Air As Fresh As Toothpaste-Aspen High

Winter in the Colorado Rockies


 This weekend, I went to the mountains with a friend–made a wide loop around the high country, through Frisco and Breckenridge (in genuinely miserable weather–trust me, you do not want to drive mountain passes on snow, ice and blowing snow!!), then the next day into Aspen. The storm dumped tons of new powder all over everything, and we were just ahead of the official opening of the ski season, so it was absolutely fantastic. When the storm moved out, what was left behind was Brilliant blue skies, sunshine sparkling on pristine snow, air so clear and fresh it smelled like toothpaste. Dazzling! We snowshoed across virgin snow, and aside from tripping myself a couple of times, it was fantastic!

 I used to cross country ski when I was much younger, and I do think I’d like to get back to it–few crowds on the courses and all of that, but to my amazement, I was watching all the downhill skiers from the hotel, and then again at the top of the mountain and thought, “why haven’t I ever learned to do that?? I think it would be just my cup of tea! ” I loved the look of the skiers, too, all these hale, sturdy, ruddy-faced healthy people in bright red or copper or metallic green boots. The girls in their skinny waterproof pants and the guys with slick coats.

 So maybe I’ll think about taking lessons sometime this winter. It’s so exhilarating in the snow and sunshine, and really, it’s almost criminal NOT to ski in Colorado. 🙂



 I spent a few days last week with a friend who has a house overlooking the Ohio River. The guest room is high on the top floor of the house, and the bed is right against a bank of windows, so I felt as if I was in a tree house. At night, it was like floating on a barge, the water shining and serene. The best sleep I’ve had in ages, and I wrote zillions of pages in that room!




 The picture speaks for itself. Let me just add that it was early morning, there was no one but me and an old man who was running. It was so quiet I could hear the rabbits scrambling beneath bushes. Not a breath of wind. Not a voice or an engine or a child or even a bird. Just me and the small gray rabbits, and a pair of deer who looked up, saw me, and went back to eating. The rocks red, scattered with snow, the air sharp as diamonds.



  I ran a 5K race last Saturday morning!

I know, I know. Not such a huge thing….not such a long race, but let’s get real here: I’m a 40-something ex-smoker. I’ve been a serious walker for years, and I’ve been hiking seriously at altitude for a couple of years, but I only started running six months ago. A run in public was a big deal to me.

Not much of a race, sports fans, just a little more than three miles, and it wasn’t high pressure because there were walkers. I’m not competitive in this way, so I could go with my friend Holli (whom you’ve read about in these columns before (the artist’s date to Chimayo) who called to encourage me to run with her.

To my amazement, I absolutely adored it. The day was dark and spitting snow, very cold, but that’s not such a bad thing if you have to run. I borrowed a hoodie from my son Miles and wore my yoga pants and good running shoes.

And standing there at the line, I thought, this is weird. Me, in a race. But I liked it. Not the idea of winning, but the idea of just doing it. I hoped to be able run the whole way, no matter how slowly.

In the end, I had to walk several times, and although I was disappointed, I noticed I was in a group of other women just about the same speed. One kept running at a steady, steady, steady pace the whole time. One walked and ran alternately and we kept pace for a long time. Two others ran for long stretches, and walked for long stretches. We all finished within a short stretch of time, toward the end of most the runners and before the walkers.

That was okay with me. I learned that asphalt is much harder on my ankles than turf; that it’s much harder to pace myself at a steady running pace outside than it is on a treadmill; that I like feeling sweaty and pushing myself; that I love, love, love being outside, doing something that makes my muscles feel alive.

Most of all, what I lately love is this: all those gym teachers who made me feel like a pathetic failure of an athlete were wrong. While it’s true that I have terrible hand to eye coordination, and I can’t hit a tennis ball or a baseball or a golf ball to save my life, I am an athlete. I love the pleasure of engaging in physical activities, in sweating and meeting physical tests and setting new ones. It makes me feel very alive.

It’s wonderful to discover that–and I’m happy to see how my niece and her friends are encouraged to be physical in ways girls my age never were.

If you were a girl who didn’t think you were athletic and have discovered it later, have a similar story of discovery, I’d love to hear it. Or even if you always did like and know you were….


