(no, I am not pregnant. The other kind of big)
Archive for July, 2008
When I tell you just *who* is illustrating my next book.
Yeah, WOW!Â (And you haven’t even seen the sketches I got yesterday!!!)
When I was asked, years ago, who my dream illustrator would be for Scratchy Mountains, I said quickly, “N.M. Bodecker.”
“He doesn’t work much these days,” I was told. Â “He’s dead,”
So I tried again. “Hilary Knight?”
“We’ll try…” they replied with a knowing snicker.Â “But dont get your hopes up.”
Indeed, Mr. Knight never responded to any of my fan letters.
So… given that Tenniel is also unavailable, I COULD NOT BE MORE EXCITED!!!!
Pham’s work reminds me of my favorite artists, actually. There’s something funny and smartypants and artsy at the same time.Â Something off kilter.Â Everything looks a little too big or a little too small, and everything looks like it has a touch of vertigo.Â Everyone she draws look like they just heard a good joke.
(Yeah, you could say I aim for the stars… but how else you gonna fallÂ to the moon?)
Okay, so in order to write this post I have to confess something– I have an obsession with Brideshead.
I know a lot of you will be saying, “Oh, me too… nothing to be ashamed of..”
But no. I have an OBSESSION. I’ve read the novel about 20 times. I own the entire miniseries (on VHS, a legacy from my grandfather, who taped it from TV). I own and have read “Charles Ryder’s School days”, Waugh’s book that preceded the actual novel (more than once). I have the soundtrack to the miniseries on both vinyl and CD. And to top it all off, I wrote my senior paper in high school about the dang thing.
I like it a LOT!
Not just because my mom made me watch it as a kid. Or because its lush and rich and aristocratic.
But because it really really ROCKS. There are lines of real poetry. The charactersÂ are so incredibly multifaceted. And watching Charles and Julia and Sebastian change and grow as they aged, in different ways, had a profound effect on me in my twenties, as I tried to think about what it meant to get older, and how that related to pleasure and obligation– silly things like that.
It was a very different book for me when I was 18 than it was when I was 28. As I grew into who I wanted to be as a partner, parent, person.
The beginning and the end of the book are so different. Youth and age, innocence and experience. exuberance and nostalgia and wisdom.
When I heard they were making a movie I got very excited. But this morning, watching the trailer, I was sad.
The film appears to be watchful from the get-go. In the book and the miniseries, eden turns. But from the looks of this trailer, the snake is slithering around the garden before the movie even starts. This won’t work for me. Without the sacred, the profane just isn’t that interesting.
And this is so much a book about faith and grace, as well as our base instincts, our passions, our complexities..
When the book opens, Charles is looking at the house, remembering his youth there.Â As the book proceeds, he moves from remembering with nostalgia what he calls “halcyon days” (his life at Oxford, his finding of the “low door in the wall”) to remembering with sadness the demise of his friend, and his awareness of the complications and dysfunctions of the Flyte/Marchmain clan.Â His loss of youth, etc…
But without the halcyon days in arcadia, this will all fall very flat.Â We don’t need another movie about the dirty underbelly of the bored and twisted British aristocracy.Â The point about Brideshead is that you read it and you experience his process, his growing-up, his realizations.
I find it telling that the music in this film is SOOOOO different from the astoundingly beautiful score to the miniseries. It is ominous. It foretells.
In my case, it disappoints.
This may be a situation like Bridge to Terabithia, where the marketing is just awful and the film is not, in fact, the film being advertised. Maybe they did capture the youth and love and nostagia, the magic. The garden before the fall.
Here’s the new trailer, and bit of the old…Â a scene I feel captures the loveliness, the dappled youth, the light…
What say you?
It’s always so nice to go to Baltimore. Nice to see family, and nice to visit old haunts.Â Nice to walk in the garden and paddle in the pool.Â Nice to eat deliciousness from Mastellones and the Red Canoe!
But goodness, it is not nice to fly these days. Not at all.
When Mose was wee, I took him everywhere. I was on a book tour for Half/Life and before he turned one he had visited 16 states with relative ease. I’d book for light travel times and the nice people would make sure we had an empty row, and as a rule things ran on time.
