Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Christmas Presents

Ask and ye shall receive! I received 7 books for Christmas, my highest haul ever, I believe. Included in the stack is The Sandman Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman who I talked about on July 21, Sept. 24, and Sept. 9 (I'm not sure which years). Gaiman has written children's books, but his adult work is also popular with the YA crowd. I read American Gods with the YA Reading Group at Readerville.

Don't know when I'll get to read this book or any of the books I got for Christmas, since I have a big stack from the library I need to get through. What to do, what to do.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Christmas Present II

I planned to check out really new Christmas books while I was at Barnes & Noble yesterday, but I forgot. I forgot both times I was there.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Christmas Present

I find nostalgia a little boring, myself, so after spending some time browsing the Christmas picture books I'd bought in the past, I decided to look for some new ones. By new ones, I mean, books at the library that I haven't read before.

An interesting book I stumbled upon was Christmas at Anna's by Kate Spohn. I didn't find much about this book on-line other then the fact that it is owned by a number of libraries. One of the things that interested me about it is that the author wrote another book I was very fond of back in my young mother days, Ruth's Bake Shop. No link for you on that one, either, because it appears to be out of print. I'm having trouble finding sites that even include the covers of these two books.

Here's the deal on Christmas at Anna's--these two kids go to spend Christmas with their artie cousin, Anna. Anna has a studio and does things like inviting friends over to make wreaths Christmas Eve. Now, the kids I know really don't care to do artie things, especially at Christmas. Or, if they do, they don't want to do them outside of school. That's where artie Christmas stuff belongs, right?

However, I'd like to do artie things at Christmas time, so I liked the book. The illustrations threw me for a while, though. They are very rough, sort of amateurish, almost as if a child did them. A child who was a better artist then I was or am, but still, they seemed childish.

Then, I thought, wait a minute, Gail. This book is told by a child narrator. So the illustrations are the kinds of illustrations a child telling this story might make!

Very, very cool idea.

Now if someone looks for information on Kate Spohn or one of these two books, they might end up here.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Christmas Past III

I have tried three times to post an entry about one of the last Christmas books I bought for my family--Haunting Christmas Tales. The first two times the posts DISAPPEARED!!!. Is that haunting or what?

I'm not including a link because all the sites for this book I found sound essentially the same--"Nine haunting Christmas stories...blah, blah, blah." Plus my searching capacity is glacial today. Plus I've already done it twice. I'm worried about growing old and dying in front of my computer.

Anyway, the entire family refused to read this book. If I have time this year, I'll give it a go between Christmas and New Year's. That will be festive.

Okay, I posted the title for this entry and was able to at least keep that much. Let's see what happens now.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Christmas Past II

Another Christmas book I bought for my family back in our murky past, was Santa Calls by William Joyce whose A Year With Wilbur Robinson is one of my all-time favorite picture books.

Joyce is capable of not only drawing in a retro style, he can write in a retro style, too. Santa Calls harkens back to the days of adventure. And it has a heart-tugging ending.

I'll have to see if I can get the little nippers to read it again this year.

Christmas is less then a week away. I haven't finished decorating my tree. Gotta go.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Christmas Past

When my children were small, I would buy a children's Christmas book each year for a present to the family. One of our favorites was Bialosky's Christmas. Wish I could give you a nice link, but the book was published nearly 20 years ago, and most of the Internet sites that mention it are used book sites.

Anyway, Bialosky was a bear who woke up Christmas Eve morning, realized what day it was, and went about getting ready for Christmas. I just loved reading about him making decorations for his Christmas tree, cooking an all honey menu for Christmas dinner, and making presents.

But when I was just rereading it, I thought, How unrealistic. Going out to get a Christmas tree, putting it up, and decorating it with ornaments from the attic is an entire day's job all by itself, forget about making the ornaments. And making presents? He would have had to have started back in September or October. Even Christmas Dinner can't be done in one day. The baking has to start weeks before, and the rest of it is two, maybe three, days of work.

No wonder the book is out of print.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

His Dark Materials Adapted for Theater

Or should I say "theatre" since we're talking about a London production? Either way, a two-part adaptation of his work is supposed to be staged by the National Theatre in London this Christmas, and it has set a house record for pre-performance bookings.

Though I loved The Golden Compass, I was nowhere near as fond of the second book in the trilogy and gave up on reading the third one. The books are heavy on religion of a rather mysterious nature as far as I was concerned. I'm not objecting to whatever religious philosophy Pullman was writing about. I'm objecting to the fact that I couldn't figure out what he was writing about. However, the article regarding the theater production that I linked to above goes along way to explaining what was going on. You see, you have to have read Paradise Lost by John Milton. You have to have read Paradise Lost, which I did while I was in college, and you have to have understood it, which I didn't.


Evidently there were also references to Blake, Keats, and Dante that I didn't get, either.

Nonetheless, there is talk of a movie version, which I would probably go see hoping the screenwriter would be better educated that I am and clear everything up for me.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Barfing Chihuahuas

Or barfing chewwhooeewhooees as one of my sisters would have said when we were kids.

I am referring to Pablo, Joey Pigza's pet in Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos. I am a huge fan of this writer, and this book reinforces my respect. The Joey Pigza books are well-known for being about a boy with ADHD. I think that's beside the point. The quality of the writing is so fantastic--the characterization of Joey, his family, even his teachers in the first book. These books should be known for that, not because they are problem books or case studies.

The reviewer I linked you to above says he/she was surprised after reading Joey Pigza Loses Control to find that it was written for 8 to 12 year olds. That's my feeling about the Joey Pigza books, too. They seem to speak to me, the grown-up. I've heard from a fourth grade teacher who says she read the first one aloud to her class and they loved it. Gantos is a writer who anyone can read.

In this one, Joey's dad appears. He's an adult with untreated ADD. My heart is breaking for both characters.

A lot of authors would have turned the Pigza books into "disability of the week" stories. Gantos does so much more than that.

Here is an interview with Jack Gantos in which he describes how he became interested in Joey Pigza.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Power To The People...er...Cows!

While mulling over my attempt to write a picture book, which I may or may not have mentioned here at some point, I decided to spend some time reading some. My favorite during last week's research excursion was Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type
by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin. I've been hearing about this book for a while. It definitely lives up to its reputation.

Click, Clack, Moo involves some cows who learn to type and are thus able to communicate with their farmer. The book is a powerful and moving lesson in collective bargaining. Child readers will learn that laborers--in this case cows--are powerful when they "herd" together and act as one. In our story the union movement spreads, just as it does in real life, though in this case it spreads to the chickens and ducks on the farm.

