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Lloyd and Trina

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 17 June 2007
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This, from a blog reader, in reference to the mention I made of Lloyd Alexander appearing as a small cameo in the book "The Fortune Tellers" which Trina Schart Hyman illustrated.

Thank you for telling us this! I had no idea that Lloyd was painted into one of the scenes. I read this book to my elementary school classes each year, and always told the students to look for the monkey and the two geckos.

Ms. Hyman's illustrations are superb beyond words. She captured the colorful patterns of fabrics, and the essences of African markets, to an exquisite degree, without including the depressing poverty and other grim aspects.

Trina was a close friend of mine and it is a pleasure to have one more opportunity to extol her exquisite skill as an illustrator to the world. She often sneaked real people into her illustrations...I guess "sneak" is a poor verb there, because she was not at all clandestine about it. Also appearing in "The Fortune Tellers" are her daughter Katrin, her ex-husband Harris, her son-in-law Eugene, and if I remember correctly (I don't have a copy of the book in front ofme at the moment) her grandson Michou as an infant.

Katrin, Eugene, Michou, another grandson, Xavier, and Trina's partner, Jean, all appear...as does her house and all of her wonderful animals—dogs and cats and sheep and a donkey—in the book that was a Caldecott Honor in 2000, "A Child's Calendar" with poems by John Updike.

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question from a reader

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on Friday, 15 June 2007
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I was just wondering if there would be another book after 'Messenger' because I am a big fangirl of Jonas. Oh, I was wondering... did you base or get inspiration for the character 'Jonas' from someone?

Well, receiving this post is as good an excuse as any to knock off work for a few moments. I have been at my desk since 6:30 this morning...it's now 1:30 PM...execpt for a trip to the kitchen for some lunch.

No, there will not, as far as I know, be another in THE GIVER trilogy. If I should change my mind about that, the main character would be Gabriel, who was only eight in the book MESENGER. It would be interesting to see him as an older boy. But then of course it wouldn't be a trilogy any longer.

In answer to the second question: no Jonas is a competely made-up characetr. Except that no character really is ENTIRELY "made up" because all fictional characters are based on people the author has known or read about or seen or been.

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The strumpets are back

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on Tuesday, 12 June 2007
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Driveway
Alfie_peonies

I remembering writing about the peonies a year ago, comparing them to garish, over-made-up women, sprawled in the gutter after a night on the town. Now they're back, and I still feel that way about them, that they should have a mother who says, "You're not going out like THAT, are you?" They are SO over-the-top.

I am back in Maine after a night in New York and a night in North Carolina .... traveling from one to the other on what the newspaper later described as the worst travel day so far of 2007, especially at La Guardia After a crashed computer system that apparetly destroyed all the flight plans for the East coast, my plane sat on the runway at La Guardia for three hours, and I was in a seat next to a woman with a baby on her lap. Actually, it was a pretty good baby, and I felt sorrier for the mom than I did for myself, though only slightly.

Last night, despite a shelf full of old Bette Davis videos waiting to be watched, I read the book "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Someone I know had emailed me that she had read and enjoyed it. "But I skipped the pray part," she said. Excuse me? I remember years ago, in one of the Anastasia books, Mrs. Krupnik confesses to her husband that she skipped all the war parts in "War and Peace." But I wrote that as a humorous moment, not realizing that there are actually people who leap over whole sections of books. Sad for the writer who strives for continuity... and in the case of the Gilbert book, it was carefully put together so that each section flowed from the previous one.

The last section of the book (the "love" section) takes place in Ubud, the small town in the center of Bali where I spent some time eleven years ago. So some of the places were familiar (and it sounds as if it hasn't changed much in the years since I was there) and I became nostalgic for the colorful and cheerful life in that incredible place, even nostalgic for the monkeys who grabbed at my clothes in 1996 and seem still to be doing it today.

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copy-editing

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on Wednesday, 06 June 2007
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Yesterday I received the copy-edited manuscript of my new book (to be published Spring 2008) and it occurred to me that some of you may be interested in seeing how that part of the process works.

I mailed the completed manuscript to the publisher some time ago. They turned it over to a copy-editor. The author never meets the copy editor, and she (usually it is a woman) may be different for each book. I suppose it depends on who is available.

The copy editor goes through the manuscript meticulously, looking for typos, misspellings, questions of punctuation, and watching for continuity errors (a character has blue eyes on page 13, brown eyes on page 202?) and simple stylistic questions. The copy editor does not make any changes, but marks all these things...(questions, usually in teensy printing...in the margins. Things like: "You used the word beautiful twice on this page. Want to change one?") and using editing marks that indicate what punctuation should be changed. (I always use too many commas, and copy editors always indicate that many of them should be removed).

The author can, theoretically, say "No, I MEANT to use that stupid adverb. Leave it in." That's a stylistic thing and the author can make the final decision.

But formatting issues need to follow the rules, and so I open up the manuscript in my computer, set the copy-edited hard copy in front of me, and go through page by page, deleting commas, making the indicated changes. I've attached two examples here. The first is a snippet from the orignal manuscript, the one I sent the publisher, but now it has the copy editor's markings on it (in red). Her abbreviations mean that the underlined section should be changed to "small caps" ... and the second example is what it looks like after I have made that change. (If you click on them you can see them bigger).

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a kind comment

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 04 June 2007
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from a blog reader:

Never, ever will you stop writing words that make me cry, laugh, and even on occasion...stop breathing. My eternal gratitude goes out to you. I wonder...do you even grasp the effect you have on so many people? That's a rhetorical question of course. I just never want you to doubt how deeply and emotionally your words touch my every day reflections and thoughts. Thank you!

I don't publish all comments, amd never the commenter's name; but they are received and appreciated.

I have just left rainy Maine behind temporarily, driven back to Massachusetts (didn't even take the dog for a pee at the halfway point duing thr 3-hour drive, which I usually do; but it was an absolute downpour). I had to come back here in order to collect myself and my clean underwear for a quick trip to NYC and then North Carolina. I'll be back at the farm next week.

And next week is when I move my laptop out to the studio off the barn (no phone out there) and turn my attention to work. Funny, how the thought of "work" doesn't make me sigh, groan, and cringe; but rather gives me a shiver of excitement and anticpation. People who love their work, as I do, are so very lucky.

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rain rain go away

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 03 June 2007
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I know, I know; the garden needs it. But it makes my dog's feet all muddy.

Here, a comment:

What a great story.
I wanted to write and ask a question - since you are my favorite author - as I just recently read that Vadam Perelman had written a screenplay of the Giver and it was soon to be released. My question was this - does a screenplay writer have to get permission before writing a screenplay of an original novel?

It is Vadim Perelman, the same person who wrote (and directed) "House of Sand and Fog." He HAS written a screenplay of "The Giver." And it's a good one. But it is NOT soon to be released, alas. There were changes and complications that I won't bore you with, and the screen rights are now owned by Warner Brothers, and they may want to have their own screenplay written.

So...don't hold your breath. The film is in the works.....but the works are veeerrrry slow.

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comment from teacher

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 02 June 2007
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Thank you to this teacher, named Christy, who sent the following post to me:

I am a first grade teacher who is taking a graduate class in advanced children's literature. As I read through the list of novels to be selected, I spotted your name and Gossamer. When asked if anyone wanted to read Gossamer, my hand went up and I commented that I loved "The Giver" so I was sure this novel would be great! I was not disappointed!! I couldn't put it down once I started reading after cleaning out my classroom to move to another wing. (I was very tired from packing and moving all my belongings and school materials.) This was an excellent book! I hope that the Newbery Medal judges consider this novel as well for the Award. The last chapter discusses changes in one's life. My principal of ten years is retiring and I will be working in a Title I reading position coming this fall. It hit home tonight that I will have a different working environment this fall, but everything I've learned this far has gotten me to this new position. Thank you for writing about how Littlest One - Gossamer learned and changed through the help of her elders.

I do love hearing from teachers...well, actually, I love hearing from anyone to whom my books have had special meaning.

"Gossamer" was published in 2006 so is not a contender for the upcoming Newbery Medal, but I appreciate the thought from Christy!

A word about Newbery Medals, since I am often asked this. When "Number the Stars" was awarded the medal back in 1990, I was completely unaware that it was a contender. I didn't know the committee was meeting, hadn't a clue, and just happened to be sitting at my desk when they called and told me. (The procedure is that the chairperson of the committee calls the author to make the announcment, usually on a speaker phone so the entire committee is listening) I was completely stunned, and probably sounded so on the telephone.

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It doesn't get much better than this

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on Saturday, 02 June 2007
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Alfpal
Alfpal3

OKay, the tying run is on second base and Coco Crisp is at bat.

Alfie was out playing and a new pal happened along. it amazes me that people in rural areas like this simply let their dogs run loose.

(Game is now tied)

Anyway, this pleasant dog (female? male? dunno), mixed breed, wearing quite a handsome collar, roamed onto our property and Alfie had a playmate to tussle with and chase until they were both worn out. Then the dog disappeared, running off into the next field (Alfie won't cross our boundaries. Not that he is obedient at all, just that he hates being electrocuted) but we are all (okay, that "we" would be me and Alfie) hoping that he'll be back every day for a playdate.

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How does your garden grow?

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 01 June 2007
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Garden_607_4
Garden_607_2

Well, okay, I couldn't resist putting these pictures on the blog. I have just arrived in Maine, and things are green and pretty and in bloom and in bud, and it is a glorious place to be (though we tried to pick lilacs to put in a vase, but they are past their prime and petals flew everywhere).

Sadly, though, I just got an email from someone named Emily, sent to the blog, which says:

i no you have a lot of mail but i sent you an email about 3 or so months ago sayin i liked you and wanted to no if you would be in ohio and you acted all stuck up to me it hurt my feelings becasue i have all your books and you were my favorite author..........

And that is troubling because the last thing I want to be is "all stuck up"! I don't remember Emily or her e-mail. I get 40-60 e-mails a day, most of them from kids. So sometimes their answers are very brief, and perhaps Emily's was shorter than she wished it had been. And I would have told her that Ohio was not currently on my ist of places I was going, but I assume I told her I was sorry.

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Quote

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 27 May 2007
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Thanks to Jessica for sending me a quote from Joan Didion:

"We live entirely, especially us writers, by the imposition of a narrative line on disparate images."

This was, of course, the same thing I was saying in my most recent post.

It occurs to me also that - taken to the extreme - this tendency is also symptomatic sometimes of mental illness. For example, if someone begins to feel that, oh, say, all the people who wear black shoes in the local Stop-and-Shop on a particular Saturday are actually members of a secret anti-Semitic society (because "black shoes" actually means "block Jews") and only you understand this and it is important to notify the government...except that many members of the President's Cabinet also wear black shoes; and come to think of it, so does your dentist, and he is the one who was in a position to install tiny microphones inside your fillings...etc.

The line between metaphor and madness is fragile, I think. Perhaps the task of the the serious - sane - writer throughout history has been to impose order and coherence on the randomness of human imagery.

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Dreams of the sordid past

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 24 May 2007
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Just about everyone of my age is a former smoker. Well, maybe not everyone; but a large number, certainly. Back in the 50s's, when people of my generation went to college, they actually gave out cigarettes in the college dorms...little 5-in-a-package Winstons; and when your little pack was gone, you could get another, free of charge. The cheery TV commercials said, "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should!" in a jaunty voice. College classroom chairs, the ones with the little table growing out of the arm, all had a small silver square of an ashtray on them, and we puffed away while listening to the professors. It is so hard to picture all of this now.

So we all became addicted, with the help of the tobacco comanies, and then we all had to suffer through quitting, sometimes years later.

I only mention all of this because last night I dreamed I was smoking, something I haven't done for many years. And I was loving it. But there was another element, more contemporary, because I was in someone's New York apartment in the dream - some friend - who was being very pleasant and accepting while at the same time asking me nicely to be more careful, please, and pointing out that I had dropped burning ashes on her very nice couch. So clearly smoking was BAD in the dream, something to be scolded for and to apologize about....yet I was still doing it and enjoying it thoroughly.

It raises the question for me, once again...the question I have wrestled with in at least one book...of the origin of dreams. Clearly it's the bits and pieces of the past re-surfacing, along with other stuff (In the dream I was sitting on that nice couch leafing through a book of drawings, and one drawing was by Lucien Freud. Now Lucien Freud happens to be an artist I admire greatly, and coincidentally he was an answer on "Jeopardy" the other night (and I knew the answer, but none of the contestants did, since I am a longtime fan of Lucien Freud)...but why on earth did he pop up in my dream)?

There was one other thing, as well. I asked the apartment owner, the same one whose couch I was ruining, how large the apartment was, how many square feet. She replied "150." I looked around and told her she had to be mistaken, she had to mean "1500."

