Thursday, July 31, 2008


I got the first harcover version of Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse today.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


So last week I recieved notification of the deadline for the Society of Illustrator's Original Art Show. I glanced at in nonchalance and it was only recently I realized my reaction. It was the Original Art Show, where the elite children's illustrators are admired and it is an honor just to be accepted. And I did not care.

I should preface this with the fact that in the past I have cared, horribly. Of all the Blue Rose Girl illustrators I am the only one whose work has never been accepted. It has filled me with a mixture of doubt and longing. As much as I brushed off the rejection (the Society just thinks my work is too commercial, it's too niche for them, etc., etc.) it always came down to the inevitable truth. My work was simply just not considered good enough.

This would sting my soul so much that even recieving the deadline notification for the entry would unsettle me. Until now.

Strangely, now I am truly cheerfully indifferent. Suddenly it doesn't seem to matter too much if a society doesn't think I measure up. Maybe due to Robert's death, maybe due to my own growing confidence--regardless of why, I finally feel like I can start casting aside others' judgements and begin embracing my work for what it is. Mine.

this cracked me up--

SEARCH 50 MILLION USED & NEW BOOKS: ↓ advanced options

Note: Cover may not represent actual copy or condition available
Astronaut Handbook
by Mccarthy, Meghan

Price: $67.96
[30 Day Return Guarantee]

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Bookseller: Zontik LLC (US)
Seller Inventory #: 004341
Book condition: As New
Jacket condition: As New
Ages: 1 to 2 years
Edition: First Edition
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN 10: 0375844597
ISBN 13: 9780375844591
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Date published: 2008
Pages: 40
Size: 9 x 10.25 x 0.5 inches
Weight: 0.8 pounds

Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. Signed by Meghan Mccarthy. Signed by Author. First Edition. Hardcover. As New/As New.

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If you read closely you'll see that they are selling my book for 67.96. Ha! You know, I think 65 is perfectly reasonable seeing as it's signed and all... but 67 is pushing it. What's odd is that I haven't signed that book anywhere yet. Where are they getting a signed book from? My parents' attic?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sharks and Dolphins

Anya upstairs has always loved sharks -- she's even kissed one (photograph below). When she was a child, she loved how gracefully they moved through the water. Now she's a marine biologist and is saddened by how needlessly afraid of them most people are (sharks prefer fish blood to human) and how brutally and greedily they're slaughtered (just for their fins, too!).

I love the fact that Anya loved sharks when she as a child and then KEPT loving them. At around ten, or maybe earlier, many children start acting the way they're supposed to act and liking what they think they're supposed to like -- they lose their originality and their creativity and big chunks of themselves. But some people don't; and they're not all artists, either.

So what does this have to do with children's books? In a way, nothing; but in another way, everything -- when books are original, when books are themselves (not trying to copy what's currently popular), sincere, they encourage kids to be, too.

And not in a preachy way, but by example; and making them think, and giving them pleasure at the sounds of the words (even, the power and beauty of language) and the looks of the images. Not that any of this is conscious on the part of readers! But in really good books, it's there.

All images on this post copyright Anya Watson. Used with permission.

Monday, July 28, 2008

blog posts go up... then they go down.

Some of you may have seen a video on the blog today. There one minute, gone the next. It was a stop animation of two upholstered chairs doing "the nasty" on a rooftop. You can see it here: (don't worry, there's nothing explicit in it! It's meant to be funny. It involves chairs and NOTHING more. There are no chair "parts" to be seen, if you get my drift)

I should explain that I put it up because it's a very cool and artistic video. Artistic creative things get my artistic creative juices flowing. I make books by being inspired. Enough said.

After putting it on "anonymous" said this:

Anonymous said...
Is this appropriate to have on a children's book blog? As a parent this makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable.
7/28/08 6:25 PM

Then I said this:

Meghan said...
Well, the blog isn't supposed to be for kids to read - 1) because it's not interesting for kids and 2) because most of what we talk about is in the adult topic range, but if others find it offensive then I'll take it down. It would be nice if you would post your name instead of being "anonymous." Thanks.

