Archive for December, 2012

Champagne season…

Monday, December 31st, 2012

So, it’s that time again, when we hang up new wall calendars, stare at them, and wonder… what happens next?

2012 was a good year, a great year!   But (like most of you) I’ve been thinking this week about what I want to do differently in 2013.  Because if things can’t always be better, it’s true that they have to change.

So I’ve come up with two big goals.

The first is obvious and dumb and basic, and everyone makes this resolution.  But now I’m joining the team. I want this to be the year I start taking better care of myself physically.  I want to go back to dance class, and I want to  visit the dentist when I’m supposed to, and I want to drink more water and take my stupid vitamins and eat better food.  Somehow, though I work very hard to take care of the kids, my well-being tends to get set on the back burner, and that has to change.  So I’m putting it out here, on the blog, essentially so that my mom can remind me I committed to it this year.  (Got that, Mom?)  This time next year I expect to be THE PICTURE OF HEALTH.  Roses in my cheeks, lustre in my hair, a bounce in my step.

The second is that I want to make a promise to myself, about my writing.  I want to try very very hard not to think about selling the books I write. I want to scribble poems again, and I want to take bigger leaps with my prose and my picture books, be more daring.   I have two picture books out this spring, a novel coming in 2014, and another picture book in 2015.  There’s plenty in the pipeline, and no excuse not to take some time to dabble a little in the weird.

Recently, I began working on a story for Mose and Lew, JUST for Mose and Lew, ABOUT Mose and Lew.  It’ called THE MAGICAL THAT, and it’s been such fun to tinker with, precisely because in no part of my brain am I thinking I can sell it.  It’s tailor-made for two very particular kids I love dearly, and that’s enough.   More than enough.  It’s so much fun to write for specific readers, to tweak and twist the vocabulary for them, add in details I know they’ll like (ninjas, mostly). I’ve never done that before, and it feels great.  (if violent). I want to see where this leads me, creatively…

I think I need to do this now. I think I need to get back to just playing with words. The work changes when it’s under contract, when a deadline looms, when other eyes are on my drafts. That’s not a bad thing at all, and I don’t mean to seem ungrateful. In fact, I’ve learned a lot from the process.  But it’s different. Right now, I want to play. I want to dream. I want to wander a little.  Make sense?

So that’s me, in 2013. Nothing major, but enough.

Of course, I’d also love for remarkable things to happen to my books already in print.  I’d love for some producer to fall in love with Any Which Wall and make it a movie. I’d love to sell foreign rights to everything. I’d love for my February book, The Longest Night, to get spectacular reviews.  I’d LOVE those things. But they’re beyond my control, so they can’t be resolutions…

What about you?

I wonder– in this strange world we’ve got at the moment, with bizarre weather systems and fiscal cliffs and Mayan doomsdays and neverending election cycles and speeding technology and constant contact, what do YOU want from 2013?

Got any resolutions? Any goals? Any dreams?


MY best books of the year…

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

I have no belief in reliable year-end lists.  I’m always disappointed when I try to read ALL the books anyone recommends.  And when anyone has 32 “favorites” of the year, I tend to take that list less seriously.  Just because there aren’t THAT many truly extraordinary books in my opinion.

I believe deeply that every book is the best book for someone, and that everyone is the best reader for some book.  But that no book can be the right book for everyone.  Except maybe Elephant and Piggie, if you’re four.

All that to say… it’s been an interesting year for me as a reader.

For a large swath of 2012 I avoided middle grade reading, because when I’m really drafting, I tend to avoid my own genre. I don’t want to accidentally “borrow” someone else’s voice.  So while I read some interesting novels this year (Only and One Ivan, Three Times Lucky, Crow, Humming Room, One Year in Coal Harbor, Son)  there’s a ton I missed.  Hence I can’t really play the Newbery prediction game. And in fact, not a single book stands out for me as THE book.

