A Little Ray of Blogging Sunshine

sunshine-awardYesterday I was the happy recipient of the Sunshine Award for “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere,” which was bestowed upon me by a gentleman who blogs at A New Writers Life and Times. I think awards between bloggers are a nice way of telling others that we value their writing, their contribution both to the blogosphere at large and to our individual lives. It’s nice to know not only that there are people out there reading, but that some of them are benefiting from what you’ve written.

And in the end, I think that is one big distinction between different types of blogs. Some very clearly exist to enhance the “project that is me” and some exist to bring joy and help to others. In the past I’ve had to count myself as part of the former, but I am happy to be part of the latter now.

As is customary with blog awards (though I’m not sure how these sorts of traditions get started) I’m supposed to answer some personal questions and nominate some others (10 for this award, though I’m not going to be a slave to that number).

The Questions:

Favorite color: Nearly the full range of blues and blue-greens, with a few exceptions

Favorite animal: I can’t say I have one, though I am particularly fond of birds and particularly disdainful of mosquitoes. Everything else, I suppose, falls in between, but the reality is I love all animals (with the exception of the aforementioned mosquitoes) including the creepy ones most people would instinctively kill on sight or run from in terror.

Favorite number: Really? People have favorite numbers? I can’t tell you the only ones that come to mind to answer this question, because you’d be that much closer to hacking all of my passwords.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Dark roast coffee, milk, water, tea

Facebook or Twitter: Facebook (though I must admit my news feed is feeling more and more like just getting a bunch of drivel forwarded to my email). I’m on Twitter and I tweet links to interesting articles regularly, but honestly, I don’t automatically follow back in order to boost my follower numbers and I don’t read much of anything on there anyway. I think Twitter was kind of a neat idea but that it has turned into a constant stream of commercials for people and products. And I really, really hate commercials. In fact, this guy has articulated all the things I loathe about Twitter, smartphones, and the social media culture in which we (unfortunately) find ourselves.

My passions: books, literature (honestly, I can’t truly make myself believe these are equivalent), nature, Michigan, writing, great photography, creative and artistic expression in many forms

Giving or receiving gifts: I love giving the perfect, unexpected gift. But I like getting the perfect, unexpected gift as well.

Favorite city: I’m a big fan of many Michigan cities, including Grand Rapids, Detroit, Petoskey, Mackinac Island, and Lansing. But most of my favorite places are not cities. They are places like Camp Lake Louise, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and any of the tens of thousands of lakes, rivers, beaches, wetlands, and fields you can find in our beautiful state. I’m also a huge fan of Boston.

Favorite TV shows: currently Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother

The Blogs:

These days I read comparatively few blogs. I find that I am using my limited time in other ways–writing short stories and novels and living in the “real world” with my family and my home more fully. But there are those I have followed, some for a rather long time and others just recently, that would certainly fit the bill. I’m not going to contact each of these people, because I know for sure some of them don’t deal in blog awards. Instead, I’ll let the pingbacks speak for themselves.

One upon a time I would have nominated The Sew Weekly, but it seems to have ceased existing in 2013 (though, if you sew or are interested in sewing, all the posts are archived there and you could spend weeks going through them all). And I have enjoyed the personal blogs of many of the contributors (you can still find them linked off the Sew Weekly site) but I’m spending much less time sewing this year than I did in 2010-2012.

These days I am still enjoying Pleasant View Schoolhouse and Mabel’s House, both of which I have read for the last several years. Anna and Liz are people who feel like good friends, though I’ve never met either of them and had limited personal interaction over email.

I still check in at Couture Allure for interesting vintage fashion news and information and just to smile at the lovely and odd photos, ads, and fashions of yesteryear.

But more of my time is spent reading blogs and articles on writing and the publishing business. One of the best new ones is Chad R. Allen’s blog. He has great tips and ideas for writers and those of us in the publishing biz. Chad is the editorial director for one of the imprints at the publishing house at which I work. He uses his blog not only to inform writers but to encourage them, so if you’re in need of a good word, go see Chad.

I am also finding much to love about Anne R. Allen’s blog. As far as I know, Chad and Anne are not related.

But the blog I read religiously and from which I have gained much good advice and through which I have enjoyed much excellent writing is Writer Unboxed. There is a whole slew of great contributors and anyone who writes fiction should be following this blog.