Then I asked my friends what they thought. All but one said that there was nothing wrong with the video and if a kid did see it then they probably wouldn't know what was going on anyway and if they did know what was going on then the parent probably is to blame and should watch what their kids while watching on TV more closely... and watch what they're doing online!

One friend, however, didn't agree with our artistic minded tastes. She said it made her cringe. She thought people who watched the video on this blog wouldn't want to hire me for a school visit. (frankly, I won't be crying over it but that's another topic). So I took the video down. I didn't do this because I agree. If this were only my blog then it would stay but it's not just my blog and I don't want my controversial opinions/behavior/etc to reflect badly on the other ladies. They are well behaved. I am not.

That post prompted me to write another post. In it contained some paragraphs from the book RATS SAW GOD. The book is a YA book and gives graphic sexual details. I asked what people thought of that. I asked what people thought of the naked boy in IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN. I was trying to make a point. My friend who thought the chair video was offensive also thought I shouldn't put the RATS SW GOD quotes on the blog. She considers this a children's blog, not a YA blog. I thought it was both but again, I may be in the minority. She DOES however like the book RATS SAW GOD.

I am writing about this for a reason. I like good discussions. I certainly don't want to upset anyone so that's why I removed the other content. I am hoping we can all have a discussion about this without the content.

So what do you all think? What should kids see? What shouldn't they? What about blogs like this that are NOT for kids? What about the naked boy in THE NIGHT KITCHEN? Does nudity = sex? Is it okay to have nudity in a picture book? Is it okay to have explicit sex in a teen book? Is it okay to have chairs having sex on a blog that isn't for kids? Is it okay for a kids' author to do and say adult things? Is it not?

Now I’ll give my opinion about sexual content in YA. Feel free to disagree (I know some of you will). My parents raised my sisters and I to be okay with nudity and sexuality. They would let us watch movies with sex in it. They would NOT let us watch movies with violence in it. Perhaps I think the chair video is okay because that's how I was raised? My mom let me run around the neighborhood naked. I only put clothes on when my neighbors made fun of me--funny how peer pressure starts at a VERY early age!! (I was only 2 or 3 at the time). If/when I have my own children I will let them watch the chair video. I don't have a problem with kids knowing about sex. That's how kids are made. I DO have a problem with some of the YA books that give explicit details about sex. I feel like a lot of those books encourage sex and that's what I don't agree with. Again, it's a peer pressure thing. It's an ALL THE KIDS ARE DOING IT thing. When a teen hears that everyone else is having sex and then they read books where everyone is having sex then what do you think they're going to feel like they have to do? What do you think they'll think if they aren't having sex? Like a BIG LOSER. And that's why I don't like that content in teen books.

On the nudity topic: I am all for a boy floating through air naked to bake a cake. Nudity does not equal sex. You will learn that VERY quickly if you go to art school and have to draw the human form 20 million times. It's not at all sexy! Unfortunately, many people think that nudity does = sex. Maybe they need to go to art school.

Okay, so that's my post. Speak your minds!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Still no time for a "real" post

I've been delinquent with my posts--I've had family here for consecutive weekends (my older brother last week, my parents this week) and thus have been a bit distracted and unable to think of something substantive to post about. And now I'm off for a week's vacation in VA.

