Glad You Asked, Q1

March 23rd, 2017

Are you working on a new manuscript?

I’m struggling my way through a book set in San Diego in 1941, shortly before Pearl Harbor. Here’s the beginning, or the beginning at the moment:

Jorge lifted the slimy creature to his lips and bit it right between the eyes.

I shuddered as I watched.  “Doesn’t that taste muddy and disgusting?”

 “Nah,” he said, wiping mud from his mouth. “Is only salty. This way they don’t die but only sleep, stay fresh.” He threw the octopus into a bucket and slipped through the mud flats to another hole in the muck. He filled a baster from a mud-spattered Clorox bottle and squirted the bleach into a hole. When the occupant slithered to the surface, Jorge pulled it out and bit it, too. “You want?  Make good stew.”

I shook my head.  I preferred fish that came in cans and was mixed with mayo and chopped celery.

San Diego's Santa Fe train station

San Diego’s Santa Fe train station 1940s

What I’ve Been Reading

March 16th, 2017

Life in a Fishbowl

For young adult readers:

Life in a Fishbowl
Len Vlahos

Certain to be controversial, this novel tackles life and death, euthanasia, celebrity, reality television, religion, cancer, oh, most everything. Even Jared Stone’s brain tumor had a voice and a point of view, and I found myself feeling sorry for it. How can you top that? Sad and funny and insightful, this is a tour de force.

A list of fantasy books, part 9

February 23rd, 2017

Goblin's PuzzleThe Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy With No Name and Two Girls Named Alice by Andrew Chilton.  Mystery, adventure, and a title like that—I climbed into the book and stayed a while.

This Year’s Late Bloomer

February 21st, 2017

Belated congratulations to Late Bloomer Stephen Baker, whose manuscript Prayers to Broken Stone was chosen to receive this grant.

Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award

Virunga National Park

Bukima Patrol Post, Virunga National Park (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Fourteen-year-old Milana lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo with her mother studying the wild gorillas in Virunga National Park, but soon Milana must save both her family and the gorillas from an oil company bent on destroying the habitat.

This grant was established by Newbery Award winner and Newbery Honor Book recipient Karen Cushman and her husband, Philip Cushman, in conjunction with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Karen published her first children’s book, Catherine Called Birdy, in 1994 (Newbery Honor Book), at the age of fifty-three and has gone on to become one of the field’s most acclaimed novelists.

“The writing [in Prayers to Broken Stone] is very good, the setting unusual and intriguing, and there is the promise of a corporate villain we can root against,” said Karen. “I hope someday I get a chance to read the book and find out what happens.”

The SCBWI will propel the winning manuscript on the path to publication by exposing their work to hand-selected acquiring editors on a secure website for a period of time. This is an opportunity for the winners to gain exclusive access to some of the most sought-after professionals in the business. Read more about this award.

Favorite Museums Series #9

Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada:  Collection storage is visible to visitors.  And those totem poles!

Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia (Wikimedia Commons)

Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, totem pole detail (Wikimedia Commons)

First Book Printed with Movable Type in English

William Caxton

William Caxton (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1473 or 1474, William Caxton printed the first book using movable type in the English language. “At the end of his Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye … Caxton wrote, ‘I have practised and earned at my great charge and dispense to ordain this said book in print after the manner and form as you may here see, and is not written with pen and ink as other books been, to the end that every man may have them at once.’”

“Caxton began his translation, as he tells us in his preface, in Bruges in 1468, and completed it in Cologne in 1471.” (Sotheby’s)

Read more about Caxton and the first books he printed, just 20 years after Gutenberg’s press set to work, on the British Library’s website.

Sotheby’s has a thorough article as well as a good look at the pages of the book.

Here’s a later edition of the book, in 1892, designed and typeset by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. This one’s in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

What I’ve Been Reading

February 9th, 2017

The Best Worst Thing

For middle grade readers:

The Best Worst Thing
Kathleen Lane

Maggie worries. Ever since middle school started, she sees danger everywhere.  She worries about school, her best friend, her family, the caged rabbits next door. Can she learn to face her fears and let go? Of course she can, in this sweet and gentle book. I loved it.

The Geniza in Cairo

Reading news across the internet, I discovered this video, “The Geniza in Cairo: a rich source of Jewish life in the Middle Ages.” In the video, Miriam Frenkel (Department of Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) “examines the Cairo Geniza records as a source of Jewish life in the Middle Ages, focusing on clothing and textiles, the importance of clothes in medieval society, food and the strange rareness of recipes in the records, and finally a shopping list written by a Jewish judge from Jerusalem.”

From the Cairo to the Cloud website, diorama Beit Hatfutsot, at the Museum of the Jewish People, in Tel Aviv, Israel: putting documents into the Geniza at the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo.

An article in Akadem by Édouard Drumont states, “A Geniza is the store-room in a synagogue, used specifically for worn-out Hebrew-language books and papers on religious topics that were stored there before they could receive a proper cemetery burial, it being forbidden to throw away writings containing the name of God.” Read more about a Geniza, and in particular the Geniza in Cairo.

Michelle Paymar and a host of experts are finishing up a documentary entitled Cairo to the Cloud, which explores the Cairo Geniza, which “is not only the largest cache of Jewish history ever found, it is a window into a vanished civilization, with over 350,000 documents illuminating over a thousand years of Jewish, Christian and Moslem life in the heart of the Islamic world.” There’s a trailer here.

What I’ve Been Reading

January 26th, 2017

Beauty Queen of JerusalemA book I’ve read recently that other adults will enjoy is The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, written by Sarit Yishal-Levi. Rich novel about secrets, love, and forgiveness. It drew me fully into the daily lives, hopes, and sufferings of four generations of women in a Sephardic Jewish family in Jerusalem from the Turkish occupation of Palestine through the British Mandate, the Arab-Israeli War, and the 1970s.

Favorite Museums Series #8

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco:  Leah used to love the dioramas showing prehistoric animals and humans. And the planetarium. “Get your daily dose of wonder.” Start your visit here.

California Academy of Science [credit: Dennis Jarvis]

California Academy of Sciences, diorama in Africa exhibit [credit: Coro]

Morrison Planetrium

Morrison Planetarium, California Academy of Sciences [photo: California Academy of Sciences]