Friday, November 30, 2007

Poetry Friday: Sonnet-and-pie-looza

I wrote two poems this week. One of them you can see here, at the crazy-fun "15 words or less" challenge that Laura Purdie Salas hosts each week. The other was the first sonnet in the crown of sonnets that I'm creating with Kelly Fineman, Laura Purdie Salas, TadMack from Finding Wonderland, cloudscome from a wrung sponge, Liz Garton Scanlon, and Tricia from The Miss Rumphius Effect. You can't see it yet, because we're going to unveil all seven sonnets at once and charge admission! No, not really, but we do want to present them together, so you can wear the crown with all its viewpoints and experience its corona as "many lights as one."

I wrote my sonnet curled up on the couch on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Some things I discovered:

1. Pie is very inspirational.

2. Trust the first image that comes to you, no matter how crazy. For me, it was shoelaces.

3. You are the boss of rhyme. It is not the boss of you. Didn't your momma tell you that?

4. Sonnets aren't extinct for a reason. They're hardy, and won't die in your rough care. They're like the giant bear of an uncle who lets all the little kids pile on in football.

5. Second helpings of pie are even more inspirational.

6. So are long walks.

7. Iambic pentameter is your favorite aunt talking. She's easy to listen to, and she can count cards and make you look good when she's your Euchre partner after dinner. And she brought the pie, so thank her.

8. The sonnet form will hold your thoughts, but like a shopping bag, you have to open it up and dump stuff in. Later, you take take out your purchases, one by one, and see what fits.

9. Don't be fooled. Not everything fits. Return the baggy sweater. If you're not sure about the pleather pants you found on sale, ask your sister. She'll tell you. (Or Liz, my poetry sister!)

10. Sonnets are better than pie. I hate to say that, but the pie is all gone. The sonnets are just getting started.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers today.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I can't concentrate because...

Jama's throwing a Cookie Party!

And because I'm working on revisions. Which are going well, thanks for asking. It's amazing to me how you can think you have your novel good and finished and solid, and then, when you revise, you find yourself stepping clear through the rotten place in the floor that you tried to disguise with a throw rug. Then, to mix up my metaphors a bit, you have to tear off each ratty piece of emergency duct tape, rip up all those temporary train tracks you laid, and return every set of crutches you borrowed from the Author Care Store. Which would all be so easy, if only the bad words didn't look just the same as the good ones!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Go ahead, make me laugh

I went to a bookstore and asked the salesperson, "Where's the self-help section?" She answered, "If I tell you, it will defeat the purpose."

That's how I feel about jokes in general. If you know it's a joke----listen to this! listen! it's SOOOO funny! you're gonna laugh, I promise!!!---then, meh. Not so great. On the other hand, if you know something's going to make you cry, then knowing about it ahead of time makes you cry even more. At least it does for me.

Jules posted a clip from It's a Wonderful Life today. I knew it would get me, right in both tear ducts, and it did. I also reliably bawl at the moment in Homeward Bound when the old retriever finally comes loping over the hill. I always think he's not coming.

As for perennially funny movies, my daughter used to laugh at the same place in the Jungle Book every time, when Mowgli bops Ballou in the nose. She'd belly laugh like she'd never seen it before. And one of my favorite sounds is my son busting out in a fit of laughter at a Simpsons episode he's seen umpteen times.

But what about funny books? Are they funny, over and over? Or does the surprise wear off? Calvin and Hobbes never grows old for me, but those are visual creations as well as literary ones. A straight text book that makes me laugh, over and over? Hmmm. I'm thinking...

P.S. Mother Reader knows all about funny and she spills her trade secrets. She's also hosting a fabulous, tip-filled Carnival today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

But is there a girl on the cover?

It's not a secret that I like science fiction, or speculative fiction, as some prefer to call it. I posted a picture of me at a college SF party, I blogged about Connie Willis for Tell An Author You Care Day, and I titled a post using a Star Trek/Shakespeare reference. (Shakespeare was the greatest SF writer of his time, by the way.)

