Blogs, Boggs, Blueberries, and Frogs

We painted to music to "uncork" our muses. (I kinda think they were already out of the bottle.)

A Writing Retreat is a heavenly thing.  This weekend, I co-hosted with my two dear writing friends, Julie Kingsley and Meg Wilson, the first annual SCBWI Blueberry Fields Writing Retreat.  Longing for time with other children’s writers and capitalizing on the fact we live on the coast of Maine, we started planning a weekend of writing, laughing, eating, swimming, hot tubbing, and blueberry picking a few months ago.  It turned out better than our wildest dreams.  Ten women, a lot of wildlife, and  more than a touch of good ju-ju in the air.  Many have blogged about it already.  Check them out.  Liz, Kim, and Julie capture it well.

http://www.lizgouletdubois.com/blog/?p=1810

http://kimsavage.me/2011/08/08/first-annual-blueberry-fields-retreat/

http://julietruekingsley.com/

Silly, serious, psychic, splendiferous.   I am now full of inspiration and determination to make it all happen again next August.

Sunday was drizzly, adding that atmosphere writers love. Meg provided Boggs and boots for all.

I do have one story from the weekend that is uniquely mine to tell, and that is the story of the man-frog in Meg’s pool.

World's Biggest Bullfrog, dubbed Farius, after the man-frog villain in my book.

Just take a look at that sucker.  Behold the beef on those forearms.  He’s the size of a cantaloupe.  A flipping CANTALOUPE.  I have some experience with frogs.  In the early 90s, I nannied a boy named Stephen, and we spent many a summer day frogging on a pond in lower Fairfield County, Connecticut.  Upon moving to Maine, where, in general, all wildlife is on a bigger scale, I began looking for frogs with my kids on their grammy’s pond in Nequassett, near Bath.  This one here is by far the biggest frog I’ve ever seen. A frog the size of my face.  And don’t think that fact was lost on me in the moments described below.

It happened like this.  It’s early Sunday morning, and not all the soul sisters are awake yet, so I decide to take a hot tub before breakfast.  It’s drizzly, but how often can I take a hot tub before breakfast?  As I step awkwardly into the steamy water, something catches my eye, perched on the stairs of the pool several yards away.  A big maple leaf, I wonder?  No worries.  I sink into hot tub and sip my dark roast coffee. By this time Monday morning I’ll be back to my bottomless pile of laundry.  I close my eyes.

I luxuriate among the hot water jets for a long spell, until I hear the soft commotion of plates and conversation coming from the kitchen.  I force myself to leave the bubbles and cross the patio to retrieve my towel.  That’s when I realize we have something to rival The Creature from the Black Lagoon on the pool steps.

No tough chick response from me, let me assure you. Instead, girly screams and a few trucker swears break the morning quiet as I alert the group to our intruder.  “Save it, save it!” I hear from the kitchen.  Oh, sure, save it, you say, inside eating your warm cinnamon rolls and slurping your organic blueberry smoothies.  How the BLEEP am I going to catch that monster?

But here’s the thing.  The villain in my middle grade fantasy novel, SPARK, is a giant man-frog named Farius.  Is it some kind of sign?  Even though Farius is a villain in my story, I don’t want this froggy to fall victim to pool chemicals. It might mean the death of hope for my novel– not to mention the death of one of the biggest frogs of all time.  So, I grab the pool skimmer and tiptoe to the steps where Farius sits, Zen-like in his calmness.

One of the ways Farius fights off his enemies in my book is by thumping them with his powerful frog legs.  Have you looked at frog legs up close?  They look like a person’s.  No joke.  A green person’s.  They have  femurs.  Femurs with quads.  And  knees.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to find words to describe green man-frog legs recently.  And here I am, face to face with a frog whose drumsticks are substantial enough to grace a Thanksgiving plate. It’s all kind of surreal.

When I sweep the net toward his backside, he explodes toward the deep end.  From above, he looks like a green version of Michael Phelps.  Big shoulders, no ass, and completely hydrodynamic.  The chase is on.

That fox spied on us all weekend-- I'm sure he saw my stealth operation. (click to enlarge)

Dang nabbit, he’s fast.  An amphibious torpedo, for crying out loud.  I run to the deep end, he swims to the opposite side of the pool.  I dash around to the other side, he crosses back.  I sneak around the shallow end, out of his field of vision, I think, and drop the skimmer in an inch from his butt.  He catapults himself to the pool floor, twelve feet down.  I push the skimmer as far down as it will go, but, alas, it’s only about nine feet long.  Defeated, I lay the skimmer aside and retreat to the kitchen.

I try to enjoy my cinnamon roll and the conversation, but I can’t stop thinking about Farius.  I can’t let him die in there!  Every minute or two I peek out at the pool to see if he’s re-emerged. Finally, I see him bobbing along the surface near the diving board.  I bolt out the door and tiptoe to the skimmer.  He sees me, of course.  His eyes are globes– he’s got panoramic vision.  Some sprinting and Olympic level swimming ensues, but at the shallow end…After a lot of woo-wooing, a photo op, and a victory lap around the pool area, Farius was released into the wild.  I saved the frog, which must mean publication is imminent, right?

Well, only the Tarot cards know the answer to that question.  But, if you normally come to my blog for book suggestions, I won’t disappoint.  One of my favorite summer reads, which will appeal to boys especially, is Barbara O’Connor’s THE FANTASTIC SECRET OF OWEN JESTER, which features a big bullfrog with a red, heart-shaped birthmark on its head.  I’ll give it the description it well deserves next post.  Meanwhile, thanks to the ladies, especially our lovely and brilliant mentor, Mary Lee Donovan, for making the debut Blueberry Fields a smashing success..

A perfect combination of suspense, rivalry, and long summer days.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan Casey
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 13:29:31

    Oh…how I love the Farious story…and to be there to witness your warrior-like goddess behavior to save that FROG! So here are a few thoughts for you to meditate on. According to my Animal Medicine book…what it means when a frog leaps into your life :

    Frog speaks of new life and harmony through its rain song. The deep tones of Frog’s “ribet” are said to be a call to the Thunder Beings: thunder, lightning, and rain. The “ribet” is the heartbeat that comes into harmony with Father Sky and calls for the replenishment needed. Call to Frog and find peace in the joy of taking time to give to yourself. A part of his giving is cleansing yourself of any person, place or thing that does not contribute to your new state of serenity and replenishment.

    So go cleanse soul sister and revel in your serenity!!

    Reply

  2. julietruekingsley
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 13:45:05

    This is one of my favorite blog posts of all time! Not kidding. I especially enjoyed the cartoon pictures and the battle images. Susan- thanks for the Animal Medicine! Fascinating.

    Reply

  3. Cameron Kelly Rosenblum
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 13:52:04

    Thanks, Julie! 🙂 Pretty fun to write, too.

    Reply

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