Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Alice Munro and Peter Higgs: Nobel Laureates and Damned Fine People

In these, the darkest days of December, I give a vigorous nod to two luminaries of our time. I'm a writer of short stories, novels, and essays and have always favored the work of the Canadian writer, Alice Munro, who just won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Such a thing. And, judging from the Nobel interview with her (she was too frail to travel to Sweden to accept the prize in person), she is filled to brimming with the finest karma.  Modest, smiling, genuinely thrilled at her winning, and still beautiful at eighty-two, she dishes out wisdom by the shovelful without even noticing. He message: She won the prize because she loves to write and did not give up despite early failure and discouragement, nor did raising a family interfere with her determination. She knew she was a writer from the beginning and and she wrote until the end. Her fiction is simple, profound, earthy, and accessible.

Peter Higgs, on the other hand, won the prize for work that is unimaginably complex and inaccessible. He, with help from brilliant colleagues, figured out why the Universe has mass. His theory was proven beyond much doubt by the workings of the large hadron collider, that produced the particle, and will allow further investigations that may launch an entirely new field of physics. 

In the end, though, I think both of these brilliant thinkers--geniuses in the real sense of the word--travel in their minds to places the rest of us can't imagine.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Book Awards, Albuquerque, and the Unfettered Mind

The Great Physicist Richard Feynman: He claimed his I.Q. was 125
I'm in a hotel room in Albuquerque, seeking the illusive freedom of an unfettered mind. It is a struggle to get unfettered with all the buzz and hubbub and guilt and remorse, not to mention joyful stuff, too, all this detritus we have sticking to us after nearly sixty-seven years of living.
I seek freedom by writing, and I'm researching/thinking about my next piece for The Prague Revue which will be about the unfettered nature of geniuses like this wonderful genius pictured above. Meanwhile, I flew out west here for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards banquet which is this evening down in a meeting room at this hotel (the charmingly quaint Spanish-Pueblo Hotel Albuquerque).
Brothers of the Fire Star is a finalist in three categories--historical fiction, adventure fiction, and young adult fiction, and could, I suppose, actually win something, although being a finalist is actually winning because you get to put that big Finalist sticker on your book's cover, which I have done, and now I don't know where I'll put anymore stickers because there has got to be room on the cover so you can read the title and see the author's name.
In any event, I'm playing here with words and sentences and it feels good to trample on the rules of grammar once in a while. Writing a run on sentence can be an exhilarating experience, like shooshing down a steep ski slope without concern for consequences.
Today, after working a while, I'll take a long walk around town and breathe in the cool desert air and have a real Mexican lunch. Albuquerque is wonderful to me because it is a town in the desert and deserts are so very different than the wet and green I am used to.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Pond in Autumn
Flew to New England yesterday to connect with family. Got here a little late for the foliage but there is still some left. Cold and clear this morning, mist rising up from the water, ducks and two Canada geese out there swimming, church bells in the distance. Built a fire, made coffee, took a short walk.
Eli and Bailey and baby Anders (he with the croup) are here for a week and I'll see Dad as often as possible. Last night wine and laughter and getting reacquainted, pulling together again.
This is the setting for my next book: Red-Winged Black Bird on a Joe Pye Weed and it will be good to pick up details of New England that I have forgotten, like the feel of the cold on the forest and the smell of the air and the sound of walking on dried leaves and the fine and rich sadness of it all.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Here's the New Problem: Where Do I Put All Four of the Awards Stickers on the Book Cover?

Here's what it looks like with just two stickers. Now what?

Every writer's dream is to write something that wins awards. If you work very hard and are very lucky, this can actually happen. It happened to me after many decades of I-don't-care-if-I-never-get-published-I'm-going-to-keep-writing writing. A short story of mine was finally published, soon after, another won an international writing competition in Paris, and then, years after after that, a novel was accepted and years after that after two more novels. Then, the next one, the fourth one, the one pictured above, won a finalist award in ForeWord Reviews national book awards. 

So far, where to put the sticker was pretty easy: lower right hand corner will do fine. Then, last week, I learned that the book has been selected as as finalist in three categories in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards (Fiction-Adventure, Fiction-Historical, and Fiction-Young Adult). Of course, I was excited and in fact, blown away, and  so set about deal with a small, lovely problem: Where to put four awards stickers on the cover.

