Thank you, Ms. LeGuin


Lake Michigan in winter by E.A. Schneider

On January 23rd, I found out that one of my heroines died. At the age of 88, Ursula K. LeGuin passed from this mortal realm into whatever dreams come next. All of us are left behind to grieve and ponder the mark she left on our lives. Ursula K. LeGuin was a legend. I find myself thinking of her in terms of the line from Robert Frost’s poem “Take Something Like a Star” that, to paraphrase, she was an ever fixed point that asks of us a certain height because, even though she wrote diverse things across fiction, essay, poetry, and children’s literature, the moral tone of thoughtful curiosity and beautiful prose seemed constant to me.  As a reader, her work demands a certain imaginative courage to leap into new ways of thinking and her elegant word craft makes the leap a joy.

Unlike many people, the first Ursula K. LeGuin book for me was a short story anthology called Changing Planes and it changed my life. I grabbed the book on impulse in a local bookshop in middle-of-nowhere Northern lower Michigan when I was home on college break because I had liked “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas” in creative writing, I soon found myself in love with her perspective. Changing Planes  was unlike any book of sci-fi I had read before. It was so scientific, so ethnographic, so purely imaginative, filled with wisdom and humor. Here was science fiction that did not rely on whizbang technology or ray gun fueled space opera but rather the sublime exercise of the if/then question: If humans did this, what then happens? It was a thrilling thought for a writer that here was science fiction (by a woman no less!) that I felt I could maybe in 10,000 hours write: something about people rather than things. I was inspired. I’ve been working on science fiction ever since in addition to my other fiction interests.

I soon found out that Changing Planes was a small star in the LeGuin firmament and was giddy at the thought of reading more of her celebrated work. I have generally read at least one LeGuin book a year ever since that day in the bookshop. Left Hand of Darknessthe Earthsea trilogy, and The Dispossessed are justly lauded; I cherished reading those books and look forward to re-reading them. I will say that there is a purity to this grief because LeGuin lived such a long, lauded life and left such a plethora of work for us to enjoy. Her voice will carry on as it should.

Maybe I’m selfish but I have a confession to make. When I first saw that she died, my immediate thought was “Oh no! I never sent her a thank you note!” and I felt guilt. I was raised to believe that no matter what, if someone really makes a difference in your life, you better find a way to tell them and that the best way was a handwritten thank you note. I am an avid writer of thank you notes and an inveterate procrastinator of writing thank you notes, particularly when they are for something really important. It is a vexing contradiction. To this day, I have never gotten up the nerve to thank an author who made a difference in my life. I have drafted letters in my journals but always quailed at the moment of truth. Fear and introvert-ness keep winning over fandom. In that moment of reading the fateful headline of LeGuin’s passing, I felt the double loss of her, with all her stories yet untold, and the missed chance to say the two words to her that every artist finds gratifying: thank you. I will always have her books. In fact, there are many books of hers I’ve never read that I’ve been saving for a future day’s enjoyment and years of pondering. I can hardly wait to share her work with children and students yet unknown but now, I will also always have that regret of never finding the nerve to thank her for being her and that is too bad. So today, I will share with you my unsent thank-you note below.

Dear Ms. Ursula K. LeGuin,

Thank you for being you. Your incredible books, essays, and poetry have changed my life. Your human focused science fiction with its fascinating if/then hypothetical structure thrills my imagination as both a scientist and a creative writer. I’ve been writing fiction, reading everything I can, and dreaming of making a difference since I was a little girl.

I confess that I did not encounter your work until I was in my early 20s but when I did, it had a profound impact on my artistic approach. Before I read your work, I felt daunted by sci-fi and fantasy. As much as they drew me and I struggled to write stories in those genres, I felt in the back of my mind that there wasn’t quite room for stories that didn’t necessarily rely on complicated mathematical physics or epic violence and war but rather operated on a more individual, human scale. Reading your work and learning about your life as a mother, a feminist, a poet, and an apologist for Sci-fi as literature, I felt like not only was the world of options infinitely wider than I had supposed but that I could find a place there too, if I persevered.

