September 25-27, 2011:

What a rush-about these past three days, trying to get the house in order, ready for some friends who will spend next week here, and then the rental agency’s clients. Winding down various projects. Seeing all my friends for the last song of the migrating swallow. Summer has returned and is glorious. Since I missed it before (it was in April!) am enjoying it now.

And of course suddenly several editors are sending me last-minute revision questions.

Book stuff:

I worked on the revisions and layout stuff for Bug Off: Creepy, Crawly Poems, Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs, wrote a new chapter on the first book of The Seelie Wars, new poems for my poem-a-day project, discussed where everything is and what needs to be nudged with my-ever wonderful agent Elizabeth. I also challenged two young Scottish artist/illustrators to send stuff to three editors whose names I gave them. Am reading a friend’s page-turner mss. Finished reading Jaques D’Amboise’s I Was a Dancer, useful if I ever actually write that ballet novel or do a memoir that’s longer than 30 pages.

Am afraid to get stuck into something longer until I’m back home. So I dither and bumble about and feel half-alive as a writer.

Other stuff:

Had a lovely lunch with Deb and Bob, my farewell lunch with them, at a Thai/Japanese restaurant in town we all love. Bento boxes–just saying! Went to the Hepburn Gardens Assn annual meeting, spent a last afternoon in Christine’s sitooterie discussing art and literature, and the passage of time.

Here’s a poem that I wrote about how I am feeling these days:

The Swallow Says Farewell

Like a strange migrating bird,

I leave at the tag end of your cool summer,

winging my way across the ocean

to a far colder winter than you will ever know.

It defies intuition, this reversed snowbirding,

but since my mind does not work, nor my imagination,

once the temperature soars into the 80s,

this backward migration is what I have to do.

The young readers of the world

will never know how I suffer for my art.

© 2011 Jane Yolen, all rights reserved

September 7-September 24, 2011:

A couple of lost weeks journal-wise because I have been doing lots of stuff, and trying to cycle down in my last month here at Wayside.

Deaths:

To get the sad stuff out of the way, two deaths. One was a neighbor, a man of 59, but that’s not the whole story. Actually he lived a full life for someone with his disability. Butch Labee was born with Down’s Syndrome but he became a mainstay of our small town, working happily as the janitor for the post office. He’d walk down there every day, rain or shine, or snow, or . . . wearing his Red Sox baseball cap, with his Star Trek pin on, he would wash floors, empty trash, and converse non-stop about his obsessions with the Sox and Trek. He was unfailingly polite and happy, and will be much missed.

The other was the “unofficial mayor of Northampton,” Eva Trager, a friend of mine for some thirty plus years. She owned “Country Comfort,” the first alternative clothing store in Northampton, MA, where I have dropped a small fortune over the years. I was one of her earliest customers; though we joked that I was actually the first, but I think possibly in the first five anyway. A tiny woman, probably not five feet tall, she loomed large in all our lives. She was unfailingly upbeat, helpful to everyone, even though she had had kidney failure about twenty years ago, been on dialysis till they finally gave her a new kidney which gave her the last good ten years of her life. After her death, her Main Street storefront was overwhelmed by the flowers. One of a kind, Eva dear, and no one can step into those tiny shoes.

Garden Room:

Livable now, though still not completely finished as it needs a cold seal for the door and some other small stuff. I’d been told, “It will  be done in ten days though count on three weeks” when I accepted the bid June 1.  First people came to work July 29. And here it is mid-September with bits and pieces still to be dealt with. Arrrrgh. However, I’ve been sitting out there reading Jacques D’Amboise’s memoir I Was A Dancer and loving it. Both the garden room and the book. D’Amboise was at SAB five years before me and I had such a crush on him as a 12-13 year old wannabe balleterina, when he was already part of the New York City Ballet company. (Of course, I never got taller than 5’3 and half and was never skinny, so those dreams died hard.)

Books, Writing, Sales:

A possible one or two middle grade novels selling,  but this is not nailed down yet. Three poems taken by a literary journal. Finished more poems. Did several drafts on several speeches. Adam gave my speech in Minneapolis as a Midwest Book Award winner (Elsie’s Bird, thank you very much) and I did a SKYPE presentation at UMass in honor of Dr. Masha Rudman’s gift of thousands of children’s books.

Three mansucripts turned down by one editor, and then four more turned down. (Win a few, lose a few!)

And my website was hacked.

Fun Stuff:

A three and a half day trip to Aberdeenshire, staying with friends Mike and Susan Gassaway, and going all over the county/shire for the Open Studios days.

Lunch with the STANZA poetry festival director, Eleanor. Garden Room party for those who helped put together the Edwardian day bed. Tea with Janie Douglas at Rufflets Country House. Dinner at Vanessa’s. The fantasy writers’ luncheon at Elizabeth Wein’s in Perth: attending–Debby and Bob Harris, Lisa Tuttle, Anne-Marie Allen Caroline Clough, Alex Nye, and of course Elizabeth and me.

Also, tea with Christine,  and Deb with a St A’s UNiversity doctoral student in Edwardian Children’s Books here at the house. And Nora for the movie of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”.

