Lois Lowry's Blog
These are my two grandsons. I have another grandson, but he is 26 years old, sensible and self-supporting. These, 8 and 10, are the two that I am taking off tomorrow, by plane, on an adventure.
Are we going to have fun? You betcha.
When my oldest grandson, James---now known as Jay---was ten, I told him that I would take him on a trip the next summer during his school vacation. He could choose the place. I gave him plenty of time to think about and research places. He chose, after much thought, New Zealand. I would have been willing to take him there---I had been to New Zealand and knew how appealing it is---but I dreaded the hideously long trip, with a kid.
Needn't have worried, though. When I pointed out to him that summer in New England would be winter in New Zealand, he changed his mind. And so we went to Choice #2: Hawaii. It was great. He had just turned eleven, and eleven is a wonderful age. No adolescent angst, yet. We enjoyed oursleves, and we enjoyed each other.
Now grandson Grey is about to turn eleven, and so we are doing the trip thing again. But this time I am including his younger brother, and this time I chose the destination....because I didn't relish re-doing the 9-hour flight to Honolulu....
I was just out with the dog----at 5:30 AM, for some reason his preferred time to go out in the AM----and had put a pot of coffee on first, so it was waiting for me in the house, when I discovered that the wild raspberries behind my barn were at their absolute peak. So I feasted on raspberries while Alfie puttered around.
Blueberries are not yet ripe, and I am going to be off on a trip next week, until July 27th. So maybe my housesitters will get the benefit of the blueberries. But a raspberry breakfast was lovely.
Back here at my desk, re-reading a half-finished book manuscript, I have just made a note to myself: Introduce Harvey and Augustus sooner. Yesterday, while working on this book, these two characters suddenly appeared out of nowhere, with particular personalities that I like (one whines, one pontificates)...so there they are. But I realize that they were always there, and now I have to go back and introduce them sooner, instead of having them pop up unexpectedly....
These are my two grandsons, Sunday, when the sun FINALLY came out and they got to enjoy a day-long excursion on their dad's boat.
The interesting thing (to me) is that this photo was taken the day after they watched a rented movie that we had been a little reluctant to show them. A lot of adult conversation---and then finally it was decided that okay, as long as we explained in advance that it was very scary but only a movie with special effects. etc.
Then they watched Jaws.
I watched with them, remembering back to 1975 when we were all terrified by it. Didn't want to go into the ocean afterward. And now? YAWN....
Okay. This is a room in my old house. It is the (only) access to the basement. You can glimpse, slightly, the old stone steps and the granite wall as you descend. This would once have been outdoors, but at sometime in the past (who knows when? The house was built in 1768) a room was added that incorporated this cellar access.
The furnace, as we all know, is in the basement. Every year I have the furnace cleaned and serviced in the fall. Last fall they told me that I would be needing a new oil tank in the not-too-distant future because the old one was rusting, and of course you don't want to wait till it rusts through and dumps hundreds of gallons of oil into the basement.. So this spring I called them and told them to install a new oil tank when I arrived in early June, for the summer.
They came to look over the situation, measured, and ascertained that they could not get a new oil tank down there because the opening was not large enough.
There are these moments---last winter, when my well collapsed and I was told that I needed a new well
drilled, was another---when I think: Oh the hell with it. I'll burn the house down.
The following was received as a comment to a recent post:
I'm reading "Planet Google" and came across the chapter on Google's 'book digitizing project." Out of curiosity I went into Google's book search and found most of your published books there. Wow! So does an author get any royalties? I wondered. The process of publishing, as you describe here, involves so much labor, of muscle and love, how does an author feel about seeing her work being given away so....freely?
I reprint it here because it may be of interest to others.
I am not particularly knowledgable about the details, but The Authors Guild brought suit against Google and the lawsuit has been making lawyers rich for a while. They have reached a settlement which The Authors Guild (professional organization which acts as advocate and lobbyist for published writers) deems an equitable one. To participate in the settlement, authors like myself must file a claim by Sepember. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Nearly every day for the past two months I have gone to the website where such a claim may be made, thinking TODAY I WILL DO THIS. But after a few minutes I find myself whimpering and having a stomachache.
Filing requires listing every published book and its ISBN number. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It used to be a 10-digit number but starting 2007 it became a 13-digit number. For example, the ISBN for my newest Gooney Bird book is 978-0-547-11967-0. (see below)...
It rain and rains, and there is no end in sight. Alfie wakes up as usual at 5:30 or 6:00 and as usual I get up and head out for a walk with him, but he balks at the door when he sees the weather, and says No thanks, think I'll pass.
Today I have two guys in the basement installing a new oil tank, and a guy in the garage installing a new garage door. So instead of a quiet rainy day --- conducive to work --- it is a noisy rainy day: drills and power tools of all sorts.
I got an email from my editor, Margaret, at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt a little while ago, saying the copy editor had raised some questions regarding timing in my to-be-published-in-Fall book. "Timing" meaning...if the character said this on Saturday, and then she did this on Sunday, but at some point she said "six days till.." wouldn't that mean that on Friday she... etc. etc. I am not quoting exactly because I don't want to describe the plot of the book this early. But it is why we are grateful to copy editors. Neither Margaret nor I had noticed the discrepancies that the CE caught.
And when those things are not caught, and slip past, and are published, there are always young readers out there who catch them and write to me demanding an explanation---which I don't have, except for my own stupidity and inattentiveness. (I sometimes also plead old age)...
It looks like things are on the definite upswing for Greensboro, North Carolina band Jonas Sees In Color. They have just signed to indie label Glassnote Records. The label was behind the recent huge success of the single "Fall for You" by Secondhand Serenade. In addition, the band is working in the studio with producer Aaron Johnson who worked with The Fray on their first two albums. Johnson says of the band, "Jonas Sees In Color is a strong edgy rock band with a soft melodic feel. The juxtaposition creates an awesome sound that is as unique as it is familiar."
Jonas Sees In Color was formed in 2005 and have gained a strong following through touring in the East, Midwest and South. The band's name comes from the 1993 Newbery Award winning novel The Giver by Lois Lowry. Lead vocalist Ryan Downing says, ""Our name is basically a metaphor. In The Giver, the main character (Jonas) lives in a black and white world. When he is chosen to take on the responsibility of the hopes, thoughts, and feelings of his entire village, he finally begins to see in color. One of the most important goals of our music is to create a connection with the listener by accurately connecting the stories and ideas contained in our music in a way that allows the listener to take and interpret the songs as their own."...
...a Tibetan Terrier to play with?
My goodness. Alfie had never met a mouse before, and suddenly there one was...in our living room, looking like a kids book illustration. A storybook mouse. Cute, unafraid.
I took him outside and put him in the grass:
Alfie followed me, then positioned himself beside the mouse, ready to play. He poked the mouse with a paw, then waited. Poked again gently, waited. Watched....
I just received a large number of "comments" to this blog, all from students asking questions. I don't publish comments of that sort here. This is a reminder to students that if you have comments or questions about books I've written----go to the place on my website that says "e-mail me" (upper right corner)---click on that and it will allow you to send me a personal e-mail. Happy to reply to those! But not on the blog.
These are my grandsons, Grey and Rhys, 10 and 8, playing together in the barn over this past weekend when they were visiting here at the farm. The weather was iffy, boating excursions were curtailed, the beach wasn't an option. But a barn? Yes! A barn is always intriguing. And there is STUFF in a barn. (Actually, to the left, you can see a corner of a hammock; to the right, an end of a canoe).
And here, come to think of it, from several years ago, is another grandchild---with her best friend--also in the barn: the other end, where a stall was turned into a special theater where a lot of puppet shows have taken place.
All of this makes me remember summers of my small-town childhood, where when school ended, I kicked off my shoes and entered summer barefoot and carefree. Out the door in the morning, sometimes back home for lunch---other times ignoring lunch altogether---off on (bare) feet or bike, and knowing all the favorite familiar places: a stream to be waded; an abandoned building to be explored; a wall to be walked on; an overgrown vacant lot to be explored---even the college football field, which was unused in summer, and we could actually climb into the scoreboard and hang out there, peering out of the window where, during the season, score numbers appeared....
Well, my Tibetan Terrier's two Golden Retriever cousins came to visit yesterday. And there is no question. Goldens are more photogenic.
My grandsons, 10 and 8, came to visit yesterday. They had hoped to spend the Sunday afternoon on their dad's boat on the lake...but it was raining and so we stayed in, played board games, and watched the Red Sox get trounced in Philadelphia.
This is their last week of the school year, and the older boy, finishing fifth grade, told me that his class had just finished reading my book "Gossamer."
He and I were standing in the kitchen when he told me this. Then he said, "You know what? Remember the scene where the boy, John, describes a kid he knew (yeah, right, said my grandson, nudging me and winking) whose dad made him eat dogfood?"
Yes, I told him, I remembered the scene where the abused child reveals what his past has been like.
"Well," my grandson said, "In my head, while the teacher read, I pictured this kitchen!" He looked around. "I could see the dogfood bowl there, by the refrigerator."...
As you know, publishing takes place over a long span of time, and when the writer types, "The End"---it is really the beginning. I have a picture book coming out in the fall and showed you a glimpse of it some weeks ago. I'll be talking about it more as its publication approaches.
