Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ALA 2011 or how I ran out of marbles: Part 1

My last public event for this school year was the ALA convention. I was excited because I was finishing with a blast-in New Orleans, the Geisel Honor Award--I knew it was going to be a lot of fun. However even with such prospects of delight, I have to admit, even before getting on the plane, I was tired.
A while ago, I wrote about how an introverted person like me can only last so long. As I said then: most natural state is introverted--there are only so many visits I can do in a year without stammering incoherently. I'm kind of like a jar of marbles--every visit I do I am less one marble until I am empty.
So, after the last couple of months being full of events and visits (which were all lovely!), my marble jar was pretty low when I got to New Orleans:
Which is perhaps why I had a bit of envy at the LB Middle Grade Breakfast when the other amazing authors Kelly Barnhill and Andrea Pinkney gave such mesmerizing and spirited readings (Andrea sang! Not fair!).
However, the librarians were still very kind to me and many came to my signings (I had two):
But it was only at the LB one that I signed advanced reading copies of Dumpling Days!!
Eeks, eeks, eeks! I can't believe people will be reading it soon!
Then it was a blur of convention exhibits:
pleased to see my friend Anna Alter's Disappearing Desmond and Thanking the Moon!
plus a screening of the movie The Library of the Early Mind (which I am in for about 10 seconds):
and a panel discussion afterwards with the hilarious and highly energetic Jack Gantos and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket):
I can't believe I'm rubbing elbows with these two!
Trying to keep up with the fast wittiness of those two was no small feat, let me tell you. Luckily, earlier in the day I was able to sneak off to the famous Cafe Du Monde to ingest copious amounts of caffeine and sugar:
frozen coffee and beignets!
and my friend Libby Koponen and I had our tarot cards read!
I was hoping they would tell me I would get through the conference without collapsing.
What do you think?
(I actually don't really remember much of what she said, except something about how I like having lots of projects and thoughts going on in my head...I guess all those projects distracted me...)

Check for ALA 2011 Part 2 & 3 tomorrow and Friday at my personal blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Greta art activity

One of our readers (Hi Naomi!) recently ran a lovely art activity with her students using A Photo for Greta. She had her students bring in a self portrait, then draw themselves as a character in a book (like I did here). Such a great idea, thanks for the pictures! I love seeing how kids and teachers use my books.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

from the BRG archives: inspiration

Some quotes that keep me working, or help me to look at my work in a new way:

"When you write don't think, listen." -Madeleine L'Engle

"Nobody ever gets what they want and that is beautiful. Everyone dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful." -They Might Be Giants
(This one I stole from Linda, she sent it to me several years ago and it hangs on the bulletin board next to my desk)

"I was tracking something very slippery, very elusive, and had to use every sense I had to stay on the trail - other people were distracting. Later, I discovered what I was hunting was my own spirit." - Ana Forrest

What are some of yours?

Originally published October 17, 2006

Friday, June 24, 2011

GRIZZLY BEAR: An Animal Mask Poem

Last week, I had brunch with Grace at one of our favorite restaurants—Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge. Grace has been getting on my case. She’s been encouraging me for months to send out my poetry manuscripts to publishers before I become a grandmother and a part-time daycare provider for my first grandchild. We talked a lot about my poetry during brunch.

Yesterday, Grace and I had a long talk on the phone about which manuscripts I should get back to work on. The discussion reminded me of a get-together I had had with Grace and Janet Wong a couple of years ago. That day, they gave me advice about the poetry collections that I had already written. In fact, they even gave me a great idea for a brand new collection. I returned home and I began work on it right away. The new collection, titled Docile Fossil,  includes poems about dinosaurs and other extinct animals, fossils, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the Petrified Forest. 

One thing I had forgotten about our conversation that day was the suggestion both Grace and Janet had given me about my collection of animal mask poems. They thought the collection included poems about too many different kinds of animals—and that it needed a narrower focus. They thought I should include only poems about animals that children might see in their backyards or neighborhoods. After talking to Grace yesterday, I remembered their suggestion—and got back to work eliminating poems from the collection...and thinking of subjects for new poems. Grace and I decided on a tentative title for the collection: Backyard Voices. It will include poems about earthworms, a butterfly larva, a silkworm pupa, crickets, a snail, a slug, a spider, frogs, a baby bird trying to break out of its shell, and a number of other little creatures.

Here is one the animal mask poems that I had to cut from the collection:

by Elaine Magliaro

I’m grizzly bear. I’m fierce and fat…
And dangerous. Remember that!
My teeth are sharp as sabers.
My curvy claws can cut like saws,
And when I prowl the woods I growl
And frighten all my neighbors.

I rule the land. This forest’s mine!
I ain’t NOBODY’S valentine!
Don’t think that you can be my friend…
My dinner?

The End


At Wild Rose Reader, I have a cento poem that I wrote for a retiring music teacher who worked for many years at the school where I taught. She was fabulous!

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Carol’s Corner this week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's that time...

It's almost time for the Geisel Award Ceremony! Do you know that that means? Yes, time for me to go dress shopping!

