Sunday, January 31, 2010

New year

I actually LIKE moving: throwing things away, making a new start in a new place, changing the chi. Or maybe it's more atavistic: moving on to fields or tundra with riper berries, more grass for the reindeer, fewer people. Whatever it is, I find it energizing.

Now I'm in my new apartment, which has pantry -- the small orange apples on the shelf are the ones Mr.Knightley gave the Bateses in Emma:, Cox's Orange Pippins. I always wondered what they tasted like and now I know: tart, crisp, a little sweet. And to see them for sale at the first farmer's market I went to here seems like a good start to my new life.

Happy new year everyone -- and congratulations again to Grace, an even better start to the new year, pf course! But I believe in taking pleasure in the little things as well as the big ones.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I’m in a wintry mood today. At Wild Rose Reader, I posted three pictures I took from my bedroom window after the big snowstorm we had in December—as well as an original acrostic and a rough draft of a snow poem I “wrote” in my head while I was driving to my mother’s house yesterday.

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,

A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;

Blinks but an hour or two; and then,

A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,

At morning in the dark I rise;

And shivering in my nakedness,

By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader: Winter Wonderland

Anastasia Suen has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon: A Retrospective

I was ecstatic last week when I got news that Grace had won a Newbery Honor Award for her wonderful fantasy novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

I put together a little retrospective post at Wild Rose Reader with videos of Grace talking about Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, the book trailer, pictures that I took at the launch party for the book, and the celebratory dinner we Blue Rose Girls had after the party.

Here's the link to my post at Wild Rose Reader:
Looking Back: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lissy Friends on TV!

Author Katie Davis chose Lissy's Friends as one her picks for Inspirational Stories for Kids!

(if you liked this, please comment on the wtnh site so the station knows that Katie's children's books segment is something that should continue!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


In keeping with my resolutions this year I am doing more art not related to book projects. Here is a portrait of our cat Wilbur I painted this weekend. Bruno said he has so many whiskers on his face he looked like a dandelion. There does seem to be a resemblance.

I haven't done so well on the waking up at the same time every day, but I did cancel the cable so I'm watching less tv. Progress has been made!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Newbery aftermath and Checking in on my New Year's Resolutions

First of all, I added a few pictures to my ALA Midwinter post when I cross-posted it on my personal blog. Check it out here.

And here's a picture of what I came into my office to see after the news was announced. My assistant made the huge medal to adorn the book (the Al Roker is from another coworker after we found out the book would be Al Roker's Book Club pick on the Today show, and the stars are for the starred reviews the book received). The beautiful flowers are from my Publisher. They smelled fantastic, too.

I'm still basking in the news of Grace's Newbery Honor, and I can't express enough my gratitude to the Newbery Committee who recognized Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. As I mentioned in my post, as an editor, it is my dream to acquire and edit a book that becomes a classic. Of course, a Newbery Honor, or even a Newbery Medal, does not ensure that a book will become a classic, but it sure the heck doesn't hurt! Grace, your books are all classics in my book.


So, now that we're over three weeks into 2010 (not a bad year so far, I must say!), and I thought I'd check to see how I'm doing on my work resolutions.

1) Learn how to say "no" more. 
Yes! I turned down at least two conference invites this year already, as well as a few requests for meetings.

2) Stop counting on weekend and vacations and holidays to "catch up" on work.
I'm sorry to say that I haven't kept this up. In fact, I went into the office both days this past weekend. Then again, I didn't feel bad about it. I enjoyed the work I accomplished.

3) Don't stay at the office past 9 pm.

Yes! I think two days this year I stayed till just before 9 pm, but overall I've managed to leave the office at a decent time each evening.

4) Work towards "Inbox Zero"--I think this is probably too lofty a goal, so to be a little more realistic, I'd like to have under 20 emails in my inbox by the end of each day (Let's call it Inbox Twenty).
Yes! I'm the most amazed that I've been able to keep this up. The closest call was the first Monday back at work after the break, because I was dealing with weeks of emails that had piled up over my vacation. As 8 pm passed, I realized that resolution #3 would at times be in direct competition with #4...but for now, both resolutions have been achieved.

5) While at work, work. Less socializing and web surfing. 
Yes! Limiting Facebook and Twitter use while at work has worked wonders. I should probably cut out Gawker, too, though.

