I am told that the home of Alan Dershowitz...which is in my neighborhood...is also for sale.
Here are the two living rooms. Do you think people will be wringing their hands in indecision...or perhaps we will attract different buyers?
I am told that the home of Alan Dershowitz...which is in my neighborhood...is also for sale.
Here are the two living rooms. Do you think people will be wringing their hands in indecision...or perhaps we will attract different buyers?
...but only lightly, and they (the radio people on WBUR) say it will not amount to much. My guests for the Super Bowl will get here okay and we will eat my casserole and Peggy's salad and Carol's dessert even though none of us really care about the SB now that the Patrots are not in it. I wonder if Tom and Giselle will even watch. Maybe they'll just play with their kids and watch a Netflix movie tonight. You think?
It is a quiet time here while I prepare the house for showing...tucking away all the family photos so that people tromping through, (half of them will just be bored on a weekend, and the wife will say to the husband: Let's go look at Open Houses and the husband couldn't care less but agrees so they won't have a fight and she won't complain when he wants to watch basketball later)..yes, THOSE people...won't be staring at my grandchildren. And I am neatening my desk so that it will look pristine, as if I never ever do any work.
I will not hang around. There would be nothing worse than lurking and listening to people murmur to each other: Don't you hate that bedspread or Look in this closet. God, does any one wear shoes like that stilll? I am fleeing. I am taking my animals to Maine, and while I am in Maine, staying in the farmhouse where I spend summers, I am also going to look at my NEW house, the one to which I will move, and will decide where bookcases should be built, and what colors I will have the walls painted. Also I will choke back sobs in the new kitchen, because I designed my current to-die-for kitchen and will never have one like it again. The new one is a perfectly good kitchen but never again will I have the amazing bulit-in spice shelf, or the endless endless storage space, or the....
....I must stop agonizing over it.
Last ngiht I was reading Richard Burton's Diaries. Don't ask why. Sometimes one must do something odd, and for me that often takes the form of reading something out of the ordinary, something none of my friends will ever read, like a badly-wrtten true-crime account of a murder in Indiana, perhaps; or a translated-from-Japanese confusing novel in which people seem to move very slowly and think only in metaphors, or...yes, you got it: Richard Burton's Diaries....
Here are three quick snapshots taken with my phone this morning: bookcases in my living room, my dining room, and my office; I didn't bother photographng the wall full in one of the guest rooms. But take my word for it...there is a fourth wall of books not shown.
And now I am getting ready to move. To a smaller house. One with fewer bookcases. Oh dear, oh dear.
You can see, in the office snapshot, that there are storage boxes already filled with "office stuff"...papers, etc. But I have not yet begun on the books. I don't quite know where to start.
FInding recipients is not the problem. I have plenty of destinations for these books. The problem is selecting what goes, what stays.
Seventeen years ago I was asked by a local bookstore, the wonderful WORDSWORTH'S, now sadly gone, to write an article for their newsletter. I had just moved at the time, and that move was to a LARGER house, not a smaller one. In fact it was to this very house. I wrote about arranging my books, something I did that year in an orderly fashion, as if I were a librarian. For the first time in what had been a rather scattered and disorderly life, I had put all the biographies, memoirs, collected letters into the same shelves...and more than that: alphabetically. They are still there; those are the dining room bookcases. Fiction and non-fiction...also alphabetical...went into the living room. Poetry is in the office, along with my own books, and reference books, plus a lot of quirky volumes that are hard to categorize....
Tonight I went out to dinner to celebrate the 70th birthday of a dear friend and at 75 (almost 76) was able to...well, not to impart wisdom, that's for sure!...but to look back and remember age 70, which was just yesterday. Or maybe last Thursday.
Things that have changed for me in the past five years—apart from the obvious—are that I have quit both skiing and horseback riding. There were subtle...okay, not so subtle...hints that my sense of balance was not as good as it once was. In short, that I was suddenly in danger of falling off the same horse I once felt very much at home upon...or of ending up in a snowbank with my skis cross-crossed above my head.
Here I am at Aspen maybe 15 years ago. And here I am, on horseback in Montana 5 years ago.
It is good, I've discovered, if you are able to laugh at yourself. Like the time not long ago when I was alone, on snowshoes, outside my Maine farmhouse, and fell in the deep snow, and couldn't get up. That's right: could not get up. I sprawled there, laughing, and then found myself thinking two opposing thoughts at the same time. A friend was inside the house, and I found myself thinking: I hope she looks out the window, and comes out to give me a hand; and at the same time: I hope she doesn't look out the window and see what a complete idiot I look like.
