February 19-20, 2010:

Have you ever noticed that certain people’s time is more valuable than others? Doctors–who can keep you waiting for an hour before bringing you in for a quick meeting; lawyers who charge more per hour than anyone else; editors who obviously don’t need to get back to you when they say they will because what else do you have to do but wait.

On the other hand, there are marvelous exceptions to all time rules. I am still waiting. . .

These two days were used up in a doctor’s waiting office, and hoping to hear from some editors who had promised a quick response. I did not see any lawyers.

Friday I was part of a hilarious and delicious dinner party at the home of editor/author Susan Pearson and her partner/poet Alice Schertle. We laughed ourselves silly, stuffed ourselves shamelessly, and there were martinis flowing. (None for me. I indulged heavily in sparkling cider.) Also there: Diane deGroat, Shelley Rotner, and Bob Marstall.

Saturday there was a lovely party in honor of Northampton’s Poet Laureate Leslea Newman at the Michelson Gallery. Leslea’s two-year tenure as Laureate was over and we were applauding her entrepeneurship, leadership, and loving outreach. She thanked us all prettily for coming and–of course–read a poem. For the next Laureate, whoever that will be, those will be (as the mayor so graciously put it) HIGH heels to fill. Afterwards, Heidi, Maddison, Susanna Richards, David Costello, and two of Susanna’s friends all went out to eat. Some shop talk, some other talk, all fascinating. David C. brought out a copy of his new book hot off the press for us to admire. http://www.powells.com/biblio/0374335265?&PID=33241

Oh yes–I worked on some revisions of BUG and Curses, Foiled Again, and read three of the five manuscripts I am critiquing next weekend for the Southern Breeze SCBWI group.

February 15-18, 2010:

A lot of book stuff twirling around:

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You is on the New York Times bestseller list again, this time at #8, as well as on the PW Bestseller list at #13. Heidi wondered aloud why they should be such different numbers and I explained that they probably had different stores on their list of respondents.

All-Star received its second starred review, this one from School Library Journal. (The first was from PW.) Interestingly enough, both a bad review in (I think) Booklist and SLJ cited the same line from the book to make their points! And this proves, once again, that reviews are simply about taste, an art, not a science.

Boxes of author copies arrived for How Do dinosaurs Love Their Cats/Dogs, Foiled,  and All-Star, but still no sign of Except the Queen which is actually out this month and which I have already signed at Boskone and at Barnes & Noble. Sigh.

I received f&gs for Hush Little Horsie that are adorable, and a color mock-up for How Do Dinosaurs Laugh Out Loud which is a lot of fun but needed some tweaking of the rhyme, which did not take too long.

And I am hip deep in the revision of Curses Foiled Again, about half way through and things are hotting up in make-believe NYC and Trollholm. Also just beginning my part (Adam has already done some of his) of the revisions on BUG. Plus re-revising my talk on revision. (Sounds like part of a song: “I was re-revising my talk on revision when you went and revised my heart. I was pulling out adverbs, and trying precision, when you came and settled on art. I wanted a plot and you wouldn’t be plotted, insisting instead on an arc. I was re-revising my talk on revision when love came and took me apart.:” You write the next verse!)

Also had a long meeting with the Interlink folk who may possibly be bringing back some of my OP books. Yea, them!

Other Stuff: A very social three days. Dinner with friends of academe one night, out for Children’s Lit drink night the next. Tonight am off to another dinner with children’s book friends.

Also, several mornings devoted to the bathrooms renovation stuff (picking tiles, faucets, etc.)

And boy, are my arms tired! (Punchline to an old joke.)

February 12-14, 2010:

Boskone weekend–the Boston Science Fiction/Fantasy weekend run by NESFA (New England Science Fiction Association–which fifteen years ago had thousands of people attending but has fragmented down to around 700.

I have been a Guest of Honor, a past winner of their Skylark Award (which ended up setting my good coat on fire), and have gone almost every February for the past–oh–twenty or more years. I know most of the folk on the board, enjoy seeing old friends, usually am on too many panels, sell a few books. Last year they gave me a huge 70th  brthday party.

This year illustrator Gary Lippincott gave me a ride to the Boston hotel. We went first to his new house, which surprised me enormously. Gary is a wonderful illustrator, a huge, sweet, shaggy man and I guess I assumed his house would be more student dorm than Good Housekeeping. But wow– clean, well-apointed, very nice firnishings, and he served a lovely lunch.

Then off to Boskone. I was a bit late for my first appointment with one of my editors, and was abjectly apologetic. Then I had a couple of panels, a signing, and a date. Stayed up much too late with friends.

