Monday, May 30, 2011

Leg #2: Auckland, Part 1

After Melbourne, I was off to Auckland, New Zealand. It struck me as I exited the plane that this was the first time in a while I'd set foot on a country I'd never visited before. The last time was Japan two years ago, but even then that wasn't quite accurate, as I'd set foot on the Tokyo airport as a child.

The weather when I arrived was amazing. As I walked towards the airport exit I couldn't resist taking a picture of the scene outside of the window--the sky was amazingly large:
 And here's the sky from the airport parking lot:
I was eager to ask my driver for some tips on what to do on my one day off. However, it turned out that the driver, Gun, had just move to Auckland from Brooklyn! In fact, he had lived in Fort Greene, a neighborhood in Brooklyn adjacent to my own. He did give me a few thoughts on New Zealand, though, but mainly recommended that I try to get out of the city. Alas, I didn't have time for that.

That night I walked around the city, had dinner at a Thai place in a little food court in front of an Asian grocery store, and later spied the Sky Tower from afar:
Before my trip, my friend Rose had said, "The Biggest Loser went to Auckland, and they jumped off the Sky Tower! It looked like something you would do!" Indeed. I signed up for a combo Sky Walk and Sky Jump for the next day.

Unfortunately, the next day, Wednesday, was stormy: wind and pouring rain does not make a happy Sky Tower walk and jump--I rescheduled for that Saturday, and decided to trek over to the Auckland Domain to go to the Auckland Museum instead. First, I stopped in a little French cafe for a breakfast crepe and a flat white (coffee with milk):

my view of the rainy street
 Then I was in the Auckland Domain, which is kind of like Central Park. I loved this tree:
I passed these birds (geese?):
And here's the museum:
It was a great museum, and the perfect introduction to New Zealand, in terms of geography and natural history, background, and culture.

I also saw a Maori cultural performance:
Here's their haka performance:

The Maori dancing and language reminded me a bit of Hawaiian, which makes sense because both are originally Polynesian cultures.

That night, Creative New Zealand hosted welcome drinks for the visiting publishers and authors in their offices. I met most of my fellow participants in the publishing program, including two senior editors from NY (both in adult publishing): Tom Mayer of WW Norton and Alexis Washam from Random House and her fiance Isaac (who does some iPad and iPhone app development); Steven Maat of Bruna in the Netherlands (they were all heading to Sydney after Auckland, like me); and Hal Wake, the Director of the Vancouver International Writers' Festival. The five of us, plus one of the guest authors/poets who goes by his last name, Rives, went to dinner together at a kind of fancy food court--the kind of place where you can buy a bottle of wine, purchase some wine glasses, and drink in the center tables.

Thursday started with a small group of about 20 people including publishing folks, Creative New Zealand, the New Zealand Book Council, and NZ author Emily Perkins for an introduction of the book publishing industry in NZ. Some of the things I learned:
-NZ has a population of about 4 million people. It's very much a reading country.
-Sales of 1200 copies is considered a success. The publishing industry is all about the economy of scale.
-Few NZ authors make it into the international market, partially because NZ publishing tends to be focused on NZ-specific issues. NZ and Australia tend to have to contend with the "tyranny of distance"
-The top publishers in NZ are Random House and Penguin, followed by Harper Collins [edited to add: according to my Hachette NZ colleague,. Hachette is also up there with RH and Penguin.]
-NZ publishing is not an agenting culture--there are very few literary agents. One way NZ authors can make it internationally is to get an agent from Australia, the UK, or the US

After the morning meeting, we checked out one of the local bookstores, and then Tom, Hal, and I were hosted to lunch by Auckland University Press director Sam Elworthy. When I had been extended the invitation by the organizers, I asked if AUP had published children's and YA, and was told, "No, but you have an author in common"--when I met Sam, I asked who our author in common was. "Well, I worked for Princeton University Press for many years, and lived in New Jersey next door to Peter Brown's family!" Small world indeed. It turns out that Peter's mother would send Sam Peter's books over the years, so he'd been able to keep tabs on his career.

I now realize I was horribly neglectful in taking pictures in Auckland, but I did manage to take a picture of my dessert. I got pavlova! I had always thought of pavlova as an Australian dessert, as my Australian friend Tamara had initially introduced this wonderful combination of fruit and meringue to me, but apparently (as with many things) there's a bit of a controversy as to whether the dessert originated in NZ or Australia. And I can understand why both countries would fight for credit, because it is DEE-LI-CIOUS.
In the afternoon, publishing guests and authors were treated to a traditional Maori welcome, or Powhiri. We took a bus up to the Orekei Mirae. This land had been taken away from the Maori and then returned. It was easy to see why the land was being fought for. Here are the views:

We walked up to the meeting house and were greeted by a haka. Then we removed our shoes and entered the structure:

