Sunday, April 29, 2007


On Thursday afternoon, my company packed up our offices and left the Time & Life Building forever (as tenants). I've been in mourning for the past month or so. Not for our floor, which to be honest, was falling apart--it was scheduled to be renovated about a year ago, but the sale came through and the renovation was cancelled, of course. Not for my office, even though I'll be moving into a cubicle (the offices are apparently nicer, but also smaller). Not for no more free Time Inc. magazines (no more People and Entertainment Weekly!). Not even for no more Time & Life cafeteria. I'll miss all that, but what I'm really in mourning for my commute. I've walked to work every morning through Central Park for over two years (my route is highlighted here), and I've cherished it. Every morning, rain or shine or snow, I've walk down The Mall, and it's an incredibly calming, beautiful way to start each day.

I could never predict what I'd encounter. Here's a picture of a fog on The Pond from a year ago:

And a snowy day picture:

Earlier this month I savored seeing a swan on The Pond:

and then the next day saw two raccoons in a tree in The Mall:

On Thursday morning I made sure to leave the office early to savor my walk. It was the perfect morning.
I made sure to stop and smell the flowers.
My new commute will be walking down 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Lexington. Not exactly the most beautiful walk, but I'll have to adapt. And I'll have to get to Central Park as much as I can on weekend.

Last week was spent purging my office, trying to cut down on paperwork, considering that we'll have less storage. It was a trip down memory lane, finding papers and cards and art samples and looking through old book files and correspondences. It's hard for me to throw things away. I always think that someday I'll wish I still had the item. Classic pack rat reasoning, I know. But I'm not so down on myself after reading A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman. A few bloggers were talking about this topic a while ago, because there was a NY Times article about it. One of my favorite analogies in the book is about the organizer who used the example of how much more quickly someone can find a specific card in a deck when it's organized. However, if you took into account the time it takes to organize that deck, it isn't worth it anymore. And furthermore, what use is a deck of organized cards? You have the shuffle them to play a game. I know this is simplistic, but I like it. And anyway, I think I'd work better in an office that looks like this:
than an office that looks like this:
Of course, it's all about balance, and I certainly occasionally run into the problem where my mess is so overwhelming that I find it hard to find things. But in general, I know where things are in my cluttered desk, so I'm going to stop giving myself a hard time about my mess. It's my perfect mess.

We go into the new office today at noon, and today will be spent unpacking. We've only seen artist renderings and layouts so far, so I'm looking forward to seeing our new home. Pictures of the new place to come!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Can I have one?

This has come up many times in my life as an author and a few times here in the comments on this blog: people asking authors for (free) copies of their books.

I always feel awkward when this happens: saying "I have to buy the books, just like you" is not a sentence that comes easily. In fact I don't think I have ever said it. But the fact is that authors usually get ten (10) free copies and that's it.

If a stranger asks in email I can explain fairly person it's harder and if someone I know slightly offers to BUY a book from me (me, personally) I feel even more awkward! What I usually do in that case is give them one and ask them to buy one and give it to a school or a child they know...wimpy, I know! What do other people say?

My bravest (or rudest) moment in these situations: I remember when Blow Out the Moon first came out, the guy who owned the local grocery store asked me (several times, I might add) for a copy.....the question really annoyed me and I wondered what he would say if I asked for a free chicken or something. Needless to say I never did - though once when I did a (free) visit at a library, a private library for VERY RICH PEOPLE, and a child asked her mother to buy a book and the mother said no, I did say that the book cost less than a manicure.

I wish I could say that this rich mother with perfect nails instantly saw the error of her ways and bought a book on the spot....and, okay, fine, there are times in my life when I'd rather have a manicure than a book. But I'd never go into a nail salon and ask for a free manicure. Why do people think it's okay to ask authors for free books? Are books THAT worthless to the world at large?

PS The illustration is from the delightful THIS IS JUST TO SAY by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski and reviewed here by Elaine and on my personal blog, too.

Friday, April 27, 2007


A Funny Children’s Poem for Spring

The Worm by Ralph Bergengren was one of my favorite poems to recite to children after spring had arrived each year when I was still teaching.

Here’s how The Worm begins:

When the earth is turned in spring
The worms are fat as anything.

And birds come flying all around
To eat the worms right off the ground.

They like the worms as much as I
Like bread and milk and apple pie…

Go to this page at the website of the Poetry Foundation to read the rest of this humorous verse.

NOTE: The Worm is a good poem to use to show children examples of couplets. It can be found in THE RANDOM HOUSE BOOK OF POETRY FOR CHILDREN.

National Poetry Month at Infoplease

There are lots of links at this site to all manner of things related to poetry—including quotes by poets on poetry, poetry quizzes and crosswords, and lists of U. S. and English Poets Laureate.

At Wild Rose Reader

A Poem a Day #21: Giraffe
A Poem a Day #22: Spring Rain
A Poem a Day #23: Crinkle, Crinkle, My Old Face
A Poem a Day #24: Jack and June (A Nursery Rhyme Parody)
A Poem a Day #25: Beetle (A Haiku)
A Poem a Day #26: Yellow Days
A Poem a Day #27: Cool Pool
Here Is a Poem About…#1
Here Is a Poem About…#1 (Part 2)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? #1 (Guess right and you’re invited to be my guest at a reading council dinner that will be held at the gorgeous Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on May 23rd.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

signing books

I know, this is post number 3... but I just had a thought.

I can't stand signing books. I don't mind doing it when it's for a stranger because all I have to do is sign my name and draw a little picture... but when it's for someone I know I always groan (on the inside of course). The reason is that I WANT to write something meaningful! When I'm put on the spot my brain shuts down and I can't come up with anything too great. Then there's the spelling problem. I'm a bad speller! God forbid I spell a word wrong!

Do any of you other authors have this problem or is it just me? I think it's as bad as asking for a thank you card or happy birthday card but wanting it on the spot. Who could do that?


a cover in the making

So lazy time is over. I'm now working on the artwork for my astronaut book. Hopefully some of you may have noticed that I usually hand letter the fonts for the covers of my books. I did this with Show Dog, Aliens, Mona Lisa, Strong Man, and now for Astronauts. It's not guaranteed that this font will be used but I'm pretty happy with it so I hope so!

(the final cover may or may not look like this!)

This time I'm painting the font separately but for all my other books I’ve painted it on the artwork. This is a risky thing for a lot of reasons. Suppose the publisher doesn't like the font? Then what? Suppose I screw it up? Then I have to repaint the whole cover! It's a lot of pressure but the reason I do it is because i like the font to blend. I want it to be part of the art, not just sitting on it. For Astronauts there's a chance the font won't be the color that I would have painted it (I'd paint it white if I had to pick a color) so that's why it's not a big deal to letter it separately. Of course I need to make sure it'll work, though... so while working on it I placed it over the artwork.

I think the point of me sharing this is (although I admit I’m not always sure what my point is!) that when I do a book the entire design is important to me. A lot of illustrators leave aspects up to the designer but not me. The great thing about working with certain publishers/designers is that the process can be collaborative. We will talk things over—the font, the layout, etc. That’s important to me and I’m thankful to be included in the process! I think the best covers and the best books are done this way.


all about me

I've got something I'm trying to get done today (went to bed at 5!) so although I'm going to try to post, I can't promise it. I know, I know, I've ruined so many lives... so, so many.

Anyway, Seven Impossible Things has put up an interview on me. I must say that I'm quite impressed with what they're doing. They have so many great interviews up! I'm also impressed by their research. Go check out the site if you haven't yet.

We'll see if I can post something insightful or irrelevant today. Stay tuned...


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

can you make a living?

It might be because tax season just ended or because I had to buy a new car, but I've been really money-focused lately. So, when a person I just met at an event asked me bluntly, "Can you really make a living doing what you do?" I cringed.

Somehow, the profession of children's books (for all that we practitioners and book lovers spout about its importance) seems to always come down to this question in the general non-book public. I never assume to ask anyone from a waiter to a dentist that question, yet something about children's books seem to arouse a curiousity that cannot be contained.

The truth is when I hear the question, my inferiority complex rears its ugly head. Because, to me, the implication is that the answer is no. And suddenly, I see that our jobs, our careers and our passions are seen as just sweet little hobbies to amuse us while our spouses bring home the real money. Not that I'm knocking spouses that bring home the money (kudos for those that do); it's just that I feel it belittles what we do and what we accomplish.

Because you CAN make a living off of children's books. It's not impossible. I'm proof of it. Maybe it's not in the way they think (school visits are an important factor for me) and maybe it's not a life of luxury (I'm not anywhere near rivaling the Queen of England); but I get by--as do we all(and if not yet, will).

And furthermore, I can honestly say I love what I do. And everyone I know in this industry says that exact same thing. I don't know any other profession that can boast that. That, in itself, has got to be worth many a Christmas bonus.

When I was in art school, I remember specifically one of my teachers saying, "Well, yes, children's illustration is nice. But there's NO WAY you can make a living off of it." Because of that sentence, I tried for years to do work that would be more marketable for editorial or advertising purposes. I kept trying to do work I thought would sell, not work I wanted to do. And you know what? I couldn't scrape by.

It was only when I finally focused on what I loved, children's books, that I was finally able to make a living.

So what did I say to the stranger that asked me the question? Like I said, first I cringed, but then I saw his middle-school aged daughter next to him, waiting for my answer with bated breath. "Yes," I said, and I looked at her, "And you can too."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Friendship in work

Sorry if I've seemed a bit out of touch lately, I've been on vacation since last Friday to SF and now Seattle, and haven't had as much internet time as I thought I would. But as my last two BRG posts have been abbreviated, I was determined to write a post of some substance this week. I still have a lot of topics I need to write about, but for now, as I sit in the beautiful home of author Justina Chen Headley (Nothing But the Truth [and a few white lies]), I'm thinking about my friendships with the authors I work with. This may or may not tie into the whole coziness debate, which I'll be honest about and say that I haven't really been able to read carefully and can't comment on.

