving because the line can get long and then the whales start showing up and you keep jumping out of line…
Even with the rainy weather we saw a ton of whales, including two mom’s with their calves. <3
And then there’s me with some of mine.
Of course there’s the argument…seen one whale, seen them all.
As a reward for surviving our wet and hectic day, we set the kids free on the boat. (Okay–we did that every day and they loved it.) But this time, while they were ignoring us for more fun things to do, we headed out for an adults only dinner at Palo. YUM, YUM, YUMMITY, YUM. Do not miss this dinning experience. All the food and service is top notch. Ask for Leo to be your server, he was amazing and tell him Kim Sabatini sent you. <3 All the food was incredible, but the gnocchi was heavenly and the white bean soup was delicious. I may have tasted the tomato caprese and fallen in love, too.
But the star of the Palo show was the chocolate souffle. It’s to die for and let’s face it–I know my chocolate. Luckily calories don’t count on cruises, right? If they did, I’m sure I could have gained weight just sniffing this treat.
Our last excursion was to Ketchikan. Rain was predicted but we ended up with gorgeous, perfect weather. So first on the agenda was zip lining in the rainforest of Tongass National Forrest.
Safety before beauty :o) I’ve also got my Shasta pants on again.
We had an amazing time and the staff of Alaska Canopy Zip Lining were wonderful and fun. It was the boy’s favorite excursion of the trip. Then it was into Ketchikan to hang out for the rest of the day. The weather was so gorgeous it was impossible to stop taking pictures.
We even headed down to historic Creek Street.
And of course I found another independent bookstore. <3 Parnassus Books, run by the sweetest former children’s librarian. I wish I had hours to roam the store.
I found this book on their shelves and I can’t wait to begin reading it with the boys. A Tale of Gold by Thelma Hatch Wyss.
After finding out the Fish House was closed, on recommendation we heard the Burger Queen was king. Unfortunately we were there on a Sunday and the food barge doesn’t come in until Tuesday and this burger joint was out of burgers. Boo! If you end up going and getting a burger I want a full report. We did make it to Annabelle’s for some clam chowder. Yum!
But sadly, all good things must come to an end and packing and laundry must begin. *sob*
With our nose pointed home, we headed back to Vancouver, but not without our last day at sea being extraordinary.
Over the course of the trip I saw two orca whales, numerous bald eagles, humpback whales and sea lions. And then of course there were glaciers, mountains, sunsets, the ocean, captivating history, new friends and so much more. It is beyond words or pictures.
This was my favorite lounge chair on deck and I spent hours reading and watching an endless amount of beauty go by. I shall miss that chair.
It was also time to say goodbye to…
The 24 hour coffee and hot chocolate machine. And the soft serve ice cream machine. *moans in despair*
It was also goodbye to first run Disney movies (Ant Man and Inside Out) and movies outdoors on deck. So much fun.
The hardest goodbye was to Quinten and Oscar, our servers for the whole entire trip. Table #70 RULES!!!!
They were the BEST and we miss them already.
If you are going on the Disney Wonder, you MUST request to be at the table of Quinten (India) and Oscar (Columbia). Call ahead if you must. Or as you board the ship, go immediately to Triton restaurant and ask to speak to someone who can make that happen. Then be sure to hug them both for me. Twice if you can manage it. I consider them friends now.
Phew I think it’s time to put a fork in it–this trip is done.
I’m going to be honest–this post has taken me two days to write and my brain is fried. I covered as much helpful information as I could think of, but I’d be happy to answer any additional questions that show up in the comments. Feel free to ask away.
I’d also like to take a moment to let you know about my YA novel TOUCHING THE SURFACE since people likely to be researching a cruise on the Disney Wonder have kids who are YA readers.
Touching the Surface
October 30, 2012
Simon Pulse – Simon and Schuster
Experience the afterlife in this lyrical, paranormal debut novel that will send your heart soaring.When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.
Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.
As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.