Writing romances as an act of courage

Luncheon Speech, Dallas, July 2004

 Author preface: It’s a dark talk, but remember, I do know how to deliver a happy ending….

It’s an unholy world we’re living in, isn’t it? Over the past five years, it has become an increasingly dangerous place. I sometimes look back and think, “What happened?”

For me, the dark times started on April 20, 1999.

An unholy date. Hitler’s birthday, but more specific to our current situation, it is the day two boys went into a suburban high school and murdered 12 children and themselves.

Those killing happened 100 miles from us, and they hit my eldest son very hard. They hit ME hard. My sense of safety was shattered, and there was no way to put it back together again.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was taking my son to school the next morning. Where a cataclysm could happen.

Where he was no longer safe.

I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterward. I thought of the parents of the children who were murdered, and the parents of the children who did the killing, and my soul was torn with unease.

I wanted to fix it. Solve it. Heal it. What could I do? There had to be some way to stop the madness.

It is an unholy world we are living in.

A couple of summers ago, I went to France for a hiking trip with a good friend of mine. It was a personal test-to see if I really had achieved the fitness levels I’d been working toward, and a reward for giving up cigarettes.

I wanted to see if I had the courage to venture into a world where I didn’t know the language, and hike-seriously hike– for seven days with a small group. My life had been changing and I needed time to see where I might be going next. On those hills in Provence, sweating, I found some answers. Or what I thought were answers.

I was buoyed by my discoveries. I was cheered.

I left Nice for Paris on an Air France plane. I’m not a nervous flyer, but as we flew over the Alps, I must admit to looking forward to getting back to the reliability of United-my pet airline. A nice, big, safe American plane, which would take me from Paris to Washington DC.

And yes, I boarded that plane in Paris so happily, slept all the way home, landed in DC and had a few hours to burn before my flight home to Denver. I wandered the nearly empty airport all alone, bought a latte and carried it around with me.

When I went through my receipts for taxes, I discovered the receipt for that latte. It was sold at 8:45 pm by someone named Mohammed, who I remembered, joked with me about drinking coffee so late.

The date was Sept 10, 2001. I arrived home at 3 am on Sept 11. And woke up to the same horrendous reality we all did that day. My grandmother called to be sure I was home, and said someone had bombed the Pentagon. She’s eighty. I thought she’d mixed something up.

Of course she had not.

I wept in sorrow and horror along with the rest of the nation that morning. I wept for my own lucky escape and the eerie brush of the scythe over my neck.

I wondered what I could do. How I could help end the madness, be a force for good, instead of evil.

Its an unholy world we’re living in.

Now, we’re at war. We have friends and family and acquaintances in the battlefields. It seems, sometimes, unreal to me. It frightens me. It saddens me. I don’t know what to do.

There are days I ask myself what good writing romances can possibly be doing in a world gone so terribly astray.

While I sat in my chair and scribbled my last novel, how many children died of AIDS in Africa? How many women were beaten by the men who promised to love them and cherish them? When I played my soundtrack of Gipsy Kings for the last novel I wrote, how many Indians died on reservations of drink and despair? How many more Israeli and Palestians were laid in their graves?

With so much going on in our world, how can we possibly justify wasting our precious hours on something as foolish as romance novels? Shouldn’t we be doing something?


And the truth is, I don’t have any choice. Nor do you. You are not here by accident. Neither am. We didn’t CHOOSE, we were chosen.

Each and every one of us in this room as been chosen to do this work by that mysterious force some people call their higher power and some people call the universe and some just call ambition.

I call her the Writing Goddess.

Not everyone thinks in the same metaphorical terms, so you can call that force whatever you like. For now, I’m asking you to play along with my image of the goddess.

I want you to take a minute and think about your favorite book of all time. The book that most changed you, most moved you, most influenced your thoughts and feelings, maybe even the path of your life.

Now. Imagine that it had never made it into the world.

Wouldn’t that be an awful thing?

I believe that you have a book in you that’s going to be that favorite book for somebody else. You wouldn’t be sitting here if you didn’t have that potential.

The goddess has called YOU, specifically. YOU.

You and I are here in this room against unbelievable odds. Think about that for a minute.

To start with, writers are born as genetic anomalies.

