Archive for September 2007

All A Writer Ever Really Needs to Hear

Soon, I will produce a longer post on my fabulously literary weekend, but for now, here’s a pearl from George Saunders, on what he got when, after slaving over a story and its revisions, he went fishing for an encouraging compliment from his New Yorker editor, Bill Buford.

What, Saunders asked Buford, do you like about this story?

And the perfect response: “I read a sentence, and I like it — enough to read the next sentence.”

Madeleine L’Engle

I’ve been wondering what to write about Madeleine L’Engle’s death last week. Episcopal Life has a beautiful tribute, as do several of the blogs I read, including Lessons from the Tortoise and As Yet Untitled. I’d just written about L’Engle’s books recently for the Literary Mama Essential Reading list:

Madeleine L’Engle is one of those writers whose books have carried me through a few different stages of life. I loved her Austin family books when I was little, and reread her “Time Trilogy” annually when I was a bit older. I found L’Engle again as an adult, reading her Crosswicks Journal series meditations on faith, family, and marriage, and found a passage from The Irrational Season to read at my wedding.

She was essential reading for me my whole life long, and although our paths never crossed, I feel a bit like I’ve lost one of my grandmothers. I am well comforted by her books, though, and glad that Ben’s of an age that he can enjoy them, too. Time to dig out the Austin family chronicles and start re-reading!

Pay It Forward Book Exchange

It’s time again for the Pay It Forward Book Exchange, as started by Overwhelmed with Joy. Here’s how it goes:

Once a month I’ll pick a book to give away to one lucky reader (you don’t have to have a blog to enter). It may be a book that I’ve purchased new or used, or it may be a book that someone has shared with me that I really like. It’ll probably be a paperback, just to make things easier, but no guarantees.

2) Details on how you can enter to win will be listed below.

3) If you’re the lucky winner of the book giveaway I ask that you, in turn, host a drawing to give that book away for free to one of your readers, after you’ve had a chance to read it (let’s say, within a month after you’ve received the book). If you mail the book out using the media/book rate that the post office offers it’s pretty inexpensive.

4) If you’re really motivated and want to host your own “Pay It Forward” giveaway at any time, feel free to grab the button above to use on your own blog. Just let her know so she can publish a post plugging your giveaway and directing readers your way!

So there you have it, the Pay It Forward Book Exchange, designed to encourage people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills!”

So here’s how to enter: leave a comment saying, “I want to enter.” That’s it. No muss, no fuss. I’ll randomly choose one lucky commenter on September 12th and mail the book out; you agree to give the book away when you’re done with it, via your own Pay It Forward Book Exchange or, if you don’t blog, by donating it to a local library or shelter.

This month’s book: How I Learned to Cook and Other Writings on Complex Mother-Daughter Relationships, edited by Margo Perin.

Top of the Slide

Ben’s first day of kindergarten is today, and I’m feeling prematurely nostalgic for his childhood. I’ll chalk it up partly to spending the weekend with some of my cousins, who have kids much older than mine. One, whose oldest son is 17, said it feels like just ten minutes ago that she was reading Goodnight, Moon to him. Another, whose eldest is twenty, said her arms sometimes burn to hold her daughter the way she used to.

Deep sigh. It’s just kindergarten. Eli is home for another year before starting half-day preschool. They will be home for many more years, and some of those years will likely feel very, very long.

But still, something about this transition makes me feel like I’m sitting Ben down on top of a very long slide, and when he shoots out the bottom, a blink from now, he’ll be 18 years old and walking off to college.

Mama at the Movies: My Neighbor Totoro and Whale Rider

This month I watched (and wrote about) My Neighbor Totoro and Whale Rider, two movies worth watching with the kids. Here’s an excerpt:

When my book deadline led to my inevitable crash, Tony took the boys out to the zoo and I hunkered down on the couch with Eli’s blanket, a cup of tea, and the remote control to see what Tivo had been watching for me. I went for comfort, first, with My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988), a film I’ve seen before, and then followed it up with one I’d missed when it first came out, Whale Rider (Niki Caro, 2002), creating an inadvertent and completely coincidental absent-mother double feature.

You can read the rest over at Literary Mama.

Vacation Index

6,000 miles flown
540 miles driven
236 pictures snapped
187 (approximately) fresh blackberries eaten
23 family members gathered
13 family members (mostly teachers) missed (next time we won’t do this over Labor Day weekend)
7 days gone
3 boats paddled, sailed, and rowed (a lot)
1.5 gallons of apple cider pressed
1 happy, sleepy family, glad to be home.


The place: JFK airport, just outside the jetway

The players: Mom and 3 (or so) year old daughter, who have just exited the airplane after our 5+ hour flight from San Francisco

The scene: Daughter lying on the floor, prone, kicking and wailing. Mother standing over her, exasperated.

The dialogue:
Daughter: (unintelligible)
Mother: “Get up! This is not a good place for a tantrum!”

I throw the mom a sympathetic glance as we walk by — I feel her pain, I do — but later Tony and I discover that the same tantrum check list has run through our heads: “Is this a public place? Is this inconvenient? Is this embarrassing? This is a great place for a tantrum!”