Thursday, May 31, 2007

randmom stuff

Oops, my time to post again. I have such a crappy cough and it won't go away! It's very distracting.

Anyway, first thing-- the "directions" part on my Strong Man party page is now up.

Second--please throw out some favorite finger foods that you would like to eat at the party to be. I only like to eat chips and donuts so I'm not too good at picking stuff out.

Third--on to book talk. I THINK my book, which was once called The Astronaut Handbook, will now be called Astronaut Handbook. Why? Well, it's a funny thing. Sometimes there's just no room for the "the." This is what happened with my handbook. The designer, try as she may, couldn't find room for it on the cover. Believe me, I'm good at voicing my opinion, so if I thought there was a solution I would have stated it. But there really isn't room. In my own version that I gave her I left out the "the" unintentionally... I guess because there wasn't room. I mean, there IS room but it doesn’t' look all nice and design like. I'm sure this may be a bit confusing and I wish I had the cover to show you but I don't. Perhaps I'll see if I can obtain it.

I have one other thing to talk about... and this is disorganization and the quest to reverse it. I've had plenty of time lately to flip through those lovely designer magazines while at work and I've seen a lot of cool stuff--laptop bags, keychain holders, office neatening tricks... and so I thought it would be fun to have a little segment on products here on the BRG. I don't have time just yet to start this off but perhaps I shall find a moment later tonight to show you some of my favorite finds.

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

selling out

Recently, I have been depleting my finances at an alarming rate and in consequence have been spending my time trying to think of crazy get-rich-quick schemes. Legal ones, mind you. In the end, I always come to the conclusion that if I could somehow get one (or two or three) of my books some kind of fame, fortune would follow.

I think this conclusion comes to me after watching mind-numbing tv day in and day out. Suddenly even the dumbest tv shows seem like smart marketing. A while ago, Chris Barton wrote on his blog about the artistic choice of NOT selling out--something which I applaud in theory yet find myself unable to embrace in practice.

But would it be so bad? Would your opinion of me and my work be diminished if say, my books were on the Kikkoman labels or Chinese take-out boxes? What do you think?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Alvina and Olvina

I always seem to forget it's my turn to post when a holiday weekend comes along. I haven't really thought about what to write about today, but as it seems that people are most excited about my mention in my IRA wrap-up that Jerry Spinelli named a character after me in Love, Stargirl, I'd might as well tell a little more about how that happened.

I've been a slacker about writing about the books I've edited that are out now, but I do mean to post about Eggs by Jerry Spinelli soon. Last year while we were working on that book together, Jerry emailed me and said he had an odd request, that he'd been struggling with the name of a character in the Stargirl sequel, that she had already gone through three names and he'd finally settled on one that fit--"Alvina." He said she was nothing like me, that she was actually a bit of a curmudgeon, and if I felt uncomfortable with that he'd find another name, but of course I was thrilled--what an honor! And now I've read the ARCs, and indeed, Alvina is quite an unpleasant character--in fact, another character says, "I hate Alvina" several times at the beginning of the book. But I love it. I love that I'm hot-tempered and scrappy and mean. And I know it's not "me"--it's a different person that shares my name, but as I don't get characters with the same name as me very often, I can't help but identify with her. My coworkers joked that this might spur a whole new generation of kids named "Alvina."

Speaking of characters named after me, there are two other books I should mention.

Some of you might remember Grace's picture book Olvina Flies that came out in 2003. It's a book about a chicken named Olvina who is invited to a bird convention and doesn't want to go at first because she's embarrassed about having to take an airplane there while all the other birds fly. Grace posted about the backstory behind the name on her website here--basically, I told her that a foreign publisher had sent me a fax at work addressed to "Olvina," and her first reaction was the laugh and say, "Olvina, that's funny. That's the perfect name for a chicken!" (Isn't it weird how creative people think?) And now, the sequel is out, Olvina Swims. I had known that the sequel was coming out soon, and a few months ago I asked Grace when exactly, and she said, "Oh, at the same time as Lissy's Friends." And I said, "WHAT?!? And you're having a whole big book launch party for Lissy's Friends and not for Olvina Flies?!" The other BRGs joked that Ki-Ki and I should hold up signs of protest at the book party, Ki-Ki because the doll/book are about the other sister, Lissy, and me because Olvina is being neglected. But we're bigger people than that. :)

But don't forget about Olvina Flies and Olvina Swims! I love how Grace draws animals. These books are reminscent of Richard Scarry books. Although I will say that, just as in the case with Alvina in Love, Stargirl, Olvina is nothing like me, either. I'm not a chicken, I'm not afraid to fly. But I will have to start training in my swimming soon if I'm really going to do a triathlon this year...I should take inspiration from Olvina.

