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SUMMERTIME

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 06 May 2012
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The revival of Porgy and Bess has been nominated for a Tony; and that makes me think of the lovely song "Summertime"...and that makes me think of summer, which will be here soon; and of Maine, where I will go the end of this month. Maine is where I get the most work done. Of course I'll be entertaining company, and poking in my gardens, and cooking in my (newly renovated!) kitchen...but I will also be alone a lot, and it will be quiet, and my brain will be in Creative Mode.

I've just been in Minneapolis, where I attended The Giver opera, beautifully performed. And in a few days I leave for three self-indulgent days in London: an art exhibit (Lucien Freud), and the opera, and the theater.

But I am starting to pack for summer.

Tonight, at Lesley University, will be the annual (14th annual!) presentation of the Susan P. Bloom Award, which goes to a so-far unpublished New England writer of promise. Many of the recipients have gone on to successful publication and careers.  This year we selected two YA novels from the huge stack of submissions.  I usually am the one to make the certificates, and I try to incorporate some of the content. Here are this year's:

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Travel

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 24 April 2012
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Martin and I traveled a lot. I mean a really LOT. We went to Africa and Australia and Antarctica...and that is just the beginning of the alphabet.  We were once in northern Russia and once in northern Iceland and once in northern Finland and probably a lot of other northerns.  We were once in Fiji, wondering why there were no other tourists there...and it wasn't until we got home that we discovered that Fiji was in the middle of a revolution and the state department had told American tourists not to go there. Oh, well.  Nice to be on a  deserted beach!

Martin's back went out in Denmark and he found himself in a Copenhagen hospital getting a taste of socialized medicine...(an excellent taste; and no charge)  We were robbed in Nairobi. We bathed in a unisex public bath in rural Japan. We did a little of everything and enjoyed every minute (well, maybe not the getting-robbed part)

Then, last year, Martin was hospitalized in Boston and there came the morning when the staff members gathered around his bed. They had asked me to be present at this meeting so i was there as well when they told him that there was nothing more they could do and that his life was coming to an end.

After they went away, he and I sat there talking, and I commented on how fortunate we were, really, because we had done so much, enjoyed so much, and there was nothing left on a to-do list.

Martin had a very wry sense of humor. And that morning, despite the most depressing of circumstances, he grinned a little and then said, "I don't know about that. I always wanted to go to Patagonia."

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"This is your pilot speaking".....

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 18 April 2012
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...and what he said, as we sat on the runway in Punta Cana, was that we didn't have enough fuel to get to Newark, our destination.  Whaaa???!!  Wouldn't you think United Airlines would plan better?  He had to go to another destination in the Caribbean, to refuel, thereby jeopardizing the connections of many passengers, including us.

But we eventually got home, with memories of a lovely vacation (view from the hotel room):

 

....and now my German family has returned to Germany and my granddaughter back to the Gymnasium she attends.  Me, I ended up sick...I think from too much Airplane Air these last weeks...but revved and dosed myself up to head last Friday to Spokane for their annual quite spectacular GET LIT! festival.  Several days of workshops, panels, readings, etc...many, many things going on. I missed most, alas, holed up in my hotel room with a throbbing head and drippy nose.

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Dawn's early light

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 07 April 2012
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Photographers always love the early morning (and early evening) hours because of the light. You can see that here, taken this morning of my granddaughter at 6:30 AM.

We head home tomorrow...at least to MY home, in Massachusetts; then my German family heads back to Germany a few days later (after hitting the Mall one more time!)

A little more about writing a series (since I have been thinking about this topic, while starting on a  new series book)...it is important that the characters, who are familiar by now to the reader --- and the writer --- grow and change. Of course this varies according to the amount of time passing. The Gooney Bird books began in October and have gone month by month through a year of second grade. People don't change hugely month to month, though second graders of course are maturing and learning at a rapid pace. Felicia Ann was lisping because of missing front teeth in the early books; now her new teeth have grown in. Malcolm was having trouble adjusting to baby triplets in his family....he's a little more sanguine about them now. These are not major changes, of course,

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OLA!

