Camping in My Sweet Lil Fifties Rig! (Part 1)


Hello, everyone!

We took my sweet lil rig on her maiden voyage (for us at least)...  Ian and Lil Dude and Wilma and I went to the gorgeous Beaver Meadows in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado for the weekend-- about an hour from home.  We loved it!  Here are some glimpses of our trip:


And on a different note, here's a piece of nice news I recently received-- The Lightning Queen got a beautiful, starred review from School Library Journal this month.  (This is its 2nd starred review!):

★ Gr 3–6—If books were written in black and white, The Lightning Queen would be written in color. Esma, a young Romani girl, meets Teo, a young Mixteco living on the Hill of Dust in the mountains of Mexico, when her traveling caravan makes a stop in Teo's small village. The Romani bring with them the magic of cinema films, and after the loss of Teo's father and sister, Esma gives him a reason to feel alive again. When Esma's grandmother, the Mistress of Destiny, reveals Teo's true fortune—that he and Esma will be lifelong friends and will save each other—Esma and Teo work hard to make sure their fortune comes true. Esma gives Teo the courage to save others and ultimately helps him to save himself. In return, Teo lifts Esma up just when she believes that her own dream is an impossibility. Esma and Teo go their separate ways; she becomes a shining star admired by the world, while he becomes a healer like his grandfather—and it is not until they are both in old age that they meet again. With the help of Teo's grandson Mateo and Esma's granddaughter Ruby, Teo and Esma rekindle their lifelong friendship. Like surviving a lightning strike, this book is rare and incredible.  
VERDICT The diverse characters, heartbreaking events, and historical and present-day backdrops are excellently executed. Highly recommended.—Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

So grateful for this heartfelt and poetic review!  The book comes out on Oct. 27, and I'll be posting my tour schedule soon.... I'll be doing events in Colorado, D.C, Maryland, and Minneapolis. :-)

Thanks for swinging by, my friends!


My Sweet Lil Fifties Rig, Reborn!

Hello dearest readers!

 Thank you to everyone who inquires about the health and happiness of my little vintage trailer studio.  A couple years ago she got water damage, poor thing... it was my fault-- I neglected her during a stressful house renovation we were doing.  And then, with new space in our house, I moved my writing studio inside, where it's cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and the desk set-up is more ergonomic for my high-maintenance neck and shoulders. (All the stuff that used to be in the trailer is now inside the studio in my house.)


But it pained me to see my sweet little rig sitting out in the driveway abandoned.  So, last year, as a goal for 2014, I wrote that I wanted to get her back in use.  It was quite a process-- everything in the trailer required specialized attention! Last October, I'd serendipitously found April, a vintage trailer specialist, who I wrote about in another post, but she was in high demand, so I had to be patient. 

I found some cool folks at Ace Hardware who were willing to do the unusual re-screening for the door and some windows.  Some more cool folks at Black's Glass custom-made a replacement window for one that was missing.  Some more cool folks at RV Land sealed up all the leaky seams in the aluminum shell and got the brake light wiring in order.  After April repaired the interior wood damage, I repainted the interior (at least the parts that had already been painted-- I left the beautiful birch intact.)

And then my man, Ian, put in new flooring.  He is truly a handy man (he paid his way through college with construction work, tile and linoleum installation work, and "rubber dam bladder" work, but that's another story... oh, and he played with Legos fairly obsessively as a kid, which was a solid foundation for his future handyman endeavors.  We have some of his correspondence with the Lego company, dated 1982, on his office wall, actually.) But I digress! 

So, Ian installed this marmoleum flooring (which is very similar to original, old-fashioned linoleum-- super-soft on your feet, all-natural, made with real linseed oil and natural fibers.) We had scraps left over from our house's kitchen and bathroom flooring-- "relaxing lagoon" is the color's name.  We pieced it together and barely had enough to cover the tiny floor plan, but it worked!  This stuff is notoriously hard to work with, even on straightforward jobs in large spaces in houses.... and Ian was working with this teeny, odd floor plan inside my trailer.  But it turned out incredible!  I love it so much (and Ian so much).

So let's see, then I put some wallpaper swatches on the fridge and pipe (from Spoonflower, which has quirky, artsy, indie designs in wallpaper and fabric).  I sewed some bunting and pillows, and gathered up some old quilts from my grandmother.  I cut curtains from vintage tea towels and tablecloths that I'd collected from flea markets over the years.  I found a couple 1950s and 60s sconce lights on Etsy that we hung on the walls. Ian did some wiring to make them work (and still has a little more wiring to do.) 

 There were already narrow black racking stripe decals on the exterior, but they were peeling off.  We put on a new turquoise stripe on one side, and plan to put one on the other side, too.  I'm going to string those old pink lights on the outside for the holidays and make it look festive. 


This side still needs some razzamatazz!


 I also have some more decorating things I want to do here and there... which will be an ongoing project.


 The trailer's new life is our family's tech-free creative space.  Lil Dude and I read books together on the bed at night, and it is SO INSANELY COZY!  Sometimes we eat family dinners at the trailer table and then for dessert, have marshmallows roasted over the little fire pit in our back yard.  And I'm starting to invite friends over for tea and book-conversing.  (Writer friend Todd Mitchell just came over to my trailer the other day, and we talked about his amazing new work-in-progress.)

We're also going to use it for art projects... we're now on a junk-robot kick, and have just spray-painted 25 Altoid tins (from our stash of, like, 100, in the basement.)  Soon they will be re-birthed as robots (inspired by good wabi-sabi friend Les Sunde, who I wrote about here)... I'll do a post on our robots soon.

And I'm getting ready to go over copy-edits for The Impossible Caravan in here... which is fitting, since English-speakers outside the US usually refer to camper-trailers as "caravans." :-)

Would you like to see some icky before pictures?  Brace yourself!

 If you haven't yet seen pics of the before-before pics, meaning how it looked when it was my full-time writing studio, before the water damage, there's a tour here.  I wrote several of my books in this set-up:  Star in the Forest, The Indigo Notebook, and The Ruby Notebook.  Here's what it used to look like:

I hope you enjoyed seeing these trailer transformations!  In a future post, I'll show you nighttime pics of our bedtime story reading so you can experience the INSANE COZINESS for yourself!  Also, I'm deciding on my sweet lil rig's official name... so once I decide and put the decal on the side, I'll share it with you.


Solo in a Trailer in Venice...

Hello, dear readers!  

I'm back from a blissful solo writing retreat to Venice, CA! (I was there last month with the family, and came back for some creative time away, and it was WONDERFUL.)

I had a plane voucher for a couple hundred dollars which I had to use back in October.  Wisely, I remembered that I always get depressed and restless in February in Colorado.  I always feel ready for winter to be over around now, but here in Ft Collins we get snow through April.... and I desperately crave warm weather.

I'm also a girl-of-the-sea at heart, and I can't get enough of the ocean....

So back in October, I scheduled this trip, and man oh man, am I glad I did!  The past couple months in Colorado have been rough-- with some days never getting above the single digits, freezing one's nose hairs within minutes outside.

I found this abracadabrant place to stay on Air B n B, in the heart of Venice... in a sixties trailer!  Heaven!

The couple rents out this trailer as well as an Airstream, and they did a great job renovating and decorating them. (As you might know, I have my own vintage trailer that serves as my creative space, and find it really cozy and inspiring.)


I loved traveling alone before I was a wife and mother, and I still love it... maybe even more now!  I love not having to cater to anyone else's needs or compromise with anyone... I love being able to follow my whims as I explore.  I love not having to talk to anyone unless I want to... and spending days conversing only with my notebook if I feel like it.

Ian was very sweet to encourage me to go on this trip... I have several author visits coming up this spring (that I didn't know about when I bought this ticket back in October), and I was hesitant to ask him to do solo childcare for Lil Dude... but he told me I should definitely go.  And I did (and of course, I missed them both), and I feel SO refreshed and invigorated now.

The courtyard area of this place was artistic and eclectic, filled with flea market finds, from antique globes to tribal statues to vintage farm tools.


I love this lifestyle, where there are no boundaries between indoors and outdoors.  The owners are artists-- Tao is an Italian film-maker and photographer who works out of another trailer in the yard.  Roisin, from Ireland, does some kind of research and takes a lot of care in arranging all the plants and artwork. It made me want to work more on having more indoor-outdoor flow in my own home, but of course, that's harder to do with the weather extremes in Colorado.  But I resolved that during the windows of time when our weather is gentle, I will do this!

Tropical plants galore... bouganvillea and honeysuckle vines and bamboo and a million varieties of succulents and what I call "Dr. Seuss plants." It was just a five block walk to the beach and to the yummy food on Abbot Kinney Blvd.  I ended up getting most of my food to go (cheaper), and ate it back here in the courtyard.  Gjelina's Take Away (GTA) was other-worldly delicious... I got ideas for new things to try making at home.  (In fact, this morning I'm making their salmon toast. *mouth already watering*)

I love reading about creativity, and how brains work, and one thing's for sure: Creativity depends on you seeking out new, stimulating experiences to make new and surprising neural connections. I try to honor this in my everyday life, by taking new routes on walks with the dog, or wandering around flea markets to discover strange old things.  And I'm adamant about making travel a big part of my life... for me, that's what travel is: zap-zap-zapping new neural pathways and opening new worlds and ways of thinking.

Okay, I'll wrap up the little tour now.  The bathroom! It was outside, in this little art-filled room.

And the cherry on top of my excursion was seeing my adorable cousin, Michelle (and her new husband and wee dog) .  I hadn't seen her for ages, but we caught up with each other this trip, and had brunch at this cafe right on the Venice beachfront.

 Oh, and another good thing about the trip: I didn't bring my laptop!  I wrote in my old-fashioned paper notebook and read old-fashioned paper books for entertainment, and it was delicious.  I read Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness.  Great, interesting memoir that I read in a day.  Made me feel so grateful to my brain, which, despite a few flaws (like tendency toward anxiety and panic), works pretty darn smoothly. (Thank you, Brain.)

 I also read part of Shine Shine Shine (loving its weirdness) and Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall.  (Not as crazy about that, but glad I read two of the stories and love the evocative title.)

I also learned about Dadaism, from a book in the trailer (and I guessed that might be the philosophical framework behind much of Tao and Roisin's art?)

If you're considering a trip there, here's the link to the trailer I stayed in. It's only for one person, but the Airstream on the same property is for a couple. Also, if you're considering going, note that I didn't need to rent a car... I just took a Supershuttle from the airport to the property, and walked everywhere.

All right, time to finish making this salmon toast! Thanks for reading...  I hope you're finding a way to survive February, too!


My Sweet Lil Fifties Rig is Undergoing Surgery...

Happy Halloween, dear readers!

People often inquire about my writing studio camper (which you can get a photo tour of here).  Well, sadly it got some water damage (all my fault for not keeping it properly sealed), and now it's going to undergo some minor surgery.  My poor, sweet lil fifties rig...

For a while I was trying desperately to find someone who had experience repairing vintage trailers... and I heard of a lady named April-- a vintage camper expert right here in Fort Collins.


I looked and looked and googled and googled couldn't get any contact info for her.  I was just googling her one day (unsuccessfully, again), when I got dejected and hungry and brought Lil Dude to a pizza place a few blocks away to pick up some pizza.  As I was at the counter, I noticed a business card lying there...

and it had a picture of an adorable vintage camper on it!!!

My heart started pounding, and I said to the lady next to me, "Excuse me, but is this your business card?"

Her: "Yup."

Me (heart really pounding now): "By any chance do you repair vintage trailers?"

Her: "Yup."

Me (heart really, really pounding now):  "Um, by any chance is your name April?"

Her (a little freaked out, maybe): "Yup."

Me:  "Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  I've been looking for you for months!  I was just googling you!  Oh my gosh!"

So yes, my heart was about to explode with serendipity and joy...

and once she realized that despite appearances, I wasn't actually crazy, she agreed to look at my camper.  And she did (she's so delightful and smart and knowledgeable... my lil rig is in such good hands with her.)  She's going to start working on her (my trailer being feminine, she informed me) soon, and I'm so excited!

I've been scouring Pinterest for inspiration for redoing my camper, finding all kinds of cool ideas.  Since we had a renovation done in our house, and I now have an actual writing studio inside, I decided to repurpose my trailer to be a technology-free creative space where I can read, make art, write, dream, drink tea, and sometimes, maybe, doze a bit among plentiful pillows.  And if my Lil Dude promises to be mellow (ie, no ninja moves inside), I'll invite him to join me for a spot of tea or some water-coloring or a good picture book.

Speaking of ninjas, that's what Lil Dude will be for Halloween-- a Red Cobra Ninja-- and now I must make dinner so we can eat and then carve our pumpkin.  May you have a super-spooky, HAPPY Halloween!