If you send me a letter and want a reply...or if you send me a book to be signed and returned to you...
I NEED YOUR FULL NAME AND AN ADDRESS!!!!
(and in the case of a book, I'd appreciate return postage as well)
If you send me a letter and want a reply...or if you send me a book to be signed and returned to you...
I NEED YOUR FULL NAME AND AN ADDRESS!!!!
(and in the case of a book, I'd appreciate return postage as well)
I am not certain if "Synchroncity" is the correct word. But I am thinking of the circumstances when quite unexpectedly something happens at exactly the right time. Such as now.
A few minutes ago I went into the living room to the part of the bookcase where I had some travel books stored. When I moved, and downsized, I threw away (actually, donated) a number of travel books having to do with places that I had visited but would likely never visit again: Antarctica, Iceland, Sumatra, Lichtenstein (yes, really), etc... But I had kept things like guidebooks and maps of places I would be returning to: Paris. London. I went looking on that shelf this afternoon because I am going to New York the day after tomorrow and thought I might have a NYC subway map. Turned out I didn't; not a big deal, because I know New York well and can make my way around easily without a tourist map. But as I sat there by the bookcase, I saw a book that I didn't really remember: FOR YOUR EYE ALONE: The Collected Letters of Robertson Davies.
Davies, Canadian man of letters whom I greatly admired, died in 1995. This book was published in 1999, and I very likely bought it then—and read it then—fifteen years ago. As you can see, there are still some markers, placed by me, in its pages. Since I had little memory of the content, I was curious to see what I had noted in the book. To my amusement, I had...for reasons long forgotten..marked this passage:
This autumn I went to Washington and did a reading at the Library of Congress.It went very well and they treated me royally. Then I went to New York Uiversity, where I found to my dismay that they were using me (without having said anything to me about it) as a means of begging for money... Their standard of hospitality was certainly not that of the Lib. of Congress; I spoke in a very strange room where the light on the lectern was broken, so that, for seventy minutes, I had to hold it aloft over my MS, like the Statue of Liberty....
I realize I have not posted a blog entry for a month. Time has gotten away from me yet again, and in the past month I have been to Tucson (Tucson Book Festival...fabulous) and to Charlottesville (Virginia Festival of the Book...also fabulous), to Cambridge, MA twice (dentist. And again dentist. Not so fabulous) and now am headed off again...New York this week, just for a day, to peek in at the work on The Giver movie; then Salt Lake City, where everyone in the county has been reading The Giver (and I'll be able to show them a brief clip); and after SLC I head to Germany, to see my daughter in law and granddaughter for the first time in almost a year.
It begins to look as if spring MIGHT come after all, putting an end to this worse-than-horrible winter. The snow in my yard is almost melted..just patches left in the shady places. (And at the farm....a mountain still in the driveway, where it was piled probably 15 feet high. There was more snow there....it is in ski country....and it was colder)
Here is a picture from CHarlottesville of me with author Kathryn Erskine. It is always one of the things I enjoy most about such festivals...the chance to see old friends (in Tucson it was Janet Tashjian and Alice Hoffman) and to make new ones, as with Kathy here, whom I had not met before.
Taxes. Blizzards. Airports. these are the things that have been obssessing me for about six weeks. Every year I have to put together my tax informaton for my accountant; what's the big deal? I've done it for years. I am self-employed, so I have to organize all those receipts and document that yes, I did have lunch in the Houston Airport on my way to a conference; and yes, I did need to buy a new ream of computer paper at Staples, and yes, yes, yes... Nothing much changes, years to year, except the dental bills, which have grown and grown. And I don't cheat, or even try to find ways to ferret out extra deductions. So I should be used to it, and relaxed about it, but I am not; and I don't know why, each year, I whine and mutter and procrastinate.
But now I have completed the tax stuff, and mailed it to the accountant, so maybe I will stop having the dream about the final exam for which i haven't prepared..at least until next February.
