Thursday, November 29, 2007

Inhaling Politics & Prose

Here's a quick shout-out to Rees, who came to visit me at Politics and Prose yesterday afternoon. Rees is a discerning 10-year-old reader who peppered me with questions about ALL-STARS and EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. He was a pleasure to talk with -- he even found an adult friend upstairs, a teacher friend, and brought him downstairs to meet me. Thanks, Rees, for a fabulous conversation, and thanks to Rees's mother, Heidi, who works at P&P. It was so good to see Jewell Stoddard and Dara La Porte again, along with Gussie Lewis, whom I had never met, and who arranged the stock signing yesterday afternoon.

After school, I took the Metro from Dunn Loring (the end of the orange line) to Metro Center, changed trains and took the red line to Van Ness, and walked the eight blocks north to Politics & Prose. Walking in to that store took me back to my years in D.C. -- nostalgic R Us today. I took a deep breath as stood there at the top of the stairs that lead to the children's department and some of my hero friends. I remember the days when Jewell owned The Cheshire Cat in D.C. -- what a fabulous independent children's bookstore was Cheshire Cat. Jewell and the children's department at Politics & Prose give me hope for children's books and readers.

Of course I didn't take a single photograph. We sat around the big table downstairs swapping stories and laughing and basking in one another's company. Who thinks to take a picture at a time like that? Oh, well.

Tami Lewis Brown and Louise Simone stopped by -- they are writers and librarians at Sheridan School nearby and also fellow Vermont College graduates -- it was so good to see them! Kathie Meizner and I went to supper later and Kathie gave me a ride back to my hotel in Fairfax -- thanks so much, Kathie, for the ride in the night, for good conversation, and a long catch-up.

I'm off to work now in fifth grade. I have lots to tell you about Canterbury Woods Elementary School, teachers and students. Think collaboration, coaching, mentoring, laughing, working hard... lots of good work in the world is going on right here. More from the other end of this good day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Must the Novelist Crusade?

I'm off to Canterbury Woods for day two of a four-day residency. More on this wonderful school soon. I want to leave you today with some thoughts from Eudora Welty's essay "Must the Novelist Crusade?"

I re-read it this morning, as I'm working with some folks at Georgia State University on wrapping up an interview I did with the Eudora Welty Society about how I came to know and love Eudora Welty's work and how I eventually named a character in THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS after her. The interview will appear in the next Eudora Welty Newsletter -- I'll let you know about it when it appears.

But in the meantime, I received a query from Dr. Pearl McHaney about one of my answers-to-hard-questions:

"Is the essay you mention reading and using as a model during the discussion of civil rights and Freedom Summer the essay 'Must the Novelist Crusade?'"

Yes, it is, Dr. McHaney.

The entire essay can be found here. It's good for me to read it again as I embark on a novel that takes place in 1962. I don't want to crusade. I want to tell a good story. Here are a couple of plum bits for me to remember:

"Writing fiction is an interior affair. Novels and stories always will be put down little by little out of personal feeling and personal beliefs arrived at alone and at firsthand over a period of time as time is needed. To go outside and beat the drum is only to interrupt, interrupt, and so finally to forget and to lose. Fiction has, and must keep, a private address. For life is lived in a private place; where it means anything is inside the mind and heart. Fiction has always shown life where it is lived, and good fiction, or so I have faith, will continue to do this."

And one more passage I love:

"Indeed, great fiction shows us not how to conduct our behavior but how to feel. Eventually, it may show us how to face our feelings and face our actions and to have new inklings about what they mean. A good novel of any year can initiate us into our own new experience."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sometimes a Shining Moment

In a former life, I probably wanted to be a food photographer. Not. But I do seem to take lots of food photos for this blog. This is yesterday's lunch (pumpkin muffins by Hannah). "Dinner" is what we call it in the South, as we eat our big meal in the middle of the day when I'm home.

We often eat in this cozy, companionable spot in front of the fire.

For the next four days, I'll eat lunch at Canterbury Woods Elementary School, where I'm working, in Fairfax, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. I'm teaching personal narrative writing with 5th graders at Canterbury Woods and I want to share some thoughts on this process with you all during the week.