6) Acquire at least two picture books, two middle grade, and two young adult projects this year.
I'm working on it! Just finalized a two-book deal for two YA novels--more on that after the deal is announced. Also have a three-book middle grade deal in the works...

7) Read a little before bed at least five times a week. Read at least one published book per month.
Yes! Read one published book this month so far, over halfway through another.

8) Tidy my office at least a little bit once a week.

How are you all doing with your resolutions so far?

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Leave Bits of Me Everywhere by Karen Swank-Fitch

I enjoy reading poems about poetry. Here's one I found yesterday when I was looking for a poem to post for this Poetry Friday.

I Leave Bits of Me Everywhere
by Karen Swank-Fitch

poem-words are my clothing, stripped late at night

a trail from the threshold to the foot of bed

along the stairs lay verbs

the actions i need to climb twelve steps at 2 am

a vowel left adjacent to toothbrush

i get sloppy with tartar and allusions

over the cornice of mirror, hangs a strand of pearly metaphors

a simile in my sink

a limerick needing to be laundered

the clothes hamper is full of rimes & meters in want of mending

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have two poems about eating poetry and a look at of some of the children's poetry books that will be publshed in the first half of 2010 that I can't wait to read.

Liz Garton Scanlon, author of that fabulous picture book All the World, is doing the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

all the little details about "the call"

So Sunday night, the evening before the big award announcements, Alvina and I (with friend Jon & Squatchie) had dinner. Throughout the week, many people had been sending me mock Newbery blog links and congratulating me on the "buzz" about my book which I tried to politely ignore. Part of me didn't want to set myself up for disappointment, another part didn't want to jinx it and the rest of me just felt it was impossible-- so I tried to dismiss it all from my mind (tried being the operative word). But, somewhere in the dinner conversation, Alvina said something about "the call" coming early in the morning and being awake at 5:30 AM. I, somehow, interpreted this to mean that "the call," if you got one would come around that time.

So, I went to sleep that night fooling myself that I had achieved a zen-like calm. Of course, this was not true because at around 5 AM I found myself wide-awake.

And I began to think, I had about 30 or so minutes before everything would be known for certain. Maybe my attitude of expecting it NOT to happen wasn't the best. I wasn't letting myself enjoy the dream! So I decided for the next 30 minutes I'd fantasize a little. I realized if I won an award I could possibly:

1. make my living off of my books instead of my school visits
2. get my hair done professionally for the wedding
3. get cable tv for Squatchie
4. have a book that could live on and be a classic
5. buy a new pair of boots

About the time I decided that I would choose the olive and taupe boots over the black and beige ones, I realized it was about 6:12. No call.


That is when I poked Squatchie and said, "I don't think I won an award."
To which he said, with a snore, "Huh?"

No, Squatchie was very comforting and at about 6:45 the phone rang and I saw it was Victoria Stapleton, from Little Brown & Company. Since, I knew it was always the committee that called if it was good news, not the publisher, I half-heartedly picked up the phone.

"Hello," Victoria said, "How are you doing?"
"Okay," I said, "No news here. You?"
"Oh," she said, "I was just checking to make sure you were answering your phone*."
"Yep," I said, "I guess no calls either place, then."
"Well, keep your phone on, just in case," she said.
"Okay," I said, trying not to sound too dismal.

Squatchie went to make me some tea and I started to buck up a bit. It was just an award, anyway. I was still the same person. The people who had enjoyed the book before would still like the book with or without an award. I still had a nice Squatchie, I could still make more books, and I didn't really need new boots. The award was not a big deal.

Then, a little after 7, the phone rang again.

It was Katie O'Dell, the Newbery Committee chair! Where the Mountain Meets the Moon had won the honor! The silver! There would be stickers!

And, suddenly, it was a big deal (again). A big, happy deal! Squatchie, who quickly figured out what was going on, grabbed a camera and captured the 360 degree turnaround.

Later, I was to find out that Victoria had known that the book had won the Honor & had called to congratulate me, only to find out that I didn't know yet and had to cover so as not to spill the beans. I was also to find out that Alvina meant she had to wake up at 5:30AM to go to a 6:30 AM breakfast to wait for calls that would come (hopefully) later that hour. Basically, I put myself through an emotional roller coaster due to poor listening skills. Oops.