And I'd also like to point out the last of the BRG interviews over at 7-Imp. Check out Libby's interview here!

Thanks to Jules and Eisha for doing the BRG series. It's been great! If you missed any of the interviews, they have a nice wrap-up with links at the bottom of Libby's interview.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. I'm off to Coney Island today to ride the Cyclone!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

party information

Hello all,

I've put up the address for the party and will soon add directions.

I might even get a bartender for an hour to make some fun free drinks!


Saturday, May 26, 2007


Awhile ago Alvina and I started to talk about what people want in editors, but never finished the conversation (I was driving – poor Alvina, who is often the one being driven! Some* of us BRGs are pretty bad at that)…but that got me thinking, as BRG conversations tend to do.

What I look for in an editor is someone who understands what I’m trying to say and gives comments that help me say it better. Or say it, period! Alvina is brilliant at this; she doesn’t tell me WHAT to say, but she is encouraging while pointing out – what shall we call them? Areas needing improvement? These are not always things that need to be taken out or rewritten – sometimes they are additions.

But the result is a better book. It’s like having long floppy messy hair and then having someone shape it into a short (well, maybe not necessarily short: depends on the project, sometimes things get longer) cute flattering haircut. By the way I take the art of haircutting VERY seriously and this is not meant to belittle editing.

I edit other people’s work for a living; but I’m not good at editing my own. When I write, I’m very self-absorbed, seeing everything how I imagine it, I don’t really have a lot of control – things just pop out. And I don't know how they will strike other people.

When I edit, I’m reacting to what’s on the page and responding to the author -- as a reader, not as a writer: it’s his or her book, NOT MINE. If I don’t understand something, I don’t leap in with my own imagination – I ask, we talk about it, until the author (sometimes prodded by me) figures out how to solve the problem: and usually it’s not figuring out – it’s just ideas popping into his or her mind. That is really fun to see.

They’re really, really different processes: when I’m the editor, I’m the midwife, when I’m the writer, I’m the mother giving birth; I can’t do both at the same time! I think maybe picture book authors CAN (you write spare to start with because you have the pictures?) but maybe this is just one more instance of the proverbial grass being greener. Thoughts? What do YOU look for in an editor?
* PS Might as well name names: I don't think it will offend Grace if I say that she and I are the bad drivers -- and CONSTANTLY getting lost.

Friday, May 25, 2007

ALMOST finished stuff... and... the secrets behind strong man?

None of these are quite finshed... but the were good enough to drop off at my publisher... for now.

And here we have the typical case. The frantic painting me always gets paint on everything. I've ruined lots of clothes!

Lastly, someone asked about Strong Man juicy stuff. I have some. But I can't talk about it here. Strong Man was long in the making and LOTS happened before it found a happy home. If you want to here the gossip, come to my party and I'll tell you! Thankfully, my wonderful publisher snatched up my book after it had been badly beaten and happily published it. And it payed off! It got its first starred review out of the gate. No one can complain about that.


ps I might post the address and put a map on my website along with other strong man party info. If I do I'll let you all know! I just don't want anything showing up on google. If I put the address on my website and take it off in a few days google shouldn't find it.

POETRY FRIDAY: A Poem for Memorial Day

In 2001, I was one of fifty participants in the first annual Summer Poetry Institute for Teachers. The institute was a collaboration between Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project and the Boston University School of Education. During our five days at Boston University, we teachers discussed poems with Robert Pinsky and other well-known adult poets, including Mark Doty, Rosanna Warren, David Ferry, and Louise Gluck; viewed some of the videos produced by the Favorite Poem Project; and worked together in smaller groups to develop poetry activities and lesson plans for teachers to use in school and the community.

