That turned out REALLY well!
At the time, we were very very broke. I didn’t have the money to buy nice things for my (new) house, and that included plants for the garden.
On a whim, I snatched the dead rosebush!
I’ve always dreamed of roses, old fashioned roses on a trellis. REAL roses, sweet roses, the kind that really smell. It couldn’t hurt to try, right? (and full disclosure, I’m a trash picker for life, in general. I still have plenty of furniture that come from the curb too)
Now, I’m also a terrible gardener, but I asked my gardener-friends for advice, and as they suggested, I cut the dead thing waaaaay back, and buried the roots deeply, and mulched and fertilized them with composty things like coffee grounds. And lo! The bush grew back, green.
I was so excited!
But there were never any roses. Not a one. Not a bud. So I gave up, forgot about the bush, neglected it, and it put out thorns and leaves, and ended up in a very overgrown patch of grass by the side of the house. Ah, well.
Then, this week, I decided to cut back the overgrowth, because it was tangling in our HVAC unit. Privet and poison ivy and what I call “weed trees” had overtaken the spot.
And of course, when I cut the weeds back, I found….
Just one little branch, one stem of blossoms. The rest of the stems are are all still thorns and leaves, but there is one branch that wants to bloom.
And that? It’s more than enough.
They are sweet ones, rambly ones. They are REAL roses. They bring tears to my eyes.
It feels like a lesson, this story of a rosebush. There is something in it. About rescuing dead things. About finding beauty in the trash. About not giving up. Or… about giving up, but then being willing to rediscover the thing you gave up on.
Or maybe it’s just about roses. How hardy they are.
That was a difficult month, when I found the rosebush in the trash, a really hard month. The kind of month that forces you to look for goodness wherever you can find it. I can’t quite explain it here. It isn’t something for public consumption. I wasn’t proud of myself that month.
Guess what? This month is a totally different month.
This month is a good month.
This month is now.
Happy spring, everyone!
Scribbling and scribbling and scribbling.
Taking the spring to write new bits, to try things I’ve never done before. New forms, silly ideas. It is a GREAT luxury. I haven’t had a season like this in years and years. I haven’t just let myself play since I was in grad school, before the boys were born and I sold my first novel.
I hope something comes from these scribble-months. But even if I end up with nothing remotely publishable?
It’s still time well spent!
(and the scribble above was stolen from Jane Massey’s awesome illustration blog. I hope she doesn’t mind!)
A few years ago, I scribbled a book called The Neglected Holiday Songbook. The premise was that some holidays had never had songs written for them, because certain other holidays hogged ALL THE GLORY.
We never really sent it out, and the idea fizzled. In retrospect, I’m not sure how many people really need songs for Arbor Day. But today, in honor of my own Irishy heritage, and the wearing o the green… I offer an outtake:
St. Patrick’s Day (March 17)
I’ve hunted four leaf clovers,
and worn a bit of green,
I’ve never seen a leprechaun
(they don’t like to be seen).
But Granny says St. Paddy’s Day
is actually the day,
Some fella went to Ireland
and drove the snakes away.
This might be fine for Irish folks,
and squeamish sisters too,
But I like snakes, and think they’re cool.
I know what snakes can do.
I’ve seen them shed their scaly skins,
I saw one eat a mouse.
I catch them in the backyard,
(I lose them in the house).
So maybe old St. Patrick
should keep away from me.
I like it here here, inside my room,
where snakes (and me) roam free.
Evocative and beautiful, this rhyming rendition of a young Jewish slave girl’s experience during the ten plagues and exodus from Egypt flawlessly evokes the spirit of that Old Testament story. As one of thousands of children forced into harsh labor by the pharaoh, this unnamed girl shares her bleak outlook on life, until suddenly and inexplicably, strange epidemics begin afflicting the Egyptians while miraculously leaving the Jews unscathed. “Itching, biting, awful fleas/ Brought our masters to their knees./ Strange to see them scratch and fuss,/ Hurt and helpless just like us.” The poignant yet hopeful rhymes join with striking watercolor illustrations to produce a narrative that will captivate both children and adults.
