{a gentleman and a scholar}

Ah, Mr. Peck, your memory is a blessing.

There are few people in the children’s lit industry whom I respected more. He was so active on behalf of his readers, and on behalf of we feckless new writers who were trying to break into the industry. I will always be grateful that I took one of his mini-writing courses at SCBWI years ago, and kept all the worksheets he handed out (He was ever an English teacher. He had a suggested reading list). I will always be grateful for the smiles he kept giving me, the encouraging twinkle in his eye, and even though I was my usual ridiculous self and mostly sputtered instead of speaking like A Reasonable Adult, he squeezed my shoulder and complimented my work. I hoarded his kind words like emeralds.

A true gentleman and a scholar. We will not see his like again.


Netherlands 2018 526

Now, if children’s lit would stop having things happen whilst I was vacationing, I’d appreciate that… I am having a Twitter recess and mostly read the news by titles in my blogroll that I dismiss. Nothing stops the news cycle, but it is an untold relief to be able to legitimately ignore it, though. Sorry, cannot engage, am on my holiday… (Why can’t I manage that when I’m at home?)

We’d PLANNED to go on somewhere in August, but here we are in the Netherlands for three weeks and some change right now. We found an apartment (up 39 spiral, attic-style stairs, thankyouverymuch; that was a joy with two hard-sided suitcases) and we’ve settled in the little city/big town of Delft as a base for our wanderings. Since it’s not tulip season, it was cheap to be here now; high season starts a bit later in the year.

Today’s plan is to run away from home and move here.

It is surprisingly balmy weather – warmer than at home in California – and we are enjoying ourselves in this land of bakeries and water and bicycles. It is an idyll I didn’t know I needed. Wish you were here, friends.

{remember when we thought we’d be throwing down a Tubman $20?}

And remember when this annoying man decided that wasn’t necessary? *sigh* I’m going to repub this blog post from 2016 because I LOVE Harriet Tubman, and our chamber group is singing the song Harriet Tubman for our concert this month, and we should remind ourselves of who she was, so we remember who we could be.


“Come with me if you want to live!”

harriet_tubman

Doesn’t that seem like what that cover says? The gun, the hand reaching back. The utter seriousness on her face. It’s the quintessential Terminator-style scene — a savior arrives, guns blazing, demanding exact obedience in return for leading the underdog to safety, and then melting away into the sunset. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat; it’s a story we’re practically demanded to love.

People who have looked at the paper money of other countries realize that American paper money loses points in the category of “interesting.” Not only does it hardly have any color but green, there are absolutely zero women on it of any shade. And now to discover that our first paper money woman (making sure to give Sacagawea her due) is to be African American, too? Wow. (Jury’s still out on how ridiculous it is that it won’t be for another twenty years, but xkcd said it best: C’mon, Treasury Dept.; this is a minor problem you could solve. Really.)

Ann Petry cover twenty

(Though I searched, I can’t give credit to the artist who put these two mediums together, but full props to them, and please let me know if you find them.) I was commenting that if the cover to the 2007 Ann Petry Harper Trophy book was made part of the design for our cash, we’d all hoard twenties, like the Sacagawea dollar coins got snapped up and mostly reside out of circulation. Tobias Bucknell tweeted back that he’d spend nothing but twenties. Which made me laugh. $.50 library fine? No, let me drop you a Tubman on that. No, no, a whole jar of change is fine. It’s fine…

Of course, not everyone is a fan of Harriet Tubman stepping out of history into contemporary life. People have been screeching that she was a METHODIST! (Oh, dear Lord, no! Not a religious person! We’re post-religious!), and that, additionally, she carried a pistol AND a sword. (ON HER PERSON! Whaaaaaaaat?)

