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I'm really beet

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 18 January 2008
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Beet_salad


This mysterious photo is a salad. A beet salad, to be exact. And it's a lousy photo...taken with my cell phone....because you can't really tell that it was the most incredibly beautiful beet salad I think I've ever seen, with red and golden beets in cubes, carefully arranged on the plate and decorated with tiny nasturtium leaves.

This was the first course at a lovely restaurant called ELEVEN MADISON PARK in New York, at a luncheon yesterday in honor of "The Willoughbys." Publishers do wonderfully gracious things to announce a new book, and this was Houghton Mifflin's highly edible welcome to the Willoughby family, with some terrific guests, all of them from the publishing/media/library world, all of them book lovers. Two of them just back from serving on the Newbery Committee! and though of course they can't describe their process of deliberation...at least I was able to tell them what a wonderful choice I thought they had made with this year's winner.

I am now back home in Cambridge after two busy days in New York, trying to get organized to go off to St. Paul on Sunday. Sunday evening I will give a reading at Hamline University. I thought I had the perfect selection...a short story I once published, called "Snowbound," set during winter (and it is certainly winter in St. Paul, Minnesota!) and—I think— quite funny, and appropriate to a college/university audience. Ah, therein lies the problem. I suddenly (fortunately) realized that this event is open to the public...and so there will very likely be children in the audience. And the winter story, the funny story, the college story, has some bad language in it. Sigh. I guess I had better read something else.

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PS: Do Not Make Assumptions

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on Tuesday, 15 January 2008
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When I was hanging around the Zurich Airport yesterday..several hours to kill before getting a flight to Boston, where things were delayed by a snowstorm...I was irritated by the canvas tote bag in which I was carrying my lapotop, my purse, and assorted other stuff. It had once zipped closed, but Alfie had chewed the zipper once in a fit of bad puppy behavior. And one of the two leather handles had come loose. I kept noticing that as I roamed the airport.

Then I noticed an airport shop that sold, among other things, luggage. I didn't need luggage but I thought it would be a good time and place to replace my failing canvas tote bag. And I found just what I needed, with a roomy padded section for my laptop, and lots of pockets of various sorts. And it snapped closed. So I bought it, transferred all my stuff, and threw the old one in a trash can.

Its price was in Swiss francs. I don't know anything about Swiss francs. Ask me abut pounds, or Euros, and I can tell you. But Swiss francs? Not a clue. The bag, though, cost 275 of them. I paid for it with a credit card, assuming it was like the old Italian lira, where you paid thousands for an ice cream cone and then it turned out to be two dollars in American money.

But now I am here to tell you that I was wrong, it wasn't like lira at all. I just went to a currency-conversion website to see how much 275 Swiss francs is in dollars.

And folks: I just paid $250.00 for a canvas bag.

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Home again Home again

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on Tuesday, 15 January 2008
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I just got in last night from spending four days in Germany. I KNEW I was missing the Patriots game Saturday night so kept my fingers crossed and indeed, they really came through for me once again.

I did NOT know I was missing the Newbery/Caldecott announcments because I hadn't kept track of when that was happening. So it was after I got home and got an email from a friend who said, "What did you think of..." etc. that I went the the ALA website to catch up.

I don't read very many children's books. Last year I was completely unaware of any of the winning titles. This year I had heard of some titles being talked about, but I hadn't read them. And yet.. And YET:

Way back months ago, I talked on this very blog (I just looked it up. September 2nd) about Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village—the Newbery Medal winner— and recommended it. So I feel prescient and smug. Nah, not smug. But thrilled for the author...and the illustrator, because even though the medal is for the text...this book is perfectly, beautifully illustrated.


Nadines_class

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from Zurich

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on Wednesday, 09 January 2008
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I have just had a pleasant lunch in the Zurich Airport and have settled in for an afternoon because my plane to Luxembourg doesn't leave for 5 hours. The trouble with my planned afternoon of work is that my mind is groggy. I never sleep well on an all-night flight no matter how tired I am or how often I tell myself, "It is 2 AM"...each time I try to arrange myself in a comfortable position, my mind turns to, "If my left foot just weren't wedged against that metal thing..." which precipitates a whole new rearrangement of body parts, settling in anew, and then: "If I could just keep my knee from poking that thick magazine in the seat pocket..." and on and on. Then I end up in Zurich and veeerry tried.