At the LB booth with the stickered book!

*this might seem suspicious, but the people at LB know that I, almost 99% of the time, do not answer the phone. My voicemail message says to e-mail me instead of leaving a message as I tend to be phone-phobic. I had been given instructions ahead of time to get over the phobia on announcement morning, so it didn't seem that strange to me that Victoria wanted to check to make sure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ALA midwinter conference take 2

Another big congratulations to all the winners this year, HURRAH! Most especially of course to Grace for winning a well deserved honor, and Alvina for editing such a lovely book and being part of a house that also published the Caldecott winner. SO proud of you ladies!!

Needless to say it was a busy weekend with hundreds of librarians, authors, illustrators, agents, and publishers buzzing around the Boston Convention Center. It was nice to take a break from quiet Northampton life to run around the city for a few days catching up with old friends and chatting with new ones.

On Friday before the main events began Grace threw a dessert party at her apartment so locals and those traveling could sit down and catch up over cupcakes. There was an amazing spread of sweets and goodies (see Alvina's pic below) and lots of great conversation.

Saturday after lunch with my agent (and more sweet treats), we headed down to the Convention Center to take a peek at the floor.

There were booths and displays full of books books books as far as the eye could see.

Then we headed over to the Tweet-up thrown by Mitali Perkins and Deborah Sloan. If you don't know what a tweet-up is don't worry, neither did I... turns out it is just like a cocktail party except every so often someone takes out a device and tweets. OR if you're like me and don't have an iphone or whatnot, you just get to meet the people whose tweets and facebook posts and blogs you always read... lots of fun!

I knew it was going to be a big event but my goodness it was MOBBED. Nice work ladies!

Grace, Alvina and I made the rounds with fellow tweeters.

Including the lovely Jeannie Brett (below) and countless other book folks who I sadly neglected to get pictures of.

One of whom generously brought some of Grace's cupcakes from Friday night to share. Mmmm they were good.

Monday, January 18, 2010

early morning phone call

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon won the Newbery Honor!!!!!!

ALA Midwinter 2010

I'm writing this post on Sunday night in my hotel room in Boston while watching the Golden Globes. I've been here since Friday for the American Library Association Midwinter Conference, and as actors and writers and directors, etc. all collect their awards, I'm trying not to think about our awards, the ones bestowed by the venerable American Library Association. I was burned last year, and on a roller coaster ride the whole weekend before the announcements, and was determined for that to not happen this year, and for the most part it's worked. I've managed to not think about it too much (yeah right).

That aside, I've set this the post automatically at 8:30 AM, so by now we all know which books have won, so I'll just give a general CONGRATULATIONS to all the winners! Although I have a few predictions and hopes, for the most part I have no idea what is going to win.

It's been a great conference so far. On my train to Boston on Friday, I saw a woman reading Grace's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Fun! Friday evening, Grace hosted a lovely dessert party at her home. Great company, conversation, and of course tons of dessert! Including Grace's delicious red velvet cupcakes.

Midwinter ALA is probably the most mellow of the conferences for me, as we don't tend to host authors at this conference--so no big events and lunches and dinners. Instead, we have one morning preview breakfast (Saturday morning) where we highlight some of our upcoming books to a select group of librarians. Here's the swag:

And then at the end of the breakfast, we had surprise secret guest speakers Andrea and Brian Pinkney, creators of the amazing book Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down.

Then I headed off to the convention center:

Saturday afternoon I attended the "Great ALA Midwinter Kids/YA Lit Tweet-up" along with Anna and Grace. The Tweet-up was organized by Mitali Perkins and Deborah Sloan, and was a rousing success. It really was the place to be, as shown by all of the party crashers who showed up! It was so successful and well-attended that there were so many people there that I didn't end up seeing at all. Ah, well. Next time!

Sunday I had a lovely breakfast with agent Lauren MacLeod, and then an equally lovely lunch with agents Erin Murphy and Ammi-Joan Paquette. Then it was off to the BBYA teen feedback session. There seemed to be fewer teens than in previous years, and the session barely lasted an hour, but there were still some gems. One girls said that Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia "Made me feel like a little kid again, in a good way. I loved it!! I loved it so much." Of Catherine Jinks's The Reformed Vampire Support Group, on teen said, "Yeah, it's another vampire book, but that's okay--it's a good one!" Another teen about an issue book: "I'm wondering if all authors think all teens have issues?"

