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Re-visiting an island

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on Thursday, 12 June 2008
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I couldn't get a very good scan, unfortunate]y, of this new paperback book cover for MESSENGER; it goes with the two previous in the trilogy, in their adult versions...by which I mean intended to be in the adult, vs. the young-adult, sections of bookstores.  I like these covers; the first is green, the second blue, and this third one is brownish red...(it appears much redder in this scan)... each of them with two artfully-posed hands. I think they're quite evocative.



Messenger aperback  Tomorrow morning I leave for New York, and on Saturday I will be speaking informally on Governors Island, down off the lower tip of Manhattan...the island where I lived when I was 15, 16, and 17. In those days the island was occupied by the US Army; now the buildings remain, some of them quite historic; but the island itself has been given back to the city of New York and will become a park. Tour groups are beginning to be allowed over there, and I'll just be describing what it was like to grow up on such an amazing piece of real estate.

It will be fascinating to see my big old house, though I understand the houses, once elegant, are becoming quite derelict and will probably be torn down.  

My little brother Jon attended elementary school on the island but those of us past 8th grade had to go each morning by boat to Manhattan and from there make our ways to the various schools we attended.  Many kids went by a second boat to a public high school on Staten Island, some by subway uptown to private schools like Spence or Collegiate; and me by train to Brooklyn Heights to a private school for girls called Packer (which now has for many years also had male students)  Others of my island friends went to boarding schools. It was a wonderful place to live and I don't think I appreciated how lucky I was at the time.

In my memoir called "Looking Back" there is this photograph of me in a white dress, 17 years old, the day I graduated from Packer in 1954; it was taken on the lawn of the house on Governors Island.  I've not been back to the island since I went off to college that fall. My parents moved to Washington DC while I was a freshman at Brown.  June1954



Then for the next week, in New York,  I will be working with the cast and director and dramaturg for the stage production of "Gossamer"    You can go to the website for Oregon Childrens Theatre...www.octc.org.... and read about their plans for the play, or to http://www.firststage.org for the First Stage in Milwaukee, which will also produce Gossamer in the fall.

Red Sox at 6:05 tonight. Dinner in front of the TV, I think. 






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That time again

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on Monday, 09 June 2008
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After a week of cool rainy weather...followed by a couple of hot sunny days...the gardens have flung themselves into summer. And wouldn't you know it, I have to leave Maine Wednesday, day after tomorrow, for ten days.


Alfie & peonies Alfie has been having a wonderful vacation (there he is peeking from behind a bush) with various company...which he loves...coming and going (no visiting dogs this time, alas).

Clematis By the time I return, there will be plenty of other things in bloom but I do hate to say goodbye to the peonies and lupine be cause they will be gone when I return.






Driveway


Back garden My friend Nancy was here for the weekend and being an organized person, she sorted out all of my spices...threw away everything with overdue expiration dates...and alphabetized them. Is that a great friend, or what?!

Now I am back at work, at my computer, and experiencing an odd phenomenon: a story nudging at me: a setting, and some characters...and none of it/them part of what I've been working on. So tomorrow I may turn my attention there and see what's going on. It would not be the first time I've been sideswiped by a stranger. You learn to pay attention to such things, startling though they are..

Alfie was bathed and groomed last week by the local dog groomer; and I had my hair cut by the local haircutter; and tomorrow I'm getting my car washed by the local car washer. All of these services are provided just as capably....but considerably less expensively...in Maine, rather than Massachusetts.

The price of gas, though, is just as high. Some things don't change.

I filled the birdbath just after I took this picture! It's hot for the birds, too. A wild turkey strutted across the lawn yesterday, looking disgruntled.
Birdbath
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Flowers of several sorts

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 03 June 2008
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I am now back in Maine...for the summer, though I have large chunks of interrupted Maine time coming up...and was pleased to see the gardens looking beautiful (thanks, Lucia, master gardener) and my new bathroom looking great (thanks, Dan and Darel, master remodelers) and my little town here starting to rev up for summer tourists.  I stopped in the local bookstore, always one of my first stops, and though neither Justin nor Pam (the owners) were there, I look forward to seeing them soon. In the meantime, I bought a book on Saturday which I have just finished, (on Tuesday, despite having had company here)....and am recommending it highly: "The Blood of Flowers" by Anita Amirrezvani.  Yet if someone had said to me: "Want to read a book about 17th century Persia?" I probably would have said (politely, of course): "Ah, no thanks."  But I would have been wrong.