It takes you by surprise when things begin to diminish. But other things become, oddly, enhanced. The enjoyment of a wonderful book, or a concert, or a dinner with an old friend. My amusement at a cat's antics (mine just jumped on a table, overturned a saltshaker, and scared herself). Life's pleasures are still enormous...just somewhat different. The balance of things has changed.
It is always good to be back home, even after a trip that has been wonderful. There is somethig about one's own bed, about the dog and cat welcoming you, and of course there was the start of Season 3 of Downton Abbey!
But it was a long trip coming home, and I'm afraid I was somewhat rude to a woman in an airport. It was 6 AM, and I had just emerged from a 10-hour flight (Buenos Aires-New York) during which I had not slept. Groggily I had gone through customs and immigration, and now was waiting at a baggage claim carousel for my suitcase, in order to make my way to my next flight, NY-Boston. A woman standing nearby apparently read my name on my carry-on luggage tag, and asked if I had written ThE GIVER.
It occurs to me now that I could have said no. There may be other people with my name. I could have been one of them, just for that sleep-deprived morning. But of course I nodded. acknowledging that I had, indeed, written that book.
So she said nice things about the book and I smiled sleepily and thanked her. But then she said she was a would-be writer and she would like my advice. I just stared at her. My brain was thoroughly dead. I tried half-heartedly to explain that. But she said she wanted me to tell her just one bit of important advice. Just one.
Oh, dear. I mumbled something intended as wisdom but I'm afraid I did it tersely and ungraciously. It was just that the timing was so bad....
I am writing this from the Admirals Lounge at Logan Airport, waiting for the flight which will take me to Miami....4 hours; where I will change to a flight to Santiago....eight and a half hours;, and from Santiago another fight to Punta Arenas, four and a half hours; and then a 6-hour drive to the hotel in this photograph. A loooong trip but as you can see from the picture, a worthy destination! It was a little iffy, this departure, because of the storm that hit New England last night; but everything seems to be moving now, flights on time, and even now and then a bit of sun appears from behind the clouds.
This was a trip Martin always wanted to make so I am doing it in his memory and in hopes that he is looking down and smiling.
Alfie and Lulu are (I hope happily) ensconced at the kennel. I couldn't have a house-sitter because the donstairs interior is being painted and no matter how well-behaved the animals are (ha) being near an open paint can or a freshly-painted wall...not a good idea.
Another photo, almost an advertisement, of the clam chowder at Legal Seafoods at the airport. A good start to a trip!
This has been a tough and sad week for the country and it almost feels inappropriate to post anything that brings a smile or laugh. But life moves forward for us all. And it does seem as if the recent tragic events are going to bring about some real change, if only..if only...if only lawmakers don't put this behind them, ignore and forget, the way they have before. If only they can see beyond self-interest and the next election. If only they will pay attention this time.
In the spring, a dramatic production of GATHERING BLUE will be on stage at the Oregon Childrens Theater in Portland. Here is a wonderful piece of art they have created for their promotion:
Stan Foote, the director of OCT, and his fine crew have done two other adaptations of my books: THE GIVER, adapted as GATHERING BLUE has been, by Eric Coble; and GOSSAMER, which I adapted. And Stan and I have some plans for future dramatic mischief together, too....
Here is a problem I have, and it probably has no solution. So maybe I am looking more for sympathy than advice.
People email me through my website. It is easy to do, by clicking on "Email me" on the right hand side of the homepage.
Those emails come every day. And I answer them, not always the day they arrive, but as soon as I can.
Every now and then, though, my reply bounces back to me as "undeliverable." I think this is because there is a spam blocker of some sort, a filter that I can't get through, perhaps because the email is coming from a school. I always feel terrible when a reply can't be delivered, because of course the person who sent the original email thinks that I didn't respond.
Right now I am wringing my hands over a woman named Christie, who teaches two very special young girls and who asked me to send them a message. i have tried and tried to do so. A second email came from her because she thought I hadn't answered the first. But I have tried and tried, without success....
When I am working on a manuscript, I usually stop now and then and read sections aloud to myself. I try to do it when no one else is around because it likely sounds strange (and I have memories of my sister, under other cicumstances, saying, "Mom, Lois is doing that weird thing again..")
I do it (and recommend to young writers that they also do it) because it gives a feeling for pacing and flow, and it certainly makes the writer aware of the verisimilitude (or lack thereof) of the dialogue.