Saturday, after a breakfast with Jo Walton (a favorite author friend), Jim Macdonald and Debra Doyle (I bought their first short story years ago for an anthology) and Greer Gilman who is an amazing wordsmith, I started my day. Four panels, a reading, a storytelling with author (and dear friend) Bruce Coville. Afterwards, dinner with Bruce, our friend Andrew Sigel, and YA author Sarah Beth Durst. Ended with my retelling the story of the good coat being on fire and warning the latest winner to put the award “where tthe sun doesn’t shine” which the audience joining in. MEt two new people, authors Tom Shippey and Lev Grossman. Was on panels with both and found them fascinating talkers and funny as well.

Sunday, two more panels, a koffeeklatch with Bruce and our fans, and then a ride home with Alan Steele and his beautiful wife Linda. We laughed most of the way back, ranting about a lot of stuff as articulate liberals tend to do.

February 11, 2010, BIRTHDAY:

So what does a writer do on her birthday?

Glad you asked.

A writer writes. Something.

Here is how the day played out:

5:30 Up, answered email

6:35: Exercises.

7: Shower, wash hair.

7:30 Dressed (including new earrings made by Maddison for my birthday, and necklace bought by Glen ditto), and take laundry downstairs.

8: Breakfast, tea, pills, clean kitchen.

8:30: Work on A Kite for Moon with input from Heidi. It is now a book by both of us. I began it, but she has added lovely touches and restructured the whole thing.

9:45: Organize stuff for Boskone, the Boston sf/fantasy convention, which is this weekend. Sign fan mail Heidi has organized.

10:30: Off to bank, cleaners, then tile store to return tile samples for the renovation of bathrooms, and arrange for Joyce the Tile Lady to come to the house next week.

12: Lunch, watch a bit of tv. CSI in case you are interested. Talk to Adam re revisions for BUG. Talk to Jason about his work. Both calling with birthday wishes.

1: More work on Kite for Moon, in fact today we got through three revisions. Had a talk with Heidi about the book, where we want it to go, etc.

1:45: long SKYPE conversation with my brother in Brazil wishing me happy birthday. Long conversation with Highlights conference organizer.

2:15: Per agent’s email, giving an editor a bit more time with two manuscripts he is interested in. Of course. Went through another huge round of emails, mostly birthday wishes.

3:30: Went through about six old newspapers, cutting out crosswords and checking news I may have missed. Conversation with granddaughter Glendon who was back from work.

4:30: Decided that since it IS my birthday after all, I will not do any work on taxes or read the SCBWI manuscripts sitting on my desk. Plenty of time for that next week. Instead I go over my list of what is out on offer, what has been rejected, etc. Then I write this journal entry. I will watch a bit more tv. Read back issues of Newsweek, PW, and Smithsonian, then get ready to go out for a light dinner with my children’s book writer and illustrator friends.

For my birthday!

February 2-10, 2010:

My wheels have been spinning and I have sadly neglected this journal. So here is my catch-up.

Book stuff: Received the lovely first proofs for Elsie’s Bird, the picture book with David Small. Went over them carefully. Sent in email three of the first finishes for Sleeping Monsters with absolutely stunningly funny pictures by Kelly Murphy. (I see board game, stuffed animals, maybe even a movie.) Rebecca Guay is still sending us the gorgeous finishes for the graphic novel The Last Dragon. Copies of Bedtime for Bunny arrived. Ditto the audio books for two of the Unsolved Mysteries that Heidi and I have done: Salem Witch Trials and Roanoke.

A starred review in PW for All-Star. Starred review in Kirkus for An Egret’s Day. And How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You debuted at #10 this week on the New York Times Children’s Book bestsellers.

I worked on my speech for SCBWI Atlanta. Organized stuff for Boskone this coming weekend. Did readings/signings on Saturday first at B&N to help raise money for the Chinese Immersion School, then down to West Hartford for the Noah Webster House which was a full house of admiring and chatty children and adults.

I did some revisions on the first section of Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts which I sent to Heidi, including a new found story for blintzes. Worked a lot on the revisions for Curses, Foiled Again though there is much more to go. Did some more work on the proposal for Joey Dante’s Trip to Heck graphic novel and sent it to my co-author, Bob Harris. Wrote several poems, including three for the Bordertown anthology. Two have been accepted, one waiting. Adam and I have planned to talk about the revisions for BUG. I worked over the final edits on The Emily Sonnets.

And of course the requisite three rejections. Plus one book that Patty Gauch and I worked on before she resigned as editor at Philomel, that I have been fully paid for, was handed back.

That kind of week.

Plus: a lot of doctor’s appointments, tests. Saw “The Young Victoria” with friend Bob Marstall. (Liked it  not blown away by it.) Lunch with friend Betsey Harries, professor emeritus at Smith. Went to a dynamite jazz concert by Jerry Noble and friends at Smith College. The writers’ group twice, the second time a mini-birthday party for me. And dinner at Heidi’s the evening before my actual birthday, with the Masschusetts grands.

