Postcard from Melbourne, Australia

G’day mates! Just arrived for the Melbourne Writers Festival, where on 10 a.m. Friday I’ll be be at The Morning Read, Saturday at 1 p.m. a panel discussion on what it’s like to be a debut novelist, and on Sunday a lovely event called Sofitel Salon.

In other news around the world, my UK publisher is celebrating “Snow Day” with the release of the paperback edition. Thanks to all the UK book bloggers who have joined in the celebration.

I’ll try to drop you a postcard whenever I have the chance.




Where in the world?

Dear international reader,

I’m preparing for a month-long, whirlwind book tour that will take me to Australia, New Zealand and Europe. I’m hoping I’ll see some of you along the way. Anyone in Paris, London, Auckland, or Brisbane?

Here’s my schedule so far:

Aug. 31 – Sept. 2 Australia Melbourne Writers Festival. I’ll be participating in panel discussions and readings. This event in particular looks like a lot of fun!

Sept. 6 – Sept. 9 Brisbane Writers Festival.  I’m on several panel discussions about everything from bookselling to magic in fiction.

Sept. 13 Auckland, New Zealand. 6-7:30 p.m. I’ll be at Takapuna Library for a book talk and signing.

Sept. 17 London:

Sept. 20-23 Paris, Festival America. I’m on several panels, including discussing “characters in search of a writer,” and writing from an extreme local. And some of my very favorite authors will be at this international festival.

I’ll post letters and photos whenever I have the chance. In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out how I can pack everything I need for this trip into a single carry-on.



P.S. Thank you for your comments on my last letter — I so enjoyed reading your stories about wishing for water, dowsing for water, and sometimes getting too much of it. As I write to you just now, Sam is wiring and plumbing, and professionals are installing the pump in our well. So close I can almost taste that first cold, refreshing glass of water …

The nerve-wracking quest for running water

Dear steadfast reader,

"Snow Child"I hope you are having a fine summer, or winter for those who are on the other end of the world. I haven’t written for a while because I haven’t had much to report. But now I do have a couple things to share.

First, I did an interview with the Lithuanian publication 15min. Here it is in Lithuanian, or if you would like to read a rough translation of it in English, click here. Thank you to the journalist Audrius Ožalas for the wonderful interview (which was done in English. Unfortunately I don’t know a word of Lithuanian.)

And in perhaps one of the biggest events around the Ivey house in some time, we scheduled a well drilling. As many of you know, we haul our water. We limit our baths and showers, collect rain water for the animals and garden, and do laundry either at my mom’s house or the laundromat. It’s not so inconvenient, but we’ve always dreamed of the luxury of a well.  It could be especially handy when, say, trying to build an ice rink.

This summer, we crossed our fingers and called Ace Water Wells.

Ace Water Wells drilling for water in our yard.

There are no guarantees you’ll find water at 100 feet or even 500 feet. Because of our location, up on a hill in mountainous terrain, we knew there was a good chance we would strike out. And whether we ended up with an artesian aquifer or a very deep dry hole in the ground, we would still have to pay the per-foot fee.

I admit I’m doubtful of the science behind water witching, but we tried to find someone to come out because we thought it couldn’t hurt. Summer is a busy time for Alaskans, though, and none of the dowsers we knew were available. By the time Alaska novelist Don Rearden kindly offered on Facebook that his mom is a dowser, it was too late. We were already committed.

But a few days before that, Sam and I had picked up a couple of copper wires and gave it a try ourselves. While I was in the house, he walked the yard with one bent wire held loosely in each hand. Then before he could tell me his results, I took the wires.

It was an odd experience. At first as I walked through the grass, nothing happened, and that made sense to me. But then gradually the two copper wires began to wobble in my hands and slowly draw together and cross in front of me. I reset them straight in my hands, walked away and then back to the same spot, and it happened again. I went inside and told Sam where the wires had moved, near a tall cow parsnip plant not far from the house.

“Me, too,” he said with a shrug.

So when the drillers arrived with their monstrously huge truck, we had them set up at that spot. Why not, right?

They positioned their truck, raised the tall drilling equipment, and started in. Great clouds of dust rose from the ground.

It wasn’t long before one of the brothers came to our front door looking very serious.

“Not good?” I asked.

“Nope. We hit bedrock at 13 feet.”

Bedrock, as in solid rock. In our area, this often means a dry well or at best a sulfury trickle.

Sam was trying to get home but was stuck in traffic halted by an automobile accident on the highway. I alone faced the decision — do we keep drilling, throwing dollars down this hole? Do we move to someplace else on our property? Or do we toss in the towel, so to speak?

The driller didn’t seem to think it would make much difference if we moved to another location, unless it was off the hill we live on. So we agreed to continue drilling in the same place.

I had a book-related teleconference scheduled that day, so as I talked on the phone over the roar of the drilling machine, I watched nervously out the window.  The men wore ear protection against the noise. I tried to read their faces as they worked. They didn’t look particularly optimistic.

After the phone call, I continued to pace and watch and wonder if I had made a very expensive, very bad decision.

After a couple hours, a neighbor drove into our yard with Sam in his truck. Sam had caught a ride, having to leave his truck on the side of the highway because of the unmoving traffic.

The three of us stood outside visiting and watching the well drillers. And then we noticed something — was that water gushing out by the drillers’ feet? One of the brothers gave us a thumbs-up. What did it mean?

It meant water! At 145 feet, they struck a fracture in the rock with a stream of water. Fifteen gallons a minute of beautiful, wonderful water. The drillers seemed as pleasantly surprised as us.

When my novel was first acquired by publishers, I wondered how much it would change things for me and my family. For the most part, our days are the same. We live in the same house, have the same friends and interests and aspirations. But now we could afford to drill a well.

Endless hot baths and clean laundry are still a ways off ; we have to dig a trench from the well to the house and plumb it in. But we have water! Thank you to the readers around the world who helped make this possible.