Archive for September, 2008

I’ll go…

Monday, September 8th, 2008

If you’ll go…

(Sweet home Alabama?)

Really! We’ll get a whole slew of fun Jewish-type people, and we’ll all move to this sweet little town, where we’ll live next door to each other and make a lot of soup, and do crafts and it’ll be like… like… like…

A shtetl!

Only way more fun.

No, seriosly, it’ll be the eruv of cool.  Within whose boundaries we will rejoice in our coolness and share beer.  All the beer will be communal in the eruv of cool.

OR!  Better yet, we should encourage all the remaining communist Jews to go there, and create a utopian society.  Like a kibbutz.

Or maybe all the orthodox Jews with SAD should go there, and then it can become like Postville. Only less slaughtery.

In any case it will be awesome, AWESOME!

Is Chabad there already?  I assume so. If not, they will be soon!!!

Review: School Library Journal

Monday, September 8th, 2008

It’s up at B&N, so I think I can unveil…


Is that weird?  That I’m so excited about being an author, even the dreaded “mixed review” feels like a good thing? I mean, it had to happen eventually…    So it’s a rite of passage.

(though it occurs to me that not every author posts negative press, I’m not every author. I’m me!)

An adventurous young milkmaid named Lucy decides to climb the Scratchy Mountains to learn more about her mother, who vanished many years before. At the top of a mountain she discovers a town dominated by unnecessary rules, where the weather runs on schedule, and the townspeople live in alphabetical order. Lucy’s friend Wynston, who is the prince of their small town, and who is supposed to be looking for a suitable princess to marry, follows her up the mountain and helps her rescue her pet prairie dog. As they work together, their spirited friendship blossoms. Ultimately, they discover that it’s okay to bend rules if not break them. This fairy tale, set in a time “before television and interstate highways” in the land of Bewilderness, has appealing characters who grow and develop; clear, accessible language; lively dialogue; and a light humorous tone. While the pacing is a little slow and the central message somewhat heavy-handed, children may enjoy the whimsical setting and the sweet friendship that blossoms between the protagonists.-Mari Pongkhamsing, St. Perpetua School, Lafayette, CA

The weird thing about reading this is that I don’t *totally* disagree.  In a word where Percy Jackson slays an evil beast on every third page, my book does have a slow pace, a kind of funny lopsided gait.  It’s old fashioned.  But that’s intentional.  If I had a different editor, we might have opted to “speed it up” by slashing out the little songs and the winding paths, the long dialogue bits and the chunks of expository writing.

And while I don’t think the book is heavyhanded at all, it does have “themes”.  It does have a discernible “message” by design.  I wanted to “say things” in my book, and so I did.

And it isn’t altogether frustrating to be read by a smart reader, and reviewed this way. It just means she wasn’t my perfect reader!

How’s that for Pollyanna? ( also a heavyhanded slow book)


Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Forgive me, please, if you’ve already gotten multiple emails about this!  The book launch next Saturday is at 3 pm, not 4 m. I had it right, but the bookstore’s website had it wrong, and I assumed (as I generally do) that I was mistaken, and passed along a “correction” that now needs correcting.


Poetry (and political) Friday…

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Inspired by Laini, and by Elaine, and by the RNC, and by comments from other members of the kidlitosphere list serve… I want to vent for a minute about politics, and their place in art, and also the blogosphere.

As a poet, I always try to keep politics away from my work in a direct way.  This is not because I don’t think poetry is a good way to move people to action, but because I think overt messages are bad for the art itself.  I think the best political poetry operates on an aesthetic level first, and if it carries a “message” the message is better served by a vehicle of good art. Propaganda is pretty transparent, and though it serves a purpose in the temporary world, art is, to my way of thinking, about trying to make something that will last.  Journalism can be “about” things.  But literature is always, always, “about” language.  It cannot present a surface that’s too sure of itself.  It must dive. The veneer of propaganda is in direct opposition to depth.

That said, poets and writers tend to be political creatures. Tend to seek truth. Or something like it. Tend to speak out.

I don’t write political books for kids anymore than I write political poems.  I hope that the ideas in my books will help kids become good people, good citizens, honest humans, nice friends. I hope that in some small way, my writing makes the world better. But it isn’t my job to TELL kids what to think about, say, capitol punishment or tax reform.

But as a blogger, I have often ranted about such matters. I don’t view my blog as “art”.  I view it as a way to communicate with people. A way to tell you what  I think about everything from parenting to poetry to politics.

Now I find that my blogging is part and parcel of my self-promotion (within a community I may not agree with all the time), and this makes me feel weird.  When I originally killed JewishyIrishy, it was because I’d spent too much time ranting and cussing, and as a writer for kids I felt I needed a clean slate where I could make virtual sock puppets and share graham crackers.

But I’m still me.  And while I’m now avoiding the “eff bomb” and attempting a more evenhanded approach to blogging, I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep my opinions away from my blog (which means  my self-promotion).  This  is funny, since I never had a hard time keeping my politics out of my poetry.

And today, on Poetry Friday, following the obscenity of Sarah Palin’s nomination, I find that I’m pretty sure I know why–

I kept the poetry and the politics separate for a GOOD reason, to respect and do service to both. I never felt they didn’t belong in the same place, or like I was keeping a secret.  And I never denied my views. I just didn’t make the one ABOUT the other.  The politics was best served by a kind of conviction and absolutism.  The poetry was best served by questioning those beliefs (and others).

But keeping the politics out of my blog feels like I’m doing it for a BAD reason. It feels like a disguise.  It feels like “marketing” nonsense.  I am who I am.  That I happen to believe in socialized medicine and a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body has little to do with the fact that I also write “clean reads”. And if someone is offended by my views, so much so that they cannot appreciate my books, then I wish them well, and I feel a little sad for them. They will miss a LOT in life,  approaching the world that way.

This blog is not “about” children or “about” politics.  It is “about me, and all of these things are part of who I am. Children and politics and vindaloo and reality TV and Baltimore and on and on.  I’m a composite, and my blog is, as an extension of who I am, a composite too. And perhaps the solution is that I need to take a lesson from my poetry-experience, and make it more “about”  language, precision.  I think maybe I need to be who I am, honestly, but use a little more caution with the words I choose.

Be mindful of my readers. Be mindful of the world.  A lesson in poetry and politics. Both.  But I won’t, I can’t, censor my beliefs for the purposes for book sales. And if this blog feels disjointed as a result, that’s because I’m disjointed. A consummate fencesitter, as anyone who knows me can tell you.

All that said, a poem for Poetry Friday, the first political poem I remember being deeply touched by in college, By Czeslaw Milosz:

Song on the End of the World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A Fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through fields under their umbrellas
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet,
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world there will be,
No other end of the world there will be.
Warsaw, 1944

Palin vs. books…

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

That Palin tried to ban A Wrinkle in Time is horrific.  That she attempted to do the same to the dictionary is absolutely HILARIOUS! (as pointed out in the comments, this information has not yet been proven. It doesn’t matter much, as there’s plenty to despise in Palin without this, and it’s pretty clear to me that she has the spirit of a book-banner, whether or not she’s been given the opportunity to prove it)

As scary as the world is, it never fails to entertain.

Bad mommy…

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

I was informed today at “school” that Lew does not eat his lunch.  Evidently he steals strawberries and chunks of cheddar cheese from others, and ignores his own food.

“But I packed both fruit and cheddar cheese today myself!” I said.

“Yeah, I asked the other kids if they wanted to share his banana,” explained Lew’s teacher (whom I adore) apologetically.  “I asked if they wanted to swap, but nobody did.  And I guess he likes his cheese cut up into smaller chunks.” She shrugged.

And I laughed.

OF COURSE he wants to eat strawberries all day. Who doesn’t?

OF COURSE he wants what he can’t have.  He’s my son.

Nevertheless, to avoid any further bad-mommy gossip about me (there is plenty already I’m sure, what with the cheap shoes and the un-cut-up grapes and the fact that my sons don’t own helmets or wear sunscreen every single day) I will send him off tomorrow with strawberries. I will mince his cheese.

But good lord– she asked them?  They’re ONE!

Oh, did I mention I also like to spank my kids all day long? In public whenever possible!

Blog Tour Stop #8: Beatrice

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

I’m honored to be up today at, with a little essay about sexism in “traditional” children’s books.  Beatrice was one of the first lit-blogs I ever read regularly, and Ron Hogan is one of those people who make the world run.  Illuminati kinda guy. No joke.

Stop by?

Horseflesh in midstream…

Monday, September 1st, 2008

(Palin as beauty queen, 1984)

How many days until Palin “realizes she needs to decline the nomination so she can pay more attention to her family”?


“With deep apologies.”

This entire fisaco is really an astounding argument for the incompatibility of  conservative politics and feminism.  The party comes across looking bad bad bad.

Let’s hear it for abstinance-only education! Let’s hear it for secrecy and shame!  Let’s hear it for absurd assumptions about the easy emotional manipulation of women voters!

(not to mention killing wolves and polar bears)

Blog tour stop #7: Big A little a

Monday, September 1st, 2008

A super funny interview with Kelly Herold today, over at Big A little a! I love when I get these kinds of questions, unrelated to publishing… and Kelly is a dynamo, someone I long to be in another life.  If you don’t know her many inspired projects (Cybils, Edge of the Forest, etc) , you SHOULD!