Saturday, December 27, 2008

Middle Kid Stuff

I found this video clip where Dave Catrow talks about being an editorial cartoonist. It's kind of fun to see him live on video. I'm obviously thrilled to have him illustrating THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES.

To view the clip, click here.

Yesterday my sister was giving me a hard time about writing a "middle child" book when I'm an oldest child. Well, let's just say that being the oldest child put me in the position of hearing all the middle-kid complaints, so I know them well. And, being a mother of seven means I've got five middle kids of my own. But hey, I HAVE written an "oldest kid" manuscript which is currently being evaluated by an editor, and I would love to write a "youngest child" story as well. We'll see if I get lucky enough to see them in print.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

News

I was excited to learn that COOL DADDY RAT has been chosen as a 2008 “Blue Ribbon” Book by the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. It was one of twelve picture books chosen for the year. Click HERE to see the web page with the announcement.


My editor at Putnam emailed me four pages of full-color illustrations by David Catrow for MIDDLE CHILD BLUES. They are fantastic. He’s very talented, and I’m so lucky to be connected to his great talent.


I also received my official contract from Scholastic for SKELETON CAT. However, last week I learned that my editor (the one who acquired the manuscript and was so enthusiastic about it) is leaving to work for Hyperion. She’s not taking the manuscript with her; she’s leaving it with a different editor at Scholastic. So I’m waiting to hear from the new editor, and these transitions are always a bit scary. As an author you hope that a new editor will love it as much as the previous one did, and will have a similar vision. I’m confident Scholastic will take good care of the bony ol’ cat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Unwrapped Gifts

I’ve had a weird “blog writers block” going on. There’s so much to write about, I don’t know where to begin. It’s kind of like the state of the laundry in my house. Where do I start? I guess the answer is, somewhere, anywhere.

Snow is back. Once again we’re slipping and sliding on the roads, scraping windshields, and finding that our van has slid down the driveway and is blocking the street. Winter. Yet, it’s also breathtakingly beautiful. There’s a quiet stillness at night that is so nice. I took some photos of my kids, all dressed up to play in the snow. My sons built an ice slide and used a cardboard box to surf down it. There are icicles on my back window.

The children are MORE than ready for Christmas, but I am not. This is a wonderful holiday but a huge undertaking for a mom of seven. So many gifts to wrap. So many cards to send. So many cookies to bake. I ordered quite a few gifts on Ebay several weeks ago that still haven’t arrived. A little scary, but I’m hanging on to hope.

One of my favorite occasions is the wee hours of Christmas morning. I like it before the chaos, when it’s still and quiet, the tree is blinking in the semi-darkness, and presents circle the tree and pile up into the living room. There’s the excitement of knowing the children will be waking soon. Anticipation. Glee. The opening of presents is so fun, but in my life I’ve learned that some gifts are not wrapped in holiday paper and tied up with a ribbon. Here are a few of my favorite unwrapped gifts I’ve received recently:


1. The gift of a dance. A teenager girl I hardly know gave me a wondrous gift. She took my son Kyle, who is autistic, to a dance. She wore a fancy flowing dress and did her hair beautifully. She held his hand and danced with him. I took a few pictures, and I cried. I remember when he was a toddler, lining up cars on the carpet. He had just been diagnosed with autism, and I grieved for all the things I thought he’d miss. “He’ll never go to a dance,” was one of my fears. So I’m sure she doesn’t know this, but that cute little blonde girl—cute enough to have the football jocks drooling over her—gave me and Kyle a present we’ll both never forget.

2. The gift of support. My oldest son was given a sniff of amyl-nitrate as a practical joke while at work. It made him feel a rush, then diziness. For ten minutes afterwards he had the strange sensation he was floating. When he told the truth about what happened, the entire work crew turned on him, calling him a tattletale and a “retard.” Only one friend offered support, and after they talked I could see the burden lift from my boy’s shoulders.

3. The gift of compassion. When my two stepdaughters lost their mother, baby sister, and unborn brother in a dreadful car crash, people came offering hugs, teddy bears, meals, and tears. The girls felt that there were people in the world who really cared about them, and that somehow, despite their pain, everything would be alright.


Notice how these gifts were for my children, and yet I consider them mine, too. It’s like that passage from the Bible, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these… ye have done it unto me.” I know what that means.


Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only [true] gift is a portion of thyself."


I had my children draw each other’s names from a hat and instructed them to secretly do a nice thing each day for the person they chose. It’s been fun watching the paper snowflakes magically appear on someone’s ceiling, or the beds being made when nobody's looking.

Unwrapped gifts. They’re the best ones of all.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOURS!