Archive for September, 2008


Monday, September 29th, 2008


Okay, so I’ll admit it–the Baltimore Book Festival was intimidating and overwhelming in ways I did not expect. Because it was HOME! 

The festival was held in the very same blocks (see above) where I used to go to ballet class in a pink chiffon skirt.  Also the same blocks where (years later) I snuck clove cigarettes (WHICH IS BAD! BAD!) and shopped for vintage prom dresses and read “deep” poems and drank chewy coffee. 

The people who turned up (which made me almost cry) were family I never see, old friends, teachers, parents of friends and friends of parents, and it was so amazing to see them all, and it was so scary and nerve-wracking to be on a stage in front of them.  The toughest crowd I’ve ever experienced.

Partly because I wanted to do so well, to show them I had turned out okay. And partly because I couldn’t put on my pretend-self in front of them. It wouldn’t have worked.  So I have to admit it, I floundered.  It was crazy. I was more nervous than I’ve ever been, reading anything, in front of anyone. More nervous than my first radio recording. More nervous than speaking to conferences and classrooms, on bigger stages, for fancier crowds.  I lost my finesse, my composure.

It was also moving and intense and wonderful. It made me miss Baltimore so deeply, in ways I can’t even explain. 

Thank you Baltimore!  Thank you, most especially, to the Children’s Bookstore, for inviting me to come!  You were my own first experience with the power of an indie children’s bookstore to change lives.  And you’re continuing to change mine, even now.

My favorite highway…

Friday, September 26th, 2008

My favorite stretch of asphalt in the US is 340, as it bends through Harper’s Ferry. Breathtaking! I take the long cut every time, to catch that view at sundown. Really!

I’m in Baltimore now, at my mom’s house. Today I’ll tool on up to Bethlehem, for Shabbat dinner with my dad. Then on to Philly for the Eastern PA SCBWI Conference.  Sunday I’ll be back here in Charm City for the Baltimore Book Festival.

Please come?

On the road again…

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Right now I’m in the car with two screaming children. I’m somewhere on 81, probably in the endless stretch of green I like to call “Virginia.”  I’m singing along with Patrick Bloom.  I’m thinking about stopping the car to stretch my legs, eyeing the rest stops and wondering whether it’s time yet for “chicken donuts and fench fies.”

No. Not yet. Not just yet.

I’m in a hurry. Happy to be. On my way to see you. Homeward bound.


Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

What say you?   “Undue influence”? Should I go spank Judy Blume?

Bewilderview: The Invention of Hugo Cabret!!!

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Because, as we all know, I’m a muddle-head with no time to read actual books this year, I’ve asked the lovely Brianne Farley (a woman I met through blog-comments) to step in and pick up the slack. And Brianne has done just that!

So here, for the first time, a Bewilderview!  A guest-blogger reviewing a book for children,  (and being sucked into the Kidlitosphere forever. Mwahahaha!  What do you think she’ll call her *own* blog when she starts one next week? Hmmm?)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Brian Selznick

While the first thing one notices about Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret is the size (over 2 inches thick and 533 pages), it is not the most remarkable quality.  Selznick’s tome is a well-researched, genre-crossing beauty that, in the tradition of Roald Dahl and maybe J.K. Rowling, asks a bit more of its audience then does the average young-adult fiction.

Hugo Cabret, the orphaned son of a Parisian clockmaker, is living in the walls of a train station in 1931.  Here, he fixes the clocks and attempts to repair an automaton—an intricate, clockwork man—his father was working on when he died.  The automaton leads him to a strange relationship with the owner of the train station’s toyshop.  This man is revealed to be Georges Mèliés, the magician-turned-filmmaker most famous for Le Voage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon), who brought the dream world to life in then-new media of the motion picture.

Selznick’s tale is a captivating mix of words, illustration, photographs, and Mèliés’ drawings and film stills.  While the book remains in keeping with many conventions of the genre—Hugo is an orphan and a thief, he defies authority, and he values imagination—Hugo Cabret pushes the boundaries of traditional picture books and winds up straddling the border of graphic novel and historical fiction.  And it makes one ask, why?  Why did Selznick choose to tell this particular tale as a children’s picture book?

