Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Italy 2: Our Souls Carry Our Heritage

We have a five hour layover in Detroit. This is it, though—this is the gate that will put me on the actual plane to Rome.
Two Italian ladies sit across from us, the mother silver-haired and her daughter a lovely white-blonde. They’re slender and regal, and dressed elegantly. They lean, heads close, and eye all the other passengers, their faces serious.
“See that?” Michelle whispers to me, “The way they’re sitting, the way they’re looking? That is so Italian. You’ll see that look all the time. I even asked about it on one of my trips. Those women are probably not even annoyed or anything, they just have that look. You will never know if they’re actually judging you or if you just feel like it because you feel so American next to them.”
The mother and daughter leave, and are replaced by a darker Italian woman. She smiles at me warmly.
I’m already seeing some of the many faces of Italy.
Another passenger sits next to Michelle and they begin to chat. Like Michelle, she is an American with Italian heritage, and like Michelle, she has been to Italy multiple times. Their conversation centers on the pull of heritage.
“I was telling them,” Michelle says, waving at me and at Petra’s bag—Petra’s off walking the terminal, getting some movement in before the long plane ride—“that the first time I went to Italy and got to the village where my family was from, I sobbed.”
“Me too! That’s exactly what happened the first time I went.”
 “And my husband,” Michelle says, “who didn’t even really want to go, when I took him to his village, tears poured down his face.”
They trade a look of deep understanding.
“It’s in our cells,” Michelle says. “They recognize the land they come from. Our souls carry our heritage.”

Rainbow across the AppeninesPhoto credit: Petra Laster Photography

I shift on the black airport seat, looking over Michelle’s shoulder at the two of them, wishing I had Italy in my blood, wishing I had a village there, waiting for me. I’ve felt a piece of what they speak of, at Celtic festivals when listening to live pipe-and-drum bands, the Scottish part of me waking to the call of the bagpipes and filling me like a balloon blown too full, ready to burst with the pressure.
What will I feel when I step into Italy, this country I’ve dreamed of for so long? Will I have any connection, really? I have no claim on this land. I listen to the music, I learn of the history, I study the language—but I have never even spoken Italian with a real person before, and in all the many, many generations filled in on my family tree, there is no Italian to be found. Will this place welcome me, let me feel its magic? Or will I just observe as if over someone’s shoulder, and see the magic in their faces, as I do with these women now?
This is my biggest fear for this trip.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Italy: In the Beginning

In spring of 2017, my friend Michelle posted that she was holding a contest, and the winner would get to go to Italy with her. I entered and won, and the trip happened in April of 2018. It was the trip of a lifetime, and while I can't give everyone the same experience, I can at least share mine.

The writing is all mine, but many of the pictures were done by Petra, a fabulous photographer who was also part of the trip. Please note the credit below any photos, and feel free to check out her other photos on her website.


The trip has finally begun—I am through the gate and on the first airplane, the one that will take us from Philadelphia to Detroit.

I have a window seat, and I look out at the gray—gray tarmac, gray sky, gray airport walls. The baggage carts huddle near the plane as though for protection from the elements. The blue canvas sides have come loose on one, and they billow out, curling dramatically like the cape of an old movie villain.

The orange cones have seen better days. Three of them are almost as black as they are orange. I understand the cones, the baggage cart. I feel these days like my protective sides have come loose, like my soul has seen long days out in the elements.

For weeks people have been asking me if I was excited about Italy, and I would smile and gush, “Yes, I am SO excited!” because that’s what they expected. But it’s hard to feel excited about something that doesn’t seem real, and when you are so focused on making it to the next appointment, getting through bedtime with the kids—again—and checking boxes on a to-do list that includes four part-time jobs plus family and friends, a list that you will never be good enough or strong enough or organized enough or any kind of “enough” to complete—when you are there, in that place, an event that is weeks, even days ahead is too abstract to generate an emotion like excitement.

But today, in the car on the two-hour drive to the airport, Michelle talked about her family, her villages. She told us about her great grandfather, who was left on a foundling wheel, a place where desperate mothers could safely abandon their babies to the care of the church. She told us about the castle in Macchia d’Isernia, and the barons who ruled there. She spoke of the towns, how they are situated in the hills of the southern Appenine mountains, and of the route we will take through those mountains and up along the eastern coast and then to Venice, to Florence, to Rome—

And I am excited. Suddenly, overwhelmingly, with all the emotion I couldn’t summon for the last several months, I am excited.

