Friday, January 25, 2008

Bad Poetry Friday

The Rhymes, They Are A Changing
(sung to the tune of Bob Dylan’s Times They Are A Changing)

Come gather ‘round Bad Poets wherever you roam
And admit that the oddities in publishing have grown
No need to like blogging—you’ve found your new home
If your bad poem to you is worth saving…
We’d better start laughing, or we’ll feel all alone
For the rhymes, they are a changing…

Yes indeedy folks.
Evil Twins, Lynn Hazen & Ellen Yeomans, are hosting
Bad Poetry Friday right here on the Imaginary Blog.
Here’s how to play…

Just make up really bad rhymes poking good-natured fun at the frequent craziness of the children’s book world. Then send in your bad rhyme (any day of the week) in the body of your message (no attachments, please) to

Everyone’s invited--writers, editors, marketing folks, librarians, agents, reviewers, booksellers, and readers—cast your meter to the wind and send us your BAD POETRY please.

We’ll post the best (or the worst) depending on our mood every Friday.
Let us know if you want to be credited or anon.

8 short lines max
6 or 4 lines even better.
2 lines might be best of all.
We’re going for short here, folks--
Because if it’s gonna be bad, it better be brief!

This week’s winner:

Sorry Harry
No Newbery

Sent in by Jim Averbeck, author of IN A BLUE ROOM .

Thanks Jim.
Here’s what we like about your poem:
It’s short.
It reflects on the children’s book world in just 4 little words.
It’s timely, especially with the all the awards just announced at the ALA.

Okay folks, Jim’s poem is so good, it’s not quite bad enough.

In fact, after hearing:

Sorry Harry
No Newbery

Our Poetry Police state,
“That’s funny and not bad.
However we expect worse poetry than this.
Let’s force more rhymes
Let’s mess with the meter
Let’s lower the bar from now on.”

You heard it folks,
So come back next week to the Imaginary Blog because every Friday--
The Rhymes, They Are a Changing….

Come creative people, please heed the call
Send us BAD POETRY, or no poetry at all…

Forecast: Bad Poems with a Chance of Laughter

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why I Love Librarians #2

I’ve never met a librarian I didn’t like.

I liked Miss Dunn in my middle school days at Engvall Jr. High. I liked the wonderful Donna at the San Francisco Mission Branch library who put the perfect book (Gary Paulsen’s, HATCHET) into my son’s hands as we headed out on a camping adventure, and many others...

But decades ago there was a librarian who wouldn't allow me to check out books from the adult section with my “Junior” library card (stamped with a great big J). I was probably in 5th or 6th grade.

My mom had dropped me at the library to choose my books while she went shopping. On a previous library visit Mom had shown me Fiction, Non-fiction, Biographies, and Humorous Short Stories in the adult stacks. Now she was double-parked outside the library at the appointed pick up time with her bags of frozen groceries. So she wasn’t too happy when I came out empty handed.

“The librarian said I couldn't check out my books, because my card has a J,” I told her. So my mom fished in her wallet and handed me her library card (stamped with an A for Adult). She gave me her hurry up look and I went back in.

The librarian shook her head, no.
Back to the car.

My mom wasn't one to cause a ruckus, but I guess she figured the ice cream was nearly melted anyway. She parked the car. She put money in the meter. I followed behind as she walked to the check out desk. Overly polite short-clipped words in library-quiet-voices followed. The librarian suggested that perhaps my mother wasn't aware of the adult nature of some of the books. Mom whispered she was, and insisted that if I found a book I wanted to read, I could check out any book in the entire library.


I soon had an A stamped on the other side of my J library card.

I doubt I had a clue about censorship at the time, or what possible evils the librarian hoped to keep from me. I can’t even remember which books I checked out. I'm sure if I happened upon any content meant for more mature readers, it went right over my head.

But yes, I liked that librarian, too.
She didn’t agree.
She certainly did not approve.
But she stamped an A on my card.

I liked that librarian because she allowed me to see a strong, quiet and determined side of my mom standing up for what she believed in.

And even in their disagreement, my mom and the librarian both believed in books.

The memory is still a powerful one for me. And the melted ice cream tasted just fine.

Forecast: Belief in books--with intermittent whispers of disagreement

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Imagining the 2008 March of the Librarians

Many of us enjoyed Nick Baker's 2007 March of the Librarians at the American Library Association conference in Seattle.

Now it's a year later and the librarians have migrated once again to the MidWinter ALA, this time in Philadelphia. The awards have been announced. And I bet the librarians are now home, unpacked, and taking stock of their goodies and galleys.

