Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Props as Prompts, Plus Chekhov. Part 1

In which I revisit some favorite artistic types 
to illustrate my points

✻      Picture books   ❇    

I loved them then.
I love them now.

I'm still capable of wonder. 
And still capable of being manipulated 
by the illustrator leading the way, guiding the reader. 
MORE by I. C. Springman               illustrated by Brian Lies

For example, Brian Lies created this
from his collection of these. 
☟                      ☟
I'll bet there's a connection behind every Lego, 
token, button, jacknife, fork, pacifier, measuring tape, 
bolt, washer, lock, can opener

and key~~

     ~~connections personal enough to inspire Brian's interpretation of the author's words via his award winning art, yet universal enough to trigger the individual imaginations of young readers.
But then, for every young reader there comes that bittersweet 
elementary school lightbulb moment: 

The higher the reading level, 
the fewer the illustrations to lead the way 
and the reader's imagination is manipulated, not by art, but 
by the author's description of those oh so carefully placed objects.


In GLORY BE Augusta Scattergood plunks her middle grade readers right down in Hanging Moss, Mississippi, during the "Freedom Summer" of 1964.

Her carefully chosen props: 
Love Me Tender, Elvis, Nancy Drew, Dr. Pepper
enhance the 60s setting as she steers a new generation &
prompts them to envision, perhaps question, certainly imagine 
what develops into serious themes & complicated issues.

    Augusta's most memorable prop, like Brian's stash of found objects, springs from her imagination.  JUNK POKER a game she and her sister invented, is only a term in the book. There're no lively illustrations, no photographs of the real Buster Brown shoebox or the blue satin ribbon. 
    Nevertheless, she's masterfully woven the game, the box and the contents into her story. 
These props move the plot, enhance her characters & even build tension.   

    Those lucky enough to see Augusta at a book signing or classroom visit get to glimpse the real thing. That Elvis statue, those pecans! The skate key and wax lips! 

From the setting to the characters moving the plot,
Whether it's a literal, visual depiction or a figurative, written description,
props are meant to trigger the imagination.

When the writer or illustrator has done it correctly, 
the story belongs to the reader. 


Part 2 takes a look at the gun on the mantel, 
or in my case, 
the clock and the ironstone platter. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hurry up!

It's Newbery & Caldecott Day and I'm anxiously awaiting the announcements. 

is one of my recent favorites.

But the best news? 
Mid-February marks the launch 
of more Kirby, great blog 

more Hattie.

More lively historical fiction 
for young readers 
and those of us who used to be

Friday, January 25, 2013

A chaise by any other name...

 It's Freewheelin' Friday! 
Dedicated to Artistic Endeavors of all Sorts

       I write. I read. 
I critique manuscripts. 

 * my own work 
 * my freelance clients' 

I whine. I complain. 
I roam around the house, 
from hard back chair to ergonomic home office model,
to kitchen counter stool.

And on occasion I solve my own problems.

My "shaze"

⬇   ⬇   ⬇

I grew up calling these a chaise lounge. "Shaze lowwnge"
However, that seems to be an Americanization (ok, bastardization) of 
zee French: chaise longue. Long chair. 

A few years back author Penny Dawn & I ran this around. 
     I was her mentor, supervising her masters thesis, the wonderfully sexy Measuring Up whose wonderfully sexy hero owned one. I can't remember which spelling she used but I questioned it. She asked her decorator mother for a third opinion. (Mine being the second)

     More recently I've heard a news anchor and some HGTV house hunters pronounce it chase long. Chase long?  <clutches draperies>

Whatever the pronunciation, I own one. 
     It was bought second hand, supported my snowboarding youngest following collarbone surgery, then put in a stint at my daughter's. By the time I got it back the cushion covers were gone. It's neither my style nor my colors. But it's incredibly comfortable & had potential as a perfect solution. 

Per usual I was long on creativity & short on funds.

$21.00 plus tax got me a room-size painter's drop cloth. 

A week's worth of long hours, 
more hand sewing than I'd anticipated, 
& BAND-AIDs (to keep blood from my pricked fingers from staining) 
produced my slipcovered chaise longue.

C'est la perfect respite from hard backed chairs & stiff kitchen stools.
C'est also perfect for zee lounging.


That's French for comfy solution.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Betsy Bird on Brian's Bird

          The Newbery & Caldecott Awards announcements are upon us (January 28th @ 8 a.m. PT) & if you don't know Betsy Bird's renowned blog  Fuse #8 Production, ☚ now's a good time to give it a look. 

           As she says, her blog "features everything from librarian previews of upcoming children's books to news, reviews, and videos. If it has something to do with children's literature, it will rate a mention here." She's the Youth Materials Collection Specialist for the New York Public Library, a Newbery judge, contributor to Horn Book Magazine and all-around kid lit guru.


 ✔ And now for the TAH DAH!  
Betsy's predicting a spot on the Caldecott honors list for MORE. Yup, the medal for the artist who has created the most distinguished picture book of the year. (from the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association) 

 ☀ If you know Brian Lies' work, you'll know why.


It's launch week for writer/artist/illustrator
BRIAN LIES☚cool website

Have I mentioned that he has wheeled around in these...  

☚ ➷ 

because Brian's the New York Times
bestselling author of these.

And now there's...

a LOT more~~
Brian takes I.C. Springman's spare 
perfectly chosen words:
  illustrates a magpie on a mission,
 {the twigs, a marble, that comb, those blocks...}
 and mice sounding the alarm,

He'll have you counting, poking & studying,
{the pocket watch, a tarnished rattle, 
that harmonica,
those stamps & that ace of spades...}
with ~& without~a toddler at your knee. 