One of the poetry videos that touched at my heart was of Michael Lythgoe, a veteran of the Vietnam War, reciting Yusef Komunyakaa’s Facing It, a poem about a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D. C.

I lost a good and kind friend in that war. Several years ago, my husband and I took our daughter down to visit the memorial. It was a truly emotional experience for me when I found my friend’s name carved into the face of that black granite wall. It was as if three decades of my life had never happened and I was back in the late 1960s—a time when many young men lived in fear of being drafted and sent to fight in an unpopular war in a country many of us knew little about.

by Yusef Komunyakaa

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way—the stone lets me go.
I turn that way—I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

You can view the video here.

Click here to read a brief biography of Yusef Komunyakaa and for links to some of his other poems at the website of the Poetry Foundation.

Click here to read a more extensive biography of Komunyakaa at the website of the Academy of American Poets.

For a tasteful and touching picture book to read to elementary age students about a father and son visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I suggest the following book:

Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Ronald Himler
Clarion, 1990

May we all remember the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Howdy folks,

It's my day to post but I've got a full schedule! I'm trying to finish up two paintings to bring to my publisher... I've got physical therapy... and a doctor's appointment... and then I must run 3 miles. Ugh.

So, tonight I will post. I will also show a picture from my astronaut book. I'm pretty please with it.



I don't want to post the address of it online (because it's not at my place) so if you would like to go, please send me an email and I'll give you all the details!

please send away! I want you all there!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Book release party!

Yup, the Strong Man party is a go. It also got its first starred review from Kirkus!

The party will be Saturday June 9th (if this date changes I will announce it here ASAP) in the evening, starting around 8 or 9. The location and other info will be listed soon.

Things it will have:
A giant strong man cutout... the kind you put your face in... to get your pictures taken
an amazing strongman cake! (yup, I'm putting lots of pressure on my pal Julia)
the best music ever
videos to watch, which will be projected (if you have any great ideas for crazy videos, let me know!)
A BBQ - hamburgers, hot dogs, etc
lots of beer and wine and soda for the anti-alcohol types
some other things that I haven't come up with yet (ideas?)

Mark your calendars! Someone suggested the tagline for my books should be "not your grandmother's non fiction" or something like that... well, this party isn't for grandma either.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Yes, the party is over (or as they spell it in Boston o-v-a). It was only afterwards, while I was on a plane to San Antonio that I realized that I never publicly thanked all the girls for their behind the scenes help! So here it is:

Thank you, Alvina, for coming over straight after IRA, helping to make 144 cupcakes, paper flowers and being a book party bridesmaid.

Thank you, Anna, for helping to frost 144 cupcakes, chauffeuring me, the cupcakes and about a hundred million other things (including books and Robert) to and fro.

Thank you, Elaine, for being the other chauffeur and supplying the wine and the sandwiches. Very smart woman, Elaine is. I was going to have everyone make do with cupcakes and fruit but she said people would want something a bit more substantial…they did!

Thank you Linda and Libby for driving from Connecticut and manning the book and raffle table, selling oodles of goods with you magnetic smiles and personality.

Thank you, Meghan, for NOT coming and therefore keeping your job!

And thanks to the rest of you for celebrating my birthday and Lissy’s Friends book release in person or in spirit, as well as your kind thoughts about Robert. And for your patience with this oscar-speech-like post (I’m starting to hear the music...).

Party and tonight

For those of you that missed Grace's book launch/birthday/boston blogger party on Saturday, don't miss the next one!! The afternoon was delightful. It was fun to see old friends in our little Boston book community, and also to put faces to names in this blog-o-sphere and meet new folks.

We got an exciting first glimpse at Grace's new books (complete with original artwork on display), there was an exciting art auction, and I got to buy my very own Lissy doll (above sitting on my desk), which is just the coolest thing ever! It looks exactly like Grace's illustrations, amazing. Oh and did I mention that I totally stuffed my face with cupcakes? I was high on sugar for like an hour after the party.

Anyways, a good time was had by all, so a big thank you to Grace and everyone who came and made it such a lovely afternoon.

So on to other events... tonight the Foundation for Children's Books is hosting the last lecture in their spring series, which has been fantastic. This week features Jacqueline Davies, Mitali Perkins and Jamie Harper. Details below. See you there!

PS. Allison Morris over at the Wellesley Booksmith wrote a great blog post about Jacqueline Davies at her Publisher's Weekly blog here. Totally inspired me to go to the lecture tonight.

New England Voices, the last event in our Conversations with...series is different from the rest: it features area authors reading from new works. This year's authors will be Jacqueline Davies, reading from The Lemonade War, and Mitali Perkins reading from Rickshaw Girl. In addition, Jamie Harper will read from Miss Mingo and the First Day of School. The event also includes the Foundation for Children's Books Annual Meeting, with a look at our author visits to under-served schools, as well as a book signing and reception featuring Jacqueline Davies' lemonade stand--a great night that you won't want to miss!

Book signing and reception
FREE and open to the public--bring a friend!

Where & When:
Vanderslice Hall, Boston College
Tuesday, May 22, 7:30 p.m.
Book sale and signing with books from the Children's Book Shop

For directions and more information, go to:
The Foundation for Children's Books

Sunday, May 20, 2007

IRA and Toronto wrap-up, Podcast, and Party Pics

I'm back in NYC after being gone to Toronto and Boston for a week. It's been a busy, productive, and fun week. First off, I wanted to highlight an interview that I did with Peter Brown about the author/editor relationship during IRA over at Just One More Book. Hear it here.

And then I wrote a way-too-long wrap-up of Toronto and IRA on my personal blog here.

And finally, Grace's party was a huge success and a whole lot of fun. I'm sure Grace and the other BRGs will be posting wrap-ups, but for now I'll just post some pics. Check them out! We had bloggers, teachers, librarians, children's book authors and illustrators, friends, six of the seven BRGs (we missed you, Meghan!), and lots and lots of cupcakes. Thanks everyone for coming.

Decorating the 144 cupcakes the night before the party:

Preparing the gift bags:

Elaine and Eisha of 7 Imp:

Kitty of the Horn Book with Lolly podcasting in the background:

The Blue Rose Girls (minus Meghan)!

If you took pictures at the party, please email them to us at Bluerosegirls at gmail dot com. Happy Birthday, Grace! We're thinking good thoughts for you and Robert out in San Antonio.

Friday, May 18, 2007

POETRY FRIDAY: A Tribute to Teachers

Yesterday, I attended a retirement party for three outstanding teachers with whom I had the pleasure of working for many years. Each one of these educators is the epitome of what an elementary classroom teacher should be: professional, intelligent, knowledgeable, well-read, caring, kind, patient, and always happy to share her time, expertise, and educational materials with younger colleagues who needed guidance, advice, support, and encouragement.

I had the great fortune to teach in a school where my co-workers were consummate professionals. I know this not only as a teacher who worked in the same building with these remarkable educators—but also as a parent whose only child attended the school. My daughter was well taught and her world enriched and expanded by her educational experience at this institution where I spent my teaching career.

The classroom teachers, the gym, music, and art teachers, the school librarian, the resource room teachers, the school secretary and nurse, and all the paraprofessionals and support staff—everyone at my school was topnotch. I loved working with all these people and have missed every one of them since my retirement in June of 2004. (I do stop by every now and then to do poetry-writing exercises in some classrooms.)

About a decade ago, I wrote a poem entitled Here Is Her Room for Bonnie, one of our first grade teachers who was retiring. I thought I would post the poem here today in honor of my three other colleagues who were feted yesterday during a gala party at which we celebrated their educational contributions to the Bell School and to its young students.

My poem today is for Leslie, Phyllis, and Kathy—and for all public school educators who are dedicated to their profession and to the children they teach.

Here Is Her Room
by Elaine Magliaro

Here is her room—
dark and dusty,
bare of bright pictures,
plastic bins empty
of thick primary pencils
and silver-scaled scissors,
its cardboard alphabet
hidden in a dim cupboard.
The painted whales
have swum away for summer.