This is what I have so far, with just two of them on there. The New Mexico-Arizona stickers are big but, really, I'd like to show off all four of them. I mean, you've got to promote your books. I now see this will be impossible unless I want to cover up the cover, pretty much completely. I'll have to wait until the ultimate winners in the New Mexico-Arizona awards are announced on November 15 before I cover up too much of too many books. If lightning strikes and I actually win the gold, maybe those stickers will be smaller.

Bear with me on this.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Late Night Writer: Siblings, Old Movies, Fried Seafood, and The Next Book

The Gang of Four, Left to Right: Me, Janie, Johnny, Patty: The Original Arvidson Sibs hanging out in Massachusetts, Summer 2013

Spending the day in a creative frenzy doing nothing. Got 104 pages on the next novel written, rough draft form--nearly formless. Trolling the day for epiphanies to explain the plot structure--to straighten it out, adjust the who and where. I do understand The Why. That's the strength now: The motivations of the characters are rock solid: Red-Winged Blackbird on a Joe Pye Weed: form emerging out of formlessness.

Today, to work through my quandary, I didn't push it. Took the Prius to her appointment for oil change, pigged out on fried seafood at a restaurant on Chincoteaque, came home, took a nap, drank a bottle of wine with friend, and then went to dinner and came home and watched an old Woody Allen movie (Manhattan, his classic satire of the neurotic, affected YUPs in The City). Lots of think time. Tomorrow, early up, ready to write.

Got word that Brothers of the Fire Star has been selected as a finalist in three categories in the New Mexico-Arizona 2013 Book Awards: Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. I'd plan on flying out to Albuquerque again (was there in May for the Southwest Book Fiesta--a bust), but don't know if I could take the possible wash out. Took in in Chicago with deep, painful disappointment at not actually winning Book of the Year, although I understand that just being a finalist means we won. Hell, compared to the thousands of books that didn't make it that far.

Now sleepy and ready for bed.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Image from The Prague Revue: A great online lit zine to which I contribute a monthly piece. Love it. This is what writing is really all about: the music of words.

Speaking of words: Got word the other day from my publisher--Crossquarter Publishing Group in Santa Fe--that my novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, has been selected as a Finalist in three categories in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. The categories are exactly right: Historical Fiction, Adventure Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction.

My mother-in-law, my biggest fan, apparently, does not like to have the book categorized in the Young Adult genre. She's afraid it will limit its readership and she says, it really is a "great book" for adults, too. I hope you're right, Frances June, and apparently the judges agree.

The winners will be announced on November 15th at an gala event/dinner in Albuquerque. Maybe I'll go. But maybe not. When the book was a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year Awards I  spent more than a grand flying to Chicago and staying in an expensive hotel and eating expensive food and didn't win the actual Book of the Year award although just being a finalist out of 1300 books nationwide was pretty (very) cool.

In any event, the only problem with being a finalist in three categories plus the Book of the Year category I already won is that there is not enough room on the book's cover to fit all the beautiful gold award stickers. We'll figure that one out.

Meanwhile, as  I deal with the pesky business of book promotion, I'm reading Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things and Pynchon's brand new book, Bleeding Edge all the while getting deeper and deeper into my own new novel: 103 pages as of today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Schools Back in Session and Brothers of the Fire Star is Back in the Classroom, Too

 One of the best ideas I ever listened to as a writer came from a curriculum specialist for a school system: "Doug, you need to develop a curriculum standards-based study guide for your novel. That will make it much easier for teachers to use it in the classroom."

It took me two months--last January and February--here in my Writer's Cave. I used a commercially available study guide for a famous YA novel as a model and got to work. Looking back on it now, it wasn't that difficult, but at the time, I thought I might have gotten in over my head. It was a lot of work. The finished product was 150 pages long and includes such teaching necessities (in this day of heavy teacher workloads and accountability) as quizzes, vocabulary, writing exercises, historical background essays, and even answer keys for chapter tests and the final exam.

After I was finished, I had an small epiphany: Why not make it available to download for FREE on my website? So, it's there at under the BOOKS page. Just open up TEACHER RESOURCES and sign up.

And it was worth it. Brothers of the Fire Star is now being used in classrooms. And better yet, students are using the new PREZI method ( of presenting reports on the book and posting them online. It's fun and looks great.

Bottom line: While curriculum standards-based instruction is controversial, if teachers want to used it, it's there.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Summer on the Eastern Shore: Boats, Seafood, and More Seafood

Boating on the Bay: After this we retire to a local restaurant to eat stuff like clams and oysters.