Although not children's book related, I thought I'd just share a small observation I had while on vacation. Over Fourth of July weekend I attended a family reunion (my mom's side of the family) on a Mexican Baja Cruise: 49 people, 3 generations, 14 children aged 7 and under. It was an incredible time. I tried rock climbing for the first time on the top deck, went swimming in the salt water tour, stepped on Mexican land for the first time in my life (despite living in Southern CA for so long), and ate myself silly.
In the dining hall, there are huge port windows with a little ledge which were perfect for kids to sit/stand on, although I'm sure that wasn't the intended purpose. If you looked out, you saw ocean everywhere, and I decided to pick two kids up to take a look: Owen and Madeline, both around 2 years old. Madeline loved it. She laughed and cooed and pointed, and seemed to try to step onto the window to go out in the water. Owen's lower lip started to tremble and his eyes got a terrified look in them and he started to cry, so I quickly lifted him down. The stark difference made me think about personalities, and how much of who we are is innate. I wondered if Madeline would grow up fearless, and Owen more tentative, or if their life experiences would change them gradually. It'll be interesting to observe as they grow older. And it was also interesting to me to hear their parents view--Madeline's mom fretted that her fearlessness would get her in trouble--that she would put herself in danger. 

I should ask my parents which child I most resembled. I remember being fairly daring as a kid (I loved climbing trees, swimming in the ocean, and wasn't afraid of heights), but I also know I was afraid of fireworks and spiders. And I feel that in some senses, I've gotten more fearless as I've grown older, but in other aspects of my life, more tentative.

How about you? How were you as a kid compared to now? And for you parents out there, do you want your kids to be fearless or cautious?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Question of the Week: What's on your mind?

Alvina: my beautiful new Macbook! I ended up going with a white one, and I'm very happy with it. Woo-hoo!

Grace: Ever since Libby's pretty tea party, I've coveted her lovely dishes. I've begun to visit goodwill stores, salvation armies, etc. in search of my own old-fashioned teaware. I love the treasure hunt as well as the mix-match results of my starting collection; and all I can think about is how sweet it will be to have a tea party with them!

Elaine: Cleaning! I have to admit that I'm a pack rat. Over my many years of teaching and working as a librarian...and more than sixty years of living, I have collected a lot of stuff. The thought of going through it all to see what should be thrown out and what should be saved has seemed overwhelming to me--so I always did it in fits and starts. Well, I'm happy to say that I finally set my mind to the task in earnest last week. I've already tossed out ten bags of "stuff"--and it feels really good! Now...I must return to my cleaning...while I'm still in the mood.

Libby: Submissions. Right now, getting three manuscripts out. If there is anything less fun to write than a ms cover letter, I don't know what it is. For me, it's even harder than a job letter, because in my heart of hearts I never want the job.

But the submissions. I really DO want people to read the manuscripts. Once these letters are done and the mss. are mailed, the challenge will be getting them OFF my mind! If I do a good job on the letters, that will be easy, because I will have done all I can. It's when I haven't done my best that things nag at me.

Friday, July 25, 2008


I found the following poem, Summer Job, at Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Kooser talks about “mentoring" in the blurb he includes along with the poem. Would you have liked to have had a mentor like Manny when you were a teenager working a summer job?

Summer Job
By Richard Hoffman
"The trouble with intellectuals," Manny, my boss,
once told me, "is that they don't know nothing
till they can explain it to themselves. A guy like that,"
he said, "he gets to middle age—and by the way,
he gets there late; he's trying to be a boy until
he's forty, forty-five, and then you give him five
more years until that craziness peters out, and now
he's almost fifty—a guy like that at last explains
to himself that life is made of time, that time
is what it's all about.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of J. Patrick Lewis’s newest poetry book for children The World’s Greatest: Poems.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at A Year of Reading.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


So, the deadline for the art of my new novel has been pushed up to…as soon as possible. I’m still determined to do my best quality work; however I know how this song goes. As my illustration activity level escalates to full capacity, my physical activity level diminishes to nonexistence; and #3 of the ten things I’ve learned becomes an unwelcome reality. It is inevitable—the shorter the deadline, the more unhealthier (and chubbier) I become.

And even though I foresee my fatty future, I seem unable to change it. Because not only do I spend my waking hours sedentarily sitting, my eating habits become appalling. My creative brain cells demand candy and pizza, calling labor strikes if I resist. The truth is I am completely unable to create well for extended periods of time unless fueled by unhealthy, high fat food. My focus seems to be sugar driven-- if I remember correctly I was on about three bags of candied ginger a day while writing WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON. I shudder to think what is upcoming...

