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Giving Thanks

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on Thursday, 22 November 2012
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When I was clicking varous things to get to this place where I can add a post to my blog, I saw briefly a little headline that said "Study Shows Fetuses Yawn in the Womb"   Was this from the Science page of the New York Times?  Or was it an ad from a Right-to-Life group? I don't know. Maybe I will look for it again when I am finished here.  Who is yawning, and where, is always valuable information to have.

I am thinking about Thanskgivings Past.

When my kids were young and growing up in Maine, we always came down to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving at the home of relatives. Then, returning to Maine at the end of the weeknd, we saw car after car coming from the opposite direction with a dead deer strapped on its roof.  It was always the end of hunting season in Maine. "Bambi's mother!" the kids would say again and again as those stiff, staring corpses whizzed past us heading south.

In later years there were the many Thanksgiving dinners with huge numbers of people as Martin and I combined families, and grown kids acquired inlaws and eventually children.

I remeber a Thanksgiving in Germany...it would have been 1994...when my granddaughter Nadine was just one year old. It woud be six months later that her father, my son Grey, was killed. Of course we didnn't know then that tragedy lay in the future.  What I remember was Grey, who was a great cook, complaining about the smallness of German kitchens..and oven...though he produced a wonderful dinner nonetheless, and among the guests was an unmarried fighter pilot who had just returned from Kosovo, where NATO was carrying out the first airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs. I remember his describing the complicated situation there...the "ethnic cleansing" (I think it was the first time I had heard the term) and realizing as he talked that sometimes violence can (has to) be a humanitarian response.

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Leaving Las Vegas

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on Wednesday, 21 November 2012
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I think that was the name of a long-ago movie. Leaving Las Vegas. A depressing one, with Nicholas Cage drinking himself into oblivion...maybe to death; I don't remember.

I myself have just left Las Vegas, though not stumbling drunk. I was there very briefly...flew there Monday, flew home Tuesday!...for a meeting of ALAN:

(Founded in November 1973, ALAN is made up of teachers, authors, librarians, publishers, teacher-educators and their students, and others who are particularly interested in the area of young adult literature. )

Much as I thoroughly like and enjoy the members of ALAN, and was pleased to have dinner Monday night with a small but stellar group of them...I do find Las Vegas pretty depressing. Because of the time difference, I was up at 5 AM on Tuesday morning, and went down to the hotel lobby, in search of coffee,  to find it unchanged from what I had walked thorough the previous night at 10:30: bright lights, loud throbbing music, no place to sit except in front of slot machines. No windows. People everwhere endlessly sliding money into the machines. A couple...she in a wedding dress!...side by side at the slots.

Earlier, I had actually been awakened by noise from the next room: thumping and banging, and shouts. A man's voice: "My money! My money!"  Was he being robbed? Or just lamenting that he had lost it all gambling the night before? I briefy considered calling security but before I decided to do so, the noise subsided and I did nothing. If I had? Picture the people in the hotel security office:

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Small Good Things

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on Wednesday, 14 November 2012
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This summer, as I waited for the official publication of SON, I wrote…what is it, the sixth? Yes, the sixth, I think…book of the Gooney Bird series, the one set in the month of March, as this series follows a second grade class through each month of its school year. For the first time, in writing this short book, I used the computer program called “Scrivener,” which I had been told had so many handy shortcuts and gimmicks for writers. And it was true. It did.   I began to like Scrivener, to think “Hi there, Scrivener,” with a warm affection when I opened up that manuscript each day. Trouble is, Scrivener turned on me in the end, not unlike a gentle, affectionate dog who unexpectedly snarls and snaps. Maybe it had gotten a bad virus or something, or was easing into a dementia. At any rate, when I tried to send the manuscript off to my editor, Scrivener was no longer my BFF.

And so, this week, when I received the manuscript from the copy editor, with a note asking me to respond any suggestions, I was aghast to find that the poor copy editor had been forced to address hideous deformities of formatting: un-indented paragraphs, large gaps in the midst of dialogue, an occasional completely blank page.

 “None of that is my fault!” I wanted to whine, like a six year old. “Scrivener did it! Blame Scrivener!”

 But in the same way that I have learned, in my old age, to just get on with it, and to not waste time with blaming and finger-pointing, I sucked it up and dealt with the occasional issues that were in fact my responsibility: the fact that on one page a character is wearing green earmuffs, but two pages later, a blue knitted hat.

And today I have mailed back the completed, adjusted manuscript without any self-justifying laments. But I have vowed not to use Scrivener again, at least not until I find someone who can teach me to use it properly.

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Motel musings

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on Saturday, 03 November 2012
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This is my arm.  Actually, to be specific, it is the inside of my left arm, at the elbow. I went for an uneventful annual physical Wednesday morning, and they did an uneventful blood test, and now, for some reason, this is my arm, resembling a bad case of gangrenous frostbite.

