Wednesday, February 28, 2007
This, of course, is such a depressing thing! How am I supposed to manage my pain now? Will I forever have awful leg pain episodes? Will I wake up every night in agony for the rest of my life????
There's another reason I've been depressed about this. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, part of Saturdays and Sundays are my book workdays. Book work = solitary confinement. I'm used to solitary confinement. I'm good at it. Or at least WAS. Just like something else I won't mention, people contact is something the more you get the more you want of it... at least for me. I really shouldn't go anywhere or see anyone during the day when I have a deadline. But if I have a medical REASON to leave and see PEOPLE... well... who can argue with that? It's a guilt free trip out into the world.
This may all seem pathetic to some of you but it's what I’m suffering with--pain AND now no reason to get out of the house.
Have no fear fellow readers, I've found a solution. I've joined a gym. Better yet, I'm paying for a personal trainer. I can only afford one for a month but it will be a month of getting out there!
So--am I crazy? Are there others out there like me?
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
She: So what do you do?
Me: Oh, I'm a children's book author and illustrator.
She: Oh, that's cool. So you write kid's books?
She: What books have you done?
Me: Oh, you probably wouldn't know any of them.
And that was the end of that conversation. I'm not sure why I am so lame when it comes to talking about my books to "normal" people. Over the year,I've gotten much better when it comes to the "literati"--librarians, booksellers, teachers--people whom I know have an interest in books (Note that I've said "better" not "good", a lot of kind of lame things come out of my mouth when I talk to them too); but to people whom books are not their specialty? I'm the queen of lameness.
Which is kind of backwards, now that I think about it. Because they are the people who probably are more in need of the hard sell. Teachers, librarians--they don't hold it against you if you're dork (usually), they judge you by your book--they have a basis for comparison. The average non-children's book reader (whom is only exposed to celebrity books and Harry Potter), however, is more easily swayed. A magnetic personality can inspire them with enough enthusiasm to go out and get the book, while a socially inept one probably leaves the author forgotten. Which I'm sure I was.
I did get a nice haircut, though.
Monday, February 26, 2007
This is me, and the finished illustrations for Priscilla, which has been officially delivered to the art department at Charlesbridge publishing. Hurray! Its such a strange feeling, looking over the dozen or so pieces of paper that occupied my attention for every waking moment for the past several months, and then leaving them in someone else's hands. When I come down to my studio in the morning, it takes a minute before I realize there is not a painting on my desk, burning for attention, and although its nice to have my free time back, it is a little disorienting.
Maybe one reason certain personality types are drawn towards becoming artists (or writers), is that we have the burning desire to simplify life. When a painting or manuscript becomes your focus every waking minute (and I don't mean that you work constantly- but that even when you're not working you're somehow engaged with the creative process, that some part of your brain is still mulling over what color to choose, what composition to build...), everything else gets swept aside into a less important "deal with it later" spot. And when you finish that project, it is so deeply satisfying that the surface ups and downs going on around you don't affect you as much. It is stabilizing to operate this way.
But you can't always be that involved in your work. Groceries need to be bought, floors need to be swept, and cars need to be dug out of the snow. Which for now is fine with me. I missed having a food in my fridge!
Sunday, February 25, 2007
I was wondering. How differently do you edit the various authors/illustrators you work with? Does the author's workstyle and personality enter into how you edit them? Do you look for changes in roundabout ways? ...or are you very direct? Do you ever suggest a book idea to an author?
Let's see. Although I do have a general way/style I usually edit, I would say that I do adjust my editing style depending on the author's or illustrator's work styles and personalities. For example, during much of the editing process with Libby on Blow Out the Moon, we felt comfortable enough to go over edits over the phone. I knew that Libby would not get defensive, or if she did, that she would be able to put it aside for a little while. But so far no other author has preferred to work with like this, so generally I do the standard editorial letter and edits directly on the manuscript that I discussed in my "How I Edit" post.
I think I'm pretty direct when I ask for changes, but I will very rarely say anything like, "reword it this way." Instead, I'll just comment if something is awkward or needs rewording and have the author come up with the solution. I may offer some suggestions for alternate solutions to plot or believability issues, however. Overall, I think I have a fairly light touch when I edit. Is this roundabout? I'm not sure.
And finally, do I ever suggest book ideas to authors? I'm sure I've thrown out ideas to authors before, but usually not ones that are entirely originally, instead, I think I've thrown out ideas on different ways to approach an idea they've already had themselves.
On Saturday I went to Comic Con for the first time. I was scheduled to work at my company's booth from 12:30 to 2, which basically entailed telling people about the three of our Fall 2007 middle grade and young adult ARCs we were giving away (the rest of the books we were giving away were on the adult side), Betwixt, Atherton, and the third book in James Patterson's Maximum Ride series. Then, at 1 pm Patrick McDonnell (creator of the Mutts comic strip and author/illustrator of Gift of Nothing, Art, Just Like Heaven, and the upcoming Hug Time) signed posters for an hour. It was great to see all of his fans, including many children. Everyone was so nice and friendly and excited. I loved this girl with her cat hat.
I walked the show for an hour or so after the signing, running into at one point Fuse #8, and we chatted for a while, both a bit dazed and confused. I was so tired and overwhelmed at that point, too much to see. A lot of people were dressed up, but it wasn't quite as crazy as I thought it would be, although some of the costumes were amazing. At 4 pm I went to Cecil Castelluci and Jim Rugg's signing at the DC Comics booth of The Plain Janes, said hello to agent Barry Goldblatt, and then escaped the madness. Here are some pics:
Saturday, February 24, 2007
“Are you going to write an adult novel?”
This is always said very nicely, even eagerly, or in a slightly encouraging tone – as though children’s books are training wheels for the real thing.
I thought it was just something about me – but on NPR a few days ago Katherine Paterson said that people often asked her that, too. Why do people do this? Obviously, they think it's easier to write for children -- but do they realize how insulting the question is? That it implies that people only write for kids because they aren’t good enough (yet is often implied, too -- that's where the encouraging tone comes in) to write for grown-ups?