The three favorite books on the list for the teens seemed to be Fire by Kristin Cashore, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, and Swim the Fly by Don Calame. Of the latter, one teen boy said, "This was my favorite book I read in 2009." Another teen said that she was so engrossed in Catching Fire that she forgot to eat.

I listened in on the Notables Committee for a bit as they discussed nonfiction (including a somewhat baffling debate as to whether giving animals names implies anthropomorphism), and then back to BBYA.

And finally, Sunday night I went out to Somerville again to have dinner at an old favorite, Redbones. Here's a pic of our feast, and friends:

And now it's past 11, the awards are over, and it's time for bed. After the awards announcements I'll be manning the booth until the convention floor closes, and then will sit in on BBYA again before heading back to NY. If you're still at the conference, come find me and say hi!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ebooks couldn't

Our local bookstore (Bank Square books) has a big table of ARCs -- lots of places (A Libris, for one) sell these, even though it's illegal. At OUR bookstore, you donate a dollar per book and it all goes to our local library,which spends the money on new books. They've collected, and spent, over $200 so far.

I love this idea! Partly because of that, and partly because I am a hopeless addict when it comes to book-buying, I got:*

even though I'm moving on Tuesday and have already moved 20 boxes of books to my new apartment. As I was lugging them up the stairs, the thought did occurr to me that if I had a digital library I wouldn't have to be doing this....but I LIKE my books. In fact, I love many of them. They are my friends. I've had some since I was 4 -- and read some so many times that they are falling apart.

Some contain messages from people I love: my parents used to always write things in the books they gave us for Christmas. Toys were from Santa, but books were signed with love from Mommy (or Mummy in England!) and Daddy; or, sometimes, just one of them. A few years ago I read this in Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare--
"Dearest Libby,
We hope these plots will enrich your appreciation of Shakespeare's expression when you read him.
A very happy Christmas
Mommy & Daddy"

I have very few things (2 letters and 1 postcard) addressed to me in my father's handwriting, and this was like getting a real message from him, all these years after he died.

Another inscription makes me smile -- a childish hand has written:
"To dear Susan Koponen, with love from Grandma."
The real inscription (probably to me or one of my other sisters) has been erased. I have the book now because none of my siblings wanted it -- or any of our childhood books. So I suppose there will always be people who think of books as clutter and don't want them around, but I'll never be one of them.
I may buy ebooks to read on trips, but I won't abandon my old friends or stop buying new ones.

Have fun at ALA, everyone!
*The Book of Dragons (because I love E. Nesbit -- AND, this clever volume is 2 books in one: the other side has The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald)
*Scones and Sensibility, because of the Jane Austen connectin
* The Fairy Godmother Academy, because the heroine is Finnish, like my father and half of me

Friday, January 15, 2010

Winter Dusk by Walter de la Mare

Winter Dusk
by Walter de la Mare

Dark frost was in the air without,
The dusk was still with cold and gloom,
When less than even a shadow came
And stood within the room.

But of the three around the fire,
None turned a questioning head to look,
Still read a clear voice, on and on,
Still stooped they o’er their book.

The children watched their mother’s eyes
Moving on softly line to line;
It seemed to listen too—that shade,
Yet made no outward sign.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have MOUSE, an original acrostic poem.

Mary Ann's got the Poetry Friday Round Up at Great Kid Books today.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ALA midwinter conference

This year's American Library Association's mid-winter conference will be in Boston, a short drive from Northampton, so I'll be heading to town for some book fun in a couple days (as will Alvina and Grace). This year Mitali Perkins and Deborah Sloan are throwing a TWEET-UP for authors, agents, editors, or any other book people who tweet to get together face to face and talk books. I am rather new to twitter but its always fun to see the book making community out in full force. And good to know there are real, live people behind the tweets, blog posts, and facebook links that make up a big part of my daily work-at-home life.

If you're headed to the conference, hope to see you there at one of the gatherings around town! I'll post photos when I'm back.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How I Deal With Mail, plus a rant

Yes, I do have a problem keeping up with email (as I've mentioned here), but I seem to have an even tougher time keeping up with snail mail. Our business, including submissions (in fact, especially including submissions), is handled more and more via email, and so I increasingly pay more attention to email and less to snail mail. In fact, I get irritated when agents send submissions, especially novels, as hard copies. They should know better by now!