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on Friday, 06 April 2012
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I am writing this from Punta Cana in the Dominican republic, where I have come for a few days of vacation with what I think of as my "German family"...my daughter-in-law (my son's widow), Margret; her partner, Jürgen; and my 18-year-old granddaughter, Nadine. If you live in Germany...which has had a hard winter this year...you really welcome a warm beach by April. And we have certainly found that here.

 

Here are Margret and Nadine at the beach yesterday. This morning Margret is by the pool; Nadine and Jürgen are off snorkeling; and me..I am at my laptop, and actually, amazingly, working! On a new Gooney Bird book...the month is March, now in her second grade classroom. I had not intended to work during this vacation...but the room is air conditioned..the weather is hot outside...I can only take so much sun....and it is quite comfy in here feeling slightly productive. Nadine is a good roommate...she reads instead of watching TV!...we realized this morning that we have not turned the TV on since we got here.

It is particularly fun to start a new book in a series because you already know the characters (though it is usually a good idea to introduce a new one, or two) and at its best it is like moving back in with a familiar family.  Then, of course, you have to set a plot in motion; that's what I have been doing this morning. And for the first time I am using a formatting program called "SCRIVENER"...this is a test run for me and I have not figured out all the ins and outs...but so far, I like it.

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Weird Babies

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on Thursday, 29 March 2012
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The production of THE GIVER in Chicago used a puppet as a baby; here is the puppet-baby with Jonas, played by Aaron Lawson and also the puppet-maker, Taylor Bibat. Usually the baby was wrapped in a  blanket and so the audience would only see a waving hand or nodding head; and the sound...whimpers, giggles.. was provided very effectively as well.

Nonetheless, at the end of the play, when the cast sat at the edge of the stage and took questions from the audience...a child asked: "Why did the baby look so weird?"

The puppet was head and shoulders above the limp doll often used by theaters but not as dazzling as the live baby used by the Kansas City Opera. But hey: you can't depend on a baby being as good as that one! The opera will be presented in Minnesota the end of  April but I don't know how they are dealing with Gabriel.

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"Chicago, Chicago..."

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on Sunday, 25 March 2012
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...I forget the next words. A toddlin' town? (And what does that mean?)

And here I am, though soon to leave. I flew in yesterday morning, attended the 4 PM performance of THE GIVER, and am about to fly home.

I have seen the play of THE GIVER performed in countless towns and cities, done by countless theaters; and each one is different. The words are always the same, of course. but the set design, the costumes, the directing, the casting and acting...makes each one unique.

Three years ago ADVENTURE STAGE produced the stage version of GOSSAMER and did a great job so I was not surprised that once again they put on a fine production. Here is the set:

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A Year Older

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on Friday, 23 March 2012
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I celebrated my 75th birthday in Bologna.

 

Here I am signing books at the International Book Fair itself, and on the table in front of me, pink and be-ribboned, is a birthday cake which later we sliced and shared.

Here are a few glimpses of the fair, which give an indication of its flavor but not of the magnitude...it occupies several football-field sized buildings.

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Arrivederci, Cambridge!

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 16 March 2012
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I am expecting my brother and his wife to arrive from Virginia today!  This is exciting . Last spring, when Martin died, Jon and Freda loaded up their car and headed here...along with Kuzo, their Macaw, who couldn't be left behind...and stayed the whole summer, both to keep me company but also to help me with  things that seemed at the time overwhelming. Then, in September, they disappeared again, the way magicians do.

And now upon hearing my schedule for this spring...Bologna, Chicago, Saskatchewan, Punta Cana, Spokane, Minneapolis....Jon announced: "We'll be there Friday."  I expect they are somewhere in Pennsylvania or New York as I write this.