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Reminder

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on Wednesday, 23 May 2007
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I cant post comments, or answer them, here. So if...like Audrey, who has a school asisgnment...you need something answred, you should email me through the website. Top of the page, on the right, where it says: "E-mail me"...

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Commencement

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 21 May 2007
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Max_bu_2

Here is a very happy graduate, my older daughter with her Master's Degree from Boston University, awarded last night.

We've had a lot of graduations in my family...all famliies do..and among my kids are a law degree and one other master's degree...but it never becomes old hat, and I still choke up - in a good way, a sentimental way - when they start marching in wearing caps and gowns.

And tonight I attended a fundraising event hosted by my friend Alice Hoffman, a breast cancer survivor who has for some years heroically and efficiently and magnificently raised money for the Hoffman Breast Center at Mouth Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, where I live. Alice knows so many writers and for each event has had a group of them come to read and speak; tonight were Ann Hood, Jodi Picoult, Susan Orlean, Gregory Maguire, Robert Parker, and Jacqueline Mitchard. Lovely food and wine and a thoroughly entertaining event at which a lot of $$$$ was raised which will save some lives.

My own sister died of breast cancer when she was 29 years old. So it is a cause that means a lot to me, as it does to so many others.

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Lloyd Alexander

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on Friday, 18 May 2007
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Lloyd_alexander

On hearing today of Lloyd Alexander's death, I was reminded of the time that Trina Schart Hyman (another friend who died too soon) had painted him into the background of a scene in her book "The Fortune-Tellers." (Her ex-husband, Harris, is also one of the background figures in the same book).

I can't tell you what page it is, because the pages aren't numbered; but here it is (see photo attached) and no, I did NOT draw that red circle into the book; just in the computer. The book, which Trina gave me, and which I treasure, is intact.) She found a particular chortle in the vultures that she posed on the roof above the cafe where Lloyd sits looking morosely into a drink.

I can almost feel the earth tremble, when such giants topple. Trina Hyman. Carol Hurst. Lloyd Alexander. One can only hope that they are all enjoying a fine apres-life together somewhere.

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from Toronto

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on Thursday, 17 May 2007
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I am in Toronto very briefly for a couple of events at the INternational Reading Association Convention. I like the city of Toronto (though I am not here long enough this time to enjoy it much) but I am sadly recalling the last time I was here: September 11th, 2001. Martin and I had flown up here the evening before, spent the night in a hotel near the train station, and then on the morning of 9/11 walked over to the train station and boarded a train that left at 9 AM. We were headed across Canada to Vancouver, where we would meet friends coming up from California and then we would spend several days on Vancouver Island.

We had no idea that the world was falling apart that mornng, as we sped west out of Toronto. Rumors began to reach the train after a few hours; but there were no newspapers, no TV; one passneger had a radio with very uncetain reception so by afetrnoon we heard bits and pieces but nothing more. One American couple who were on the train with us had a son who worked in the world trade center. But of course they could reach no one, had no news. They finally left the train in Jasper the next day, to try to find a way to return to the USA, or at the very least to contact relatives.

We simply continued on to Vancouver and spent a subdued few days...our friends did not come from California....before finding our way home through ominously empty airports in Seattle and Salt Lake.

I remember how kind all the Canadians were, expressing sympathy when they found we were Americans.

And now I am back in Toronto again, six years later, and though the world is greatly changed, this is still a lovely and vibrant city. A cab driver last night disagreed. No, he said, nothing to do here. You drive four hours and look at Niagara Falls, and that's about it.

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Happy Mother's Day

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on Sunday, 13 May 2007
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Grey_rhys_garden
Spring_day_at_farm

Well, what better at this time of year than daffodils and grandchildren! At the farm, the peonies are up and the lilacs budding and the daffodils in bloom and the rhubarb about four inches high. The grandsons had on their running legs this weekend and raced through the blueberry field.... Field_run
no blueberries up yet, of course. But soon! SOON!

I visited my 8-year-old grandson's third grade classroom on Friday and we talked about writng stories. One little boy, Max, asked solemnly: "I'm writng a story about a cat and a hamster. How many times should I make them have a problem?" Three, I told him. Three is always a good number in a story. The kids all agreed. "Three wishes," one girl pointed out, "in a fairy tale." "Three blind mice!" "Three little pigs!" others called out.

And it is true, of course.

Three men in a tub. Three coins in a fountain. Three wives for the guy on "Big Love." Which is starting up again this summer..and darn it, I don't have HBO at the farm.

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Discoveries

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on Wednesday, 09 May 2007
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This past Sunday night was the annual event held by the Children's Book Caucus of PEN New England, honoring new, unpublished writers selected to receive this years Susan P. Bloom Award.

A word about Susan P. Bloom: she has been a member of the Children's Book Caucus for several years, and so when she retired three years ago from a distinguished career as Professor of Children's Literature at Simmons College, we (the other committee members; she didn't get a vote!) decided to name the award - previously just called something more generic - for her.

Unfortunately, this year, though she had particpated in the judging of entries, Susan couldn't attend the event because she had been babysitting for a small grandson, and caught his two-year-old's germs and was sick. That is what happens to you when you retire!

But the winners this year - selected from 125 entries - were Jodi McCallum from Vermont, Cindy Faughnan from Vermont, Joe Anastasio from Connecticut, and Katie Bayerl from Massachusetts. Four novels this year, both YA and Middle Grade. Some years there have been picture book winners, but not this time. Each award recipeient has his/her manuscript read by a major editor, and many of our previous winners have gone on the publication. (Latest, "The Opposite of Music" by Janet Ruth Young, just published by Atheneum.)

Each author read from his/her work and we sipped some champagne and rejoiced that there are fine new writers in the field.

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Canis Domesticus

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on Friday, 04 May 2007
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Alfie_205


And here, since I devoted a lot of space to a coyote, is Alfie, getting equal time.

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Canis Latrans

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Coyote5sm
Coyote

Two photos. One I just took off the internet, of a coyote; the other I just took of the coyote roaming the city park across the street from my house. At first I thought it was a dog, of course. Oh dear, someone's dog has gotten loose, I thought. I wonder if I could go lure him into my yard and check his collar for a name and address. (I did that once some years ago and discovered that I had a Lab belonging to the then governor of Massachusetts)
Then I could see that he had no collar. Then, as I watched his behavior - long loping circles of the park - I realized it wasn't a dog but a coyote. Checking the photo and description on the internet confirmed it.

It's early morning, still...it was 6:30 AM when I first saw him. He's still there now, at 7. So there are no moms with their toddlers or people walking their dachshunds, not yet. And I suppose when Saturday-morning life begins in earnest, the coyote will lope off and disappear. Still, it is a little disconcerting having him there.

Not, however, to the Cambridge police. I called them to alert them to it and got a big yawn in reply.


*****

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How do you get your ideas?

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on Wednesday, 02 May 2007
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OKay, so I was just in New York for a couple of days. Went to a glitzy black-tie dinner at the Museum of Natural History where we ate dinner under the dangling great blue whale, and listened to Tina Brown and Gore Vidal and Tim Russert and others. A lovely once-a year event which raises money for PEN, the organization that promotes and supposts literary freedom and fights on behalf of oppressed writers everywhere.

But that has nothing to do with the "where do you get your ideas?" question. It just explains why I was in New York.

On Monday morning I was walking on Broadway, between, oh, 79th and 83rd...(okay, so I'd been to the Barnes & Noble. So I can't live a day without going to a bookstore. I bought a book for my grandson) ...headed back to my hotel... when suddenly I saw a very small boy, maybe two or three...toddling out in the street. Just wandering, in the way of little ones, headed south on Broadway, in the cars-going-north side of the street, where luckily, at the next corner, traffic was stopped for a light. But the light would be changing in a few seconds, and there was this little guy, waddling along in his Pampers and OshKosh overalls, just happily making his way down the center of the street.

So I ran out and scooped him up. He yowled and kicked me, and I didn't blame him. When I took him back to sidewalk and looked around, I could see a panicky mother...with an empty stroller...frantically looking around. "Ive got him!" I called. I delivered him back to her, she heaved a sigh of relief, the traffic rumbled past, she thanked me, and I went on my way.

But here's what I began thinking. What if...heh, heh, isn't that always the key phrase?...as I stood there holding that yowling child, his mother had yelled, "Grab that woman! She took my little boy!" So now I am grabbed by a beefy passerby, a concerned citizen, while the woman dials 911 on her cell phone, and next thing I know, a black-and-white car comes up with sirens going, and in seconds the police have me in plastic handcuffs.

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