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Archive for March, 2011

There’s no words, really, to cover what’s happened in Japan.  I could try — words like horrific, heart-rending, and tragic come to mind — but they’re just words, black dots on a computer screen, typed from the comfort of a warm, safe office.  I look at the pictures in the news and then at those words and they are too clean and sterile to even think about using.  I can’t imagine what’s like to see those scenes close up, or worse yet, to have been a child and lived them.

Over at Write Hope, a group of kidlit authors have banded together to try to change those words into something more promising.  They are running an auction with wonderful prizes — books, manuscript critiques, consults with agents — and all proceeds will be donated to Save the Children/Japan. I’m donating a Book Club in a Bag — up to 10 copies of Evenfall, cookies, a reusable cloth bag, and the chance to Skype with me. (If you are within an hour of where I live, I’ll come to your book club in person.) Items are up for only 72 hours, so keep checking back. (Edited: My donation is number eight today.)  Please help me spread the news — and help change those words into a more positive future for the tens of thousands of children who were affected.

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I know, I know, I’ve been slacking.  I started out with such good intentions, but somehow my three posts a week have dwindled to an anorexic one or two.  I promise to be better in April.  It will be SPRING!  and WARM! and everyone will be HAPPY! (Those of us who live in New England are such optimistic fools.)

Anyhow, I have been busy.  I have finally established my Facebook Author page (or rather, my sister did it for me) and I would take it as the greatest favor if you would hie yourself over there and like it.  Or me.  Or whatever one is supposed to do on The Facebook. (Random  elderly relative story — a favorite aunt is in a nursing home, and periodically she would call us up and say “I played The WOO today,” and cackle like a maniac.  It sounded vaguely dirty and I always covered the children’s ears if we were on speakerphone.  Well, it turns out The WOO was Wii, the other bane of my existence because it is the joy of my six-year-old’s life.  So, around here we tend to stick a capital THE in front of any newfangled technology.)

Also, I am being interviewed by the charming and lovely Debra Driza, no mean writer herself, and among other things we are commiserating over our BAD DOG stories.  Because I didn’t want to horrify her too much, I left out the one where my 110 pound unneutered show dog took a, um, special liking to my 100 pound friend.  He would back her into a corner, then very gently reach out one paw to wrap around her shoulders….

Come back Thursday for a better behaved blog post.

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Can I just, for a  moment, reiterate how awesome my home town library is?  My advance PR team came along  (that would be my parents) and what greeted us in the lobby but a poster with Evenfall and my face on it? (It was a little bit horrifying, to be honest, but the librarian behind the desk did manage to recognize me, so the photo isn’t too off the mark.) I wanted to poke around a while, but my mother, who knows me too well, clearly was concerned I’d pick up a book and be late to my own signing, so she marched me downstairs, where librarians Michelle and Tricia had set out refreshments and even remembered a pen. (Yes, I forgot to bring a pen.  I was distracted.)

A fabulous crowd turned out, including my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. T — her smile is EXACTLY the same all these years later — and my fourth grade teacher.  Seriously, how beyond cool is that? (And see, Mrs. F — despite the fact that I still can’t do advanced math to save my life, I turned out okay. Mostly.) And then a bunch of people from my elementary school surprised me too, and we went out after and I ate too many French Fries and it was just like being in school again only without the math bits.  Which is to say, completely awesome.

Exactly the same. Only taller.

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Libraries.  I love them.  You go in, sign a piece of paper, and they let you take home books.  For free.  As many as you can carry. (And I can carry a lot.) How insane is that?

Not just books, either.  CDs, DVDs, even art.  Museum passes. Again, all for free. Show me your library, and I can tell you a lot about the priorities of your town (which is why the recent cutbacks to my city’s library are so upsetting, but that’s a whole other blog post).  Everywhere I’ve lived, one of the first things I’ve done is run to my new library to sign up for my card.  Sometimes, my kids and I will stop to check out  a library we haven’t visited, just for fun (do we know how to live, or what??). And if we’re vacationing anywhere for more than a week, it’s a good bet that somehow, we’ll manage to work in a library visit.

But no matter how wonderful your library is, it can’t compare with the one I grew up with. As a kid, it was one of my favorite places to be.  Back then, even though the building was a blinding white wedding cake confection, the children’s room was rather small and dark, with aisles of books you could wander.  You could take the book that made your heart thump into the back, curl up, and stay there until closing.   There was a long wooden desk, and the librarian would stamp the card in the back of the book with a resounding thwap before she let you take it home.  On rainy days, or if you were home sick, you could call up the story line and listen to a prerecorded tale for free.  There was a millpond out in back, and at night in the summer you could go with your grandparents and listen to big band music and spin around and around until you were dizzy.  If you were lucky, your grandfather would buy you a glo stick and you could use it to light up your room well after you were supposed to be asleep.