You have to have such a specific, strange combination of gifts and flaws to become a writer in the first place that we’re practically mutations. I’ve been doing some research/work with psychology and schizophrenics, and trust me-it’s just a teeny bit alarming. Someone told me once that it takes nine mutated genes to have full-blown schizophrenia, and writers have around 6 or 7.

You start to wonder where the line is. I mean, I hear voices. I talk to myself. I have entire conversations with myself, or rather the conversations I’m imagining. I know I’m not alone when I say that on more than one occasion, I’ve been stopped at a red light, having a long, involved practice dialogue, complete with hand gestures and facial expressions to coincide—and then I look over and see the person in the car next to me looking at me quite uneasily.


But our mutation is not just that part, that– the ability to see and envision alternate realities. It’s not just being sensitive to language and form and story, although those alone make you rare enough.

The psychology of a writer is a very interesting thing. Oddly, creativity is not particularly well-understood by psychologist’s—they’re just now beginning to accept that there might be a profile, I think, or figuring out how to test it.

But there is a rare study, published in the 1960’s called THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CREATIVITY, by E. Paul Torrance. It studied the nature of highly creative children, and what characteristics they manifest. I’m not going to read the whole list to you, but here are a few of the things they found:

Accepts disorder

Always baffled by something

Attracted to the mysterious


Deep convictions

Defies conventions


Dominant, but not in a power sense

Doesn’t fear being thought “different”

Feels the whole parade is out of step

Full of curiousity

Appears haughty and self-satisfied at times

Like solitude

Independent in thinking

Keeps unusual hours

Lacks business sense


Never bored

Sensitive to beauty



Willing to take risks

I notice other things about writers. We are, almost without exception, fierce, arrogant, compassionate, devoted, tenacious and almost always either loners or somewhat self-conscious and shy, or both.

We have exaggerated fears of odd things, usually imagined in acute detail. I am afraid of spiders, but specifically of spiders in my hair. One of the things that makes me almost positive that my eldest son is going to end up being a writer despite his protests is that he is flat out terrified of moths. He’s wrecked a car over a moth.

Writers are almost always acutely empathetic, which is-I’m convinced-what makes crowds difficult for so many of us. Most of us are also very sensitive to beauty in its many forms, and I believe that romance writers are peculiarly sensitive to beauty, and that’s what draws us to this particular form-we’re so full we’re spilling over with all the love and beauty in the world and we want to share it.

It’s not an accident that you’re sitting here.

When the goddess looked out on the hordes of others who were born the same day you were, she chose you from an assembly of billions. Billions. There you were, standing in the crowd, and she came through and put her hand on you.

It branded you. You know it, in your heart. Most of us knew, very early, that we were not like other people.

And that is the first gift of the goddess of writing. She marked us early, tattooed us with her name. In doing so, she gave us a sense of vocation and purpose. Each and everyone of us in this room knows exactly why we’re here on this planet. We know what we are supposed to do.

That’s a huge blessing.

So you’re rare to start with. Rare in genetic material. Rare enough just being born with those talents that you’re almost in the weird zone.

But then, as a woman marked by the writing goddess, you’ve got to get through so many challenges. You have to actually grow up, find some nourishment for your gift, and avoid the pitfalls along the way to writing that book or short story or gorgeous poem.

We lose so many of our number before they get to that point that it breaks my heart. We lose some in childhood to indifferent teachers or hostile environments. More in adolescence and young adulthood to early pregnancy and struggle for survival. We lose some to the academic world, which presents a model of literature that’s so alien to the way most women think, that the budding writer begins to believe she really can’t write at all.

We lose far, far too many of our number to patriarchal cultures who could not bear to let women do something as dangerous as writing books. And not just cultures in foreign lands, like Afghanistan, I’m talking the United States of America.

We lose many many of our number to the scourges of drugs and despair, tools the branded woman who has not had enough support uses to quiet the roaring of her amazing brain.

But somehow, you survived even those trials, and here you are, at the temple of the goddess. You want to serve her.

AND THIS IS WHERE IT GETS A LITTLE BIT MORE DIFFICULT. Because we all know that it’s not easy, serving the goddess.

She wants everything you have.