Okay, so I LOVE Valentines Day. I always have. I think it’s something about how GENERAL the love is. How vague. Like, “Wow, the world is full of things to appreciate. Let’s remind each other about that, and say nice things, and OOH! CANDY!”
Last night I sat up and painted cards for the boys. Then, this morning, I (who never make a hot breakfast) crafted heart-shaped-chocolate-chip-pancakes. With whipped cream.
There were balloons…
I’ve always really wanted to do a Valentines Day picture book, but the idea has never come to me. However, I do have a retired manuscript, a book I’ve given up on, The Neglected Holiday Songbook. In it, Valentine’s Day gets a little ditty. So I’m enclosing it below, in case you want something to sing this morning…
Valentines Day (February 14)
I will not give you candy,
Or roses, or my love.
But if you keep on kissing me,
I might give you a SHOVE!
I did not make a card for you,
All red and white and pink.
But if you try to hold my hand,
I might just make a STINK!
I don’t want you to be my dear.
I don’t like you that way.
I really only want you, please,
To quickly GO AWAY!
Valentine’s Day or Saint Valentine’s Day is a holiday celebrated by many peoplethroughout the world. In the English-speaking countries, it is the traditional day onwhich lovers express their love for each other by sending Valentine’s cards, presentingflowers, or offering confectionery. The holiday is named after two among the numerousEarly Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic lovein the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtlylove flourished.
PUB DAY!!! It’s PUB DAY!!!
Though, actually, I never know what to do on a pub day.
Some folks ride around, visiting bookstores, and making sure their book is actually there. Maybe they ”face out” their books on the shelves, move books to highlight it better. Which makes good sense.
But that stuff feels funny to me. And it feels weird to say to a bookstore person, “Ummm, yeah, so, I’m an author. DO YOU HAVE MY BOOK? SHOW ME MY BOOK!”
What if they don’t have it? They might feel bad. NOT how I want to celebrate.
So I’m home today, working on something new, a picture book about aloneness. I’ll probably eat something yummy, to celebrate.
But at the very least, I can do this. I can post to my blog and tell YOU. About The Longest Night, which is indeed out today. I’m very very very proud and happy.
In part, The Longest Night is special to me because I’m been pondering this text for twenty years, in one form or another. I’ve always been a little obsessed with Exodus, and with the plagues most specifically. When I was a kid, I loved them. Is that weird? Probably. I liked the frogs best.
But in college, I began trying to write about the plagues. I wrote poems, several of them. They were okay, but they didn’t make me happy. I performed one of them onstage, in an actual theater, in a round with other readers. It was interesting… but not quite there. In grad school I tried again, and I think I got closer, but still… it wasn’t quite right either. It went something like this…
But when I started to tinker with The Longest Night, something clicked. It felt right. It felt like this, a poem with very heavy meter and rhyme, was the form I’d been wanting. It seemed like a picture book was the best way to present these images I’d carried around since I was a kid. It felt like approaching the story through the eyes of a little kid gave it a whole new slant. Like sitting under a dining room table makes a room feel different.
It’s a crazy nutso bonkers story, after all. Many people told me I was nuts to try writing the plagues for kids. Rivers of blood! Lice and locusts! Ravening beasts and frogs hopping all over. And then… the sea SPLITTING! I mean, yowza. Intense. But picture books are the best medium for crazy nutso bonkers stories, in my opinion. Picture books can really do intense well. Largely because of the art. (You can see some of the interior art here.) But also, because of the openness of the reader.
I’m so incredibly pleased with how the book came out. I really am. I hope you’ll check it out, and that if you do, you’ll like it.
If you want to help me celebrate, you can of course purchase a copy in many places, in person or online. If you happen into a bookstore that doesn’t have it, you can ASK THEM NICELY TO ORDER IT. And the same goes for libraries and schools! You can always request a book!
