August 10-August 29:

Life:

My the days go tumbling by, a hurricane of them. And speaking of hurricanes, my house in the States evidently weathered the “Hurricane of the Century” as did my daughter’s house next door though she had her basement sump pump running pretty continuously and some small lakes in her front lawn. But other towns in the area, like Shelburne Falls, did not fare as well with the banks of their rivers covering the bridges and overflowong the banks and washing away houses.

As for me in Scotland, except for two nights at a friend’s house on the far side of Edinburgh and two lovely days at the Festival in the town, a bunch of dinners and teas and one movie (Cowboys & Aliens–I went in with no great hopes of a fine movie, just wanted to be entertained, and so was not disappointed) I have spent a lot of time writing, doing house stuff, taking long walks, and thinking about my life.

Writing:

I did a small (quite small) revision for the editor for Thirteenth Fey. Editor of B.U.G. said the revision for him (4th or 5th) was fine. Did a bunch of stuff on various poetry book revisions. Wrote three new poems for the Ekaterinslav collection.

Sold several poems and reprints of poems.

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters has gone into a fourth printing. Last Dragon has sold to the Science Fiction Book Club. Pretty Princess Pig has sold to the Scholastic Book Club. I signed contracts for You Nest Here with Me (picture book with Heidi) and Grumbles from the Town (poetry collection with Rebeeca Dotlich).

Wrote the SKYPE speech to be given for the opening of Masha Rudman’s newly-gifted children’s book collection at the UMass library.

Have kept up with my Poem a Day since January 1. Also signed up again for the November Poem a Day raising money for charity, The Center for New Americans in Northampton.

Life and How It Sometimes Sucks:

Well, there was the hurricane, of course.

The deaths of Georgess McHargue,Marty Greenberg, and William Sleator. Elaine Alphin after a mammoth stroke is still in a coma.

Bunnies have totally overrun my Scottish garden.

And because of a comment I wrote after a Tea Party senator in Wisconsin used one of my Dino books for a photo op at a health center (when he and his cohorts are trying to privatize health care across the state), I have been besieged by the Know-Nothing No-Nothings around the country all threatening to boycott my books. Not that I think any of them read my books before. Most of the messages border on the illiterate, being both mis-spelled and grammatically trashed.

Of course none of this–except the deaths of friends and the loss of lives/houses in the hurricane–have any real meaning.

So onward:

I have books and poems to write. Speeches to craft. A month left on my Scottish sojourn. Friends to fete. Babies to kiss. (Three friends are new grandparents.) And a garden room I am hoping to move into before I leave. It’s going so slowly that may not happen. But I live in hope.

Interstitial Moment:

I want to talk some more about revision because this summer alone I have revised a novel with my son Adam (B.U.G.), a novel of my own (about the family of Shouting Fey, though the title itself is still in flux), three books of children’s poetry (GRUMBLES FROM THE FOREST, BUG OFF! and THUNDER UNDERGROUND), two books of adult poetry (THINGS TO SAY TO A DEAD MAN,  and EKATERINISLAV) and a bunch of individual poems as well.

And what I have learned that I can use permanently?  The answers to that may surprise you.

I have learned:

1. To read the revision letter several times before responding or reacting. One’s first response is always that desire for unconditional love. Don’t tell me what’s wrong, tell me what’s right!

2. Revise the revision before you send it out. Your first thoughts may be best, of course, but they may need titivating, a word I learned in Scotland and adore. As one Scottish friend defined it: “flower arranging.” Of course, it may sometimes be more like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!

3. Forgive yourself small infelicities even as you fix them. We are none of us perfect, so why should our prose (or poetry) be perfection?

4. Say thank you to the editor though you may not feel it at the moment. Wait until you do. Publishing works best when it is a cooperative venture, not an antagonistic one.

5. Remember that we are lucky as writers. The mistakes we make won’t kill us and we can always change things later.

And other than those five things, I actually can carry little over from one novel to the next, one poem to the next, one picture book to the next, one nonfiction book to the next. Each book has its own problems, own peculiarities, own mishaps. I guess the important message I have for any of you about to embark on a revision–even if it’s the second or twenty-second round–is try to love your book as if you are meeting it for the very first time. And for the last.

July 26-August 9, 2011:

The last fortnight–with the exception of two gorgeous sunny days–has been bucketing rain alternating with light rain, occasional showers, gales, and cold. One of the rainiest summers on record here in Scotland. And yet for me that is much better than living in heat over the 90-100 degree range. So all in all, pleasant to be here.

What hasn’t happened: the new garden room. Though finally the last couple of days, the old floor has been removed, concrete poured, framed for the glass wall and doors put up. But as rain moved in again, the workmen have moved out. Sigh.

What hasn’t happened: the novel revision sent out (Thirteenth Fey) hasn’t been read by the editor and won’t be–she tells me–till after the beginning of September. The two revised collections of poetry (Grumbles from the Town, Thunder Underground) haven’t been read yet,  but I expect that editor to be a bit faster. I haven’t heard from Barbara Diamond Goldin about what I have done for Girls’ Bible. Son Adam has been dragging his feet on the first book of our trilogy, but then we don’t have the contract yet. No new picture books sold after the three reported below (but I can’t be greedy now, can I? Yes, I can!) and the contracts for the fantasy trilogy and the new Holocaust novel aren’t here yet so I don’t want to sell another novel till those are written. I’d like to sell some of the stuff already written, actually.

What has happened: Finally paid for the latest DINO books (Christmas, Hannukah) long overdue since they were accepted last year. Got the second round of contracts for How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies, since the first signed ones were lost in the mail. Mike Cavalarro is almost finished with the pictures for Curses! Foiled Again , just 31 pages to go, and they are terrific! I was surprised by a new picture book based on my friend Tara Chang’s artwork, and she is busy working away at a book dummy and a sample art piece. It is called The Trouble with Taking Trolls To Tea.Lots of poetry written and some ideas for new ones. The poem a day project is still going strong.

And along the way, I have had tea at Marianna’s studio (and lost my car keys, another long story), dinner with friend Claire at the Byre Theater, visited Balcaskie House with friend Christine and wandered the gardens, had several meals with Debby and Bob at their house where we solved the troubles of the world (wine helps!), tea with Nora at the North Point, went to the opening of the Pittenweem Arts Festival with Christine, and had friend Marianna staying over two nights at Wayside.

A quiet, but lovely few days actually, despite the weather. Read a mystery, a book of short stories, a lot of poetry.

 

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