Shameless Commerce Division, or All About Me, which I have to do, because why else would I have a web site?
An interview with me in Seven Days, Vermont's alternative weekly paper. September 06
P.S. Current photo. Thanks, Jeb and Margot.
Here is a piece in HORN BOOK called "Best in Show," which is part of a longer talk I gave last January on book awards. I hope it makes you chuckle a wee bit. I love dogs.
Link to CBC (Children's Book Council) nonfiction showcase for July/August '06, which includes BALLET OF THE ELEPHANTS.
February 06 interview with me on Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog. I see I forgot to post this when it happened.
I get to use exclamation points on this website whenever I want. In real-life writing, however, I use them rarely, in case you were worried. And beware the adverb!
I am now a member of the faculty of the extraordinary Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. What an unexpected honor. I graduated from this very program! (that's three !!! already)
I was a runner-up for the 2005 SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) General Works-in-Progress Grant! This was for my young adult novel-in-progress, THE ODD YEARS.
BALLET OF THE ELEPHANTS was on the cover of the Roaring Brook (no website yet) Spring '06 catalog. I leaped about the house, not quite as gracefully as the elephants themselves, when the catalog arrived in the mail. Thanks, Roaring Brook.
Guess what? We got a new puppy in July, 2013. Pippa is all grown up. The new puppy is named Bunky because of my husband's favorite children's book, Terry and Bunky Play Football. Of course you haven't heard of it. No one has. But it got a starred review in Kirkus when it was published a million years ago. And Bunky is a terrific puppy name.
Q: Where were you born and all that stuff?
A: I was born in Washington, D.C., went to college and my first graduate school in Boston (Brandeis and Harvard Ed, if you're curious), and moved immediately to Vermont. Ever northward to escape the heat and humidity, but it seems to have followed me here (global warming alert!).
Actually, I always wanted to live in Vermont because I went to an unusual summer camp when I was little that had an outpost about 8 miles from where I live now. (Any Lakesiders out there? Please email!)
Vermont became imprinted in the "happy" part of my brain at a young age.
Q: Why are you writing children's books?
A: Because I have spent my whole life involved in some way or other with books for children and young adults. I wrote my first book when I was five or six; I must admit that memory fails me. The title was either The Blue Rock or The Blue Fairy, and it was, I'm sure, a highly original fairy tale. My parents threw it out. Children: tell your parents to save your artwork and your writing!
When I was 8 or 9, I began a journal that I kept for many, many years. These volumes are all in a locked box and I will never reread them because they are mostly about sad things like trying to lose weight, though I'm sure there are also some pages about how much I wanted to write.
Q: Where do you live and what do you do?
A: I live in North Central Vermont. I've worked as a public school teacher, school librarian, public librarian, and most recently was for 17 years the school library consultant for the Vermont Department of Education. I wrote my first published books, WINNIE PLAYS BALL and WINNIE ALL DAY LONG, during that time.
Then I went back to school. I graduated in January 2004 with an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I studied under some extraordinary writers and teachers, made lifelong (I hope) friends, and had a jolly time. It's true that school is wasted on the young.
Life is strange: I ended up teaching at VCFA after graduating. But now I'm doing other stuff.
See My Books for further info on books.
Q: What do you do besides write?
A: Look at the wall. Eat dark chocolate. Read children's and young adult books on the treadmill. Invite friends over for dinner (not that I like to cook). Spend ridiculous amounts of time playing with my dogs. And...
...I have, on and off, played traditional music of one form or another. I play Irish fiddle (out of practice), old-time banjo, backup piano, and guitar. I'm an old folkie and I love to dance. I am also in love with the music of Reverend Gary Davis and other great blues musicians. A few years ago I was lucky enough to be able to buy a Froggy Bottom guitar, made right here in Vermont by genius Michael Millard, and it returned me to my guitar roots. So I'm fingerpicking a lot.
NOTE: my personal Irish fiddle goddess is Liz Carroll. She thinks I should say more about Irish music, so I will. Go right out and buy every CD by Liz. Some are with John Doyle, phenomenal guitarist, and some are Liz with Trian (Liz with the astounding Billy McComisky on accordion and Daithi Sproule on guitar), and also Liz's solo CDs. (There is a new one as of November, 2013!!) Listen to them a lot. You'll be a better person. Liz: www.lizcarroll.com
(I could recommend several hundred other CDs by various musical heroes, but it doesn't seem to be on topic.)
...Of course I read. I have been fortunate enough to serve on the Caldecott Committee, the Arbuthnot Committee, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Committee, as well as Vermont's two state children's choice book awards committees (The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award and the Red Clover Award).
...I have taught. As mentioned above, I have been one of the esteemed faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts, which has the finest MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program in the entire country. I have also taught children's literature classes on the picture book, fantasy, and young adult literature for the University of Vermont and St. Michael's College.
...I garden: A mess at the moment. The less said, the better.
Q: Do you have an agent?
A: I do. He is the wonderful Steven Chudney, of The Chudney Agency. Agents can be lifesavers for people who don't do well with rejection. I just might be one of those people.
Q: Do you have a family?
A: I'm married to Bob Rosenfeld, and we have one relatively mature Goldendoodle, Pippa, and a very active Goldendoodle puppy, Bunky (see above). Goldendoodles are really just mutts, but people are willing to pay lots of money for them.
Winnie, who was half Newfoundland and half St. Bernard, became the star of my first books; in fact, she practically dictated them to me. She was terribly spoiled, very funny, and I loved her to distraction. Winnie died in March, 2008, age 13 and a half. I will miss her forever and ever.
I also wrote a book about Pogo, our last Goldendoodle, which I hope to see published some day. He was unable to talk as well as Winnie could, so I had to write it all by myself.
Pogo ate all of Winnie's toys so we bought new ones. Then Pippa ate all of Pogo's toys. Now Bunky is eating all of Pippa's toys. So it goes.
Bob has grownup children. I myself never had children, but it's too complicated to explain why.
Q: What were some of your favorite books when you were a child?
A: I've been thinking about this recently, trying to remember. Here are a few that have emerged through the fog (which I familiarly call "my brain"):
James Thurber: The Great Quillow, The Thirteen Clocks
Dr. Seuss: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, Bartholomew and the Oobleck
de Brunhoff: Babar
Jansson: The Happy Moomins
Barrie: Peter Pan (The original)
Baum: Ozma of Oz
Crockett Johnson: Barnaby
Potter: The Tailor of Gloucester.
Andersen's Fairy Tales
Grimms' Fairy Tales
Lang: The Blue Fairy Book
Alice in Wonderland
someone: Myths and Enchantment Tales
The Color Kittens
Henry: King of the Wind (which I have not reread)
St. Exupery: The Little Prince
Walt Kelly: Pogo--the comic strip and the collected works.
More to come. Note that lots of popular titles aren't here. That's because they weren't published yet when I was a child. Sob.
Q. Do you have a middle name?
A. Yes. It is Deirdre, which makes my whole name Leda Deirdre Schubert. My father used to call me "Leedie Deedie." Deirdre was an Irish princess of sorrows. Why would parents name a child after a princess of sorrow?
By the way, I am an only child.
Q: If we have questions for you, what should we do?
A: Please email me! I'll answer. That is the other thing I do with my days: fight my email addiction.
One more thing: I recently read A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS, a grownup book by Israeli author Amos Oz. Here is a quote about writing:
"Writing a novel, I said once, is like trying to make the Mountains of Edom out of Lego blocks. Or to build the whole of Paris, buildings, squares, and boulevards, down to the last street bench, out of matchsticks.
If you write an eighty-thousand-word novel, you have to make about a quarter of a million decisions, not just decisions about the outline of the plot, who will live or die, who will fall in love or be unfaithful, who will make a fortune or make a fool of himself, the names and faces of the characters, their habits and occupations, the chapter divisions, the title of the book (these are the simplest, broadest decisions); not just what to narrate and what to gloss over, what comes first and what comes last, what to spell out and what to allude to indirectly (these are also fairly broad decisions); but you also have to make thousands of finer decisions, such as whether to write, in the third sentence from the end of that paragraph, 'blue' or 'bluish.' Or should it be 'pale blue'? Or 'sky blue'? Or 'royal blue'? Or should it really be 'blue-gray'? And should this 'grayish blue' be at the beginning of the sentence, or should it only shine out at the end? Or in the middle? Or should it simply be caught up in the flow of a complex sentence, full of subordinate clauses? Or would it be best just to write the three words 'the evening light,' without trying to color it in, either 'gray-blue' or 'dusty blue' or whatever?"
He is right.