May 24-May 27, 2012:

Full summer seems to have arrived early, with temperatures in the eighties. I do not do well once things climb over the mid-seventies, that is I have trouble thinking when it gets that hot. But living in air conditioning for more than an hour gives me ear-aches. This is one of the reasons (but of course not the only one) that I spend summers in Scotland. I let the house-sitters swelter here in Massachusetts. Well, there is always the air conditioning!

In the last few days book and writing wise, I have done the daily poem, of course Worked on a first rough draft of the first chapter of the second book of the trilogy I am writing with son Adam (got that?). As yet it has no title. I have also fiddled with (technical term!) revisions on the ARCH poems and sent them to my agent. Fiddled with some other poems. Began going over the copyedited B.U.G. novel. And fiddled as well with a collection of adult poems called Just Wait A Minute: A New England Sampler,  a year/calendar of weather poems in and around New England, actually about five years worth of poems. Not sure what to do with it, though, or where to send it.

I finished reading a historical fantasy novel and am now in the middle of the hefty biography of Abigail and John Adams.

On the fun side: I went with Movie Bob to see “Headhunters” which turned out to be something like “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” as directed by the Cohen Brothers. Or at least it felt like that: so much violence, it became slapstick, but really a story about the illusion, disillusionment, and then reassembling of a marriage. I also ran the annual Jane Yolen Writing Contest at the Hatfield Elementary School, had lunch with friend Mira to discuss our mutual project,  went to the monthly children’s book writers/illustrators dinner and martini party, enjoyed watching the Amherst Ballet spring performance in which Maddison danced twice, hauling along my friend Karl, after which we went up Mount Sugarloaf to look over the beautiful Connecticut River Valley, and back to my house for dinner and to watch “My Week with Marilyn” which we both highly enjoyed.

Now I am in full Get Ready for Scotland mode, with a few side journeys ahead, such as the Williston graduation annual arts/crafts fair at the Northampton Fair Grounds, my last writing group till Fall, lunch with friend Jodie. Lots to do, lots to do. Probably little writing this week.

May 8-May 23, 2012:

So much for promises. Time shot by and where was I?

Well, in-between the last post and this, I I have been to Boston, Stamford, Charleston SC. I have celebrated my twin granddaughters 9th birthday (and their father’s, my son Jason, on the same day); reunioned with 70+Yolen relatives and did my first public reading of some of the poems from Ekaterinoslav; said goodby at the memorial of my dear old friend, Anna; had an author friend–Steve Gould–stay over so he could take his daughter home when her first year of Smith College came to an end; signed books and presented to two large groups of second graders at a Charlesbridge Publishing party; took granddaughter Maddison to get new toe shoes; had dinners with friends, took an old college buddy around three museums and onto Mt Sugarloaf to see the best view in the Connecticut River Valley; heard Wendell Minor speak at the Eric Carle Museum; went Balkan dancing with my friend Karl in Brattleboro; went to see “The Avengers” with my friend Bob Marstall; did the radio show (interviewing Leslea Newman) without Heidi who had laryngitis;  read all the entries in the Jane Yolen Writing contest and chose the winners for my local elementary school.

And in-between, of course, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I revised (three times) Thunder Underground poems for the editor; I rewrote the ending of Trash Mountain for another editor, I worked on the poems in Arch, finished the poems in Famous Otter with Pat Lewis, did a new chapter in Centaur Field. Oh, I was a writing fiend.

And of course have begun the count down to Scotland.

Have I been a busy bee? Waspishly, yes.

 

May 5-May 7, 2012:

Trying to keep up a bit better, I am going to talk about the past three days which have been filled with writing and revising three possible books of poetry as well as adding a couple of chapters to Centaur Field.  I also went Balkan dancing with my friend Karl, attended a Computer Science Department awards dinner and talked with old friends and colleagues of David’s there (getting a bit nostalgic and weepy in the process), and visited the Eric Carle Museum to hear an interview with Wendell Minor, one of the premier illustrators of today and a friend.

The process of revising poetry is one that interests me because it is different from the process of revising  novels. Novels have that big sweep, characterization, landscapes both inner and outer. And while I always try to write them with as much poetry as I can, often the plot demands short, sharp verbs and fast movement instead of languid and/or lyrical lines.

But poetry. . .I may rewrite a single poem anywhere from a three to three dozen times, reading them aloud, changing not only a line or two, a word or three, but sometimes an entire rhyme scheme along the way.

Here’s a poem from ARCH: A Span of Foot Poems and its consequent revisions. Just to see what I mean.

First draft: the poem was placed in the middle of the book as I worked.  In this first draft it seems a bit like a sketch for a poem, though I like where it leads:

Instep

Instep,

Step out,

Step over

Step off

Set off

Then finally

Sit right down

And rest your feet awhile.

 

 

Second draft: Still in the middle of the book, I still like the direction in which it’s going, though I have added a bit to the mid-section.

Instep

Instep,

Step in

Step out,

Set out

Step over

Step off

Set off,

Then finally

Sit right down

And rest your feet awhile.

 

Third Draft: I have repositioned it as the final poem. This placing has been dictated by the final three lines. I want the readers to rest a while and think about what they’ve just read. The title has changed a bit, too. As have the first lines. And the last lines have been slightly restructured.

