Coming June 7, 2016

Finally, my rat book will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

And my novel will be out in paperback.


Upward Bound!

One of the most rewarding things I've done recently was to jump in at the last minute to teach the English portion of a summer course for Upward Bound. These kids, mostly from central Washington, amazed and delighted me. This is what the future looks like. It is bright. (Look closely and you'll see Helen surrounded by her new friends.)


And on to the next book...

I'm so pleased that after thinking about this project for nine years, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers will be publishing it.

Now I just have to get some writing done.

Note: This fabulous photo was taken by Dutch photographer Ellen Van Deelen. Her work with rats is amazing.


Helena, MT, may be even cooler than Missoula

Sharing perspectives: Diners discuss topics with experts at dinner hosted by Helena Education Foundation

Rats, Rachel Toor argued, are the best pets anyone can have.
Which is why the main character of her novel, “On the Road to Find Out,” had one as a pet. It's a side note to running and college admission, the main themes of the book, which Toor wrote about to ease the stress of college applications and to encourage young men and women to find a passion, running or otherwise.
The latter themes were what drew six people to pay $65 to eat three courses with Toor. The rats perhaps lost some, but luckily most talk of long tails and feral tendencies came between the salad and the entree.
On Wednesday night, over 300 people had the chance to speak with fascinating and accomplished people over a meal at the Great Conversations dinner, put on by the Helena Education Foundation.
The event featured 38 different tables, with speakers covering subjects ranging from crime in the Bakken to grizzly bear recovery in Montana to regenerative medicine. Six to eight diners shared the table with each expert and talked about whatever topics arose.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris led a discussion on the role of courts in the U.S. just hours after news that he struck down Montana’s same-sex marriage ban hit the media. Morris, who has attended the event at least three times, keeps coming back to support the education in Helena -- the cause behind the whole evening.
At the beginning of the night, HEF Executive Director Lisa Cordingley recognized the great educators who were awarded with free tickets to the event. Each of them received a plaque inscribed with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, “Teaching, may I say, is the noblest profession of all in a democracy.”
At one of the tables, Dick Stafford told stories from his time defending democracy.
Stafford enlisted in the Navy when he was just 15, and ended up storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
“We thought it was going to be a piece of cake,” Stafford said. The beaches had been hammered with artillery and bombs, and the soldiers hitting the beach were expecting a battered enemy when they arrived.
Stafford was later injured while he and a friend shot a .30 caliber machine gun at Nazi planes flying overhead.
“I knew the eye was gone when I felt the fluid running down my face,” Stafford said.
Jim Shea has attended the event since he moved to Helena in 2005, switching between leading discussions to listening.
“It’s just a good kind of relaxed conversation” Shea said.
Conversation between people of such varied backgrounds talking on a wide range of topics, Shea added.
At Toor’s table, mothers with children getting ready to apply to universities sat next to students still attending Carroll College.
Kathy Shea has one daughter in the journalism program at the University of Montana, and another daughter who is a senior in high school still applying to universities.
Shea said the process is much more difficult with her second daughter, who wants to be a dermatologist and is considering programs on the East and West coasts. She has no interest in Montana.
“It’s been a really stressful three months,” Shea said.
Gabby Basterrechea and Megan Adams both spoke from their viewpoint, telling the moms the importance of supporting their daughters but also giving them freedom.
Toor, who spent years as an admissions officer at Duke University, told the parents that being from Montana when applying to competitive far-off schools is quite the advantage.
She said it’s crucial to write about the aspects of life in your home state that admission officers at far-off universities may find exotic. It’ll make an application stand out.
Many questions were posed at the table and many were not answered, just discussed. But there was one topic that most participants seemed to be in favor of or against.
“I definitely can say I’m not a rat person. Freak me out, creepy crawly,” Adams said.


Rodeo-ing for the Library

At a fundraiser for the Eastern Washington University--and rodeo team, I rode the bull. I earned the fancy silver and gold belt buckle at a Ride and Tie Championship. I would not win one for bull riding. Seconds after this was taken, I was on my back. Fortunately I didn't have to worry about getting stomped. The guy had no feet.



New gig: I am now an ambassador for Skirt Sports, and will be the Queen of the Thirteener, blogging and beating the drum that a half marathon isn't half of anything. Here's my first post.