Tuesday, December 31, 2013

name this tune!

At the hotel in Taiwan, a violinist serenaded us during breakfast. It was Rain Dragon's first experience with a violin and she was fascinated--so much so that she watches this video over and over again. Because of this, the Sasquatch and I find ourselves humming and singing this tune all the time and it is driving us a bit mad that we don't know what song it is.  Do you know it?  If you do, please tell us as then we could start the new year without losing our minds!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

NY Merry Christmas


In NY now the Salvation Army people are all young and they don't just ring bells -- they DANCE. I was lucky enough to see two guys dancing to that old carol, "YMCA."

 They were joined by a large group of young teenagers -- the sight of them all line-dancing on 5th Avenue was quite something! -- and then by a middle-aged matron

I absolutely can not imagine that happening where I live in CT and I loved it.

Merry Christmas, wherever you are!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Ugh. I haven't been posting because I have a bookdeadline and I have so much art to do! Help!

Anyway, my pal Marc Tyler Nobleman came up with an idea: to have writers read one of their bad Amazon customer reviews and he'd put them all together. Obviously we're not to be negative about them or anything like that. After I did mine I found out that we were supposed to make the videos only 10-15 sec long. I guess Marc had gotten so many responses that he had to limit the video responses. So... this is my long video response. If he uses mine it'll be one fraction of this:

Friday, December 13, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Things to Do If You Are a Book

I’ve been away from blogging at Wild Rose Reader and Blue Rose Girls for so long that I thought I might forget how to post. It has been an eventful year for me. We finally moved into our new home in June. It was—at first—difficult saying goodbye to my home of thirty-seven years…and even more difficult boxing up and moving all the “stuff” we had collected in nearly four decades. The heaviest things to tote to our new place were the thousands of children’s books that I owned and cherished—books that I’ve been sharing with my granddaughter Julia. We had a number of bookcases built for our in-law apartment so I could keep my books on display…and easily accessible. 

NOTE: For Mother's Day, my daughter gave me 
a lovely drawing of our old home. 

We’re fortunate that our apartment is more spacious than most in-law suites. Still, it’s much smaller than our old place. At my age, it has been good to “downsize.” My apartment is much easier to clean than my other home. It’s the perfect size for two old fogeys! 

It’s so wonderful living next door to my daughter and son-in-law. I get to see Julia every day. It’s such fun watching her change and grow…reading books with her…helping her make puzzles…listening to her vocabulary grow.

Lots and Lots of Book Shelves!

By Elaine Magliaro

Be filled with words that tell a tale
of a little mouse and a giant whale
of a runty pig and his spider friend
who was true and loyal to the end
of a badger who loved eating bread and jam
of a funky guy, green eggs, and ham
of a spunky girl named Ramona Q.
of a boy and the Jabberwock he slew.
Be filled with words and tell a tale
that will let my imagination sail.
Be a mystery
or a fantasy
or sing with sounds of poetry.
Between your covers
let there be
a story that’s just right for me.

Over at Wild Rose Reader, I’ve posted an original poem for the holiday season titled Under the Tree.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Process (and yes, this is a rewrite - and an example of step#5 too)


I sent my novel off to my agent last week -- electronically, but towards the end I can read it more objectively on paper, pencil in hand to make comments.
Now I'm using the time and energy I would normally be spending  on my book to sort through my possessions; donate, sell, and throw out throw out a lot (thank you for going through my shoes with me, Alvina!); and find a new place to live.
I'm going to blog about that (not here, on my personal blog), both as a way to get other people's ideas and remember what I saw.

But first: I want to write down what I learned about my process from this, mainly so I won't forget but if it's interesting to anyone else, excellent.

1. Love the idea myself, and test it before I start writing  -- Raold Dahl did that, sometimes for a YEAR. By test it, he meant: think about it, attack it from every angle, to see if there's enough there to make a novel and if it will WORK. Disappointing as it is to realize that an idea I'm really excited about just won't make an exciting, interesting book, better to figure that out before rather than after spending a year or more writing it!

2. Get to know the characters -- at least the main character. More may emerge as the story develops, but I think it's a mistake to start writing until the main characters are as clear to me as, say, the characters in THE LITTLE HOUSE books (who have always seemed like real people to me, people I actually knew)....both Noel Streatfield and Dianna Wynne Jones said they spent at least 6 months getting to know the characters before writing.

3. For me, first drafts are the hardest and most painful parts of writing. I flipflop between things just coming and being very excited; and times when NOTHING comes, or what does seems so bad that I think I'm wasting my time, this doesn't even make any sense, no one is going to read it ever....blah blah.
That second feeling is hideous and painful, but it just goes with the territory-- and I need to accept it. It doesn't mean I'm doing anything wrong -- every writer I know has it.

