Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Voracious Reader

Are you a voracious reader? I am! I have always labeled myself that way, so I was intrigued when I found out there is a bookshop and owner in Westchester who feels the same way about that turn of phrase. The Voracious Reader in Larchmont specializes in books for kids, tweens, and teens!

I was in heaven when I first visited and met the owner, Francine, this past winter, and thrilled to be asked to join three other contemporary authors for an event called Get Real on April 29th.

Well, I certainly got real last night with my buddy Sarah Darer Littman, and fan gurled it up for Melissa Walker and Micol Ostow, three seasoned authors who share a blog called The Contemps, (where I was a guest blogger last January).

The bookstore is both roomy and warm and cozy, an environment custom-made for literary pleasures. Melissa read from Violet in Private - the third in her Violet series, written about the life of a runway model (based on her experience as a magazine editor interview. She has a new book to look for in August: Small Town Sinners. Micol read from her new book Family, written in verse about a girl who falls victim to a cult leader. Chilling. Sarah read from Life, After.  (Her new book, Want to Go Private, about a girl meeting up with an internet predator, will also be out this August.) I of course, read from Edges, sandwiched between Melissa and Micol. And then I had to buy their books!

We all had fun interacting with the teens and each other, amidst pizza (thanks Francine!) and signing.

Francine is also EXPANDING! She's going to have a tea room, and a WORKSHOP room! (You know where my wheels are turning to, don't you? Stay tuned . . .)

Now I am kicking myself for not taking pictures. Sarah wore an AMAZING flower pot hat in honor of The Royal Wedding, and I felt comfy and chic in my new pajants. Pajama jeans. They've become something of a YA author phenomenon and they live up to the hype! In fact, some YA Authors are participating in The Twitterhood of the Butt-Lifting Pajants and are wearing them, drawing something on them, and then passing them on. In fact, Melissa was running late because she had to stop by Tara McCarthy Altebrando's house to give the pajants to her!

And I'm guessing that Micol and Melissa always look fantastic!

(And you know what? Even though I think of myself as too plugged into this internet world, the whole Royal Wedding passed me by - it never even got on my radar until last night!)

Now I have to get ready for tonight's Writopia Open Mic event at the Borders in Mt. Kisco, NY! Writopians are gonna BRING IT!!!!!!!

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Girls Write Now is Rockin' an Anthology

I spent a couple of days this week on a reading jag of work from literary teens and their older counterparts.

This winter I was asked to be co-editor of this years' Girls Write Now Anthology, and since I adore this community so much, my answer couldn't be anything but "yes".

A more organized person might have paced herself, (I'm looking at you, co-editor and pop culture diva Kirthana Ramisetti!) but my kids were on spring break and before I knew it, my editing "duties" were upon me. But as with service of any kind, I'm left wondering, who is really doing the service here?

The first day I locked myself in the bedroom and wrapped myself up in sweet and harsh words. In yearning and despair. Teens and-those-who-love-them aren't afraid to go to dark places. It made me fall in-love with Girls Write Now and the power of words, of people finding their "voice" all over again. GWN offers an opportunity for a diverse group of young women to not only nurture their craft, but to transform themselves through the process of writing and being part of a supportive community.

My eyes were burning by the end of the night.

The next day I came into the city to meet with Kirthana at GWN headquarters in mid-town, prepared  to stay well into the night if need be. We had to arrange all of the submissions! Well, it turned out that some of our incredible Anthology Team had already done half of the work! They had come in and put the submissions into chapters already - Kirthana and I just needed to spend a few hours to arrange the work within those chapters into some sort of narrative arc. We marveled at the level of commitment, service and professionalism of not only our team, but the entire community of Girls Write Now.

We had already decided on chapter themes at our team meeting, and found the pieces organized into folders entitled: Growth, Family, Identity, New York City, Relationships, Writing, with a TITLE lifted from an OPENING LINE of one of the mentees' pieces, supported by a quote from a fully seasoned author. We arranged poetry, fiction, memoir within each chapter, as I wrote down the names of each of the authors in their order. There was something so powerful about that kind of writing, and saying their names out loud, reflecting the richness and diversity of Girls Write Now. Kirthana and I left  satisfied and inspired.

Thank YOU, Girls Write Now, for letting me be of service!