Why do clever, fun picture books become so popular? Yeah, sure, kids might like them. But, remember, it's a rare preschooler who can read. Mom and Dad have to read to them. So picture book authors have to capture both audiences.

Oh, woe. My work is cut out for me.

This book has generated so much interest that you can find lessons and activities designed around it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

A Highbrow Evening

Last week I was a guest at an independent bookstore that was holding a Teacher Appreciation Night. While sitting in my author chair, not too far from the cash register, I overheard a lengthy discussion about a picture book called Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glen Murray. Some women (teachers, because this was Teacher Appreciaton Night, and I believe the store was closed to everyone else) were just delighted with the thing, which the store owner said they had trouble keeping on the shelf.

One of the store employees suggested the women might like to consider another book called Farley Farts by Birte Muller and Marianne Martens. The bookseller even read portions of Farley aloud. It sounded pretty good to me.

However, the customer decided to buy Walter the Farting Dog instead of Farley Farts because she thought Walter was "more realistic." It's like they say, folks, you just can't make this stuff up.

Walter the Farting Dog is very famous.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Rory's Book Club

I am not a fan of the Gilmore Girls, myself, finding it just a little too cute and unbelievable. Am I the only one who thinks that mother and daughter get along way too well? And I know Connecticut. Wherever that place is that they're supposed to be living, it is notConnecticut.

However, on one of my travels through the Net, I found Rory's Book Club, which is a site for people (I assume mostly girls but, hey, I'm not restricting this) who want to be more like Rory. The site is a list of books to read to make you more like Rory with links so that you can find out more about them. The list includes "the books smart people everywhere have been talking about" as well as classics. It looks as if you can also give them some feedback.

This is an extremely well-intentioned site, the goal being to encourage reading and promote "smart people" as cool. The books do seem to be a little on the heavy side, though. Except for David Sedaris' Me Talk Funny One Day (which I loved, btw), there isn't much in the way of laughs here. Come on, Rory! You got into Yale. Lighten up.

Monday, November 10, 2003

My Heart Is Breaking...

...over Joey Pigza Swallowed the Keyby Jack Gantos (see Oct. 3 post). Joey suffers from ADD, and I do mean suffers. His trials, his inability to control himself, are painful to read about.

This is due, in large part, to the incredible writing of Jack Gantos. I am a definite fan and looking forward to the next Joey book, which just happens to be upstairs in my library basket.

I don't mean to suggest that Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is not a tragedy. There is hope for our boy. And I wonder if child readers find Joey's problems as painful as this mom who has known plenty of ADD kids does.

Doesn't matter. A good book is a good book.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Cooking With Gail

A couple of weeks ago I did my first author talk of the school year. During the first hour I spoke with some fifth graders at a school in Massachusetts. This was probably the most perfect moment in presentations that I've ever had. I was cooking and the kids were connecting. I told them about how when I was a teenager I hated hearing adults tell me "Write what you know" and that I was determined to show everyone that I was right and they were wrong. The kids broke into spontaneous applause!!!

Then while we were brainstorming this boy had this great idea for a story that involved aliens trying to take over the Earth and being destroyed by something simple like...farting!

And then I ate lunch in the cafeteria with the fifth graders. This was a big deal for me because usually the people running these things won't let me into the cafeterias. They're afraid I won't survive the experience. Hey! I know taekwondo! I have the heart of a warrior!

I'm still all excited.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Burning and Crashing

I see my last entry dealt with a disasterous day. And it was a while ago. Well, see, I was on this fanatastic new organizational plan that was supposed to make my life less cluttered and overwhelming making it possible for me to be more creative. Which is sort of about writing so it's okay to talk about it here. And I had been doing it for 5 weeks. A new behavior that lasts 6 weeks is a habit, or so I've read. I had only 1 week left to go! But I had to be away from home a couple of Mondays in a row and then I was in a school for a day and then I was working on the tailend of a 2nd draft, which always makes me very obsessive and angst-ridden.

But I'm all better now!

And I have lots of interesting things to write about. But since I believe blogs should be short, I'll wait until tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2003

A Disasterous Day

This has been a disasterous day in terms of wasted hours. I was going to rant about it, but I distinctly recall (though I recall very little of anything at all) when I started this blog I promised not to rant. So I am just posting this so I will have made headway on my weekly goal of doing 2 to 3 posts a week.

And now, I must go practice my presentation, An Alien Experience, because I will be giving it three times at a school in Massachusetts the day after tomorrow. Just to get some professional content in here.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Something Positive--If I Could Only Remember It

My son loves used books and used bookstores. Though I'm a sucker for buying used books off the cart by the door of our local library, as a general rule I find used bookstores cluttered and dusty. All I can think of is how much I don't want this stuff in my house.

However, this past weekend we were in Ithaca, New York (which, I've read on-line, is supposed to have the highest number of bookstores per capita in the country). The young 'un was with us so, of course, when we came upon a used bookstore we had to go in.

It was a beautiful place, clean, and nicely laid out. There was a children's section, carefully marked out and welcoming. I so wish I could remember the name of the place!! It was on The Commons. I know it wasn't the used bookstore that specializes in antiquarian books, it was the used bookstore right next to that one.

Imagine a community so interested in books that it can support two used bookstores right next to each other. And there was what I believe was a new bookstore around the corner. And less then three miles away we saw a Borders.

Ithaca must be where good readers go when they die.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Hate To Be Negative But...

I've decided to stop reading Planet Janet by Dyan Sheldon because it seems to be a complete copy of Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison--right down to the glossary of English terms at the end of the book. I have already gone on record as adoring Louise Rennison's books (May 20th and 23rd posts), which I mention because I know it sometimes appears that I like absolutely nothing. That is not the case.

I know the British are into copying one another (see March 7th post), but this seems really blatant to me. I've read nearly half the book, and it's really dragging because even though it's witty and clever, sure, I've read it before. And the Fabby Georgia Nicolson just has a manic quality about her that Janet can't quite attain.

So I'm saving myself some time and going on to something else.

Interesting point: while doing an Internet search for Planet Janet I found it mentioned in three on-line diaries or blogs. Two I couldn't look at because I had to be a member of the site that provides the diary service (I know I don't have that right, but I do understand the concept) and the third one just stated that the blogger had bought the book at Barnes & Noble while shopping with his/her parents.

Faithful readers are aware that I wrote about on-line journals this fall.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Not Wild About Harry

I just finished reading the most recent Harry Potter book. I so want to be part of the Harry Potter excitment and love these books, but I've found the best of them just okay and this one...sigh. It dragged so, hundreds of pages of the same repetitious stuff in the middle. (To paraphrase Buffy, "We get it. She's evil.") A teacher was physically abusing Harry, which neither he nor any of his friends reported. I found that disturbing on a number of levels, and while it's good for a reader to be disturbed I don't know that the author ever really got, herself, that it was disturbing. I don't know if she meant it to be as disturbing as it was.

