Archive for March, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones don’t owe me nothing

News this morning that Diana Wynne Jones has died.

I came to her works late in life, as an adult, working at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. I think the first one I read was The Ogre Downstairs, or possibly Witch Week. In any case, it was instant infatuation, and I spent several weeks happily devouring her books. She was by no means a formulaic writer, but each of her stories dependably delivered equal measures of magic, humor, and heart. It’s a winning combination.

Eight Days of Luke is my favorite. Contemporary setting, Norse gods, characters who aren’t what you think they are, Valkyries in video arcades …

Steven Boyett once pointed out the similarities between Stephen King’s The Stand and his own Ariel (similarities that weren’t obvious to me until he pointed them out). He summed it up like this: “Stephen King don’t owe me nothing.”

Well, for my book, Norse Code, Diana Wynne Jones don’t owe me nothing.

I never met Diana Wynne Jones and she very likely never read a word I wrote, but she was an important teacher. I’m sad she’s gone, and tremendously grateful for her lessons.

32nd Children’s Literature Conference

I’m going to be speaking at the 32nd annual Children’s Literature Conference at Northern Illinois University next year, along with Nic Bishop, Floyd Cooper, and Sneed Collard III. Mark your calendars. In advance. Like, really, really far in advance.

This year’s conference featured such luminaries as Jon Scieszka, Laurie Halse Anderson, Mac Barnett, and our great friend Sarah Prineas. SarahP actually Skyped me in for part of her talk, so I even know what the hall looks like. I think I took sociology there, only it was at a different school, thousands of miles away. I also did tech support for another conference in that same room. But again, it was at a different school in another state.

It’s a way’s off, but I’m already really excited about it.

Dog, Writing, Appearing, Milkshaking

Dog
Today we had Dozer’s second of four obedience training sessions. He was much less barky at the other dogs, and he’s really good at responding to his name and coming when called. So impressed were we with his progress that we took him for a nice long walk on Shelter Island (where he was okay around dogs and completely off his nut around birds), and the pet store, where he not only maintained his nut in proximity to other dogs in the store, but even ignored the pet adoption stuff going on outside. Good dog.

Writing
Crossed the halfway point on my novel. Still a long way to go, but the thing’s getting written. My characters have just perpetrated a tiger kidnapping, which has not all that much to do with kidnapping actual tigers.

Appearing
This week I actually did more author stuff than writer stuff. I did Skype visits with a 4th grade class at DW Lunt School & Plummer-Motz Elementary School in Falmouth, Maine; a 5th grade book club at Groveland Elementary School in Minnetonka, Minnesota; and Mrs. Huebner’s 5th graders at Sioux Central Elementary in Sioux Rapids, Iowa. Mrs. Huebner’s students blogged about our visit. They said I am nice and funny. That’s because I opted not to show them my malicious and humorless side. Why not? Because I flipped a coin, like Harvey Dent.

This Skype visiting thing is a whole mess of fun. I thought it was going to be like rainy-day schedule when I was in elementary school, where they just projected whatever they could on a screen to distract the kids from committing mayhem. Usually it was that Disney cartoon about Johny Appleseed. We’d seen it so often that they once showed it to us backwards. So it was really kind of a documentary about deforestation. But the Skype visits weren’t like that. The students were well prepared, had done research, and came ready with good questions.

I also Skyped right into the middle of Sarah Prineas‘s talk at the Children’s Literature Conference at Northern Illinois University. Sure seemed like both she and her audience were having fun, at least they were when I showed up. Hopefully they still were after I left. I tried not to be malicious and humorless. I’ll be giving a talk at the conference next year, and it was nice to get a little preview.

And I also did a signing at the Oceanside Barnes and Noble. Met some readers, scrawled my name, doodled some squid.

Milkshaking
Last night I had a healthy salad for dinner. Mostly vegetables with just a drizzle of dressing. Tonight I’m thinking a milkshake for dinner makes sense. That’s what I’m thinking.