Blog entries from my old site



I know I’m stretching the definition of ‘blog’ with such widespread entries, but I’ve been busy. Really. My last entry was largely about the birth of my son Thomas, who is now two years old and doing great. He’s still as good-natured as he was then, though we’re finding some truth to the old expression about the terrible twos! Sharing and being patient are his biggest challenges at the moment…

I’ve committed to my writing in a big way, pursuing my MFA (Master of Fine Arts degree) at the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. It’s a three year low-residency program, which means I go up to campus in Tacoma for ten days every August, but the rest of the time I correspond directly with a mentor author, exchanging my creative work and responses to my reading. This past year was my first year in the program, and it was the busiest year of my life, though enormously satisfying. I produced drafts of four short stories, responded to over twenty books, and my first year mentor, Adrianne Harun, was great to work with.

“Eyes Like Sky,” the short story I mentioned in my previous entry, was accepted by Whitefish Review and appears in the Summer 2012 edition (#11), dubbed The Wild Issue. It’s my first appearance in a literary journal! I hope to publish at least two more stories by the time I obtain my MFA. Upon graduation, I must produce a book-length creative thesis, and I have a good idea of what it will be: a collection of short stories set on my home turf of Lane County, the settings progressively moving from the Cascade Mountains to the Oregon Coast. An underlying theme of these stories will be the relationship that people in these parts have with the land, particularly the wild places.

Besides helping my writing career, this degree will also open me up to new opportunities in teaching. I love Cal Young Middle School, where I’ve taught for nearly 15 years, but if you do anything long enough you start to crave change, and there’s a good chance that the next five years will find me in a high school or college level classroom. It’s nice to be firmly rooted in a career that pays the bills and offers summer vacations (providing time to do things like catch up on this blog!) while still providing new experiences and challenges over the next 15 years…

So between working a full-time teaching job, raising a two year old, and studying for my MFA, you can see why last year was the busiest of my life. But wait, there’s more! My awesome wife Carley was pregnant all of last year, which meant I had to help out more around the house. A good problem, to say the least, and on May 1st we were blessed with our second child, Audrey Candace Cantwell. In so many ways she is like her big brother: healthy and strong, even demeanor, and cute as can be. We’ve been so lucky that I was able to use my sick days to be home at the end of the year and also have the summer together as a family. Life is good. Next year promises to be even busier than last year, but it should be even more satisfying…

Finally, this May marked the ten year anniversary of this website, Thanks to all your hits, my site is currently the first one that comes up on google when you enter my name, even outdoing facebook! Thanks, and here’s to another ten years!

Tom 🙂

Life just gets better and better. On May 23, Carley and I welcomed our son, Thomas Ellison, into the world. What an amazing experience, and what an awesome kid. He’s as good-natured as anyone I’ve ever met, a true blessing. After three months at home with him and Carley this summer, it’s been really hard to return to work, though it’s pretty cool how the stress of a work day just melts away as soon as I get home and pick him up. Having a child of my own brings a whole new perspective to teaching; I feel like I can better understand where the parents of my students are coming from. We’ve been reading to Thomas since before he was born (Charlotte’s Web, Julie of the Wolves, Farmer Giles of Ham) and right now he’s really digging the picture books. Before we know it he’ll be reading Shakespeare. I came upon a letter from Nathaniel Hawthorne while Carley was pregnant, commenting on the birth of his first child. Coincidentally, old Nathaniel had his first baby at the same age as I am – forty – and his words echo my own thoughts:

“I find it a very sober and serious kind of happiness that springs from the birth of a child. It ought not to come too early in a man’s life – not till he has fully enjoyed his youth – for methinks the spirit can never be thoroughly gay and careless again, after this great event. We gain infinitely by the exchange; but we do give up something nevertheless. As for myself, who have been a trifler preposterously long, I find it necessary to come out of my cloud-region, and allow myself to be woven into the somber texture of humanity. There is no escaping it any longer. I have business on earth now, and must look about me for the means of doing it.”

My business is obviously teaching. It pays the bills and keeps us cozy and fed. But writing is my cloud-region, and I have stayed true to my New Years Resolution to write every day. My focus has shifted from young adult fiction to mainstream/literary fiction, prompting a change in the format of this website. Those who have followed it will find it stripped down and streamlined, minus some kid-friendly bells and whistles. The young adult content is still there for all to read. Though I have an enticing idea for a novel, my plan is to let it stew for awhile and continue producing short stories as I work my way into this new genre. I am currently finishing up a story called “Eyes Like Sky,” about a girl raised by wolves.

That’s all for now. Methinks I hear my baby calling…

Tom 🙂

Well, it looks like I’ve never updated this blog on my birthday, so here goes. Today I turned forty, such an old-sounding age when you’re young, but here I am and I’ve never felt better. I’ve never been happier. In my last entry (too long ago, as usual) I wrote that it had been the best year of my life. Well, this has been the best year of my life! Carley and I tied the knot in July, and we could not have dreamed up a better wedding. Everything was perfect. Then the Yankees won the World Series. And now we’re expecting a son! Thomas Ellison Cantwell is due in early June, and I can’t even imagine the joy he will bring to our lives…

My writing production has obviously been slacking, which is, theoretically, the reason for this website, so I thought I’d share a bit about that. Basically, I got in over my head. While working on my young adult trilogy set in Ancient Rome I came to a crucial decision point. I had completed the first draft of the first book, Vesuvius, and the second book, Gladiator School, when I realized, with the help of a New York editor, that Vesuvius needed revisions. The question was simple: press on with the third book or revise the first book? The answer was not simple. I fluctuated back and forth and dabbled in both, committed to neither, and lost all momentum. As Newton’s first law of physics states, an object at rest tends to stay at rest…

The good news is that I’m writing again. On my New Years blog in 2007 I wrote, “more writing and less reading.” Well, that didn’t happen! I read a ton that year, actually, which is never a bad thing. But last year I did manage to keep a resolution – no corporate fast food – and inspired (and healthy!) I decided to go for another one this year – write every day. So far, so good – 25 days down and 340 to go! The nice thing is that I’m writing without rules. The only expectation is to write, so it could be any genre, any length, any subject. I’m finding that it is freeing me up, the words and ideas coming easier. An object in motion tends to stay in motion…

Besides getting married last summer, I took a sweet solo road trip east to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, pics of which are currently appearing in the photo section. I randomly arrived at Old Faithful the same afternoon as President Obama. It was just me and the First Family watching the geyser go off. And several hundred other surprised tourists. And the Secret Service agents crawling all over the hills. And the military guys with the serious firepower. And the Homeland Security helicopters circling above. The real danger came during my backpacking trip, and that story is told in American Serengeti.

