Rainy Season

Friday night. Throwing a few extras in my purse before trotting down the stairs and heading out. Ako was already on her way to town, picking up a friend, and I would follow after. Others were already in town, all of us converging in a little while on a restaurant in the night bazaar for food and drinks. Some of us just wanted to get out of the house, some of us had transferred Saturday plans to Friday due to an early engagement on Sunday, and some of us had missed a bus to Bangkok due to a series of unfortunate circumstances. My phone was in my hand on its way to my bag when my bedroom AC shut off and the lights went dark. Seconds later, the phone rang.

It was Ako, already partway to town. “It’s raining,” she said. She was under the roof of a store somewhere between the school and Phitsanulok, trying to decide what do. As we talked I made my way to the window, narrowly avoided tripping over my harp in the dark room, and opened the shutters to let in the remaining light.

“Huh,” I said. “It’s not raining here yet. No, wait, here it comes.”

Ako carried on into town because she was already wet and halfway there. I decided to wait a while; usually these storms pass in twenty minutes or so. Soon the initial downpour eased slightly, and I ran downstairs and put my purse inside double layers of plastic bags and got ready to move out—but the slackening turned out to be an illusion. A few more minutes brought another downpour. The word “torrential” came to mind. I stood with the door open for a few seconds and thought about it, but it just seemed stupid to take a motorbike out into a storm like this if you didn’t have to. Even if the power was out, and the light was leaving the sky.

I stood by the large kitchen window as the light faded, feeling the cool air through the screen and staring at the rain, willing the sky to keep its glow for a few minutes longer. I turned on my cell phone every few seconds to illumine a dark corner behind me, and to check for lizards on the wall nearby.

Maybe 25 minutes into the storm, I heard a loud noise. It was a cross between a wail, a rusty door, and a foghorn. It was followed by others, a chorus of creaking, mechanical noises. I grew up with a river in the backyard and I’m used to frogs singing in the swamp at night, but this was a breed of frog I had never heard before. The rain continued well past the half hour mark, and soon I was only imagining that the sky was any brighter than the rest of the dark around me. I couldn’t stay here without light or food, but going out into the storm still seemed like a foolhardy proposition.

When David called, he solved my dilemma (he was the “missed his bus”  portion of the dinner crew). “Don’t go out if you don’t have to,” he said. “I just watched a motorcycle accident happen in front of me. The roads are a mess.” He had already given up on going to the restaurant, and offered to bring me pad thai when he came back to the school. Yes. Minutes later, I remembered the frog-shaped rechargeable lamp on the table, surely purchased by my Thai roommate for instances such as this. Soon after I was happily writing by lamp-light at the table, and not much later the power returned. David made it back as the storm was finally fading to droplets and sprinkles, and by this time the strange frog noises had grown as soothing as a foghorn in the night.

Oh, and the Pad Thai was delicious.

Me and Ako on a nature walk

Me and Ako on a nature walk

Me and David at a chinese temple not far out of town

Me and David at a chinese temple not far out of town. In this photo, we look RELATED.

The view from the chinese temple

The view from the chinese temple

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Your weekly update (and *Michigan*)

Congratulations, everyone. We got through another week, each and every one of us. I hope you’re all as pleased with this accomplishment as I am.

I worked every day this week, still training. By friday, I felt a lot more comfortable and confident. On Monday, I will go out by myself, with my own route. It is, of course, a completely different route than the one I’ve been training on, and I need to fit in the time this weekend to really study it, but I’m excited to begin.

