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I'm an author spreading the words. Read about my books at www.SeleneCastrovilla.com

Monday, March 26, 2012

Method to my Madness Monday: Fear of Lying

"...not only does Isadora Wing, like Erica Jong, write poetry but she writes Ms. Jong’s poetry, two samples of which are in this book.”

-John Updike, on Erica Jong’s thinly veiled auto-biographical protagonist in Fear of Flying

A while back my ex-husband asked me what the subject of my work in progress was.

I thought for a moment. “Well, I guess it’s about my life.”

“Your life? Isn’t that a little presumptuous?”

“I think it would be presumptuous for someone else to write about my life,” I told him.

“I mean, aren’t you too young for that? Don’t people write about their lives at the end of them?”

But before I could say anything more, my younger son piped in, “How could you write a book at the end of your life? Wouldn’t you be dead?”

Most writers write about their lives. Some admit to it, and that is called nonfiction. Some don’t, and they produce novels.

Now, I don’t mean that my novel is exactly about me. That’s the beauty of a novel. But I draw on myself and my experiences. I can’t help it. I know myself so well, and I’ve had such interesting experiences. It’s like God ordained that I write it all down.

But the problem is what to admit to.

When my novel comes out and you read it, if there’s something shocking, it didn’t really happen.

If you know me and you think you recognize someone in the book, you’re wrong. 

Have I covered myself enough?

The truth fascinates me so much that I can’t ignore it. Every moment of my life is a study in human nature. If I didn’t write about myself, I’d have to follow someone else around, because you can’t make this stuff up. Truth is stranger than fiction, but it’s so strange that we often have to label it f'iction.' I think in fact that the deepest truths are in fiction. Does that make sense?

Erica Jong is so obviously Isadora Wing that I could tell after reading the opening and then scanning her bio on the back cover. They went to the same schools and received the same degrees. They both married Asian men. Give me a break. And the more you delve, the more clues there are - even to the point of the poetry John Updike pointed out.

Another funny thing (if you find any of this funny) is that I always felt my current novel is my generation’s Fear of Flying. I thought this without knowing anything about Fear of Flying and certainly never having read it. I just had this certainty in my heart. Then, when I came across Fear of Flying at Goodwill (they always have an excellent book selection, which I don’t know is a good or bad sign for literature.) I of course picked it up and started reading it right there, leaning against a clothes rack. Yes! It is, as I suspected from the title, a coming of age story about a woman. It is fearless (despite the title) and fresh, as John Updike wrote in his review, and even though it is now dated and we can laugh at some of the terms (there are analysts everywhere, for example), the wit and ideas Ms. Jong put forth are so honest that the book remains relevant all these years later.

I would like to write to Erica Jong and thank her for paving my way – even though I was nearly finished writing my novel when I encountered her book, it rallied me so very much. However, someone told me she’s dead. I will check into that further.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make for today is that good fiction always contains truth, and that truth of course comes from the writer’s heart. So whether or not we realize it (or admit it) we authors have all put something of ourselves into our novels. Unless we’ve written work for hire. Or Twilight.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Je voudrais un croissant, s'il vous plait.

I was going to call my minister just now. I haven’t spoken to her in years, nor have I set foot in her church, but I know she’d speak with me as though no time had passed. That’s what ministers like her do.

But I realized, I’m not having a crisis in faith. I’m having a crisis in people.

Having my mom and my aunt pass away has been difficult enough. Writing a semi-autobiographical book and facing my life – including my dad, the only one left, who was a pathetic father and who I am now in charge of because he sits paralyzed in a nursing home – makes everything worse.

Why do people think writing about things is cathartic? Is it cathartic to open a vein and bleed out? That’s what this process feels like. I do get satisfaction from writing well, but not from the act of getting it “all out.” Frankly, I feel like I may puke. But I write on. It’s my mission. This much I know, because every time I’ve tried to veer off my path the universe has plopped me right back on it, sometimes kicking and screaming. I don’t fight it anymore. I just write.

The behavior of some people has been utterly appalling¸ and unfortunately it continues to be. There’s a pain in my heart and it’s been put there by humanity (which is not an appropriate name for many of the inhuman occupants of this planet.) Near the end of her diary, Anne Frank wrote that she still believed people were good at heart. Then they put her to death in a concentration camp. What is that?