Here is her room—
hollow and lonely,
its door shut tight
on uncounted memories.
Turn the brass knob
and enter softly.
Listen to the echoes
of downy chicks
cheeping in a corner,
merry young Pilgrims
celebrating the first Thanksgiving,
children singing songs
and reciting well-loved poems,
the snip of busy scissors
cutting colored paper
for a winter collage.

Here is her room—
four walls holding a happy history,
a world of words and wonder
she opened to boys and girls
before she gave them


Stop by Wild Rose Reader today for The Poetry of Mary Ann Hoberman.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Surprise best sellers

This is really about adult books, not children's books -- but I still found it fascinating.

Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller

And anyone whose book has earned out its advance should find it encouraging!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

a quick poll

Hello all,

I'm thinking about revamping some parts of my website. Is there anything you'd like to see on there that isn't present? Are there any navigational tools that would be helpful? Is there a better way that I could organize it... split up fun vs. work stuff?

I KNOW I'm going to regret asking because I'll most likely get a bunch of varying opinions... but... I'm hoping they will also be helpful.


p.s - I'm having a book party next month for Strong Man. I'll save the details for later. Grace's party will most definitely be better. For one thing, she's better at making food and she's better at organizing things. Wah. I want to go too!

celebrate with me!

I've been having a lot of personal drama in mia casa which has finally come to a happy and hopeful conclusion (or beginning). So, more than ever I have lots to celebrate at my party this Saturday! It's now a Birthday, Book, Boston Blogger, & Bon Voyage Party! How's that for alliteration?

It's going to be great--the Horn Book is going to try to podcast parts of it(I have a secret desire to spike the punch and have them record scandalous drunken gossip), the books and dolls probably will be there (though that has not been confirmed, I guess I scheduled a bit too close to the release date--things aren't really released on the release date, did you know that?), and I am making chocolate rats (in honor of The Year of the Rat, the ARC I'm putting in the bags) and blue chocolate roses (in honor of my girls here) for the goodie bags (though I may give up after a while and just start filling with M&M's).

So, you're coming right? You must be, because I have 98 who RSVPed yes! I better start making cupcakes.

P.S.: Some people have asked me if they could bring anything; but for my birthday, in lieu of gifts,I'd love a donation to Robert's Snow/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. There will be a donation tin at my party for your convenience, as well as the raffle for the original painting (I'll pick the winner at around 3:00 pm). If you are only coming in spirit, I'd be extremely thankful for this present.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


By the way, as a follow up to last week's post, it was the can of Wholefoods refried pinto beans that was the easiest to make a lantern out of, you win Linda! I was surprised about that actually. I thought it was going to be the SpaghettiO's.

Work in progress

Today I thought I'd post a few sketches from a book dummy I've been working on. The book is about friendship and stage fright and spelling (though you can't tell from these pics)... I drew these yesterday to illustrate the part of the story that introduces the characters as friends.

Remember the kerchief painting I posted about here? Well now she has a different one on every page, problem solved!

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'm in Toronto now...

I apologize for this abbreviated post. I realize I've been horrible about blogging, although mainly on my personal blog. I've been busy with the office move, traveling, and playing catch-up at work. Right now I'm in Toronto (my first time here!) for the International Reading Association conference. I arrived last night in time to have dinner at a nice French Bistro with two colleagues. This morning I'm meeting poet J. Patrick Lewis for breakfast before heading over to man the booth at the convention center for the morning. I hope to have more to report later this week or by next Monday.

Toronto is beautiful. If you're here at the convention, drop by the booth and say hi! Tony Abbott arrives today, Peter Brown tomorrow. Alice Hoffman and Marc Brown are also here today. Come to their signings!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

a side project - family history

I've always been fascinated by my family history. My mom won't let me talk about some of the drama (such as my great aunt and uncle not speaking to each other but living in the SAME house for 10 years... ah-hem... crazy Irish) but that still makes me want to keep track of it. On a whim, a few days ago, I decided to record part of a phone conversation I had with my little sister. She was talking about how she didn't have a name for four years. You see, people think I'm a nut-job (which I may be) but how do they think I got this way?