I don't think it's a surprise to readers of this blog that I'm close friends with many of the authors I work with. But in case it's unclear, except for Grace, I did not know any of the authors I edit before I worked with them on a professional level. Even fellow BRG Libby I met after she submitted her manuscript to me (which I'll make clear when I continue my "How I Know" series).

But it's true, I choose to be friendly with the authors and illustrators I work with. On this vacation to SF and Seattle--yes, vacation--I've chosen to meet socially with illustrator LeUyen Pham (Whose Toes Are Those and Whose Knees Are These by Jabari Asim), author Sean Beaudoin (Going Nowhere Faster), several West Coast agents, and now Justina Chen Headley. I've stayed in the homes of many of the authors I work with. I discuss my personal life with them, and want to hear about theirs. I know this can be dangerous--there was a PW column a while back about an editor who was close with an author who ended up leaving her for another publisher, and that in effect ended their friendship. I'd like to think that my friendships with "my" authors extend beyond business and book contracts, but I also know that you never know. As I've experienced, when it comes to negotiating contracts, dealing with money, marketing and publicity issues, editing, etc, the friendship can be strained. It's hard to not take things personally on both my end and the author's end. But the truth is, I don't know how to work differently, and despite some tough moments throughout my career, I still don't want to. And I haven't lost a friendship yet, for which I'm grateful.

Recently a friend posed the question: work to live or live to work? My first reaction was to say neither, and then I settled on "work to live--duh" because I don't want my work to be the primary focus of my life. But the truth is, it often is, especially since I blur the line between my professional life and personal life so often, and especially since children's books really are my passion. The truth is, if I love your writing, your art, I will most likely also love you. The rational part of me knows that I'm walking a dangerous line, that I may well be burned in the future, but as the saying goes, it's better to have loved and lost...this is how I choose to work and play, and I feel blessed to count many of the authors I work with as my dear friends.

Now, no doubt someone observing from afar might disapprove, might have the impression that I only work with friends, might complain about the coziness factor. But what can or should I do about this? To a certain extent, I don't want to change who I am, how I work. I'm also friends with my assistant, with my boss. Is this frowned upon as well? There are pros and cons. I wonder--what do you authors and illustrators think? And editors? Is there a line that should not be crossed?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thoughts on Reviewers

Someone just won the Pulitzer prize for his restaurant reviews....on NPR he said that once when he didn't like a dish, he ate it 17 times -- until he could see the point of it – and then wrote his review.

I am not bothered when people don’t like my book (plenty of people don't, many aren’t interested in how a child 40 years ago viewed the world) but I am enormously bothered when a reviewer makes no effort to understand a book – ANY book, not just mine.

Reviewers I admire try to understand what a writer is doing (what the artistic purpose of the work is, as Sound and Sense puts it) and then analyze how well the author has achieved that purpose. Sometimes they share their own experiences, opinions, and biases, sometimes they don’t: that’s up to them. But they do try to understand the book.

Reviewers I don’t respect judge not the book the author has written but the book they wish the author had written....they start with their idea of what kind of book they want to read, then fault the book for not being that. And if MY opinion isn’t enough for you –Anthony Powell, author of A Dance to the Music of Time and for many years the head of the Times Literary Supplement, said the same thing (more elegantly), adding that this is what MOST reviewers do.

I get even more worked up when reviewers are just plain MEAN, haven’t read much, or seem to be reviewing with the intention of finding snide things to say…. And I actually think that children's book bloggers are less apt to be like this than reviewers in adult newspapers and magazines. People blog about middle-grade books because they love those books – and kids; they know kids and they know books. (In my opinion, someone who reviews children’s books should know and love both.

Most kidlit bloggers only post positive reviews; and this, I think, is also a good thing, for writers and readers. I read reviews, as Grace does, to find the hidden gems; I don’t need to read about all the big flashy zircons. And chances are, if a reviewer likes a book, she understands it. But to me, as an author and a reader, it is the understanding that counts.

Blow Out the Moon's very first reviewer understood what I was trying to do and say so perfectly that I started to cry when I heard what she’d written. I was also astonished: I had been trying so hard to write the book that I’d never thought about what it would feel like to have someone understand what I was saying. Alvina read it out loud on the phone and we both said (over and over – it was also HER first):
“She got it!”

And that was what really mattered: she got it. Of course I was glad that she loved the book, but it meant even more that she understood exactly what I was trying to say. Thank you, Education Oasis – and Booklist – and all the children and adults since who have written to me and about me showing that you got it, too. …and thanks to the reviewers who didn’t find it interesting and thus didn’t review it! Good call. And this is also my answer to the coziness criticism: I'm guessing that there are many bloggers out there who know and like specific authors but not their books. Their response is simple and ethical: they don't review them.

Friday, April 20, 2007



The Sixth Annual Poetry Institute for Educators will be held at Boston University from July 16-20, 2007
Application Deadline: May 14, 2007
Read about the 2007 institute here.

NOTE: I participated in the first poetry institute, which was held in 2001. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I got to meet other teachers and school administrators who shared my passion for poetry. We discussed poetry with award-winning poets like Robert Pinsky, a former US Poet Laureate, Mark Doty, David Ferry, and Rosanna Warren. We educators worked in groups (elementary, middle school, and high school) to develop poetry lessons and favorite poem activities for teachers. I still keep in touch with one of the teachers I met at Boston University that summer. We meet several times a year to share and critique each other’s poetry.

