June 17-June 30, 2011:

My heavy slogging writing days have continued fairly unabated, though I have had dinners with friends, gone to a medieval banquet, wandered to two gardens in the St Andrews garden scheme, had  couple of tea dates, a trip to what was going to be a full day at the East Neuk Studios but. . . more about that later! A trip into Edinburgh (ditto.) And today a surprise for an old friend I hadn’t seen in seven years, showing up in Anstruther where he was leading a tour group from America.

Now about the East Neuk studio tour. It began wonderfully enough, with a visit with my friend Christine to the house/studio of one of her friends. We spent a full hour there, enjoying ourselves, chatting with the artist and her husband and looking out her studio window at her wonderful view of the Firth of Forth. Left there and, as it was lunch time, Christine and I went to The Haven for something to eat. After the light lunch, I went off to the loo, tripped over a hidden door jamb (it was darkish) fell face first into the wall. Blood gushed from my nose and I went down as if poleaxed. A woman heard me cry out, sent her husband in, he was calm, got the manageress to get me a cold compress, and then some ice. I was calm as well, and then–once I knew my nose wasn’t actually broken–made jokes and entertained the troops. Since Christine can’t drive, once I’d gotten up and realized that I wasn’t in too bad shape,I drove her home (about five minutes) and then me home (about twenty minutes on twisty roads. Decided it was best to check in at the emergency room of the hospital where they tested me and felt certain the nose wasn’t broken, warned me about concussions, that someone should stay with me, and I wondered who to call. But when I got home my door was wide open and Debby–having been called by Christine–had come right over to wait for me and insisted on giving me tea, a backrub, and staying the night to be sure I wasn’t suffering a concussion coma. Do I have great friends, or what! The next day, to the astonishment of my daughter who calls me she-who-bruises-if-you-look-at-her-funny, I had only a very slight lavender discoloration under my right eye and a bit of whiplash from falling down. Oh, and a scab on the bridge of my nose. A week later, all that was gone.

The trip to Edinburgh on the train was with Bob Harris, my erstwhile writing partner and Debby’s husband, to meet with the editor of Floris Books , a publisher that specializes in Scottish books for children and teens. We had a lovely 20 minutes walk from the train station and then had a good conversation with her at the publishing house. We left her with (on my part) two picture books and a short novel, all set in Scotland, and (on Bob’s part) proposals for five novels all set in Scotland. So we hope for some good news down the line. But are prepared for bad news as well.

As to all that writing: I have been head down in The Girls’ Bible and got about ten books out of the St Andrews University’s Divinity School library on feminist interp of the Bible, and also on specific topics such as Ruth & Naomi, Esther, and Judges. In the last two weeks I finished the side notes for N&R and Esther, added stuff to Sarah and Eve, and started work on Deborah.  I also did a complete revision of the Sings the Walrus picture book for an editor without guarantee she will take the finished piece.

And at home in the States, the ARC of Things to Say to a Dead Man arrived, as did a French edition of  The Emperor & the Kite (oh, those French, only catching on 44 years after the book was published in English!), the author copies of How Do Dinosaurs Go Up and Down, and the author copies of Creepy Monster, Sleepy Monsters. Daughter Heidi sent pictures.

June 5-June 16, 2011:

This has been almost two works of book related stuff, and all without leaving home. Much. Two froends had first babies, one had a second baby, and a friend’s husband died–all in the States. The weather ran from high winds (gales) to bright high sunny summer blue skies, from bucketing rain to sprinkles. The usual.

Rebecca Dotlich and I worked on four paired poems jumping off from nursery rhymes to partner with our book for Boyds Mills, GRUMBLES FROM THE FOREST (based on fairy tales.) This one is called GRUMBLES FROM THE CITY or perhaps GRUMBLES FROM THE STREET and will be based on nursery rhymes. The ones we chose to send in the proposal were: Hey Diddle-Diddle, The Queen of Hearts, Cobbler Cobbler Mend My Shoe, and Little Jack Horner.

I finished the revision based on beta reader Debby’s report of THIRTEENTH FEY and sent it off to the editor. It ran about 54,000 words. Parts of it I like. I worry if the beginning, which is all scene setting and character building, will seem too slow for my wonderful editor. I love slowly unwinding books but then I am not an eleven-year-old reader.

Adam and I finished up the third (or is it the fourth?) revision of B.U.G. and are quite pleased with it. I think we managed to do most of what editor Steve Meltzer wanted without sacrificing our own vision or finding an even better way of doing it. Always a plus.