If anyone has any helpful tips (other than hitting the gym like a maniac when my deadline is over) I'd be thrilled to hear them!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The right answer

Adam's mother flatly refused to have the party in the house, after last year. (Our loyal readers may remember that birthday party: the crying, grabbing, melt-downs, whining and yet intensely macho spirit that pervaded it all.)

So this year we drove to a AAA baseball game in two cars. The boys in ours did not say a word the whole way. Not one word. They know Adam through his various activities: karate, soccer, sailing, marine biology camp, Chinese, baseball, etc. and Adam was in the other car, with his father.

First, we went into the birthday pavilillion, where things loosened up:  bouncing, bungee jumping on the bouncer, hotdogs, cake, presents, excited conversation....and then the game, where the boys all sat together in the front row and we grown-ups (Adam's parents and I) sat in the shade. Somewhat to my surprise, we were soon joined by two of the boys.  They sat next to me, and we spent much of the game trying to figure out things like why they put some Errors on the scoreboard and not others. (In case you don't know, either: an errors is scored only when someone gets on base because of it and -- the confusing part - it is put on the score of the team benefitting from the error, not the team making it.) 

Adam's mother was kept busy walking boys to the bathroom and then waiting outside, putting on sunscreen, keeping track of  everyone's hats, gloves etc.  (the boys moved around a lot and, also to my surprise, didn't all sit together), making a list of the presents so Adam would know who to thank for what in his notes, etc. His father was getting beer and then, later, sitting with Adam who wanted to sit next to his dad.

At the beginning of the ninth inning, the home team was losing 17 to, I think, 1.  Adam, who is intensely competitive, said he was going back to the Birthday Pavillion:
"I don't want to see the ________________s lose."

All the other boys went with him and  I moved down to the front row, so I could photograph the kids running around the bases at the end of the game for this blog (above), something the kids had been very excited about doing.

The most interesting part of the day for me was the ride home.  I began talking to Adam's mother (the boys were all in back -- it's a law that children can't sit in the front seat until they are 12).

"What are you talking about? What are you talking about?" they said.

So I told them and then we had the kind of conversation that makes me love being around kids, once they are 8 or so. This was Adam's 8th birthday. Some of the topics were: the different state quarters; The 300 ("I really want to see it but my parents won't let me until I"m 11 -- or maybe 14"), Harry Potter (one child said he didn't like it and I said that was reassuring, I didn't, either);  Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which one of them had seen "parts of"; aliens; outer space -- and at this point, someone said, in a very polite voice,
"Excuse me, I know this isn't what we're talking about --" he hesitated. "But I want to ask you a question." Clearly, it was  a very, very important question; he paused again and said with a look of great earnestness, "When you were a kid, did you like the show The Brady Bunch?"

Sometimes, when children ask questions you sort of know that they're important but have no idea why. But I had two clues here: this was the child who hadn't liked Harry Potter. And a friend had once said that the BB was his favorite show when he was a child, adding quickly: "But you're not allowed to tell anyone that."

So, I was able to say not only yes, but that the friend I'd mentioned earlier, the one who'd loved The 300 but told me I shouldn't see it because it was too violent, had loved it too. And that was the right answer -- I could tell by the relief on his face.

It was a really fun party, but exhausting. I don't see how parents and teachers do it, day after day. (Does anyone else feel this way at the end of a school visit?)

And I'm going to remember that conversation the next time I do a school visit and feel awkward saying I don't like Harry Potter. When I'm asked about it, I always do tell the truth -- most kids look disappointed (and I always add that it doesn't matter if I don't like it, the point is that THEY do), but there are always some who look relieved. Maybe next time it will be easier to answer that question.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


This has been a busy time: a library visit in Boston (thank you, everyone who came!), a successful negotiation with a publisher about payment (thank you BRGs for advice on that). I am not by nature a good negotiator, especially when I really, really want to do the project. I was brought up not to talk about money, I feel fortunate to be paid for my writing, awkward talking about money and naming amounts, greedy when I ask for more -- but this is no way to make a living.