And that stuff that came out in the press before the book was published about a character being killed? Over and over again characters are nearly killed off in this book so the reader is going "Is this the one? Is this the one?" Towards the end the possible bodies are literally just piling right up. Is this one dead? Is this one dead? It really seemed like a cheap trick. Though the character who finally got it was one of my favorites, I no longer cared by the time the deed was finally done. I'd been toyed with too often.

In the last chapter there were very basic editing errors, too. The whole book needed a really tough editor.

Harry is a very problematic character, which is fine, but I don't think the writing over the course of the series has been sophisticated enough to handle him.

On the other hand, I still think the Harry phenomena has been great for children's publishing.

Now I have to return the book to a woman whose whole family loved it.

Friday, October 03, 2003

A New Author for Me

I recently finished (as in just this morning) Heads or Tails, Stories From the Sixth Grade by Jack Gantos. Gantos is a well-known author whose books I've heard about (Rotten Ralph, Joey Pigza) but never read simply because I just can't get to everything. (Right now I can't get to everything because I'm reading the latest Harry Potter, which I'm afraid is going to take the rest of my life.)

Heads or Tails is a book of short stories that sound very autobiographical, and from what I've read about him he is into that sort of thing. I read a lot of humor, a lot of oddball stuff, I was always getting distracted while I was reading Heads or Tails, and it took me a while to get into what I was reading.

Here is the thing about this book--these are good short stories. Complete, with good characterizations, and often with a specific point. I often read short stories in literary journals and go, "What?" Not so with these. I particularly liked the airplane story, the story about the alligator eating the dog, and the last story. And the metaphor at the end of that story? Wow.

I think kids should be reading more short stories, anyway. This book should be assigned reading!!! And then the kids can try writing autobiographical stories of their own!!!

I'm going to read more by and about this guy. I'm particularly interested in trying his memoir, Hole in My Life.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Professional Reading

As part of my general self-improvement plan, I've been a little more conscientious about keeping up with my professional reading. Thus, I have finished the July/August issue of The Horn Book. It included a very interesting article by Patty Campbell on the Printz Award. The Printz Award is given for excellence in YA fiction. Campbell's article discussed the question of quality vs. popularity--awards being given for good quality writing that no one reads.

Which is not what I'm going to discuss today. I just wanted to let you know where I got the following quote. Campbell says:

It seems to me that for a book to be considered YA, the protagonist must be a teenager; there must be no extended introspective passages from an adult or child point of view; the book must be plot-driven with a minimum of description; it must give priority to immediacy and brevity; and the point of view must have the limitations of an adolescent perspective.....If a book violates even one of these rules, it is outside the parameters of the genre.

I found this very interesting since I think there is a lot of confusion about what YA is. I did find the business about the books being plot-driven instead of character driven a little disturbing, though, because I was under the impression that in adult literature plot-driven books are usually considered of a little lesser quality. Thus, if YA books must be plot-driven rather than character-driven, aren't they, by definition, of lesser quality? Aren't they forced to be of lesser quality in order to be considered YA?

Which seems self-defeating.

Friday, September 26, 2003

More on Harry Bloom

Harold Bloom has also written--or probably edited or arranged is a better term for it--a book for children called Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages. The book is a collection of stories and poems Bloom thinks children should be reading.

Now, it's very noble that a guy of Bloom's stature and ivy towerishness should take the time to do a children's book. But it's hard for me to feel warmly toward him since, when the book came out, he was doing interviews in which he bashed contemporary kidlit. I have trouble seeing why it is necessary to tear down others in order to promote yourself.

I haven't read his book, (though I would like to at least dip into it some day assuming I'm extremely intelligent enough), but I've heard that there's little in it that was written after WWI. And since I have a thing for readers being able to see themselves in literature and literature being honest enough to reflect the culture that produces it...Well, I think you see where I'm going with this.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

And None of You Readers Know Anything, Either!

Lots of talk at Readerville (and other litty sites, I'm sure) about Harold Bloom dumping on Stephen King. Since Stephen King is popular with YA readers--and since Bloom took this opportunity to moan and groan about J. K Rowling, as well--I think it's appropriate for me to talk about it, too.

First, who is Harold Bloom? The short answer is, an old guy who doesn't like anything and enjoys saying so. The long answer is he's a highly educated academic and literary critic who is well regarded by some. I wouldn't know about that, not having read anything he's written. He's well-known for promoting something called "The Western Canon," the western canon being literary works believed to have value. Most of them just happen to have been written by white, European males. Dead ones, often, too.

So he hates J.K. Rowling, saying she is a terrible writer whose readers will go on to read other terrible writers, such as Stephen King. Whom Bloom hates even more then he does our Jo.

Now, I don't necessarily think Rowling is the greatest author who has ever walked our globe, either. And I've never read anything by King, so I can't comment one way or the other. However, Bloom's "commentary" becomes nasty and personal in the article that is making noise right now. He moves away from critiquing the work to attacking the person.

In addition, the tone of the article in question suggests (at least to me) that most of the readers in the world are not educated enough to make decisions about literature, to understand and recognize quality writing. The elitist attitude is both offensive and scarey.

Notice that in he above paragraph I was writing about the tone of the article? I didn't attack Bloom, himself? That is how this lowly reader with only a mere college education believes criticism should be written.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

A Very Special Blog

Blogs can be divided into a number of categories. No, I do not mean just good and bad. Some are political. Some are opportunities to rant. Some are professional. Some are personal. (As in a blog about a couple getting ready for their wedding or someone living in a foreign country for a year. Friends and relatives can keep up with what's going on in the bloggers' lives.) Original Content is either a rant or a professional blog, depending on the point of view of the reader.

However, there is another variation, a variation that is more about form then content. I am talking, of course, of live journals.

Live journals are, I guess, always personal and use a variation on blogger software so that the journalist can work in more personal information in a formated sort of way. As in "My Current Mood" with an adjective and emoticon to describe said current mood. It also appears that people can post messages in response to journal entries, though I'm not a hundred percent clear on how that works or if there is some kind of netiquette involved.

I'm not sure I understand the purpose of live journals since they do seem to involve posting personal info for your friends and strangers to see. And sometimes they are rather mundane. "I did this, then I did this, then I did this." But I suppose they help people with a need to express themselves and communicate. In days of old, all journals did was meet the first need. In the 21st Century we multi-task and live journals are a twofer.

I was ego-surfing last week and stumbled upon a reference to Saving the Planet and Stuff in someone's live journal. "Reading Saving the Planet. Fair."

Maybe she was talking about another book.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

How Weird is This?

While doing a little ego-surfing I found Saving the Planet and Stuff at Forbes.com, which describes itself as a "Home Page for the World's Business Leaders."

Does this make me some kind of crossover writer?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Something I Found on my Desk

I'm into the 3rd or 4th week of cleaning my desk. I found a slip of paper with the words postmodernism and metafiction. My plan in making those notes--I think--was to look up those words' definitions, learn all about them, and become some kind of brainiac.

Unfortunately, all the sites for both terms are mindnumbingly boring so I still don't know what they mean.

However, I had set a goal for myself of writing 2 or 3 weblog entries this week, and now I've met it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Picture This

Quite some time ago I mentioned that I was trying to read more picturebooks because I was going to make an attempt at writing one. Well, the writing one part hasn't moved along much yet. However, I read a real charmer of a picturebook entitled My Hippie Grandmother by Reeve Lindbergh.

I was expecting something sappy, but it was clever, charming, witty...isn't that enough? This book will be loved by kids who have hippie grandmothers and kids who have traditional ones who find hippie grannies funny. Adult women who don't look forward to becoming traditional grams will appreciate it, too.

Oddly enough, this book is offered on-line at a lot of hippie sites . I say oddly because I wasn't aware that there were sites where you could buy hippie supplies.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

An Avi Sighting

On Saturday I arrived at the Boats, Books, and Brushes with Taste festival just in time to catch Avi's question and answer period after his presentation. I particularly liked the fact that he cruises the remainder and sale tables in bookstores because he doesn't like to pay a lot for books. I know authors shouldn't feel that way, but some of us do.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

How Did This Happen?

Last week I saw Little Women--the good one with Winona Ryder, not the awful one with Katherine Hepburn. (She made our Jo look like a pencil-necked geek.) I recalled how I once read that all girls want to be Jo in Little Women. I never did. I wanted to be Jo in Little Men--the book, not the awful movie with Muriel (Mariel?) Hemingway. I wanted to write and have sons and a husband and raise boys. And I've always felt that to a great extent I got what I wanted.

Until, that is, I saw that movie last week. When I realized I'm not Jo at all. I'm Marmee! Oh, my gosh! When did this happen? There she was, giving little lectures about the status of women, encouraging her kids to do good, combating the forces of materialism and worldliness, and bringing in firewood. I sat there with my mouth open and thought, "That's me!"

What a bummer.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Someone I Haven't Thought About for a While

I happened to find this site for an author of a book that was a big hit at my house a few years ago--Galax-arena.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Cleaning Day

I'm in the middle of cleaning my office. Actually, I've been in the middle of it for days, but I'm just beginning to make progress. This morning I found folders from two kidlit conferences I attended over a year ago. Ah, they brought back fond memories. Mainly of how, at the second conference, I had to struggle to stay awake after lunch during the keynote address. To make things worse, there were only maybe three of us at my table. And I was supposed to be the celebrity guest among us. How lame was that.

I've got to do a better job of throwing things away as soon as they come into the house. Better yet, before they come into the house. I need a big trash bin out in the driveway. Better yet, before I get into the driveway. I need a big trash bin out by the side of the road. Actually, I ought to just throw away a lot of this stuff away before I leave conferences. Or never pick it up in the first place. Or never go. Or something.

I also found a Captain Underpants decoder ring--still in the package. I gave it away.

I am now working on the Big Stack. You may be hearing more about this.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Remainder This!

Some of you who follow my life (Ha! Even my mother doesn't follow my life. And my kids? They don't know I have one.) will recall that I recently was notified that two editions of my books will be going the remaindered route soon. This weekend while shopping (instead of writing in my journal or writing or...well, let's not go into that) I visited two different bookstores that specialized in remainders. One of them was the grungy, shudder-type hole I have remainder nightmares about. But the other was very well-maintained, attractive, and full of the works of big name authors. Hey, books are like everything else. They have a lifespan. Unless we're named Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, we're almost all going out of print by way of the remaindered bin. If I can end up in a classy bookstore like this place, I'll have no complaints.

Wish I knew the name of the bookstore, but both the places I went were chains and those places all sound alike to me.

Oh. I saw Porkenstein, which I wrote about on August 7, there.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Today's Mail

Today I received a new review from my publisher for Saving the Planet & Stuff. It was a very good review or I wouldn't be mentioning it, of course. I'm bringing it up not to brag (it just seems that way), but so I can talk about the publication that published the review.

KLIATT publishes reviews of books and, I believe, software written for young adults. The magazine is directed toward librarians and teachers.

I think I may have been vaguely aware of KLIATT. Now that I really know what it is, I'm intrigued because it's devoted to YA. Usually the little cuties seem to get all the attention in the publishing world.

That's just my opinion, of course.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Fan Mail

I just wrote a response to one of the half dozen fan letters I get each year. Hey, it's a chore to keep up with that level of fan mail, but I feel a responsibility.

By the way, though I used to keep all my fan mail--a little self-esteem enhancer--I have destroyed it all and discard all fan letters after I've written a response. Does this make me a hard, nasty person? On the contrary. We keep no records on the people who contact me by e-mail, especially through my website. There's some kind of law about not maintaining that kind of information. (Of course, I can't remember what the law is.) So it seemed to me that I shouldn't be holding onto letters with names and return addresses. Especially since they are almost always from kids. And I'm an adult.

It just seems wrong.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

This Can't Be Good For My Self-Esteem

Yesterday I received official notification that two different editions of my books are going the remaindered/out of print route. (I'd been forewarned about one of them.) I am an extremely good-natured person, but I feel that's sort of pushing the envelope.

I finally finished a rough read of The Artist's Way and yesterday began writing the morning pages she recommended. Actually, I began on vacation over a month ago and then stopped. Anyway. I began yesterday and didn't get to it today. Sigh.

Then at the doctor's office this morning I was told that I don't have a hearing problem. In fact, my hearing is actually very good. I may, however, have an attention problem.

Which suggests that instead of reading books on creativity in an attempt to increase my productivity I should be readng books on paying attention and staying on task.

Hmmm. Guess I'll go on Instant Messanger for a while and see if there's anyone there.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

More My Speed

Porkenstein by Kathryn Lasky is a clever spin on both The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. This picture book is definitely directed toward kids like me.

The story begins with the surviving pig from The Three Little Pigs. He is a lonely scientist, friendless now that his brothers have been eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. He doesn't want to face Halloween by himself so he creates a friend. Well, scientists always louse things up when they try to mess with nature and create life so, of course, our poor pig ends up with a monster. However, when the Big Bad comes trick or treating...well...