You can find Favorite Poem Poetry Lesson Plans here.

You can read a summary of a poetry research project I conducted in my second grade classroom in 1993 here.

A Favorite Poem: On the last day of the 2001 institute, participants were invited to share favorite poems or lessons developed by their groups during the week. I chose to share Naomi Shihab Nye’s Valentine for Ernest Mann. It expresses my feelings about poetry better than I could ever hope to do.


A Poem a Day #14: Snake Soliloquy (A Mask Poem)
A Poem a Day #15: Blue Whale’s Boast (A Mask Poem)
A Poem a Day #16: Just a Scentimental Guy (A Mask Poem)
A Poem a Day #17: Unicorn (An Acrostic Poem)
A Poem a Day #18: Lucky Mary (A Nursery Rhyme Parody)
A Poem a Day #19: Humpty Dumpty on the Hot Seat (A Nursery Rhyme Parody)
A Poem a Day #20: Grizzly Bear (A Mask Poem)
Sunday Brunch with Janet Wong & Company
Interview with Douglas Florian
I Am Looking for a Poem About...#1

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm part of the problem...

Well, even though I should be writing my new novel, I've gotten sucked into reading all the debate on coziness and blogger book reviews. I wasn't going to comment on it, as I'm very late to the party and, hey, I don't review books. But as an author who has occasionally sent a review copy to book bloggers, I felt twinges of concern. I guess I'm part of the problem.

From what I'm gathering, there's worry that if an author sends a book directly to a book blogger that he/she is somehow inducing their way into a good review. This is such a concern that when BookBuds posted her ethics policy which initially stated that review copies come from Publishers; I immediately read it as: books will come from big non-personal publishers only, not friendly authors (which is not how Book Buds meant it). In a way it makes sense--it keeps business business and avoids possible personal contact with authors--it makes blog reviews more like print reviews. It's a policy that could not only help solve the the coziness issue, it would temper any expectations the author may have if they sent to a reviewr directly.

But, I've never thought because I personally mailed a book that I was entitled to a good review. Just like how if I am friends with editors, I don't expect them to publish everything I write. It's a business, some things work for people, some things don't.

All I really thought was, now I KNOW the reviewer will see the book. I completely understand if it's not liked there's probably not going to be a review. If you didn't like it and don't post a review on it, I'm fine with that. I wish you had liked it, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. All I wanted to do was give my book a chance.

And it is a chance I feel obligated to achieve for myself. Publicity people at publishers are busy. The books I write are not "lead list," Usually publicity does not have the time or concern to send my books to all the avenues that I see available. I've learned that if I really want something (a tour, a poster, a party), I should do it on my own. The truth is mid-list authors usually get lost next to the big names of the world. Book blogs have been a wonderful source for non-name authors to have their otherwise forgotten books recognized. If bloggers close their door to authors sending copies, it just becomes another division between the big and small. We know you will get a copy of Mo Willems' new book. Ours? Maybe, maybe not.

One of the things I love about book blogs is how they reveal hidden gems, books that I've never heard but sound fantastic. Will this fear of "coziness" lead to these gems remaining hidden?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

how did that happen?

I may or may not have mentioned this but I'm doing a talk at the NYPL this Thursday. That's right folks, you get to hear me be insane in person! Okay, let's hope I don't come across as TOO insane. Taxes this week have created some drama for me and it's still going--yes, it's the 17th and no I haven't filed!

Anyway, my tax insanity and current minor shoulder injury thanks to my new gym obsession (MUST work out 2hrs X5 days) has distracted me from the fact that I"m supposed to be planning for a talk. So here I am at almost 3am finally getting around to thinking about it.

First things first. I don't know what i"m going to say, as usual. This makes things interesting. One thing I will talk about--

That's right, trolls. I'll be talking about trolls. No no, I'm really serious. I will show this image at my talk--I promise! You'll have to wait to see how I incorporate it (i'm not sure myself yet). I think this will be fun. I'll show a few more random images and you all can guess how they'll fit into my talk too! Won't that be fun? Yes, it surely will. Just nod your head... I can picture my friends right now NOT nodding their heads but rather raising their eyebrows in disapproval. Well don't! The trolls are staying in.

Anyway, what was my point? Oh boy, I got off track. Ah yes, "how did that happen?" So I grabbed all my books just now to think about what to talk about and that's when that thought popped into my head. I stared long and hard at the one and ONLY author photo of me on book #1. My first thought was--wow, I was 23. My second thought was--wow, I'm not 23... or 24... or 25... or 26... aaaa! I'm almost 30. First thought--how did that happen? Then I looked at the pile of books and thought--how did THAT happen? How did I become a semi-established (albeit insane) author? How did I make so many books? Where has the time gone?