I decided that this year's theme would be silver, in honor of my silver medal. This however proved to be a bit difficult as many silver dresses seemed a bit

So I decided to consider "silver grey." This was a unique shopping experience for me, as I tend towards clothes that are bright colors--perusing the neutrals was a mind-broadening experience and pocketbook-thinning experience. For, of course, while shopping in this new territory I found a bunch of "extra" beige and grey dresses, so now my wardrobe has quite expanded. But I digress! Back to the Geisel dress.

Silver-grey...first I considered something like this:which I quite liked but didn't seem special enough for an awards ceremony.

Then there was this:
but I have a horror of strapless dresses.

And then, this:
Hmm, more bombshell than children's author, don't you think?

Nothing was quite calling to me until I saw this dress:
OOOH! Be still my Anne-of-Green-Gables-heart! I loved this one. Cute but elegant, sophisticated but young...I plopped down my money, well pleased. Perfect! All was well until about a week go when I received my schedule for the ceremony.

That's when I found out the Geisel Award Ceremony isn't a banquet like the Newbery or a breakfast like the Coretta Scott King. It is a much more relaxed affair, before lunch and after breakfast. My beloved new silver-grey dress was going to be a bit too much for it. Boo!

So, back to the internet shopping I went...back to the endless quest for the perfect and appropriate silver-grey dress...searching..searching...until finally, I've decided on this:

I'll wear it with some silver shoes...if I can find a pair.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two visits and a review

The past week has been a busy one, though perhaps not as busy as Alvina's travels. Here are a few highlights:

*On Father's Day I visited Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to talk about the making of A Photo for Greta. A big thanks to Jules for having me! Read my post here.

*I had a lovely school visit in Newton, the first after taking some time off for maternity leave. It was a lot of fun to read my new book to a group of kids at last (I've read it during some Skype visits this spring, but this was the first time in person). When I tell kids about the book making process, I describe how I made a watercolor "test" of my palette in order to choose which colors I will use in the illustrations. I usually show them this palette, which I made for Francine's Day:

When I got home I was greeted by a sweet email from the organizer, whose son attended my talk. When he arrived home he pulled out his watercolors and made his own paint palette, then proceeded to paint all of his stuffed animals:

Such a talented artist, nice work Jared! I hope you will keep painting and visit the library often.

*Publisher's Weekly gave A Photo for Greta this lovely review. A snippet: "As she did in Disappearing Desmond, Alter displays notable sensitivity to children’s insecurities and doubts, while providing reassurance of their worth." Thanks PW!

*And lastly, Tilda is now eating butternut squash, which she prefers to feed herself. Next thing you know she will be applying to college.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Leg #3: Sydney


It's been almost a month since my Australia/New Zealand trip, so to finally put my trip wrap-up post to bed, I'll try to just stick to the highlights of my third and final leg, Sydney.

I had been to Sydney once before, but had only spent one-and-a-half days there, a stop-over on my way back to the States after a wedding. I remember a half day of walking around the Opera House, and also a trip to the Sydney Zoo. This time, I knew I'd be seeing much more of the city as part of the Visiting International Publisher's (VIP) Program, and this time also had a few locals who had offered to take me out and show me around.

So, here are some of my highlights in photos:
my hotel the Sebel Hotel
the view from my hotel room. I felt like I was right on the water! (because I was.)
On the day I arrived (Sunday). Amanda Punter (Penguin UK) and I met Inkwell agent Catherine Drayton for lunch. Catherine and I generally have lunch whenever she's in NY, and the last time she came I mentioned that I wanted to go horseback riding in 2011, and for whatever reason, always thought of Australia as a good place to try it. As it turns out, Catherine used to be an avid rider. "I can take you horseback riding!" she said. And so, she did:
my first time on a real horse! This is Jerry.
Centennial Park
me and Jerry
It was a gorgeous day, perfect horseback riding weather. Thanks, Catherine!

After horseback riding was introductory cocktails with my fellow VIPs, followed by dinner. There were sixteen of us, and a great group: from Spain, Hungary, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Taiwan, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and the US. It was especially nice that there were quite a few of us there who were primarily children's book editors. Apparently, in the past there were only one or two "token" children's book editors, but this year there were a good five of us who worked exclusively on children's and/or YA, including Patsy Aldana of Groundwood Books and Lynne Missen of Penguin, Canada. And three or four more who worked on both adult and children's books.

The next day, we were taken by our hosts on a three-hour boat tour (yes, the Gilligan's Island theme played in my head a few times) of the Harbour. Gorgeous. 

He's on a boat!

The tour ended at a pier where we embarked for our lunch hosted by my sister company Hachette Australia. I had never met any of my colleagues there, so it was nice to sit across from my counterpart Jon Appleton who was the Children's Publisher. After lunch I went to visit the offices. Here's Jon's office:
Note the CURIOUS GARDEN poster!

I also met with Publishing Director Fiona Hazard, and we chatted about some of the differences and similarities of the publishing process, including acquisitions.

