Friday, September 30, 2011


Yes yes, another new blog. This may not be of interest to some of you... but others may like it so I thought I'd mention it. It's called STREET ART NYC. I love carrying around my camera and taking photos of the art I see. People do stencils, they use chalk, they paste things to walls... and all sorts of stuff. I think it's a lot of fun. I don't like graffiti. I think it can ruin a landscape. But a little gem of art here and there can brighten one. I plan on posting a few times a week with new photos of art that I've found around the city. Check it out! Become a follower!


In September of 1984, my mother’s father passed away. I was devastated. I had spent many of my happiest childhood days at the home of my maternal grandparents. Two of my cousins lived on the other side of my grandparents’ duplex. We three cousins played together in my grandparents’ yard, made a clubhouse under their porch, picked apples and pears from their trees. We also had great times inside their house celebrating holidays like Easter and Christmas Eve. My grandparents took great joy in their granddaughters and loved watching us have fun together.

Dzidzi, my grandfather, had a big vegetable garden behind the house. He loved working there. He enjoyed having us kids pick tomatoes and peppers and onions and carrots and beets from his garden. Babci, my grandmother, would preserve many of the vegetables and fruits reaped in late summer and early fall.

After my grandfather died, I so wanted to write a story in verse about my Babci and Dzidzi. It didn’t work out too well. Some years later, an image from my childhood of my grandmother working in the cellar preserving tomatoes in mason jars popped into my head. That image gave me the inspiration for writing the poem Saving Summer—and for an entire collection of poems about my grandparents, their house, their yard, their garden—and the happy times I spent their with my cousins and sister. The collection takes me through a year at their house. The unpublished collection is titled A Home for the Seasons.


In the cellar
Babci sits on an old kitchen chair
made new with glossy gray paint.
Wearing an apron blooming with faded flowers,
she leans over the tub of steaming water,
plucks out plump tomatoes,
and peels off the wet, papery skins.
She fills shiny jars with soft red pulp,
stretches on rubber sealers,
presses down moon-round lids,
clicks closed the metal clamps.
She places the jars in a wire basket
and lowers them into a pot of bubbling water to cook.

On wooden shelves in a corner
she stores stewed tomatoes beside rows of pickled beets,
golden peach slices, green piccalilli,
and carrots the color of October pumpkins.
Standing there in late afternoon,
sunlight shining through a small side window,
I see her harvest preserved:
a rainbow glistening in glass.
Babci is keeping summer alive in jars.


Over at Wild Rose Reader, I have a post titled Old Poems & New Furniture.

Sara Lewis Holmes has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Read Write Believe.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What I'm working on now, and book trailers!

I'm in the throes of editing hell...actually, I'll rephrase that--I'm in editing HEAVEN! Just a whole lot of it at once, is all. But the books are SO GOOD, and this is the meaty part of my job that I love the most. Speaking of, I've been meaning to update my "How I Edit" post from almost exactly five years ago, as technology has changed my process somewhat. Perhaps that will be for next week.

What I was working on this past weekend specifically was finishing up an editorial letter for the first book in Libba Bray's new four-book series, The Diviners. It's a YA historical paranormal with hints of horror (okay, more than just hints) set in New York City in the 1920s. Flappers, Ziegfeld's Follies, speakeasies, political protests, secret government experiments, cults, ghosts, supernatural powers, and oh yes, a serial killer. It's magnificent, and coming out next Fall.

This past weekend I've also been working on Chris Colfer's middle grade novel The Land of Stories, coming out next August. It's a fantastical adventure to a fairytale land, and it's a page-turner, with unexpected twists and turns, a lot of heart, and best of all it's funny. I was reading it on the subway and found myself chuckling out loud at the dialogue. I'm excited for the world to see that this kid can write as well as he can sing. And boy, do I love his voice (I can listen to his version of Blackbird all day).

So, while I keep editing, I wanted to share with you two trailers that were released recently. The first is for Peter Brown's hilarious new picture book You Will Be My Friend!, starring Lucille Beatrice Bear, who some of you might remember from his last book, Children Make Terrible Pets. You Will Be My Friend launched earlier this month, and on Saturday I attended his book launch party at Powerhouse Studio in DUMBO. And as Lucy would say, OH! MY! GOSH! This is the cutest trailer EVER!

This second trailer is for Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone which officially pubs tomorrow! Happy early book birthday! There's been an incredible amount of excitement and buzz for this book, and the love, especially from bloggers, has been tremendous (and well-deserved, although I may be biased...).

Isn't that cool?