It’s not easy to write ANYTHING good – but I don’t think the age group that you’re writing for has anything to do with a book’s difficulty. It just takes a different kind of talent, or set of interests – and if anyone doubts this, think of how few people there are who have written great children’s books AND great adult novels. I really can’t think of anyone!
The closest is probably C.S. Lewis – I at least really like That Hideous Strength and Out of the Silent Planet; but are these books as good as the Narnia books? Louisa May Alcott and E.Nesbit both wrote trashy books for grown-ups, I’ve never been able to even finish any of them, and I’ve read their kids books over and over and over.
If you think this just proves the point that kids books are easier: Thurber's adult stories make me laugh (and still are read in literature classes), but I don't think anyone would still read the book about the Princess who wanted the moon(Many Moons ) if it weren't for the great illustrations. And Dickens and Thackeray would be out of print today if their children's books were their only books.
Robert Louis Stevenson did write for adults, and actually, some of his adult stories are pretty amazing (if you like well-written, well-plotted adventure stories) – but are they as good as the best poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses? I don’t think so. If you count YA, then I can think of one person: F.Scott Fitzgerald. His Basil and Josephine stories still make me laugh out loud. I especially love the ones about the ten-year old, totally obnoxious Basil (based on Fitzgerald himself), with his best friend who – no matter how crazy and impossible Basil’s ideas were -- responded to each one with an immediate:
“Let’s do it!”
But those aren’t BOOKS. Maybe there are people who write brilliantly for both age groups that I just haven’t read. If you can think of any, please put them in the comments! And another question: what do YOU say when adults ask if you’re going to write for adults? I usually just mumble no. No child has ever asked that question, by the way: they just say “Have you written any other books?” and of course, “other books” means – for kids. As it should.
Friday, February 23, 2007
There’s a lot to see here in the land of enchanted woods, gingerbread cottages, fairy godmothers, talking wolves, little guys who know how to spin straw into gold, and slimy frogs who keep insisting they’re royalty! Wait a minute. What’s this I see? The Baba Yaga Bookstore! Imagine a little shop walking around on chicken legs. Maybe I’ll just jump over the threshold and see what’s inside.
Oh, look! Here’s a book by one of my favorite children’s poets!
VERY SHORT FAIRY TALES TO READ TOGETHER
Written by Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Michael Emberley
Published by Little, Brown
Mary Ann Hoberman, recipient of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 2003, is a master of meter and rhyme. The stories in this book are rhythmic and playful and a lot of fun to read aloud. Here’s an example from the book to give you a flavor of these tales told in two voices:
From THE THREE LITTLE PIGS
I’m Big Bad Wolf.
I’m Little Pig.
You’re very small.
You’re very big.
But now I’ve got you
In my pot.
The water’s getting
I’ll cook you up
And make a stew.
Why, that’s an awful
Thing to do.
Pig keeps Wolf in the cooking pot until he apologizes for eating Pig’s siblings. Pig then lets Wolf out of the pot and gives him a block of ice to sit on so he can cool his hindquarters. Then both characters sit down and read together:
What will you read?
A tale that’s true.
A tale about
Both me and you.
Can I read, too?
If you know how.
Of course I do.
Then let’s start now.
We’ll read Three Little Pigs
You read to me.
I’ll read to you.
This book is great from start to finish. It includes eight tales for two voices. I just wish it had been available when I was still teaching second grade. I know my students would have loved to do choral readings of the tales in this book.
Michael Emberley’s cartoon-style illustrations complement Hoberman’s lighthearted text. The facial expressions of the humans and animals really enliven their characters and add to the humor of the tales.
One thing I especially like about YOU READ TO ME, I’LL READ TO YOU is the way Hoberman ends the book by encouraging readers to read the old tales that were the inspirations for the rhyming stories in her book—as well as other fairy tales they haven’t yet read:
From THE END
And so our fairy tales
We’ve read them all.
What shall we do?
We could reread them.
Yes, we could.
That might be fun.
That might be good.
But, then again,
We could read some
Of these old tales
That these are from…
And I am pleased to tell you that the characters in this book live—and read—happily ever after!
Ooops! Crash! Oh no! I think I just cracked the dainty little glass slipper that was displayed on the bookshelf near the Cinderella stories. The slipper that was sitting next to the sign: You crack it—you wear it!
Written by Laura Whipple
Illustrated by Laura Beingessner
Published by Margaret K. McElderry
This is a book of poems told in different voices—including the voices of Cinderella, a rat, feet, Cinderella’s slipper, and the nasty stepsisters. Most of the poems do not rhyme; they are not humorous parodies. The “voices” express their thoughts and feelings. The stepmother bemoans her poor life before she married Cinderella’s father and her new husband’s weakness, the queen doubts the beautiful young maiden who “sparkled at the ball,” the other slipper feels abandoned and then repulsed and pained by all the big feet struggling to stuff themselves into it.
Here are a few excerpts from the book:
From FATHER’S GHOST
Hear my voice first.
Blinded by a cunning woman,
I was the unfortunate fool
who set the stage
for the ashes and tears in this tale.
From THE STEPSISTERS’ PROMISE
Cinderella, stir those ashes.
Cinderella, tie my sashes.
Cinderella, you’re always much too slow.
Cinderella, place these laces.
Cinderella, paint our faces.
Tonight’s the ball, but you’ll stay home, you know.
From THE OTHER SLIPPER
Each day, a tougher trial.
Heavy, ugly, big feet
pushing down on my very sole!
Oh! I shuffle with pain!
Oh! I shudder silently!
The threat of shattering!
Oh! The strain on a shoe!
Why? I demand to know why!
When will he search for my mate?
When will we step together again?
This would be an excellent book to read in conjunction with a unit of study of Cinderella stories from around the world. It could also serve as a springboard for a creative writing activity in which students are encouraged to write their own “voices from Cinderella” poems.
Laura Beingessner’s illustrations are done with a deft and delicate hand. There are several colorful two-page spreads. Most of the pictures, though, are smaller spot illustrations set against a white background. The format and size of IF THE SHOE FITS help indicate it as a book for middle readers.
Crikey! Baba Yaga just got into her mortar and went flying off over the treetops. I think I’ll put the cracked glass slipper back on the shelf, jump back over the threshold, and try to find my way home once again. Oh…look! The old witch left a pile of discarded, out of print books by her woodpile.
Hmmm…this one looks interesting.
TRAIL OF STONES
Written by Gwen Strauss
Illustrated by Anthony Browne
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
I think I’ll start by reading from the introduction.
Strauss says she began writing these poems many years ago when she was “exploring the theme of metamorphosis in fairy tales.” Anthony Browne had also been working with fairy tale themes. They both wanted to “approach fairy tales from a new perspective” and “decided to collaborate on a book in which a combination of drawings and poems would form a collection of portraits, in the hope that such a collection might open a small door into the quieter moments of transformation and reveal those dark and startling events that lie buried within the stories.”
This is definitely a book for older readers. The twelve “portrait” poems are persona poems in which fairy tale characters speak in their own voices—as in The Prince and The Waiting Wolf:
From THE PRINCE
Imagine this: we’re in the garden harvesting,
and you’re telling me how our children suckled,
Their mouths opened like dark moons.
When you speak to me like this,
I want to say everything,
And I want to put my hands on your lips.
For a long time I was blind,
Even before the thorns of roses tattered my eyes.
I was bored, handsome, a prince.
The thrill was in what I could get away with.
From THE WAITING WOLF
She will have the youngest skin
I have ever touched, her fingers unfurling
like fiddleheads in spring.
My matted fur will smell to her of forest
moss at night. She’ll wonder about my ears,
large, pointed, soft as felt,
my eyes red as her cloak,
my leather nose on her belly.
These portrait poems and Browne’s black and white illustrations in TRAIL OF STONES transport us to another dimension—a quieter, darker realm of fairy tales that few of us have ever visited.
I don’t suppose Baba Yaga will mind if I take this book. After all, she left it outside where it would get soaked in the first drenching rain. Besides…now I have this “trail of stones” to help me find my way back home.
I hope you enjoyed our visit to The Baba Yaga Bookstore as much as I. Now, before I leave this enchanted kingdom, I’d like to send you off to find a fairy tale poem—one written by Jane Yolen. Just wave your magic wand, click on the link, and you will be whisked away to Poetry 180. Then,
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Here's the topic for today:
This week I bought Jeanette Winter's book -- The Tale of Pale Male; A True Story
This week I saw the first proofs for my book - City Hawk; The Story of Pale Male
The similarities and differences are fascinating!
I have to run out the door but when I get back I'll explain so please stay tuned...
In the meantime, have any of you had a book published and seen another on the same subject? If you haven't, what would you do/feel if that happened?
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The question surprised me. Yet, in a way, looking back, I’m surprised I was surprised. It seems to be fairly par for the course that artists radically change their style, sometime a different one for each book. Meghan even posted how she felt winners of the Caldecott are oftentimes a well-known illustrator who has changed his/her style.
Because, I think we equate change with progress and courage. “It’s so brave of him/her to change his/her style like that,” someone will say, “and not stick to his/her same old way, the same old things.”
But when I hear this, I always think of the artist Giorgio Morandi, a painter we studied in school. For most of his career he painted bottles and vases. The same objects and shapes over and over again—for years and years. Each painting was beautiful, the sensitivity to light, the placement, the simplicity of his strokes. But you’d think that by, say, painting #10, he’d figure he had still life mastered, be bored and would want to move on. But he didn’t.
And I realize how admirable his dedication was; how much braver it was for him to continue to do what he believed in. Audiences thought his work was boring and mundane, yet he continued. There was something about these still lives that fascinated him. Maybe to him, to feel that he had mastered this subject matter was hubristic. Maybe to him, there was always so much more to discover.
So, even though sometimes I worry that people think I stick to the “same old thing” (as all my books seem similar), I’m reluctant to change just for change’s sake. Right now, I enjoy finding out how much there is to discover in what others might think is a narrow field. I’m not saying that I will do sixty years worth of books on Asian culture; but when my friend asked me, “Don’t you ever want to break out?” I did say, “No.”
Monday, February 19, 2007
The word police arrived at two.
With laser eyes, they scanned our pages
And locked our naughty words in cages.
Then up we cried: “You’ve taken text!
Will you remove our pictures next?”
“Your pictures?” one policeman said.
“We only take the stuff that’s read.
Your naughty words must be excised.
Let all your authors be advised
To watch their words when they compose
Their poetry…and all their prose.”
Warning given…the men in blue
Then turned to leave. They bid adieu.
We books now left with words deleted
Feel somehow, sadly, incompleted.
Who’s got a solution antidotal
For the current row o’er something scrotal?
Note: I admit to being bothered by the tone of certain comments made at some blogs regarding "The Great Scrotum Debate." Many individuals have made thoughtful comments. A number of commenters, however, have labeled people and parents as fascists and ninnies. Does this sort of talk really add anything to the debate?
Sunday, February 18, 2007
On one Saturday I grabbed my glove, my sneakers, my hat, and made the trek to the local high school for the big try-outs. As I recall, the boys weren’t as judgmental as the men were. They gave me looks—what is a GIRL doing trying out for my boy’s team?
Well, I showed them! I was picked for a team.
There is a point to this... although you’ll be surprised as to what it is.
The first day of practice was spent running laps, fielding balls, swinging a bat, oiling the glove, and so on. Although I’d tried out for pitching and could throw a strike every time, the coach said I wasn’t strong enough to throw a hard strike. So he put me in the outfield. I caught every ball. I was a good player. I blended. They forgot I was a girl. After practice the couch called us over. He went through a list of the things we needed our parents to get—new cleats, uniforms, new gloves for some kids, batting gloves, and cups.
I eagerly ran home and told my dad what I needed. When I got to the word “cup” my dad stopped me. I don’t remember him laughing (although if I were in his position I would have!). He explained to me why I didn’t need one. Boys had parts girls didn’t. Their parts needed to be protected.
