C's bookshelf: read

The Peculiar
Maggot Moon
The City and the City
The Road
A Certain Slant of Light
The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Brown Girl in the Ring
Well Wished
The Innkeeper's Song
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
American Indian Myths and Legends
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers

C S Peterson's favorite books »

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How to not write in the morning when I have the time.

So yesterday I snuck away to the Lighthouse writers house in Denver, set myself up with a table and wrote for four and a half hours. Girls went to see the Hunger Games. Boys went with Daddy to play in the Apple store at the mall. I was guilt free and focused.  I wrote and wrote on something that did not have quite the right shape. At hour three and a half I had a brilliant flash as I realized that two of the characters should actually be one character. By the end of the last hour I was walking on air - everything seemed to fall into place and I could see where this whole thing was going!

This morning I got up early, worked out vigorously for an hour, came home and set up to write while all were still asleep - Got my favorite background music going. It was still dark so I lit a candle. I wrote in my head about how nice it feels to have a bit of candle light or fire light in the grey pre-dawn. I checked my e-mail. I ate breakfast. I poked around on facebook. The sun peeked up over the horizon. I reread what I wrote yesterday. Didn’t look quite so brilliant this morning. I watched youtube videos of cuttlefish for a few minutes. I marveled at the technology - I can idly wonder about cuttlefish and boom! instant gratification. 

The sun is fully up. The kiddos are stirring. I kick myself for piddling away two hours of prime writing time. Sigh...

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I’m writing screenplay number two in a trilogy of stories about an epic mythic world. I sketched out the major plot points in an outline and read it to my children for a bedtime story.
“So,” I said when I had finished, “what did you think?”
“Sea monsters can’t breath fire,” piped up the youngest, “What use would that be to them in the water?”
“Maybe when the sea monster hits land it can grow legs - then it could breath fire.” offered my middle daughter.
“Yeah!” said middle son, “and then when it is drowned in the flood at the end of the big battle, you could see it crawl out and become a chrysalis! Then it could show up later in the story...with WINGS!!”
“Oooo!” I replied, “a dragon with a metamorphic life cycle. I like it!”
“I think you need some more about the kid as he grows up,” added my eldest daughter, “He’s just kind of a baby and then the next thing you know he’s eleven and everything about him is surprising.”
“Yeah,” I sighed, looking around at my fast growing crew, “That is how it is all right.”
“So maybe at a couple scenes so we get to know him,” she finished helpfully.

There will have to be an authors note at the end that the story was co-written by all the Peterson children!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

First Day Spring Break

First day and the week spreads out before us full of potential.  What a wonderful moment. The sun is warm, there is no rush. Everyone stays in pajamas. I don’t have to push anyone to do anything, anything at all. I go to a “spin class” - a class where we all ride stationary bikes to music and the encouragements of the trainer. Sounds a bit odd, but really quite challenging. I come home for breakfast and everyone is still happily lounging about in pjs. I go to the first session of the advanced screen writing class (ooo! advanced!) and come home for lunch. The girls have eaten, put on swimsuits. They ride off on their bikes to the pool. The boys are building master pieces of lego. The husband wants to browse around CostCo (he loves CostCo). Ahh... first day of spring break.  Everyone is happy.  I sit down to uninterrupted writing time...Lovely!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Youngest Son Guest Post: The Eight Diamond Lords

The evening began with my youngest son looking up at me, a sheaf of Colorado's ‘fill in the bubble’ practice writing tests spilling out of his backpack.
“Mom,” he said, tears streaming down his cheeks, “my writing doesn’t have any flow. I feel like tearing up everything!”

So he dictated a story while I typed and then we edited together for flow. Here is the result with the editing below:

            The Eight Diamond Lords

There were people falling from the clouds. The sons of the gods landed in the desert in a western town. The eight lords, each wearing their own color, were hungry so all decided to go to a bar, buy some drinks, and play cards. Then some cowboys came up to them and said “Get out of this bar. You’re not welcome here.” All the lords got in a huge argument and then got in a fight with the cowboys. The gold lord, punched the leader of the cowboys in the face and he went flying back and smashed through the wall. The lords decided to leave the town. While traveling they found awesome looking diamonds. Each of them picked one up. Oh, and did I mention that you can’t see their faces?  The diamonds started glowing the colors of the capes and hoods the lords were wearing. And then a beam from the clouds came down that matched the colors the eight masters were wearing. The beam took them back to their home.