I don't know the answer to any of that. Perhaps you do. I must go now and prepare for the talk that may end up being much like this blog post--rambling and odd. There will be trolls.

yours truly,
meghan aka gloria

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TLA: Just Plain Fun

Last Thursday, I spoke at the Texas Library Association Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Laura Tillotson of Booklinks and Sylvia Vardell kindly invited me to participate in their talk Just Plain Fun:Books for Families to Enjoy session. I, of course, jumped at the chance as I've never had the honor of speaking at one of these big conferences before.

Which is probably why I was not very nervous about my speech. Over the years, I've gotten fairly comfortable with public speaking. I've done so many school visits and speeches that I am now able to speak in complete sentences in front of people (well, most of the time). However, most of my presentations are in venues like libraries and with groups like this:

So I was in for a little bit of a shock when at TLA, the audience looked like THIS:

Yikes! That threw me for a little bit of a loop. But that lovely Southern hospitality that people talk about also applies to Texans because the audience was so warm I felt as if I were speaking to a roomful of friends. Also, Laura and Sylvia were pros, their part of the program was stellar so I felt pretty confident that the audience would at least felt they got their money's worth from them.

And after my speech, the conference was, like our program title, just plain fun. I met wonderful librarians, including Heather Jankowski the librarian who brought Robert's Snow into her Houston School last year (what she did was really amazing, please take a look). I also signed books, (mainly The Year of the Dog as it was on the Bluebonnet List! Yippee!) and got to see some great upcoming titles (my new favorites include Yuyi Morale's Little Night, Piano Piano by David Cali and Hiromi's Hands by Lynne Barasch).

I also got to meet some fellow bloggers! It is strange, yet wonderful, to meet people who read my blog and whose blogs I read. It's kind of like you already know each other, even though you've just met. Some blogger and listserve people I ran into briefly include Cynthia Leitich Smith of THE Cynsations(perhaps the first blog I ever read), her handsome husband Greg Leitich Smith, Leda Schubert and Patricia McMahon. I also chatted for a while with Camille before realizing that she was BookMoot!:

And I met Chris Barton of Bartography. Recently, his blog was driving me crazy with curiosity as he has decided to keep his mysterious "SVT" book classified from the blogging world. Lucky for me, I have connections and threatened his editor with revealing her life-long secrets unless she gave me the goods. I was glad that I could tell him in person that it was only under extreme duress and torture that she gave it up.

And I'll keep it secret too...or will I? Hey, I might have just lost out on a prime opportunity, think of the damage I could've done...blackmail...secret auction...Hmm, too bad the conference is now over and I am back home, far away from Texas.

The interviews continue

Just a note: my interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast is now up! You can click here to read it. Thanks Jules and Eisha! Those ladies really know how to do an interview right.

Sorry for the short post today friends. Its a cold, rainy day here in Boston, and I need to get cracking on revisions to a story before the weather forces me to nap on the couch all afternoon...

Monday, April 16, 2007

The city of hills

Sorry for another abbreviated post--I thought I would have more free time and more computer time on my vacation, but of course that is not the case. I'm in San Francisco right now on a mixture of vacation and work (but mostly vacation, I hope). On Friday night I attended author Sean Beaudoin's book launch party for his debut YA novel GOING NOWHERE FASTER (the book is hilarious, witty, and sharp, and has already received two starred reviews), and later this week am meeting with a few West Coast agents. I'll write more about that later.

I'm happy to report that I've already sat in one cafe for a good length of time so far, with I hope many more to come this week. I'm reading an adult book for once--A PERFECT MESS--and am enjoying it.

And with that, I have to go...more later, I hope!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Foundation for Children's Books Presents...

Conversations with... Author/Illustrator Series

Speaker: Tony DiTerlizzi
: Vanderslice Hall at Boston College
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Time: 7:30 p.m.

Quoting from the FCB website:

Tony DiTerlizzi is a wildly imaginative children’s book creator—both illustrating and writing a wide range of books. His spooky picture book The Spider and the Fly won the 2003 Caldecott Honor Medal. He is also the co-creator and illustrator of The Spiderwick Chronicles, a series launched in 2003 that introduced a world of faeries, trolls and goblins to eager readers worldwide. His latest books are an alphabet book G is for One Gzonk and The Care and Feeding of Sprites.

Moderator: Megan Lambert, Literature and Outreach Coordinator at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and reviewer and writer for several children's literature magazines.

For further information, visit the website of The Foundation for Children’s Books.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The Blue Rose Girls all came for Easter – Linda arrived with a basket of eggs and a grey egg carton filled with pansies and ribbons and pastel candies. I wish I had taken a picture of her smiling and holding them out to us -- the basket was draped with cloth napkinds just the right colors and there were 24 beautiful eggs. I know because we hunted for them later.

Luckily, I am pretty sure Alvina captured everything, including husbands and boyfriends and our friend Amiko and Grace’s yellow-topped carrot (for Easter) cupcakes and the apartment Alvina herself helped clean and set up for the party … everything except maybe how hard we all laughed at some of the stories because she was laughing too hard herself to take pictures. It seemed in the spirit of Easter to me for Robert to tell us about someone who had invited him up for a study date - when he arrived, she was draped on the couch in red silk lingerie. This was maybe what prompted the discussion on RISD and social skills -- and I know it was what made Anna say,
"Never mind dating or conversation -- she just put on her underwear and waited to see what would happen."

