September 20, 2014
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have readers who take the time to write me letters. And on such nice stationery, too! Here's a letter that came in the mail yesterday from someone who read my young adult historical novel LOST. Of course, I love hearing her kind words of praise for the book, but I was especially happy to read that the book had furthered her desire to be a writer. It's always a goal of mine to encourage young readers to try writing themselves. Whether or not they choose to become professional writers someday, I believe that learning to express oneself in writing nurtures the soul, makes one a deeper thinker, encourages empathy, and will lead to a more just and humane society! I really do! So take up a pen, today, and write something. A poem. A joke. A grocery list. A letter to a friend...or me!
Oh, and P.P.S. I fell in love with Jimmy Eagan in that story, too!
September 12, 2014
I had a wonderful time last night at the CBB (Children's Books Boston) gathering of authors, editors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, and all others interested in children's books. Good conversation and many hearty laughs. It's so nice to relax and socialize among people who share a common passion—and you have to be passionate about children's books to work in the field. I don't think I can name one person who's connected to the world of children's literature who's just "so-so" about it. We tend to be a tribe that goes all in. In any case, thanks to the organizers of CBB who put on the event. CBB is still a fairly new organization, and whenever I hear the name, I immediately think of the children's book CDB by William Steig. Do you remember that book? Does anyone remember that book?? I loved that book when I was a kid, but haven't seen it for years. A quick search on my library network shows that many libraries carry the book, but also that—at this moment in time—not a single copy is checked out. Including at my local library. I think I'll take a walk up there later this afternoon and reread the book for myself. Sometimes, favorites from our childhoods don't stand the test of time when we pull them off the shelf of our fuzzy, fond memory. (see THE LONELY DOLL) But sometimes the joy is still there, just as it was when we were little. I'll report back later on what I find.
September 9, 2014
"Truth is beyond any realism, and the appearance of things
should not be confused with their essence." —Juan Gris
Juan Gris (his real name was José Victoriano (Carmelo Carlos) González-Pérez—don't you just LOVE that name??) was a Spanish painter who lived and worked for much of his life in France. He hung out with the Cubists, and his paintings are really remarkable. I've included one below, his portrait of Pablo Picasso, another Cubist painter, that he made in 1912. I have these words of his (printed in eight-inch high letters) hanging in my studio, and I like to think about them when I paint and when I write. It's easy to apply them to my painting, because whatever I paint never looks like what it really looks like in real life! That's just a consequence of the limitation of my ability. (Good thing I make my living as a writer and not a painter!) But I also like to think about these words in terms of my writing, because I'm always looking to push myself out of my comfort zone (realism) and into something more abstract and conceptual. I also like to think about these words in terms of human beings. People aren't always what they appear on the outside, now are they? I try to keep an "eye" out for someone's essence. Sometimes a challenge when it feels so much more comfortable to make a quick assessment of a person based on what is most obvious and visual. But truth is worth seeking, even if you have to close your eyes to see it.
September 5, 2014
Note the date, my friends. It is September, and the Red Sox are in last place in the American League East, 20 games behind the Orioles. It is time (some would say past time) to acknowledge that we are not going to win the World Series this year. So thank goodness we can all reflect back on happier times by reading Liza Ketchum's new book OUT OF LEFT FIELD. Her young adult novel returns us to the summer of 2004 when the Red Sox did the impossible (and without growing long beards that made the rest of us feel sweaty and itchy just as spectators). I went to a book signing last night at Porter Square Books where Liza talked about the genesis of the novel—how it grew from a short story she wrote years ago about a different time in the history of our country that sadly echoes our present. (Word to the wise for writers both young and old: never discard your writing. You never know when one idea in one form will transform and grow into a new idea in a new form.) How lucky for us that Liza revisited this story from her past to give us this novel of today. Just one quibble, Liza—isn't that a cardinal on the cover??!!
September 1, 2014
Say what?!? September?! Now, how did that happen? Every year, it's the same. It feels like I'm deep in the belly of summer and then all of a sudden, it's fall. And most ironic of all, the weather (which through much of August was fall-ish) has turned decidedly summery. It's all hot and humid and threatening to thunder. In fact, I'm hearing rumblings right now. Or maybe that's a passing airplane. It can be hard to tell. But the point is, the school year is beginning—and has begun in many parts of the country already. I have my first school visit in just two weeks. (Looking forward to meeting new friends at Mindess Elementary in Ashland.) And while I love many aspects of autumn, I'm JUST NOT READY to let go of summer. I feel like a stubborn child who's tipping on the edge of a tantrum. Did you throw tantrums as a child? In my family, a tantrum never got you anything, so we all gave up on them at a pretty early age. And I'm pretty sure I can't stop summer from slipping away by throwing myself on the floor, screaming, and kicking my legs. Might be worth a try, though...
As a last hurrah to summer, here's a picture of a busy bee in my garden.