Friday, October 30, 2009

Poetry Friday: Halloween Edition

In honor of all things spooky and Halloween-ish, I give you a favorite from the incomparable Shel Silverstein. "Batty the Bat" was the very first poem I ever memorized--I proudly learned it by heart in first grade!

"Batty the Bat"
by Shel Silverstein

The baby bat
Screamed out in fright,
'Turn on the dark,
I'm afraid of the light.'

Friday, October 23, 2009

Poetry Friday: "Wealth"

Publishing salaries are, in a word, woeful. But by the standards of wonderful contemporary children's poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, I'm wealthy and then some--in fact, I'd say I'm quite probably a millionaire! I hope you can say the same.
(P.S. Isn't the line that reads, "Her life starts everywhere" just exquisite?)

Naomi Shihab Nye

Who's rich?
The boy with a book he hasn't read yet.
The girl with a tower of books by her bed.
She opens and opens and opens.
Her life starts everywhere.

Who's rich?
Anyone befriended again and again by a well-loved book.

This is a wealth
we never lose.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You tell me: book evangelizing

Here's a question I get asked A LOT, in one variation or another. "What have you read lately that's good?"/ "What's your favorite book published this year?" / "What are you excited about?" Sometimes, those questions are the perfect lead-in for me to talk about one of the recently-published books that I've edited or worked/assisted on (and I like to think I've helped to sell at least a few books that way!), which is something that I never get tired of doing.

Other times when I get asked this question, it would be a bit gauche to mention books that I've had a hand in putting out into the world. Happily, though, I'm not the only editor whose authors have written great books, so quite often I also find myself evangelizing for other books and authors who I admire. And I think that evangelize (which Websters defines as "having crusading zeal,") is exactly the right word, because I think there's something in all of us readers that instinctively wants to share the goodness of books that we truly connect to/admire/find truth in. It's easy, these days, to click a button that makes you a "fan" of something, or to retweet someone else's praise--and these are good things, and important tools in today's world. But I don't think those sort of automatic, reflexive actions take the place of honest, person-to-person getting-worked-up-about-a-book excitement (though a great thing about today's world is that I don't think those exchanges have to happen in person anymore, thanks to blogs, goodreads, facebook, twitter, etc.).

I'm curious how spreading the word about books looks and feels to those outside the industry, though, as I know my perspective sometimes gets skewed by being surrounded by so many professionally bookish types. So think back to the last few books that you haven't been able to stop telling people about. What makes you talk about those books/give them as gifts/make your book group read 'em/lend out your copies/determined to spread the word about them in a zillion other ways? The floor's wide open in the comments--what books (or qualities about books, if you don't feel like naming titles) are you an evangelist for, and why? And how do you find yourself doing your book evangelizing?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Of Coffee and Conversation

Flying back from the North Dakota Writers Conference today, I had a layover in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. I lived in the Twin Cities for a brief but grand summer a number of years ago, and still feel a bit of hometown loyalty to their local chains. In fact, while passing through the airport on my way to North Dakota, I'd already happily grabbed a cup of coffee from Dunn Bros. Coffee during my layover, mentally reminiscing as I drank it about the many hours my then-roommate and I had spent at the Dunn Bros around the corner from her apartment in Loring Park, back in 2001.

This morning, though, there was no Dunn Bros in sight in my terminal, and I was badly in need of caffeine, so I stopped by Caribou Coffee on my way to the gate. As I pulled my wallet out of my bag, the college-age guy at the cash register asked me, "So, where are you headed?"
"Home to New York, " I replied, still half-asleep, but savoring the small thrill it always gives me, even after 7+ years of living here, to claim NYC as my own.
"Cool. Were you traveling for business or pleasure?" he asked.
"Business," I said answered as I opened my wallet, by now a little charmed by this encounter with wide-open midwestern friendliness--the kind that one does not typically find at, say, NYC airport coffee shops.
"What kind of work do you do?" he asked.
"I'm a children's book editor," I replied--another answer that always gives me a small thrill when I get to say it out loud--but not really looking at him at this point, since I was digging through my wallet for the correct change.
There was an extended moment of silence, which I didn't quite notice at first because I sort-of figured the conversation was finished and plus I was busy looking for one more stupid dime, and then the coffee guy said, "THAT is awesome. I ask a lot of people that question, and that's one of the best answers I've ever heard."
I couldn't help giving him a big grin then, and telling him the truth, as I handed over my money. "Thanks," I said. "And's my dream job."
"That's awesome, too," he said, handing me my coffee.
And suddenly I wasn't half-asleep anymore, and I wanted to talk to that kid more, to find out what had made him decide to start asking his series of questions to each customer that came his way, and what other jobs he'd considered awesome, and what kind of job he might like to have one day...but there was a line five caffeine-needing people deep behind me, and I had barely enough time left to get to my gate as it was. So instead I let the moment pass and simply said, "Hey, thanks for asking," as I turned away. And while I stirred milk into my coffee at the condiment station, though, I heard him ask the next person, "So where are you heading?...." and I found myself craning to hear the answer, too. And then I walked away with a smile that I found myself holding onto for the next several hours, which is no small thing in an airport these days.

So thanks, anonymous coffee shop barista dude, for taking the time to engage a sleepy traveler in conversation, and for reminding me that yeah, my job *is* awesome, and that I'm really, truly lucky because of that. And even better, thanks for being a reminder of just how engaging and interesting all of life--even early mornings at work!--can be, if you view every person that passes through your corner of the world as someone with a potentially fascinating story to tell you.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Poetry Friday / National Poetry Day (UK edition): "Juliet"

It's National Poetry Day in the UK today, but I figure that's reason enough for it to be a poetry day here on the blog--and I'll be traveling tomorrow to the North Dakota Writers Conference, so you can also count this as my early contribution to Poetry Friday.

In honor of the UK's honoring of poetry, here's one from French/British poet Hillaire Belloc. And while I don't think he meant it to be about YA literature, it's not so very far off, is it?

by Hillaire Belloc

How did the party go in Portman Square?
I cannot tell you: Juliet was not there.

And how did Lady Gaster's party go?
Juliet was next to me and I do not know.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Update: New Office, No Brain

Those of you following along at home know that HarperChildren's moved offices this week. So you'll have to pardon the lack of enthralling posts for a bit longer, please--because I'm still trying to figure out which one of these boxes I packed my brain into!* Those of you with brains firmly in place, however, should take this moment to hop over to the Waxman Literary Agency blog, and soak up the wisdom and good humor of my pal Holly Root, who is offering some smart, well-reasoned, and well-explained thoughts about career planning for writers.

*Y'know, it's just occurred to me that for being a children's book publisher, we sure are sadly lacking in the area of elves, (either of The Elves and the Shoemaker variety or the Harry Potter House Elf variety) sprites, fairies, and other magical critters who would be really helpful when it comes to unpacking and organizing. Points to anyone who can locate some for us.