July 30, 2010

It's HUGE! And Other Stuff.

I've already got another small backlog of book writeups to post, but because I'm slowly drowning in a quicksand-like mire of article writing (reasonably lucrative, but also brain-draining and time-consuming), I've not written anything up yet, nor have I even had time to set up my NEW COMPUTER (over there on the right), which, as you can see from the scale of my rolltop desk that it's sitting on, is friggin' humongazoid. But purty. I anticipate spending a fair amount of time on this page in the coming weeks.

Anyway, I did accumulate a few links to share, a few of which I just ran across this morning, like poetry review blog The Great American Pinup by a local poet in my general geographic area. And this fun whirlwind tour of Comic-Con by Alert Nerd (and former co-worker, fellow Mills alum, and author of One Con Glory) Sarah Kuhn.

Can I just say I'm also sad to be missing SCBWI in LA right now? So close and yet so far, when you're trying to save your dough for Kidlitcon 2010. I'm comforting myself (vicariously) with tweets from the floor and great posts like Lee Wind's interview with keynote speaker M.T. Anderson, who we interviewed here a little while ago.

Another thing I sadly don't have time for at this moment is reading all the great posts in this month's Carnival of Children's Literature, which also includes Tanita's roundup of her ALA experience. So many conferences, so little money! The life of a starving artist. Well, okay, I'm not exactly starving, and I'm actually extremely fortunate and get to go a lot of places, but someday I will also have a CONFERENCE FUND. Sigh...

July 29, 2010

Thoughtful Things

This makes me so happy: The Seventeen Magazine Project -- a wise eighteen year old girl's attempt to live by the tenants of that questionably realistic mag, for thirty days. I love the audaciousness of the project, but even more, I love her Flickr project, which is a fill-in-the-blanks photo essay, which states, "Hey, Mainstream Media! I am..."

The blanks are filled in some amazing ways -- with pictures of girls - and guys - holding up mostly hand-lettered signs that creatively defy the mainstream media's teen stereotyping. My favorite of this second is "Not defined by my genitalia." That, for today, says it all.

(Of course, there's also the "Hey, Mainstream Media! I am... unable to walk in heels," a statement which also speaks to me (people who saw me at the Newbery/Caldecott dinner know this for sure). And the "Hey, Mainstream Media! I am...never going to trust you again," response which also works well for my mood. Just -- check it out, please. And check out the very intelligent, thoughtful Jamie Keiles of Pennsylvania. And think of her and others like her when you're considering a.) the future fate of the nation and b.) writing for young adults.) {Hat tip to Sociological Images.}

So, remember The Bechdel Test, and how many YA writers were suddenly struck by the idea that their work was NOT up to snuff in terms of female characters having something other in their lives but conversations about guys? Sure - plenty of female characters in YA lit. But, do they talk to each other about anything but boys? Now it's time to take on SFF movies. There is much fail. (I'd be interested in someone doing this for kid movies. The only recent movies I can think of which doesn't fail this test is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Beezus and Ramona, neither of which I have seen. Surely there must be more.)

July 27, 2010

The View from the Club House

William and Julie's Wedding 87

Sadly, we have not gone fishing. Or, golfing, as this picture was taken from the 18th hole of a gorgeous golf club a couple hours north of the city. Unfortunately, we are not goofing off. (Much.)

Work is taking place this summer, and we are plotting our Next Big Things.

Brilliant discussion is going on other places in the blogosphere - we've been thinking about The Boy Thing. David Elzey has some good things to say about writing fiction for gents -- and the idea that the main character does not define the audience is probably a new one for a lot of people, but really resonated with us, as do author Hannah Moskowitz's thoughts -- she who says we as writers have stereotyped, sanitized and stripped boys of substance. Our imaginary Them is pretty pale and wan. Word.

Jacket Whys and Jacknet Knack are two of our favorite YA kidlit cover trendspotting blogs -- and now ShelfTalker is joining in the fun. As amusing as all of these trends are, it still bugs both of us that so many book covers look almost exactly the same. What's up with that? Why does publishing try so hard on the surface to avoid original content? Trends, schmends.

In the nicest, Bonny Glen sort of way, but jealous nonetheless. We are jealous of the rest of you who went, too.

That is all.