At work, I have a bin labeled "mail" in my office where I dump all my mail, and last year I've realized that at times mail has stayed there unopened for over three months at a time, until I make time to sit down and open and sort through it all.

This is how I go through my mail: I sit down with the bin, open an envelope, scan the letter. If it's an unsolicited query or manuscript, I put it back in the envelope and scrawl "slush" on the envelope and put it in a pile. This pile is ultimately handled by our receptionist who send back form letters saying we don't accept unsolicited submissions or queries. If it's a solicited manuscript, I put in a different "log in" pile for my assistant. If it's a solicited query, I read it quickly, decide if I want to review it or not, and then write "Query yes" or "query no" on it and add it to the pile for my assistant. If I receive art samples, and I like the art, it goes into a pile for filing. If I don't like the art, it goes into the recycling bin (sorry, illustrators!).

Last Sunday, the day before I was to go back to work after the holiday break, I decided to go into the office to sort through my mail so the bin would be empty when I started the new work year. The pile was threatening to spill over. Yes, this is partially my fault--if I just opened and dealt with the mail I received each day, or even each week, it would be more manageable. But dealing with a pile of several months worth of mail, something became extremely clear: I get way more unsolicited submissions and queries than I should. In fact, I should receive zero--as a company, we only accept agented or requested/referred submissions. Instead, I receive on average one or two a day. I would say a good 75% of the mail I receive are unsolicited queries and submissions. And this irritates me to no end.

Our submissions policy is stated very clearly on our website:

Publishers in the Hachette Book Group (including Grand Central Publishing, Business Plus, FaithWords, Center Street, Mystery, Orbit, Little, Brown and Company, Back Bay Books, Bulfinch, Springboard Press, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) are not able to consider unsolicited manuscript submissions and unsolicited queries. Many major publishers have a similar policy. Unsolicited manuscripts, submissions and queries will not be answered and the publisher will have the right to destroy any unsolicited material or mail without returning to the sender.
I don't know if people ignore this rule out of ignorance, or in hopes that we'll take a look at their query or submission anyway. And, okay, yes--very very rarely, if you catch me in a good mood, I might scan the submission (especially if it's a book dummy with illustrations), but I don't actually remember an example where I've then actually ended up considering the submission--it still gets returned as slush. And I can say with 100% certainty that I've never ended up acquiring a submission that was initially sent to me as slush. So, STOP TRYING. You're wasting your time, my time, my assistant's time, our receptionist time, and you're also wasting money and paper, and making it harder for people who are following the rules to have my undivided attention. Stop it. Seriously.

Sigh. Remember when you loved getting mail? Remember a time when mail was something other than bills and credit card offers and catalogs and miscellaneous junk mail? Man, I miss those days.

Then again, sometimes I get very lovely things in the mail. Personal thank-you and holiday cards, gifts from agents and authors. That's the kind of mail I like to get!

Friday, January 08, 2010

A Country Boy in Winter by Sarah Orne Jewett

I'm in winter mode today at Blue Rose Girls and Wild Rose Reader.

A Country Boy in Winter
By Sarah Orne Jewett

The wind may blow the snow about,
For all I care, says Jack,
And I don’t mind how cold it grows,
For then the ice won’t crack.
Old folks may shiver all day long,
But I shall never freeze;
What cares a jolly boy like me
For winter days like these?

Far down the long snow-covered hills
It is such fun to coast,
So clear the road! the fastest sled
There is in school I boast.
The paint is pretty well worn off,
But then I take the lead;
A dandy sled’s a loiterer,
And I go in for speed.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I've posted a bunch of my original winter poems.

Tricia has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

here's a finish from the book I'm working on...

I'm doing t-shirts!

I"m doing different themes. This is the graffiti /Brooklyn theme. I might do painted cars next. Hopefully, if all goes well, these will be available for purchase in stores near you. Maybe? Who really knows.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

new beginnings

So, it's a new year and this year I've decided to import a Canadian Squatchie. I really think I could use one around the house. They are tall. I have high ceilings. They are strong. I have groceries. Some of them like to cook. I like to eat.