Now all we have to do is write the PREFACE by Monday!

The Anthology will be ready in mid-June and will be sold on Amazon. You can also find Kirthana on Twitter under her handle, @popscribblings.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

WIT, UN, and Mary Pope Osborne

Tuesday I got an email from my sister Charlotte with the headline: WIT and UN. In the body of her email was: This is incredibly last minute and I'm not really sure what it's about, but do you want to come with me? Following was an invitation to a luncheon at the United Nations with Mary Pope Osborne as the special speaker.

Hells yes! Lunch with my sis at the United Nations AND Mary Pope Osborne, famed writer of The Magic Treehouse series?

I was confused about how A Wrinkle in Time would be involved -  we use WIT as Wrinkle shorthand, and as the 50th anniversary is coming up in February 2012, it is very much on our minds.

All became clear later that evening when we realized that WIT is an acronym for World Information Transfer. (Evidently, Wrinkle doesn't tie into everything!) It is a yearly conference on nuclear energy, created after Chernobyl and ever more important after the recent disaster in Japan.

Yesterday I met Charlotte near the United Nations and we made our way in through the maze of security- we even needed an escort!

It took us a good twenty minutes to find the delegates dining room, but find it we did. We were seated with folks from Random House, John Patterson (Katherine Patterson's son) and Will Osborne (Mary's husband). I turned to introduce myself to the person on my right when she said:

"Léna! I know you! I'm Mallory, Yeardley's cousin!" My eyes opened wide with joy and recognition. Yeardley and I went to Barnard together, and Mallory and I had hit it off a few years ago at Y's baby shower. It turns out that Mallory is Mary Pope Osborne's editor! The last time I saw her she was pregnant with her second child, and now she s pregnant with her third! I LOVE stuff like that!

It also turns out that Mary and Will live five minutes away from my mom in Goshen! Lot's of synchronicity . . .

Mary gave an amazing speech on the power,  gift and right of reading for every child, especially those impoverished or who have suffered global trauma. (I wish I had the speech in front of me to quote it, but it hasn't been downloaded yet!) She was so inspiring! I am always pontificating on the power of writing and creating, and it was wonderful to have a reminder of the power of reading. (There is so much to say about it. I promise to provide a link when I get it!)

Afterward, Mallory introduced Mary to us, and she couldn't have been more gracious and down to earth. In fact, she shared a lovely memory of my grandmother: when Mary started going to Author's Guild meetings a long time ago and was so intimidated by everyone, my grandmother talked to her and made her feel comfortable.

Mary herself couldn't have made us feel more comfortable, and grateful that we had heard her speak. (Plus, it bumped up my cred with my kids, BIG time!)

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Miracle of Story

An Easter EggImage via Wikipedia
Albert Einstein: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

I would much rather live the second way, but it's not always easy, is it? Like most people, I need constant reminders that I have a choice in the way to look at life. I need stories that offer a variety of perspectives, where I can both agree and yes, disagree. I need stories to help me think and I need to write stories to discover what I think.

Stories are like eggs, waiting to hatch. They may be ugly or they may be beautiful,  but most likely they are somewhere in between, a combination of both ends of the spectrum. 

Today I am gorging myself on stories by the teen writers of Girls Write Now and their mentors as I dive into the final stages of Anthology edits. Tomorrow I will go to headquarters to sit down with my co-editor, writer Kirthana Ramisetti, where we will shape it into a book, and then hand it off to the copy editor before it goes to publication.

Some of us have just celebrated Easter, the story of the resurrection of Jesus. Others of us have celebrated Passoverthe story of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the desert. Some have also celebrated the return of Persephone from underground, the return of the sun, making the earth fecund again.   

We have all certainly made note of the springtime with the rains and budding leaves. (Our family celebrates with all of these stories and more - the requisite scavenger hunt for candy filled eggs.)

Stories tell us who we are. And that's why we write, don't we?

Stories and faith are talked about in the same way: it's like driving at night - our headlights only show us the way a little bit at a time. We have to trust in doing the next right thing. We may get lost, but we can always find our way back to our story, our center. 

Sometimes I get anxious when watching a movie with the husband because I don't know what the story is about. He laughs at me (gently) and reminds me to enjoy the ride.

