Ach, Facebook


Confidential to Facebook:

TO: Facebook


RE: You

Facebook: you’re wearing me out. You’re making me re-live high school, which is at best unkind, at worst, deeply, deeply unwise. You’re making me have to think about people over whose memories I’d kicked enough dirt to render their names and faces one four-years-long blur. WHY are you bringing them up now?

It all seemed to be such a good idea at the time. Networking. Web bloody two-point-oh. Talking up my work, other people’s work, staying in touch with booksellers and librarians and teachers. And then, the first flung sheep came, followed by a myriad of pokes and SUPERpokes.

This is SO not me, Facebook.

Okay, so I limit the number of those squirrel applications, I outright ignore some fifty requests for bizarre actions (dancing food! pillow fights! movie quizzes!) and carefully agree to word games with selected people. And still the requests come, like battering waves against sandstone. And I FEEL GUILTY FOR SAYING NO.

YES. I am that dumb.

And now, a person from whom I haven’t heard a word in twenty years time has discovered me, and sent me a polite “remember me” and yes, I do, but unfortunately, I also remember me twenty years ago, and wouldn’t you guess it is that memory over which the most dirt has been kicked. To no avail.

Facebook, really: THANK YOU SO MUCH. I want to remember the geeky, awkward years. No, I do. Always.

So, of course I will friend this person, and each and every one of my high school classmates who seeks me out, every single person from summer camp, every random numpty with whom I ever had a pleasant nodding acquaintances. What else can I do? Facebook provides a whole new arena in which to reject people, and how can I be part of that? Thank you, Facebook: you’ve revived the ethical dilemmas which take me back straight to high school. And since I have nothing better to do than hear the minutiae of every single person’s life, and lift my cocoa to auld lang syne and all of that, I will gladly open the floodgates. I mean, what the heck, right? All these high school memories keep me young, right? Keep me in touch with the things that make great YA lit, right? It’s still all for my career, right?


Poetry Friday: The Music of Gratitude

In our family, we never wanted anything to end, so we made a… “rule.” It was your birthday until the cake was all gone. It was summer until you couldn’t wear your flip flops (sometimes summer lasted until November). It was Sunday until 1 a.m. Monday morning. It’s Thanksgiving until all the leftovers are finished.

So. Happy Thanksgiving, Part II, to many of you.

Today’s poster is a post-Thanksgiving PSA, brought to you by the WPA, whose artists were making sure the nation had nice bright teeth without cranberry skins in between them. SO. After you make that nice turkey omelette this morning, do brush. Thank you.

It’s still Thanksgiving weekend, time to give thanks for silliness. Entertain yourself by making a snowflake and enjoy today’s Poetry Friday selection.

Poem: “In memory of George Lewis, Great Jazzman” by Lou Lipsitz from Seeking the Hook: New & Selected Poems. Copyright © 1997 Signal Books.

In memory of George Lewis, Great Jazzman


Man is the animal that knows

the clarinet

     makes his living
on the docks, a stevedore,
110 lbs., carrying what loads
he can

the Depression comes along,
his teeth rot, no money, and
he has to accept silence


Thirteen years
     they put the instrument
back together
     with rubber bands
bought him

new teeth
     and then he began

Read the whole of this joyful celebration of music and life here. The final stanza is one I have read over and over again:


Alright. There is a frailness
in all our music.
Sometimes we’re broken
and it’s lost.
Sometimes we forget
for years it’s even in us, heads
filled with burdens and smoke.
And sometimes we’ve held
to it and it’s there,

waiting to break out
walking back from the end.

Poetry Friday dances on at Under the Covers.

Post #1000: Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve been watching the little blogger counter for the past couple of weeks and am amused to see it roll over to this — our one thousandth post! Yes, those are balloons flying past your head and confetti raining down. There are more things to celebrate: Mr. Aquafortis just got his sabbatical plans approved, to which we exclaim, “A whole year off?!” It will be a working year, but how very lovely! More confetti and more balloons, and copious sips of tea! (Yes, tea. Or, eggnog, if you prefer.)

And now back to business.

Did you know that the NY Times is serializing a new Gene Yang graphic in The Funny Pages? Check it out, it’s in .pdf form so you can save it to your desktop and read it when you have time. He’s already posted Chapter 2 of Prime Baby.