It's exciting to think that maybe, just maybe some of those librarians picked up galleys and might soon be reading my 2008 books:

SHIFTY, a YA novel with Tricycle Press

and CINDER RABBIT, a young chapter book with Henry Holt.

Thanks librarians, for taking a look.

This is just one of the many reasons why I love librarians.

Forecast: Unpacking with a chance of reading

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Can Words Provide Comfort?

is the one word subject line of Shirley’s email.
I pause before opening.
Their beloved dog, Hummer, has passed away.

She was almost 14, Shirley writes. Mark and I will miss her deeply. We buried her this snowy afternoon on a hill by our house. She was such a cheerful, outgoing girl. I never knew a dog to have such an open and loving heart as this one.

And there’s the photo of smiling Hummer.

I email some words, but how do you send comfort via the internet miles and miles away?

The next day we email again.
Rainy here in San Francisco, I say. I tell her I’m in the mood for tomato soup.

Shirl responds,
MMMM. Tomato soup. It is snow, snow, snow up here on my hill… Mmm. Where's that soup? Send soupy vibes my way, please. It's sooo quiet here today. - S.

I make the soup for real and imagine if Shirley were closer I’d bring her a big pot full. So I put it to words instead…

Rainy Day Soup Vibes Coming Your Way
Hi Shirl,
So quiet, so sad. My tomato soup vibes are with you. Actually it was a modified mixed up tomato soup but I just downed a big bowl and it was quite yummy.

I made a big pot to freeze or have over the next couple of days so come on down!

Lynn's Soup Recipe
Inspired by the rain and a recent trip to Trader Joes (TJ’s)
(Be sure to read the whole recipe to get the vibe)

One box TJ's Chicken Broth
Boil that up with 1/2 to 1/3 bag of TJ's Harvest Grains Blend

After about 10 minutes or so add:
1 can of TJ's Tuscano Marinara sauce
1 can of TJ's Plum Tomatoes (with basil)
& 1 can of you-guessed it-TJ's White Kidney Beans.

While that's bubbling a bit and you're pretending that you grew those tomatoes yourself rather than keeping the can opener humming (then you think some good thoughts for sweet Hummer), you remember, hey now, I bought some TJ's Chicken Chipotle Sausage--already cooked--how convenient, so you slice up some of those and they are spicy, so put as few or as many as you like.

Yum, you think, this would go well with that TJ's cheesy sliced sourdough you just bought sprinkled with some of that TJ's Quatro Fromaggio grated cheese blend (so nice of Joe and all his pals to grate that up for you in the nifty re-sealable bag don't you think?)…

But the soup smells so good you skip the cheesy cheesy bread for some other time--perhaps some other time with that TJ's Cabernet Diablo something imported by TJ's from Chile you bought because Amy introduced you to wine from Chile while we were all on that Plot Dogs writing retreat in Mexico, and that reminds you of warmer days and lots of other things, and you think, yes, some of that Diablo whatever it's called wine from Chile would be right tasty with this tomato soup but it’s only 2:00 in the afternoon and you didn’t do your writing yet, so you eat your soup and say, okay, I’ll remember this recipe and next time I’ll make the cheesy cheesy bread to go with--and have Shirley over and that will certainly be a festive occasion so we will open the Diablo and clink our glasses to rainy days and writer friends and tomato soup (with a little help from TJ’s) and of course to sweet Hummer...
And just so we don’t forget the recipe, here it is.

Shirley writes back:
How immensely comforting you are. You should put this on your blog!
I WANT that soup. I WANT your company. But I'll just make do with re-reading the recipe.
- Shirl

Shirley said to post the recipe, so here it is.

If only my Imaginary Blog could deliver the hot soup from rainy San Francisco to Shirley’s snowy, too quiet home.

Forecast: Rain, snow & sorrow with a chance of soup

Sunday, January 6, 2008

An Interview with Maria van Lieshout

Author & Illustrator of:
Bloom! A Little Book About Finding Love

Lynn: Which comes first when you create a story--illustrations or words? Tell us about your creative process.

Maria: I used to try to write stories first, but it didn’t work well for me. Now I come up with a character first, and I let the character tell me the story. So I will draw some images, then write a bit, draw some more…

Lynn: How do you decide which idea to pursue?

Maria: When it excites me. When my heart beats faster thinking about it, when I cannot get to sleep at night because I keep thinking of how to develop the idea further…that’s when I know I’m on to something.

