Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Grand Day Out*

Saturday afternoon, Carrie Jones, Maurissa Guibord, and I gathered at Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, Maine, to talk, read aloud, and generally hobnob. We got a good crowd in the library's lovely, cozy conference room--hearteningly, there were kids there. Even more hearteningly, they were clearly readers, and smart ones. The future is in good hands.

My friend Alice Wilkinson drove over with me, and we had lunch first at a marvelous little bistro called 2 Cats, which this time of year serves breakfast until 1 p.m. I am always in the mood for breakfast, especially on those rare occasions when it involves lox. This one did. I was very happy.

Here is Alice, lining up shots as the audience jostles about setting up chairs. (She didn't take this picture while standing outside her physical body, in case you're wondering. I took it, because I thought the world should see Alice in action. )

Alice did take these. I moved out from behind the large conference tables to make sure she could photograph up my nose, which is becoming a theme of this blog.

At left I am reading like a grown-up. At right, I am guffawing like an idiot. I think I was talking about the glitter on the cover and how the cat continues to use it as a chin-scratching device.

Here (below) are Maurissa (left), Carrie and me sitting at our ease. Not sure if this is before or after the actual reading.

And here are some of the kind souls who bought our books and asked us to sign them. (I took this one, too, because it was a thrill to see such cheery faces on a bleak January afternoon.)

Deepest thanks to Debbie Taylor of Sherman's Books & Stationery in Bar Harbor and Mae Corrion of Jesup Memorial Library for organizing such a lovely event.

Bloggy Goodness! SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS got more online attention in recent days. Brenda Kahn at proseandkahn posted a review, and then made it even better in the comments at Heavy Medal on the School Library Journal site (second comment down). Pamela Hill was extremely kind at Mrs. Hill's Book Blog. Set me right up for a blissful Sunday.

Better still, it snowed again last night! And it's flurrying now! What an AWESOME winter. (I say that now. Wait until February.) (I sound like Eeyore. Sorry.)

*The title of this post is in Alice's honor, since she's a big Wallace & Gromit fan. As am I. As is any right-thinking human. Or dog.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Socks! And some other stuff

Look! I made socks! With my own hands! You can wear them on your feet, except my feet will be in there first so that would be weird. Did I mention I made them? With my hands?

I know some people reading this blog may make socks all the time and may think this is a mere bagatelle, a wisp of nothing. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Lisa and Barb and Michele.) To you I say...get over yourself. I MADE SOCKS!

Er. Don't look at them too close.

In other news: SMALL PERSONS has been reviewed or described in some newspapers and blogs. For example, the Tampa Bay Tribune and The Ellsworth American/Mount Desert Islander . Plus, the lovely and talented Kate Coombs (aka The Book Aunt) and the talented and lovely Rebecca Enzor at Sticky Note Stories. I love them all, with an abiding adoration surpassed only by my LOVE OF SOCKS.

Also, although this has already been all over Twitter and Facebook, congratulations to superagent Kate Schafer Testerman and her husband, Doyce, on the birth yesterday of Sean Douglas Testerman, clearly a work of awe-inspiring genius.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why We Love the Seasons

We got at least a foot of snow Friday, and there may be more coming Wednesday. Hibernation season is upon us. We refused all entertainment suggestions this weekend, and I haven't been in a car since Wednesday. And then I only drove to the school and the post office.

This'll send me chug-chug-chugging around the bend before long, and Steps will have to be taken. Next weekend there's all sorts of Stuff To Do. But for the moment, it's bliss, the antidote to the hectic holidays and harried summer. I'm back on my thousand-words-a-morning routine, taking care of various chores in the afternoon. At 5 or so Rob and I meet at the woodstove and spend the evening chatting, reading, and watching news or a movie. I've knitted my first pair of socks (thank you for the lessons, Lisa) ... just have to bind off one and redo the toe on the other. (Anal at all, Ellen? Nah.)

Yesterday I went skiing on the newish walking trail a group of fine citizens created in the woods behind our house. This snow was particularly difficult to break trail in--your skis sank down about eight inches, where they slid along fine but your legs had to shovel all this snow out of the way. At one point I actually found myself thinking, "There's too much snow!" (Hm. Maybe the chug-chug-chugging has started already.)

Here's what the trail ahead looked like, when I'd been skiing for about 15 minutes and was sweating in 15-degrees F.

But once I muscled my way across to the main trail, some other wonderful person had been there before me, so I could just ski. Better yet, he or she or they had skied all the way down to Herrick Bay:

Here's the trail home--our house is just behind the trees. This used to be the road to Naskeag Point, generations ago, and we blocked it with a little bit of our house (the addition for my mother, actually). I keep waiting to be haunted by annoyed Red Paint People and early Europeans, but nothing so far.

And here I am, in mid-sweat.

Charming view up my nose, hey?

