Friday, November 21, 2008

Scarsdale, and the National Book Awards

I met another Super Librarian, this time in New York, at Scarsdale Middle School. Liz Waltzman (check out her website) is one of those people who gets more done before lunch than I get done in a week. Make that two weeks. Oh, and she does this while suffering from a cold and wearing Uggs. Uggs are HUGE in Scarsdale. I asked one auditorium group how many of them owned a pair of Uggs, and about 60% of the hands went up. I didn’t spend quite as much time with non-Uggs-wearing Scarsdale Super Librarian #2, Sharon Waskow, but she managed to explain the terrifying New York City Subway system so well that I rode the trains all over Manhattan without once ending up in Flatbush or Brighton Beach. Thanks, Sharon! I also met three or four hundred Super Eighth Graders over a two day period, and I am KICKING myself because I did not take my camera out, not even once. So I have no visual evidence that I was actually there. But it was a great visit. I had never before had the chance to do two days running with the same group of students. For once, I almost had time to talk about all the things I wanted to talk about, and the students had time to ask their questions both in an auditorium format, and in smaller workshop-size groups. Their questions were really good. Nobody asked me how much money I make, if I’m friends with Stephanie Meyer, or whether I prefer boxers or briefs. Wednesday, after a full day of workshops in Scarsdale, I went down to Manhattan and put on my tuxedo (a forty-five minute project due to suspender and cufflink problems) to attend the National Book Awards Banquet at Cipriani on Wall Street (go here for lots of pictures). It was a fabulous event, even better than last year. The room was stunning, the people watching was bookalicious, and the food was remarkably good for a banquet of that size (I think there were about 700 people there). I’m going to drop some names now, so if you find such things irritating it’s time to tune out. And yes, I know I’m a lousy photographer. Here is Laurie Halse Anderson with her editor Kevin Lewis, at the pre-ceremony reception. Laurie’s book Chains was a finalist in the Young People’s Literature category. This was Laurie’s second appearance at the NBA. Judy Blundell, whose book What I Saw and How I Lied, was the winner, is standing here with her editor (and mine!), David Levithan. Congratulations, Judy! (BTW, David was not drunk, I must have caught him in mid-blink.) The winner in the YPL category was announced by Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, a very funny guy who, apparently, loves to be on stage, as he spent a long seven minutes entertaining the crowd while the five finalists suffered through an eternity of churning stomachs and heart palpitations while waiting for the verdict. Other celebrity sightings include Peter Matthiessen, whose novel Shadow Country won for best novel... ...and Jonathan Franzen, who won best novel for The Corrections back in, um, I think it was 1999. (Nope, it was 2001.)  I like this picture. It was even better before I took the red out of his eyes. And when I got home…

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Star Struck

I am always hesitant to meet authors whose work I admire.  Several years ago I met (he who shall not be named), whose books I held in high regard.  He was a dick.  I was instantly deprived of the ability to enjoy his work.  So sad.
This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a reading by Samuel R. Delany at the Walker Art Center.  Delany has been one of my literary heroes since the late 1960s, when I picked up one of his early novels (Babel 17) and fell in love with his witty and extraordinarily observant writing. His 1976 novel Triton is one of my favorite SF works of all time.  He was, and remains, a major influence on my work.
Delany, I am happy to report, did nothing to undermine my admiration for him.  Whew!

New York

I'm heading to New York next week for school visits in Scarsdale, then down to Wall Street for the National Book Awards banquet on Wednesday evening. I've been to the NBA banquet twice before--once as a finalist, and once as a judge. This year I'm going as a spectator, and I'm hoping for a very relaxed evening--if things go wrong, I bear no responsibility. Also, it will help reduce the per-use cost of the tuxedo I bought four years ago. This years finalists for the NBA are, as always, a fascinating group of books. You can check them out at the National Book Foundation website, along with interviews with the authors and other fun stuff. This will be my last trip for 2008, after which I plan to settle in for some serious uninterrupted writing time...except for Thanksgiving...and all those other holidays...and blizzards. My next school visit won't be until February, when I travel to Granville, Ohio. Book news: It is now official: How to Steal a Car will be published next fall. This years finalists for the NBA are, as always, a fascinating group of books. You can check them out at the National Book Foundation website, along with interviews with the authors and other fun stuff. Here's a photo of me with fellow authors Heather Bouwman, Mary Logue, and Lynne Jonell after a reading at the Loft Literary Center.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Four years ago this day I was in a terrible funk.  Today?  Not so bad.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Wadsworth Fairy Rings

Wadsworth, Ohio is a lovely little town just west of Akron, Ohio (home of The Pretenders, one of the great pop-punk bands of the 1980s). I spent one day in Wadsworth enjoying the way the chunky little Midwestern houses all seemed to be within walking distance of a wooded area or a cornfield. Bonus: I saw some spectacular fairy rings* on several of the well-groomed lawns. The Wadsworth Public Library is much nicer than you would expect in a small semi-rural community, with lots of books, computers, and a user-friendly “loft” for teen readers. I gave a loosely-formatted and wide-ranging presentation to a small but avid group of readers, and left all too soon. Wadsworth is one of those places you visit and think about living there. What's the word? Oh yeah: Bucolic. Very bucolic. Bucolicious, one might say. What I brought back with me, aside from thoughts of impulsive relocation, was leads on some great music from librarian Sean Rapaki, a connoisseur of obscure bands from the 60s and 70s, most notably one Roky Erickson of whom, I am embarrassed to admit, I had never heard. Thanks, Sean! *Don’t know what a fairy ring is? It's a mushroom thing. Check out these two spectacular fairy ring images I pulled off the web: Yeah, I know. I'm a fungus nerd. But fairy rings are really cool, and once you spot one, you'll see them all over the place.