So here’s to an amazing forty years. The next forty promise to be much more interesting. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel to have shared my life with so many amazing people. I am truly blessed. If someone were to come up with the first law of happiness, I’m pretty sure this would be it…

Tom 🙂

I really need to update this thing more often! How did a year just go by? I guess that’s what happens when you’re having fun, and I’d say last year was pretty much the best year of my life. I concluded my last entry below speaking of the power of love, so that’s where I’ll pick up. I’m getting married! On July 25th, at approximately 5 o’clock in the evening, at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum in Eugene, Oregon, Carley Kendall Westling and I will pledge our vows and smooch our kiss in front of a hundred of our favorite people, and I have no doubt that we will live happily ever after. To quote the great Lou Gehrig, today (today, today…) I consider myself (myself, myself…) the luckiest man on the face of the earth…

The highlight of last school year was having one of my students, a USC fan named Hunter, win first place in the national Letters About Literature Contest. Even cooler was that he wrote to author Lawrence Taylor, who was one of my old childhood heroes from the New York Giants. Hunter scored a $500 gift card to Target, and our school library received a $10,000 grant! You the man, Hunter! This year’s students are as awesome as ever, and there’s no limit to what any of them are capable of achieving…

A couple of weeks ago, on September 12th, the earth became louder when Metallica dropped their ninth studio album, Death Magnetic. I’ve been a hardcore fan since Master of Puppets came out in 1986, and this is easily their best album since the ’80’s. In fact, if it wasn’t for a band named Tool, I’d say Death Magnetic is the best metal album since the ’80’s . The first track symbolically starts with a heartbeat, Metallica back from the brink of death. The album is laced with classic Metallica machine gun riffs and ripping guitar solos. There’s even an instrumental, which we haven’t heard since And Justice For All. Part of the success has to go to producer Rick Rubin, who in my opinion has the best ear in music. I could easily write a paragraph about his achievements, but at the fear of becoming long-winded, I’ll just say it’s good to be playing some air guitar and banging my head again…

The Olympics always get me fired up, and the highlight this summer was the track and field trials, which in July came through our sleepy little Track Town, USA. How awesome to see these world class athletes just hanging around town, focused on the most important moment of their lives. There was the thrill of victory – three Oregon men placing first, second, and third in the 800 meters, Carley and I screaming our heads off with over 20,000 others in the noisiest environment this side of a Metallica show. And the agony of defeat, a runner we saw later that night at our favorite 24 hour burrito shop, his eyes downcast and sad, barely able to eat…

And now I must say goodbye to Yankee Stadium, arguably the most hallowed ground in all of sports. Goodnight to the ghosts of Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson and Thurmon Munson. May the memories of that special place rest in peace under the pavement of a new parking lot, and here’s to a new era of Bronx baseball rising from the rubble of the old one…

Finally, most importantly, a huge CONGRATULATIONS! to my parents, Tom and Barbara Cantwell, two of the most amazing, generous, and loving people I have ever had the good fortune to know, who on Tuesday will celebrate 47 years since the day they pledged their vows at St. Helena’s Catholic Church in the Bronx, and smooched their kiss, and lived happily ever after. I love you, Mom and Dad…

Tom 🙂

Back to work! I must say that I’ve never looked forward to school starting as much as I have this year. Weird. It’s not that I was bored or restless or not having fun or making good use of my time. I guess I’m just really enjoying this little teaching career I’ve put together over the last ten years. I feel lucky and fortunate to love my job so much. Meeting new students is always a blast, and this year’s kids look pretty fun. Check out my teaching page in a week or two, when I should have class pics posted…

I didn’t travel far and wide this summer, mostly because I bought myself a house in the spring and spent a big chunk of the summer learning about that and shaping it up with the help of my parents, who came out for a nice visit. The thing that kept me here the most was something I had been wanting to do for a long time – gardening. It’s been a cool connection to Nature for me, and I’ve really enjoyed growing my own food. Nothing like fresh lettuce, tomato, and cucumbers every day for the salad. Today I ate my first fresh corn on the cob, and it’s all I can do to wait for the honeydew…

I did get out a bit, of course. Spent some solo time at the coast and central Oregon and hooked up with my buddies Jason and Tobias for an epic trip to Mt. Jefferson. Always refreshing to remember that I live within a couple hours’ drive of world-class views…

I’ll remain quiet and secretive on the writing front…

The big news, I suppose, is that I’ve fallen deeply and madly and crazy in love with an awesome and beautiful and brilliant woman. Carley is quite simply the best. We’ve known each other for almost ten years, so a solid foundation was already there for us to build on. I’d say we’re pretty close to the stars right about now, and climbing…

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. May it grace your life and those around you, and spread like wildfire around the world…

Tom 🙂

Happy New Year! Time seems to fly by faster the older I get, which hopefully means I’m just having more fun, since that’s when time flies…right? Anyway, here are a few of my finest moments from 2006 and some New Years resolutions for 2007…

Fine moment #1: Taking a fat black Sharpie to the walls of the old Cal Young Middle School with my fellow teachers, just minutes before midnight on the last day anyone was allowed in the building before it was torn down. After signing our own names, and adding an inappropriate scribble or two, we started remembering and recording the names of former teachers, those who have moved on, retired, or passed away. In that moment, I don’t think any of us thought we’d done less than we could have for that school or the thousands of kids who passed through it over the years. In the fall we moved into a brand new Cal Young Middle School, scared to even mess up the walls with a thumbtack.

Fine moment #2: Floating in the cool, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sorrento, Italy, after a delicious cliffside lunch and a bottle of vino bianco, in sight of Mount Vesuvius after days of pounding the hot and dusty streets of Pompeii and Herculaneum, not to mention Rome and Naples. Or was it my second night in Italy, in Rome’s Piazza Navona, the place just packed with performers and artists, architecture and art? Was it walking into the Colosseum, or joining a midnight drum circle in the Circus Maximus? Or was it pounding the hot and dusty streets of Pompeii…

Fine moment #3: Yesterday, finishing the rough draft of Gladiator School, the second book of my trilogy, five hours before the end of the year, and starting the third book today…


more writing and less reading
more reading and less watching
more teaching and less talking
more sleeping and less stressing
more swimming and less sweating
May you and yours have a happy, peaceful, and prosperous year!

Tom 🙂

Well, if you’ve read my previous entries, you probably saw this one coming. I just have to share my thoughts on the 2006 Torino Winter Games. I probably watch more Olympics than anyone I know. If someone did random year-round DNA testing on me, they’d probably find more Olympic spirit than Christmas spirit.