I'm signing stock at Politics & Prose in D.C. on Wednesday at 4pm. If you're in the neighborhood, please come by and see me. Anybody want to go to dinner afterward? Let me know. D.C. is my beloved old stomping grounds. Any Children's Book Guild readers out there?

I had such a mellow Thanksgiving it was hard to leave home yesterday. I'm out for 8 days, with one overnight at home. I'll go from here to New Orleans, where I'm going to be starting an oral history project with Coleen Salley. Then I toodle up to Hattiesburg, Missisippi, where I'm going to visit with elementary school students and give an address on December 4 to the University of Southern Mississippi Honors Forum. Here's the title of my talk: "From Mississippi to Mississippi: A Love Story in Three Violent, Compassionate Acts including The Beatles, the Vietnam War, and Your Personal History."

I've been writing this speech for over 30 years. I'll tell you more about that soon.

I'm feeling a bit flattened by this fall's schedule with a new book out there and all the traveling I do anyway in addition to the tour I've just finished. But you know how it is. You stand up in front of that classroom of students or that group of teachers or that gaggle of neighborhood kids, and you know that there is sometimes a shining moment, even in the midst of your flattened feelings or a difficult day, season, life, and you watch for it, for that moment. You are energized by it.

Sometimes you realize you are living it, that shining moment, right this minute. And especially, when you look back with some perspective, you realize that life is one shining moment after another, even in the midst of the challenges you face.

Maybe that's why I take so many pictures of food. I'm looking at this meal I'm about to eat, this meal that two (or four) hands have prepared so lovingly -- it's a shining moment. Something like that.

I have to go look in the mirror now and apply make up. This will not be a shining moment. Remind me to tell you about getting started with Weight Watchers on Saturday -- definitely not a shining moment on that scale. But I'm serious about this, and soon there WILL be shining moments to report. We're going to do these shining weigh-in moments together, too -- right? RIGHT? hello?

Off to school I go. Have a good week, everybody... the year is almost over! And hang in there, Hannah -- only two more weeks and the semester is DONE.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Rain in Dry Atlanta

We woke up to rain this morning. It's still raining. O Happy Day. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful for you. Thank goodness for friends, for family, for books, for good food, for shelter... for rain.

Thanksgiving Eulogy for Jasper

Jasper was part of the Capriola family for 16 years. He died on Sunday. Diane Capriola, who owns Little Shop of Stories, our children's independent bookstore in Decatur, Georgia, asked me if Comfort Snowberger might write a Life Notice for Jasper in the way she writes her Life Notices in EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. I was honored to be asked, and so was Comfort. Here is Jasper's Life Notice on Thanksgiving Day, shared with permission from Diane. The family will hold a memorial service today. Comfort would be proud. I send my love. Here's to all good dogs, everywhere.

We Come to Celebrate Jasper Capriola:
A Life Well Lived, A Dog Well Loved

Life Notice by Comfort Snowberger:
Explorer, Recipe Tester, and Funeral Reporter

November 22, 2007

It’s Thanksgiving Day, the day that we give thanks for all our blessings. But, as Uncle Edisto tells us, you can’t have blessings without sorrows, as that is the way of life. This Thanksgiving there is sorrow mixed in with the blessings – just imagine the sadness all over Decatur, Georgia this week as the Capriola family said goodbye to their beloved dog Jasper, a beautiful, white, furry mutt from the Atlanta Humane Society who, as a puppy less than eight weeks old, wagged his tale and blinked his big brown eyes and inspired Diane to say, “That’s the puppy that’s going home with us today!”

So Diane and Rich brought Jasper home with them in 1991. He was so little, he scrunched himself under the driver’s seat all the way home, and who could blame him? He was a tiny puppy who had charmed his new owners but now what? Would they be the right owners for him? He cried all night long at Diane and Rich’s house because he wasn’t sure, because he was scared, and because he was still a baby. Diane kept saying, “It’s OK, Jasper. I’m right here.” And that’s all it took. That and the pasta. Jasper loved pasta. Sauce or no sauce, it didn’t matter. Jasper loved pasta.