But then there is the endless snow and bitter cold which this year has made Maine feel like Siberia...and has also complicated travel. I got hung up in Houston during an ice storm (yes, IRS, I had to eat lunch in the Houston Arport). And then my plane out of Madison was cancelled and I had to take a bus to Chicago (yes, IRS, $30 for bus fare: tax deductible); and then a week or so later my plane out of Sarasota was cancelled; and now I am suposed to go to Tucson next Friday and already...ALREADY!...the weather guys on TV are making sounds about a snowstorm....a Nor'easter they are calling it, because TV weather guys love to use that term....late next week. Can this be true? In March..the very month of my first-day-of-spring birthday??? Of course it can. It happens, at least in New Engand, every March.
In any case I am hoping to get to the Tucson Book Festival, where I am to speak next weekend, and where I will also see a lot of old friends. And then later in March: the Virginia Festival of the Book, in Charlottesville, where I wil get to see my brother, sister-in-law, their daughter and three grandchilden.
Unless, of course, my travel is once again disrupted by snow....
Today, once again, we in Maine are snowbound. 10 inches, they predict. But this time I have no plane to catch...only a theater ticket for tongiht, and the play will probably be re-scheduled. So I am cozily at home, with a fridge full of food; and I decided to use this unexpected time to deal wiht a negected project.
No, not a book manuscript, though that is also on the agenda.
This is: knitting. I used to knit a lot. Then I got a kitten and knitting became a lost cause. You simply can't knit with a kitten in the house. So I tucked it all away, and when I moved last spring, I moved several tote bags filled with yarn, knitting paraphernalia, and some half-done projects. I put them in a closet in my new house. And there they have sat until today, when I decided to sort through them and organize them and re-identify myself as a knitter.
There were a lot of quandries...one third of a baby blanket? Half a hat? Part of a mitten? quandries. Most of those things got tossed out.
And then there were things like this:...
This is a glimpse of part of the University of Redlands (with mountains beyond) east of LA, where I spent the weekend at the annual...and always wonderful..Charlotte Huck Festival. Getting there was iffy as I dodged a snowstorm in New England, but managed to fly out of Boston...directly into an ice storm in Houston, where I was changing planes. So it was a long and anxiety-filled day (the announcement you don't wnat to hear in an airport: We will be bringing in cots for those of you...) I think my plane was the last to leave Houston before they cancelled the rest of the flights (and isn't it amazing how willingly we climb onto a piece of aluminum in order to hurtle into wind and ice, rather than sleep on a cot by the closed Starbucks entrance?)
Other speakersat Redlands incuded old freind Janet Tashjian; Paul Janeszco, a near neighbor in Maine (so we were both appreciating California weather); Eric Rohmann, who did a wonderful job several years ago illustrating "Bless This Mouse"; David Weisner, who was to learn the day after the festival that his "Mr. Wuffles" was a Caldecott Honor; Candace Fleming (who in my opinion should have had a Newbery by now, but the committees who make those decisions seem too often to veer away from non-fiction; and Eugene Yelchin, author of "Stalin's Nose," whom I had not met before. One of the best parts of these festivals and conferences is always the time with colleagues whom you don't see very often, or, like Eugene, you are meeting for the first time.
On coming home I discovered that a newspaper out there had printed an article about my speech in which things that I had not said were inserted. They were fabricated on the part of the reporter for reasons I cannot begin to understand. So I spent a lot of time muttering and complaining, then apologizing to the people who might have been hurt by what I was alleged to have said, and then contacting the newspaper, from whom I have had no reply. Time to get over it and move on....
After the Oscar nominations were announced this week, my son, a lawyer with a sense of humor (are those two things mutually exclusive? Not necessarily) sent me this:
January 16, 2015
“The Giver”, based upon the much beloved young adult novel written by media darling Lois Lowry, carried the day as the Academy Award nominations were announced in Hollywood. The film, which has surpassed 2009’s “Avatar” as the highest grossing film of all-time, received 12 Oscar nods, including best picture, best actor for Jeff Bridges, who thrilled audiences in the title role, and best director for Phillip Noyce, who has called the film his “crowning achievement.” At last week’s Golden Globes, “The Giver” swept the night with 9 awards being handed out.
