Sunday, January 10, 2021

A fantasy for 2022

(I started a post about the new year. It came out weird. Instead, here is a very short story set in the fairly near future.)

I'm sitting on a bus, on my way to visit loved ones. I check the news on my phone; the news is boring, so I go back to the physical book on the seat next to me. (As this is a fantasy, I have excellent habits and am not even tempted to scroll a whole bunch of social media. Also, I have a row to myself.) 

I flip to check something in the back matter. I flip back and read on.

Happy New Year. Let's keep turning pages.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Still here, still reading, still thankful

How's everyone doing? I'm still reading (mostly e-books), still writing, still offering parodies for charities (and now feeling one of this song coming on, in which "here" refers specifically to my living room. I'm sure you can relate). Still healthy and (always, but it's especially in season) still thankful.

A few updates:

I got to participate in the Post-Publication Panel, and talk about how book reviews and awards work, at the Jewish Book Council's Children's Book Writers & Illustrators seminar last weekend. Recap here.

I'm excited to serve on the 2021 Boston GlobeHorn Book Award committee. Chair Luann and fellow judge Nicholl and I will be selecting winners and honor books in the Picture Book, Fiction and Poetry, and Nonfiction categories from books published from June 2020 through May 2021. 

Like I said, still reading. And still thankful.

Have a happy, healthy, safe Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Bye-Bye, Waiting for Action: a Parks & Rec-inspired song about voting

Parodies for Charities proceeds are now going to When We All Vote. Many thanks to those who responded to this poll with the more challenging, more interesting option for P4C to commission from itself. You too could have a ridiculously specific song of your very own; commission away!

To the tune of "Bye-Bye, Li'l Sebastian," a.k.a. "5,000 Candles in the Wind"

Yelling? Caring loudly? Here’s the thing:
there’s hope and change your words can bring.
But once—that’s the whole amount—
you get to mark a choice that you know will count.
Bye-bye, waiting for action.
We needn’t be the saddest faction.
Bye-bye, waiting for action.
You might be the one to change the wind.
Up and down your ballot, have your say.
Who’s all done, and who should stay?
Wear your mask, or be remote.
Somehow, cast your stinkin’ vote!
Bye-bye, waiting for action.
(‘Cause last time needs a full retraction.)
Bye-bye, waiting for action.
You might be the one to change the wind.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Bookstores, libraries, and All This

Before All This, my dear Horn Book colleague Cindy and I went on a field trip to a number of bookstores and libraries and took pictures for a planned article about, in short, creative shelving; we also put out a call to booksellers and librarians for their own photos. The exact purpose of the article morphed, because All This came and everything morphed. But we're proud of what it morphed into: Books beyond buildings, about the why and how of supporting bookstores and libraries these days, with resources gathered by intern Mikayla.

The photos we took show how, within their buildings, booksellers and librarians help readers find their way to information, education, entertainment, and comfort. Over the past few months, as pretty much everyone needs at least some of those things, they've found ways to do that beyond their buildings.

A lot of what I know about books, the book industry, and readers comes from my years at Brookline Booksmith. When it became clear this year that I wasn't going home for Passover, my Haggadah came from there, too.

Support bookstores and libraries, booksellers and librarians. See here for some ideas.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Things I've learned lately

  • Focusing on reading (or on anything) is hard when a situation like this is new, but it gets easier.
  • A little extra writing time is a good thing.
  • Restricting yourself can teach you a lot about physical description via what you want to do and can't. For instance, my instincts have taught me that "she pressed her hand to her mouth" is a realistic way to convey that a character is stressed out.
  • The world of e-books and digital galleys is a useful one and a complicated one. (I will have learned more things about it soon.)
  • It is possible to be busy, to feel busy, or both in any situation. It's also possible to create a highly structured routine.
  • Meeting, reading, and talking is great over Zoom and the like. Singing in unison is less great, but sometimes still worth it.
  • Holidays that aren't perfect are extra-memorable.
  • Creating something silly really is good for mental health, as others have realized. (On a related note, Parodies for Charities proceeds are currently going to Americares.)
  • Breathing with a bandana over your nose will fog up your glasses.
  • I own more comfy t-shirts than I realized.
  • There are a lot of side streets I hadn't explored within walking distance of my home.
  • I'm hugely lucky in a huge number of ways.
  • There are amazing people in hospitals, nursing homes, grocery stores, pharmacies. Driving garbage trucks and delivery vehicles. Teaching classes online, livestreaming art, clapping or singing out windows. Doing essential or enriching things I hadn't thought of, and probably things I still haven't thought of.
I suspect there's more learning ahead, both while this is going on and when we try to get back to normal. Wishing you good health, good books, and good people to connect with.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Jo Didn't Start the Fire

When one is lucky enough to see song parodist Randy Rainbow and an excellent adaptation of Little Women in the same weekend, one writes a song parody. 

Little Women
Sisters four
Concord, Mass
Civil War
Beth’s bit—
I’ll admit
I about sobbed
Scorched dress
Sold hair
Who asked you, Professor Bhaer?
Pickled limes
Trying times
Greta was robbed.

Jo didn’t start the fire.
It was Amy’s rages
that destroyed the pages.
Jo didn’t start the fire.
No, she didn’t light it.
She just tried to write it.

*with apologies to Billy Joel

Monday, December 16, 2019

Dear A-Decade-Ago Me...

Dear A-Decade-Ago Me,

There's good stuff coming.

You'll be a bookseller for a few years, and get more out of it than you expect. You'll also get a few let's-do-better blog posts out of it, but those will help you zero in on your own beliefs. (And you'll see more attitudes in line with some of them--partly because the discussions will get more visible, and partly just because you'll learn where to look.) When you move from bookselling to working with reviews (yes, Past Me, that will happen), your conversations about what to shelve where will come up more often than you think.

There's lots of writing and lots of revising in your future, 2010 Me. Yes, you'll find a great agent.  You'll also work with a variety of thoughtful critique partners, and by the end of the decade, you'll be in a group cohesive enough to collapse into in-joke giggles at some point in most meetings.

You'll serve on an award committee. As much as you'll learn from the other members, committee work will also, paradoxically, teach you a lot about your independent thoughts on what makes good books and what makes good representation.

Some things will surprise you. Like that Suzanne Collins/Jeff Kinney collaboration, and when Make Way for Ducklings gets turned into a trilogy.

Some things really won't surprise you. You'll love a lot of booksYou'll go to lots of great book events, and you'll celebrate the Newberys with blueberries every year, just because it rhymes. You'll continue to be an Anne-girl fangirl, which will feed into your interest in adaptations. Harry Potter won't have faded from your life when the decade ends (pro-tip: if you're going to read it aloud over Skype, do so with an audience tolerant of terrible voices. That audience is your sister). You probably also won't be surprised to learn that the surprises mentioned above are fake, because what's the point of a blog without April Fool posts? (There really is a Hunger Games prequel on the way in the next decade, though. If we're defining decades as beginning with the zero-year, which we clearly are in this post.)

There's not-great stuff coming, too, in your small world and in the larger one. That's how decades work. Silliness is usually at least part of the answer. For example, selling song parodies in exchange for charitable contributions.

Oh, and you'll start a blog a few months into the decade. Thanks for that.

You, a Decade Later