Saturday, June 21, 2008

Every Day a Sunday

Things are looking up. The downtown of Iowa City is bustling today, as if the floods had never come. Riverside opened sometime this morning -- it runs past my favorite Dairy Queen in the world, a little 50's era drive-up that was all but smushed in the tornado of 2006 (they can't seem to get any luck).

Still, all is not well.

At home, we still have no Internet, which is driving us crazy. My husband has barely been getting dressed and we have both finished yet another set of 400+ page books yesterday. We've made it through yet another season of Meerkat Manor but are missing our Netflix Watch Instantly on the net. We make long, leisurely breakfasts that stretch on through the afternoon. Our naps are too long to be refreshing anymore. Basically, we're ready for the world to start up again.

Oh, and my favorite baby blogger gave birth while we were without Internet, live-blogging all the way, and I missed all the action.

Let's face it. We're lucky not to have lost anything but time in this mess.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Iowa River bathtub

Here's Coralville, just a five minute walk from us. This tree-lined boulevard runs right past my house.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Move over J.K. Rowling

Let the race to fill J.K. Rowling's shoes begin!

The University of Iowa Alumni magazine just ran my profile of debut novelist Sarah Prineas, author of the just-published young adult fantasy novel The Magic Thief.

The Magic Thief tells the story of Connwaer (Conn for short), an orphaned street thief with a fierce independent streak who picks the wrong pocket in the novel's first pages. He apprentices himself to a curmudgeonly wizard named Nevery, a brilliant fellow who returns from exile to study the depletion of magic in the city of Wellmet. Much of the book hinges on Conn's harrowing search for his locus magicalicus, a special stone all wizards need to focus magic and create spells. Conn's sense of magic is exceptionally strong, but so are the evil characters—among them the thief lord Crowe—who thwart him at every turn.

Among all of the authors I've interviewed, Sarah Prineas has to be the most forthcoming and spunky. She keeps a spirited blog on LiveJournal where she writes about being a young adult fantasy author and a working mom (in addition to writing, she also works part-time as an honors adviser at the UI).

When I began this profile, I was more interested in Sarah's story -- the behind-the-book narrative -- than in the book itself. Sarah told me a lot of stories about what it is like to be a children's author in a town where children aren't valued as readers.

But then I read the thing. Let's just say, eat it HP!

(The pic above is of Sarah in her dining room looking at the long scroll she used to outline the book after it was written).

Friday, June 13, 2008

High and Dry

When we first moved to Iowa City I chided my husband for choosing a home that resembled a communist housing block. Well... let me eat my words. Let's just say I am happy to be living on stilts. We returned yesterday after a vacation to Galena, IL, to find our beloved Iowa City all but disappeared into the Iowa River and many of its inhabitants furiously filling sandbags to save buildings and homes. This image shows Arts Building West, the most beautiful building on campus located right across the street from the University of Iowa Museum of Art. Let's hope they rolled up the Pollock!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Labyrinths in Iowa -- creepy faun sold separately

Last fall I spent a couple of weeks driving around eastern Iowa to visit half a dozen labyrinths that have cropped up in the past decade or so. The one pictured above is located at Prairie Woods, a Franciscan spiritual retreat just outside Cedar Rapids.

In Iowa, labyrinths are just about at the point of cultural crossover from mythical New Age practice to standard fare for the conscious-minded. I've met quite a few writers who walk the labyrinth to work through writer's block, and have encountered a handful of Iowans who regularly go on labyrinth travel to places throughout the Midwest.

Happening on a labyrinth is a little like walking into a crop circle. Someone put it there for sure, but without any signposts or enlightened farmers to explain their existence, most people just marvel at their bizarre beauty and step in. That seems to be the lingering mystery about them -- how they just invite you to walk into them.

Read more about them in my cover story in this month's Iowa Source here.

I took following shots at various labyrinths throughout eastern Iowa including at the Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, and in Davenport at the Quad City Labyrinth Project. I can assure you, these labyrinths are no place to hide from your menacing Franco-supported fascist stepfathers.