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Stille Nacht

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on Saturday, 24 December 2011
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A year ago, at just about this time, Martin and I were in Germany, which was experiencing a record snowfall. We got stranded in fact, trying to get home because airports across Europe were closed by weather.

(I just looked on line for photos of that time in Germany, and found this, from Berlin.)

A memory that will stay with me forever was the night we went with my granddaughter, then 17, and her parents, on narrow winding roads through snowy forests, (tough driving, but her stepfather was up to it, completely intrepid) to a little village where, in a beautiful ancient church, her violin teacher was performing in a chamber music concert.  The music, the snow falling silently outside, the season...everything went together to create a magical night and I'm so glad Martin had that to look back on along with other good memories as his health failed in the days that followed.

My grandsons were here last night, down from Maine, to deliver gifts and to take my cat, Lulu, back home with them so that they can take care of her while I am away.  I leave Tuesday very early, for Guatemala. In the meantime I am packing, watching football, answering mail, enjoying Christmas cards, eating up the leftovers in the fridge, and spending time with friends.

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Let Nothing You Dismay...not even the mail

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on Saturday, 17 December 2011
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I finally, yesterday, finished addressing all of my Christmas cards. Then in this morning's website mail there were over 100 emails from kids who had read THE GIVER in a particular school and wanted me to answer questions.

This is SO HARD. If any teachers are reading this....please consolidate your student letters into just one so that i can answer at greater length. With more than 100 to deal with (on just one morning, and tomorrow will be another batch) I just go through and give very brief and perfunctory replies.

Here is the picture of my kitten, Lulu, that I used on many of my Christmas cards:

 

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Holt Pond

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on Monday, 12 December 2011
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I am in Maine, and my friend Kay, with her German shepherd, Sophie, is with me. There is no snow on the ground...almost unheard of in Maine at Christmas...(who are the candidates that don't believe in global warming? Mitt and Newt?)and today it was sunny and brisk and beautiful. We took the dogs to Holt Pond, a nature preserve about 10 miles from my house. It's a large area, crisscrossed with trails, and there was not another soul in sight or anywhere near. Sophie dashed about, excited by sticks on the  ground; Alfie stays on a leash because he has a tendency to seek possums and skunks and porcupines, (probably beavers, too, in this boggy pond) never a smart pasttime for a dog. But both Sophie and Alfie loved our excursion, and both came home and went to sleep.

****

I have a good friend who, after surviving a grim cancer, did something last year which Martin and I found admirable and enviable.  She and her husband left their jobs, rented their house, and set off to try to do some good in the world. Now they are in Mae Sot, Thailand, on the Burma border, working (as volunteers) with refugees.

She has just described a Christmas party at which the 20 children present each received their one Christmas gift: a box of cookies. They were excited, she said, and totally content, each of them comparing their boxes and debating the different flavors.

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Knit one, purl one, puff one

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on Thursday, 01 December 2011
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Recently I had a note from the daughter of an old friend. Her mother had been my college roommate and a bridesmaid at my wedding a zillion years ago but we had not been in touch for a long time. Her daughter wrote to tell me of her death. Sadly, I have reached the age where I get this kind of note too often.

At any rate, her daughter said that her father...who had also been a college classmate of mine...recalled that I never took notes in class.  My hands, instead, were busy with knitting.

Arrrggghh. Busted. He was accurate. I was a good student and seemed to get all the information I needed from reading and listening rather than note-taking. And it is true that in those days, most of the females in any given classroom were busy with knitting. Why? To please our boyfriends....if indeed they were pleased with all those homemade argyle socks.

Yup, that's what we were all making, with our dangling bobbins, while the professor lectured, and now and then someone would drop a metal needle on the floor with a distinctive clinking sound.

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So It Goes

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on Sunday, 27 November 2011
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Last night I stayed up till 2:30 AM reading a new biography of Kurt Vonnegut. So I am somewhat groggy this morning. And I am not at all sure why I did such a mindless thing. The book would have been there in the morning, and during the days to come. But sometimes one just gets absorbed.

Maybe it was because I have a fond memory of Vonnegut, and it involved Martin; and this being Thanksgiving, when M's kids and grandkids were here, I was especially thinking of him. Then the book arrived and I picked it up and settled into Memoryland.

It was a long time ago, probably 20 years. Martin and I were in New York and we were invited to a very fancy dinner party. Black tie. If there was anything that Martin hated, (more than bigotry or Brussels sprouts) it was pretentiousness. And on this particular occasion, he said he would go to the party if I wanted to, but he would NOT wear a tuxedo. Okay, he probably said f....g tuxedo. So we went. I was all dressed up, since I sometimes actually enjoy prententiousness; and Martin was wearing a business suit.


Of course every other man there was in a tux, except Martin, and...ta DA...Kurt Vonnegut, who if I remember correctly was in a rumpled brown suit.


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Le Chat Diabolique

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on Friday, 18 November 2011
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Okay: there is a law, right?  A cold lasts five days. No matter what medicine you take, or what crackpot remedies you believe in: a cold lasts five days.