No longer.Â My adventure with Lew this weekend was quite the opposite.Â They basically tied us to the wing.
Air Tran is from the devil!Â Though our 7 pm flight was (by noon) already delayed four hours , when I called at 6:30 to try and rearrange things, I was told I had LOST MY SPACE because I was not at the airport 45 minutes ahead of the original departure time.
“But it doesn’t leave until midnight?” I asked.
“That’s correct…” retched the old hag at the other end, “but you haveÂ to BE HERE ANYWAY or you forfeit your space.”
“Is the flight oversold?” I asked.
“No, but there are millions of people on standby.”
“I have a baby,” I explained.Â “This is all way past his bedtime. Nobody really wants us to be at the airport all night. He’ll scream nonstop. Do you really want me to sit with a screaming baby from 6 pm to midnight? Do your other customers really want that?”
“No,” she said.Â “No we don’t.Â But if you aren’t here 45 minutes before your orignal deaprture time, you aren’t flying.”
Goodbye, AirTran. I don’t care how cheap your tickets are. You are dead to me.
Maybe because I *finally* finished reading Percy Jackson (I did not love it), I’ve got Greek myth on the brain.Â So when I realized I was late for poetry friday, I quickly thought of Molly Bendall’s book, Ariadne’s Island.
SAIL (I can’t figure out how preserve the spacing, so you might want to read it here!)
The trick is the flow. Little fish with storms on their
Stones don’t reveal
what they covet today, but I know them.
I gather scraps and throw them back,
throw them back to the waves
even as they climb toward my room.
So where to go when my pockets are
Night-shy, evening shells–
all eyelids and ears.
The glinting blades and their kindred—do they ever say,
no one ever, clean start, and
clean, stark, smoothed galleries within galleries
emptied of desire, but geled with color and domes of sea-
Look at the lapses in between stars,
vertebrae washed up at my feet.
Okay, this has nothing to do with anything important… but I am bothered by a lot of the TV Mose watches.Â (and yes, now you all know I let my toddler rot his brain. Shoot me. It’s been 60 days since I had an hour of childcare.)
Not in a worried about violence or profanity kind of way. Not in a concerned parent kind of way.Â Just in a what’s UP with that? kind of way.
What’s up with Caillou? Why is a four year old bald? Is this supposed to be about acceptance? White power?
What’s up with Emily Elizabeth turning blond on the Clifford TV show? She was a brunette in the original books, right?Â Does she have body image issues too?
Most of all, what’s UP with the weird hermaphrodite cow on this humdinger of a program? Not that I’m anti-hermaphrodites, but what were they thinking?Â There’s no explanation.
What happened to shows we grew up on, shows that made sense?Â Like the smurfs and the snorks and the fraggles?Â You know, quality programming.
Ah well, I guess they can’t all be WordGirl!
This is pretty awesome…
I never, in all the thinking I’ve done about Inside the Slidy Diner (which is a lot of thinking), considered the book to be investigative reporting.Â But ForeWard This Week says:
How cool is that? Whitney Halberg goes on to describe:
Inside the Slidy Diner (Tricycle Press, 978-1-58246-187-8), a picture book by Laurel Snyder, depicts the greasiest of greasy spoons. Young Edie must spend her days working at the Slidy Diner after being caught stealing a lemon drop from behind the counter. Inside, bugs and rodents crawl across the floors and counter, food that’s dropped on the floor is picked up to be served again, and the items on the menu are more than a little suspicious. The proprietor, Ethelmae serves pumpkin asparagus pie and coffee that gives you hives. The bathroom is “deep underground, below the cellar.”
Snyder is the author of a children’s novel and several books of poetry. This is her first picture book. Slidy Diner is the fourth book illustrated by Jaime Zollars. Both author and illustrator have worked at waitresses. Kids will be thoroughly grossed out when they look closely at Zollars’ incredibly detailed illustrations: a frog runs on a hamster wheel and the chocolate chips seem to be crawling away from a plate of cookies. A group of men watch a mouse race, while a flock of birds attacks a waitress.
But whatever the case may be…
Depending on your definition of good.Â And your definition of American.