So: the "package" that I described in my last post was actually the galleys of an upcoming book which is scheduled for publication in Spring 2010. I'll show you a quick glimpse of a page (in galley form) so that you can see and appreciate the illustrations done by my friend Jules Feiffer. I once told Jules he drew FEET better than anyone else, and that is true, but you can't really see it in this one small drawing. What you can see is the whimsical charm of his work....very appropriate for this completely whimsical book, set in a mthyical kingdom with all the standard accoutrements: royalty, castles, serving maids and suitors.
In this scene, the large wheelbarrow is filled, I am sorry to say, with newly-neck-wrung pigeons. That's right: dead birds. Soon to be served, creamed, along with many other luxurious goodies, at The Birthday Ball (which is the title of the book)...
The UPS guy just arrived and delivered a package. "Dog's harmless," I called to him. "I know he is," he called back. "Hi, Alfie!" he said, and handed him a biscuit. Then he said to me, while I took the package: "Saw you at Dunkin Donuts this morning but you drove away before I could give you the package."
Busted! Yes, I was at Dunkin Donuts this morning. I went to the dump and it was on the way and I was feeling inadequately coffee'ed.
Today Alfie and I drove to Maine, where we will be for the summer except for a few (blessedly few) interruptions.
He is ecstatic to be here---has been racing around and around, checking out all of his favorite haunts, and a little nonplussed to discover that I had hired my much-loved handyman to close off any access to the enticing under-the-barn. Enticing to Alfie because of what LIVES under there: critters of all sorts. Woodchucks, I know, because I've seen them. Porcupines, I know, because Alfie tangled with one and was the worse for it. Probably many other critters, likely including skunks. So I don't want him under there. He wants to go under there. I win. So there. Hah.
Peonies are in bloom, and some lilies, though I have many varieties of dayilies and they will bloom all summer.
Lupine. Think of Miss Rumphius in the Barbara Cooney book....
Now that I've heard from people completely grossed out by my description of a leaky hotel-room toilet, I thought I'd change the subject by adding one more photo from Africa. This is a close-up from a menu at a cafe in Johannesburg.
No, I can't tell you how the monkey gland burger tasted.
I can tell you, though, that wart hog isn't bad. A wart hog is of the pig family, of course. We were served sweet-and-sour warthog and it was fairly tasty.
As for impala? I asked the guy at the buffet, as he was slicing the roast, "What does impala taste like?" He gave that some thought and replied: "A little like springbok."
I am in a hotel room in Lancaster, California, and I am up at 6 AM---in fact have been up since 5:30 AM---partly because my brain is on Massachusetts time, and it is three hours later there. But also because I was awakened by the sound of water. Not gush, gush, but trickle, trickle. Not drip, but trickle...meaning it is flowing, though not very fast.
I got up to investigate and discovered that the toilet is leaking. The floor around it was quite awash, though now I have mopped it up and the base of the toilet is swathed in towels. It continues to flow, and I will have to add new towels soon. Here is a photo (and some of you loyal readers will cringe at the awareness that I published another hotel-toilet photo not terribly long ago. There is a trend here. Sorry).
This would not be a terribly serious problem were it not for the OTHER photo which I will now add, the photo of the cartons and cartons of books delivered here on a dolly by Barnes and Noble last night. You can't appreciate the geography from these two photos. But the flood is inching toward the cartons.
No, I will not further bombard you with Africa photos, except for these. It was fascinating to me to see the protectiveness that this elephant herd showed toward their littlest one. You can see the baby on the left --- he (or she? Dunno) was at all time surrounded by the others, and when we--in our vehicle---got a little too close for their comfort, the one nearest to the baby always let us know it. Here (above) you can see the mildly confrontational stance, the ears extended... And then here (below)...
.....when we didn't sufficiently back off, the guardian of the baby became a little more clearly annoyed. When she was finally satisfied that we were not a threat, she tore off a tree branch and fed the baby some leaves. Then, gradually, they all moved off into the underbrush and went on their stately, lumbering way...as did we (less stately). We could watch the movement of the trees as they continued on their way. For us, it was an awe-inspiring encounter. For them? Ho hum....
I don't know the answer to WHY but I can testify that they DO and that one certainly gives them the right of way. I am writing this from northwest South Africa, where yesterday I visited a second grade class in a primary school in a small Zulu village. About 45 children with just one teacher, and as I neared the classroom I could hear them singing the traditional "A B C D E F G" song---they start learning English very young--- enthusiastically.
They were lovely kids, all grins and giggles, and it is easy to see how one could fall into the Madonna/Angelina syndrome and want to take a few home.
I am in the town of Hluhluwe, which I can in no way pronounce. The landscape is vast and breathtaking, the people warm and welcoming, the poverty and unemployment heartbreaking. The night sky is incredible and makes me remember the Kurt Weill song "Lost in the Stars" from Alan Paton's book "Cry the Beloved Country" which deals with the days of Apartheid here....