Lois Lowry's Blog
...and I don't have a clue where that phrase came from. Going haywire? What does it mean?
But it came to my mind Wenesday ngiht, when...almost simultaneously...a dental implant fell out. Because of a snowstorm the power went off. And..unrelated to the power outage..my email program failed...can't send, can't receive.
Is it fair for everythng to happen...ah, to go haywire...all at once? Maybe it's easier. Instead of three separate meltdowns, you have only one.
Now, the day after Thanksgiving, I am planning to head south on Monday to connect with the dentist, who is in Massachsetts. The power is back on, thank goodness...it returned yesterday morning in time to cook dinner for a friend who is visiting. And I am waiting now for a phone call from my computer guru, who over the years has managed to fix every computer disaster and I hope will be able to restore my email capacity. Then the world will seem okay again.
And in the meantime, with no email, I am sitting here at the computer and will turn my attention to work which awaits...and without the distraction of those always ongoing communications. Perhaps this is even a good thing....
I got back late last ngiht from Savannah, Georgia, where I had spent all day yesterday at the outdoor Savannah Book Festival. Savannah is a gorgeous city which I have not visited often enough, so I had been happy to accept that invitation. But who knew that the internet weather forecast would lie as profoundly as it did when it said the day of the festival would be 75 degrees? I loved heading toward that forecast when I left my Maine home in snow on Friday morning...heading south, smugly taking with me a cotton sweater and a lightweight jacket. OMG, I was cold in Savannah!!!! As was the audience, whom I had to try to entertain during two different one-hour events. Me on a wooden platform, shivering, they unable to sit on the grass as planned...instead, standing, hands in armpits, attentive but miserable. Then two hours of sitting at a table, signing books...my hands went numb. Temperature? I'm guessing 48? The warmth of the people involved...festival organizers, volunteers, and attendees ALMOST made up for it. And Savannah, dear beautoful city, I do hope to see you again, but please, on a warmer dayi
Several things warmed me mightily when i got home. The cat, left alone, was very happy to have me back. And the dog, when I picked him up from the kennel this morning, was friskily delighted to come home. The NY Times crossword puzzle was fairly easy today, and fun. I still had some homemade chiucken soup in the fridge and have just made my lunch from it. And in the waiting mail was a book that is making my day and will make my month and year. It is a new collection of poems..."Splitting an Order" by Ted Kooser, Nebraska poet, former US poet laureate.
I love his work. I have met him only once, at a dinner in Nebraska where I was the speaker and he was in the audience, and it was one of those ignominious times when one's Power Point doesn't work. He was gentle and forgiving of that, and later sent me a book of his poems, and I sent him a thank you note, but he would remember neither that nor me and it doesn't matter.
Kooser collects the tiny quotidian details of life and then presents them in a way that both heightens your own awareness and also creates a significance, a greater and more unversal context. A poem called "Swinging frm Parents" describes a child between mother and father, swinging from their hands—and it so brilliantly creates both the present and the future of the child..I wish I could copy the whole poem here but it would violate copyright law. Go buy the book.
That particluar poem followed immediately after the one called "Bad News" which sent an ice pick into my gut with its familiarity. The familiarity of the phone call that comes in the night..."In the flare of the light you've snapped on"...and brings the news that is "thrown over your shoulders like a threadbare robe."...most of us have experienced such a call. It is oddly comforting to be reminded of that; he shapes it into a familiar form....
I have always loved the writing of Donald Hall and his late wife, Jane Kenyon. My daughter read a Kenyon poem ("Let Evening Come") at Martin's memorial service. Now I have just received in the mail, from its publisher, Donald Hall's new book, with an eerily reminiscent photograph. No, this is not Carl Nelson, whom I photographed years ago and who still appears on the cover of THE GIVER (unless you have the movie tie-in edition, where Jeff Bridges appears). This is Donald Hall. But there is something about a lined, craggy face with piercing, somewhat sad eyes and an unkempt beard that makes one think that all the wisdom in the world is housed therein. I think I have a book with a similar cover photo of Robertson Davies someplace.