She wants your experiences. Your brain. Your heart. Your soul. She wants to know that you will give her everything you have, whatever you have, when she needs it. She wants that secret you’ve never told anyone, ever. She wants that wound that can still bleed if someone brushes it by accident. She wants your pain and your bone marrow and your joy and every desire you’ve ever known.

And she’s not interested, actually, in acclaim or good reviews or Ritas or money. She will see to it that you have a roof over your head, or a job to tide you over. She’ll see to it that you have the tools you need. She’ll even provide tuition for college your your kids, but usually in the nick of time.

No, she doesn’t care about acclaim. She’s about getting a particular truth into the world, and she uses her servants-us—to get the job done. She also gives us some things to get us through. Look at the woman next to you. She’s a priestess, too. She’s readying her blood and the marrow of her bones for the sacrifices she’s going to have to make.


Because it’s magic, for one thing. When people ask me if I like writing for a living, I say, “How could I not? They pay me to sit in a room and make things up!”

But it’s deeper than that. By far.

The goddess makes it worth our while. We get to know, in a world that’s so confused, exactly why we’re on the planet. I’m here to do this, to write books. I’m here to get bloody and muddy and wade through the rains and storms in order to bring these babies into the world.

READERS need us. Desperately. When I begin, that’s the prayer I always offer: Let me serve the reader who needs me most. Let me get out of the way and serve her needs. Let me say what she needs to have articulated, let me dream a dream she can attain, let me give her peace and rest and joy. Let me serve her, that reader, who needs me.

We all know that books can be transformative. Sometimes a whole society is changed by a book. All I’m ever after is one reader. One. The idea of the person, that I’ve never met and maybe never will, keeps me true to the task. Keeps me from falling down on the job, from doing less than my very best, however short I fall.

And if I’m successful, if I do it, just change one woman’s life for the course of a day, or maybe if I’m lucky, give her courage to dream something for herself, it’s worth all the blood I’ve given, all that I’ve had to give up. If actually meet that woman at a booksigning or in the street or at RWA, and she takes my hand or haltingly conveys to me whatever the goddess said to her through that book, I’m ready to do it again that second. Just as all of us are ready, the second we see our baby’s new face, to go through the trials of pregnancy and labor again.


The pleasure of getting right, once in awhile. The pleasure of connecting with that whatever-it-is out there that gives us the stories, the words, the paints we use.

I recently read a novel by Sara Lewis called The Second Draft of My Life, and I have to plug it for all the writers in the room-I happened to pick it up as an ARC from the towering stack in my mother’s bedroom because I had to get on a plane for a book tour. And as it happened, it was about a poor woman on book tours and in all the awful circumstances writers find themselves in. She’s decided, after twenty years, to just give it up. She can’t stand it anymore, and she goes back to teaching.

As it happens, she has a little trouble with teaching first graders, but a character from a former novel she’s written shows up in the form of a workbook she writes for herself. Our heroine writes a very wise line:

“People always ask me if my books come from my life. No one ever thinks to ask if my life comes from my books.”

My life is transformed by writing. The simple act of imagining and writing enriches me beyond measure.

We are so rare and we are holding up the tent for so many who could not join us. And we honored by her choice, her picking us out of the crowd. It is not an easy path. But it is worthwhile.

What if your book goes unwritten? What will the world have lost?


A lot of our critics think we are foolish women, spoiled housewives with not a thought in our heads for the greater good. They believe that our work adds nothing to the world, that our books are like so much candy, fine in their place, but bound to rot our brains and layer them with the fat that clogs real thinking.

They are so wrong.

First of all, we are not spoiled housewives or foolish children. There is not a woman in this room who has not endured tragedy. Even many tragedies. Clarrissa Pinkola Estes says that all women belong to one clan, no matter what our race or background. She calls that clan the Scar Clan, because we are all marked with the scars of living in a world that is more brutal than kind, more harsh than forgiving, more violent than loving. We carry those scars all over our hearts and souls.

We don’t write romance novels out of some foolish notion that the world is all sweetness and light. We write them in spite of the fact that there is evil afoot in the world. We write them in defiance of knowing how bad it is out there. We write romance because they are powerful acts of faith, acts of light in a dark world.

