another sad day

This is a bad season for the elderly of our family.

My Aunt Janet died yesterday. She was the aunt whom I spent the most time with growing up. When I was little, she scared me to death because she could be tough, and, let’s be honest, a wee bit ornery. As I grew older, I began to appreciate all she had done with her life, including leaving an abusive marriage back in the day when most women couldn’t leave, and doing a great job raising my cousin, and taking care of my grandparents in their old age. She was always volunteering with church, and teaching people how to read. She made great tuna fish sandwiches. She was a classy dame with an Irish temper and a mind like a steel trap. She is/was/is one of my heroes.

The biggest impact she had on me was with books. There were not many books in my house growing up, and those that we had were mostly religious texts (Dad was a minister). Aunt Janet never lived in a big house, or a grand apartment, but wherever she lived, she had shelves and shelves of books. I used to stare at her bookshelves and drool. She showed me that books were good and important and worth dedicating a part of your life to.

She had one of the best laughs in the North Country.

I miss her wicked.

PS – Alert to everyone I know. I call a “No Dying Week”. If you have to die, you need to reschedule it until a week from today, at the earliest.

ALA awards announced!!

Many, many congratulations to all the winners!!!!!

The Printz

Honor Books
BLACK JUICE by Margo Lanagan
I AM THE MESSENGER by Markus Zusak

The Newbery Medal
CRISS CROSS by Lynne Rae Perkins

Honor Books
WHITTINGTON by Alan Armstrong
HITLER YOUTH by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
SHOW WAY by Jacqueline Woodson

The Caldecott Medal
THE HELLO GOODBYE WINDOW illus. by Chris Raschka, written by Norton Juster

Honor Books
ROSA, illus. by Bryan Collier, written by Nikki Giovanni
ZEN SHORTS written and illus. by Jon Muth
HOT AIR: THE (MOSTLY) TRUE STORY OF THE FIRST HOT-AIR BALLOON RIDE written and illus. by Marjorie Priceman
SONG OF THE WATERBOATMAN AND OTHER POND POEMS illus. by Beckie Prang, written by Joyce Sidman

A desperate student question & a couple calm ones

Katie writes: I have a few more questions to ask you. If you could, please answer these as quickly as possible. Do you have any idea of how many copies of “Speak” were sold? Thank you so much!! If you could, please post the answer on your web site. I’ll be looking for it.

It shocks me to admit this, but SPEAK has sold more than one million copies in paperback, and about 80,000 copies in hardback in the last six years. In other SPEAK news, the movie is up for a Writers Guild of America award, which is a huge honor to Jessica, Annie and Fred, the powers behind the film.

Leah writes: I’m 15 years old and I’m in the ninth grade. I have a few questions for you. I am writing a book myself, and I’m wanting to publish it when I’m through. I know I have the talent and the skills to make it far. I love writing and I’m very creative with it. I want to know what I have to do to publish a book and if there are any sponsors I can send my book to. I don’t know a lot about publishing and how to make the book known or what is required so I need help from someone who knows what they are doing. Laurie Anderson is one of my favorite writers. I love her books more than anything. I have read a lot of them and I have a collection of them at home. A teacher told me it doesn’t matter what age you are so I’m assuming I can publish a book at this age? Anyway. Please if you could find some way to respond. Hopefully in the journal on the website.

I suggest you head to a library and start researching the business side of being published. Or, you can surf to Harold Underdown’s sitehere are the basics. It does not matter how old you are. If you write a book that is of a high enough quality (or has a great marketing hook) you will probably sell it. However, it could take a very, very long time. You have to be patient and determined.

Cynthia writes: We watched the DVD the other night! My husband joined us after it started and he liked it too! I especially liked how you wrote Speak as though you were a 14/15 yo girl. The nuances? were right on. The way girls…teens treat each other in school…all the non verbal stuff that’s hurtful.
Oh I …we were wondering why the all the writings on the walls weren’t included in the movie? We thought that they were important to the story.
In the book Melinda confides in her art teacher but in the movie it’s her mother. Why? Lastly, I wonder what became of Andy. If you could write a sequel what would Melinda’s sophomore year be like?

I did not have control over the script, although I think the screenplay writers made good choices. If they put the entire book on the screen, it would have lasted something like ten hours. If you read my book CATALYST, you’ll see a mention of Melinda in her sophomore year. In my mind, she’s going to be fine.

We took my mom out to see Chris’ swim meet last night and she was able to stay through the whole thing, which was awesome. The Mexico team won hands-down. The divers were excellent. I usually cringe or cover my eyes when the divers compete, but these boys knew what they were doing, plus it was clear that they were having fun. A good evening all around.

I have to take half a day to deal with correspondence that is piling up about this spring’s school visits. Although I love visiting schools, I am looking forward to my sabbatical from them. For every day actually spent in the school, there is usually at least another full day of correspondence and preparation, in addition to travel time. I know I will miss seeing students and talking to teachers, but my writer self is desperate for a steady string of uninterrupted weeks during which I can focus on books.

We have no kids this weekend, so I will spend it swimming in books about the Revolution. George Washington is my home boy.