(When I had photographed Carl Nelson and was in the process of developing and printing the photos, one was floating in my darkroom sink when my teenage son walked by, glanced at it, and said, "Who's that? Moses?" I told Carl that when I sent him some copies of the potographs, and thereafter he always signed his letters to me: "Love, Moses.")
I've never met Donald Hall. But a good photograph makes you feel, almost, as if you do know the person. I'm sure that reading his essays will compound that feeling. And though I hope and assume he is in good health with many years of writing still ahead, I cna't help thinking that the title of his photo should be his wife's words: Let evening come....
Once again I start out with an apology. Time just whizzes past, doesn't it? And as usual I have been on the road.
First of all: New York, for the Symphony Space celebration of the 20th anniversary of the publication of NUMBER THE STARS (too many "of"s in that sentence, I know) Crowded theater, lots of kids. And a wonderful moderator..or maybe she would be called interviewer...Lauren Oliver, who sat with me on stage and asked great questions. Also, a special treat: actor Sean Astin, who owns the film rights to NTS and is very passionate about the book. He read a selection and then answered questions about a posisble film. Like all such undertakings, it requires big $$$$ and so far that has not been forthcoing, though Sean's enthusiasm and passion...and smarts...could bring it about. Let's hope. Here I am with Sean:
After New York, I went to Clarksdale, Mississippi to speak at their public library as part of a lecture series. The only time I have ever been in the part of Mississippi they call "The Delta"...known for its blues...and unfortunately I was not there long enough to savor the music but I did have some good food and met some terrific poeple....
Again, apologies for Neglect of the Blog. There should be a governmental agency that handles such crimes as Blog Nelglect. Maybe they would remove the Blog from my keeping and give it to Foster Bloggers?
But: hey. The movie stuff became entirely too much for one human. Last time I posted anything, I had been to Las Vegas and was about to go to San Diego. I did so. After that I went to LA...where in one day I did 72...count 'em...yes, 72 interviews of four minutes each, back to back. And then to NY, where I did the Charlie Rose show, the Colbert Report, and a bunch of other stuff, and also attended the movie premiere, actually donning my slutty shoes and walking on a red carpet with Meryl Streep and Taylor Swift and others.
Here I am, on that occasion....
Yes, I have been busy. No, I don't fritter away my time reading junk novels and eating bon-bons. I actually have been finishing up a project (foreword to a British book being re-published) and doing a number of interviews, and have also been going back and forth on movie-related trips (next week, San Diego)
But this afternoon I took a break and went to Netflix Streaming on my computer and watched a sweet little movie called "Last Love." Beautifully photographed. Well acted by Michael Caine as an aging American professor living in Paris and mourning his dead wife. One irritating glitch..the kind of thing no one notices except nitpickers like me...he says quite clearly early in the film that he lives in St. Germain, and indeed the neighborhood around his building LOOKS like St. Germain....but in one scene which purports to be looking toward his apartment, the camera is clearly on the Right Bank. Oh well.
But here's the thing: I fell victim, very early on, to Real Estate Lust. I want that apartment, the one where Michael Caine lives his lonely, sad life. I have several times rented flats in Paris. But the one I want is HIS.
And then, the longer I lusted after it, the more it began to look familar.
And here's why. I think it is the same Paris apartment that I lusted after while watching a different movie: the 2013 movie AMOUR....
Yes, it is true, I have been negecting this blog shamefully, and wiht not excuses, just explanations. Movie stuff! I have been to NYC, seen an early private screening, then joined with others* to try to re-write the final voiceover which has been a challenge...to say so much, in such limited time, I have watched and re-watched those final minutes (seconds, actually), trying to fit in not only what needs saying, but the saying of it with some intelligence and accuracy and lyricism. *I write, they tweak. They rewrite, I tweak. Words comes down from On High: make it a) edgier, b) tighter, c) ...whatever More re-writing, more tweaking. There are test screenings, and audiences fill out cards saying..I don't know what (I don't get to see)...not edgy enough; or: I don't understand it; or: why isn't he...or: LOVE IT; or: WONDERFUL. Then it is back to the drawing board, or the computer, the teeth-gnashing, the arguing, the...and eventually (but not quite yet!) a final film emerges.
*This is so different from writing a book, which one does all alone!
This weekend I head to Las Vegas (where I am told it is 108 degrees (REALLY folks?) and Jeff Bridges will join me for an interview in front of a large audience of librarians at the ALA convention. It will NOT be a replay of the "where do you get your ideas?" back-and-forth but rather a provocative and stimulating array of Qs from ALA's president. Jeff and I are pretty much on the same page but I think we will have an interesting spectrum of answers, each of us drawing on our own backgrounds.
So I have come down from the farm, in order to make my way to Boston to catch my plane to LV, and am now at my year-round home in Falmouth; and last night I got to have dinner wiht my teo grandsons. One of them at 15 taking Drivers' Ed this summer! The other, 13, heading off soon to my alma mater, Brown University, for some serious pre-college science study. "You will be surrounded by nerds," I todl him. "Those are my people," he replied.
In the meantime, I am caught in a quagmire of USPS disasters. I arranged (or so I thought) to have my mail forwarded, starting the beginning of June, from Falmouth, Maine to Bridgton, Maine, where I spend the summers. It is today June 26th and I have yet to get any mail at either place. I have been to both post offices. I have made countless phone calls. I have left my lament on many voice mails. Nothing. Somewhere, I am certain, there is a stack, a pile, a mountain of mail addressed to me. I picture it heaped in a dusty corner of a post office, on the floor, where passing mail carriers kick at it and mutter....
If you send me a letter and want a reply...or if you send me a book to be signed and returned to you...
I NEED YOUR FULL NAME AND AN ADDRESS!!!!
(and in the case of a book, I'd appreciate return postage as well)
I am not certain if "Synchroncity" is the correct word. But I am thinking of the circumstances when quite unexpectedly something happens at exactly the right time. Such as now.
A few minutes ago I went into the living room to the part of the bookcase where I had some travel books stored. When I moved, and downsized, I threw away (actually, donated) a number of travel books having to do with places that I had visited but would likely never visit again: Antarctica, Iceland, Sumatra, Lichtenstein (yes, really), etc... But I had kept things like guidebooks and maps of places I would be returning to: Paris. London. I went looking on that shelf this afternoon because I am going to New York the day after tomorrow and thought I might have a NYC subway map. Turned out I didn't; not a big deal, because I know New York well and can make my way around easily without a tourist map. But as I sat there by the bookcase, I saw a book that I didn't really remember: FOR YOUR EYE ALONE: The Collected Letters of Robertson Davies.
Davies, Canadian man of letters whom I greatly admired, died in 1995. This book was published in 1999, and I very likely bought it then—and read it then—fifteen years ago. As you can see, there are still some markers, placed by me, in its pages. Since I had little memory of the content, I was curious to see what I had noted in the book. To my amusement, I had...for reasons long forgotten..marked this passage:
This autumn I went to Washington and did a reading at the Library of Congress.It went very well and they treated me royally. Then I went to New York Uiversity, where I found to my dismay that they were using me (without having said anything to me about it) as a means of begging for money... Their standard of hospitality was certainly not that of the Lib. of Congress; I spoke in a very strange room where the light on the lectern was broken, so that, for seventy minutes, I had to hold it aloft over my MS, like the Statue of Liberty....
I realize I have not posted a blog entry for a month. Time has gotten away from me yet again, and in the past month I have been to Tucson (Tucson Book Festival...fabulous) and to Charlottesville (Virginia Festival of the Book...also fabulous), to Cambridge, MA twice (dentist. And again dentist. Not so fabulous) and now am headed off again...New York this week, just for a day, to peek in at the work on The Giver movie; then Salt Lake City, where everyone in the county has been reading The Giver (and I'll be able to show them a brief clip); and after SLC I head to Germany, to see my daughter in law and granddaughter for the first time in almost a year.
