Lois Lowry's Blog


dogs and names and books

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 23 August 2007 in Uncategorized

I woke up to rain this morning...not unwelcome because we need it, and currently the pump in the old well that waters my gardens is not working properly. But I hope it clears by tomorrow, because tomorrow Alfie is entertaining a guest, his friend corgi Charlotte. Charlotte was born into a litter that were all named for children's book characters... I don't know the names of the others but will ask Charlotte's mom.

Once I knew a golden retriever who was named Henry, each of that litter having been named for Shakespeare characters: a rich source; I can picture Falstaff and Prospero.

Alfie's litter was not named thematically...they were not named at all, actually, until owners took over (and I do know that he has a brother and sister somewhere now named Elvis and April) but if they had been named for British movies, as Alfie was, they could have been ... what? Maurice? Iris?

Best news bookwise in a while is the announcment of a sequel to "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. The new one, due out in October, will be called "World Without End." I remember when 'Pillars' was published: quite a long time ago, maybe early 1990's*, and although I had not before been a lover of historical novels, that one so captivated and fascinated me that I recommended it to countless people, and every one of them was hooked the way I had been. Just the other day I got an email from my brother, whose wife had recently had surgery, tellng me that he had whiled away the hours sitting at the hospital by re-reading "The Pillars of the Earth"... His wife is doing fine now, and one hopes he doesn't have to sit in a hospital ever again, but I was pleased to be able to tell him about "World Without End."

* I just googled it to check. 1990.

Of course sequels are often a disappointment. (Does anyone remember that there was a sequel to "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"? Of course not). So writers are probably often hesitant to write them, even though—like readers—we are eager, sometimes, to re-visit greatly-loved characters. I hedged, in writing the books that became "The Giver" trilogy, by focussing on other characters and letting Jonas recede into an important but not central role. (Of those three books, incidentally, I like the second one best. But I suspect that's because the main character is female, and most like me).

And speaking of books that I unexpectedly loved, and then recommended: "Goodbye, Darkness" by William Manchester. Who would have guessed that I would even pick up a book about WW II in the Pacific? But I not only picked it up...I couldn't put it down.

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Betty Monday, 29 November 1999

This is so upsetting to hear. I once misspelled a child's name when signing (an unusual spelling). The boy didn't say anything but when he took it home, there was the same kind of outrage from the father. I sent him a new signed book at my expense and explained it was a mistake but the father continued to claim I had done it deliberately. I was so upset, I temporarily vowed never to visit schools and sign books again. But I changed my mind. I finally asked the father what my purpose would be in purposefully offending a fan? No response to that. Thanks for this post-I struggle with this, too, and often wonder how you get so much accomplished.

Joell Stebelton Monday, 29 November 1999

Last year my son worked on a school project about famous Americans. He chose Steven Spielberg, because he's interested in becoming a director himself. He sent Mr. Spielberg a letter and asked a few questions. We never received a reply. While my son was disappointed, I explained that, after all, Mr. Spielberg must be a very busy man making movies and taking care of his large family. I didn't send an email saying I was going to rip his face off for heaven's sake. This ridiculous trend of parents stepping in to save the day for their children will only prove devastating later. We all are let down or disappointed at some time during our lives. We need to learn how to handle it. These parents aren't providing a good example to their children. Sounds like mail rage to me. And, at least these children are receiving some response from you.

hope Monday, 29 November 1999

Oh dear. The editor who published my books in soft cover forwarded an extremely condescending and nasty e-mail written by a father much like your angry mother. He pointed out that his son was in the most prestigious gifted and talented program in Virginia, as if that mattered somehow when I answered fan mail. The father blamed the editor for my non-reply as well as me. He thought she should have whipped me into better shape. I felt so badly; the boy's e-mail hadn't even been sent to the softcover publisher. It had been sent to the hardcover publisher. The paperback editor wasn't even publishing my books anymore because the rights had lapsed, and she still had to deal with nasty parents.

Lois Lowry Monday, 29 November 1999

It's troubling, isn't it? On the one hand, I certainly admire and appreciate parents who take an interest in what their child is doing. But sometimes they slip over the line and go too far, running interference when the child should be learning to deal with things on his own, often modeling rude behavior.
Yet they are a minority. I get so much mail from wonderful parents. The few who act so badly make me feel concerned and sorry for their kids.