Anyway, this impromptu recording has given me an idea. What if I record all sorts of conversations with my family about our history? Of course I can't tell them I'm doing this or they'll hate me forever. What's worse is that I think it would be cool to put these conversations online... why not let the world hear all about it? Is this an insane idea? You betcha! Would my family disown me? Hell yes.

I mentioned to a few people that I'd like to someday write some sort of memoir. Perhaps this is my start?


p.s - I may very well post my sister's no-name conversation. It's short. I don't know if it's entertaining to anyone besides myself but I guess I'll find out!

Friday, May 11, 2007

POETRY FRIDAY: Poems about Mothers

Seeing that Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, my mind turned toward poems about and for mothers. Here are the selections I have for you this Poetry Friday.

A Poem by Christina Rosetti

To-day’s your natal day,
Sweet flowers I bring;
Mother, accept, I pray,
My offering.

And may you happy live,
And long us bless;
Receiving as you give
Great happiness.

At American Life in Poetry: A Project for Newspapers by Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate of the United States 2004-2006

From What I Learned From My Mother
By Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn't know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.

Read the rest of the poem here.

At The Poetry Foundation

by Nikki Giovanni

(These are the ending lines of Giovanni’s poem.)

she was very deliberately waiting
perhaps for my father to come home
from his night job or maybe for a dream
that had promised to come by
“come here” she said “i’ll teach you
a poem: i see the moon
the moon sees me
god bless the moon
and god bless me

i taught it to my son
who recited it for her
just to say we must learn
to bear the pleasures
as we have borne the pains

Read the rest of the poem here.

From To My Mother
by Wendell Berry

I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.

So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love…

Read the rest of the poem here.

At Wild Rose Reader I have posted a sonnet by Christina Rossetti for my mother.

Happy Mother’s Day to all us mothers and to our daughters who may become mothers one day!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Is your tween dressing to sexy?

That's what I saw written on the screen on the Dr. Phil show. Does anyone see a typo?

This brings me to the question--am I becoming a snob? Am I expecting too much perfection? Do people expect perfection from ME? I'm the queen of typos so I hope not!

I didn't post today as of yet because I was busy getting tape on my back... again. This time my shoulders are taped. I vacillate between being extremely frustrated by the tape (trust me, it's irritating!) and amused. I mean, I'm walking around with a giant X on my upper back. It's kind of silly... isn't it? I'm going running tonight. Can I run with tape on my back?

I really have no good reason for posting the tape thing... other than life is a constant work distraction... and work is a life distraction. It's super when I can do work and think about work when I'm supposed to and vice versa.

So every Sunday I've decided is my RELAXATION DAY. I need one day for myself damn it! Soon I won't be able to take the relaxation day because Astronauts is due and now... gasp... so is Seabiscuit? Again? Two books at once? I swear, I'm trying not to feel bad for myself but I do a little. Poor, poor pathetic me. Anyway, so... sundays... relaxation days. On these days I start the day off with a nice TV watching stint. Because of this I have stumbled upon something wonderful. On Channel 13 in NY they have been playing Uta Hagen's Acting Class in the early afternoon. Now, I am not an actor. I will never be an actor (I don't think) but yet I find it absolutely fascinating! If you can watch it at least once please do. Uta Hagen is a genious. She's so perceptive. She notices little nuances that make humans human. I'm sure you're thinking this is yet another rambling segment that has nothing to do with books... and it sort of is... but not exactly. Being perceptive is important as an author. Obviously. Especially as a novelist you have to know your characters--the little things is what will make them individuals. Therefore I highly recommend watching this program. It will get you thinking. It will inspire you!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

are those flames on my bike helmet or is it hot in here?

Ahh, the sun is shining, the temperature is rising so that must mean Spring is here...or that I've just met a recent Hot Man Of Children's Literature .

Why, yes, I did. During my regular haunt at my local bookstore, I saw posters advertising Scott Magoon's booksigning and party for his new book I've Painted Everything, realized my chance to meet my 2nd Hot Man of Children's Literature in the flesh (my first was, of course, Jarrett), and made a point of showing up (via bike, is that dedication or what?). Now I only have 36 more hot men to go!

