Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Walk of Shame

Two days ago I was in a Borders, feeling all creeped out. I love bookstores, but l always get nervous and weird when I enter one. This is because they might, but likely won't, have my books on their shelf. However, I handled things fairly well. I even made a joke, just to myself, which I have been chuckling over ever since. For me, entering a book store is The Walk of Shame. It is odd, isn't it, that the one place that might feel welcoming to an author is in fact the one place guaranteed to make an author (OK, me) scurry away with reddened cheeks, shamed by the horror of her own insignificance. I find that funny!

Anyway, a copy of my most recent novel, GONE, was actually on the shelf. Still, I could not get past the piles of other YA novels, not to mention the multiple copies of truly successful titles, and ended up scuttling away like a frightened crab.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Woe Be Gone, Dammit!

One of the things I worried about, when I thought of starting a blog, was what to do with all of the difficult, painful feelings that can come up when you are a writer. Negative comments about your work, bad reviews, ongoing obscurity--the dark corners of the writing world. Then today I thought, well, just acknowledge them. There is no harm in being honest about the pain that accompanies failure, real or imagined. (I am pretty sure a different feeling accompanies success!)

So tonight I will just spend a moment in acceptance. That, in and of itself, can be a comfort.

Reading good writing, the kind that builds excitement in my blood, usually shakes me out of despair, but right now I'm in a ragged place between books, needing to put in time with some required reading for a project. As soon as someone tells me (or I tell myself) that I have to read a particular title, I immediately turn into two year-old throwing a tantrum, screaming, "No no no no no no no!!!!!!!!!!"

Instead, I will think of the baby box turtle I wrote about a few posts back, clinging to his tiny spot on the chilly ground in the dark. It's dangerous out there for him, too, yet he proceeds one step at a time. Maybe getting nowhere. Maybe getting somewhere.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

There and Back Again

I had an unexpected separation from my computer. A part of it self-destructed a week and a half ago. It was sad, for both of us . . .

Having been away for awhile, I feel all at bits and pieces, having lost the thread of my blog thoughts.

I did, though, finish Philippa Pearce's non-spooky stories. I decided to wait before proceeding with the spooky ones, for one reason: The non-spooky stories scared the bejeeus out of me. In every story Pearce waltzes her children (her character children) right up to the edge of danger. Right up to the point where my stomach starts to seize and my breath leaves. I am guessing most readers would not have that reaction (I am a full-fledged weenie) as the dangers are really just ordinary ones, the typical things that kids do without thought, but which adults know could go terribly awry. She grants her characters that respect, though, letting them stumble their way across the sharp, jagged landscape of the world. She does not save them from what they must experience.

I should make clear, though (for other weenies) that none of her children come to actual harm. All exit their particular story safe and intact. What they do not escape is the dawning realization that they are mortal, and that their own actions can bring about destruction. No small cheese, that.

Pearce accomplishes all of this masterfully, with a quiet, subtle touch. I, trying the same thing, would have used a sledge hammer. Sad.

On another matter, I have not seen the baby turtle again. Not that I expected to. But I am careful where I step now when I pass that strip of woods, knowing what could be underfoot.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


I have continued to read (slowly--I do not have as much time to read as I would like) the short stories of Philippa Pearce. I read one yesterday, "Fresh," that I felt was absolute perfection. Quiet, with almost the texture of velvet, it reveals a child's first awareness of death. It moved me deeply. I know not everyone likes that kind of story, but I do.

This morning, going for a walk, I found another small piece of perfection. I live in an area of vast suburban development, with little of the natural left except arranged plantings, but on the path I take I do pass, at a slight distance, a small patch of woods.

I saw something dark on the sidewalk--a stick or a leaf, I thought, or a bit of unsavory dog business. I almost continued right past, but stopped mid-stride. Could it possibly be? I looked closely. It was.

A tiny-tiny box turtle, a baby, a perfect miniature. No longer than the space between the tip of my thumb and the first knuckle--maybe an inch--though rounder, with the high, arched shell of a box turtle. More overall brown than an adult shell though, with no hint of dark red or brush of yellow, without any shine or gleam. For a moment I thought it was dead, like those squashed, petrified frogs you see on the road, but then it moved its leg. I picked it up and it immediately tucked its legs in and shut its eyes tight. Knowing it would get squashed for sure on the sidewalk, I moved it to the edge of the wood patch, tucking it under a leaf. I worried I had put it in exactly the wrong spot, right where an animal would find it to add it to its breakfast, but I did what I could.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Tomorrow When the Blog Began

I want to write, at least occasionally, about books that do not necessarily have a big buzz factor, that are not the new darlings of the YA publishing world. Books that move me, of course, that I think are well done and finely written. Not reviews, as such, but more my personal reactions. Of course, I will write about the happy children of the publishing world, too, as I also read those books and admire many.

One book currently on my mind (and in almost direct contradiction to the step-child books that I just mentioned) is While I Live, by John Marsden, the first book of a new series called The Ellie Chronicles, which follows The Tomorrow series. I loved The Tomorrow series, even though I felt that none of the books was as good as the first, Tomorrow, When the War Began. I will provide no spoilers for While I Live, but will only say it moves at a different speed and thump than the previous books. One of the things I admire about all these books is how well they convey, by exact description and landscape-provoked mood, the nitty gritty aspects of farm life, life in the Australian bush, and life as both someone hunted and someone hunting someone else. I think that is hard to pull off--I could certainly never do it--and I admire Marsden tremendously for it.

As for my reaction to While I Live, I had difficulty transferring my expectations to the new focus, mood and pace of the book, and found myself speeding--skimming, really--through the last few chapters just to find out how it ended. However, once done, I felt miserable and haunted, as if I'd left something valuable behind by reading simply to satisfy only my own emotional needs, and not to fully experience what the author intended. I decided, as a solution, to read the series all over again, starting with Tomorrow, When the War Began, this time allowing myself a more leisurely pace to properly admire the workings of the books, and so that I might arrive once more at While I Live with a more balanced expectation.

Well, that's the plan.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Unbearable Blight of Newness

Being new to anything can be painful. I am new to blogging. This might not be pretty.

I am reading a collection of short stories by Philippa Pearce, Familiar and Haunting, which came out in 2002. Part regular stories, part spooky stories. I am still in the regular story part of the book.

I immediately felt at ease, safe and secure. That is because I am in the hands of a good writer. I might not like each story (though so far I do) but I know that authorial competance will carry the weight. I am not sure why I need this safety feature in the books I read. Perhaps because I don't have to squirm over poorly placed words, or anxiously compare my own work (favorably or not) to the book in question, or fear that boredom will drive me to discard it. At any rate, I am in a cool, comfortable spot right now, reading Philippa and not worrying about anyone else's writing, including my own. I think she died recently, but am not positive. I am comfortable with that, too, though, at least at the moment, because she left such a fine legacy. Unless she is still here, in which case I feel even better.

The copyright on some of these stories goes back to 1959, though newer dates take a bow as well. I am an expert on exactly nothing, but wonder if such quiet, glancing stories would find a market today. I am doubtful. They present enormously strong children, steeped in that wonderful British wash of adult-like expectation (if that makes any sense) but there are no pyrotechnics.

I'm enjoying them, though, so right now that is enough for me. I'll elbow any kid out of the way when it comes to a good book!