Stephenie Monday, 29 November 1999

How horrible! I apologize on behalf of other parents and teachers. (I am both.) I can't imagine becoming enraged over such a thing. Maybe they live very dull lives and you are their god.
I respect you and love your writing. I wouldn't dream of threatening you for not answering me in a unique, incredibly personal way.
Just keep writing books!

Literature Teacher Monday, 29 November 1999

I cannot believe the rudeness of some people-- especially that one teacher! She, of all people, should know how difficult it would be to respond to so many letters! Most teachers spend hours upon hours grading papers. Sounds like she needed more student work to keep her busy....
As for the parents, we teachers see the same things. There is a fine line between good parenting and being overinvolved and enabling. I teach middle school where all of the subjects are divided among different teachers. Still, we receive phone calls from parents asking us to pack their child's bookbag at the end of the day, regardless of whether we have that student last period. We simply have to say, "Sorry... so and so is going to high school next year. It is time for him to learn how to do this on his own." Fortunately, as you mentioned, most involved parents do know when to draw the line and don't need those reminders.

Julie McG Monday, 29 November 1999

Every time I send--or help a child in my class send--a letter to you, another author, or some other public figure, I almost have a sense of guilt, for I can't imagine the volume of mail you receive, and how you could ever possibly respond to it in any kind of personal way. Each time you (or the others) do respond at all, I see it as a sign of what a truly remarkable person you are...all that correspondence, and you CONTINUE to pump out such quality literature.
I am reminded of Beverly Cleary's book, "Dear Mr. Henshaw," in which young Leigh sends a list of questions to his favorite author, and the author does respond, but in part by sending back his own list of questions for Leigh to answer. HIS mother requires him to do so! Bravo for that kind of parenting!
Thank you, Lois, for all you do!

Deborah Monday, 29 November 1999

It's a shame to hear about that teacher who has so little empathy that she can't understand why you wouldn't have the time to write 63 individual replies to students. As a 6th grade teacher, I love for students to have a personal connection with an author. However, I don't think that connection should be the result of some cliche assignment that only a few of the students really care about that only creates more work and stress for the author. Instead, I have my kids write book letters to each other. If they truly feel the desire to write to an author, I will help them find the address, but it should to be their choice because they feel truly passionate about it.
On a more positive note--maybe this will cheer you up--I did have a parent approach me in tears this morning about an essay her son wrote about The Giver. They were happy tears; according to this mom, "he has never connected with a book this way or thought this deeply about something he's read. I was amazed."
I, too, am constantly amazed by what the students have to say about books with deep and powerful ideas like The Giver. Thanks for making moments like that possible.

Lois Lowry Monday, 29 November 1999

I am so touched by your story, Deborah, about the parent. I sometimes feel as we all...teacher, parent, author...are a team, working together for the heart of a child. And moments like the one you describe verify that.

A Homeschooler Monday, 29 November 1999

If you did write all of your letters personally, you wouldn't have time to write your books! And if you didn't have time to write your books, there wouldn't be any books for me to read! ( That would be BAD! )
A Homeschooler
(Who needs books!)

Giselle Monday, 29 November 1999

Thank you for posting that. I have just read that to my class who are currently writing you letters (they have just finished The Giver).
Now that they know you answer most of your letters with a "pre-prepared" response, they are challenging themselves to ask you unique and never before asked questions, in hopes that you will personally answer them. Don't worry, it is only a class of 13 ;0)
Thank you,
ESL teacher

Megan Monday, 29 November 1999

Many thanks go out to you, Lois, along with all of the other authors out there who take the time to answer the thousands of questions I'm sure you're asked each year!! As a fifth grade teacher who has taught many of your books over the years, I can tell you that my students are delighted to know that a Newbury Award winning author would take the time to respond to them!!
We are very much looking forward to the release of The Willoughbys!!

Laurie Rockenbeck Monday, 29 November 1999

I'm waiting for the day I start getting fan mail for a book I've written. And for the day when there is so much it becomes a problem! Still, I'm surprised that people aren't just happy you respond at all. To complain about your lack of individual response is purely egotistical self-importance. Perhaps they think they are doing YOU a favor by sending you mail to begin with. So good to hear those folks are in the minority. It was great hearing you on KUOW this morning--and now I'm going to AMAZON and one-clicking away.

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