Friday, December 31, 2010

A Poem for New Year's Day & An Acrostic

Last December, Tricia Stohr-Hunt of The Miss Rumphius Effect, did a Poetry Stretch in which she challenged people to write poems about time. I thought I’d re-post the two “time” poems that I contributed to the stretch. A Poem for New Year’s Day still needs work. My second poem is an acrostic.
A Poem for New Year’s Day

What is time?
The passing of days
as we spin through space
into darkness and then light
through morning, noon, and night…
as we travel ‘round the sun
at a breakneck pace
in and out of months
and ever-changing seasons
till we come full circle.

We’ll begin the trip again
at the starting point
right here…
and follow a well-worn path
as we complete another year.

One turns—so turn all the other gears…
Clicking, ticking, tocking together
Keeping in time through the years.

At Wild Rose Reader, I have a memoir poem titled Early Snow.
The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Carol’s Corner this week.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Which I with sword will open?

Our loyal readers may remember that Grace, Alvina and I learned how to open oysters, because I was writing an article about it for my local PATCH. Here's the article, with videos and photographs by Alvina.

WE were all able to open our oysters on the first try, but they didn't want me to put that in the piece, in case readers couldn't. But I honestly think that if you follow the instructions, especially the crucial first step which tells you how to choose oysters that will be EASY to open, you'll be able to do it, too.

And do slurp them down as soon as you open them: a few of us here in town tested the instructions again last night, and as someone said, eating oysters that fresh is like gulping sea mist. A child who was present and insisted on tasting one said, predictably,

No one was sorry that he didn't like them.

And if this post must be tied more directly to children's books, isn't this a great way to describe someone?

"Secret, and self-contained, and soliatary as an oyster,"
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Sorry for the delay in posting. I'm at my parents' house in California right now, and I can't keep track of the days of the week. I'm so happy to be on vacation! I'm reading for pleasure (am reading and enjoying Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go), playing with my iPad (my brothers and I have discovered the game Fruit Ninja, which is a ridiculously addictive game where you have to slice fruit thrown up in the air):

playing sports (tennis, ping pong, pool, and golf):
my younger brother and I on the golf course
reading the newspaper (hard copy of the LA Times, iPad version of the NYTimes), watching movies (saw TRON: Legacy last night--except I fell asleep during a big chunk of it because I was exhausted from golf), eating (of course! Had In n Out Burger on my first night back)
and just spending time with my loved ones (we played with my brother's XBOX Kinect, which is like the Wii, but without a controller--it uses a sensor.).
My older brother plays a dance game while his wife looks on.
The table is set for Christmas Eve dinner

Before I left work last Wednesday I was determined to reach Inbox Zero, as I knew I would be out of the office for almost three weeks (am on vacation until the ALA conference in San Diego, and won't be back in the office until January 12!).

And, look! I achieved it!!
It was so satisfying that I think I'm going to add "reach Inbox Zero at least once a month" to my work New Year's Resolutions for next year. More on that later...

Happy Holidays, all!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

from the BRG archives: Remembering Childhood

Back in the comment section of my post on "What Makes Me so Qualified to Edit Children's Books?", Anna reminded me of this quote from Ursula Nordstrom:

Asked pointedly by Anne Carroll Moore, the New York Public Library's powerful superintendent of work with children, what qualified her (Ursula), a nonlibrarian, nonteacher, nonparent, and noncollege graduate to publish children's books, Nordstrom just as pointedly replied, "Well, I am a former child, and I haven't forgotten a thing."

I'm realizing more and more that this is true for me. And I've been seeing a pattern lately where many things have reminded me of my childhood. A friend recently sent me two mix-CDs she and her husband compiled of 80s ballads that really took me back. Some of the songs included were "One More Try" by Timmy T, "Toy Soldiers" by Martika, "Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera, and "Lost in Your Eyes" by Debbie Gibson. Each song took me back to junior high and high school, each song held a memory of my childhood for me.

And then I've been thinking about New York and how much I love it here and feel at home here, and I realize that part of the reason is that I've found places to go and activities to do that bring me back to my childhood.