 

I am in a Holiday Express Inn in WEstfield, Massachusetts. I came here today to accept the Carol Otis Hurst Book Prize...which is a real pleasure, since Carol was a very dear friend of mine...but I realized that It would turn dark before I got home, and Ihave difficulty driving int he dark; so I decided to spend the night and head home in the AM.  Actually it was not a hard decision because  my home still has a big hole in the bedroom ceiling and another in the matser bathroom wall, just above the smashed window.  I have been dealing with roofers and contrators and insurance adjustors all week but there are still gaping holes, and still tree parts everywhere; now and then more dead leaves flutter in, as if I am living in a weird animated cartoon.

So I enjoyed driving to western Massachusetts instead of staying and staring morosely at my semi-destroyed house.  Of course I still have to stare at my gangrenous arm, since it accompanies me. But it is chilly out now, in November, and so I can cover it with long sleeves.

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Aftermath

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on Tuesday, 30 October 2012
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Yesterday afternoon I thought of myself, briefly, as a woe-is-me pore old widow lady. Today, seeing the aftermath of the hurricane in other places, I consider myself very very lucky.

Unfortnately: A tree fell on my house at 2 PM.  A large skylight was destroyed and fell onto my bed.

Fortunately: I was not in the bed. The dog was downstairs, I was downstairs, the cat was downstairs.

Unfortunately: A big piece of tree broke a window and part of the roof and entered the master bathroom.

Fortunately: the bathroom was unoccupied.

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Home Sweet Home

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on Saturday, 20 October 2012
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It feels very good to be sleeping in my own bed after two weeks of hotels— a different one almost every night—and having my own cat purring on my lap, and my dog at my feet again.  (The dog has a touch of diarrhea after being in a kennel, eating a different kind of food, for so long; but that is a topic best glossed over).  I have several more engagagements coming up: Dana Hall in Wellesley, MA, Monday ngiht; Porter Square Books, Cambrigde, MA, Tuesday night; and the Conocrd (MA) Public Library next Saturday night. But those are all local and I won't have to stand in a  security line in order to get there.

It was a good trip (and productive, I guess, since SON will be on tomorrow's NYT best-seller list) with few glitches, and with the unexpected bonnus of saying hi to a few unexpected people here and there: Torben Platt, the son of Annelise Platt, my Danish friend to whom "Number the Stars"is dedicated, lives in Iowa and brought his wife and daughter to my Iowa city event; Stuart Ruth, with whom I went to eighth grade in Tokyo in 1949, came to the San Francisco event; Bob Ryan, Houston lawyer who was a close high school friend of my son Grey and who flew to Germany for Grey's funeral in 1995, came to my Houston event; Margaret Holcombe, to whom "Bless This Mouse" is dedicated, lives in St. Paul, MN, and came to my event there; and I know there were others whom I am overlooking. I also had a quiet and wonderful afternon with my daughter in San Francisco.

Me, age 12, on the far left, second row; Stuart Ruth in the striped shirt in the middle of the first row.

(Just glancing now at that first row of boys, I am reciting their first names: Keith, David, Billy, Henry, Stuart, Bob, Mike, and Joe.  Having just come from a zillion book signings, many for boys that age, I can testify that today's 12-year-olds are, instead, named Noah, Dylan, Jack, Zachary, Tyler,  Ethan, Jake, and Ryan)

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Apocryphal questions from the road

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on Sunday, 14 October 2012
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Why is every third 12-year-old female in the USA named Megan?

 

Is it okay to laugh aloud when the flight attendant annouces "The flight from Phoenix to Albuquerque will be a short 32 minutes. In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion...."?

 

Why do so many hotel rooms have a full-lngth mirror directly opposite the toilet? Is this necessary?

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The FRiendly City

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on Friday, 12 October 2012
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Phoenix Airport announces itself as WORLD’S FRIENDLIEST AIRPORT. It won’t, however, let me on its WIFI network wihtout quite a hassle, so that doesn’t seem friendly.

 In other respects, though, Phoenix has been very friendly. 400+ people lined up last night to hear me talk about, and to have me sign, my new book.

  This morning, I ordered eggs benedict….cooked firm….at the restaurant in the Ritz, where I was staying. Midway through my eating them, the waitress stopped by and said, “Oh dear, those aren’t firm.” It’s okay, I told her with a shrug. “No it isn’t!” she said. “I’m going to tear up your bill.” And she did. And (this being the Ritz) it was a very large bill.

 This morning, going through security…NO LINE (that’s very friendly) …they professed not to believe that I was over 75. Over 75 means you can keep your shoes on, which I had.

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Still on the road

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on Thursday, 11 October 2012
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I am writing this from Salt Lake City, which I will leave in an hour, headed to the airport, and from there to Phoenix. Five cities to go.