We had been prepped that there would be speeches, and then we would be expected to do the traditional Maori greeting, or the hongi, with our hosts. The hongi is like the Maori handshake, but it involves the two people greeting each other to press their noses and foreheads. It symbolizes trust and the sharing of the breath of life (although, thankfully, you don't actually have to exchange breaths). To be honest, this was what most of us were worried about having to do--it's such an intimate gesture to do with strangers--but in reality it was painless and lovely, even. I don't think it will catch on in the States, though.
Later that night was the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival's opening gala that I posted briefly about last week, followed by the Festival Opening Party and then drinks at the hotel bar where I met authors Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan, and Sean Williams for the first time. Garth had contributed a short story for Geektastic and we had exchanged emails but had never met. Lovely, friendly, and down-to-earth people they were all. And, as I discovered, all fans of the Sea Breeze cocktail--a lovely fruity drink with lots of vitamin C, perfect to drink while traveling, apparently. I would have a few sea breezes in the hotel lobby during my time in Auckland.

This post is getting long, so I will continue next week. In the meantime, I've now recovered from both jet lag and BEA. For some great pics and a wrap-up of the first days of BEA, check out Laini Taylor's blog here.

To be continued!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

from the BRG archives: fat

When I was a child and a teenager, I would read almost anything: just gulp it down and the fatter, the better (picture books were thin books, chapter books were fat books to us). Now I’m much pickier – but last week I had the flu for a few days and I read the way I read as a kid when I couldn’t go outside: I just put a big stack of fat books next to me and when I finished one, started the next. One of the books I read was Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (Newbery winner, 1938). It opened to this:

--and my first thought was: the author must be the illustrator (she was). I kind of like the drawings in this book – they’re just so bizarre. And I also always liked Arthur Ransome’s drawings for Swallows and Amazons, which was published in the 1930s, too. They’re charming and suit the books.

I’m guessing that these authors weren’t ever professional illustrators (girls, what do you think?). And do you think authors this amateurish could get away with illustrating their own chapter books today? I hope it’s possible, even if the illustrations aren’t up to Grace’s charming drawings in the equally charming Year of the Dog, it’s just FUN to find colorful illustrations like these scattered throughout a book, especially when the author is the illustrator:

The girl on the left is described as fat -- I’ve never seen the word “fat” mentioned so often in a book as it was in Thimble Summer. People were also described as “fleshy,” as when someone says, “They are one fleshy family.” I didn’t know people were that preoccupied with weight in the 1930s – or was it just this author? Pigs were mentioned a lot, too – one is described as “unusually greedy and selfish, even for a pig.” This isn’t a criticism, I enjoyed the book; I just found this sort of thing unusual:
“Garnet watched Mrs. Hauser [the mother in the “fleshy family”] get into the car. Did she imagine it, or did she really see the Ford sink down a little on its springs, as if it sighed under a great weight.”

That made me laugh, though I was half-relieved and half-disappointed to see that this character’s daughter, also described as “fat,” was the perfectly normal-looking girl with a bob above. Fuse8 worried in her review that children, seeing this, would think that THEY were fat and be troubled; I am not. I weigh a lot more than I once did and already think I'm fat. When I saw this picture, I was reassured. I thought, "Oh, fat doesn't look so bad." Maybe it really doesn't!

Originally published November 1st, 2006

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kids Reading Across Rhode Island

I was super-duper honored when I was told that Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was chosen as the book for the 2nd annual Kids Reading Across Rhode Island event. It is a one book-one state reading program and it is such a thrill to think so many RI kids will know the book!
So, of course, I was happy and eager to go to the big kick off event at the State House a couple weekends ago. It was a blast, but it was so busy that it went by way too fast! It happened so quickly that most of the day is kind of a blur.

First, there was a lion dance:

Someone told me it was in my honor, which I wasn't sure to believe. But I did get to feed one of the lions with lucky lettuce:

Which they spit onto the audience (always a crowd pleasing trick!):

I want to get these guys for my next book launch! Think that's too much for a bookstore?

Then I gave a talk:

to a lot of people in a really fancy room:

And then I signed books for a long, long time:

The Kids Reading Across Rhode Island program was giving away a copy of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon to every family for FREE! That explains the long line:

I felt like a rock star! Too bad I can't give away my books for free more often!

Thanks so much, Kids Reading Across Rhode Island!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Evil Queen Speaks to Her Magic Mirror: An Original Fairy Tale Poem

More than fifteen years ago, I began work on a collection of rhyming fairy tale poems. I’ve never submitted the collection to a publisher. Still, I have enjoyed writing—the mostly humorous—poems. Some of the poems are written as soliloquies, some as conversations, some as letters, and some as classified ads.

