Jacqueline West, Writer

Bestselling author of The Books of Elsewhere and Dreamers Often Lie

Quiet Time

March 10, 2015    Tags:   

Things have been pretty quiet around this blog for a while, and for once it isn’t my fault — it’s this guy’s.

J and Beren bed

We had a baby last week. It still seems like a vaguely impossible, too-good-to-be-true thing. Every time I bend over his bassinet and discover that he’s really there, it’s a delightful surprise.

His name is Beren, from the legends woven into The Lord of the Rings, and we think he’s pretty much the greatest.

Ryan and I have fallen into Baby World, where time seems to zoom forward during the day and tick backward at night, where yoga pants are formal wear and a walk around the block requires as much preparation as a polar expedition, and our schedules are filled with items like “Take a shower” and “Eat a sandwich” and “Change the socks you’ve been wearing for three days,” and we end up skipping about half of them, because we’ve got better things to do. Anne Greenwood Brown, one of the wonderful writers in my critique group, says that babies are like campfires; you just sit and stare at them, hypnotized by every wriggle and flicker. She’s dead on. We can hardly stand to look away.

So…that’s where most of my time, energy, and brain power has been going for the past several weeks. Luckily, Beren arrived between rounds of revision on the YA novel, and I’ve pared down my travel and appearance commitments for the remainder of the spring, so I can just nestle down inside the house with this tiny new person. So far, I’m loving this quiet time.

Of course, things aren’t actually quiet. Friends and family drop in to shower us with food and gifts and stare at the campfire for a while. And then there are the noises Beren makes. Sometimes he sounds like a squeaky door hinge, and sometimes he sounds like a baby pterodactyl; sometimes he chirps like a bird, and sometimes he hums and smacks his lips like a greedy little gourmand.

There will be more writing news here in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, I’ll be here, in my wrinkly pajamas, staring at a baby.

Beren on bed


Looking Backward

March 1, 2014    Tags: , , , , ,   

Where to begin?

One month ago today, I was finishing a fantastic visit at Pinewood Elementary School in Eagan and rushing off to the airport.  So much happened between then and now that it all feels chronologically impossible, as though when we finally flew back to Minnesota, we should have been flying back in time as well.

So, working backward, from most recent to least…

On February 25th, I got to do something exceedingly cool: A live online chat with the readers of New Moon Girls.  The magazine reviewed The Books of Elsewhere in their January/February 2014 issue, and the series is up for the Girls’ Choice Book Awards, which is also exceedingly cool.  The girls were bright, funny, and enthusiastic, and the chat went by in a flash.  You can read the full transcript here (and please excuse any fast-typing typos).

On February 21st, I visited St. Mark’s Cathedral School in Shreveport, Louisiana.  The people and the weather were warm and wonderful, and I got to observe a bit of change ringing practice on the cathedral’s massive tower bells.

We spent the weekend of the 26th-27th in New Orleans, where we pastried and coffeed our way around the neighborhoods, and I even got a bit of writing done (as seen here, at my favorite breakfast place on earth).  DSC00069

And, because Mardi Gras is fast approaching, we caught the parade of the Mystic Krewe of Barkus, which, in spite of the rain, made the list of cutest things I’ve ever seen, right between a baby bat wrapped in a washcloth and a porcupine eating a pumpkin.  (Several more photos at my Tumblr, here. For added incentive: This year’s theme was “Dogzilla.”  You know you want to see some more wet dogs in dinosaur suits.)DSC00139

The three weeks before that were spent in Oregon with Ryan’s family.

I don’t generally post the most personal stuff here–or anywhere, really–but this is a big one.

Ryan’s mother, fearless adventurer Sherri West, died on February 12th, four and a half years after her diagnosis with metastatic breast cancer.  She was able to spend most of that time–between bouts of chemo, drug tests, research, and radiation –traveling, exploring, gardening, reuniting with far-flung friends and family; all the things that she loved most.

The entire immediate family was able gather for her last two weeks here.  We spent the days (and some of the nights) telling stories, singing, sharing bourbon and brownies, and at the very end, Sherri was in her own home, encircled by all of us.  It was good to be there.  It is also good to be home.

To the organizers and attendees of events I had to bow out of — in particular, to Vicki Palmquist and everyone at Children’s Literature Network/Books for Breakfast 2014, who were so incredibly kind — and to the librarians and teachers coordinating other events that were nearly rearranged at the last minute, and to the writers in the Twin Cities kids’ lit community who have reached out with notes and help: Thank you for your understanding.  As for the family and friends who’ve supported us, shoveling our driveway, sending messages, making donations in Sherri’s memory… What would we do without you guys? I really don’t want to know.


Subscribe to Jacqueline's Journal with RSS

Jacqueline West on Facebook
Jacqueline West on Instagram  

Contact Jacqueline:   Email   •      •      •   Mail

© Jacqueline West