I got off to a slow start this year, missing most of the Opening Ceremonies in favor of watching a movie with a friend. And this from someone who hosted an international potluck for the Opening Ceremonies of the ’98 Nagano Games. That night I realized people aren’t so into the Opening Ceremonies, or maybe it was just the hot dogs I tried to pass off as my American contribution. Anyway, after saying goodnight to my friend, I tuned into NBC just in time to catch Yoko Ono introduce Peter Gabriel, who sang “Imagine” by John Lennon. Game on! Alberto Tomba ran in with the torch, some Italian girl lit the big torch, and that’s about as international as this reflection gets. In case you didn’t notice, NBC’s coverage tends to have a slight American bias. I actually saw some events in which the race for gold wasn’t shown because the camera stayed locked on an American vying for bronze.

The overall impression I take from the American performance at these Games is a reflection of America itself, this notion that we’re a two-headed monster, a walking juxtaposition. We’ve got glamour and glitz, but guts and grit. We show up for hard work but show off like hot dogs. America won the first ever gold medal in the men’s snowboard cross when Seth Wescott came from behind to win in a dramatic finish. America lost the first ever gold medal in the women’s snowboard cross when Lindsey Jacobellis tried a showboat move on the final jump and landed on her butt with a huge lead.

Shaun White listened to Led Zeppelin on his IPOD while flying through his gold medal run in the snowboard halfpipe. Another American took silver, and his teammates were psyched for a sweep. Mason Aguirre stood at the starting gate – scrolling through his IPOD. Now I’m all for music pumping you up, but how can you be standing there about to take the run you’ve practiced four years for and not have your song ready? Sure enough, Aguirre nervously slipped the IPOD back into his jacket and promptly messed up on his run, coming in fourth place.

Bode Miller was a bust on the ski slopes and appeared to barely even try, while Lindsey Kildow had a horrible training crash before her first race but somehow competed in every event, even though she had no chance of winning. There was Resi Stiegler skiing with pearl necklaces and tiger ears and Julia Mancuso skiing with a tiara on her head, though Mancuso actually won.

There was the achievement of Shani Davis being the first black person in the world to win an individual winter gold medal, but to focus on that race he let down his teammates by opting out of a team event, which they lost.

I’ve got nothing bad to say about the American figure skaters, and I give it up to Sasha Cohen, who fell on her first two jumps during one of the most high pressure events in sports. If I had fallen twice in a row with the whole world watching and over two minutes left to skate, I probably would have started holding onto the rail and staggering around the rink, which is actually what I do anyway. But Sasha didn’t lose it, and from what I could tell, the rest of her program was perfect, and she won a silver medal. That’s a long way from Tonya Harding.

But the MVP of these Olympics, in my book, was Apolo Anton Ohno. Now you might be thinking, what? That good-looking groovy grunge guy from Seattle with the soul patch and the gold medal smile? Just bear with me. I remember thinking the same thing when he burst onto the scene four years ago.

When I visited the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last spring break, I saw a list of all the athletes in residence. His was the only name I recognized. That’s because gold medal athletes with recognizable names don’t generally choose to live in dorm rooms and eat in the cafeteria. They leave that to the young athletes just coming up and yet to prove themselves. Apolo took his gold and silver medals from the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and moved back into the dorm for four more years of training and eating in the cafeteria. He also got death threats from Korea after the controversy following his first place finish.

In Torino, he crashed in a qualifying heat during his first race. He came in third behind the Koreans in his second race, but he congratulated them on the podium in a solid display of sportsmanship, though maybe he was just trying to avoid more death threats. He showed up for his interview with Bob Costas that night wearing an old t-shirt, faded jeans, and a bronze medal smile.

Last night, on the last night of competition, he lined up for what might have been his final individual Olympic race, and I found myself doing something I’ve only previously done for the likes of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams: I screamed his name and rooted him on as if he could actually hear me through my television. “GO OHNO!!” And he won. He was practically in tears. This gold medal came without controversy. It was all his, and he deserved it, and he worked hard for it, and he will no doubt move out of the dorm and appear on television shows and become even more famous than he already was, but in my mind, Apolo Anton Ohno will always be a typed name on a removable card on a board in the Olympic Training Center listing the athletes in residence.

So tonight is the Closing Ceremonies, and barring a call from that friend of mine, I’ll probably watch it. The torch will be extinguished, but part of the evening will be the symbolic passing of the flame to the city set to host the 2010 Winter Games: Vancouver, British Columbia, which happens to be an eight hour drive away from my house. Who’s with me? Maybe four years from now I’ll be screaming and someone will actually hear me…

Tom 🙂

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a day that means so much to so many people. One thing I reflected on this weekend was how Dr. King fought for the same thing as America’s founding fathers: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because of the struggles and sacrifices of these and countless other great Americans, we’re all free to follow our dreams and make the most of our opportunities. To do anything less would be to disrespect their legacy.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell called it following your bliss, figuring out what you love to do in life and then going for it with dogged determination and unbridled joy. I’ve written about it on this page (8.30.04) but what happens when you lose your bliss, when you know what you love to do but you don’t do it? I’ve been there, recently, and it’s no good. It’s not healthy. It’s like not taking care of your body. You might not be bedridden or depressed, but you know you don’t feel as well as you should.

My bliss is writing, but I somehow let a combination of personal and professional factors interfere with it. I won’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say that my dreams took a hit. Luckily, on a personal level I’m surrounded by amazing people, and professionally I’m blessed with more than one bliss. Teaching sustained me while not writing. Ironically, it was the enjoyment of my teaching career that eased the self-imposed pressure of pursuing a writing career, which in turn freed me up to once again approach writing as a simple joy, as creative bliss for its own sake.

I’ve found that coming back into your bliss is a lot like exercising again after you’ve let your physical health get away from you. At first you’re all systems go, but you know you can’t try too much too soon. You don’t want to burn out, and you can’t expect immediate results. You have to be in it for the long haul and get into a routine, make it easy to do and part of your life. Before long, if you stick with it, you do start to feel the results. You start feeling healthy again. You do it for yourself, and if someone else happens to notice all the better.

So that’s where I’m at. I’m writing again, and I eased back into it with two short stories. The first one, W.W.H.D., wasn’t appropriate enough for the general public, so send me an e-mail if you want to read it. The second one, Disposable Heroes, is posted right here. Unfortunately, beyond that I won’t be wearing any skin-tight muscle shirts any time soon to show off more results. I’ll be wearing baggy clothes for awhile and doing it for myself, working behind the scenes until I’m ready to give something real to the world. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m excited and energized with new ideas for revising Vesuvius and writing its sequels. I’ll also be writing a children’s picture book. Stay tuned for cool news about The Seminole and the Slave in a month or two.