Still, I write. It’s my job.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself right now, other than write. My plan is to move to Europe eventually, where at least if someone is unkind I probably won’t understand them. It’s the benefit of being a hermit without actually being one. The country will probably be France, because I studied French for about eight years, so I can successfully order a croissant. And yet, I can never get what they are saying in conversations because they speak so fast. Perfect.

Until then, what will I do? Where will I go? I don’t know. I have a house I can’t deal with, plus my mother’s house which I really can’t deal with. The few people I can count on for support have problems (and lives) of their own. The people I ought to be able to count on, I can’t.

Maybe this turmoil is part of grief. Or maybe I just see things more clearly now.

Or maybe this isn’t turmoil at all – just a turning point.

By the way, lest you think I’m despairing of life – I’m not. I feel grateful to be alive, to have my children and the people I can truly call “friends.” It’s the “others” I can’t reconcile. Like an innocent, I still don’t understand why people hurt each other, and why they throw good love away.

Silly me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Method to my Madness Monday: Writing Through the Pain

           Several years ago, author Susan Taylor Brown gave me a magnet which said: “Write where it hurts. Find the courage to create.”

            I have it on my refrigerator. It did indeed help me find the strength to write “Saved by the Music” – largely autobiographical.

            In the wake of my aunt and my mom passing away, I am still writing where it hurts. But my question is: Where doesn’t it hurt?

            Grief is like an ocean with no land in sight.

            Writing isn’t hard now.

            But writing cohesively is.

            I sat yesterday writing notes about the rest of my latest novel. Scribbles are my version of an outline. (If I were in school I would get a failing outline grade. Also a failing penmanship grade – sigh.)

            These are only tentative plans, and yet I couldn’t get a grip on them. The littlest plot choices had me stumped. Then I got mad at myself for my hesitance¸ and poof! I got on board the “I suck” express train. Last stop: Despair.

            Then I did something different. Instead of wallowing, I went to the gym. Thank goodness for my son, who goes religiously. He makes me want to go, too.

            On that bouncing elliptical I was able to make some plot decisions. They might change – and probably will – but I couldn’t move forward without them. I need order in my writing life, all the more now because I don’t have much in my day to day life.

            So that’s me, writing through the pain.

            The secret to writing is that there is no secret. No formula.

            Ultimately, however you get something to the page is the right path.

            The tricky part is that paths change. Sometimes there’s a downed tree in the way, or maybe even an avalanche occurred. We writers have to be ready to find an alternate route – and we have to make sure we don’t get hit or buried.

            Like Winston Churchill advised, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Friday, February 10, 2012

Things to Say to a Dead Mom

           My mom is on my kitchen table, cremation no. 91739 (I accidentally spelled it “creamation”, but there’s nothing creamy about it) performed on February 2, 2012 by Long island Cremation Co., Inc. (another business I couldn’t imagine owning. I feel like it’s one of those operations passed down through generations, fathers grooming their sons to burn and box bodies. Lucky boys.)

            I put her next to my Aunt Olga for the night. I figured I’d give them a chance to catch up on things. Last time they saw each other it was Thanksgiving, about three years ago. Our dinner was like a scene in a black comedy. My mother was going on and on to my aunt, who was too polite to tell her that she had no idea who she was.

            Today we’re bringing Mom to the cemetery where her parents are. The cemetary people are going to insert her in the ground next to them. I think she’d like that. She adored her parents, particularly her dad.

            I’ve got her next to the computer right now. I just had a conversation with her (albeit one-sided.)

            Now, her soul isn’t in that box, I know, but still I felt compelled to say something to her remains while I had them.

            Writers are always looking for climatic moments.

            I put my left hand on her box, and my right hand on my aunt’s box for support, and I asked my mom if she loved me.

            There was no answer.

            But I know my mom did love me. It just wasn’t a traditional love. It was a love often smothered in her issues. You know how you can use a pillow for rest¸ or to kill someone? That was my mother.

            She had no idea of what she was doing. I told I knew that.

            I told my mom that I forgave her.

            I told her I love her, and I appreciate the things she did for me.

            I kissed my index finger and planted in on her box.

            There’s something about physical remains that are so, well...physical.