Are you enjoying the ride in your writing, your reading, and/or your faith?
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Earth Fri-Day, Daffodils, and William Wordsworth

If weather is a metaphor for our feelings, then the cold, windy and gray day mirrors my heart. It is both Earth Day and Good Friday, days that have me thinking about my own relationship to Nature as well as resurrection and redemption. It's been a long winter, and I am ready for Vitamin D from the sun to flood my veins.

Yes, I need a little nature therapy, so a visit to the daffodil garden in Litchfield, Connecticut is the perfect remedy.

We are all a part of the fabric of the Universe: we all matter, whether we identify with the gray wind or a lovely flower in whatever particular moment.

It is beautiful in spite of (because of?) the dismal weather surrounding the garden. Life still springs forth, there is peace and beauty. My daughter frolicks as she poses for my camera, delighting in the daffodils and surrounding lake, a large rock, and a tree stump broken to look like a throne. Scarlett is the Faerie Queene. Yet instead of Spenser, we find one of the most lyrical poems by William Wordsworth etched in stone. I stop short and read, tears in my eyes. William in 1804 knows exactly how I feel! Literature, Nature, Love - I am transcended, transported to another realm. I am William, I am a daffodil, I am my daughter, I am me.



I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gone Readin'

IMG_2268Image by Bobs Market via Flickr
Guten Tag. It's Wednesday, right? And I haven't written since Saturday . . . my kids are on vacation from school, so life has been dizzyingly full and unscheduled.

And I need schedule! For an unorganized person like me, it's a life-line.

So this is why I have been so quiet on the blog front. Our house has been full of friends, or we've gone a-visiting. On Sunday, my mom came in and took the boys and I to see The Importance of Being Earnest on Broadway (two B'way shows in one week? I'm making up for lost time!) and I was thrown back to 11th grade where I played Cecily Cardew in our high school production, and got to kiss the boy playing Algernon. (Sigh. SUCH a crush!) We LOVED it! Oscar Wilde really knew what he was doing didn't he? We had fun coming up with homophones other than EARNEST . . .

But I must check in quickly to say hello before we further decorate Easter eggs and go to see Hop. (Yesterday we dyed them!)

The other thing I've been doing besides writing is DEVOURING George RR Martin's Game of Thrones' series. I am currently in the middle of the fourth A Storm of Crows. (The fifth comes out this summer!)

And I have to trust that if I am not writing, things are surely marinating, waiting to bloom, and . . .

If I am not writing, you can always find me reading! (Because when I am in the throes of writing, it is hard to get into another person's story!)

What are you reading?
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gettin' High

I had the chance to see High the other night - a Broadway play with Kathleen Turner (love her) about "addiction and redemption" - two of my favorite subjects. My BFF had scored us free tickets for a preview performance (the show opens on Tuesday) through a contact at work. (She is an awesome psychotherapist, if you will allow me to brag!)

Our seats were amazing - second row center, and I left the theater completely disturbed. Which is not a bad thing. I esteem work and art that encourages an inner dialogue with self. I had "wanted" a different outcome to the story, a different ending - so it gave me a lot to think about, as someone who believes in the power of prayer and faith (not just inside of organized religion).

And I want you to see it, so I won't "spoil" anything for you by telling the story. Well, the whole story. (I have to tell a little bit, don't I?) To just say that the performances were "gripping" or "powerful" wouldn't do it justice.

Turner plays Sister Jamison, "a foul-mouthed alcoholic nun" who lives and works in a Catholic rehabilitation center. The play opens with Sister Jamison telling the audience a vignette from her childhood - she reads a story to her little sister every night about the stars, because someday, her sister says, she wants to be HIGH, to go and be "up there".

Turner had me right there, as I truly believe that we are all spirit seekers of one form or another. We all want to be High up in the stars, transcending the human experience.

The play, centered around three characters is peppered with Sister Jamison breaking the fourth wall with these monologues, revealing more about her childhood and her relationship with her sister, her own need for redemption.

Sister Jamison's "job" is to run groups for recovering alcoholics like herself. Her boss,  "Father Michael" played deftly by Stephen Kunken, asks her to take on an seemingly impossible case - a-damaged-beyond-repair 19 year old drug meth addict and prostitute named Cody. Sister Jamison knows first hand that  recovery is for those who want it, and are willing to work for it. Cody is not an addict pre-disposed to want to get better. He needs to be in a lock down rehab for six months, if there is to be any hope.

