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An Apology

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 20 February 2008
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Those of you who read this blog know that a couple of days ago I mentioned that THE GIVER movie would likely be further delayed because the director wanted to do the final Harry Potter movie first.

I had no inkling what a tsunami that would bring on. I have now been alerted that my small bit of non-news is appearing everywhere and as it takes on momentum it also takes on a life of its own bearing no relation to fact. LOWRY SAYS HER FILM HAS BEEN SCREWED BY YATES is a headline someplace. Harry Potter websites have created lengthy postings about it; hundreds of emails have come to me from strangers; I am about ready to change my name and go live in the outback someplace.

I have sent an apology to the film producer, who was extremely gracious....more than I deserved...in her reply.

I think we tend to forget how quickly the internet snaps and gobbles when prey is offered. I should have recalled a time some years back, when the author Susan Cooper, who had lived in my neighborhood for years, married Hume Cronyn and moved away. Shortly thereafter, in describing where I live (Cambridge, MA) to an audience in Charlottesville, Virginia, I mentioned that many writers live in my Cambridge neighborhood. I began to list a few: Robert Parker, Kathryn Lasky, Susan Cooper...then caught myself, and said, No, sorry, I forgot; Susan's gone now.

The next day the word went out...on the internet...that Lois Lowry had announced the death of Susan Cooper.

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Country matters

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on Tuesday, 19 February 2008
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I am in Maine now and seeing first hand what the latest storm has done here. It followed, of course, a winter of huge snowfall...I am looking through the window at the moment at Alfie, playing King of the Hill, sitting atop a snowbank probably 12 feet high. Around the edges of the supermarket parking lot, the snow is as high as a two-story house.

The recent storm was more snow, then rain, then freezing temperatures. So there is ice everywhere, and when I got here, although the driveway was plowed, (thank you, Jesse), the garage door was frozen closed. Eventually, though chopping and shoveling and..yes...swearing...I got it open. And I carved a path to the place where the oil company feeds oil into the furnace; if I don't keep that cleared, they won't deliver oil. But there is no way I can get to, or defrost, or expose, the propane gas tank behind the house...it feeds the six top burners of my Viking stove, and it is now empty and won't be accessible till spring. So cooking will be a challenge. There will be a lot of roasted vegetables, I think, and micro-waved things. And next fall I will not start out with a half-full tank, which was my mistake this year.

The local paper, as always, is filled with local color. In the police blotter....two car accidents involving deer (no moose; sometimes there is a moose-car collision, and that usually sadly involves two deaths: moose and driver); a rescue of a woman who went through the ice at Moose Pond; and...surely there is more to this story but all I know is the terse report from the paper: a horse "went through the floorboards" and was lifted to safety with the help of "heavy equipment and a sling."

A friend of mine arrives later today: my friend Kay, who is on sabbatical from teaching at Harvard and is writing a book. She'll be in one room at her computer and I out here in my studio off the barn at my own computer. We'll have each other's company for meals (roasted vegetables!) and evenings for the whole week. And we both plan on getting lots done though we may be distracted by dogs. She is bringing hers; mine is here; the two of them play very excitedly with each other whenever they're together, and we are hoping that an extended visit may calm them down. Either that or we will all be crazy at the end of the week.

Yikes. I just heard a huge roaring, thumping, crashing sound. Snow sliding off roof. Luckily the dog was not underneath.

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The Gathering

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on Sunday, 17 February 2008
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2152m6d0mml_aa115__2


This is the beautiful jacket of the Booker Prize winner "The Gathering" by Anne Enright, which I own but have not yet read, because I am in the middle of one of my childlike rituals involving "You can't do this pleasurable thing until you have completed this other dreaded task"...i.e., I am not allowed to read "The Gathering" until I get my tax stuff in order. Sigh.

But this morning I went to the Barnes & Noble website for a self-serving reason. Last month, when I was in New York, I did a taped interview with Katherine Lanpher for the B&N "One on One" section of their website (click on "All media.") I went to see if it was up yet (it isn't) and remained to browse and came across a video of an "Upstairs at the Square" reading.. The same Katherine Lanpher is the host and interviewer (she's great) of Anne Enright, who read beautifully, and the readings were interspersed with music by a group called Camphor. The music was so well chosen and appropriate that it enhanced the already-wonderful reading and watching the whole event made me want so badly to pick up the book! But alas, the tax stuff must come first.

Another interview I did during the same NY trip was for TIME (yes, the magazine) for Kids, and that one IS available on YouTube http://xml.truveo.com/rd?i=4288178126&a=rss&p=10 and probably as well on a Time website but I don't know how to find that.* In this case I was interviewed by a poised and articulate kid named Hannah (with an unspellable last name; she'll have to change it if she enters show biz) who did a great job.

I DID answer a huge stack of fan mail (real mail, not email, which is easier) this morning and that was one of my list of "you have to do this before..." tasks. One was a letter (my first) from Cambodia!

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ta DA!

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 15 February 2008
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Book_thanks

Well, okay, technically it isn't "out" yet, but in today's mail I received the very first copy of THE WILLOUGHBYS and even though it is I think my 34th...maybe 35th?...book, it is still a thrill to see the finished product.. Not entirely unlike waiting nine months to have a baby and then seeing it for the first time. Fingers, toes, all intact. Nose still a work in progress but with possiblities. You hope people will share your affection for it.

Okay, the analogy breaks down a little. But there is some of the same whew, I did it, and here it is, world
feeling.

Thank you, Houghton Mifflin editors and designers!

Speaking of giving birth, my oldest daughter, whose birthday was two days ago, the painter/weaver/woodworker daughter who lives in San Francisco, has just arrived in Boston for the weekend, with her friend Steve and their dog Penny Lane. Every year I boringly once again tell her about the day she was born, when her father drove me to the hospital in New London, Connecticut, crossing a toll bridge from Groton, where we lived; and I said in a spritely fashion to the toll collector: "I'm having a baby today!" The toll booth guy looked at me with a "Huh?" look. Clearly it was not as exciting an event for him as it was for me.

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Here's where you leave your heart...

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 11 February 2008
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Sf_street_by_max

My older daughter lives in San Francisco and is a painter, weaver, woodworker, and many other things, including speaker of Arabic!

Here's a recent painting by her.

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High on a hill it calls to me...

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 10 February 2008
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Sf_view

This is the view from the home of friends in San Francisco with whom I have just spent the past few days. So I have been playing hookey, not working, though now that I'm back, it is catch-up time; 300+ emails were waiting for me on the website.

I go there at least once a year to see these same friends. The wife is an artist, and one time when I was visiting I took her to meet Ruth Heller, extraordinary illustrator who lived there, and who showed us through her studio before we went out to lunch together. We had all three hoped for more such get-togethers but Ruth died, sadly, before we could make that happen.

I do love SF. The weather is so much milder—I returned late Friday night to fresh snow in Boston, with more flurries today; and they are predicting below zero temperature in the morning—but I doubt if I could ever leave New England, especially with grandchildren here. And so many good friends.

Week after next I will go up to Maine, to the farm, and hole up for a little while to get some work done without distractions. My friend Kay, on sabattical from a university teaching job and working on a book, will come with me, and we will set ourselves up in two different offices in the house and plug away.

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Superbowl

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 04 February 2008
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OKay, it's only a game, it's only a game.

A heartbreaker, though!

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Day 203

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 30 January 2008
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As you can imagine, I get a lot of interesting email in addition to the usual "How do you get your ideas?" type.

Today one came from a college senior who tells me he has read THE GIVER 30+ times, and that he is currently midway through a project of taking a self-portrait every day. He sent me the link to Day 203 out of 365, because it involves THE GIVER.

Fun to look at! I'll attach it so you can see it (click to enlarge), but to read the accompanying text you'll need to go to:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thp365/2229090899/

2229090899_a7365227cd

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Big WHO?

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 29 January 2008
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Big_papi


Yesterday I drove up to Portland, Maine and spent the night at my son's house before visiting my grandson's first grade class to talk to the kids this morning.

I slept in my grandson's bedroom, recently redecorated by their dad in red, white, and blue and with a larger-than-life-size David Ortiz on the wall...so huge that his bat extends onto the ceiling. When I said to my son, "I've always dreamed of sleeping with Big Papi" he said, "Mom, you're disgusting."

The first-graders were wonderful: lively and giggly, and guess what they voted unanimously for when I told them a story, stopped short of the ending, and suggested that it could have an ending that was...happy, sad, scary, or gross. No wonder Captain Underpants and Walter the Farting Dog are hits with this age. Gross wins hands down.