This story will be particularly enjoyable to kids who are already familiar with the original stories.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Tales of Jack

I've been toying with an idea for a picture book. The inspiration came from my niece's Venus Flytrap. So I've been taking a look at some picture books. Venus Flytraps are like beanstalks but different, so I started with a book I thought was going to be about Jack and the Beanstalk.

Jack Outwits the Giants illustrated and adapted by Paul Brett Johnson is what is known as a Jack Tale. In an author's note, Johnson explains that Jack Tales came to America in the 18th Century with European settlers. They're about a crafty boy, usually named Jack, and they're common in Appalachia.

That's all very interesting, at least to this adult. But the giants involved in this particular Jack Tale are stupid, and Jack is one-dimensional. His solutions to the 3 problems he faces come out of nowhere. That may be the case with the traditional Jack Tales, but 21st Century children may expect a little more depth.

A couple of interesting related sites deal with covers of books dealing specifically with Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack/Giant classroom activities.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Like a Weblog But Different

Obviously, I like the idea of weblogs or I wouldn't be maintaining one, now would I? I've seen some neat blogs--the weblog kept by a grade school teacher so parents could keep track of what was going on in the classroom and blogs kept by travelers so families and friends could find out about what they were doing come to mind. But, to be honest, a lot of blogs end up being rants that just go on and on and on and on...Oh. Sort of like this one, you say?

Anyway, I was visiting the website of Ayelet Waldman, a writer I've become acquainted with through Readerville (See April 2 entry). Instead of a weblog, she keeps a book log. The entries are annotated, but the annotations are short and to the point.

I think this is a fantastic idea. For everybody. Lots of kids and teenagers keep weblogs or on-line journals (which are supposed to be different--I'll talk about them another day) that they expect to share with their friends. Well, why not share what you're reading, too? What you read expresses something about you. Share your interests with your friends.

Families who maintain websites, teachers who maintain sites for their classrooms--
everybody ought to add a book log.

Except for me. Because I'm already keeping this thing, which, as we all know, I'm barely able to maintain on a regular basis.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Suddenly, A Neil Gaiman Fan

Some of you may recall that I was not very fond of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. Who am I kidding? Of course, you don't recall that. So check out my September 9 entry. However, I read Gaiman's American Gods this summer and liked it so much I went on to read Good Omens which he cowrote with Terry Pratchett. And I liked that so much that I would have bought a third book if I didn't have so many other things I need to read.

Good Omens would make a good book for teenage readers, especially kids who've had years of religion classes of one sort or another and would recognize religious references. It's been described as a funny book about Armeggedon, but you could also say it's a hopeful book about Armeggedon.

Thursday, July 17, 2003


Hi. My name is Gail, and I'm a binge writer. Actually, I am now doing everything in binges. I try to get onto some kind of work/life schedule, but in order to finish book length manuscripts I have to binge, meaning I have to ignore everything else except keeping food on the table and some clean clothes somewhere in the house in order to finish the job. Then when the writing binge is over, I binge on life things. For instance, I have manic cooking episodes. And this past week I've been binging on staining lawn furniture and ironing, two things I had to neglect while I was binging on the book manuscript I sent to my editor last week.

I mention all this to explain, once again, why I haven't been maintaining my blog. I don't want to give the thing up, because I enjoy spouting off. So now I will go on an organizational binge and try to stay on track with Original Content. For a while.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

The Future is Bad, Always Bad

Though the future seems to always be bad, The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer is a good book about a bad future. I'd looked forward to reading it for some time, and though I would have changed the last page or so, myself, I was not disappointed. Scorpion reminded me of Holes by Louis Sachar--a well-written adventure without a lot of pretension.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Book Sales

How the time does fly. It's way over a week since you've heard from me.

I stopped at a library book sale yesterday and walked along the tables thinking some children's book title would fly right at me. I would have some profound experience reading it and write about it here. Yeah, well, don't hold your breath, folks. Nothing remotely like that happened. It was after 3, and the best stuff had been sold long before I got there.

I'm not that crazy about buying used books, anyway. I don't like the smell of moldy books and can acquire it quite easily with my own books in my own home. I don't have to bring in moldly books. That sort of stiff, dry feeling old book pages get creeps me out, too. I always feel as if I need to wash my hands after I've been reading some of those things. Or take a shower. And burn my clothes.

I don't get many deep, spiritual book buying experiences in new bookstores, either. But at least I feel clean afterwards.

Friday, May 30, 2003

On the Treadmill

So I was working out last weekend, and I was channel surfing, as I often do while I work out. I came upon one of those bookstore author talks that are often televised on weekends. (Notice I have no names of programs or cable stations. I never hesitate to discuss things I barely know anything about.) This one involved a book called The Best Children's Literature, and it was written by a woman named Ellen Trachtenberg, who was doing the speaking. I haven't read the book, and I took no notes at all because, remember, I was working out. But I thought the author gave a nice talk. So there you are.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

And Where Am I On This List?

As usual, I was hunting for something totally unrelated when I stumbled upon this site--Children's Bestsellers for 2002. You will notice none of my books appear on this list. I'm being mature and open in linking to it, inspite of being slighted. I also want credit for typing in the unbelievably long URL for this thing. What's more, I got it right on the first try.

Friday, May 23, 2003

A Profound and Moving Work

I just finished reading Louise Rennison's Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas (see 5/20 post), though I should have been finishing chapter thirteen of my own important literary work. Anyway, I've read a review of Knocked Out that suggested that not much happens in the book. (Though the reviewer wasn't complaining. Who would ever complain about one of these fabby fab fab books set in Big Ben-a-gogo Land?) The reviewer was right. Not much happens. But isn't that like life? Not much happens most days. Not many authors can write about the nothingness of life as entertainingly as Rennison. Sacre bloody bleu! She is a genius!

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Was That Embarrassing or What?!

I just noticed that in my May 1 post I spelled Lois Lowry's name Lawry all the way through. In the headline. In hyperlinks. Everywhere.

Fortunately, I am accustomed to being embarrassed. In fact, it is my normal state. What's more, to my knowledge only one person has ever been to this weblog. So my faux pas is probably not getting around much. (Sure hope I spelled faux pas correctly.)