I have been dreaming of this since I bought the palm-sized painted Venetian mask at Busch Gardens when I was ten.

Since I read the Stravaganza series by Mary Hoffman when I was fifteen.

Since I watched Enchanted April with my mom when I was seventeen.

Since I sat on the swings with Mandi and dreamed of Venice during our Freshman year of college.

I am going to Italy.

I am going to Italy.

I am so excited.

Photo Credit: Petra Laster Photography

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Posts Unwritten

I know it's been a while since I've visited my blog when I find myself reading my last couple posts, remembering what they were about, what I was feeling when I wrote those words. Anniversary post about dreams. Dance dreams. Writing dreams.

This was a year of chasing dreams, with all that entails--work, luck, elation, doubt, fear, more work, and the wildly-swinging pendulum ride between the different roles I am trying to fill.

I look at the blog, and instead of the two posts I wrote this year, I see the spaces between those date stamps, the posts I didn't write--for so many reasons, but one in particular that surprised me, that I still haven't solved.

This blog has always been a space of honesty, of vulnerability, the type that seeks human connection and the sharing of experience and ideas. That is what I want to post; that is what people come here to read. But I launched two careers this year, and now I have extra voices playing in my head.

Don't write about your back problems, your realizations about chronic pain, your fears of being broken. Local people might question whether you can still be a good dance instructor.

Don't write about your children, the things you've learned about sensory processing disorders, the tears that went into your decision to homeschool this year. What if people are looking to connect with you for writing reasons and brush you off because you're too "mommy"?



And so I haven't. Those long spaces sit there between the date stamps.

But this is my truth as I leave 2016: It's okay.

It's okay that I only had two posts this year.

It's okay that I sometimes can't find my balance between momming and writing and dancing and wifeing and churching and being. When you juggle, you don't have your hand on every ball at the same time.

It's okay if I don't post here again until August.

It's okay if I post tomorrow.

It's okay if I sometimes post things that aren't deep and soul-searching.

It's okay if sometimes I need to post things that are.

I don't know what direction this blog will take over the next couple of years as I seek to find my online balance, but I can promise this: It will still reflect me, and hopefully through my experiences, parts of humanity as a whole. And, posting frequently or not, I will try to move forward into this year with all the confidence of a two-year-old in her favorite unicorn shirt.

(Let's be real, though--no adult I know has THAT much confidence.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Year Eight -- The Year of Chasing My Dreams

Yesterday was not a good day.

There were a lot of reasons, but the biggest is that we're at the very end of 5.5 weeks of Ryan being on the other side of the country, and I don't function well when he's gone.

Yesterday was also our anniversary.

(I am still 3,000 miles from my husband--just in case you missed that in the "bad day" bit above. We've spent a lot of time like this lately, with him in CA and me in GA.)

We've now been married for eight years.

When I look back on year eight of our marriage, I will always see this as the year Ryan pushed me to chase all my dreams. No matter how I fretted and second-guessed and guilted (oh, how I have guilted), he was always ready to reassure me, find a way through, and make major sacrifices so that I could pursue being a ballroom dance instructor and an author. 

I have friends from my dance teams in college who no longer get to dance, because their spouses don't dance but don't want them to dance with anyone else.

...Mine puts three very intense children to bed by himself multiple nights a week so I can go dance. 

I have writer friends whose spouses make comments like, "Don't you think you've been at this hobby long enough? You gave it a good try--now why don't you get a real job?"

...My husband uses his personal spending money (which is very limited around here) to hire a babysitter so I can have a couple of uninterrupted hours with my laptop. 

I know I'm not getting this across right. I just can't show you the exhaustion I've sometimes seen swallowing him up in its fog even as he hugs me with love in his eyes and pushes me out the door, saying, "Go get your dream."

There was no "seven-year-itch" in our marriage. There was only an increase in kindness, thoughtfulness, and gratitude as we worked through a very long year full of new jobs, our oldest daughter starting school, writing conferences, theatrical productions, and so, so much more. 

I'm grateful not only to have a man who loves me, but to have this man's love, this man's continual support and adoration. 

The adoration goes both ways. Forever and always.

Happy anniversary, Ryan.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Finding Your Space

Last summer I started watching K-dramas (Korean dramas). I knew going into it that I would likely become an addict, but since I don't watch any American TV anyway, it was a risk I was willing to take.

Then one day I sat down to watch a drama called Cheer Up!/Sassy Go-Go. And I only made it 2:30 into the first episode before I was hit with an image that made my breath rush like I'd been dancing. The scene was a gathering of the lowest-scoring students in the school dancing away their test scores and other stresses in their beloved club room, despite the junk piled in there by the rest of the school.

I ached as memories poured through me. Because I'd been in that room.

It's 2008. Ryan and I are teaching English in middle-of-nowhere southern China. This high school is huge--almost 2000 kids in each of the three grades--and many of the students live in the dorms. I teach all of grade two (ages 15-17). Ryan teaches all of grade one.

We wander, sometimes, around the campus after teaching hours. The students are at dinner, in study halls, or likewise wandering in little groups.

And we find the music building. 

It's right next to the burn pile for the campus's garbage, and everything is coated in a layer of soot. We sneak down the grimy, dark hallway toward the sound of voices singing scales--some more on pitch than others. We peek through the open door and see 11 students, most of them from my classes. There are the twin girls who love my husband and hate me. And there's a kid who sleeps or goofs off through English classes and only knows enough to say "Hello, how are you teacher?"

They see us too, and wave us in. The teacher, a young, annoyed-looking woman wearing skin-tight jeans covered in random zippers and 5-inch stilettos, rolls her eyes and waves at us to sit down. 

But it's after the class that the magic happens.

After the teacher leaves, the students hang around, grinning at us and making conversation half with words, half with pantomime. I ask if I can play the piano. I play a piece I've had memorized for years, a showy Tarantella that usually impresses. Ryan sings something for them. And it works--music connects us with these kids, and they sweep us from the classroom, up the stairs, and into a room with a drum set. They play, and we laugh and joke. New students trickle in. We learn that they're in music classes not because they initially loved or chose the arts, but because they're failing a core subject--for most of them, English--and this is the school's way of trying to find them a path to further education. The same goes for those who do art. The same for the dancers.

"Tiao wu," they say. "Dance." 
"You dance?" we ask. "We love dance."

That's when they take us to their room. Their sanctuary.

The floor is open in the middle, a space cleared and mopped before a wall of mirrors that is flecked with age, cracked in places and with broken pieces missing on the edges. Desks are piled against the walls, castoffs with bent legs and missing wood and rusty frames.

A girl goes to the corner and plugs in an old, dusty boom box. American Hip Hop music pours from low-quality speakers. 

And they dance.

They pop and lock. They body roll. They mix in traditional Chinese dance and martial arts figures like the "Wind Fire Wheel." 

The tight, stressed look always visible on the edges of their expressions, in the rise of their shoulders, slips away. There are no teachers here. We are not teachers to them, in this room. We are musicians, dancers... friends. Otherwise they would never have invited us in.

We go back, other days, slipping in as the teacher leaves. These students, who can hardly speak English, who are "not smart enough" to get to college the normal way--these become our friends. These are the students who take us 45 minutes across the city to find a KFC. These are the students who we allow into our apartment--our sanctuary--to watch Jackie Chan movies while drinking hot sweetened coconut milk from the vendor at the school gate. 

As I watched Korean teens dance in a fictional TV show, I saw again "Pepper" and "Animal," two of the students we most connected with. I saw the girl whose name I never learned, pushing up one leg of her sweat pants and eyeing herself critically in the mirror as she tried a new move over and over until she was satisfied.

And I also saw me, and my friends, forming a little dance club at our high school. Carving out a space for ourselves.

Because that's a need not restricted by country or race: Finding space to breathe, to be yourself, and to connect. And sometimes that space is a small, suffocating room filled with broken furniture.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Digging Up Dreams

Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved to dance. She couldn't hear music without spinning. She spent as much time with her dancer friends as she could, breaking into box steps and falling into dips in campus hallways or grocery store aisles. She dreamed of dancing, dreamed of competing, teaching, performing. Dancing made her feel more alive, more whole, than almost anything else.


Because of that "almost," she gave up dancing for a while, burying those dreams as deep as she could, hoping one day thinking of them would be less painful.

After a couple years, she had the chance to dance again, just a little. She let only the corner of the dreams surface. It was okay to dance a little, be in one performance. Her heart could handle that much.