USCoverIt is a moving and luminous portrait of a lost culture, and a reminder that the real tenets of Islam have little to do with today's terrorists who have co-opted that religion.

I am always sad when I finish a book that I love.  And it was her first novel, so I can't rush to find another by her.









Now here are a couple of other things to look at. But first, a little background.  My first-grader grandson, Rhys, 7 years old, recently expressed an interest in photography. So he was given a camera. Rhys-like, he refused any offers of instructions or advice. Instead, off he went on his own.

Here is one of his first photographs:


Poppy by rhys
















And here is an image from a more famous poppy-lover, Georgia O'Keeffe:

70010_b~Poppy-Posters
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Correction

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 23 May 2008
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i said on an earlier post, talking about my much-loved Kindle, that one flaw..for me...was no pictures.  I kept wanting to see Joni Mitchell as a teenager, when the book was describing her early years.  Frustrating.
But since then: I've read (by Kindle) the Barbara Walters memoir...and voila! Photographs. So I was mistaken. And that is one lament about the Kindle that I can let go of.  Except for "Girls Like Us"...no photos. Go figure.

Also, speaking of photos, one other one from my Pennsylvania trip.  I was close to—but didn't go to—the area called Pine Grove Furnace (now a state park; the "furnace" is because there was once an iron-ore mining operation in those mountains, and a blast furnace; the stone ruins of the furnace are still there. The open pit mine filled up with water a century ago.  We swam there as children and told ghost stories about the bodies of men and mules in its depths)  Being so close made me google it while I was between events at the college, and in doing so I came up with some photos (attached) of what had once been a grist mill; I used photographs of it in my book "The Silent Boy."  After it burned, my grandmother restored it (you can tell, comparing with the old photo of the mill when it was in operation in the 19th century) that the top floor was gone, after the fire) Mill #2 Mill #3 and turned it into a summer home; it was where I spent summer vacations as a child, and where my grandparents were married, and later, my cousin Betty.  Now it houses the visitor center of the state park, and the porches I remember have all been removed.  

Thank you for being patient with this trip down memory lane.

The Mill
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Is the doctor in?

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 22 May 2008
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Ben and Lois 5:08 It has been such a long while since I have posted anything here that now I must go all the way back to Mother's Day, playing catch-up; and here I am on that holiday, in Maine, having lunch with my youngest child, Ben, who is a lawyer in Portland.
They always say that the black flies are rampant in Maine from Mother's Day to Father's Day and indeed they were starting in, that Sunday. I left Maine the next day and I hope the bugs aren't too bad there now because Ben is taking his little boys hiking in the mountains this coming weekend.

Much as I would have loved staying in Maine—bugs and all—I had to get back to real life because of several commitments: one a very nice evening in Maynard, MA, speaking as part of their author series there. I had intended using a power point presentation as I often do, but for some reason we couldn't get the computer/projector to work...so I just went ahead and started talking, planning on an occasional "If the pictures were on the screen, you would be seeing..."  etc. but a man in the audience crept up to the front, fiddled with the equipment, and suddenly: voila!  There were the photographs.  No idea who he was but he saved the day and should have gotten a standing ovation.

The day after that, I flew to Pennsylvania for a very nostalgic trip. Wilson College was giving me an honorary degree; and in fact, Wilson College was where my grandmother and her four sisters all graduated, as well as my mother and my cousin; and Great Aunt Kate got an honorary degree from Wilson man years ago as well.  My three great aunts all lived right beside the campus, and as I looked out on the house 918  (attached, from my cell phone) where so often I was taken for Sunday dinner as a child, I felt (and said in my commencement speech) as if my mother had just smoothed my hair and reminded me about my manners.

So now I am Doctor Doctor Doctor (this being my third honorary degree)...all unearned, but not unappreciated.

OKay. Here is a quandry I've been having.  Recently I received the following e-mail message from a young boy:  Hi, you sent me a reply to my question about your faith except you told me about your religion not what you believe or have faith in, my teacher pointed that out. So if you could answer these questions again, but this time about faith not religion. 

 I don't specifically remember his previous email, but I recall replying to someone..probably him...that I liked and agreed with what I had heard the Dalai Lama say: "My religion is kindness."  But apparently his teacher wants more from me, and although I have answered this email, I am still thinking about it ... because there will be others like it...and I don't want to be rude or evasive, but at the same time, I don't really feel comfortable answering such a question.  And in fact that's what I replied to this boy (and his teacher).

At the same time, I realize that if he had asked whom I am supporting in the presidential election, I would have said Obama without hesitating. Why does one question feel intrusive to me, but the other doesn't?  

