Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ode to a Literary Friend

     Maurice Sendak passed away today at the age of 83.
     I never met Mr. Sendak, but like so many throughout the world, I thought of him not only as a literary genius but as a friend.
     Although he's known best for Where The Wild Things Are and Little Bear, my personal favorite is In The Night Kitchen.  There was something about watching Mickey playing the night kitchen of his dreams, swimming in milk, wearing his bread-crust suit and pot hat that sparked my imagination more than any other book that was read to me during that time.
     "I'm in the milk and the milk's in me...I'm Mickey!"
     In the mid-1990's I had the opportunity to hear him speak in San Francisco.  At the time I had just uncovered my dream of becoming a children's author.  Seeing one of my most beloved authors was a complete thrill - that and meeting Steven Kellogg (who gave me the best advice I have ever received...but that a story for another time).
     Admittedly, I don't remember a thing about the talk he gave, other than it was about his most recent book and that he came off as being very curmudgeonly in his manner...but I didn't care.  It helped solidify what I already knew.
     I wanted to write...and write for children.
     Over the years I have read Mr. Sendak's books to my 3 children and encouraged my students to read them as well.  However, it wasn't until this past school year that his work has taken on a deeper meaning for me.
     At the beginning of the year, a parent graciously donated a box of books.  After the teachers went through, I took the opportunity to take a look and found, in perfect condition, the book, Pierre: a cautionary tale in five chapters and a prologue.
     I vaguely remembered the book, and decided to take it.  If you're not familiar with it, the prologue is this:
There once was a boy named Pierre 
who only would say, "I don't care!"
Read his story, my friend,
for you'll find at the end
that a suitable moral lies there.
     The story is about a little boy who, quite frankly, doesn't care about anybody or anything.  I won't give away the rest of the story, but needless to say the moral of the story (CARE) made me think.  Think about what our children are going through in life.  The world is such a different place than it was when I was growing up.  I've been worrying about how kids these days seem more apathetic...slowly turning into a generation of Tiggers (it's all about me!).  But in the past 3 weeks, I've seen, first-hand that is not at all true.
     Nearly a month ago, a tragic event befell our school community.  What I found most fascinating and heartening, was that the kids (especially my daughter's Jr. high friends) rallied to help a girl who unexpectedly lost her mom.  And a community has come together to help the family with bake sales, dine-and-donate nights, etc.  I realized that in fact, our kids, in addition to our community, does care...and always has.
     Ironically today, on the date of Mr. Sendak's death, our community also said goodbye to this beloved mother and teacher.
     When I first read Pierre after all these years, I thought it should be required that all parents read it to their children.  But now, even though I still believe it's a great book to read, I understand that the moral is alive and very well.
     Rest in Peace, Mr. Sendak and Mrs. Conover.  You will both be missed!

Monday, May 7, 2012


     I've tried so many different ways to keep up with this blog...doing different tags for the week (WOW, BRW, etc.) but my life has become so crazy and convoluted that I've decided the only way I can successfully do this is by talking about my process only.
     I'll still throw in a WOW or a new book review every now and then, but for the most part I'm saving this space for my writing life and what affects it. It may get messy sometimes, but if you stick with me, I promise I'll be nothing if not honest and hopefully entertaining. To those of you who have been following me in the past, thank you!
     I hope my new format will keep up...wish me luck!