I guess that’s that. Happy blogging, folks.

What’s the Weather Like in Your Story?

WindowviewartsyI feel a bit nervous saying this, as though by daring to utter it I might somehow invite another winter thrashing, but it truly does seem that spring may at last have won the epic battle it has been waging with winter for the past two months. It was finally dry enough and warm enough to spend the day outside, to feel the sun’s heat on my skin and hair, to remember what summer is like. I don’t know how dependable the change of the seasons is in the Middle East, but as a Michigander I feel greatly comforted when I read that God is more faithful than the changing of the seasons.

I think something in us as humans wants to have to contend with something. We want to contend with something and win, or at least endure. And that’s why when outsiders or transplants to Michigan bemoan the weather or are surprised by 50-degree temperature swings in a day or can’t believe it’s still snowing in late April we smugly shrug our shoulders and say “That’s Michigan!”

You don’t like weather? Start packing your bags.

And yet, even I will admit that enough is enough. I knew winter had gone on far too long when I was driving home from Grand Rapids earlier this week and I noticed a farmer’s field covered in bright green and my very first thought was, “What the heck is that?” Two days later I drove back to Grand Rapids in a snow storm.

My own modest gardens have come alive as well. And I saw the first bug smash against my windshield this week, so it is spring for real. Isn’t it?

Maybe because I’ve grown up with schizophrenic weather I love reading stories where weather plays a part or sets a mood. I like to know if it’s sunny or cloudy, humid or parched, burning or icy. Should I be sweating as I read this scene or shivering? If it’s raining, what kind of rain is it? A steady cold spring rain? Drizzle? The fat, merciless raindrops of a storm? Is it falling straight down or sideways? Does it soak me or sting me? Am I managing to stay dry or is my face wet?

Do you make the best use of weather in your writing? Or is that a literary tool you’ve left in your toolbox?

The Deadly Act of Revision

The Butterfly EffectDuring the past week I took the plunge and switched a novel-length manuscript from 3rd person limited omniscient over to a 1st person point of view. I knew I needed to do it, but I wasn’t looking forward to it because it meant a lot of changes.

A change in narrator means not only a change in personal pronouns but (in this case) subtle changes in voice, phrasing, and vocabulary. It can change the way you describe a scene. It can change the values you place on various elements of the story. It can change the past and it can change the future. It can change everything.

It can mean throwing out a significant amount of good writing. But as painful as this whole process can be, it is also a great teacher. And I shall not presume my learning days are done just because I’m long out of college. (Oh my, it has been twelve years.)

You know the butterfly effect? One tiny event in one spot causes untold numbers of events that would not have happened, or would have happened differently, had it not been for that one tiny event half a world away? That’s the kind of thing that happens when you replace the word “she” with “I” in a novel.

Big revisions are not for the faint of heart. You lace up your boots (or, for those of you write historical romances, your corset), take a blind leap into the fray, and hope that with persistence and intelligence you will come out on top. And a little luck probably doesn’t hurt either.

In the meantime I am also writing and taking notes on a new series, coming up with story arcs and subplots and characters. Lots of planning, planning, planning. Very different in process and in tone from my first finished novel, but it is something I started thinking about doing a decade ago and now I’m finally ready to start bringing it into reality. I love brainstorming and throwing a ton of ideas out there, ready to be plucked later. It has me excited and feeling rather happy. Which is a nice relief when the revisions of earlier pieces gets tedious.

What are you working on?

Taking Your (Literary) Place in the History of the World

SoutheastAsiaMonday as I was tutoring my Chin friends, the two school-age boys, Moses and David, expressed their frustration with learning to write in English. Both are making strides in speaking and understanding speech, but in their classwork they find it difficult to transfer their newfound confidence with the spoken English word to paper. During the discussion that followed, David (14) said “English is too hard. I have to write a poem. What is a poem?”

What is a poem? What a question. I tried to answer this question by comparing poetry to other forms of literature. For instance, I said, To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel (long fiction) and there are short stories (short fiction) and poetry would be even shorter, often rhymes, and usually follows some sort of pattern or rhythm. Then I began to recite some Robert Frost to give him an example.

I got confused looks in response.