Thank you for blazing your path and lighting the way for the rest of us. You have left the world infinitely more beautiful than you found it and I look forward to reading your stories yet to come. Please also know that in a biology lab in the Midwest, your poetry hangs over my desk and it inspires me as I work on my day job experiments even as the experience of reading your fiction hovers in my mind while I write my own creative stories. Both pursuits require imagination and your work has been invaluable encouragement in each endeavor.

Sincerest thanks again,

Ellen A. Schneider, MS a.k.a. E.A. Lawrence

I also hereby will endeavor to make 2018 the year I send the other draft letters to those living authors who, like Ms. LeGuin, opened my mind, wrote on my heart, and have helped me find my voice as a writer. Every artist deserves a thank you.



Engaged Reading: Post #1

Good afternoon, dear pond readers! Thanks for joining me at the pond on this Summer day. At last, I’m giving myself permission to sit down and write out my thoughts on the first books I’ve finished reading from my Engaging Books list. I will post these thoughts over on the Goodreads discussion as well so please feel free to chime in at either forum with your own thoughts, the more the merrier. I am breaking up my thoughts into separate posts so that you won’t be scrolling for days. Enjoy!


Geese from a Chinese tomb exhibit by E.A. Schneider

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [311]

I read this book over the course of the first week in October 2016. I tell you this because I believe that reading this book during the tumultuous 2016 U.S. presidential election added an extra layer of poignancy to a book that is perennially relevant. It’s also a page-turner. My thoughts on this are extensive, kinda ramble-y, and hopefully spoiler-free.

Handmaid’s Tale makes me feel so grateful for my life and so hyper-aware of how easily the right set of things could go wrong to take it all away. This book feels real in many ways as good genre should.  So much of Gilead reminds me of ISIS and how they treat women there. The misogyny makes me think of Trump and his loathsome ilk. The rhetoric of certain feminists in the book and their longing for a world of no babies and no men also struck a familiar note; it’s something I’ve heard before. The best part of the story is its small, human scale. I like that Offred never tries to be a hero. I like that she is a flawed, petty human just trying to survive in horrific circumstances while feeling incredibly guilty about surviving. The comments that Offred makes about forgetting loved ones, grief, loneliness, waiting, and mourning for the past are beautiful and relatable. As I read, I found myself rooting for Offred to be able to escape to safety to finish living a small life with flowers and cats, but, it is okay if she didn’t, because she told her story and that helps all of us better understand our own. My husband got extra hugs during the week I read this, and afterwards, to thank him for being an incredible man as far from awful as can be.

I told my mom extra thank-yous for being such a wonderful, fierce role-model. Offred’s mom reminded me of mine in some ways. The outspoken passion for equality coupled to maternal devotion struck home. My mom stayed home but I never saw her as idle; she was a community advocate, volunteer, amazing seamstress, cook, and was always shoulder to shoulder with my dad fighting for us no matter what it was. Mom also made sure that I had feminist trading cards, made me a Nellie Bly costume (I still have it in my closet!), and made sure that as a family we went to Seneca Falls New York to walk through the entire Declaration of Sentiments monument together. It was awesome. My parents to this day resent me calling them dynamic super-heroes; I think they see this as an unrealistic pedestal, but, they are, and reading books like this kinda just reinforces that image. Sorry, Parental Units, but, you’ll always be my superheroes.


