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Farwalker's Quest
16 April 2009

I am not ordinarily a fantasy fan, but I recently agreed to give a quote for The Farwalker's Quest, so I spent a rainy afternoon immersed in the intriguing world Joni Sensel created. My quote read "Rich in characters, with a unique setting and surprising relevance, it's a profound, touching, and wise tale about the important things in life: success and failure, courage and fear, absence and loss, trust, loyalty, and hope. On a dangerous journey, the headstrong Ariel, her brave young friend Zeke, and the appealingly mysterious Scarl discover the importance of remembering where we came from and knowing where we're going. Their story is the story of all of us, carrying hope and crafting the future." That's the long version. Let me say to you that you'll love the book—the fast action, many surprises, and delightful characters—and you won't be able to wait for the sequel, out next spring.

6 April 2009

I have almost finished the final final final revisions for Alchemy and Meggy Swann. The book is scheduled for publication next spring, 2010, so I'd better get it finished and off. I have been having a good time. Revisions are much easier for me than getting down that first draft. I think it's because I feel in control. When I'm writing a first draft, I feel lost and confused, unsure and hesitant and totally at sea. I don't know where I'm going or how I'll get there and it all seems hopeless. My friend Sharon Creech says when she writes it's like an angel comes and sits on her shoulder and whispers the story in her ear. Boy, not me. Other writers write as if their characters take off and just tell them what to write. Not me. Katherine Paterson has a friend who said the two creatures most to be pitied are the spider and the novelist, their lives hanging by a thread spun out of their own guts. Yes, that's me! Pulling a story painfully out of my gut strand by strand, often word by word. And I can't think of another thing I'd rather do. Go figure.

27 March 2009

Thirty six years go today I witnessed a miracle. Philip and I watched our daughter, Leah Corinna Katie Shoshana Starshine Cushman (really!), 
being born. We are here in Portland today celebrating her birthday.

She is a lovely, sweet, intelligent woman and we are so lucky to have her in our lives. But I find when I look at her, it's like wearing two pairs of glasses at the same time. Through one pair I see the grown-up librarian who loves books and flowers and food and wants to raise chickens in her backyard. Through the other pair I still see the skinny newborn and the toddler eating Cheerios one by one and the little blond kid at the petting zoo, and I want to protect them and keep them from growing up—you know how parents are. Happy birthday, Leah, all you Leahs. I love every one of you.

20 March 2009

I just spent a few days with a dog that has a very important job. 

Siena, a Golden Retriever, is the most huggable, lovable dog I ever met. She's also a therapy dog for a group in Tucson, Arizona, called Gabriel's Angels. She visits children who are neglected, abused, or at risk. They sing and read to her. They brush her and take her for walks. They even brush her teeth! Siena has the whitest, brightest teeth of any dog anywhere. In exchange for all the hugs she gets, Siena helps the children learn about love, trust, compassion, and responsibility. She takes my brother Art with her to work. They're my heroes!

Read Across America
11 March 2009

If you live in or near Tucson, Arizona, come see me this weekend at the Tucson Festival of Books. Over 300 authors and illustrators will be talking, reading, and signing. After my work is done, I plan to hear Richard Peck and Gail Carson Levine as my reward. And I will be on stage with Jim Deem, who won a Sibert Honor for Bodies From the Ice, about ancient human remains found in a melting glacier. He writes great books about strange things like preserved bodies in bogs and plaster casts of the victims of the volcano eruption in Pompeii.Right up my alley.I find that these events often give me more than I give. I plan to soak up all the inspiration, wisdom, good humor, and common sense I can to use when I get home and tackle the final (I hope) rewrites for Alchemy and Meggy Swann.

Read Across America
3 March 2009

Yesterday I celebrated Dr. Seuss's birthday with a group of first, second, and third graders at Chautauqua Elementary School here on Vashon Island. I had never spoken to such young people before and I was surprised at what good readers and writers they were. Aziza, Lily, and Madeleine read me from their historical novel set in World War 1 starring a soldier named Jim and a cat named Jimmy. Then River and Olivia read. And we talked about persistence: the ability to keep going when you are unsure about what you're writing, when your confidence disappears, when no else thinks it's any good (Dr. Seuss's first book was rejected by 27 publishers!) When I was writing Catherine Called Birdy, people told me that no one was interested in history, that it was hard to publish books about girls, that no publisher wanted a first novel. But I kept going anyway—not because I was confident or sure but because I was persistent. I wanted to know what happened to Birdy, I wanted to tell the rest of the story, I wanted to finish. So I did. Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss. Thank you for the example.

Karen Cushman
25 February 2009

I just got the edited manuscript forAlchemy and Meggy Swannback from my editor after a three month wait. This photo shows my response upon first seeing all those green marks on my precious pages. What I have to do now is put the manuscript aside, breathe deeply, talk a walk, and then come back and read it over and over. I'm often asked what happens if my editor suggests something and I don't want to do it. That hasn't happened with anything big. When it comes to little things, we mostly split. If I am committed to a word or a phrase or an idea, I fight for it. Otherwise I follow her direction. She is, after all, the editing expert, and a darn good one. And at this point I am relieved that I am not working on a first draft any longer!

Karen Cushman and Phil Cushman
14 February 2009

Inspired by the example of my friend Kirby Larson who posted her prom picture on her blog, and being that it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share a photo of me and the love of my life. It’s not a prom picture—I wasn’t lucky enough to know Phil that long ago—but was taken a couple of days after our wedding in 1969. Forty years ago. We do look a little different now but we’re much smarter. So Happy Valentine’s Day to Philip, also called Philadelphia or Philbert or Philodendron or Philabuster, depending on my mood, but never Dr. Phil.

Kids Heart Authors
6 February 2009

On February 14, Valentine's Day, from New England to the Pacific Northwest, children’s authors, illustrators, and the young readers who love them are coming together. It’s Kids Love Authors Day, and to show how we love them back, we’ll be reading and talking and signing books. Wherever you live, check with your local independent bookstore to see if they have joined the celebration. I will be In Seattle at Santoro’s Bookstore in the Greenwood neighborhood at 11 AM. If you live nearby, come and see me.

Child Fixing Computer
31 January 2009

My new computer—that’s what’s new. It’s a Mac laptop, like my old one, only newer and faster and prettier. The only problem is that I can’t figure it out. I can’t set margins or get rid of funky formatting or manage my bookmarks. I have this strange little box with blue arrows that appears on all my new documents and I can’t get rid of it. What I need is a fifth grader to come and tell me what to do. Instead next week I will go talk to the Geniuses (that’s what they call themselves) at the Apple Store in Seattle. I have a long list of questions and problems and issues. I still wish there was a fifth grader handy. I am getting excited about my newest book, Will Sparrow’s Road, and I am anxious to get him in and out of trouble, to watch him change and grow, but I can’t until I make it up and write it down. Which I can’t do because I can’t work my new computer. Where is a fifth grader when you really need one? Mine is all grown up and living in Portland.

20 January 2009

Wow. I have just finished reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains, appropriately on the very day Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States. Both the book and the occasion are moving and magnificent.

I thought I knew a lot about the history of this country but the story Laurie tells was new to me.  How we suffered to become a free and independent country, and how long it has taken us to grant independence and freedom to all our citizens.

Chains has won numerous awards, and many of you have already read it. For those who haven’t, let me say that thirteen-year-old Isabel is a slave in Revolutionary War New York who dreams of freedom. Betrayed by both sides, she discovers that her loyalties lie not with politics or armies but with those she loves. Isabel must be dancing with joy today. I know I am.

Yes, we can.