A long time ago, when it was announced that Switzerland was disbanding its army, I said facetiously, "What will they do with all those little knives?" Well, the answer is that they are all for sale in the Zurich Airport. The irony is, if you buy one, you are not allowed to take it aboard a plane.

It is a beautiful sunny day here today: blue skies over the hills. But my iPhone can't operate in Europe so if I took a picture I would not be able to send it to myself, to attach to this post. Take my word for it, though: the Alps are snowy against the blue sky, cows are wearing flowers around their necks, men in lederhosen are blowing into alpenhorns, and pretty girls have edelweiss wreaths in their hair.

I made all of that up. I am actually looking out at tarmac with Lufthansa and Swiss planes lined up, baggage handlers and small vehicles, and not a single postcard view in sight.

Yawn. I think I'll take a snooze. Oh, but first: here's another picture of the little boy in "The Willoughbys"..the one trying to make his way back to his long-last father. By now (again, click to enlarge) he is starting to look a little bedraggled.

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..and I'm off

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 09 January 2008
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Photo

Here I am at Logan Airport's International terminal, soon to board a flight to Zurich. I'll spend 5-6 hours in Zurich tomorrow, then take a short flight to Luxembourg where my daughter-in-law will pick me up for the one-hour drive to her home in southwest Germany. It will be a too-brief visit, just three days, but a treat as always to be with Margret, her partner Jürgen, and Nadine, my 14-year-old granddaughter.

Airline scheduling is responsible for my sitting around the Zurich airport tomorrow...and again on Monday, coming home. But I don't mind, It's an unusually pleasant airport, and gives me uninterrupted, undistracted time; with a laptop I might actually get some work done.

I wish I had with me on this computer the illustrations from my upcoming book "The Willoughbys" because one of characters, a young boy, finds himself stranded in Switzerland, wearing lederhosen. I just today received an advance copy of the upcoming ALA Booklist review of the book, which gives it a star...always a good thing!

I remember many years ago, 1977, when my first book was published, and I was living in a small fishing village in Maine, newly divorced and very poor. The publisher kept calling (this predates email, of course) to announce starred reviews with great delight. I didn't have a clue what they were talking about.

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Where there's a Will, there's another...and another...

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on Tuesday, 08 January 2008
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Meadowbrook

Sorry about the blast of light in the lower right hand corner. But this is the second grade of the Meadowbrook School in Weston, Massachusetts, with me in their midst this morning. I no longer visit schools, as a rule, but a Meadowbrook parent bought me at a benefit auction (the benficiary: Reach Out and Read, a very worthy cause) and so I spent this morning with the second and third graders, who are Gooney Bird Greene fans. In fact, if you look closely (click to enlarge) you will see many kids dressed in wild and crazy outfits as Gooney Bird often is.

But the amazing thing is that when I called upon kids in this group, and asked their names, the first four boys replied, "Will." "Will." "Will." "Will."

I was sure they were putting me on and accused them of being, actually, Sam, Max, Henry, and Jeff. But no. It was true. Will. Will. Will. Will.

Anyway, thanks to Meadowbrook, to its librarian Lucia Corwin, and to all those Wills and their classmates and friends. They are good readers and good listeners, and now that I have read them parts of the upcoming (not yet published) Gooney bird book, they will have some new and interesting fashion statements to make.

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Here's to the Apple!

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on Friday, 04 January 2008
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So: here's what happened. You may recall that on December 21st or 22nd, my pocketbook disappeared, with all my worldly goods: credit cards, iPhone, drivers license, money, etc. etc. I took all the necessary steps to avoid identity theft, and went off to Maine for Christmas.

Yesterday morning, back here in Cambridge, January 3rd—let me count; that's 13 days later—some workmen working on a house about two blocks away found my purse flung into a snowbank in a back yard, its contents strewn about. They gathered everything, gave it to the local mailman who was passing by, and he brought it to me.

In those 13 days it had snowed, rained, frozen, snowed and rained some more, and for the past two days it has been in the teens here. VERY cold. So my purse and its contents—which had clearly been in that snowbank all those days— were all frozen solid and I set about trying to restore and revive what I could. The money was gone: about $200. Goodbye, money. But everything else was there. A pair of leather gloves were too badly damaged and I threw them away. All the credit cards, library cards, drivers license, etc, were sort of frozen together in disgusting clumps but after they thawed, I was able to dry each one and of course, being plastic, they were fine (though I shredded and tossed all the cards I had cancelled and replaced). Grocery lists and receipts and a bank deposit slip, upon melting and thawing, turned into soggy spitballs and I threw those all away.

That left the iPhone, which was frozen solid into its leather case. After resting a while on my kitchen counter, the leather thawed and now the iPhone was lying in wet leather surrounded by a puddle. I took it out and let it rest until it seemed to be room temperature.

At one point, early on, when I first missed the purse, I had called my iPhone number, hoping I would hear a ring from some obscure place. Didn't happen. I got my own voice mail and wailed, "Where are you?" but needless to say there was never a reply.

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new hobby for dog

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on Wednesday, 02 January 2008
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Dogknitting


Well, perhaps it is because the weather has turned VERY COLD...down in the single digits...that Alfie felt compelled to take up knitting. Here is a partially-done (by me) sweater that—when my back was turned—he decided to work on. Thanks a lot, helpful puppy. (Okay, so it did look like a stick).

And here are two other photos.

Four summers ago I hired Jesse, then 14, to be a model for me, and his is the photograph on the cover of my book MESSENGER. And here is Jesse now(click photo to enlarge), four years later. He has just embarked on a trip that will take him six months: 300 miles on cross-country skis, then 200 miles by river in a handmade canoe, with hand-caved paddles, living off the land and using wilderness survival skills. Jesse is a remarkable young man whose dedication to preservation of the natural world is genuine and admirable.


Messenger_3

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Happy 2008

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 01 January 2008
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Dec3107


I am in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where this morning it is clear and even a little sunny, though they predict a snowstorm starting at noon. This photo is my house in Maine, which my son, Ben...who is there now for a few days of skiing and reading and not-thinking-about-his-law-office... took from his cell phone and emailed me. Isn't it amazing, technology?!!!

We had a steady stream of company in Maine, the last batch three adults and three grandchildren 11, 11, and 16...so our final morning there was a sea of laundry, sheets and towels, making a mountain on the laundry room floor. But somehow it all got done, and cars all got packed, and everyone headed off to their regular lives after what had been a nice respite. And I got to watch that final Patriots-Giants game which was SUCH a good one! with four guys: Martin and his two sons and one grandson. (Daughter-in-law opted for reading and eleven year old twin granddaughters were watching a movie in their bedroom) So it was Grandma and the Guys yelling and hooting in the TV room. What a great game.

Now: real life (and okay, the play-offs) and work to be done. I have been neglecting work. Next week I'll fly to Germany for a few days, and between now and then—January 9th—I MUST open up those two folders that I've been neglecting. (It is rare, incidentally, that i am working on two things at once, but somehow it has happened). When I get back to both of them and putter and fiddle around with them, at some point one will take over. Then one folder will be closed for the duration while I concentrate on the other.

Here he is. Man of the hour. Of the YEAR.

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...but then things improve

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on Monday, 24 December 2007
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Note: For a long time I have not posted comments to the blog, because someone alerted me to the fact that the comments, when posted, allowed anyone to access the poster's email address, and of course many were children. But so many people make comments that are interesting and invite a response and I have hated not being to make them available. So I've decided to try this: posting those comments only from adults. Let's see how this works.

It is now lost-purse+two days, and I just got an email from the DMV saying that my new drivers license will be sent to me shortly and in the meantime I can use the email as proof that I have one. So that's a help, and Martin won't have to be a chauffeur anymore (though clearly he loved sitting in the car yesterday in the Craftworks parking lot while I looked inside for a birthday gift (why do some people have birthdays right at Christmas? It is VERY confusing)

Tha Patriots won again last night (okay, so it was against Miami; still counts) and are now 15-0. I am a little worried about next Saturday's game because it is being shown on the NFL network..whatever THAT means...and I fear this farmhouse in the middle of Nowhere, Maine, might not be one of NFL network's recipients. I will be VERY DISTRESSED not to watch that crucial game. There isn't even a bar to hang out in, in this little town. (I remember once, years ago, Martin and I were traveling in Colorado duing a crucial baseball play-off involving the Red Sox, and we ended up in an Elks Club in a small town...I think Ouray...watching the game.

Last night—what my children used to call "Christmas Eve Eve"— it rained like crazy, with a howling wind, and this morning it is weirdly warm (at least for Maine in December) and the driveway is bare. There is still deep snow over the gardens and in the meadow but it is crusted now with ice, and Alfie is a little apprehensive about where, exactly, and how, he can walk, if he leaves the driveway. Tibetan terriers have wide paws, like snowshoes, so they do well on snow, but ice is a whole other problem. Or "whole nother," as some folks like to say.

Two more days of real quiet and solitude for Martin and me, then the company starts. Two grandsons, 7 and 9, here Wednesday. Then three grandchildren, 16, 11, and 11 (twins) Friday-Sunday. Various parents and uncles and friends as well, along with the kiddos, so lots of groceries to buy and things to cook. But right now is loafing-and-reading time. Martin's reading a biography of Robert Oppenheimer but I have a good thriller going (forget the name, and it's upstairs at the moment) and the new Richard Russo book—"Bridge of Sighs"—waiting.

On January 9th I will fly to Germany (actually, I fly to Zurich and from there to Luxembourg, where my daughter-in-law picks me up and drives me to Germany, about an hour from the Luxembourg airport) so it's a lot of plane time and I will need a good long book: maybe two actually, one for going and one for coming back. I'll have just a brief visit...really just a long weekend, Thursday-Monday...but will visit my granddaughter's eighth grade class (at her request; or maybe it was her teacher's, actually) that Friday (she will have to be my translator since I don't speak German).

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Some days start badly

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on Sunday, 23 December 2007
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I am writing this from Maine, where the snow plowed up against the barn door is probably ten feet deep. The barn, garage, and house—attached to each other, typical early New England— form a cul de sac, and Jesse, who plows, has no place to push it when he gets up into that corner...so it all goes against the barn door and gets higher and higher and higher.

It is lovely to be here in winter, though the day started badly yesterday. The plan was to pack two cars (driving separately because Martin would be coming back to Cambridge a couple days before me), leave mid-morning, allowing time to stop in Kittery, Maine, to meet my daughter Kristin, who lives near there, for lunch and to exchange Xmas gifts before heading on north.

So: the dog got me up at 5:30 AM. I went downstairs and let him out, then lay down on the couch in the TV room to snooze until he wanted to come back in. Zzzzzzz...until at 7 AM I was startled awake by water dripping on me. Oh dear! The house is a three-story federal colonial house. When we remodeled it 12 years ago, we moved the laundry upstairs to the second floor (near the clothes, right? Makes sense?) Now I was lying on a couch directly under the upstairs laundry room and water. was. dripping, on. my. head.

Ah, but it turned out not to be a leaky washing machine hose. It was the wonderful New England phenomenon known as an Ice Dam...when a roof edge becomes frozen and water backs up under the ice and then..stealthily...into the house...across the innards above the ceiling...and then...drip drip...onto one's head.

The recent weather has so lent itself to that possibility: Snow, rain sleet, freeze, ice, snow, rain, etc. etc.

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a beautiful sight, we're happy tonight...but ENOUGH

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on Friday, 21 December 2007
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Snow_1221

All week I've been hoping to head to Maine but all week it has been either snowing, or just finished snowing, or about to snow again, or sleeting, or icy, with terrible driving. So we have put off heading north until tomorrow. The weather man says, a la "Annie": The sun'll come out tomorrow. This is the view this morning from our front door. Tomorrow we will have a different view from a different front door and it will be MUCH DEEPER snow in maine. As I emailed to my son: Great skiing in store. (And my smartass son replied: Who wants to ski in a store?)