So I'm thrilled that Sam Riddleburger has declared John Christopher Week at his blog. And John Christopher (aka Sam Youd) himself has made an appearance in the comments! If you devoured The Tripods trilogy as a kid, like I did, you know that the imagery of his books haunts you, years later. Honestly, I want to re-read these books so badly now that Sam has reminded me of them, but I'm a tiny bit scared of the nightmares. Maybe I'll start with The Sword of the Spirits trilogy instead, since I haven't read them. At least they'll be new nightmares.

Here are some other SF books that I loved as a kid:

The Enchantress From the Stars, The Far Side of Evil, and This Star Shall Abide, all by Sylvia Louise Engdahl. I've been meaning to blog about these books forever, but I need a kick in the pants. First of all, I need to re-read them to see if my memories are correct. Second, I need to find someone else who read them as a kid, someone who will get all excited with me and remember what it was like to read a story of a GIRL who was a space explorer.

The Day of the Drones by Mary Alice Lightner. The hype on the 1969 cover reads "an incredible adventure in the radioactive ruins of the world where whites live like insects and blacks are the elite." I'm sure I had no idea at the time that I was reading something that radical. I just remember it as a great adventure story. And again, there's a GIRL on the front.

I wish I could remember more, beyond the obvious like A Wrinkle in Time or anything by Ray Bradbury, but most of the rest that I loved were fantasy, like The Borrowers or Half Magic or the Earthsea books, rather than science fiction.

I did run across this fabulous site where an expert will help you with a faulty memory: It's called All Experts, and in the category of Science Fiction books, there are some great questions (and answers.) I love this one:
"I was wondering if you could tell me the various methods used in Science Fiction to raise the dead..."

and this one:
"Many years ago I read a (juvenile) science fiction book about two educated parents who taught their infant son to travel through an alternate universe."

And then there's the really weird:
"Do you know anything on how bananas brown so fast?"

I'm sure if someone had written a SF book about that last one, AND it had a girl on the cover, I would have read it too.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm at Becky's today

Becky (of Becky's Book Reviews) interviews me at her blog today. She asks great questions, so if you want to know "my favorite time and place to read" or what I think "makes a book a classic," run on over to Becky's and join us.

I win a snowflake! (and do some gumshoeing)

Isn't it gorgeous?

The artist is Inga Poslitur, and I've been snooping around, trying to find out more about her.

Cool facts:

#1: She studied Russian Native Embroidery Design at the Academy of Applied Arts in Moscow.

#2: She painted props for the Earth Day Parade, New York City.

#3: Look! Her online portfolio! I'm especially fond of this beautiful painting, which is titled "Village Ryuminskoe, Russia." I hope this one might be part of a longer story, one that she's illustrating, perhaps?

#4: Aha! Maybe THIS is her next book! Look at this illustration for "Soup from a Sausage-Peg," which is a Hans Christian Andersen tale that I've never heard of. Here's the traditional translation, which is difficult to read online, but I love the part where the mouse grandmother says:
"If one is a poet, one can make soup out of a sausage peg."

Ha! I should post THAT where I can see it every day. (Psst! Want to know what a sausage peg looks like? Well, they really look more like skewers than pegs. Here you go.)***

If you want to have a snowflake of your own to research, check out Robert's Snow, Auction 2, which begins today.

***I imagine this is just the kind of detective work that illustrators do, looking for visual references for their work. Except they probably run down to the market, and sketch some sausages, and buy a yummy cupcake with sprinkles or something while they're there, instead of surfing the internet for an hour, with only their lip to chew on, like I just did.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Adding to the menu

HipWriterMama has a whole meal planned for you. Not only did she write an incredibly thoughtful post herself, but she's also linked to a buffet of riches from other bloggers. Go on, you're invited...

The only thing I could add to her menu is an article from the Washington Post. (You'll have to do a quick registration to view it, but in my humble opinion, the Post has so many great online resources that it's worth it, as I blogged about here.) The article is titled "Give Thanks. It's Good For You." I think the "Grade Yourself on Gratitude" quiz that accompanies the article is a bit obvious, like if you pick "I don't think I've gotten all the good things that I deserve in life" don't you know that you're gonna take a hit in the gratitude rankings?