It begins to look as if spring MIGHT come after all, putting an end to this worse-than-horrible winter. The snow in my yard is almost melted..just patches left in the shady places. (And at the farm....a mountain still in the driveway, where it was piled probably 15 feet high. There was more snow there....it is in ski country....and it was colder)
Here is a picture from CHarlottesville of me with author Kathryn Erskine. It is always one of the things I enjoy most about such festivals...the chance to see old friends (in Tucson it was Janet Tashjian and Alice Hoffman) and to make new ones, as with Kathy here, whom I had not met before.
Taxes. Blizzards. Airports. these are the things that have been obssessing me for about six weeks. Every year I have to put together my tax informaton for my accountant; what's the big deal? I've done it for years. I am self-employed, so I have to organize all those receipts and document that yes, I did have lunch in the Houston Airport on my way to a conference; and yes, I did need to buy a new ream of computer paper at Staples, and yes, yes, yes... Nothing much changes, years to year, except the dental bills, which have grown and grown. And I don't cheat, or even try to find ways to ferret out extra deductions. So I should be used to it, and relaxed about it, but I am not; and I don't know why, each year, I whine and mutter and procrastinate.
But now I have completed the tax stuff, and mailed it to the accountant, so maybe I will stop having the dream about the final exam for which i haven't prepared..at least until next February.
But then there is the endless snow and bitter cold which this year has made Maine feel like Siberia...and has also complicated travel. I got hung up in Houston during an ice storm (yes, IRS, I had to eat lunch in the Houston Arport). And then my plane out of Madison was cancelled and I had to take a bus to Chicago (yes, IRS, $30 for bus fare: tax deductible); and then a week or so later my plane out of Sarasota was cancelled; and now I am suposed to go to Tucson next Friday and already...ALREADY!...the weather guys on TV are making sounds about a snowstorm....a Nor'easter they are calling it, because TV weather guys love to use that term....late next week. Can this be true? In March..the very month of my first-day-of-spring birthday??? Of course it can. It happens, at least in New Engand, every March.
In any case I am hoping to get to the Tucson Book Festival, where I am to speak next weekend, and where I will also see a lot of old friends. And then later in March: the Virginia Festival of the Book, in Charlottesville, where I wil get to see my brother, sister-in-law, their daughter and three grandchilden.
Unless, of course, my travel is once again disrupted by snow....
Today, once again, we in Maine are snowbound. 10 inches, they predict. But this time I have no plane to catch...only a theater ticket for tongiht, and the play will probably be re-scheduled. So I am cozily at home, with a fridge full of food; and I decided to use this unexpected time to deal wiht a negected project.
No, not a book manuscript, though that is also on the agenda.
This is: knitting. I used to knit a lot. Then I got a kitten and knitting became a lost cause. You simply can't knit with a kitten in the house. So I tucked it all away, and when I moved last spring, I moved several tote bags filled with yarn, knitting paraphernalia, and some half-done projects. I put them in a closet in my new house. And there they have sat until today, when I decided to sort through them and organize them and re-identify myself as a knitter.
There were a lot of quandries...one third of a baby blanket? Half a hat? Part of a mitten? quandries. Most of those things got tossed out.
And then there were things like this:...
This is a glimpse of part of the University of Redlands (with mountains beyond) east of LA, where I spent the weekend at the annual...and always wonderful..Charlotte Huck Festival. Getting there was iffy as I dodged a snowstorm in New England, but managed to fly out of Boston...directly into an ice storm in Houston, where I was changing planes. So it was a long and anxiety-filled day (the announcement you don't wnat to hear in an airport: We will be bringing in cots for those of you...) I think my plane was the last to leave Houston before they cancelled the rest of the flights (and isn't it amazing how willingly we climb onto a piece of aluminum in order to hurtle into wind and ice, rather than sleep on a cot by the closed Starbucks entrance?)
Other speakersat Redlands incuded old freind Janet Tashjian; Paul Janeszco, a near neighbor in Maine (so we were both appreciating California weather); Eric Rohmann, who did a wonderful job several years ago illustrating "Bless This Mouse"; David Weisner, who was to learn the day after the festival that his "Mr. Wuffles" was a Caldecott Honor; Candace Fleming (who in my opinion should have had a Newbery by now, but the committees who make those decisions seem too often to veer away from non-fiction; and Eugene Yelchin, author of "Stalin's Nose," whom I had not met before. One of the best parts of these festivals and conferences is always the time with colleagues whom you don't see very often, or, like Eugene, you are meeting for the first time.