But Father Michael challenges her to think outside the box, that "miracles" are up to God, and come in different forms, that it is not up to us to decide who can recover and who can't.

Sister Jamison doesn't want to get emotionally involved with this kid. Yet she does, which of course brings up her own demons.

Evan Jonigkeit as Cody broke my heart. Sitting so close to the stage, his pain and trauma were absolutely convincing. The word "brutal" kept floating through my mind and I couldn't help but think of the uncle I have lost to alcoholism and the friends I've lost to addiction. Are they "high" up with God now? What do I really believe?

Sister Jamison tries to introduce Cody to some kind of faith, and teaches him the rosary.

"What has God ever done for me?"

"God hasn't done this to you, people have," Sister Jamison says.

Yes, people have. But recovery can only happen when a person can say: "yes people have done this to me, but I can make different choices now. I can take responsibility for my part in the past and in my present and future actions."

This is impossible for Cody. So what do you think happens? Why was I such a wreck afterward?

I guess I saw all of the "addiction" and none of the "redemption". More's the pity.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reveling in a Teen's Words

POETRYImage by Enokson via Flickr
 Cross posted on SheWrites:

How can we not revel in other people's words?

Especially ones that are spoken,
       whispered or belted
        in an intimate manner,
        on stage or off,
        words connecting with listeners,
        with readers,
        showing our common humanity,
        reaching across borders of experience, age and culture.

My life-line as a writer and human being is in being part of communities that advance and support other writers. Communities like Girls Write Now, and SheWrites (and Writopia, the writing program for kids/tweens and teens that I teach for).

Part of Girls Write Now's mission is for teens to practice sharing their work. I am struck by all of these young authors, but am particularly focused on Dalina Jiminez. You can watch for yourself and hear the power of her words here:

Did you REVEL in the raw emotion of her teen poet's voice?

I do not consider myself a writer of the poetic persuasion, but listening to Dalina reminds me of why I am compelled to write - it is to understand our experience and create something larger than ourselves that touches others.

Dalina inspires me to think about my own struggles with lack of privacy and sleep with her poems Reveling and Sleep, Or Something Like It. Her words take me with her as she is finally able to take a nap in the sunshine and then as she struggles with the myriad things that get in the way of being in restful repose. My eyes sting as I feel as if Dalina is speaking directly to me, and I wonder at how she has successfully bridged our age gap.

Her emotional risk taking inspires me to write as authentically as I can both in my blog essays and with my fictional characters, delving deep into the specific details of their lives.

Writing and finding your own voice as a writer is all about details, and working with young writers on a daily basis reminds me of that.  I know that my life would be diminished if I didn't have a community of writers, specifically female writers, who constantly remind me of what's important.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Creative Writing is for Everybody

Did I catch your attention? Did she say that creative writing is for everybody? Really?

I put my money where my mouth is, not only in my own writing, but in working with kids of all ages on theirs as well. Two years ago I began working alongside Writopia founder Rebecca Wallace-Segal in New York City, and last summer I was thrilled to be trusted to spearhead the Writopia movement in Northern Westchester when I moved to Katonah. Now I am equally excited to help foster the Writopia  growth throughout Southern Westchester as it's program manager.

Creative expression isn't just for those who have confidence in their own creative juices, in fact it's just as important for those un-inclined, to fall in-love with some aspect of personal expression.

I invite you to hop on over to Writopia's blog to read an essay I just posted about this very subject. It starts like this:

As Writopia Lab continues to grow in Westchester, our partnerships with local libraries, schools, and bookshops remain crucial to how our writing community fits within the broader network of institutions that advance literacy. Because of this, I'm afforded frequent opportunity to interact with many like-minded kids, educators and authors. They, along with the many enthusiastic librarians and booksellers I meet, sometimes make it easy for me to forget that not everyone sees value in learning the art of written expression.

Yet I am sometimes asked why creative writing should matter at all for kids who are not considered predisposed in some way as writers.

Want to read more? Click here!

