Friday, August 30, 2013

Photo Friday

Kelly Easton has shared a photo of her work space in RI,

and of her work companion, Garfield, AKA "the great shedding machine."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy New Year!

The academic calendar has been a part of my life since age six. I still remember the excitement of the first day of school, new pencils, one new dress laid out on a chair, sometimes new shoes, and the anticipation of another year.

Once I was an adult, the new dress and the new pencils were no longer part of the picture--same old jeans, same pencils (though I do buy a new pen to start a new story). Still, the anticipation of another year is more than dresses and pencils. This time of year seems like the start of the "real" new year. And each year I tell myself this time I'll figure it out. I'll be organized. I'll be more focused. So, for this year my resolutions are:

  • keep my writing desk clean (since starting this blog post, I read "The Writer's Room" in the Sunday New York Times, in which a number of writers show off their writing spaces and at least one says, " many writers I aspire to be a clean-desk person but admit the daily reality is very dirty.")
  • read The Story of Charlotte's Web by Michael Sims
  • keep a  character journal--just a collection of possibilities--buying the notebook today
  • follow the Ron Koertge rule and start my writing time with a poem
  • follow the Phyllis Root rule and write a poem every now and then 
That's an ok list, and it looks do-able. But it's not all. What I really want to do this new year is scare myself, write something I don't know how to write, something I've never done before, some new journey.  I'm gearing up.

When is your New Year? (I think any 365 day period can have more than one New Year.) And what would be your resolutions?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Inkpot Interviews: Mary Logue (AKA Mary Lou Kerwin)

Under the nom de plume Mary Lou Kirwin,  MFAC Professor Emerita Mary Logue followed up the release of her 2013 Caldecott honor book Sleep Like a Tiger by returning to writing mysteries for adults

Please describe the book.
These two books are a series—in the first one, Killer Librarian, Karen Nash is on her way to England for the first time when her boyfriend dumps her.  She’s horridly disappointed but decides to go anyway.  At the B & B the owner, Caldwell Perkins, also a bibliophile, takes her out for a curry and things start to look up.  Then a nice old gentleman, who has just created a new rose, dies in the garden room.  And Karen’s afraid her ex-boyfriend’s life is also in danger.  What’s a librarian to do?

Death Overdue
finds Karen back in England, trying to figure out if she will can make a life there with Caldwell and his books.  Then his old girlfriend comes back and is killed in the library by (you guessed it) books. 
As the story progressed from inception to copy-edited version, what were the major changes? How did those changes come about? When did you first begin work on it? When did you finish? 
The first book was done as a lark.  It didn’t have a murder in it, but the editor said they would buy it if I killed someone off—so I did.  The second book, unbelievable
, wasn’t edited at all—just went straight to copy edit.

What research was involved, and how did it affect the story’s development? 
Since most of these two books was set in England I had a good British friend vet the books.  The most amazing research I did was on the new Globe theater.  If you go online you can actually tour the building.  Very helpful.

Without naming names, tell us who your first readers are (e.g., live-action writing group; online writing group; editor; agent). When do you share a piece of writing?
I can name a name—it’s Pete Hautman, my guy.  I usually show him the first forty to fifty pages, just to find out if I’m headed in the right direction.  Then when I’m done he reads the whole thing.  I remind him to tell me the good things first—then he can have at it.

What books do you love to teach or recommend to students?
I liked The Five Children and It and Mistress Masham’s Repose—older British children’s books.

What widely-loved or acclaimed book is one that didn’t work for you?
Many of the highly touted books I didn’t quite climb aboard the story—even the Harry Potter books and Twilight.  But I read a chunk of them just to know what everyone was talking about.  I like books in which real people talk to real people about real problems—usually. 
During the January 2013 residency Emily Jenkins lectured on “How to Be Funny,” and one of her suggestions was to “use jolly words.” A good idea even if one isn’t trying to be funny. Do you have a favorite jolly word?
In French, I love the word semblable. Just say it a few times.  Great feeling in the mouth.  I also am very fond of the word smock.  I enjoy using the word rather.

To learn more about Mary and her writing, visit her website. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Photo Friday

From Liza Ketchum:

This is an old photo that I had pinned up over my desk while I was working on Newsgirl.  The girl in the picture (dressed as a boy) was the model for Amelia, my protagonist.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Faculty Voices: Emily Jenkins

Hello from London, where I am traveling. I love to read about England–my undergrad and much of my graduate study was in Victorian novel. Dickens, Thackeray, Collins, the Brontés. Many of my favorite books in childhood were set here, too. I always felt that if only I were to come to a large house or an old cottage English countryside, I would find a wardrobe or strange creature in a nearby sandpit and everything would be jolly adventures thereafter. 

That's not quite true now that I am here, but I've been reading Jonathan Stroud's The Amulet of the Samarkand–on audio actually, the performance is great–and it has affected my sense of the city and
its possibilities. If you haven't read it, it's set in a version of London where magicians and their apprentices gain most of the power by summoning demons of various kinds and levels of power. A good part of the novel is the first-person narration from a demon's point of view. Bartimaeus scurries around London reluctantly under the command of one young apprentice, resentfully transforming himself into various shapes and committing crimes. The novel is making me feel as if there might be magical imps and monsters on another plane of existence. Riding the tube–perhaps a djinn is sitting next to me. In the café. In the theater.

In any case, Amulet of the Samarkand is an excellent read if you are experimenting with writing from unusual points of view, or from alternating points of view. Likewise, if you are interested in magical world-building. 

Another London children's book I read fairly recently is The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. It was one of the first novels (now there seem to be many) with narrators/protagonists who have Asperger's or something like it. Dowd uses her unusual first-person perspective to great effect, and the London setting is very vivid. I thought about that book a lot when I rode the Eye–you go up the giant ferris wheel in pods with about 20 other people, and it is this strange half-hour where anything that happens inside is private to the rest of the world (although people in the neighboring pods can see you). 

Travel experiences can shape your fiction, but of course fiction can also shape your travel experiences. Below, a short reading list for you Anglophiles.
Books and Authors mentioned above: 

Charlotte Bronté
Victorian college favorites:
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronté

Childhood favorites:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

Current favorites:
The Amulet of the Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd