“Back to School” Time

There’s something about fall that makes me want to buy theme books. . . and read books. This year has been especially challenging so it was fun to actually sit down and read a book. A good book.

Cover of book, Mr. and Mrs. BunnyMr. and Mrs. Bunny –Detectives Extraordinaire was classic Polly Horvath. A well-paced, and funny book, it nonetheless made a commentary on modern parenting and making a family with those you are not related to.

Here’s my favorite quote:

“‘We read a lot of books. Children’s books mostly, because they’re always much more truthful than adult books. And much more entertaining,’ said Mrs. Bunny.

‘And in all of them,’ said Mr. Bunny.

‘With few exceptions,’ said Mrs. Bunny.

‘The parents are dead,’ they finished together.”
It was the perfect book to get back in the swing of reading.

Kid Lit Book Award Winners Snubbed

The “Today” show traditionally interviews the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott medals the morning after the awards are announced. This Tuesday, the only author on the show was . . . Snooki from “Jersey Shore.” Welcome to the life of children’s authors.

Check out the article at Publisher’s Weekly.

Do you usually watch the segment? Do you enjoy it? I usually end up cringing because the hosts have no clue about the author or illustrator, or children’s books in general.

Great Expectations

Maggie the Basset Hound, who now watches me pretend to write

I know–it’s been MONTHS since I last posted. But when I don’t have anything to say, I don’t say anything. But what was I doing all of that time, you ask? To steal a line from author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is judging Round 6 of Public Radio’s Three-Minute Fiction Contest, I was pretending to write a novel.

Host Guy Raz was taken aback, I believe, and he asked why Adichie had responded like that when he asked what she was currently working on. After all, Adichie is an award-winning author. Certainly she must be working on some epic literary endeavor. Adichie said when you tell people you are working on a novel, they expect to see a finished product in a defined amount of time. So she has decided to tell people she is pretending to write to relieve expectations.

But it’s not just “people” who expect a finished product pronto. We authors put great expectations on ourselves all of the time. And when we don’t finish in the time frame we expected because of self-doubt, incessant self-revisions, or the inevitable interruptions of life, we feel defeated. We see authors who are able to ignore life’s roadblocks and write and publish no matter what, and think there is something wrong with us. I have decided, however, that there is nothing wrong with the way I write: it’s just different from the way Laurie Halse Anderson or J.K. Rowling writes. (And I bet neither of them had to care for their fading 15-year-old collie last year, then had the cat bite and infect their leg, followed by a broken foot.)

So I am pretending to write a novel. Let me know if you’re pretending, too.

Lost Memories

An article in this week’s Shelf Talker made me think of that show on the Style network, “Ruby.” In Ruby’s quest to lose weight she’s been trying to remember her childhood. She has no memory of her life before age 13 or so.

Why did Elizabeth Bluemle’s column make me think of that show? Bluemle recounts the picture books of her youth and the books she read over and over again, books she’s found out that no one else has ever heard of. I tried to think of obscure picture books I read as a child, but like Ruby I’m drawing a blank. I can’t even remember the popular ones. My memories of reading picture books is lost to me for some reason. I can remember going to the library a million times throughout my life–my mother was an English teacher so there was no way libraries weren’t going to be a part of my life.

But what picture books did I read? Of course I can remember learning to read with the Catholic school equivalent of Dick and Jane–John and Jean. But after that, I just remember delving into nonfiction and novels. I read every book on World War II, saints, read John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage,” and then every Trixie Belden book. So where is my memory of the picture books? I can remember reading “Green Eggs and Ham,” and all of the other Dr. Seuss to my younger (by four years) sister when they came in the mail from the book club. My husband (my same age) can remember selecting Dr. Seuss books to read over and over until the teacher finally told him he was too old for them!

But what were the picture books I read in the late fifties? What books do you remember from your youth?

Happy New Year!

Today starts Chinese New Year. My loving hubby brought some dumplings home for our dinner so I’m all ready to celebrate the Year of the Tiger! Visit my web site for information on celebrating New Year’s!

That’s Not the Way I Pictured Her

There was big news in the world of publishing today. Some may think it’s that Kirkus Reviews has been saved from extinction by a new owner. But other news set my mind in a whirl: Katherine Heigl, of Grey’s Anatomy and Knocked Up fame, has been picked to play Stephanie Plum, the heroine of Janet Evanovich’s first Plum book, One for the Money. The notice said Reese Weatherspoon had originally been picked for the part, but the project had been stalled for years.

I don’t read a lot of adult lit–I can’t abide the waste of the English language after a decade of training to make every word count in writing for children. So when I do read it, I like to be entertained. So I admit I’ve read and listened to a couple of the Stephanie Plum novels and loved them. If you’ve never listened to one, treat yourself and do so. The woman who records the books is great.

Katherine Heigl

Does this woman live in New Jersey? I don't think so.

So, like the readers of our children’s books, I’ve formed a picture in my mind of what the main character would look like. And like our young readers, I think I’m going to be disappointed because the producer’s idea of Stephanie and mine is completely different. This is a woman working for her cousin the bail bondsmen chasing down folks who don’t show up for court to make her rent. This is a New Jersey woman who gets beat up by low lifes and who–more than once–has had her car go up in smoke. Somehow, I never pictured young and sexy Katherine Heigl in this role. I pictured an earthier person–kind of a younger Melissa Leo.

So will this work? Only the final print will tell. Sometimes, producers can ignore the few physical cues a writer gives in a book and have the right actor overcome the readers’ image of the character. This worked very well to me with Holes. In the book, Stanley is a round boy. In the movie, Shia La Beouf made me believe he was Stanley, even though he didn’t share the book Stanley’s physical girth.

Do you have a favorite children’s book that was turned into a movie? Did the actor match your mind’s vision of the main character?

Another New Year

Our Tiger

The great thing about being the author of a book about new year is that you know you can party and start anew many times during the year. My next opportunity to do so is February 14, 2010, when the Chinese New Year begins. It’s the Year of the Tiger and our ceremonial tiger is ready to greet the New Year.

While the food of choice for January 1 New Year’s is black eyed-peas, the celebratory food for Chinese New Year is dumplings, aka pot stickers.  There’s a recipe in today’s Chicago Tribune if you’re inclined to try to make your own. If you live in the Chicago area and think you need instruction, the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute is having classes on February 13-14. Unfortunately my dance card is already packed for that weekend or I’d love to go. It sounds like a yummy class!

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