Last summer was spectacular, and so far this winter is, too. The summer before was all foggy and cold, and last winter ended way too early, so I guess we've earned it. But the Puritan in me says we'll pay for it...guess I won't pack away any sweaters this spring.

I'm heading out again now.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why We Love the Humans

Today's the official birthday of SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS. Here's what I got in the mail this week from bosom buddy and stealth copy-editor Shelly Perron in Connecticut.

I will pop it this evening, possibly on the phone or Skype (!) with Shelly. (I figured out how to use my computer camera yesterday. Watch out, world.)

Since the Small Persons have been on the receiving end of various gifts for some years now, I thought I'd celebrate their print birthday by offering "The Parvi Pennati: A History in Presents."

The Parvi Pennati (a diminutive of "small persons with wings" in Latin) first glimpsed daylight on a private forum I've mentioned before, the Leaky Marauders. We originally got together as Harry Potter fans fond of debating whether Snape was secretly good and could Harry be Dumbledore's grandson. Before long, though, we were just friends who sometimes got silly. My sillier moments involved a ladylike, overdressed, clumsy, and ill-tempered fairy who once took a wild ride on a motorcycle with a hippogriff and a stuffed teddy bear.

Eventually, I got so fond of this fairy that I started writing a book about her. She is now Durindana, Mellie's overdressed and clumsy Parva friend.

Several years ago, Marauders from near and far gathered at Niagara Falls (sloooowly I turned...)--"near" meaning Montreal and Detroit, "far" meaning England and Japan. Martje and Ruth started things off by giving me this:

Meanwhile, KZ (Laura) had come prepared with an approximation of the fairy's favorite tiara. (We like to hang it casually on the coat-rack in the front hall. It looks especially at home in the summer with all the straw hats and baseball caps.)

On our last evening, several of us were out gazing at the falls, which the authorities light up with colored lights. (They're tacky but marvelous except for the yellow, which makes you think there's an incontinent giant upstream.) Several others were visiting the souvenir shops. The falls-gazers were standing there snapping pictures when a cry rent the air and Di, an Australian who lives in Japan, hurtled on-scene looking for me.

Turns out the souvenir shop's wares included a fairy on a motorcycle.

That's a portion of Di at left, along with a portion of me. (Can't remember which Marauder's Facebook page I cribbed this from, but thank you!) Only thing missing was the hippogriff.

Years later, when SMALL PERSONS was almost finished and I was reading it to my writers group here in Maine, fellow writer Susa Wuorinen demonstrated her many talents by creating this, a rendition of Mellie's first Parvus, Fidius.

Susa writes kids books and plays, but she's also a topnotch illustrator and makes puppets. She's the one who made the marzipan fairies in the post below. I try not to be jealous.

Anyway, five years or so after the forum fairy first flitted, here' s her final home.

Many, many people have offered vast amounts of support to get her this far, chief among them superagent Kate Schafer Testerman and genius editor Kathy Dawson. Thank you all.

PS Oh my goodness, did I mention the great interview Dawn Metcalf did with me on The Enchanted Inkpot? I know I splashed it all over Facebook and Twitter. If you didn't see it there, hit it now. She asked interesting questions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The official launch date of SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS is Thursday, but last week was kind of an unofficial launch. Carrie Jones and I read from our new opuses (opii?) at the Blue Hill Library, before a hardy crowd of 25 people who didn't seem to mind the dreadful roads. (This is why Nick at Blue Hill Books regarded me with horror when I said the book was coming out in January... I could tell he was thinking about the joys of putting on a reading when the weather is almost guaranteed to be discouraging.)

My writers group put on a little celebration after the reading, complete with cool baked goods. Here, for example, is Ann's collection of chocolate cupcakes arranged like the title on the cover:

And Susa's marzipan Small Persons with yet more chocolate:

We drank champagne, ate cake and artichoke dip and other goodies (well, I did, anyway) and yucked it up. I can't remember which moment this is, but Becky (our hostess, at right) and I clearly had had just about enough champagne, thank you.

PS I'm reliably informed that the plural of opus is opera. Go figure. (Thanks, Aberforth aka Andrew.) Also, the photos are by Sherry Streeter, who took both of my author photos.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Banshee, Baby!

We interrupt this Thursday for an emergency announcement: I seem to have a new book deal. Here's the blurb from Publisher's Marketplace:

Children's: Middle grade
Author of SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS and THE UNNAMEABLES Ellen Booraem's CONNOR'S BANSHEE, in which a Irish-American boy is visited by a banshee prophetizing death for someone in his family, again to Kathy Dawson at Dial Children's, in a nice deal, for publication in Spring 2012, by Kate Schafer Testerman at kt literary (World).