Also, I’m flying out to Michigan on Thursday. The whole thing seems a little unreal right now, mostly because I have a lot of things to accomplish before I get on that plane, but I’m flying out to Michigan on Thursday. I’m so excited! The thing is, you see, that Leftenant Weatherby and his Lady Elise are getting married a week from today. Goodness. One. Week. From. Today. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of events that you just gotta be there for, whatever it takes. I was willing to Greyhound-bus it, but my parents thought that was crazy (they’re awesome) and lent me enough money to get the plane tickets. Getting the time off my new job wasn’t even an issue, because I brought it up before any of us even had schedules (I still don’t have a schedule past Monday). So next week, I get to witness this important and meaningful occasion in the lives of two awesome people that mean a lot to me… AND I get to see everyone in the group of friends surrounding those people. Lady Higg, Constable Maelstrom, Doctor Longbottom, and everyone else that doesn’t have a blog pseudonym yet. I’m just so happy that I’m able to make this trip, able to be there, and able to keep these people in my life. I’m actually flying into Lansing on Thursday and staying with Lady Higg, and then driving upstate for the wedding with her and Doctor Longbottom. The three of us and Constable Maelstrom are staying in a cabin for the weekend, and then I’m flying out of Lansing again on Monday. You’ll notice I have cleverly maximised my time with Lady Higg, because going a year (okay, eleven months) without seeing your best friend is the exact opposite of an ideal situation(!!!), and who knows when I’ll get to see her again after this!! So naturally, I’ve arranged my trip to include as much best friend time as possible, and I can’t wait.

And that’s your blog post for today, because I actually have a lot to do in the way of packing and planning and shopping and laundering and studying and sketching and all the other things. Have a good Saturday, y’all!

Me and Lady Higg in NOLA. Ignore the redeye. Also, I didn't clip Lorax out of the picture intentionally! That's how I found it on facebook!)

Me and Lady Higg in NOLA. Ignore the redeye. Also, I didn’t clip Lorax out of the picture intentionally! That’s how I found it on facebook!

And here's a group shot that actually includes the happy couple! Elise standing up on the far left, and Tom (Leftenant Weatherby) looking heroic with the box of cupcakes.

And here’s a group shot that actually includes the happy couple! Elise standing up on the far left, and Tom (Leftenant Weatherby) looking heroic with the box of cupcakes.

Writing Marathon Day 8! Race to 8th Final Day! With Winners!

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Day 8! My birthday! The race is over!

(Just by the way: you all saw the photo of my birthday flowers in yesterday’s post, right? They’re really lovely.)

The Writing Day

And… I made it to the end of the manuscript. Wheeee!

Now, making it to the end doesn’t exactly mean I’m done. There’s still that bit I skipped in Chapter 11, all that tidying up in Chapter 1, that one thing to resolve in Chapter 5, and that one formatting decision to make. Still, though, I made it to the end. It’s pretty exciting. I’m going to give myself one more week to fix all of the above, and then I AM LETTING SOMEONE ELSE READ THIS SUCKER.

I have made huge amounts of progress this week. Seriously, huge. In 8 days I’ve finished chapters 9, 10, 11, and 12 (except for that one bit of 11.) I want to thank you guys so much for reading this blog and for encouraging me in this project. It means a lot. I feel very blessed this birthday.

On to the blog topics!

And the winner is…

Lady Higg! Congratulations!

If you’ve been following this blog, you already know that Lady Higg is my best friend. Tragically, she lives in Michigan, and I haven’t seen her in FOREVER (or, you know, since July). You should totally check out her beer-themed blog: Ales to Stouts. She’s been having a rough few days, so head over there and show her some love!

Lady Higg’s Entry: Since leaving college, have you found it harder to write, or less hard? Do you find that not being in a classroom everyday, surrounded by people who are creatively challenged (at least academically) a challenge as a recent graduate/author?

In some ways, college feels like a very long time ago! In general, it has been easier to write since graduation. This is because I haven’t had all those other academic pursuits sapping all my strength and focus; writing has been it. That’s sort of the tragic thing about college—you have inspiration coming at you on all sides from so many people and experiences, but then there’s so much to do to keep up with school requirements that it’s nearly impossible to make headway on personal projects. Unless you sneakily make your personal projects into school projects, which admittedly I did all the time. I do miss Writers’ Club, and the Writing Center, and I miss talking with other people who are having all the same creative and literary challenges as me, but the blogosphere fills that gap a little. In fact, the blogosphere is pretty saturated with young women trying to write their first YA book, so that creates a sense of community. Mostly I miss hanging out with the crew; Lady Higg, Leftenant Weatherby, Constable Maelstrom, Lorax, Fights With Centaurs, and all the rest, but I’ve been keeping in touch with them through the interwebs, and I hope to see some of them again soon. I feel like the writing circle is still very much alive. Also, since leaving college, I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve been able to make writing my main focus. Thanks to the generosity of my parents, I haven’t had to worry about room and board, and I’ve been working in a very part time capacity to pay for everything else. Sometimes I feel like a freeloader, but my parents are helping me out because they believe in my book, and so I’ve decided the best thing I can is take advantage of this opportunity and make as much progress toward my dream as possible.

