Windward into Revision
In August 2016, I traveled to Vinalhaven Island off the coast of Maine to participate in a week-long festival honoring former resident Margaret Wise Brown. I gave a talk one evening, and, most fun of all, led a workshop in which attendees penned poetry and even a picture book in Margaret’s lyrical style. Back home again, I wrote about my island experience
Always the Weather
(originally written in October 2016) According to the real estate establishment in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, there are, on average, 242 days of sunshine. That is, they claim more shining sun than in Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Los Angeles. That’s the way it is today: An absolutely clear blue sky, with not one cloud. The
A Working Writer’s Life, Part 2
[continued from Part 1] After several months, I realized New York didn’t recognize I was the Next Big Thing. I’d actually have to write my second book and sell it. Timing was on my side. It was the early 80s, when paperbacks filled mall bookstore racks. Series books with new titles each month, priced for kids, were
A Working Writer’s Life, Part 1
One Sunday morning in May, 1970, I sat on the mustard-colored sofa in our living room with the Spring Children’s Books issue of the Washington Post Book World. I studied the reviews as someone who intended to have her book reviewed in that publication, preferably the Spring 1971 issue. The back page featured an ad for Lothrop,
Knowing My Own Mind
There are times when I don’t know my own mind. Worse, there are times when I think I know my mind perfectly well and then find an entirely different mind on a later visit to my opinions. Which feels almost as though I have no mind at all. Some time ago one of my favorite writers came out with a new novel.
Babies and Puppies
What, really, can be more life-affirming than a beautiful baby or cuddly puppies? On June 26th, both arrived in our lives. One baby — our first grandchild, Olivia — born to our son and Korean daughter-in-law. We received the news via FaceTime from Seoul, South Korea. Though they had Broadway related jobs in NYC, they opted to move to Korea
Behind the Poem, “What She Asked”
Listen to Virginia’s poem, “What She Asked,” on Poetry Mosaic, the April 7th entry, and then read her description of the real-life event behind the poem. In a rural Oregon high school where I taught English more than 20 years ago, we had big teaching areas separated by screen-wall things, but they came nowhere near reaching the high
“He was always chasing the next draft of himself.” American critic Dwight Garner, in the New York Times Book Review on February 16 of this year, was describing the childhood of Henry James. An expandable list comes to mind, some of our memorable figures moving toward the next draft of themselves: Anne Shirley, Holden Caulfield, Jo
My Work-Study Internship
The first college I attended was Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It had a work-study curriculum in which half your year was spent working off-campus on some job relating to your professional aspirations. At that time, being interested in the theatre, I was offered and took a job at a Cleveland television station. A few days before the job began
Below the Surface
Our park ranger, Earl, which is pronounced in three syllables in south-central Kentucky, asks one last time to reconsider this journey if anyone suffers from a bad heart, high blood pressure, or claustrophobia. He waits at the steel door at the base of a sinkhole.
Thirteen years. The project I began in 2003 has had that many birthdays. It occupies two large crates in my office. It has dominated my life, involving travel, research, reading. It has spawned four versions, each dragging multiple drafts. Rejections span ten years. Nobody, it seems, wants this book. “Kids won’t be interested.” The subject, Margaret Wise
The Birthday Surprise
I had pretty much given up on finding an appropriate gift for my dad’s 82nd birthday; the last thing he needed was more stuff. So I headed off to the family lake cabin for the 4th of July holiday (also his birthday weekend) with the thought that I’d figure out a clever celebratory idea at the last minute. Maybe some kind of game that everyone would enjoy?
Though I’m reluctant to admit it, some of the most rewarding moments of my career have come when I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and attempted things I didn’t think I could do: write for teenagers, illustrate a book with tricky paper engineering, tackle nonfiction.
Our Collapsing World
The function of story — all story — is to make meaning. And meaning that we make for children lasts.
“That’s your Great-Grandfather Who Lost His Arm in the Battle of the Wilderness.” That was his name. In a big gold gilt-framed photo: a distinguished-looking, white-haired, mustached gentleman high above the upright piano in my grandmother’s music room.