 

Instep, In Step

Instep,

In step.

Step in,

Step out.

Set out,

Step over.

Step off

Set off.

Then finally

Sit right down

And rest

your feet

awhile.

 

Fourth draft: A tiny change within the body of the piece, making it structurally more balanced, and some errant upper case letters made lower case at the end part. Will it remain this way in future revisions of the book proposal as a whole? Only time (and an editor, if I manage to sell the book) will tell.

 

Instep, In Step

Instep.

In step.

Step in.

Step out.

Set in.

Set out.

Step over.

Step off.

Step around.

Set off.

Then finally

sit right down

and rest

your feet

awhile.

 

 

April 4-May4, 2012

A full month gone by? I can scarcely credit it. I have been so busy, I barely noticed it happening. But here I am, back with news, some musing, and a poem. Enjoy.

First book news:

I now have copies of BUG OFF! and LAST LAUGHS: Animal Epitaphs. I have seen a blad of WAKING DRAGONS. Have seen some of the artwork an the full dummy for GRUMBLES FROM THE FOREST: Fairy Tale Voices with a Twist. Yeah, it has been a happy book time.

As far as writing goes, Adam and I finished the first full draft of THE HOSTAGE PRINCE which is the first book of the SEELIE WARS TRILOGY and then I took the first revision pass on it after we sat down and discussed stuff that needed attention. It’s in Adam’s competent hands now. When he is done, I will go over it one last time after which it does to agent and editor simultaneously. The thing about these last revision passes (we revise each chapter several times as we go along so technically, ever chapter has been heavily revised a dozen or more times along the way already) is that it is the first time we really see the entire book whole. As I went through it, I took careful notes about things that needed re-threading throughout, making sure that hair color, emotional concerns, and even landscape remained consistent. Though of course I’m sure I have forgotten lots of stuff. Editor and copyeditor who will be seeing this stuff cold will catch most of the rest. Also, the editor and I discussed cover concepts and I sent them two (not guarantee either will be used, however.)

I am also about four chapters from the end of CENTAUR FIELD. Most of the work this month was on HOSTAGE PRINCE, but now I have returned with renewed enthusiasm to this book. Managed a new chapter, brought in an unexpected villain, (well, unexpected to the reader, not to me) to give a bit more plot twists. Will have a horsie friend read it for those kind of horse details I may have screwed up since it has been years and years since I have ridden. And then I will send it off.

Been working on some new picture books–THE STRANDED WHALE, GARGOYLE’S HALLOWEEN BALL, THE FAMOUS OTTER’S WRITING CIRCLE. Other stuff.

Saw Tara Chang’s dummy for THE TROUBLE WITH TAKING TROLLS TO TEA, a book we want to try and sell together.

Have been writing a lot of poetry, and seven poems just came out in Horn Book, and a long, multiple part poem called “Objectifying Faerie” came out in Asimov’s.

And of course along the way I had several picture books and a novel rejected. It’s all part of the greater plan to keep me humble!

 

Travel:

I went to Chicago for IRA (International Reading Assn) and was on a panel/workshop/reading of humorous poetry with J. Patrick Lewis, Marilyn Singer, and Sylvia Vardell, plus did 8 signings, all of which went splendidly and we ran out of books! Scholastic debuted the dinosaur hall costume and many photographs ensued!

I went to Minnesota for Minicon, an sf convention, but also to see son Adam and his family. Adam and I talked books. I snuggled with my grandkids Alison and David, and Betsy and I went out shopping for her birthday clothes.

Mid month I went to Hattiesberg, Mississippi where I was awarded he deGrummond Medal at the Un of S Mississippi. Spoke several times, the silver medallion is gorgeous, with my face on one side, and an owl flying across the moon on the other side. And the people–the people were all so warm and welcoming and lovely!

I also went down (not much travel time at all) to the New England SCBWI conference which this year was being held in Springfield, MA, just 25 minutes from my house. I spoke a couple of times, gabbed with everyone, but got to sleep in my own bed.

 

Heidi and Me and “Once Upon A Time:

We host a monthly radio show for WHMP and converse/interview local children’s book creators. This month it was Scott Fischer. Gorgeous artist, lovely man. We had a marvelous time.

 

Being Social:

Lots of tea dates and dinner dates with friends, movies dates, went to Annie Boutelle’s poetry reading, hosted the WMIG monthly meeting, spoke at Betsey Harris’ folklore class at Smith, went to a wonderful dinner celebration for visiting children’s book writer/scholar Betsy Hearn and heard her presentation at the Carle.

 

Valedictions to two friends:

It was so hard saying a final farewell to two friends–Peg Davol and Anna Kirwan, both dead too soon of cancer. I had mentored both of them, called them friends, colleagues, admired their work and work ethic. And loved them both. They both died serenely, comforting those around them. And they both will be missed terribly.

 

And here is the promised poem:

 

A Specific Gravity

Sometimes a poem,

sometimes merely a thought,

reaches a specific gravity

and greenness begins.

Like a fingerling swimming

against the pool’s pull,

dark green question mark.

Like the uncurling fern,

the top of a fiddle,

never to be played

except in the retinal memory.

Like the quick thrust

of daffs before the winter

is quite over,

before spring quite begins.

Quick green thoughts.

Sometimes just like that.

 

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