David was recently supposed to read To Kill a Mockingbird in English class. I’m pretty sure he got to at least chapter 10 and as I looked through the book (which I haven’t read since I was his age) in order to help him with an essay a few weeks ago, I really felt for him. It would be hard enough to read a novel written in “proper” English for someone who just started to learn the language two years ago. But that book is written in dialect. Oh, my.

We got through our lesson, I answered some questions about how to buy airline tickets for a trip they are taking to Texas for a friend’s wedding, and then I got in my car and began to drive home to start making dinner. It was on the drive that it it hit me: The Chin do not have anything that can compare to the vast body of literature, both past and present, that exists in the English language.

They do not have libraries filled to bursting with novels, plays, short stories, poetry, histories, religious works, or diaries in their native language, one of almost 50 spoken by their ethnic group alone. The only written works I have seen in the Chin language they speak are the Bible and the English-Chin dictionary. I’m not sure what else exists out there, but their language did not even have a written form until at least the 1800s, so there can’t be much.

As a native English speaker who grew up with a history and a body of literature that is written and read, I can hardly conceive of not having hundreds of years of thought to access at the turn of a page or the click of a mouse. It is not that these lovely people do not have a history, it’s that they cannot access it.

Over the past couple years as we have met each week I have explained various American holidays, which often entails explaining American history, which then occasionally requires a lesson in world history. As a history buff and a history minor in college, I know all of this information off the top of my head. But when I ask my friends the history of their own country, I can get very little information from a time before the oldest in the family (at age 42) was alive. I cannot fathom knowing only what has happened in my own lifetime.

Why do these people not know their history? The biggest reason is because in Burma/Myanmar they were impoverished and persecuted. You don’t wile away the hours reading or even talking history when you are struggling every hour of the day to make a living from poor soil and avoid harassment by a military regime. The secondary reason is because no one wrote it down.

When you write, whether you write personal letters, diary entries, emails, blog posts, self-help books, novels, or histories, you preserve a small part of life for the generations that will come. If your words survive on paper or in digital form, people who live long after you are gone can surmise how you lived, what was important to you, what you feared.

When you write, you are in a small way immortal. That’s powerful stuff. It should cause us to examine what we are saying to posterity when we write, when we post on Facebook or Twitter, when we choose to put our nebulous thoughts into little black characters on a page.

What history are you writing? What legacy are you leaving? Does it say something important? Or will the generations to come find ours a trivial generation not worth studying?

My Chin friends are writing themselves a new history in a new country with new freedoms and new challenges. I hope my own small contributions to the vast body of literature in English will be so brave. And I hope yours will be as well.

The Freedom of a Plan

A to ZDuring the past week my husband and I have been scheming. We’ve developed a plan to pay off our remaining debt (funny how having a child can completely derail your life for awhile) and get our house ready to sell sometime next year. With our son starting kindergarten this fall in a school system that is beyond inadequate, it’s time to consider one of the many nice communities around Lansing (all with highly rated school systems and lower crime rates) for our next house. We want something bigger with a larger yard further away from busy streets now that we have a little guy who is keen on spreading his wings a bit. And we have the plan in place to help us make it happen.

Here’s why a plan is essential to an undertaking like this. If you have a long term goal that’s big, you are far more likely to be successful if you break it down into smaller goals. A plan helps keep you on track, marking completion of the little goals and constantly reminding you of the ultimate goal. And it shows you how far you are toward accomplishing it.

The plan can seem restrictive. When you’re paying down debt, for instance, you need to be strict with yourself to keep from veering off course. Yes, it would be super fun to go out to eat twice a week, but we have our future house to think of. Yes, it would be great to go on vacation this summer, but we have our son’s education and safety to think of. Yes, I would like to make goat cheese and gourmet olives part of my daily caloric intake, but I have a goal that is bigger than goat cheese.

And when you don’t have a plan in place that shows you exactly how and when you will accomplish your goal, it’s really easy to wander off track. Just for a while, we tell ourselves, but then one day runs into another and another and another and we can find that we are still as far from accomplishing that goal as when we started.