I asked Diane about Jasper, as I am an expert on dogs, having had the most wonderful dog of all time, Dismay, Funeral Dog Extraordinaire, for seven of my ten years on the planet. Here’s what Diane told me.

When Jasper first came home, there were no kids at the house – this was before Nick, Will, and Jennifer were born. Nick, Will, and Jennifer did not come from the Atlanta Humane Society, but they were just like real brothers and a sister to Jasper, it’s just that Jasper was the oldest. When he came home from the Humane Society, he was so small he fit inside a men’s size ten shoe. Nick, Will and Jennifer were never that small. Can you imagine a baby fitting into a man’s shoe? Jasper did.

But he grew fast. And when Nick, Will, and Jennifer came along, Jasper was overjoyed. Siblings! Kids who dropped food on the floor! Suddenly there were lots of people to protect and lots of feet to lick. Lots of loving to do. Jasper loved his family so much that he would practically bend in half when they came home at the end of the day. He was so glad to see them that he wiggled himself into noodles of happiness. Have you ever seen a dog do this? It’s the most comical, endearing thing. To think that we, human beings, could make dogs so happy.

Jasper loved to go to the park, to eat raw chicken with his dog friends, to "beat up" innocent unsuspecting puppies, to run on the beach, and to play with his best friend Buddy, a golden-lab mix who left this world a few years back. Jasper was an all-around Good Dog, a noble dog, a wonder dog, a silly dog, like all good dogs are. He even had a special talent: he could catch ice cubes that Rich spit to him. Ha!

A few years back Jasper was diagnosed with a cancer of a nasty sort- the tumor was growing on his rear end and was apparently inoperable. He smelled bad. Very bad. Almost all the time. But the Capriolas didn’t care (love is like that). They wanted Jasper to live forever and they took him to Dr. Mike Smith of Emory Animal Hospital in Decatur, Georgia – the most wonderful vet in the whole wide world. Dr. Mike suggested to Diane and Rich that he try to remove the tumor anyway. Diane and Rich said yes, and that decision gave them almost one more year with Jasper. He battled ferociously to live and for a while he was “The Dog Who Lived.” Last Sunday he died at the old dog age of 16, surrounded by his family.

But he will always live in the hearts of those who loved him. That’s the way it is with dogs and people, you know? I had to learn this the hard way when I lost my dog, Dismay. All I have to do is think of his bravery, his loyalty, his smiling puppy face (even when he got older he had that face), and he lives again, just like Jasper lives on. And now Jasper no longer suffers. Or smells. Poor Jasper. But what a hero he was. Is. And heroic is the Capriola family for taking such good care of such a good dog and for loving him back as much as he loved them.

Isn’t love a wonderful thing? Aren’t dogs the most faithful and loving creatures? Aren’t we lucky to know them? And aren’t we lucky to have families and friends to surround us in sad times and happy times… at all times. Thank goodness for families. For friends. For each other. Let’s all hug one another now and tell Good Dog stories.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hangin' at NCTE

I'm going to get to NCTE -- what a time, what a time. This is such a rich convention -- so much to learn. Before I got started at NCTE, however, I stopped at Books of Wonder, a fabulous children's book store in Manhattan, to sign stock. I've been wanting to visit for years, and here was my chance. I found out that the buyer, Patty Ocfemia, is also a singer/songwriter! I'm listening to her CD, Heaven's Best Guest, as I type this entry.

"Is it folk?" I asked Patty when she gifted me with the CD. "Aggressive folk," she said. Yes, it is. Roseanne Cash is quoted as saying, "Patty has a voice that is smoky, urgent, and real, and a songwriting sensibility that is unique." Yes.

After I signed stock, I ate a cupcake at The Cupcake Cafe in Books of Wonder and savored once again M.T. Anderson's STRANGE MR. SATIE, one of my favorite picture books of the last few years. I bought the book and then (if you've read the blog entries of the book tour, you won't be surprised), I left the book at Blossom, where my editor, Kate Harrison, and I had dinner on Friday night. Kate says she has located it and will send it to me. Thanks, Kate.

Here we are on the convention floor the next morning, me wearing my Mrs. Frizzle glasses -- got 'em in Iowa City earlier this month.