            You can talk to someone’s spirit anytime –I believe ­­–but there’s something extra poignant about having that box there to hone in on. A focal point, if nothing else.

            Another thing I look for as a writer is a focal point in a scene. It’s like an anchor.

            Life begets writing, and writing begets life.

            My aunt once told me, “Each man is the sum total of everything that has happened to him.”

            True. I might add: “Each man is also the sum total of all the relationships he’s had.”

            My relationship with my mom is (was?) complicated and sometimes dark, but in the end it comes down to this simple fact: we loved each other.

            It takes death to bring things down to the bone.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Grief: It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

             I've always been awkward with death.

            Not that anyone copes well –though maybe they do. Like Grandma Mazur in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. A wake is a social event for Gramdma – not to be missed. Of course that’s fiction, but I wonder, does anyone handle death with ease? (Morticians do, of course. How do they feel when someone close dies? And how to they manage to confront man’s mortality every day, and "pretty up" what remains? They are either the most well-adjusted people in the world, or the most f---ed up.)

            Faced with the passing of friends’ loved ones through the years, I’d been unable to deal with wakes (are they called wakes because they’re in the wake of lives?) and Shiva calls. I just couldn’t bear the sorrow – theirs, and mine.

            I’ve always felt a universal empathy, which either helps me be a writer or is the reason I’m a writer – or both. But when it comes to living, it’s a problem, because I feel everyone’s pain. I absolutely avoid the news for this reason.

            And death has been the worst. I do believe the end of a life is not the end of a soul, but it’s the pain of those left behind I can’t take.

            My neighbor Harriet died a few years ago. They sat Shiva right across the street from me. I couldn’t go. I just couldn’t. About a year later I summoned up to write a note to her husband and leave it on his door. I apologized for not paying a call. I explained that I didn’t handle death well. I told him I loved Harriet – and I did. I closed it with this: “Harriet tried her hardest to be a good person and help people, and you can’t ask for more than that.” It was the truth.

            My friend’s husband died suddenly at work, leaving her with two young children and another on the way. She was, understandably, consumed with grief. I told her, “You have to remember the love you shared, and you have to believe that he’s in a better place.”

            She stopped weeping for a moment, looked at me and said, “I don’t care about all that. I just want my husband back.”

            And I got that. And I didn’t know what to say.

            I still don’t.

            There is nothing to say when someone dies. I mean, there are lots of things to say, but none of them will do a thing to console those left behind. It's our friendship and love that comforts them, I realize now. It's what we don’t say. That’s another reason why it’s so hard for me to deal with death. I’m a writer. I rely on words. If words can’t be counted on, what then?

            But the grief has been the heart of my problem. The grief that surged up like a tidal wave, threatening to drown me.

            The grief is what held me at bay, unable to effectively be present during those times of loss.

            It’s a relief to know that I’m better at my own grieving than at comforting others. Perhaps because I write about my life, I’ve given great thought to the day I’d lose my mother.

            Still, it was a shock. Isn’t death always the last thing expected? Even if she was eighty-one, clearly suffering from the early stages of dementia (which I knew too well from my Aunt Olga.) Despite these factors, I never thought the police would have to break down my mother’s door to find her in bed (not expecting to die anytime soon, she hadn’t given me a key, and I’d never thought to ask for one.)

            And it was a sucker punch, this loss. Coming on the heels of losing my aunt.

            But I’m okay. Handling it much better than the previous deaths I’d been exposed to. I guess death has become more familiar. Maybe that’s the morticians’ secret. Familiarity.

            I have my mom’s cat. The poor thing looks to be about twenty years old, bowlegged and all spine. She yowls incessantly and follows me everywhere. She’s hideously mean to my other felines, who take up a Halloween "black cat" defensive stance which I'd never seen in person before. 

            I have my mom’s things. Her favorite scarf. The pictures she carried of my sons. The meticulous notes she took while watching Dr. Oz. The tutu I wore when I was six, which was hanging in her bedroom. Her many, many papers I’m sorting through.

            I have to deal with the things she left behind. Everything.

            I hear her voice, asking the questions she always posed. She had so many questions. I only hope she’s got some clarity now.

            I was raised without religion, but I know this is not the end.  It’s hard not knowing just what this is, and what we are in relation to our dead. I guess that’s where the faith comes in.