Romance novels are born of the sorrows of women-they protest, with great gentleness and deep firmness, the nature of evil. Romance novels are acts of tremendous bravery, a heart-felt dare to believe that a better world is possible. That love conquers all. That if there is enough love, it will finally blot out the darkness.

In our books, we don’t say that we know life is a bowl of cherries. We say that we will never stop believing in a world where beauty and honor, love and light prevail. Where a good man is honorable and treats his children well, and makes his wife not only his beloved, but his kin. Where women don’t leave their babies in dumpsters, but tend them with great love. In our books, there is not teenager who cannot be saved, no grief that cannot be healed, no challenge without an answering courage and hope.

Is it the real world? No. Do we know that? Absolutely. Does that mean our vision of the world is false? No way.

We do it though we know this is not always reality-but it is true sometimes, and that’s a lot. We do it with the faith that the possibility exists. We dare to say, aloud, and with defiance:

Love heals.

Love counters evil.

Compassion soothes an angry heart.

Love heals.


I’ve happily stumbled into a group of women who hold sweat lodges on full moons and other sacred days. The Clan mother of that group is a wise, kind, gentle woman who tells us that we must tend to our own healing so that we’re strong and balanced when we go out into the harsher world. If we are strong and balanced, we can heal the earth and each other. She brings us together to sweat, where we can grieve and rejoice and let go of all the small and large stresses of our lives.

Katherine is devoted to the idea of circles of women, creating them, sustaining them, so that their joined unity and power can transform this world of darkness. We are the healers. Katherine tells us that we have to tend our gardens, create beauty and order at all times, especially in the darkest times.

Writing and reading romance novels creates one of those circles-a healing circle where each of us comes and can put down our burdens. It is a circle contained in the garden of order and beauty that we’re all tending together. A place where we can retreat from the harsh world outside, lie our heads on the shoulder of a sister and let go of a sigh. Here, in the secret, beautiful world we have created in our genre, we renew ourselves and renew each other. The circle begins with the writer, who heals herself by writing, and goes to the reader, who heals herself by reading, and both are enriched by this intimate communication between the two. It is a circle of two, but it is also a circle of millions.

Millions. Think of that. It’s a very big circle, and it lives in a garden where we are growing all of our hopes and dreams and wishes and prayers for a better world.

These are dark times. But your weapon is that sword of hope, your talent, your offering. Do it well, because it is a sacred calling and we all need you. Writing romances is an act of faith in unholy times.

Now, go do it.



Or, there really is magic in the world if you just let yourself see it…


 J. is my niece. She’s three and a half, with yards of spun sugar hair and big blue eyes. She loves princesses. Her room is decorated with them: Snow White and Cinderella and Belle–wallpaper and bedspread, books and pictures and games. She has a Snow White dress to play in.

She is really a girl, if you know what I mean. If I want to delight her, I bring her something like shoes covered with red glitter, or long tangles of beaded necklaces, or lipstick. She’s also wary and self-contained, not at all given to rash alliances or fierce crushes. She loves her mother, thank you, and grandmothers, and her father. The rest of the world, well….whatever. We call her Queen J. because she is so imperious.

Which is what made the matter of Maddie so initially bewildering.

Maddie is my younger son’s girlfriend. She’s a beautiful, sweet looking girl with big blue eyes and blonde hair. J. had never met her until a birthday celebration in my house a couple of months ago, but there was no question that J was smitten from the very instant Maddie walked through the door.

J’s eyes grew wide, and she blinked. One could almost hear that musical chime in the background. As if she were in a cartoon, she drifted over to the big girl and said, “You’re a princess, aren’t you?”

J did not leave Maddie’s side the whole day. And it was that rare, focused smittenness that’s unearnable: J sat beside Maddie and gazed up at her. She said, matter of factly, “My mother, that’s her over there, used to be beautiful, but she isn’t any more. Not like you.” (Mother, blessed with a good sense of humor, chuckled.) Combing her fingers through her own hair, J added, “We have yellow hair, don’t we?”

When anyone walked by, J informed them that “the Princess and I are watching TV.” When Maddie and the other teens had to leave, J cried, and Maddie and Miles promised to come see her very soon.