The Library Song

Yesterday I spent an hour or so with some first graders at my local elementary school. We had an author yakfest--I told them about my first book and they all showed me the books they'd written and bound this spring. Just before I left they sang me The Library Song. I thought that would be a neat thing to link to, but guess what? There is more than one Library Song! In fact, there are a number of them posted on the Internet. Who'd have thought? None of the songs I found was the song those sweeties sang for me. I liked theirs much better.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The Fabby Fab Fab Georgia Nicolson

I should be totally bummed today because tonight is the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though it has been pretty lousy all year as anyone will tell you. However, I went to the library today and what should I see on the shelf but Knocked Out by me Nunga-Nungas by Louise Rennison! I love Georgia! She is every mother's nightmare, but what a great character. Who cares what happens to Buffy? (Personally, I think she is going to die. Again. Which will be okay because she likes being dead.)

Georgia has her own Web site! Go there! Immediately!

I love Georgia so much that I am not even jealous of her creator, Louise Rennison, who is "an internationally best-selling author" while even the people at the bridal shower I went to on Sunday one town over didn't know who I was.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Just Checking In

It's been more than two weeks since I've updated this weblog, and I don't have time to do much today. I just wanted to let all my legions of readers (I know one person read this thing because she e-mailed me) know that I have not abandoned the site.

So today I am linking you to a Teen Ink article, written by a teen, about Martial Arts because, well, I study tae kwon do. However, I wasn't wasting time surfing the net for my own personal interests instead of doing a real update for this weblog. No, I was looking for a way to describe a dobak, the traditional white tae kwon do uniform (Oh. Look. I just described it.) to use in Happy Kids!

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Great Lois Lowry Article

The Boston Globe recently ran a great article on Lois Lowry. Lowry's most famous work may be The Giver, though it is not her only Newbery winner, and she is the author of a well-known humor series. The Giver is one of my favorites, though I will admit to not understanding the ending. That may be a big part of why it's one of my favorites.

One of the things Lowry talks about in this article is how children speak to her about publishing--how they can get their stories published, how they can get an agent. Lowry says, ''I tell them what they don't want to hear: They shouldn't even be thinking about that. If they want to be writers, they should be practicing writing; they should be reading writing;" To which I say, "Thank God. I thought I was the only person who felt that way."

Over and over again I'm hearing talk about "publishing" in grade schools. Sometimes they're talking about school papers, school literary magazines and literary boards, sometimes they're talking about "books" the kids make in class, sometimes they're talking about publishing in some kind of forum outside the school. Getting "published" seems more important than learning to write, learning to be open-minded about what's going on around you so you'll recognize writing subjects, and accepting that at the age of 8, 10, 14, 18, and, let's face it, 20 and up, you still have lots and lots to learn.

But don't take my word for it. Lois Lowry is a two time Newbery winner. Check out what she has to say about it.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Friday Night at the Movies

I saw a really good movie this weekend, Holes. I actually liked it better than the book by Louis Sachar . Sachar also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Personally, I think he did a better job of integrating the historical material with the present-day story in the movie then in the book. You absolutely do not need to be a child to enjoy this movie. I brought an adult with me who had never read the book. He loved the movie.

Friday, April 25, 2003

The History of YA Literature

I have actually read the latest issue of The Horn Book. It includes an interesting article entitled The Outsiders, Fat Freddy, and Me by Patty Campbell, a former YA librarian who speaks on YA literature. Her article describes how the YA field took off in the 1970s and the sense people working in YA lit at that time felt of being on the cutting edge, of doing something subversive and dangerous. At that time YA lit was not kids' stuff. They were definitely talking about readers in their later teens.

I found this fascinating because so many adults--at least the ones I know--feel just the opposite about YA fiction. They view it as a lame genre, written by second-rate people who aren't capable of writing for adults. In my experience the people who feel this way haven't actually read much YA lit, if they've read any at all. In fact, I feel pretty safe saying that most adults don't have a clue about YA maturity of content or sophistication of writing styles.

Campbell's article is worth looking up if you want to know more about the YA field.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Time Stops for No One

I just finished a clever book entitled (ta-da!) Time Stops for No Mouse. The book has so much to recommend it--a clever and satirical plot dealing with the beauty industry, something I don't usually associate with YA books, great names for characters, and lots of colorful clothes. Michael Hoeye, the author, has created a detailed and believable world filled with unusual yet believable characters. And an ending that surprised me, yet seemed to fall into place perfectly. Everything about it was wonderful, except...

...the characters were all some kind of rodent! It's not that I dislike rodents, because I don't. I've just never been able to get into the whole animals as people thing. I could easily forget these characters were animals, but then I couldn't.

Nonetheless, this book will delight those who like animals who talk like humans and take tea and at least be of interest to the rest of us. Particularly since it has a unique publishing history. Time Stops for No Mouse was originally published in 2000 by the author himself through his own publishing company. Through his own clever marketing (speaking as one who is not a clever marketer) he brought the book to the attention of many independent books sellers in the northwest. It was eventually picked up by Putnam, which published a second book The Sands of Time.

In order to understand the clever titles, you'll have to read the books.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

More on Pages

I wrote the equivalent of four or five sentences, thus finishing a chapter in the new book so I'm feeling all smug and writery. I'm also feeling in the mood to blog.

I'm also going to wring another post out of the March/April issue of Pages. (See April 2 post.) Catherine Seipp writes a column called My View for Pages. (I believe she used to write for Salon.com, my favorite Internet site before I became addicted to Readerville). Anyway, Seipp's My View column this issue was all about...weblogs and all the information they generate. She listed a number of weblogs. I, of course, have to visit websites when I see them in hardcopy articles so I went to a bunch of these. Most of them seemed to be political in nature, and definitely of a ranting sort. If I didn't promise I would never write about politics when I started this blog, I should have. (Oops. Is being anti-politics in a column dedicated to kidlit a political stand?)

Anyway, Seipp, who does not even have a weblog, gets invited to weblog parties. Do I, a webloggerista, ever get invited to such gatherings? No. Never. Perhaps that's because here in the Land of the Bland I am the only person I know who has one. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a weblog party. In addition, Seipp says that many of the blogs she mentioned get thousands of hits. A day or a week, I can't remember. I can't tell you how many I get since I've always been afraid to attach a counter to my website. I'm guessing maybe I'll get a thousand hits in a lifetime. We're talking vanity press here, folks.

Well, the article didn't do a lot for my self-esteem, but what does?

Saturday, April 05, 2003

I'm Going Out!

I have been invited somewhere, which happens seldom enough to rate as news. I've been invited to take part in Boats, Books, and Brushes in September. Evidently there will be children's lit tents, and it's rumored that Avi will be there that weekend, too.

I'll have a half hour of time to fill, and I'll be expected to do something besides stand there and chew gum. I was watching Comedy Central the other night, and I came up with a great idea. I thought, "Hey, I could do standup at a book event! Literary standup for kids! It would be totally unique and cutting edge!"