Lowry, reached at her home in Maine, told a throng of reporters with a grin, “I guess this is what happens when you have a son like mine”, clearly referencing the sudden rise to stardom of her son Ben, who has been signed by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and Walden Media to star in a series of upcoming thrillers.
Ha ha. Thanks, Ben.
The final scene of THE GIVER is to be shot in Utah at the end of this month (it needed snow, and hills; Utah has both). Then the hard post-producton work begins.
I do have movies to see, now that the nominations are in. I went to American Hustle recently, confusing it stupidly with Wolf of Wall Street, and kept waiting for Leonardo DiCaprio to appear, and the explicit sex which reviews had mentioned. Took me a while to perceive that I was at a different (and quite wonderful) movie....
This is the kind of thing one doesn't want to read in the forecast:
Cloudy. Snow in the morning. Areas of blowing snow in the morning. Additional light snow accumulation. Highs around 9 above. North winds 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph. Chance of snow 80 percent. Wind chill values as low as 27 below.
But there it is. The party I was to attend Friday night has been canceled becuase it is inland, 35 miles west, and the forecast there is even worse.
It is Maine. It is what it is.
I have neglected "work"...that is to say, writing....in recent weeks, first because of movie stuff, then travel, then Christmas. But now I am going to be housebound because of the weather for a few days, at least, and I am planing to revisit the manuscript in progress that has been unopened in too long. Usually when I have neglected work in progress for a while, it turns out to be a good thing; my subconscious, it seems, has been at work on it and maybe my conscious brain needed the break. So I am hoping that is true this time....
A terrible blow. My subscription to the NY Times has become irrevocably screwed up, and now I get no newspaper delivered, and finally I have gotten them to stop billing me for the unarriving paper, but I have yet to rev up my stamina to make the necessary phone call/s that might, if I can get past the electronic menu, get them to start up my subsciption. I want a truce, a no-blame treaty, and I want my NYTimes on my front porch every morning. But it isn't happening yet.
That, however, is not my terrible blow. The blow is this: that this morning I said goodbye to my overnight guest, put on my coat and gloves and hat and boots, and went out to buy the NY Times, maybe a 2-mile drive to the drugstore. I bought their last copy, and also bought some cough drops, because it is that time of year, and a brand new EnerGel pen for doing the NY Times crossword puzzle, something I have sorely missed during my weeks without it.
And when i got home, I opened up my new pen, poured a fresh cup of coffee, and opened up the NY Times...and WWWAAAAHHH there is no maagzone section in it. Hence, no crossword puzzle.
Okay, I have the international news, and the Arts and Leisure section, and The News of the Week in Review, and I have Sports, even though I don't really care about the Patriots any more after last week's game. But I do. not. have. the. puzzle. Abd this is a devastating blow.
I am thinking of going back to bed, even though it is 11 AM. Yes, I am that sad.
It is almost impossible to describe the aftermath of snow and ice storms without resorting to clichés, because of course the ice DOES sparkle like diamonds. I woke this morning, two days after Christmas, to the welcome sound of the plow in my driveway. The sky today is very, very blue after the white blur of yesterday. I had to postpone my plans for movie and dinner with friends yesterday because the snow kept coming and coming and the driving was very treacherous. THis morning, sunshine makes everything glisten and the roads are scraped clear and oh, Maine, you have once again redeemed yourself.
I have a couple of trips in January and, as always in winter, find myself unnecessarily worrying about weather. Emails back and forth with Madison, Wisconsin, have me thinking: yes, of course those flight times are fine...unless there is a snowst... But why bother saying that? They surely know, in Wisconsin, about snowstorms. And the worrying is pointless because one can't do a thing about it.
My other January trip is to southern California, to speak at the Charlotte Huck Festival in Redlands. This will be my sceond time there; and the first time...it may even have been the first time the festival was held...Charlotte Huck was still allive. She was a remarkable woman and scholar and I was fortunate to have known her.
It is, once again, Christmas Day. I am alone in my house, baking blueberry/lemon muffins and ginger/cranberry scones to take with me to a family brunch gathering in a few hours. Outisde the sun is bright, the sky very blue, and the ice on the bushes by my windows is sparkling.
