Inspiration

Posted May 5th, 2014

Finally beginning a deep revision of a manuscript I’ve been told is wonderful and also unmarketable (and that by the same person). Since it’s not marketable, why not turn it into the dark thing I first imagined? So, out with the funny (e.g. a shaving-in-the-shower scene that was written for laughs and also the chapter that’s basically a pissing contest with the main character’s ex-husband’s new wife) and in with the—

Time will tell.

4_28Swan - CopyI was going over early notes for the book and I came across photos of early inspirations for the story. The first is a huge found art sculpture made from trash. An Eau Claire landmark, it was for a while installed on a flatbed truck adjacent to a city walking path near my home. Now it continues its deterioration—though not decay, as its primary material is plastic—near another EC landmark, the former tire factory that has found partial renewal as a home to small businesses and artists’ studios, Banbury Place.

After walking past the Swan so often, I conjured up a character for the novel, A Case History of a Lie, who is an artist and whose work involves repurposing trash. Thinking about THAT led me to discover the breathtaking work of Aurora Robson.

4_25Concrete - CopyThe second photo shows the yard of a local concrete fabrication company, also located adjacent to a city walking path.

Years ago, when I was writing what would become the runaway section of A Case History of a Lie as a stand-alone novel I’d walk by all these concrete forms and imagine what good shelter they might provide in winter. My runaway never did shelter in such a place, but seeing this possibility triggered quite a lot of wondering about how she would survive her winter on the street.

 
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Catching Up

drivewayThe snow has started to melt. There’s been enough said already about this long and hard winter, so I’ll add nothing except to say this picture of our driveway was taken today. Obviously there needs to be more melting.

Untreed  Reads’ reissuing of my YA novels as e-books continues. Thin Ice was reviewed by Long and Short Reviews and received five stars. That made it eligible for their monthly competition for LaSR Book of the Month. I rallied friends and they delivered and Thin Ice won. LaSR made me this nice banner you see below, and Thin Ice gets a free ad for a month on the LaSR home page. Scroll down and you’ll see it on the right, just two ads below Maizy Tames the Bear. I believe this is the first time one of my books has been “shelved” near erotica.

BoM-2014-January--Thin-IceYou can see the new covers for Close to a Killer and One Night on my website. Both books are live now on the Untreed site and are also available from all other e-book vendors.

While these books were written a long time ago–the Pleistocene era when measuring by the shelf life of popular fiction. But the fact that Thin Ice earned five stars in 2014 reassures me that readers don’t care if there’s not a cell phone in sight in the story.

I’ve written about the odd experience of rereading work I’ve not looked at in a long time. This past week when the newest of the e-books, One Night, was released I was reminded by an old friend from my Maud Hart Lovelace Society crowd that she provided me with the name for the book’s main character, Barrie. I hadn’t thought of that in years.

I’d been stuck for a name and as it happens, I can never get going on a project unless I’ve decided on a name. So I asked my MHL listserve friends to offer up names. I remember thinking I’d know it when I read it. One woman had a sister who’d been given the name of Fred Astaire’s dancing partner in the late 50’s and early 60’s, Barrie Chase. Bingo. Right away I knew “Barrie” was the name for my girl.

 

Can You Feel the Tension?

Posted January 22nd, 2014

Monday is the big day—announcement day for the Newbery and Caldecott and Printz and all the other ALA awards.  In honor of the increasing excitment, I thought I’d reprise an article I wrote for Quercus, an online magazine. The article was originally published in 2006.

The Newbery and Caldecott Awards: Highlights from the Early Years

Newbery medal

Newbery medal

The John Newbery medal was first awarded in 1922. For the first two years of the award’s existence the winner was determined by popular vote of children’s librarians. One of the first challenges in establishing the award, however, was identifying people who would be entitled to vote. As the award’s organizers got to work in 1921, there were only twenty-seven dues-paying members of the children’s section of the American Library Association—clearly not nearly enough to bestow legitimacy on any selection. Eventually almost 500 librarians and library assistants who worked primarily with children were identified and invited to join the ALA children’s section and vote for the best book of the year. When votes were tabulated in March of 1922, The Story of Mankind, by Hendrik Willem Van Loon, was a clear winner, earning 163 votes out of the 212 that were cast.

voyagesThe 1923 award went to The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a sequel is never as good as the first book in a series. Unfortunately, The Story of Doctor Dolittle—the first of what would eventually be thirteen books about the good doctor—had been published prior to the establishment of the Newbery Award, and apparently a great many librarians felt Lofting deserved some recognition. Ergo, the award for Voyages, a lesser novel. Immediately after this award was bestowed, a change in the system of voting was announced by the governing committee of the ALA’s children’s section: the Newbery Award would no longer be awarded on the basis of popular vote of all children’s librarians. Nominations for the award would be open, but the honored book would henceforth be selected by a hand-picked committee. It was only the first of many times the selection process would undergo tinkering and fine tuning.

Back in the olden Newbery days the winning book was selected in March of each year; public announcement of the winning title, however, was kept under wraps until the library association’s annual meeting in June. By 1933, however, there had been too many years when the news had leaked out, and it was decided that the results of the final committee vote would be withheld even from the committee. Only the chair, the author, the publisher, and Frederic Melcher (the creator and benefactor of the award) would know the name of the winning title. All were sworn to secrecy.

Caldecott medal

Caldecott medal

1949 was the first year the announcement of the winners—including by this time, the Caldecott medalist—was made immediately after the committees had made their selections. The presentation continued to be the major event of the Library Association’s June conference. While this split at first troubled many who loved the drama of the announcement and then the immediate appearance on stage of the winning author and illustrator, most librarians involved quickly saw the benefit of having two important publicity events.

Another thing that emerges from even a quick review of the history of the awards is that from time to time there has been disagreement about  . . . nearly everything. One prickly point that rises again and again is perhaps best posed as a question: “Is this really a book for children?” One hears, sadly, those same grumblings again this award season. Rather than jump into the fray, I’ll leave the final word on that to Robert Lawson (They Were Strong and Good, 1941 Caldecott; Rabbit Hill, 1944 Newbery). Addressing the issue in his Caldecott acceptance speech, Lawson said simply, “Many things are, perhaps, above the heads of children. But so are the moon and stars.”

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Be sure to check out the wonderful 75 years of the Caldecott timeline.