Did someone say “studious”? Sunday, Aug 31 2008 

This is studious. This is last night’s Affirmations writers’ workshop. This is two-plus hours of questions, answers, angst, hilarity, fizzy suckers, impromptu dramatic performances (Julien, you rule), favorite books discussed, advice given, taken, debated . . . This was fun. Thank you, fellow writers (creative nonfiction counts too, oh it so counts), for having me in your house.

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What it sounds like when you kiss the bee Friday, Aug 29 2008 

Dan Bostick sent me an MP3 of the director’s cut of the Full Cast Audio production of Kissing the Bee – the scene where Dana and Emil are riding back from the apiary – it is just exquisite.

There’s a special pleasure in this kind of reinterpretation of the work; even if one’s read the book (or written it!), experiencing it again as audio theater is to have the story all anew. I can’t wait to hear the whole thing.

Do you hate books about elves? Wednesday, Aug 27 2008 

Well, you won’t hate this one, even if – especially if! – you’re very hardcore about elfy-welfy cuteness: Afternoon of the Elves, Janet Taylor Lisle. The novel was loaned to me by a discerning reader friend (hi, Lance!) who thought I’d like it, and he was so right. What Lisle does so well is speak to that sense of profound strangeness that magic – real magic, not adorably fun or earnestly “fantastic” hijinks, the effects of which one can foresee and/or control – should conjure: weird stuff that you can’t figure out, that blurs your sense of what’s real and changes the way you see the world. My hat is off to these elves, absolutely, and to Janet Taylor Lisle.

No, seriously, WTF? Saturday, Aug 23 2008 

Here’s another one: love the headline, though “Twit for Twat” would have worked, too.

I’ve been spending most of my time in PuppetLand these days (working on Under the Poppy), but every time I poke my head out, I hear something like this. Since when did Helen Lovejoy get to decide what words writers can use?

WTF?! Friday, Aug 22 2008 

No, seriously, I haven’t seen a moral turpitude clause like this since . . . really.  Just read it.

Writing workshop at the animal shelter? Wednesday, Aug 13 2008 

“No, no, you silly dog, it’s ‘I before E, except after Milk Bones”…” No, not really. What it really was was a visit to the Michigan Humane Society‘s Summer Tails camp, held at the Detroit Center for Animal Care, one of my favorite places on planet Earth.

Here are two campers, Iain and Byron, and two stalwart MHS staffers.

I was there to talk about straydog, and writing about animals, and how what we write can not only express our feelings and views on how animals should be treated (with kindness, compassion, as companions), but share those views with others, people in different countries, in different times (we discussed both Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe), and together make a real and lasting difference in the lives of animals, and people, we may never see or know.

I love my job.

Powered up Saturday, Aug 2 2008 

Marissa Goodell, librarian extraordinaire, let me know that her young people’s reading group read and discussed Buddha Boy, with some unexpected, and lasting, results. Marissa’s allowed me to share some of her email here (though I’ve altered the reader-in-question’s name):

“I wish you could have joined us for the Buddha Boy discussion on Saturday!

“Mary received quite a confidence boost reading [the book], and her mom was so proud of her she read it, too, so they could talk about it together. . . . She had never read a book that changed perspective or scenes in the middle of a chapter, and she wasn’t familiar with characters that appeared for a short time without knowing exactly what happened to them next. [Another girl in the group] explained that they had all of the information they needed to figure out [the book] on their own, and this gave Mary a great feeling of power. It was exciting to see her face the moment she realized that she could take ownership of a book in that way.”

I can’t say how thrilled I was to read this – that a book of mine changed the way a reader experienced fiction – that is FANTASTIC.

Marissa went on to note that “The book received rave reviews all around, and there was general agreement that it was necessary for Jinsen to have been a bully as Michael to fully experience his dramatic change, that Justin is an honest example of how difficult but ultimately necessary it is to break out of comfortable invisibility to stand up against injustice, and that everyone, even McManus, has a god within waiting to be released. Thank you for providing the thought-provoking material for such a rewarding experience.”

Thank you, Marissa, and “Mary,” and the entire reading group, for providing me with one of the high water marks of my writing career.