Most importantly, follow your dreams.

Tom 🙂

Time seems to pass faster the older you get. I can’t believe it’s been since October since I last updated this, that another school year has come and gone and baseball season is almost halfway over. Another tip of the hat to the Red Sox for actually going on to win the World Series last year, as I hoped, though I do expect the Yankees to make short work of them this season…

So what have I been doing with myself? Hmm. Nothing big and dramatic, no major news on the writing or publishing front, though I do look forward to using free time this summer to get on with that. I guess I’ve been working really hard at school, and working on myself, too. Being single after spending over five years with someone makes you re-evaluate what you’re all about, and for me it’s been a focus on three things: physical, mental, and spiritual strength. I’ve been doing yoga every night, walking, trying to eat right, and jumping around my house with the punk rock cranked. Music also helps with the mental part. I recently came to the conclusion that the three best things in life are music, love, and nature. Nature helps with the spiritual part, as do the guiding principles of Buddhism and Catholicism.

One of the guiding principles of Bhuddism is right livelihood, or making a living doing something good and morally right. Though I aspire to be a full-time professional writer, this past year of teaching has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling. I feel blessed and honored to have the opportunity to work with so many awesome kids. The natural optimism of teenagers (despite what media stereotypes may try to tell you) is like a buoy that keeps me afloat when my own stuff seems too heavy. One of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received came in the form of a student letter left under my door on the last day of school. “It may not seem like it,” the note reads, “but you helped me a lot. I know what I want to do with myself and I know I can get there. You proved that growing up doesn’t have to suck. You can save your heart from dying.” How cool is that? It meant more to me than any paycheck I’ve ever received.

Of course, there’s something to be said for summers off, too! This summer I’ll be doing the usual, backpacking and taking pictures, with trips planned along the Oregon Coast and Cascades, as well as my first foray down to the California Sierras, King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Throw in my first full-fledged immersion into the Oregon Country Fair, Eugene Emeralds baseball games, and long lazy rides along the river on my Huffy cruiser, and you’ve got the makings of an awesome couple of months. Again, I feel blessed.

Blessed too are the fathers! Today is Father’s Day, so Happy Fathers Day to you, Dad! Seems like my buddies are having babies left and right, and it is so awesome to witness. Perhaps some day I will join them, and all this business about focusing on myself will become irrelevant as I learn the joy and responsibility of living for something more than myself. I know that I will have good role models. I know that in my own father I have the very best role model.

Peace to the children, to the parents, to the singles and the couples, and don’t forget…growing up doesn’t have to suck.

Tom 🙂

An open letter from a Yankee fan…

I tip my hat to the Boston Red Sox. I’ve been a Yankee fan since birth, though I didn’t consciously get the drift until the age of seven, when the Yankees won the World Series against the Dodgers. There was much joy in the Cantwell household (and a bit of anger on my part for getting the news at breakfast since East Coast games went too late for seven year olds.) I started collecting baseball cards the following year, 1978, and though the Yankees’ cards were the only ones I really cared about, I took to the Red Sox right away. Even then (especially then!) they had the cool hair going – Louis Tiant’s mustache, Dennis Eckersley’s wave, Jim Rice’s ‘fro. Then there was Yaz. Then there was the one game playoff for the pennant, and my true introduction to The Rivalry. Maybe it was a weekend, because my mom let me stay up late enough to see the whole thing, and I remember watching my boy Bucky put one over the Monster. Then we beat the Dodgers again to chants of “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” (More grumbling at breakfast, but Mom made up for it by buying me Reggie Bars.) The Yankees won it once more in 1981, but then not again until 1996. Those were a long 15 years. Of course, the Sox haven’t won in 86 years! There’s this ‘Curse of the Bambino’ on them from when they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 so the Red Sox owner could finance a Broadway musical he was producing called “No, No, Nanette.” The Red Sox have only been to the World Series four times since then, most recently in 1986 against the NY Mets. I like the Mets, but I have no love for them, and I was definitely rooting for the Red Sox. I remember watching the ball roll through Bill Buckner’s legs as the Series slipped away. Then the Yankees hit it big in the late-90’s and became America’s most hated team. Hating the L.A. Lakers myself, I can empathize with all you Yankee-haters. I feel ya, but I love ’em, and I’ll love ’em to my grave. I don’t know if there’s enough room in my baseball heart to love another team, but there is definitely a strong LIKE for the Boston Red Sox. Now that they’ve made history tonight by knocking out my Yanks and becoming the first team to come back from an 0-3 deficit in the playoffs, I find myself free and clear to root for them in the World Series. I hope they can win it all and break the curse. Believe it or not, some of us Yankee fans are as sick of the curse as the Red Sox fans! They also talk about ‘the ghosts’, but I think the ghosts are separate from the curse. The curse can go to hades with my blessings, but the ghosts will always be there as long as Yankees play in Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, both the Cardinals and the Astros look awesome. I’ve watched the Yankees lose their last two World Series, and it’s no fun. It’ll be nice to watch this one without all the stress. Go Red Sox! Tomorrow I’ll wear my favorite Yankee shirt to school and teach my students a lesson about loyalty and keeping your head up. Of course, I’ll also read them “Casey at the Bat.” There is no joy in the Cantwell household tonight….

Tom 🙂

I’m a sucker for the Olympics. I have been ever since I was six years old, rooting for Bruce Jenner in the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Games. Now that the Athens Games are over, I can shut off my television and resume my life, perhaps do such things as go outside and write. One reason I like the Olympics so much, and sports in general, is because I see them, as the ancient Greeks did, as a replacement for war. We humans seem to have this need to be part of a team, to have a side to root for. I would rather see countries and fans wave flags when their athletes win medals than when their soldiers kill people.

Another thing I like about the Olympics is how we see athletes thrust into the global spotlight after toiling away for years in relative obscurity. I’ve always been blown away by how countless long hours of training can come down to a few seconds or minutes of performance under intense pressure. They say U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps spent a lot of time listening to Eminem on his headphones between heats. I’m pretty sure he must have been playing “Lose Yourself” which starts with the words, “Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip?” The Olympics provide inspiration for all of us to get off our butts and go for it, whether “it” is sports, writing, music, art, science, politics, performance, elite military, space travel, or whatever it is you want to DO with your life. As long as you’re willing to spend those countless long hours working on it, you can make it happen. To quote the last words of that Eminem song, “You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Of course, not all of those athletes who showed up in Athens made it into the global spotlight. Some failed to qualify in their opening heat. Some fell on their faces in the finals. But at least they can say they went for it. They can tell their children and grandchildren that they competed in the Olympic Games. What will you be able to tell your children and grandchildren? Good stuff, I hope. I’ve been toiling away with my writing in relative obscurity for over ten years, but I’m still going for it, and I think I might even see a glint of gold on the horizon. Of course, we don’t really do it for the medals or applause, do we? We do it because we love it. I guess that’s the trick in life, finding what it is that you love to do.