All over Mystic, there are trees with Easter eggs – real Easter eggs, eggs people have colored themselves – hanging from them on long strings. One lady blows eggs all year so she will have enough at Easter to give a big party. All the neighborhood kids come and paint eggs – and then their parents hang them in their own yards.

I’ve never lived in a place where people celebrate so much: we have six parades a year – I’m especially looking forward to Hallowe’en, when all the children march in their costumes. And thinking about holidays, and reading Grace’s wonderful new novel The Year of the Rat (with its Moon Festival and other rituals), made me think how good it is to celebrate holidays together – holidays for the changing seasons (like eggs for spring and fertility and new beginnings and possibilities and breaking out of your shell and just the plain beauty of bright yellow and white – you could go on and on!) and the occasions that are common to everyone in a culture like the 4th of July.

As a single person living in a city (and perhaps with some vestiges of adolescent notions of coolness) I rarely celebrated holidays. Some holidays I already always spend with the same people. But now I want to celebrate MORE --maybe spending Easter together each year could become a BRG tradition, with our own (and, when people have them, our children's) made-up rituals as well as classics like eggs. That is one of the fun things about celebrations -- merging what is common to a culture with your own made-up rituals, in a celebration both of the occasion and the people with whom you celebrate it.

That is the REAL end of the post, but I can’t resist adding that in England in the Middle Ages the church was very clever about incorporating pagan celebrations into religious occasions – not just fertility & Easter and the solstice & Christmas; but weird holidays and saints days like: baking pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and having may poles and queens of the May on May 1 and boys cutting switches and then running around chasing the girls– I forget what that was for, Saint Swithin’s Day? But the point is that they had these OFTEN: by one calculation, there was a Saints Day every week – and no one was allowed to work on the day of the holiday or the half day before it. Once a week would be too much – but a few times a year (or at least for Easter): let’s all celebrate together!

Friday, April 13, 2007



For this Poetry Friday I have a poem that was written by one of my favorite adult poets, Wislawa Szymborska. Szymborska was the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996. The poem I selected to share is entitled The Joy of Writing. I felt it was a most appropriate poem choice for me at this time because I have committed myself to posting an original poem at Wild Rose Reader every day during National Poetry Month.

by Wislawa Szymborska

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?

For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence - this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word "woods."

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they'll never let her get away.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

Biography of Wislawa Szymborska

Szymborska’s Nobel Lecture: The Poet and the World. (If you like poetry, you will definitely want to read this lecture.)


Check out the following blogs during the month of April

GottaBook: Gregory K. is posting an original poem every day of April.

Poetry for Children: Sylvia Vardell has a bunch of super poetry posts for National Poetry Month.

A Wrung Sponge: Cloudscome has compiled a wonderful collection of original haiku poetry and gorgeous photographs that express the elemental beauty of nature.


Here are links to some of the original poems I have for you at Wild Rose Reader


My Space: If you’d like to take a peek at the library/office where I keep all my children’s books and write my blogs and poems, check out my post Where I Work.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

aliens videos

YouTube has really excited me lately. That's why I'm making a video page for ALIENS. On it you will find such things as - an the Orson Welles aftermath interview, H.G Wells's book on tape, War of the Worlds lego version, a Simpsons version of Welles's broadcast, and more! There's some really cool stuff so check it out. I'm not done so not all the links are working. Stay tuned!

I also promise to put up my ALIENS audio version soon (yeah, I said that 6 months ago).

On a different topic--
I love Grace's post about art school. I was SO nervous to talk in class. In fact, a lot of teachers didn't give me the A I deserved because they said I didn't participate. Some kids thought I was a snob because I didn't talk. Little did they know I was dying of fear! Being in NYC has sucked some of the fear out of me... but I still have a long way to go.

More on that later. I must run to an appointment!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

social skills

The girls and I had a couple of laughs this weekend reminiscing about our times in art school. The one conclusion which we all agreed upon was that art school does not teach one social skills. In fact, if anything it seriously impairs one’s ability to have a normal conversation. At our art school, parties consisted of dark rooms with people leaning against the walls staring at the floor in silence.

This is why it is fairly extraordinary that we’ve all somehow reintegrated into normal society and, much more, created careers in children’s books. The one thing none of us realized in art school was how much public speaking would play a part in our work. I thought I’d spend my days alone in my studio, creating my art in a safe cocoon. School visits, conferences, booksigning events— those happenings were far from my mind.

Which is why, as I prepare to go to the Texas Library Association conference tomorrow, I’ve realized how much of a miracle the transformation of my life really is. I now do about forty school visits a year, have dinner with strangers and even throw my own parties (which will not be in a dark room and full of awkward silence, I promise)! Perhaps I’m not the most witty or most remarkable conversationalist (I will never be a stand-up comic), but the fact that I can now speak in intelligible sentences is an accomplishment I’m quite proud of. It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of meeting a new person filled me with dread and speaking in front of a crowd would make me one step away from suicidal.

