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More offspring art

Posted by Lois Lowry
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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

Posted by Lois Lowry
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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

Posted by Lois Lowry
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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

Posted by Lois Lowry
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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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Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 18 March 2008
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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/03/14/ST2008031403262.html?sid=ST2008031403262


That seems much too long and complicated an address, but I'm told it is the way to get to a piece I wrote that appeared in Sunday's Washington Post: a short article about my history as a child liar. Oh, make that embellisher. No, I guess I was right the first time: liar. I started out (age 5) with simple embellishment, to gain affection when I felt under-appreciated; then I advanced (age 8) to upper-level embellishment to gain admiration; finally I progressed (age 10) to out-and-out lying in order to win popularity (it worked, briefly). All of this before adolescence. Surprisingly, during my teenage years I became something of an achiever and so didn't need to create my own niche any more through such subversive methods. But it was all good training for the writing of fiction, and that's what the Post article is about.

Oddly timed, too, because of the revelation that one more book has been recalled, its author having confessed to having completely made up her own fascinating past and peddled it as memoir. Me, I call my own work fiction, and it seems to me that author should have done the same.

This week is my birthday and my painter daughter has sent me a painting of hers I had admired: a street scene from San Francisco, where she lives. Here it is, hanging in my office (click to enlarge):


Img_0553

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Home again..briefly

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 17 March 2008
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Back from the West Coast, after very hospitable times in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver; and now I am catching my breath before heading to New York day after tomorrow, just overnight. This is a busy time of year! But Martin is coming with me to New York, because it will be my birthday, and we will go to the theater.

So many friends share my birthday week that it almost makes me believe in Astrology: my friend Joanna, an actress and professor of theater; my friend James, a composer; my friend Alice, a novelist; my friend Haley, a retired professor of Children's Literature....and several others, including two daughters-in-law. March is a good month for a birthday, at least in New England, because you begin to feel...slightly...that spring is on the way.

In Portland I got to watch a reading of the play "Gossamer" and was delighted to see how well the audience responded. It is still technically "in process" so there was a talk-back afterward in which members of the audience had a chance to make suggestions and comments to me and to both theater directors who will produce the play in the fall. There were two child actors and ...let me think...I believe 6 adults...reading at
microphones; and we all...myself included...laughed at times, and dabbed our eyes at other times. (Well, by "all" I don't mean the actors....they stayed in character throughout.....but the audience).

In Seattle, I did an hour-long radio program, mostly interview but some call-ins...and to my amazement, got a call from a friend I had not seen since 1956 when she was a bridesmaid in my wedding when I was a child bride (age 19). I had no idea that she lived in Seattle or that she would recognize the interviewee as her old pal. Somehow we had failed to keep in touch over the years, and it was nice to catch up a bit. (we did that afterward, privately, not in front of the radio audience!)

Now I am catching up, as well, on all the episodes of "In Treatment" that I missed while traveling. And answering a ton of mail, too. In my waiting mail, incidentally, was my new "Kindle" which Ihad ordered several weeks ago, but they were out of stock then. For those who don't know...a Kindle is an electronic book into which one can download up to 200 books... It makes for very easy reading...ALMOST feels like a real book! The reason I wanted it was because I am a very fast reader, which means that I have to schlep several books on any plane or train (or bus, which is what I take to New York) so that I won't be left bookless midway. So I'm very psyched about the Kindle. And I'll try it (well, I've tried it already of course) .. I'll USE it for the first time on my way to New York Wednesday. Four hours down, four hours back. That is usually a three-novel timespan for me. And I've already downloaded three into my Kindle.

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from Portland, Oregon

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 12 March 2008
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Riverdale_kids_2


Here is a group of wonderful 5th graders in Portland, Oregon, who spent an hour asking me questions yesterday morning...and many of whom came last night to be part of 900 people to hear the annual children's author lecture held each year. My hand got tired from signing books afterwards...but it was nice that many of the books were the brand new one, THE WILLOUGHBYS, which is JUST available for the first time.

Night before last I watched a reading of the play "Gossamer," by performers from the Oregon Children's Theater (2 children and 5 adults, reading the parts) listened to comments and questions from an enthusiastic audience, and could feel for the first time just how it will work on stage. There was no staging yet, of course, but listening to the reading, you could sense the pacing, and the scene changes. People in the audience who knew the book enjoyed the reading; but the important thing was that people who had never read the book could still "get it" in its dramatic form. There was laughter and silence and probably even a little eye-dabbing here and there.

Now I must dash off to speak at a luncheon and then rush to the airport to get a plane to Vancouver, where I'll be speaking tonight. Busy week!