My favorite moment of the Athens Games? Big old Rulan Gardner of Wyoming, winner of the gold in heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2000 Sydney Games, who in the four years since those Olympics got in a motorcycle accident and had a toe amputated from frostbite after getting lost on his snowmobile. A few weeks ago he dislocated his wrist playing pick-up basketball. He didn’t make it back to the gold medal match this time, but he did win the bronze. What got me was seeing big old Rulan Gardner break down and cry while taking off his wrestling sneakers and leaving them in the center of the mat, in the tradition of retiring wrestlers. He certainly wasn’t crying because he had only won bronze. He had reached the end of his dream. He had gone for it in a big way, and he was leaving more than a pair of sneakers on the mat. What makes me smile is knowing that Rulan Gardner left Athens with more than a bronze medal. Just think of all the stories he can tell his children and grandchildren…

As for me, summer has been sweet. I did three Oregon backpacking trips, sold and signed copies of The Seminole and the Slave at two Eugene festivals, and attended two writing conferences in Portland, where I made some good connections. Vesuvius is nearly complete, and I feel good about it. Now it’s back to school, where I’m psyched to work with the new CY 6th graders. I’m also psyched to teach two new classes this year: Inventions and Creative Writing. In Inventions, we’ll design new products and make infomercials. In Creative Writing, we’ll write short stories and publish an anthology…

Go Yankees, go Noles, go Ducks, and go Giants! May the peaceful days and games of the Olympiad never end…

Tom 🙂

Today is Memorial Day, first celebrated on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Today we mourn our dead in battle as well. Three American soldiers died yesterday, and over eight hundred have died since the war in Iraq began. Just as the first Memorial Day was all about reconciling and remembering, I see this Memorial Day as another opportunity to pause our political debate and take a moment to acknowledge the sacrifice of our troops. Whatever our opinions of this war, we are all in debt to the brave men and women placing themselves in the line of fire every day. I would like to encourage you to visit this webpage on which lists all of the coalition soldiers who have died in Iraq. It includes their picture, age, and how they died…

Coinciding with Memorial Day this year is the long-awaited release of The Seminole and the Slave! This novel about war in 1835 is currently available at the UO Bookstore in Eugene and on this website if you live elsewhere. Look for it to be more widely available soon. I’ll be kicking off the book’s release this Wednesday, June 2nd, with a reading, slide show, and book signing at the Sheldon Community Center. See my new appearances page for more info…

I’ve had a great time reading Vesuvius to my sixth grade classes this spring. We’ll finish this Thursday. Kids give it to you straight, and I’ve been keeping track of their valuable feedback as we go. I’ll do a final edit of Vesuvius over the summer before submitting it to agents and editors in the fall. If it isn’t picked up by a mainstream publisher, expect it to be released by Terrapin Press in 2005. In the meantime, I’ve begun writing the first draft of Gladiator School, the sequel to Vesuvius…

Summer is almost here, only two weeks left before school’s out, and I find myself looking forward to the crack of the bat at Civic Stadium and long lazy days on bike and foot along the river. Coolest of all will be showing Oregon to my ten year old niece and five year old nephew from Florida. Raised on vacations to Disney World and Bush Gardens, neither of them have ever seen snow, real mountains, or cliffs along a wild coast. I can’t wait. The camera will be out, of course, and I’m planning at least two summer backpacking trips, to Paulina Lake in central Oregon and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in central Washington…

Until next time, may that list on CNN stop growing, and may Memorial Day next year truly be a time of peace…

Tom 🙂

P.S. Go, Smarty Jones!

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last wrote here…all apologies…

The Seminole and the Slave is coming! Look for it to be available HERE this spring from Terrapin Press! We’re gearing up for a May release, with a Eugene event that will feature a reading, slide show, and book signing. It’s been such a long road to publication, and I’d like to thank my parents for always believing in me, my friends and Crystal for keeping me honest, focused, and happy, and all the kids I run into who ask if that Seminole book’s out yet. Just for you ex-CY guys, I’m planning to bust out the rarely-heard Seminole war cry during the reading. Hope to see you there…

Sixth graders are pretty cool. I’ve gotten to know over ninety of them these past six months, and they bring a good energy that keeps me going. I’m constantly amazed by their natural optimism. I guess it’s my job to help keep them that way. I don’t read Seminole in class because it doesn’t cover the right history and the content might be a little too intense, but they will be the first to hear Vesuvius. I’m on the third draft of that and plan to share it with them in May…

Winter is the best time to write (if you’re from Florida and afraid of the snow, there’s not much else to do) but I’m looking forward to spring all the same. I can’t wait to throw the frisbee and watch the best left infield in history (the Bankees, one of my students called them). Outside of back to back wins at the Pac Ten Tourney, it doesn’t look like we Duck fans will get the Madness this year. Just for the record, Crystal was one of about five people in the country who picked Syracuse to win it all in her opening bracket last year.

But I digress.

Peace in the Middle East (and everywhere else) and I promise it won’t take me so long to write here again…

Tom 🙂

School starts in two days, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been more excited to start a school year! What’s up CY 6th graders? I’ve been on vacation forever, and now I’m fully charged and good to go. We’re going to have a great time in Room 25. I’m trying something new this year, giving students more control and letting them make more decisions about how and what they learn. Many teachers would cringe at the thought, but I’m ready for the ride…

As for the writing, no great strides in that department. Summer is typically my slowest production time, and this summer was no different. Who can sit inside with all that sunshine out there on the beaches and mountainsides? I took some great camping trips to Mount Saint Helens and Olympic National Park, the southern Oregon Coast, and Three Fingered Jack in the central Oregon Cascades. Pic of the Week is back in action.

With my lesson plans ready, my camping gear stowed, and this website up and running, my schedule is once again clear for writing. Today I’ll take advantage of the Labor Day holiday to continue work on Vesuvius. I’ll dust off the rough draft and get down to business. I still plan to have a solid second draft ready to share by the new year, just in time to read to my 6th graders studying ancient Roman history.