This is why I've been reading up about early Celtic homelife, just to get a handle on where my banshee came from and what she might be like. As you probably know, some old Irish families (usually those with an "O" in front of their names) have their own banshees, spectral woman who wail when someone's about to die. Mine's the spirit of a young girl who died too early--one variant on the tradition as conveyed by Katharine Briggs, queen of folktales from the British Isles. The entire book popped into my head almost fully armed when I was flipping through one of Briggs's books. That seems like it might be a good sign.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Thursday.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January Book Review Club

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@Barrie Summy

It's been a sunny but chilly 2011 here in Maine so far--woodstove time! Which means book time. And, possibly, imagining yourself in some warm place (an overheated New York apartment?) with adventures in the offing. If you like middle-grade fantasy, you couldn't do better than this one by Elise Broach, author of SHAKESPEARE'S SECRET and a slew of picture books.

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By Elise Broach
Henry Holt & Co., 2008

I will never squish a beetle again.

Elise Broach’s MASTERPIECE is the kind of book I would have loved in childhood, when one of my favorite boredom-fighters was to imagine myself in an upside-down house, stepping over high thresholds and trying to get comfortable with all the furniture stuck overhead.

Broach encourages us to imagine a beetle’s life in a plush New York City apartment: Settled in comfortably behind the wall under the kitchen sink, scrounging meals from the trash and what the baby drops on the floor, taking a bath in a bottle cap, riding the vacuum cleaner to a vacation spot in the conservatory.

Marvin, a young beetle, lives with his parents and extended family in the home of the Pompadays (the name says it all). The human family’s only worthwhile member is James, who turns eleven at a depressing party engineered by his uber-networking mother and stepfather. When James’s artist father arrives to give him a pen-and-ink set, he doesn’t think much of the present until Marvin secretly visits his room at night to leave his own present, a buffalo nickel.

Dipping his front legs into the ink, Marvin discovers he can draw—not just draw, but make stunning art. James discovers Marvin’s tiny, gem-like rendition of the scene outside his window, and in short order discovers Marvin, too. The two strike up a wordless friendship, so compatible with each other that they need only a modicum of code: Marvin runs up James’s finger for “yes,” and back down for “no.”

This comes in handy when Mrs. Pompaday discovers the drawing and infers that her son is an artistic genius. One thing leads to another, and before long Marvin and James find themselves in the Metropolitan Museum of Art faking an Albrecht Dürer drawing to help foil some art thieves. The plan goes badly wrong, of course, and it takes all of Marvin’s creativity and James’s upright courage to keep priceless artworks from disappearing forever.

This book itself is a tiny gem. Like Mary Norton’s THE BORROWERS series of the fifties and sixties, Broach imagines a gorgeously detailed miniature life behind the walls of the Pompadays’ apartment, complete with family suppers and missions to rescue the homeowner’s contact lens from the bathroom drain. (“Why, it looks exactly like my fruit bowl,” Marvin’s mother comments.)

Delightfully, Broach sneaks in cool insights about art and ethics without once preaching or sacrificing plot pressure. The story is entirely told from Marvin’s point of view, but his attention is so closely focused on James that we think we’re seeing things through the human boy’s perspective, too. Like Marvin’s drawings, this is an act of genius.

Seriously, you’ll think twice before you stomp your next beetle.

Dear FCC: I bought this book with my own money, and it's worth every cent.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's 2011!

Okay, it's starting to get real, this Second Book stuff. Trying to be a good author, I just set up a Facebook page for SMALL PERSONS even though I have no clear idea what to do with it. Apparently I'm supposed to connect everything in some giant web, so that anything I say on this blog or Twitter immediately goes to Facebook.

This just seems so foolhardy to me. But I'll try to do it, even though at the moment Twitter is convinced that I'm somehow blocking its cookies when I have done everything in my power to do otherwise. (I'm sorely tempted to reach for a "blow your cookies" joke but will refrain. THAT's how good an author I am.)

Anyway, here's today's news:

Sort of oldish news, but today it's official: SMALL PERSONS got its third starred review, this time from the august librarians at School Library Journal. Eva Mitnick of the Los Angeles Public Library, may their fines ever increase, says, in part:

Every character, human or Parvi, is drawn with singular care and humor, from the disgracefully clumsy Inepta to Mellie’s patient, maybe-new-friend Timmo. Spells turn people into drooling frogs and irascible bonging clocks, the truth-seeing magic of the moonstone turns out to be something of a liability, and Mellie “grows into her grandeur” just in time to save the Parvi as well as her entire family. Readers will share the girl’s irritated fondness for the ridiculous and lovable Parvi. A great choice for all who favor funny and intelligent fantasies with quirky characters and an unpredictable, fast-moving plot.

The American Library Association's Booklist liked the book, too: Together with her parents and Timmo, the nosy neighbor kid, Mellie’s odd predicament is to return to the world of the fanciful by facing what is real. This clever tale also wraps a story of acceptance, both of self and family, in the fairy dressing. I can't link to the actual review, but I'm grateful to Heather Booth for her kind words.

And in other news: