Thursday, March 6, 2014

What could have been

Because I'm thinking about Harriet the Spy a lot this year, I recently re-read Suzuki Beane, a book (published in 1961) about a girl who lives on Bleecker Street with her too-cool-for school parents (Suzuki, unfortunately, DOES have to go to school). Written by Sandra Scoppettone, the book was illustrated by Louise Fitzhugh (you'll happily recognize the style). If you haven't experienced this book, find a way to read it. (It's always nice to be reminded that people bravely took children's books to unconventional places long before any of us were writing.) I found several places where the book is referred to as a satire of Elouise. I'm not convinced.

I also found this:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a well-lit path and plenty of company in 2014 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Five minutes in Greenland

Aningaaq is the name of a short film created as a companion to the much-better-known Gravity. It shows the people on the other side of a distress call that Sandra Bullock's character makes. She reaches a family in Greenland, and although she can't speak the language, there are a few moments of connection, as you'll see if you watch the movie:

Aningaaq (via the New York Times' Carpetbagger)

What mesmerizes me is the setting. While writing my first novel I spent a lot of time trying to understand what the landscape of Greenland would really feel like. I read books, looked at photographs, and interviewed scientists who had spent time there, and I still managed to get things wrong - for instance, I carefully researched timetables for sunrise and sundown, but failed to appreciate that during some months "sundown" means that the sun dips just below the horizon, so that it doesn't actually get completely dark, as I had written it. (How did I learn this? A sixth grader pointed it out to me during a school visit. He had been to Iceland.)

Warning: While the film includes a lovely shot of a team of Greenland's working dogs, there is also a brief but somber storyline involving one of them.

And here's the website for that first book of mine, First Light:

Here in the United States, the next twenty days are the darkest of the year. Wherever you are, I'm wishing you light.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Red Balloon

I recently learned that The Red Balloon, a photographic picture book I spent a whole lot of time looking at as a child, was actually published as a tie-in to a short, Oscar-winning movie from the 1950s. (This will not be news to many. Somehow I missed it.)

from the nearly-silent film by Albert Lamorisse

The book is a collection of stills from the movie. It also includes words, but I have no recollection of them from childhood, because the photographs did everything. To me, this book was beautiful, and a deeply emotional reading experience.

I won't tell you the story if you don't know it - it won't sound as good as it is. It's about trust, and love, and loss. If you have recently suffered the loss of a pet, this probably isn't the time to read it.

I just watched the movie, and loved it for many reasons. But I can't say that, had I seen it as a child, it would have meant more to me than the book did. The necessary jumps from picture to picture were full of feeling for me - my own feelings, because that's all I had to fill those spaces.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Is it always like this?

Summer ends, and suddenly it's as if I'm staring down the end of the year. (Thanksgivukah is right around the corner!)

This fall was pretty busy with a trip to Dallas middle schools, the Boston Book Festival, and - last week - a trip to London to talk with kids, librarians and booksellers.

Dallas included:

1) A library talk with very special swag:

Gorgeous AND delicious mini bundts 

Tried to save a few of these at home, but it's futile to hide cookies from a teenager.

2) Wonderful and smart Texan 5th graders and middle schoolers (No pictures. After submitting to the background check required by Texas public schools, I had a strong feeling that photos were not encouraged).

3) Dinner with the lovely Dr. Rose Brock (Yeah, I said DOCTOR. Yay, Rose!).

My husband asked why they served a hot dog with the steak. (It was a carrot.)

In Boston . . .

1) My hotel treated me nicely.
They also noted that if I drank the bottled water,
three dollars would be added to my "portfolio"

2) I got to talk with Jack Gantos and Kate DiCamillo. Too excited to take a picture.

3) I had a fun dinner with writers Jacqueline Davies and Wendy Mass. Too tired and happy to take a picture.

And then I went to London,

Where I had a wonderful high tea . . .
and other adventures . . .

with my friend Kristin,

visited The (one and only) Guardian
where these appealing (victimized?) pigs
watch over the lobby,
was blown away by the size and beauty of this window display
on the South Bank at Foyles,
(which was conceived, approved, and designed by
these two incredible people at Andersen Press),  
visited kids at a school decorated with 1920s tile
(it used to be the children's ward in a hospital), 
shared lunch with some pretty masterful 7/8 students
(they serve and clear without ever dropping
 the thread of the conversation),
marveled at the new library in Birmingham
(now biggest in Europe)

and rode first class back to London,
where I had to say goodbye.
The driver who took me to Heathrow chatted with me the whole time about New York City politics, discussing Bloomberg and the upcoming mayoral election in detail before shifting to national U.S. politics, Obama, healthcare policy, and the recent government shutdown. He had never even been to the US.

So that was my fall travel. Obviously, I feel pretty lucky.

Also this fall . . .

I gave my editor, Wendy Lamb, a chunk of my work-in-progress, and made some difficult but healthy decisions about how to move forward with it. There are still a number of big question marks.

So, other than a few local school visits (doing fewer and fewer of these), I'll be at my desk.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


   Summer is like a plate of pancakes. . .

   Gone faster than you thought possible.

Happy fall, people! I've been writing, and doing a little traveling, and getting everyone past the annual speed bump known as "back to school." I'm deep into new-book territory, and I'm trying to cook more often (though my seventh-grader made those pancakes), and I'm contemplating the purchase of a coffee maker (I use a small pour-over filter, but when you want nine, I mean three, cups in a row, it's a pain to make one at a time).

The kitten has grown:

He has begun to bring me presents, such as live mice (a nice country present) and waterbugs (a nice city present). If anyone knows how to say "no, thank you" in cat, please let me know.

I have a few trips and events coming up (look right for details), but the rest of this year will be, I hope (and it is a humble kind of hoping), about finishing this draft.

More soon. Soonish.