I sent off the finished poems for the EKATERINISLAV book to Jim Perlman at Holy Cow!

And along the way, I had one proposal (for another poetry book) shot down, a novel turned down, two picture books returned, and three adult poems taken–one for Pirene’s Fountain and two for Faerie Magazine’s mermaid issue. A starred review for THE DAY TIGER ROSE SAID GOODBYE from SLJ and a great review (alas, no star) from SLJ for CREEPY MONSTERS, SLEEPY MONSTERS.

I began work again on THE GIRLS’ BIBLE, going over the first three chapters and adding material and then getting deep into the chapter on Naomi and Ruth. Now if I can somehow boil down this whole tribal marriage customs that deal with consanguinity to a 10-14 age group, all will be copacetic.

Finally, I hosted the Second Annual Scottish YA Fantasy Writers Luncheon and Marching Band meeting at Wayside, with Lisa Tuttle staying overnight because she drove in from the West Coast of Scotland, about six hours. We had the same folks plus two coming, which would have been nine of us, but Elizabeth Kerner hurt her back and couldn’t make it. So there we were: Bob and Debby Harris, Elizabeth Wein, Lisa Tuttle, Anne-Marie Allen (minus the other Elizabeth) and me, plus Alex Nye and Joan Lennon. Lots of shop talk, laughter, wine, huge meal (I made some and the rest was pot luck which everyone brought along). Elizabeth Wein, Bob and Debby, and of course Lisa lasted until about dinner time. The rest left earlier, to catch trains, pick up children, and the like. We feasted on leftovers, mostly pate and cheese. I was exhausted and was in bed by 8, but it was grand.

Other fun stuff: Chinese take out at Wayside with Marianna Lines and partner Pete Kinnear; dinner twice at Bob and Debby’s (along with critiquing of stuff they are working on), lunch with Ann Morrison, lunch with Pam Robertson, tea in Janie and Tom Douglas’ garden, antiquing, and whew! I think that’s it.

Have kept up with my poem a day. Thought this one appropriate for the journal:

June 15:


“You have great facility. Do not be beguiled by it,”

–editor France Keene to me, 1964

I am not only beguiled by it,

I am enraptured, captured,

manacled and chained to it.

As if the faries have glamoured me,

I am bounden to this facility.

Only by constant revision, reworking,

retrenching, re-envisioning, rewriting

can I escape for a moment, a half breath,

the fate of facility, that oily substance

coats everything I touch

until I am sucked under

like all those who died in 1919

at Boston’s Purity Distilling Company

when the great vat collapsed,

shooting rivets like machine gun bullets.

Though that fast, hard iron shot

was not what killed twenty-one people

and unrecorded numbers of horses.

They, like I in the oil of my facility,

drowned in the molasses.

Interstitial Moment:

Why, you may ask, call it a journal and not a blog.

Three reasons, really:

1. It is not interactive like a true blog. If you want to respond to something I say here, you have to send me email at janeyolen@aol.com. I will most certainly answer you but I may not do it on the journal, or I may. Be careful what you ask for!  I also (so far) haven’t put up photographs or music or videos etc. It is extremely plain and not for those interested in do-dads and whirligigs. There’s a place for those, just not here.

2. I can go at the pace I want here, deal with the ideas or writing advice etc. here without feeling I am disappointing folks on line. It is more personal, more intimate, and. . .actually. . .more me. I am not performing as much as I would do in the more open blog-on-the-Internet. It’s harder to find me here. You have to really search for it.

3. I want this journal to be under my control, not FaceBook or any other major carrier that makes up its rules about ownership as it goes along. My son Adam is my webmaster and my daughter Heidi reads this and yells at me if I tell family secrets. Otherwise, this is my work, and my thoughts, and my private musings. Yes, still public, but not as public as all those fancy, dashing, beautifully designed blogs out there.

So enjoy, or not. I will keep telling the true in my own quiet, unelaborated way. You are welcome to a place at my fire, my stash of tea, and there’s even (somewhere around here) some good single malt.

May 23-June 4, 2011:

What a wild ride the last almost two weeks have been. And they began with a trip under the volcano. Cast your mind back to Monday, May 23rd. That was the day after one of the regular Icelandic volcanoes had a blow. From all that was reported on my way down to NYC by train, there should have been no problem with the flights to Scotland, at least for another couple of days. I got some good work done on the revisions of B.U.G, about three chapters’ worth. Got a cheap van to Newark airport driven by a guy I dubbed “Captain Sparrow” because of the wild shortcuts and dashes across the berms that he made to get us there in record time.