Two weeks ago, I was in Cuba. Ironically, I lived in Key West in 1959 as refugees were fleeing the Revolution. In retrospect I realize I did not know a lot about what was happening. I was 22, with two children under 13 months, and didn't pay much attention to anything beyond my immediate supervision. So, in Havana, walking through the Museum of the Revolution, I got a sense of those times...of those hopes, as the people, led by Castro, rose up to toppple a corrupt government.
Today, more than 50 years later, one gets a glimpse of dreams unfulfilled. But not all of them. Cuba has, apparently, a good health care system; and a enviable education sysem, with 100% literacy. Very little violent crime, and pratically no drug problems. Yet the people are terribly poor. The beautiful architecture—Havana must once have been one of the most dazzling cities in the world—is crumbling. Many of the luxurious homes that were owned by the wealthy, who fled, are now occupied by large numbers of people, and laundry flaps from the windows. The ruined sidewalks make for treacherous walking and the workers in the cigar factory dread the frequent power outages because they are sent home and get no pay for the day.
I always like to wander through small supermarkets in other parts of the world. They give such a sense of daily life. But one sees none of those in Havana. The population is provided monthly rations from the state ("never quite enough," one person confided with a rueful laugh)
Yet there is music—oh my, there is music!—and art, and dance; and a wonderful sense of community in the neighborhoods. One well-known tile artist has decorated his entire neighborhood so that it is bright with color....
I seem to need to apologize once more for Failure To Post. I think Facebook has sucked some posting energy from me but I am aware that many, many of you are not my Facebook Friends...I reserve that for family and real friends...and I should be more attentive to this broader, less "exclusive" site.
At any rate: here I am again. And part of my silence, actually, has been the result of...as usual...too much travelling. But fun travelling! I whooshed off to Cape Town, South Africa to spend a few days on the movie set; they are filming "The GIver" there.
Cape Town is a fabuous city and I had been disappointed by the fact that although I had been in South Africa before, I had not had time to go to Cape Town. And sadly, though I was there..and loved it...I did not have time, this trip, to do the usual toursty things. No visit to Robben Isand. No trip to the top of Table Mountain.
Instead, I spent all my available time watching the filming of the movie. The movie folk (for lack of a better designation) were kind enough to let me roam behind the scenes...and behind the scenes of filmmaking is the thing that interests me the most. Perhaps because I am a highly visiual person who once worked as a photographer, I am fascinated by the process of visual images re-creating a story that existed only in words.
"The Giver" is a largely introspective book. Not much action. A movie has to approach the story differently. I knew that from the get-go and so was neither suprised nor disappointed that they had to add scenes that are not in the book, had to put in action and action-filled suspense....
Am I allowed to say "I've been busy"? Is that an excuse? It's true, in any case; and I have neglected posting to the blog lately.
Some of the "busy" has included spending a weekend in Broklyn, where I was given the "Best of Brooklyn" award, given each year to an author wihth a connection to that city...ah, excuse me, borough.
I lived in a Broklyn as a very young child, when my father was trnsferred fomr there after being in Hawaii, where I was born, for several years. We were in Brooklyn on Sunday, December 7, 1941, and that is one of my very early memories. I was four. My father was outside, about to get into the car. My mother heard the news on the radio. She began to cry. Honolulu was our home until so recently. I ran outside and told Daddy to come in; Mama was crying. I have a memory that she told him he must put his unofprm on. (He was a US Army majpr then; but it was a Sunday; he was wearing civilian clothes.) I have always wondered if it was announced on the radio that military personnel should be in uniform. I couldn't have made up that memory...it is so specific.
But always there are questions you don't ask your parents in time, and then they are gone, and you wonder forever.
My father had to go off to the war, and Mother took us (my sister and me) to Pennsylvania, where her parents lived. Later, when the war ended, we would go to live in Tokyo....