If you belong to a church or synagogue with a sunday school, you can suggest it as a title for the kids there too. I’d be grateful.
If you blog or write reviews or interviews or profiles or anything, for pretty much anyone at all, you can request a copy from my publicist.
But always, and forever, best of all, you can read it to a kid!
I sure hope you will…
Both are small. Sometimes they are shaped the same. And both have a pungent odor.
But they are really very different.
Lemons are yellow. Most lemmings are not.
Lemons have seeds. Lemmings are naturally seedless.
Lemons can be squeezed to make a refreshing summer beverage. Lemmings do not like to be squeezed.
But the main difference is that lemmings have a face.
Lemons have to CHEAT at face-having…
I have a confession to make…
I have always loved Valentines Day.
It’s not a very “me” thing, getting into a holiday like this. Generally I don’t do much for holidays, and I know it was invented by Hallmark or whatever
But it’s got crafts and candy. Crafts and CANDY!
When I was a kid I took it SERIOUSLY. My best friend and I spent weeks planning and making cards for each other, and our families. So much fun.
So today I still play cut and paste, and make cards for random people. Glitter and glue and doilies and markers and tin foil. I MAKE the boys lovingly craft the cards they give to their classes each year. Though we use shortcuts I’d never have taken as a geeky little kid myself. (photocopiers, stickers)
I do NOT celebrate VALENTINES DAY as a romantic holiday. I’ve tried it, and found it to be:
A. a potential disaster for a relationship, since high expectations for holidays often result in disappointment, in my experience.
B. expensive (and I’m cheap)
C. like something one might focus on when the relationship isn’t going so well on a day to day basis
But as a friend and mom and nostalgic goofball, I take it seriously. I feel a breakfast table on Valentines Day should have a tiny heart shaped box of chocolates on each plate. It’s just a small great pleasure that takes little work and sets a day aside.
And hey, love! I’ll admit it, I love LOVE.
I also have a spot in my heart for a few Valentines Day books. Above all, The Blue Valentine.
Which is, now that I approach it as an adult, really kind of cheesey. But how I adored it as a kid…
And then, too, I love Good Morning to You, Valentine.
Highly recommend this one!
This year, I got an early Valentine, which I’d like to share with you. A friend posted to Facebook that her daughter had crafted a Bigger-than-a-Bread-Box themed Valentine mailbox for herself. Which is about the cutest, most flattering (and lovely, really, very well done!) thing I’ve ever seen.
Just try to tell me that didn’t make you say, “Awwwwwwww.”
It’s probably still going to need some more work, but I feel pretty sure the heavy lifting is done… and now it’s in my editor’s hands. She’ll help me trim and polish it, and then it will get cleaned up by smarter people than me (all hail copyeditors and fact checkers!). Talented artists will make a pretty cover for it, and someone will write flap copy, and all that good stuff.
This book. THIS BOOK. I’ve spent years on it. I’ve written it five times over again, made so many dramatic changes it’s a completely different book than it was when I started. I almost lost faith in it. I cried multiple times when I couldn’t work out the time travel elements. But in the end…
I kept at it. And now it’s nearly done, the companion to Bigger than a Bread Box. SEVEN STORIES UP: in which a young girl (Annie) who has never met her grandma (Molly), finds herself magically transported to a hotel in 1937 Baltimore (here’s a pinterest page of images I compiled for inspiration, if you’re interested). WHERE CRAZY ANTICS ENSUE AND LIVES ARE CHANGED FOREVER!
Like most middle grade novels, it begins with a quote from Anais Nin:
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
Good stuff right? Now if only the book can live up to that.
I hope you’ll read Seven Stories Up, and like it. And when you’re done, I hope you’ll sneak down to the kitchen in a dumbwaiter, under cover of night, and make yourself a Sneakypie, like Molly and Annie did in Chapter 17!
Totally worth it.
Now I’m off, to sleep, and dream, and wake up in the morning. Because I have to figure out WHAT ON EARTH I’M GOING TO WRITE NEXT!