I finally got to meet up again with Alison Morris, children's buyer at Wellesley Booksmith, and good writer all-around. She wrote an introduction for me at BEA two years ago when LITTLE BIRD won the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award and I've been wanting to catch up with her ever-since, to thank her and to ask her for that introduction -- I collect good writing. Recipes, obituaries, essays, directions, book reviews, movie reviews (I love Roger Ebert), introductions -- there is an art to writing well, and I know when I'm in the presence of a Good Writer. Alison also writes ShelfTalker: A Children's Bookseller's Blog at Publisher's Weekly online. Same Good Writer, Same Good Writing.

Here's a cousin of mine I haven't seen for too many years, I'm embarrassed to say. Here's Jessica Weleski, all grown up and an English Teacher! It was so good to see her. We need a catch up. I hope we get one soon --

And one more group shot (just pretend I'm not in all of these; believe me, I don't want to post this many photos of myself) with teachers and writers -- that's Jo Knowles on the left (front), whose new (and first!) book is here -- LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL -- Yay! -- And Cindy Faughnan, fellow Vermont College alum and friend.

It was such a love fest on the floor... hmmm... I guess I'll share these photos, too -- here are heroes -- English teachers. I'd love to have their names, as we were having way too much fun to write them down, but aren't their faces -- their visages -- just fantastic? You can tell they are great teachers:

and one more:

This is not an English teacher. Big points if you know who the goateed fellow is. The redhead is his son. Bigger points if you know HIS name! Fun to see them again.

This (below) is also not an English teacher, it's Vivian Vande Velde, whose books I have enjoyed for years.

Vivian has lots of NCTE photos up at her site already.

So let me show you our panel for "Reading Like a Writer," the NCTE session I was part of. Here are Claudia Sharpe (left) and Sarah Ellis... was I in the presence of greatness or what?

I'm not surprised that we had a packed room with people sitting on the floor, etc., as these two women have quite the following. I must admit, too, that I felt flustered in their presence, and in the presence of All Those Fabulous English Teachers as I stood up to do my part... it might have been partly due to the fact that my Harcourt signing on the convention floor bumped up against our session at the Marriott Marquis, and I was literally running in the door as our session began. Couldn't find my notes. What to do? Punt. It was okay. I found the good chair palunka, the smiles and nods, and I was soothed as I spoke. What I wouldn't give, though, to spend time in each of those teachers' classrooms, watching them work. Oh, please, let me watch them work some day. I will bring my notebook! I will take voluminous notes! I will learn so much!

What we talked about in our session was helping young writers take apart a text (in addition to enjoying it) and discover how a writer writes -- what tools does she employ to tell a good story? How can we use those tools to improve our own work? That's what I have always done -- it's how I learned to write. I took apart the work of those writers I admired, and I modeled my own writing after what I admired, as I found my own voice and my own way. I do this still, today.
So that was some of Saturday. On Sunday morning, Jim and I found our way to the Vedanta Center of New York, and then to MOMA to see the Alexander Calder exhibit. Calder is one of my heroes. Jim and I had tickets to see Mulgrew Miller (one of Jim's heroes) at Lincoln Center on Friday night -- I was falling asleep on my feet by then but it was so worth it. What a genius is Mulgrew! What a band!

I'm going to find my way to a nap this afternoon. The cats have already settled around me. I didn't even tell you about the night walking tour of Brooklyn on Sunday night and... and... and... so much was packed into these few days. But time to turn forward. It's Thanksgiving week. I'm writing a eulogy this week for a friend's beloved dog, to be delivered at Thanksgiving... isn't that the most amazing thing? I'm writing it in the voice of Comfort Snowberger -- that's even more amazing. I'm honored to be asked to do this. More about this later, if friend Diane will allow me to share it with you.

My two youngest children, Hannah and Zach, both in their twenties, live here in Atlanta. They have declared their intention to make Thanksgiving dinner this year. More power to 'em! Let the mess, the mayhem, and the fun begin. As soon as I'm done with my nap.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Heading for NYC

This is not my work in progress. It's a page from Walt Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS. I've been talking about LEAVES OF GRASS in schools this fall, as it's a big part of THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS. I've been extolling the virtures of revision. Now it's time to mush around in getting that first draft down -- how do we figure out what makes writing good? I'm off to NCTE to share some thoughts, and to be educated.