Monday, April 11, 2011

One Reader at a Time, Part Deux

Good morning! This week I will turn my head from pimping my novel to Girls Write Now and Writopia responsibilities. For GWN, the time is upon us for putting together the Anthology, and for Writopia, we are enrolling for our summer programs in Westchester - not only in Katonah, but now I will personally be involved in further developing the Larchmont/ Scarsdale area.

But first I wanted to share with you my time on Saturday at the Barnes and Noble in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania! It was very different from anything else I've experienced, and must be noted. My expanding philosophy of one-reader-at-a-time is serving me well. I am building relationships . . .

I drove from Katonah to Wilkes-Barre in under three hours, and when I walked in with my family, there was a table in the front with copies of Edges on it, and a pen with a poster of me saying signing and discussion! Right there in front of the doors! The boys were impressed, but hunkered down in the kids section with the husband. (The girl had soccer, so she stayed with neighbors).

It wasn't really the forum to engage people as a group, but I am open, and  willing to try anything! The staff couldn't have been lovelier. They hooked me up with a venti mocha at the café, and checked in on me periodically with questions of their own!

I have to admit though, that I was uncomfortable at first. I felt like a Barnes and Noble greeter: "Welcome to Barnes and Noble! Would you like . . ." and in the beginning, people would nod and rush past. Sales! Talk about pimping your novel!

Fortunately, I was there also to meet Alison - a fellow blogger,  reader and friend - face to face for the first time, and Lauren, a teen blogger I had recently met on Twitter. Lauren is absolutely amazing. She is in tenth grade, and started blogging about books three years ago because nobody in her community liked to read as much as she does! She has read over 50 books so far this year, AND does well in school. Here I am with Lauren and her BFF Emily, courtesy of Alison's camera! We all wanted to hang out and talk, but it was a little awkward because there was no place for them to sit! So we all experienced this slight strangeness together, and I did end up reading a passage, although not as dramatically as I would have liked.

Lauren hasn't read Edges yet, so she bought a copy and I personalized it for her. On the drive back, I felt bad because she's a blogger and probably doesn't have to buy any books! Later I tweeted that she could have first dibs on an ARC of the next one . . . needless to say, I hope that she loves it and isn't disappointed!

Alison stayed by my side the whole time - three hours - and we talked to many people, gave away bookmarks, and even sold a few books. One teen even told me that she had just checked it out from her local library! So people are reading Edges, one reader at a time.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

One Reader at a Time

My family and I drove almost two hours to the famous indie bookstore R.J. Julia in Madison, CT last night to connect with the bookstore folks and fellow book lovers. And it was wonderful.

We had rescheduled my "appearance" from early January to the present because of a snowstorm, and I am so glad that it worked out that way. It gave the lovely Kaley S. DeGoursey, (kid and teen lit buyer and coordinator - pictured with me here!) a chance to listen to the audio of Edges and connect with me as a friend, even though we hadn't met face to face. She has become a huge champion for Edges, and a fierce Lexulous competitor - keeping me on my toes! 

The space is one of the most beautiful I've ever been in, with nooks, crannies, and discreet areas for reading. I felt so calm and centered just walking in!

Living life creatively means building community and connecting with others. We write for ourselves, yes, but we also write with a desire to share ourselves with others.

I write/blog not only to share my thoughts, but to build a community of other writers and readers. Of course I want my book(s) to sell, sell, sell, but for right now, I need to focus on one reader at a time.

Being a writer is really three jobs in one. There is the writing of course. But then there is the social networking which is constant, and the traveling to connect face to face with readers - and it's not always a crowd.

I'm new to all of this, and I'm just about to ramp down from a stint of putting-myself-out-there after tomorrow when we drive three hours to a Barnes and Noble in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to meet a friend and follower of this blog, Alison - just because she asked. It was the same when I went all the way to Virginia to connect with Kristi! (So if you want me to come to a bookstore in your neck of the woods, it can't hurt to give me a holler!)

We came extra early to the bookstore so that I could have some 1:1 face time with Kaley at the café, (while my family gorged themselves on books)  an internet friendship solidified by being able to look each other in the eyes.

Then we had a lovely, intimate reading and discussion of Edges and the writing process in a beautiful room where we were all able to sit around a large oval table. Two friends who I hadn't seen in five years came! And a woman came from afar having stumbled on this blog just the other week! Plus a few more . . .