On coming home I discovered that a newspaper out there had printed an article about my speech in which things that I had not said were inserted. They were fabricated on the part of the reporter for reasons I cannot begin to understand. So I spent a lot of time muttering and complaining, then apologizing to the people who might have been hurt by what I was alleged to have said, and then contacting the newspaper, from whom I have had no reply. Time to get over it and move on....
After the Oscar nominations were announced this week, my son, a lawyer with a sense of humor (are those two things mutually exclusive? Not necessarily) sent me this:
January 16, 2015
“The Giver”, based upon the much beloved young adult novel written by media darling Lois Lowry, carried the day as the Academy Award nominations were announced in Hollywood. The film, which has surpassed 2009’s “Avatar” as the highest grossing film of all-time, received 12 Oscar nods, including best picture, best actor for Jeff Bridges, who thrilled audiences in the title role, and best director for Phillip Noyce, who has called the film his “crowning achievement.” At last week’s Golden Globes, “The Giver” swept the night with 9 awards being handed out.
Lowry, reached at her home in Maine, told a throng of reporters with a grin, “I guess this is what happens when you have a son like mine”, clearly referencing the sudden rise to stardom of her son Ben, who has been signed by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and Walden Media to star in a series of upcoming thrillers.
Ha ha. Thanks, Ben.
The final scene of THE GIVER is to be shot in Utah at the end of this month (it needed snow, and hills; Utah has both). Then the hard post-producton work begins.
I do have movies to see, now that the nominations are in. I went to American Hustle recently, confusing it stupidly with Wolf of Wall Street, and kept waiting for Leonardo DiCaprio to appear, and the explicit sex which reviews had mentioned. Took me a while to perceive that I was at a different (and quite wonderful) movie....
This is the kind of thing one doesn't want to read in the forecast:
Cloudy. Snow in the morning. Areas of blowing snow in the morning. Additional light snow accumulation. Highs around 9 above. North winds 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph. Chance of snow 80 percent. Wind chill values as low as 27 below.
But there it is. The party I was to attend Friday night has been canceled becuase it is inland, 35 miles west, and the forecast there is even worse.
It is Maine. It is what it is.
I have neglected "work"...that is to say, writing....in recent weeks, first because of movie stuff, then travel, then Christmas. But now I am going to be housebound because of the weather for a few days, at least, and I am planing to revisit the manuscript in progress that has been unopened in too long. Usually when I have neglected work in progress for a while, it turns out to be a good thing; my subconscious, it seems, has been at work on it and maybe my conscious brain needed the break. So I am hoping that is true this time....
A terrible blow. My subscription to the NY Times has become irrevocably screwed up, and now I get no newspaper delivered, and finally I have gotten them to stop billing me for the unarriving paper, but I have yet to rev up my stamina to make the necessary phone call/s that might, if I can get past the electronic menu, get them to start up my subsciption. I want a truce, a no-blame treaty, and I want my NYTimes on my front porch every morning. But it isn't happening yet.
That, however, is not my terrible blow. The blow is this: that this morning I said goodbye to my overnight guest, put on my coat and gloves and hat and boots, and went out to buy the NY Times, maybe a 2-mile drive to the drugstore. I bought their last copy, and also bought some cough drops, because it is that time of year, and a brand new EnerGel pen for doing the NY Times crossword puzzle, something I have sorely missed during my weeks without it.
And when i got home, I opened up my new pen, poured a fresh cup of coffee, and opened up the NY Times...and WWWAAAAHHH there is no maagzone section in it. Hence, no crossword puzzle.
Okay, I have the international news, and the Arts and Leisure section, and The News of the Week in Review, and I have Sports, even though I don't really care about the Patriots any more after last week's game. But I do. not. have. the. puzzle. Abd this is a devastating blow.