The subject, for one, is appropriate.  Georges Mèliés was the ultimate boundary-pusher of his time and media, and it is incredible that Selznick has chosen to highlight a spectacular and obtuse artistic rabble-rouser for a new generation, one that might not have discovered him while angst-ing with the Smashing Pumpkins.  At the end of his book, Selznick points the reader to a website about Mèliés and a YouTube video of a 19th Century automaton that writes poetry and draws ships—truly catering to a tech-savvy generation.  The book, in other words, asks the reader to research this nearly-real tale on his/her own; the setting, the cinematographer, and the automaton are all there for a reader to explore.

What I, personally, would like to applaud Selznick for is his faith in his audience, those open minds that are not yet attached to hard-edged genres, and that are ready to scoot a little further out of fantasy and into world.  I would like to think that he chose his genre, and the manipulation of it, with this goal in mind.  I would like to think he is breeding future artistic rabble-rousers.

Take two seconds…

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

And click here. It takes no time. Really.

The deal is that PBS is doing a poll, asking whether folks think Palin is a qualified Veep.  So now the right is mobilizing people to respond in favor.  Hence the left is doing the same.

Turning the poll into a meaningless bit of fluff.


Still, meaningless is better than horribly untrue. Can’t you imagine them saying on FOX News, “Even the bleedingheart snobs who watch PBS like Sarah’s brand of gutsy  non-elitist truth!”

Review in Booklist!!!

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Scratchy gets some Booklisty-love. Yeah!

Combining elements of a fairy tale and a folksy yarn, this story follows the parallel journeys of two young friends. Lucy, “the loveliest little milkmaid in the village of Thistle, or anywhere else in the Bewilderness,” misses her daily jaunt with Wynston, the crown prince whose father now insists that he attend to matters of state, specifically “princess-finding.” After Lucy takes off alone for the Scratchy Mountains, Wynston defies his father and follows her. This chapter book offers likable characters within a simply written, well-paced story. Magical elements, such as the river that flows up one side of the mountain and down the other, seem not just imaginative but also believable in the context of this childlike adventure story. With its spacious page design and the promise of illustrations (not seen, though the jacket art is charming), the book will appeal to many children in the middle grades as well as younger children reading at this level.

— Carolyn Phelan

“Hitting the road”

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

This weekend we “hit the road” (Mose likes to sing the song as we drive.  “No more, no more, no more, no more…”)

We first went to Nashville, where I read to the nice folks at the enormously amazing Davis-Kidd, and saw old friends and new ones.  Not to mention corned beef at Noshville. Mmmmmm…

Then we continued on, despite insane gas shortages that required us to line up for forever at an Exxon, to Chattanooga, which is always wonderful. I just love it there so much!

Though I have too say that our breakfast at (the painfully hip) Aretha Frankestein’s was perhaps the most awful food experience I’ve ever had in Chatt, Mose’s complete wonder at the skate-and-dog-park, a walk along the river, and my cushy room at the Read House almost made up for surly bored waiters. Almost.  Though an apology would have been nice after they waited an hour to realize they’d lost our order.

Of course, I remember when I was the surly bored order-losing Chatta-waiter, so I  can’t be too mad.

Author for Obama!!!

Friday, September 19th, 2008

This is pretty awesome.

Not coincidentally, I finally got off my tuchus and signed up to help out.  So, I’ll be calling to harass you any minute now…

Kindred spirits…

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

It isn’t often someone “gets” it all.  In anyone’s life.  We each have friends who are fun to party with, but don’t have kids the right age for our kids. Or friends who love to knit, but differ from us politically. Or are on another continent, or whatever…

For me, in my writing, I likewise assume that nobody wants to read *all* my various silly projects. The people who read my poetry might not be into my kidlit, and vice versa.  But Kerry Clare, my favorite human being in the world today, gets it ALL!  And I almost cried when I read this. I’m not kidding.

She writes:

From her poem, “Happily Ever After”: “She’s every wolf, every rib, every snarl./ No matter how she tells her story./ No matter what the frame looks like.” I recognized Snyder’s poetry in the prose at the beginning of Scratchy Mountains’ second chapter: “Many years passed, because that is what happens, even when something very sad has taken place. It is the nature of years to pass, and the nature of little girls to grow.”

Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains plays the same kind of game with logic and reality as The Myth of the Simple Machines, similarly inventing a reality constructed in much the same way as our own is but to a different effect. Which is called a fairy tale, I think

This affirms something big. makes me feel like, if certain reviewers pan the book, it’s okay. Because I *do* have a perfect reader out there somewhere.  The book found its way into the hands of the right person somehow.  And that’s the person I wrote it for!