So: all week I have puttered around, accomplishing nothing much. We watched a fascinating film..."Looking for Richard"...Al Pacino's very unusual take on Shakespeare's "Richard the Third"...not new, but I had never seen it, and someone recommended it; and I read a biography of Sonya Tolstoy, also not new, and in fact I had read it years ago, but something made me pluck it out of the bookcase for a satisfying re-read. I started working on a speech to give in Minnesota in late January. I cleaned off my desk and then started messing it up again. I watched DVDs of a BBC series called ""State of Play" directed by David Yates, the British director who is to do "The Giver." I cooked a large lamb curry to take to Maine. I slogged through the snow with a friend and saw "Juno" at Harvard Square (a sweet film, I thought, but not as good as the reviews would have had us believe)


Ashley Bryan was to be here last Sunday but couldn't get here because of sleet/snow/ice. He was at the home of friends in Newton, and we always get together when he comes down this time of year from the island where he lives off the coast of Maine.

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from a teacher

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on Friday, 14 December 2007
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I'm a second grade teacher and am reading Gooney Bird Greene to my class. We read the last chapter today, although all the better readers have read ahead. After reading about Keiko wanting to bring a parasol when she told her story, one little guy asked, "Why does she need a power saw?"

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Weekly Writer

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on Tuesday, 11 December 2007
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Way back last summer, at the request of Weekly Reader, I wrote the brief beginning for a story that kids would continue, paragraph by paragraph, and that I would then, at the end, conclude. Here's the website where all of this happens: http://weeklyreader.com/wys/weeklywriter_story.asp

Previous writers who had participated, incidentally, were Stephen King, R.L. Stein, and Walter Dean Myers.

The editor told me that there were many, many contributions; she read them and selected the ones to be posted. This week she emailed me that it was time for me to write the conclusion to the story. I had not been reading the ongoing progressive story, so of course had to do that before ending it. Gulp! It went in so many different directions! And of course the writer's task is to pull all of that together.

It made me realize how aware, in writing a book, or a story, I always am, of the ending. Not the details. But the general wrapping-up, the way it will conclude. And therefore I am aiming everything toward that, even at the same time that I am weaving in complications and distractions.

The kids, of course, had nothing to aim at because they didn't have an ending in mind, just the ongoing "plot" and the characters I had created in the beginning (plus those they had added). That's why it went off in so many directions. I felt like a cowboy trying to lasso all of those critters to get them back into the corral and settled for the night.

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book jackets

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on Monday, 10 December 2007
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The_giver_uk

Attached, a new edition of THE GIVER (click to enlarge) soon to come out in the UK...they've just sent me this proof. Interesting new cover which I think would be intriguing to a potential reader/buyer, and that he/she would not feel deceived upon reading the book.

Compared to:


The_giver_australia

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Librarians, etc.

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on Monday, 10 December 2007
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Noe

My thanks to the school librarian who emailed me a copy of this note which she found on her library desk (I've erased the child's name, for privacy). Not that there is anything particularly eloquent or ingenious about it. It's just the charm of the child's printing combined with the passion of his (it was a boy) opinion.

Now: speaking of librarians, who are among my heroes in this world, along with teachers: most often my admiration stems from their willingness to defend the first amendment and to fight censorship attempts, often putting their own jobs in peril. But today I want to describe a librarian in a small Maine town—and I guess I can name names, because this has now been in the newspapers.

Linda Hall, the librarian in Sangerville, Maine, is a long-time friend of mine. The library where she works hired a local woman, Korean in origin but married to an American and living in Maine for some years, to teach art. Sae Hee Martin, according to Linda, generated such enthusiasm for art that they now have a waiting list for her classes.

And yet...AND YET! The town manager, in talking to Linda, and mentioning the art teacher, refers to her as "One Hung Low"...and when he saw her accompanying some students for an outdoor class in summer, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, said, "Don't you think she looks as if she belongs in a rice paddy?" I could go on, listing the incidents.....but to make a long story short, after months of such piggish, offensive behavior, the board of the library, spearheaded by Linda, has voted unanimously to stand behind the victim as she brings charges against the town manager.

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Different dreams

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Many, many, MANY years ago I wrote a book called "Autumn Street", which remains one of my personal favorites, perhaps because it was (is) autobiographical (though written as fiction) and the little-girl narrator—I called her Elizabeth—in a small Pennsylvania town in the early 1940's is actually me.