And there were cupcakes! Kelly, another one of R.J. Julia's fabulous booksellers moderated the event, providing said cupcakes and books for me to sign. They even offer visiting authors a book of their choice! I'm like a kid in a candy store when it comes to that - so overwhelmed by choices - and the husband had already bought books for the kids to keep them entertained, so the new memoir by Andre Dubus 3 found it's way into my hands.

I'm connecting one reader at a time. It's real, and that's the way I like it!
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Writing: You Have to Be In-Love

Top ShelfImage by andyi via Flickr
Less than an hour ago I was worrying over word choice in a manuscript AND hoping that my kids are better by tomorrow when we drive 90 minutes to the illustrious R.J. Julia in Madison, CT in the evening for Edg-ification (Ha!) when my computer bleeped that I had ten minutes until a SKYPE visit with a classroom in Utah.

Yikes! I had completely forgotten! It was with a Novels and Publications class at The American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork and was my very first classroom visit! The class had very interesting questions, and had read the first chapter of Edges. It really hit home that writing a novel is one of the hardest things that I have ever done! You have to really be in-love with the process to do it.

Otherwise, you wouldn't do it, would you? I almost didn't, but here I am in my 40's, beckoning the call. What we love calls to us, but it doesn't mean that it's not soul-wrenchingly hard. If becoming real is a process for ourselves, shouldn't it be for our characters? And is there any writer out there who doesn't struggle with words? 

Speaking of which, I sent my manuscript to my agent on Monday. Usually, that makes me feel GREAT, but I felt . . . meh. After seven drafts, a fully realized baby is not in my hands anymore. There were parts of it, and Edges, that I didn't want to write but felt compelled to. The story drove me. Now it's just a waiting game. It's good enough. But will it be good enough for this competitive market?

I need to give myself permission to take a break from fiction writing for the next couple of weeks. I need to throw myself into other aspects of my life through April, other than "writer". Absence will make the heart grow fonder, (as long as I don't stay away too long), and I've got plenty to keep me busy with the business aspect of writing for now. I have a marathon of co-editing coming up for the Girls Write Now Anthology, "author" visits to RJ Julia tomorrow, and Barnes and Noble in Wilkes-Barre, PA on Saturday at 2PM. There's the kids' spring vacation to consider - I am a mom too, after all! And of course, Writopia.

Even when I'm not writing fiction, I am thinking and talking about writing, reading and teaching. Yes, I am in-love, even though the publishing biz can be a harsh mistress. And through all of that, we have each other, don't we? Our growing community of artists and writers, and those who love us! How are you all today? Let's have a virtual or a real coffee date. Who's in?
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Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Festival Re-Cap

It's Monday and my oldest son is home sick, and I am fighting off that same change-of-season illness. (Thou shalt not get me, little worm!) I am having trouble focusing on my fiction, so I thought I would look to my blog as a way to practice writing, even when things aren't exactly flowing. The lazy way out for me is to do a re-cap of the events on Saturday. (Last post was immediately written following the Gala on Friday night, where my Gran was inducted into the Hall of Fame! My short acceptance "speech" is here.) So, if you care to come along with me, here we go . . .

The Empire State Book Festival certainly was "a celebration of New York State Writers, Books and Literacy", yet I am surprised that I didn't get to meet more people! Everyone was on a tight schedule. I had reached out to another debut author, the engaging Danette Vigilante whose book The Trouble With a Half Moon  came out this January. I had sent her a message on Facebook, and in the weeks leading up to the festival, we tried to make sense of what we would be doing! Neither of us had any idea of what to expect, as we were slated to be in the Read-Aloud room as the only YA Authors.

Now I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures!

We found the festival in the gargantuan Convention Center, eager to hear Ann M Martin give her keynote speech. (I had met her briefly at the Gala.) I would be "busy" as an author myself from 11:45 until 1:45. We saved seats for friends Katie and Jerry Davis, who were there to promote their first collaborative picture book together, Little Chicken's Big Day.

At 10:45AM I went to hear my friend Deborah Heiligman and her BFF Laurie Halse Andersen (one of my own literary heroes) on a panel with Charles R. Smith, Jr, moderated by the fabulous Erika Halstead. I was dying to meet Laurie, but also incredibly nervous! So I gulped and ran up to her before the panel started and introduced myself. and . . . she exceeded my expectations! So lovely, gracious and present! Erika's questions were wonderful and the panel was engaging and flowed beautifully.