The same is true (I am finding) in writing. I have a lot of novels started, but only one finished. I have a lot of ideas, but I can’t bring them all to fruition at once. So I need both an end goal (write a novel) and a real, concrete plan to get there. I currently have my next novel planned out with Scrivener, and I have set dates by which each scene should be written (two per week) and an average word count goal for each scene. Following this schedule, I will have the first draft written by mid-September, I will write the proposal in October, and I will revise the draft in November. By the end of the year, I will be thinking about shopping it.

The mere thought of a schedule may make some of you cringe. But for me, for now, it is what is going to help me reach a goal.

Where’s the freedom in that, you may ask? It takes a lot of pressure and negativity off of me because I know if I simply follow it, I will reach the goal. I don’t have to continually rethink and re-strategize. It frees me to say no to other things so that I can focus on writing. It allows me to be happy with just 1700 words in a writing session because that is all that is required of me at a time. I can write 10,000 in a day, but I really only have to write 1700 twice a week. Freedom to pace myself.

In five months I’ll have my next novel drafted. In a year we’ll put our house on the market. We have our plans in motion and all we have to do is stick to them.

Have you planned how you will reach your writing or other creative goals?

And Speaking of Tornadoes…

We Shall Sometime Come to Somplace

Within a few minutes the first drops began to fall, sing-songy, on the roof of the car. The tempo and volume increased quickly and steadily as the sky overhead blackened. Inside the cab it got darker and darker until it was like twilight. Then Ted saw tiny white balls bouncing off the hood in front of him. He turned on his hazards and craned his sore neck to the southwest. And he knew that staying in the car was the wrong choice.

An angry cloud seemed to be stretching its fist toward the earth, slowly circling, grasping, clutching. Ted sat mesmerized a moment. Then a finger began to emerge from the fist and Ted searched frantically for the door handle. He burst from the car with no thought to the hail or the wind or his aching jaw and scanned the fields. Where was the bridge? The farm? So far away that in the black of the storm he could no longer make them out.

But there was the ditch.

Wondering what happens next? Click here.

Just Because It’s Good Doesn’t Mean It’s Bad

For much of middle America, spring is a mixed blessing as the same warm air that brings the flowers back also brings severe weather.

Living in an area with only mild tornado activity and no hurricanes or tropical storms (one of Michigan’s many excellent qualities), I love a good rainstorm and I especially love the sound of thunder. When the skies darken and the atmosphere rumbles and tumbles around me, I get a feeling in my gut that is hard to describe. A bizarre sort of mixture of deep awareness of the season and of the power inherent in nature, fond childhood memories of watching storms with my dad in the open garage, and that vague nagging instinct to seek cover. Just a pinch of terror to season it all. Gives me goosebumps just writing about it.

There have been times in my life when I have worried about the weather. A few tense cross-state car rides in whiteout conditions (once with a vanload of youth groupers for whom we were responsible). The first tornado warning I experienced with my infant son in the house. I recall our Little League coach telling us not to hang on the metal chain link fence while menacing clouds glowered and jagged lightning danced on the horizon lest lightning strike, travel through the metal, and kill half a dozen of us in one fell swoop. But during most storms I am safely tucked away inside with a plan worked out for staying that way in case of emergency (interior basement room, away from the windows, stocked first aid kit, etc.).

However, I remember vividly a summer storm when I was 13 or 14. Our softball and baseball games were all canceled and parents were whisking their ball-capped kids from the field and driving down country roads bordered by ditches, heading for basements at home. The reason I remember this day is two-fold.

First of all, the air was different. Whereas a winter storm might cause a whiteout, what we were experiencing as my mom drove me back into town after dropping a friend off at his house was a greenish-brownout. The air was thick with dirt and organic matter that was being stirred up by a supercell not far from us. The thing about those videos of tornadoes on YouTube is that you can only see the actual tornado if it is a good distance from you. Once it’s close, you can’t always see it. That’s the scary part.

Second, and much worse than the eerie air swirling around the car, my sister was unaccounted for. Well, we knew she was at a friend’s house, but that was not good enough for my mother. She needed to see her eldest daughter, to have her in our own basement, not someone else’s. So we cut through the dense air to pick her up and bring her home. As a mother now, I can more easily imagine what my own mother must have felt during those soul-tense moments.