            The faith that was never instilled in me.

            Death is, among other things, a lesson in faith. Death and faith are both so vague;  both so muddied by our frenzied, fruitless attempts to explain and complicate them. Untampered with, they are simple.

            They are calm.

            I’m trying to follow their lead.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Larry Dane Brimner: A Notable Author

Congratulations to Larry Dane Brimner!

His book Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Conner is a 2012 ALA Notable Book and a 2012 Sibert Honor Book!

To commemorate these honors, I am re-posting my interview with Larry from last week:

Today I'm honored to feature an interview with the fabulous Larry Dane Brimner, author of 157 books, fiction and nonfiction.

His latest book is Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Connor.

Here are excerpts from two reviews:

"A fascinating look at one of the most crucial places and periods in the civil rights movement through two polar opposites." Kirkus STARRED review

"With a spacious design that includes archival pictures and primary source documents on almost every page, this accessible photo-essay recounts the events in three sections that focus first on the Preacher ('Fred'), then on the Commissioner ('Bull'), and finally, on their confrontation." Booklist STARRED review

Larry's previous two books on the civil rights movement garnered many awards!

Visit www.Brimner.com for more information about Larry and his books!

Thank you, Larry, for taking the time to answer my questions!

I heard you speak about your rocky start getting published (if I recall correctly, you kept submitting manuscripts and it never occurred for you to revise them). Please tell us about your journey.

Your recollection is partially correct. (Don’t worry. Senior moments happen to all of us.) I was published pretty much right out of the gate, but in poetry and, rather quickly after that, the newspaper and magazine markets. My first work, poetry, was submitted by a graduate school professor of mine without my knowledge. He’d encouraged me to submit my work on my own, but I was too shy, too insecure, too fill-in-the-blank. When those first poems were accepted, however, I was hooked on publication. After I started teaching, I continued to write, giving myself an hour or two every evening after school and BEFORE grading student work, to pursue my own writing. I had long been attracted to middle-grade and picture book fiction, and that’s what I wrote: bad middle-grade and picture book fiction. I collected two large Xerox boxes full of rejections. Eventually, though, the form rejections turned into personal rejections. One of those was for a middle-grade novel I’d written and submitted to Clarion. Jim Giblin, whom I knew from SCBW (there was no “I” in those days), wrote a rather detailed editorial letter, but ultimately rejected the piece. If I had known then what I know now, I would have (I should have) rewritten it and re-submitted it. I didn’t however and because Jim retired a few years later, I never had the opportunity of working with him which was something I always wanted to do.

You made the jump to writing about American history fairly recently. What perked your interest? What specifically led you to Bayard Rustin? How did you get started in your research? Tell us about that initial spark, and what followed.

It’s actually incorrect to say that my interest in American history is fairly recent. Each of those sports books I wrote back in the 1980s had a chapter of history. It wasn’t the same sort of history that I write today, but it was history nonetheless. History has always been an interest. What triggered my interest in the civil rights movement was a footnote at the bottom of a magazine article I happened to be reading about Rosa Parks. In a font size that was almost small enough to require a magnifying glass, the footnote indicated that ten years before Rosa Parks took her stand on that Montgomery bus a
gentleman named Bayard Rustin also had refused to move to the back of the bus. I wondered why one name was familiar to me and the other totally unknown. I first did an internet search that provided me
with a little more detail and directed me to a couple of books for adults about him. I was simply blown away by how strategic he was to the movement. I knew I had to write about him, whether it ever got published or not. Before taking the project to Calkins Creek, I actually shared it with a couple of other publishers. One of the editors expressed interest in my writing, but not in a book about Bayard Rustin. She said something akin this: “We’re not in the business of publishing books about people that nobody has ever heard of.” Silly me! I thought that was one of the reasons for writing nonfiction—to shed light. The other editor said they already had a black history book on their scheduled list. Both of these rejections were beneficial to me because I ended up sending it to Carolyn Yoder at Calkins Creek. The rest, as is sometimes said, is history. Carolyn and I worked for perhaps a year on the book. It was the first time I’d ever been so involved in a book’s production, from revisions (more than I care to remember) to design. It came out to starred reviews and was named the Norman A. Sugarman Biography Award and Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winner. So much for a book about somebody that nobody’s ever heard of!


