Friday, April 30, 2010

A Favorite Poem Project Video: The Sloth by Theodore Roethke

In a previuos post, Brian Age Seven--A Poem by Mark Doty, I wrote about being a participant in the first annual Summer Poetry Institute for Teachers at Boston University in 2001. Here is one of the Favorite Poem videos we watched while at the institute. In the video, Katherine Mechling--who was then a fifth grader--recites Theodore Roethke's poem The Sloth.

The Sloth (Favorite Poem Project)

At Wild Rose Reader, I have a post titled Apostrophe: Poems of Address. It includes some of my original poems of address, links to other poems, and a poetry book recommendation.
The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Great Kids Books.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


My school visit whirlwind is continuing. Before heading to Albany for the weekend, I did a quick talk with superstar author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka at my alma mater RISD. I admit, going back to the ol'Illustration Studies Buildings made me feel...

And while the imparting of any of my knowledge to future illustrators was questionable, what was quite certain was how much the school has changed. Not only did the students seem to already know the business basics which took me years to figure out after graduating, the campus itself was transformed. When I went to the ISB, the view looked like this:
(not real photo of the landscape, but accurate in its ambiance! Providence was doing major construction for the whole 4 years of my attendance).

But now, the landscape looks like this:
Jarrett, I think we were gypped!

Regardless, I think we were both glad we went and came back. We look happy, don't we?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Photo For Greta jacket painting in progress

I've been busy working on the paintings for A Photo for Greta, here is the jacket painting in progress:

The rest next week! Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Where the Naked Ladies Dance

There's a song with a tune I'm pretty sure you'd all recognize; but the words would be different. Every generation of children I've known has had their own version-- and I was quite astonished the other day to hear my mother sing the version from her childhood (the song had come up in the conversation):

"Oh they don't wear pants
in the Southern part of France.
They just wear grass
to cover up their ass."

It was the first (and I'm sure the last) time I will ever hear her use the word "ass."

What did they sing when you were a child? Maddeningly, I can't remember what we sang; I just remember the tune. I keep meaning to ask the kids I babysit for what they sing and forgetting.
If anyone knows that, too, would you post it?

In the seventies, kids sang:

"There's a place in France
where the naked ladies dance.
There's a hole in the wall
Where the men can see them all."

It would be sad if all the scheduled activities kids (much less time spent just playing, unsupervised, with other kids) and computer games and such made kids stop passing on these kinds of things to each other. If I could draw, I'd do a picture book about all the rhymes and games and things I've seen kids teach each other.It's fascinating to see how they change over the years; at least, to me. I guess that's why I write for children, not adults.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins

Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets. I really enjoy reading his poems that have touches of wry humor in them and yet still speak to serious subjects. Since April is National Poetry Month, I selected one of Collins’s poems on the subject of poetry. I hope you like this poem as much as I do. It’s entitled The Trouble with Poetry. Here’s how the poem begins:

From The Trouble with Poetry
by Billy Collins

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along the beach one night—
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky—

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.

You can read the rest of the poem here:

Here’s a video of Collins reading his poem:


At Wild Rose Reader, I have another extensive mask poem post with some original poems--including Sole Song--and links to resources for those interested in writing their own point-of-view poems or for teachers who’d like to do a lesson on writing mask poems in their classrooms.

At Political Verses, I have an original poem entitled A Chicken for a Checkup: A Poem about Sue Lowden.

Anastasia Suen has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

Save the date!

Yes, that's right, I'm having another book birthday party. I wasn't going to as it is getting close to the summer, but I am just SO excited about my new book. Ling and Ting is my very first early reader and not only did it get an amazing review from the famous fuse#8, it was chosen for the Junior Library Guild and got a starred review from Booklist! That deserves some celebration! I haven't worked out all the fun (though there will be a polka-dot theme) but mark your calendars and please come!

Saturday, June 19th at 3 pm
Porter Square Books
Porter Square Shopping Center
25 White Street
Cambridge, MA 02140 (directions)

I'm hoping to have lots of fun contests & prizes like last time so you don't want to miss it! More info to come!!

E-mail me your e-mail address at: if you want to be on the official evite invitation list (aka the goody bag list)! But, of course, even if you are not on the evite you are still more than welcome to come (the list is just to help me make sure I have enough goodies for everyone, but I always make extras).

