Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Got Out of Town on a Boat *

A ferry story in 26 pictures requires a jump break. Click on "read more" below to see the rest.

Codename: Kate the Great and I drove to the ferry dock in Vineyard Haven, the harbor of Tisbury,
on the island of Martha's Vineyard. We got there early and watched truck after truck after truck...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Writer Body, Writer Heart, Writer Mind

I wish people talked more about the body-heart-mind dynamic going on within each of us. For me, learning to understand the workings of my own body-heart-mind dynamic has been an enormous help in being safe, being brave, understanding what I want and what I'm capable of, and making decisions. Body, Heart, and Mind: each part has its own particular kind of certainty/knowledge — knowledge that sometimes contradicts the knowledge of one of the other parts, which can make things interesting. If you can become conscious of them, they can be the most wonderful guides (yes, while possibly driving you crazy with their arguing). Today I'm thinking of how this relates to the stage I'm in with the thing I'm writing.

Whenever I get near the end of whatever thing I'm writing — be it a first draft, a revision, or just the resolution of a particular plot point — whenever I start to see the light at the end of whatever tunnel I'm in, I'm generally visited by a stunning surge of momentum. If you've noticed I've been blogging a lot since April began — this is why (these past couple of weeks being the exception. My reserves during these past couple of weeks have been absorbed by the recent Boston events, and I have not wanted to blog about it).

I've been doing a lot more of a lot of things lately, more than I usually have the capacity for, because I'm nearing the end of a writing project and am consequently being visited by a special energy: physical, mental, creative, expressive, geared toward output. It's extremely productive but also uncomfortable and unrestful. To be frank, it can verge on mania, and it's not without its dangers. Especially since I tend to see the light at the end of the tunnel a good four to six weeks before I'm actually going to reach the end of the tunnel, which means four to six weeks of coping with my own hypermomentum and hypermotivation.

On a recent Tuesday, I had a very long writing day of maybe 12 hours; then on Wednesday, I wrote for about 16 hours, covered 12 pages with ink (a HUGE day for me), and went to bed at 4 AM. On Thursday, when I woke up, the internal conversation went something like this:

BODY: Oh my gods, I'm f***ing exhausted! It doesn't matter! Fill me up with tea! Let's write for 16 hours again today, pausing midday to climb Mt Everest!

HEART: No problem. I'm not tired at all.

MIND: I'm kind of tired, but I'm in.

HEART: Are you sure? You've got a funny look on our face.

MIND: ...I admit something doesn't feel right.

HEART: Well, while you figure it out, we're going to get the writing supplies out.

MIND: ...No.


MIND: No. This feels like an important incoming message.

HEART: The kind we don't ever ignore?

MIND: ...Possibly.

HEART: ...Sigh. Okay. We'll stand by.

[MIND raises antennae. HEART and BODY try not to create too much interfering noise.]

MIND: Yeah, it's coming through clearer now: I don't think we should write today.

BODY: You mean maybe we should only write for eight hours?

MIND: I don't think we should write at all. We are badly in need of rest. I'm advocating for a day off.

BODY: Wrong. I can write with a claw hand and an aching neck. Please give me some tea now.

HEART: Mind, do you want me to step in? I never tire and I'm self-feeding. I'm soooo strong and everything that touches me makes me stronger. Shall I carry you? I don't mind. I can carry you both the whole way.

MIND (fondly): Yes, we know you can. But there's really no need for emergency measures; we've got miles to go before we finish this draft. This is the time for Body and me to be smart and careful, rather than go all in. And look at Body. Her teeth are practically chattering.

BODY: If my teeth are chattering I must be cold. Tea is hot. Feed me tea.

MIND (firmly): Your teeth are chattering because you've been having too much tea.

HEART: But the momentum. The momentum! If we don't work today, we'll have this feeling all day like we should be working. We'll be rattling around with dissatisfaction. It won't feel restful.

MIND: That's very true.

HEART (depressed): But you don't care?

MIND: I think it's more important that we disallow creative work today than that we be comfortable.

HEART: You're sure about this message, aren't you. It's the real thing.

MIND: I think it's been sent as a guide from beyond.

HEART: I've learned to trust you on the not-working thing.

MIND: Well, I've learned to trust your consummate faith in this book.

HEART: I love you, Mind.

MIND: I love you, Heart.

BODY: Hey, did you guys notice the falafel wagon that just went by the window? I want a roast beef sandwich with horseradish. And a cookie. And a nap in a patch of sun. And a massage. Oh, help. When you stop, you realize everything hurts. WHY ARE YOU GUYS MAKING ME STOP?!

HEART: Because we love you. Let me give you a hug. Mind, get in on this. Group hug!

MIND (muffled by hugging): By the way, while we've been having this conversation, I've been writing a blog post about it in our head. If we're taking a day off, are we allowed to blog?

HEART: Hm. You know the momentum is going to spend the whole day trying to trick us into using our creative energy in one way or another. I think that's why you're writing a blog post in our head.

MIND: But don't forget, the momentum is also a guide from beyond.

HEART: But it's up to us to determine how to follow our guides. Does this blog post feel urgent?

MIND: Yes.

HEART: Yeah, see, that's a clue. Why would a blog post be urgent? The momentum is trying to ensorcel you.

MIND: Hey, do you notice that we just changed sides?

HEART: Yep. That's necessary sometimes for balance. I think if you still find yourself wanting to write a blog post about this next week, when we're on Martha's Vineyard, that will mean you truly do want to write a blog post about it and it isn't just the momentum trying to trick you.

MIND: Okay, agreed. Blog post on Martha's Vineyard or not at all. 

It's spring in MV.

Newsy Stuff, Including Movie Stuff

I've gotten the go-ahead to announce that India-based Reliance Entertainment is developing Graceling into a movie. From this press release at Variety: "producer Deepak Nayar ('Paranoia') will oversee the project for Reliance and Kintop Pictures and will produce alongside Tabrez Noorani ('Life of Pi') of Tamasha Talkies and Leigh Ann Burton for Blu-Sky Media. British screenwriter Piers Ashworth ('Nostradamus') will write the script." Here's a USA Today mention, and one in the Wall Street Journal.

There is also a Facebook page for Graceling the movie.

This is only the first step of many, but it's a very good start. If it makes you happy, please feel free to help us by spreading the word :). My gratitude to the entire team! I will post any news as I receive it.

Also: soon I'm going to be overseas for a month. If you've been thinking of purchasing a signed/personalized copy of any of my books from the Harvard Book Store and want to catch me before I fly away, here's your notice that you should try to get that order in by about, oh, May 10 or 11.

Readers in France: I will be at Étonnants Voyageurs in Saint-Malo, 18-20 May, and Imaginales in Épinal, 23-26 May. I'll post more info once I know my schedule.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Today's Randutiae: Crown-Making

And now, I would like to post about something else. (Hopefully, y'all would like to read about something else.)

For example: Sometimes in life, one finds oneself needing to make a crown.

Having accidentally stumbled upon an easy but snazzy crown formula, I thought I'd share.  Supplies: felt, ribbon, needle and thread.

It didn't occur to me to take pictures in progress, but the concept is so simple that I think I can explain. That's the completed crown in the picture below. You're looking at two pieces of felt folded together lengthwise (meaning, the top edge is where the fold is happening). One, red, is about 16" x 14". The other, very dark green, is about 15" x 12". I put the green one on top of the red one, folded them both in half, and stitched them together (under the place where the ribbon would later lie) just to keep them steady. Then I lay the ribbon where I wanted it and stitched it in place. Voila.

Completed crown, one size fits all.


And here's how it looks on your noggin.

Also sometimes in life, the friend for whom one is making a crown has a toddler who would probably enjoy a crown, too, especially if Mommy is wearing one. Supplies: felt, ribbon, elastic, needle and thread.

I decided to give this one a more traditionally crowny look. Below, I've piled together three pieces of felt (sorry, I didn't think to measure this time), each one, after some testing and experimentation, cut in a slightly different shape. I stitched them together to keep them steady (under where the ribbon would later lie). Then I stitched on the ribbon, which is merely ornamental on this crown, because, as part of my lifelong commitment to not providing my friends' children with strangulation devices, I decided to close this crown with elastic rather than with a long ribbon that needs to be tied. (This crown uses flat pieces of felt, no folding.)

Crown sans elastic closure.

 Here's how this one looks on your noggin, except that technically
it's made for a three-year-old's noggin and doesn't actually fit me.
I held it onto my head and took this picture pre-elastic.

 Then I added this crisscross elastic to the back.



Friday, April 19, 2013


Here in Cambridge, as in a number of nearby towns, we are generally all doing what we're told and staying inside while the search for the Boston Marathon bombings suspect continues. What a strange and difficult day. What a hard week the Boston area has had. I have been thinking a lot about the parts of the world where this kind of violence is the norm. I've been thinking about the sensationalist news media, which makes me sick. I've been thinking about the victims; the helpers working so hard to keep us safe today; and the fact that this hunt is for a nineteen-year-old. I've been thinking about a lot of things; there is too much to think about.

I love my home.

My heart goes out to those suffering, and my gratitude to all the helpers, who come in many forms. I don't have much to offer, but here is some beauty...

...and out.