I went to the huge room where Read Alouds were taking place, and I had extremely low expectations, because I knew I would be reading with Picture Book Authors. I was even prepared not to read, as there was a small group of 2-5 year-old children, peppered with some grown ups and a couple of teens. The wonderful Bob Forbes read us his whimsical book Beastly Feasts. (I had hob-nobbed with Bob at the Gala and found him extremely charming - he reminded me of my cousin Francis Mason). Rita Gray followed him reading from The Wild, Little Horse and Liza Frenette read a chapter from her middle-grade novel.

I have to say that I gave the best dramatic reading of Edges ever, because the stakes were so low. I told everybody that the kids were fine, that they could draw and that there was nothing R-rated. Afterward, Rita and I sat next to each other at a "Meet and Greet" table, signing some books and talking to each other. It was a thrill when Kamy Wicoff, the founder of SheWrites (A Facebook-esque site for women of the writerly persuasion,  . . . or writers of the female persuasion?) introduced herself to me.

I would have liked to meet Julie Klam, a fellow Katonah-ite, but were event-ing at the same time.

At the end of the day, the husband and I cruised by indie wonder The Book House to see some friends (and sign some stock!), and talk about writing in and of this crazy world. On drive back, we stopped in Great Barrington, Massachusettes to have our 1:1 anniversary dinner together before reuniting with our kids!
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Friday, April 1, 2011

Madeleine L'Engle Inducted into the Empire State Hall of Fame!

Madeline L'EngleImage via Wikipedia
What a night! I was both excited and terrified as the husband and I got dressed and made our way over to The State Room in downtown Albany where the gala was being held. Cocktails (seltzer with a lime twist) was followed by the dinner, and a full program of events. (The State Room is also a Comedy Club and a popular wedding venue, so imagine, if you will, the high ceilings, the columns, the gorgeous hardwood floors.) The husband and I sat with some lovely folks, (including several tireless organizers of the festival) and we all applauded as we watched Pulitzer prize-winning poet John Ashbery, Willa Cather, Herman Melville, Ralph Ellison, Julia Deburgos, Dorothy Parker, Lorraine Hansberry, Paula Fox and Madeleine L'Engle be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Wait. Madeleine L'Engle was inducted in the middle of the program, and I accepted the award for her!

Here as promised, is the short speech I prepared this morning for this event. My hands were shaking and I spoke a little too fast, but I got through it. And I was SO PROUD and HONORED to do it!

I am thrilled to accept this honor on my grandmother’s behalf.

Madeleine L’Engle may have died three years ago, but we still find her influence both among other writers and fans. She would have loved this evening, as she always loved meeting people. She would have loved to be included in this group of literary luminaries of the past and present.

Thank you for recognizing not only her body of work, spanning 1944 through 2008 and 63 published books, but for who she was and what she gave the world as an artist. She modeled for both readers and other writers a passionate work ethic, dedicated to the need for story and its deeper truths.

Two books that came out in 1951 helped birth the modern YA genre: Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, and Camilla, by Madeleine L’Engle. Reviewers at the time compared Camilla as a female counterpoint to Holden Caulfield, yet Camilla didn’t become the icon that Holden did.

Still, my grandmother continued opening doors of perception in highlighting strong female protagonists. She always insisted that she was just writing what wanted to be written, but she managed to become subversive in how she was able to chip away at the female stereotypes often seen in literature through the early 1960s.

I often wonder where we would be now if in 1962 she she hadn’t given us Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time – a character who paved the way for so many girls to accept their passions, differences, and feelings. She gave us the permission to be the heroines of our own lives too.

During the 1950s, my grandmother had a difficult time getting each of her works published, until in 1962 she hit international renown with A Wrinkle in Time, which everybody knows very nearly didn’t get published at all. After 17 rejections, John Farrar of FSG was the one who took the chance on this book… a book even he didn’t think would sell very well.

Well . . . you all know what happened!

Madeleine would have wanted to meet all of you, to hold your hands and look you in the eye with her signature twinkle, and say thank you. Thank you for reading and loving her work. She wouldn’t be where she is today, in this Hall of Fame, without readers and their own imaginations.

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