Archive for August, 2011

What’s THAT???

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011


It came in the MAIL today!  It is made of cardboard, and it stands up all by itself!

It says nice things about my new book.


Furthermore, I just saw this incredible review by a brilliant kid (clearly with wonderful taste) who can tell I’m really from Baltimore.

<glows some more>

And lastly, Bigger than a Bread Box is on this SCHMANCY LIST!

<bursts into flames>

Nearly speechless…

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Oh my…

Friday, August 26th, 2011

“Magic realism” or not???

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

One of the things that’s funny for me is that my books gets classified as fantasy. And while I ADORE fantasy, I tend to divide books in my own head between “fantasy” and “magic.” I have no idea if anyone else agrees with this distinction, but it’s how my brain shelves books.

I’ve blogged about this before, but there’s a big difference for me between a book in which a young adventurer sets forth to seek his destiny in a world full of unicorns (fantasy), a book in which a kid in THIS world finds a unicorn in their closet (magic), and a book where a kid from THIS world is magically transported into a world full of unicorns (both? I don’t know. It depends more on how much the land of unicorns affects this world, I guess, and whether the kid comes back. Maybe it’s also an issue of tone.)  These terms seem pretty arbitrary, I guess.  But arbitrary classifications  are sometimes useful for mulling and organizing.

While I like to read books about other worlds, I’m generally most interested in writing books about how realistic and magical elements in life bump up against each other. A unicorn or a dragon in your house is a PROBLEM, and it may be FUNNY, while also being AMAZING AND TRANSFORMATIVE, but no matter how many unicorns you may have in your closet, you will still have to deal with picking up your room/ failing math/ your best friend deciding he doesn’t like you any more, or your big sister’s meth problem. If you choose NOT to deal with those things, and to instead obsess over your unicorn, there WILL BE CONSEQUENCES.

Magical elements can function in all kinds of ways when they rub up against the real world. They can be escape, or education. They can become more real than the real world, or be outgrown. The main character can be aware of all of these factors, or clueless about them.

As a writer, the world building is different with a magic book.  There’s less work to do in some ways. You don’t have to construct a logic for the universe. You don’t have to invent the wheel.  In other ways, you can easily back yourself into a corner, trying to apply the logic of your magic to the rules of this world.  I think this is why time travel is so hard to execute, in particular.

Recently, I’ve been hearing the term “magic realism” applied to children’s books.  Some people have called Bigger than a Bread Box an example of “magic realism.”  I find this interesting, and I’m not sure what I think about it.  I encountered this term a lot as an undergrad, reading authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez.   So far as I can tell, we’ve never had to apply this term to Kidlit before, because we’ve always just done whatever the hell we felt like with magic. Magic is fun to write about, and so we do it.  I’ve always assumed that literary fiction had to adopt a fancy term to make it okay to write about magic, because grownups get weird about fantasy and magic. Being all adult and mature and wise and whatnot. They’ve outgrown games and fun and imagination.  So they prefer a different term.

Which is fine. Sure, Whatever. Postmodern blahblahblah.  Meta etcetera.  You all know you secretly watch Game of Thrones and True Blood.  But I’ve asumed that “magic realism” is intended to elevate certain writers ABOVE the ghetto of fantasy.  I have been  bothered by that, and so I’ve disregarded the terminology with regard to my own reading and writing.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s something useful in it– a reason for the terminology. Maybe it’s related to my own fantasy/magic divide.   Maybe it isn’t just a divisive thing, but a way of understanding how magic functions differently in different kinds of books.

What do you think? The same person who loved Wizard of Earthsea might not love Half Magic. They’re very different, right?  Though both are “fantasy” in a lot of bookstores.  Which style do you prefer?

I’ve especially been thinking about series in which both get accomplished, but in different books.  Over Sea Under Stone and The Dark is Rising are NOT the same book, though they belong in a series together.  Likewise, A Horse and His Boy is very different from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

What are some of your favorite contemporary “magic realism” titles? Favorite “fantasy” titles?

What books are hybrid examples?

How do you divide them on your own shelves? Or do you choose not to?

What about the paranormal trends in YA? Is Twilight an example of magic realism?  Fantasy?

Is this sort of categorization up to the author? Or up to the reader?

Or is this all me overthinking?

(disclaimer: I LOVE Marquez. I love a lot of adult books that are considered “magic realism” in lit classes.  I understand where it fits into the canon historically.  I’m just curious about how it differs from fantasy as the definition of fantasy changes, and about why that categorization is needed today)


Sunday, August 21st, 2011

When I was a kid, an art project involved gloppy poster paint and a shoebox. No longer. Now kids make MOVIES. Some of the smart ones even make GOOD movies.

Here is a book trailer for Bigger than a Breadbox, made by an especially talented and inspiring twelve year old, after she read the book.  A girl named Lily.

I’m really quite stunned and honored. And I’m hoping she’ll hire me someday, when she’s a fancy moviemaker.  Check it out, and then please link it, forward it, pass it along, so that she can get many many hits, and be offered a job at Pixar, and hire me SOONER.


WEIRD Blurb Contest…

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

If you’ve read Bigger than a Bread Box already, I’d very very very much appreciate you dreaming up a “weird blurb” for my site.   Then I’ll dream up some sort of prize for the person who comes up with the most random blurb.