We've settled into an unsettled summer, it seems. So much going on with family births (traveling to Seattle to meet our new grandson), book promotion, family illness of the kind that causes major transitions, that we seek solace by going out on the water. Our little skiff, a 17' Key West with a 50 h.p. Honda outboard is ideal for this: easy to maintain, to trailer around, to put in and out of the water, and economical to run. 

Last week my brother and I ran nearly the entire length of the Pocomoke River up in Maryland. We saw thirteen bald eagles. We stopped at the club house of a golf course that is right on the river and which welcomes boaters. We had a beer and an incredible cheese burger. We ran the boat fast, we ran her slow, we stopped and pulled her up on a beach when we reached the Bay and looked around. We had fun.

Yesterday, too. Terry and I took the skiff out to Ware's Beach at the end of Onancock Creek. We anchored off, not bothering to go ashore. We drank wine and relaxed in the sun. Terry took her new paddle board (she has become a queen of the SUP) and paddled against, and then, with the wind. We lolled about. I got sunburned and half in the bag. What the hell.

And now we're selling our sailboat, Seawind. Speaking of transitions. I've never been able to shake the feeling that sailboats are living things, have emotions, can be heartbroken, feel abandoned. That's the way it is now. We took her up to Deep Creek Marina and had her hauled out. There is a For Sale sign taped to her bow. I've already gotten a call from someone interested. Look at he--she's a beauty. How the can I do this?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Art and Wisdom of the Story: When Our Literary Heroes Let Us Down

 Photo by JoAnne Rawls

This Writer at Sixty-Six: We age, we go gray, we accumulate huge volumes of small wisdoms. But do they do us any good?

With age sometimes comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes all by itself.

We've all known people like that, people of great age who you would expect to be living in the glow of the great wisdoms of the life. But instead, as you interact with them, you realize with some dismay that they really missed something along the way. Out pops a racial slur or an angry epithet and you know they just didn't get it.

I have always seen writers as the holders and dispensers of the great wisdoms of life. Give me a Joseph Conrad or a Anton Chekov,  a Faulkner, or a Hemingway, or a Shakespeare over a teacher, a priest, a physician, or even a Buddhist monk any day. 

This in spite of the day, many years ago, that with some ruefulness, I discovered that while my literary heroes might possess a fine personal library of wisdom, they very often did not manage to live by it. Hemingway is a pretty good example of how the lovely and profound lessons in his prose did not translate into a lovely and profound life for the writer. He was famously drunk, famously emotionally brutal those those he loved, famously jealous of other writers, and in the end, morbidly paranoid.

How can this be? How can those who see, those who understand, those who get it so deeply that they can express it in brilliantly woven verbal tapestries be in the end just like the rest of us? Where is the disconnect? I think the answer may be that writers don't see any deeper than non-writers, that the school teacher or the nurse can learn and live by the great wisdoms, but lack the ability, the talent, the gift of the telling, the art of the story.

What wisdom there is in this observation, I'm not sure, but here's what one writer, Gertrude Stein said:

There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How Will I Pay for All this Glory?

 In Chicago last week at the Annual Convention of the American Library Association with Jennifer Szunko of ForeWord Reviews

I just got in from Chicago via Atlanta via visiting grandsons. Nice to be back home and catching my breath after a whirl-wind week away. Of course, next week, we're off again, this time to Seattle and yet another grandson.

In the mean time, I have to make sense of it all. Brothers of the Fire Star, my new novel, was selected as a finalist out of some 1,300 books from 700 publishers nation wide. It is all wonderful and I'm very excited and now I get to put this really bright gold sticker on all the covers while I figure out how I'm going to pay for those airline tickets and three nights in a fancy hotel.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Meta Dreaming and the Writer's Bliss: The Controlled Dream of Writing Fiction

Writing at the Kitchen Table: Bacon and Eggs and Literary Fiction

After all my travels and wandering and jet lag, I'm trying to settle in again to my personal space--my home, my bliss. There a certain hangover quality to all this. I can't get my grip on it. Bliss is, after all, illusive.

A writer's routine is a fiction writer's life blood--no routine, no writing. Routine is responsible for the warp and woof of good fiction, for the depth of the knap of the word-woven carpet. The brain/body duality loves routine. But I don't know why.

Something about brain waves, I suspect. I do notice this: During the process of writing hard and close and uninterrupted for a few hours, my brain switches gears. Then, when I stop and move on to something else, like say, driving to the supermarket, it's a struggle. I'm in a sort of fog. Easy, habitual physical acts don't work right. I forget where I'm going, have to think about simple, reflexive movements and decisions. My poor wife worries that the old man is losing something important.