I used to do an extensive unit on traditional literature in my second grade classroom. We had great fun! We read different versions of many different folktales and fairy tales. We compared and contrasted the different versions. My students wrote letters from one fairy tale character to another. (Many of them were hilarious.) My students created fairy tale wanted posters. They wrote fairy tale poems that were wonderful. They inspired me to write my own fairy tale poems. I learned a lot about writing poetry from helping my students write their own poetry.

Here is a fairy tale poem from the collection in which Snow White’s frustrated and envious stepmother speaks to her magic mirror.

by Elaine Magliaro

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
You say Snow White is best of all.
She may be lovely, I’ll agree—
But she’s a moron. Can’t you see?
Thrice I fooled her she’s so trusting.
I think her brain needs readjusting.
I’ve never seen her reading books.
She only cares about her looks.
I’m not as pretty as the kid…
But she’s no smarter than a squid.
Why, I’ve earned ten advanced degrees
From seven universities!
I’ll change the question. Now I’ll be
The best in this vicinity:
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who’s the SMARTEST one of all?


At Wild Rose Reader, I have another original fairy tale poem that is written in the form of a FAX from the Seven Dwarfs to Snow White.

Heidi Mordhorst has the Poetry Friday Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe.

P.S. We had a baby shower for my daughter Sara last Sunday. You can read about it at my Wild Rose Reader post A Baby Shower & Everywhere Books!
Here are a few pictures from the baby shower:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The comfort of words

One of my favorite authors, Anthony Powell, once tried to console someone with a passage from literature (I forget what). The person was completely unmoved, and Anthony Powell concluded that only those who already love words (or as he put it "possess literature already") can be comforted by them (or it).

I'm not so sure about that.

Of course I am a reader, but I think almost anyone would find this moving -- and comforting. I do, anyhow. .

Do not stand at my grave and forever weep.

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.

I am not there. I did not die.

And yes, someone I love very much did die recently. My mother died on May 1. And now whenever I see one of these things I'll think of her

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I posted this on my other blog as well. I don't like repeating myself but for this I wanted to get the word out (a correction of sorts). I hope this comes across right!

I spoke on a panel discussion yesterday at the BEA. I had a good time. There was one thing that I said that definitely got a reaction I think. I said that I could write a picture book in about 5 min and could never do that with a nonfiction book because of the research. Then I heard a lot of shocked people in the audience. Then I added to that "I mean a rough draft." As usual, I never explain myself well. There's way more to it than that. Here's the thing: to do a picture book and do it WELL you need YEARS AND YEARS of PRACTICE. I think once you get to a certain level you can, in a way, write a rough draft on the subway if you wish. Now I'm just talking the rough, rough draft. I'm talking story arch, the basic premise, and so on--what comes out of your head initially. Some of the best stories may happen that way! But with nonfiction this isn't so. You can't do that because you have to go read a few nonfiction books on the subject first to get a feel for your subject. It's not so spontaneous. I wish it were.

I hope I've clarified my thoughts a bit. I wasn't saying anything to be arrogant or saying anything to bash one genre over another. They're just very different!


After 12 hours of travel that began at 4 am and involved a small mountain of luggage, two large, weary cats, and one large, cheerful baby we have at last landed back in Massachusetts! Spending the year in San Francisco was incredible experience I will never forget, but it feels really good to be home.

I was pretty nervous about the trip since I've never flown with a baby and we had so much stuff with us (toys! diapers! three cameras! 5 pounds of cat food!), but it all went off without a hitch. Tilda didn't cry even once. Her main complaint in life is being put down, so she was pretty psyched to be held for 6 hours straight. She flirted with everyone around us and napped happily to the white noise of the plane. Here she is playing airplane on the airplane:

And just hanging out:

While we were gone we subletted our apartment and left all our furniture and household items, including most of my studio. Coming back to our things after being away from them so long has been strange. I am not attached to anything and kind of want to throw it all away and start new. Maybe it has something to do with life being so different now that I'm a mother, that I need my space to reflect that change. But its funny, we writers and artists always say we need our "stuff" around us to be productive, or at least thats how I usually feel. After not having my stuff for so long it all seems totally unnecessary. Like on Clean House when a family swears up and down they can't function with out some raggedy old dishtowel that has sentimental value. Did I really need all those stacks of magazines and old paint brushes? Nope! Right now I feel like I need to get rid of it all. I'm sure once I'm absorbed in working on a new project I won't care either way, but til then I will be busy wiping the slate clean for the next phase: being a parent and getting back to work.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Karen Healey tells a true story


Hi all! I'm finally back from my travels to the Southern Hemisphere--returned to New York last night. Don't have time for a real post, so I thought I'd leave you with this video of Karen Healey kicking off the New Zealand Listeners Gala Night of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. Eight authors, including Meg Rosoff, Fatima Bhutto, and A.A. Gill were tasked to tell true stories inspired by the alphabet. Here's Karen's story:

This week is Book Expo America here in NYC, so I'm diving right back into the swing of things...more next week!