It wasn't as hard when she had to give it up again a few months later. After all, she just had to dump a load of dirt over the corner.

Two years later, she got the chance to dust off that corner again. It had been manageable the last time; it had brightened her life without taking over. It was safe.

Until she stepped onto the dance floor and color flooded back into a world she hadn't realized was desaturated.

It wasn't just the dancing side of her that had come alive again, it was everything--everything in her entire world seemed more real, and she felt like she was breathing after two years underwater. And this time, she got asked to enter a teacher training program, a program that could potentially dig up those dusty old dreams for real--a program at a studio with the type of people and dancing she'd thought far in her past.

She said no, of course. It wasn't really feasible.

And yet, somehow, everything fell into place. At the urging of her husband, she jumped, opening her heart to all those bedraggled dreams.

But her body, once strong, had changed over the course of having three children. Muscle was gone. Stability was gone. Balance was gone. Things that had once been so easy now required intense focus. She cried, sometimes, driving home, frustrated that she could have lost so much of what she'd once worked so hard for, even while feeling so lucky to get the chance to try again.

For four months she swung between elation and frustration, overjoyed to be dancing, wishing she could have learned all this technique years before, and always, always, part of her crying,

Do you think you can find it?*

Do you think you can find it?

Do you think you can find it...

Better than you had it?

She watched her old dance videos and wondered if she'd ever be able to move like that again. She wondered if she'd ever really find the connection and vitality of the teams she'd once danced on.

But every time she questioned, she would go back to her new dance studio and be amazed all over again that she'd managed to find somewhere so fun, so alive, so caring, and with such a high quality of dancing. For the first time in years, she began to put down roots. She had found somewhere she would truly be sorry if she had to leave. She didn't know what the future would bring, or what would come after she finished the program--would they hire her? Would it work with her family's schedule? Would she someday compete again? Would she get to perform? Would her body ever be able to handle lifts--her true passion--again? She wondered. And while she wondered, she practiced.


Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved to dance. She had lots of dreams and hopes and fears and questions, and she still doesn't have answers for most of them, but one of her dreams was to teach. 

Well, tonight was that girl's first teacher certification exam. It was a 3-hour test with a national examiner from DVIDA

She passed. 

And right now, that's enough.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Making Progress

Hi blog... it's been a while.

In January I was asked to be the leader of all the 12-18-year-old girls at my church. Overwhelming, but very fun.

In February I was just trying to get my feet under me.

In March I decided it was time to start whipping my current novel into shape so I could pitch it at a conference in May and start querying it in June.

Since then, I've taken my 100,000 word rough draft + this:

(I need to start taking notes in a notebook, but the printer paper was always closer.)

And turned it into this:

List of chapters to revise

and this:
Scene map to check point of view, goal, tension, conflict, etc.

As you can see from the chapter list, I'm nearly through this round of major revisions. I've added scenes, cut scenes, cut a character, overhauled another character, added conflict, fixed pacing, cut lots of random bits... In spite of the new scenes, I've dropped my total by 7,000 words so far. 

This is the point where my writer friends both cheer and breathe a deep sigh with me. Because there are so many rounds left to go. 

I would like to someday make money from my writing. But if I were looking for something that gave a good monetary return for time invested, I would run screaming right now.

Fortunately, that's not why I write. As much work as this is--and it is definitely work--I love it. I love creating stories, I love messing with words, and I love when readers tell me they love my books.

And I'm really excited to start querying this one, guys. Really, really excited.

I just have to get through another two or so rounds of revisions... and then I can take a breath before I start the whole process over with an agent or editor. :-D

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Miracles... Again.

I'm still not quite sure how I managed to convince myself that I should be able to keep up with my normal routines even though we added a child to our family this summer. But mostly, I have--teaching nine piano lessons a week; trips to Costco with one child walking, one in the cart, and one in a wrap carrier; gymnastics for the eldest; teaching a children's Sunday School class; working on my writing career--all while getting very little sleep and watching my house get dirtier and dirtier.

The house is always the first thing to slip for me, partially because it's emotionally draining to watch my work be undone by toddlers as fast as I can do it. I'd rather cheer on a student learning a new musical concept, or fill a blank page with words--words that I save compulsively to ensure that they will STILL BE THERE when I come back.