Did you have an idea about all three Calkins Creek books when you started writing We Are One? Or did things you found researching the first lead to the next, and the next? Tell us about the process of discovering how you wanted to write these three books. Are there more to come in this vein? What are you working on now?

I was just happy that Carolyn and Calkins Creek liked We Are One and that it garnered respectable reviews. Just prior to finishing work on it, though, I found a librarian’s call—I believe in an ALA or IRA journal—for biographies of the four little girls who were killed in a Birmingham church blast during the civil rights era. Although the civil rights movement took place during my youth and both of my parents were born and raised in Birmingham, I was largely unaware of the movement. I grew up in Alaska and California, and Birmingham and the events there may as well have been on another planet. Birmingham Sunday came out of those two things: a librarian’s call and a desire to rectify my lack of knowledge about the civil rights movement. It was out of research for Birmingham Sunday that Black & White sprang. Long before I finished the first of these latter two titles, I knew what I wanted to write next, and Carolyn was game. There likely will be more books in this vein, but I want to turn to a couple of other topics that have been nagging to be written. But because I hate to waste creative energy writing about them here and would rather spend that energy on the actual projects, I’ll just say that other things are in the works. (I’ve been called a “tease” often. Me. Can you imagine?)

You say the original pitch for Black & White was quite different from the finished product. Tell us a bit about the evolution process.

You are right about that! At the Highlights Foundation Writers’ Workshop at Chautauqua, where I was on faculty every other year, Carolyn and I discussed Black & White over coffee one morning. In my mind’s eye, I saw it as another 48-page book complimentary in design to the previous two titles. I jokingly referred to the bunch as my “trilogy.” I liked the idea of a 48-page book because as a former teacher, I realized my high school boys would go to the library and pick the skinniest titles on the shelves to read. I liked the idea of “tricking” them into reading a skinny book that was simply oozing with information. Well, I was the one to get tricked. What started as a biography of the Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth turned into so much more. I realized fairly early on in the process of researching and writing that I wasn’t going to be able to write about Fred Shuttlesworth without writing about Eugene “Bull” Connor, Fred’s nemesis. That led to the realization that I was going to have to explain their symbiotic relationship right up to and through the children’s crusade of 1963. I was worried about telling Carolyn that my little book had grown…and grown…and grown. In fact, I didn’t say anything to her until I delivered the manuscript and, yes, it was delivered late because it was much more involved than I ever anticipated. (To Carolyn’s credit and my relief, she never nagged me about missing the deadline.) Writing it proved emotionally draining. There were days when I’d sit for eight hours in front of the keyboard and type only one sentence that I was happy with. On other days I’d nearly weep and want to quit. When I sent the manuscript to Carolyn electronically, I attached a note that said only, “It’s a little longer than Birmingham Sunday.” She called finally and asked me how much longer, and I said, “Oh, about two and a half times as long.” The finished book, as you know, runs 112 pages.

Please describe the processes you follow for writing fiction versus nonfiction. Which is harder for you? Do you prefer one more?

I’m not sure there’s a “process” for either frankly, at least not one that would make sense to your readers. With fiction, once I have an idea sketched in my head of major plot movements, I simply sit down, try to find a writing zone, and write. I’m always looking ahead and thinking how I can complicate my lead character’s life and still end up at that place I think I’m heading. Sometimes I get there and sometimes I don’t. As you know, I tried the Beta version of Scrivener for Windows thinking it would help me organize my thoughts. The results were disastrous. Every file on my computer and thumb drive was wiped clean. I was able to recover everything, but only after I deleted the Beta version. I now have the final version of Scrivener loaded on my computer (with no horrible effects) but haven’t actually used it. I still write a chapter or section, print it out, review it, and then sketch out the next chapter or section.

With nonfiction, I need to research and read a lot BEFORE I sit down to write. I read to find “the story” among the facts. I’m also looking for that WOW! moment that will serve as my door into the story that I’ve unearthed. Finding those, I sit down and write with all my research around me in neat little piles on the floor.

I’m not sure than one genre is harder than the other. Both fiction and nonfiction are hard. Heck, writing is hard! I like fiction because it’s all in my head. I like nonfiction because it’s fun to see if I can find an interesting story among the facts.

