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Blueberries for Sal (or whomever)

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on Tuesday, 10 July 2007
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Boys_in_field

Well it is blueberry season. last year we did not get a good crop, but this is the Year of the Blueberry, and this past weekend we had blueberry pancakes and blueberry pie, the berries straight from the field. This is - first (clikc to enlarge) - a photograph of my grandsons, picking (mostly eating) blueberries in a earileir summer; and also a painting by my friend Middy Thomas (who illustrates the Gooney Bird books) of the same boys, same blueberry field. It hangs in the room we call The Fold (family room, office, library, den).

And looking at these does make me remeber Robert McCLosky's "Blueberries for Sal" about a little girl picking with her mom, and around the hill, a bear cub similarly with his mom; and the two little ones get mixed up and with the wrong mothers, if I am remembering it correctly. We have bears here (and there are moose droppings in the field, though I have not yet SEEN the moose, and would love to) so we are sharing the berries for sure; that is what life is like in rural Maine.

So many children's books come to my mind on a day-to-day basis. "Miss Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney, who also (like McCLosky) lived here...I think of that book every time my lupine is in bloom.

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Barn Stuff

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on Thursday, 05 July 2007
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Barn_1
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Barn_2

OKay, more photos (click to enlarge) of my barn. I had not realized so many people reading this blog...presumably because they are interested in children's books...are also interested in barns. Of course there are many connections, the most obvious being " 'Where's Papa going with that ax?' " said Fern to her mother.."

My barn dates to the early 1800's. (The house is earlier, late 1700's, so perhaps there had been a smaller, earlier barn which was razed to make room for this one). So a lot of cows have been milked here, a lot of horses have chewed at their stalls (we still have evidence of that), a lot of pigs been slaughtered, a lot of kittens have been born, a lot of spiderwebs have been spun, in this barn.

Thinking back, way back, as a writer, I am remembering that my first book for young people, A Summer to Die
, published 30 years ago, was set in an old New England farmhouse. I lived in Maine when I wrote it, so the setting came naturally to me, but also I wanted to move the fictional family to a somewhat isolated setting in order to focus on the intimacy of the family relationship without the distraction of school, friends, etc. that would have been neecssary details had I kept them in their town setting. So...(writers have such amazing power!)...I gave the college professor dad a year's sabattical in order to write a book, and they rented a rural farmhouse.

But it only occurs to me now that I did not give that house a barn. Or if it had one, as presumably it did, I didn't make it part of the narrative. In a way I wish I had. It would have been a somewhat magical place for the introspective young girl who was the central character in that book, which was written in the first-person.

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things on walls!

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on Tuesday, 03 July 2007
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A reader has emailed to ask if I could talk about the franed things on the walls, and also the old copper n the shelf in the last photos of my studio. Happy to. I love everything that hangs on my walls...and in two separate houses, that is a LOT of stuff....

First, though, the copper. Which is in SERIOUS nede of polishing. All of it dates back to probably around the time this house was built...late 18th century. But I did not prowl the countryside collecting it myself. An elderly great aunt who had been an antique collector left it to me when she died. (the same great aunt who was a photographer in the early 20th century, and who left me her photographs, which now illustrate a book called THE SILENT BOY. But that's another story.)

Things on walls. Click to enlarge. The first, which sadly is fading badly, is several pages, four of them, each framed, of a musical composition written by a composer friend. "Third String Quartet" commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, it says on the inscription, and he...the composer, Thomas Oboe Lee, gave it to us in 1982.

Second is a framed memento - several photographs of the production - given to me by the director and cast of Prime Stage Theatre in Pittsburgh, after they had presented the stage adaptation of THE GIVER in soring 2006, just a little more than a year ago.

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Bambi's Mom

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on Monday, 02 July 2007
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Deer_73

Well, I was annoyed when Alfie woke me at 5:30 and wanted to go out. But there, standing in the meadow in the dawn light, was a large and gorgeous doe, and I grabbed my brand new camera...for which I have not yet read the manual...and luckily figured out what button to push.

I am expecting a visit from grandchildren today. But yesterday I was all alone all day...did not speak to another human except briefly when a neighbor from down the road stopped by to pick (with my permission) some wildflowers to use for tonight's benefit dinner for the library. Spaghetti. I will go and will take my grandsons, good spaghetti eaters...and for such a good cause. This small town has a wonderful library but like all such institutions in this world where too much of our tax money goes to the wrong things...its budget (and therefore its hours, and its staff) has been drastically cut.

Nonetheless every time I go into the library, it is filled with cheerful people...and in summer, with tourists collecting their email on the computers. I use it for audio books. With a 3-hour drive each way to my "real" home, I pass the time of the ride quickly listening to books.

And on the 13th of this month I will drive for 4 hours to Amherst, Massachusetts, for the opening of a retrospective show (at the Eric Carle Museum) of the art of my friend, Allen Say. Everyone has already heard the story of Allen and me..both of us the same age (born 1937) staring shyly at each other across a schoolyard in Tokyo in 1948. Me, an American child on a bike, stopping curiously to watch the Japanese children at their recess play. Allen, one of the Japanese children. Forty six years later, in 1994, we would be at the podium together, as he was awarded the Caldecott Medal for "Grandfather's Journey" and I the Newbery for "The Giver."

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Washington DC

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 27 June 2007
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I am just back from several (hot) days in Washington DC, where the American Library Associaton Convention was in full swing; it is always a wonderful opportunity to see many old friends in the children's book world: writers, publishers, librarians. And of course you talk too much and eat too much and I suppose some people even DRINK too much (gasp!) but I am not one of them.

A real treat for me was being with, for the first time, Marilyn Nelson, author of A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL, a book that I consider a real tour de force. And I had a few minutes with old-pal Jerry Spinelli who with his wife, Eileen, is in the throes of house renovation; a glass of wine with Jack Prelutsky who tells me he is becoming a serious bird photographer; a too-brief moment with my friend Pat Mora; tea with close friend Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, to whom I am giving unsolicited decorating advice because she and Rex are about to move and there are few things I enjoy more than choosing paint colors and arranging furniture; and a re-connection with Judy Blume, whom I've not seen for several years. I did not go to the Newbery/Caldecott dinner because it was the time I could spend a quiet evening with a recently widowed close friend who lives in Washington.

I went on from the convention to the Holocaust Museum, where I spoke Monday about "Number the Stars" to a group of 100+ teachers from around the country who are there for a workshop on Holocaust education.

My house here in Cambridge is covered with scaffolding and I do not envy the painters who are out there scraping and suffering in the heat. Tomorrow I head back to Maine to hole up again until mid-July when I will go overnight to Amherst, Massahusetts, to the Eric Carle Museum to be with my dear friend Allen Say as he opens a rerospective exhibition of his work. Allen and I go back a long, long way...to the day in 1948 when both of us, 11 years old at the time, stared at each other across a schoolyard in Tokyo.

Here is the cover of Allen's Caldecott-winning book, "Grandfather's Journey." It was both ironic and wonderful that "The GIver" won the Newbery Medal the same year and that Allen and I were able to be up there together at the podium.

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Trina again.

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 22 June 2007
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Wanted_poster

Well I had said that when I was back at my home computer I would look for some photos of Trina Schart Hyman. And I did, and here they are, and need explaining. One is simply of her majestic cat...I think this is the one named Bad Baby...one is simply of Trina withher unforgettable smile. But the third (actually first in line) needs the explanation.
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Trina and I had many startling similiarities in our lives. One time, we were to meet at Logan Airport in order to fly together to a conference. She called the night before for final details, and said, "I almost had to cancel. Had an abcessed tooth and had it pulled this morning." I replied: "Tooth 14?" (Dentists have numbers for each tooth) And she said, "Yes! How did you know that?" And I said: "Because I spent this morning at the dentist too. Tooth 14."

But this (photo #1) is equally startling. Separately we had each fallen: she on the rocks while visting friends on the coast of Maine; me tripping on some steps in a college chapel in Ohio. And both of us ended up with colassal shiners, as you can see. I made the WANTED poster for her (the reference to Hawaii is because we had spent time together there once, at a conference) (If you click on it you can see it enlarged)

The funny thing is, if one were to write such coincidences into the plot of a book...the editor would say: SERIOUS CREDIBILITY PROBLEMS. But truth is certainly stranger than fiction.

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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

Posted by Lois Lowry
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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

Posted by Lois Lowry
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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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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