For example, one of my favorite after work bars in the city is Bar 9, where the next Kid's Lit Drinks night is taking place on Friday. And the biggest reason why I love it so? They have tater tots on the menu.

Another example is Barcade in Williamsburg, a bar with old-school arcade games, such as Rampage, Tetris, Ms. Pacman, Digdug, Gauntlet, Tapper, etc., all for the original price of 25 cents, unlike the fancy new arcades such as Dave and Busters and the ESPN Zone in Times Square. I wasn't a huge video game player as a kid, but I did a fair share of playing, and many an hour was spent watching my older brother and others play.

And speaking of Tetris, last Thursday I went to Nerd Nite, a monthly event held at a bar in the East Village where two speakers talk for 20 minutes on various nerdy topics. Friday's topics were neurogenesis, and Tetris. Tetris! A true Tetris scholar enlightened us on the history of the game. And as I was somewhat of a Tetris scholar myself in high school and college, I quite enjoyed the talk.

And last but not least, two Wednesdays ago I went roller skating at the Roxy for a friend's birthday. Remember back when you had your birthday party at a roller rink? I remember going around and around, spending quarters on the holographic stickers in the vending machine, doing the Hokey Pokey in the middle of the rink. This wasn't exactly the same--no stickers, not Hokey Pokey--but it was the same old-school roller skates with the rubber stop in the front. It was the same going around and around the rink to dance music. And it was the same thrill--the awkwardness the first time you go out on the floor, before you get your sea legs. The breeze of speed on your face and through your hair. The adrenaline of going fast while not quite knowing how to stop. Running into your friends as you went around.

I've grown up, for sure. I live an adult life with adult problems and responsibilities. But I remember the child I was, the shyness, the exuberance, the worries, the carefreeness. Viva the inner child!

Originally published February 5, 2007

Friday, December 24, 2010

Amateurs and professionals: merry Christmas to all!

I love amateur theatricals, especially if they involve children. One of the most intense artistic experiences of my life was attending a Christmas pantomime (in the English sense: a play that takes a VERY familiar story, adds songs and plenty of slapstick, and encourages audience participation) in South Africa, just after apartheid ended. I was the only adult guest at a performance of "Cinderella" -- everyone else in the audience was a school child or teacher. Before the play began, my eight-or-so neighbor reassured me about it:
"It's the funny version," she said. And, when at intermission I leapt for the bathroom she was agonized:
"It's not finished!"

But that wasn't why it was so intense. It was because of the way the audience responded. At first, they were stiff- but pantomime actors are very skilled at getting kids to respond. Cinderella put some cheese on the table, went out - and some children, dressed as mice, danced in and ate it. When Cinderella came back, she asked where the cheese was. No one said anything. She kept asking, and finally someone said:
"The mice took it."

By the middle, when the wicked step-sisters (always played by men, in pantomime tradition) were preening for the ball and asking if they looked beautiful, kids were shouting:
"No, no, you're ugly!"

And by the end, when the prince was there with the slipper and the stepsisters had hidden Cinderella, most of the audience left its seat to scream hysterically:
"In the closet! IN THE CLOSET! Look in the closet@"

So, when I get a chance to attend a Christmas play acted by children, I take it. To celebrate Christmas on our blog: here is a local Christmas pageant. (Warning:my photographs are bad -- but the only way I'll get better is to keep taking them.)

Usually, this pageant uses LIVE animals, but this year (new minister?) the kids played the animal roles.

It wasn't Christmas in South Africa, but Christmas where I live, and I'm glad to be here --and glad children are still celebrating the season. ALL cultures with seasons I've ever heard of celebrate the time of year when the days get longer -- when darkness changes to light and a new calendar year begins -- and their culture's version of the story. Here is a CT church Christmas, in order: first, from while some are waiting to go on

to when they come down the aisle at the end. Sorry! No pictures of the actual acting-out of the story because I was sitting way in the back. I really wanted to run up and take close-ups, but not one person-- even people whose chidren were in the pageant -- even went into the aisle to take photographs. Everyone (even the young brothers and sisters of the stars) stayed in their seats, unlike the audience in South Africa. But although they were more reserved about expressing it, everyone was into it, and AFTER the service, shook hands and smiled and wished each other:

"Merry Christmas!"