Mindy @ Propernoun has a really cool contribution to MotherReader’s original Book&Gift pairing (21 Ways to Give a Book) idea — a really cute picture book for the wee ones, and a felt sandwich. And cheese. No, really. It makes more sense at her site.

At The Reading Zone, this brave teacher uses Twilight and Midnight Sun as contrasting examples of point of view in writing. Brave teacher! Beguiled students! People learning! This is undeniably A Good Thing, and you all know how much I HEART Twilight. (Not.) Lesson plan included.

Whatever Blog reveals the ideas behind the book called Where Am I Wearing, by Kelsey Timmerman. Imagine this fascinating book paired with a compass — or one of those really neat etymologist’s atlases that make the whole world seem like Middle Earth.

Liz has a stupendous idea for gifts to shop for after this weekend — non-new books. (Of course, this leaves my book out, but it’s still a great idea.)

“Give something not published in 2008.

Give something that you loved, loved, loved, yet, somehow, was overlooked; something that did not get on any of the awards lists, but, in your humble opinion, should have been on those lists.”

I really like that idea. One tiny drawback of only reading a few of the same kidlit blogs is that I see the same books reviewed and loved and gushed about repeatedly. I tend to review more books that I get from the library than new ones, and I hope to continue that trend and encourage people to beef up the backlist and get the word out about books that are super special. Add to the suggestions for more non-2008 books.

Mitali is giving away books — to those whose Thankfuls can be traced to specific person or events in the past. Where would your family tree have stopped if not for… ? Check it out.

In the mood to choke with horrified and disbelieving laughter and be grateful that YA doesn’t need to include too many sex scenes? the Bad Sex Awards are up. Be afraid.

The Baltimore Sun newspaper carried a piece by a woman whose Thanksgiving traditions never included sweet potato or pumpkin, but carrot soufflé. Today’s pre-Thanksgiving task is to figure out how to modify it in pie form, since it’s about three degrees in my house and it’s warmer with the oven on.

And then I will get back to procrastinating on this WIP.

I so enjoyed reading the Thankfuls at the 7-Imps; it was like a middle-of-the-week kicks break. I have to agree, I’m grateful for the tight embrace of the YA/kidslit blogosphere, which gives me somewhere to go and someone to talk to when writing novels alone is too lonely (and baffling) — and generally something to laugh at. Happy Thousandth Post to us, and Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Writing the Story, Stirring the Pot

A lot of people in the industry are scared right now–things look bleak. If you’re pushing through NaNoWriMo or that draft on deadline or beginning a new project, you may be at that part of the process where you’re feeling exhausted–or scared to begin. Writer fatigue and fear are hard to combat in the face of a lot of bad news, and especially hard to slug it out when it looks like the possibility of selling is dwindling to nothing.

And this, ironically, is when we need story the most.

You must now GO and read this entire piece, and be comforted and cheered and energized. Go, now. We’ll wait. (Grateful hat tip to Buzz, Balls & Hype.)

Helen Hemphill is at the Tollbooth talking about gender and voice. This is a tricky, tricky one for many writers — we have discussion on a.) whether or not men and women really sound alike, b.) what does it mean to “sound male,” (and is it like “sounding black?”) c.) how do we construct a character who is satisfyingly and authentically male, if we are females. Most of the audience at any given YA/ children’s lit writing conference is female, so… it’s a good question, isn’t it? Stay tuned with Helen throughout this week.

Amy June Bates quite possibly illustrates some of the best reasons to read children’s books — her work sort of whispers “classic” and boy don’t her pictures make the words look good? She’s having breakfast at the 7-Imps.

All of these things will cheer you up and engage your mind. Go, read.

I’m having Thanksgiving homesickness like whoa and wow, because for our family THIS is the holiday, not Christmas, not New Year’s. We loves us some Thanksgiving! Every year at this time I take the Chronicle and cut out all the great recipes from the food section, and figure out which ones I’m going to try. My eldest sister and I reenact The Other Great War (aka the yearly Monopoly beatdown) and basically we all hang around with my parents and get on each other’s nerves for hours on end, which is really rare for us.