Boy was I embarrassed! I never asked for a cup again.
This brings me to the book world. There was an article in the New York Times that was brought to my attention.
“With One Word, Children’s Book Sets Off Uproar
The word “scrotum” does not often appear in polite conversation. Or children’s literature, for that matter.Yet there it is on the first page of “The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature. The book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum
The inclusion of the word has shocked some school librarians, who have pledged to ban the book from elementary schools, and reopened the debate over what constitutes acceptable content in children’s books…. The book has already been banned from school libraries in a handful of states in the South, the West and the Northeast, and librarians in other schools have indicated in the online debate that they may well follow suit.”
The further down, a quote—
“I think it’s a good case of an author not realizing her audience,” said Frederick Muller, a librarian at Halsted Middle School in Newton, N.J. “If I were a third- or fourth-grade teacher, I wouldn’t want to have to explain that.”
All I have to say is consider this—kids have the same body parts as adults! They have issues to deal with too! Not everything involving the lower regions is sexual! People—get a grip! This is the 21st century! This uproar has forced me to conclude that we’ve NOT progressed as much as I’d hoped, sadly. This topic HAS gotten me to use multiple exclamation marks, so I’ll give it that.
Joyce Sidman: Poet & Scientist, Part I
Joyce Sidman: Poet & Scientist, Part II
I was most happy to serve as a member of the poetry-nominating panel. What a great experience it was to have thought-provoking discussions about children’s poetry with other bloggers who are also passionate about the subject.
Members of the poetry-nominating panel: Becky at Farm School, Sylvia at Poetry for Children, Eisha at 7-Imp, and Bruce at Wordswimmer. Susan at Chicken Spaghetti was our poetry panel coordinator.
Bruce posted a wonderful interview with Sidman, One Poet’s Process: Joyce Sidman, at Wordswimmer today.
You may want to check out Sylvia’s Poetry Friday post, Sidman Is Cybils Poetry Book Winner.
Hats off to our poetry judges!
Kelly Fineman, Wendy, Gregory K., Walter, and Jone
Saturday, February 17, 2007
These are some of the things they gave us for tea—sweet or savoury, all the little treats looked like very elegant doll’s food. The tea itself was real, loose tea (and very good too: I had Lady Londonderry), made in a china pot.
Some of the treats NOT shown in the pictures were an artichoke tart (alas, also doll-size), smoked salmon rose (the salmon was twisted into a rose shape with, I think, a spear of dill through the middle and a dollop of crème fraiche on the side), and instead of the lemon curd you see in the picture, passion fruit curd.
I had piously said that I wouldn’t eat anything before presenting – but by the time I went into the tea room to give my talk (can you guess the end of this sentence?), I was quite full and quite happy.
In the tearoom, everyone was dressed up – the little girls all wore mary janes, and some of the ladies floppy hats. Maybe because of that, maybe because the description of me and my book was so well-written and inviting (I didn’t write it!), maybe because the food was so good and the setting was so pretty, everyone was in a festive mood and smiled at me as though expecting more treats. I’d been nervous about presenting to adults and children at the same time – something I don’t usually do – but I think I got more laughs during this talk than I ever have….and at the end, one of the little girls came up to me and gave me a hug, and then all the other little girls did, too.
Okay, very nice and fun for you, Libby, but what’s the point for the rest of us? That maybe there are more places to promote our books than schools, libraries, and bookstores. Maybe we should all try to find places where our books are good fits and then set up events! There IS a connection between Blow Out the Moon and tea, so tearooms are a logical spot for that book. I bet each of us could think of places that would tie in to our books and be fun for us to visit, too….I have some ideas but I'd rather hear yours -- what are they?
Friday, February 16, 2007
I was trying to come up with something to say yesterday and then started thinking about what books I liked to look at -alone-when I was a kid.
A few came to mind.
MUD TIME AND MORE - 1979. (it must have been my parent's book first! My sister and I liked to write our names in books that weren't ours...it actually became a competition!)
I loved looking at these simple drawings and "reading" the story. I think this is fitting in light of the Caldecott winner.
Then there was this book-- THE LITTLES AND THEIR FRIENDS - 1981 (has my name on it and a "RIF" stamp)
I went hunting for the littles! I never found any, sadly.
That gets me to thinking. Could I make a wordless book? What would it be about? Does my style even lend itself to that sort of thing? What if I did nonfiction that way? That would be weird, right?
What are your favorite wordless books? There aren't that many but they're out there!
FALLING FOR RAPUNZEL
Written by Leah Wilcox
Illustrated by Lydia Monks
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons
FALLING FOR RAPUNZEL is a fractured fairy tale. It’s written in verse and is sure to tickle the funny bones of young children.
In this humorous version of the longhaired maiden who is held captive in a tower, the prince rides by on his steed one day and hears Rapunzel whining because she’s having a “bad hair day.” He thinks she’s crying to be set free. He calls to her to throw down her hair so he can come to her rescue. Alas! Rapunzel is too far away and cannot hear the prince clearly. This is when the fun begins.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, throw down your hair!”
She thought he said,
In the illustration we see the prince with a pair of pink bloomers hanging over his face…and dainty unmentionables of other colors on his horse’s head and the ground.
The prince calls to Rapunzel again:
Your curly locks!’
Rapunzel threw down dirty socks.
And so it goes.
The prince calls for her “silky tresses!” Instead he gets her silky dresses.
He calls for a rope—but gets bopped on the bean with a cantaloupe.
He tries for twine—but gets laden down with her “blue-ribbon swine.”
At this point, we see the prince grimacing. He has just about lost patience…but is doing his best to keep his temper under control.
He growled up, “Do you have a ladder?”
Rapunzel tossed out pancake batter.