But! Big BUT....! I don't ever read the entire manuscript aloud, after it is done.
And now I am regretting that.
Recently I received a copy of the audio book of SON. Usually I listen to the first few minutes of each audio book, just to hear the sound of the reader's voice (one of my favorites: Arte Johnson reading THE WILLOUGHBYS. He's great). I don't need to listen to the entire book because, of course, I alteady know the book well....
I am trying to be jolly despite a plumbing crisis.
The plumber is due here by 11 AM. leaving me time to keep my dental apointment at 1 PM. Plumber and dentist? Same day? Is that fair?
My car is loaded with packages to go to the post office. Yes, Christmas gifts. Yes, it is all done. People hate me when I tell them that. But it is because I have to mail things to Germany that I get my Christmas shopping done very early, usually right after Thanksgiving. I thereby manage to avoid the long Xmas lines at the PO, though I make up for it at tax time, when I am always last-minute for some reason.
I have two favorite post office stories. The first did not happen to me but to someone else, a woman who was having a horrible day in every way but finally found herself, after a long wait, at the post office counter. The PO guy said, "How's it going?" She almost burst into tears at the unexpected bit of human commiseration, and she said, "Well, horrible, if you want to know the truth. It took me forever to find a parking place, and then I stepped out of the car into a huge puddle so my feet are soaking wet, and I didn't have change for the meter so I'll probably get a ticket, and now I've been standing in this line for twenty minutes and I'm going to be late for an appointment, and..." The PO guy looked down at the package she had placed on the counter and said, "I meant: how's it going? Priority? Media?"
And this one DID happen to me, many years ago. I lived in a tiny seaside village with a very small post office. I had completely forgotten to mail my estimated tax payment, which a self-employed person must pay quarterly, and so I took it to the post office a day late. I explained that to the postmistress, threw myself on her mercy, and asked if she could postmark it with the date of the previous day. She said a firm no. It would be illegal, she pointed out. She was required to abide by the law and she had been postmistress for a zillion years and she had never once misrepresented the date in that way. Then she picked up my enevelope, and picked up her postmarking stamp gizmo, and said, "I can blur it, though."...
When I was clicking varous things to get to this place where I can add a post to my blog, I saw briefly a little headline that said "Study Shows Fetuses Yawn in the Womb" Was this from the Science page of the New York Times? Or was it an ad from a Right-to-Life group? I don't know. Maybe I will look for it again when I am finished here. Who is yawning, and where, is always valuable information to have.
I am thinking about Thanskgivings Past.
When my kids were young and growing up in Maine, we always came down to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving at the home of relatives. Then, returning to Maine at the end of the weeknd, we saw car after car coming from the opposite direction with a dead deer strapped on its roof. It was always the end of hunting season in Maine. "Bambi's mother!" the kids would say again and again as those stiff, staring corpses whizzed past us heading south.
In later years there were the many Thanksgiving dinners with huge numbers of people as Martin and I combined families, and grown kids acquired inlaws and eventually children.
I remeber a Thanksgiving in Germany...it would have been 1994...when my granddaughter Nadine was just one year old. It woud be six months later that her father, my son Grey, was killed. Of course we didnn't know then that tragedy lay in the future. What I remember was Grey, who was a great cook, complaining about the smallness of German kitchens..and oven...though he produced a wonderful dinner nonetheless, and among the guests was an unmarried fighter pilot who had just returned from Kosovo, where NATO was carrying out the first airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs. I remember his describing the complicated situation there...the "ethnic cleansing" (I think it was the first time I had heard the term) and realizing as he talked that sometimes violence can (has to) be a humanitarian response....
I think that was the name of a long-ago movie. Leaving Las Vegas. A depressing one, with Nicholas Cage drinking himself into oblivion...maybe to death; I don't remember.
I myself have just left Las Vegas, though not stumbling drunk. I was there very briefly...flew there Monday, flew home Tuesday!...for a meeting of ALAN:
(Founded in November 1973, ALAN is made up of teachers, authors, librarians, publishers, teacher-educators and their students, and others who are particularly interested in the area of young adult literature. )
Much as I thoroughly like and enjoy the members of ALAN, and was pleased to have dinner Monday night with a small but stellar group of them...I do find Las Vegas pretty depressing. Because of the time difference, I was up at 5 AM on Tuesday morning, and went down to the hotel lobby, in search of coffee, to find it unchanged from what I had walked thorough the previous night at 10:30: bright lights, loud throbbing music, no place to sit except in front of slot machines. No windows. People everwhere endlessly sliding money into the machines. A couple...she in a wedding dress!...side by side at the slots.
