Posts Tagged ‘Francesca Forrest’

“Nearly two decades ago,” writes National Public Radio, “a massive wave struck the Tokio Express, a container ship that had nearly 5 million Legos onboard. The colorful toy building blocks poured into the ocean. Today, they are still washing up on shores in England.

“Tracey Williams and her children first happened upon the Tokio Express Legos in the late 1990s. Since then, she’s created a Facebook page called — Lego Lost At Sea — where other collectors show off their findings.

“Williams, who lives in Cornwall, tells NPR’s Scott Simon that among the many small, colorful and ironically nautical-themed Lego bits are flowers, swords, life vests, scuba tanks and even Lego octopi. …

” ‘I thought it would be quite interesting, from a scientific point of view, to monitor where it was all turning up, what was turning up and in what quantities and who found it,’ Williams says.” Read more here.

I note a variation on a theme in Pen Pal (which tells what happens when a child on the Gulf Coast throws a message in a bottle into the sea and ends up with a political-prisoner pen pal across the world). Francesca Forrest, author of Pen Pal, records true stories about messages in bottles at her website about the novel, here. Like the stories of Legos washed up near England, some of the message-in-a-bottle stories are pretty intriguing.

Photo: Tracey Williams/Lego Lost at Sea

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Photograph: Devesh Uba
Grocery store in Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria.

A recent manmade-island story in the Guardian made me think of Francesca Forrest’s lovely novel Pen Pal, which involves a girl in a floating community in the U.S. South who corresponds with a political prisoner in Asia.

The Guardian article, however, is about designers and architects building islands for populations threatened by rising seas.

Jessa Gamble writes, “It may seem like science fiction, but as rising sea levels threaten low-lying nations around the world, neighbourhoods like [the Yan Ma Tei breakwater in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay, where residents live in boats] may become more common.

“Whereas some coastal cities will double down on sea defences, others are beginning to explore a solution that welcomes approaching tides. What if our cities themselves were to take to the seas? …

“The immediate and most numerous victims of climate change are sure to be in the developing world. In Lagos, the sprawling slum of Makoko regularly suffers floods, and its stilted houses are shored up with each new inundation. It’s under threat of razing by authorities.

“The Nigerian-born architect Kunlé Adeyemi proposes a series of A-frame floating houses to replace the existing slum. As proof of concept, his team constructed a floating school for the community. Still, many buildings do not make a city: infrastructure remains a problem here. One solution would be to use docking stations with centralised services, rather like hooking up a caravan to power, water and drainage lines at a campground.” More.

It all sounds like Noah building an ark. But I can’t help thinking it would be better to end global warming in the first place.

Photograph: Seasteading Institute, by way of the Guardian
The Seasteading Institute proposes a series of floating villages.

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Francesca has published Pen Pal, an e-book for middle grades through adults. $3.99. (Paperback available by January 1.)

I can’t recommend the book highly enough. It’s the story of two unlikely pen pals who turn out to have a lot in common and, though living a world apart, actually end up helping each other in times of crisis.

Em is a girl in a marginalized community on the southern U.S. coast (think “Beasts of the Southern Wild”) who puts a message in a bottle. The message is ultimately received by Kaya, a young woman in a place that is an amalgam of Asian countries where minorities have struggled to preserve their language and culture. Kaya is a political prisoner because of her advocacy.

It’s an amazingly enjoyable and compelling story, not as didactic as I may have made it sound. Francesca even went to tutor English in East Timor last summer, capping off several years of research about various locales in Asia and on the Gulf Coast.

Here is the message in the bottle starts it all off:

“Dear Person Who Finds My Message,

“I live in a place called Mermaid’s Hands. All our houses here rest on the mud when the tide is out, but when it comes in, they rise right up and float.

“They’re all roped together, so we don’t lose anyone. I like Mermaid’s Hands, but sometimes I wish I could unrope our house and see where it might float to. But I would get in trouble if I did that, so instead I’m sticking this message in a bottle. If you find it, please write back to me at this address. Tell me what the world is like where you are.

“Yours truly,


Francesca says, “The ebook of Pen Pal is out in the world at three out of the four locations it’ll be available at–Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.”

If you like the book, enjoy its special website, here. And spread the word.

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I have always liked reading poetry, but there is something extra delightful about actually knowing people who write good poetry.

Nancy Greenaway is a friend I see summers in Rhode Island. I learned last weekend that among other output, she recently published this poem at the Texas Observer site. It begins:


You write ghazals under shade of an acacia,

speak Farsi or Pashto,

eat qurmas, sabzi, lamb kebabs,

wear burqas and hijabs.

I write free verse under shade of a maple,

speak English,

eat pizza, cod, corn on the cob,

wear jeans and t-shirts. 

Read it here. 

Francesca Forrest has several online poetry outlets. In the tantalizing “Temptation,” an internal voice whispers,

Throw yourself down from here; try!

This is a dream, and you will fly.

Read “Temptation” here, published at the Linnet’s Wings. Two other poems by Francesca are “Songs Were Washing Up,” in the publication Scheherzade’s Bequest, and “Old Clothes Golem,”  at the site Stone Telling.

When Suzanne was getting ready to launch Luna & Stella, she came to the conclusion that a poet should write the descriptions of the birthstones, because only a poet would have the right artistic sensibility. As it happened, she knew a poet who also did copywriting, Providence-based poet Kate Colby. Here is what Kate wrote about the gems for Luna & Stella.

You might also like to read one of Kate’s poems, “A Body Drawn By Its Own Memory.” It begins :

Certain labels are impervious

to solvents, impermeable

as drawn bridges. …

I will post poems from time to time. Perhaps you will let me know what you like. Try the comments feature. Or e-mail me at suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

Nancy writes: 
“Thought you might be one of the few who would appreciate our adventures in Boston/Cambridge on Sunday and Monday. Malcolm and I had a one-night vacation by driving to Cambridge on Sunday, staying at the Marlowe Hotel (with a view of the Charles) and hearing Naomi Shihab Nye read and then receive the Golden Rose Award from the Poetry Club of New England. She concluded with her poem about the Block Island ferry (which will appear in her new book of poems to be released by BOA Editions in September.) Before the reading, to the amazement of all in the audience, she rushed up the center aisle directly to me and gave me a wonderful hug.”

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