This morning, by appointment, a photographer came to the farm to do a portrait of me. Not a head-and-shoulders smiling photo for a book jacket. But a here-I-am-in-my-milieu portrait to be included in a possible book of Writers in Maine, the proceeds of which would then go to the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, to a restricted fund for Maine's independent bookstores to use for author visits, signings, book parties. etc. All in all a good thing. And I for one would buy such a book...not to see myself in it!...but because I love to peek into other poeple's lives, especially other writers' lives; and because I love photographic portraits, no matter who the subjects are.
I did find myself hoping, before he arrived, that he would not do yet one more here-she-is-in-front-of-her-bookcases pose. I would have been willing to do that if that's what they were looking for. But...whew...they weren't. He wandered around the first floor of my house; and then through the studio, which is separate from the house, and then...YAY!...into the barn. The barn is my favorite place, at least for photographs. The light sifts in with little bits of dust floating in it. The wood is weathered and in some places gnawed by critters of past generations.
Many, many years ago, my great aunt, a photographer back in the early 1900's, did a photograph of a young boy in a barn. He stands in a hayloft, with the light from a window behind him, making him into a silhouette. I don't know the history of the boy or the photo...only its date, 1911. I used that old photograph as one of the illustrations in my book The Silent Boy.
This photographer selected an old staircase leading to a loft in my barn, and I sat there on the rickety steps beside a wooden post scarred with toothmarks (horse? cow?) and watched him move the dials of his Hasselblad and remembered fondly the days when I also was a photographer of people and looked for the right light, the right backdrop.
I just found an old photo of the stairs on which I sat ths morning, and another of the back entrance to my barn...there is Alfie, looking out. He wouldn't sit with me on the stairs today for a portrait!...
The other night, at the farm, a friend was visiting and we flicked around the TV channels and settled on watching Bette Davis in "Dark Victory." 1939. I had watched it several times over the years, but not for a long while, and all I remembered was the ending when Bette Davis is out in garden, looks up into the bright sunny sky, and says something like: "It's going to rain. A cloud has come over the sun"..and we (the audience) know that this is it, she is about to die....because earlier in the movie we have been told by her doctor/husband (George Brent) that she has a particular kind of brain tumor from which death is inevitable...and more than that, her death will be preceded by her vision failing.
I had forgotten a lot. Like the fact that a very young fatuous Ronald Reagan has a minor role. That Humphrey Bogart has an important part but is woefully miscast as a Irish horse trainer, complete with a bad brogue. That the music is overwrought (soaring violins as Bette Davis, just in from the garden and suddenly blind, fakes to her husband that she is fine, wishes him a cheery goodbye as he sets off on a trip, and then feels her way to her deathbed). That everyone overacts. That the dialogue is terrible, and the plot preposterous.
But oh my, it was fun watching it.
Speaking of clouds covering the sun...they aren't. It has been one glorious day after another, with cool nights now as fall approaches. I have company coming and going and I am picking the last of the blueberries and freezing them. Yesterday I drove to Brunswick, Maine, and went with my friend Middy to an outdoor arts festival with food and music and all kinds of art, good and bad; as well as all kinds of people: tourists, aging hippies, townfolk, probably pickpockets, and many many children....
Last night I was reading a book with an impossibly unwieldy title...A Constellation of Vital Phenomena....and I kept turning to the back flap to look again at the author photograph because he looked so impossibly young to have written such a mature and complex novel. 28, one reviewer described him.
OKay, then. 28. I thought back to myself at that age, in 1965. I had majored in writing in college, had wanted...had intended, had hoped, had aspired...to be a writer.
Why wasn't I, at 28? Well, I had four children by then, and in 1965 they were 3, 4, 6, and 7. I also had a dog, a cat, and a husband. I remember myself perpetually at the sink...why is that? Ah, I remember: I had no dishwasher.
I had a sewing machine, though, my mother's old Singer portable. I made my own clothes as well as my two daughters'. Those were the days of dresses.
To get out of the house, for my own sanity, I worked one night a week, 7-12, as a volunteer at the local hospital. (It strikes me now as illogical that I would escape the chaos and bedlam of home for the chaos and bedlam of an emergency ward. But at least they were someone else's kids who had smashed their motorcycles, blown up their fingers with fireworks, or played with daddy's chainsaw.)
