Words Unspoken

I spotted them on my second lap around the park on a recent spring-like afternoon. A group of women in headscarves is somewhat of an unusual occurrence, though we live close to the University of Arkansas, which has its own share of international students and professors.

I caught the lilt of Arabic as I pushed the jogging stroller ahead of me. Once you’ve learned something of the language, there’s no mistaking it.

Where were they from? Had the executive order on immigrants affected them? Were they worried about their families, their futures, and how those around them now looked at them? Or were these thoughts far from their minds as they enjoyed the sunshine on this beautiful day?

These thoughts flitted through my mind as I continued my jog. When I finished, I took my daughter to the baby swings. I pushed and talked to her and watched the table of women in scarves who sat just in my line of sight. Should I approach them? I had only spoken Arabic a handful of times since I left Yemen ten years ago. I knew it would be a rough go.

After a few minutes, the small girl with them ran to the swings, followed by one of the women. She lifted the girl into the swing and started pushing. I summoned my courage.

“Men fein anti?” Where are you from?

She looked at me with some surprise and perhaps a little caution. “Iraq,” she answered, pronouncing the name not with the harsh American K sound, but with the Arabic qah, the one that lands deep in the throat and lends a certain pop to its words.

“Do you speak Arabic?” she asked.

“A little,” I admitted. She asked where I was from.

“Here,” I answered. Then I explained how I’d lived in Yemen three years, how I taught English there and learned Arabic, and that I hadn’t spoken it much since then. I struggled through the conversation, the words slow in coming. She shook her head a couple of times as she tried to understand. I repeated and tried to understand her accent, so different from the Yemeni ones I’d grown accustomed to.

“Sorry,” I apologized in English. “It’s been so long since I spoke Arabic.”

She shook her head. “La atakelum ingleezi.” She didn’t speak English. We pushed silently for a moment and I thought of all the things I wanted to say to this woman and couldn’t.

‘I’m sorry for the ban on immigration. I don’ t know if it affects you, but I’m sure it affects someone you know and possibly love.’

‘We don’t all agree on this immigration ban. I don’t want you to judge me by the country I was born in, and I won’t do the same to you.’

‘You’re welcome here. You’re welcome to be in this park with me, swinging your child while I swing mine. I want an America where we can do this.’

These are the words I want to say, but the language barrier is too great, the distance between two strangers too difficult.

It’s time to go. I lift my daughter out of the swing. The woman smiles at me.

“Ahlan wasahlan,” she says.

It means welcome, but it carries with it the centuries of hospitality Arabs are famous for when they welcome others into their homes, their lives, their countries. It’s the perfect phrase, and she found it. I nod and repeat the phrase back.

“Ahlan wasahlan.”

You are welcome here.

I leave the park filled with sunshine and children playing and this woman pushing her young daughter on a swing.

I leave the rest of the words unspoken between us.

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GIVEAWAY TIME and Newsletter News!

2016 was a good year here. I know, I know. Political craziness, Standing Rock, continued racial tension and climate change (yes, I said it. 2016 was the warmest year on record, y’all!). Most people weren’t sad to see 2016 go, but for me personally, it was a great year.
I signed a book contract in June with Glass House Press for my young adult series, Dreamers.

My daughter was born in August. We had a wonderful fall celebrating her first season of holidays, topping it off with Christmas with both families.

My husband and I started a new Christmas tradition. Each year, we’ll both pick out a book we’d like her to have, separately, with no restrictions. If I want to give my six month old Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants, that’s my choice. If my husband wants to give her Marshall’s Best Games of Chess, he’s free to do so.

We didn’t, though. Here’s our Christmas choices for her first Christmas. I think we did well. Plus, it was fun to open those books Christmas morning and see what we’d chosen for our girl, since we kept our choices secret.

Finally, early in 2017, I signed a second contract with Glass House Press for my middle grade series, Traders of Incense. This series means so much to me. I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

How do I find when these books will be available? That brings me back to the giveaway!
I’m starting a quarterly newsletter to keep you all informed. Don’t worry. It won’t be more than a friendly seasonal greeting with updates on publishing news, with a few other interesting tidbits thrown in. Plus, if you sign up, you’ll be entered into the giveaway!

I’m giving away a book from an all-time favorite author. If you know me, you’ve already guessed it’s by Madeleine L’Engle. I’ve got a brand new copy of A Swiftly Tilting Planet just waiting for someone to read it. This is L’Engle’s companion to her Newbery winning A Wrinkle in Time and it’s a classic.


But there’s more. I have another brand new copy of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Under Their Skin. It’s the first in her newest series for middle grade readers. If you’ve never read anything by Haddix, finish this blog, sign up for the giveaway, then go find her work. She has several amazing series that delve into science fiction, mysterious futures and time travel. 

Finally (there’s more? Yup!). How about a $5 gift card from Amazon to top it off? Here’s the deal. I’ll pick two winners by February 14th. Each winner gets a book AND a $5 Amazon gift card.

All for signing up for a 4 time/year (plus maybe one or two extra extra read all about it) newsletters.

Are you in? Good! Just complete the form below and you’re set. I’ll post winners on the blog by February 15th. To win the books, you’ll need to be a U.S. resident.

Thanks in advance for keeping up with me on this publishing journey! I wish ALL of us a wonderful 2017.

Fill out the form below to subscribe to my author news and enter the contest!

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Thoughtful, Thankful November

thoughtful-thankful-novemberNext to October, November is a great month to celebrate. In Northwest Arkansas, fall seems to be arriving late, so I’m looking forward to cooler weather and the leaves continuing to change.

November is that transition month between fall festivities and Christmas. It gets a little awkward mid-month, when the Christmas decorations go up and you still want to enjoy what fall has to offer before thinking about winter rolling in. Still, I look forward to the Christmas season and November gets to kick off that magical time of year. It’s also my birthday month (I have the honor of sharing a birthday with Madeleine L’Engle! Oh yes, and my twin).

Here’s a few things I’m thankful for this November.

Family and friends who have loved and supported me all year. This has been a year of HUGE transitions for us. A new house, a new vocation (farm much?), a new baby, a publishing contract. Yeah, it’s been a little busy around here. I was so lucky to have great friends and family (you know who you are) who checked in on me all through pregnancy (and commuting), our big move, and life as a family of three.

Which brings me to point number two. I’m thankful to have a daughter after a long and frustrating battle with infertility. It’s cliche to say, but it changes life completely, turns your previous priorities upside down, and makes life incredibly hectic but so worth it. We’re enjoying this baby girl!

Finally, I’m thankful for finding a publishing house that believes in my work and wants to publish my young adult dystopian series! There’s nothing more exciting for a writer than finding a means to bring your stories into the world. I can’t wait to see my books in print from Glass House Press.

What are you thankful for this November?


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