Here is our editing: 

We made one word illegal: “they” (we decided we could keep only one “they”). He  crossed out some words and added new ones in blue. He read bits aloud as he made his decisions. Doing this on the computer seemed to add a bit of high tech fun.

There were people falling from the clouds.
They The sons of the gods landed in the desert in a western town.
They The eight lords, each wearing their own color, were hungry so they all decided to go to a bar, buy some drinks, and play cards. Then a some cowboys came up to them and said
“Get out of this bar. You’re not welcome here.”
And so they all the lords got in this a huge argument and then they got in a fight with the cowboys.
The gold one lord, he punched him the leader of the cowboys in the face and he went flying back and smashed through the wall. And then they the lords decided to leave the town. While And then they were traveling and they found these odd awesome looking diamonds. And each of them picked one up. Oh and did I mention that you can’t see their faces, the people, you can’t see their faces. And so each one picked one up. No - uh mom, I already said that. Mom! I don’t want that in my story.
“Is she writing down what I’m saying?” says big brother.
And the diamonds started glowing what the colors of the capes and hoods they the lords were wearing. And then this a beam from the clouds came down and the beam was that matched the colors what they the eight masters were wearing. and they got The beamed took them back to their home.

In a Chill Morning

Ever have you ever
In a chill morning
Early on the spring
Meant to go swimming 
But the warm bed held you
Just long enough 
So that after the alarm
You fell into a dream of water
stretching in every direction
breathing soft as a mermaid
wondering through caves 
of sun filtered coral and pearl?

Ever have you ever
Turned around slowly
Beneath the hot shower
In the grip of luxury
Even after you are clean
Putting off the stepping 
Out in a chill morning
Soaking in the heat
till you’d used up
all the hot water
then jumped out into a towel
and thought
I’ll go swimming 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Death’s touch today wrung out every heart
that comes within the compass of my own
and dumb I stood, lacking any art
that sympathies to sorrow could have shown

Pouting to myself, I cast a cloud
Selfish as a Jonah, badly used
brooding on my future in a shroud
all self pity happily excused

Though, soon as I had called, some comfort came
I shrugged it all away as if t’were naught
numbed myself in habit’s drudging shame
shunning tenderness so dearly bought

A robin winked at me one eyebrow cocked
to think I wept ‘cause time could not be stopped

Monday, March 19, 2012

Just sauté some garlic and onions...

So I finished my first ever screenplay. I was writing a book - it still is a book - but it was languishing, languishing. It was like dough that had been left to rise too long in a warm oven, just blob blop blah all over the place. A friend encouraged me to take the screenwriting class and like magic the blah was gone as I whittled it down to things of pith and moment only. Suddenly the story was alive again. I finished! Eighty pages and no dead spots.  Now I want to make it back into a book. I’m on a roll.  So - do I take the next “Advanced” screenwriting class? Now I’m worried I won’t come up with something new. I always feel this way as soon as I have written something. I don’t know where the story comes from when it finally falls together and I have this great fear that the one I have just finished is the last one I will ever be able to come up with. Courage! The habit of writing will carry us through.  It’s just like cooking dinner when you’re home from a long day and feeling uninspired - my dad always said “Just sauté some garlic and onions - then something will occur to you...”

Sunday, March 18, 2012

One Little Word 2012: WONDER

I finally chose one little word for 2012.  I first heard about it on a morning radio show - the idea of choosing a word to frame the coming year. It is a word to think about, to ruminate on throughout the year. It is also a web community. I don’t yet know how to embed links into a post, but you can find it by googleing “One Little Word” and it is hosted by Ali Edwards. I watched as many friends and    fellow bloggers chose wonderful words to think about this year. Linda at “Teacher Dance” chose the word ‘comfort’ and has written about it several times.  I just couldn’t find one, till today one word kind of found me.  A word popped into my head that has already shaped the first three months of the year and I would like to hang on to it for the next few.  It is the word ‘wonder.’ I encounter an experience of wonder almost daily in my work - the amazing things I learn about and with my students.  Each member of my family fills me with wonder, with their existence and their antics, both good and odd. I watch in wonder as my children juggle and ride unicycles and I also wonder why it is so hard for them to get the bath towels off the floor and onto the towel rack. I like that the word is both a noun and a verb. So that is my revelation for the day. My word for 2012 is WONDER!

Friday, March 16, 2012

She caught her breath in amazement...

Friday was a journey through the middle ages - one of my favorite topics to work on with students. I really wish I had a time machine, but we come as close as we can. 
First stop was the Cathedral of St. John in the Wilderness in downtown Denver. It is an Episcopal church built from 1906 to 1911 in the gothic style. We sat out in the garden and looked at the outside. We talked about the fall of Rome and romanesque style arches, the rediscovery of Plato, how the parable of the cave was reinterpreted through a Christian lens and how this influenced gothic style. I asked my students to think about what daily life for a medieval peasant was like. I asked the students to pay attention to how they felt when they walked into the Cathedral and notice where there eyes looked first. It was a lot of talk. My students diligently drew little maps of the Mediterranean and took notes. 
Then we walked into the Cathedral.  
I must admit, I get such a nice feeling of satisfaction when I hear the students catch their breath in amazement.
“Up!” said one student in a hushed voice, “they want you to look up!”
“Look at all the light!” said another.
“It’s so much bigger inside!” exclaimed a third in an awed whisper.
We spread out a copy of the Hereford Mappa Mundi from the 13th century on the floor in the middle of the transept and talked about how the educated people of western Europe pictured themselves and their place in the world at that moment in time. We climbed the circular stairs in a tower to the choir loft. We looked through arrow slit windows. We talked about the vulnerabilities of castles and surviving a siege. We went to the library and held the leaves of illuminated manuscripts handwritten on vellum. We finished at the art museum looking at changes in style from the 13th to the 16th centuries. We talked about what people will think of us seven centuries from now. 
It was an amazing day. 
But it was that moment, when they caught their breath, that the experience of another time became real for my students. 
That is my favorite thing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book at Dawn - Perfect Moment

I got up early - determined to go swimming and get back on track after a week that knocked me flat. But I was caught by a book. It was the ending of a book actually, that had caught me earlier in the week.  “When You Journeyed Homeward” by Cynthia Kennedy, embodies the solitude of a mountain trek. It is the memoir of a young wife, caring for her husband, after he has been injured climbing Cho Oyu in Nepal. The book is filled with quiet, agonizing vulnerability as they travel along together to discover if their marriage will survive. By the end I had a new understanding of why humans would endure such pain - some to summit peaks and some to write poems. I lay in my warm bed, next to my softly snoring husband, watching the sun rise and relishing the peace of the last few pages. I’ll go swimming tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This is what happens when I stay up late watching TED videos :-)

We have only explored 5% of the oceans on our planet. 
The ocean is 70% of our planet.
There are lakes and rivers 
running along the bottom of the gulf of Mexico!
There is a waterfall...under water...under Iceland!
And the new creatures - so strange
The vampire squid is amazing!
It flies through the water with wings like ears
It glows
It shoots a bioluminescent confetti 
Glittering and confusing the enemy
It paints glowing eyes on its butt
and shrinks them to a pin prick of light 
so in the deep dark
it looks like it is receding, running away
but really
It is wrapped in its own black cloak
And the others - ones I had seen before - 
Leatherback sea turtles fewer and fewer yet
They have lasted one hundred million years
They used to watch T-Rex wander by as they lay their eggs.
Great urban wales in the sea lanes of the east coast
They are more highly stressed than 
The ones who live in the wilds of the arctic south
In the south the whales are fat and sassy
Romping near ancient ice
But 90% of the big fish are gone
In the last 50 years they have gone

Monday, March 12, 2012


Right out of Aesop’s Fables
A bright sleek fox 
Hopped gracefully to the top of our gate
And down into our fenced-in yard
The fox chased a rabbit
Contemplated the tall fence all around him
Then he lightly leapt again to the top of the gate 
Dropped down into the field and fled
Moral: What holds your prey may hold you too!

The Dark Just Before the Dawn, on a Bike

My youngest child just learned to ride a bike today. We worked for about 20 minutes and he was ready to quit. This is my fourth time through this. I knew we were close. 
“Here,” I said, “Let’s just ride back to the gate and we’ll take a brake.”
“Mom, I want to walk.”
“Come on, one more time.”
“Mom! Why can’t I just walk!”
He started to walk, hands on the handle bars. I held the back of the seat. The bike didn’t budge.
He heaved a huge, exasperated sigh.
“Just to the gate.”
“I’ll make you a strawberry smoothie when we get inside.”
Another exasperated sigh.
He got on the bike. I ran along side, holding the back of the seat - faster, faster...I let go of the seat and stood still. He got to the gate and jumped away from the bike as it stopped and fell.  He looked around for me and saw where I was. His eyes grew wide.
“Did I do that !?!”
He could barely contain himself.
“I still want a break and a strawberry smoothie.”
“But then can we come out and ride some more?”

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lost Hour

Oh my gosh it’s nearly nine!
I forgot daylight savings time
All the family’s still a bed
An hour of morning quickly fled
Where did this magic hour go?
Did it dissolve with winter snow
This hour I seem to’ve found then lost
was it captured by the frost?
My love for time change would be stronger
If one hour could make the summer longer

Friday, March 9, 2012

Farting Birth Stories

I’m so lucky! We have a professional day today. So over this weekend another teacher has graciously let me cut in line and check out “Wonder.” I started reading it aloud to my boys, 8 and 10, last night. We made it as far as August’s birth story. The author is brilliant. The birth story is full of farts.
My boys were rolling on the ground, laughing, tears streaming from their eyes. Many fart noises were made in armpits. Then:
“Mommy, did your nurse fart when I was born?” said the 10 yr old.
“I don’t remember.”
“I was born in the kitchen, right?”
“Yes, we had rented a hot tub and put it in the kitchen. But I was uncomfortable. The sides of the tub were soft and I couldn’t brace myself against it to push you out. So Mary Ellen, the midwife, helped me get out. Then I sat down by the wood stove and I told Mary Ellen ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore.’ and she said ‘Oh yes you can!’ and out you came!”
“Then what did Daddy do?”
“Well, Daddy sat on the couch holding you while I got cleaned up. He kept saying - 
‘You are so born! Yes born is what your are! You are so born!’
“What about me?” asks the 8 yr old
“We were in a hospital...”
“But it was one with a hot tub, it had a hot tub.”
“Yes I stayed in the hot tub. Your sister was holding my hand and telling me to push and then you kind of swam up.”
10 yr old chimes in “You  must have thought ‘nice of them to build an addition! It was getting kind of cramped in there!’
Both boys start laughing again. 10 yr old snorts.
“Yes,” I say, “but then you hit the air and you were not happy!”
8 yr old does his best impression of an unhappy newborn. He’s pretty good!
I marvel again at the power of stories and the magic of writing. We can look at a piece of paper and hear the voice of another separated from us in space and time. Amazing!
Today, on our professional day, we field trip teachers are taking a group of core teachers on a field trip to the main branch of the Denver Public Library. Special collections, amazing new resources in the building and on the internet, and stories, stories, stories! Who wouldn’t want to go?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Please Prove You Are Not a Computer

NAGVIn iturtac
Please prove you’re not a computer
ulopl gueseelo
I make mistakes on my own
ndleg spords
I change my mind
sitherel isersiber
I disagree
ednised ftstest
I am slow to process love
nciasp smencern
and grief
theauro dedise
I think therefore
tioneste rentmen
I am not a computer

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dreaming of My Father's Violin

Dreaming of the smell of my fathers violin
rosin and dust
sharp tang of a spare string
silent, I run my fingers 
across the blue velvet
On his desk
the waxy slice of agate that lay
long after his coffee mug was gone
strips of gold and umber
a tiny crystalled gap
between the layers

dawn creeps slow along 
strips of grey and cream
backing the fading twinkle of horizon lights
the house still asleep
on my computer
I play a boys choir 
singing christmas carols
even though it is March
while, out my dark window, 
a bus trundles lonely down the street

