All Key-ed Up

You may have noticed my blog has been quiet of late. Part of this is a result of busy months at work. But the last few weeks of silence have been for the best of reasons.

Vacation.

I find coming home to the U.S. after living overseas is like a big gulp of oxygen after holding your breath underwater. It’s not that Suriname is such a dreadful place to live. It just feels so good to be home.

This particular trip back was a whirlwind: a day in Houston, a weekend jaunt to the Midwest, down to Key West to meet my family on their vacation, a few more days in various Texas locales, then a week in my hometown on the Texas Gulf Coast (and surfing!).

With all that travel time, I wasn’t going to be caught without a book in my hand.

So one night in Key West, while my dad and twin brothers were being awesome and doing a night dive around an old shipwreck (their tales of octopus, shark, and fish sightings have made me determined to finally get my scuba certification), I was cheerily getting my nerd on at a local bookstore. Continue reading “All Key-ed Up”

Art, Auctions, & Wine: Oh My!

On this blog, I’ve mentioned a time or two that I paint. But it’s purely for my own enjoyment (and the occasional gift-giving to family and friends). I make no claim to being a professional artist. Let’s be honest: trying to make it in the arts can be a heartbreaking business. Attempting to carve out a writing career is artistic excitement enough for me.

So I imagine how honored I felt when one of my dear friends in the Embassy community invited me to participate as an artist in the gala she was throwing to raise funds for one of Suriname’s international schools and a cause it supports: a local home for underprivileged children. Internally, I balked a little at being labelled one of “seven of local artists” (I’m not an artist! I just happen to have a few tubes of paint lying around my house!). But the idea of getting to showcase a few pieces was pretty exhilarating stuff. Continue reading “Art, Auctions, & Wine: Oh My!”

Ripples Beneath the Surface

So I know it’s appeared quiet around my part of the blog-o-sphere of late. But there’s a flurry of activity under the surface. I’ve been busy firing off submissions (and clasping my hands in supplication before the deities of writing!), contemplating possible future revisions, resuming work on my next novel project after a year’s absence, and most intently, painting up a tempest. (Not literally!) A dear friend kindly invited me to participate in an upcoming art event, so I’ve been busy applying paint to paper so I have something other than prints to show.thumb_Red Paints_1024

In honor of Suriname’s having some 750 species of birds officially recorded (with some others lurking unknown among the rainforest boughs, I’m sure!), I’ve been working on a Birds of Suriname series. Yesterday saw the completion of my Jacana (see feature photo above), a tribute to a species whose cartoonishly large feet enable it to walk on lily pads.Next up: laying hold of my cadmium red, alizarin crimson, and gold ochre paints to begin work on my Scarlet Ibis…

Spring 2017 Update: And here’s the late arrival: A scarlet ibis balanced upon a bit of driftwood.

Birds of Suriname: Scarlet Ibis

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Rejection & Resilience

The “R” word’s an ugly one. Nobody likes talking about it. But rejection is a major part of a writer’s life. There’s not a conventionally-published author alive who hasn’t experienced that sting. Nobody–not even the J.K. Rowlings out there–make it through this biz without a few scrapes.

This week, I received a rejection letter (couldn’t we bibliophiles have come up with a less brutal term for this? What’s wrong with “No Thank You Correspondence?”) from one of the literary agencies to which I’d submitted my novel.

It was actually a relatively flattering letter as far as they go. But in the end, they still said “no.” They couldn’t offer me representation. You always know this is a possibility, of course. But you hope really, reallyreally hard that this time, the answer’ll be “yes.”

Reading the rejection, Professional Lauren appreciated the speed of the agency’s response. Treasured the compliment to my writing talents. Tucked away the constructive criticism for analysis and implementation. Continue reading “Rejection & Resilience”

Holi Phagwa 2017: Hilarity & Hues

Being in the Foreign Service has meant living in and traveling to lots of unique spots. I’ve had the immense privilege of enjoying many adventures. Among these, some stand out as particularly cool: visiting an ice festival near China’s border with Siberia, holding a baby tiger, and tromping around the Great Wall definitely make top tier

Last Monday saw a new addition to that list: celebrating Holi Phagwa, Suriname-style. It might not have been quite so adventurous or once-in-a-life-timey as scaling ancient Chinese fortifications, but it was just so fun. Because what adult doesn’t enjoy an excuse to fling colored powder on friends and strangers alike, sans repercussions? Continue reading “Holi Phagwa 2017: Hilarity & Hues”

Cocoa & Craftsmanship

I may have mentioned this before, but my writer-self tends to make me a bit of a homebody. Left to my own devices, I burrow anti-socially into whatever authorial project I’m currently engaged with, avoiding distraction (i.e. people) at all costs. Upon taking a quiz to determine which of the six types of writers I am, I scored as 100% weird recluse (with only a 33% dash of Ray of Sunshine to cut the Yikes!). That kind of says it all, I think.

But these last few years, I’ve made an effort to try to prioritize people, experiences, and adventure, as well as my writing. So I’m always grateful when friends who are cooler than I am come up with un-pass-up-able activity ideas.

A few weeks ago, this meant a visit to Tan Bun Skrati, a chocolate-making operation run by Rutger (Dutch) and Ellen (Dutch-Surinamese), a husband-and-wife duo. Built upon traditional cacao-processing techniques bequeathed to Ellen via her Surinamese mother and grandmother, Tan Bun Skrati offers workshops as well as various cacao-oid products (teas, chocolate bars, wine, vinegar, etc.). This operation is run out of their home, a quaint dwelling set behind high flowering shrubs and heavily-leaved trees–so well hidden, we passed it twice before realizing where it was. Continue reading “Cocoa & Craftsmanship”

All About Aruba: 5 Hints for Making the Most of Your Trip

As mentioned in last week’s photo-gallery based post, I recently had the blessing of vacationing on the beautiful arid island of Aruba. The trip was made all the better by the company: my husband, my best friend, and her fiancé.

For my readers contemplating their own Caribbean getaway, I wanted to offer reflections on what made our Aruba trip a successful escape: Continue reading “All About Aruba: 5 Hints for Making the Most of Your Trip”