After a few hours, things are back to normal. The writer's brain surrenders. The practical, non-dreaming brain takes control again. Tomorrow morning, early, I will try to summon the dreaming brain again by settling into my writer's routine. In the early dawn, as I drift slowly up from deep sleep, I've learned to allow myself to float along with the rising of consciousness, of increasing awareness. But then I can stop at a place where the dreaming continues but the awareness of the dreaming is real: I know what is happening, but the mind is taking me places I would not be able to go later when fully awake. I call this meta dreaming.

The secret then, is to bring this state of mind with me down to the place where I write. To drink my coffee and sit back in my big, soft chair and continue the controlled dream of writing fiction.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 2nd, 2013, and the Writer is Getting Along Just Fine

All at sea: Sailing as a Metaphor for the Writing Life

We live, of course, with curve balls, sinkers, sliders, and high inside fast balls coming at us, unannounced. But that's just the baseball metaphor for life. As a writer, a husband, a father, grandfather, and a sibling, I prefer the life-as-a-voyage, cruising sailor metaphor. To wit, here I am, last month, all at sea, and happy about it, holding a freshly caught mahi in two hands and sitting behind an equally fresh bunch of bananas. (Yeah, I know; I used this photo in the previous post, but it is just too cool.)

The fish we had just caught off the stern rail, the bananas were a last-minute gift of a friend who was seeing us off on our voyage. Both were pleasant surprises, and both were consumed in good time and both made the 1,250-mile voyage from Guam to the Philippines all the more memorable.

You really can't beat ocean voyaging as a metaphor for serendipitous happenings that make life, at least momentarily, wonderful. Then comes all the other parts of the metaphor, if you extend it out, as we must: the squalls, the rain, the long, cold night watches, and the accompanying sudden jolts of fear, etc. etc.

Now, back on the East Coast and land-bound on this, a particularly fine late-spring morning (let me describe it, briefly--a quiet country setting, cloudless blue sky, green grass and leafy trees all around glowing in the soft morning sun, the air a marvelous 70 degrees, carries a small breeze and bird chirps, and then, my wife, sleepy-eyed and soft, comes into the kitchen in her wonderful pink-striped pajamas.....), I take the dog and the cat for a morning walk across the field to the wood line and back and then I feel like reading a short story and some poetry on the Prague Revue and posting something to this blog.

It's times like this--the calm-seas, mahi-banana times--that, if we're smart, we wallow in and, through the magic of mindfulness, extend for as long as possible.

(Brothers of the Fire Star, my novel about two boys, WWII, and the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators, has been selected as finalist in the 2012 Book of the Year awards. I will be in Chicago on June 28 for the announcement of the winners. You can also see more of my "creative non-fiction" on the Prague Revue:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Home is the Sailor, Home from the Sea

Crew member Roy Olson took this as we approached the Vasayan island of the Philippines at dawn after eleven days at sea.

Home Is the Sailor

Home is the sailor, home from sea:
     Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
     The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill:
     Fast in the boundless snare
All flesh lies taken at his will
     And every fowl of air.

'Tis evening on the moorland free,
     The starlit wave is still:
Home is the sailor from the sea,
     The hunter from the hill.
A.E. Housman

Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scotsman, sailor, and writer, used the essence of this poem in his own Requiem, the last lines being used as the epitaph on his tombstone where he died on American Samoa. It's a fine sentiment for the sentimental and I admit to being one of those.

Anytime a sailor, particularly a small-boat sailor, completes an extended voyage, it is a cause for some celebratory relief for the sailor and those who love him. In our case, we were six senior citizens who, between April 15 and April 27 2013, made a successful, nonstop, 1,250-mile voyage from Guam to Cebu island in the Philippines. 

This is Carpe Diem, a Tayana 42, ready to sail. She has the lines of a race horse but our average speed was about 5.5 knots.

The author with the essentials of proper tropical voyaging:  A mahi caught from the stern rail and a stalk of slow-ripening bananas.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Midnight at the Jet Lag Hotel

It's witchy-witchy time here in Albuquerque where I'm at the Southwest Book Fiesta. I fell asleep at 8:30, wide awake at Midnight, my body-mind still lost in a time zone somewhere in the vast Pacific. One week ago I was in the Philippines, five days ago in Guam, four days ago, Honolulu, two days ago Virginia, yesterday, here.