Edited to add: Karen Healey just blogged about this as well, and includes a transcript of her true story here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

radio broadcast

I don't like talking about myself but this show is worth listening to. This was my first radio broadcast. Eeek!

Cityscape: An Alien Invasion

You can also get the show off of itunes. I really recommend checking it out. They do some great programs. It's like This American Life.

Friday, May 20, 2011

LILACS: An Original Poem

Here is a poem about lilacs from an unpublished collection of memoir poems that I wrote titled A Home for the Seasons. My maternal grandparents had lots of lilac bushes growing on their property. I also had a row of lilac bushes that grew in my yard. I loved the sweet scent they gave off when they were in bloom. I’ve been thinking about planting a couple of lilac bushes in my backyard.

By Elaine Magliaro

Tall lilacs border

my grandparents’ driveway.

In May they bloom

with clusters of lacy lavender flowers

that fill the air

with the scent

of remembered springs.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have two original lollipop poems.

Julie Larios has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Drift Record.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


A friend of mine recently completed his novel. It's not what you think exactly. He conceived of the idea and helped shape it, I guess, but hired someone to write it for him. He's put both his and her name on the MS coverpage though.

So here's my question for all of you:

Which is harder--writing the story or coming up with the idea?

My friend will tell you it's coming up with the idea. My sister may agree with him. She went to Vasar and majored in writing and was good at it but stopped. She claims it's because she doesn't have any good ideas.

Honestly, I have to say this: Don't a million people out there have ideas? Isn't that why everyone and their mom wants to write a children's book? Maybe I'm saying this because I am a writer. I don't know.

Weigh in please. I'd love some opinions on this!

i think this deserves the 90 second Newbery Oscar!

So, the 90-second Newbery Movies are trickling in...and this one is AMAZING!!!!

Honestly, when I saw this I was speechless. I am completely wowed by the Bookie Woogie Bloggers' creation! Not only are the shadow puppets so beautifully done, the pacing, script and music is great, too. This is the perfect movie to show students before and after they read the book.

Bookie Woogie: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon from Z-Dad on Vimeo.

The Bookie Woogie Bloggers even created a separate blog chronicling how they made the movie. It's great fun to see the sketches, the storyboarding--and very helpful if you want to attempt a movie of your own. After reading it, I'm thinking about making my own 90-second Newbery with my niece.

Anyway, take a look and let the Bookie Woogie creators know what a wonderful job they did!

THANKS SO MUCH, Bookie Woogie Bloggers!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Art vs. life -- more or less?

Awhile ago someone talked here about Miss Happiness and Miss Flower -- a story about the two dolls of the title (homesick for Japan) and the girl (homesick for India) who makes a real Japanese dolls' house for them. All the author's books I've read are as cozy as that.

I imagined her life had been, too -- she definitely seemed like a nice English lady with an overgrown garden and tea every day. So I was amazed when I read her autobiography -- one of her books, Greengage Summer, tells about some charming children who spend a summer holiday in France and have cozy adventures. In real life, she and her sisters and their mother DID go to France, and DID stay in a hotel sort of like the one in the book -- but their mother got really sick. The children could do whatever they wanted, and one of the things one of them did was get seduced / have an affair with an older married man, also a hotel guest -- as was his wife. The children and their mother ended up getting kicked out of the hotel for this sister's "scandalous" behavior (in the novel, a charming criminal somehow -- I forget how -- arranges for them to go home to their parents, who are both in England).

That was just one incident in a life that couldn't have been less like her stories-- the book ended with her and her children living in an unheated house high in the Himalayas (which sounded like heaven to me: she described the clean new wood and no furniture and teacups and plates from the bazzar, the almond trees in back and the views of mountains in front -- I've been to Kashmir and could imagine it all clearly). They had no money -- typically, her husband had stolen all her book money (and at one point there was a lot of it) when he ran off with another woman -- but it was lovely until one of the kids noticed ground glass in their food. Rumer Godden was too out of it on the drugs the cook had been slipping into HER food to notice he was trying to poison them all....There were lots of equally wild incidents in-between the two I've recounted here.

I can't honestly say I recommend this autobiography -- there were lots of gaps, and it was written when she was very old, so old that instead of describing some of the events she quoted from the novels she'd written about them. The book read as though she really remembered the novels better than the life.

But I'm glad I read it. Her life-into-fiction went the opposite way of most least, it seems to me that most novelists make their novels MORE exciting and adventure-packed than their lives. And she made hers less.

Maybe for her writing was an escape into a safe world where husbands stayed and supported you, people didn't try to murder you, and children left to fend for themselves found protectors. Is YOUR writing a reflection of your life or an escape from it? Both? Neither? An attempt to remake it? In the past, mine has I think been more of a reflection -- but maybe it would be fun to do the opposite, as Rumer Godden did.