July 20, 2010

So, how's that e-reader making your poetry look?

Do any of the Poetry Peeps out there read poetry on a Kindle or Sony Reader? I'm just wondering, because I ran across this article in the SF Chronicle -- quoting Billy Collins -- he's not a fan:

Billy Collins, one of the country's most popular poets, had never seen his work in e-book form until he recently downloaded his latest collection on his Kindle.

He was unpleasantly surprised.

Read more: here.

It is so hard to reproduce stanza and lines length appropriately even on a blog for Poetry Friday, much less on a digital reader which is more concerned with the words than the poetic form. Sooo, e-tailers are supposed to do something about this. Eventually. But I have a feeling they're not that bothered by the whole thing.


Meanwhile as Wonderland writes...allegedly...

July 19, 2010

Psst! Get Your Teapot Ready...

Just cruising by and taking a quick break mid-revision (ARGH) to tell you: don't miss visiting the brand-new digs of Liz B and A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy - go check out her new online home at School Library Journal! Yep, the Kidlitosphere is making inroads--I mean, contributing our unique and varied perspectives--to the venerable SLJ with yet another new resident blogger. Well-deserved, too. Yay for Liz!

Also, Kristin Cashore's Fire wins the 2010 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award, there are free audiobooks at SYNC through Sept. 1 (including The Looking Glass Wars, The Hunger Games, and Does My Head Look Big In This?), the Queen of Jordan co-writes a children's book, and a new children's lit documentary is in the works (via Gregory K.).

Whew. Sorry for the whirlwind post. And now back to our previously scheduled revision...

July 16, 2010

Oh, how I love Tor.com

His hand was cool and damp, with the limp, rubbery texture of a corpse. I don’t know what it is about people who work with the dead, but every one I’d met in my fifteen years came to resemble their clients after a few years on the job. I didn’t shudder as I shook hands, didn’t pull back in revulsion. I kept smiling, and I think it surprised him. “Nice to meet you, Dr. Morgan. I’m Lia Thantos, the new summer intern.”

This is the funniest YA summer-mortuary-intern story, by Cathy Clamp. (You didn't realize there were so many funny YA summer-mortuary-intern stories from which to choose, did you? Neither did I.) Fare Thee Well is a standalone in a universe in which I hope Clamp keeps writing. The story is cute with an unexpected twist, and will make you laugh.


July 15, 2010

Book Blurbs of June, Part III: Graphic Novel Extravaganza

Yep, this is finally everything! And July's not even over yet. I shouldn't be so impressed with myself, but I am.

My first reaction to finding out there was a Prince of Persia graphic novel was to wonder what kind of bizarre universe I had landed in where it was okay to turn a video game into a graphic novel. Much as I enjoyed the original Nintendo version (yep, I'm old), I don't recall there being an awful lot of...storyline. Nothing complex, anyway. But it turns out, when you hire an actual writer or two, and obtain artistic talent the likes of the fabulous LeUyen Pham as well as her husband Alex Puvilland, you've got a good chance of making something that's an enjoyable story in its own right. Jordan Mechner, who wrote the original video game, worked with A.B. Sina, who is in fact originally from Iran, to write a pretty compelling tale.

Featuring two princes separated by time but whose stories echo one another and interweave thematically, it's actually surprisingly complex. Though I found a few of the characters just a teensy-tiny bit hard to tell apart—and therefore I had a little trouble following the story from time to time—overall I loved the artwork, especially the Persian illuminated manuscripts rendered in graphic novel form. If you're at all familiar with works like the Shahnama, you'll know that the artists of this GN took care to be faithful to the art history of the period. I always appreciate that!

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, First Second.

Buy Prince of Persia from an independent bookstore near you!

Another Mechner-Pham-Puvilland co-creation is Solomon's Thieves, which is also a swashbuckling sort of tale, this time following a band of Templar Knights who are caught in the middle of their Order's fall from grace. The main character, Martin, manages to escape from the mass arrests and, with a few well-chosen friends, forms a rebel band sworn to save the heritage—and the treasure--of the Knights Templar from the scheming government. The author based his story on research into the history of the real Knights Templar and the period following the Crusades, and includes an interesting bibliography for those interested in reading about it further. A fast-paced and action-packed start to the series.

I requested a review copy of this book from the publisher, First Second.