A lot of that has changed since my other sister got married and I… kind of left the country. The usual untraditional tradition of making the younger sibs run around to the neighbors with plates of cookies or whatever we’re baking would make the neighbors here… look at me very oddly indeed. I haven’t made a turkey-out-of-a-traced-hand to put on my front door so as not to worry them (“What’s that then, pet? A wee birdie?”)(And seriously: the postman calls me “pet,” and “lamb.” I… don’t know if I’m complimented. A woolly animal or one you put on a leash??), but to assuage my homesickness, I have investigated what would be on the table at Plimoth Rock this week, and in my free time, I’m going to make it.

Today’s dish is — Corn pudding!

This is definitely an East Coast thing I’ve only ever heard of from friends — no one I knew had it growing up, and my poor Southern parents would be sort of traumatized by cooking grits with sugar (!), but this is the recipe:

Indian Corn Pudding, Modern Version
6 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups coarse grits
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)
Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the salt and the coarse grits, stirring until the contents of the pot return to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and cook very gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Be sure to stir across the bottom of the pot to keep the grits from sticking. Remove from the heat and allow to stand about 30 minutes or until the grits are tender. Stir in the milk and sugar. Variation – To make a more deluxe version you can use cream in place of milk, add sweet spices to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves or ginger) and 1/2 cup of currants or raisins.

It apparently would have reminded the Pilgrims of frumenty which is sort of a thick wheat porridge made with spices and sugar and almond milk, and served with venison and mutton. I’m going to have to substitute, I think.

Corn pudding wasn’t dessert, incidentally, as the Pilgrims at sweet and savory dishes at the same time. This to me indicates that I can eat this first, and be Thankful that sweet potatoes, pumpkins and SUGAR were eventually discovered in the New World. THAT’s what I’m thankful for today. Dessert first.

Lazy Sunday?

I wish I could show you the stack of paper I’ve been wrestling with for the past nine and a half hours. I never realized how much a book over three hundred pages (356, really) could weigh — how the drifts of white pages could get out of order so easily, how the wicked edges could either rip or give me paper cuts — but I can’t whine anymore, it’s done, done, done. Final proofreading of the loose pages of my manuscript is FINISHED.

I now need cake and a massage, not necessarily in that order.
Sadly, I would have to make the cake first. Sigh.

Hope someone is having a lazy Sunday for me!

Crazy Talk: The First Reformed Unitarian …Jihad

No Unitarians – or Jihadists – were maligned in the writing of this blog post

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for “balance” by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

Okay, this is just fun time-wasting, but it makes me laugh and laugh. Which really worries the neighbors, because I’m in here by myself. But I digress.

A few years ago, my favorite columnist wrote a piece in the paper about some craziness he’d received in a spam mailer. Of course, it wasn’t from a spam mailer, it was pure Carroll insanity, but it started some silly person thinking. And because of this, we now have The First Reformed Unitarian Jihad Name Generator. They’ve been around for a long, long time, but I was recently reminded of them, and went to make sure they still knew my name.

They do.


Sister Divine Straight Razor of Mindful Prudence

Poetry Friday: Not Simply Silliness

Edward Lear was just a little bit insane, as many painter-poets seem to be (Lewis Carroll, anyone? Dr. Seuss?). Lit theorists point out that he was an “absurdist” partially in self-defense; his father was sent to debtor’s prison when he was only thirteen, and he was forced after that to get a job to support himself. His paintings begin to sell well by the time he was fifteen, and he was saved financially, but at the price of drastically altering his life.

Maybe it was because Victorian society was so rigid that Lear continued in his quest for silliness, maybe because his first book was published for the grandchildren of his patron, or perhaps it was because he was making up for having to grow up against his will… no one can say. Still, despite the fact that many of Lear’s poems are judged to be for children, and The Owl and the Pussycat is smilingly referred to as “light verse,” there always seems to be a couplet or two that makes sense. A little. You just have to squint and tilt your head sideways…

Cold Are the Crabs That Crawl On Yonder Hills

Cold are the crabs that crawl on yonder hills
Colder the cucumbers that grow beneath,
And colder still the brazen chops that wreathe
The tedious gloom of philosophic pills!
For when the tardy gloom of nectar fills
The ample bowls of demons and of men,
There lurks the feeble mouse, the homely hen,
And there the porcupine with all her quills.
Yet much remains — to weave a solemn strain
That lingering sadly — slowly dies away,
Daily departing with departing day.
A pea green gamut on a distant plain
Where wily walrusses in congress meet–
Such such is life–

– Edward Lear, from Teapots and Quails,
Davidson and Hofer © 1953, p. 63.

