All posts by Rosalyn

About Rosalyn

(Prose Board) currently lives in Southern Utah with her husband and three small children, where she teaches writing part-time at the local university. She has a BA in English from BYU, and an MA and PhD (also in English) from Penn State. She served a mission in the Hungary Budapest mission. In her spare time (what's that?) she likes to read, write, try new recipes (as long as she doesn't have to clean up), watch movies with her husband (British period drama is her favorite), go for walks, and generally avoid anything that resembles housework. Her debut novel, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, comes out fall 2016 from Knopf.

Favorites: Unexpected Acts of Kindness

A little over a week ago, on an otherwise unpreposessing Monday, I opened my email inbox to find a wholly unexpected gift card for a book.

Four Elkhart Institute Ladies with Book, undated (11467224905).jpgIf you know me at all, you know that books are some of my very favorite things in the world. Even better than chocolate. (Heresy, I know). Sometimes even better than my kids. (Shhh. Don’t tell them I said that. Though of course I love my kids, sometimes it takes a good book to revive me enough to return to the parenting fray).

My morning immediately took a turn for the better, and I spent the rest of the day musing over the perks of an unexpected kindness. There’s something wonderfully validating about finding yourself in someone’s thoughts, for no reason other than that they care about you. Continue reading

Heading to the Mountains

“I don’t understand why people think flowers are so pretty,” my nine-year-old complained.

I’d just told him that after our Saturday morning chores, we were heading up the canyon to a nearby national monument, where the wildflower festival was in full swing. Apparently, this was not good news to my son.

We went anyway, winding up a narrow canyon road beneath grey skies. I marveled, as always, at the sheer gold and ochre cliff-faces, the way the entire landscape transforms less than ten minutes from my house.

Our destination was breathtaking: both the wind-and-water carved canyons, the hoodoos, the alpine meadows full of wild-flowers. We hiked through an alpine forest, bluebells and lupine crowding the narrow path, white columbines shining like stars against the dark green pine.

Going into the mountains nearly always lifts me: something of the weight of everyday falls away from me as the elevation climbs. It helps, too, that out of cell-phone range, my usual distractions are virtually non-existent, allowing (forcing) me to stay in the moment with my kids.

When I come down from the mountains, I seem to see with newer eyes. And if I’m not fully eager to enter back into the routines of daily life, at least the routines don’t seem so onerous. (Caveat: I mean temporary retreats: somehow camping more than a night or two leaves me more grumpy than rejuvenated).

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why natural spaces speak to me–to us–so strongly.

Some of it, of course, is in the way we learn to see and read landscapes, particularly in America. BYU professor Gregory Clark, in his book Landscapes in America, describes the way Yellowstone was framed in early pamphlets advertising the park, to help visitors to the park experience it as a uniquely American experience. Similarly, art historian Simon Schama argues that we are culturally predispositioned to see landscapes in certain ways.

We’ve inherited—consciously or not—the nineteenth-century American enthusiasm for wilderness. According to Schama, the nineteenth-century view of nature overturned earlier generations’ belief that the eastern forests were a sign of evil and refigured wilderness as something sacred and holy. William Cronon suggests that this reversal came about partly through the confluence of romantic notions of the sublime and the frontier: sublime landscapes were a place where one might meet God, and the frontier was viewed as a place for national renewal. Yet, as Cronon points out, wilderness is also very much a cultural creation.

As LDS culture, we revere mountains, which stand akin to temples. We cite Isaiah 2:2, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” We look to a long history of prophets who went into the mountains (Moses, most notably) and emerged transformed.

Under the twin religious and cultural influences, it’s impossible for me to go into the mountains and see anything other than sanctuary. Understanding some of the framework for my experience helps me analyze my reaction–but it doesn’t fully explain it.

I’m not certain I want a full explanation. Sometimes, it’s enough to go into the mountains, wander through fields of flowers, and simply enjoy.

What places move you? Where do you find “sanctuary”?

 

A Regency Reading Primer

I love books.

Outside of my family and church, books may well be my primary vocation in life. I’m a non-discriminatory reader: I’ll read anything (well, I draw the line at erotica and excessive violence) as long as it’s good, though I admit I prefer fiction to non-fiction, and light over dark. And if you’re a book person too, I’ll probably like you.

Few things make me happier than hearing back from a friend that they read a book I recommended and loved it. Well, maybe getting a good book recommendation from a friend!

I recently read Josi Kilpack’s new Regency romance novel (starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly *and* Kirkus!) and was reminded how much I enjoy a good Regency. And since the season of summer reading is (almost) upon us, what better time to share a few of my favorite Regency books–and hopefully get some good recommendations in return! Continue reading

2014 Whitney Awards: YA Speculative Finalists

As a writer of speculative fiction–in particular, speculative fiction for children and young adults–I’m all too aware that sometimes a stigma persists about genre fiction: that it’s not “real” (whatever that means), or that it’s meant purely as escapism. But as Ursula Le Guin points out in response to Kazuo Ishiguro’s fear that readers might mistake his latest novel for fantasy, “Fantasy is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality.” The best speculative fiction does more than simply entertain: it teaches us something about ourselves and the world we inhabit.  Last fall, while accepting a medal for medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards, Le Guin made this purpose even more explicit:

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

The same is true of these 2104 young adult speculative finalists, all of which imagine a world unlike our own, but sharing core human sensibilities: love, fear, families, and the pull to be part of something bigger than yourself.

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2014 Whitney Awards: Young Adult Finalists

I’m pretty open about the fact that I love young adult fiction, both as a reader and as a writer.  I know the same is true for a lot of my friends, largely because books written for teens are less likely to include gratuitous sex scenes and excessive violence (though this is changing, particularly in edgier books geared at older teens). But I think there are other compelling reasons to read young adult literature.

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As Sarah Burnes (a literary agent at the Gernert Co.) wrote for the Parisian Review:

When I read YA and children’s fiction, I feel knit together with the person I was and who I am, still, becoming. It feels, in Gilligan’s words about girls’ relationships, like a “continuing connection” with my past internal selves—especially my reading selves, my favorite selves.

I like too, what Neil Gaiman says about reading for pleasure (which is where most YA books fall for me):

And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.

I think this year’s Whitney finalists for young adult literature (non-speculative) do just that: they provide a window on the world, they allow readers to experience (or re-experience) the pleasures and pains peculiar to being a teenager, and (mostly) they offer hope.

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