But one YA book (a genre I almost never read) did.  Me and Earl and the Dying Girl BLEW ME AWAY. I mean– it had me rolling on the ground laughing, shouting to my (annoyed) husband, “No, no, one more—listen to this, ‘TWO BOOBS!’”  So if you’re into YA books that shock and surprise, or you just like laughing a ton, and can handle things like cancer and poverty (treated in an altogether irreverent, and yet important/ real way)…  this is my BOOK OF THE YEAR. Officially. I hope it wins a Printz.

Likewise, one picture book rises above the rest for me. And that’s Extra Yarn.  And yes, I know about the damn knitting needles, and no, I don’t care, and it really bothers me to think that we’d let knitpicky (ha ha, get it?) reality tangle up (hee hee?) the realm of imagination.  For me, this book does what a picture book does better than anything else in the world. It creates a universe of its own, with its own rules, and colors and shapes, and voices.  A picture book isn’t like a novel. I don’t import my own images into a picture book. I dwell in it.  I disappeared into Extra Yarn more than any other book this year.  Holding it for the first time, I melted into those pages. I don’t pretend to understand how the Caldecott gets determined, but I think this is the best picture book of the year. I think it will last.  So there’s that.

For adult fiction, I read two books published this year that really stuck. The first is Arcadia, which kind of killed me.  Set in the past, present, and slight future, it follows people I have known (and maybe been, a bit), or people very like them. Reading it made me feel sad, and dirty, and disappointed, and so so swallowed up.  I was overwhelmed by this book. I may have been its perfect reader.  In which case, maybe it isn’t the best book for you, but it was for me.

And then, my most recent discovery of 2012, the book I’m still basking in– Beautiful Ruins. Gosh, I don’t know where to begin. I like books with big scope, and this book has that. I like movie stars, and this one skirts in and around the lives of such people. I like alternate timelines, and Beautiful Ruins does that dance perfectly.  Heck, I like Italy a ton too!  But in the end, this book made me weep, and that’s something I remember forever. When a book really makes me cry, that’s special.  My tear stained books are the books I treasure most, and for longest, I think.  Owen Meaney and Garp, Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety, Brideshead Revisited and Little Women.  I can count on two hands the books that have choked me up like that through the years.  This book managed it, and I thank Jess Walters.   Does that make it a “best” book?  Eh.  DOes that make me a sap? Pretty sure it does? Do I care? Not in the slightest…

So there you have it, whether you want it or not. I recommend these four books to everyone.  Everyone.  But it’s fine if you loathe them all.

What are your best books of the year? Or rather, forgetting “best,” what are your most memorable reads?


First review for The Longest Night…

Monday, December 24th, 2012

From Kirkus:

Working as hard as any adult slave, this young girl expresses her bewilderment and fear as leaping frogs and itching, biting fleas disturb the masters. Fatal illness creeps in, affecting beast and man except in the Jewish homes marked with lamb’s blood. Rhyming verse carries the Passover story with a lyrical flair. “Made our way to sifting sands, / Scrambling feet, but clasping hands. / Thirsting, thrilling, full of fright— / None of us were slaves that night.” Ominously dark and murky paintings done in acrylic portray the frightened, fleeing throng finally reaching a wild, thrashing sea that is “ripped in two!”  Confusion and trepidation turn to joyful surprise, as indicated by the rose-colored backdrop behind a smiling daughter and mother, thrilled to have crossed over to the open land and freedom. This poetic, child-oriented interpretation brings a dramatic insight and illumination to the ancient legend.

A vivid and compelling introduction to the 10 plagues portion of the Seder ceremony. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book/religion. 5-7)

I want to write something more about this book soon here, about what it means to have written it, to have it coming out. It felt so so so so impossible, when I began to write it, years ago.

But for now, i just want to say how honored I am by Catia Chien’s powerful art, the amazing job Schwartz & Wade has done with it. And I’m so so pleased that Kirkus llikes it too!


The year is turning over a new leaf…

Friday, December 21st, 2012

And so am I!

Handed the book in, starting all manner of new things.

I have lots to say about all of that, but I can’t…

Because I’m ON VACATION!!!! In snowy Iowa.

I’m sleeping and resting and reading and sigh

See you in 2013!

Your kids needs Legos because…

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

They might disappear into their room and emerge with something like this.

I wonder what comes next… Lego tooth brush?