Thanks for your entry, Lady Higg! You’ll be receiving your name doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENT: I only have two entries left in my entry box. And, so, I’ve decided that EVERYONE WINS!

Bonus Winner #1:

Taozi. Congratulations, Taozi! Everyone, make sure you visit her blog: Taozi Tree Yoga

TAOZI’s entry: Ingredients found in a “The Wanderlust Salad”:

“Diets” often entail cutting out food. It is more beneficial mentally to bring more INTO it instead. Obviously, bringing the RIGHT stuff. What do the ingredients look like for “The Wanderlust Salad”. We have all heard of “The Waldorf” “The Cobb” and “The Caesar”. Now its time to get creative and put together a colorful, delicious, and INTERESTING “Wanderlust Salad”. Bon A-petite!

Put Music, Magic, and Irish Mythology in a large bowl. These three ingredients make the base of the salad. Next, add a healthy serving of pretty young men, using the Vanya and Taniel varieties. Throw in a handful each of goblins, wolves, swamps, and battlefields. Add some horses, if you have any, and if you’ve got an airplane sitting in the back of the pantry go ahead and toss that in too. Garnish with classic rock, friendship, and adventure. Toss well, and enjoy!

Thanks for your fun question, Taozi! You’ll be receiving your name doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

Bonus Winner #2:

Cora. Congratulations, Cora!

Cora is a friend from the magical realm called The Writing Center, where I used to work. We also got to hang out for a weekend in Maine this summer. 🙂

Cora’s Entry: Write about the legend of the Writing Centaur, how it began and those who made it flourish.

The Writing Centaur is an eternal being. He had no beginning; he has always been. It is true, however, that he didn’t always reveal his presence to those who trespassed on his realm, those mortal children who spent a mere year or two fighting against illiteracy, plagiarism, and misused semi-colons in the Writing Trenches of Northern Michigan University. I believe it was when Leftenant Weatherby ascended to the Writing Throne (have worked his way up through the ranks by becoming a member of the Red-headed Writers Cabal, questing to various writing conferences, and otherwise currying favor with the almighty Z) that the Centaur first revealed himself to the students of his domain. The Centaur knew that here was a monarch worthy of himself, and from that day onward the writing soldiers had to guard their backs, for they knew now that the Centaur was watching. It should be noted that, while the Centaur is a majestic and magical being, he is not safe, and he is a dangerous creature to live with. It was when Leftenant Weatherby was succeeded by Fights With Centaurs that the battles became truly serious; Fights With Centaurs earned her name when she forced the Centaur back Beyond The Door. For the rest of that year, while Fights With Centaurs crafted zombie-escape plans and dealt with the politics of the Writing Court, we of the Writing Trenches heard the ominous beating of the hooves against the door in the back of the room. The Centaur will always knock, and he will always punish those in his domain who fail to respect the Writing Ways.

Thanks for your question, Cora! I miss the Center, and the Centaur. I hope someone is keeping him in line these days. You will be receiving your name doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

And that’s it! I declare the Race to the 8th Marathon officially over. Now it’s off to eat some birthday shrimp (with sugar-free frozen yogurt for dessert!)

