I am off this morning to New Haven to speak to Yale students this evening. But before I leave I wanted to say thank you to all of those who have emailed me in support of The Giver and in outrage about the latest attempt to ban it. It means a great deal to me to hear those kind words.
Lois Lowry's Blog
An attention-grabbing title, right? It filled that role in the first paragraph iof the San Jose newspaper article abuot the ongoing attempt to ban THE GIVER there. It always troubles me when, in a book challenge situation, things are taken out of context, when for example I am portrayed as endorsing suicide or euthansia. Of course if one reads the book it is clear that I do not. But in the throes of hysteria, some book-banners don't get around to doing the obvious: i.e. reading the book. ("The author what? Promotes teen suicide? Of course I'll sign your petition!")
I did a live interview yesterday on a San Francisco radio station and wrote a letter to the San Jose paper, addressing the issue. But as always, I am—most of all—grateful to the librarians and teachers who again and again stand up against censorship. It is sometimes a lonely and scary battle.
My friend and neighbor, author Kathryn Lasky, is currently working on a book set during the book-burning in Germany under Hitler. She has actually hired my 14-year-old German granddaughter as a consultant—not on the history; Kathy is a top-notch researcher—but on the German language: what term of endearment, for example, would a mom use toward her daughter? I remember when Nadine, my granddaughter, was younger and we often called her "Bean"...her mom used to call her "Beanchen" (in the same way that "Gretchen" was originally a fond dimunitive of "Margret") And now that very same Beanchen is being a literary consultant (and, Kathy tells me, quite a good one).
I helped Kathy out another time, using my family...and here it is:
"Your eyes were bigger han your stiomach" is what my mother used to say when I was a llittle girl. I'm still not sure what it meant. But here is a photo of an amazing food item. Explanation:
I was in Amherst, MA, on Friday. Susan Bloom and I went there together in order to do an event at the wonderful Eric Carle Museum that evening. Susan "interviewed" me on stage...the event havng mostly to do wiht censorship....(it is a nice way to do a presentation, the two of us together, and I think less dull for the audience than just a "speech".. A lot of audience participation afterward, as well, with many questions.
Anyway. After the book-signing that followed, Susan and I...and Megan and Rosemary from the Museum...went out for a snack. or a glass of wine. or whatever.
The menu had a list of amazing desserts on it, so dessert is what we ended up having.
Here it is. This was ONE PERSON'S order. The plate was roughly the size of Rhode Island....
For a number of years I have been very active with PEN NEW ENGLAND, an organizaton for writers and anyone who loves the printed word and who cares about literary freedom.
Here is some information about our annual award, the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, and right now is the time of year to think about sending in your work to be considered.
Several winners from past years have gone on to have their work published successfully.
Each year, the PEN New England Children’s Book Caucus honors emerging writers and writer/illustrators with its Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. Winners will present their work to the public at the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Evening in April 2008, and winning manuscripts will be read by editors from Candlewick, Houghton Mifflin, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, or Little, Brown and Company.
I am in Maine, have been here since Monday, will leave here Friday, and there has been—and will continue to be—baseball to watch in the evenings. Tonight my friend Lucia will join me for dinner and the first World Series game, and maybe my contractor and friend Dan will, as well.
But in the daytime I am working.
I have just typed page 11 of a new book. Is it astounding that it takes a person three days to write eleven pages...and at that, eleven pages that will ultimately be re-written again and again?
Of course today I also answered e-mail, and I went and got my hair cut, and I went to the PO to mail my granddaughter a birthday gift, and, and I did the NY Times crossword puzzle, and I am about to get out of this chair to go and make an apple pie because the apples are THERE and ripe and cry out for a pie to be made.
But each day, as I do such chores, I think over what I have just written...maybe 2 pages, or 3...and then, when I go back, it is to change and clarify and delete and expand and explain. So I have not written eleven pages. I've probably written, oh, I don't know, maybe 40 pages. Of which eleven remain....
I have two recurrent dreams, but I have never, until last night, had them in combined form.
One I have talked about before. Briefly: in the dream I have bought, or rented, or somehow acquired a new house and am moving into it. I discover a door—or sometimes it is a staircase—that I haven't known about, and it leads to a wonderful, previously-undiscovered room.
Many people tell me they have had this dream. (I should add, though, that they always women).
No one else I know, though, has had the actual experience, the way I have. When I bought this old farmhouse (I am in Maine as I write this) I had only seen it once. But I hired a painter and sent him paint samples with an outline drawing of the house interior, and instructed him which color to use in each of the ten rooms. He called me to ask what to do about the eleventh room. Gulp. I hadn't known there was an eleventh room.
(The eleventh room is now the studio where I work. The paint color is called "Rain Barrel" by Benjamin Moore)....
This is my son and my grandsons, and this is October in Maine. Now aren't you sorry, some of you, that you live in Arizona?
Only joking, of course. But it IS the best time of year here.
This evening I talked to those two little boys in the phone, and their dad was reading them "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," which I had sent them. "How do you like it?" I asked the nine year old. AWESOME, he replied. What a great feeling, to hear a kid describe a book that way.
It is the ninth innning of the Red Sox/Indians game; and that's another reason it's the best time of year here....
You can listen to a short interview, me and Roger Sutton of The Horn Book, talking about books-into-film, by going to http://www.hbook.com/audio/podcasts/lowry.mp3
I had the conversation with Roger some time ago and it's ironic that it's now available because just this afternoon I was talking on the phone to the producer of movie-to-be "The Giver." No special news there—these things move slowly—but I'm appreciative that they stay in touch.
One of the things I mentioned in the interview was the film of "To Kill a Mockingbird"...my recollection was that it was true to, and as good as, the book. By chance, though, I just happened to read, while returning from New York yesterday, a biography of Harper Lee; and it told me that the film, actually, was not terribly true to the book, something I didn't kmow or had forgotten. Gregory Peck wanted his role made larger and more important than the story of the children—and of coursethe book was really a coming-of-age story—so to comply with his wishes (and to attract an adult audience) it became much more about Atticus Finch than the book had, in fact, been. Nonetheless I remember the two separate things as a wonderful book and an equally wonderful movie.
I was in New York (after being in Eugene, Oregon) to speak at the NYPL's annual "Book Fest"...a lovely gathering (in a specatacular room at the NYPL) of mostly librarians and teachers: an interested and interesting audience, nice people to be with. And a good lunch!
As Roger Sutton's interview points out, I am a movie nut; and after the event at the NYPL, I went up to 68th street to see "Michael Clayton...only to find it sold out. Well, it's good that people are going—apparently in droves—to movies. And also good that, though I missed my movie, I was very near the huge Barnes and Noble where I could go have tea and goodies and browse...until time to meet friends for dinner and to watch the Red Sox game....
This is Banned Books week, and I am in Eugene, Oregon to speak tonight at the Eugene Public Library on the general topic of book-banning and specifically my own experiences with it, which have been many. Mostly my books have been challenged and not actually banned (though that has happened, too), but lately it seems as if there are more and more challenges, some against books that were published many years ago and have gone unchallenged till now. NUMBER THE STARS, for one. Last year it was brought to the school board in a Washington town and the school board voted 4-1 to retain it in school libraries. The failure to achieve a unanimous vote on such an issue is troubling.
There are always those who, with a malicious gleam, say, of a banned author, "He-or she-must be chuckling all the way to the bank." Not so. Not for any of us. Perhaps a flurry of publicity, even of a controversial sort, sells a few extra books. But the whole process diminshes us as a free society, and nobody chuckles their way to the bank on that account.
Are there things I wish children—my own grandchildren—wouldn't read? Darn right. But would I want them to grow up under a government that prevents them access to all literature? Not on your life.
One blog-reader had written to ask tthat I talk about that issue, and so I have. In Eugene tonight I will read them some of the inflammatory charges that have been bought against me and some of my books from time to time. But I will tell them also of the heroes and heroines out there on the front lines, the librarians, who (I was going to say "go to bat" but it would mix a metaphor) defend the first amendment with eloquence and vigor and often a great deal of courage....
Here I am with Ashley Bryan—poet, artist, performer—who has been a dear friend for many, many years. Ashley, as many of you know, lives on a island off the coast of Maine in a house that is filled with objets d'art of his own creation and collection, and it is a magical place to visit.
I was reminded of Ashley because of one of his paintings appearing in the background in a recent photo. Here it is, closer up, part of his "Sunflower" series.
The painter Carl Nelson, whose photograph appepars on the cover of "The Giver," lived on the next-island-over from Ashley, and they were friends....
I forgot to mention that last night, just after I got back from Maine, Allen Say, the illustrator and my very close friend, called to say he was in Boston. So he left the luxury of the Four Seasons in order to hang out over here for a while. Here he is. Here WE are, actually.
Okay, so I have to explain the rooster.
Several years ago, my artist friend Middy (she does the illustrations for the Gooney Bird books) and I took a trip up the coast of Maine, stopping in art galleries, poking around, just having a fun, relaxing time. She kept telling me that I would love the paintings of a man named Philip Barter; and eventually, as we found ourselves way up the coast, above Ellsworth, she took me to his home and studio, and she was right. I loved his work. In fact I bought a painting of his which hangs in my living room today.
In fact, here's a picture of it. It's the painting over the couch. (Beyond it is a painting by Ashley Bryan. But that's a whole other story)
While headed both to and from Brattleboro, Vermont, this wekend to participate in their wonderful annual Literary Festival, I read. I am one of those lucky people who can read in a car. (And no, I wasn't driving!) Yes, the scenery in New England is spectacular this time of year and I did look up and through the window now and then. But so was my book: AFTERNOONS WITH EMILY. by Rose MacMurray, who, sadly, died just as she finished writing it. Her family oversaw its publication.
Maybe only former English majors will love this book...(but lord knows there are enough of us around!) Told from the point of view of a young girl who moves to Amherst, MA when her father becomes a professor of Classics at the college there, the story is really a study of the girl's odd, reclusive neighbor, Emily Dickinson.
Needless to say, this is a novel and therefore one can't rely on the authenticity of its portrayal of the poet. Still, it is clearly carefully researched (the author was a teacher of poetry) and the time and place come thoroughly alive in the book. So does the character of Emily, with all of her complex personaity and quirks: her hysteria, her simmering angers, her arrogance, and at the same time the sharp intellect and the amazing newness of her style....
This morning Alfie had a visit from Nellie, a Tibetan Terrier from Beacon Hill. They are the same age, though Nellie, being female, is comsiderably smaller. I had wondered if a dog recognizes his own breed. Alfie's play companions are generally "other." He played with happily with Nellie, and allowed her to share his uneaten breakfast very companionably, and of course there is no way to ask him...but to be honest, I think he viewed Nellie as simply "dog," and not "Tibetan Terrier."
I was in Tampa overnight Friday night in order to speak to the Tampa Writers' Project there at their conference on Saturady...several hundred teachers who teach writing and study it seriously. A good group. It is always pleasant to be with like-minded folk. I was to speak for an hour and then sign books (for maybe half an hour, they said)...but the book-signing went on and on and it was three hours later that I was finally able to rise from that chair and rest my hand. Not that I am complaining! It's wonderful to have such an enthusiastic throng.
And yesterday a photographer came to the house, sent by Houghton Mifflin to do new photos for publicity, book jackets, whatever. Turned out he had two subjects instead of one for most photos, because publicity-hog Alfie kept leaping into my lap and posing. Attached, a throwaway Polaroid that the photographer, Neil Giordano, let me keep.
It is Tuesday, and on Friday I have to fly to Tampa in order to speak Saturday morning to teachers of writing. In a way, I feel as if they should be speaking to me because surely they know more abut the craft than I do or ever will. But...since I will be the speaker...I am trying to put some thoughts together.
It's timely, because I am soon to start on a new book and I have been thinking a lot about it.
"Thinking a lot about it" is always, of course, the first and most important part of the process.
At least for me. I must keep reminding myself that everyone goes about this job differently, and what works well for some will not work at all for others.
I understand there are writers who make outlines and use index cards. In a way, I envy them. It sounds organized and disciplined and careful and meticuous. It also, alas, sounds (to me) boring. But maybe I say that out of envy, because I can't do it, the way a bad ice skater might yawn and say it so borimg to do a quadruple jump....
It has been a while since I have posted anything to this blog...long enough that I've had inquiries from several friends about my health! But I'm fine, have just been busy, and on the road a bit.
The death of Madeliene L'Engle recently was a loss to the world of literature. I was asked by a magazine editor to make a brief statement about it and sent the following:
I never knew Madeleine L'Engle personally. But I felt as if I did. Her books, especially "A Wrinkle in Time," had been an important part of the lives of my children when they were young. Then I entered the same field in which she was already such a towering figure, and though our paths never crossed in person, I felt her presence there in our shared world of literature.