This leaves me to say this: for any of you who dread school visits, talking about your work, or meeting people in general—YOU CAN DO IT! If I can do it, anyone can. If you want any pointers and you’re at TLA, just come up and ask me. I might even answer you back.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What makes a studio?

So my boyfriend and I have decided to buy in Boston, one of the priciest real estate markets out there, where the endless debate of space vs. location looms. I have thus become obsessed with looking up condos online and figuring out how to set up a studio... how small a workspace can I really manage in? What about how seperate a work space is from your living space, does anyone out there have their studio in a loft? Whats that like? Would it be worth it to get a fancier living space if my workspace is smaller or darker? What do I really need around me while I work, and what is is just wasting space? Better to have more space, or natural light?

Right now I have a sweet, private little studio with 4 windows that cast fantastic natural light and I love it. Of course I've dreamed of long stretches of tables where I could lay out my paintings... though I fear city living might never give me that.

Sometimes I get super picky about where I can be productive and get ideas, the kind of space that breeds inspiration. But maybe finding the perfect spot is just another form of procrastination? Once I am rolling with an idea, I barely notice my surroundings anyways...

This weekend when I visited with Libby we were discussing how her sunny yellow apartment has made her so productive, she even unknowingly sat in the southeast corner to write, which is good feng shui. How much does your space influence your productivity?

Seven Impossible Things interview

It's been a fun, packed weekend once again, and this one included another fabulous trip to Mystic to visit Libby for a Blue Rose Girls Easter celebration, including not one, but TWO Easter egg hunts. But I didn't get back to NY till late last night and even though I have a lot of things I want to blog about (I was asked to write about this Library Preview from the editor's point of view, I have a bunch of Spring books that are out now that I'd like to talk about, and I also want to continue my "How I Know" series...), I'm a little too tired right now. I'll try to write more later today or this week, but for now I'll leave you with my Seven Impossible Things to Do Before Breakfast interview which was just posted today.

Go here.

Thanks Eisha and Jules! That was fun.

Friday, April 06, 2007



Last Sunday, I launched my solo blog Wild Rose Reader. I will be posting most of my blog articles there from now on—but I will still be writing for Blue Rose Girls now and again. We’d like to keep up the Poetry Friday tradition at BRG.

At Wild Rose Reader, I will be writing about more than poetry. Check out my inaugural post, Welcome to Wild Rose Reader, in which I write about some of my “high hopes” for my new blog.


Taking the lead from Gregory K. at GottaBook, I will also be posting an original poem every day during the month of April at Wild Rose Reader. Click here to view all of the poems I have posted to date.

Click here for my Wild Rose Reader review of NIBBLE NIBBLE, a charming poetry book for very young children. The book, which is beautifully illustrated by Wendell Minor, contains five of the poems from the 1959 edition of Margaret Wise Brown’s book of the same title.

Click here for my review of an outstanding new anthology of poems for very young children: HERE'S A LITTLE POEM.

Check this out: Poem-A-Day for National Poetry Month at the website of the Academy of American Poets. You can even sign up to have a poem emailed to you every day during the month of April.

Click here for Poetry Books Recommended by Horn Book Editors. The list of books is divided into four categories: Picture Books, Intermediate, Young Adult, and Nonfiction.

Jane Kenyon is one of my favorite poets. For this first Poetry Friday during National Poetry Month, I am giving you a link to Let Evening Come, a Kenyon poem that has a special meaning for me. I read it at the funeral of my beloved father-in-law in 1998.


Eisha and Jules, the lovely contributors to the terrific 7-Imp blog, asked all of us Blue Rose Girls for an interview. Since we decided to have the interviews conducted on an "age before beauty" basis—I got to go first! You can read my interview here.

Thanks, Eisha and Jules, I enjoyed being interviewed by two of the hippest ladies in the kidlitosphere.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Save the date!

Okay, it's the party I've been waiting for! As you know from all my various posts like this and this, I've been harping about having a party for ages. So the time has come.

And YOU, yes, YOU are invited. It is a birthday, book and blogger party! I've always read with great envy all those posts about New York KidLit Drink Nights; and, hey, we Boston-area people deserve some fun too. So how about it?

It will be on Saturday, May 19th, 1pm at the Spark Craft Studio in Davis Square . Please visit their website for directions and parking tips. This is the Evite, but I'm not sure if it is accessible without a formal invite. Just e-mail me at and I'll put you on "the list."

There'll be homemade cupcakes & other yummies and free, stuffed goodie bags (so far they include an exclusive Lissy's Friends poster and an advance reading copy of my upcoming novel The Year of the Rat).

And you'll have a chance to WIN the original piece of art of that picture above! Yes, the original! I've decided to just throw everything I'm passionate about in, so I'm going to raffle it off at the party with tickets to benefit Robert's Snow.

All that as well as the great people--so you are guaranteed a good time! You don't want to miss it, bring your friends and spread the word. Everyone's invited!

Hope to see you. Please RSVP so I know how many cupcakes to make (though you can come last minute too).

Books by all the blue rose girls will be for sale at the event and available for autographing.

Listen to Alvina!