Okay, back to work!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

simple joys

I've been having a wonderful time chronicling my adventures in France on my blog (I'm about half way done) as well as my Pocket Pacy adventures!

I've been actually getting such a kick out of the whole Pocket Pacy project that I think I will continue and expand it at home.

But so far, I think my favorite memory of France has been when I wandered into the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.  I became entranced by this Italian style fountain:
The Medici Fountain

But the Sasquatch grew a little bored as I sketched and walked around, instead. When he came back, he said, "I think there's something over there you'll really want to see."

He was right. Because "over there" was an amazing vintage carousel:

the animals were designed by the Charles Garnier, the same designer of the Grand Opera!
The animals were worn and chipped, there wasn't even music playing. But there was a new group of children waiting each time and the grey horse even had a waiting line (it seemed to be the "special one.")   All the children carried sticks and the carousel was full each round.

Look how old the animals are!
The only animal that was ignored was the giraffe (and the tented carriage).

And I slowly figured out why. The carousel was an old-fashioned game. The children tried to catch the ring on the bell with their sticks. The grey horse must be the "lucky one" and the giraffe, not so much:

Every child was so enthusiastic, so excited about their animal and trying to catch the was incredibly charming and delightful.

And to me, it was also very hopeful. In this day and age, with computers and video games, to see children enjoying something so simple was inspiring. Things don't have to light up, be bright, shiny, action-packed and new for kids to love it. Simple things can still be vibrant and beloved.

It seems like there are hundreds of articles a day about how the book is dead, how the new generations will turn up their noses at a paper book. Perhaps many will. But perhaps, many will not. Perhaps they will still find the simple pleasure in an old-fashioned book like they do with this old-fashioned carousel.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Banned Books Week: Jonah Goldberg Claims It’s Just ALA Propaganda

Last week while I was working on a post about Banned Books Week 2011 (September 24−October 1), I came across an op-ed that Jonah Goldberg had written for USA Today titled Banned Books Week is just hype. It really got my dander up—so I wrote a criticism of Goldberg’s column for Jonathan Turley’s law blog on Sunday. The title of my post was Banned Books Week: Just a Lot of Propaganda Says Jonah Goldberg.

Goldberg took issue with my criticism of his op-ed and wrote a blog post at the National Review Online (NRO) titled Banned Books B.S. Cont’d. In it, he said that my attempted rebuttal of his column was “underwhelming.” He wrote:

Elaine Magliaro, a guest blogger at Jonathan Turley’s site, comes to the rescue of the Banned Book Week crowd and the effort is entirely underwhelming. There’s a great deal of nonsense here. I’ll focus on just a few points. A big chunk of her response restates my op-ed while casting her incomprehension as if it’s a rebuttal.

Goldberg claims that cases of challenged books reported to the ALA “are little more than disputes over whether a book is age-appropriate.” He adds that such disputes “don’t end in books being pulled from shelves.”

Goldberg was kind enough to answer a question that I had posed in my Turley blog post. He wrote: Oh, and to answer Magliaro’s question, my answer is Yes, I think it might be a good thing if there were more challenges to librarians’ judgment about what books kids should be reading.

I must admit that I have to wonder why a published book author and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors thinks that Banned Books Week is just propaganda and thinks it would be a good thing if there were more book challenges every year.

I’d appreciate feedback from anyone who reads my Turley blog post and Jonah Goldberg’s USA Today op-ed and NRO post.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have a post title Cleaning House and Discovering Old Poems. (I also have some new pictures of my granddaughter Julia Anna.)

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Testing characters' names

Naming characters for me is either super-hard or super-easy, never in-between. Sometimes the name and the character come together; sometimes nothing seems right, or I doubt my choice.

This week I found a way to test the name. On Google Image search now, you can type in the kind of image you're looking for, so I tried the names I'd thought of for the character with "Face" as the image type.

I can't claim that this changed my mind in any way -- I had a favorite name and found myself searching for images that fit it. But, I did find one face that seemed exactly right -- as soon as I saw it, I thought:

"That's her!"

Maybe it helped, or maybe my mind was already made up and I just didn't know it.

It was also interesting (to me) to see often the names seemed to attract a TYPE: look at Ashley (above) and Margaret (below). Neither of these were names I was considering -- I just looked up lots to see if there really is anything to do this idea. Maybe there isn't and it's just my imagination --but still, a character's name matters -- it gives the reader a mental image of the person.

These Margarets were the first three rows that came up when I entered the name, as were the Ashleys above.


What are some questions you'd ask a police officer? What are some questions your kids might ask?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Long time no see

While unpacking boxes, I recently came across a stack of books from my childhood that I haven't seen in years. I LOVED this series. The books originally belonged to my mom, they were first published in 1913. I can't wait to reread them! Finding them was perfect timing, as I've been working on my own chapter book of animal stories.

Monday, September 19, 2011

And so it begins...

The Emmy Award Ceremony was last night (I didn't watch, but followed some of the action via Twitter), and that brings to mind the awards that concern those of us who work in children's and young adult publishing. Over at School Library Journal, the "Heavy Metal blog" has begun its fascinating discussions about the books that just might have a chance at winning the Newbery.

I have some fondness for that particular blog, because there wasn't much buzz about Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon being a possible Newbery title until it was discussed on that blog in November. Of course, buzz isn't everything--and in the case of this year's winning Moon Over Manifest, buzz meant nothing (the Heavy Metal blog didn't discuss that book), but still, I think the likelihood of the winner being a book discussed on that blog is high. So, check it out, weigh in, and place your bets! I find the discussion about Gary Schmidt's Okay For Now particularly fascinating (you'll remember that I read and loved the book, although to be sure, it isn't without its flaws. What book is?).

At the same time, the Horn Book has started a blog to discuss possible Caldecott contenders over at "Calling Caldecott". 

Now all we need is for someone to start one for the Printz, and the triumvirate will be covered.

And also, National Book Award finalists will be announced on October 12.

Betsy Bird gives her Newbery/Caldecott predictions over at Fuse #8 here. I won't make any predictions myself, because of course I have some hopes for books I've edited, and also, I don't feel that I've read enough to give an educated guess (although I'm sure Okay For Now will be "in the room" as we say in the business).

Do any of you have any early favorites for the awards?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

from the BRG archives: making literature, making a living

More often then not, when I'm introduced at a book event I'm described as a prolific author/illustrator. While it is usually meant as complimentary (at least I hope so) I always wince a little inside. Just because a person (especially someone in the creative field) creates many works doesn't necessarily mean they are any good.

Of course, I am extremely grateful that I have been able to be so prolific. But the truth is, I have to be. I depend on it. If I don’t produce, I quickly drown--mortgage, health insurance, medical bills, groceries-- everything breaks through the rickety dam of my paying books.

Which is probably why I was so affected by Linda Sue Park’s speech about creating your best work . I didn’t go into children’s books for the money (who does?); and it goes without saying that I want everything that I do and publish to be the absolute best of my ability. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes my creative juices flow out of desperation for the cold hard cash, that compromises are made to get contracts, and sometimes work is rushed when bills are waiting.

To be able to make a living in children’s books is a gift, but one that is dearly paid for. And is compromising quality one of the unavoidable taxes? That is the question I struggle with when the projects are over and the bills have been paid. Could I have done it better? Should I have done it better? Was it my very best?

The answer is always yes and no. Everything I’ve done probably could’ve been done better. But it was the very best I could do at that time. And while that’s not quite satisfactory, it’s enough to make me try again with another book.

Originally published January 13th, 2007

Thursday, September 15, 2011


This is what I wrote on my blog today:
"Twice this week I've had conversations with people about judging art. The first was when I was in the break room at work. I was looking at Selznick's new book...

Anyway, I was looking at the book and someone who works in the kids dept. asked if I was going to buy the book. I said that I was just looking at it. I wanted to look at the art. She asked if I liked it. I told her what I thought. She said that she didn't know how to judge art so she didn't have an opinion. I said, "Well, do you like this or don't you?" She said she thought it was okay. She said she didn't love it but didn't hate it. I said, "So you DO have an opinion. You can judge art." Just because I went to art school and I can verbalize WHY I like or don't like or am indifferent to something doesn't mean that I'm a better judge than anyone else. I think people who weren't schooled are afraid to give their opinion because it won't be the right one. Do you like it? Do you hate it? Are you just okay with it? That's all that matters! Go with your gut. That's all there is to it!"

I want to add something to that. What I want to add is that I think sometimes people who don't know much about art or who aren't trained in it pick out things that "they like" or rather - and maybe I'm taking too big a leap here - THINK that they like - based on what other people say or based on buzz. Sometimes I think this is how Caldecott winners are picked. Buzz starts and people sort of pick something that they think they should pick because people have been talking about it a lot. I am not talking about this because I just mentioned Selznick's book! This has just been on my mind. A trend I notice a lot is that an illustrator will switch up his or her style (mostly his) and all of a sudden everyone is wowed. Usually non art trained people. I think they don't know that artists can do lots of different things. We pick one style because we are trying to sell ourselves. Not because that's all we are capable of doing. But I feel like people see something new or different and think - damn, look at that!!! And then an award is given.