And speaking of the presidential election, my dear friend Susan Goodman's new book "See How They Run" has just come out, and you should all, in fact, run to the bookstore and buy it. I've just sent it to my fourth-grade grandson.  It's a very clear, readable..and funny!...explanation of the American electoral process.

And here it is!!!


Seehowthey200
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Tread, tread, tread

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 10 May 2008
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Alftreadmill

Here is Alfie, supervising the set-up of a treadmill in my studio in Maine. I have one in Cambridge but soon will move up to Maine for the summer and need to continue trudging away. My friend Kay has convinced (make that coerced) me to go with her in January to a place that I am thinking of as Torture Resort (see website: http://www.theashram.com) so I have to prepare myself. Kay doesn't need to; Kay is always prepared! As I speak she is leaving for Peru to hike the Inca Trail; and she spends time each day at the gym, or rowing on the Charles River, but only of course when she is not off trekking the tundra of northern Canada.

The childish part of me (my main component part, actually) would like to say, of Kay, "Well, nyah, nyah, she can't write a book!" but the fact is she is in the middle of writing a book right now, while she is on sabattical from her teaching chores at Harvard.

The treadmill allows me to prop up my Kindle and read while treading, and I have just finished Barbara Walters' much-publicized memoir. In it she mentions a question she sometimes asks during interviews: 'What do you think is the biggest misconception that people hold about you?' So I have been thinking about that, and mentioned it to Martin (who arrived here yesterday) over a glass of wine last night. I told him that my first response was "that I am well-organized."

Then, after a second, I said, "But I am pretty well-organized, actually," and he agreed.

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Darel

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on Thursday, 08 May 2008
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Darel

Here is Darel. As I am out in the studio trying to create a new book, Darel is on the second floor of my house trying to create a new bathroom.


Tiled_shower

And he's doing a great job.


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A Sea of Daffodils

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on Wednesday, 07 May 2008
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Daffoldils

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

IN my first book about Anastasia Krupnik...and that's its title....she, at age 10, accompanies her father to a Harvard English class in which he is teaching this Wordsworth poem to his bored students. Walking home with him afterward, they talk about "the inward eye which is the bliss of solitude" and the little girl realizes that her grandmother, in a nursing home, has such an inward eye....memory....that provides company for her.

I love inserting literary references into fiction for young people. Recently, in the book "Messenger," after the death of the character Matty, I quoted the second verse of this Houseman poem, "To an Athlete Dying Young":

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

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Script tinkering

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 30 April 2008
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Play rehearsals for "Gossamer" have begun in Milwaukee, and that means the playwright is back at work. Funny how you don't perceive stuff until director and actors begin working with it. Jeff Frank, the director, emailed me that the transition from Scene 1 to Scene 2 didn't work well...getting the characters from one place to the next was difficult, but what if we...? And he was right. I re-wrote Scene 1 and now, he tells me, that problem is solved.

Now I am about to deal with a number of other thoughts/suggestions from Jeff after he held a reading in front of an audience. This is the type of thing (I hope he doesn't mind my posting his quote here):

As much as I love scene 17 and the humor within (which I think is necessary in the rhythm of the piece), I do feel that it goes on too long – interrupting the build in tension for too great a time. We also lose some of the dramatic tension in the scene if we venture too far into the humorous aspect.

Of course this is the sort of collaborative work that ultimately strengthens the play and for which I'm very grateful. It's fun, actually, to trim and tighten with the help of such input.

He also mentioned the possibililty of switching scenes 14 and 16 with each other and this is something I'll look at when I have a little more time to sit and think. Today I am flying to Newport News, Virginia, in order to speak at a Holocaust Remembrance ceremony there tonight. But I'll be home tomorrow (Friday) and back at my desk.

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Back on the East Coast

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on Friday, 25 April 2008
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It is actually warmer here than it was in Beverly Hills. Think I just hit a cool snap out there.

My next trip in this non-stop spring will be Newport News, Virginia, where I will speak at a Holocaust Remembrance ceremony next Thursday evening.

As for movie news, now that I have actually met with the people involved: no news. Simply a lot of discussion about things left unanswered in the book...how to answer them in the film, or how to deal with them if they are to remain unanswered. Various visions of what things look like. How big is the community? How old is The Giver? All of these things...which can be left for a book-reader to individualize...have to be firmed up for casting directors, for set designers, etc. No more "whatever you want it to be in your imagination."

It's an interesting, challenging process.