But I changed my mind and decided to do readings.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Something New

The folks at Readervilleexposed me to a new magazine (new for me at least) called Pages, which describes itself as "The Magazine for People who Love Books." The March/April issue included an article by Carl Lennertz called "Don't Let the Kids Have All the Fun" that dealt with a parent-and-student book group run by the author's daughter's sixth grade teacher.

A school run parent-child book group. What a great idea!! I would have loved doing that when my kids were in grade school. I would love doing it with my kids at any age, in fact, but we're talking about gradeschoolers here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Why I'm Doing a Lousy Job at Updates

I haven't been keeping up on this weblog as well as I'd like (and I should) because I've been hanging out at a message board. Readerville has dozens of forums devoted to reading and writing, including some on Young Adult books. The Young Adult Reading Group is discussing Jane Eyre this month. I'm only half finished, but it is far, far better than I remember it from my teenage reading.

I tried an on-line reading group last year, but found the people there cliquey and mostly writers only interested in discussing their own books. At Readerville you find forums for writers but also plenty just on reading. People are much more willing to accept newcomers.

My son, who belongs to a couple of these things, says I fell hard for forums. I've been going back and forth to Readerville so often during the day that it definitely has been diverting me from working. I'm trying to exert more discipline and only visit in the afternoon. One of the positive things about this place is that I'm being referred to magazines--both hard copy and on-line--that I'd never heard of. Some of them I'll be talking about here.

That's assuming I can stay away from Readerville long enough to do so.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Staying Humble

Last week I spent a day at the University of Connecticut leading a workshop at the Third Statewide Student/Teacher Writers Conference. Nancy Springer gave the keynote address. Now, Nancy Springer and I were both at the same literary tea sponsored by Penguin Putnam in New York City a couple of years ago, and I am a hundred percent certain we actually met. Briefly. But nonetheless. So I, who am not a naturally outgoing run up and greet people sort, decided I would make a point of speaking to her. I saw her for a moment at the beginning of the day, missed her address because I felt my workshop needed a little revising before I led it again in the afternoon, and caught her, literally, on my way out the door that afternoon. I stopped her in the hall, told her who I was, and said that I thought we'd met at a literary tea for Penguin Putnam. Well, of course you've probably guessed that she didn't know me from Adam. No recollection of me whatsoever. That's because in addition to not being very outgoing I'm also not very memorable.

Why do I find this story so funny?

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Ethan Allen and Me

The presentation last Friday went...okay. I put the first class to sleep. I suspected that others wouldn't share my obsession with the Puritans, and I was right. I should have trusted my gut. The other presentations went better because I'd practiced the material enough that I was able to flip around and cut, cut, cut. All the kids had read the book, and there were some very sophisticated questions. "Why did you put Pokie in the book?" "Why did you put Peggy and Deborah in the book?" I thought those were deep questions since everything in a piece of fiction should be there for a reason.
I also used PowerPoint for the first time. That went very, very well.
This particular presentation needs work, but it's promising.
I just noticed that the March 5 entry was posted twice. Some day when I have time I'll fix that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003


I'm not accustomed to working very hard so I'm finding this month overwhelming. Work on Happy Kids! has ground to a halt because of writing angst. I have a day of presentations this Friday, and the school asked me to combine both my presentations, which means I'm prepping for a new presentation. I'm teaching a workshop next week that I've thought about but need to do some work on. I've been asked to submit a short story to a themed anthology, and that's due April 1. There's a reporter from a local newspaper coming here tomorrow morning which means hours of work on the house as well as on myself.

This entry is short for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Read Across America Day

Monday, March 3, was Read Across America Day, and I actually had someplace to go and something to do. Usually when things like that happen, I find out after the fact and wonder why I was home alone. This time I was invited by a Future Business Leaders of America group to speak to the third graders at an elementary school. This particular high school FBLA has sort of adopted a grade school in their city and do things with the younger kids 3 or 4 times a year. Their president was extremely gracious, competent, well-mannered, etc. etc. The event they planned was bigger than I expected. I was impressed and had a good time.
Now I'm worried about whether or not I'll be invited somewhere for next year's Read Across America Day--which will be March 2, 2004.

Read Across America Day

Monday was Read Across America Day, and I actually had some place to go and something to do. Usually these kinds of things happen, I hear about them long after they're over and wonder why I was sitting home alone again.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Blog Insecurity

Here are two blogs that look way cooler than mine: The Reverse Cowgirl's Blog and rabbit blog. Unfortunately, I don't have a clue what they're about.

In case you haven't guessed, I don't have much time to do a decent posting and haven't for more than a week. But when I get back to this I'll have news about a forum I joined, my visit to a school, and a book I'm reading.

So even though this blog doesn't look way cool, you can tell what it's about. Or you can tell what it would be about if I did a better job of maintaining it.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Another Book I Wasn't Crazy About, But Some Fun Stuff, Too

After, literally, a couple of years of anticipation, I finally read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. Of course, I wasn't all that crazy about it because I'm not that crazy about anything, as my regular readers know. (My sons would say, "What regular readers?") I wanted the book to be more about the pants! The pants were supposed to be magical! But it seemed to me they were just used as a device to hold together four different "women's stories" for girls. And I don't like women's stories because I'm a traitor to my sex.

However, this is one of those books that teens are supposed to love. Go to Favorite Teenage Angst Books to a view a wonderful thread posted by readers excited by this book. Included is a discussion of whether or not Eric and B did something. They so did!!

You can also go here to read an excerpt.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Look What I Found

I can't even remember what I was looking for this afternoon, but what I found was Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists. I liked what I saw. Right now this site is prominently displaying a review of Feed by M.T. Anderson, a book I've been wanting to read. A lisit called Coolest Classics includes three favorites from my teen years: Cheaper by the Dozen (Get this--my mother-in-law met the mother in this book at a wedding); We Have Always Lived in the Castle (I was obsessed with Shirley Jackson, the author, when I was a teenager; and The Scarlet Pimpernel (Actually, I'm embarrassed to say I think I may have been past my teen years when I read this one.)

This site looks good and has an engaging voice. It's worth checking out.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Rebecca's Birthday Present?

I read in a recent issue of Newsweek that the Miss Spider books by David Kirk have inspired a line of products that will be sold by Target. I'd never read the books, but I have a niece who will be four next month, and I wondered if she wouldn't like a book and some type of Miss Spider item to go along with it. So I made a trip to my local library. They had four of the books there, and I checked them all out.

The illustrations are very sharp and intense and a little surreal. Some of them look almost three-dimensional. I don't think it will take long for Kirk's style to become "Kirkian"--identifiable. The text is interesting because it's all in verse. Aspiring authors are always being told that editors aren't interested in verse, yet, here is a well-known writer using verse. Go figure.