Our very own Alvina was interviewed by Just One More Book! She's so eloquent, I'm just proud to say I know her. Go HERE.

Considering the reader

Yesterday I was listening to an interview on npr with the comedians that perform in the 'Axis of Evil Comedy Tour' (comedians of middle eastern descent who do a lot of jokes about politics and current events). At one point they talked about how when they perform in some countries, they are asked to edit their act to get rid of things that might offend a particular group's sensibilities (religions or cultural). I thought their attitude was really interesting- they had no problem whatsoever with doing this, there were no claims to artistic integrity, or accusations of censorship. Their attitude is that as performers, there is a give and take with the audience, and sometimes they need to give a little more than at other times, to cater to the people they are entertaining.

I think this is a really interesting idea, in light of the work we do making books for an audience that doesn't actually buy the books we make (their parents do). To what degree do we cater to what the book buying audience wants, what the book reading audience will enjoy, and the book production team (ie the publishers) request of us, all in the context of holding a singular creative vision of the book we have formed. We make books FOR kids, but not only for kids- and clinging to some rigid idea of artistic integrity doesn't always fit the bill. As writers and illustrators, we have to consider the way other people will interpret what we've made.

At one point I might have thought of this as selling out, but these days I'm interested in this idea of give and take between the person who creates something, and the person who, for lack of a better word, consumes it. Sometimes it can be hard to put your finger on the difference between fine art and illustration, but if anything I think this give and take is part of what makes creating a book unique- there is an art to considering your audience and responding to their wishes and sensibilities. It seems like a more organic process, instead of forcing your particular creative vision on the rest of the world, the vision evolves as a means of collaboration between creator and reader, even if only in your mind's eye.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Give credit where credit is due?

And when is credit due? I've been thinking about this issue a bit more, of whether editors (and others in the publishing company) should be credited on the books they edit/work on, and I think I've decided that for me, the answer is no.

First of all, where would you draw the line on who gets credit? Surely the designer, copyeditor, and production person should get credit, as should the assistant on the book. How about the publicist or marketing professional? The publisher? The sales reps? And what about in the case where the acquiring editor is not the same as the current editor? Or what if the acquiring editor is no longer with the company, or the editor changes mid-project? There are so many people involved in-house and out in publishing a book, but I agree with what some people have said, that it's our job to be quietly behind the scenes, to be, as Jen commented, "invisible in the finished product." The truth is, oftentimes when the finished book comes out, I've forgotten who suggested what, which of my suggestions were taken and which were not.

Another reason editors aren't usually credited is because we don't necessarily want our names out there, because we don't want to increase the number of unsolicited submissions. There's safety in anonymity (although in my case, it doesn't really matter because our house is closed--and my name is already out there because I blog). Then again, knowing which editor worked on which book is helpful to agents as well. I think perhaps it would make sense to put the editor's name in catalogs, which I think some publishers do.

I do think that editors tend to know what books other editors have edited, either from word of mouth, or being at conferences with other editors, or reading industry magazines and newsletters, or the way the general public does: by reading dedications and acknowledgement pages which almost always credit the editor. And as is with many professionals, I don't crave fame and fortune (well, maybe the fortune part), but I would like to have the respect of my peers, and that's possible without being credited on books I edit.

Meghan wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes if a book "tanks." To be honest, at my company, I haven't experienced any ill-effects first-hand. As far as I know, there isn't any name calling or finger pointing going on. Then again, although I've definitely acquired and edited books that performed below expectations, I feel a bit detached from a lot of the post-publication financial discussions. I think the higher up an editor gets at the company, the more he or she is held responsible for the financial profitability of the books they acquire and edit. But as I mentioned in my "Publishing by Committee" post, the fact that I'm not making these decisions alone ensures that I'm not the only person held responsible for a book failing (or given credit for its success). I think my company is trying to move towards having editors see the final P&Ls (profit and loss) of their books a year to 18 months after a book has published so that we have a better idea of what has worked and what hasn't, but we haven't yet actually instituted this practice. I hope we do, though, because it would be eye-opening, and equip me with more knowledge and insight. I'm not sure how this works at other publishers.

Anyway, this issue reminds me of a meeting I had recently with two authors and their agent, plus several of my colleagues. I may be remembering this wrong, but I think it happened like this: The agent kept referring to the authors he represents as "my authors," and one of the authors (or perhaps it was one of my colleagues) jokingly commented on how possessive that sounded, and the agent turned to me in protest and asked, "Don't you refer to the authors you work with as 'your authors,' too?" I paused, and then said, "Yes, but generally not in front of them."

In-house, editors do say "my author" or "my book," but we know it's because they're more our projects/authors in-house than anyone else there. We're the closest to the book--they're our babies, too, but we're just the teacher or babysitter, not the birth parents. We never forget that it is, above all, the author and illustrator's book, and without them and the beautiful books they write and illustrate, none of us would have a job.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Wild Rose

Wish Elaine a Happy Blog Birthday at Wild Rose Reader!

Yes, her new blog has launched! Even if Elaine only does half the things she hoping to do with her blog, it will be an amazing blog to read--don't miss it!