down time


Down time is one of the important things that nobody talks about when it comes to writing. Currently, I’m researching the concept in depth, along with other important things that contribute to a productive writing week. My list so far:

1. good books to read
2. small dogs for cuddling
3. gianduja (hazelnut paste/milk chocolate) — sometimes in the shape of small, insectivorous mammals — from Chocolate Necessities, home of Kevin, our local artisan chocolatier.
4. truffles, also from Kevin
5. friends visiting
6. visiting friends
7. an absolute lack of guilt.

As I have a big double deadline at the end of December (which, by the way, I have no fear of missing), I think this particular research project is a timely and appropriate one. So there.


2 Replies to “down time”

  1. Greetings, Sara!
    My name is Kristie Jacobs and I’ve read all 3 novels of your Wilderness series. You rock, Sara! You are definitely my favorite female writer. I excitedly await your next work, Thunder at Twilight.

    I have a special request for you — one I think you may enjoy, since it’s writing. My children’s school, St. Patrick School in Ada, Michigan, is preparing to celebrate “Read Across America” in March. I have sent a letter to your e-mail that we are sending out to many leaders and celebreties
    across the country. It explains all about this national reading incentive program. If you decide to send us a letter, I’d like to display it with your books.

    Please send your letter to:
    St. Patrick School
    4333 Parnell Ave. NE
    Ada, MI 49301
    Attn: Mrs. Lori Killinger

  2. The letter went into the mail yesterday. Here’s the text:

    Attention: Mrs. Lori Killinger

    Dear Mrs. Killinger and First Graders,

    When I was in first grade (at Saint Benedict’s in Chicago), I wanted to be Dr. Seuss when I grew up, and here’s the reason why: he wrote such good stories. They made me laugh and they made me think. My favorite was (and still is) Green Eggs and Ham.

    A few years ago at the farmers’ market we came across a farmer selling green eggs. You think I’m joking, but it’s true. Araucana hens lay eggs that are green or blue or sometimes blue-green. Or green-blue. And they are delicious. Do you think maybe Dr. Seuss had a few Araucana hens in his backyard? Once in a while we have green eggs and ham, and I think of him.

    So there you are, celebrating the Read Across America program, and I’m supposed to tell you how reading has been important in my life. I’ve already told you about green eggs, but there are other important things, too.

    First of all, reading has been a big help in tricky situations. When I drove from Ann Arbor, Michigan (where I used to live) to Bellingham, Washington (where I live now), the road signs kept me from ending up in Toledo or (imagine!) Boise. When I shop for food I can read the list of ingredients to be sure what I’m buying is a real honest-to-gosh banana, and not a clever imposter banana hiding under a very convincing peel. In the middle of the night if I wake up and realize that I have forgotten the capital of Chile in South America or the name of the first American woman in space, I can get out of bed and go look at an atlas or a dictionary or a history book. (Unless of course the book I need is already in my bed. There are a lot of them. Some people like pillows, I like books.)

    But most of all, reading has always been important to me because I like stories, and one way way that stories get told (though not the only way) is by writing them down for other people to read. I write stories about people who lived a long time ago. The book I’m writing now is about families who got caught up in the War of 1812. (I bet you haven’t heard of that war yet. Unfortunately there are far too many wars to know about.)

    To be a good storyteller, you have to learn to really appreciate the stories other people have to tell. So I spend a lot of time reading. I read stories and histories. You might wonder if there’s really a difference — I think the answer is no, but your teacher might have a different opinion. I read diaries and atlases and old newspapers. And then I write.

    Reading is part of what I do for a living. I am a very fortunate person, and so are you, every time you pick up a book.

    Best of luck to each and every one of you. You’ll go far.

    Sincerely yours,

    Sara Donati

    PS In case you were getting ready to write and tell me the answers, I looked them up yet again: the capital of Chile is called Santiago ? and northern Chile, believe it or not, is where Araucana chickens were first discovered. In 1983 Sally Kristen Ride was the first American woman to walk in space, but as far as I know she has no chickens, has never been to Chile, and has never even tasted green eggs and ham.

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