This global soul is tired but happy. Bustling about the World, I am, after all, self-actualizing at the top of my game, and I'm not about to complain. My new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, is the engine behind all this, my artsy-cognitive lump of literary gold. And this week I learn that it has been selected as a finalist in a Book of the Year competition, this one sponsored by ForeWord Reviews, an organization that seeks to find the best writing produced by independent and academic presses. From the finalists will be selected the winners in various categories, mine Young Adult. And the winners will be announced in Chicago on June 28th at the annual convention of the American Library Association. Nice. Just being a finalist is nice. Wonderful, in fact.

So my eyes burn, my mind fogs over, and my failing memory is worse than ever, but I know who I am and where I'm going and, most important, who I love.

Now I'm going to turn out this light again and try to sleep.

Note: My latest piece in the Prague Revue is all about knots: Elegant Tangles for Sailors, Sex, Hangmen, and Cowboys.  I had fun writing it:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Talking About Writing and Life to Kids in Prison: How to Make Money and Be Famous by Telling Great Lies

We are all in prisons of our own making.
I'm on the island of Guam for two months promoting my new novel and teaching middle and high school kids about writing. Yesterday I had an odd and powerful experience. I visited a youth detention center where I spoke to young offenders--10 to 16 years old--about my new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star.
To say they were a captive audience is too glib, too easy, so I'll say there were a wonderful audience. Whatever demons lurked behind the smiles and the innocent faces were well behaved and kept quiet. These prisoners, in for anything from vandalism to drugs to rape, were attentive, they were inquisitive, they were insightful. They looked just like all the other young teenagers I've been teaching the past two weeks in the public schools.
This is how it came down: A friend of mine had spent a career teaching reading to these corrupted youth. She recently retired but when I sent her a copy of my new novel, she read it and later told me, "I just knew I had to teach this book to these children. It is so relevant to their lives."
So she did just that--went back into the prison classroom. The kids reacted enthusiastically to the book and so she invited me in so they could meet the real author.  I did my usual presentation. We talked about fiction versus non-fiction, about what genre is, about how to be a good writer you need to be a good liar. They liked that. I asked how many liars where in the audience. Hands shot up. I said that those who didn't raise their hand were real liars. They laughed.
I showed them my short video clip of men sailing an outrigger canoe--a proa--out at sea and catching fish. I shared with them the wonderful news that they--every atom in their bodies--were made of star dust, that they are part of the Universe and the Universe is part of them. And then I showed them, via slides, how their ancestors used the stars and the sea and the sky to navigate across the vast Pacific Ocean.
We talked about the characters in the book, Joseph and Napu, about how they first hated each other and how they realized, finally, that they needed each other to survive but it took a hell of a fist fight to understand that. These kids relate to this: fighting to survive.
When I was finished, I was left with the good feeling teachers sometimes get and writers, too: that I maybe I had made a difference in a young life, that some few of the corrupted can be uncorrupted, that there is hope.

Note: My new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, is available on I am now a regular contributor to The Prague Revue an online literary journal:


A Day Off In Paradise: Re-reading THE HOBBIT

Under the lanai: I sat here today and watched butterflies, the breeze in the palm trees, flowers, and I got into THE HOBBIT
I decided to take a day off today--from writing, from sailing, from teaching, from book promotion. It's pretty warm and humid on Guam, but in this spot under the lanai, there is shade and a breeze, and so for the early parts of the day and into the first hours of the afternoon, it's a sweet spot to sit.
Hadn't read THE HOBBIT since I was in the Army back in 1969. I was in the Signal Corps and stationed in The Republic of China--Taiwan. After reading it, I started in on the rest of the series but gave up after two books of constant sameness--war and war and war. But THE HOBBIT was fun and it is now. It was cutting edge back then and it shows how derivative most fantasy is now: Full of dark lords and magic swords and ugly monstrous creatures. Not much new. But Tolkien started it all.
It's March 30th today. I've been away from my wife and home since the 4th and have moments of sadness and longing. Interesting experience. Like when I went away to Boy Scout camp for a week when I was a kid. Homesick, lovesick, whatever. But I've been working steadily. Sent another piece into the Prague Revue yesterday, this one an existential contemplation of knots. And I sold all the books my publisher sent here and I'm negotiating with someone who wants to be my representative here to get and keep the books in local shops/stores/museums/bookstores.
I've got two more school gigs left next week and I'm very glad to say I am enjoying teaching kids about writing. My break-through discovery: Kids love a good oral story teller.
In the end, I think I'm also discovering we need to escape our comfort zone now and then or we get soft, lose our edge. In a couple of weeks, I'll set out on a 42' sailboat for the 1,300-mile voyage to Cebu, Philippines. I'm dreading it/excited about it. Ten or more days at sea should get rid of the remnants of that comfort zone and then I can go back to my old life refreshed and hardened.