Look for the Helpers

Thanks, KCD, for the reminder of Mr. Rogers' words on this crazy morning. Thanks also to all the loved ones who keep checking in.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Also, an email from the Boston Philharmonic

This email just hit my inbox. For those of you not in range of Boston's WGBH, to the best of my knowledge, you can stream it online. What better week to listen to the Boston Philharmonic perform Beethoven's 9th? The email:

Dear Friends of the Boston Philharmonic,

We have been mourning this week with the entire Boston community over the tragic events on Monday afternoon at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Our hearts go out in particular to those who were directly injured in the attacks and the families of the victims. 

As musicians, we are grateful to be able to express our sorrow and our hope through music. As a tribute to the victims of Monday's attacks,  

the Boston Philharmonic concert tomorrow (Friday, April 19), 

will be broadcast live from Symphony Hall on WGBH radio 99.5 at 8pm. 

It will also be rebroadcast on Sunday (rebroadcast time TBD). The program is all Beethoven: the Coriolan Overture and Ninth Symphony, in collaboration with Symphony Pro Musica and soloists Sam McElroy, Sarah Heltzel, Michelle Johnson, and Yeghishe Manucharyan. 

We hope you will join us tomorrow evening, as we pay tribute to those who lost their lives on Monday, those whose lives were forever altered, and all of those who have stepped forward this week to offer assistance and comfort to those in need. 

Metta (Lovingkindness) Meditation

When the news from my own home is so sad, this is all I feel I have to offer: instructions for a metta meditation. "Metta," also known as "maitri" and often translated into English as "loving-kindness," comes from the Buddhist tradition. Here are some links, in case you want to know more about the roots of the practice: Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chödrön, who's always worth reading, explains maitri/metta here. Over at Wildmind Buddhist Meditation, there's a clear introduction to lovingkindness meditation (check out all the links to the left).  These folks at Dharma Seed provide a number of talks and guided sits around metta. Finally, just to be thorough :), I'll link you to the wikipedia page for Metta. My own practice of meditation, this and others, is secular.

I present here the version of the meditation that I tend to use, written from memory, but I've encountered variations from different teachers, so it may be different from whatever one you might know or use.

Sit, or lie, or stand, however is most comfortable. Many people sit on a cushion but this might be hell on your back; it is on mine. I sit on a meditation bench. You can sit on a chair or do whatever works for you. If you're lying down on the bed and it makes you sleepy, try lying on the floor.

You are going to be sending good wishes from your soul to at least five specific people, and it might be helpful to choose your people before you start. The first person will be you. The second person will be a loved one (which whom you may have a complicated relationship). The third will be someone with whom you have an unambiguously positive relationship – a benefactor in your life. The fourth will be a neutral person in your life – maybe someone you see at the coffeehouse or the person who drives the bus or delivers your mail, but whom you don't know personally (maybe you don't even know their name). The fifth will be someone you consider an enemy.

Hold the first person – yourself – in your mind. Find a way of viewing yourself – a position with which to regard yourself – that makes you feel warmly toward yourself. Then, send the following wishes to yourself, perhaps repeating them silently once, or even several times:

- May you be peaceful and serene with what is.

- May you be happy and joyous.

- May you be healthy and strong.

- May you be safe and protected from harm.

- May you have ease of body, ease of mind, and ease of heart.

- May you be free from suffering and delusion.

Repeat these steps for your loved one, your benefactor, your neutral person, and your enemy.

When I'm done with that, I like to expand my view to my neighborhood, my region, my country, my hemisphere, etc., so that in my final steps, I'm sending the wishes to everyone in the world, and finally, all living beings. Really, you can do any variation of the meditation that you want. When I do it next, I'll spend some time focusing on those suffering because of the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday, those suffering because of violence everywhere, those suffering for any reason.

Thank you to Eve for this version of metta. Thank you also to Sunada Takagi, who teaches the online meditation courses at wildmind.org and who taught the wonderful Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course that I took recently.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

No Guarantees

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Guess What Season It Is in Cambridge?

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Me, reading out loud the label of the Belgian porter, Zwet.be, that I'm about to drink: "This unusual ale is the brainchild of Armand Debelder, brewer and blender of the world-famous Drie Fonteinen lambies. A Belgian Porter, brewed with wild yeasts cultured from Armand's casks of lambie." Ew! Ew! Ew!

My friend: Sweetie, might that word be "lambic"?

(Lambic: A type of beer brewed traditionally in the Pajottenland region of Belgium.)

(Lambie: A cute fuzzy baby animal you don't want in your beer.)


(It's yummy.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nasturtium Season at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The nasturtiums are currently hanging from the balconies in the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and it's a breathtaking sight, so much so that when I got home from the museum, I wrote hanging nasturtiums into the courtyard of the building in my current WIP. They'll be on display until mid-April or so. (There are some lovely photos at that link.)