So, this time I was determined to do things differently. I  really th0ught about it, consulted with the BRGs, and then said (in a nice way) why I thought the offer wasn't enough. The editor involved COULDN'T have been nicer and more gracious: she was very appreciative of me and my writing, explained that this project had a very small budget, wished she could pay me more. And made a new offer. Everything was done in a spirit of good will, and  left me feeling great about the project and the fact that I had asked, too. What if I hadn't? I would have been resentful and angry, she would never even have known that I was being paid way less than usual.

Another thing that made it easier was a conversation with the organizer of Authors Talk Too, the group that invited me to do the library visit. After the presentations, we went out to lunch and talked -- as authors are apt to do -- about money and publishers and contracts (we talked about other things, too:  kids and literacy and getting authors into the schools that need them most). She said that when one person does a job for less than she deserves, it makes things harder for everyone else.

That reminded me of something a friend said once when she was learning to stick up for herself in general: she pretended that she was sticking up for, protecting, a child. For some (many?) women, it's a lot easier to stick up for other people than yourself!  So I am posting  this as a reminder for myself and everyone else who finds negotiating and asking for more hard: think of it as sticking up for your colleagues as well as yourself. Good luck to us all! And I'd love to hear how other people do it.

PS More on the library visit later

Friday, July 18, 2008

POETRY FRIDAY: So This Is Nebraska

I haven’t been blogging as much as usual lately. Other things have occupied my time--including the cleaning of my basement. It was time to throw out old things that have been cluttering the other side of this level where I have my library/office.

I went looking for a poem to post at Blue Rose Girls this morning--and Ted Kooser’s So This Is Nebraska caught my poetic fancy. I like Kooser’s images and details, the way he describes the barns--and his feelings.

By Ted Kooser

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop
over the fields, the telephone lines
streaming behind, its billow of dust
full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.

On either side, those dear old ladies,
the loosening barns, their little windows
dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs
hide broken tractors under their skirts.

So this is Nebraska. A Sunday
afternoon; July. Driving along
with your hand out squeezing the air,
a meadowlark waiting on every post.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original poem entitled Popsicle.

Kelly Fineman has the Poetry Friday Roundup.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

the luxury of self-doubt

For me, personally, I've found my speed of creation has altered drastically since Robert's passing. During the days of his illness, the desperate financial needs were incredible motivators. Necessity became a strange creative impetus, the muses constantly sang and when they could not they hummed until it became a song. And while the songs were perhaps not the inspirational hymn preferred, I got used to the background music.

But now, without the pressure, my muses have become tempermental. Sometimes the inspiration flashes, but, now as I attempt to write the YEAR OF THE TIGER more often than not I find myself simply pegging away. I have never been a writer whose characters speak to them (like my friend Justina Chen Headley ) but I have never before felt the true exhaustion of writing. During the final writing stages of WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON the focus I had taken for granted seemed to disperse into the wind and for the first time I found myself questioning my ability to continue. Will I be able to write this? Can I do it?

And, I realize that self-doubt is a luxury that I have not had in a long time. It is a strange relishment, this allowance of the idea of failure. It is oddly refreshing.
That is, as long as it remains an idea. I hope the actual realization of failure is unnecessary!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Clearing the decks

On Friday I'm starting a month long yoga retreat (gulp). Just like any other project I can't get started before clearing the decks and getting my studio in order. There is work to wrap up, loose ends to tie and dust bunnies to sweep!

I got the proof for What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? yesterday (my activity book which will be out next spring), so satisfying to see a project near completion, on my end anyways, before starting something new. Here is the jacket and title page:

A sample spread:

And of course the pile of papers I still have to go through before Friday, ack!