In any case, I’m up today at the Best American Poetry Blog.Â In an interview where I explain that contemorary poetry is supposed to make you feel stupid!
Not everyone, just you.
I know someÂ folks are bristling a bit at Margo’s essay in the Times yesterday. Because it suggests a kind of hierarchy of genres, because it reads as a kind of apology, and perhaps as a complaint (by someone who seems to beÂ awfully successful and lucky).
But I want to offer this thought…
When someone has been working toward a goal, any goal, the idea that (at what feels like the very end of the journey) you aren’t going to get the goal, but are instead going to get something else…
That’s kind of hard.
Imagine being a kid, reaching for the brass ring on the carousel, and when you finally get it, it turns out to be a chicken nugget!
You don’t dislike or disrespect chicken nuggets. In fact you may LOVEÂ chicken nuggets.Â But you’ve been going around and around and around on a big painted frog for a very specific reason, to get a RING. And now, here you are with a nugget.
I can relate to the essay. I can REALLY relate to the essay, and have done a bit of apologizing/defending/complaining myself about such things.
I spent YEARS becoming a poet.Â It was and is a huge part of my identity. I dreamed of teaching gigs and colonies and silly snooty book parties.Â From the age of 15 I dreamed of such things.
So no matter how thrilled and excited and happy I am to be writing mg novels and picture books, and no matter how much I believe in these books and have made a choice (the right choice!), I did feel strange the day I realized I couldn’t apply to colonies to work on such projects, because such places only fund ADULT LITERARY writing. And my books, it would seem, aren’t literature now that they come from a children’s imprint.Â And my books won’t help land me the teaching job I still dream of, because I love teaching…
Honestly, it does still feel weird when I tell people I have this novel coming out and they say, “But you’re still writing poetry, right? Right?”
(I am, but I don’t feel I should need to legitimize myself that way)
For me, when I had my kidlit conversion, the issue was different than for Margo, because for me it was an internal process, of realizing that some of my “prose poems” were in fact picture books. Of realizing that these ideas and words and books I wanted to write would best be WRITTEN (not just marketed) for kids. I had to work through my issues with the academy and the hierarchy first, slowly, on the inside.Â I had time to prepare myself, get ready to say “THPBBBT!” to poety friends who might turn up their noses.Â Becuase I really WANTED to write for kids, and jsut had to get used to the idea.
But for Margo it happened very suddenly–how much stranger to write a book with one audience in mind, and discover overnight you’ve got another.
And then to realize that all the things you’ve worked toward are different things now, suddenly.
I can’t count the artists I know who’ve ended up in more lucrative graphic design jobs, apologizing for themselves.Â The law school students who take another kind of job and look sheepish about it when they ahve to tell people what they do.Â Why is that okay, but this isn’t?
It doesn’t haveÂ to be a value judgement of YA by the author. Margo obviously likes YA and reads YA, and now she’s simply indicating something about our literary culture, and descibing an experience she had, which seems to me pretty reasonable.
That she expected/ worked for/ dreamed of one thing, and got another.
Like expecting a girl and getting a boy maybe. You love your kids. You can’t imagine anything other than what you got.Â But when you get home from the hospital, you look around the frilly pink room, and you have toÂ adjust.Â And that takes a little minute.
I really hope this is all changing. I really hope that soon there will be more respect paid to kidlit and YA. Because it’s an AMAZING literature.Â Because I have come to believe that more interesting, creative, vital, and artistic work is being written for kids than for grownups right now.Â Because kids are reading more as adults are reading less.Â Because these truly are the books I love right now.
But I won’t lie and pretend that when a smartypants short-fiction friend clutching some long boring book of experimental writing , (fresh from a stint at Yaddo or Macdowell or VSC or someplace else I’m not allowed to go) asksÂ what I’m working on… I get a little weird.Â I rant a bit.Â I give them a speech, a little like this one.
A speech designed to educate but also– to defend.Â Which implies at least a little bit of insecurity, and I’d be lying if I pretended otherwise. In that moment I do feel insecure.
But that’s a really small part of what I’m feeling in that moment. Because most of all I’m thinking, “THANK GOD I DON’T HAVE TO READ THAT LONG BORING GROWNUP BOOK YOU’RE HOLDING!”