The Seminole and the Slave is still floating around in New York City and points in between. I remain optimistic that a publisher will jump on it soon. One writing accomplishment this summer was completing a point of view revision, changing the narrative from first person to third person. I like it, and Sam is still the man. In the meantime, I’ve begun exploring self-publishing options and plan to have books to sell in the spring…

Fall sure is a fine time. Cool, clear nights with Mars still up there burning red and bright, the Yankees chasing another World Series, the Ducks and Seminoles playing football on Saturdays. Life is good, but then I read in the September issue of National Geographic that three billion people, nearly half of the world’s population, struggles to live on less than two dollars a day. It says 27 million people live as slaves. The world needs fixing, and in two days I’ll meet some 6th graders who just might be the ones to do it. Peace to all the kids,

Tom 🙂

Feeling both mentally and physically exhausted after a week-long writing spree, and under the gun to pull the plug on this computer so I can finish packing for my move back to Eugene, I apologize in advance for any incoherencies or insuffiencies in this update…

First, the writing spree. I finished the rough draft of Vesuvius a few hours ago! This was a goal I set for myself earlier this year, and I’m glad I pulled it off in the nick of time. It’s amazing what a deadline can do! Here is another suggestion I give to all fiction writers: realize that the first draft of anything you write is going to need serious work, and before you fix anything, finish the first draft. Now that I have a complete story to work with, I look forward to going back and doing some serious revising. The plan is to have a solid second draft ready to share by December, so let me know if you’re interested in reading it and providing feedback. I plan to have a final draft ready to submit to publishers and agents by this time next year.

Another goal I set for myself was finding a publisher for The Seminole and the Slave. Unfortunately, I have yet to sign my name on any dotted lines. I guess a lot of that is out of my hands, but it’s a bummer nevertheless because I know a lot of you have asked for it. I’m still waiting to hear back from several publishers, including that prominent New York City house, so keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, I have some minor revisions planned for that book as well. The story will remain intact, but I’m going to play around with the point of view a little. I’ll be sending it out to a new round of agents in the fall.

This week I move back to Eugene, perhaps returning to a certain Hobbit House some of you are familiar with. I’ll be offline until July, during which time I’ll be camping out and taking photos for future Pics of the Week. Some planned trips this summer include Mount Saint Helens, the southern Oregon Coast, the central Oregon Cascades, and back up to North Cascades National Park in Washington, where Crystal will be continuing her field work.

I’ll also be gearing up for my return to Cal Young Middle School in the fall, where I’ll most likely be teaching sixth grade language arts and social studies. I couldn’t be more excited, and I’ve already begun brainstorming ideas. I’ve never taught sixth grade full time, so I’m psyched to try something new.

Well, have a great summer!


Tom 🙂

Anyone who argues that war is a good thing should automatically be considered insane. Murder is perhaps the most universally acknowledged crime in the history of mankind, yet war is the temporary acceptance of murder. To once again quote one of our country’s greatest patriots, Benjamin Franklin, “There never was a good war or a bad peace.”

The other day I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Support our troops. Oppose the war.” I couldn’t agree more. It is a grave mistake for people to equate war protest with not supporting our troops. That is nonsense. Of course we support every one of them. We want them home right away. I have no better friend in this world than Captain William Ochoa, currently flying C-5 cargo planes for the U.S. Air Force. I would lay down my life for Will without question, and I know he would do the same for me. I had the opportunity to talk with him the week before this war started. He called from an undisclosed location – “very hot and sandy” – and we talked about this issue. I expressed my feelings, and Will knew where I was coming from. We’re all square.

I am actually more proud than ever to be an American. I acknowledge with eternally gratitude the spilled blood of our soldiers, both past and present, who fought and died to give me the right to say what I want to say. That irony isn’t lost on me. I am extremely proud of Will and all of our troops who are performing so professionally under such intense circumstances. I hope they gave a medal to that officer, Colonel Hughes, who kept his cool in the chaos of that crowded street in the holy city of Najaf. Iraqi civilians were protesting our approach to their sacred mosque, and he bowed to them with his hand on his heart while withdrawing his troops. Though the loss of any innocent life can never be acceptable, I am grateful that our technology has enabled us to minimize the loss of civilians. Finally, I am especially proud of all of our women in uniform. Their distinguished service in Iraq must surely shine as a light of hope and opportunity for oppressed women around the world.

While I support our troops, I must continue to question our leaders who sent them there. I question their motives. Yes, Saddam is bad, and he runs an “evil” regime, but there are brutal dictators terrorizing people all over the world. Why are we so interested in Iraq? Everyone knows the answer to that. Do you know which Texas-based oil-services company recently got the lucrative contract to put out oil fires in Iraq? Halliburton. Do you know who retired from Halliburton with a 20 million dollar severance pay package in 2000? Vice President Dick Cheney.

I pay my taxes and I vote, so I believe that gives me the right to question the actions of my leaders. This war is costing us forty billion dollars, for starters. I don’t know how much money that is in the big picture of the American economy, but I can think of a few things American public schools could do with that money. This war has already cost us an incalculable amount of damage in international diplomacy. I’m guessing that our country is currently hated by more people than in any other time in our history. How many new anti-American terrorists will this war create?

On a lighter note, I have a suggestion for our military leaders. Instead of giving our troops those boring buzz cuts, why not go for the real warrior look and bust out some mohawks? I think it would scare the Republican Guard out of their boots. Here is a photo to demonstrate.

While not shaving my head and watching the news, I’ve been writing. I’m halfway done with the rough draft of Vesuvius, and I’m very happy with where it’s going. Here is a suggestion I give to all fiction writers: literally visualize your characters by finding a photograph or illustration of someone who fits their description. I’ve used magazines in the past, but for this project I enlisted the help of an artist friend and fellow teacher, Hal Huestis. Check out his sketches of my characters, as well as a fully revamped and remodeled Vesuvius page.

In The Seminole and the Slave news, a prominent New York City publishing house has asked to read the complete manuscript, so keep your fingers crossed!

Finally, I am very happy to announce that I recently shook hands with Tom Maloney, principal of Cal Young Middle School in Eugene, Oregon, and assured him that I will be returning there next year to resume my full time teaching career. How could I pass up the opportunity to work with some of the best kids in the world?

Peace to the planet,

Tom 🙂

Tragic events affect people differently. I believe one of the rules of grief is that everyone gets to experience it in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

I think yesterday’s loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia affected me more than most people. Why? I’ve been thinking about it…

One reason is personal and even selfish; I want to go to space. For me, space flight can’t trickle down to the masses soon enough. Anything that slows down the progress of mankind’s giant leap makes me worried about missing my chance. My vision is to be retired in the year 2030 and booking tickets on the equivalent of a cruise, only these portholes are first space shuttle windows looking out at the stars, then full size windows framing the earth from my guest room on the Orbit Resort.