However, importing a sasquatch is actually a very complicated process. Once a sasquatch has gone through the proper quarantine and given his clearance papers, there is only a 90 day trial period before the sasquatch must be officially declared as claimed. No returns after the 90 days and if the sasquatch is not properly claimed he will be forcibly removed. No money back guarantees.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The year of balance

I like Alvina's declaration that this will be the year of "no guilt", so I will expand on that and say that for me I hope 2010 will be a year of balance. This means creating restricted, focused work time, letting play time be play time (so I guess I am shooting for "no guilt" too- love that Barry Goldblatt quote), and less mixing up of the two. Also I think I've underestimated how much quality down time can contribute to my creativity later on. So here are my goals/aspirations/resolutions that I hope will help to create more balance:

*Wake up at the same time every day, and earlier. I've been working at home full time for over four years now (part time for 6) and this has aaaalways been a struggle. I'm a night owl and would love to work all night and sleep all day. Problem is the rest of the world does not seem to be on that schedule, including my fella, so I aim to see more of the daylight hours. And be more consistent.

*Do more creative projects that do not have to do with my job. I think this was on last year's list, but it will have to be a rollover. Like down time, doing different kinds of creative projects helps feed your creativity. And I just LOVE makin' stuff.

*Panic less, relax more. Publishing is so unpredictable... I feel like half my time is spent panicking about signing up the next project, and the rest is spent overwhelmed with everything I have committed myself to. It really cuts down on the enjoyment of writing and painting, which is why I started doing this in the first place. SO. Time to relax. And just trust that things will work out as they should.

*Watch less tv. I am not a terrible tv addict, but I do have a bit of a weakness when it comes to watching Clean House and trashy fashion tv. Dare I cancel the cable? Tempting but maybe will try to wean off slowly. Also, less blog reading. UGGG.

*Less email. After listening to the below clip, and refreshing email like 12 times while he spoke about how people spend too much time refreshing their email, I see that I clearly have a problem.

Thats all for now.

My work resolutions for 2010

I always make New Year's resolutions, including my "no candy" resolution of eight or so years ago. One of my resolutions this year (and last year, too, although I didn't achieve it) is to blog at least once a month on my personal blog. (Cross-posts from the Blue Rose Girls don't count.) Well, to get in the habit, I posted my first original bloomabilities post in a loooong time on Wednesday--I looked back on my Oughts here.

So now it's 2010 and it's back to work. Vacation is over--it passed so quickly! I got more than 50% of my very lengthy work "to do" list done, so I feel okay about starting the work year. However, because of the work, it wasn't a true vacation. It never really is, right? I think we all struggle with maintaining a work/life balance.

Around New Year's, agent Barry Goldblatt tweeted (or retweeted, rather) this:
Definitely! RT@DaveMcKean Resolution? More unequivocal days, that is WORK days and PLAY days, not guilty play days and distracted work days.

That really resonated with me, because if I had to pick two words to describe how I felt last year, they would be "busy" and "guilty." I felt guilty all the time because of all of the things I had to do and wasn't doing. All of the submissions yet to read, the unanswered emails and calls, the people to get back to. I felt guilty all the time about not working, even when I wasn't supposed to be working. And that needs to stop.

So, in addition to my usual work goals, in 2010 I'm going to try to set some boundaries and make some changes in how I work. Here are a few of my work-related resolutions I've come up with so far:

1) Learn how to say "no" more. Last year I really did try to say no to favors and requests that I really didn't have the time to do, but if someone insists and says "Are you sure? Please?" I often fold and say yes. I need to stop that. Because this past year, I've said yes to things, and then have not followed through with the task in a timely manner, and that's contributed to this constant sense of guilt.

2) Stop counting on weekend and vacations and holidays to "catch up" on work. Weekends and vacations are "me" time! And it never really works, anyway. (This is an example of "guilty play days.")

3) Don't stay at the office past 9 pm.

4) Work towards "Inbox Zero"--I think this is probably too lofty a goal, so to be a little more realistic, I'd like to have under 20 emails in my inbox by the end of each day (Let's call it Inbox Twenty). If you're curious as to what Inbox Zero is, watch this (rather long) video:

5) While at work, work. Less socializing and web surfing. Sure, Twitter and Facebook and blog reading are also work-related for me, but I need to stop checking the sites throughout the day. Once in the morning, once during lunchtime, and once after 5 pm will suffice.