Snow leopard by E.A. Schneider

Reading this book also made me feel more grateful for my job, the fact of its existence, and that I work with so many amazing people, most of them women, every day, even if we’re facing some hard, scary economic realities. The ease with which technology was leveraged to force women out of the workplace to create Gilead chilled me to the bone with its plausibility. The following thoughts flirt with spoilers so you might want to skip to past the cave picture. Continue reading

Engaging Books: A Book Club for the next 4 years


Summer wildflowers by E.A. Schneider

Salutations, dear pond readers! Today, I am excited to launch a new project at Technicolorlilypond just in time for Summer. This project is a book club for the next four years that I’m calling “Engaging Books.” The election for the 45th president of the United States has made the world an extra tumultuous place and stirred up a lot of feelings in people. I think that if we could all be on the same page of the same book engaging in the imaginative exercise together, and then sharing thoughts on it in a polite way, that that would make the world a little bit better place right now with a little bit brighter future. What can I say? I’m the child of librarians; I can’t help but think that books are the best place to start when faced with crises.


Ring-tailed Lemur hugging its tail by E.A. Schneider

Engaging Books is designed with three specific goals. Goal #1: pierce our self-made bubbles of knowledge and, by so doing, achieve Goal #2: foster consideration for each other as human beings whilst doing Goal #3: read some amazing books. In short, the ultimate goal is to become a more engaged, informed, and polite member of society. Our self-curated bubbles of information have highlighted our polarized political climate in the United States as well as contributed to a crumbling sense of community. There is data to support this belief and there is no shortage of evidence that we are more likely to believe that the “other” is a subhuman enemy when we don’t know anything about them personally. I’m hoping that reading these books and works will help us all see the world with more compassion.

Like a lot of others in the USA, I felt a little blindsided after the November elections and I want to read up on points of view that I’m now aware I knew nothing of as well as perspectives that I might have mistakenly taken for granted.  A lot of thought went into this list of books. The books are a mix of fiction and non-fiction and every book is less than 600 pages long.

Because this is the Internet, everybody reads at different paces, and there’s this pesky thing called Real Life that rudely interrupts one’s ability to read, I have some guidelines for how this is going to work. Naturally, these are subject to revision as things develop. The books are listed below in the rough order I will aim to read them in. There are 60 books on the list which works out to 15 books a year for the next four years. As I read, I will post thoughts on the books here on my blog as well as on Goodreads in the Engaging Books Group. If you are reading along, please post your thoughts. If you’ve already read something on the list, feel free to post your thoughts on the work even if it’s way down on the list. However, all people posting will need to put SPOILER warnings on their comment where applicable and always be politely respectful in their remarks.

The books on this list are purposefully challenging. I fully expect many of them to contain content that is disturbing, offensive, graphic, and emotionally affecting. That is the point. Again, we all curate bubbles for ourselves regardless of facts to protect our identities. It is our nature. However, we can and should challenge that nature to stretch because that is how we learn and grow.

This isn’t a class. There are no grades and no credit beyond the personal. All I can offer is my own written commentary, some cute animal pictures, and the truth that when you read a book, you’re going to learn something you didn’t know before. Personally, I think that reading these books is a worthwhile endeavor and I hope you do too. On to the list!


Relaxed Seal by E.A. Schneider  Seals are one of the cutest animals around!


Engaging Books: The List  

# / Title / Author / [page count]

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [311]
  2. Tracks by Louise Erdrich [226]
  3. News from Nowhere by William Morris [167]
  4. The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher [272]
  5. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed [274]
  6. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance [272]
  7. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis [400]
  8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler [345]
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley [288]
  10. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglas [160]
  11. Bus Girl: Poems by Gretchen Josephson [107]
  12. The Irony of American History by Reinhold Neibuhr [174]
  13. We by Yevgeny Zamayatin [225]


    Diving sea turtle by E.A. Schneider

  14. 1984 by George Orwell [322]
  15. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond [418]
  16. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood [400]
  17. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank [200]
  18. Selected Poems by Langston Hughes [320]
  19. Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston [243]
  20. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hothschild [288]
  21. Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt [527]
  22. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach [181]
  23. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg [308]
  24. Muslims and the Making of America by Amir Hussain [150]
  25. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine [160]
  26. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot [370]
  27. Waist-high in the World: A life Among the Non-Disabled by N. Mairs [224]
  28. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai [352]
  29. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver [436]
  30. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson [240]


    Summer wildflowers at dusk by E.A. Schneider

  31. Prophesy Deliverance! by Cornel West [188]
  32. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks [243]
  33. The Dictator’s Handbook by Bueno de Mequita [352]
  34. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury [249]
  35. Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik [218]
  36. Coyote by Allen Steele [436]
  37. The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force by Eliot A. Cohen [304]
  38. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins [374]
  39. The American Jeremiad by Sacvan Bercovitch [256]
  40. High-Rise by J. G. Ballard [204]
  41. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine [291]
  42. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd [296]
  43. Caesar’s Column by Ignatius Donnelly [278]
  44. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks [174]
  45. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer [240]
  46. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin [349]
  47. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman [208]
  48. The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (pseudonym of Stephen King) [384]
  49. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson [448]
  50. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt [528]
  51. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli [140]
  52. Animal Farm by George Orwell [112]
  53. The Wave by Morton Rhue and Todd Strasser [143]
  54. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez [120]


    Coneflower by E.A. Schneider

  55. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson [433]
  56. Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 by Ida B. Wells-Barnett Jacqueline Jones Royster (Editor) [288]
  57. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [48]
  58. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society by Herbert Marcuse [320]
  59. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama [585]
  60. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins [294]

Thank you for reading to the end! I am going to intersperse my reading of this list with other lighter works and hopefully I will blog about those, too. I’ve already read a couple of these and will be posting my reviews sometime soon. Hopefully, this will help you launch your Summer Reading with some fascinating books and dynamic thinking. Any thoughts? Concerns? What are you reading now? Please, share below, happy Summer reading, and thank you for stopping by the pond today, dear reader.


Onward by E.A. Schneider



Sewing some fun

Hello, dear pond readers, thank you for joining me here at the pond. Happily, I’m here today to share some crafty fun that I’ve been sewing. I hope that it inspires you to get your own crafty shenangins going.

I got busy making some Whovian magic happen by using this set of directions for an envelope pillow cover to sew two 16″x16″ throw pillows. As odd as this sounds, I liked that Martha Stewart’s page didn’t have pictures for the directions because just using the math happened to be easier for me. There are various picture-filled options online though for the more visually inclined. The pillow pictured below is wonderfully plush and cozy.


Front of Whovian pillow by E.A. Schneider Also, FYI, it is super adorable to see someone using this pillow and see the “Vworp Vworp” above their head like a text balloon.


Back of the Whovian Pillow by E.A. Schneider

For my mom’s birthday, I made this pincushion. I made it two-sided because both sets of fabric are adorable and my mom likes to have fun choices. I’m rather proud of how well centered the buttons are.


Blue side of pincushion


Peach and blue side of pincushion

I also made her this pendant but I did cheat and string it on a pre-made cord. It is painted jasper so it also has two sides that look all impressionistic and lovely.


Jasper pendant side 1 by E.A. Schneider


Jasper pendant side 2 by E.A. Schneider

To kick off my fundraising for team Nerds for a Cure in Walk MS Waukesha 2017, I made these two dice bags for friends of mine. These friends have joined the glorious world of Dungeons & Dragons and needed suitable bags of holding for their dice so they asked me if I could make them bags. Two years ago I made dice bags for my fundraising for Nerds for a Cure and I used that same pattern again.  We play weekly and I tailored the bags to their personal interests, both in and out of the game. It was a delightful creative challenge and I’m happy to say that they were pleased with them.


Dragon and cat dice bags of holding. By E.A. Schneider

Also, because I thought it would be a fun challenge, the insides of the bags have a surprise at the bottom.

I have no doubt that I’m going to craft some more nifty stuff for the fundraiser and will share the details here when I can.

I’m working on some other fun craft projects and will hopefully get them finished soon. What sorts of crafting are you doing these days, dear pond readers? Please, post comments and links below when you have the chance and thanks for stopping by the pond today!