The rest of that day is a blur. The next morning trees were down all over town, but I don’t actually remember the worst of the storm. In fact, I don’t even remember actually seeing Alison get into the car or rushing inside our house or going to bed at night. But I remember that car ride between the softball fields out in Hampton Township and the house-lined streets of Essexville.

When you read really good fiction, the same thing happens. You are left with a feeling, sometimes hard to describe but real nonetheless, that you can’t get from mere recounting of events. There are a number of books that I adore that I could not easily summarize for someone else because what happened in the book is not what I remember. I remember how I felt when I read it. There are other books for which I could give a plot synopsis to a friend who asked what it was about. But if I’m recommending a book it is almost never because of plot and I tend to say little about what happens (which always sound so sterile when recounted to another) and more things like, “I can’t explain it to you. You just have to read it.”

A good storyteller can cause physiological reactions in a reader’s body through black marks on a white page. The process is astonishing and awe-inspiring to me. Letters are arbitrary. Phonics are meaningless. Words alone convey some form of reality, but not in whole. But when those letters and sounds and words are strung together in an artful way, more than meaning is produced.

I’ve read a lot in recent years about how authors should remove the parts of their writing that they think are the best because they are probably overwritten and self-indulgent. Not so fast! I’m here to declare that not every story is best told with spare language. Granted, some certainly are and the most talented writers (in my mind) can use very little language to convey deep emotion. Still I would not recommend arbitrarily deleting those passages just because it is currently popular to do so. Maybe have some beta readers test them. Find out what clicks and what doesn’t. Some probably are overwritten. But some of them really may be excellent writing that works and helps to tell your real story. What I mean by the “real” story is not the plot, not what happens, but what you want the reader to feel, what you want him to remember long after that last page.

It’s the difference between this…

Photo credit: Weather Wiz Kids (http://www.weatherwizkids.com/weather-tornado.htm)
Photo credit: Weather Wiz Kids (http://www.weatherwizkids.com/weather-tornado.htm)

And this…

Photo credit: I dunno. It's sort of fuzzy where this originated, but I found it here: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/national-geographic/images/6968510/title/tornado-wallpaper)
Photo credit: I dunno. It’s sort of fuzzy where this originated, but I found it here: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/national-geographic/images/6968510/title/tornado-wallpaper

Strive to write in such a way that your deeply held emotions and experiences are made alive and immediate for your readers. Pick out the details that say more than you could say in a paragraph of words and make those details hardworking representatives of the whole. This will keep your good descriptive writing in your story without overdoing it.

For example, in my story of the car ride to get my sister and get home before the tornado struck, I could spend paragraphs describing the weather, how tornadoes form and the destruction they can cause, my own thoughts and the thoughts of my mother, spelling out everything for the reader so there would be no mistaking what happened. But that’s not what made the ride memorable. I don’t remember my own thoughts and I don’t have access to my mother’s thoughts. I was not thinking about the physics of tornado formation at the time. I don’t know if my sister was worried at her friend’s house or whether she was relieved at the sight of her mother pulling up in the driveway to get her.

What I remember is the way the air looked and that feeling you get in your gut when you don’t feel safe. That’s it. So if I were to tell that story, that’s what I would focus on. And if I did it well, I would hope that I could get a reader, even one who had never been in a similar situation, to know what it felt like. And I could probably do it in just a few sentences if I worked hard at it. It might start as a couple overwrought paragraphs, but being a copywriter by trade, I think I could get it down to three really hardworking sentences. I certainly wouldn’t discard it altogether.

You’ve read scenes like that, or even entire books. They make you forget you’re on your couch or tucked under your covers. They pull you in completely. That’s great writing. And that’s what I hope we’ll both create–and keep.

Life Lessons from an Injured Bat

I realize that not everyone loves bats. In fact, the photo below may make some of you shudder involuntarily. Forget all the arguments for their usefulness and their harmlessness, they just give you the creeps. But bear with me a moment, because I think there is a lesson to be learned from this particular little bat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI found this little brown bat on the ground when I was putting out some yard bags this past weekend. He was lying on his belly in a dirty bare patch on the still-dormant lawn beneath the lone ash tree on our street (perhaps in the entire city of Lansing) that has thus far miraculously survived the onslaught of the insidious emerald ash borer and getting run into by a car.