See you in August!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Belated ALA wrap-up

Well, I'm back from my two-week hiatus. It would feel amiss if I didn't give a wrap-up of ALA, even though it now feels very very long ago. But here goes.

I arrived Friday June 27th at the Disneyland Paradise Pier hotel--it was completely Disneyfied, from the Goofy in the lobby... to the Mickey Mouse ears on the shampoo. The view from my window was of the Californian Adventure. Fun!
One of the first things I did upon arrival was to check in with Victoria, our amazing library marketing manager, to make sure that the art we mailed for Wabi Sabi and Sergio Makes a Splash was safe and intact. It was (whew!).

Then on to dinner with an exhausted Lisa Wheeler and daughter (they had travel trouble on the way). It was great to catch up. Lisa's Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum (illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith) is still one of my all-time faves--I still give it out as a gift, and it's wonderful to hear the kids repeat the text, and ultimately memorize the words.

Saturday morning Tony Abbott signed copies of The Postcard at the booth. It was great how many people had loved Firegirl and excited about his new novel.

Then it was on to our Fiction Lunch. I mentioned this in my wrap-up from last year's ALA--The format was similar to that of our library previews, where we invite various special librarian guests, but instead of editors rotating tables, we have three authors rotate. Tony Abbott started us off by reading from The Postcard, then we ate our very beautiful salad.
Then the authors rotated table and Wendy Mass stood up to read from Every Soul a Star (coming this Fall). Then we ate our lovely entree. And finally, the authors rotated a third time and Paul Feig (of Freaks and Geeks fame) read from his upcoming novel Ignatious McFarland: Frequenaut!
Saturday afternoon I touched base with Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci to go over next Spring's YA short story collection Geektastic--we put all of the stories and interstitial comics in order, which was fun but challenging. I've never worked on a short story collection before, and putting the stories in order is a bit like making a mix tape.

Saturday evening we had a relaxing family dinner (meaning just Little, Brown employees and authors/illustrators, no special librarian guests), and then had a fun night at Disneyland. I hadn't originally planned on going to Disneyland--as a teen living in Southern California, I went to Disneyland way too much and in fact had a fairly negative impression of it--the lines! But I went with my group, and had a great time. Because we went at night, the lines weren't too long. And although I tried the new Indiana Jones ride that hadn't been open when I was a kid, I still thought that Space Mountain was the best ride. Of course, it had been a while, so I had forgotten where they take a picture of us and thus the result was perhaps one of the most unflattering pictures of me ever taken. But it's also funny, and so I'm posting it here. This is a picture of the picture, so I apologize for the quality.
On Sunday we had our Picture Book Lunch, which was pretty much the same as the Fiction Lunch, but with illustrators instead of authors. One of the best parts of this event is the original art that we are able to display. Here we have Ed Young's art for Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein:
Michael Emberley's art for Mail Harry to the Moon by Robie Harris:
And Edel Rodriguez's art for Sergio Makes a Splash:
Here is Ed Young giving a very touching talk about the illustration process for Wabi Sabi. We had final copies of the book air shipped from the printer in China, and I must say, the books are so beautiful, they make me want to cry. This book has truly been a labor of love for everyone involved. I'll be talking more about this book closer to its publication date.
Edel and I had to rush out of the lunch to head back to the conference center for his book signing. He drew a funny little penguin on each and every book, and afterwards showed me how to do it. Here's one of my efforts. Not bad, eh?
Sunday night was the Newbery/Caldecott banquet. I attended for the first time last year and loved it. I love the festive feeling in the air, the beautiful dresses, the anticipation of the speeches, the great company, and the food (well, the entree was disappointing this year, but the salad and the dessert was lovely). We sat fairly far away from the speakers, so I don't have any good pictures, but here is Brian Selznick accepting the Caldecott from committee chair Karen Breen. He wore a sparkly shirt that he apparently had studded himself. Crazy fun!
His speech was amazing. It included a fantastic video of illustrations in the style of The Invention of Hugo Cabret depicting how he got the news of the award. And his speech was touching (he choked up a few times) and funny. Many of us wondered how Laura Amy Schlitz would be able to follow it. Well, we needn't have worried. Here is Laura accepting the Newbery from chairperson Nina Lindsay (who, incidentally, I had sat next to at last year's banquet) for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!.
Laura didn't stand at the podium for her speech. Instead, she stood on the edge of the stage and just talked to us. Well, more than talked, she performed. She used no notes, and didn't stumble once. She immediately captivated the audience, and we stayed with her during the whole speech. Unbelievable.