Another reason I’m so sad is because there’s nothing to be angry about, as with recent events and tragedies concerning the USA. This time, the grieving process cut straight to the loss. It was hard to be in denial after a few minutes of watching the smoke streak across another clear blue sky. Then they said there was no way this one was terrorist related. It was nobody’s fault, an accident. Politics had nothing to do with it, which leads me to my next reason.

These were scientists, men and women pursuing one of humanity’s most noble aspirations, the search for truth and understanding. Also on board were spiders, flowers, cancer cells, ants, carpenter bees, fish embryos, silkworms, and rats. Scientists and astronauts aren’t in it for the money. Working for a federally funded government agency, I’m sure they each held their own political views, but I’m also pretty sure they cared more about just being able to get up there and do their thing. With their knowledge and passion to learn more, they paved the way for the rest of us. I was happy to hear NASA officials, former astronauts, and President Bush announce that the space program will go forward. Three people are living and working on the international space station right now, and it will be a great day when the next shuttle goes up to give them a ride home.

Finally, I guess I’m just sad because they seemed so likable. Michael Anderson, the African-American astronaut, came from Spokane, so the local news has run plenty of stories and interviews about him. From what people said, it’s hard to imagine a nicer guy. Of course, the fact that he was African-American is significant in itself. Add two women, one of them an Indian immigrant, throw in an Israeli whose mother survived Auschwitz, and you’ve got the makings of a real tear-jerker. In all serious, they will be missed by many, and my thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends.

I’ll sign off by paraphrasing what the Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, said in the middle of the mission, and what I have heard many others lucky enough to look down at the earth from space say: The planet is so beautiful, so peaceful, but so fragile. May all the beauty and peace from here to the heavens surround you and yours…

…and Happy Birthday to the nicest person I know, my sister Laura. Happy Birthday, Sis!!

Tom 🙂


I hope the new year finds you and yours happy and well, with 2003 promising to be the best year of your life!

I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in South Florida this holiday season, surrounded by family, friends, and plenty of sunshine. It’s hard to beat a seventy degree December day, or swimming in the ocean in January!

Apart from spending quality time with my awesome family and friends, the highlights of my vacation were two day trips I took in connection with The Seminole and the Slave. On December 28th, my old buddy Chris and I drove 250 miles up to Bushnell, Florida for the 22nd annual reenactment of Dade’s Battle, which occurred on December 28th, 1835 and is mentioned in Chapter 5 of The Seminole and the Slave. This was a great opportunity to actually see what battle in the Seminole Wars was like, and even more, to smell the smoke from the black powder rifles and hear the booming of the army’s canons. I was shooting through film faster than I ever have, using five rolls in less than a half hour!

I took the other trip by myself, borrowing my Dad’s mini-van for a photographic safari down to the Everglades. Within minutes of stepping off the pavement and onto the soggy trail in the Big Cypress National Preserve, my senses were alert to the wild beauty and real danger that surrounded me. I knew that I had to stay on my toes, that one bad move here could be hazardous to my health. I’ve hiked and backpacked through hundreds of miles of American wilderness, and the only other time I felt that nervous about the wildlife was in grizzly country. Luckily, nothing got a hold of me! By the end of the day, after also exploring Everglades National Park, I had seen over a hundred alligators, as well as two pairs of white-tailed deer and many species of beautiful birds, some on the endangered species list.

Pictures of the Everglades landscape and wildlife, as well as the Dade Battle reenactment, will be posted weekly in a new section of my website, a photo gallery found on The Seminole and the Slave page.

In related news, I’ve sent off ten proposal packages for The Seminole and the Slave to publishers, with more ready to be mailed. One way or another, this book will eventually be published and available! I’m not sure when this will happen, but I’m more convinced than ever that it will, even if I have to do it myself!

Meanwhile, work continues slowly but surely on the first draft of Vesuvius. I just blew up the mountain, and now Aurea must come to terms with what she has to do. For her, the world is coming undone. Thank God our world is still hanging in there. As always, peace to you and everyone else.

Tom 🙂

Ah, Thanksgiving. A time to reflect on what we’re thankful for…

But first, a little history on the holiday. In the fall of 1621, the English Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony (Massachusetts) were ready to celebrate, having survived their first year in the New World. Contrary to popular myth, the land wasn’t an untamed wilderness. The local inhabitants, the Wampanoag, had been living there for hundreds of years. Plentiful crops grew in orderly fields spread between 30 villages. The Wampanoag attended the Pilgrim’s feast, and the two groups enjoyed a peace that lasted until 1675, when the colonists’ encroachment on Wampanoag land led to a war with inevitable results. Today, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

What am I thankful for? First and foremost, the love and support of Crystal, my family, and my friends. They mean the world to me, and I wouldn’t be the happy, fairly well-adjusted soul I am if it wasn’t for them. Crystal is the kindest, most caring, most genuine girl I’ve ever known, and every day I spend with her is a blessing. My family has exhibited tremendous amounts of understanding over the years, always doing their best to try to figure me out, offering unconditional love and a safety net that enables me to try new tricks. My old-school friends in Florida got me through the darkest times with laughter and loud music, the high school days I hated but now look back on with the fondest memories, happy today that those bonds have never been broken. And my new crew in the Northwest, who welcomed me out of the long cold drizzle with warmth, like friends and family all in one.

I’m thankful for the kids I meet in the schools. Working now as a substitute teacher, the faith I have in our future is renewed almost daily. Before introducing myself to each new class, I always feel a little nervous. Even though I’ve been teaching for over eight years, I still wonder if the next batch of kids might match the old stereotype of the angry teenager with no respect, the apathetic youth out to get me. But it seems that every class makes me smile, usually within the first five or ten minutes. What I see in their eyes, though some students might try to hide it, is curiosity. These kids want to know and understand what’s going on out here in the world, and I am grateful I’ve been given the opportunity to share whatever I know to assist them on their journey. The kids are alright.

Finally, as indicated in the last update, I’m thankful to be an American. I don’t approve of President Bush and I don’t approve of his policies. I am fearful of the new power he was given as a result of the mid-term elections in Congress, but I AM happy that I have the right to safely announce my opinion to the world. While my intention is not for this website to be a platform for my political views, I do feel compelled to publicly announce my opposition to a potential war with Iraq on the grounds that it may very well have more to do with oil than anything else. Let’s not forget how the Bush family made their fortune down there in Texas. While I’m at it, I’d like to publicly oppose any attempt by our government to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The last Congress defeated President Bush’s attempt to do this, but he will surely try again. Why is it that a civilization as technologically advanced as ours still claims dependence on oil? We can fly to the moon and mars but we can’t figure out another way to power our cars? Hmmm….