Which they have done. On the 4th of July, I wandered over to my brother’s house to watch the hundreds of thousands of illegal fireworks shooting across the city–he has a lovely view. J was lighting sparklers when Miles and Maddie surprised us. I’d heard that J still adored Maddie, but it was almost painful to watch.

J. leapt up and said, “Hey! You’ve never been to my house before! Come sit with me. Right here.” She sandwiched Maddie’s hand between her own and gazed up at her face with the steady, clear light of absolute adoration. “Everything is okay, Princess. I have you.”

My brother said to Maddie, “How does it feel to be royalty?”

And Maddie, with her quiet voice said, “I like it.”

J. reached up and brushed a palm over Maddie’s hair. “It’s okay if I touch your hair. It’s so pretty.” And, “Let me get your pop for you. Here it is.”

It struck me, watching them, with purple and red and yellow sparklers of light exploding in the air behind them, that magic exists. A little girl met a princess, and the princess came to her house, and kissed her, and hugged her. All in the world was very beautiful, because the Princess loved her.

There are times I really wouldn’t mind being three again. Since that part is impossible, I think I’ll spend the day looking around for magic I might have missed.

It was something very simple, after all that alerted J to the fact of Maddie’s royalty: she wore a headband of white rhinestones to the birthday party.

A girl just needs to know how to look at things.



 –It’s a cool, cloudy, restful sort of morning in Colorado. I puttered into the kitchen and looked out my kitchen window to see that the old pink roses are in bloom, tumbling over their restraints like some wild creature, bright splashes of color dotting the air and lawn. The sight makes me feel drunk with pleasure.

—My old snowpoint Siamese cat, Esmerelda, is sitting on my desk, wheezing. Her asthma seems to be getting worse. I make a note to call the vet later this morning.

–There are peaches on my tree! Big, furry peaches that will likely get stolen by birds/squirrels/children walking by. I’m going to cover the tree with tulle, as per my mother’s instruction, but will also let whatever happens happen. The tree is a miracle, a volunteer from a pit that was tossed into the daylilies, one actually producing fruit, so how can I mind if the fruit goes somewhere else?

–My sons are asleep in their bedrooms. The eldest came home for a visit yesterday. (Some one commented recently that they thought I’d be much older after hearing me speak of the children. So let me say I’m not that old. Not that young, either.)

–there are many pages to write this morning, and then I can have fun with my kid. It’s all the other stuff, pouring into our lives, a moment at at time, that makes the writing juicy.

–and I just took a phone call from a person doing a survey because she had a New Zealand accent. It made me want to go back. Now.

Get some juicy moments into your day today. Tell me about it on the message board.



A few things I’ve found worth reading lately

 RIDING WITH THE QUEEN, Jennie Shortridge. A first novel that reads like a 20th, about a down-and-out blues singer with some mother issues who goes home to Denver to work out her life.

EXPAT, Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad, Edited by Christina Henry de Tessan. A delicious group of essays.

THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING, 2003. Edited by Ian Frazier. The annual roundup of best essays. Good cross-section of writing and subjects.

WHY WE LOVE, the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, by Helen Fisher. I can never resist chemistry-of-the-brain studies, and this is quite interesting.

THE ART OF MENDING, Elizabeth Berg. She is a master of the layers of family love.

Things I have waiting on my desk:

A SUITABLE BOY, Vikram Seth, because my uncle said it’s an excellent book and I believe him. I checked it out of the library once, and didn’t get it read. Three days after turning it back in, I discovered a copy in pristine condition at a used bookstore I only happened by. I can’t resist synchronicity as presented like that.

LA CUCINA, Lily Prior, which has had a lot of word of mouth. And my mother thought I would love it, so I have it waiting.

THE EIGHT, by Katherine Neville, because a friend adored it and thought I would like it and sent me her copy.

BET ME, Jennifer Cruisie. But I save her books for Dire Times, because she’s not the most prolific writer in the world and she saves me from reading disaster, so I have to be careful not to spend it too fast.

BETWEEN SISTERS, Kristin Hannah, because I love all of her books and usually do read them, but this time I especially need to read it because it’s one of the books in the RITA category with A PIECE OF HEAVEN.