The next day, I had breakfast with a West Coast agent I had never met in person--we dined at my hotel's buffet, which perhaps wasn't the best idea, as we kept being interrupted by characters such as Lilo and Stitch and Pluto, but it was fun. I didn't take any pictures, though. Too bad!

Wendy Mass had been invited to be the key note speaker at the American Association of School Librarians awards luncheon. She had been nervous about her speech all weekend, but it was perfect. Funny and heartfelt. She even had a prop--she had laminated all of her rejection letters from publishers and she asked for volunteers to unroll them down the room. None from me!
And that, pretty much, was that. It was a busy, whirlwind conference. One highlight, I must say, was having several people, upon seeing my name tag, introduce themselves to me as readers of this blog! So, hello--you know who you are!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Question of the week: HOW ARE YOU PROCRASTINATING?

I keep thinking about making curtains, even though I don't have the time and am a poor sewer. But the fabric at Ikea keeps calling to me...which one do you like better?

Libby: Doing things in here that SEEM LIKE work but are actually not necessary -- or at least, not necessary right at that moment.

I admit that I am really proud of this garden -- as our loyal readers may remember, I started it last summer, with the help of the landlord's kids. It's the first garden I've ever had and I grew all the flowers from seed.

Anna: Playing with the wild stray kittens we have locked in our bathroom! How could I resist? They are the cutest kitties in the whole wide world, sigh.

Elaine: Playing with Jack, the new yellow lab that my daughter's boyfriend got recently. Look at Jack. Can you blame me?

Alvina: I haven't been procrastinating too badly this week, because I've been on vacation until Wednesday, and then had to dive right back into work. But I guess the two things that have been distracting me lately are:

1) watching the second season of America's Best Dance Crew. Those of you who read my personal blog know that I was a big Jabbawokeez fan last season. This season I love Super Cr3w. But Fanny Pak had the standout routine this week:

2) Making preparations for various birthday celebrations--it's my 34th on Wednesday the 16th. And that means a whole birthday week is in store!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Preparing or procrastinating?

When I'm getting ready to immerse myself in writing, I spend a lot of time doing things like:
* "clearing the decks" -- doing stuff like cleaning and doing other things I've put off that need to be attended to;: answering hard emails, paying bills, doing errands
* organizing my apartment
* decorating my apartment

Some of this really DOES help with writing, I think -- there is something about that tidy, everything's-in-order feeling that's very organizing and calming....and decorating is so much fun that while I'm doing it I do often think of good ideas. But it can also degenerate into pure procrastination and sublimation.

Filling this goldfish bowl is on the borderline:

I've been wanting to get a real goldfish, but that would be really mean: the bowl is too small. Buying a fancy fish tank would not be a good use of either time or money right now. So, filling this with 8 glass fish (the little red things) and a rubber goldfish seemed like a good compromise.

Going on from there to painting my bedroom, reupholstering a chair, or any number of other projects that suddenly seemed very tempting, would be over the line.

The other thing on my mind about writing this week is how much detail to go into.....a lot of kids have told me that they love how detailed my writing is; adults have said that they find it TOO detailed. I know sometimes it is -- what I really need to do, I think, is write it in as much detail as I want to and take out the clutter later. Thoughts? At what point in the writing process do you start editing?