Well, thank YOU for reading all that! But don’t worry, I haven’t lost sight of the fact that what you should really be reading are my two novels, one yet to be published and one yet to be finished. I’m working on it! Until next time, peace to you and your family, your friends and your loved ones, and to this fragile world that we all share.

Tom 🙂

I’ve chosen this day to update this section so I could publicly say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a true American hero, my Dad. Last year his birthday celebration was all but forgotten as the horrible events unfolded. The news was especially hard on him because my father is a retired New York City firefighter. Just how many smoky flights of stairs he climbed during his career I’ll never know, because he does not often talk about himself. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was in my late-twenties, that I finally got the full story on how he fell through a roof while fighting a fire in the Bronx.

So when the first tower fell a year ago today, my father immediately knew, with a horrible realization, how many firefighters must have been climbing up those stairs and ushering people to safety. I try to focus on the positive aspect of all things, and one thing I was happy to see come out of this tragedy was the new-found respect and admiration our country has focused on its true heroes, those men and women in uniform who risk their lives for us every day. Having also served in the U.S. Navy, my father is also conscious of the sacrifice those in the armed services are making at this very moment.

Of course, I remain optimistic that some day we humans might live in a world that doesn’t need men and women in uniform. To quote one of our country’s great patriots, Benjamin Franklin, “There never was a good war or a bad peace.”

While it is appropriate now to remember the thousands of innocent lives lost in the terrorist attacks of a year ago, I would ask everyone to also take a moment to continue thinking of other innocent lives taken over the past year. For example, how many thousands of innocent Americans died of gunshot wounds? How many men, women, and children died in accidents with drunk drivers? How many children died of child abuse? How many innocent people around the world died from bombs falling out of the sky? These are hard questions, and I’m sure the numbers would shock us.

As for me, I pretty much ducked out of the real world all summer and enjoyed spending two months with Crystal up in the North Cascades. (You can get the full scoop by clicking the “Choose Your Own Wilderness Adventure” link from the homepage.) Now I’m back to doing my small part for America by working with its kids, currently the really nice 9th graders at Moscow Junior High School in Moscow, Idaho. No matter what the media might tell you, teenagers are awesome, and the future of our country looks pretty good from my vantage point. I haven’t gotten much writing done since the last post, but I’m all settled into my new abode and eager to get the pen rolling. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, peace to the world…and Happy Birthday to you, Dad!

Tom 🙂


I’m out of here! This is my last post for awhile, and the “Pic of the Week” has been temporarily discontinued until I return to civilization. In a minute, I’m going to unplug my computer, pack it up, and put it in the Uhaul. Tomorrow I drive the Uhaul up to Pullman, WA, and drop off all my stuff (thanks for offering to help, Jen and Blake!). Then I return to Eugene on the Amtrak, have one last bbq with my Eugene homies on Friday the 28th (thanks for hosting, Arne and Jenna!), and finally hit the road the next morning.

I can’t wait to meet up with Crystal in North Cascades National Park! We’ve lived 500 miles apart for the past year, but now we get to spend the summer together! Crystal will be doing soil research, and I’ll be helping her out, even getting paid $10 a day! I know, easy on the exclamation marks, but I can’t help it – I’m excited! Anyway, her project (to the best of my limited knowledge on the complex subject matter) is to map the soil types in the Thunder Creek watershed. We’ll be backpacking 5 days a week and digging about 60 soil pits over the summer. Besides helping her carry the shovel and dig the pits, I’ll be taking pictures of the soil layers, so she can use them later in her papers and presentations.

I’ll also be taking pictures of the mountains, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, forests, and wildlife! I hope to put together and post some kind of virtual tour of our experience when we get back to civilization, so stay tuned. As far as my writing, the big projects (The Seminole and the Slave and Vesuvius) will be mostly put on hold for the summer, as the wilderness isn’t really conducive to my work on those. However, I do plan to write a long, lyrical poem connected with a planned prequel to The Seminole and the Slave. (My 7th grade language arts students should know what I’m talking about!) Anyway, I’m excited to go somewhere new with my writing and try something I’ve never done before. This may sound weird, but the poem is actually going to be kind of a rap. Inspired by Outkast, I’m going hip-hop!

I will not be able to access my cantwellbooks e-mail from this site over the summer, but I may have occasion to check my AOL account at a public library or internet coffee shop. Well, I hope you’re having a great summer! Enjoy the nice weather and don’t forget to play! I’ll be back in August or September. Until then, as always, peace to the world.

Tom 🙂


I’m stoked to have this website up and running! It’s been a month long process that has blown my mind on many levels. Do you know what a paradigm shift is? It’s when your whole worldview changes, when you have some big revelation about your life and you know it will affect not just you, but everyone around you.

So welcome to this new world. I look forward to making links to your sites and creating online communities together. I don’t think any of us know what these new neighborhoods will look like, but rest assured that I’ve had a glimpse and now feel the limitless possibilities for positive creativity out here.

A main purpose for this site is to get my first young adult novel, The Seminole and the Slave, out to the people. It has yet to be determined what form the book will take. As no publishers have yet approached me with a contract offer (but please feel free to do that, publishers!) I am exploring options for a second-edition self-published run, or possibly some kind of e-book (perhaps the next step in the paradigm shift). So stay tuned…

I am now a quarter of the way through the first draft of my second young adult novel, Vesuvius, but that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

As I finish up the year at Cal Young Middle School, I’m preparing to move to Pullman, Washington. I’ll be taking a year’s leave of absence next year, but I definitely plan to return to Cal Young for the 2003-04 school year. (btw, here’s a shout out to all the kids at CY! all the 7th graders, The Shroeder’s, and you too, Nathan Dickman!) Anyway, in the fall I will substitute teach and coach in the Pullman area schools, which should offer me enough free time to make good progress on my writing.

I’ll be moving out around the first of July, when I’ll drop off my stuff in Pullman and continue straight up to spend that month and more with Crystal in North Cascades National Park. Regrettably, I’ll be pulled away from maintaining this site for most of the summer. Oh well! I plan to return to civilization with many new pics of the week and stories to tell.

I guess that’s about it for now.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, especially you, Mom! And let’s not forget the great mother under our feet. Peace to the world,

Tom 🙂




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