Earlier, I had actually been awakened by noise from the next room: thumping and banging, and shouts. A man's voice: "My money! My money!" Was he being robbed? Or just lamenting that he had lost it all gambling the night before? I briefy considered calling security but before I decided to do so, the noise subsided and I did nothing. If I had? Picture the people in the hotel security office:...
This summer, as I waited for the official publication of SON, I wrote…what is it, the sixth? Yes, the sixth, I think…book of the Gooney Bird series, the one set in the month of March, as this series follows a second grade class through each month of its school year. For the first time, in writing this short book, I used the computer program called “Scrivener,” which I had been told had so many handy shortcuts and gimmicks for writers. And it was true. It did. I began to like Scrivener, to think “Hi there, Scrivener,” with a warm affection when I opened up that manuscript each day. Trouble is, Scrivener turned on me in the end, not unlike a gentle, affectionate dog who unexpectedly snarls and snaps. Maybe it had gotten a bad virus or something, or was easing into a dementia. At any rate, when I tried to send the manuscript off to my editor, Scrivener was no longer my BFF.
And so, this week, when I received the manuscript from the copy editor, with a note asking me to respond any suggestions, I was aghast to find that the poor copy editor had been forced to address hideous deformities of formatting: un-indented paragraphs, large gaps in the midst of dialogue, an occasional completely blank page.
“None of that is my fault!” I wanted to whine, like a six year old. “Scrivener did it! Blame Scrivener!”
But in the same way that I have learned, in my old age, to just get on with it, and to not waste time with blaming and finger-pointing, I sucked it up and dealt with the occasional issues that were in fact my responsibility: the fact that on one page a character is wearing green earmuffs, but two pages later, a blue knitted hat.
And today I have mailed back the completed, adjusted manuscript without any self-justifying laments. But I have vowed not to use Scrivener again, at least not until I find someone who can teach me to use it properly....
This is my arm. Actually, to be specific, it is the inside of my left arm, at the elbow. I went for an uneventful annual physical Wednesday morning, and they did an uneventful blood test, and now, for some reason, this is my arm, resembling a bad case of gangrenous frostbite.
I am in a Holiday Express Inn in WEstfield, Massachusetts. I came here today to accept the Carol Otis Hurst Book Prize...which is a real pleasure, since Carol was a very dear friend of mine...but I realized that It would turn dark before I got home, and Ihave difficulty driving int he dark; so I decided to spend the night and head home in the AM. Actually it was not a hard decision because my home still has a big hole in the bedroom ceiling and another in the matser bathroom wall, just above the smashed window. I have been dealing with roofers and contrators and insurance adjustors all week but there are still gaping holes, and still tree parts everywhere; now and then more dead leaves flutter in, as if I am living in a weird animated cartoon.
So I enjoyed driving to western Massachusetts instead of staying and staring morosely at my semi-destroyed house. Of course I still have to stare at my gangrenous arm, since it accompanies me. But it is chilly out now, in November, and so I can cover it with long sleeves....
Yesterday afternoon I thought of myself, briefly, as a woe-is-me pore old widow lady. Today, seeing the aftermath of the hurricane in other places, I consider myself very very lucky.
Unfortnately: A tree fell on my house at 2 PM. A large skylight was destroyed and fell onto my bed.
Fortunately: I was not in the bed. The dog was downstairs, I was downstairs, the cat was downstairs.
Unfortunately: A big piece of tree broke a window and part of the roof and entered the master bathroom.
Fortunately: the bathroom was unoccupied....
It feels very good to be sleeping in my own bed after two weeks of hotels— a different one almost every night—and having my own cat purring on my lap, and my dog at my feet again. (The dog has a touch of diarrhea after being in a kennel, eating a different kind of food, for so long; but that is a topic best glossed over). I have several more engagagements coming up: Dana Hall in Wellesley, MA, Monday ngiht; Porter Square Books, Cambrigde, MA, Tuesday night; and the Conocrd (MA) Public Library next Saturday night. But those are all local and I won't have to stand in a security line in order to get there.