Buy Solomon's Thieves from an independent bookstore near you!

Raw, edgy, but still relatable and full of feeling, How I Made It to Eighteen is Tracy White's fictionalized memoir of her time in a mental hospital, and how she learned to cope with her life issues—internal ones (like self-esteem and anxiety) and external ones (like her difficult family). To do so, she must learn to let go of the harmful behaviors that are keeping her from healing, and truly reach out to the ones who are trying to help. The simple, stark monochromatic line artwork is well-suited to the story, and the "problem novel" subject matter is balanced with humor. The arc of the story was a little less defined than I'm used to—it reads more like a slice of life, with a somewhat open-ended conclusion—but that's how real life works, I suppose. It's a solid debut that was clearly cathartic for the author, and whose honesty will hopefully reach others in need and encourage them not to face their problems alone.

I requested a review copy of this book from the publisher, Roaring Brook Press.

Buy How I Made It to Eighteen from an independent bookstore near you!

The problem is, I kinda think Converse is like unto Evil.

I'm seriously afraid that the whole Converse/Chuck Taylor thing is made up of sweastshops and the blood of the underaged innocent (they're owned by Nike, and...), so I never wear real Chucks - my ancient fake *Payless ones work just fine.

But these shoes.

These shoes.

They tempt me.

Obviously, I need to rock the Nancy Werlin Zazzle thing, and do my own bookish shoes. Or somehow trick Leila into making some for me. (Have you seen that chick's sewing? She can somehow make Bookish Anything.)

But, are these not the coolest things? And people, they have Thing 1 and Thing 2 baby shoes. You know I have two nephews. Seriously: they are the Thingiest Thing 1 and Thing 2 ever. My babies need those shoes. But, alas, only if Auntie gets up off her tuchus and creates them, and only from Zazzle.

Ah, summer. Are you guys all happily reading out there? Or are you just melted -- whether from heat, or from the monsoons? Hope you're enjoying...

Hat tip to the fabbity Miss Kathleen, whose weekly Librarian Roundups on mental_floss just make my Thursday.

And yes: I know that the shoes that I wear may still be made with labor that is questionable. I guess it's a matter of conscious choices outweighing things I don't know.

July 14, 2010

Our Continuing Like Affair With D.M. Cornish

Book III of the Monster Blood Tattoo series is coming! And the very awesome D.M. is being chatted at today at The Enchanted Inkpot.

AND, they have the lovely book jacket for book 3. It's pretty, but I want to see what Australia and the UK are getting before I decide which I like best.

If you're having trouble waiting for the release date, reread our 2008 WBBT interview, which includes, of course, reviews of the first two books.

MEANWHILE, speaking of affairs, my girl Kelly is apparently ...um... talking to the Old Spice Guy. And he talked back.

Seriously: there are some things in this world that only happen to Kelly Fineman. Remember what I said about walking through the ALA Exhibit Hall with her???? The girl knows everybody.

July 11, 2010

Dear Teen Vogue: Gay Guys Are Not An Accessory.

From the article:
Reasons that the straight girl-gay guy relationship works so well both on- and offscreen can range drastically. But according to Jennifer Gray, Ph.D., a New York City psychologist who focuses on issues pertaining to human sexuality, it's hard to find a female high school or college student who hasn't experienced drama with a frenemy at one point or another. "Friendships between girls are often fraught with competition, whether it's over looks, weight, boyfriends, or clothes," she explains.

"But there is little underlying competition between young women and gay guys, which can often make for a stronger, more trusting relationship." Gray says it can also be hard for many girls, particularly ones in high school, to have platonic relationships with heterosexual guys. "A lot of teenagers don't feel comfortable around members of the opposite sex, and the friendships can get complicated," she says. "It can also be hard to have a friend relationship at that age without one person developing some kind of feelings for the other."

Teen Vogue Quiz Results!
-1 for a psychologist using the hipper-than-thou portmanteau word, "frenemy."
-5,478 for implying that straight girls can't be friends with other girls or even straight guys, because girls "need" that non-competitive clause.
-1,111,920,399,848,58 for working my nerves by being this stupid and declaring gay guys a must-have accessory. Seriously? Are we going back to slavery here? Because if people can be accessories, it must be okay to own them, too.