This spring I am not so much overwhelmed as I am simply juggling.  Too many trips, too many commitments, too complicated logistics. Cat to neighbor. Dog to kennel. Me to airport. Tax stuff to accountant.  Etc. etc.  Once again my dear brother and sister-in-law will settle in and alleviate the stress.  I cannot thank them enough.

I leave tomorrow night for Munich, and from there to Bologna, arriving Sunday.  Here is a lovely party invitation:

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Maine Spring

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on Saturday, 10 March 2012
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I am in Maine for the second weekend in a row. Last weekend it was snowy and sleety and my car, even with its four-wheel-drive, slid on ice through a stop sign (luckily there was no traffic coming).  This weekend my meadow is bare of snow, the sun is shining, and it really seems as if spring is on the way.  I have a stepson arriving this afternoon who plans to ski in NH tomorrow; my fingers are crossed that the ski slopes are in good shape. I did see lights for night skiing over on our small mountain here last night. But it has been a generally bad winter for the ski areas.

With the snow melted away from the bottom of my barn I was able to go out (through mud) and assess the place where the porcupines were going in and out. Two years ago I had had wood latticework put across such openings, but there is a big chewed hole in the wood, and when I went out to look, Alfie slipped easily though the hole to investigate the dark underbelly, and I was awfully glad that my guy had trapped the porcupines a couple of weeks ago and transported them to a distant place. (though I'm told they make their way back to their origins, and I picture them waddling at night down my road, getting ever closer)

I found some wire mesh in the garage, a piece just big enough to cover the hole until I can have the whole thing re-done, and went out with a hammer and nails and nailed it up, but in the process...being a klutz...hammered one of my fingers, and this morning I have a purple, achy fingernail.

This is a view over my meadow during a previous spring; I'm guessing April. This would have been taken at dawn, because it is looking east over the lake.  Now here is the same view this morning (but not at dawn. The dog slept till 9 AM and therefore so did I!)

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CIAO

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on Saturday, 03 March 2012
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I've just had an email from my Italian publisher, whom I will see later this month in Bologna. They will be publishing my upcoming book, SON, in translation of course, after it comes out next fall. I don't know yet what its cover will be like in Italy, but here are the three preceding books in the quartet, and as you can see they are quite beautiful:

 

 

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The Other Lois

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on Wednesday, 29 February 2012
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Here I am (on the right) in Sarasota, Florida, last night, with (on the left) author Lois Duncan.  She and I have known each other for many, many years (and sometimes get each other's mail)—we call each other TOL (The Other Lois) but it is rare to have a chance to simply sit and talk for a while. So it was a treat to do that last night.

I don't know why this photo is oddly elongated. And I could in fact fool with it to try to repair that flaw. But I am too lazy. And maybe the distortion makes us look young and thin?

One of the things I most value about my work is the friends I have made through it.

Tonight I am back in Massachusetts, where it is snowing; and in Sarasota—where I just spent three days—it is undoubtedly still warm and breezy. I wish I could have stayed longer! But commitments call. A meeting with my contractor. A meeting with my tax person. A photographer coming to do a new book-jacket photo (elongated? Probably not, alas)  Dental things.     ad infinitum

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Loss of a Friend

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on Sunday, 19 February 2012
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I've just been notified of the death this morning, in Denmark, of my dear friend Annelise Platt.

Here I am about 18 years ago (where does time go?!) with Annelise in the middle, and on her left, Middy Thomas, who later illustrated the Gooney Bird books.

Annelise was born in Copenhagen and grew up there but she came to the USA when she married an American whom she had met in Scotland. "I thought he was a locksmith," she said once. "He said he had gone to Yale. I thought it was a school for locksmiths."

Actually, he was a lawyer; and eventually he was a law partner of my then husband, and she and I became very close friends. Our kids grew up together and were friends as well. We took care of Torben's iguanas and boa constrictors (and my cleaning lady quit, because it it) when the Platts were out of town.

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The Tax Stuff

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on Saturday, 18 February 2012
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I had set aside today to put my tax stuff together. This is a job I so dread that I do it in increments. Stages. Stage #1 is putting all the papers, 1099s, etc., together in a container---this year a canvas bag. This sits in my office for a while and I flinch each time I look at it. Stage #2 is moving the bag to a dining room chair, where I leave it for a few days; then Stage #3 is moving the stuff from the bag and putting it on the table. Then I have to walk past it frequently, and it is at that point that I choose a day., Today is the day.

But this morning I decided that I wanted to listen to Beethoven's Triple Concerto while I did the Tax Stuff. It took me a while to find it. When it began to play, I realized that I needed iced tea to sip while doing the Tax Stuff.

It took me a while to make iced tea.

When it was ready I went to the refrigerator to get a lemon to slice into my iced tea. While there, I discovered some blueberries that I had bought for blueberry pancakes when my grandsons were visiting recently. The pancakes had only used half of the blueberries so it suddenly seemed important to use the other half. I decided to look for a recipe that called for blueberries.

Then it seemed very important to important to organize my recipes. I was looking through things I had cut out of magazines and newspapers for years. How on earth can you find a recipe with blueberries when everything is smooshed together in a drawer? The recipes needed to be arranged in a notebook....and I had an empty one, actually. I decided, therefore, to go to Staples to buy a 3-hole punch and some dividers.

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Pace, pace, pace

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on Thursday, 16 February 2012
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I spent yesterday afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with a friend who, upon looking at this famous  John Singer Sargent painting of the Boit sisters, commented, "I am almost embarrassed that I love this painting."  I knew what she meant—that the painting is so famous, so well-loved, that it is almost a cliché, like a Hallmark commercial.  But what the heck. I love it too. For one thing, aside from the incredible composition, there is a great deal of mystery within it: the shadows, the turned-away girl. One could look at this painting for a very, very long time and come away still wondering (even if you read the recent book —the name of which I have sadly forgotten—about the Boit family and the unhappy lives of these four girls).

I spent four days last week in New York, always a treat (and I went three nights in a row to the theater). On Saturday afternoon was the very well-attended event honoring the 50th anniversary of the publication of A WRINKLE IN TIME.  Prior to the beginning of the event, Madeline L'Engle's granddaughter Charlotte (I'm sorry that I have forgotten her last name) gave each of the speakers a remarkable gift: a journal with the cover made from the fabric of the curtains from L'Engle's writing room.

 

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News from Iran

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on Sunday, 05 February 2012
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I just received the this news from Tehran:

Shortlisted nominees of children's books of the 29th edition of the Book of the Year of Iran including fiction, science and technology, religion and poetry are just announced.


Nominees:


A) Fiction – Translation


1. 'Gathering Blue' - Lois Lowry – trans. Keyvan Abidi Ashtyani


2. 'Grateful Yours' – Jane Buchanan – trans. Parvin Alipour


3. 'Story of Sultan' – Samira Shafiq – trans. Mojtaba Rahmandoust

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In Memory

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on Wednesday, 25 January 2012
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I went last evening with my friend Nancy to see "The Iron Lady." Nancy's wonderful husband John died of a brain tumor five years ago. I was with her, just the two of us, with him, the night that he died, and I have never forgotten what a privilege that was.

Much more recently, Nancy was an enormous source of help and advice during Martin's illness.

So there we were at the movie...which we both felt was a marvelous performance by Meryl Streep in a less-than-marvelous film...and suddenly there was a scene where the aged Margaret Thatcher finally sorts and discards her late husband's things. She puts his shoes, pair by pair, into a large green trash bag. Nancy and I both gasped. We had both done that.