But the part of the article that I found most interesting was this: "The greater your appreciation for beauty, the greater your gratitude." I know this is true for me, that the days I'm in tune with the immense, almost soul-searing beauty of the world, I'm the most grateful for the chance to be a part of it.

This is why I think it's so important for kids to have art, and books, and walks in the woods. Beauty has a way of both healing wounds and inspiring more beauty. Beauty isn't a pretty face; it's the recognition that we are made to respond to life with thanksgiving.

I just decorated my apple pie for tomorrow with tiny pastry stars. It's a trick I learned from my daughter. It looks beautiful, and I plan to be grateful for every bite.

***See you in a few days. I'm taking a mini blog break. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All Week

Liz in Ink has declared that Thanksgiving will last all week. And Jama Rattigan has posted a lovely quote on gratitude as the Thought for the Week. I'm with them! There's too much to be grateful for to confine it to just one day, as Liz says so well here and here.

Also, as I told Liz, I love the "To be continued" at the end of each of her Thanksgiving posts. That makes me happy, not just because I anticipate reading more of her lovely lists as the Week of Thanksgiving proceeds, but because "to be continued" are words of gratitude themselves. It's hard to be stingy and grumpy when we think of our lists as being added to each day.

What are you grateful for today that you didn't notice yesterday? What will you be grateful for tomorrow? I know I'll be putting "to be continued" at the end of all my lists from now on.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Art for Writers: The Elements of Style

Interviewers sometimes ask writers to name the music they listen to when they write. The answer for me is: I tried it once, and I'm just not that talented. It was like trying to pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time.

So I vote for a new question: What art do you like to look at when you write? (Or I guess that would actually be before you write or during breaks in your writing or while you're pacing up and down, wolfing a chocolate muffin, and thinking of what to write?)

Here's my answer to that question:

but what I really want is for Maira Kalman to sell her illustrations for it in poster sizes:

Illusion. See allusion.

I don't know why, but I think looking at that on my wall
would make me a better writer.

Go see more fabulous art by Maira Kalman. It'll make you happy. I promise.

Or go look at the dizzying array of talent at the Robert's Snow auction, which begins today. I apologize in advance if I outbid you. I need my art, remember?

P.S. Have you seen The Elements of Style movie?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fresh Snow

This week, you have the chance to taste fresh snow---original artwork by some of the best illustrators around---but you're going to have to do more than stick out your tongue. You have to speak up! You have to go bid! See below for all the details.

Thanks to Tricia, who pulled the following information together:

Auction 3 will begin accepting bids on Monday, Dec. 3 at 9:00 a.m. with a starting bid of $50 for each snowflake. All bids must be placed before the close of Auction 3 on Friday, Dec. 7 at 5:00 p.m. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and that all but $25 of the winning bid is tax deductible.

Auction 3 List

Read about all the illustrators who contributed to this auction at the sites linked below. (The order presented is the same as on the auction page.)

Auction 2 List (Bids are now closed)

Auction 1 List (Bids are closed)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Poetry Friday: Inked (on memorizing Gerard Manley Hopkins)

I wake up and pretend
it's between my shoulder
blades. I get out of bed:
Shook foil

I walk the dog and plot
how it gets stamped
on my ankle bone:

I reach for a high-heeled
shoe and it flares
across the small
of my back:

I want to flaunt it,
roll up my sleeves
in winter. Oh my
god! There,
on her bicep!

If you shaved off my hair,
it would be on my skull,
curved like cornrows:
Deep down things

I run after what’s
blown from my hand.
The poem lifts
with my hamstrings:
Brown brink eastward springs

It splays on my chest
like Eve's claws:

A microdot of information,
it could be mistaken
for a mole:

Did it hurt?
Nah, I lie.
I turn my forearm up.
A word has appeared:
I don't even know what that is.

I look again.
The word
has changed. I bend
my wrist in the light:

I want a tattoo of wings.
Are you sure?

Here at the base of my throat:
Bright wings

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

See here for a copy of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem and my first post about memorizing it.

If you'd like
to hear me read this poem, here's a link to Dropbox.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Big A, little a

Thursday, November 15, 2007

These Facts are Absolutely True

There is nothing like the vague, puffy language that describes some self-published books:
This (historical) picture book is a "charming mix of fact and conjecture."