:excessive temper:
If only it were April 1. If only there was the possibility that they weren't seriously urging girls to go out and "get" a Johnny Weir lookalike bestie to match their Blackberry.

Seriously, Teen Vogue. You're turning my stomach, here. Do yourselves a favor: listen to Aretha. The word is R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And you need some.

Hat tip to Salon.com

July 10, 2010

Book Blurbs of June, Part II: The Secret Year

So my book blurbs have slowed way down. I realize it's July, but yes, these are books I read in June, so there. And yes, there's only one today, but hey, I do what I can. I'll have one more installment with graphic novels, probably next week, and June will be in the can. Anyway, enjoy!

When I looked at the front of Jennifer Hubbard's debut novel The Secret Year, I fell into my usual pattern of judging books by their covers, and gathered from the swirly script font and the image of a kissing couple fading into a dark background that this book was being marketed to female readers. But once I started reading, I became convinced that this intense tale of guilt and secrets, told in the voice of a teenage guy named Colt, would be just fine as a guy read.

Assuming a teen guy can get over the idea of carrying around a book with a picture of people kissing on it, they'll find that Colt is a relatable, down-to-earth narrator burdened with the death of his "girlfriend" Julia—a relationship nobody even knew he was part of. Julia was a rich girl, living in the fancy estates up on Black Mountain, while Colt was just a kid from the flats without any particular privileges or advantages. When Julia dies in a car accident, Colt is now the only one who knows they even had a relationship, and it's tormenting him. He's trying to cope, but he makes some (realistically) flawed choices along the way. Ultimately, he finds out he's not the only one with secrets, but it isn't an easy road for Colt to figure out how to deal with his own problems, let alone get enough distance to be able to effectively reach out to anyone else.

As a narrator, Colt's voice rang very true. The author writes realistic and vivid guy characters, and has a knack for showing the tension and complex motivations at the heart of relationships, whether they're between friends, lovers, family, allies—or even enemies. Yay for writerjenn!

Buy The Secret Year from an independent bookstore near you!

July 08, 2010

Check Out Mr. Scalzi's "Big Idea"

Ooh, another great looking SFF novel with a.) a brown-skinned person on the cover, and b.) using a character from African folklore. Karen Lord's debut novel is getting stars and great reviews, huzzah.

I'm so excited about suddenly seeing brown-skinned people as magic-wielders in science fiction and fantasy, and am only waiting and hoping (and writing) to see more in YA and MG SFF - characters who aren't cliched, and who don't have to die for the other characters, in order to be included.

Incidentally - was Tu Publishing at the ALA Convention, anyone? I kept forgetting to check the little book, when it crossed my mind, and while I saw TONS of publishers (shout out to the nice people at Eerdman's and Westside Books) I didn't see them.

July 06, 2010

You, At the ALA

Glasgow Airport 08What? You didn't get to go to the ALA Annual Convention this year? Just pretend you were there. Like this:

You arrive -- after an eight hour flight with a two hour (unnecessary) layover in a crazybig city (you do not try out the novel vending machine, because there's nothing in there you want, but it is still SUCH a cool idea for an airport). You're exhausted, and everyone's gone to the Kidlit Drink Night without you -- because you got held up in the long line clearing customs. You're nervous and jet-lagged and it's fifty-five degrees warmer than it was where you last were.

And you're due to attend a cocktail party... and you're so spun you have to write out which clothes you have that might match and make an outfit. Jet lag: so not your friend! You go and meet your editor and your publicist (and realize you didn't bring a gift for her -- SIGH!) and a lot of nice people from your publishing house. It's a little awkward, partying with strangers, but the Cat in the Hat is there, and everyone is kind and respects that you're a total wallflower. You go back to your hotel, change clothes and nervously wait downstairs. And who do you run into but your Poetry Peeps!

Which makes everything better.

ALA 2010 056In the convention center, there is SO MUCH to see. TOO much, really. You're overwhelmed by light, color, movement -- and trying to figure out where all the booths are. (Seriously, it takes an hour of wandering walking to find the Exhibit Hall itself, not to mention the Random House booth. Note to self: Next time, take the little ALA booklet with you... ALA Conventions are BIG!) So many houses and authors and people in line to get books signed! So many unfamiliar names and faces! You know you should do something like that and get involved, but it's a bit much. You're on your way, hightailing it out of there, when you spot banned-book-bracelet-babe Carolyn Forsman, and her awesome hair.