Nancy spent the night at my house and this morning she was still there sipping coffee when my contractor, Sal, arrived. I had called Sal just yesterday to see if he could schedule some time to paint a room. I had been dismantling Martin's home office for some weeks. His big desk went to my house in Maine, where it replaced my much smaller one. His computer went to one of his sons. His keyboard went to my brother. Little by little things were sorted, somewhat like the shoes, and discarded or sent to a new home. So the room was nearly emptied and ready to be painted, and when I called Sal, he said he could come the next day...today. So I rushed to choose paint; and today, little by little, all traces of Martin's office, where he spent so many—mostly happy—hours composing music, have disappeared and it is re-emerging as a guest room.

Then this evening a UPS guy came to my door and delivered this package of pages. Literally pages...386 of them, to be exact; and times two...because there are two copies...makes 772.

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"I sucked badly..."

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on Monday, 23 January 2012
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One envisions a child failing to consume his lollypop with artistry and grace.

But no, this was quarterback Tom Brady, after the Patriots-Ravens game. One has to admire his forthrightness and honesty even while cringing at the grammar.

And despite his less-than-stellar performance, and the close score that left us with our nails gnawed, The Pats move on now to the Superbowl.

The ALA awards have been announced, and I am thrilled for Jack Gantos...practically my neighbor....and also for my very dear friend Ashley Bryan...as well as Chris Raschka...and my heart goes out to some others who were high on so many lists but just somehow failed to make the cut.  I cannot imagine the difficult job of the committee.  I was once a judge (with four others) for the National Book Awards and I remember how tough that was.

I also remember, with a warm blush of shame, an idiotic thing I did during that judging procedure. We five judges (me, Katherine Paterson, Michael Cart. Julius Lester, and Robert Lipsyte) all lived in different locations, not surprisingly. This was way back when computers were new-ish to most of us, and when I still used AOL for my email. I carefully created a group AOL address for my four colleagues...I think it was probably something like This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it each time I had finished reading maybe 10 books, I sent the group an email with my carefully-phrased opinions.  It was a little annoying after a while that they never replied. But we had several conference calls and so I had a chance to repeat the thoughts that I had already sent them.

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Still no snow...

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on Thursday, 19 January 2012
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...at least here in Cambridge, where I live. In Maine there is some, not much. and the ski areas must be wringing their collective hands (as is my gardener who says the gardens need snow cover)

But here are my grandsons, in Portland:

I remember many happy hours of sledding in the hilly college campus across the street from my childhood home, and much later I used that location, and those memories, in an autobiographical book called AUTUMN STREET.  And of course THE GIVER contains a sled (though the Chinese translation seems to think it is skis, and uses a skier on the cover of the book.)

I am home now from Kansas City (where indeed the final scene of the opera has a red sled on the stage) and revving up for the Patriots/Ravens game on Sunday....have given away my theater tickets and will stay home to watch the game instead.

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Everything's up to date....

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on Friday, 13 January 2012
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Yes, I am in Kansas City. I got here Monday (today is Friday) to watch final rehearsals of the opera "The Giver" and then to speak to the audience after each performance.

This, if I get it right, is a link to an article in the Kansas City Star:

http://www.kansascity.com/2012/01/11/3367828/new-opera-being-performed-in-kc.html

which explains that it was a joint commission for composer Susan Kander, from the Kansas City Lyric Opera and the Minnesota Opera Co.  It is being performed here this week...final performance, for the public, tomorrow afternoon (four performances so far have been for school kids, 900 each time, brought in by bus)    In late April it will be presented in Minneapolis (I'll go there then to see it again)

It has been a fascinating process to watch.  The Giver, and the parents, are all performed by adult professionals; the boy, Jonas, by a wonderful boy soprano; and the other child characters—Asher, Fiona, Lily—sung by actual children (and the baby, Gabe...no singing required!...played by a live baby who darn near steals the show by way of his cuteness and placid temperament.  There is also a chorus made up of kids from 8 to 18 who move the plot along the way an actual Greek chorus does, and who are well-trained by the music director.

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