6) Acquire at least two picture books, two middle grade, and two young adult projects this year.

7) Read a little before bed at least five times a week. Read at least one published book per month.

8) Tidy my office at least a little bit once a week.

And, of course, I resolve to keep all of my resolutions! Really! And if I don't, I won't feel guilty about it, because I hereby declare 2010 the Year of No Guilt.

What are some of your resolutions if you make them? What do YOU declare 2010 to be the Year Of?

Happy New Year, everyone! It's going to be a good one. I can feel it.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Happy new year to all!

And for anyone who read the flow post, the report: I've written every day since December 22 (I start the year the day after the Solstice) EXCEPT the day after Christmas and the day of New Years Eve and New Years Day.

On the afternoon of New Years Eve I was in a car accident -- I'm fine, but it threw me off track literally and metaphorically. But today I'm writing and it's the perfect day to do it (I wish the picture showed the snowflakes:

Maybe today I'll get into flow. So far that hasn't happened -- but it's early in the year.

Dumbing down and not

A customer review on AMAZON criticized THE TREASURE SEEKERS by E.Nesbit for having "lots of not-understood references." I find it odd that a book should be faulted because a reader doesn't understand all the references. For me as a child, puzzling out what phrases like "Let dogs delight" meant was fun -- even when I never did figure it out, or didn't figure it out until years later when I came upon the source. That was fun, too: to be reading something else or traveling in England and suddenly get the reference -- and think "So THAT's what she meant!"

But the references are a minor detail.

This was one of my favorite books as a child and I now think it is one of the greatest books ever written for children: funny, insightful, well-written, inspiring -- and unexpectedly moving in places, too. I still laugh out loud when I read it, and I still admire the children enormously: for their imaginations, resourcefulness, kindness to each other, loyalty, and, perhaps most of all, for their very English courage -- the way they deal with what drearier people would complain about.

Philosophically, I very much object to the idea that everything in a book should be easy to understand and known already to the readers. Surely one of the joys of reading is to be exposed to new ideas, people, places -- to learn?

Another great writer for children, PL Travers, the author of MARY POPPINS, writes about the enormous pleasure and stimulation she (as a child) derived from trying to puzzle out the meanings of phrases in adults' conversation, such as "she lived on her capital." (She phrases it better than I do here -- but she as a child imagined this aunt as a sort of ogress, nibbling on her own fingers and toes during an afternoon nap.)

It's probably true that E.Nesbit's writing is not for everyone-- but what is? I for one think it's great that children still love her -- and despite all the efforts that have been made to dumb their books and everything else down,that they still enjoy puzzling out (or simply accept and move on from) what they don't understand at a first glance.

Many authors -- Noel Streatfield and CS Lewis to name two more - have paid tribute to E.Nesbit. Noel Coward kept copies of her books by her bed. She still makes me laugh out loud, and very few authors from any era can do that.

Friday, January 01, 2010






a new year

Happy new year!

Everyone seems to have lots of resolutions. I don't have any. Is that bad? I feel like I"m doing the best that I can. I've struggled a lot in these past few years--I've forced myself to run and go to the gym even when I feel sick, I've forced myself to paint even when my back pain was extreme, and I've gone to my part time job even when I was on the verge of vomiting. Hopefully I can soon say that all of that is behind me but I really don't know. So I don't want to make any promises that I can't keep.

I would like to
1) maintain my website better and write in my blog, which I haven't done in a long, long time
2) be more neat and organized
3) go to the gym more frequently
4) write a novel worth publishing
5) make a more steady income
6) publish a graphic novel

and there are some other, more personal goals too. But I don't care if none of them happen. I'm not going to blame myself and I'm not going to force myself to do them if I'm not ready. I feel like I've been thrown in a blender and spit out the other side. I remember when I got my spinal tap and was leaking fluid for a week. I couldn't even lift my head up off the bed! I couldn't get my own food or even go the bathroom without vomiting and having searing head pain. I've been almost as bad as I think I will be. Hopefully this year will be better. And book-wise, hopefully I'll continue to grow and put out new, unique, and interesting books that kids will love and learn from.