Archive for Current Events

A Simple Poem — Upon the Passing of Thich Nhat Hanh

I wrote this yesterday upon hearing of the passing of the Buddhist monk and Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, at the age of 95. 

 

 

Simple Poem

— after Thich Nhat Hanh

Nothing is bigger

than the wee chickadee

in her cup-shaped nest.

Not the tall mountain,

not the deep blue sea —

not you, and not me.

 

Joan Didion . . . Thank You!

 

We lost one of our greatest writers today. She was in life, and remains in death, a treasure. Just a remarkable woman.

Regarding that quote up above, it is one of the reasons why I am often paralyzed by the idea of outlines. More and more, publishers require them. A box to be checked. I used to balk at that, because — of course! — how would I know what’s going to happen until I start writing? But I’ve learned that they don’t expect writers to doggedly follow the outline. Editors want a general idea — and, yes, managing editors certainly like to check off that box. A way to keep things moving along the conveyer belt. 

When writing, I always have a plan. At least for that day, that scene, that chapter. An idea of what I want to accomplish, the ground I need to cover. And I always have a more general idea of where I hope to end up.

A metaphor: I’m in a sailboat, I’m aiming for an island in the distance, but the currents are strong and the wind is kicking up. I might get blown off course. And even in the best circumstances, I’ll have to tack back and forth; I won’t get there in a straight line.

Just today, in fact, I was finally ready to begin outlining the final chapters of a book that’s two-thirds finished. So rather than blasting out a lot of words, I spent the day plotting in detail that final sequence of events. It took that long for me to reach that level of clarity, far different from anything I might have imagined, or “outlined” to my editors, three months ago.

I noticed how much of the original outline didn’t make the final draft. Some ideas (and characters) got crowded by other (hopefully) better ideas.

Writing as discovery. A way to find out. A path into the deep, dark woods. For me, it’s impossible to plan in advance what exactly I might find there. 

If you have not read The Year of Magical Thinking, that’s a terrific way to meet Joan Didion. But there are many avenues of entry. You can’t go wrong. Just pick up something/anything that she’s written . . . and start reading.

Jigsaw Jones Says . . . “Get a Clue!”

If it feels like I’m repeating myself — like we are caught in some “Groundhog Day” time loop — it’s only because it’s true. 

I posted this piece of art, by the wonderful illustrator R.W. Alley, a year ago around this time. 

Then things were looking up for a while. But now? Here we go again. 

I’m encouraged by what I’ve read about Omicron. Highly contagious but, hopefully, not quite as devastating for most people. 

My wife is in the health field. She’s been wearing a mask all day at work for a long, long time. Often it’s one of those tight N95 jobs. When I want to complain, I think of what she goes through on a daily basis and shut my mouth. I slip on my cloth mask, zip into the hardware store, buy my duct tape, and I’m free. I do what I’ve been asked to do by public health officials. They know far more about this than I do. 

I do it to keep myself safe. My friends and family. And everyone else, too. It’s that simple. 

Have a happy holiday and a lovely winter. I know that some of us feel weary of it. Sick and tired. But we will get through this. After all, we’ve got our friends, our families, and books!

Lots and lots of books. 

I mean to say: thank you for coming around here. For the support. For the many kindnesses. The best gift you can give to an author is reading one of his or her books. 

Any one you want.

I am so very grateful for that. I don’t take it for granted, not for a single moment.

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, BIG & SMALL,

JOY TO YOU, ONE & ALL!

 

.    .

This Saturday, 11/6, You Can Zoom Into the Rochester Children’s Book Festival — from Anywhere — and It’s Free!

A FREE VIRTUAL EVENT

The Rochester Children’s Book Festival goes VIRTUAL this Saturday, November 6th for a full day of FREE panel discussions and readings with a diverse assortment of children’s book writers and illustrators.

I’ll be staggering around in Room 2 at 2:00pm, moderating a (hopefully!) lively and (hopefully!) entertaining conversation about chapter books and series writing with Michelle Knudsen, Laurie Calkhoven, and Judy Bradbury. See below for a full list of participating authors and events.


         

         

You can also order signed book from all participating authors through the festival website.

REGISTER NOW by clicking this link and following the instructions.

Here’s the schedule for the day:

 

10:00 AM

ROOM 1

Read To Me Corner – Picture Book Stories Read By The Author

Annette Dunn

Susannah Buhrman-Deever

Unseld Robinson

ROOM 2 

Picture Books: How Are You Feeling? Coping With Emotions

Heidi Stemple

Jane Yolen

Susan Verde

James Howe

 11:00 AM

 ROOM 1 

Graphic Fiction: Drawing Demonstration  (Interactive – Pencil And Paper Required)

Frank Cammuso

Steve Ellis

Brian Yanish

ROOM 2 

For Our Younger Book Lovers: Stories and Songs (Interactive)

Iza Trapani

Tiffany Polino

Margaret Pence

12:00 PM

ROOM 1

Fantastical Fantasy for Middle Grade Readers

Vivian Vande Velde

Sheela Chari

Bruce Coville

ROOM 2

Historical Fiction – Fact and Fiction Storytelling

Keely Hutton

Elizabeth Falk

Susan Williams Beckhorn

Marsha Hayles

1:00 PM

ROOM 1

Diverse Themes in Middle Grade Literature​

Alex Sanchez

MJ and Herm Auch

Leslie C. Youngblood

ROOM 2

How Authors Use Poetry and Verse To Tell A Story

Linda Sue Park

Joseph Bruchac

Nikki Grimes

2:00 PM

ROOM 1

Picture Books: Fiction and Non-Fiction

Susannah Buhrman-Deever

Kevin Kurtz

Mylisa Larsen

ROOM 2

Get Hooked on Chapter Books: Mysteries, Non-Fiction, and Humor

James Preller

Laurie Calkhoven

Michelle Knudsen

Judy Bradbury

3:00 PM

ROOM 1

Doing It All: Writing and Illustrating Your Books

Jeff Mack

Frank Cammuso

ROOM 2

How Picture Book Authors and Illustrators Work Together​

Peggy Thomas

Kathleen Blasi

London Ladd

Yuko Jones

4:00 PM

ROOM 1

How To Write Non- Fiction That Middle Graders Want To Read​

Ronny Frishman

Rose O’Keefe

Andrea Page

Sally Valentine

ROOM 2

Read To Me Corner – Picture Book Stories Read by the Author

Mylisa Larsen

Yuko Jones

Kathy Blasi

THANK YOU

FOR SUPPORTING THE ARTS

IN THESE CHALLENGING TIMES!

 

Jimmy Pointing at Things: The Latest in a Continuing Series

If someone points a camera at me, I will reflexively point at something else. 

Every time. 

Don’t worry, it’s not loaded.

Here I am celebrating a “masked” outdoor children’s book festival in Chappaqua, NY. Despite the safety precautions — or more correctly, because of the safety precautions — it felt like a victory for community, for literacy, for normalcy. 

Nice to spend the day surrounded by book people.