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An Occasional Post

It's been a while: writing and rejection

Some quick thoughts:

Every children’s book writer gets rejections—or at least that’s what I believe. Maybe there are some among you who haven’t. If so, I am filled with envy, annoyance, and revenge fantasies. I cannot tell a lie.

We all have heard the stories: that A Wrinkle In Time was rejected at least 26 times; that Kate DiCamillo accumulated hundreds, etc. (Roughly a decade, before the public knew her name, DiCamillo worked odd jobs, submitted manuscripts, and collected nearly 400 rejection letters. "I decided a long time ago," DiCamillo says, "that I didn't have to be talented. I just had to be persistent." http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/dicamillo) Read More 
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Q&A with Anita Silvey

Over Thanksgiving, Anita Silvey and I had a chance to talk about her new project, the Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac (www.childrensbookalmanac.com) while our four (combined) dogs gradually destroyed the house. Anita has a new puppy, Lancelot, who is quite possibly the cutest thing on the planet at the moment.

LS: Anita, why did you decide to do the Almanac?

AS: I had decided to create a much more ambitious book which would have included reviews of 1000 titles.  Read More 
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On names

On Names

Choosing names for fictional characters is a big deal. You all know this. It can take forever, or it can be a lightning flash. Names have so much power. They have associations, connotations, actual meanings, metaphorical possibilities, sound, history, and all the rest.

Writing with the wrong name can stall me, but it is also true that changing a name in the middle of a project can be impossible. I have already formed a picture of the character with the name; a different name might be a different character. Read More 
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Scary stories

I am not a big Halloween person, and I know this is a character flaw. Many of my friends love all the hoopla, but I’ve never been a fan of the scary, macabre, and haunting. I am still afraid of “The Monkey’s Paw.”

I do love the candy, because I am a sane person. Unfortunately, we have no trick-or-treaters any more (the children of nearby friends have grown up). I stock up on my favorite stuff anyway. Just in case. Then we get to eat it.

The last time I went trick-or-treating Read More 
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Passion for books

It’s been a while. Did you miss me? I’m not sure I’m cut out for blogging, but I’m sticking to An Occasional Post. Following the sublime experience of the Camp Lakeside reunion, I had to sleep a lot, but I think it was emotional and not physical exhaustion. The glorious intensity of the experience left me drained.

When drained, what I do is read, so I read a whole bunch of grownup books while subconsciously (I hope—how does one know?) contemplating revisions on my novel-still-in-progress. (I'm going for the record.)

Books included FREEDOM (Jonathan Franzen), THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET (David Mitchell), and THE LACUNA (Barbara Kingsolver). I loved all three, and admired each for different reasons. Both Franzen and Kingsolver share my political preoccupations—and write brilliantly in different ways—and David Mitchell is a genius.

Then along came The New York Times article (last week) on the decline of the picture book.  Read More 
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Why write for children?

I’ve been busy. Everybody’s busy. Living in Vermont means getting ready for winter early: stacking wood, cleaning the woodstove, putting the garden to bed, checking for drafts, etc. A frost is predicted for tonight, and I should be outside picking the last of the produce (baseball bat zucchinis, anyone?).

I must admit, however, that I abandoned the garden a while ago. When it’s in the nineties and humid, I sit in front of a fan and write. We had repulsive heat (I know some of you like it. Not me--) followed by no rain, and the soil turned to dust. Poor garden. Maybe next year. I apologize to all my plants. Know that I love you.

So my camp reunion is next weekend. Read More 
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Turn Off, Tune out, Drop In

In the late sixties, the counterculture adopted Timothy Leary’s phrase, “turn on, tune in, drop out” as its mantra. According to Wikipedia (and quoted from Leary’s autobiography), this is what Leary meant:

‘Turn on’ meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. 'Tune in' meant interact harmoniously with the world around you - externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. 'Drop out' suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. 'Drop out' meant self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change.

I propose revising Leary’s phrase (I’m a writer, after all) for the present time. Turn off, tune out, and drop in. Why? Read More 
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Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

In my teens, I was active in the civil rights movement, though I lacked the courage to go to Mississippi in 1964. I did join picket lines, march in New York and Washington, and participate in other assorted and now forgotten (by me—it’s a memory thing) protests. Needless to say, I have never stopped caring.

Here’s something that makes me slightly nuts—in fact, it’s become such a pet peeve that I rattle on incessantly at writers’ conferences/retreats and annoy even myself. Why is there no picture book about Rosa Parks that tells the complete and true story?  Read More 
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Vermont College of Fine Arts

It’s still hot here, as it is almost everywhere on the east coast, and I am dreaming of moving North. Labrador, Greenland, Nova Scotia, Hudson Bay—don’t they sound enticing?

And yes, I believe we’ve brought this heat on ourselves. More on that some other time. For now, let’s talk about Vermont College of Fine Arts. I’ll start.

The summer residency ended on Tuesday and many attendees have been napping ever since. Read More 
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Summer camp: part three

I’ve already posted twice about the life-changing summer camp I attended for eight entire summers as a child (I wasn’t actually attending it ‘as’ a child. I was a child. For this humorous insight, I owe Tom Paley, the great traditional musician), and I promise to stop soon and move on. But…

Camp had one major drawback: I spent ten months of each year constantly yearning for the two months of summer. I hated school and loved camp. At camp, I had friends. At school, I was a total outsider—but more about that in another post.

Today I’ve been thinking about yearning as it applies to writing. Read More 
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