Monday, November 8, 2010

Across the World Tour: Angela Ackerman's African Adventure

What Is All This?

To celebrate the launch of Across the Universe on 1-11-11, we're going Across the World with guest posts of adventures from all over the world! This is all a part of the Across the World Tour. First, read the world adventure below. Then, click through to the adventurer's blog to find a letter.

Why a letter? Because the letters--when unscrambled--form a password. And the password opens up the secret page (LOOK for it above). And on the secret page is lots of goodies--secret information about the origins of the book, hidden Easter eggs, and...a entry form to win a prize of a signed ARC of Across the Universe, star swag, and MORE.

Today's Adventurer

If you're a writer, chances are you've visited Angela Ackerman's blog, The Bookshelf Muse, better known for having an extensive collection of Thesuari. There's the Emotion Thesaurus, the Color, Textures, and Shapes Thesaurus, a Symbolism Thesaurus (my personal fave) and now Angela's working on developing the Setting Thesaurus. Every writer should check this hugely wonderful (and free!) resource out.

Angela's represented by rockstar agent Jill Corcoran at the Herman Agency, and (in her brilliant words) "writes on the Dark and Mysterious Side of Chapter Book, Middle Grade, and YA."

Angela's African Adventure
A year ago, my husband and I took stock of our lives, and as we did, a realization struck: our boys, 14 and 12, were growing up! It hit us hard. When did this happen? Where did the years go since the days of pirate-themed birthday parties and tucking teeth under the pillow for the tooth fairy? For the first time, we began to really understand just how precious the next few years would be.

One thing our family has always treasured is travel. But to date, our trips were the usual destinations--Canada, the US, Mexico. I really wanted us to experience something meaningful and life-changing together. So, this August, we embarked on a trip to the most meaningful destination I could think of: Africa.

Between planes and layovers, it took us 27 hours to get to our first destination: Arusha, Tanzania. The land was wide open and beautiful, with Massai tribes herding their cattle, Africans tending fields of maize and beans near their mud-and-stick houses, and of course, some of the most incredible wildlife in the world.

I've written for years, yet I'm at a loss at how to describe Africa. How do I articulate the feeling inside at spotting a giraffe in the distance, puffs of dry soil lifting off his hooves as he searches for the tender leaves of an Acacia tree? Or to come upon two dozen elephants as they root through the grasses and scrub, the babies too young to feed and so they mimic their elders, waving branches around in their trunks?

In Tanzania's unfenced Wildlife Parks, we saw massive herds of Wildebeests and Zebras collectively graze, tails swishing and eyes open for danger. Skittish impalas and gazelles clustered close by, trusting in their fleet legs to escape quickly if needed. As a group, they would make their way down to the water's edge, always alert, always watching for movement in the golden grass. Despite the incredible heat, these animals will only risk drinking once a day. Here at the water's edge where hooves sink in thick, sticky mud, they are vulnerable. It is here that the roaming lions will strike.

And as we watched from the safety of our jeeps, one did. The lioness' lean form emerged from the dry grass in a fluid, deadly leap. The herd bolted, their cries of warning filling the air. And amid the dust and the stampeding bodies came a shrieking cry that cut off short. The lioness was successful, bringing down a wildebeest.

This experience was only one of so many. We saw flamingos in the thousands. Hippos. Baobab trees. Hartebeests. Vultures. Eight-foot high termite mounds. Jackals. Hyenas. Dik-diks. We climbed through the rain forest of Mount Kilimanjaro, ascending to the base camp. We were invited into the dung hut homes of the Massai, and welcomed by a village hanging on the edge of poverty. We had a playful troop of baboons drop half-eaten fruit onto our jeep from their tree. We slept in permanent tents with the sound of the wilds all around us, and played with children who were captivated by their reflections in our mirrored sunglasses and at the sight of themselves displayed on our digital cameras. We visited a school and witnessed the heartbreak of one of Africa's many orphanages.

Life changing? Yes. Unforgettable? Yes. This was an adventure of epic proportion, and such an honor to see it not only through my own eyes, but through the eyes of my sons. This trip was all I had hoped for and more. It's something we'll always have, a shared experience we'll all look back on, even after my boys finish their growing and move into their own lives.

My eldest brought his video camera with him and throughout the post are videos of our trip. Some of it is a little herky-jerky from being bumped inside the jeep, and because the roads were at times a bit rocky. Our guide called it a 'African Massage.' These will give you a small peek into some of the wonders we experienced, so enjoy!
Go Across the Blogosphere!
The adventure's not over yet! Go to Angela's site to find the first letter in the password to the secret page. Collect all the letters in the first two weeks of November for a chance to win a signed ARC, star-swag, and pin-buttons!

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