Although the child protagnanist/narrator is very young, it is not a book for young children. It deals with loss, and with anguish, and with a young child's groping toward coming to terms with those things (writing this, the classic "A Death in the Family" by James Agee comes to mind because it grapples with the same themes).

I thought this morning of a short paragraph form "Autumn Street" and went and looked it up. Here the two little girls—Elizabeth and her slightly older sister, Jessica—are in bed in the room that they share, and have been talking. Then, after a silence:

"Good night, Jess," I whispered, but she was already asleep, breathing softly. I realized then, for the first time, that her dreams would always be different from mine.

In truth, I do remember a moment from my early childhood when I had that sudden awareness—psychiatrists have a term for it, but I have forgotten what it is—that I was separate from others, and individual, and unique. (My memory is not the scene I created in the book, but took place outside, and near a magnolia tree beside my grandparents' house, so that I am very aware, thinking of it, of bruised and velvety pinkish-white blossoms on the ground, though I can't bring back any other details).

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Don't open this box!

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on Saturday, 01 December 2007
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When I was in Maine earlier this week, my friends Dan and Lucia came for dinner. I like having company for dinner when I'm there alone (okay, with Alfie, but he only eats from a bowl on the floor) because otherwise I don't eat, or eat junk. But Dan and Lucia came over and I made a beef stew and an apple pie...from my own apples! ...and a salad with roasted beets and Brie. Okay, enough about food. My point is that Dan told me about something called Pandora.com

If you go to that website you can see this for yourself. But basically, Pandora creates a radio station on your computer and plays the music of your choice, which is why right now, as I answer email and do my morning computer stuff, I am listening (with no commercial interruptions) to Eva Cassidy and Norah Jones and KD Lang. Pandora, using its computer skills, will go on to to sleect other singers who sing in the STYLE of Cassidy, Jones, and Lang and play them as well (but if I dislike any, I have only to tell Pandora: don't play HER again) and she obeys.

So I have now created five different personal radio stations and can go back and forth, genre to genre, artist to artist, and it is quite an amazing and wonderful thing. And free.

It's also yet one more time-waster.

A note from a blog reader says: I remember jumping in piles of leaves. Probably because of that fun, and the fascination of watching the leaves burn, autumn has remained my favorite season. Is the rustle of fallen leaves one of your favorite sounds?

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Back Home

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on Sunday, 25 November 2007
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With the time change, having returned from England, I was up early this morning...as was Alfie, home from the kennel and eager to to play at 5:30 AM....but the rest of the house is s till sleeping, and right now it is a houseful, with visiting stepchildren and step-grandchildren ( three of them: 16, 11, and 11) here overnight en route from Martha's Vineyard, where they spent Thanksgiving, back to Miami, where they live.

And now the Patriots are 11-0 but it was scary last night, not a romp like some previous games.

Raining when I got up, and I was concerned because I am supposed to drive to Maine later today, and of course in Maine it could be snow and a difficult drive. But the weather on the internet tells me no, rain there as well.


Xmas_2


Xmas_stuff

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Messin' wiv Mikey!

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on Thursday, 22 November 2007
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Side

Still in London (this is a photo of my hotel here), still going to the theater every night...thank goodness the stagehands' strike has not yet traveled across the pond. Two nights ago, a dazzling production of MacBeth, with Patrick Stewart...yes, the Star Trek guy...who knew he was a brilliant classical actor? (Well, obviously the producer who cast MacBeth)

Last night, the muscial Billy Elliott, from the charming film of a few years ago. Tonight, Shadowlands.

But what about daytime, if you are in another city but one you've been to often before, so you're not really a tourist and no thank you, don't WANT to see the crown jewels again?

Well, yesterday I went to Old Bailey. This is a fairly well-kept secret, I think, that visitors, if they can find the special entarnce and go through the metal detector and the patting-down search for contraband, and are not carrying a camera, and promise to be very very quiet...can sit and watch the criminal court in action. That's what I did yesterday, and happened on a murder trial. Tawdry plot: drugs; hooded sweatshirts; knives; guns; cash. But the dialogue was wonderful:

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