                 I'm living in a Garden of Eden, complete with serpents (brown tree snakes).
Note: I am now a monthly contributor to  THE PRAGUE REVUE. You can read my short stories and essays at:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Death of a Master Navigator

At sea with Manny Sikau, Master Navigator
Manny Sikau, a master navigator from Polowat atoll, died last month. He was my friend and mentor and without him, my novel, Brothers of the Fire Star could never have been written. He died unexpectedly after suffering a brain hemorrhage while sleeping. He was only fifty-four.
I learned of his passing just before I left to return to Guam to be the keynote speaker at a meeting of the International Reading Association and teach the writing process to students in the Guam schools. I was excited about seeing him again, about talking story, about sharing with him how thankful I am that he taught me about traditional navigation during my years living and sailing in the islands.
Yesterday I visited the utt, the canoe house where we met and talked and where I learned. They are still making canoes there, still talking story, but Manny is gone and the very heart of our organization, dedicated to keeping alive the secrets of the ancient navigators, has left us.
Building a canoe on Guam: Because logs of the correct size are difficult to find, they use a different method of construction now.

A detail of the complex lashing that hold an outrigger canoe or proa together.

The utt, or canoe house on Guam with newly built proas.

Note: I am now writing a monthly piece for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal. You can read them at

Thursday, March 21, 2013

After my Keynote Presentation at a Meeting of the International Reading Association on Guam
It was a homecoming of the finest sort. A writer returns to the distant island of Guam where he lived and sailed and explored for eleven years. He has written a book about that island and other islands that is striking a chord with the wonderful people of that tropical paradise and now he is there to teach kids about the wonders of writing. He wants to share his wonder at it all: the sea, the sky, the mysteries of the ancient navigators and the magic of weaving daydreams into words.
 I spoke before an audience of a hundred people at  meeting of the International Reading Association and now I'm the "visiting author," traveling around to middle schools and high schools connecting with kids about writing, about their  culture, their heritage, the sky, and the sea. The reception has been in the true Guam tradition: food and warm smiles. There truly is a different karma here among the Pacific islanders than in the hubbub and hurly-burly of the East Coast of the U.S. where I now call home.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Return to Guam: Great Friends in a Tropical Paradise

My home away from home: House/pet sitting can be sweet. And I can drive either truck.
Another view of the house: Side yard
The backyard: breadfruit, bananas, coconuts, taro, and things tropical I have never heard of.
The road along the beach where we walk the dogs.
The Guam Coastline
Inside an old Japanese coastal defense bunker
My friend Roger's dog, Frizzie. Not the one I'm dog sitting, but I couldn't resist. I mean, look at that face.
As a visiting author, I was greeted at the airport. I was pretty dopey with jet lag but note the lei around my neck. Cool.
I'm here and getting over jet lag and an intestinal thing that knocked me out for a day or so. Now I can finally appreciate the friends and the paradise of this island. When not speaking, teaching, and sailing, I'll be spending a lot of time hanging out and this is a great place to do that. Long walks with the dog along the coastline on a very nice trail with great views of the blue Pacific
Saturday morning I'm the keynote speaker at a meeting of the International Reading Association, next week I teach the writing process to middle school students in the Guam schools, and three weeks later, I leave on a 1,300-mile voyage to the Philippines with five other old men. We've nicknamed the boat "The ARRP Ark." Motto: "Seniors to Cebu."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Writing, Traveling, Sailing: The Ego of This Fine Adventure

As a 35-Year Old News Reporter in Key West

I don't look like this anymore. Put on a bit of weight, gotten old, gray--and I'm much less sure of myself. That's the big difference, I think. When this picture was taken, in the Florida Keys, I was so damned sure I had a key to something big. Imagine shooting a four-foot barracuda with a spear gun. Killed him instantly with a shot to the head.

Thing is, there was no reason to kill him. You really shouldn't eat a barracuda this big--ciguatera poisoning is a nasty business--and he was not interested in doing me any harm. It was like Hemingway killing lions and elephants. There is no reason to do it other than to feed your own ego. I suppose, metaphorically, there is a poison in that kind of eating, too. Ego feasting gives you gas--turns you into a gas bag.

In any event, I shot him and was proud of it. A moment later, I threw him into the shallow water of the canal that's there, off to my right. It took a couple of weeks for him to rot away, in full view of anyone passing by.