POETRY FRIDAY: The Christmas Babka

One of my favorite childhood memories is of the time my mother and I drove over to her parents’ house one December night before Christmas. Babci, my grandmother, had taken a big pan of her homemade babka out of the oven just before we had arrived. She sliced a big hunk of the sweet bread for us to take home. My mother and I devoured half of it in the car. It was still warm and soooo delicious!

Here is a poem I wrote more than a dozen years ago about my Babci making her famous babka:

by Elaine Magliaro

We watch Babci make the Christmas babka.

With plump peasant hands

she kneads sweet dough

on the white porcelain-topped table,

places it in a large sky-blue bowl,

covers it with a damp towel,

and sets it on the kitchen counter

near the hissing radiator.

Swelling with bubbles of air,

the dough rises into a pale yellow cloud

flecked with bits of orange rind.

The baking babka fills the house

with the scent of Christmas.

We eat the bread fresh from the oven,

its insides steaming and golden—

a homemade treasure

rich enough to warm a winter night.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

At Wild Rose Reader, I have another Christmas memoir poem titled Remember.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is over at A Year of Reading.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

deck the halls...

with birds of jolly!

With our past year's origami ornaments mysteriously missing (perhaps accidentally recycled!) I decided that the decorations of this year's tree should be a bit more durable. So when over the summer, Anna purchased these strings of birds:

I had my Christmas tree inspiration!

With a little internet research I found this lovely (and FREE) pattern from Spool and began to sew (by hand still because I am scared of my sewing machine). It made me quite happy. I used up leftover fabric from my computer case, wedding and old clothes--that bright red fabric with the white flower is from a 70's dress of my mother's!

I let Squatchie stuff the birds which is why they are so plump. I think some of them look like dolphins. But they still looked nice on the tree, don't you think?

fa la la la, la la la LA!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Not To Read on Your Caribbean Vacation

When writing my last entry, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Picture Books,” I believed I was resurrecting an already laid to rest discussion about the New York Times’ obituary for the picture book. My post was uploaded on December 14th. The day AFTER Publishers Weekly’s cover asked “Did the New York Times get it wrong?”

What timing.

Grace can attest to the fact that I actually wrote my entry weeks prior. It was one of the last things I checked off of my “to-do” list before I went here:

Me & My Sister, Rachel and a boat of Epic proportions

Yes, for the first time in my tenure as an agent I took an honest-to-goodness, no access to email vacation.

And what does, a literary agent do during an honest-to-goodness vacation?

A little of this…

A bit of that…

(My mother, sister, and I in front of an Ice Bar does denote a bit of drinking)

A whole lot of this…

It was a cruise. There was a lot of eating. Just after the picture was taken, I probably dove for that dinner roll.

And a good dose of this…

A new Hunger Games reader is born, while I remain puzzled about my choice of reading material.

Yes, on a vacation, a literary agent reads. For eight whole days I would not read emails or manuscripts. I loaded my kindle with published, adult books. On deck chairs, on beaches, on a balcony off of a very small room I shared with my mother and sister, and on an elliptical machine overlooking the ocean we were moving through on a very large ship, I read…

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and Little Bee by Chris Cleave

What is wrong with me?

Just to be clear. Both books were wonderful, and I would recommend them for sure…but they are not the kind of book that you read on a beach or on a cruise. I think I would have liked each so much more if I had read them on a cold New York day like today. I must admit that I have a tendency to read books in inappropriate places. I once read Lolita on a car trip and as a (slightly?) pretentious teen I tried to read Joyce at overnight camp. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now.

Of course, there are books that I have read in just the right place, in just the right time of my life. In my eyes, part of being a literary agent representing children’s books is championing work that is pivotal in a child’s development, and that they will remember well into their adulthood. I know that middle grade and YA fiction can be read by a pre-teen or teen at the very moment when they need it, when it can open their eyes, show them a place they never knew possible, change their perspective, or affirm what they are feeling inside. So much of children’s and young adult literature succeeds because it reaches a child or teen at the most fitting moment of their lives.

While Freedom and Little Bee both had an impact on me; I can’t help but feel my reading of them was somewhat skewed by the setting I was in. I would love to hear about books that you read in both the wrong and right places in time. (I’m a new blogger. I thrive on comments!)

I now realize that I should have been reading a book like this on my most recent vacation:

Pointing to a book by my colleague, Merrilee Heieftz’s bestselling author, Laurell K. Hamilton.

I have learned my lesson and given the opportunity (read: I don’t think I should wait another 9-years to take a manuscript and email free vacation), I promise to do better. Well, at least I can look at the glass half full…after Little Bee, at least I was smart enough not to read the next book on my kindle… Room by Emma Donoghue.

Wishing you all Happy Holiday reading!

Monday, December 20, 2010

iPad, and more on eBooks

I'm somewhat of a geek in terms of coveting new technology. But I'm also fairly conservative when it comes to actually spending money on big ticket items. I bought a Macbook many years after first seriously thinking about it, because I needed to suck all the life possible out of my ancient and virus-ridden Dell desktop, and also I needed to save the money for buying it before actually buying it. (Sounds like common sense, huh? After years of digging out of credit card debt, i had finally learned my lesson.)

I longed for the iPad as soon as its existence was rumored. But as a owner of both of Macbook AND an iPhone, I just couldn't justify the cost. I thought I'd seriously look into it once the 2nd generation was released (rumored to be in early 2011). But when I was given one for work last week (no, not everyone received one--right now one, maybe two people in editorial, marketing, and design have one), I was pretty darn excited. Yes, I'm spoiled.
my new iPad!

I immediately went out and bought two different cases, one to just carry the iPod itself for every day use, and a fancy one from Brookstone with a built-in keyboard. In fact, I drafted this blog post using my iPad and keyboard on the train up to CT to visit Libby, and then back again to NY. It basically looks like a much lighter, smaller laptop:
iPad in the Brookstone keyboard case

It won't replace my laptop by any means, though--the biggest disadvantage is that you can't run Microsoft Word, which is crucial for my job. I'm using the "Pages" application which can read Word docs, and it's adequate for reviewing and writing documents, but I won't be able to use the Track Changes function to edit. Darn. If I had that, I'd be set.

At another editor's recommendation, I'm trying out an app called iAnnotate PDF to edit, but I'll have to save my Word docs as a PDF in order for it to work, and then I'll have to most likely transfer my notes manually back into Word in order to send them to authors. But, it's more streamlined and neat than bringing hard copies of the paper manuscript around with me, or lugging my laptop around. I'll give it a shot and we'll see how it goes.

But overall, it's shiny and new and fun and I love my new toy.

The real reason I have the iPad is not necessarily to edit manuscripts on it, or to read submissions on it, although I will probably end up doing both on occasion. The main reason I was given an iPad is that my company wants to make sure in-house editors, designers, marketing folks, etc are up on the newest technology and are also aware of what is possible with the new technology. This is necessary in order to better know what we can be doing with our own books in terms of the new digital realm. We've also ordered in the new B&N Color Nook that Meghan posted about previously. It's pretty nice, too. We have a few of our books up for sale for both the Color Nook and the iBookstore for the iPad. In both cases, we've been pretty selective and careful both in terms of the quality of the final product, and the comfort level of the authors and illustrators.

In general, it's been pretty interesting to see that the large majority of authors and illustrators and agents we work with are really excited that their book is going to be available in a new format. There are a few agencies and authors and illustrators who are not open to having their books available as eBooks for various reasons (mainly royalty rates and quality of the format), but overall I think everyone (publishers included) are worried about being left behind, and feel that we need to forge ahead in order to test the market. Also, what we've done so far are straight eBooks--no bells or whistles, no movement, no games. So far, at least for picture books, we've tried to remain as faithful as possible to the original paper book reading experience.

Again, as I've said before, I don't think paper books will disappear in my lifetime, especially for children's books, but I can see people using picture book eBooks as a great tool for car trips, traveling, etc. My hope is that if people love a book, they'll buy it in multiple formats! :) One for home, one for the road. But overall, I do think eBooks will continue to grow in market share (right now I believe it's just under 10%)--as more and more people start owning iPads and Kindles and Nooks, this number is bound to increase.

I have to say, I love that a book still looks like a book on the iPad. It has a gutter, and a page turn, even. It's kinda silly and somewhat antiquated that I think that, I suppose--I mean, if I want the gutter and traditional page turn, why not just read a paper book? (which is probably why I still haven't read an eBook!) But because it tries to recreate the traditional book reading experience, I can see getting used to reading books on the iPad more than I can see getting used to reading books on my Sony Reader, which, as I've said before on this blog, I haven't been able to bring myself to do, mainly because it just doesn't seem like a book. On the iPad, you never forget that it's still a book:

Perhaps the iPad will be my gateway eBook reader. Perhaps it will get me addicted to eBooks. Perhaps not--the backlit screen might hurt my eyes. Anyway, I'll keep you posted.

I'm curious:
1) do you think print books will eventually disappear? If so, in how many years? If not, what percentage of market share will eBooks settle in as compared to print books?
2) What percentage of book sales will be eBook sales be in five years?

My answers:
1) No, print books will not disappear--at least not for a very long time. I think the market may eventually settle into a 80% eBooks to 20% print books in about 50 or so years. (this is a COMPLETE guess, mind you.)
2) In five years, my guess is 25%. But for children's books, I think it will be lower. Maybe 15%.

The eBook market is still a bit like the Wild West right now, but I've been trying to absorb all I can. I'm happy to try to answer any questions you all may have!

Also, check out this opinion piece about Dr. Seuss and children's eBooks in the Wall Street Journal:

Something is always lost as technology advances, and this will be true of the decline of print. But since technology can't be stopped, we should make the most of it. Or, as Dr. Seuss urged in his final book, "Oh, the Places You'll Go": "Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So . . . get on your way!"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Turkeys and pearls

Some of you may remember me talking about writing an article for PATCH -- here it is.

Next will be a piece on how to shuck oysters, complete with a video by Alvina of the professional giving a very clear demo. We tried ourselves at home afterwards, and (to our surprise) were all able to do it easily.

A video of 3 BRGs slurping the just-shucked oysters may appear here soon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

POETRY FRIDAY: Christmas Acrostics

I used to dislike acrostic poems. I found most of the ones that I had read were too prosaic. Then, when I was still teaching, I tried writing some with my students. Some of my students—with my help—wrote really exceptional acrostics. Here are two examples:

SUNS by Billy
Solar flares blast into space,
Untamed explosions of fire, in
Neverending galaxies where
Stars are born and reborn.

SPACE by Colby

Stars, jewels of light sparkle in the night.
Pluto, cold as an icy night, as dark as pitch, freezes in space.
Asteroids, worlds of rock and metal, play ring around the sun.
Comets of ice with fiery tails glow in the darkness.
Elegant Earth, a world of sapphire blue and green, spins around the sun.

After my experience with my students writing acrostics, I was inspired to write some myself. Here are three of my Christmas-themed acrostics:

Wrapped around itself,
Evergreen, fragrant of winter forests,
Adorned with berries, baubles, bells of gold,
Tacked to the front door...
Home for the holidays.

Trimmed with tinsel, bedecked with shiny bulbs,
Ribboned with red satin, strung with bright lights—
Each twinkling like an earthbound star in an
Evergreen sky.

Santa snaps the reins. Red-nosed Rudolph
Leads the team of reindeer this early winter
Eve. Up, up
Into the sky with a cargo of Christmas
Gifts and goodies they rise, weaving through clouds. Can you
Hear the merry jingle of their silver bells?

At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original memoir poem about my childhood titled Christmas Eve.

Amy has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm.