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An Occasional Post

Maurice Sendak: 1928-2012

Maurice Sendak is gone. Many have talked about his greatness, his revolutionary work, his recognition of the interior lives of even very young children. Others have talked of his effect on their own lives, or how much it meant to them to share his books with children. The internet was full (thankfully) of posts about his psychological insight, links to his gloriously personal interviews, links to articles, and a rebroadcast of that heartbreaking last interview with Terry Gross (what an astonishing complement he gave her! I would have broken down in tears if I had been Terry.). In fact, it was as if the whole world—or at least my small part of the world—mourned during that rainy Tuesday. And I wept all day long. Read More 
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Who, me?

The work of the writer is to write. The work of the writer has not necessarily been—until recently-- to blog, tweet, post, or travel about the world promoting the work of the writer (though even Dickens went on author tours--and I seem to be posting at this very second). We live in a culture driven by celebrity and personality. But why is it that we write? When I ask this question of writers I respect, the answers vary, but many reduce to something like this: we write because we can’t not write. We are driven by mysterious forces.

It is, of course, wonderful to meet readers.  Read More 
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Celebrating THE PRINCESS OF BORSCHT!

Today, my friends, is the publication day for THE PRINCESS OF BORSCHT. I wrote the first draft almost ten years ago. Bonnie Christensen joined my writing group shortly thereafter, and she drew a picture of Ruthie which I still have (I’ve probably said this somewhere already.). So miracles happen. Keep writing. Keep illustrating. And deepest thanks to Neal Porter, Marcia Wernick, Steven Chudney, and all the folks at Roaring Brook Press.

Lots of people claim they don’t like beets. Read More 
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Finding Stuff Out

October 12, 2011
Finding Stuff Out

Just about every story I’ve written, whether published or unpublished, has involved research. Lots and lots of research. Some examples: the life of Marcel Marceau, McCarthyism, George Balanchine, Igor Stravinsky, John Ringling North, Modoc the elephant, Vera Zorina, the Atlantic telegraph cable, and recipes for borscht. I love finding stuff out, and the internet, with all its databases and countless other resources, has meant I don’t even have to leave Vermont most of the time. (I hate leaving home. I’ve only flown--on an airplane--once in the last eleven years and have no plans to do so again.)
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Picture books about grownups

I am reposting here a post I made at the new VCFA Faculty blog, which I am linking to elsewhere. Just in case you missed it there.

Advice for writing picture books often includes this: your protagonist should be a child. Yet many of my favorites quite blatantly ignore this received wisdom. In fact, several of my own picture books star grownups. I am a questioning sort of person, so for my first VCFA blog post, let us investigate the topic.[1]
Some of my ponderings:

*I am not, in fact, a child. On the other hand, I do know quite a bit about what it is to be a child. On the other hand (I have three hands), I am interested in the lives of all ages. Read More 
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Vermont College of Fine Arts residency report

After a more than two-month hiatus (rotator cuff surgery and other stuff), I have returned to the Kingdom of Blog. As I have said several times, I feel more like an occasional visitor to this kingdom than a participating citizen. I’m such a homebody. Today, however, there are a few things to report.

Generally, I tend more towards Eeyore than Pollyanna. Gloom and doom, laced with humor and cheer. I am, however, feeling very lucky at this very moment. Here are some reasons for cheer (even during the heatwave and my usual pessimistic thoughts about global warming): Read More 
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blog break

My incredibly active blog (post about every six weeks? Good grief) is on temporary hiatus while I recover from rotator cuff surgery. Try to avoid this surgery if you can.
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The Encyclopedia Britannica and Reverend Gary Davis

I grew up before personal computers. Obviously. When I entered high school, my parents bought an Encyclopedia Britannica. It was the best encyclopedia of its time—more trustworthy than World Book, more complete than Compton’s, more thorough than any other. And it was a financial sacrifice for my parents in those years. Though it stayed in their house when I went to college, I picked up the occasional volume during vacations just to read something intriguing.  Read More 
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SCRIBBLING WOMEN BLOG TOUR

It's day three of Marthe Jocelyn's blog tour, and hooray, it's my turn. In her intriguing new book, SCRIBBLING WOMEN (Tundra), Marthe asks a lot of questions and ends with even more. Since I myself am an excessively curious person (intrusive, some say), it seemed appropriate to ask Marthe a few questions of my own. (Inspired by the book, I yearned to ask dozens, but I am a reasonable person.)

Marthe looks at the lives and writings of eleven unusual women from all a huge variety of times and places. The first, Sei Shonagon (965-1010), is known for “The Pillow Book,” and the last, Doris Pilkington Garimara (1937-), wrote Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence. In between we meet a horse thief (Margaret Catchpole), an explorer (Mary Kingsley), a journalist (Nellie Bly), and a slave turned abolitionist (Harriet Ann Jacobs). These are fascinating stories, each carefully researched and engaging. I wanted more.

Now, here’s Marthe.  Read More 
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Fictoir, Memoir, Memory

Situation: writing workshop. Leader asks participants to describe the bedroom—or the living room—or any room—of the place they lived when they were five. Heads bow and pens scribble or keyboards click.

I cry, or I suddenly need to go to the bathroom, or I begin to whisper and make idiotic remarks to the person next to me as if I were still in Mr. Harrison’s high school biology class, when I and two friends were banished to the back of the room for giggling. (Not for the first time—I was also kicked out of girl scouts for the same reason.)

Why do I react in such a juvenile fashion?  Read More 
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