I could see this little bat was breathing and, knowing a little something about bats, I knew first of all that it could not fly from a ground position (bats must drop from a height to fly) and that I should by no means touch it, even begloved in thick leather, because if it bit me (which, being frightened and/or hurt, it surely would) I would have to get an expensive and painful series of shots to ward off rabies. So I went to the garage to get a long-handled flat shovel, not to bash the poor thing to death, but to pick it up safely.

I carefully scooped it up, eliciting a threatening display of tiny white teeth but little more in the way of resistance. Then I walked it to the large mostly-dead sugar maple by the garage, well away from the road and any possible contact with unsuspecting children or adults with no sense. I placed the blade of the shovel against the tree and let it slowly grip the bark and huddle against the rough bark. It crawled around a little to find a place sheltered from the wind and remained. A day later it was still there.

I wanted so desperately for it to fly away. I wanted it to leave the shelter of the tree and fly off back to the group of bats it must have wintered with. I suspected that that might be at the top of the very tree I put it on since it has hollow parts. But it hunkered down and did not move. Perhaps it was injured and could no longer fly. Whatever the reason, despite my efforts, it remained frozen in place.

Here’s why I bring this up here on a blog that is mostly about writing. Sometimes as a writer you get knocked down, whether you are a bestselling megastar or someone who has shared your work with only a few close friends or a bunch of strangers on the interwebs. You get a bad review (or maybe lots of them). You get a rejection letter (or maybe lots of them). You get silence (which is sometimes worse than negativity). You’re face down in the dirt wondering what hit you.

I hope that each of you have someone in your life who cares, who scoops you up, talks tenderly to you, and helps you get back on your feet. That person may not have the power to make you fly again, but maybe just knowing that there are those out there who care about you and your work will give you some sense of camaraderie, some feeling that you matter. Because you do. Whether or not you ever sell that screenplay or ever capture an agent or ever make a dime from your writing, you matter.

Then, once you’re back in the shelter of that tree, that place of safety, I hope you will take off and try again. Don’t hunker down and give up. Because your best days are waiting for you up ahead. Create your art. Share your stories. Take flight.

Getting Over Myself and Getting Scrivener

scrivenerlogoLast night I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener and went through the very lengthy but mildly entertaining tutorial. Then I started fiddling. A day later I have a huge and growing character list with descriptions, a few settings drawn out, and an entire novel outlined with chapter synopses written.

Oh my goodness, I love this program. When I wrote my first manuscript I wrote it start to finish, no outline to speak of until I was halfway through writing it and finally knew where I wanted it to go (and where it wanted to go, frankly). The thought of conceiving of an entire novel and outlining each scene struck me as very difficult. Maybe impossible for me, despite the fact that I’m a fairly organized person (stop laughing, Mom). Hence, though the program sounded intriguing, it also sounded daunting and pedantic.

But here I sit, book one of a series completely outlined and waiting to be written. Books 2-4 have been loosely sketched out (like we’re talking major plot arcs, nothing detailed). And I feel great about it.

If you’ve never given Scrivener a try, I urge you to check it out. You can try it free for 30 days (non-consecutive, meaning 30 real days whether taken all at once or stretched out over 10 years) and it’s only $40 to buy. A super cheap tool to help you get your story organized (or organised as they, being British, would spell it) and get yourself a large part of the way down the road to having actually written out that book.

It has a ton of features to help you, including tools to organize and access your research; format your work depending on what it is (nonfiction, novel, screenplay, short story, etc.); track characters, themes, and keywords; and tons more I can’t remember because that tutorial was so dang long.

Still unconvinced? Joanna Penn wants you to use it too.

Guess who’ll be presenting at a writers conference this fall…

It’s official: I will be presenting a workshop at this year’s Breathe Christian Writers Conference October 18-19, 2013. I’m quite excited to be doing my first presentation on a topic that is important to me and I encourage all you writers in the great state of Michigan to attend the conference. Last year it was refreshing and helpful and I’m sure this year it will be even better (not necessarily because I’m presenting, but, you know…because that’s what you say when you’re trying to make something sound great and worth your time, which it totally is).

I will be sure to keep you all updated as the list of presenters and speakers is finalized and released. In the meantime, I’ll be putting together an ebook to support my talk and further develop the concepts I’ll be presenting. Look for it by the end of the summer.