“Sabatini creates an exquisitely tangible alternate reality, ordering the cosmos with impressive authorial derring-do, crafting answers to ontological questions with grace, disarming simplicity, and nary a trace of dogma. All while believable teens–teen souls, that is–tangle with affection, selfishness, and doubt. Thought-provoking and romantic, Touching the Surface takes risks with narrative and form, and succeeds on multiple levels.” –RBW (Chronogram)
“Soulful and inventive. A thoroughly original vision for what happens next.” –Daisy Whitney, author of The Mockingbirds
“This gorgeous, lyrical read will sweep you away.” –Jessica Verday, bestselling author of The Hollow trilogy
TOUCHING THE SURFACE is available here:
Barnes & Noble
If you would like a free signed book plate and a bookmark for your copy of TOUCHING THE SURFACE please drop me a line HERE and I’ll get one out to you asap.
If you would like a signed hardcover or paper back edition of TOUCHING THE SURFACE you can request one at my local independent bookstore Oblong Books and Music. If they do not have any signed copies in stock, I’ll be sure to make a special trip to the bookstore just for you.
And on a side note, I’ll also be sending out signed copies of TTS to the public schools in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. This way, at least a little bit of me will get to stay in Alaska. <3
I hope this blog post helps you have your very own grateful expansion. If you get the chance, let me know how it went.
As most of you might remember, I run outside whenever I get the chance. And because I live in a wooded area, it’s not unusual for me to cross paths with a variety of wild life, including deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks, wood chucks, ducks, hawks and even eagles. Yesterday’s run will be one I never forget.
The weather was cool, in the 60’s and it had begun to rain. I was running on an unpaved road and I was enjoying the texture of damp rocks and earth beneath my feet while I was listening to Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself. I was about 4 miles into my route and even though the sky was looking like it was going to truly open up any minute, I had all my big hills behind me and was headed back.
Rounding a small corner, I came to an abrupt stop. No more than 15 feet away from me was the tiniest baby fawn I’d ever seen, just standing there on the side of the road. Mom wasn’t more than ten feet away from her little one, but she was positioned in a way that a wire fence and brush were between her and her babe. My plan was to stay quiet and watch. Maybe even get a picture to show the boys if I could get my phone out of my belt without alarming them.
That’s when it happened…the already large eyes of the fawn lit up. I’m not kidding. This itty, bitty creature, not much taller than my thigh, grew excited at the sight of me and toddled over on wobbly legs. It’s poor mother was having a heart attack. I prayed Mama wouldn’t jump the fence and land on me as her little one then came up and put his or her nose against my hand. I’m sure I would have been privileged to pet the little one, if at that moment, the near hysterical mother hadn’t given a loud snort of warning and chastisement to her child. Once again the fawns face changed–registering that it had possibly made a huge mistake. On pencil thin legs, it turned away from me and teetered into the woods on the other side of the road. Mom was out of the meadow and after it before I could blink. And then they were gone.
With a huge smile on my face, I ran on with Bill Bryson in my ear phones. He was talking about the ever growing, weird phenomenon of people living their lives in temperature controlled houses, malls and cars. I listened to his humorous, but sadly true observations on how we’ve become a society of people who find it too easy to remove ourselves from nature and the connections it has to offer. It felt incredibly timely and ironic all in the same breath.
But that wasn’t my only deep thought as I moved down the road. As my mind replayed this once in a life time experience over and over again, I also couldn’t help but think about how the littlest creatures of the world, animal or human, seem to be born without prejudice. Even now, I keep seeing those eyes and that moment when a fawn looked excited to see me. I’ve never felt so connected to an animal in the wild before. It gave me a flush of hope for bigger things–kinder things.
It also made me so glad I’d stopped everything to enjoy that particular moment–instead of trying to capture it with a camera. I love taking incredible pictures, but some experiences are meant to be lived instead of captured. And perhaps if I’d had a picture, I would have posted that, instead of taking the time to paint you one with my words. Writing this down was it’s own kind of pleasure.
I can’t wait to go running again…
Have you ever had a moment like this? You must tell me about it.