I didn't think to count the number of children in the class. But when it was time for recess, just as I was leaving, I watched them all head for their outdoor clothes: boots, snow pants, mittens, hats, etc. etc...this is Maine in january. It made me remember when I had four small children, all born in less than five years, and how I would bundle them up one after the other, just for a trip to the grocery store. All those mittens! All those boots! At least the first graders could get their own clothes on.

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The Bag of Gold

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 27 January 2008
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250_bag


Someone asked if I would post a photo of the bag I bought in the Zurich Airport. Here it is, in all its splendor..

And here, unrelated to the bag, is a photo I've just received of a new paperback jacket for MESSENGER. Many of you know that each of the books of the trilogy, in paperback, has two very different covers: the first, as I recall, green, then blue, and now this one in red/orange..and each showing a pair of hands. The reason is that these "other" versions are intended to be sold in the "adult" sections of bookstores. The text, of course, is exactly the same.

Messengercover

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Teachers

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 26 January 2008
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I have been trying to find time, here and there interspersed among other commitments, to write the answers to questions in an interview for Scholastic's TEACHER. And I'm just coming up on the several questions that deal with schools and teachers. Here's an example:


What concerns you about education today? What would you like to see change? What has changed for the better.

If you could give a gift to teachers, what would it be?


I haven't answered those yet for Scholastic, but they are waiting; and in the meantime, today I got an email from a teacher in Oklahoma. Here is part of what she wrote me:

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Hooray for Hollywood

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 23 January 2008
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I'm just back from —Brrr COLD —St. Paul where I spoke at the graduation of MFA students in Writing for Children and Young People at Hamline University, one of the few universities that offers such a program. Good people, good time, but it is bitter cold in St. Paul, and snowy when I was there. I did, however, get to go to the bookstore owned by Garrison Keillor —sadly, I forget its name—an important stop because I read and finished the book I'd taken with me, and therefore had nothing to read on the 3 hour plane ride home. Few things are worse than a bookless plane trip!

I decided, incidentally, to go ahead and read the story "Snowbound" despite a few children in the audience. I substituted some milder expletives where I could and blurred the f-word so that it sound like furgghhing. So, in the scene where the college girl nudges her repulsive boyfriend in the night and whispers, "Sweetie? You're snoring".....he now replies angrily, "So? I told you I have a furgghhing deviated septum!"

Maybe it's a medical term.

I have received a comment to the last posting which asks about the status of THE GIVER movie so I will try to fill you in.

For a number of years Jeff Bridges held the rights to make the movie of THE GIVER and he was very committed to it, very enthusiastic abut it. He is a good and decent guy so it was fun being friends with him during that time. But his option expired last March and reluctantly I did not renew it, because he had simply not been able to get the major studio backing required for financing.

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I'm really beet

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 18 January 2008
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Beet_salad


This mysterious photo is a salad. A beet salad, to be exact. And it's a lousy photo...taken with my cell phone....because you can't really tell that it was the most incredibly beautiful beet salad I think I've ever seen, with red and golden beets in cubes, carefully arranged on the plate and decorated with tiny nasturtium leaves.

This was the first course at a lovely restaurant called ELEVEN MADISON PARK in New York, at a luncheon yesterday in honor of "The Willoughbys." Publishers do wonderfully gracious things to announce a new book, and this was Houghton Mifflin's highly edible welcome to the Willoughby family, with some terrific guests, all of them from the publishing/media/library world, all of them book lovers. Two of them just back from serving on the Newbery Committee! and though of course they can't describe their process of deliberation...at least I was able to tell them what a wonderful choice I thought they had made with this year's winner.

I am now back home in Cambridge after two busy days in New York, trying to get organized to go off to St. Paul on Sunday. Sunday evening I will give a reading at Hamline University. I thought I had the perfect selection...a short story I once published, called "Snowbound," set during winter (and it is certainly winter in St. Paul, Minnesota!) and—I think— quite funny, and appropriate to a college/university audience. Ah, therein lies the problem. I suddenly (fortunately) realized that this event is open to the public...and so there will very likely be children in the audience. And the winter story, the funny story, the college story, has some bad language in it. Sigh. I guess I had better read something else.

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PS: Do Not Make Assumptions

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 15 January 2008
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When I was hanging around the Zurich Airport yesterday..several hours to kill before getting a flight to Boston, where things were delayed by a snowstorm...I was irritated by the canvas tote bag in which I was carrying my lapotop, my purse, and assorted other stuff. It had once zipped closed, but Alfie had chewed the zipper once in a fit of bad puppy behavior. And one of the two leather handles had come loose. I kept noticing that as I roamed the airport.

Then I noticed an airport shop that sold, among other things, luggage. I didn't need luggage but I thought it would be a good time and place to replace my failing canvas tote bag. And I found just what I needed, with a roomy padded section for my laptop, and lots of pockets of various sorts. And it snapped closed. So I bought it, transferred all my stuff, and threw the old one in a trash can.

Its price was in Swiss francs. I don't know anything about Swiss francs. Ask me abut pounds, or Euros, and I can tell you. But Swiss francs? Not a clue. The bag, though, cost 275 of them. I paid for it with a credit card, assuming it was like the old Italian lira, where you paid thousands for an ice cream cone and then it turned out to be two dollars in American money.

But now I am here to tell you that I was wrong, it wasn't like lira at all. I just went to a currency-conversion website to see how much 275 Swiss francs is in dollars.

And folks: I just paid $250.00 for a canvas bag.

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Home again Home again

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 15 January 2008
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I just got in last night from spending four days in Germany. I KNEW I was missing the Patriots game Saturday night so kept my fingers crossed and indeed, they really came through for me once again.

I did NOT know I was missing the Newbery/Caldecott announcments because I hadn't kept track of when that was happening. So it was after I got home and got an email from a friend who said, "What did you think of..." etc. that I went the the ALA website to catch up.

I don't read very many children's books. Last year I was completely unaware of any of the winning titles. This year I had heard of some titles being talked about, but I hadn't read them. And yet.. And YET:

Way back months ago, I talked on this very blog (I just looked it up. September 2nd) about Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village—the Newbery Medal winner— and recommended it. So I feel prescient and smug. Nah, not smug. But thrilled for the author...and the illustrator, because even though the medal is for the text...this book is perfectly, beautifully illustrated.


Nadines_class

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from Zurich

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 09 January 2008
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I have just had a pleasant lunch in the Zurich Airport and have settled in for an afternoon because my plane to Luxembourg doesn't leave for 5 hours. The trouble with my planned afternoon of work is that my mind is groggy. I never sleep well on an all-night flight no matter how tired I am or how often I tell myself, "It is 2 AM"...each time I try to arrange myself in a comfortable position, my mind turns to, "If my left foot just weren't wedged against that metal thing..." which precipitates a whole new rearrangement of body parts, settling in anew, and then: "If I could just keep my knee from poking that thick magazine in the seat pocket..." and on and on. Then I end up in Zurich and veeerry tried.

A long time ago, when it was announced that Switzerland was disbanding its army, I said facetiously, "What will they do with all those little knives?" Well, the answer is that they are all for sale in the Zurich Airport. The irony is, if you buy one, you are not allowed to take it aboard a plane.

It is a beautiful sunny day here today: blue skies over the hills. But my iPhone can't operate in Europe so if I took a picture I would not be able to send it to myself, to attach to this post. Take my word for it, though: the Alps are snowy against the blue sky, cows are wearing flowers around their necks, men in lederhosen are blowing into alpenhorns, and pretty girls have edelweiss wreaths in their hair.

I made all of that up. I am actually looking out at tarmac with Lufthansa and Swiss planes lined up, baggage handlers and small vehicles, and not a single postcard view in sight.

Yawn. I think I'll take a snooze. Oh, but first: here's another picture of the little boy in "The Willoughbys"..the one trying to make his way back to his long-last father. By now (again, click to enlarge) he is starting to look a little bedraggled.

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..and I'm off

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 09 January 2008
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Photo

Here I am at Logan Airport's International terminal, soon to board a flight to Zurich. I'll spend 5-6 hours in Zurich tomorrow, then take a short flight to Luxembourg where my daughter-in-law will pick me up for the one-hour drive to her home in southwest Germany. It will be a too-brief visit, just three days, but a treat as always to be with Margret, her partner Jürgen, and Nadine, my 14-year-old granddaughter.

Airline scheduling is responsible for my sitting around the Zurich airport tomorrow...and again on Monday, coming home. But I don't mind, It's an unusually pleasant airport, and gives me uninterrupted, undistracted time; with a laptop I might actually get some work done.

I wish I had with me on this computer the illustrations from my upcoming book "The Willoughbys" because one of characters, a young boy, finds himself stranded in Switzerland, wearing lederhosen. I just today received an advance copy of the upcoming ALA Booklist review of the book, which gives it a star...always a good thing!

I remember many years ago, 1977, when my first book was published, and I was living in a small fishing village in Maine, newly divorced and very poor. The publisher kept calling (this predates email, of course) to announce starred reviews with great delight. I didn't have a clue what they were talking about.

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Where there's a Will, there's another...and another...

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on Tuesday, 08 January 2008
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Meadowbrook

Sorry about the blast of light in the lower right hand corner. But this is the second grade of the Meadowbrook School in Weston, Massachusetts, with me in their midst this morning. I no longer visit schools, as a rule, but a Meadowbrook parent bought me at a benefit auction (the benficiary: Reach Out and Read, a very worthy cause) and so I spent this morning with the second and third graders, who are Gooney Bird Greene fans. In fact, if you look closely (click to enlarge) you will see many kids dressed in wild and crazy outfits as Gooney Bird often is.

But the amazing thing is that when I called upon kids in this group, and asked their names, the first four boys replied, "Will." "Will." "Will." "Will."

I was sure they were putting me on and accused them of being, actually, Sam, Max, Henry, and Jeff. But no. It was true. Will. Will. Will. Will.

Anyway, thanks to Meadowbrook, to its librarian Lucia Corwin, and to all those Wills and their classmates and friends. They are good readers and good listeners, and now that I have read them parts of the upcoming (not yet published) Gooney bird book, they will have some new and interesting fashion statements to make.

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Here's to the Apple!

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 04 January 2008
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So: here's what happened. You may recall that on December 21st or 22nd, my pocketbook disappeared, with all my worldly goods: credit cards, iPhone, drivers license, money, etc. etc. I took all the necessary steps to avoid identity theft, and went off to Maine for Christmas.

Yesterday morning, back here in Cambridge, January 3rd—let me count; that's 13 days later—some workmen working on a house about two blocks away found my purse flung into a snowbank in a back yard, its contents strewn about. They gathered everything, gave it to the local mailman who was passing by, and he brought it to me.

In those 13 days it had snowed, rained, frozen, snowed and rained some more, and for the past two days it has been in the teens here. VERY cold. So my purse and its contents—which had clearly been in that snowbank all those days— were all frozen solid and I set about trying to restore and revive what I could. The money was gone: about $200. Goodbye, money. But everything else was there. A pair of leather gloves were too badly damaged and I threw them away. All the credit cards, library cards, drivers license, etc, were sort of frozen together in disgusting clumps but after they thawed, I was able to dry each one and of course, being plastic, they were fine (though I shredded and tossed all the cards I had cancelled and replaced). Grocery lists and receipts and a bank deposit slip, upon melting and thawing, turned into soggy spitballs and I threw those all away.

That left the iPhone, which was frozen solid into its leather case. After resting a while on my kitchen counter, the leather thawed and now the iPhone was lying in wet leather surrounded by a puddle. I took it out and let it rest until it seemed to be room temperature.

At one point, early on, when I first missed the purse, I had called my iPhone number, hoping I would hear a ring from some obscure place. Didn't happen. I got my own voice mail and wailed, "Where are you?" but needless to say there was never a reply.

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new hobby for dog

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 02 January 2008
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Dogknitting


Well, perhaps it is because the weather has turned VERY COLD...down in the single digits...that Alfie felt compelled to take up knitting. Here is a partially-done (by me) sweater that—when my back was turned—he decided to work on. Thanks a lot, helpful puppy. (Okay, so it did look like a stick).

And here are two other photos.

Four summers ago I hired Jesse, then 14, to be a model for me, and his is the photograph on the cover of my book MESSENGER. And here is Jesse now(click photo to enlarge), four years later. He has just embarked on a trip that will take him six months: 300 miles on cross-country skis, then 200 miles by river in a handmade canoe, with hand-caved paddles, living off the land and using wilderness survival skills. Jesse is a remarkable young man whose dedication to preservation of the natural world is genuine and admirable.


Messenger_3

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