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Hey look, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is on the shortlist of the EB White Read Aloud Awards! I'm especially excited about this because I think the sticker is especially awesome. Inspired by perhaps the #1 children's novel of all time, Charlotte's Web it is a thrill to think this sticker could decorate my book...though I won't get my hopes up too high. The other authors promise pretty stuff competition, including the the lovely and talented Kate Messner who coincidentally just blogged about my book today!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

TLA Express

I had a quick visit in San Antonio last week at the Texas Library Association Conference. And I mean quick. I arrived just in time to have a delicious dinner hosted by Little, Brown & Co (publisher of my novels):
The amazing food (there was sticky toffee pudding!) put me right to sleep and when I woke up it was time for me to give a small talk on a panel with authors RL Lafevers and Suzanne Selfors before signing and then quickly catching that plane back home! I think I was in TX for just 24 hours, and most of that was at the airport!

I was a little sad not to stay longer, I missed most of the exhibits, as well as catching up with a lot of friends. I have a lot of nice memories of San Antonio, as I did many school visits there last year and it was even the first place that I launched Where the Mountain Meets the Moon!

But I was glad that I did get to see some familiar friendly librarians:

And Suzanne and I ran into famous author/bloggers Cynthia Leitich Smith & Greg Leitich Smith as we were dashing off to the airport. We didn't have much time to say more than hello and snap the picture.

TLA was fun, but fast. The whole thing was quite a rush! I guess that is why all the photos are so blurry!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy Earth Week!

Like Meghan, I often completely forget to take pictures when I do school visits, so I don't have much to show from my adventures on Boston's North Shore last week. But I did recently receive an awesome package from a school where I did a Skype visit. They did an author study and had each student write a project just like the reuse activities in What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?. To celebrate Earth Week I'll posting some of my favorites all week on my blog.

This one I love for a number of reasons. Most importantly what a great idea! When the sleeves fall off my next sweater I will definitely stick them on my cat. Also I find the author bio quite charming.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What are you reading right now?

I'm in Montreal on vacation right now, so no new post, but thought I'd ask a few questions:

What are you reading right now? Have you read any "must read" books so far in 2010?

Okay, now go and discuss amongst yourselves!

And to answer my own question, what I'm reading right now are all of my Spring 2011 novels at various stages. They're due to go into copyediting at the end of this month. Eeek! Juggling juggling juggling...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

some cool projects from Orrington Elementary

The librarian sent me some photos from my day at their school (I managed not to take any photos, which I'm annoyed by since I took not one but two cameras! I guess I was just too distracted or something...). Anyway, all the kids drew self portraits of themselves but with BIG eyes, just like I do my characters, and they put them on their lockers. How cute is that? They also made ones for all the teachers! There was also an "alien room" where a bunch of kids drew aliens and their drawings hung from the ceiling. Another fun project was to demystify the puzzling Mona Lisa (based on Steal Back the Mona Lisa!) by drawing new clothes on her.

It's just so cool to see these things. I have to keep reminding myself that these things are based on MY books! I'd love to go back in time and tell my teachers in school that this would happen. They'd never believe it. I don't think I would have either!

Friday, April 16, 2010

back from Evanston, IL

I just got back from Evanston, which is near Chicago. It was a short trip and I almost missed the plane to get there! I got stuck in traffic on the way there, couldn't figure out where to park the car and kept driving around in circles, then waited in the wrong line to get my ticket (couldn't print it out because my printer was out of ink) and I waited and waited for soooo long because the two customers at the desk were all-demanding. One was arguing about some odd looking thing that she wanted to take on the plane and the other was a foreigner who was all involved in some discussion about currency or some such... so I got all huffy and started pacing and then when I FINALLY got to the counter she said "You're at the wrong counter. This is Jet Blue. You want South West." "Oh my god," I said. "Oh my god..." And no wonder I didn't go to the right seat--there was no counter! There was so zig-zag maze to a guy at a desk who said "Can I help you?" and I said "Yes, I need a boarding pass..." and he said "Can you give me some space please? Please back up and let me deal with this customer," and he pointed at a hippie looking woman bent over, digging through a dozen looking bags and odd packages. Why the heck did he say "Can I help you?" then??? I only stepped forward for that reason! Anyway, the guy spent forever with her because none of her packages met regulation and they all had to be duct taped and so forth. So by the time he said "next," and I said "I'm going to Chicago," he said "Good luck, you've got 7 minutes." I RAN to security and threw off my clothing and belt, etc. I managed to get through with not one but two pocket knives! Lovely. I also did that on the way back. I didn't do that on purpose, mind you, I just forgot to take them off my keychain.

anyway, when I got to the plane the guy said "Are you Meghan McCarhthy?" I huffed, "Yes." He said "You're one lucky lady." As soon as I sat down the plane took off. I"m not kidding.