Lynn: How do you capture emotion in your illustrations with seemingly simple and spare lines?

Maria: I like watching people a lot. I love sitting in a coffee shop and observing. I also used to act all throughout high school. I think that acting foundation taught me to be expressive in my drawing. While illustrating, I often get up and act an emotion out-just so I know how to draw it.

Lynn: What inspired you to create Bloom? Is it true Bloom is part of a trilogy of little books?

Maria: YES, BLOOM is part of a trilogy. I came up with the third book first. Then I decided to create several books, each done in one color, with one distinct character, tied to one idea. My friend Lynn suggested I should tie them to an emotion. So when I decided I wanted to do a little book about love, I felt that book had to be pink, and the character just had to be a pig! There was no doubt! BLOOM just claimed that territory!

Lynn: What did you discover on your road to publication?

Maria: Hmmm…I always thought writing and illustrating was a very solitary thing. And in a way, it is. The actual act of writing and illustrating is mostly done alone, but I discovered that the path to publication and success as an author is made up of friends, cheerleaders, critiquers, teachers, editors, designers, agents, and a busload more. I can honestly say I would not be published if it wasn’t for a long list of people. So therefore my advice to people out there is, go to conferences! Join a critique group! Meet other writers/illustrators! It is the best way to get your book on bookshelves.

Lynn: Do you have any particular ritual involved in your writing and illustrating process?

Maria: You mean aside from procrastination?
I need to have my cup of tea.

Lynn: What is your favorite color? Favorite media?

Maria: My favorite color changes often. Right now it is the green/grey color that the sea has right before a storm. My favorite medium is watercolor-it is not obedient, has a will of its own, goes where it is not supposed to, and if you let it, it will take you to great places!

Lynn: What food or drink feeds your creativity?

Maria: My cups of tea! I have this green tea from Japan-Genmaimatcha, that is sweet and toasty and delicious.
But a glass of red wine does miracles for me! And don’t get me started on chocolate…

Lynn: Do you listen to music while you work? What music do you like?

Maria: When I am drawing, I like to listen to This American Life podcasts, or I listen to music. I like so much-John Mayer, Paul Simon, Diana Krall, Gwen Stefani…When I’m writing, I can’t listen to anything-it confuses me.

Lynn: Did you have any pets as a child?

Maria: When I was very young, I only had goldfish, because my sister had asthma. I really wanted a German Shepherd, because my favorite series of books were about a German Shepherd who solved mysteries! My wish was to have a German Shepherd and solve neighborhood mysteries.
When I was 16, my sister had outgrown her asthma, and my parents got me a German Shepherd named Kiko. I loved Kiko, but I wasn’t interested in solving mysteries anymore. I was more interested in boys…

Lynn: What childhood experience(s) influenced you in deciding to become an author and illustrator?

Maria: I loved to draw, and to make up stories. But I didn’t always want to become a children’s book creator. When I was young, I wanted to be a detective! But as turns out, working on books is a little like being a detective. Once you come up with a story idea, you have to figure out how the rest of the story will be, who the characters are, how it ends…it’s like a puzzle sometimes.

Lynn: What children’s books inspire you and why?

Maria: Interestingly, I became familiarized with American children’s books only 10 years ago, when I moved here. I grew up with Dutch books, so my favorite childhood books are Dutch.
I am a visual person, so books with pictures stimulate me! I love Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna. His work still feels very contemporary, but when his first book came out 50 years ago, he shook up the children’s book world with his simple, graphic images. He is a huge inspiration to me. So are the books by Oliver Jeffers, or anything illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger. American books I love are The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson and The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith.

Lynn: What can we expect after Bloom?

Maria: SPLASH! is the follow-up to BLOOM. It is about a blue seal and deals with sadness…

Lynn: Since this is an imaginary blog--could you please offer aspiring authors and illustrators any imagination advice, for example how do you keep going when what you are imagining is not yet showing up for real on the page?

Maria: To jumpstart my imagination, I go away from my studio
and live life-I read, see movies, go to a museum, read
comics, read magazines, go to a party. Especially when
I'm stuck in a story. Somehow, doing different stuff
and taking in ideas from other sources, often provides
me with that little electrical spark I'm looking for
to get through a hurdle....

Lynn: Last question: If Bloom were to give advice to another children's book character coming into being, what would Bloom's advice be?

Maria: Chase after your butterflies! Even if it breaks your heart, you just might stumble across something in the process.

Buy Bloom at Amazon

Today's Forecast: Blooming with a chance of butterflies

Wednesday, January 2, 2008