Displayed at Florida A&M on loan from 5th generation of her family

Oddly, you’d think fans of history would know that there’s a lot of tradition surrounding religion in America; especially back in 1860, after all, as the country had only recently descended from Puritans who left England for what? Religious reasons, and five points to you. Ms. Tubman’s owners had been Methodists, and it was what she knew. Surely we cannot fault her for that. Also: many abolitionists before or during the Civil War were not necessarily pacifists (John Brown or Nat Turner, anyone?) and though she was a humanitarian, Harriet Tubman was also the soldier who was famously quoted as telling slaves who thought after their initial escape that they’d made a mistake and should turn back, “You’ll live free or die a slave.” The gun she carried at times (she was drawn carrying a sharpshooter rifle on posters by irate slaveowners demanding her return) certainly gave that statement some weight. While I doubt she was unsympathetic to their fear, she couldn’t allow anyone to give away the position of the rest of those who were going to keep running. She carried a gun not just to avoid capture herself – she had a $40k price on her own head (well, Araminta Ross did, which was her name as a slave; she changed it to Harriet Tubman herself), which was a megabillions fortune in those days – but to make sure her little train on the underground railroad didn’t leave the tracks or lose a passenger. 1,000+ slaves and she never blew her cover, never lost an escapee. That is nothing short of miraculous, you know. A short, middle-aged woman (she was 38-44 during the Civil War years) who couldn’t read or write and who’d had a severe head injury during slavery, and she managed all of that.

Her heroism merely showed
A dame adept and of strong will
(Rethought her planning on the fly,
Refused to cower or stand still.)
Intuiting through trap and maze,
Eluding landmines laid for leagues
Tenacious, and her cunning ways

Transfixed her charges through fatigue.
Undaunted ’til their fear broke through –
By balking some made to return – “If
Manumission’s not for you?
A bullet will ease your concerns.”
Nursed and cooked, too; soldiered, spied: “hero” the word, exemplified.

So, she was many things: nurse, cook, soldier, spy — and veteran who drew a pension after the Civil War. Many, many people don’t know that. She wasn’t just some nice lady with a lamp showing freed slaves the way from shackles. She also demoralized the Confederates, blew up their mines on the Cobahee River, served as a raid commander under Colonel James Montgomery, in concert with the African-American 2nd South Carolina regiment — and she carried on as if her color and gender were beside the point. Many people know a bit more about this story from Comedy Central’s “Drunk History.” It’s a neat little reenactment, but if you’ve not seen it, be warned: drunk narrative with swearing:

Despite the wandering, this is quite accurate, which means this lady knows her history stone cold sober. So should should we all.

{w r i t e}

Yesterday I said I’d share my unfinished fragment of a blog post sometime. Here it is:


[6.29.2017]

It’s both necessary and redemptive; as seductive as the lure of the whale, as obsessing as the chase, the need to conquer —

Write for the spaces between the words, for the air that buoys you like a rescue device, safety trapped between layers of subordinate clauses. ♦ Write toward the air and light, like a trapped miner digging toward safety, seeing the light filter at the end of the paragraph. ♦ Write deaf, like a sailor of Odysseus, ears defended against distractions beautiful and deadly, against the siren song of doubt. ♦ Write in darkness, thirsting for starlight, tracking your path like Galileo, defending your belief in the world the shape that it is.

~ ©2017

{lissa’s poem}

Occasionally I need to repeat something I said to myself. I wrote this the day after the 2016 election in response to Melissa Wiley’s poem, and I need to hear it again. Maybe you do, too.

tenacious

“the grit that vexed the oyster, formed the pearl,”
my mantra, this, as living shreds my plans;
“and still we rise” and rising, we unfurl

our battle standard, bloody in our hands.
in disillusioned pain; in shock and fear
our doubts, now kindled, conflagration fans,

what, from disaster? how, to persevere
when we’re defeated, running on exhaust?
from deepest pressure precious stones appear,

Hail Marys passed when better plays are lost
A root, determined, granite stone will split
Some harvests sweeten only after frost –

why claim “all is not lost,” like hypocrites?
we tried. we failed. regardless, we don’t quit.