So I got to Chicago and the car drove for an hour before I got to the hotel. The water went on and on forever. At first I thought--oh my god, the ocean! How nice! Uh, stupid, It's Illinois. There is no ocean. Yeah, lake Michigan. It was almost 90 degrees on the day I left and I'd come with a winter jacket that I had to lug around. It was really pretty-- there were runners and cyclists going along the water and there were people sitting on the beach. And the city sat behind. There were ferries and I even spotted a ferris wheel.

When I got to the hotel I took a walk to the water.

I noticed that I was in a college town--Northwestern University. There were a lot of pretty buildings.

The day arrived after a restless night of not getting any sleep. I got up at the crack of dawn. I gave my first speech in the auditorium to the little kids and then we did our first rotation of activities. The librarian had come up with a real cool bunch of activities for the kids. In the first room kids made rockets out of tubes and paper and cardboard pieces. This was based on my book Astronaut Handbook and on my webpage where I show how to make your own rocket. In the second room kids did exercises based on Strong Man and the back page that shows how to do exercises. In the third room kids got to make bubble gum based on my book Pop! which is coming out in a month. I heard it was a big mess, but how cool is that? I tried a piece--it tasted like sour lemonade.

I slept until noon today. It was short and fun but exhausting. These things always are!

Brian Age Seven--A Poem by Mark Doty

In the summer of 2001, I had the great honor of being one of fifty educators selected to participate in the first annual Summer Poetry Institute for Teachers at Boston University. The institute, a collaboration between the university’s School of Education and Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project, was one of the best experiences of my life. We educators spent nearly a week developing poetry lessons and projects, viewing Favorite Poem videos, attending poetry readings, and discussing poetry with each other and with some of America’s greatest poets—Robert Pinsky, Rosanna Warren, Louise Gluck, David Ferry, and Mark Doty. I loved Mark Doty and I loved one of the poems he read to us—Brian Age Seven.

Here’s an excerpt from the poem:

Brian Age Seven
by Mark Doty

Grateful for their tour
of the pharmacy,
the first-grade class
has drawn these pictures,
each self-portrait taped
to the window-glass,
faces wide to the street,
round and available,
with parallel lines for hair.

I like this one best: Brian,
whose attenuated name
fills a quarter of the frame,
stretched beside impossible
legs descending from the ball
of his torso, two long arms
springing from that same
central sphere.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

Here’s a video of Mark Doty reading the poem:

At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original list poem titled Things to Do If You Are the Moon.

Jules has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Seven Impossible Things.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

school visit fun, this time with music!

This past month has been rather busy for me with school visits, but luckily all of the schools have been so wonderful that each one has been a treat.

Once school was decorated with an Asian-inspired theme (to go with my books), including this really neat dragon balloon (which I got to take home!):
They even got a goldfish in honor of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. The goldfish's name? Grace FIN! ha ha!:

Another school did a very in-depth author study of me and discovered my love of cupcakes!And gave me an enormous one to celebrate the Newbery Honor!(It's so big that Squatchie and I are still eating it, but it's sooo yummy!):

And another school, after learning in The Year of the Dog that I did not have a Red Egg party, decided to throw me one:With musical entertainment!! The Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat lyrics were written by the students:

The Year of the Dog brings new friendships and growing
Pacy is looking to fi-ind herse-elf
Melody moves in and becomes her best friend
I don't think their friendship could e-ver end

The Year of the Rat mean that life will be changing
Pacy would like it to all be amazing
Soon she founds out things are not what they were
Change can be so hard, I know that for sure...

Isn't that great! Many thanks to all you wonderful, hard-working and welcoming schools!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Winchester Authorfest

If any of you are in the area, come see me Thursday at the Winchester Authorfest! I'll be presenting at some local schools in the morning, then signing books at the Town Hall Book Signing in the afternoon, which is open to the public.

Here are the details:

Town Hall Book Signing
71 Mt. Vernon Street (next to Public Library)
Winchester MA 01890

3:00-5:00 pm

Last time I participated in the Authorfest there were dozens of other authors there. I don't know who will be participating this year but there is bound to be lots of amazing local talent. Its not often you have that many authors in one place!