Am I terribly wrong here? Heck, I like starting a discussion. I just noticed this so I thought I'd throw it out there.

Decisions, decisions

The New York Times recently had an article about how every decision you make depletes your energy -- and your supply of glucose (blood sugar). A friend immediately thought of me, saying:
"When you write, you must have to make decisions all the time."

Now I know why we -- or so many of us -- like to eat candy while we write! The more we're concentrating and deciding, the more blood sugar is getting used up.

The article said most people deal with decisions by:
*NOT deciding
*deciding impulsively.

I do both -- instead of deciding, I'll obsess and overthink.

One of the many astonishing results of my vacation is that I've stayed more relaxed and it's a lot easier to let go. I THINK this makes decisions easier. To make decisions well, you have to (this is me, not the TIMES) be able to let go -- to trust that forgoing all those other possibilities (choosing one thing does usually mean others won't happen) is really and truly okay. When you believe that letting go of those possibitilies is not only okay, but in fact opens new possibilities, it's easier to act instead of just think, decide instead of obsess.

But letting go is still hard, on all fronts. I'll know I've learned to do it when I can confidently throw out or delete old drafts.

I'm practicing by getting rid of clothes -- those of you who know me know that I've always had the fantasy of owning ONLY clothes I love. This sounds so easy to achieve! But getting rid of clothes is so hard!

One thing that makes it hard is thinking of all the money spent on the useless I've been repeating as a mantra, "The money is gone, no matter what I do. It's MORE of a waste to have clothes I don't like sitting in my closet, taking up space and energy."

I'm selling some on ebay -- any tips on that? Good pictures, I know; but what about shipping? Does it make any difference if you do calculate per sale or fixed price? (I only ship Priority Mail -- buying shipping supplies is too much bother). And what about price? Do you have to start items at $9.99 if you really want them to sell?

Advice much appreciated! And if anyone is on ebay -- I'm dislikepaypal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Settling down

Please pardon the radio silence as I get unpacked in our new home (again). This time we're settling for awhile an it feels great. Most of our place is still in boxes, but the living room is shaping up nicely. The house we're renting feels like a little mountain lodge.

This is the view from the living room window:

And a little fellow my husband caught the other day:

The place is brimming with wildlife; there are hummingbirds, dragonflies, frogs, chipmunks, and deer all over the place (I'm told bears as well, though we haven't seen any yet). The woods are full of edible mushrooms, my husband had some for lunch today that looked like this:

It's been a really nice change from city life, and a big sigh of relief to unpack things that have been in storage for more than a year. I realized pretty quickly as we started sifting through boxes that the vast majority of my things fall into one of three categories: books (of course), art supplies, and angsty drawings from college like this one:

I'd love to purge and lighten our load but I find each of those things very hard to get rid of, for different reasons. The books because I want to remember them and reread them and use them for inspiring new stories. The art supplies because of all the projects I might need them for. And the drawings because the more time that passes since art school the more I forget where I started on the journey to becoming an author and illustrator. And it's good to remember that beginning and how much has changed since then.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering 9/11/01

I was trying to avoid reading or watching too much yesterday, because I knew it would be upsetting to relive 9/11/01, but of course it was hard to avoid, and some of the things I encountered were so lovely and touching I wanted to share them here. I was living in Boston ten years ago. I did not lose anyone close to me that day, but of course it was an event of such mind-boggling horror and evil and tragedy; ten years later I still can't think about it without getting emotional.

StoryCorps is doing a series of 9/11Animated Short Stories that had me sobbing--the stories are so touching and personal. Here are three:

Author and editor David Levithan talked about his 9/11 book Love is the Higher Law and the importance of remembering and telling stories here.

Author Meg Cabot shares both hope-filled and heartbreaking stories here.

Author Maureen Johnson writes about her experience ten years ago here. Her impetus for writing  and the comments from teens who were too young to understand what happened that day are eye-opening.

Patrick McDonnell's MUTTS comic for yesterday was simple and lovely.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

a pacy in the pocket

After finishing my novel, I really needed to  let out some steam and do something completely  silly and fun. My trip to France was in a couple days so there was just enough time to do an extra small project. With some leftover material from our our cupcake decorations I decided to make some Pocket Pacys!

They say you always leave a bit of yourself behind when you travel. Well, I going to leave a little me! Ha ha!