Here's a front desk at Warner Brothers:

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No dessert, please

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on Wednesday, 23 April 2008
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Cotton_candy

I was having dinner last night in the restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, where I have been staying for the past few days, and when the waiter offered me the dessert menu, I said no thanks. Didn't even want to read about the flans and creme caramels and decadent chocolate things. Was full. Stuffed. Had not even finished my risotto.

So he took the dessert menu away. And a few minutes later, back he came with ... THIS.

My dinner companion, screenwriter/director Bob Weide, had also turned down dessert. And so he ALSO got one of these.

"The chef got this machine," our waiter explained. "He's having fun making cotton candy."

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Kindle

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on Sunday, 20 April 2008
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Img_0568
Img_0569_2


Some posts ago, a commenter asked how I was enjoying my KIndle. And I never got around to answering.

But the answer is: I LOVE IT.

Here's the thing: it isn't a book. It doesn't feel in your hands like a book, or smell like a book, or sit upright in your bookcase enhancing your decor and making your guests admire your literacy.

BUT.

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Home again...briefly

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 17 April 2008
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You can click on any of these photos to enlarge.


Lois_alice

First, a photo just sent to me from the recent event at the Kennedy Library: me at the podium, introducing gorgeous Alice Hoffman, who appears to be listening attentively. Alice is now off touring for her new book, The Third Angel, and it wouldn't surprise me if we were to run into each other at an airport someplace!

Next, a stack of books waiting to be autographed at Politics and Prose, the wonderful bookstore in Washington DC. I spent the past week first in Baltimore, then Washington (where I was competing with The Pope), then Philadelphia (where Hillary and Barack were just down the street).


Pol_prose

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Out of Chaos: Coherence!

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on Thursday, 10 April 2008
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Spring is finally coming, I think. My lawn is dappled with scylla and I can see a robin tugging at a worm this very moment, from my office window.

I returned from Michigan Monday after watching a terrific performance on Sunday of THE GIVER, with staging very different from any of the productions I've seen in other cities. And: a female GIVER! First time I've seen that, but it worked just fine.

And yesterday I signed books and spoke briefly about "The Willoughbys" at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, where I live. A lot of school groups there so the store was packed and they were great kids: attentive, interested. Most unusual question: "What kind of tea do you like?"

Ah, Earl Grey.

And that reminds me of a recent email, with a PS: "What is your favorite ice cream flavor?" and then: PPS: "You don't have to answer that if you are lactose intolerant."

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Sunday in Flint

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on Sunday, 06 April 2008
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Chinese_restaurant

Okay, so this is not a luscious landscape. This is the view from my Holiday Inn hotel room in Flint, Michigan, the view of the Chinese restaurant to which I walked across the parking lot for dinner last night, the HI having no restaurant of its own.

Flint is in a state of demoralizing economic decline, the auto industry here having collapsed.

But the arts here seem alive and well. Tomorrow I will speak at a nearby theater and then attend a production of THE GIVER at the smaller theater next door to that one. The arts — in the form of theaters, and library — are all in the same location; and from my quick glimpse yesterday during a tour of both theaters, they are fabulously designed and well maintained.

I have seen stage productions of THE GIVER many times in many different cities. Each of them is staged differently...it's one of the intriguing elements of theater, that a play leaves latitude for the director and set designer to create individual elements. I got a peek backstage here in Flint and can tell already that today's production will be very different; but I won't make any comments until I've actually seen what they're doing.

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More offspring art

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on Friday, 04 April 2008
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Since I showed you all a picture my daughter did of her cat at age 8, and because I am taking a break from work and killing a little time, here are a couple of pictures of the same daughter's current cat, Sam, done by the same daughter but many years later, in her forties.


Sam_stare


Saminthesun


and okay, one of her (late, much mourned) very old dachshund, Wiener

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Creativity

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on Thursday, 03 April 2008
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Max_painting_houses


A while back I posted a photo of the painting my daughter gave me for my March 20th birthday, a painting of a San Francisco street (she lives in SF) and now here is a picture if her actually working on the painting.

And thinking about that made me remember another painting of hers...this one done when she was in fourth grade many years ago. It won a prize in a city-wide children's art show, and it has been hanging in my guest bedroom now for a long time.


Maxs_cat

It was a painting of her cat, whose name was Betsy, with a litter of kittens. If you click to enlarge it you can appreciate the very self-satisfied look on the mother cat, and the pink paw pads.

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getting it right

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on Sunday, 30 March 2008
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Photo

This is a banyan tree, one of several, at Selby Gardens in Sarasota, where I spent the past almost-a-week. Strictly vacation, visiting good friends who winter there, and a much-needed vacation after a lot of travel...and more to come: Detroit next weekend, then Baltimore,Washington DC, Philadelphia, and finally, Los Angeles.