A Fuzzy Photo of the Motorcycle Newsman in Key West, 1982-83

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I'm Going to Sea: Here's to Love

 The Kiss: In Thirty-Two Years, Nothing Has Changed

It seems I'm going to be at sea for our anniversary this year. Sailing from Guam to the Philippines with five other guys and missing sharing the memories of this day with her, my wife. T'is a pity, of course, but life must be lived as it comes at you and this is how it's coming.

A long time ago we, she and I, agreed that we would never stop each other from doing what ever it was we really wanted to do. So away I go, flying to the other half of the world to push my novel, teach kids, and sail 1,300 miles of open ocean while she stays behind to mind the store and the Federal Education Association, both of which need minding.

As the departure approaches, the reality of a long separation settles in. Moods change, swing about, flutter, luff up like a sailboat in irons. Where to go, what to do, how to think? Never mind. We'll manage, somehow, without each other for a while.

We were too damned cute.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

 The View from Finally There Farm: A Fine Piece of Elevated Paradise

It's is such a good thing to get away sometimes. Away from our own low-country paradise and up, up, up into a mountain version of another sort of small heaven. So we chucked our responsibilities for a long weekend with friends who have a farm--I could say a ranch--high up in the Blue Ridge of Virginia, a farm that rises above a sweeping valley and is etched into the side of a mountain deep in a broad swath of pristine forest. Lovely stuff, this place of elevated paradise. 

I didn't bring a computer and cell phone reception is very sketchy way up there. We drank wine, we ate oysters Terry and I brought up with us from the Eastern Shore. We laughed and took naps, read books and watched basketball games, golf tournaments, and blue grass music on the big television. And it was good to reconnect with great friends was have known for over three decades. 

The weather was a times snowy, at times clear and sunny, but always way too cold to try to take long walks. That explains the naps, the television, the case of wine. We did take a trip into Lynchburg, the small city where Terry and I met thirty-three years ago. We drove by the schools where we taught, wondered about the fates of the people with whom we worked, and had lunch at a restaurant on the historic James River.

Now we're back here at our home on the Chesapeake and getting ready for the next phase of things. In two weeks, I leave for Honolulu and Guam where I will be the keynote speaker at a meeting of the International Reading Association, teach writing in the Guam schools for a week, and then set off a 1,300-mile sail to the Philippines. When I get back home, it's off to Albuquerque for the Southwest Book Fiesta where I'll sign books and do a presentation on the oneness the ancient Pacific navigators felt with sea and sky--the Universe. It is a oneness lost to us, now, in our hermetic digital world.

In any event, thanks much Fran and Joe, for a wonderful respite from our busy, busy, busy selves.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Writer's Life: Getting a Grip on the Snakes of My Expectations

Medusa: Athena's Revenge or Just a Writer Trying to Hold It Together?

 What do writers want, after all? To be read, merely? Or to be famously read and admired for our cognitive extravagance and emotional turmoil? Recently I've found myself up to my prefrontal cortex in swirling initiatives, mostly self imposed which leave me feeling like my hair has become reptilian and the reptiles tails are attached to said prefrontal lobe.

When one thinks of writers one pictures them tucked away somewhere alternately pecking away at a keyboard and staring off into the fog of profound thoughts. And then, after a dismally rewarding morning, donning a fedora and suit jacket and strolling down to the local pub for a solitary drink and then another. When another writer comes in, preferably a male with a dripping ego to match your own, you settle into conversation that covers Proust, Hemingway, Cervantes, Kierkegaard, and Woody Allen's musical repertoire. You then end up drunk and arm wrestling the bartender who is a small women with tattoos on her large upper breasts, a brutal ex-husband, and two young kids who she had to leave home alone so she could come and serve us beer.

But, never mind the romantic stuff: Here's what happened, right after I left the bar:

 I received an order for 100 books in preparation for my keynote address to a meeting of the International Reading Association on the island of Guam in March. Getting my publisher to respond to this took some doing but now it is done and shipments of books are on the way. Then, while my nose was rubbing hard up against the grindstone of producing a professional, curriculum standards-based study guide for the book, came this from the editor-in-chief of The Prague Revue, my favorite, cutting-edge literary 'zine which had published two of my short stories in the past six months:


   I just wanted to reach out to you and tell you how much we all enjoyed your story. It really was a fantastic read. Couldn't be happier with it. That's why I wanted to personally thank you for your partnership. It's a partnership I hope we can continue in the TPR Stream section of our site.

