A Blast from the Past

I’ve been organizing bookshelves in my office, and I found some classics from my past.

When I was 13, I had to make a decision about continuing my Catholic faith. I decided to step away from the church, and I had many questions. This book helped me with that:

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Well-worn reminders of why books are so important.

I had almost forgotten about this fun middle grade adventure:

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Check out these great interior illustrations:

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Cloud-Cuckooland

I found this disclaimer in the introduction of the mystery novel, Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers:

For, however realistic the background, the novelist’s only native country is Cloud-Cuckooland, where they do but jest, poison in jest: no offense in the world.

I shall now return to my own version of CCL. I think the name of my world is different, but it hasn’t whispered itself to me yet.

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Imagination in the Real World

Recently I wrote a play review for a production of Love Song by John Kolvenbach. The play explores the relationship between what is real and what is imagined, and how it helps us find love and understand our world.

On a deeper level, the play considers that intersection between fantasy and reality.

As a child I often told stories because they seemed so real in my head. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t real. As an adult, I write those stories.

I read books about imaginary worlds, and a really good book can pull me into a world that seems real. This was true for me as a child and is still true for me as an adult.

Objectively, we can tell the difference between what is real and what is made up, but it’s fun to consider the “What if?”

The imagined world calls us . . .

As adults we may understand the difference between reality and imagination perfectly, but some of us choose to write stories, act on stage, make movies, draw pictures . . . .

We give ourselves a chance to enter that imaginary world.

Could a fairy live there?
Could a fairy live there?

After posting this, a friend emailed me a link to Mac Barnett’s recent Ted Talk on imagination and writing for children. If you haven’t heard this yet, I highly recommend listening in. Not that I’m telling you what to do or anything, but Mac is an amazing writer. I’d listen to anything he has to say:

 

On a side note, I’m still looking for that secret door–

The magic portal to something extraordinary . . .

Picture Books and Plays

A light went on (so to speak).

A connection I hadn’t thought of before fused in an unexpected way.

In April I was at the Western Washington SCBWI Conference. I attended Justin Chanda’s session on editing picture books. Justin Chanda is the vice president and publisher of a bunch of imprints at Simon and Schuster, and he edited, among many other books, Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett’s book, Battle Bunny, a book I happen to adore.

Justin Chanda was fantastic! Not only did he hand out actual manuscripts for three great picture books (I love, love, love models to work from), but he explained how he felt editing was a lot like directing a play.

This is when I had my connection.

During the month of April I was working on “Main Course,” my short comedy I wrote for the Orcas Island Ten Minute Playfest. I attended rehearsals as a very talented director worked with actors to create life from my script.

The results were much more awesome than I even imagined. I never grow tired of the magic which transforms words on a script to a live performance.

Stage Magic with Adam and Brian
Stage Magic with Adam and Brian
Adam, Aaimee, and Brian
Adam, Aaimee, and Brian

(Photos by Michael Armenia)

When Mr. Chanda made the director/editor connection, I could totally see this. The editor, like the director, coaxes and encourages the story along. As I considered the writing versus the finished picture book, I thought, perhaps, the artist is like the actors; the ones who make the story come to life.

Suddenly I could see what I do as a playwright in relation to what I could do as a picture book writer.

Playwright, director, actors: Performance

Writer, editor, artist: Book or story.

Connection.

I love it when this happens!

 

Two Hundred Years of Mr. Darcy . . .

And Elizabeth Bennet.

Today is the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

This is one of the best opening lines of a novel. It promises adventure, wit, and a touch of appropriate sarcasm.

Another of my favorite quotes (though I suppose this one makes me a bit of a misanthrope):

“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”

Thank you, Jane!

 

 

 

A Letter to Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

Dear Ray,

I would have preferred another day instead of  my birthday to find out about your death.

You probably didn’t know this, but  I wrote a book about you in 2006. An editor of small publisher sent me a list of potential subjects for middle grade biographies, and I saw your name. I read a few short stories, of course, but I knew little else about you. For whatever reason, your name popped out at me, and I selected you as the topic of my next book.

I started doing my research, I was struck with your passion for writing. Your tendency to create worlds and find the landscapes of “what if” scenarios stunned me. You were not afraid.

I like this.

I reread Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. I read Something Wicked This Way Comes and dozens of short stories.

Your writing passion and your lifelong goal to create and keep creating impressed me most. You seemed to have this headlong, wonderful enthusiasm you brought to every project.

You said many great things about the craft of writing, but this is my favorite, the one I repeat when I get stuck or over analyze what I do.

“Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.”

Sincerely,

Michèle