No, no, no--I cannot tell a lie, I also went so that I could coerce #37 to participate in Robert's Snow and to check out how real authors throw book parties, hoping to pick up some pointers for my own. First pointer? Reading book to audience=good.

Pointer #2? Cute food is very popular. No sooner did I snap this picture of those cute bird cookies were they devoured by guests. It is making me wonder if I should rethink my wagashi decision.

Anyway, Scott had a great book launch (as only befitting one of his stature) and I was glad to be a groupie!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tin can debate

So I am still working on edits to my new craft book (What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?), this week I am debating which kind of tin can makes the best tin can lantern. The book is meant to be used by kids, but with adult assistance at times for things like punching holes in tin cans with a hammer and nail. Even though this part of the activity will be done by grown-ups, I still want it to be as easy and painless as possible. So I am testing out different kinds of cans to see which ones are the easiest to punch holes in. These were my contenders (yes I actually bought SpaghettiO's, and yes my boyfriend was totally psyched and took them for lunch today)...

Any guesses as to which one was the thinnest, and thus easiest to nail through?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

My new space

As promised, here are pics from the new office.

First, the building (picture taken from my coworker Ben's flickr site). Looks like your standard office building, doesn't it?:
And now my space. I have to say, I'm really happy with my windowed cube. Who knew that losing a door but gaining a window would be so nice. It helps that I'm set back from the hallway, so I have a lot of privacy, too.

And it's funny, I unpacked and settled in and had a nice, neat, organized cube, and felt a little at a loss. I couldn't concentrate or remember what I needed to work on. But by the end of the week, I had my piles again and have been productive. It's funny how differently people work, what environments they need.

As for my commute, it's not as enjoyable, but the good thing is that it takes me exactly 30 minutes to walk, whereas my old commute through Central Park took about 35-40 minutes. So at least that's a small consolation. And it's helped that the weather in NY all last week was absolutely gorgeous. And another bright spot--this is my view as I approach the office:

I love the Chrysler building!

One great feature of the new office is that we have a center atrium. I'm not sure when the novelty will wear off, but for now, I'm fascinated with it. You can look across the atrium and see colleages hard at work across the way, you can see into some of the conference rooms, see into the kitchen. Here's another pic taken by Ben:There are also two glass elevators. Here's the view from one of them:

And a view of the atrium from the lobby:

As Annie sings, "I think I'm gonna like it here!"

Last week was unbelievably busy, both with unpacking and settling in, and all the usual meetings and work. I'm hoping this week will be a productive one, and then the following week I'm off to Toronto for the International Reading Association conference. If any of you are going, or live in Toronto, let me know! I'm staying an extra night to see the city, and don't know anyone who lives there, so would love a tour guide or someone to explore with.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

May Day, Part 2

Children of all ages did march -- even some teenagers.

I had thought afterwards everyone was going to grab a ribbon and dance around the Maypole, but I was wrong. One group of dancers had been allowed to use it before the parade - and when we got there, it was all tightly wrapped up.

I asked the woman in charge if the children could dance around the Maypole, or at least play with the ribbons, and she said:
"No, it took hours to wrap up."

Some enterprising children untied some before they were stopped -- but no one danced.

This seems to me SO typical of the way things are often arranged at public celebrations in this country. Mystic is usually pretty good at these things, but today, instead of getting to dance themselves, the kids were supposed to watch other people do it. What fun is THAT?

Maybe that's why they seemed to be getting such a kick out of marching or riding their bikes.

This post doesn't really have a point, except that maybe it was really predictable that the May pole scene I was imagining in such vivid detail didn't ever take place. This is the really down side of an imagination: hearing something, instantly picturing it in an ideal way, and then being disappointed when reality doesn't live up to it. This is so common that I probably wouldn't even have noticed it if I hadn't written that earlier post about the great May Day Celebration in Mystic. I did consider deleting it but that seemed like cheating. So -- a slice of reality instead of a magical mystic mayday.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Poetry Friday Potpourri #5


A Poem a Day #28: April
A Poem a Day #29: Thoughts of the Wolf as He Descends the Third Little Pig's Chimney
A Poem a Day #30: Full Of… (A List Poem)
A Poem about Poetry Withdrawal: The Morning After
April: A Poem by Janet Wong
Poetry Friday: Spring Is... (In this post, I provide suggestions for poetry to share with children to help inspire them to write their own poems about spring.)