   The Stream aims to build a trusted team of writers who can contribute essays about topics they care about once a month. We want to give writers the freedom to explore the issues that interest them and they feel will interest readers. This can be anything from a personal anecdote to how to tie the perfect sailor's knot or really anything. The point here is freedom. If you're interested, I'd like to extend you an invitation to become a part of this team. Interested to hear your thoughts...

 So now I'm wallowing in a writer's success that does not include being famously read but maybe admired for my cognitive extravagance. Ah, an ode to writhing snakes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

We Babysit Dolphins in the Florida Keys: A Paradise Within a Paradise

A kiss is but a kiss: Salty smooches at the Dolphin Research Center

I get lucky sometimes. Once a year or so my brother and his S.O. (who is the medical director of the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys) need a break from their life with dolphins. And when they take a vacation, they need someone trustworthy to come down and stay at the DRC to keep an eye on things after hours--like baby sitting the dolphins so they don't have wild parties, maybe. When I'm asked, being supremely trustworthy, I go. This time, for the first time in three years, my wife, Terry, was able to come with me. Here are some pix from our eight-day stay.

On the balcony in the evening.

It's all done with hand signals and fish for a reward. For me, it's good bourbon and a cigar.

Always nice to see a friendly face.

One if by hand, two if by sea: Training is done with hand signals and fish.

Things get dreamy at sunset.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book Review: They Liked it!

This is all I could fit of the actual book review as it appeared in a newspaper in Greenfield, MA.
You can read the full review, below.

I once read an article about book reviews by a writer who said when he got a good one, he danced around the kitchen. I vowed that if I ever got a good review, I would do the same. So, back in December, when this review of my novel Brothers of the Fire Star came out in a newspaper in Massachusetts, I did just that--skittered around the kitchen waving my hands in the air and doing a soft-shoe version of a jig. It felt good. Of course, we are never really satisfied. Had I been the reviewer, I would have raved on about Arvidson's pitch-perfect ear for dialogue and his lyrical prose, not to mention his marvelous gift for description. But, anyway, here is the text of the review: 

Book review: ‘Brothers of the Fire Star’

By Tinky Weisblat
Friday, December 14, 2012
(Published in print: Saturday, December 15
Special to The Recorder
“Brothers of the Fire Star” by Douglas Arvidson (Crossquarter Publishing Group, 209 pages, $15.95)

“Brothers of the Fire Star” combines history, spirituality and specialized knowledge to move its reader with a plea for cross-racial unity and love of nature. The book will appeal to children from middle school up as well as to adults.

Author Douglas Arvidson grew up in Ashfield and now lives in coastal Virginia. In 1997, he and his wife, both teachers, found work in a school on the island of Guahan (Guam), an American territory in the western Pacific Ocean. 

Long-time sailors, they lived on a sailboat during their 11 years there. Arvidson soon became a member of an organization dedicated to resurrecting the centuries-old Pacific-Island method of navigation. Practitioners of this art are trained to study the stars, the sea swells and wildlife in order to make their way through the sea.

Arvidson puts his knowledge of navigation and nature to good use in “Brothers of the Fire Star.” The book begins in December 1941, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese invade Guahan.
Joseph, a 12-year-old boy from Massachusetts who has been living on the island with his uncle, hides in the woods during the attack and thus avoids the slaughter that claims his uncle and many of the island’s inhabitants.

While taking shelter in a tree, Joseph is visited by spirits who tell him that he is destined to sail away from Guahan with a boy named Napu. Together they will learn “the ways of the ancient navigators” and eventually return to Guahan to bring back those ways, now forgotten.

Napu, who is just about to escape from the war-torn island by boat, reluctantly takes the American boy along on his voyage. Together they learn to sail, learn about war and learn how to get along despite the differences in their backgrounds.

Arvidson’s prose in the book is matter of fact, letting the story shine through relatively simple words. His young heroes grow up before the reader’s eyes. 

The boys are shocked by the devastation of battle they encounter. Nevertheless, their growing bond and their study of navigation teach them that friendship and communion with nature can transcend war and death.
“Brothers of the Fire Star” isn’t always a happy book. It is set in an unhappy time and place. Nevertheless, its story is touching. And its plea for interracial cooperation and respect for tradition is beautifully articulated and inspiring.

“Brothers of the Fire Star” is available at the World Eye Bookshop.

Tinky Weisblat is a writer and singer who lives in Hawley. Her Web site is; her blog is