You shed light on little-known members of the civil rights movement. Why do you think it is that some people in history become so famous, while some remain obscure?

Let me talk specifically about Bayard Rustin, Rosa Parks, and Fred Shuttlesworth. Rustin remained obscure because there was an orchestrated effort to keep him in the background. He was vital to the civil rights movement, managing Martin Luther King’s rise on the world stage. But he was openly gay and proud. Leaders in the movement were fearful that if his sexuality were found out, it might derail the movement. Rustin didn’t mind working behind the scenes. Rosa Parks is another example. Many people think that her case led to the Supreme Court decision that outlawed Jim Crow seating on buses. Not true. Her arrest galvanized Montgomery’s black community into the largest racial protest in history up until that time, but her case didn’t change the law. It never reached the Supreme Court. The case that decided bus segregation was Browder v. Gayle. One of the plaintiffs in the Browder case was Claudette Colvin, a fifteen-year-old who had become pregnant without the benefit of marriage. Leaders and lawyers alike felt that an unwed mother was simply too scandalous. They believed that it fed into every negative stereotype of the black community. Mrs. Parks, however, was a respectable, hard-working seamstress. After the Browder case was decided, it was easy for leaders to tie Mrs. Parks to the Supreme Court decision, and she gained fame for something she didn’t actually do. Finally, it was Fred Shuttlesworth who pleaded with King to come to Birmingham. King was given the Nobel Peace Prize largely for work that he and Shuttlesworth did in in that city, but Shuttlesworth did most of the work. Shuttlesworth had been peacefully protesting in Birmingham for a full decade before King ever agreed to go to that city in the spring of 1963. King won the Nobel Prize, I believe, because he was the voice of the movement, the face of the movement. He was an articulate speaker, much more so than was Shuttlesworth. Many think that great prize should have gone to Shuttlesworth, and I would be among them. But it was King who received the prize and the glory. This is not to say that King and Parks shouldn’t be remembered, for they should be. It is simply to say that their reputations were built upon the shoulders of others and those are the people that fill my books.

As a writer, have you accomplished all you set out to do? Do you have more goals to achieve? Is there a subject burning inside you, begging to be written?

I have been able to make my living as a writer for more than twenty-five years. That’s something, given that writing is always described as a career one cannot make a living at. That said, I will also admit that I haven’t accomplished all that I’d like. I haven’t written the book I’d like someday to write. Birmingham Sunday came close to being that book. But even with 157 books under my belt, I still feel as if I’ve somehow failed. So, yes, I still have goals. Among them is returning to chapter-book fiction…if nonfiction ideas would stop pestering me long enough to do it.

With publishing in turmoil, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Yes. Look for the nearest exit. No, seriously, it seems that publishing has always been in turmoil. It was when I started nearly forty years ago and it still is. This is selling or that isn’t selling. Kids aren’t reading. School budgets have been slashed. Independent booksellers have all but disappeared. The chain bookstores only feature Disney titles, or Scholastic. Publishers are merging and shrinking their lists. Staff editors have been replaced by freelance editors. Print books are dead and e-books are rising. And yet, books are still being published by publishers, whether in print form or e-book form. There is still a hunger for the written word. There is still a need for information. There is still a yearning to read a great story. We as writers have to be willing to evolve with the technology, but a reading audience still exists. My advice to aspiring writers is to write the story in their heart—whether that story is fiction or nonfiction. Polish that story until it can’t be polished any further. Then submit it and don’t give up on it. I read an article on Facebook the other day about a woman who struggled with her writing and finally turned to self-publishing her story as an e-book. Now she has more than $2 million in sales, and contracts with traditional print publishers. That should serve as inspiration to all of us, aspiring and old-hands alike.

Your first writing successes were poems. Would you share one of your poems with us?

Usually, my poetry is just for me and one or two friends. But for you, anything. I was going to share one from early on about laundromats and two-martini lunches, but darned if I can find it. Periodically, I go on these cleaning sprees where everything that isn’t nailed down gets sent to the landfill.

One Hot Hound

High noon in August,

One hot hound and sprinkler meet—

So cool, conversing.

What is the greatest thing about being a writer?

