Monday, October 17, 2016


So, back in Mauritius, Fred and I rented a home that was once a lighthouse. My office is at the top and I can see the ocean on all sides. It's connected to nature- to the tides, the smell of the ocean- everything we loved about the Hermosa House. 

It's funky and I can't wait to join him there. 

Right now I'm here overseeing the construction of the new digs and finishing up my Rachel Carson picture book biography which I think comes out in Fall of 2017- or it may be Spring of 2018. There was an announcement about it from my publisher in Publishers Weekly a little bit ago that had the date. I am set up in my parents' kitchen with my monitors and digital tablet and Fred is in Mauritius with doing what he does so well- using his optimism for a better tomorrow in Africa. Making a difference. 

His mornings are spent paddle boarding on clear turquoise water with sea turtles and color fishes. And I am here walking on white sand beached collecting treasure from the ocean and paddle boarding through mangroves (well, we did that together actually) ...

Sarasota is the perfect compliment to Mauritius- it's full or arts, culture, great food and an endless variety of enrichment activities like great jazz music. 

So now we go forward with Sarasota as our American homeless and Mauritius. What a life! I would have never predicted- but, then again, nothing in my life have I predicted- nothing- except being an artist. 

I am feeling very fortunate indeed. We live in two white sand beach areas with the most amazing birds and clouds and wherever we are together, it's just like when we first stepped into the Hermosa house and made it our own. 

April...A Lot Has Happened Since.

In the last three years, there has been very little time for reflection- we have always been on the move. Even before the three years, just before we made the decision for us to start a new company on the podunk island I had never heard of before- Mauritius, we had been in constant flux- constantly adjusting. 

When we bought the Hermosa House we were in a very different place in our lives. We thought that we would retire there- even though at the time we bought it we were both in our early 40's . I was 41 and actually, Fred was still in his late 30's.  When we walked into the house for the first time it was after having gone house hunting up in Washington State. We had both caught some awful respiratory thing and had gotten back to SLO and climbed into my old 92 Nissan Sentra with the dent in the door and saw an open house sign on the way back to our apartment. The realator no doubt looked to the car and us and thought that there was no way these two could afford this house here by the sea. We walked in and instantly loved it and then we put in an offer. 

 We had so much fun remodeling it. People said it would ruin our relationship - that remodeling was one of the most stressful things a couple could do. Years later I heard the story of just such a case down the street where a twenty-some year marriage went kaput over a remodel. We made that faux-cape cod bungalow into something pretty amazing and we loved it. We traced out names into the concrete on the garden wall after we built it. 

After we moved to MRU, I would fly back four times a year for my work, to see friends and to connect with something familiar. Mauritius had not been so fun for me. A male dominated Hindu culture with nerve shattering driving conditions, an over-spraying of pesticides (ah yes, did I mention my next book is about Rachel Carson?) and a disconnect from nature facilitated by the compounds that ex-pats live surrounded by walls- both to keep things out and in. My trips were about a month or longer in duration and would time  with Tristam's school needs and once a year, with the SCBWI conference in LA to meet with the tribe. This last year it became clear that we were not going to return to Hermosa for another 10 years or so. I hadn't realized it, but being there was starting to depress me. On the one hand, I loved it- the sound of the waves at night from our bedroom , the smell of the ocean air , the comfort of being in a place that is yours and familiar to you. But it was becoming a ghost of an idea that had been laid out as a couple and here I was alone. 

So...we sold it. Our wonderful realtor put up the sign and I remember the pang in my heart and our amazing neighbors and dear friends helped us to keep the place up while it was on the market- and it sold quickly. And we are building a place in Sarasota, Florida- on the other side of the county, but still on the west coast of that state just down the street from my parents. 

I packed up the Hermosa house and then movers (Meathead Movers- would not recommend FYI) came and put our stuff into a box. It waits somewhere in California for word to have it shipped out to Florida. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

First Post of the Year- and it's April...That's How Things Have Been Going.

So much has happened in the last months including a trip home to California, a trip out to Florida and Washington D.C. as well as coming back here to Mauritius. Here are some pictures of home: 

Downtown SLO

Taking Care of the "ladies" in our worm bin

Tending to the garden. 

Taking in the sublime central coast sunsets.

This time both Fred and I flew into the U.S. together. We haven't been home together for a couple of years now and it was wonderful and it was the holidays. The town as decked out in enchanting little white lights and we broke out our boxes of holiday decorations and used ALL of them . Had an absolutely great time. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Geeking Out at the WHO Shop in London

Anyone home?

Christmas Dalek!

Yes, I think I hear someone in there! 

Weeping Angel! Don't blink. 

Catching Up With STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

Fred and I just got back from a quick trip to London where I got to meet a woman I consider a true genius, Viviane Schwarz. We have been "virtual studio colleagues"- a term she coined for least 10 years. Anyhow- we got to hang out for whole day. We went to the Tate modern and went from hot drink to hot drink- which is what she said Londoners do. It was freezing, so I totally get the tea thing now. 

Anyhow- I did a check of STAR STuFF when we got back to Mauritius and found the following stuff: STAR STUFF as a top 20 books of 2015,   the Orbis Pictus Honor for STAR STUFF, What to Read to Your Kids, Common Sense Media and ALA Notable Books and many wonderful bloggers out there . THANK YOU!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pictures from Home

Sunset down the street.

California RAIN!

A writer's typewriter at the SLO Center for the Arts. ART! 

An sweet girl at the  Dias del do Muertos in the Mission Plaza in SLO. Love what she did with her crutches.  I wish that I had gotten a few more pictures of her. I only took this one. 

The Planetary Society's 35th Anniversary and Bill Nye the Science Guy!