The prince, dripping with batter, calls up to Rapunzel one last time. He tells her to let down her braid. Now…you know she’s not going to get it right. Not this ditzy fairy tale female. No, the braid stays up in the tower…it’s the maid she pushes out the window. The maid falls on top of the prince and knocks him unconscious. The maid revives the royal fellow. And guess what happens? The prince and the maid take an immediate shine to one another. The next time Rapunzel looks out her tower window she sees the prince and her servant riding off in the distance and thinks she finally must have “heard him right.” She is unfazed by the situation. She’s not angry that the prince has “fallen” for her maid.
In the last two-page spread, Rapunzel is shown outside on the grass greeting her blue-ribbon swine at the foot of the tower...whose back door is swung wide-open.
“I hope if they come back for more, they’ll think to knock on my back door.”
This book by Leah Wilcox is great to read aloud to young children who are familiar with the traditional version of the tale. It has a bouncy rhythm and nearly all the pairs of end rhymes work perfectly. Lydia Monks's brightly colored illustrations done in acrylic paints, paper montage, and colored pencils add to the fun of this fractured fairy tale.
More than a decade ago, I began writing a collection of humorous fairy tale poems entitled Excerpts from the Fairy Tale Files. I’ve never submitted the manuscript to a publisher—but I’ll share one of the poems with you today.
Queen Speaking to Rumpelstiltskin When He Returns to Claim Her Firstborn Child
by Elaine Magliaro
You’re back again?
I knew you’d be.
You want my baby?
Let me see:
Her dirty diapers
And changing them
Beneath a queen.
She spits up food
And likes to drool.
Too bad that she’s
Too young for school.
Every day is
Such a hassle.
We have no daycare
At the castle.
She cries all night.
I get no rest.
No wonder I
Don’t look my best!
I’m so exhausted
Although I love
My daughter Ann,
I’ll keep my promise,
Now…here’s the cream
For diaper rash.
And here’s the baby.
HAPPY POETRY FRIDAY!
Thursday, February 15, 2007
I'm working on my book about astronauts. So, what are some things you want to know about them? Please, tell me! Perhaps I'll answer them in the book.
When I come up with something more insightful to share, I'll do so.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Once again, I want to thank Anne Boles Levy of Book Buds and Kelly Herold of Big A, little a for establishing these kidlit blogger book awards. I really enjoyed serving as a member of the poetry-nominating panel.
Once upon a time (about 7 years ago) there was a beautiful young lady named Linda. Linda was not only beautiful, but also an illustrator of children's books (I know, "Linda?" you're asking, "I thought you said this story was about you." Don't worry; you'll see where this story is going!)
Young Linda ventured out into the world and found an opportunity to publish her first book Bird Tales. She was quite excited about her book and told all of her friends about it. One of her friends was a young lady named Grace (who was also very beautiful, by the way).
Grace, being a good friend, made sure there were always plenty of copies of Bird Tales available at the local bookstore (where she worked).
One day, while Grace was at the bookstore, a gallant, handsome young man appeared. As he entered the bookstore, he asked, "Excuse me, but do you have the book Bird Tales?" Grace, of course, jumped up, grabbed the book (she knew exactly where it was) and brought it to the handsome young man.
"My friend illustrated this book," Grace said.
"Really?" the handsome man said, "MY friend illustrated this book."
And so, Grace and the handsome male customer, discovering they had the same friend--Linda--(the main character of this story), suspected that they might have other things in common as well. So Grace and Robert (the handsome man) exchanged phone numbers, got to know each other and fell in love. Eventually, Robert asked Grace to marry him. She said yes, which is why you are reading this story.
P.S. Linda lived happily ever after.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
PIERRE IN LOVE
Written by Sara Pennypacker
Pictures by Petra Mathers
Published by Orchard Books/Scholastic
PIERRE IN LOVE is a perfect book to read on Valentine’s Day because it’s all about L-O-V-E!
Pierre, the main character, is secretly in love with Catherine. He can think of nothing else. He can’t eat. His face melts “into a loopy smile” every time he hears her name. He daydreams of rescuing her from danger. He yearns to express his love for her.
Catherine, the object of his amorous feelings, is a ballet teacher. She is “exquisite, an angel of grace and beauty.” Pierre doesn’t have the courage to tell his beloved how he feels. He thinks he is not good enough for her because he is just an ordinary fisherman.
Pierre gathers treasures he finds when he is out at sea: a beautiful unbroken shell; a bouquet of wild roses from a small island; a piece of driftwood; a heart-shaped wreath of sea grass; and even a gourmet treat—a dozen fresh oysters. He plans to present them as tokens of his affection to the elegant lady of his heart.
But each time he brings one of the presents to Catherine, he chickens out and leaves it on her doorstep. Catherine is touched…and intrigued. Who could be leaving her these treasures from the sea? When she can stand the suspense no longer, she decides to hide in her lilac bushes one night to find out the identity of the mysterious gift giver. When Catherine leaps “gracefully from a bush," she surprises Pierre.
An excerpt from the book:
Pierre was so stunned he could only stare, his mouth hanging open like a haddock’s. This close to Catherine, he felt all bloopy and love-swoggled. (Don’t you just love that language?)
Pierre finally summons the courage to tell Catherine he loves her. And just when you’re expecting the I-love-you-too-Pierre-happily-ever-after-smoochy-ending, she informs him that as much as she appreciates his gifts she cannot return his feelings. Her heart belongs to someone else! YEOUCH! As hard as the news hits our love-struck protagonist, he tells Catherine he is glad that she is happy.
Well, tie me down and lash me with a bunch of wet tagliatelle noodles if Catherine doesn’t declare that she is lovesick over this fellow. She says she can’t bring herself to tell him because “he’s an adventurer, bold and brave, and I’m only an ordinary ballet teacher.” All she has been able to do is paint pictures of her secret love, night after night.
Even though Pierre is crushed and heartbroken, he sleeps well that night. He feels better the next morning and is able to eat. He realizes that keeping hold of his secret was what had made him feel so miserable. On his way to the dock that morning, he stops by Catherine’s studio with one more gift: some advice. He encourages her to tell her secret love about her feelings for him: “Feelings are like tides—you can’t hold them back!”