The author is "world celebrated."

The illustrator is "award garnering" and the art is "delightful."

The age range is "2 and up" (if they'd said zero and up I wouldn't have been surprised.)

The promo copy reads "Awards: Check back often!"

Contrast this to the facts about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian:
The author is: Sherman Alexie, a poet, filmmaker and established author of adult fiction. Real words he wrote: "All my white friends can count their deaths on one hand."

The illustrator is: Ellen Forney, who teaches at Seattle Cornish College of the Arts, and her art is better than words can describe: see for yourself

The age range is: anyone who reads the first page, because after that, you're a goner.

The promo copy (here) reads: This National Book Award Winner was read by Sara Lewis Holmes BEFORE it won the award, a first for her. She wishes to congratulate Sherman Alexie on winning that very cool statue and thank him for writing one of the few books she's kissed this year.

For more absolutely true things, see Sherman Alexie's recent interviews at Finding Wonderland and Interactive Reader.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Now Playing

I'm so proud of all of you. Not a single person said "fried mermaid" yesterday.

As author Patricia Madson tells it, audiences at improv performances often shout out strange words in the belief that it's creative and helpful. But really, as she points out, once you've said, "fried mermaid," how much more creativity can you stomach? (Sorry, that's my bad pun, not hers.)

Instead, generous audience that you are, you gave me:

Poison ivy, treehouse
uncle, duck, chew
plow, stream, nut
gratitude, window, play
theater, aspiring, light

Each of them lovely words, each worthy of an entire post. My instinct is to use ALL the words, and to dazzle you with my depth and agility in linking them together. But as sure as I do that, someone will add more words, and I'll be back at square one. Which, I suppose, isn't a bad place to be. It could even be the name of an improv troupe: "Square One...because we're always beginning."

I remember doing improv in Theater class in high school. The words my group received were: cactus, diamond and cowboy. (I think. It's been awhile.) We created a mini-Western, in which I, Polly Pricklebutt, the cactus heroine in distress, was rescued by cowboys who rode bucking black diamonds. There was a logic to it all, and snappy dialogue, and we got great laughs.

What I remember most, though, was the astounding fun of making something out of nothing. To say to the audience: I'm a cactus named Polly...and have everyone believe me! No one batted an eye at cowboys lassoing diamonds and then mounting and riding them. I wanted to live in that world forever.

But I don't. I live in a world where trees that cradle the most intriguing treehouses sometimes have poison ivy curled around their trunks. How to get up there?

Should I cry "uncle" and duck quickly out the back, so no one notices that I tried and failed? Or should I chew up the scenery, crying and wailing, and acting my little heart out, oh, woe! oh, woe is me! until someone comes to help?

I could plow up the neighbor's yard, plant a magic nut, divert a stream to water it, and watch over it day and night, waiting for a different tree, a less difficult tree, to grow. Then I could climb it and lightly step over into that treehouse, as cleverly as Jack in the old tales. I would wave out the window to those below, waiting for their applause.

But who would be there, watching still, after all those careful years? Theater happens in real time. This blog happens in nearly real time. If I post about improv or library cats or gratitude, Google sweeps it up, and carries my words out, where other readers find them, before I have time to even catch my breath. Those readers arrive, bearing gifts, more words. Sometimes, the author of the book you're reading even shows up. (Thanks for coming by, Patricia!)

I don't think there is such a thing as an aspiring writer on the Internet. We all just write and what we write becomes part of the day. What we write becomes part of each other. I honestly had no idea what I would make of your words when I began to write this post. Now I see where I was going:

I do live in a world of cacti, diamonds and cowboys. I also live in a world where there is poison ivy. And now, I'm going to speak up for that ivy, because I had it all wrong. The ivy wasn't a symbol of an impenetrable barrier; it was a metaphor for what spreads. Because I forgot that just because "poison" and "ivy" arrived together, they don't have to stay together. They can get up and find new seats. Poison, you go over there and be helpful, answering the phone at the Poison Control Hotline. Ivy, honey, I've got a job for you: think you can lift me up---up there?