There's even, ummm, more! 
Brian illustrated this tale of the hoarding magpie on handmade papers. He chose half a dozen sheets, from pale & nearly clear, to dark & fibrous " echo the crescendo of the bird's collection, with papers which crescendoed in deepening color and organic inclusions~banana and mango leaf pieces, hay, etc." 

❆  Savor every page   
❆  MORE  
a joyful read & cautionary tale for all 
~little guys to grownups~ 
brought to life by a master at his craft.

"Dramatic paintings add depth and foreboding to a lesson about excessive materialism."--Kirkus

"The fable offers a finely drawn, restrained 'less is more' lesson about attachment to things."--Publishers Weekly

"This is a timely, clearly needed fable for contemporary society as it tries to unravel itself from excessive materialism. Ideal for discussions about reducing consumption."--School Library Journal, starred review

Head to your nearest indie bookstore
Pick up MORE for the child in your life 
MORE for your permanent collection. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Injustice anywhere... a threat to justice everywhere."  
Martin Luther King, Jr. 
Letter from Birmingham Jail            16 April 1963

In honor of Martin Luther King Day I'm reposting this blog 
from last year. 
I'm also proud & thrilled  to add the awards
 Augusta Scattergood's GLORY BE has received since its debut. 

       Once upon a time I interested Lerner Publishing/Carolrhoda Books in COME MORNING, my Underground Railroad mystery set in the mid-1860s. I wrote about Liza, a 12 year old Delaware Quaker, helping her neighbor Freedom Newcastle. Free, the son of a former slave, thinks he must pull clues from  a Bible passage  left by his kidnapped father, to figure out where he is, only to realize the quote is meant as directions for moving a runaway slave family out of his own barn  & over the line into Pennsylvania.

My editor told me it was Free's story and should be told from his point of view. 

       Despite being a white, middle class woman, she had faith I could do it. The challenge pulled me out of my comfort zone, as we say. It sent me deeper into archives, research  and my own imagination, determined to weave the best tale I could, influenced by the very real work of Harriet Tubman & Abolitionist  Thomas Garrett. It's a better book and I'm a better writer as a result.

     Augusta Scattergood has just written GLORY BE, set in the mid-1960s in the Mississippi Delta. She's on firm ground, having written from experience. It's her protagonist Gloriana Hemphill, daughter of the local preacher, who's out of that comfort zone. It's Glory she has researching, imagining, stretching~~finding the faith in herself to stand up for what she believes and ultimately become an even better sister, friend, neighbor~~member of her community.

A few of the kudos so far:
☀ Amazon Top  Twenty Middle Grade Novels
☀ Texas Bluebonnet Master List for 2013-2014
☀2012 Indie New Voices pick

The more that you read, the more you will know.
The more you learn, the more places you'll go.
Dr. Seuss           I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.
 Frederick Douglass

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's not your mama's Peter Rabbit

December 16, 1901

111 years ago Peter Rabbit stole his way into Mr. McGregor's garden.
Somewhat later Peter pitter-patted into my life 
& everything Beatrix Potter stole my heart.

For me interactive meant the filmed production
danced by London's Royal Ballet 
which I caught on the big screen in Boston.

The Chicago Sun-Times gave it four stars & Roger Ebert closed his review with one of my  favorite lines: "The stories are told simply and directly and with a certain almost clumsy charm. Instead of going for perfection in the dancing, the Royal Ballet dancers have gone for characterizations... . The various animals have their quirks and eccentricities, and they are fairly authentic: The frog dances like a frog, for example, and not like Nureyev."[4]

Time passed. 

Within the decade I was the mother of three and my daughter's godmother got us started collecting.
My husband was the bedtime story reader, Ms. Potter's eccentric country characters his early favorites. Night after night, tale after tale, he recounted the adventures of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddleduck,  Jeremy Fisher, until our kids became, well,
soporific just like The Flopsy Bunnies.

There's a recent addition to the piecemeal collection~~tattered edged to pristine~~now at my daughter's.

During a visit a while back, I opened our little copy of Peter Rabbit only to have the two year old on my lap repeatedly tap the pages. His four year old sister got to her feet. "We need the iPad, Marmie. Then they'll come alive."

It's not the Royal Ballet & it's not your mama's Peter Rabbit. 
I hope this interactive library grows & soon they can tap 
The Tale of Jeremy Fisher. 
It's one more intriguing way to introduce, delight, 
and yes, make the joy of reading come alive. 

If that well-meaning frog moves like Nureyev, it's ok with me.

Monday, January 7, 2013

HGTV Comes Calling

It's a wrap!

About nine years ago my daughter Amy & husband Rob MacMillan married & set up housekeeping in a converted Newport, RI, greenhouse...


...originally the produce (floral & vegetable) heart of Bonnie Crest,
 which sits few hundred yards north on Brenton Cove.

☀   ☀   ☀

Then came the query from HGTV:

Could they  film a segment for  YOU LIVE IN WHAT? 

A resounding YES 

the filming date was set: 
January 3,  4 & 5, 2013

tentatively scheduled to air in February

Kitchen renovation complete 
Christmas tree and decorations down
Kids back in school
Dog in the car

Dallas-based producer Monika Watkins at AMS Pictures arrived with videographer Scott Anderson & CT freelance sound engineer Mike Larini.

Amy led them through the story of structural additions & subtractions.

Then Rob regaled them with tales of renovations & the guts of the operation~~from the basement coal chute that heated the glass enclosure to estate cisterns designed to irrigate the production field.

Monika & her crew were generous enough to let me hang around. I behaved & didn't intrude which never does a writer any good, of course. Alas, I can offer no relevant details. I left mid-afternoon as Rob was leading them to the basement.

The taping continued till dark.

Saturday they were back for more ☟

Phew! I presume the hours of chat will be boiled down. 
Then again, Converted Newport Greenhouse would make an excellent  miniseries.