Finally, Marianna and I went to hear the redoubtable Jean Redpath in a bravura performance of Scottish folksongs at the wee Colinsburgh Town Hall.

Whew, are we tired yet?

September 5-6, 2011:

Quick catchup on two days and some thoughts about  the writing game 2011.

Books:

Editor loves new revision of Thirteenth Fey (money). A poem taken for a small upstart journal (no money). Am working on first draft of keynote speech for a Mt Holyoke writing conference (a tiny bit of money).

House:

Tiling begun on garden room (lots of money out when all done).

Quarterly taxes:

Paid. (lots more money out.)

So you see where this is going. Outflow exceeds inflow most times. (Until the royalty payments start up again.) With the death of many bookstores and chains and others flooded in the recent hurricane, publishers are reeling. My new novel Snow in Summer is an interesting example. The editor loved it, wanted to have gold tipping the ends of the pages and a ribbon. Was told she could have one or the other. Chose gold over ribbon and I agreed. Two years later the book is coming out, and we have neither gold nor ribbon and the print run is cut. Publishers figure (probably rightly for midlist authors like me) that it’s cheaper to reprint than warehouse a book. And even though my Creepy Monsters/Sleepy Monsters picture book is in its fourth printing in its very first year, it’s still not up to what would have been its initial print run, say ten years ago.

So publishing companies are dashing about madly to put everything they can into print on demand and online and apps and electronic rights, without knowing quite how to make the things safe from piracy or how one can autograph such things or whether this is a flash in the pan or the next Guttenbergian five hundred years of storying. And they are offering writers and illustrators even less than before. (Unless, of course, you’re one of the handful of superstars. As well, high midlist authors and even some superstars are opting to put their own work out on the web by themselves (sans publishers) practically for free, going out of pocket to pay editors (if they think they need them, though often their choice is not when they actually do!), cover artists, publicity. And spending mammoth amounts of time doing their own publicity.

The point is that NONE of us knows what to do. We spin around and listen to gurus. We dip our toes into various raging waters and hope not to be drowned.

And all the while what we should really be doing is what we do best: Writing. Illustrating. Telling stories.

Or maybe it’s just me.

August 30-September 4, 2011:

An interesting week this, which included some writing, some illness, some friend stuff, and a bizarre end to a story of loss.

Let’s start with writing:

Having done the big stuff (not terribly big) for the revision of 13th Fey, I began to tackle the smaller stuff, including going through the entire mss. with the proverbial fine-toothed comb. It always amazes me how much I have missed in a novel. But the editor wanted it by September 15th, and got it on September 4th. I love it when I can do that!

I wrote four new poems for the Ekaterinislav poetry book, and the editor cried “More! More!” though I am not sure there is any more to write.

Managed a bit more on the first book of the  Seelie Wars trilogy, and gave a good think to the next couple of chapters from my character’s pov.

Last Dragon was chosen by the Science Fiction Book Club, Pretty Princess Pig by the Scholastic Book Club, Creepy Monsters went into a fourth printing.

And I got dis-invited to a conference because I asked them to do what every other conference does–buy my plane tickets instead of me buying them and spending the next few months chasing them down for the repayment. I finally caved and said I would do it, and they cancelled me as being “too difficult”. I had already turned down several other conferences who’d offerred to pay twice what this small college was paying. (I did it to honor a dear friend who’s name is on the conference.) It has left a permanently sour taste in my mouth for three reasons:  1. I’d accepted this on the cheap as a favor for a friend  2. I know I am a great speaker and give more over that to any conference-goer  3. I am probably about the easiest person in the world to deal with–can sleep anywhere, bring my own tea, get up early and sometimes help set up, stay till the cows come home signing books, etc.  (Not to mention #4, I have now lost the amount of money they were to pay as well as the larger amount that two different conferences that wanted me were willing to pay.)

Personal Stuff:

Had tea with friend Marianna, lunch with Christine and our friend Alex, dinner with friend Elaine on the day that would have been David’s and my 49th anniversary, and ran a  birthday party for Christine, with presents and poems about each present. There were five of us at the Fairmont Clubhouse restaurant which has great views overlooking the North Sea. Problem with the last was I ended up eating something that disagreed with me mammothly and spent two days (including today) on crackers and tea.

Surprise:

I was a wee bit early for tea with Marianna and so thought I might just have a little look around for the car keys I’d lost two weeks earlier. I parked the car in the same spot, less than a hundred paces from her studio, and decided to check the verges of the lane even more carefully than the last time. And of course three paces along, on the right hand side, something shiny caught my eye. And there was my key. What I’d spotted was the keychain. Of course when I’d lost the key, it was high summer and in the rain;  the verge was much overgrown and bowed down with water. The day I found it, an early autumn had thinned out the foliage and the warm sun had lifted what leaves remained, Surprise!!!

This is the poem I wrote for the anniversary:

On the Edge

Our forty-ninth anniversary,

the fifth without you.

No cake for either one of us,

no sly memories, winks,

the hum of old songs,

a pinch of history

to season our time together,

only a basting of tears.

I will visit the garden stone

where your ashes are buried,

if the Scottish weather permits me,

listening to the cushet doos

coo in their own connubiality

while I remain regretful and alone.

 

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