Monday, March 5, 2012

What are you reading? (one day late)

I’m reading a lot of inspiring encouraging blogs
in quick morning moments
I’m reading screenplay pages from my fellow students
on Fridays before class
I’m reading The Hobbit and bits of Beowulf
as I drift into sleep
I’m reading Luke, out loud 
with my daughters on the way to school (teen is driving)
I’m reading Seven Daughters of Eve
How the Irish Saved Civilization
Brian Green’s The Hidden Reality and Icarus at the Edge of Time
to keep up with my students
And cuddled on the couch before bedtime
with the wind outside whipping around the trees
I’m reading Wind in the Willows out loud
calling in the spring with my boys

Morning Mind

It is one of those mornings
my house is in order but 
my thoughts are not
I start three poems
I can’t get one thought to follow
behind another
My skin feels tight
I’m so grateful my clothes are all geranimals
so I can just where what’s on top of the pile
The radio takes forever to 
move off of politics 
and on to the weather
I pour milk over
mini-wheats and frozen blueberries
and fall on routine
waiting for my morning mind 
to settle in

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Structured Potential

I’m trying to write a book. It’s on my bucket list - to really do it - properly.  I had lots of ideas and one grew and grew. It changed and branched. Characters grew into people who wandered through and worried at my dreams. Writing out some of the bits to get them from here to there was frustrating. The story dragged and languished. My friends were tired of me talking about it. I gave up in despair for a while, tired of wrestling with the behemoth. 

Then a friend encouraged me to take a screenwriting class. Now the story is alive again. It is amazing, like waving a magic wand.  Rewriting the story in a different form with strict limitations has swallowed up so many problems.  Like poetry, the form makes me choose.  The class is short so I just choose an option for now, perfection is some unspecified place down the road and I don’t need to worry about it today. I drown when there is just potential and nothing else.  Limitations are lifesavers.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

True Love: Three Mundane Examples

  1. I come home from work on Friday. Three of our four children are ill. House is  a disaster area. I begin to restore a bit of order. I set the table, light some candles and wonder what to make for dinner. Husband and healthy son come in the door with dinner in hand. Surprise!
  2. Socks have been washed but not sorted for a week. That’s six people, so let’s see...12 socks a day, 8 or so days plus all the socks that could not find their mates from last week...mixed piles of socks blanket the living room floor. Four children watch a music video on the internet where socks are animated as fish. Suddenly the adult socks and the children’s socks begin swimming to different island pillows on the floor.  The teen socks swim up the stairs to the girls room.  The boys finish the game by loading their sock island into a blanket spaceship and blasting off to explore the closet planet in their room.
  3. 3 a. m. Healthy son is barfing all over the rug as he runs to the bathroom down the hall. I clean him up and fix up a bed in our room. Poor kiddo. As I go down to the kitchen to make him some ice chips I hear my sweet husband cleaning the carpet with the wet-vac.
I am so blessed.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who am I, how did I get here and what do I do?

I am a teacher at an independent school where the students pick a topic they are passionate about to study in depth.  I teach math and Latin but mostly I take students on field trips related to the topics they choose to study.
One of the most exciting times of the year is when we field trip teachers get the lists of the topics the students have chosen. It’s like Christmas! The lists have been coming in during the last few days. I’m working on many of the topics that relate to anthropology and one of the students I get to work with wants to know how we got here. He’s not asking about the origin of humans, but once there were humans how did they spread out over the planet.
I started my search for the perfect person to help him with his questions.  I started reading about anthropologists who use genetic markers - small mutations that occurred at various points in human history and were then passed on - to build up a map of early human migration.  

The weight of human history haunted the rest of my day - as I listened to news from Syria, as my husband told a family story at the dinner table, as I glanced at family photos from 1900 on the wall going up the stairs, as I read my children a bedtime story about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. And I thought - when my ancestors were on the verge of extinction and each day was an infinitesimally epic quest to survive, all I do and know was far and away, in a future where each minute is filled with unimaginable, unbelievable wonders.