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on the road

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on Sunday, 09 March 2008
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Lois_terry_lawler
Lois_and_nathan_fosbinder

I am writing this in a hotel room in Portland, Oregon, having arrived here this afternoon from Wisconsin, where I spent yesterday watching two performances, matinee and evening, at a theater in Kenosha, where THE GIVER was being performed. The two not-very-good-cell-phone photos (click to enlarge) are of me after the evening performance, with two of the stars: Terry Lawler, who played The Giver, and Nathan (drat! I'm going to get his last name wrong!) Fosbinder? (Nathan, if you read this: post a correction. I'd hate to ruin your career in the theater by botching your name) who played Jonas. Both of them are great performers.

Tomorrow I will attend, in Portland, a public reading of the play "Gossamer" which will consist of the actors at microphones, reading the script to an audience who then will be invited to give their reactions: was there something they didn't understand? something that didn't work? something they especially liked? My only role will be to listen, take notes, figure out what needs work. The next step..in June...will be a week in New York working on the play with the director, set designer, actors, and others. Such a lot of preparation goes into the production of a play! The writing of the script is really just the beginning.

Tomorrow I'll get to have lunch with my very dear friend Allen Say...we were children together and neighbors in Japan in the late 40's, though we didn't know that and realize that connection until we met as adults. Allen lives in Portland. Tomorrow he will get to lord over me the fact that I will turn 71 this month...and he won't turn 71 till August: a mere child in comparison.

It was cold and snowy in Wisconsin, and also in Minneapolis, where I changed planes. But Portland is beautiful today: clear and sunny, so Mt. Hood is visible in all its splendor.

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Books from my childhood

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 06 March 2008
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Humphrey


Here is Humphrey, the book I remembered so fondly and which someone has very kindly just sent to me. (Incidentally, this has happened twice before, when in a speech I mentioned a beloved childhood book, and someone in the audience found a copy and sent it to me. One was "Dandelion Cottage" and the other...an entire set of books by Marguerite de Angeli, very beloved in my childhood...and to my good fortune, a library was disposing of their copies; and now they are mine!!)

This has made me recall, as well, two sets of books that I adored as a child; they were by a Swedish author, Maj Lindman. One series was about Swedish triplet boys named Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr; and the other—my favorite—was about triplet girls named Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka. I just googled those books to find their publication dates...late 1930's, and 40's.


Cla662

Cla652

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more about mail

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 05 March 2008
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Mail

This is a stack of mail that arrived here yesterday. Unfortunately apparently it had been held for an over-long amount of time at the publisher..I suppose it ended up on a shelf someplace and people forgot about it..because most of these letters are dated early December, and the package is a Christmas gift. I have sent a letter of thanks and an apology for the delay to the man who sent the gift....he found a copy of a book I had loved as a small child* and he had heard me mention in a speech! Such a nice thing to do.

But sadly there are a lot of people who wondered why I didn't reply. And now I am leaving Friday morning for a trip to Milwaukee, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, and I will be gone for 10 days. I'll try to get some of these answered before I go. But I am also still preparing speeches for those cities so time is short.

Isn't that the story of all our lives? Not enough time; not enough time! I feel like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I'm late! I'm late!

* The book, published in 1934, is Humphrey. I was very young when I learned to read, because my sister, three years older, began first grade and came home and "played school"..teaching me what she had learned. The reason I remember Humphrey was because, studying it by myself at ages 3 and 4, I first became aware of the oddities of the English language....the fact that I knew how Humphrey was pronounced, because my mother had read the book to me; but now, learning to read it by myself, I could see that the "ph" was a phonetic anomaly. I just absorbed that bit of information and probably applied it whenever I saw a "ph" after that. Probably there was a telephone book in our home...perhaps I saw it there, and noticed that it didn't say "telefone.". What I do remember is the awareness of it, and the feeling that I had discovered a mysterious and interesting fact.

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about Harry Potter movies

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 03 March 2008
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In answer to any and all questions about Harry Potter movies past, present, or future:

I know NOTHING.

Rien. Nada. Absolutely NOTHING.

I do not know when or if there will be more HP films, or who will direct them.

People with questions about this topic should buy a Magic-8-Ball. The answers that float to the surface will be better than any I could give.

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Mail? Do I answer mail?

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on Thursday, 28 February 2008
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Amazingly, it is once again snowing. I guess that shouldn't surprise me, because it is, after all, February in New England. But somehow I had begun to think that perhaps the end was in sight and spring was around the corner. Not so.

Someone has posted a comment asking if I answer my snail mail. Yes, I do, but I do it the same way I answer the email: with some pre-prepared replies, most often. So many people..kids, mostly...ask the same questions, and to try to answer them personally, with different replies, would be impossible. How many ways can you answer "How did you get the idea for The Giver?" So I have my stock replies. Once I got an email form a kid who called me "a lazy bum" because his friend had also written, and they both got the same answer. I told him that if I were REALLY a lazy bum, I wouldn't have taken the time to read that morning's 40+ emails....much less figure out which of my answers to send back.

As for "snail mail" I have a large stack of cards that I have had made, with a photo, and I write a note on the bottom, and my signature..in case you want to lick your finger and test it...is real. Or, for some replies, I have a letter I've already written. I might select one reply or another, depending on the questions asked.

If readers send a lengthy list of questions, i have to answer them very briefly, or perhaps select one or two to answer.

It is helpful is a teacher combines all of the kids' comments/questions into one email. Once a teacher had 63 kids send me separate emails. Because it was clear they were all from the same class, I asked one of the kids to send me the teacher's email address, which she did...and then I emailed her to suggest that in the future it would be helpful if she sent one email instead of so many. But she was outraged by that and said she'd never use my books in her classroom again. Sigh.

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Poster Art, and Snow King

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 25 February 2008
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Gossamer_web

I've just received this from Oregon, from the artist Michael Orwick, who was commissioned by the Oregon Children's Theater to do the art (publicity, programs, posters) for the play "Gossamer." I'll be in Portland in mid-March (you can see my schedule on the website under "upcoming schedule") and though the play will not be produced until fall, there will be a public reading of it on March 10th.

I am just back from Maine after a busy and productive week there. Here is a picture taken through the window of my studio, showing how high the snow is; Alfie was feeling like King of the Hill. The lovely hanging glass ball was a gift from my friend Richard Greene, retired fourth grade teacher from Illinois who now lives in Florida. He and I have been corresponding for probably 20 years.

I worked on my taxes in Maine, and wrote an article and a speech that I had promised to people; and fiddled with a book manuscript...but it wasn't till the drive home that I hit on the plot device that I think will make it work. Lightbulb over the head! Now I can't wait to get back to it and forge ahead.


Alfie_king_of_hill

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An Apology

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on Wednesday, 20 February 2008
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Those of you who read this blog know that a couple of days ago I mentioned that THE GIVER movie would likely be further delayed because the director wanted to do the final Harry Potter movie first.

I had no inkling what a tsunami that would bring on. I have now been alerted that my small bit of non-news is appearing everywhere and as it takes on momentum it also takes on a life of its own bearing no relation to fact. LOWRY SAYS HER FILM HAS BEEN SCREWED BY YATES is a headline someplace. Harry Potter websites have created lengthy postings about it; hundreds of emails have come to me from strangers; I am about ready to change my name and go live in the outback someplace.

I have sent an apology to the film producer, who was extremely gracious....more than I deserved...in her reply.

I think we tend to forget how quickly the internet snaps and gobbles when prey is offered. I should have recalled a time some years back, when the author Susan Cooper, who had lived in my neighborhood for years, married Hume Cronyn and moved away. Shortly thereafter, in describing where I live (Cambridge, MA) to an audience in Charlottesville, Virginia, I mentioned that many writers live in my Cambridge neighborhood. I began to list a few: Robert Parker, Kathryn Lasky, Susan Cooper...then caught myself, and said, No, sorry, I forgot; Susan's gone now.

The next day the word went out...on the internet...that Lois Lowry had announced the death of Susan Cooper.

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Country matters

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on Tuesday, 19 February 2008
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I am in Maine now and seeing first hand what the latest storm has done here. It followed, of course, a winter of huge snowfall...I am looking through the window at the moment at Alfie, playing King of the Hill, sitting atop a snowbank probably 12 feet high. Around the edges of the supermarket parking lot, the snow is as high as a two-story house.

The recent storm was more snow, then rain, then freezing temperatures. So there is ice everywhere, and when I got here, although the driveway was plowed, (thank you, Jesse), the garage door was frozen closed. Eventually, though chopping and shoveling and..yes...swearing...I got it open. And I carved a path to the place where the oil company feeds oil into the furnace; if I don't keep that cleared, they won't deliver oil. But there is no way I can get to, or defrost, or expose, the propane gas tank behind the house...it feeds the six top burners of my Viking stove, and it is now empty and won't be accessible till spring. So cooking will be a challenge. There will be a lot of roasted vegetables, I think, and micro-waved things. And next fall I will not start out with a half-full tank, which was my mistake this year.

The local paper, as always, is filled with local color. In the police blotter....two car accidents involving deer (no moose; sometimes there is a moose-car collision, and that usually sadly involves two deaths: moose and driver); a rescue of a woman who went through the ice at Moose Pond; and...surely there is more to this story but all I know is the terse report from the paper: a horse "went through the floorboards" and was lifted to safety with the help of "heavy equipment and a sling."