There are others. Lots of others. I’m particularly reading a lot of travel essays lately–imagining, maybe, that I’m brave enough to plan a trip around the world. Although it’s more like, “if I were brave, what would I do to go around the world?” 🙂

Your task, if you choose to accept it, is to go to the message board and post a great book you’ve read lately.




 Ordinarily, I don’t brag here, but if my son had been drafted by the NFL, you’d want me to say so…

My son Ian is madly in love with debate. Happily, he fell in love with a girl who is also in love with it, and they are a parlimentary debate team for their college, Truman State University.

This year: they are THE NATIONAL PARLIMENTARY DEBATE CHAMPIONS, with an astonishing record.

I just have to say: I AM SO PROUD OF YOU GUYS!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

From the wires:

Truman State University’s debate team recaptured the national debate championship April 11, at the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship Tournament at California State University-Northridge. The team of Marie Tenny, junior psychology major from Villa Ridge, Mo., and Ian Samuel, junior computer science major from Pueblo, Colo., established a new record losing only one ballot in the entire tournament and capturing the first national championship for the Truman team since it first took the national title in March 2000. Their win placed them at the head of an unprecedented field of 302 debate teams from 102 colleges and universities and several international teams (including representatives from China, Belarus, Moldova, Latvia and Lithuania). The Truman team passed prestigious institutions such as the University of California-Berkeley, the Air Force and Naval Academies, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Missouri-Columbia. The tournament was the largest collegiate debate tournament ever held.

In addition to their defeat of the Colorado College in the final round of the tournament, Samuel was the national champion speaker and Tenny was the runner-up. Truman is now the only University to win the national championship twice on unanimous decisions.

Tenny is only the fourth woman to ever place so high, and she is the first since 1998.


Impressions and Conversations…


 –In the Colorado Springs airport security line, I talked to the old man in front of me. He was worried that they’d take his cigarette lighter and I said I didn’t think they would. He had my grandmother’s cornflower blue eyes in a dark, high-boned face, and told me his name was Indian. His mother was full-blood Blackfoot, his father half, all from Kentucky. Until he told me, I didn’t know the Blackfeet had a reservation in KY, which they sold in 1942. He was an interesting guy–lean and whipstrong, and he joked about the shrapnel in his elbow setting off the metal detectors. I would have liked sitting down with him and hearing stories, which I’m sure he would have told as he smoked his cigarettes and turned the air blue.

–on the shuttle from the Nashville airport to Bowling Green, I sat with another writer, a young woman who has written a book called THE WIFE OF THE CHEF. A vegetarian non-drinker who once prized macaroni and cheese and hot dogs above all foods, she married to a chef, and together they run a restaurant in Simsbury, Connecticut, Metro Bis. She is smart and interesting and we made ourselves very hungry talking about food all the way down the highway. I settled for Steak and Shake with my friends, but I suspect she found something a cut better.

–Steak and Shake. They don’t exist in Colorado. My ex used to make a point of going to the ones in formerly (currently?) white neighborhoods in St. Louis because they were segregated when he was a child and he took pleasure in walking into them and sitting down and eating at places he would have been forbidden.

I’m too young to really remember a segregated world (and Colorado wasn’t, anyway) but what I like about Steak and Shake is the very American diner fare. I confess this particular establishment was close to the hotel and I ate there three times over the weekend: a most delicious cheeseburger one night (hold the fries); biscuits and gravy–oh, my! Worth every dense calorie–for breakfast the next morning; and feeling guilty but unable to stay away, a grilled chicken sandwich the last evening. Mmmm. It’s so very, very American, that place. The black and white checkered floors, the malteds and milkshakes and biscuits and cheeseburgers and cheese fries. Only thing better for pure, unadulterated, full American Diner Fare is The Waffle House. It could never be deemed healthy food, but it is delicious.

—Mammoth Cave. My friend Liz (Elizabeth Bevarly–we have been friends since our first books debuted together at Silhouette Special Edition 15 years ago) and I went to Mammoth Cave on Sunday. I’d never been to a cave, and this one is quite incredible. Cool, hostile, utterly still and dark.

–the driver to the airport very early the next morning was another spry old man, a native of Bowling Green. Raises cattle and told stories of coyotes trying to make off with his calves. They didn’t succeed.