I also need to just accept that in the first draft I really don't know what I'm doing (that comes later). Writing a book is like jumping off a cliff without a parachute -- you just have to have faith that one will blow by and you will grab it.

Also, when something just COMES, even if it doesn't seem to make sense or fit in at all with the story as I then know it: trust it. If it comes with energy and conviction, it belongs in the book and I'll figure out why and how later.

The worst thing I can do is give in to those feelings of hopelessness; the best -- work on the book every day -- even if "working" means just sitting with it, clueless about what happens next; trust what just comes; and resist the urge to chatter when I don't know. WAIT.

4. The real book emerges in the second draft. Again, once I start it -- don't stop. If I keep at it, all the baffling blanks in the first draft will get filled in. And I do mean "get filled in," if I write every day, and get into that state of thinking about the book all the time, I see what should be happening in all the scenes that WERE boring.

5. Wait to polish until the third draft--polishing done before then (except for the first scene which I do think is really important: it sets the tone and the voice)  is  a waste of time. If I've polished something, it's harder to take it out-- and by the third draft, a lot that's in needs to go.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

RISD Alumni Holiday Art Sale

I'll be selling books and prints once again at the RISD Alumni Holiday Art Sale (as will Grace!), this Saturday at the Rhode Island Convention Center. As always, the sale is a great place to do your holiday shopping- I love to stroll the aisles and pick out handmade goodies for my xmas list. Come join us! The sale is from 10:00-5:00.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Learning more from the bad than the good?


I am housesitting for Grace, and one of the many fun things about being here is reading the books! She owns complete sets of many of my favorite series -- and when I was reaching for a book I hadn't read in awhile (I own every book in that series EXCEPT the one I was reaching for, which belonged to my brother), I saw that someone else had written an addition to it --  NOT within the last ten years, earlier.

So I read that. There are some continuations, prequels, additions that are better than the originals. This one was well-written -- but curiously flat and dead. Even when big things happened, I didn't feel anything about them, I didn't feel what the characters felt. But I couldn't put my finger on why. The only obvious things the newauthor did differently than the original author had were:

  • describing things in general, rather than telling of an incident on a specific day -- there was a lot of they would do this, they would do that
  • including far less dialog
  • leaving out all the little details of what people did and said that convey character--she described processes, but not people

When I finished it, I immediately started the book from the original series. What a difference! Each description was part of an incident and directly related to the child experiencing it. The POV child reacted emotionally to them all -- even when his feelings weren't told (sometimes they were, sometimes they weren't), you knew what they were: because of the selective use of detail.

And maybe this is the biggest difference of all: every incident was INTERESTING. The original author didn't just tell about the times they were walking to  -- oh dear, I can't be specific you might guess the book and it is no mission of this blog to trash other writers (it's hard enough being an author!). He described one specific morning, from the point of view of one child -- and a small detail/action that conveyed him. When then when they got there, you really wanted to know what was going to happen because there was an ongoing drama, tension, story....one that was concluded in a satisfactory manner a few chapters later.

Earlier that afternoon, BRG friend Alissa (another really fun thing about being here is all the good talks with people about writing children's books -- our own and other people's) had described reading a novel that wasn't very good. She said you learn more about writing from the bad than the good. I agree!

Rarely is it possible to compare two authors who are using the same material, and if anyone wants to name titles from authors who are dead and whose feelings can't be hurt, please tell us who you found or thought of.

I can't think of any children's book authors, only Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald -- you can also see his edits to her novel in some collections. But children's books, that's harder.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Gallery Project


I've posted about the Gallery Project before--this was the brainchild of Art Director Kirk Benshoff, and he brought it to Hachette Brook Group three years ago. Two weeks ago, the third annual Gallery Project in the NY office was held. Publishers Weekly reported on the event here:
Editors, designers, and publicists spend their days refining and supporting a writer’s art—his or her book. But, in an effort to once again put its employees’ own talents on display, the third annual Hachette Book Group Gallery Project was held by the publisher last week in HBG’s New York office.
The art on display ranged from photography, to painting, to book sculptures, and more. I didn't take a lot of pictures, but a few of the creations were children's book related, like this felt recreation of Ethan Long's Chamelia (posing with the book's editor, Connie Hsu).
Artist: Glen Davis
Of course, I was obsessed with this Lego sculpture of Mr. Tiger, from Peter Brown's Mr. Tiger Goes  Wild. Jonathan Lopes is a true Lego artist. Check out his Facebook page for BKNY Bricks here!