A friend of mine arrives later today: my friend Kay, who is on sabbatical from teaching at Harvard and is writing a book. She'll be in one room at her computer and I out here in my studio off the barn at my own computer. We'll have each other's company for meals (roasted vegetables!) and evenings for the whole week. And we both plan on getting lots done though we may be distracted by dogs. She is bringing hers; mine is here; the two of them play very excitedly with each other whenever they're together, and we are hoping that an extended visit may calm them down. Either that or we will all be crazy at the end of the week.

Yikes. I just heard a huge roaring, thumping, crashing sound. Snow sliding off roof. Luckily the dog was not underneath.

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The Gathering

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on Sunday, 17 February 2008
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2152m6d0mml_aa115__2


This is the beautiful jacket of the Booker Prize winner "The Gathering" by Anne Enright, which I own but have not yet read, because I am in the middle of one of my childlike rituals involving "You can't do this pleasurable thing until you have completed this other dreaded task"...i.e., I am not allowed to read "The Gathering" until I get my tax stuff in order. Sigh.

But this morning I went to the Barnes & Noble website for a self-serving reason. Last month, when I was in New York, I did a taped interview with Katherine Lanpher for the B&N "One on One" section of their website (click on "All media.") I went to see if it was up yet (it isn't) and remained to browse and came across a video of an "Upstairs at the Square" reading.. The same Katherine Lanpher is the host and interviewer (she's great) of Anne Enright, who read beautifully, and the readings were interspersed with music by a group called Camphor. The music was so well chosen and appropriate that it enhanced the already-wonderful reading and watching the whole event made me want so badly to pick up the book! But alas, the tax stuff must come first.

Another interview I did during the same NY trip was for TIME (yes, the magazine) for Kids, and that one IS available on YouTube http://xml.truveo.com/rd?i=4288178126&a=rss&p=10 and probably as well on a Time website but I don't know how to find that.* In this case I was interviewed by a poised and articulate kid named Hannah (with an unspellable last name; she'll have to change it if she enters show biz) who did a great job.

I DID answer a huge stack of fan mail (real mail, not email, which is easier) this morning and that was one of my list of "you have to do this before..." tasks. One was a letter (my first) from Cambodia!

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ta DA!

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on Friday, 15 February 2008
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Book_thanks

Well, okay, technically it isn't "out" yet, but in today's mail I received the very first copy of THE WILLOUGHBYS and even though it is I think my 34th...maybe 35th?...book, it is still a thrill to see the finished product.. Not entirely unlike waiting nine months to have a baby and then seeing it for the first time. Fingers, toes, all intact. Nose still a work in progress but with possiblities. You hope people will share your affection for it.

Okay, the analogy breaks down a little. But there is some of the same whew, I did it, and here it is, world
feeling.

Thank you, Houghton Mifflin editors and designers!

Speaking of giving birth, my oldest daughter, whose birthday was two days ago, the painter/weaver/woodworker daughter who lives in San Francisco, has just arrived in Boston for the weekend, with her friend Steve and their dog Penny Lane. Every year I boringly once again tell her about the day she was born, when her father drove me to the hospital in New London, Connecticut, crossing a toll bridge from Groton, where we lived; and I said in a spritely fashion to the toll collector: "I'm having a baby today!" The toll booth guy looked at me with a "Huh?" look. Clearly it was not as exciting an event for him as it was for me.

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Here's where you leave your heart...

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on Monday, 11 February 2008
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Sf_street_by_max

My older daughter lives in San Francisco and is a painter, weaver, woodworker, and many other things, including speaker of Arabic!

Here's a recent painting by her.

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High on a hill it calls to me...

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on Sunday, 10 February 2008
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Sf_view

This is the view from the home of friends in San Francisco with whom I have just spent the past few days. So I have been playing hookey, not working, though now that I'm back, it is catch-up time; 300+ emails were waiting for me on the website.

I go there at least once a year to see these same friends. The wife is an artist, and one time when I was visiting I took her to meet Ruth Heller, extraordinary illustrator who lived there, and who showed us through her studio before we went out to lunch together. We had all three hoped for more such get-togethers but Ruth died, sadly, before we could make that happen.

I do love SF. The weather is so much milder—I returned late Friday night to fresh snow in Boston, with more flurries today; and they are predicting below zero temperature in the morning—but I doubt if I could ever leave New England, especially with grandchildren here. And so many good friends.

Week after next I will go up to Maine, to the farm, and hole up for a little while to get some work done without distractions. My friend Kay, on sabattical from a university teaching job and working on a book, will come with me, and we will set ourselves up in two different offices in the house and plug away.

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