But my normal pace of life is somewhat frantic, and when I add in a messy house, my brain and emotions turn to chaos. Add lack of sleep (I've never yet had one of those magical babies who likes to sleep through the night), and it's a proven recipe for depression.

And so, a month ago, I skipped out on a women's activity I had signed up for at the church. I pounded away on the piano and then took my girls to the park instead. Two weeks ago I told Ryan I wasn't going to a scheduled girls' night.

"Why not? I'll keep the kids."

I shrugged. "I don't feel like it. And I don't want to make cookies for the cookie swap part."

"I'm sure they won't care. Don't you like the people going?"

"They're awesome. I'd just rather read a book or something."

***NOTE: Reading books is normal for me. Lots of books. But skipping a party and the chance to get out of the house without kids? I'm an extrovert, people--that's not normal.***

Two days before my birthday, I told Ryan I was completely empty. I didn't want to go anywhere. I didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to read. I didn't want to write. I didn't want to talk to people. I wanted to sleep, and I wanted to hide in a closet and be left alone.

That was when he told me we'd be loading the kids into the car at 5:00 a.m. on my birthday and wouldn't return until the next day.

He'd planned a huge surprise for me, and I wasn't even excited or curious. I just hoped it wouldn't require much energy.

The night before we left, I frantically canned applesauce. I'd bought a box of apples, and though I hadn't even finished canning the pears I'd been working on the previous week, I was determined to get these apples done before we left (next time I try to take on a project like this, someone please tell me it's not allowed until my baby passes the 12-month mark). Between batches, I scrubbed away at piles of dirty dishes, trying to get rid of anything that would stink before we got back. We'd be leaving for my parents' house for Christmas the day after we got back from this mysterious birthday trip, and I knew I'd need Sunday night for packing.

Now, I'm going to skim lightly over the birthday part, though it was probably the best birthday I can ever remember. My husband took me to see my "second family," the family I had been a nanny for through so many years. They made traditional foods I'd shared with them over the years, including Michael's three-cheese twice-baked cheesecake. They enveloped me in a love I could never question. The twins I'd cared for as babies took care of my babies, patiently letting Cim help them feed the goats and chickens, and even carrying Mari out on their shoulders when she couldn't find her shoes.

I came alive again.

Due to circumstances, we didn't make it home the next day, and instead headed straight to my parents' on Monday. The dirty dishes I'd promised myself I'd finish? The mountains of laundry? The piles of clutter? They'd all wait. Because, as mothers know, the chores are always waiting.

We spent a wonderful week with my parents. We had a great Christmas. Then Ryan and the two older girls caught a nasty stomach bug.

After two days of Ryan being sick, and me cleaning up vomit and running on 2 weeks of averaging 2-3 hours of sleep a night, we began the drive home. With stops for food and gas, it took us over thirteen hours.

As we pulled into our neighborhood, I turned to Ryan. "Remember those pears I never got canned? I bet they stink. And the trash. And the dishes. Our house will probably reek."

Ryan grimaced. "We'll deal with it tomorrow."

The closer we got to our house, the more tense I became. I knew what I'd see when I walked in, and I hadn't had enough sleep to deal with it. A week of nothing BUT sleep might have let me deal with it, but that wouldn't happen any time soon.

And then we got home.

And then I walked inside.

And then I cried.

My Christmas tree lights were on, and their soft glow lit a shining wood floor--a floor not buried in clutter and dust.

My kitchen counters were visible--I think maybe the corner of one had been showing when I'd left.

The bathrooms were clean.

The bedrooms were clean.

The playroom was clean, for probably the third or fourth time since we'd moved into the house.

Everything was vacuumed. Everything was perfect.

Wandering through the house, Cim exclaimed over each room. Finally, in the playroom, she turned slowly in a circle, then looked at me and said, "Wow, that was a big work. They must love us a whole lot."

Depression affects a lot of things, including creating spirals of negative thoughts. One doubt leads to another and another, in patterns like this: In spite of dear friends who constantly go out of their way for me, in the last little while I'd begun to question whether people could actually even like me, or whether they were just too nice to push me away. I'm too loud. I'm obnoxious. I have a habit of interrupting, that I've been trying (and failing) to break for years. I talk too fast. My kids are too loud. They're too high-energy. They won't listen to anyone, not even their teachers at gymnastics or church. It's my fault. They're just like me. If I were a better mom, they wouldn't be that way. If I were a good wife and mother, I'd have a clean house, and they'd be helping me clean it. If I were a good wife, I'd have dinner ready every day.

