I've been traveling around much too much, and when I was in O"Hare yesterday waiting for a plane, I saw a small child having a tantrum and screaming, and thought: I want to do that.
But there has been the fun of seeing old friends: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and I watched the debate together Friday night, in her hotel room, and if anyone had seen the two of us side by side on her king-size bed, watching...they could have taken a photo and started a rumor. On Saturday I spent the morning with old friend Joanna Maclay, actress I met years ago in Kansas when we stayed in the same hotel....she was there doing a one-woman show of Ann Sexton, I remember...and we hit it off and have remained friends for years.
Judy Blume was also in Chicago, for the Banned Books event...good to see her.... plus several authors I had not met before (and whose names I can't remember now, alas)..
Then I scooted home, to Boston, and today spoke at the Boston Public Library's Literary Lights Event...another chance to see people I like a lot: Gregory Maguire, Christopher Paul Curtis (photo attached), Chris Van Allsburg, Susan Cooper, and Laura Amy Schlitz, whom I had not met before but whose work I greatly admire.
Tomorrow I have to drive up to Maine because the electrician is coming Tuesday to repair my Viking range. But on the whole my travel commitments are at an end for a little while, at least, (Nebraska October 10th) and I can catch my breath and file all the stuff on my desk that has become mountainous. And maybe start getting some work done.
Oh! Almost forgot! When I was speaking in Orlando, I quoted a letter I had sent once to a parent who had objected to the use of the word "damn" in NUMBER THE STARS. Someone in the audience asked if I would put that letter on my website, and I said I would include it in my blog. So here it is now (and I cannot for the life of me figure out why it is underlined, or how to make the underlining go away):
.....the writer of fiction, the one who
takes the work seriously, as I do, tries very hard to create narrative that is
real and thought-provoking. The job
of creating believable fictional characters is not easy. But one thing that is essential to the
task is that they act and move and speak the way a real person in real
So Uncle Henrik, in NUMBER THE STARS,
says "damn Nazis." Picture
his circumstances. He lives in a country that has cherished its integrity and
cared about its citizens for hundreds of years. Now his friends and neighbors
are in danger of being murdered. He is adult, angry, anguished, impassioned. How would he speak? That was the task I
was faced with as the author.
Using language in the voice of a
fictional character doesn't mean the author speaks that way, or that the reader
should. It means only that the character comes alive on the page, and the
reader - even a very young reader - can become deeply involved in the story and
react to it from the heart.
NUMBER THE STARS is a story about human
integrity. For seventeen years it has been used in schools not only across the
USA but in 22 other countries. Countless children have written to me over the
years to tell me that it has affected their feelings toward others, that it has
taught them to try to live without prejudice. In order for them to feel that way, they have to believe in the narrative and to understand the passion and anguish of the characters...