Whew.

February 1, 2010:

Another rejection, as well as news that Apple for the Teacher, Adam’s and my book of work songs –beautifully produced by Amrams and illustrated with Americana objects from various museums–is going OP. Well, these things happen. All we can do is sigh. . .and move on. The book came out when David was very ill and I didn’t have the energy to try and push it as it needed to be pushed.

I worked some on the Joey Dante proposal and sent what I had on to co-author Bob Harris.

Am fighting with the insurance company because neither Medicare nor Health New England (yes, I have two insurance policies, for all the good it seems to be doing!) will cover Lidoderm patches which have helped my back problems enormously. My doctor is a white knight doing his best. But we may not win this one which will set me back and spin me into a lot of unecessary pain! The patches cost about $500 a month without insurance help. Doable some months, not doable other months. I suppose I can ration them to the really bad days. Sigh.

And I spent rather too much time (with Heidi’s help) trying to pick out tiles for the two bathroom refinishes. God, I resent that sort of two-to-three hour chunk out of my day. And I am so wishy-washy about my choices as well. But both bathrooms are almost 40 years old and imploding daily. This is not just cosmetic surgery, but necessary shorings up as well.

January 28-31, 2010:

Thursday was merely a run-up to the SCBWI New York conference where I was speaking. I did a bit of cleaning up of desktop stuff, a bit more writing on Curses, Foiled Again, met with the money man and learned some new stuff about trying to save money, packed, went to sleep early.

Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. Heidi picked me up, we drove Maddison and her friend Hannah to school, and then off onto the highway the three-hour-plus drive to New York. A bit of traffic, an annoying truck or two, egotistical cab drivers aside, we got to the hotel in good time. Our room at the Grand Hyatt was ready, and after unpacking and settling in, we were off to have a wonderful lunch with our even more wonderful agent.

It was a lesson in New York life. Though bitterly cold outside and heading towards colder, we didn’t need to go out. Just through the Grand Hyatt into Grand Central, through the Vanderbilt passageway to Cafe Centro. We took photographs of me in Grand Central to go along with Foiled which has several key scenes set there.

After that, back in the hotel, we met friends, colleagues, new writers, ex-students of mine, neighbors etc. And boy! did we have a good time. There was a lovely cocktail party for the faculty and professional writers at which I got to talk to several of my editors (Heidi Kilgras at Random House, Julie Santopolo at Philomel, Maria Modugno at Harper, among others.) and five of the wonderful Curtis Brown gang. The place was packed and we had a ball. I was so tired, I fell into bed. Heidi went out to a late dinner with a friend. Well, she is a lot younger than I am!

Saturday the conference proper started. (There had been a very full day on Friday, a writers’ and illustrators intensive workshop which I was not involved with.) Opening speaker, Libba Bray, blew us all away with her combination of outrageous humor and deep emotion.

Breakout sessions were many and repeated twice more. Heidi and I went to hear Laurent Linn who brought us into the world of artists and art directors with wit, knowledge and charm. Along with other S&S books, he referenced my Scarecrow’s Dance which immediately afterward sold out! Right after that we went to hear our dear friend, agent Edward Nercarsulmer who was low key, absolutely dead-on in his remarks, and charming.

Then at lunch came Jacqueline Woodson who–as always–spoke eloquently, read her books with throbbing passion, and made us all want to be writers just like her. Heidi and I elected not to sit with faculty but at a table of conference attendees, which we all enjoyed.

Afterwards, I took Lin Oliver, the conference director who was just recovering from open heart surgery, up to her room to talk and to let her (force her!) rest for an hour. Lin and I have known one another for 40 years. A true sister of mine without all the messiness of blood ties!

Peter Sis was the final speaker, charmingly taking us through his life as an unintended emigre, a dotty alien in America, and at last an award-winning (he seems to think by mistake!) illustrator.

Heidi and I went for an early dinner (again at Cafe Centro) with my publicist Susan Raab who is also a friend. Girls’ night out. A lovely low-key time.

Sunday, there were back-to-back talks from 9 am on: Sheldon Fogelman, agent first; Susan Raab; Jim Benton, illustrator next; a panel of agents (George Nicholson, Rosemary Stimola, a young woman from a large agency whose name has floated out of my brain. I especially liked what Rosemary had to say.) And then I gave the Rouser, as Lin calls it, telling people at the end of my speech to get out of there, go home, and write or illustrate.

After that the other authors and illustrators who had presented signed books until nearly 4.

We drove home, arriving at 7:30 and I was asleep by 9. Ah, the high life!

 

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