They did a renovation sometime in the 1980s, I think, and made the children’s room over into a light and airy space.  They painted the whole building cream, instead of the original white, and added a comfortable reading room for magazines, and put in skylights and study spaces and a big open staircase.  It’s beautiful and inviting, but I still remember the creaky old building my eight-year-old self fell in love with, all those years ago.  And when I read there tomorrow, in my heart that’s where I’ll be.

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I’ve been struggling with what to say about the disasters that seem to be pressing in on every side these days.  Sitting in my quiet kitchen, a snoring dog at my feet, they seem very far away.  And then I pick up my children from school and my heart constricts at the pain another mother may be feeling right now on the other side of the world.

How do we  manage to go on with our lives when so many lives are changed forever?  How do we recognize another level of pain without becoming callous?  I don’t know.  But this post spoke to me .  I hope it does to you, too.

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I’m not talking about my real house today (although I should — it is in desperate need of a spring cleaning).  No, these are house keeping details of the cyber variety, so bear with me.

I’ll be doing a few more book signings this spring.  Next week on March 23rd, I’ll be at the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers, MA — my old hometown, and the most beautiful library I know. (At least that’s how it always appeared to my younger self.)  It is the library against which all others in my life have been measured, and I’d be thrilled to see you there.  (And can I just tell you how I wish I could time travel so I could go back and tell my younger self the news?)
And on April 9th, I’ll be at Well Read Books in Plaistow from 12 till 3.  It’s a fun, eclectic store — (although not as eclectic as this place). Stop by and say hello — I’ll be bringing my chocolate cookies and mini bookmarks with me.
Also: If I owe you a book, it will be in the mail as of Thursday.  If you haven’t received it in the next week or so, please let me know.
Finally, if you’ve read Evenfall but haven’t seen the secret backstory web pages, drop me a line (and maybe a picture of you with the book?  Pretty please?) and I’ll send you out the URL and secret password.

Finally finally, I have an author page on Facebook. (I know, I’m so progressive.)  If you are on there, swing by!

I’m off to sic Harley on the dust bunnies…

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I have books all over the house, with the possible exception of the guest bathroom.  Mostly, I try to keep the books I wouldn’t want my kids to read stacked next to my bed.  But sometimes I forget, and leave a book I’d prefer my daughter not to delve into out in the open, where it’s fair game.  I can always tell, though, when a book I’ve left somewhere has been moved — I’m freaky that way.  So when I got home from running some errands this weekend, and noticed my copy of Wake on the kitchen island  slightly askew, I knew immediately I hadn’t left it that way.  And I knew who had. And since she looked at me looking at the book and rolled her eyes, she knew I knew as well.

We had company all weekend, so I waited until this morning to ask what she thought of the book. Of course, she liked it. She’d only read a few pages before someone had walked in and she’d put the book down.  (Perhaps I should leave geometry textbooks out and pretend they’re off-limits, too.) She asked if she could read the whole thing, we discussed a bit about why I wasn’t comfortable with that, I asked if she had any questions, she said no, and we  agreed she could try it out next year, in fourth grade, and then she moved on to asking me about the book I’m reading now, a fabulous historical mystery/romance called The Second Duchess, which she’d also managed to skim. (Note to self: housecleaning is important for more than hygiene.)

I don’t think I’m kidding myself here. If she really wanted to read either of these books, I’m sure she’d figure out a way to make it happen.  At the moment, the exploits of a teen dream catcher and the doings of a Renaissance bride aren’t something she’s overly interested in, and while she’d be more than willing to delve into them if they were the only books around, she’s happily surrounded by stacks of her own reading material, so it’s not an issue.  Today.

But it did spark a couple of conversations.

Me:  “So, you noticed that the kids who were drinking were UNHAPPY, right? You got that?”

Her: Eye-roll.

Her: “So, why do authors make stuff up about real people?  They can do that? And what’s an arranged marriage?” Me:  “Yes.  It’s called historical fiction. And an arranged marriage is when your daddy and I pick out who you are going to marry.  When you are 35.”

All in all, I think it went well.

The Random Number Generator has spoken.

Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts last week.  Christine was the lucky winner — I’ll be sending you a signed copy of Wake in the mail.

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