Somehow, that makes the day better.

Maureen Johnson, awhile back, blogged about an imaginary place called the YA Author's Mansion, where all the authors live.

It’s extremely easy to meet other YA authors. Because once you become a YA author, you have to move into the YA author mansion. We all live there. I live there. Justine lives there. Scott Westerfeld, Libba Bray, Meg Cabot, Holly Black, John Green, Cassie Clare . . . everyone. We all live there. They make you. It’s kind of big, so you sometimes don’t see everyone. (I know Stephanie Meyer lives there, for instance, but I’ve never seen her room. I think it’s over in the Judy Blume wing.)

After attending the massive YALSA Coffee Klatch/Speed Dating event on Sunday, you begin to believe with a cold certainty that Maureen's fantasy mansion exists. There are TONS of YA authors congregating over coffee and muffins in a single room. You can name-drop them all, and you've read their books. And they all seem to know each other. They all went to That School in Vermont. They chat and hug and air kiss, and look like best, best friends.

It is nothing short of terrifying. It reminds you greatly of walking into the cafeteria at school the very first day of junior year, in the new school you attended. It is ugly.

As you sidle in, get coffee that you don't even want, and prepare to hold up a wall, you're accosted by the idea that you don't belong in that room with those successful people. You try not to cry and slink out into the hallway. This time your editor isn't there to hang with you while you wallflower, but Judith from Random House steps in, and the two of you huddle in the back and watch the world go by. (You consider naming a child you don't have after this woman.)

By the time you go into the room with the five thousand librarians (Okay, maybe there were only five hundred. But still.) you're in a weird frame of mind which goes something like, "Okay, I don't know them. They don't know me either. Who gives a rat's behind?" You speak to table upon table of total strangers, giving them a zippy, four-minute spiel about your book, which you boil down and condense until it's almost perfect (by then it's almost over, too). You make them laugh (hopefully) and pass out the business cards Tech Boy made you get (you only let him get fifty. Boy, was that a mistake), and it is more than all right. They're an awesome audience. And you realize even if you're not "besties" with every author out there, these are your people. Your tribe. Librarians. You've known that all along.

And, then you meet Adrienne, and that makes the tough morning seem a whole lot better. Plus: she had cute sandals.

ALA 2010 064Plus: you round out the day by recording a page of The Wizard of Oz for a Lend Your Voice charity audio book. It is highly amusing, and you would have read it all in one take, if it weren't for the typos in the sheet you were given. (Librarians obviously did not type it.) You giggle mockingly at the exasperated producer guy, and do it in two takes. Oh, well. (I sound dreadful, but here it is...)

It is hot in Washington, D.C.. It is historically hot. You are having to see people and talk to people and run around when you would really rather be immersed in tepid water. It is trying. Your face shines. Your hair frizzes. Everyone else's hair frizzes. You take two showers a day, and drink liters and liters of water. But it is such a privilege to go to the Newbery/Caldecott Dinner. You are so proud of your friend and acquaintances who are going to be honored, that no matter how hot you are, and how ridiculous you think your outfit looks in that heat (the dress you brought you suddenly hate, so you wear something else), you smile and smile and applaud in all the right places.

ALA 2010 065It is, of course, awesome. And even though you think with sorrow that the Caldecott is illustrator-slanted, when your friend Liz is the writer of the book, you remember that in the beginning were the words, and you are satisfied.

Also: dessert. Almost equally satisfying.

You start to gear up for The Event for which you have attended the Convention. At seven thirty in the morning you nervously attend a breakfast with the Coretta Scott King jury. These are the people who nominated and voted for your book. You are ...well, nervous. But it fades after about four minutes, because these people are warm and kind -- and mostly hilarious. At the table, you sit around and giggle at the stories of their families, and whose uncle cooked various country "treats" like opossum stew, which their mothers would never let them eat (Darn?). You discover your father shares a name with the father of someone else in the group, and you discuss all the foods you love that fight cancer. This is a random sampling of all the things you talked about, but the conversation flows naturally and easily, and there's practically a group hug at the end.

These people are really nice.