Backing up, though, playing catch-up: first San Jose, at Hicklebee's wonderful store, which I have visited many times before.  Great crowd.  Then a very relaxing day with my daughter in San Francisco: brunch by the ocean, then a walk in the Japanese Garden at Golden Gate Park. I needed that break.  And she had my laundry done!  A talk that night at the SF Library; and then off the next morning to SLC. Last night I spoke to an overflow crowd of 600 or so at the Provo Libary, which is in a specatacuar historic building.  Then LONG signing lines. Such enthusiastic people. A lovely evening. But tiring for an old lady!

I am having to grab time here and there to answer email, and I have a request for teachers, if any are reading this.  Please send ONE email whihc can include comments, questions, etc., from your students...as opposed to individual emails from kids.   It

is not just your class, your maybe 15 kids...but there are others coming in simultaneously; and It is very, very hard for me to manage 50-60 emails at a time; even when I am not on the road.

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And now, Minnesota

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on Saturday, 06 October 2012
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It is 8:30 PM and I am headed to bed. And a fine bed it is, in the gorgeous St. Paul Hotel.

But I am feeling a little dejected.  Partly because my email has ceased working and I have spent a couple of hours with Tech Support at Comcast, with no success. And here I am with 10 days to go on an extended trip, and important communication cut off.

But also, this: tomorrow, in the NY Times Magainze, there will be an article about me and my new book, written by Dan Kois, who came this summer to meet with me and was an intelligent, thoguhtful man, with two children about whom he cares deeply. I am quite certain he didn't write the article with controversy or shock value in mind.  But it has already appeared in the online edition of The TImes... http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/magazine/lois-lowry-the-childrens-author-who-actually-listens-to-children.html?ref=magazine&...this is my first reading of what he wroteand I am saddened by the tone of many of the posted comments that follow the article.  I have always been struck by, and have publicly commented on, the generosity and collegiality of children's authors. The vitriolic tone of some comments is startling.

I am very tired, having left Iowa at 5 AM, and just completed a speech and signing in Minneapolis at the end of this lengthy day, and I only read the article and its posted comments hastily and probably in a cursory fashion.  So I may be misrepresenting everything and tomorrow may have to post a "Sorry, I was completely wrong" addendum.

But readers seem to be upset by the fact that I expressed, as I often have before, my concern over the violence in THE HUNGER GAMES, which the NYT writer seems to share.

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Converstions in Iowa....

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on Friday, 05 October 2012
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Don't get my wrong. I love Iowa.  I am currently in Iowa CIty, and despite the bleak (and cold!) weather today, it is a funky university town...good walking and people-watching.

But this trip (day 4 of a book tour) began with several unusual conversations:

1. on the plane from Chicago:

Seatmate: Do you know that George Beverly Shea is over 100?

Me: Who?

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Take me out to the ballgame...

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on Wednesday, 26 September 2012
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Every year at this time I am invited to a Red Sox game...skybox seat!  wine and shrimp and a private bathroom! Two years ago it was a great game. Last year, horrible. Last night? Mediocre.

I hang in there with the Sox in the same way that I stick with a favorite author even if he/she writes a bad book now and then.

Speaking of authors. Yesterday I got a phone call from a fact-checker at the New York Times. I like fact checkers and the fact that such people exist. A writer from the NYT had come to interiew me, has written the aricle, and now the fact checker called to be certain that I actually said the things that I am quoted as saying.

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NBF

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on Monday, 24 September 2012
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I spent the weekend in Washington DC, attending the National Book Festival, a very fine event that celebrates books and authors and readers. This was the second time I've been to the NBF, and the last time I was there it was raining. The weather didn't deter the enthusiastic participants that year, and neither did th heat this time around. It was sunny and bright ... and HOT .. particularly inside the tents where crowds of people gathered to hear speakers.

 

200,000 people!  All talking about books.

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Dredging

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 11 September 2012
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Back in Cambridge, I am trying to re-adjust to my fall/winter/spring life (remembering to put the trash out on Monday night, instead of driving to the dump on Tuesday), field the demands of new-book-promotion (interiew Monday with Entertainment Weekly; interview two weeks from Friday with NPR), prepare for a 14-city book tour that starts October 1st, seeing friends I haven't seen since spring, doing the dentisty/mammogram/eye exam/car service juggle, catching up on DVRed TV shows (a whole season of "Newsroom"...AND I have vowed to go through this house bit by bit and dispose of accumulated stuff, in preparation for selling it next spring.


With that in mind, this morning I opened the drawers of this pretty little chest that has sat in my dining room for years....with its drawers unopened. Inside I found lots of candles. Hmmm. I haven't entertained much, in the formal sense, in a long time. So I had forgtten about candles. Do I save them? GIve them away? THROW them away?  Or put them back in the drawer and close the drawer. Three guesses.