Monday, April 12, 2010

More on eBooks

Thanks everyone for participating in my technology poll from last week. I chose a name from a hat, and the winner of a Little, Brown book of her choice is...

Annemarie O'Brien. Congrats! Please email me your mailing address and choice of book at bluerosegirls at gmail dot com.

Check out the comments in the original post for a fuller view, but to summarize very roughly, although there are still some people who edit with the traditional paper and pen/pencil, for the most part it seems that most people have transitioned to editing electronically in some way, although perhaps not exclusively.

Of course, the million dollar question these days in publishing is: What is an eBook worth? (Question #5 in my poll) How much are consumers willing to spend? The answers varied, of course, but the general consensus is that the eBook should cost less than the physical book.

I don't disagree. But there's a reason why publishers are fighting against Amazon's $9.99 price point--because the price difference with the hardcover format is too high, and they feel it devalues the product. People believe the eBook should be priced lower because you don't have the costs associated with printing the book. So if the price of an eBook should equal the cost of creating and selling the book (editorial, design, copyediting, sales, marketing, overhead, etc.) minus the unit cost of the actual physical properties of the book (the paper, the printing, binding, etc.), as well as the physical warehouse rent and transportation of shipping a physical book, plus some profit for the publisher, of course... well, I don't know exactly how much this would add up to, but I know that the difference of costs between producing an eBook versus a physical book is negligible. I'd estimate less than 10% of the total cost.

Honestly, as a consumer, I get it. I love low prices! Especially when there's no physical "product" to hold. I'm a book lover, and yet I very very rarely purchase hardcover books because of the price, unless it's a gift (or on my expense account). Instead, I wait for the paperback edition or go to the library. But what I don't expect is to be able to purchase a book at a paperback price right away. And if I don't want to wait, then I pay the hardcover price. I know the concept of delaying editions is pretty much off the table now because of consumer push back and other reasons (although a year ago was becoming the norm), but the practical part of me always thought this made sense.

There are reasons why people buy different formats not always related to price. They buy a hardcover book because they don't want to wait, they want something to keep on the shelf that's lasting, something that they can share, they want to purchase a gift. People purchase an eBook because they invested in an eReader, they travel and don't want to carry a lot of books, they like the convenience of downloading books, they like keeping their bookshelf virtual. Consumers buy paperbacks because they don't want the weight and heft of a hardcover book, they want something they can share, they're purchasing a gift, and yes, the price.

It's too early to tell if eBook sales cannibalize hardcover sales--I think to a certain extent these sales are in addition to hardcover sales, because the people buying the eBooks are not the same people who would purchase the hardcover edition. If there are many others like commenter saramoohead...:

5) SUCH a tough question. I admit that I'm keep on the Amazon $10 ($9.99). I know there are a lot of issues surrounding that but as a customer, I don't want to pay more than $10. I'd buy lots more books if they were only $10. I barely ever buy in hardcover (and I'm a hardcore book lover) because they are so expensive. I would never pay $27 for an e-book, ever.
...then the lower profits for eBooks may be equalized by increased sales.

Stephen Roxburgh of namelos has said that books are simply "word buckets"--and whether you're buying a physical book or buying an eBook, the crucial component that you're buying is the particular combination of words that the author has written, not the physical "bucket." That's where the true value lies. I tend to agree. The same goes to music--I never bought CDs for the physical object, I bought them for the content.

I could go on and on, and pretty much every discussion point in this debate has been raised in the very detailed and excellent comments. This is an ongoing discussion, and one that will take a long time to sort out. A lot of the decisions people are making today will shape the industry for years to come. I just hope that authors and publishers are able to survive in the digital age, ten, twenty, one-hundred years from now. These are scary, exciting, pivotal times in publishing!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Flower & Poetry Video

So sorry I didn't post on Poetry Friday last week--especially since April is National Poetry Month. But it's also Income Tax Month--which certainly doesn't inspire poetic thoughts! I was busy with tax stuff. Actually, I wore a smile of relief when we left our accountant's office this year.
I thought I'd post the Spring Flower & Poetry Video I made this weekend. The video includes photographs that I took of flowers in my backyard last week--and three poems the pictures inspired me to write.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

The Guardian recently asked quite a few authors -- including Philip Pullman -- to give them 10 rules for writing fiction.

