Friday, January 30, 2009

Last word

Kate and Kathy would not want us to spend too much of our minds and spirits mourning them. They would rather we equaled their energy in doing what we do: reading, storytelling, painting, drawing, publishing, parenting, loving. So one more post to close this sad week, and then we'll follow John Milton's advice, at this poem's end:

A Lament for a friend drowned in
his passage from Chester on the Irish Seas, 1637

YET once more, O ye Laurels, and once more
Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never-sear,
I com to pluck your Berries harsh and crude,
And with forc'd fingers rude,
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
Compels me to disturb your season due:
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
He must not flote upon his watry bear
Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,
Without the meed of som melodious tear.
Thus sang the uncouth Swain to th'Okes and rills,
While the still morn went out with Sandals gray,
He touch'd the tender stops of various Quills,
With eager thought warbling his Dorick lay:
And now the Sun had stretch'd out all the hills,
And now was dropt into the Western bay;
At last he rose, and twitch'd his Mantle blew:
To morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kate McClelland

Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz died yesterday and the world is a poorer poorer place today. It's not possible to take in this news yet. I didn't know Kathy so well, and I'm sure there will be others who to euologize her. Kate's the one I know. I knew.

There was nobody like Kate McClelland. She wasn't just one in a million, she was one in a lifetime. Children all over this country have benefitted from her work and her passion. We publishers have made better books because of her.

You slog to these conferences in the middle of winter and over 4th of July weekend, and you wonder why you do it, and then -- there's Kate. In chunky jewelry with the asymmetrical hair and the glasses on the beaded chain and the japonaiserie and the huge hug and the conspiratorial voice and you think -- Oh, that's it. That's why I'm here. I'm here because of the Kate McClellands of this world. Not that the plural even applies.

Go to the Perrot Memorial Library site and just take a look at what Kathy and Kate did in their town. Then expand that to New York publishing and American librarianship and you'll begin, begin, to understand why they will be so profoundly missed. This is the sad sad posting on the site this morning:

There will be no children's programs on Thursday, January 29th, or Friday, January 30th.

Kate dear -- I hope to God they have wi-fi wherever you are, because last night my husband asked me how old you were and I told him early sixties? Sixty-five maybe? And I read in the paper you were 71! Seventy-one! You were sure fooling me, babe.

At the ALA you and I were talking about how some people never age. Well, darling Kate, some people will never die, and you are one of them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

...after these messages

The month of January is always a bit of a joy-suck. The holidays are over, New York is silent and gray, work hits hard after slowing down a bit at the end of December, and it takes something really special like Terry Pratchett receiving a well-deserved Printz Honor to really get the spirits up. At the same time, January's chronological placement allows for procrastination from said work by compiling Tops Of the Year lists. For me, that means going through the stacks of great books and records and movies that came out last year and whittling them down to a personal best-of. And so before resuming regularly scheduled programming as we move out of January, I figured I'd take a break from the typical purview of this blog and post my fifteen favorite (not necessarily "the best") records from 2008. These are the albums I had on repeat while reading or editing manuscripts at home or on the train, so I suppose you could say that there's a bit of these in each of the books I've worked on this year.

15. Feed the Animals, Girl Talk
14. In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy
13. Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, Sigur Rós
12. In Her Gentle Jaws, The Depreciation Guild
11. Stainless Style, Neon Neon
10. Jim, Jamie Lidell
09. Los Angeles, Flying Lotus
08. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
07. Made In the Dark, Hot Chip
06. Chunk Of Change EP, Passion Pit
05. April, Sun Kil Moon
04. Elephant Shell, Tokyo Police Club
03. Dear Science, TV On the Radio
01. For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver* (tie)
01. Saturdays = Youth, M83 (tie)

Anyone else have favorites that they want to share?

*For Emma, Forever Ago was self-released in 2007 but didn't see wide release until this year, so I'm not sure if it ought to be included, but, frankly, it's got enough great stuff on it for two years of best-of lists anyway.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Teen Session at BBYA, or, "I really, really loved this book."

Fresh from the YALSA Best Book for Young Adults discussion today at ALA, here are some of the more memorable quotes from the wonderful, erudite, thoughtful, smart, eloquent, passionate, honest, remarkably-well-read teenagers. Here, too, is the whole list for those of you who want to look up authors and ISBN's. A huge thank you to the librarians who wrangled the teenagers and organized their visit to Denver in the snow. I wish I could thank each of the teenagers by name, but in lieu of that, here are their words, faithfully transcribed. (And note: for "rr" please read "really really." Or sometimes "really REALLY." Or else "REALLY REALLY!!!")

