How many are the scenes he limned,
With artist strokes, clear-cut and free -
Our Dickens; time shall not efface
Their charm, and they will ever grace
The halls of memory.
Oft and again we turn to them,
To contemplate in pleased review;
And like some picture on the screen
Comes now to mind a favorite scene
His master-pencil drew...
Read the poem in its entirety: Unfading Pictures by Louella C. Poole.
View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.
View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.
Learn more about Poetry Friday.
- Current Mood: content
- Current Music:Furniture by Amy Studt
Esther Hershenhorn Recommends Snowflakes Fall by Patricia Maclachlan, illustrated Steven Kellogg (Random House, 2013) from Teaching Authors. Peek: "In a Feb. 25 Publishers Weekly interview, Patricia MacLachlan shared that the snowflake motif used to underscore each individual’s uniqueness and the power of nature and time to help heal was inspired by the Connecticut Parent Teachers Association’s efforts to encourage people to create paper snowflakes to decorate the new school Sandy Hook students would be attending." See also Diverse & Impressive Picture Books of 2013 from the International Reading Association.
Online Author Visits' Holiday Offer from readergirlz. Peek: "We are a group of children’s authors that do Skype and Google visits with classrooms and book clubs across the country (we donate 25% percent of our fee to a chosen charity). To celebrate such a successful year, we are hosting a contest where two winners will get to each choose two books from among our talented author pool...winners will also get to choose a school library of their choice to receive a collection of five books valued at over $150!"
Creating an Ironic Tone in Your Fiction by Jack Smith from Elizabeth Spann Craig. Peek: "To create the right tone, you need to think about character actions, dialogue, and setting. All of these will affect the tone of your story or novel. But you also need to attend to matters of style. Being something of an iconoclast, I tend to go for irony. An ironic tone is, of course, the right tone for satire—which is my usual medium."
The winner of SCBWI's 2013 Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award is Eve Feldman, author of such works as Billy and Milly Short and Silly (Putnam) and Dog Crazy (Tambourine). Eve has been a children’s book author and SCBWI member for over twenty years. Honor grants also were awarded to authors Verla Kay and Deborah Lynn Jacobs. Verla Kay is the author of Civil War Drummer Boy (Putnam) and Hornbooks and Inkwells (Putnam) among others. Deborah Lynn Jacobs is the author of the young adult novels Choices (Roaring Brook Press) and Powers (Square Fish). See also Gifts by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Diary of a Writer.
BookPeople, Random House Partner on Pen-Pal Literacy Initiative by Paige Crutcher from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Inspired by Shana Burg’s middle grade novel Laugh with the Moon, BookPeople and Random House Children’s Books have teamed up with the Austin Independent School District to launch Words Across the World, a pen-pal program connecting Austin, Tex., students with students from Malawi, Africa." See also Words Across the World from BookPeople.
Middle Grade Novels and Relationships by Dianne K. Salerni from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Chances are they will never tame a gryphon, battle a Cyclops, or find a lost treasure, but they will experience broken promises, unexpected friendships, betrayal, and random acts of kindness." See also Things Left Unspoken by Robin LaFevers from Writer Unboxed.
Where's the Diversity? The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List &Interview with Author Charles Yu from Lee and Low. Peek: "Only three out of the 124 authors who appeared on the list during 2012 are people of color." See Audrey's Top Eight Multicultural Titles for 2013 from Rich in Color.
Character Descriptions: Learn from the Pros by Jodie Renner from Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "...my clients often tend to over-describe characters, with too much emphasis on specific visual details. Readers...enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of piecing things together and drawing their own conclusions about characters."
Lasso A Daydream by Nikki Grimes from Teaching Books. Peek: "By the time I was ten, I could lasso a daydream and ride the wind."
Multicultural Holiday Books: a bibliography by Nicole Lee Martin from ALSC Blog. Peek: "The Public Awareness Committee makes a special effort to promote programs and books that celebrate multiculturalism through promotion of El día de los niños/ El día de los libros, commonly known as Día, and...you will find some of my favorite multicultural holiday picture books."
- PDF copy of The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes (craft)(international)
- signed copy Penguin Cha-Cha by Kristi Valiant (Random House), bookmark, sticker, and magnet (PB)(U.S. only)
- the Watersmeet trilogy--Watersmeet, The Centaur's Daughter and The Keeper by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Skyscape, 2009-2013) and a Kindle Paperwhite (YA)(U.S. only)
See also a giveaway of a paperback copy of The Diviners by Libba Bray and tie-in tote from Jen Bigheart at I Read Banned Books and a five-book giveaway of World After by Susan Ee from Adventures in YA Publishing.