It was a good trip (and productive, I guess, since SON will be on tomorrow's NYT best-seller list) with few glitches, and with the unexpected bonnus of saying hi to a few unexpected people here and there: Torben Platt, the son of Annelise Platt, my Danish friend to whom "Number the Stars"is dedicated, lives in Iowa and brought his wife and daughter to my Iowa city event; Stuart Ruth, with whom I went to eighth grade in Tokyo in 1949, came to the San Francisco event; Bob Ryan, Houston lawyer who was a close high school friend of my son Grey and who flew to Germany for Grey's funeral in 1995, came to my Houston event; Margaret Holcombe, to whom "Bless This Mouse" is dedicated, lives in St. Paul, MN, and came to my event there; and I know there were others whom I am overlooking. I also had a quiet and wonderful afternon with my daughter in San Francisco.
Me, age 12, on the far left, second row; Stuart Ruth in the striped shirt in the middle of the first row.
(Just glancing now at that first row of boys, I am reciting their first names: Keith, David, Billy, Henry, Stuart, Bob, Mike, and Joe. Having just come from a zillion book signings, many for boys that age, I can testify that today's 12-year-olds are, instead, named Noah, Dylan, Jack, Zachary, Tyler, Ethan, Jake, and Ryan)...
Why is every third 12-year-old female in the USA named Megan?
Is it okay to laugh aloud when the flight attendant annouces "The flight from Phoenix to Albuquerque will be a short 32 minutes. In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion...."?
Why do so many hotel rooms have a full-lngth mirror directly opposite the toilet? Is this necessary?...
Phoenix Airport announces itself as WORLD’S FRIENDLIEST AIRPORT. It won’t, however, let me on its WIFI network wihtout quite a hassle, so that doesn’t seem friendly.
In other respects, though, Phoenix has been very friendly. 400+ people lined up last night to hear me talk about, and to have me sign, my new book.
This morning, I ordered eggs benedict….cooked firm….at the restaurant in the Ritz, where I was staying. Midway through my eating them, the waitress stopped by and said, “Oh dear, those aren’t firm.” It’s okay, I told her with a shrug. “No it isn’t!” she said. “I’m going to tear up your bill.” And she did. And (this being the Ritz) it was a very large bill.
This morning, going through security…NO LINE (that’s very friendly) …they professed not to believe that I was over 75. Over 75 means you can keep your shoes on, which I had....
I am writing this from Salt Lake City, which I will leave in an hour, headed to the airport, and from there to Phoenix. Five cities to go.
Backing up, though, playing catch-up: first San Jose, at Hicklebee's wonderful store, which I have visited many times before. Great crowd. Then a very relaxing day with my daughter in San Francisco: brunch by the ocean, then a walk in the Japanese Garden at Golden Gate Park. I needed that break. And she had my laundry done! A talk that night at the SF Library; and then off the next morning to SLC. Last night I spoke to an overflow crowd of 600 or so at the Provo Libary, which is in a specatacuar historic building. Then LONG signing lines. Such enthusiastic people. A lovely evening. But tiring for an old lady!
I am having to grab time here and there to answer email, and I have a request for teachers, if any are reading this. Please send ONE email whihc can include comments, questions, etc., from your students...as opposed to individual emails from kids. It
is not just your class, your maybe 15 kids...but there are others coming in simultaneously; and It is very, very hard for me to manage 50-60 emails at a time; even when I am not on the road....
It is 8:30 PM and I am headed to bed. And a fine bed it is, in the gorgeous St. Paul Hotel.
But I am feeling a little dejected. Partly because my email has ceased working and I have spent a couple of hours with Tech Support at Comcast, with no success. And here I am with 10 days to go on an extended trip, and important communication cut off.
But also, this: tomorrow, in the NY Times Magainze, there will be an article about me and my new book, written by Dan Kois, who came this summer to meet with me and was an intelligent, thoguhtful man, with two children about whom he cares deeply. I am quite certain he didn't write the article with controversy or shock value in mind. But it has already appeared in the online edition of The TImes... http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/magazine/lois-lowry-the-childrens-author-who-actually-listens-to-children.html?ref=magazine&...this is my first reading of what he wroteand I am saddened by the tone of many of the posted comments that follow the article. I have always been struck by, and have publicly commented on, the generosity and collegiality of children's authors. The vitriolic tone of some comments is startling.
I am very tired, having left Iowa at 5 AM, and just completed a speech and signing in Minneapolis at the end of this lengthy day, and I only read the article and its posted comments hastily and probably in a cursory fashion. So I may be misrepresenting everything and tomorrow may have to post a "Sorry, I was completely wrong" addendum.
But readers seem to be upset by the fact that I expressed, as I often have before, my concern over the violence in THE HUNGER GAMES, which the NYT writer seems to share....
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