ALA 2010 057And your book signing, after the breakfast and the YALSA Coffee Thingy, is a snap. Talking to so many people who all blurred into one friendly group means that some of them come by to say hello. Many of them take pictures, and you hope some of them actually turn out well. You regretfully do not remember any of their names, if you ever knew them, but they make a nerve-wracking event so much easier.

In the end, you get a signed book from Julie Anne Peters, and since you've been stalking her forever, and she signs after you -- it's both awesome AND convenient. (You have a picture of her, but you don't want to post it without her permission... and she's in BERMUDA, darn her.)

And after this? You wander the Exhibit Hall and you meet Jerry Pinkney. You think he is amazing, and you're so, so happy for him FINALLY WINNING A CALDECOTT. Since you really have nothing else to say to a stranger you think is awesome (Yes. You say, "You're awesome" to a seventy year old man, and then quietly wither inside from the humiliation of your inarticulate, high school vocabulary) you give him a copy of your book, and then briefly go into hysterics.

(We will draw a veil over the rest of that. And expunge it from the memories of all the people who were there, watching you get all red-faced and verklempt. And we will say, on pain of pain, "Let's never mention this again.")

ALA 2010 079And then, it's the next day, and you're facing the big dance - the CSK Breakfast. And you realize it's six thirty in the morning, and you're ...there. (And you're asking yourself, WHAT AM I DOING UP AT THIS HOUR!?) You're not sure if you have to give a speech... the Newbery/Caldecott people who had to give a speech had to turn it in early, so it's on a little audio file for all the dinner attendees. Surely, you reason, since they didn't ask you for your pre-written speech, no one needs you to say anything.


(You'll never forget the horrified expression on Miss Robin and Miss Carolyn's faces when you reveal to them this reasoning, partway through the eating portion of the breakfast. You hastily reassure them that you did plan for something...)

You listen. You speak.
You resist falling over on the table when it is over.

In spite of panic attacks and getting lost - constantly - you have a really, really good time at the ALA. And you promise yourself you won't be quite such a dork if you ever go again.

And now, the name-dropping. These are authors and illustrators I actually met, with whom I exchanged more than two words. And no, just seeing them or stalking them, or jumping up and down silently, pointing and mouthing, "OH, MY GOSH, THERE'S CORY DOCTOROW!" doesn't count, or I could have added tons of other people to this list:

Julia Alvarez
Christopher Paul Curtis
Kelly Fineman - whose book isn't out yet, but I *will* link to it, someday!
Laura Purdie Salas
Rebecca Stead
Libba Bray
Kekla Magoon
Rita Williams-Garcia
Chris Barton
Sara Lewis Holmes
Liz Garton Scanlon
Lyn Miller Lachmann
Carrie Jones
Julie Anne Peters
Jerry Pinkney
E.B. Lewis

And now we are home, and you have been to the convention, minus the miles we walked each day, the perspiration, and the voices of the crowd. It was lovely to have you with me. Thanks for being there.

July 05, 2010

OOOH. Jane Austen + Fantasy = Shades of Milk & Honey

“...the grace of Sense and Sensibility, a touch of classic fairy tale magic, and an action-packed ending” — Library Journal

According to Amazon: Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

Read the first chapter of Shades of Milk & Honey on Mary Robinette Kowal's blog, right this second, and look forward to picking up the novel in August. Not a YA title, but will be enjoyed by those who are Jane-centric, I think.

More Shoes of Awesome

Washington D.C. 023

Ah, that snazzy parquet flooring framed a perfectly adorable pair of slippers which were presented to me upon my arrival at Jama's house.

I mentioned ONCE -- ages ago -- that I loved those slippers and would like to visit them if I ever visited her. Months and months fast forward -- they were waiting for me when I arrived, along with ROOT BEER, which I can't get in the UK, and Cholula Hot Sauce, which is the Hot Sauce of Greatness (Sorry, Louisiana Hot Sauce - I know that's how everyone else in my family rolls, but ... gotta go with Mexico on this one).

My mother thought I looked like the Bernstein Bears' Mama Bear with these on, which promptly made me take them off... also, it was almost 100°F that day, and the slippers just didn't suit my frame of mind. However, they were still really cute, and made me fit in with the rest of the denizens of the house!