It soon comes to pass that readers—and Catherine—find out the identity of the bold adventurer hero that she has only admired from a distance. Yep…it’s Pierre. And so…we actually do have a happy fairy tale ending--just a little later than expected.
To be sure, PIERRE IN LOVE is a sweet story. Here are some of the things I like most about the book: Sara Pennypacker’s use of vocabulary and language, the gentle humor, the two likable lovesick characters, and the art of Petra Mathers. Mathers captures the atmosphere of the setting and the tone of the story with her illustrations. I especially like her two-page spread of Pierre in his boat chugging back into his small seacoast village. Though her folk-art style illustrations are uncluttered, some contain interesting little details—a copy of Moby Dick on Pierre’s night table and a poster of “Some Bony Fishes” on his bedroom wall.
PIERRE IN LOVE is a fine book to read aloud—especially on Valentine’s Day!
Will U B mine 2-morrow?
Monday, February 12, 2007
I facilitated two sessions of critiques, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Each editor and agent was assigned a table of eight or nine writers. Each writer would have 12 minutes to read a 500-word excerpt and get critiqued by me and the other writers. I had the person to the left read for the person to their right, so as to have someone unfamiliar with the work read it aloud, and for the most part, everyone was an excellent reader, and it helped us identify passages and words that perhaps weren't working. Part of me really likes these impromptu critiques, as they require no preparation, but part of me is terrified of them. It takes a lot of concentration, and at times, through no fault of the writing itself, I would find myself drifting and have to bring myself back so that I could comment intelligently. I also always worry if the writers won't respect my comments, if I'll say something stupid. But overall, I felt that everyone had helpful and constructive things to say, and it was nice to be able to take the focus off myself by having everyone else comment as well. I thought the writers at both of my sessions were professional and kind, and the time flew by, and I hope everyone found the sessions helpful.
The day also included a morning panel on "How to Receive and Evaluate Criticism," and then ended with a panel on Revision (two of my fellow book group members, Tara Weikum and Julie Strauss-Gabel, were panelists), and then a surprise keynote by Newbery-Award winner Linda Sue Park--she gave a warm and touching speech.
At 6 pm the VIP cocktail party began. I had attended for the first time last year, and was amazed at just how many people there I knew, and this year was no different. Fellow editors, agents, authors including three I'm working with (Gary Golio, Ellen Yeomans, and Wendy Mass), familiar faces from Kindling Words, and was surprised to run into my buddy Jarrett Krosoczka and his fiance--I hadn't known they would be attending. It was after 7:30 before I knew it, and I headed over to Bar 9 for Fuse#8's Kidlit Drink Night. I was a tiny bit apprehensive because I had recommended the bar, and hoped people liked it, but everyone seemed to have a great time, and thank goodness Fuse reserved the back room, because it was a great turnout, so crowded. Most of the usual crowd was in attendance, including all but one Longstocking. As usual, Meghan and I were there to represent the Blue Rose Girls. I met bloggers MotherReader and Oz and Ends. More familiar faces from Kindling Words were there, as well as some old SCBWI friends. Agent Barry Goldblatt was there with a client or two (incidentally, my very first solo agent lunch was with Barry), a good Class of 2K7 contigency was in attendance, and Linda Sue Park made a late appearance, as did Caldecott-Medal winner David Diaz. A hardcore group of Kidlit drinkers stayed past midnight. I'd call it a smashing success. And yes, I did eat tater tots. I did remember to take some pictures, although not as many as I had planned on taking. One of the 2K7ers was taking pics, so I'm sure more will surface. But as promised, here's a sampling:
2k7er (can anyone identify her? I don't know her name), Rebecca Stead, Karen Romano Young, Donna Freitas
MotherReader, me, Oz and Ends
Saturday, February 10, 2007
I also highly recommend PBS's version of the Little Princess. Don't watch that newer one!
Friday, February 09, 2007
Greg at GottaBook has a food poem about prunes for us today. I think the post title should be "Uh...Oh...GottaGo!"
In anticipation of Valentine's Day, Nancy at Journey Woman gives us a poem by Alan Dugan entitled Love Song: I and Thou.
At 7-Imp, Jules and Eisha are in love mode, too, with their Poetry Friday: Valentine Edition. Yep, they've got a poem for us entitled Falling in Love Is Like Owning a Dog.
In her The Poetry of Friday post at A Year of Reading, Mary Lee presents an original acrostic poem about...what else?...Friday!
Tricia has a terrific post, The Poetry of Science, at The Miss Rumphius Effect. She includes an excellent list of recommended poetry books.
If you're looking for some love poetry for kids, scoot on over to Poetry for Children. Sylvia has a list of poetry books she recommends and a poem by Ralph Fletcher entitled Owl Pellets.
Don't forget to check out Sylvia's post from last week, Connecting Poetry and Picture Books.
Susan Taylor Brown has posted a parcel of short thematic poems at Wordy Girls for us to read this frosty February Friday.
Emily at Whimsy Books has a book review of and an excerpt from LOVE, RUBY VALENTINE in her Love and a Little Anxiety post.
Adrienne gives us a review of WINGS FROM WORDS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF POEMS, which was selected and illustrated by Tasha Tudor. This book, published in 1964, sounds like a forgotten treasure.At Propernoun, Mindy has a review of Diane Siebert's TOUR AMERICA, one of the five Cybils poetry book finalists.
Poetry Friday Goes to the Dogs at The Kiddosphere! If you don't believe me--check it out. Actually, Jennifer Schultz has written a review of GOOD DOG, a collection of poems written from the perspective of dogs of different breeds.Christine suggests we go North South to The Simple and the Ordinary for an original collaborative poem written by her, Pippi, and Harry.
In For the Snark Was a Boojum, Kelly Fineman joins the Poetry Friday posters with a review of THE ANNOTATED HUNTING OF THE SNARK: THE DEFINITIVE EDITION.
The Old Coot, a retired sailor, has written an original Fib for us today.
Would "The Scholar" ever disappoint us bloggers on Poetry Friday? Ever? Never!!! Michele has Horatius, a poem written by Thomas Babbington Macaulay.