-Grace out

“Bring Your Mug”

That’s the first thing my best friend, Lady Higg, said when I told her I was coming home. (That’s the Big Thing, by the way; I am currently in transit, via Greyhound bus, to Marquette Michigan, my college town and home of five years.) Lawrence said it too, when I told him I was thinking about making the trip. “Bring your mug. We’ll have a few beers. It’ll be worth it.” I wanted to write an epic blog post about Marquette, about why I love this town, and why I’m going back one last time. I wanted to tell you about my rocky beginnings with Marquette, how the city grew on me slowly, how it wasn’t until my first summer there that I really understood. I wanted to tell you how Lake Superior is the most beautiful thing in the world when the water is sparkling in the sun, and about that night we sat on the breakwall with the waves around us as the sun set and the city lights shone brilliant on the water and Marquette was so lovely that she almost outshone the moon rising orange and round behind us (Leftentant Weatherby: do you remember?). I wanted to tell you about all of my friends, the old and the new, the dorm friends, the bar friends, the trio of red-head writers. I wanted to tell you about last summer, the summer Marquette really became mine, when I was newly single and some friends had left and, in some ways, I didn’t know who I was—how that summer Marquette cradled me as I tried everything new and learned that sometimes, things keep hurting even as the time passes, and that letting go of a thing can mean hanging on to it, and learning to carry it differently. I wanted to tell you everything, but after five years of Marquette, there’s too much to tell. Instead, I’m just going to tell you about a bar, about Blackrocks Brewery, the reason I have carried a large, beautiful, handcrafted ceramic mug across Canada in my backpack. Because that one summer? That awful, wonderful, shining summer? It ended with Lady Higg and I at Blackrocks Brewery, living our lives—stress, shenanigans, and all—and talking it out over a pint of the best beer in the UP.

Blackrocks Brewery is a nano-brewery, and a very special place. It’s in a bright yellow house on Third Street, and the interior is warm and cozy and welcoming, with every available wall and ceiling space filled up with hanging mugs. The beer is brewed on the premises, and the brewmasters themselves are there every night, smiling and splashing beer into glasses and mugs, saying Welcome. We’re glad you’re here. We hope you stay. Every mug of beer is delicious. There are six or seven brews on tap every weekend, always something new. I think they’re at over 150 varieties. My favorite is the Willie O’Ree, named after the famous hockey player, a brew so dark, sweet, and smooth. They also make fun stuff, like the Atomic Fireball Wheat: a bright orange beer made from actual atomic fireball candies that give it a scrumptious cinnamon flavor. Blackrocks’ menu is posted on their facebook page, and it looks like there’s a Chai Ale on this weekend, which I’m excited to try if there’s any left when I get there. Oh, and the mugs? Each one is handcrafted by local artist Ryan Dalman, and can be purchased for $40. Each one is a work of art, and with a mug in your hands at Blackrocks you feel like you belong, like you’ve shown your loyalty, like you’re holding a piece of gold. Also, there’s an extreme practical benefit: Each mug is a little bigger than a pint glass, so when you have a mug, you get more beer, for the same incredible price of $3.50.

My last school year, it seems like we lived at Blackrocks. Lady Higg found it first, thanks to Doctor Longbottom, but I was a quick convert, and by the end of the year it was where Lorax and Lawrence came too, and sometimes Fights With Centaurs (Fights With Centaurs  is a dear, dear comrade, but she doesn’t come out quite as often (too many centaurs to wrangle) and so there’s an air of excitement every time she shows up. Fights With Centaurs is here? Tonight? With us?). It was where we dragged old friends when they came to visit, where we assumed everyone should want to hang out. Lady Higg was the first to get her mug, back in December. I got mine in March, only a few months away from leaving town, because what could be a better souvenir to bring home from Marquette?  Lorax got his soon after mine; it sort of matches his tattoo (Lorax, generous in all things—wine, vodka shots, fish sandwiches at 2 am—is letting me stay on his couch this week). Lawrence finally acquired his mug just a few weeks ago, since they had run out of them on his birthday back in June. These three, Lawrence, Lorax, and Lady Higg, are the ones who came to my apartment at 12 AM the morning I left, when the cleaning and packing was finally done, to just sit, drink a cup of tea, and say goodbye. These are the ones (in addition to all the ones, you know who you are) with whom it will be worth everything just to tap mug handles and talk. Because as much as it’s about the best beer in the world, Blackrocks is also about friends, a safe haven, and home.