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News from Iran

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on Sunday, 05 February 2012
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I just received the this news from Tehran:

Shortlisted nominees of children's books of the 29th edition of the Book of the Year of Iran including fiction, science and technology, religion and poetry are just announced.


Nominees:


A) Fiction – Translation


1. 'Gathering Blue' - Lois Lowry – trans. Keyvan Abidi Ashtyani


2. 'Grateful Yours' – Jane Buchanan – trans. Parvin Alipour


3. 'Story of Sultan' – Samira Shafiq – trans. Mojtaba Rahmandoust

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In Memory

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on Wednesday, 25 January 2012
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I went last evening with my friend Nancy to see "The Iron Lady." Nancy's wonderful husband John died of a brain tumor five years ago. I was with her, just the two of us, with him, the night that he died, and I have never forgotten what a privilege that was.

Much more recently, Nancy was an enormous source of help and advice during Martin's illness.

So there we were at the movie...which we both felt was a marvelous performance by Meryl Streep in a less-than-marvelous film...and suddenly there was a scene where the aged Margaret Thatcher finally sorts and discards her late husband's things. She puts his shoes, pair by pair, into a large green trash bag. Nancy and I both gasped. We had both done that.

Nancy spent the night at my house and this morning she was still there sipping coffee when my contractor, Sal, arrived. I had called Sal just yesterday to see if he could schedule some time to paint a room. I had been dismantling Martin's home office for some weeks. His big desk went to my house in Maine, where it replaced my much smaller one. His computer went to one of his sons. His keyboard went to my brother. Little by little things were sorted, somewhat like the shoes, and discarded or sent to a new home. So the room was nearly emptied and ready to be painted, and when I called Sal, he said he could come the next day...today. So I rushed to choose paint; and today, little by little, all traces of Martin's office, where he spent so many—mostly happy—hours composing music, have disappeared and it is re-emerging as a guest room.

Then this evening a UPS guy came to my door and delivered this package of pages. Literally pages...386 of them, to be exact; and times two...because there are two copies...makes 772.

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"I sucked badly..."

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on Monday, 23 January 2012
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One envisions a child failing to consume his lollypop with artistry and grace.

But no, this was quarterback Tom Brady, after the Patriots-Ravens game. One has to admire his forthrightness and honesty even while cringing at the grammar.

And despite his less-than-stellar performance, and the close score that left us with our nails gnawed, The Pats move on now to the Superbowl.

The ALA awards have been announced, and I am thrilled for Jack Gantos...practically my neighbor....and also for my very dear friend Ashley Bryan...as well as Chris Raschka...and my heart goes out to some others who were high on so many lists but just somehow failed to make the cut.  I cannot imagine the difficult job of the committee.  I was once a judge (with four others) for the National Book Awards and I remember how tough that was.

I also remember, with a warm blush of shame, an idiotic thing I did during that judging procedure. We five judges (me, Katherine Paterson, Michael Cart. Julius Lester, and Robert Lipsyte) all lived in different locations, not surprisingly. This was way back when computers were new-ish to most of us, and when I still used AOL for my email. I carefully created a group AOL address for my four colleagues...I think it was probably something like This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it each time I had finished reading maybe 10 books, I sent the group an email with my carefully-phrased opinions.  It was a little annoying after a while that they never replied. But we had several conference calls and so I had a chance to repeat the thoughts that I had already sent them.

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Still no snow...

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on Thursday, 19 January 2012
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...at least here in Cambridge, where I live. In Maine there is some, not much. and the ski areas must be wringing their collective hands (as is my gardener who says the gardens need snow cover)

But here are my grandsons, in Portland:

I remember many happy hours of sledding in the hilly college campus across the street from my childhood home, and much later I used that location, and those memories, in an autobiographical book called AUTUMN STREET.  And of course THE GIVER contains a sled (though the Chinese translation seems to think it is skis, and uses a skier on the cover of the book.)

I am home now from Kansas City (where indeed the final scene of the opera has a red sled on the stage) and revving up for the Patriots/Ravens game on Sunday....have given away my theater tickets and will stay home to watch the game instead.

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Everything's up to date....

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on Friday, 13 January 2012
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Yes, I am in Kansas City. I got here Monday (today is Friday) to watch final rehearsals of the opera "The Giver" and then to speak to the audience after each performance.

This, if I get it right, is a link to an article in the Kansas City Star:

http://www.kansascity.com/2012/01/11/3367828/new-opera-being-performed-in-kc.html

which explains that it was a joint commission for composer Susan Kander, from the Kansas City Lyric Opera and the Minnesota Opera Co.  It is being performed here this week...final performance, for the public, tomorrow afternoon (four performances so far have been for school kids, 900 each time, brought in by bus)    In late April it will be presented in Minneapolis (I'll go there then to see it again)

It has been a fascinating process to watch.  The Giver, and the parents, are all performed by adult professionals; the boy, Jonas, by a wonderful boy soprano; and the other child characters—Asher, Fiona, Lily—sung by actual children (and the baby, Gabe...no singing required!...played by a live baby who darn near steals the show by way of his cuteness and placid temperament.  There is also a chorus made up of kids from 8 to 18 who move the plot along the way an actual Greek chorus does, and who are well-trained by the music director.

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Adios, Guatemala

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on Friday, 06 January 2012
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After a long day of traveling on Tuesday, here I am back at home, and here is Saint Francis, directing traffic just outside the door to my office.

He was carved by a young man in Chichicastenango, and I bought him there at the open air market which is said to be the largest in Central America.  The colors and sounds! Here is an old woman selling flowers, and a  Mayan mother and daughter making tortillas...

 

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Buenas Dias

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on Saturday, 31 December 2011
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This is the view from my hotel room in the early morning.

Yesterday we went by boat to visit several Mayan villages on the periphery of Lake Atitlan, where we saw the contrast between vibrant color and grinding poverty. Now and then we have met Americans who came here 30-40 years ago, as hippies, and stayed.  Easy to see why one would stay in this beautiful place with its benign climate as a young person; harder to see how one would stay while aging, with no good medical or dental care available.

But oh, the colors!

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OLA

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 29 December 2011
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I am writing this from Antiqua, Guatemala, which is a lovely ancient small city, (a World Heritage Site, so that nothing can be changed or spoiled), where I have been staying with three women friends. Yesterday I met an American woman who has lived here for 39 years. It is easy to see why.....especially when one is contributing to the world, as she is. She has 500 Mayan women, all of them widows,  from 25 highland villages, weaving for her shop. Me,  I bought a bedspread from her. I did not need a bedspread. It will probably be overly bright-colored for my bedroom. But what the heck. She is doing important work, and the weaving is beautifuland I liked her and what she does.

This morning we head on from here to Lake Atitlan, which my friend Kay, who has been there before, says is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

There is a lot of competition for that title, in my observation.

Onward!

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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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