A few years ago, I read that she had lost her son. Because it was something I had experienced, the loss of a son, I wrote her a letter. Both of us had shared many stories with the world, but this was a personal and private loss, and one that we shared with each other. When she replied, she concluded her letter with the word "Blessings."
I thought of that when I heard that she had died. What better farewell is there? Blessings to you, Madeleine L'Engle.
I very rarely read children's books. But recently, after coming upon a review of this one: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village
, by Laura Amy Schlitz, I bought it and was so charmed by it that I wanted to mention it here.
I had a personal reason for being interested. I have long had a passion for Medieval times and still have an entire bookshelf devoted to reference volumes about that era. Way back in, oh, probably 1980, I began writing a novel set in a small English village in - I think it was 1439 (I am at the wrong house and can't look it up). In any case, it was the year that the plague entered England and eventually killed a third of the population. I remember that I named my fictional village Tarrant Marsh.
I remember ,too, that my protaganist was a young girl, left with a newborn baby to care for after her mother and the rest of her family...and almost all of her village..dies. (Interesting to think of it now, since many years later the book "The Giver" dealt with a young boy caring for an endangered infant)
I was loving the writing of my Medieval book. The I happened on a review of a book by well-known wrter of historical fiction Ann Turner, a book called "The Way Home"...well, here, I'll look it up:...
Okay, here's a confession. Almost every day at lunchtime I leave my desk, leave my office, and take my lunch into the TV room and turn on Court TV. Then for an hour I watch a little slice of the seamiest part of American life. Lately it has been the trial of Phil Spector, sleazy music mogul (see attached photos) accused of shooting would-be starlet Lana Clarkson.
This trial will end soon and it will be hard to say goodbye to this cast of characters. Yesterday, testifying for the defense, was a friend of the victim who thinks her pal committed suicide. She was apparently very depressed because a famous movie person (I missed the name) didn't recognize her, at a party. "She freaked out," said the witness.
All of the above took place at what the commentators refer to as "the mansion" belonging to Spector (again see photos), a 33-room house, the scene of many parties and much gun-waving.
Last night, still feeling crummy from a virus that started last Thursday, I went up to bed early with a box of Kleenex and a bottle of Tylenol. Martin was downstairs, reading; and Alfie had gone outside for a final pee before bedtime.
Suddenly, from someplace behind the house, we heard the most godawful, terrifying cries from the dog. Clearly Afie, but sounds we had never heard before.
I raced downstairs. Martin was already outside with a flashlight and a big stick (actually, a handsome hand-carved walking stick that had been a gift from a friend). I fumbled around looking for shoes and a second flashlight, then joined Martin and we started searching when the cries came again...and then, after a moment, from behind the barn, came Alfie, stumbling and whimpering but alive. I think we had both pictured him grasped by the throat by a slavering coyote.
He had tangled with a porcupine. This was a first for him, and for us; and it has left me wondering why on earth such an encounter is generally portrayed as humorous, in cartoons or in children's books. This was not at all funny. The dog was in a lot of pain, and then of course had to undergo a lot MORE pain as one by one (we counted till 30, then quit counting) we wrenched those barbed quills out of him. He bled a lot. But bless his heart, he lay there, trembling but unmoving, and watched us with frightened but very trusting eyes as we tended him.
Today he is limping, and so I am taking him to the vet this afternoon just to be checked out....
Probably no one else is old enough to recognize this title, which was a crackpot invention of genius Ernie Kovacs in the early days of television. If you google The Nairobi Trio and then go to the YouTube demonstration you'll see why it is indescribable, and why people my age all remember it.
Why the title came to my mind, though, when I looked at this photo....I'm not certain. This is Jeff Frank of First Stage Theater in Milwaukee, and me, and Stan Foote of Oregon Children's Theater, when we were working together in Milwaukee last week. We were proper and staid, not at all like the demented (and lamented) Nairobi Trio.
Charlotte Corgi was here yesterday, and I asked her owner about the other names in the litter; the ones she could remember were Babar and Clifford. Several readers of this blog have posted replies telling of various naming themes in their own lives. (I've explained in the past why I can't print comments, though I always read and appreciate them)
I had a friend once whose cat had kittens and she (my friend, not the cat) named the kittens Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy. For those who didn't figure it out instantly, I'll explain that she feared they would follow her all the days of her life....