That night, we gathered for the New South Wales Publishing Premiere's Literary Dinner where they were awarding the NSW Premiere's Literary Awards. The awards were held at the Sydney Opera House! Surreal.
The rest of the days were a blur of publishing meetings held in this room:
Meetings with Australian publishers, agents, and Rights directors, and panels on the English-speaking  markets and the translations markets. In addition to the lunch with Hachette, we were also hosted by separate meetings with Allyn & Unwin (where it was good to see another friendly and familiar face, Rights Director Angela Namoi who I also meet with regularly in the States) and Harper Collins.
the terrace at Allyn & Unwin's offices
Fatima Bhutto (who had also been in Auckland) was the keynote speaker of the Sydney Writers' Festival Opening Address. She talked about a "Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" and because the death of Osama Bin Ladin was so fresh then, it was the focus of her talk. As an American in the audience, it felt like a punch in the stomach, as the whole time she spoke very critically not just of her own country of Pakistan, but of the U.S. It was a powerful speech, very eloquent, but not full of much hope--and I left the theater feeling like everything else was trivial.

But, as always, that feeling didn't last forever and we were off to the opening gala for food and drink to distract us further.

The spread at the Sydney Writers' Festival's opening gala included 15 dozen oysters:
I neglected to take any pictures, but during the Writers' Festival I appeared on a panel entitled "Marketing in the Age of Twitter": author Tristan Bancks and I discussed, well, Twitter. We talked about other things, of course, but I did feel that by the end of the panel that we had basically been talking about Twitter for an hour. But we received some positive feedback afterwards, so I hope it was interesting and helpful!

Basically, the week was a blur of meetings, meals, panels, drinks in the hotel lobby (lots of wine!), and Anthony Bourdain sightings (he was there for the festival, and staying at the same hotel--after the third sighting, the novelty wore off). I loved meeting children's and YA editors, authors, and specialists including Judith Ridge, Zoe Walton, Marisa Pintado, Kristina Schulz, and many more. Authors Garth Nix, Sean Williams, and Rives who had been in Auckland were also in Sydney and hanging around the hotel lobby. It was also great meeting my assistant Bethany's uncle, Ben Strout, who was the Executive Director of the Sydney Writers' Festival. This odd connection was purely coincidental, but fun nevertheless.
me with Ben Strout, Bethany's uncle!

On my second-to-last night in Sydney (but the last official night of the program) we were invited to the NSW Governor's Reception at the Government House. The Government house was, basically, a castle:
The Governor is a representative of Queen Elizabeth. We were advised to address her as "Your Excellency" upon our first meeting, and thereafter as "ma'am." She was a lovely woman and greeted everyone individually.
most of my fellow VIPs, taken on the grounds of the Government House

After dinner, we stopped by another Allyn & Unwin cocktail party, and then were off to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was the last night that most of the VIPs would be together, so we wanted to make the most of it.
As my fellow VIP, Hege Eikenes Randen of Norway put it afterwards, getting to know my fellow VIP participants was like attending summer camp. You're with a group of people for a week (longer for those of us who had been to Auckland the week prior), getting to know their personalities, forming friendships. Missing home, but not wanting the experience to end. We're talking about a possible reunion. In fact, my fellow NY editors and I plan on getting together in Brooklyn in a few weeks!

As many a night had ended prior, we decided to retire to our hotel lobby bar for one last hurrah.

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel with Anthony Bourdain (okay, not actually with him, but two tables away from him), I embarked on my big Sydney adventure: the Harbour Bridge climb. This had been highly recommended to me by Elizabeth Eulberg, and this recommendation had been confirmed by several locals, so I figured it must be good. Oh, it was:

After the Bridge Climb, I was off to a neighborhood called Newtown to meet with author and SCBWI co-coordinator Christopher Cheng (who I had met in Hong Kong a few years ago). He showed me a bit of his neighborhood:
lots of beautiful murals

I spotted Patrick McDonnell's ME JANE in a bookstore!
And then we were off to meet a group of SCBWI members for a meet and greet--it was a lovely group, and we had a lively discussion. Afterwards, a smaller group of us had dinner. I ordered kangaroo! This was the second time I tried it--the first time had been at a buffet the last time I was in Australia, and I didn't really care for it, but this time I was in a nice restaurant, and was told that ten years ago, chefs didn't really know how to prepare kangaroo. So I gave it another try. It was quite good, actually, although I much prefer beef.
And we had to have dessert, of course! Passion fruit souffle!

And then, alas, my Southern Hemisphere adventures were over. It was a productive, rewarding, exhilarating, exhausting, and overall amazing trip. I hope it doesn't take me another ten years to return.

Special thanks of course to go to the VIP Program Committee and staff, Sophie Hamley, Nerrilee Weir, Madonna Duffy (who I never met, as she was on maternity leave), Katie Harford, and Annaliesse Monaro who took such wonderful care of all of us. And thanks especially to Nerrilee for nominating me for the program.

And now it's back to business as usual. I'm off to ALA this week--perhaps I'll see you there?