Dragons Pulling Wagons: The Children’s Poet Laureate on Karla Kuskin’s Children’s Poetry

This article, written by Jack Prelutsky, is about Karla Kuskin, a children’s poet whose poetry I truly admire. The article includes the full texts of three of Kuskin’s poems, including A Bug Sat in A Silver Flower, which was always a favorite with my elementary school students.
All three of the poems posted at the Poetry Foundation can be found in Kuskin's book MOON, HAVE YOU MET MY MOTHER?

From Blossoms, one of my favorite adult poems, was written by Li-Young Lee. It comes from his book ROSE, which was published by Boa Editions in 1986. Rose contains many fine poems, including Eating Together, I Ask My Mother to Sing, and The Weight of Sweetness.

The beginning stanzas of From Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yeah... I've made the gossip page!

Read it here or pick up Thursday's paper.

The funny part is that I didn't know a lot of my friends read the gossip page of the post! Now I know. They've outed themselves.

I didn't post today because I've had a horrible stomach virus--vomiting... the works. This also means I haven't been able to get any book work done. I swear I get sick every time I have a book due! I don't know why but I really do.

Anyway, I did want to post something meaningful today but perhaps I can do so for tomorrow.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy Asian-Pacific Heritage Month

It's May and it's Asian-Pacific Heritage Month! Did you forget? Don't worry, I would've forgotten too, except that Paper Tigers asked me to write an article in the issue they are doing in honor of the month.

Of course, I was happy to do so. But life got busy and crazy (it seemed like I was doing a school visit every day in April!) and I wasn't able to do the research I needed for the article I wanted to write. So instead,in order to make their deadline, I ended up modifying my multicultural author post for them.

The article I wanted to write was going to be inspired by these two comments made in the reviews of Lissy's Friends. This one by a wrung sponge:
Another thing I really like about this book is that although Lissy is clearly Asian, the story is not about being Asian. There is no reference to her ethnicity, which puts her Asian identity squarely in the realm of ordinary....
(entire review here)

And this one from MotherReader:
I liked that Lissy’s way to make friends begins with doing what she likes to do and being herself. The theme of Lissy’s Asian-American heritage is not the source of conflict or isolation, but it is her special knowledge of origami that helps her break through her shyness and connect with the people around her.
(entire review here)

Both of them touched upon the fact that in the story, even though Lissy is Asian, her race and heritage is not the crux of her problem. Nor does she even think about it. Which, when you think about it, kind of unusual.

Because most books that feature Asian Pacific characters tend to focus on racial identity. About fitting in or not fitting in, about being different or celebrating differences, accepting identity. There's nothing wrong with those books. It's an important issue to write and read and make books about. Heck, I make a lot of them.

But for multicultural books to move towards what we all really want--a place where that label is no longer needed--books have to start shifting from that focus. Multicultural books have to start depicting characters in situations and with problems that are not about the racial divide, but about issues and events that all kids have.

And here was where I was going to start making a list of books where the characters were of Asian-Pacific descent, but the stories were NOT about them being of Asian-Pacific descent. But nothing was jumping up (except Ruby Lu and one book does not make a list, even if I added the sequel) and I ran out of time to research.

So I put it to YOU. What books are there where the character is Asian but the book isn't about him/her being Asian? Let me know. Maybe I can get the article in by next May.

Getting crafty

Some days this job is just the best thing ever. I spent most of the morning playing with crayons... I'm working on a book about craft activities, sort of an introduction to recycling with art activities. The book is written and contracted, right now I am working on revising the instructions so that they're clear and make sense. I love really technical stuff like this... breaking down a project into steps and organizing information, really appeals to the OCD in me.

Anyways, here are some pics of my crayon experiment. Most teachers out there know that you can recycle crayon bits into new crayons if you melt them down. Today I compared melting on the stove top, to the oven, to the microwave... some pics from my experiments and from the actual book (What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?):