Gosh, there are so many great things about being a writer that it’s difficult to nail down. As someone who suffers from crippling shyness, I like the fact that I’m my own boss, can set my own schedule, and can work alone. I can go to work in my underwear if I want and I don’t have to shave. But those aren’t the greatest things. The greatest thing is thinking that maybe someone somewhere is reading what I’ve written, and it is making that person think or bringing tears to that person’s eyes or making that person laugh out loud. Maybe. Just maybe.

What is the greatest compliment you’ve received as a writer?

A reviewer once said of my writing—I can’t remember the title—that I make it look effortless. I’d say that is tied with the father who said that his daughter slept with one of my picture books (Country Bear’s Good Neighbor) under her pillow every night.

What is your favorite quote?

Well, I have two. Each inspires me, but for different reasons. One tells me to try again, while the other reminds me that editors aren’t infallible gods. Both are posted over my computer.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” –M.A. Radmacher

“Larry, please bare with me.” –an unnamed children’s book editor (unnamed because she is a legend in the business and still very much alive and working)

What are three words to describe you?

Driven. Quiet. Kind.

What do you want on your tombstone (real, not pizza)?

Since I don’t plan on a tombstone, I’ve never thought about it. But if you insist, then something like: He tried to make a difference in the lives of children. Or maybe: The end. That’s all he wrote.

Larry's bio:

The Early Years

Larry Dane Brimner spent his early childhood exploring Alaska's Kodiak Island. He traces his love of reading to that time in his life. Since there was no television reception and only sporadic radio reception, entertainment came in the form of books and stories. Reading and making up stories was a part of day-to-day family life. Raised in a traditional Southern family--his parents hail from Birmingham, Alabama--telling falsehoods was frowned upon but embellishment was encouraged. Larry experienced his first writing successes--mostly in the genre of poetry--while still an undergraduate in college, but he began to focus on writing for young people during his twenty-year teaching career. Now a full-time writer and author of more than 150 books for young readers, Larry lives in San Diego, California.

The Writing Years

Larry made his debut in children's books with the publication of BMX Freestyle (Watts) in 1987. Readers responded by naming it an International Reading Association (IRA) Children's Choice book for 1988. Subsequent books have also proven popular with their targeted audience, having garnered nominations for several young reader awards. Max and Felix was a nominee for the Kentucky Bluegrass Award; Elliot Fry's Good-bye, a nominee for Maryland's Black-Eyed Susan Picture Book Award; and Merry Christmas, Old Armadillo, a nominee for Alabama's Children's Choice Award and named to the Kansas Reading Circle. Another sports title, Snowboarding, was named a Children's Choice book for 1998 by the IRA/CBC, while The Official M&M's Book of the Millennium was named a Children's Choice book for 2000. A project about a skateboard-riding, fish-taco-eating cat called Cat on Wheels was nominated for the 2002 Michigan Readers' Choice Award. The Littlest Wolf (HarperCollins, 2002), which was translated into Japanese, was named an IRA/CBC Children's Choice book. It also received the Oppenheim Gold Medal for Best Book 2002, won the San Diego Books Award (2002), was a 2004 Great Lakes' Great Books (Michigan) Honor Book, and was a 2005 nominee for the Arkansas Diamond Award. Subway: The Story of Tunnels, Tubes, and Tracks (Boyds Mills Press, 2004) was a Junior Library Guild selection and is a PBS TeacherSource recommended book for Science and Mechanical Technology. More recently, We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin (Calkins Creek, 2007) won the Norman A. Sugarman Biography Award and the Jane Addams Book Award. His Birmingham Sunday (Calkins Creek, 2010) received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hokey Pokey Wednesday: Quotes to Dance By

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
Mother Teresa

On this Hokey Pokey Wednesday, I’m not going to say much – just put in some quotes that I hope will inspire and lift you as much as they do me. Because as I do this dance of life today, I need to be inspired and lifted. Maybe you do, too.

At any rate, it couldn’t hurt.


And smile :)

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
Dalai Lama

Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.
Mahatma Gandhi

A jug fills drop by drop.

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.
Henry David Thoreau

Always do what you are afraid to do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
Mahatma Gandhi

Okay, back to dancing! Left foot in, left foot out. Let's turn ourselves about.

That's what it's all about.