Words on my mind


Seagulls and Lake Michigan’s surf by E.A. Schneider

Hello, dear pond readers, long time no see. This winter has been busy and I have not been able to be here at Technicolor Lily Pond as often as I’d hoped. In addition to real life demands, I’ve been doing some sewing, some cooking, taking some pictures, reading, and I’ve been busy writing. I’ve also been playing a lot of various tabletop games and exploring that world. In 2017 I have many big, creative plans to keep doing more of all of those things and hopefully I will be able to not only accomplish them but also to share them here at the pond with all of you. Here’s hoping!

Thanks to recent world events, I have a lot of feelings that will probably surface here at the pond. Nevertheless, I still want Technicolor Lily Pond to be a creative, fun space at the end of the day that can inspire as many people as possible in positive ways. In that spirit, I would like to share with you a poem that has been on my mind over the last two weeks. Thanks to my poetry loving mother, I have a few different poems rattling around in my head to turn to for comfort in times of stress (thanks, Mom!), but, this particular poem is one I first encountered at the Milwaukee County Zoo as part of their Language of Conservation Project and it has become a treasured favorite to turn to in times of uncertainty. I found it on the Internet thanks to the Scottish Poetry Library and have linked to their page below. Enjoy!

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

As you face the challenges of your week wherever you are, dear pond readers, I hope that you can take a moment to look on something wild whether it is a creek or a song sparrow or a squirrel, breathe, and find a moment of peace.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2017, dear pond readers? Any new books you’re hoping to tackle or novels you’re hoping to write or recipes you’re hoping to try? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

Thankful Thoughts


Whale shark and friends by E.A. Schneider

Happy Thanksgiving, dear pond readers! Today I find myself counting my blessings. I’m thankful for my spouse, my family, my friends, my faith, my work, my words, my readers, and this incredibly beautiful world. This post is filled with pictures of some of our magical wild neighbors which I hope you enjoy. Despite multiple setbacks, I’m thankful that I’m still plugging away at NaNoWriMo, slowly but surely (2574 words and counting!), as well as my reading goal of 52 books (43 books and counting!) this November.

This Thanksgiving may be extra stressful for many in the USA because we’re dreading the P-word (P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S) rearing its head over the turkey and sweet potatoes while grappling with the usual stresses of travel, family, distance, and cooking things we only cook once or twice a year. Fingers crossed for no food poisoning or flu! Look on the bright side, given the statistics on political opinion in the USA, odds are high that we’re all stressed out together. If misery loves company, then surely anxiety enjoys a crowd.


Jellies in the deep by E.A. Schneider

No matter how tough it is or how divided your dining room might be, it is more important than ever to hang on to those we love and find the strength to keep talking to each other. Count your blessings together, I guarantee that you will find many in common if you try. The future may be uncertain with lots of things to be afraid of, but, cultivating a grateful, loving heart can only be an asset. Especially when coupled with yummy food in the company of dear ones.

What are you grateful for, dear readers? Are you in the final sprint of your own NaNoWriMo experience? Are you cramming in some reading time? Or cramming in a new tasty recipe? Please, leave a comment below while you have a safe, happy, and tasty holiday filled with love. Thanks for stopping by the pond today.


Tanuki in Autumn by E.A. Schneider


Hope and Forgiveness

It is several days post election and a lot of people are justifiably scared. I have a lot of thoughts about how things turned out, but, rather than share them today, I’m just going to share this quote which has been a source of comfort over the years during times of uncertainty. Since the news of November 9th, I find myself re-reading it often. Hopefully, it comforts you, too.

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”

― Reinhold NiebuhrThe Irony of American History

If you want to help make your community a better place and help your neighbors, here is a link with some good suggestions about where to start. Together we can dig deep and make a loving world. Take care, dear readers, and thanks for stopping by the pond today.


Deep blue calm by E.A. Schneider .