This poem was published posthumously, so we can only assume that brazen has, in this context, its original meaning, that of “made of brass,” and that chops are jaws. That still doesn’t make much sense of the poem; my only amusement is in agreeing that a.) crabs and cucumbers are cold, and b.) “such such is life.” It’s a little anti-climactic — and fatalistic, but true.

This one amused me, since it seems to be about politics:

When “Grand Old Men” Persist in Folly

When “Grand old men” persist in folly
In slaughtering men and chopping trees,
What art can soothe the melancholy
Of those whom futile “statesmen” teaze?

The only way their wrath to cover
To let mankind know who’s to blame-o–
Is first to rush by train to Dover
And then straight onward to Sanremo.

— from The Complete Nonsense Book,
edited by Lady Strachey © 1912, p. 428.

Politics bites; go on vacation. I can get behind that.

I wonder how many ministers found this one un amusing:

It Is A Virtue In Ingenuous Youth

It is a virtue in ingenuous youth,
To leave off lying and return to truth,
For well it’s known that all religious morals
Are caused by Bass’s Ale and South Atlantic Corals.

— from The Complete Nonsense Book,
edited by Lady Strachey, © 1912, p. 428.

So… exactly what is the “truth,” here?

Poetry Friday today is hosted over at Holly’s Brimstone Soup. Those of you who are poetically inclined are also invited to check out the Winter Blog Blast Tour and peruse author interviews with the funny and talented Nebula-finalist Elizabeth Wein Gatland, the affable author-illustrator D.M. Cornish, the inestimable Tobin Anderson, aka M.T., and YA newcomer and awesome stay-at-home Dad, Dave Anderson. There are tons more interviews with brilliant, funny, self-deprecating on tap for today. Consider:

An intense interview with Mayra Lazara Dole @ Chasing Ray
The file of things other people think Francis O’Roark Dowell should write @ Fuse Number 8 @ SLJ,
The Lear-esque poet, J. Patrick Lewis @ Writing and Ruminating
Your spinach laden teeth, with Wendy Mass @ Hip Writer Mama
A travel imagination with Lisa Ann Sandell @ Bildungsroman
Shopping, fear, breast-feeding, anxiety, & phone sex– or not — with Caroline Hickey/Sara Lewis Holmes @ Mother Reader
Chat with dog-loving, non-pirate A.S. King @ Bookshelves of Doom, and
visit the superbly gifted Emily Wing Smith at Interactive Reader

And don’t be afraid that if you don’t read these interviews this minute, they’ll vanish. Chasing Ray is keeping all the links right here.

The Sharing Song

Maybe you don’t remember learning this song when you were two years old and still malleable to the idea of not hoarding every toy in the toybox, but obviously, these guys remembered.

I have a ___, and I am glad, you have no ____, and that’s too bad;
I’ll share my ____, for I love you, and now you have a nice _____, too.

We have Obama, and we are glad…

We promise to share.

And just to sneak this in…

Y’know, Blog Blast Tours rock! It is so much fun to have an excuse to peruse blogs and read author interviews first thing every day for as long as we like!

We’re all busy celebrating books this week, but I don’t want this celebration to sneak past: Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris IS OUT. Not one, but two starred reviews, and the School Library Journal invoked the sacred name of Indiana Jones! Whoo!

Congratulations, Robin LaFevers, whose fabulous presence graced us during the Summer Blog Blast Tour this past May.

Of The Serpents of Chaos we said, “It’s a novel with mystery, magic, adventure, sinister villains, cool Egyptian artifacts, a moody Victorian London setting, cool cover art and—perhaps most important—an inquisitive and indomitable heroine.”

We can’t wait to talk about Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. Tibi Gratulamur! Cheers!