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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George and Me

Let's have a moment of silence to mark the death of George Carlin. Though perhaps a moment of cursing would be more appropriate. As a child, I used to take George Carlin's albums out from the Fletcher Free Library (in my hometown, Burlington, VT) and giggle over them with my brother.

The two most memorable bits for me came from A Place For My Stuff, which Carlin released in 1981. The first was one of his "announcements" which purported to be a message from the National Apple Institute (it was delivered in a voice I always took to be that of a tough-looking, menacing apple: "F--- pears.")

The second was his piece, Ice Box Man, in which he did an impersonation of a mom trying to sell her family on eating something nasty from the back of the fridge. His deadpan summary of the item on the plate was "could be meat, could be cake... I know, it's meatcake." And then in his mother voice, he'd chime in, "Don't you want to eat this bowl of pudding skin??? I'm only going to throw it away..."

To this day, my mom, who listened to me and my brother cutting up to the album ad nauseum, refers to anything gross from the back of the fridge as "meatcake." As do I, for that matter.

Rest in peace, George Carlin. Your spirit lives on.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Luck of the Not-Exactly-Irish

My mom, who has red hair, can pass for Irish. As you can see in this picture, my older daughter sometimes takes after her.

Me, well, that's another story. However, I am delighted to report that the Irish are not holding my not-quite-Irish status against me. I'm going to Dublin later this summer and I've been communicating with the lovely Tom Donegan of the national children's books organization there, Children's Books Ireland a.k.a. Leabhair Pháistí Éireann for you Celtophiles (that's pronounced KELT-o-files, not SELT-o-files, who are fans of the reining basketball team).

Alas, I will not be there for Kate Thompson and Keith Gray's writing-for-teens seminar this month, nor will I be there for next month's Summer Stories event, which sounds fabulous. It combines Ireland's best storytellers, children's book authors and illustrators in one big free festival.

I was particularly curious about what the fesitival description lists as "potty poetry." While it is possible that toilet-themed verse is HUGE there, I think the more likely explanation is that the word "potty" means crazy in the UK. The definition on peevish.co.uk (a British slang site with a wide range of risque fare... a disclaimer that will likely make my middle grade fans click even faster!) includes use of the term in the following sentence: "I was potty about Angelina Jolie for several years." Say no more.

But I digress. The point is: I will be in Ireland later this summer and it looks like I might have the pleasure of visiting some Irish libraries and/or bookstores to read my books with a whole new continent of kids (OK, perhaps not a whole new continent... I did take my books to the kids of Paris a few years back... but you get the picture). And my mom will be along for the trip, bringing her red hair to increase my Irish street cred!

For those of you who are children's book authors and illustrators, I have to say that bringing your books when you travel and/or setting up readings and signings in places you are visiting is incredibly fun and rewarding. I've done this on pretty much every trip and family vacation for the past several years. Consequently, my books have found audiences in places they might not have otherwise (tiny Jackson, New Hampshire, for example... and that aspiring literary mecca, Sanibel, Florida). And my family and I have gotten to really know the people in these places better than we would as regular tourists.

Here's me in Cape Cod with some of my furrier fans:

And on Long Island, playing deuling-livestock-hats with a host librarian:

It's not all that hard. Usually, I call the extremely-well-connected-and-charming Jason Wells, publicity director at Abrams, and pick his brain about wherever I'm going. Then he or I call around and set things up. Truly, you would not believe how happy some places are to have an author visit, talk about her work and sign books.

And it leaves plenty of time to hit the beach, the slopes or, in the case of Ireland, I guess that would be the pub... or maybe the rolling green hills (we're staying on a farm). How lucky can you get? And you don't even have to be Irish!

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