If you're in the mood for a review of a great book of haiku written by Nikki Grimes, check out the Pocket Full of Poems post at A Wrung Sponge.
And speaking of haiku, I've written reviews of three haiku poetry books that are great for younger children at my Happy Haiku to You post here at Blue Rose Girls.
Little Willow gives us F. Scott Fitzgerald's On a Play Twice Seen for our poetic reading pleasure today.
How about an old familiar children's poem written by Vachel Lindsay? Lisa Harrison gives us The Moon's the North Wind's Cooky at Passionately Curious.
Check out Susan's The Hallowed Heights of Chicken Spaghetti. She's got a post about 17 things Odysseus isn't allowed to do anymore. Sorry...my mythtake. I got it wrong. You'll just have to go on over to Chicken Spaghetti to find out what she has for us this Poetry Friday!
Last Friday when I stopped by my favorite children’s bookshop, the owner lent me some F&G’s of books that will be published this spring. She mentioned that there was a nice little collection of haiku poems in the batch she gave me. That collection, today and today: haiku by Issa, was illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Now, I’m a true admirer of Karas’s style of illustrating. I especially like his illustrations in ATLANTIC; MUNCHA, MUNCHA, MUNCHA; and CAR WASH. But…a book of poetry? “Would his style of art enhance a collection of haiku for young children?” I wondered. Well…I am happy to tell you I was pleasantly surprised with Karas’s concept for this book and impressed with his selection of poems and with his illustrations.
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Published by Scholastic (2007)
In his note to readers on the verso of the title page, Karas explains that he selected and arranged eighteen of Issa’s haiku “to tell the story of a year in the life of an imaginary family.” I think this story telling approach works well. As we read through the book from beginning to end, we experience the passage of the four seasons with three generations of a loving family. We see members of the family enjoying the weather and appreciating the beauty of nature with each other and privately.
I’ll describe one illustration from each of the seasons to give you a sense of the art in the book. I will also include three of Issa’s haiku that Karas selected for today and today.
A Spring Illustration
An old man, the grandfather, sits under a blossoming cherry tree peeling an orange.
The haiku that appears on the page with this picture reads…
Just being alive!
—miraculous to be in
cherry blossom shadows!
A Summer Illustration
The father, son, and grandfather lean on a fence and gaze over green fields at dawn.
An Autumn Illustration
Two children, a girl and a boy, are shown offering chrysanthemums to their grandfather as he sits near the bare cherry tree in their yard, which is blanketed with golden leaves.
And the haiku that accompanies this picture reads…
How well we have slept
to feel so fresh this morning,
A Winter Illustration
The parents and children visit a grave as snowflakes fall over a cemetery.
As simple as that—
spring has finally arrived
with a pale blue sky
In the accompanying illustration, the granddaughter sits in the chair under the blossoming cherry tree—as her grandfather had done the previous spring.
For his art in today and today, Karas combined a number of different materials: rice paper, wood plank, pencil, and paint. There’s a simplicity to the illustrations. They are not busy; they do not overwhelm the haiku. There’s also a softness to the colors and the shapes. Like the haiku poems included in the book, each of Karas’s illustrations captures the essence of a single moment in time.
Karas portrays a kind of innocence and sweetness in today and today. This is a little gem of a poetry book that is perfect for younger children—and is one that may help them to develop an appreciation for haiku. I am definitely ordering a copy of this book for myself.
MORE BOOKS OF HAIKU POETRY FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
Written by Celeste Davidson Mannis
Illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
Published by Viking (2002)
This is a nice combination of a counting book and a haiku poetry book. Mannis, the author, adheres to the traditional Japanese haiku of seventeen syllables in her poems about counting animals and objects in a Japanese garden. Hartung, the illustrator, takes us along with a young kimono-clad girl as she counts her way through the garden.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
Hoping for some crumbs,
they nibble at my fingers.
Nine glittering koi.
In the illustration for this haiku, Hartung paints a close-up of a young girl lying next to a fishpond in a Japanese garden. She is looking at nine koi—a kind of fish “admired for their colorful appearance and hardiness.”
In one of the loveliest illustrations in the book, the artist paints the same young girl sleeping on a grassy mound near the pond. Eight pink lotus flowers bloom on their floating leaves in the foreground. On the opposite page we read the following poem:
What do flowers dream?
Adrift on eight pond pillows,
Pink-cheeked blossoms rest.
Hartung’s art, done in oil glazes, is striking and a fine complement to Mannis’s text. The objects to be counted are clearly visible. In the final two-page spread, the artist includes all the objects and animals the girl has counted in the garden: one leaf, two carved temple dogs, three bonsai, four birds, five roofs on a pagoda, six wooden sandals, seven “sweet surprises” on a lacquered tray, eight pink lotus flowers, nine koi fish, and ten stone lanterns.
The haiku poems are printed on the right-hand pages of the book in large black type with the appropriate numerals placed above them. At the bottom of the poem pages, in small print, Mannis includes information about such things as bonsai, the Shinto religion, the pagoda, lotus flowers, and koi fish.
All in all, ONE LEAF RIDES THE WIND is an attractive package that lends itself well to a number of uses in an early childhood classroom.
DON’T STEP ON THE SKY: A HANDFUL OF HAIKU
Written by Miriam Chaikin
Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
Published by Henry Holt (2002)
In this book, Chaikin does not adhere to the traditional haiku that is written in three lines, with seventeen syllables. But the author does include an “About the Poems in This Book” at the beginning of DON’T STEP ON THE SKY. She explains to readers about traditional haiku and about how the rules for writing this form of poetry have become more flexible in modern times. She does stress, however, that the haiku should “capture a moving experience in a few words.” The book includes haiku about birds and bugs, flowers and weather.
Here are a few examples of poems from the book:
alive for only a day.
Take good care of yourself.
A blade of grass
pushes through cement.
After the rain
Don’t step on the sky.