This Week at Cynsations
- Kathi Appelt & N. Griffin on The Whole Stupid Way We Are
- Sam Bond on Operation Golden Llama (Cousins in Action) & Self-Publishing
- Carla Killough McClafferty on Revealing Your Heart in Nonfiction
- e.E. Charlton-Trujillo on Your Book, Your (Marketing) Niche from the Trench
- Greg Pincus on Writing & Marketing with Serious Lead Time
- Becca Puglisi on Where Do Character Strengths Come From?
|Seussville at Universal's Islands of Adventure|
It's almost time for Cynsations holiday hiatus. I'm still writing, still on deadline, but the great news is that I think I've figured out a more exciting, satisfying and costly ending to my work in progress.
Congratulations to Cory Putnam Oaks on the sale of "Dinosaur Boy" to Aubrey Poole at Sourcebooks, in a two-book deal!
Congratulations to the Spirit of Texas Reading Program 2014 Middle School Authors, including Cynthia Levinson, Katherine Catmull and Kelly Milner Halls!
- Can We Talk about Susan's Fabulous Adventures After Narnia?
- If Disney Princesses Invaded "Star Wars"
- Writing Over the Holidays
- Spread Some Holiday Good Cheer With Ballou High School & Pledge To Read 5 Books With the Students (via Gwenda Bond)
- Parody Video: What's the Spleen Do?
- Uma Krishnaswami: A Broken Pavement, an Election, a Pile of Books & Me
- Joy Preble: Captain Kirk Liked My Wings & Other Austin Comic Con Tales
In our minds, the story is perfect with the promise that, when we tell it, it will flow like liquid gold. The truth is that the moment we put words on paper, the story curdles--the nebulous becomes murky, the flaws embarrassingly obvious, the plot too thick and the characters too thin--and yet if we don't brave the fog, the story will never be told. If we don't keep digging, we'll never discover the nuggets of gold worth keeping. If we don't build our castles, we won't have anything to knock down and rebuild better and stronger than before. It's tough to dive in, knowing that it will be a treacherous road doomed to be torn up, ripped out, redesigned and overhauled with more than one bypass, shortcut, dark alley and dead end...but "The End" is worth the journey. Honest.
Step by step.
Word by word.
Bird by bird.
And as they say in The Hobbit: we're off to have an adventure!
So far, it has been painted a lovely, pale blue called Blue Opal, my desk has moved in to an alcove that is perfect for it, and a small bookcase has moved in to hold my author copies and some other choice books. There is, of course, a bed in the room as well, since the room has to do double duty as a guest room, but we will soon replace the single bed with a daybed, which will look much more couch-like (I think) in the usual course of things. I will share pictures of it when I get it done.
In the meantime, here is what moved into my writing room today:
2014 Calendar with art by Pamela Zagarenski and texts from Rumi and Hafiz, available online
Isn't it pretty?
- Current Mood: content
- Current Music:Good Life by OneRepublic (brainradio)
And then there is the matter of how our feelings about books change over time. I struggled through Babbitt as a high-schooler, but I've reread it voluntarily as an adult, and like it much better now. Some books I started out liking, but have grown to love upon subsequent rereads.
And then there are the books that lose something upon rereading. The main character who seemed so romantic is just annoying now. The fantasy world that once fascinated has become a bit of a yawn. Previously unnoticed racist subtext oozes to the surface.
We change, and the world around us changes, so there's no wonder our feelings about books change. If I did rate books, they would probably not carry a single number, but a graph of numbers, charting my rising and falling assessment over time.
It brings home to me like nothing else how subjective ratings can be, how personal our responses to books are sometimes.
2. It's a whopping 10 degrees above zero right now, which is FANTASTIC and feels like high summer compared to what we've been having. (Many many days below zero. Our little house can't keep up, and it's been no warmer than 65 in here, no matter what we set the thermostat on.) It was even warm enough to go out and shovel snow. Of course, it's now snowing again...
3. Saturday I'm in charge of the musical program for our church Christmas dinner. Which should be not too hard. Except I can't relax until it's done.
4. The really huge stress, though, is the science fair project. I like science, but I HATE these projects, because they always require materials that no normal parent can find, and of course the school expects the stuff to appear like magic and the kid is caught in the middle, with their grade in the balance. My 13YO wants to build a cloud chamber to observe atmospheric radiation. It looks like a fairly simple project. Except, it's impossible to get dry ice here. Like the closest place is Fargo, 90 miles away. I have found someone who is driving there tomorrow and is willing to pick some up for me, but first I think we're going to try using air dusters as a coolant. (They cool to I think -45 C, which should be cool enough.) So I've basically spent all day making a cloud chamber and trying to get it to work. You affix a sponge to the bottom of a clear container, like a clear plastic or glass cup, soak it with 90%+ rubbing alcohol, and invert over a lid made of a black circle of construction paper (goes on the inside side) taped to a foil cupcake wrapper (on the outside side). Seal with plastitiack on the rim to be airtight. Then you somehow suspend (or balance on the edge of something so a bit overlaps) your chamber, turn an air duster can upside down (yes, exactly what it says NOT to do on the can), and spray the bottom. Then shine a bright LED light inside and watch as a cloud forms (the alcohol condensing), and supposedly little cosmic waves will show up, like little static shocks or shooting stars or something. I can get as far as the cloud, but then no sparks. One difficulty is that you have to spray every ten seconds or so. Another is that you also have to hold this flashlight. So you need a number of extra hands. Also, I'm pretty sure it works better at night than at noon. I'm still debating on whether to take these people up on their offer to bring back dry ice. I guess we still have a few hours to try and get it to work tonight...
5. As to North Dakota in December, this is what it looks like: watery, pale-blue sky tinged with white, a very low, weak sun, white on the ground and in the trees (because nothing melts), and ice skating rinks going up all over town. The middle school was making two large ones in a field, and they already have another one surrounded by wooden walls. Yes, my 3rd grader is doing a hockey unit in P.E. North Dakotans don't care that they're adults--they wear mittens at these temperatures. (And really heavy-duty ones!) But joggers are still out, bandanas around their faces and presumably wearing some kind of magically warm base layer.
6. North Dakotans, in case you're wondering, have a rather specific look, too. Native American is one common look, with quite a number of local tribes who have lived here since the dawn of time. And for European-Nodaks, they tend to have squarish faces, blond hair and blue eyes (you remember that Legolas's little sister lives down the street from us), and are not terribly tall. They are also not as er, square in body as the rest of the US, it seems--probably because anyone who can go running when it's -15 is probably in pretty good shape to start out with.
7. Our washer broke and husband and son fixed it, but something else is still broken, making the whole thing thrash around (no, it's not the legs being uneven or the load lumpy inside. It has to do with everything being firmly nailed down inside). They did more work last night. We hope it solved it, because it's not fun feeling like you're blasting off with every laundry load. Now if only they could fix the leaking transmission... (one reason why I didn't drive to Fargo and pick up my own dry ice. Well, that and it's 90 miles away.)
Um, wow, that was pretty random. Happy December?
If you can't see the video embedded above, click here to watch the book trailer!
I am very much looking forward to the spooky new graphic novel trilogy Cemetery Girl by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, illustrated by Don Kramer. Cemetery Girl Book One: The Pretenders comes out on January 7th. Here's the premise:
She calls herself Calexa Rose Dunhill – names taken from the grim surroundings where she awoke, bruised and bloody, with no memory of who she is, how she got there, or who left her for dead.
She has made the cemetery her home, living in a crypt and avoiding human contact. But Calexa can’t hide from the dead – and because she can see spirits, they can’t hide from her.
Then one night, Calexa spies a group of teenagers vandalizing a grave – and watches in horror as they commit murder. As the victim’s spirit rises from her body, it flows into Calexa, overwhelming her mind with visions and memories not her own. Now Calexa must make a decision: continue to hide to protect herself – or come forward to bring justice to the sad spirit who has reached out to her for help...
Read an excerpt at the Penguin website. The Cemetery Girl series is published by InkLit, a division of Penguin Books.
I just learned that GoodReads is giving away ten copies of Book One. Neat!
- Current Mood: awake
- Current Music:Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave) by Matt Nathanson
All Lara has ever wanted is to be the next kennel steward after her father and breed prize hunting borzoi's fit for the Tsar, but when her baby brother is born and her future is in question, she must decide if she should keep her visions that connect her to the dogs a secret or share her knowledge to keep her place among the magnifcent animals. The historic period and details of the borzoi feel very real and well-researched. Lara is a brave, smart girl who makes the reader want a borzoi puppy of their own. A lovely MG for history and dog lovers. (Knopf, 2013)
|Author photo by Leigh Elise|
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
N. Griffin is the first-time author of The Whole Stupid Way We Are (Atheneum, 2013). From the promotional copy:
It’s Maine. It’s winter. And it’s freezing stinkin' cold!
Dinah is wildly worried about her best friend, Skint. He won’t wear a coat. Refuses to wear a coat. It’s twelve degrees out, and he won’t wear a coat.
So Dinah’s going to figure out how to help. That’s what Dinah does—she helps. But she’s too busy trying to help to notice that sometimes, she’s doing more harm than good. Seeing the trees instead of the forest? That’s Dinah.
And Skint isn’t going to be the one to tell her. He’s got his own problems. He’s worried about a little boy whose dad won’t let him visit his mom. He’s worried about an elderly couple in a too-cold house down the street.
But the wedge between what drives Dinah and what concerns Skint is wide enough for a big old slab of ice. Because Skint’s own father is in trouble. Because Skint’s mother refuses to ask for help even though she’s at her breaking point. And because Dinah might just decide to...help. She thinks she’s cracking through a sheet of ice, but what’s actually there is an entire iceberg.
KA: First of all congratulations on being recognized as a “Flying Start” by Publishers Weekly! That’s a sweet recognition for you and your first book, The Whole Stupid Way We Are. In addition, the story of Dinah and Skint is getting quite a bit of critical acclaim.
NG: Thank you so much, Kathi! I was really grateful for this—it was so surprising and lovely to see that other people liked Dinah and Skint, too.
KA: Would you first of all, tell us where Dinah and Skint came from? Who are they and what would you like us to know most about both of them?
NG: What a neat question! Both Dinah and Skint came from all over the place even as both of them also came from parts of me. Dinah is a kind of willfully childlike teenager, which I know can be either super irritating or super appealing to people without many reactions in between. I’ve known a lot of teens (heck, even a lot of adults) like this.
I tend to love that kind of person, because in so many instances, there is so much awareness behind that retreat into childhood—a sense of keenly experienced or understood pain. And I think that is exactly true of Dinah. She knows just how hard life can be, for herself but almost more especially for other people, and she’s having none of it, on everyone’s behalf.
But another big part of the creation of Skint was my belief that we sell our teens short. We are so quick to paint them as selfish and dippy that we disregard the truth that many kids and teens do feel the weight of the world and human suffering very keenly. The problem is our culture neither expects teens’ care nor offers them many clear paths to take action on that care, when action is, I think, the only antidote to the anger and powerlessness that we feel in the face of injustice.
So Skint is sort of an amalgam of these aspects of lots of kids I’ve known (and also parts of teen-me, but he is smarter and funnier than I ever was) as well as being possessed of a fully invented personality of his own.
KA: The weather in this book stands almost as a metaphor for the way that the characters and the readers too have to chip through the ice to get to a warm place. The freezing cold makes an appearance on almost every page, and in fact, while I read it, I felt shivery. And yet, Skint refuses to wear a coat. I kept wanting to throw a blanket over him, so I understand Dinah’s urge to protect him. What was going on there? Why the exposure to the elements?
NG: I think that sometimes, when something is unbearable, we do things to obliterate everything as a way of shutting out the unbearable as well as the feelings that come along with that.
In The Whole Stupid Way We Are, Skint is terrified, rage-filled and full of despair because of his home situation—a situation that is so overwhelming and so large a secret that is it more than anyone could bear alone. And Skint can’t. So, for me, his non-coat-wearing creates a physical discomfort so great it blasts away all those feelings and replaces them with the pure, physical misery of freezing.
I think there’s also a large dose of self-punishment in there, too. Other people might use drugs, not eat, cut, listen to loud music or play video games to do the same thing, but Skint freezes.
It kills me, too.
KA: The local church plays a large role here as well. And in fact, Dinah’s father is the Choir Director. Nevertheless, you skillfully kept religion out of the story for the most part. Still, the church serves as the “village” for this story. Can you talk about that?
|Photo by Tobin Anderson|
At the same time, I think that it can be impossibly hard to reconcile the idea of love with the truth of suffering. And this is, I think, one of the central ideas of the book. So it made sense to me that a church would be front and center and the backdrop of everything, and that different characters would respond in vastly different ways to awfulness of that contradiction.
Also I am a fool for a potluck.
KA: One of the most riveting scenes is the one with the dancing donkey. Where did that come from?
NG: Oh, I love Walter the donkey! I still think about him all the time. He came to me in a flash—I always knew just the type of sad/not sad activities Dinah and Skint would love—what I wound up calling “Fantastic or Excruciating?” adventures, or FoE’s, in the book. These are performances, usually, that are so on the border between phenomenal and cringe-worthy that’s it’s tough to sit through them because you feel the passion and need of the performers so keenly and you want things to go well for them.
So one morning I was thinking about this when Walter stepped politely into my mind and I got all weepy because I loved him so much. Which is kind of obnoxious, when you think about it.
I moved my own self! Come on, Griffin.
KA: Each of your characters is so carefully drawn, so alive. One of my favorites is Dinah’s baby brother, Beagie. Through him, you gave us the wonderful phrase, “boss of light.” In fact, the story is shot through with the struggle between light and dark. Can you talk about that? And why Beagie? Why is he the fulcrum for the opposing sides?
NG: Thank you for loving Beagie! I still love him, too. Heck, I guess I still love all of those characters.
Good old Beagie was in the book from the start and I didn’t really think much about why until a lot later. He’s thirteen months old, which is an age I love and am fascinated by—a time when a lot of babies are furious because they want so badly to talk but can’t yet. Their frustration at their powerlessness makes them roar around, acting like the boss of things, which reaction makes perfect sense to me.
And so, in retrospect, I can see how my subconscious plucked a Beagie forth as another way to think about the tension between wanting power and the hideousness of not having it. But who’s to say?
Beagie is Beagie and he wants his sippy cup right now, please.
KA: This book is a testament to the very real ramifications of mental illness and the way it impacts families, friends, villages. You shone a light on the struggle that especially the caregivers have to face, including shame, which seems to underlie much of what Skint and his mother are coping with. But it’s Dinah’s reaction that is so telling. Would you talk about that?
NG: Sure. Dinah is a girl who has experienced death through the loss of an elderly relative, and that grief is keen and unyielding for her. So, I think in large part, she can’t bear for Skint to feel any pain even remotely akin to that, and she makes it her impossible business to save him from it.
But I also think, in her secret heart, she doesn’t want her own pain to be triggered in any way, and that makes her avoid, at least in part, the magnitude of Skint’s true pain as well.
I think this is such a familiar predicament to a lot of people, especially teenagers. I know I was very much this way as a younger girl. Poor Dinah. It’s an awful setup to want to save someone so badly.
KA: What do you hope your young readers will find here? What do you want to give them in return for reading this story?
NG: I hope that they experience the book as a true reflection of what it can be like to struggle with the hard things I’ve been talking about in these responses, whether they’ve had those kinds of struggles or not.
But I also hope they find a lot of light and humor in the book, and that their reading gives them the option of thinking about Dinah and Skint as friends they’d want to hang out with.
I did try to put in a lot of funny bits, y’all.
KA: On a more personal note, can you tell us a wee bit about your writing life?
NG: Oh, my writing life is a vile thing, people. I have a lot of anxiety around writing and every word is a battle. I have no tips for this. We terrified types must just bash through and salute our brethren and sistren who struggle along like this, too.
But here is an underdeveloped picture of the comfy chaise in which I do a lot of the struggling.
KA: And finally, what is next? And when will we see it?
NG: Next up is an untrammeledly fun book—a cheerful middle grade mystery with a pair of best friend detectives. It’s untitled as yet because I am so vastly bad at thinking of titles. But the detective children are named Smashie and Dontel and I love them. That book is scheduled for fall 2014 from Candlewick.
And right now, I am working on a new YA and I will be done with that in about 2079, probably. Maybe 2078 if I really get on the stick. Yargh.
Thank you so much for having me, Cyn and Kathi! You all are superheroine tangerine pies.
KA: I can’t wait.
About Kathi Appelt
Kathi Appelt’s books have won numerous national and state awards.
Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the Pen USA Award, and was a finalist for the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award. Her most recent novel, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, was also a National Book Award Finalist. Kathi serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.
Her cats are named Jazz, Hoss, D’jango, Peach, Mingus and Chica.
Yesterday after working on my book, I went Christmas shopping in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. I love summer places in the off-season.
I was thinking of my dad. His birthday was last week and it was hard to turn the December calendar page and see his name on the 3rd, written boldly back in January when we had written all the birthdays on the 2013 calendar.
There's a "minus one" in our holiday plans. One less seat at the table, one less plate, one less person to buy presents for.
And I was thinking about how he wouldn't read any of my 2014 books. Right before he died, we joked together that he had to go before Half a Chance, my next novel, was published because otherwise he'd have to read it. He laughed and I laughed. That was how we joked with each other. He wasn't a reader, so I was a little glad that he didn't *have* to read it, but I know he would have done so--because he loved me.
As I was standing on a snow-covered wharf taking some photos, up popped a loon. Loons spend their winters on the ocean and trade their striking black-and-white summer colors for winter grays. They are a big thread in Half a Chance. He looked right at me and I looked back and took this one photo--fuzzy because my hands were shaking--before he rolled forward and dove away.
I won't need to buy my dad a present this year, but it felt like maybe the universe sent me one.
- Current Mood: touched