Today was the PEN Hemingway event at the Kennedy Library (such a gorgeous location on a clear day with blue sky). I remember speaking of that event on this blog a year ago, when Joyce Carol Oates was the keynote speaker. This year it was Alice Hoffman, and I was the one to introduce her, a real privilege, since Alice has been a friend for many years...but also daunting, wanting to get it right and do her justice. I remember that last year it surprised me that JCO was funny; I hadn't expected that. No surprises with Alice, that she was articulate and smart and political.

Patrick Hemingway , Ernest Hemingway's son, read the opening passage of "A Farewell to Arms" and read it well. I haven't re-read that book in years but the opening pages...and the ending...have stayed with me; I could almost recite the words as he read. The Kennedy Library houses the Hemingway archives and papers, including the 44 versions of the last page of "A Farewell to Arms." I remember reading once that when asked why he rewrote and rewrote it, EH replied: "To get the words right."

An email today from my German daughter-in-law tells me that my granddaughter and her good friend, Annika, have just received the book "The Willoughbys," which I dedicated to the two of them. Annika will have to wait until it is translated into German because she is not proficient yet in English, but Nadine, my granddaughter, reads (and speaks) both languages.

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Happy Easter

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on Sunday, 23 March 2008
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For_the_nestweb

Just to brighten the day...and to counteract the whining in my last post...here is a painting (click to enlarge) by Anne Schreivogl, who was kind enough to send me pictures of some of her work, knowing that I would love it (since we have almost the same birthday!) The bright colors are making me smile as I sit here at my desk, and also reminding me that I must get back to my current knitting project. I've been traveling too much, and knitting is hard to take along on a plane (and Tuesday morning I head to Sarasota, where it will...I hope and assume....be warm, and I don't much like knitting during hot weather)

All this traveling has also thrown a monkey wrench into writing and I must found a way back into my work, not just my knitting. I will be in Florida for three days (this time strictly vacation, visiting close friends), then the following week to Flint, Michigan, to see one more production of THE GIVER.

And my current project, though quite brief, is oddly difficult. Next Sunday I am to introduce Alice Hoffman, who will be the keynote speaker at the PEN Hemingway-Winship Awards at the Kennedy Library. This is a very big and elegant event. Alice follows last year's keynoter, Joyce Carol Oates. Ordinarily an introduction is not a big deal; people are waiting to hear the speaker, after all, not the preliminary words. But Alice is a friend of mine (another with whom I share a birthday week!) and I want to do her—and her fine body of work—justice.

So that is today's project. And tomorrow I sit down with the panel of judges for this year's Susan Bloom Award— we've all been reading manuscripts like crazy — to select the 2008 winner(s). This is an award for a previously unpublished New England children's author, given by the Children's Book Caucus of PEN New England, the tenth year of the award's existence. Many of the previous winners have gone on to publication—part of the award consists of a reading by a major publisher— so it is a big deal. The winner(s) will be honored at an event May 4th.

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Apologies once again

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on Friday, 21 March 2008
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Shani_film
Shani_2


Here are two pictures of my computer screen while it is showing an animated film of "Number the Stars" made by a schoolgirl named Shani in Woodside, California. The reason I have titled this post as an apology is because Shani sent me this film, and some books to be signed, MONTHS ago. She waited a while and then wrote politely to asked if I had received them...and I had to reply regretfully that I had not, that they had somehow been lost in the mail. Yesterday they arrived, forwarded from the publisher to whom she had sent them, along with a stack of other mail...some of it dating to August 2007.

I don't know really how to account for this, but here is my theory. Forwarding the mail is a boring job. It is given to some minor employee who is overworked and underpaid, and eventually that employee quits, leaving mountains of untended mail, maybe on a high shelf someplace, out of sight. Eventually someone says, "What's this dusty stuff?" and takes it down and deals with it. But in the meantime months have passed. Christmas gifts have gone unacknowledged. A young girl who spent hours making a film is led tp believe that it disappeared in the mail. Once, even, an invitation to dinner with the foreign minister of Denmark went unanswered because it didn't reach me until long after the dinner had been held.

And I don't have a solution, except once again to apologize to all those disappointed kids who never got a reply to letters they wrote to me last fall. Maybe if we all gather, en masse, with placards, and demonstrate? March on the palace? Send a petition? Whine in unison?

The Dalai Lama says to smile and think: I wish you happiness.

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