POETRY FRIDAY: Mark Doty...and More

Poetry Readings at Boston University

Place: Sargent College Auditorium at 635 Commonwealth Avenue
Time: 3:45 to 4:30

Monday, July 14th: Heather McHugh
Tuesday, July 15th: Louise Gluck & Frank Bidart
Wednesday, July 16th: Robert Pinsky & Maggie Dietz
Thursday, July 17th: Mark Doty

NOTE: The poetry readings, co-hosted by the Favorite Poem Project and the Boston University School of Education, are free and open to the public.

I had the great privilege of being one of fifty educators selected to participate in the First Annual Summer Poetry Institute for Teachers at Boston University. The poets we educators worked with that year were Robert Pinsky, Louise Gluck, Rosanna Warren, David Ferry, and Mark Doty. All of the poets were great--but the one whose work spoke to me the most was Mark Doty. That’s why I’ve selected one of his poems, A Green Crab’s Shell, for this Poetry Friday. Read what Doty sees in and writes about a crab’s shell. I love the way he ends his poem.

From A Green Crab’s Shell
by Mark Doty

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like--

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws'

gesture of menace
and power.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

At Wild Rose Reader, I have a poem by Cynthia Gray, a New Mexican writer, and more pictures of my trip to New Mexico.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Under the Covers.


Thursday, July 10, 2008


I don't really have anything to say today. I''m a bit overwhelmed with stuff to do--for some reason a whole bunch of people have asked for bios on me all at once. Everyone wants something slightly different. I feel like I've written my bio at least a dozen times already and I don't know what more I can say. So instead of working on them I'm just staring into space. Sometimes when I have too much to do I end up doing absolutely nothing. Anyone else do this? I also told myself I'd work on the electricity graphic novel this week and haven't really done that either. Instead I've chosen to paint cars on cardboard and other things that don't need to be done. I've repainted the radiator in the kitchen and turned the pantry door into a chalk board... basically anything and everything BUT what I"m supposed to be doing. And of course yesterday I spent the day doing doctor related things and have another doctor appointment today. That kind of ruins the creativity entirely. On the one hand I"m absolutely sick of going to doctor appointments, but if I don't go then I'm essentially giving up and I'll never find treatment. The only thing I know for sure is that I do indeed have widespread nerve damage. If this continues it will be permanent--kind of a kill joy.

So that's my story. My new procrastination involves building a coffee table. Apparently I have expensive taste and can't or shouldn't pay 2,000 for one so I'm going to try to build my own.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

in progress

So I have been hard at work the interior illustrations of my new novel "Where the Mountain meets the Moon." It's a Chinese folktale-inspired fantasy, so I want the art to have an Asian traditional feel. But the novel is not a classic retelling or historical story, so I want the illustrations to traditionally inspired, but not reproductions.

The chapter headers are drawn in the style of chinese papercuts. There is still no word on whether interior will be color (cross your fingers!) but if it is these will be red on white:

And, if color does get approved (double-cross your fingers!) there will be 9 full page color interiors. I chose 9 because it is a Chinese lucky number symbolizing forever/everlasting---and I want this book to everlasting for the readers as well as in print forever! I have been looking at cloisonne and the art on Chinese vases and dinnerware as inspiration for these pieces:

Only about 20 more chapter headers and 1 more full page interior to go. Then I get to paint, hopefully (triple cross your fingers for the color interior!).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

on my desk...

I'm a little late on this one.

I was bored at work yesterday so I did some white-out art on cardboard. When I got home I decided to start a "car on cardboard" series.

Abigail Spells is finished!

As I mentioned under the question of the week, a week ago today I handed in the art for Abigail, yippee! This was a really fun project to work on, and really satisfying to see all the art finished. Laying out all the paintings for a book gives you such a nice sense of completion... there are so many points in the middle of painting when it feels like things just might not resolve and my anxiety kicks in, like I can coast in a painting til its about 75% done, then that last 25% comes from some kind of miraculous leap of faith.

Anyways, here are some of the finals that haven't appeared on the blog yet, stay tuned for updates as the book goes through production- fun and exciting promo to come!