I think some of my favorites were from David Hare --"Write only when you have something to say." and, even more useful: "Never take advice from anyone with no investment in the outcome." That one I've learned the hard way and I'm not sure I'd know how true it is if I hadn't. It's a lot easier for someone to make a comment off the top of his head than for this writer to get the suggestion (no matter how wrong or ridiculous it is) out of HER head!

But I shouldn't quote. See what you think.

Warning: some are really silly in that English way, some I really disagreed with. But I like that -- and I like how English many of the answers are -- they did ask some Americans, but most of the authors are English. The writing in English newspapers always seems so crisp and articulate compared to ours. Maybe English writers (or newspaper owners??) are less afraid to offend someone-- or sound silly, un-PC, or critical:

"It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction."

"Only bad writers think their work is really good."

I also found lots of the advice encouraging, especially how many authors -- even those who have published lots of books -- are super-self-critical and obviously find writing, and even, sitting down to write, REALLY HARD. If you read the Rules, I'd love to know which ones you liked and which ones you didn't.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

do you hang up your own artwork?

After my recent nuptials, I have been reorganizing my living space, especially my studio. One of the things we are doing is redecorating--which means new art and photographs on the walls. In my living room, I used to have framed illustrations of my own art. They were leftovers from gallery shows and exhibits and while they looked fine, I always felt a little strange having my own art up. I used think it looked somewhat...self-centered? But at the same time, when I go over to fellow artist's home, I expect to see their art on the wall. Home decor is a reflection of person, and what shows that better than their own art?

So as I ponder what to put up next on my walls, what do you think? Do you hang up your own artwork?

open fields egg

Appropriately, I spent my Easter weekend painting an egg for the Open Fields Auction. Just like last time, despite my best efforts, I broke one of the eggs they sent. That is why they always send two!

But I was able to get the second one finished without any disasters. My Hong Kong birdcage (with the only kind of birds I don't feel guilty having in a cage!) served as inspiration for my egg, titled aviary:

Hope you like it!

Monday, April 05, 2010

technophile or technophobe?

The iPad was released on Saturday. And no, I didn't buy one, but yes, I was tempted. Although I do like new technology, I don't tend to be a super early adopter. I figure I'll wait until the second generation version, after some of the kinks (if any) are worked out, and once the price comes down a bit.

But I'm excited (and also terrified) to see how the iPad will affect the publishing industry, and I think it will, just as the Kindle has affected the industry. I definitely see lots of opportunities, especially for four-color books (picture books!). If you haven't seen it yet, here's a demo that Penguin unveiled last month. (The quality/sound of the video isn't that great, but it's still worth a watch to see what could be the future of books.)

Here's a more recent video that shows us how it currently looks to read books on the iPad. I gotta say, I love the page turning--you can actually see what's on the back of the pages as you turn!):

(both videos via Galleycat)

And another evaluation, from Publishing Perspectives:

The one thing I'm really curious about is how easy it will be to edit on the iPad. I've started to transition over to editing completely electronically. (A recent poll in our editorial meeting showed that a huge majority of editors are already editing electronically.) For a while I was editing on paper, and then transferring my comments into Track Changes in Word and emailing to my authors. But it's starting to feel really...well, wrong to print novels out any more. And so the shift. But before the shift I had worried about two things:
1) I thought I would tend to not read as carefully on screen, but I've found that I've been reading more carefully.
2) I also worried about eye strain. This has proven to be a bit of an issue--when I'm in a zone, I don't want to stop editing, and afterward my eyes hurt and I have a bit of a headache. But according to this article in the NY Times, I should just make sure to rest my eyes every 20 minutes to prevent eye strain.

I like editing on screen okay, but I really would prefer to have something I could lay on the table. If editing is natural on the iPad, this just may be as life-changing a piece of technology as the eReader. I'm excited to experiment.

I thought I'd take a poll on technology. Here are my five questions:

1) Have you purchased or do you intend to purchase the iPad?
2) Do you edit electronically or on paper?
3) If you are a published author, do you receive edits from your editor electronically (for example, via Track Changes in Word)? If you're a publisher, do you edit electronically?
4) If you are a published author, do you receive the copyedited manuscript electronically? If you work for a publisher, do the copyeditors work electronically?
5) What do you think is a fair price to pay for a new release electronic book, considering that the hardcover price is $17. What if the hardcover is $25?

Thanks for participating! A week from today, I'll do a random drawing, and send one commenter a Little, Brown books of his/her choice.