I was three and a half hours early to the airport, and stood in line for about an hour and a half of that because  when flying internationally, one’s passport has to be viewed by an actual person, not just an online machine. By the time I was within three people of the check-in counter, an announcement over the intercom said that both the Edinburgh and Glasghow airports had been closed because of volcanic ash in the air.

So off we E&G passengers dashed across the terminal to the re-booking desk. I was about 4th in line. By the time I made it to the desk, I found out they were rebooking everyone for Thursday or Friday which would have meant either 1. I had to go all the way back to Massachusetts (3 1/2 hour train ride away) and come back again on Thursday or Friday, maybe, or 2. Find somewhere to stay in NYC though by this time I think every friend with a guest room in the city was well tired of hosting me! So I said, “Can you get me to Heathrow?” which is the London airport. I figured, worst case scenario, I could take the train up. Expensive to do that last minute, but a possibility. The agent looked appalled. “We can’t guarantee we can fly you up to Edinburgh from there.” I said I understood. She booked me, with a fingers-crossed ticket on British Midland from Heathrow to Edinburgh on which she scribbled “Patron understands if the plane is cancelled we will NOT pick up her train fare.”

And off I went. The trip to Heathrow was full if uneventful. The food predictably awful. Turns out that if you are simply changing planes, beside a twenty minute bus ride to the other terminal, the customs line at Heathrow is tiny. Mine had only three people on it, though if I’d actually been terminating in London (scary word to use when speaking of airplane flights, don’t you think?), the wait would have been interminable. (Wow, another pun!) The Brit Midlands folks were sure their plane was going, then not so sure, then worried, and then the plane came in from Edinburgh and the passengers getting off told us they were the last plane out of Edinburgh. We worried. We worried a lot. Then a flash announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, please get on the plane NOW.” We raced in, waited with bated breaths, finally took off, and landed an hour later in Edinburgh, the actual last plane in for almost two days. Right after that, planes out of Heathrow as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh were shut up tight.

But my friends Debby and Elizabeth, having been warned by me through a Heathrow internet cafe, and the night before by my phone call to Heidi who contacted them, were there to pick me up. I stayed awake and chatty all the way to St Andrews, found myself too jazzed to nap. Had dinner with Debby and Bob Harris, went to bed at 9:30 p.m., and awoke the next day with nary a sign of jet lag.

And then my summer in Scotland truly started. I did some banking, some grocery shopping, bumped into friend Janie Douglas at the grocery store and returned (weather overcast, gales rainy) to the house where I settled in to work on 1. the rest of the chapter revisions of B.U.G which were to take me the next week and a bit. And went over the poems in the Ekaterinislav book one more time.

A couple of days later, friends Susan and Mike came down from Aberdeen and stayed over night. We went to a rather amateurish production of “Tosca” in Dundee, though their friend who played the eponymous starring role was great. Had lunch with friend Claire at the Cheese Farm, dinner at friend Vanessa’s house, afternoon tea with Janie Douglas at Rufflets, another dinner at Debby and Bob’s. And got in several good walks on the non-rainy days with the least gales.

I also met my new gardener taking the place of my dearly missed gardener of over 15 years, the lovely Judy Waring who had also been my friend. She’d died suddenly of a brain tumor this past winter. Imagine a children’s book writer who’s garden is over-run by rabbits. And what would be the absolute best name for that gardener? Why Mr. McGregor of course! And there he was, “Call me Callum” McGregor, white haired, well-muscled, handsome, charming, and I said, “What can you do about bunnies?” envisioning him with a rake in hand running after blue-waistcoated Peter Rabbit. “Kill them,” he said. Most satisfying!

And by the rest of the time, I finished the B.U.G. revision, or at least my part and sent it off to Adam; finished the retellings of folk tales (and revised them thoroughly) for WEE TALES and sent them to that editor; finished (for now) the revisions of the poems for the Ekaterinislav adult poetry book and sent that to its editor; kept up my poem-a-day habit; put together a possible book of poems about writing (t’will be a tough sale); wrote a short piece about Ruth Sanderson for her Guest of Honor stint at an sf convention; wrote a poem for an SCBWI convention; revised a picture book for Jason called “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Morning in a Salt Water Marsh.” Call me Worker Bee. And that’s how it’s done, boys and girls.

Boy! are my wings tired.



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