Oh! look! I did use all the words---showy, showy me---and I'm right where I want to be, in the ivy-covered treehouse, with all my friends. Let's put up a sign and spread the word:

Come and play.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Give me three words. I'll blog about them tomorrow. I promise.

What's going on? I'm reading Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare. Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. And I need you to help me. So toss some words into the comments section. That'll be what I blog about. Eeeeeek!

Here are some ideas from the book:

"When speaking in public, don't use a script. Write down questions and answer them."

"Change the location of a familiar activity." She (Madson) tells her students to: "Find a new place or different vantage point in the circle."

From the chapter called "Be Average": "What is ordinary to you is often a revelation to others."

"Life is all about balancing, not being balanced."

Oh, and if you want to get in on the improvisation of a group poem, go join the renga fun at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Classify This

While looking for Children's Book Week posts, I stumbled across 025.431: The Dewey Blog. They had a Book Week post last year, in which the blog editors named their favorite childhood books. (Also posts on such things as the Classification Club and Fibs.) No post this year.

But...look what I found:

From this post about a cat named Dewey Readmore Books, a link to the Library Cats Map, which tracks felines who reside in or pussyfoot around libraries.

One of my favorite map entries is Magnificat, who was in residence at the Graduate Theological Union Library in Berkeley in the 1980s. (Their library catalog is named "Grace," by the way.) And in France, a cat named Starsky lives at the Médiathèque Monnaie Romans sur Isère Novels.

If your library had a cat (or any pet) what would you name it? Right now, I'm going with Rhyme and Reason, a pair of kittens. Or a blue lizard named Lang.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day: Blogging the Wars

From the blog, The Sandbox:

Date: 11/12/07

Three Sandbox contributors will be featured on San Francisco public radio station KQED's nationally distributed live call-in program "Forum with Michael Krasny" today. Here's the description from the KQED website, which will offer streaming and download:

Blogging the Wars -- On Veteran's Day, Forum talks to soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan about their service, and about how blogging has helped them express their battlefield experiences. Guests include Ernesto Estrada, policy associate with the Iraq Veteran Project of Swords to Plowshares, a community based veteran's rights organization; Troy Steward, first sergeant of the New York National Guard and a blogger at; Alex Horton, specialist in the Third Stryker Brigade of the U.S. Army whose blog, "Army of Dude," can be found at; and Lee Kelley, captain in the Utah National Guard whose blog, "Wordsmith at War," can be found at
Host: with Michael Krasny (Hour Two)

Warning: the AutoMotivator is a dangerous toy

Thanks to Sam Riddleburger for the link to the AutoMotivator.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Author Alert: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor


We interrupt this blog to bring you this important author alert:

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, author of the 1992 Newbery Medal winner, Shiloh, will present "Shiloh and Other Stuff" on November 16 at 7 p.m. in the Board Auditorium of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax. Ages 8 and up.

For details and to reserve a seat, call 703-324-8428 or e-mail

Robert's Snow: Week Five

Here's the schedule for Week 5, which starts Monday. As previously, this early schedule links to the participating blogs, instead of to the individual posts. You can find links to the posts themselves, and any last-minute updates, each morning at 7-Imp. Jules and Eisha have also set up a special page at 7-Imp containing a comprehensive list of links to the profiles posted so far. Also not to be missed is Kris Bordessa's post summarizing snowflake-related contests to date over at Paradise Found.

Monday, November 12

Tuesday, November 13

Wednesday, November 14

Thursday, November 15

Friday, November 16

Saturday, November 17

Sunday, November 18

Please take time to visit all of these blogs, and read about these fabulous illustrators. And think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert's Snow auction. Each snowflake makes a unique gift (for yourself or for someone else), and supports an important cause.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Poetry Friday: I want to know it by heart

I made a vow to memorize a poem this month. Adrienne inspired me.

But memorization doesn't come as easily to me as it did when I was a teenager. I once memorized an entire scene in a couple of hours when an actress had to drop out of a theater showcase we were performing that night. And I can still recite, from 9th grade English class, Cassius's speech from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:
"Why, man he doth bestride the narrow world
like a Colossus
and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves. Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
But now? Tell me a simple thing, like your name, and I'll forget it in two seconds.

So to help my old brain, I made an audio recording of me reading the poem I want to memorize: God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

If you want to join me, here's a list of great tips to help you memorize poetry. And from the same source, a list of "starter" poems to try. There is also a whole site devoted to a national recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud, and one that podcasts classic poetry in a deep, rich voice with an English accent. (Don't know who it is, because the "About Me" section says: "Who I am is not important. The point is the poetry."

Also, since cloudscome is launching her brilliant idea to leave poetry where people might find it, I'm going to post this one inside that gazebo I blogged about several Poetry Fridays ago. I wonder what my poetry graffiti friends will think of it?

God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

---Gerard Manley Hopkins

***For another reading of this poem, go to the Favorite Poem Project and click on the Stanley Kunitz video link. He blew me away talking about how he encountered this poem for the first time and what it meant to him.

Poetry Friday is hosted by a wrung sponge.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

From The Sandbox (and a Book for Review)

What does a soldier stationed in Afghanistan write about? The most important thing in the world. From a post over at The Sandbox:
"This is what it's all about. You can see a lot of the emotions of Afghanistan on their faces. Determination, friendliness, happiness, uncertainty, and trepidation are all there on one face or another. The children of Afghanistan are the future of Afghanistan, and when these children are educated and grown and live in an Islamic democratic society that works, there will be no home in Afghanistan for extremism. That is what will make our country and all the countries of the world safer."

Go read the entire post (it's mostly pictures with commentary) and then, check out Gary Trudeau's book that is based on this blog. Yes, I'm talking about the creator of the comic strip, Doonesbury. He launched a blog for military personnel on the front lines, and this book was just released in October.

Would somebody like to review it as a YA read?
(I'll send you a copy. Post your name in the comments or email me.)

The book was featured on NPR's All Things Considered, and is "a fundraiser for Fisher House, a 'home away from home' for the families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Phantom Tollbooth World Premiere

Should I go?

Guess what else? Norton Juster will be autographing copies of his book after the November 17th matinee performance. I might go, just for that.

Oh, no...I can't. I checked and that performance is sold out. Do you think if I stood outside the door with my thirty-year-old beloved copy they might let me in?

Maybe if I recited some of my favorite parts...

"What an ordinary little boy," commented the king. "Why, my cabinet members can do all sorts of things. The duke here can make mountains out of molehills. The minister splits hairs. The count makes hay while the sun shines. The earl leaves no stone unturned. And the undersecretary," he finished ominously, "hangs by a thread. Can't you do anything at all?"
"I know one thing for certain; it's much harder to tell whether you are lost than whether you were lost, for, on many occasions, where you're going is exactly where you are. On the other hand, you often find that where you've been is not at all where you should have gone, and, since it's much more difficult to find your way back from someplace you've never left, I suggest you go there immediately and then decide."
"Here in Digitopolis, we have our meals when we're full and eat until we're hungry. That way, when you don't have anything at all, you have more than enough. It's a very economical system."
"I knew you'd like it," laughed the letter man, popping two G's and an R into his mouth and letting the juice drip down his chin. "A's are one of our most popular letters. All of them aren't that good," he confided in a low voice. "Take the Z, for instance---very dry and sawdusty. And the X? Why, it tastes like a trunkful of stale air. That's why people hardly ever use them..."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gifts for Writers and Readers (Part Three)

I should have thought up a shiny bow of a name for these gift posts. As it stands, I can only present you with links for Part One and Part Two.

Stop with the puns. On to the shopping!

Made of recycled newspaper. (You can see layers of newsprint when you sharpen them.) Plus, they have two of my favorite foods: rootbeer and popcorn. No custom scents, yet, but maybe if all the writers and readers beg together we can get Scent of a New Book. (If you want eau de old paperback, go here.)

Write No Evil Pens
Choose carefully who you give these to.
We don't want the world becoming ALL bunnies and rainbows.

Scroll Pen
For those who never have a pen and paper at the same time.
Me? I'm afraid I would lose both.

And lest this gift selection become all about writing and nothing about reading:

Post-It Page Flags

Because a folded-down page corner is sadly lacking in nuance.

If you like quiet while you read...

or if you don't....
(CD sales benefit the Chincoteague Library Building Fund)

60 minute recording of a vacuum cleaner

...or if you just need white noise
and the illusion that your housework
is magically getting done while you read.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Donna Jo Napoli: What great writers eat for dinner

I've been a big fan of Donna Jo Napoli ever since I heard her speak at the SCBWI L.A. conference several years ago and she said this on making time to write:

(paraphrasing here) I used to let every child, even my toddler, have a turn at planning and making dinner. If the toddler put a cup of yogurt at each place, then that's what we ate.

BookPage has an interview with her. (Thanks to cynsations for the link.) Go, read, and eat yogurt for dinner tonight in her honor. Doesn't her new book, Hush, look good?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Robert's Snow: Week Four

Here's the schedule for Week 4, which starts Monday. As previously, this early schedule links to the participating blogs, instead of to the individual posts. You can find links to the posts themselves, and any last-minute updates, each morning at 7-Imp. Jules and Eisha have also set up a special page at 7-Imp containing a comprehensive list of links to the profiles posted so far.

Monday, November 5

Tuesday, November 6

Wednesday, November 7

Thursday, November 8

Friday, November 9

Saturday, November 10

Sunday, November 11

Please take time to visit all of these blogs, and read about these fabulous illustrators. Think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert's Snow auction. Each snowflake makes a unique gift (for yourself or for someone else), and supports an important cause.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Poetry Friday: As Bad (and as Good) as It Gets

I opened the envelope---the one that contains my writing from high school. I'm sorry to say that most of it is very, very bad. You don't believe me, do you? Here's proof:

Yeah, it's here! oleo and
55 cans of dog food coming right up!
Ah this is the good life
croaks the overall man
gasping out his words as the
sweat of Death marks his

I have no idea what inspired that one. Maybe I wanted to use "sweat of Death" in a sentence. I like this one better, mostly for its sheer exuberance, but also because I think I might be poking fun at my own self-absorption:

I'm carrying my own flag,
charging the wind for laughs
'cause today I can't lose!
I love me and

I and me dance
in ecstasy and silliness
all rolled up in my charging flag
with my emblem
painted there by me.
the goodness of God
the goodness of me!

I'm glad I kept these. And one more important one, a haiku that is so overblown that it could be printed and sold on a helium balloon:

Joy lifted me up
for a ride on her rainbow.
I slid---to find you.

I hope you're smiling. Because that was the first time I remember writing words that matched who I was inside, instead of for a school assignment. What a rush! I felt heady with the discovery that all that messy stuff in my heart and my head could erupt onto the page as words. I've never forgotten or gotten over that moment. It's who I am---a writer---then and now. I just didn't know it at the time, or I would've written better poetry. You know, for the envelope.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Mentor Texts & More

Thursday, November 1, 2007


I'm wondering if this is a good idea:

"(Kids) can tug, snap, lift, and pull their way through art history. Featuring works of art by the Masters of the Renaissance and the Baroque period, this book will let you brush Mona Lisa’s hair, shine Vermeer’s pearl earrings, ruffle Raphael’s feathers, and more."

Why does that sound like Barbie?

This one looks better:

"Featuring modern art from the 20th century, this book will let you feed Matisse’s fish, have a birthday with Chagall, eat your lunch with Hopper, and more."

Here's one reviewer's take, which mentions that some pictures in these board books, like Botticelli's Birth of Venus, have been cleverly cropped to avoid over-exposure of the young to certain body parts. Has anyone else seen or reviewed these books? What ages are they for? Would they blow me away if I were actually holding a copy?

In the absence of more information, I think I'd rather chance it and take kids to a live art museum, where I could yell at them not to touch the paintings. The National Gallery has a Hopper exhibit through January, and a great cafe, if you need lunch with the old boy. Or if you can't get to a decent museum, what about dragging out your well-worn copy of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg and exploring the Met with Claudia and Jamie?

On the other hand, if you really want your children to interact with Mona Lisa's hair, well...I don't have any suggestions for you. You'll have to buy the book.

P.S. Check out the contest in the post below.