My week away had done a lot to restore my spirits, but the drive home had exhausted me, and as we'd pulled into the driveway, I'd been ready to dive right back into those same thought patterns.

But someone did a big work. And they love us a whole lot.

They love me a whole lot.

Whoever did this, if you see this, thank you, thank you. Thank you for this Christmas miracle. Thank you for teaching my daughters that love can be expressed through service. Thank you for helping me feel so loved and blessed. Thank you for lifting a load I try to pretend doesn't weigh me down as much as it really does.

I don't know why I struggle so much this time of year. But two years in a row now, I've been blessed with Christmas angels who have done what I never seem able to do. And someday, when I have the strength, I will pass it on.

But for now, I'll sit in my clean living room, stare at my clean floor by the light of my Christmas tree, and just be grateful.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


My brain is fried. I haven't had much sleep, and the girls have been absolutely exhausting (no idea how they can switch from adorable to nightmare and back so quickly). I was too tired to face the dishes tonight. I was a little on-edge, and there was no way I was going to be able to focus long enough to write, but I really needed some time with no screaming children, so I wasn't ready to go to bed yet (parents, you understand this paradox of being exhausted yet unwilling to retire).

Not gonna lie, I thought about spending the evening watching Youtube videos.

But when I walked into the office, I saw our piano.

As some of you know, I teach piano lessons. I used to play a lot--two or more hours a day. But it's been a long time now since I've really played for myself. Lately, though, as I've watched my daughters' moods swing, I've been remembering how my mom said I was so much more manageable as a teenager when I had played the piano for two hours. I thought maybe it would still work.

I wanted sing-along music tonight, not classical, so I started out with "It Is You I Have Loved" and "You Belong to Me" from Shrek. Then I moved on to Phantom of the Opera, and there I remained until my voice gave out. (It's been a long time since I've sung that much too, alright?) My fingers are now tired, my voice is froggy--but my heart is happy.

While I didn't have the soul-enlarging, perspective-altering experience as last time I wrote about playing the piano, my brain's working better now. I was able to focus enough to write this, if not work on my novel, and I'm feeling like I could sleep.

I need to remember to recharge my batteries more often. I need it, and my family deserves to have me functional.

So if you're walking by my house in the next little while and hear slightly off-key high notes, know the dishes probably aren't done, but the kids are alive and mom is smiling. In the end, that's a lot more important.

What helps you recharge?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why I Wrote the Book

Once upon a time (if I'm going to tell you about my fairy tale novel, I might as well start properly), my husband and I were on a road trip. As was often the case before we had kids and the car became too noisy, I was reading a book aloud. This particular trip, the book was DEALING WITH DRAGONS by Patricia C. Wrede.

I, of course, had read this book several times before, but this was my husband's first experience with it. Two things came of this particular read-through:

  1. We decided to name our first daughter Cimorene (a year later, we did).
  2. I had a realization that led to writing the novel chosen this summer as an alternate in Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars contest. 
The realization was this: Princess Cimorene, the heroine of Wrede's book, is a tall, dark-haired, kick-butt princess. This was unusual for the time this book was written (published in 1990). Now, however, nearly 25 years later, nearly every princess you see is what I call an "empowered" princess. They're all out beating the villains and saving kingdoms. 

Now, I relate to a lot of these princesses; I've always been stubborn and adventurous, and I may have kicked a little butt here and there. But the trope-breaker has become its own trope. So it's time to break it again.

In my book A FROG, A WHISTLE, AND A VIAL OF SAND, Princess Ellean is considered old-fashioned because she has blond hair, blue eyes, and likes needlework. When her parents kick her out of the castle, the adventure she's always dreaded leads her to the love and friendships she's always needed. But with kidnappings and a sorcerer along the way, surviving long enough for happily-ever-after will require all the skills she does have--including embroidery.

As an alternate, my pitch and first 250 words will be put in a showcase November 6th where agents have been invited to browse and make requests. Wish me (and Princess Ellean) luck! Also, check out some of the other books that were selected for the contest. There are some I definitely hope to read. 

Tracie Martin: WILD IS THE WIND