With Bill Nye the Science Guy at the opening event of the Planetary Society's 35th Anniversary. 

Carl Sagan's table at the Planetary Society. 

Me signing the white board at the Planetary Society's headquarters.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson accepting the COSMOS Award. It was presented by Nichelle Nichols (aka Lieutenant Uhura from the orginal Star Trek- total goddess btw).

Susan Ganz Schmit, Shane Prigmore, Cecil Castellucci and me. 

Over a Month Without an Entry!

I think that this is a record- I haven't blogged in over a month.  It's not that i haven't been thinking about it- it's that I have been a bit busy. Mostly I have been on the road. 

I flew from Mauritius to California. Then in California I made a ver trips: attending the Planetary Society's 35th Anniversary in Pasadena, heading up to the Bay Area to meet with my amazing agent, Abigail Samoun, and then over to Pebble Beach to visit my dear friend Dina. In between all of that I got to attend my critique group's meeting and learned that one of our members is being published for the first time. Her name in Cindy Rankin and she comes up with some of the most original and engaging material in the group. Her book about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake had a character in it that has been living with most of us who have been fortunate enough to get to know her for the last few years. We have been begging Cindy to send her book out into the world. She has. And someone in the publishing world fell in love with her as we did. 

I also got to see my dear friend, Sharon Lovejoy on three different occasions. I first made contact with Sharon when I was still in college. She wrote a book called Sunflower Houses that I was absolutely in love with . I wrote to her all of those years ago and then in 2000 or 2001, I was invited to join a critique group  and there was Sharon! We have been great friends ever since- kindred spirits. 

When I was in town I don't let many people know that I was there. The days were filled with work and meetings and I have a hard time no to people I care about. Fred and I will both be back in California for the holidays and hope to catch up with our dear ones then. In the meantime- elephants.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Getting Ready to Fly Across the Globe

I've done it a bunch of times now: fly across the globe. It takes  29 hours to go from the airport here in Mauritius until arrival in Los Angeles. It's a long haul. I'm getting a bit better at it. I watch lots of movies and try to sleep as much as possible. One thing that I have learned is that that is too dang long of a flight to get into a car afterwards and drive another 3 or so hours home and feel safe about my driving. So now, I get a hotel room in L.A. before the final leg (which does not include the 29 hours). 

I used to feel that it was a crazy travel time, but I've read since about the times when making that journey took months by ship. Very unpleasant and precarious months. So, ship of the air- not bad- and it's Emirates- which is just about as nice as an airline gets. 

Los Angeles International has become my favorite airport to arrive at in California because of this: 

It's got a sense of humor and place. Plus, the traffic has gotten SO bad coming back from San Francisco or San Jose that I am not bothered by the traffic in L.A. anymore. 

But when I get home- the miles melt away. The smell of the Pacific (which smells different than the Indian Ocean), the pelicans and our home. I wish that Fred was coming with, of that trip I'll have to wait for awhile. In the meantime I have dear friends to see and some kids to tell about Carl Sagan. I LOVE that there is now a sort of "my first Carl Sagan book" out there. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Three Day Wedding and Uncle Fred

A good friend of ours here bestowed a really sweet honor onto Fred. She asked him to be her "uncle" at her wedding. The uncle presents trays of offerings to the groom's family (the groom also has an "uncle" who does the same for the bride's family). The wedding took place over 3 days. Here are some highlights. 

Jess heading to the wedding. She had to change saris 5 times during the ceremony. This is sari number one. Gorgeous, right?

The trays being prepared with sweets, fruits, perfume and a sari. 

Me and "Uncle" Fred before the ceremony. That sari took two friends about 40 minutes to put on me. It's one big long piece of cloth, wrapped, pleated, tucked and draped- and held in place by a lot of safety pins. 

After a 3 hour ceremony, the couple walking 7 times around the  center alter - and then , they were married!

One of the after parties. The final dance was a sega dance (the traditional music/dance style of Mauritius).

Back in the MU heading back to CA for an Important Gig

I have been back in Mauritius for over a month now and am settled in again. Summer is coming on this side of the planet. It's getting warmer, there is more birdsong and I am awoken by sunlight coming in the window because the angle is now just right. 

I haven't written for awhile- I haven't really felt like it until now. Not sure really why. Maybe because I have so much writing to do for books and spend so much time in my studio at the computer...anyhow, today I feel like it. So, "hello".

This morning I saw a needle fish darting across the surface of the water. Such and odd looking creature. close to the shore, brown jelly fish sat and tried to push themselves back into the Indian Ocean. A man picked one up- I gasped, wouldn't he be stung?? Not that kind of jelly fish. These had ridden the north winds onto to shore and they were harmless. They are moon jellyfish. 

It's just 10 days to go and I am off to the U.S. again- this time to speak at the 35th Anniversary of the Planetary Society- of which Carl Sagan was a founding member. I couldn't pass that up, could I? (No.) It will be the first book event that I attend for STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos. I was here when the book came out and then for most of the year. 

It's going to be a whirlwind trip. I arrive home in California on the 13th, speak and sign books in Pasadena on the 24th and fly out South Africa for 10 days on the 25th, then back to Mauritius. 

I'm glad I'm doing all of this traveling now while I can. It is exhausting and I can see losing my appetite for going to far flung places in a few years. Then I think I will content myself with my garden, my work and family.

In the meantime, here are some photos of Mauritius.

A village weaver. 

More bananas than we know what to do with from a tree in the backyard. The bummer is that they go ripe almost all at once!

Double rainbows!

Noodle puts STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos into and Infographic!

The folks at, who specialize in all things educational put STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos into an infographic! How cool is that? What an honor to be in the company of those books.