Monday, April 5, 2010

Of tooth fairies, ghosts, Land's End models, purple bushes and earthquakes: A guest post by featured author Kim Rich


Kim M. Rich is the author of the memoir Johnny's Girl (Alaska Northwest Books, 1999). The book chronicles her growing up in Alaska's underworld with her father, a professional gambler, who was murdered when Kim was 15. In 1995, Hallmark Entertainment adapted the story into a movie starring Treat Williams. In 1997, Perseverance Theater in Juneau was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for the stage adaptation of "Johnny's Girl." Kim wrote the adaptation and the play had its world premiere that year. The following year, the play was performed at Cyrano’s theater in Anchorage.

Kim began her career with the Anchorage Daily News. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing/Nonfiction from Columbia University, where she was a Fellow. Kim has taught writing at both the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University. She has been a Writer in Residence at both schools.  For more than a decade, she has worked as a screenwriter. Currently, she is working on a nonfiction book about Christa Brelsford and the Haiti earthquake.

These are the things and ideas and even book projects that roll around my mind these days. April 2010 finds me with three seven year olds! So allow me to talk about them first.

Once a year, starting Feb. 5th (the twins' birthday) my three daughters are all the same age for the next six months; . The oldest, Charlotte (while one year ahead in school; birthday July 9th) is less then a year older than her twin, younger sisters, Kristan (KiKi) and Mary.

Every year I say the same thing -- I love this year/age more than the last. Seven is magical; they are still little and still believe in things like tooth fairies. I like this. A lot. My daughter Mary lost a tooth yesterday. Then last night she asked: "Mom, do you believe in ghosts?" "No," I said.

"If there's no ghosts, how can there be tooth fairies?" she replied. Think fast, Mom.

"You're right, there must be ghosts."

'Ghosts' to Mary are the kind that appear in a show on Animal Planet about strange and freaky things. They are largely scary, ominous things. Therefore, I don't like THEM. So, I downplay them. But in order to keep tooth fairies alive in our house one more tooth or more, I gave in on ghosts.

I am writing from Dallas, Texas these days. My girls' father got a good job here, so we came last fall (I plan to return to Alaska when school lets out). There's a lot I can write about Texas, most of it things I didn't expect about the place -- how much I like the warm, sunny weather; the gorgeous old maples and oaks and magnolia trees that fill the landscape (and for now, make me as happy as looking at a mountain range); the friendly and polite people (not much different than non-Texans, except they have nice accents); the glamour of Dallas and its rich diversity.

For example, I have made friends at my daughter's school with a family from Africa. I am surprised and delighted to find what we have in common -- intense love of our children; and dressing little girls in little girl clothes; mutual love of our school; and what is different; what I can learn about what it means to be from East Africa.

Spring in Texas is a real spring. The weather turned away from winter in early March (yes, Dallas has a 'winter' some rainy cold days, three total days of snow; all of which last a whopping two to three months!). With spring has come constant warm temperatures ranging from the low 60's to high 70's; I keep saying "This is like a summer day in Alaska!"

Spring in Texas comes with lots of blooming flowers, of course. But what has captured my imagination is a bush that blooms a brilliant, almost fluorescent lavender/purple. I am asking every Texan I know, "What is it?" It's the most beautiful bush I've ever seen. And it, like lots of other blooming things that are new to us, it may account for my new rash of allergies.

But here is the trivial -- what to wear when the weather turns warm? As a lifelong Alaskan, I am more comfortable dressing for cold weather than warm. In the spring, as the spring catalogs arrive, I am overcome by this overriding urge to look just like the woman in the Land's End spring catalog.

The models look so fresh, happy and well dressed. I decided that I should just do what they do. So I went through the catalog and decided on a couple of looks and then ordered whatever the model was wearing. The one look that stands out in my mind now was a model dressed a pair of white Capri's, a boatneck navy blue stripped shirt, and some kind of a loafer (isn't this what they are called?). I got everything -- right down to the navy blue shoes, and gold, canvas belt. And I am NOT a belt wearer.

When it all came in the mail, I promptly tried everything on -- or tried to. The pants didn't fit, the shirt made me look frumpy, the shoes were too tight, and I didn't even get to the belt (oh, how I wish someone would nominate me for TLC's cable channel's, "What Not to Wear' show!).

I despaired. I eventually took everything back to a Land's End store at a local Sears and exchanged it for three swimsuits for my girls (they are so much easier to clothe, and they always look fresh, happy and well-dressed). I got a turquoise colored sweater for me, which I'm wearing with my old standby jeans.

On a final note, I suspect readers want to know what project I'm working on. I'll talk more later, but my biggest project involves a celebrated American survivor of the Haiti earthquake -- Christa Brelsford. Google the name if you are not familiar with this remarkable young woman. She was in Haiti volunteering on a literacy project when the quake hit. She became buried in the rubble, her right leg was nearly severed, and she would eventually lose it.

But this national rock climbing champion is not deterred. With her aunt, and my longtime friend, Ginna Brelsford, we are writing a book about Christa, her work in Haiti and her life (her current project is Christa's Angels, an aid relief website and organization, http://www.christasangels.com/).  Christa's is an adventure story. She, her brother Julian (also in Haiti) and a Haitian companion spent 36 hours in a race against the clock to save Christa's life. At one point, she was triaged to 'die.' 

Christa has become an inspiration to me and I am excited about sharing her story.  Her unwavering sense of optimism seems timed to spring; and when I am writing, I worry less about whether I have the perfect pair of khaki pants, though that I would not mind.

1 comment:

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

Kim -- What a great peek into your life! And what an exciting nonfiction book you're working on (great topic -- and I do remember the news on Christa Brelsford). My main complaint is: How could we already lose you, even part of the year or for a short duration (I hope), to Texas? I've been waiting for your girls to get older in order to pull you into doing more speaking, more teaching (beyond what you've ALREADY done, of course), more sharing with all of us. You have so much to share! But I should not complain -- at least we get a piece of you here at 49w. Looking forward to the next post...