So why is THIS cold now in Day #11?  It is not fair.

I feel pretty good, actually.  But when i attended a board meeting Tuesday, and was seated around a table with the other board members, suddenly the person next to me got up, changed seats, and said, "Sorry. But I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow and I don't want to catch what you have."

Well, I didn't want to catch it either. And I would certainly like to say farewell to it.

****

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Veteran's Day

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on Friday, 11 November 2011
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I returned home from too many different time zones, too many flights and people and germs, to be felled by a bad cold from

which I am now on the mend.

It is a gorgeous time of year. Cambridge escaped the snowstorm that hit western Massachusetts, and this morning I took this snapshot in my yard

...but soon enough the yard will be leafless and bleak.

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Leaving Sun Valley

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on Friday, 04 November 2011
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It is very cold here this morning...and they say there is snow on the way...but I am headed to Los Angeles. And I have enjoyed my very brief time here in Sun Valley.  Last night I spoke at a church that has the best view I've ever seen from a church...this photo is taken through one of the huge windows; and the small speck of white up the river is actual Ernest Hemingway's home, now empty.


Yesterday afternoon I spoke at the local middle school to 700 astonishingly well-behaved kids. 700 kids in a gym! That's ordinarily a recipe for chaos. And this morning I had emails from several of them.

But now I am packing up and heading out.


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One more reminder....

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 03 November 2011
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Please notice that on the right side of my website home page there is a place that says EMAIL ME.  If you click on it, you can send me a private email, which I will reply to.  PLease don't send that type of message as a post to the blog. It won't be answered there.

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Sun Valley

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on Thursday, 03 November 2011
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Lately I seem to be on the road all the time. But the good part of it is that I seem to be going to wonderful places.  Today I am in Sun Valley, Idaho, at the very luxurious Sun Valley Lodge...I took this photo just down the hall..

..and the hall itself is lined with photos of famous skiers, skaters, etc.   Plus, for some reason, Gary Cooper playing tennis.

It took forever to get here from Boston. I flew first to Seattle (piiot to passengers: "Folks, Seattle is totally fogged in and it looks as if we might have to find an alternative landing site. But I'm going to first try to land in Seattle. Don't worry. We practice this kind of thing all the time.")

There is nothing one can do except grit one's teeth and hope for the best. And the best happened. The fog suddenly lifted; there was visible Seattle; and we landed.  From there I flew to Salt Lake City, where I had just 39 minutes between planes and had to get to a different terminal. But we landed on time, I ran, and made it for the last leg of my trip: the flight to Sun Valley.

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Feel free to steal this valuable idea....

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on Thursday, 27 October 2011
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....it is up for grabs.

Last night, in NYC (I am writing this on the train en route home) I had dinner with an old friend whom I haven't seen in a long time and with whom I wanted to catch up on many levels: personal, professional, etc.

We met at a restaurant. And had an excellent meal. But: conversation? We couldn't hear each other.

So: my idea? Concocted last night, in bed, in my hotel.

Someone must open a restaurant...eventually it will be a wildly successfully chain...and its name will be HUSH.  The food, of course, will be fabulous. A great wine list. There will be carpeting on the floor. There will be no music playing. People will speak only in low, soft voices. Shrieky laughter will be penalized. (I have to work out the details of the rulebook. $10 penalty per shriek added to your bill? Or would stern looks suffice?)

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Busy time in NYC

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on Wednesday, 26 October 2011
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I have stopped off in New York, en route home from Paris, in order to do some book-related stuff.  First, an event at Barnes & Noble to celebrate the publication of THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK

with the illustrations by Chris Van Allsburg, who was at the event along with Jon Scieska, Linda Sue Park and me, the three of us among the 14 writers who contributed stories to go with Chris's illustrations. Chris and I will do another such event in Cambridge, MA (Brattle Theater, 6 PM) this coming Friday night, along with Roger Sutton as moderator and Margaret Raymo, the editor of the book.

That event was yesterday. Today I was at Scholastic Books doing a live webcast...I'm told that perhaps 4,000 teachers had signed up, and of course each teacher had a classroom of kids..so it was a huge audience.  We were talking about the Dear America series, and with me were Lisa Sandell, the editor of the series; and Kirby Larson, who wrote this one:

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Mercredi

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on Wednesday, 19 October 2011
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This is my very small and sweet Paris hotel, Hotel du Pas de Calais, on the Left Bank; and tonight is my fourth and last night here. I'll miss the window-shopping, since I am surrounded here by very high-end designer shops. Tomorrow I move to a different part of Paris, for three more nights.

This is my fifth visit to Paris, and each time I have stayed in a different district, gotten to know a different neighborhood.

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Anastasia Encore!

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on Tuesday, 18 October 2011
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Although Anastasia Krupnik is somewhat passé in the USA.....fondly remembered but no longer thriving.....she is certainly alive and well in France maybe because of these very charming book jackets!

