November 22-28, 2010:

In-between Thanksgiving and soup making, playing with friends and overeating, I have been 1. writing poems for the 30 Poems, 30 days project, retelling very short and young folk/fairy tales for the book WEE TALES, reading the galleys for the paperback of Except the Queen, and trying to read more of Wolf Hall which I love but find slow going. I am desperate to get back to The Thirteenth Fey but the last time I worked on that was on the train back from New York on the 20th. If I was hoping for some enlightenment in the week away from it, I have been sorely disabused of that notion. Sigh.

I had lunch with friend Shulamith, tea with friend Jody, several meals at daughter Heidi’s, including Thanksgiving, but otherwise had a quiet week. I also did a lot of pre-filing. That means I get things in piles for Heidi (my P.A.) to file, went through four files of book stuff to purge and send to the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota where all my book related papers go. Cleaned house. Went through things like sock drawers and other clothing to purge the those shelves as well.  We took a box of books to the WABC (Whately Antique Book Center) and came back with a different box full. That’s ordinary around here. The more we get rid of books, the more they come in. I sometimes think we are part of a book-breeding program.

Interstitial Moment:

I have been part of a November fund raising project called 30 Poems for 30 Days, meaning that friends and acquaintances and poetry lovers have pledged a certain amount per poem to receive copies each day of a new poem I have written.

Which also means–no surprise!–that I have been writing a poem a day since November 1.

Now what this boils down to are a lot of good ideas and some good lines and maybe one or two good (not necessarily great) poems. But the act of sitting down each day to write a poem is both constricting (fear factor, can I actually pull off the magic trick?) and liberating (how do I know what I think till I see what I say?).

Sometimes the day dictates what I write about: going to FaerieCon, walking in New York City, Thanksgiving. Sometimes my own emotions do. But however I get to that poem, one thing is clear, writing poetry is something that needs to be practiced, a muscle that needs exercising. Ever single day.

And any poem written today will eventually have to be rewritten many times more. But that is a for the future. Right now I have my eye on the November 30 prize and how much money I am raising for the Center for New Americans.

And my head into tomorrow’s poem. Which may be about Leftovers, since this is the day after Thanksgiving.

Here are two of the poems:

Nov 8:

Annual Children’s Illustration Show

Michelson’s Gallery 2010

I envy artists the tools of their trade,

so full of color, bristle, tooth.

They live through their eyes.

A piece of white paper is saturated with life:

each line telling a story.

An arc for them, like a tree limb, carries weight.

They place a dot on the page;

it becomes an eye, falling rain,

the buttress of a tiny bridge,

the start of a new life.

Perspective bends.

A spot of red signifies

dusk, dawn, a riding hood,

trillium by a darkling river,

the bursting of a vein.

All I have is words.

Some day that may be enough.

Nov 25:

Thanksgiving, Three Prayers


How like us to load both fridges,

yours where the food has been cooked,

mine just over the brow of the hill.

The turkey remains at your house,

trussed, stuffed, ready for its big moment.

Pumpkin brulees wait in seductive ramikins

like women in white negligees.

I have the side dishes in my cooler,

plainer but no less filling.

These two refrigerators hold a lifeline between us.

Today we shuffle the food from house to house.

I save my thanks for the sun.


Friends come to eat here,

your door open to pilgrims,

Charity’s daughter.


We groan after eating, that old story.

Swear never to eat again, that old lie.

Remind ourselves to give thanks

that are never given, that old prayer.

Just happy to be together,

that old tale.

November 18-21, 2010:

A few days of re-memories as I was in New York and went to the Cloisters and did a walk-about in Central Park where I used to play as a child with an old (and now new) friend Marcel, from elementary school days. I also saw my agent for a wonderful lunch–we laughed, we remembered my old agent (her old boss) and reminisced and spoke about new projects. Old and new. Continuity. Sort of like the arc of a book. My book. My life.

Also went to the Frick Museum to look at the pictures of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, glaring at one another from opposite sides of a hearth, because I am reading Wolf Hall–the Booker prize winner, an amazing historical novel whose main character is Cromwell. And my friend, Marcel, had read the book, too. So we were talking about art and history and the clash of personalities and religion much of the day.

The train to New York was held up before we passengers in Springfield ever got on because the train ahead of ours had run over someone on the track outside of Hartford, so five of us jumped into a car and got down to New Haven in time to make our connection. Still I got a bit of writing done, including a poem about the train track death. On the way back I revised a chapter of Thirteenth Fey, bringing me to almost 24,000 words, and did a bit on the Ghoul School proposal as well. I also saw my Random House editor, and ate at a lot of new places. Stayed at my cousin Pam’s apartment. So I thank Pam and her handsome husband Billy for putting up with me as well as putting me up.

A lovely time with lovely people and writing got done as well. What’s not to like? (Maybe the four rejections of picture books by one editor, but even that didn’t phase me as it had been a long shot anyway.) Got home Saturday evening, hauled my suitcase up the stairs, and literally fell into bed.

November 10-17:

A  week’s worth of stuff. Not exciting stuff, but working hard on the novel The Thirteenth Fey and by this evening, 21,500+ words. And I have the next chapter in my head. Not firmly in my head, understand, but enough of it. After that, I may be stuck once again. These things happen.

The odd thing about writing a novel is that one learns nothing useful along the way. The next novel has its own set of (sometimes insurmountable) problems. A bit like quicksand. One step. . .you think you’re safe. . .and then it pulls you under. (Or is that the mafia?)

Book News:

Three of my poetry collections are numbers 41, 42, and 43 on a list of the 100 best poetry books for children. Not sure who made the list or if it’s important, but always nice. I think the books are An Egret’s Day, Color Me A Rhyme, and A Mirror to Nature, but am not sure I’m remembering correctly.

And not certain if I already reported that An Egret’s Day is an Honor Book for the National Outdoor Books Award, which Jason and I won several years ago for Wild Wings.

Was interviewed for NPR (first locally on today, November 17, and can be found at WFCR: Jane Yolen, 300 Books and Counting (2010-11-17) if you want to hear it. Next week it will go over all the NPR stations in a slightly different format.

I went off to the Baltimore FaerieCon Thursday through Monday morning, sold about 80 books and signed more than that as people brought in some of their favorites. Lots of costumes (I don’t wear costumes, though I did have a circlet of flowers.) Was on three panels and one interview with me and interviewer Wendy Froud. She’s an old friend whose doll work I greatly admire, and she asked some great leading questions. I also read some poems and one story aloud. My favorite part of the convention was when a company of Green Men came singing and dancing along the Faerie Market and blessed the booths. WHen they came to my signing booth, they left me e with four acorns and a sprig of rosemary, which was considered a great blessing indeed.

On the following Tuesday (last night), after my writers’ meeting, I took part in the Hillside Salon at the Eric Carle Museum, reading my poems along with three other artists: Josh Simpson an extraordinary glass blower (I have one of his pieces), a clothing designer, and a videographer.

Family stuff:

Since I was awa’ w’ the faeries when Maddison’s dance performance at Williston was going on, the dance teacher allowed me to watch the Wednesday run-through so at least I got a good look at the pieces. She was in five of them, including a solo piece and a salsa dance for eight dancers she’d choreographed herself. Marvelous. I was one happy Nana and one happy Terpsichordophile.

Interstitial Moment:

I want to talk for just an Interstitial Moment about metaphor, and these thoughts come to you compliments of Faerie Con where hundreds of folk, some quite young, some middle aged, and some old enough to know better have been dressing for days in rather suggestive costumes–bustiers, codpieces, artfully placed flowers and leaves, painting themselves green or gold or other landscape colors. And wings: the most glorious painted, crafted, filigreed and decorated wings. As I sat at my table in the Faerie Market selling (hawking?) my books, a company of  Green Men (yes leaves, masks, bells, sticks, etc.) came by singing, blessed my booth, left me four acorns and a sprig of rosemary.

And it’s been in good fun.

But metaphor. . . I promised to speak of that. Metaphor is seeing one thing in terms of another. My love is a red rose. (Beautiful? Soft? Momentarily in bloom? Full of thorns?) The Lord God spoke to me from a burning bush. (Thunder? Passion? Revelatory? Bi-polar moment? Narcoleptic fit?) Zeus came to me in a shower of gold. (Seduction across class lines? Semen? Date rape?)

You see the problem. One person’s core beliefs may be a mistake because metaphor by another person.

We all read the world through metaphor. We all speak of difficult things in terms of something else. When one of my children had a possible terminal illness (don’t worry, said child is fine and this was years ago) my husband and I spoke of the black line ruled across our lives though there was no physical line with magic marker or otherwise drawn anywhere. We spoke of the dark days. (It was actually late spring as I recall.) We speak this way because we cannot cope otherwise. Directness in certain areas–like love, like death, like religion, like politics–are best handled as Emily Dickinson wrote, “On the slant.” Metaphor is nothing if it is not the perfect slant.

The problems arise when the metaphor is mistaken for the message. When it is read flatfootedly. (A metaphor itself there.) When it is believed to be true on the face of the thing itself. My love IS a red rose. My God DID speak from a burning bush. I AM a Mama Grizzly. You ARE the Very Devil.

And as some of the wonderful Green Men, Pucks, Oberons and Mabs I met this weekend at Faerie Con told me, they really did believe in fairies. And I went off muttering, “Metaphor, folks, metaphor.” Each of us certain in our own minds of the rightness of our convictions. In this way countries fail, houses are divided, friendships sundered, wars and battles and twin towers fall.

October 30-November 9, 2010:

I know, I know, all those promises to keep up the journal and I have been swamped with work and with travel. So here is my catch-up.


Sold a new picture book, a companion to Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters (coming out next year)–called Warty Monsters, Sporty Monsters to Candlewick.

I have been hard at work on the fantasy novel The Thirteenth Fey. Have gotten some 19,000+ words done and gotten stuck in the middle. I often get stuck there but think I may have finally shaken things loose. The breakthrough came as I drove to my writers’ meeting. Whether it will pan out, I will have to see.


Been to the Rochester Book Fair, which was such fun. Mark Teague and I gave a presentation on our How Do Dinosaurs books to a full room full of children and adults. I surprised him by reading the newest book about dinosaurs getting angry. And he drew a quick sketch of a T-Rex slamming the door. Aside from that, we signed books from 10-4:30, so many that my right point finger dwelled up and needed an extra dose of Aleve. Great bunch of folks signing there (Bruce Coville, Linda Sue Park, Vivien Vande Velde, Jeff Mack, Katie Davis and about twenty-five more.) We had a ball.

Other stuff:

I voted, for all the good it did. Went to two writer’s group meetings, watched “Howl” with poet friend Patricia Lewis. Had an NPR interview. And went to the Michelson’s Gallery Children’s Book Illustration show.



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