I'm enjoying my coffee, the quiet, and the cats early this morning. I'm almost packed. New York in November -- the tree won't be ready in Rockefeller Plaza, but I'm going to start celebrating the holidays -- Thanksgiving, anyway. It's time to be among my peeps at The National Council of Teachers of English annual convention.

I'm looking forward to some quality time with writer, editor, and teacher friends, looking forward to the conversations, the ideas, the inspirations. I love NCTE. It's where you'll find some of the most dedicated, passionate teachers from across the country who come together to share what they're discovering, and to learn what they want to know. They return to their classrooms recharged, and they send me back to the page ready to write. What a great kickoff for lucky me, as I plunge headlong into the new novel, but not before I spend one more week in schools, teaching personal narrative writing, in the D.C. area right after Thanksgiving. NCTE is just what I need right now.

I'll be caught in a whirlwind of various dinners and lunches and breakfasts and coffees -- ha! another forty pounds! (not!) -- but it's all good, all good work, and here's where we can see one another for sure:

Friday, Nov. 16 (today):

4pm: I'll be signing stock at Books of Wonder, 18 W. 18th St. New York, NY. This isn't an official signing, it's really an opportunity to meet the fine folks at Books of Wonder, and I'm really looking forward to this. If you wander past the store, stop in and say hey!

Saturday, Nov. 17:

9:15 - 10:15am -- I'm signing at the Harcourt Booth (#336) at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street (at 11th Avenue) Hall C, Level 1.

11:00am - 12:15 -- Speaking on program: "Learning to Read Like a Writer" at the Marriott Marquis Times Square, Olmstead Room, 2nd Floor. We're going to be talking about the teaching of writing in the elementary through high school classroom. I'm speaking with the wonderful Sarah Ellis, the fabulous Claudia Sharpe, and working again with Nancy Roser and Miriam Martinez from the University of Texas -- these women are phenomenal educators and great good friends -- do come bask in their presence, as will I. My segment of the program is entitled "Creating the Writing Toolbox."

Sunday, Nov. 18:

7:30 - 9:45am -- The Children's Literature Assembly Breakfast. Speaker is Allen Say, whose work I have admired for years -- can't wait to hear him speak. Can't wait to greet good friends. Can't wait for good coffee at that hour on a Sunday morning!

Jim and I are hoping for good jazz (we've got tickets to see Mulgrew Miller late tonight) and good weather and maybe a trip to Brooklyn. We've never been to Brooklyn and friends are saying we're missing out. So we shall see! I'll bring my camera. Stay tuned.

Happy Trails -- see you in NYC.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Catching up with Myself

Home. It's time for soup and fall vegetables. I bought beets, squashes of all kinds, beans, potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, and eggplant at the Farmer's Market over the weekend. Here's today's lunch. It's a mixture of yellow and green split peas, brown and wild rice, carrots, celery, onion, and some marjoram, allspice, garlic, cracked pepper, and ginger. I made it up. Added a slice of Farmer's Market whole-grain bread with just-ground peanut butter, and an apple.

Here's my lunchtime view. It's November, but we're still eating outside -- the sunshine is warm. I'm thrilled with the few days home, even if they are filled with administrivia. Paperwork, mostly, and laundry and lots of slow moving. Sleeeeeping. In my own bed.

I'm pulling together the odds and ends that I have finished so far with the new novel, as I'll meet with my new editor, Kate Harrison, on Friday in NYC. We're about to plunge into this Sixties trilogy in a big way. I spent a good while yesterday putting together a montage of photographs from the Sixties that I want to share with Kate and Harcourt folks. I put the images in PowerPoint along with musical accompaniment by the Maria Schneider Orchestra, in particular the cut called "The Pretty Road" from her new cd, SKY BLUE. I decided against a traditional '60s song and went instead for something completely different and orchestral -- I like the effect. I *love* the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

I was influenced in my musical choice for this montage by the effects in a movie I saw over the weekend, AMERICAN GANGSTER. I usually stay far away from violent movies, but I'm watching all kinds of movies (and documentaries) right now about the 1960s, and I was particularly interested in watching Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe working together. This is an amazing movie, and I loved the musical treatment. See what you think of the way "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" is used in this movie to juxtapose one way of life against another -- amazing, that's what I thought.

I'll be writing (and asking questions) about the Sixties in this journal as I talk about the process of research and writing the new novel. Who has seen TALK TO ME, the new Don Cheadle movie (just out on DVD after a summer theatre release)? It's terrific. I lived in D.C. in the mid-1960s, when Petey Greene was a D.J. on WOL radio.

Before I go back to paperwork, I want to give a shout-out to the good folks in Iowa City who made the week with 5th and 6th graders possible. Thank you all so much, new friends, for everything -- every single thing. Here are a few last photos from last Friday, to wrap up that week. Did I mention that all the "20" tee-shirts stand for the 20th anniversary of this Iowa City Community Reads program:

Friday's schools were Lucas, Hoover, and Wood. These three characters from Lucas were doing their imitation of the lit candle swaying in the dark after the assembly -- ha! They're holding bookmarks. Thanks, guys!

This was a surprise bunch at Hoover -- writers from the Iowa chapter of SCBWI! They brought me treats and a warm welcome -- it was so good to meet them. Thank you for coming! Let's see if I get this right. From left: Linda Karwath, Patty Hinch, Connie Hecker, Katherine House, and Dori Butler.

Here are the Lucas kids -- what a banner! "Pretend my aunts are running for us," I said. "Come here and love my neck! I could just eat you up!"

And here are the Hoover kids -- what a big welcome. I forgot to take my camera out of my bag at Wood, but trust me, I was there! I got a bit frazzled by late Friday -- fifteen schools in five days, 18 schools altogether and so many wonderful memories --

Saying goodbye to Iowa City! Great, collaborating, inventive, curious, creative librarians with a terrific program. Thanks to Julie Larson and Sue, who kept us all organized, to Paula Brandt at the curriculum lab at the University of Iowa, to Hills Banks and the Iowa Schools, to Barb Stein who is a goddess, to Mark and Bob at The Brown Street Inn for taking good care of me, to the folks at Prairie Lights for welcoming me, to the Iowa City Public Library and Katherine Habley, and to all the teachers who prepared their students for this week, and to those students, those wonderful readers and writers, those wonderful smiles and embraces -- all that good energy. I won't forget you. You have enriched my life.

I caught an earlier (and direct) flight home from Cedar Rapids in time to see my daughter's Oglethorpe Singers concert (thanks so much, Barb Stein, for literally speeding me to the airport on Friday afternoon). I slipped into a seat on the front row just in time to hear the Singers perform "Sing Me To Heaven." Here's a YouTube link to this song (rehearsal by the Bucknell Choir).

I stashed my luggage under a table near the theatre seats, and I sank down in gratefulness in my primo front-row seat. Car, plane, Marta train and taxi had brought me to the theatre, and now here was music, live music, accapella live music. I sat there, bathed in the sweetness of coming home and listened to those lyrics, to those voices, those notes. Big fat tears rolled down my face. Home.

After the concert: My daughter Hannah with good buddy Keith. They both graduate in May. Sigh.

Come have some supper with me. It's chilly enough for a fire tonight here in Atlanta. Two more days until NYC and NCTE. My new husband Jim, my piano player, is coming with me. He has the jazz scoped out already.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Can't Sleep....

Beautiful mural at Shimek Elementary. There is more, this is just one panel. Great student collaboration.

Can't sleep. I think it's catching up to me, these days in Iowa City schools. Or maybe I'm excited because I'm going home this afternoon. Maybe I'm too congested to sleep -- I think I've caught something. Maybe.

Or maybe I'm worried about getting the packing done and getting out the door early enough for a breakfast in school, as I need to go straight to the airport after school number three today. Lots and lots of details swimming around in my semi-congested head.

In any case, I woke up an hour ago and can't sleep. What's a body to do? Blog, of course. Here are some photos from yesterday's schools. My feedburner stats are amazing this week. Who are you guys? Lots of visitors!