Well, first of all, the weather: 70s, clear, dry, breezy. A fabulous Saturday.
With so many blueberries at their peak, I made a batch of blueberry muffins. Then, because the flour and eggs and sugar were out there anyway, I made a batch of brownies.
Then I put all the ingredients for a beef stew into the slow cooker and set it for seven hours.
I played probably 5 games of Words with Friends.
I got an email from a dear friend whom I hadn't heard from in two years....
The filmmakers making THE GIVER are not obligated in any way to consult me. They own the rights to the movie and are working hard to make it the best one possible. But they have kindly invited me to peek at the inner workings, to give my opinions and suggestions. So last week I flew out to LA and spent two days doing just that (and upon returning to Maine have continued to do so through email).
It's facsinating to watch the inner workings, the preliminary hard work that takes place before the cameras are ever turned on (as they will be in South Africa, where the movie is to be shot, in September). Set designs (spectacular)...in progress. Costume designs (fascinating)....in progress. Casting (impressive)...in progress. Script tweaking (endless)...in progress.
Yes, the boy Jonas will be older in the film than the book...as will his friends Asher and Fiona. Some readers are already annoyed (in some cases outraged) about that. Entertainment Tonight apparently says that I should be, too. I'm not. A book and a movie are not the same thing. A movie needs visual stuff, and action; and this is a laregly quiet and introspective book. In the film there will be things happening that are much more believable if an older teenager is doing them...the escape of the boy and the baby is much...what would the word be...bigger, vaster, harder. Epic.
Here I am, at the home of director Phillip Noyce, with Australian actor Brenton Thwaites, who will be playing Jonas alongside Jeff Bridges as The Giver. He has, you'll notice, dark eyes. "They're removing my eyes for the movie," he told me (with those very same eyes twinkling) and I'll have artifical blue eyes." "Hah," I replied. I admire the sacrificies you are willing to make for your art."
Of course they can (and will) give him blue eyes. And of course they can make a red apple appear suddenly in a black-and-white scene. Movie-making is about magic....
Recently a number of people have asked me what I think about the J.K. Rowling controversy...not sure "controversy" is the correct word here. The news. The situation. The whatever.
Here is my take on it. I don't think for a minute that she—or her publisher—orchestrated the whole thing in order to sell books. Rowling doesn't need more money. Publishers, of course, always need more money. But more than that, they need to maintain a mutually happy relationship with their top-selling author.
I think she simply wanted the freedom to write a book without the celebrity, the demands, the publicity, and the endless mindless circus that had begun to accompany her previous publications. The publisher respected that wish and agreed to publish her new book under a pseudonym. (I think their mistake was making the alleged author seem so interesting—and unlikely—that people started investigating)
It got good reviews, which much have been gratifying for her. It got minor sales, which is typical of a first novel; and probably she would have gone on to write more under that name and gradually built up a reputation and greater sales and a few fans.
It would have given her the kind of job most of us have as writers: to work hard, in solitude, taking pleasure in the act of writing without the overwhelming demands that Harry Potter had probably placed on her toward the end. Having her cover blown has ruined it, has destroyed that possibility. And then on top of it...to have some of the public accuse her of masterminding it....well, I feel really sorry for her....
Mayor Menino has inked a deal to author a book chronicling his life, career, and long reign in City Hall’s corner office in Boston.
This is a recent announcement in the Boston Globe. I have no quarrel with Boston's long-time mayor, and am sorry that his health has become an issue so that he is not running for reelection. But inking a deal to author a book? My quarrel is with the creation of verbs from nouns. INK is a noun, people. So is AUTHOR.
I know I am fighting a losing battle here. I lost it a long time ago, the day PARENT turned into a verb.
I am leaving my beloved farm for a week on Monday...and missing one of my most valued times in summer here, the Tuesday night chamber music concert. (Last night's was dazzling: Beethoven and Mendelssohn, both Felix and Fanny) But I have been asked to fly out to Los Angeles...(or, as the Boston Globe would perhaps prefer me to say, I am going to airplane to Los Angeles) for a meeting with the movie-makers as they embark on the film of The Giver....