Thursday, October 18, 2007

Getting Back to Work

New York -- I took some time off after my book tour. October was such a beautiful month in the city -- every day as warm as the perfect summer day -- I spent hours walking through the park. George and I even had a couple of late lunches at outdoor cafes, something we never make time for. One afternoon, as a special treat, George took me home in a horse and carriage. I've done this maybe two other times in my life.
The driver didn't get it and tried to give us the tourist treatment, explaining the various park attractions to us. We finally had to tell him we lived in the city. He let us off at our corner. A real indulgence -- one we won't do again anytime soon.

Watched the baseball playoffs, rooting for Elliot's team - the Red Sox - since my team (the Mets) was already out of it. I hate to admit this but I've become attached to the Red Sox players so I'm glad I have a team to root for in the Series. Wish the games didn't start so late. I'm trying to stay awake until the end of each one but it's not easy. So far we're two games up!

Spent all day yesterday in the recording studio as Kathleen McInerney captured the voices of The Pain and the Great One and all the other characters in Soupy Saturdays on a CD. And guess who got to read the part of Fluzzy? Not easy coming up with the voice of a cat. Actually, I think Fluzzy will sound a lot like me. Kathleen recorded Cool Zone, too, so the CD will be ready when that book comes out next May (and yes, I'm Fluzzy in that one, too!) We had a director, a producer, and a sound engineer. Kathleen was amazing! We kept feeding her mashed potatoes and cups of water to soothe her throat (her choice).

Tomorrow George is going to Key West. I was planning to fly down with him but I still have so much to do in the city I'm going to have to wait -- maybe until after Thanksgiving. Now it's time to get back to work. I've promised my publisher at least two finished stories for the third book, Going, Going, Gone this week, and the rest of the stories are due by Thanksgiving. Help!!
I think the trick will be to clear my desk and no matter what, to get started writing first thing every morning -- no e-mail, no Blogging, no distractions -- until I've spent three hours at the computer. George says he'll come back and keep me company if I decide to stay for the extra few weeks. I've got drafts of almost all the stories and since rewriting is the part of the process I like best it shouldn't be too hard. (Remind me I said that! Thinking about it is always so much easier than actually doing the work.)

I'm reading Tom Perrotta's The Abstinence Teacher. Imagine my surprise at finding a reference to Are You There God? It's Me Margaret early in the novel! I really like his writing. Hope to finish the book tonight. I'm always guessing how a novelist is going to end his/her story but this one has me puzzled. And no, I never do what my friend Mary does -- read the last page first! It kills me when she does that. Well, maybe if I'm not enjoying the book and am just curious, but if I'm involved with the characters, never!

Hope I'll get to post another entry soon but at least you'll know what I'm doing if I don't.
Happy Halloween to everyone who enjoys Halloween!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Banned Books & Bonfires

Massachusetts -- Just as I was talking about Banned Books on Friday night at Elliot's school, a huge bonfire was lit in the field in front of the library. I knew this was going to happen (it was part of Spirit Week). I just didn't know how dramatic it would be. I mean, there I was, standing in front of a floor to ceiling window in the school library, talking about what book banning means -- and right behind me is this perfect reminder of a time and place where books were thrown into a bonfire and burned. I hate to remind anyone that not that many years ago in America a couple of religious zealots actually burned books they had stolen from the library because not only didn't they want their children to read them, they didn't want anyone's children to read them.

For me, it was an emotional end to Banned Books Week -- with students and faculty filling the cozy library, celebrating the freedom to read. Thanks, Alison, for making it happen. And thanks to all of you who came.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Soupy Tour --The Longest Night

New York -- Last Friday night beat the record. Arrived at the bookstore 5:15, left the bookstore close to midnight. You know my fear about nobody showing up for a signing? This was the opposite. I felt like Mother Hubbard. I can't imagine how JK Rowling does it. Thanks, guys, for a five hour wait. You are incredibly loyal readers! I also met teachers, librarians, grandparents, babies in strollers, people who grew up with my books, and a guy who waited for hours to bring home a signed book to his wife. I wrote a note asking her to be especially nice to him that night. But I admit, there were times when it all felt out of control. It probably did to those of you who were there, too.

Before the signing these young reporters interviewed me for Kidsday, a part of Newsday. Thanks for your thoughtful questions! You are all young Brenda Starrs ( I wanted to be "Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter" when I was a kid).

Somewhere around midnight we left the bookstore and Beverly and Christine (from Random House) took me to the Sweet Hollow diner for scrambled eggs and toast. By then I felt pretty much like toast myself. (Make that soggy toast.)

Saturday -- The next afternoon we were at it again -- this time at Bank Street Books in Manhattan. When someone in my life has a baby I call Bank Street and ask them to send a package of some of my favorite picture books as a gift. I love sending books to help build a new baby's library.

Also, my friend Mary who teaches K-first grade told me that I should thank Bank Street college for "The Breaf-kast Cafe" a story in Cool Zone, the next book in the Pain and the Great One series (due in May). They're the ones who came up with the first grade program used in Mary's school that culminates with running a restaurant at the end of the school year. I based my story on a visit to their Breakfast Cafe.

It was great to greet and sign books for so many readers! Also, had a surprise visit from my friend Rachel Vail and her family. Rachel is a great writer. If you don't know her work, check it out. I've known her since before her first book was published. I like to think of myself as one of her Fairy Godmothers. Not that she wouldn't have made it without me. My agent dropped by too, and Beverly, Christine and George were at my side. Also met many students from Columbia Teachers College which gives me hope for the next generation of teachers. Thanks to everyone who came, who waited on line on the street (lucky for all of us it was a beautiful day) and who were still in a good mood when they got to my signing desk.

Sunday -- Dozed through the humiliating defeat of my Mets. I can't even get into that and the disappointment it brought. How could it have happened?

Monday -- we were at it again, this time in New Jersey (no, not baseball -- signing books). Only instead of signing in front of my readers, I was taken to a room where I signed in advance. Since this book store event took place at a school I had teachers and the librarian for company -- and what good company they were! Brenda gave me neck massages as needed. Someone provided pretzels and candy bars. I'd filled up on pasta before leaving home having learned my lesson on Friday night -- but I did feel the need for one Nestle's Crunch just before I went out to do my program with the kids.

And would you believe, the very last question was asked by a girl in a Phillies shirt! (The Phillies smashed the Mets in Sunday's final game of the season.) I'm afraid I made her so uncomfortable about her shirt she tried to cover the letters across her chest. Sorry for that.

Met the grown daughter of my brother's high school friend. He's an identical twin and I had a mad crush on them when I was about 13 and my brother was 17. I once made them baked potatoes (the only thing I knew how to cook) hoping that would make them like me. But when they came to the house and I offered the potatoes, they said, No thanks! Sandy married Faith, who was two years ahead of me at school. She was a cheerleader. I never managed to do a cartwheel, a backbend, or a split so cheerleading wasn't in the cards for me. Here they are at their 50th wedding anniversary.
Happy Anniversary!!

And so, the official tour for Soupy Saturdays is over (though I'm hoping to do two signings in Florida before the holidays -- one in Miami and another in Key West). Will keep you posted.
The best part was meeting so many of you. And my publisher was happy when the book hit the best seller list. I'd like to say that doesn't matter but who am I kidding?

So -- on to other things, starting with a visit to Elliot's school tomorrow where I'm going to meet with a creative writing class and give a talk about Banned Books Week. Did you know -- this is Banned Books Week? So read a banned book! Talk about the freedom to read and how important it is to all of us. Check out censorship on my website and join National Coalition Against Censorship