I am thinking of going back to bed, even though it is 11 AM. Yes, I am that sad.
It is almost impossible to describe the aftermath of snow and ice storms without resorting to clichés, because of course the ice DOES sparkle like diamonds. I woke this morning, two days after Christmas, to the welcome sound of the plow in my driveway. The sky today is very, very blue after the white blur of yesterday. I had to postpone my plans for movie and dinner with friends yesterday because the snow kept coming and coming and the driving was very treacherous. THis morning, sunshine makes everything glisten and the roads are scraped clear and oh, Maine, you have once again redeemed yourself.
I have a couple of trips in January and, as always in winter, find myself unnecessarily worrying about weather. Emails back and forth with Madison, Wisconsin, have me thinking: yes, of course those flight times are fine...unless there is a snowst... But why bother saying that? They surely know, in Wisconsin, about snowstorms. And the worrying is pointless because one can't do a thing about it.
My other January trip is to southern California, to speak at the Charlotte Huck Festival in Redlands. This will be my sceond time there; and the first time...it may even have been the first time the festival was held...Charlotte Huck was still allive. She was a remarkable woman and scholar and I was fortunate to have known her.
It is, once again, Christmas Day. I am alone in my house, baking blueberry/lemon muffins and ginger/cranberry scones to take with me to a family brunch gathering in a few hours. Outisde the sun is bright, the sky very blue, and the ice on the bushes by my windows is sparkling.
Two weeks ago, I was in Cuba. Ironically, I lived in Key West in 1959 as refugees were fleeing the Revolution. In retrospect I realize I did not know a lot about what was happening. I was 22, with two children under 13 months, and didn't pay much attention to anything beyond my immediate supervision. So, in Havana, walking through the Museum of the Revolution, I got a sense of those times...of those hopes, as the people, led by Castro, rose up to toppple a corrupt government.
Today, more than 50 years later, one gets a glimpse of dreams unfulfilled. But not all of them. Cuba has, apparently, a good health care system; and a enviable education sysem, with 100% literacy. Very little violent crime, and pratically no drug problems. Yet the people are terribly poor. The beautiful architecture—Havana must once have been one of the most dazzling cities in the world—is crumbling. Many of the luxurious homes that were owned by the wealthy, who fled, are now occupied by large numbers of people, and laundry flaps from the windows. The ruined sidewalks make for treacherous walking and the workers in the cigar factory dread the frequent power outages because they are sent home and get no pay for the day.
I always like to wander through small supermarkets in other parts of the world. They give such a sense of daily life. But one sees none of those in Havana. The population is provided monthly rations from the state ("never quite enough," one person confided with a rueful laugh)
Yet there is music—oh my, there is music!—and art, and dance; and a wonderful sense of community in the neighborhoods. One well-known tile artist has decorated his entire neighborhood so that it is bright with color....
I seem to need to apologize once more for Failure To Post. I think Facebook has sucked some posting energy from me but I am aware that many, many of you are not my Facebook Friends...I reserve that for family and real friends...and I should be more attentive to this broader, less "exclusive" site.
At any rate: here I am again. And part of my silence, actually, has been the result of...as usual...too much travelling. But fun travelling! I whooshed off to Cape Town, South Africa to spend a few days on the movie set; they are filming "The GIver" there.
Cape Town is a fabuous city and I had been disappointed by the fact that although I had been in South Africa before, I had not had time to go to Cape Town. And sadly, though I was there..and loved it...I did not have time, this trip, to do the usual toursty things. No visit to Robben Isand. No trip to the top of Table Mountain.
Instead, I spent all my available time watching the filming of the movie. The movie folk (for lack of a better designation) were kind enough to let me roam behind the scenes...and behind the scenes of filmmaking is the thing that interests me the most. Perhaps because I am a highly visiual person who once worked as a photographer, I am fascinated by the process of visual images re-creating a story that existed only in words.
"The Giver" is a largely introspective book. Not much action. A movie has to approach the story differently. I knew that from the get-go and so was neither suprised nor disappointed that they had to add scenes that are not in the book, had to put in action and action-filled suspense....