Nakata’s winsome watercolor illustrations celebrate the joy of a little girl as she plays with her kitten, admires the quick growth of a bamboo tree that has grown taller than she, jumps over a rushing brook, and imagines the raindrops on her window at night as “a gallery of diamonds.” The artist used a delicate hand in painting her fluid illustrations. There are no bold black lines defining shapes—no thick solid colors giving the illustrations a sense of weight on the page. Rather, the paintings have a light, airy appearance that complements the childlike wonder expressed in Chaikin’s haiku.
DON’T STEP ON THE SKY would make a nice introduction to haiku for children. It’s perfect for spring reading.
snowmen are sprouting up like
Thursday, February 08, 2007
I’m deep into my research for book number one million and four. It’s actually for book number 8, I believe, but it may as well be that first number. I’m exhausted! Doing nonfiction is really odd. I always end up finding out more than I want to know. For example, did you know that astronauts put on diapers before trying on the space suit? Yup. That’s because it takes so long to put on/take off. Then there’s the fact that in space they drink their own pee… or rather filtered pee turned into water. Then there’s the good ol’ camera at the bottom of the toilet to help the ‘nauts aim so that the undesirables don’t float off. That’s what I’m going to call the astronauts from now on—the ‘nauts. Oh boy, I’m losing my mind again. This is happening quicker than it should!"
Anyhow, I'm weary to divulge a new idea to you all because I don't want anyone stealing it!... but then again, who would?
Ever heard of Topsy the Elephant? No? Yes? Well, it's a sad story. Thomas Edison, worshiped by many, electrocuted the circus animal. What's equally bad is that he filmed it, which you can see if you put it into YouTube. What's also bad is that he electrocuted many animals--puppies, cats, and horses... He also introduced the new form of the death penalty--electrocutions are better than hangings, aren't they?
Yes, dear readers, Edison had a dark side. Topsy's life story is also sad. I won't bother explaining it all because I want to make it into a book!
A book? you ask. For children? Huh?
Well, this would be a graphic novel (a different sort with maybe one or two images per page and lacking the speech bubbles) and it would either be for teens or adults.
Perhaps I'm crazy but I find this story to be fascinating. It needs to get out there! So, if any editors are reading this and don't think I’m completely nuts, send me an email! I want to sell this idea.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
I'm not sure why I've never celebrated my book publications. Perhaps it was the hustle and bustle of life and schedules, matched with bare bones practicality. "Isn't a book party rather indulgent?" one half of my brain would say to the other, "Do you really need to spend your time and money on that?" And if that wasn't convincing, insecurities filled in the cracks, "Who would you invite anyway? Would they even come? They'd all think you were just showing off."
Well, no more. I think it's about time I celebrated some of the things I'm happy about in my life, and that includes my books. My next book, Lissy's Friends, is scheduled to be released on the same day as my birthday (May 17th) and it has a doll to boot. I think I should have a party. I really want it to be fun, special, unusual and memorable. Does anyone have any creative ideas?
And you'll come too, right?
Monday, February 05, 2007
My presentation covered a little about where I grew up and why I became an artist, then showed the kids some art and talked about technique. The event really focused on process (these kids know a LOT about books!)... after my talk everyone took part in an art activity based around how I make my illustrations. See below a kiddo's gorgeous version of Francine, from my book Francine's Day. Note the very sophisticated "cross-hatching" technique used on the shirt!
The kid below is the cutest. After I did a demonstration of how I draw Francine, the kids were invited to come up and color her in. This one could barely reach but was very creative!
All in all a great event, and a needed break from my deadline inspired hibernation!
Asked pointedly by Anne Carroll Moore, the New York Public Library's powerful superintendent of work with children, what qualified her (Ursula), a nonlibrarian, nonteacher, nonparent, and noncollege graduate to publish children's books, Nordstrom just as pointedly replied, "Well, I am a former child, and I haven't forgotten a thing."
I'm realizing more and more that this is true for me. And I've been seeing a pattern lately where many things have reminded me of my childhood. A friend recently sent me two mix-CDs she and her husband compiled of 80s ballads that really took me back. Some of the songs included were "One More Try" by Timmy T, "Toy Soldiers" by Martika, "Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera, and "Lost in Your Eyes" by Debbie Gibson. Each song took me back to junior high and high school, each song held a memory of my childhood for me.
And then I've been thinking about New York and how much I love it here and feel at home here, and I realize that part of the reason is that I've found places to go and activities to do that bring me back to my childhood.
For example, one of my favorite after work bars in the city is Bar 9, where the next Kid's Lit Drinks night is taking place on Friday. And the biggest reason why I love it so? They have tater tots on the menu.
Another example is Barcade in Williamsburg, a bar with old-school arcade games, such as Rampage, Tetris, Ms. Pacman, Digdug, Gauntlet, Tapper, etc., all for the original price of 25 cents, unlike the fancy new arcades such as Dave and Busters and the ESPN Zone in Times Square. I wasn't a huge video game player as a kid, but I did a fair share of playing, and many an hour was spent watching my older brother and others play.
And speaking of Tetris, last Thursday I went to Nerd Nite, a monthly event held at a bar in the East Village where two speakers talk for 20 minutes on various nerdy topics. Friday's topics were neurogenesis, and Tetris. Tetris! A true Tetris scholar enlightened us on the history of the game. And as I was somewhat of a Tetris scholar myself in high school and college, I quite enjoyed the talk.
And last but not least, two Wednesdays ago I went roller skating at the Roxy for a friend's birthday. Remember back when you had your birthday party at a roller rink? I remember going around and around, spending quarters on the holographic stickers in the vending machine, doing the Hokey Pokey in the middle of the rink. This wasn't exactly the same--no stickers, not Hokey Pokey--but it was the same old-school roller skates with the rubber stop in the front. It was the same going around and around the rink to dance music. And it was the same thrill--the awkwardness the first time you go out on the floor, before you get your sea legs. The breeze of speed on your face and through your hair. The adrenaline of going fast while not quite knowing how to stop. Running into your friends as you went around.
I've grown up, for sure. I live an adult life with adult problems and responsibilities. But I remember the child I was, the shyness, the exuberance, the worries, the carefreeness. Viva the inner child!