A Woman of Words

Washington D.C. 099Everyone else has posted so eloquently about the ALA Convention - words and pictures from Pam, Liz, and Kelly, not to mention Laurie Halse Anderson, give a pretty good idea of the color, the sounds and crazybusy action going on all over in various meetings and the massive convention exhibit hall. I'll write a bit about the authors I met, the CSK jury and my breakfast speech when I've digested it more, but for now, I wanted to blog about the sneak peek I took into the World of Words known as the home of Jama & Len* Rattigan.

Being in someone's home tells you a lot about them - and Jama's blog home tells most people that she's unfailingly kind and generous, that she values beauty, that she plays with pasta on behalf of other people, and that she's somewhat obsessed with teddy bears. Spending time with Jama reveals that she also loves chocolates and Hawaii, reveres Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and is always, always, always joking. She has a very dry sense of humor and says outrageous things with a straight face.

Washington D.C. 083What many people in the blogosphere don't remember: Jama is a writer in her own right. No matter that she's constantly cheering on the rest of us, she's a picture book author who rarely, if ever, toots her own horn. Okay, let's just say NEVER toots her own horn.

She talked a little about her book, The Woman in the Moon, when it came out, and Dumpling Soup got some excellent reviews, but Jama's blog persona is almost entirely devoted to talking about other people's books.

Washington D.C. 093I tried to trick her into telling me what she was working on, any number of times. She gracefully (cagily?) changed the subject. Understandable, really, when you think of how many of us grew up with the idea that it was unbecoming of a lady to talk about her accomplishments. But seriously -- she got a signing at Barnes & Noble for Truman's Aunt Farm. We all know how hard it is to get any of the big chains to pay any kind of attention to authors, much less picture book authors -- so be impressed. Plus: A book about an AUNT farm. How cute is that?

Jama loves words. Phrases grace her house on every surface. Plates, utensils, doorways, walls, floors. There are chalkboards and signs all over; even the bath towels have something to say. Much to our amusement, the telephone booth in the den actually works. With a pocketful of quarters, one can make a call anywhere. Communication, lyrics, the alphabet, typography -- if it's word oriented, it's somewhere on display at Jama's place. We got a kick out of leaving her mysterious messages in various places... some of which are still worrying her. (snicker)

Washington D.C. 084And the books! We all have our TBR stacks, but Jama's are stacked by month of release date, by whether or not they're food oriented, by whether or not she's already read them -- there are notes and bookmarks and a whole lot of things going on that I was afraid to touch. If you sat down for a week, you couldn't read through the stacks of things she has waiting for her attention. This reminds me of how diligent and organized she is - wow.

Washington D.C. 090Jama also loves her collections. I mean, okay: yes. You knew about the bears, since they often intrude on her blog posts. (Honestly, they have sort of tried to take over the house. They're still looking for her car keys.) There are hundreds of bears on display... perfectly dusted, vacuumed and maintained (although she swears the trick is just to keep the lights low and everything looks cleaner than it is. Yeah, right). The cases of bears not on display would probably boggle the mind --! You know how collections go. People see you have two cute teddy bears and think, "Ooh, an easy gift possibility!" Hundreds of bears later, Jama is probably a little bear'd out. But her ant collection is fairly mesmerizing as well. There are mixing bowl ants. Ant napkin rings. Ant figurines on the table... and actually, flying ants outside, that bite. (Fortunately, we didn't meet any of those less hospitable ants.) Jama also has several really gorgeous quilts, one of which doubled as a tablecloth. Along with the ants, and the teddy bears in the room, her dining room took on the feel of a perfectly amiable indoor picnic.

This is just a tiny snippet of Jamaland, and a tiny peek at the hospitality of an author and blogger we all know and love -- I'm thrilled that I got a chance to sneak around Jama's house and invite you along. Next time we'll have more time to bake and gossip and sit around and hang with the bears.

Washington D.C. 096*I think we kind of freaked out poor Len; being married to Jama he must be used to ...um, unusual (READ: completely weird) people, but the combination of Jama and me together would have made a lesser man take to drink within the first hour. He claims he had to "work," the next day and that's the only reason he left the state before sunrise. Riiiight. A very sudden pressing engagement, that. The jury is out on whether or not we actually believe him.

(The whole thing from Jama's POV.)