I plan to leave one somewhere every day while we're are in France. I hope that someone else finds it and brings a little cheer in their day. And, if I'm lucky the person will carry it to a new location, take a photo and send it to me which I can post here.  Maybe these Pocket Pacys will travel all over the world!

In the photos, the Pocket Pacys might not look that neatly painted. That is because they are so small! see, shorter than a battery:

Though, honestly, the hardest part was trying to get the website url in it. First I tried to write it by hand, but the it wasn't very legible. And I need people to be able to read the url so that they can find the site! So, I finally made stickers which I am just crossing my fingers will stay affixed.

But, I've made eight Pocket Pacys ready for their new home in France. They travel by cardboard box, first class.

Where will they all end up?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

All ages

On some Scottish islands when it's sunny all day they call it "a given day," and I was lucky enough to be given several, all in a row. The best way to convey the beauty of these places would be to hand you my laptop and let you look at the slideshows -- but since I can't do that, I'll add more pictures to this post later, and write now about other things.

I had expected that my last week would be a kind of retreat, but instead, every evening people on the island invited me to things and the last one was on an island even more remote than the one I was on (5 hours by the once-a-day ferry from Oban to reach B., where I was staying, then a long drive across a causeway to V. The causeway was built after a bull drowned while being swum to pasture for the summer on V.).

The town council had thoughtfully hired a bus, to leave from the main square of B. and then drive people home. The family who had invited me had said we were going to a "concert" -- I had asked hopefully if it would be a ceilidh, but they said no. However, on the bus, some young teenagers -- talking in that excited way teenagers talk before a party -- were making jokes about "having some tea at the ceilidh" and giggling, so I began to hope.

We arrived in a long hall: tables with bottles and people of all ages, literally -- from babies held in their parents' arms to people who were at least eighty, and everything in-between. As soon as the band -- THE VATERSAY BOYS (listen here -- and to get an idea of what they played that night, skip the first two songs!) -- started, people JUMPED up and danced. I wish you could see the two girls at the top of the set more clearly -- but even in my blurry picture, their energy (the way they're kicking up their feet!) shows.

And they danced until midnight -- old dances, with sets and patterns and steps (swinging your partners, dancing forwards and backwards and sideways a certain number of steps, clapping in certain places): "Strip the Willow," "The Grand Old Duke of York," "Canadian Barn Dance," I wanted and wanted to dance, but I did NOT want to be the clueless American messing up the steps, so I joined in only to the hokey-pokey, which they did differently than we do....but I could at least do it.

Alas! My pictures are dark and blurry like this, but maybe they convey something of the energy and enthusiasm with which the dancers threw themselves into the sets. The older girls helped the younger children by shoving them in the right direction, or holding out the proper arm with which to grab a partner.

People danced until midnight, getting more and more into it -- even the children didn't flag. The short girl in the dark dress (the one at the top of the set in the first picture, the daughter of one of the band members), in fact, stood on the stage, clapping her hands over her head, making all her friends do it too, urging everyone on -- and then danced more herself. Another band member told me later that at another event, she had a very badly hurt foot,but didn't tell her parents until afterwards because she didn't want to miss the dancing.

The bus was supposed to drop us off at the main square, but instead he drove everyone home, right to their doors -- refusing tips and also telling us we'd never seen him do it. Two men on the bus were really, really drunk; the children were polite to them.
"I'm fine," one of the men said belligerently.
"You seem fine," a student said, smiling in a friendly way.
(Later, he told me that living in Glasgow had taught him how to deal with drunks.
"How?" I said.
"Agree with everything they say and don't look them in the eye.")
Before passing out, the man had given a glass of whisky to a young girl to hold. When she reached her stop, she woke him up and said politely,
"Here's your glass back -- thank you."

When our group got off, and we were discussing the evening, and those two (who were staggering to their door within sight) someone said:
"Only two in the whole crowd -- that's not bad," and her sister added,
"And they were from Glasgow."

Walking home -- I hadn't wanted to be last on the bus with the two men, so I got off with the family who'd invited me and they walked me the rest of the way-- there were more stars than I've ever seen. In bed, I looked out the window for a long time, thinking about how much I love it there,--including spending an evening with people of all ages DOING something together. I want my writing to be for all ages, too; and hope I can capture something of the intense joy and energy and courage of the people I met, and the stories they told me, too.

The next day, there was time for one last long walk -- believe it or not,this is across the road from the airport; behind this field is another beach --

and then I got on the plane (it only lands and leaves at low tide, so the water is way in the background). I will be back: in my mind, in my writing, and I hope, in real life.