Give it a try? Pretty please?

The weirder the better!

Like so:

“Despite the title, Snyder’s lovely book fits nicely into a breadbox along with a loaf of pumpernickle.” - Kurtis Scaletta

If you haven’t read it yet, and want to, you should probably enter to win a free copy at Goodreads!

In other news, I’m cleaning the bathroom today. Just in case you wondered…


Teachers are rockstars…

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I mean, you KNEW that. But really, they just are.

Look at this adorableness, a bulletin board made by an amazing teacher that I’ll be skyping with this fall as part of my CRAZY TOUR!


Oh, and meanwhile…

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

There’s THIS!

Still a lot of work to do (pictures to hang, etc), but she’s come a long way baby!

From this:

My baby is not a baby…

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

…any more.

I’m so proud of him, starting kindergarten with joy, happily heading into a strange big building.  But wow, it’s different. He has a world that isn’t *mine* now. Full of people I don’t know. He’s building his own life, distinct from me. It’s so wonderful, and yet sad.

But a year ago we moved houses to give him this place, this community. We gambled, and I think we won.

Pictures for my mom, who has been patient.

Big damn boy!

A note from a WFHM on the 1st day of school…

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Today, Mose started kindergarten. He trotted off, up the stairs, and into his classroom. He sat down in his little chair, (apparently) had a great day, and came home again 6 hours later.  To find me smiling, relieved, excited to see him.

And I could post about how weepy I got as I left the school myself, about how an era is ending, about how proud I am of Mose.  I could… but something else is in my head to say.

Because when the boys go back to school each fall, I am struck with a huge sense…

Of relief.

I love my kids. More than anything in the universe! I love spending real time with them.  I love the summer– full of ice cream and slip-n-slides, beach trips and rainy TV-watching days. I love almost everything about being a mom.

But then when I’m NOT with my kids, I love working on my books too. I love getting things done quickly. I love writing, and reading, and talking to other grownups. I love the sweet emails I get from kids and teachers, librarians and parents. I love conferences and reviews and silence. I love collaborating with artists and hashing over my work with editors and my wonderful agent.   I love visiting schools and festivals.  Most of all, what I love about my work is escaping into my own head for long periods of time, uninterrupted…

And part of what makes a long stretch of SAHMing (like this summer has been) feel okay for me is the fact that I know it will end, and the boys will go somewhere else for a bit eventually, while I do my other work, which is, to be honest, MUCH EASIER!

Yes, it is easier to write books than it is to spend all day with my kids! It’s true.  I’m not saying I resent my kids. I’m not saying writing is “better” or “more fun” or “more important” or anything else value-based.  I’m just saying it’s easier.  And truth be told, waiting tables for 12 hours in a row was easier, and writing grants for a non-profit was easier, and program-directing for Hillel was easier, and picking plums in the Israeli summer for 8 straight hours on a kibbutz was easier! In short, almost everything I’ve done in my life has been EASIER THAN BEING A SAHM.

And here is what I can’t stop thinking today:  what about the SAHMs (and SAHDs too of course)?  How do they feel at the end of summer? The home-school moms and the mothers of toddlers or infants without childcare, for whom the fall is a new season, with changes and growth, but a fairly similar schedule.

If their days are anything like my days in the summer, they are full of sweet sleepy mornings, full days, lots of chatter, and voices, and art projects, and kitchen projects, and muddy shoes, and interesting questions, and hugs and tears to be wiped away… wonderful goodness…  such important great moments…

But also– dishes and laundry piles that never end, quarrels to break up and shouts to speak over. So many small tasks that go unnoticed. So many jobs that get interrupted and have to be begun again.  So many showers that get cut short.  SO many phone calls that end with “I’ll have to call you back.”

Which is to say– these women (and men) are SUPERWOMEN (and supermen)!  They have the amazing mutant power of doing hard good work in the world without needing to be thanked for about 90%  of it.  They are doing massively important work, and they are baking COOKIES WITH A SMILE!  How on earth do they manage it? HOW?

Imagine if you went to work every day, and NOBODY NOTICED MOST OF WHAT YOU DID!  How would that feel?  If you dug that ditch or arranged that conference call or traded those stocks or apprehended that perpetrator or litigated that tort (is that a thing? I think that’s a thing…) or nursed that sick kid or marketed that widget or whatever it is you do… and nobody ever said, “Hey, good job!” or “You knocked that out of the park” or “Let’s go to happy hour” or even, “Oh, was that you who changed the trash?”

Seriously, folks. It takes a strong, secure human to do this kind of work 24/7 with a smile. It takes a patient love. It takes humility and grace and intelligence and a HUGE sense of humor.

So today, as I peer into the horizon of fall, as I spend these last days with Lew, getting ready to go “back to work” after a “summer of fun” I want to take a moment to praise the SAHMs and SAHDs.  Who are a true miracle to me.  And deserving of great thanks and admiration.

Not that we aren’t ALL deserving of thanks and admiration.  But most of us get a paycheck. A yearly review. A weekend. Sometimes even a bonus.

Not that raising healthy kids isn’t a bonus of sorts. But it’s awfully hard to cash them in for a shopping spree at IKEA.

(Not that I’ve tried or anything. Ahem)