Feedburner tells me how many people visit this blog. It doesn't tell me who you are, it doesn't give me that sort of information and I don't collect information but there is a counter, just like there is on many web pages, and I suspect there are lots of Iowa City students checking in to see themselves. Here you go. Another post for you.

Here are some of my welcoming ambassadors at Shimek Elementary, with their teacher-librarian Sheryl Little. I was in such good hands there and had a great sound system! Thanks, guys. I know I have your names in my notebook ("Keep a notebook! Rule Number One!") but it's packed right now. Let me get it.

Okay. I unearthed my notebook. Thanks to Kelly, Abby, Hudson, Danny B., Austin, and Tytiana or Ty, who is pictured above, next to Ms. Little.

Thanks, too, to Dr. Charlie Towers, principal at Shimek, for coming to the assembly and being such an integral part of his students' learning experience.

Here's the team at Kirkwood that made our second session possible. We had fun -- I laughed a lot yesterday. These folks and their students gave me so much. That's teacher-librarian Kristi Harper in the middle.

And here's the reading club at Coralville Central, with their hip teacher-librarian Becky Gelman.

Here's the reading club enacting what they would look like if my three maiden aunts came running for them - "Come here and love my neck! I could just eat you up!"

I'm pleased to show you a photo that includes these three beautiful men. From left, principal of Coralville Central Michael O'Leary (who not only attended the assembly, he wore his Community Reads t-shirt and introduced me to Molly, the school dog), Becky Gelman, Becky's DAD -- may we call him Mr. Wonderful? -- and another Mr. Wonderful from Hills Bank, one of the major funders of the Iowa City Community Reads program. I wish I'd thought to take my own advice and used my notebook, Mr. Wonderful, as I would have your name captured in it -- please, someone rescue me. In the meantime, thank you, Mr. Wonderful, you and your generous colleagues at Hills Bank.

Signing Kobi's shirt.

I might go into the shirt-signing business. I like it.

Cool yellow hat. Handmade. I miss wearing a hat. Maybe I'll take it up again.

After three sessions in three schools, I went to the Iowa City Public Library which has a children's room to die for. Here there be heroes:
Librarians who put good books into the hands of children (and cds, and dvds and information and on and on).

I spoke about my love affair with libraries with children's librarian Katherine Habley as we taped an hour-long interview that will air on the library channel soon. Katherine is fabulous.

My nose is not fabulous. It's running. I drank two bottles of water. I'm going to try to get some sleep. See you soon, students at Lucas, Wood, and Weber Elementary Schools. Then I catch a Delta flight home. Six days home and then to NCTE in New York City.

See this sign? It's what I feel about my work-in-progress right now, and I'm sure it's what my editor thinks. The new novel awaits my concentrated attention. I'm going to switch gears soon. I promise.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Raise your hand if....

Wednesday in Iowa City. A beautiful, crisp, fall day full of Van Allen, Wickham, and Penn Elementary students... and one cow. Okay, so the cow didn't come to schools. But I did.

Put your hands in the yoga of writing....

Raise your hand if you've ever had your heart broken. Raise your hand if you've ever been angry. Raise your hand if you've ever been tortured by a brother or sister (as I was!), if you've ever been confused about what's happening in your world, if you've ever been afraid of something...

...if you've ever said, "I have nothing to write about...."

Raise your hand if you created a terrific poster or banner or painting! Raise your hand if you sat on the floor for an entire hour without squirming!

Raise your hand if you are a librarian par excellence (Here is Ann Holton at Penn, one of the many stellar Iowa City teacher-librarians)

Raise your hand if you love revision!

"Is she kidding?"

Raise your hand if you provided thses fantastic zinnias for our cemetery picnic!

Raise your hand if you need your shirt signed!

Raise your hand if you are a member of the LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER book group at Wickham. Raise your hand if you know where the lemon drops came from at lunch.

Raise your hand if you know how these Moon Pies made their way to Iowa City!

Raise your hand if you're pooped just reading this post!

Today, Shimek/Regina, Kirkwood and CorCentral Elementary Schools -- here I come, full of exclamation points!