Graceling: When I found out there was a sequel I almost started hyperventilating.

Down to the Bone: It's a book about lesbianism and I am really really opinionated about that right now

Gollywhopper Games: I really enjo
yed this book, mostly because I never grew out of Roald Dahl.

an: We listened to this book on tape while we were driving up to Canada and I thought we'd hear half of it on the way there an half on the way back, but my family and I spent all day listening to this book sitting in the living room of in this really expensive house that we rented instead of going outside.

Little Brother: I rr lo
ved this book. It's very similar to 1984 and I think the government could really do that to you.

The Luxe: I just finished it at 4 AM this morning. The author tells the end of the story first so for once I didn't have to read the end first.

Paper T
owns: I'd read John Green and rr liked him but felt he hadn't reached his full potential, but in this book he does reach his full potential.

Ten Cents a Dance: This was an excellent book. I went to the library while I was reading it and found out what taxi-dancers were.

Forever Changes: Not what I expected at all. Rrrr thought provoking. It made me think.

Night Road: Very thought-provoking. A different point of view on vampires. It made you see them as just a different kind of person, not a monster.

Ivy-a-Novel [this is the charming way the two girls who read the book referred to it]: I really liked the dialogue because it was all written in British. And everything's better if it's British.

The Order of Oddfish [The teen who spoke on behalf of this book wore a 3-foot long red-and-white fish hat in its honor]: Incredibly, ridiculously funny. You just don't see books like this very often.

The Graveyard Book: I just read this and I understand now why there were 70 holds on this book.

Tender Morsels: When I read the ending I was like, "That's just mean."

How They Met: This is my favorite book by this author. I wasn't too excited to read it because the only short storie
s I had read were Metamorphosis which was really boring and something by the guy who wrote Madame Bovary. But I absolutely loved it. It made me decide to write my own collection of short stories.

Hunger Games: You can't really describe this book to anybody so you just have to give it to them and make them read it.

Ink Exchange: Once again Melissa Marr entranced me. This book is just short of addictive. I really loved the reappearance of Seth, who is one of my top fictional boyfriends.

Living Dead Girl: I loved it because it pissed me off.

The Smile: Awesome.

Knife of Never Letting Go: It made me giddy.

Lock and Key: I know some people who have talked about suicide and I can tell them to read this book and it gives them hope.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Poetry Friday: "The Bell"

Thinking today about the power
of connectivity,
and about how inspiration finds us....

"The Bell"
by Richard Jones

In the tower the bell
is alone, like a man
in his room,
thinking and thinking.

The bell is made of iron.
It takes the weight
of a man
to make the bell move.

Far below, the bell feels
hands on a rope.
It considers this.
It turns its head.

Miles away,
a man in his room
hears the clear sound,
and lifts his head to listen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

They say time flies when you're having fun...

The world's been busy looking toward the future—and indeed, the present!—over the last few days, so it's perhaps an odd day to be posting about the past, but I hope you'll indulge a wee self-indulgent moment of looking back, even still. Because in looking at my calendar, I realized that today marks an anniversary of sorts for me—six years ago today, I walked into my very first job in the big, bad world of NYC publishing.

Within a few weeks of starting that job, a dazzling number of authors and illustrators (real, live, authors & illustrators!), some having their very first book published and some honest-to-goodness luminaries whom I'd worshipped for years, proceeded to walk off my bookshelves and into my reality—into my email, my mailbox, and through the other end of my telephone. And though I'd long admired the books, the words, and the art of so many children's books creators, what I hadn't known when I first began dreaming of working in publishing was how wonderful and fulfilling a life filled with the people connected to books would be.

Six years certainly isn't a long time in any career, and in fact, I kind of get excited when I think of how much I don't know yet—how much more there is yet to soak up and experience over the next few decades. But six years is long enough to know this for certain—that the world of children's books (and not just the writers and artists, but the publishing folk, booksellers, teachers, librarians, agents, reviewers, and readers, too!) is truly is home to some of the finest, most passionate, most inspiring, and most creative minds in the world: people who are, I believe, doing some of the most important work in the world. They've also proven to be some of the most wildly brilliant, remarkably fun, and astonishingly generous people I've had a chance to know.

I'm immensely proud of the many books I've worked on marketing, publicizing, and editing over the last six years, and perhaps even more excited to think of the books of the future that I'll have a part in creating and putting into the hands of readers. But, today, I think it's the people behind the books that I'm most grateful for, and who are a very real part of what makes this truly a dream job. My thanks to you all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Poetry Friday: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

"I am what I am." It's a statement usually made to excuse behavior--behavior, if we're being honest, that the speaker knows he or she ought to apologize for, but for which the speaker really isn't sorry. Sometimes, though, that feeilng of being trapped inside one's body, with nothing but one's own thoughts and feelings and particular way of doing things, can be more guilt-inducing than guilt-absolving. And sometimes it's tough to tell the difference.

That's one of the many mysteries tangled up in Will Oldham's "Wolf Among Wolves," a standout track from his gorgeous, understated third record as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Master and Everyone. I saw Mr. Oldham perform this song about four years ago at Sound Fix, my favorite of Williamsburg, Brooklyn's many fine record stores, and the planet-sized sense of longing, fear, and resignation captured in his small-town warble haunts me to this day. At those times when we are forced to question the choices we've made, in the publishing business and otherwise, it's important to remember every once in a while that, in many cases, there really was no choice.

She loves a soul that I have never been
A dog among dogs, a man among men
And every day, when I come home to her
She holds a phantom, she kisses and she hugs him
And I am not averse to how she loves him
Why must I live and walk unloved as what I am

Why can't I be loved as what I am
A wolf among wolves, and not as a man among men

She craves a home that she can go in
A sheltered cave that I have never seen
Not in my life, and not even in my dreams

Why can't I be loved as what I am
A wolf among wolves, and not as a man among men

The music is every bit the words' equal - you can hear the album version here (ignore the video, it's just amateur video shot to post the song, not official).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On Perspective (and literary chickens!)

I spent last weekend in Syracuse (home of the world's largest snowplow, or so I'm told) at an SCBWI Conference. It was a great event, and, as always, I enjoyed the chance to talk with so many authors, illustrators, and creative-minds-in-the-making. One of the best parts of the trip, though, had nothing to do with the conference itself. The kind author/SCBWI RA Emeritus of the region who picked me up told me we needed to make just one quick stop on the way from the hotel to the airport, to tuck in some special folks for the night. And that's how it came about that I spent Friday night petting friendly sheep, curious (and HUNGRY!) goats, and a gaggle of the most literary chickens I suspect I'll ever meet. (And I'm sure Pippi, Alice, Wendy, Jo March, Junie B. Jones, and Anne Shirley would send their regards if they knew I was writing about them.) City girl that I am, I was charmed. I'm quite sure there are farm animals somewhere in NYC, as it's the city that reportedly has everything, but I haven't found 'em yet.

More importantly, it got me thinking about PERSPECTIVE, and the eyes through which writers and artists see the world and how they then reflect, recreate, or utterly re-imagine those worlds in their books. I've always thought that one of the best things I've inadvertently managed to do for myself as a person is to live many different places--because while I love NYC and my corner of Brooklyn furiously, I'm regularly reminded that my inner Texan is always just under the surface of myself, as is my awareness of other places I've lived and known--Canada, the Midwest, the South. Somehow, they all add up to the worldview that is particularly my own, and the eyes through which I participate in art, as a reader, and as an editor, too. Even still, this weekend's trip reminded me of how good it is to journey outside one's sense of the ordinary, and to be nudged into recalling how many varied perspectives and worlds exist outside of one's immediate, everyday environment. And I think that's a realization with which
Jo March and Anne Shirley (and all the other literary namesakes belonging to that flock of chickens) would heartily agree.

Monday, January 12, 2009

So what would be *your* advice for the 2009 Newbery Committee?

I've been thinking about the Newbery a lot these days. I've read Anita Silvey (provocative) and Marc Aronson (historical/contextual) and Salon (op/edish) and Betsy (blogtastic) and Liz B. (cozy, smart) and Roger (sage). But where do the publishers stand?

I'll tell you where this publisher stands. We are damned lucky to have the Newbery and Caldecott awards -- to have any and all the awards from ALA. The only reason the Newbery has any coinage at all is because of librarians. And as librarians' recommendations, these awards are not designed to put books on bestsellers lists or to get them front-of-store placement in chain stores -- though they do do that. These awards are rather a way to say, Hey, here's a good book. Try it. Give it a read.