 

and this is a Paris bookstore window devoted entirely to my books!  (The book at the top is the newly-published Bal Anniversaire ("The Birthday Ball")

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Bon Jour

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 17 October 2011
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I am in Paris, in a small hotel just off Avenue St. Germain des Pres, and have just spent a very long day at a symposium conducted entirely in French. I indulged in a  kind of magical thinking...convincing myself that if I sat there and listened for a long time, I would begin to understand French. Did not work. And then...when it was my turn, in the afternoon...for an hour and a half...I not only couldn't understand it, but couldn't speak it. Luckily the wonderful woman who translates my books was on the stage with me and together we kept the audience of 300+ French librarians from rising up en masse and leaving.

This was my busiest day of "work"...tomorrow I have a lunch, and Wednesday a lunch...but from now on there is plenty of time to roam. On Friday my granddaughter arrives by train from Germany to celebrate her 18th birthday with me over the weekend.

My little hotel is in a neighborhood filled with small clothing shops. Boutiques, I guess one would say. I mentioned that my granddaughter's birthday is coming. Did I mention that she has very green eyes? Immediately around the corner is a shop window with a gorgeous green dress in it...the same shade as her eyes.

The Dress....and...

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Empathy

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 15 October 2011
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This You Tube video shows a wonderful moment at Fenway Park when an entire stadium full of fans joined together in a show of solidarity with an autistic man.

It makes me recall a time some years ago when I was in a crowded movie theater in Harvard Square...the movie, I remember, was "Kill Bill"...and suddenly a man a few rows behind me began making bizarre barking noises quite loudly. At first the crowd was irritated and there were some pointed "Shhhh"s (I might have been one of them) but then within a very short time you could feel that the crowd realized the man had Tourette's Syndrome, couldn't control the noises he was making, and everyone became empathetic. It is hard to describe, because it was a darkened theater, with hundreds of strangers around me...but you could FEEL the shift in attitude.  You can feel the same thing in this very touching video.

The question often arises of whether empathy can be taught. I don't know the answer to that. But I think awareness of the human condition can be taught...and modeled...and books (plus parents, teachers, friends and fellow humans) do play a role in that.

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Hedgehog

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on Sunday, 09 October 2011
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Yesterday I went to see the French film called "The Hedgehog" (I've forgotten the French word for it)—fun to see the Parisian neighborhood since I am heading to Paris myself next weekend.

But more than that, it was a treat to watch the performance of the main character, an eleven-year-old girl named Paloma in the film. Some people, in reviews, called her annoying....and she would have been, to live with!...but for me, I watched her with a sense of recognition. Myself at that age. Solitary, secretive, introspective, creative.  There is a scene in which she opens up a project she has been working on: a complex drawing of bookcases...and for a moment I was plunged back into my own child self, tongue between my teeth, concentrating, pens and brushes and papers, doing the same kind of fastidious projects..

 

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another reminder, darn it

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on Thursday, 06 October 2011
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I just tried to answer an email from a ninth-grade student, and my reply was rejected (an official notice saying something like "You can't send email to this address") so a girl working on a research paper tried to get some info from me....which i tried to provide...but won't succeed.  Hers was a school address. I'm not sure how that works, whether schools block email from strangers, or what.  But it is probably a good idea to use your personal email address when contacting me (which you would do by clicking on the "email me" window to the right of my website page.)

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REMINDER

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 04 October 2011
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Those of you—often students—who have questions about books or writing, please EMAIL me.  ON the right side of my website is the place you click on. It says EMAIL ME and there is a cartoon of me at my computer.

If you send those questions to my blog, they will be deleted. If you send them by email, they'll be answered.  Simple as that.

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OCTOBER

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on Monday, 03 October 2011
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When my younger daughter was quite young—five perhaps, or six—she had an imaginary friend named October.  No one was allowed to scoff at that, or to make jokes; October was a very serous presence in our lives for a time. I think we sometimes even set a place at the table for her.

October was the month of my daughter's birthday so perhaps that gave the word special import in her imagination and in the naming of that unseen companion.

And no question: October is a very special month, more so in New England.

I'm in Maine at the moment. I drove up here yesterday and will be here for a few days tending to pre-winter chores. And in the month since I was last here, things have changed. It is quieter now. Tourists are gone. Colors are fading (soon to erupt in foliage, but not yet); the reeds in swampy areas along the lake have turned brown. No chirping birds in the early morning. My meadow has been mowed by Dave, who does it each fall, and so the tall grass and wildflowers are gone for another season.

But one thing has burst into its end-of-season magnificence. My son Ben begins morning glories every summer from seed, then plants the seedlings beside the porch at the farm;and all summer we watch the spindly plants move slowly upward, entwining themselves along the strings that Ben has placed, framing the hummingbird feeder eventually....but never quite bursting into luxurious growth and bloom until the very end of their season. Here they are now—in this picture the blossoms folded because of rain—at their height, when almost everything else is withdrawing and fading.

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