My favorite of the four books I read was Miss Spider's Tea Party. It's about both alienation and counting. How cool is that? I'll check out the Miss Spider products next. At the very least I think maybe Rebecca will get Miss Spider's Tea Party and some sort of tea set. That would balance the tool kit we got her for Christmas.

Here is a neat idea for a real spider tea party.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Look! A Post Two Days in a Row!

Well, I read a book a few weeks ago. Good for me. Philosophy Rocks by Stephen Law is a discussion of philosophy written for young people. When it was originally published in England, it was called The Philosophy Files, a far better title, in my humble opinion.

Philosophy Rocks doesn't try to cover everything about philosophy. Even someone who knows as little about the subject as I do was able to figure that out. The author seems more interested in trying to give young readers an idea about what a philosophical question is and how philosophers think. Most chapters end with the question "What do you think?" I would have liked to see more answers, not because I think young people need them but because I do. But that definitely was not Law's point. His point is the process. To illustrate this process he uses kids arguing about things or aliens trying to understand what's going on on Earth. I know that that was an attempt to make the concepts discussed more interesting to the reader, but I started skipping them and cutting to the chase, which came later in the chapters. As a result, I now know something about Plato and have thought about how definitions impact philosophical questions. (Read the book.)

Though I respect what Law is doing here, I wonder if this isn't one of those kinds of books that adults think is a great idea but kids won't actually read. Like using scripture in picture books.

Law has written a follow-up book, published in England, called The Outer Limits: More Mysteries from the Philosophy Files. He has a very readable article on why philosophy should be discussed with children called Natural Born Philosophers at The Humanist website.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

How Did I Do?

Remember that class I took last fall on Creative Nonfiction? Sure you do. Well, I got an A on it.

Since I still can't really define creative nonfiction for you, here are a few sites with info:

The Age of Creative Nonfiction This is an interview I found very interesting because a lot of what the interviewees had to say pertains to any kind of writing. I say the same things to young writers.

Creative Nonfiction The website for the hard copy journal of the same name.

Writing Links: Creative Nonfiction Links to sites related to creative nonfiction, of course.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Running with the Muse

I did not plan to write about cartoons, comics, and graphic novels today. I didn't actually plan to update this blog today, either. I was supposed to do it last night. However, as a result of something that happened this morning, everything has changed.

I was working on a character for the new book (the really new book--the one that hasn't been written yet, which should not be confused with the new book that is coming out in June). The character is an art teacher. I thought it would be funny to have him teach only one thing--cartoons. So I went on-line to do some research, got all kinds of ideas, and found some interesting sites that I will now share with you.

Cartoon Art Part of "Art of Illustration" at the National Library of Canada's site


YA Talk Graphic Novels Part of the Booklist site

I think I'm going to have this character write a graphic novel, since I have a modest interest in the genre (see Nov. 13, 2002 and Jan. 6, 2003 entries).

Friday, January 17, 2003

Glad That's Behind Me

I gave The Ethan Allen Connection presentation for the first time yesterday. The audience was 160 sixth graders. That was a little older group than I usually speak to and quite a bit larger. They were so mannerly I was afraid they'd all dozed off from boredom. Usually I have kids raising their hands and wanting to ask questions or offer comments during the talk. Yesterday there was none of that. Zip. Nada.

Maybe the problem is mine. Why do I assume something is wrong if people are being polite?

Saturday, January 11, 2003

The Real Story

The real story on the January 6 entry is that it wasn't the January 6 entry, it was the January 2 entry. I was talking with someone on Instant Messenger while I was writing it, I went to reduce the blog screen so I could bring up the IM screen and somehow lost the whole thing when I was halfway through. So I rewrote the entry, this time finishing it, and when I went to publish it I got a message about the action being cancelled and everything was gone again. So then I rewrote the whole thing in Word but didn't have the guts to try to cut and paste it into the weblog for 4 days. The whole series of events was rather traumatizing, which explains why it has taken me another 5 days to write anything. This is being written directly into the weblog so we'll see what happens.

I'm well on my way to having the new presentation ready for Thursday. I practiced once, the timing seemed great; I practiced a second time and the thing seemed to run 15 minutes longer. I say "seemed" because I don't actually remember when I started. I've begun writing the speech for the lunch crowd. I've decided to speak on the subject of "profanity." It could work.

Monday, January 06, 2003

I’m in Trouble Now

I received a message from the library telling me that if I don’t return The Best American Nonrequired Reading toot sweet someone there will send the book nazis after me. So I am highly motivated to write this entry.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading is an anthology of articles and stories from “magazines, newspapers, and zines that publish material either for or of interest to readers ages fifteen to twenty-five.” I think the age range is interesting since older teens, in my experience, share interests with adults, which people twenty to twenty-five are. Or should be.

Nonrequired Reading is part of a series that will be edited by Michael Cart, a well-known YA editor. I’ve heard of him, at least. Oh, okay. I’ll come clean. He wrote a very nice review of one of my books a few years ago. This first volume of the series was edited by Dave Eggars of McSweeneys website and publishing fame, and just plain fame in general.

I like the concept behind the title—that here is what we read when we don’t have to. And I liked the way pieces with unusual structure were included in the selections. There is a graphic story, two journals, and a chapter from a “parenting” book. But the line between “creative” nonfiction and fiction is very fine, sometimes, and in this book I often had trouble telling which was which. I’m sure “Why McDonald’s Fries Taste So Good” is nonfiction. I think. But I’m not at all certain about “My Fake Job.” Some journals and anthologies have started classifying their pieces as “Essays” and “Short Stories” for the benefit of folks like me. Nonrequired Reading could have benefited from a little of that.

I also found some of the selections a little predictable. You could see that there was an adult mind working away in the background. That would explain, it seems to me, including a couple of the “arty” huh? stories we’ve come to expect from mainstream (adult) literary journals as well as traditional fiction about “my awful parent” and “my tough, professional grandma.” Some of the works here seemed to be instructional. There were two good essays about other cultures. While I actually enjoy the whole multicultural thing, I wonder if it isn’t a subject that’s been beaten to death as far as the age group this book is addressed to is concerned. Even an essay by David Sedaris (I love David Sedaris) seemed to have an improving quality that isn’t particularly representative of his work.

I think The Best American Nonrequired Reading is a great idea. I just hope volume two gets a little less adult. Perhaps Michael Cart should try finding a younger editor for the next book. I hate to say it, but perhaps Dave Eggers, being in his early thirties and all, is a little too long in the tooth to be selecting reading for fifteen to twenty-five year olds.