But I also found some interesting memorabilia. Here is a Christmas card...no date. Maybe 4 years ago. I'll insert it here as a mystery item so you can guess whose daughters* these three gorgeous girls are.

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Packing

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on Friday, 07 September 2012
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It is September and summer is ending and I am packing to return to Massachusetts tomororw. Such mixed feelings!  I have a very busy fall coming up and it is hard to leave these long solitary days and the occasional visits from good friends.

When I'm gone I will be still be tended here by Mark, who is doing some carpentry for me; and Craig, who made the masterpiece of a sign...not yet installed...that will go over my barn door; and John, who is painting the house and barn this fall; and Lucia, whose crew will put the gardens to bed for the winter.

The gardens! They know fall is coming, too. Here is a wonderful hydrangea that begins as white, then seeps onto pink, and now, in September is a deep rose that matches the light at dawn.

 

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QUARTET

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on Monday, 03 September 2012
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The word makes me feel as if I should start singing "Sweet Adeline."  But here they are: the four books that now comprise The Giver Quartet.

 

 

It's surprising to see how much fatter the fourth book is than the others, perhaps because it encompasses fourteen years so there was a lot of material to cover, a lot of plot, and all the main characters from the first three books.  The new jackets are quite beautiful, I think. The official publication date of "Son" is October 1st so this is just a preview.

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Pilgrimage

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on Monday, 27 August 2012
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I have just written, in an email to a close friend to whom I had recommended a book, "If you don't cry at the ending, then our friendship is over."

The book is called THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY ... a first novel by Rachel Joyce.

It had been recommeded to me by my friend Tom, and Tom happened to be visiting this weekend, so he was here when I concluded my reading, and we had a chance to talk about it. In part we talked about the use of the word "pilgrimage"...such a perfect choice. The author could have used the word "journey", of course...but pilgrimage...perfect.

I am a fast reader but I took my time with this one, savoring each paragraph.

(In contrast I picked up another new book last night: THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, perceived in the first pages that it was not savorable, at least not by me, so I zipped through it and finished it in one sitting and won't even bother recommending it to friends. But Harold Fry? Oh yes.)

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Late Summer

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on Monday, 20 August 2012
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Yesterday, Sunday, I had my 14-year-old grandson with me for the afternoon. Since his father wisely decrees blocs of time as "no screen" time...meaning no iPod Touch, no iPhone, no laptop, no TV....and Sunday was in that category....I tried to interest my grandson in a book. But he disdained any of my offerings. When I asked what books he had liked recently, he couldn't think of the author's name immediately but he listed "War of the Worlds," "The Invisible Man," and "The Time Machine."  H.G. Wells! I said.  Yep. That was it.

I have just ordered some Asimov for him in hopes that they will appeal. Of course school will re-open soon and he probably won't have time for much recreational reading.

Yesterday, instead of reading, we played Yahtze for a while; then he went out with a camera and did some fabuous nature photography. He got a close-up of a hummingbird—and said he would email me a copy so perhaps I can post it here later—that is astounding.

The air is starting to feel like fall coming, actually, and school starting. The crisp nights. The late summer flowers. Monarch butterflies. Apples in the trees.  It all makes me want to go buy a lunch box with a map of the USA on it, and a few new pencils.

And what am I reading? On a friend's recommendation: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. And on the basis of a review: The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman.

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Hello again, it's me. All right, it is I

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on Monday, 13 August 2012
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I haven't posted to this blog in a while, in case anyone has noticed, and because it is traditional to include a reason when one is expessing regret for one's behavior, I am trying to figure out why I have been negectful in this particular realm.  Sorry, my narcissism level has been low?

A. I became obsessed by the Olympics?

B. I did a million interviews because I have a new book soon to be released?

C. I had company coming and going?

D. I've been working on a manuscript?

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Brigham Hill Farm

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on Wednesday, 25 July 2012
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In 1769 a widower named David Kneeland came north from Topsfield, MA, and bought the land on this hilltop; when he had cleared the land and built a house, he planted the first apple trees in this part of Maine.

The post-and-beam barn was put together with pegs and hand-hewn nails which are still there today. The foundation of the house was of granite slabs wrested from the land when the fields were cleared, and hauled into place by oxen.

Twelve years later, Kneeland sold the property to Asa Kimball, who owned a mill three miles away on Stevens Brook. Kimball had a large family, and his sons were able to tend the farm while each morning he rode his horse three miles to the mill, and each evening home again. There were no roads then, just a trail worn by the horses over the ridge.

Today I drive those same three miles to the post office, or the library, or to pick up a New York Times at Bridgton Books, which is just beside the bridge over Stevens Brook.


I love the history of a place. I loved a book called Blackbird House by my friend Alice Hoffman; it followed the generations —and their stories—on a small Cape Cod farm about the age of this Maine homestead.

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