Betsy Bird gives a glancing reference to the Newbery Honor books in a recent column, and I agree with her that not enough attention has been paid to the Honors. Don't we all understand that the Newbery committees are citing a suite of titles with the Award and the Honor Books? Taken as a group, the Newbery name is attached to a books as disparate as Princess Academy and Hitler Youth. And does a child at the library or bookstore really make a distinction between one medal (above left) and another (above right)?

Many a long year ago I used to rail about the Newbery committee's choices. Why did they overlook this brilliant piece of literature or that groundbreaking new format? Usually, this was just a way of saying, Why didn't they pick a book I edited?

Now I'm more chill, as the kids say. What institution in this country other than the ALA has consistently bestowed a book award for eighty-seven years and counting? A book award that remains so relevant that people are still debating the committees' choices in the national press?

So I say, Good luck to you, 2009 Newbery Committee. You're under a bit of a microscope this year. Go into that windowless room somewhere in the mile-high city and pick whatever book strikes your fancy. It's your award, after all.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry Friday: "Lines for Winter"

Winter can be a cold time, a lonely, inward time, a doubtful time. It can also be a time when we recognize most clearly the things that nurture us, illuminate us, and carry us through. That's why one of the New Year's Resolutions I'm looking forward to keeping in 2009 is one I'm repeating from years past, as it's made for a better year each time I've tried it--to regularly take time out of the chaos to read poetry And, so doing, to remind myself, as Mark Strand says here so evocatively, "of the tunes my bones play as [I] keep going," and the things that make me "love what [I] am." Here's hoping your New Year is likewise filled with quiet moments of illumination.

"Lines for Winter"

by Mark Strand
for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I Went to a Marvelous Party

It's Poetry Friday, and the end of the party-going season, alas! But our livers and waistlines will thank us as we put our noses to the grindstone once again next week. In the meantime, I'll whisper in your ear that I went to a marvelous party last night, full of New York creatures, at the impeccable apartment of a fabulous creative director whose work is well known to you all. His view, more or less, is what you see in the photo above. His name is my secret. But it put me in mind of Noel Coward's deathless ditty, "I Went to a Marvelous Party," a snippet of whose lyrics appear frivolously below.

I went to a marvellous party.
We played the most wonderful game,
Maureen disappeared
And came back in a beard
And we all had to guess at her name!
We talked about growing old gracefully
And Elsie who's seventy-four
Said, "A, it's a question of being sincere,
And B, if you're supple you've noting to fear."
Then she swung upside down from a glass chandelier,
I couldn't have liked it more.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Interrupting the holiday quiet for some raucous cheering!!

This news made me smile enormously when it was casually mentioned to me by an industry colleague at a New Year's gathering last night--the first I'd heard of it, since I've been a wee bit disconnected from industry chatter while away from the office over the last two weeks. There's something transcendent about the power of Terry Pratchett's imagination, a fact that I think the literary world has been all too aware of since he went public with the difficult news of his battle with Alzheimer's Disease just over a year ago, and I'm just filled to the brim with pleasure that he's been so well-honored.

I love this quote from his video interview with the UK's newspaper
The Telegraph about the news of his Knighthood--"It’s amazing what can be achieved if you just do something fairly quietly but quite well for a very long time." A statement to inspire many writers, I think.

(And as an aside, if you have a holiday bookstore giftcard that's burning a hole in your pocket, I'd humbly suggest Terry's newest YA novel Nation--a tale that by turns will challenge you, make you laugh, make you teary, and best of all, make you think deeply.)

Raising a glass or three of champagne, then, to master storyteller Sir Terry (it just *sounds* right, doesn't it?), and to his likewise brilliant editors, including the Bowen Press's own Anne Hoppe, who edits his children's and YA books, and to Jen B, editor of his adult works. Huzzah!

2009 Predictions: You heard it here first

Here are my predictions for publishing in 2009:

Anita Silvey won't be happy with this year's Newbery, either.


There'll be no federal bail-out of anyone's backlist.


Books will have to be more beautiful and skillfully made to deserve ink and paper.


Anyone who
does go to Bologna/Comic-con will find a treasure.


Authors will outnumber booksellers at BEA.


Jo Rowling will announce her next project -- a "cozy mystery."


See April.


Obama will have disappointed us from time to time.


Something (surely!) will be the next
Twilight/Wimpy Kid.


One significant publishing company will close its doors right before Frankfurt.


Bowen Press will be thankful not to have been that publishing company (tempting fate, I know).



Any ideas for December, or corrections/changes/additions gratefully received. I'd especially like to be right, however, about November.