Jonathan Lopes, Mr. Tiger, and me

Thursday, October 31, 2013

War of the Worlds . American Experience . WGBH | PBS

And also in honor of Orson Welles's War of the Words 1938 Broadcast, I thought I'd post this:

War of the Worlds . American Experience . WGBH | PBS

This is a great tool to use in the classroom for older kids.


I love this version kids did of my book:

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

That would be excellent


I've been a very bad blogger this year, mainly because of this, of course. But G's treatments are now done, and we're working toward getting our life back to our "new normal." But first, we're moving apartments this week and packing is exhausting!

As always happens, while packing I've been finding forgotten things, like this letter Grace had sent me back when we were both seniors in high school. I had brought this with me from my parents' house in California a while back because I wanted to quote some of the letter in a talk I was giving, I think.

In it, we talked about boys, of course. I had asked her to send me a boyfriend, so she sent me this guy:

Cute, huh? She named him Roger.

And here are a few snippets from the letter:

"I'm going to illustrate children's books, y'know. That would be so cool. One day when we're all grown up, you'll see in a book store: Illustrated by Grace P. Lin. That would be excellent."


"I wish I could show you my portfolio. Then you could tell me if you think I'm talented. Or then you could lie to me and tell me you think I'm the bestest artist in the world and of course I will make it into RISD."

I wonder if Grace has the letter I wrote back to her. But I'm sure I said something like:

I think you're talented, Grace! You are the bestest artist in the world, you will make it into RISD, and you will become a famous children's book author and illustrator.

See, I can predict the future!

**edited to add**
For those of you who don't know the story of how Grace and I met, you can read more about it here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How do you know when something is done?


Sometimes people ask how you know when something is finished. Usually I say something like,
"When my changes aren't making it better, just different."

But right now it's more like: when I absolutely can't stand to look at it again. I am at that point with this novel, but not done -- I do have to at least read it myself (or do I?).

I think I should read it over from beginning to end, which I've never done. I was going to before I started the last draft but I didn't because I already knew what I wanted to add.

But this time I really think I should. So to make that easier (I hate reading my own work once I'm done with it), I printed out the whole thing (above) and have started reading it, trying not to fix things as I go along. Trying to just sit there and READ, making notes of what I don't like --but not running over to the computer.

So far, that has been a total flop -- I feel COMPELLED to make the fix. If I don't, I can't concentrate on what I'm reading, or so I tell myself. But as soon as I finish writing this blogpost, I'm going to sit down and READ. Not write, not fix, not edit, just read and make quick comments.

On the plus side: the colours this fall are the most beautiful and vivid I've seen in years. This is me with the printed out ms. (I brought it on our walk to show a friend)in front of the old grade school in Stonington -- right on the water and divided into condominums. The ones on the other side have morning light over the Atlantic ocean.

My friend stopped to photograph the tree, and I asked her to include me. I only thought of it being in front of a former school later, but I'll take it as a good sign -- that  children are behind me, literally and metaphorically.

Anyhow, please wish me luck in either reading it to the end and making the fixes or if I really can't, trusting to memory and making them anyway--but either way, getting them made and the ms. to my agent, SOON!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

We Art Boston event tomorrow

Tomorrow is the We Art Boston event at the Rose Kennedy Greenway from 11-3:00! There will be watercolor, collage, and bookmaking activities for kids, illustrators on hand for book-signing, stuffed animal portraits, kid's music and more. You will be able to view all the original artwork for sale. More details here. This is going to be a REALLY FUN event! And it's all totally free.

I will be helping out at the book making station from 11:00-12:30 and drawing stuffed animal portraits from 1:30-3:00. Come get an original drawing of your favorite stuffed animal to take home! I'll be drawing alongside some incredible talents: Barbara McClintock, Kelly Murphy, Scott Magoon, David Biedrzycki, and Julia Denos.

Last weekend at the sale

The Fall RISD Sale was bustling and fun. It was a full day that started early and flew by.

But there was one sweet moment that caught my attention. In the early afternoon, a small girl sidled up to my table and looked through a bin of prints. She picked out an image of a bird in a nest and asked how much it was. Then she plunked a little pouch onto the table, and with her mother's help began to count out dollars and coins to pay for it. 
"Is that your allowance money?" I asked. "Yes," she said, and kept counting. I was tempted just to give her the print, but then I remembered the pride and feeling of independence that goes with buying something yourself. I remembered saving up my money and carefully deciding what to buy, contemplating the many different ways it could be spent. Though I don't remember wanting to buy things like artwork at that age, I think I would have gone for a toy or game. I was really touched that she wanted to buy my print, and impressed that she was bringing home something that couldn't be played with or worn or quickly thrown away. 

Thanks for the lovely moment, and to everyone who came out on Saturday!