As I stood in the courtyard gawking -- thinking about how description often works best in books if you're able to capture the mood something creates with a few words, or maybe briefly say what it's like rather than providing lengthy and specific details about what it actually is or precisely how it looks -- my friend told me that the museum invites artists-in-residence to live in the museum and work. LUCKY DUCKS. What a dream to write in a place like that. Then we went to the tiny red concert hall with the custom-built Steinway and watched and heard pianist Paavali Jumppanen and violinist Corey Cerovsek have a lot of fun playing Beethoven really well. I'm also a lucky duck.

This is a really special museum, right next door to Simmons, where I got my MA in children's literature (and started writing!), around the corner from the Museum of Fine Arts, and down the road from Fenway Park. If your name is Isabella, you always get free admission ^_^. Here's the website for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Keeping My Center in the Era of the Interwebs

Here are a few questions I ask myself before I hit "publish" on any blog post:
  • Is it too personal? Will it make me feel exposed in some way? Why?
  • Does it compromise my self-respect? How? To the best of my ability to judge, does it respect others?
  • How recently have I blogged and how much have I been blogging recently? Why?
  • Why do I want to blog this thing?  -----> No self-deception or delusion allowed here. Whatever the real reason is, am I okay with it?
  • What if I didn't blog this thing? What if I kept it to myself, or emailed a friend about it instead? Would that feel more peaceful and centering? Why?
For every blog post I hit "publish" on, there are probably two I delete. For every two paragraphs I leave in a blog post, there's probably one I delete. It doesn't feel like a waste of time to me, because in the writing and questioning, I organize my thoughts and learn about myself, which I dearly hope helps me move respectfully and responsibly through the world. The internet is a wonderful tool, but I think it's wondrousness is very tied up with its dangerousness. Even more than most of the tools at my disposal, I want to use it mindfully.

What questions do you ask yourself before clicking the magic button?


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Can you help with an issue of disability discrimination in Massachusetts?

Over at Rebecca Rabinowitz's blog, a woman who needs MA state licensure for the job for which she's qualified is having a terrible time getting that licensure, because the state is failing to provide her with the assistive technology she needs to take the licensure exam. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Jeanette Beal is entitled to a fair chance at taking this exam, but she's not getting that fair chance. Beal has a master's in special education and specializes in assistive technology for disabled people. Any chance you can help? Please go read Jeanette's letter, repost (in full, please), link to my or Rebecca's post, offer to help if you can. Thanks.

ETA on Tuesday, April 9: Here's an update with a list of specific things people can do to help.

ETA on Friday, April 26: Jeanette Beal is now blogging updates to her situation at her own blog. Please follow and comment there. Thank you! 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

View from a Train

Looking over the rooftops of Queens, with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Building a Great Wordlessness in Stages

I love what Eddie Vedder can do by himself live on stage with his gorgeous voice and a loop pedal.

From the documentary Water on the Road.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Keeping Quiet

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let's not speak any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn't be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren't unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I'll go.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Day in the Life

Today, codenames: Isis and Phoenix (age 3) asked me if I have any scary dreams. I told them (a modified version of) a scary dream I had recently. Isis patted me sympathetically on the arm and said, "Don't worry, we'll help you. We jump on people and scare away their bad dreams." The dream removal process commenced immediately without warning and was enthusiastic and heartfelt, if rather painful. It'll sure be nice not to have any more scary dreams.


I played a game with a bewildering series of changing rules, involving throwing a ball, singing "Pump Up the Jam" (?), and drawing exactly what I was instructed to draw on successively smaller pieces of paper, the final one of which was the size of a coconut flake and which Isis produced from her mouth. When I protested that I could not draw a scene of a cat and the Easter Bunny on an infinitesimal and soggy piece of paper, Isis declared me the winner of the game and promised me two pieces of chocolate, which no one has delivered to me yet.


Today a little girl came looking for me in a dark room, wearing a tutu around her neck like the ruff of a frilled dragon. A moment before, I'd noticed Phoenix wearing her tutu that way, but this looked like Isis – though there wasn't much light – so I said, "Sweetheart, I can't see you. Are you Isis?" (They're identical twins.) "No," she said. "I'm Phoenix." I opened my mouth to apologize – how awful of me to misrecognize my own niece – then got a funny feeling and decided to turn on the light before saying anything. The child was lying to me. She was totally Isis. This is probably the fifth time one of them has tried to pull this trick on me. So far I've always known I'm being tricked – they just don't look the same to me, these girls – but I must say, their technique – and their acting – is becoming more sophisticated. I am in trouble.


Phoenix was climbing a high rock wall today and got scared. It was my dear privilege as an aunt to be able to say probably one of the best things anyone ever gets to say: "I will not let you fall."