This week, Library Journal and School Library Journal staffers are getting cozy with tales of murder and with children’s literature. SLJ’s Shelley Diaz and Chelsey Philpot are both reading Bennett Madison’s September Girls (HarperCollins) and I’m listening to an audiobook full of crunchy, creaky words: armiger, chiliarch, cacogen, exultant, optimate, destrier, undine. If you see me murmuring to myself on the subway, it’s Gene Wolfe’s words, not a sign of my deteriorating sanity. (I promise.)
Where I Work: Elizabeth Wein
The pictures included here are spontaneous and random because, like Mr Earbrass in Edward Gorey’s The Unstrung Harp, I belong “to the straying, rather than the sedentary type of author.” I am “never to be found at [my] desk unless actually writing down a sentence.”
The summer house (in our back garden) has been dubbed by one of my readers “Tiny Little House O’ Writing.” It is a miniature imitation of the summer cottage in Pennsylvania where I spent all my summers as a child and where my grandmother now lives. It is also the space we have instead of a porch, because they don’t do porches in Scotland (the average summer temperature is 61 F / 16 C). The summer house has got a heater and electricity installed. It is called a “summer house” because you can sit in it and pretend it is summer.
The cat’s name is Hershi. He is always by my side when I am working at home, on the table watching me, or under the table next to my feet, or sleeping on a chair close by.
The dining room table is where I write when it is too cold to sit in the summer house, which is most of the year, even with the heater installed. I do have a desk, but I haven’t actually sat there to write since 2009. I use the desk as an extension of my many filing cabinets.
In the morning, when the sun is coming in, I like to write in the bay window in the living room. The front garden is big and a little overgrown and makes me feel like I am in the woods, even though our house is on the main road into Perth. There is a beech hedge, a rhododendron hedge, and three linden trees hiding the road from our house. I confess that when I am sitting in the bay window, I like to pretend it is a turret in a castle (I think I have St. Michael’s Mount, in Cornwall, in mind).
If it is warm enough and not raining, which is about two weeks in the year, I sometimes sit in the tiny garden at the side of our house. There are lilacs and apple trees and a rain barrel there. It feels like a country cottage garden even though it isn’t. I think that what most of my favorite writing places have in common is that they fool me into thinking I am somewhere else. I don’t know what that says about my writing.
The other thing they have in common is that they are very photogenic. At least once a week I go sit with a friend in the Winter Garden at the Crieff Hydro (actually at the table in the picture in the link: http://www.crieffhydro.com/leisure/food-and-drink/the-winter-garden.aspx ); we write there together for about four hours at a time. I like to vary my hangouts.
Elizabeth Wein is the award-winning author of Code Name Verity (2012). Her new novel, Rose Under Fire (both Disney-Hyperion, 2013), will be released in the United States in September.
Where I Work: Julie Berry
I have a little office in my home. It’s an upstairs room overlooking the street, too small for a bedroom (no closet) but just right for a writing office. Behind my chair, three south-facing windows feed me lots of pretty light, even on gray days. Big blossoming plants grow in the bay windows. Green plants nourish the soul, I find.
Here’s my desk. More plants, some artwork (woodcuts by my sister, a landscape by a friend), research books, office supplies, binder clips (use lots of those), and a bulletin board full of kid pictures, quotes, poem snippets, and miscellany. Notice the strip of purplish color on the wall under the bulletin board—I started painting my office but never finished. The color name felt writerly: “Foreshadow.”
Here’s a closer look at my desk setup. I plug my laptop into a larger monitor and use a dual-monitor setting, so I can spread my manuscript wide on the big screen, and keep my email visible on the lower monitor. Wider screens with multi-page views are essential for chapter revision—they help me spot redundancy, wordiness, and draggy spots. Sometimes I travel to college libraries where I can access huge monitors for a 4 or 6-page view when I need to see my work panoramically.
Here’s a closer look at one corner of my desk. Offices can be dusty, boxy, techno-dreary places, a far cry from the fictional worlds writers hope to create. Color, plants, art, friends—I try to keep them close. Couldn’t get them to pose, but my cats insert themselves here constantly. This woodcut (also by my sister Beth) is Saint Augustine. I like having a saint watch over my notebooks.
Julie Berry is the author of All the Truth That’s in Me, 2013, Viking. Find her online at www.julieberrybooks.com, or on Twitter at @julieberrybooks.
I urge ALA leadership to step out of the comfort zone as it did on ebooks and advocate with education leaders they don’t normally talk to—district leaders, principals, superintendents, and departments of education—to correct the misperception that school librarians are expendable. Tap incoming president Barbara Stripling’s deep passion and knowledge to tip the scales. She managed one of the most complex school library systems in the United States, New York City’s, during a time of tremendous change, and she is past president of AASL. Stripling is uniquely positioned to tell this story in a compelling way.
Toxic stress is the heavy hand of early poverty, scripting a child’s life not in the Horatio Alger scenario of determination and drive, but in the patterns of disappointment and deprivation that shape a life of limitations.
Poverty as a Childhood Disease, by Perri Klass.
As we saw at this year’s schoollibraryjournal Public Library Leadership Think Tank, school and public libraries have a very strong role to play in mitigating the effects of poverty, for both children and their caregivers.
“Tut, tut, it looks like rain” ― A.A. Milne
It’s a silver day at the SLJ office in Manhattan.
Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, LJ: Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam by Cristin O’Keefe & Francesca Lia Block’s I Was a Teenage Fairy.
Shelley Diaz, Associate Editor, SLJ: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.
Kate DiGirolomo, Editorial Assistant, LJ: Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies.
Josh Hadro, Executive Editor, LJ: Kraken by China Miéville.
Stephanie Klose, Media Editor, LJ:Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains.
Molly McArdle, Assistant Book Review Editor, LJ: Marilynne Robinson’s Home.
Chelsey Philpot, Associate Book Review Editor, SLJ: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Flappers and Philosophers as well as A LOT of new June and July YA novels.
Meredith Schwartz, News Editor, LJ: Suzanne Joinson’s The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind.
Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Reviews Editor, LJ: Suzanne Joinson’s A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar & Pól Ó Murchú’s A Grammar of Modern Irish.
Wilda Willams, Fiction Editor, LJ: Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
On the way: SLJ on e-originals
You heard it here first! SLJ is going to be reviewing e-original publications. From nonfiction to novellas, if the title is available first in a digital form we want to review it. If you’re a publisher who would like more information, please email associate book review editor Chelsey Philpot at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you work with children or teens in schools or public libraries, or if you are a library school educator, and would like to volunteer to review for SLJ (e-original publications or other materials), please contact book review editor Trev Jones at email@example.com.
Oh boy is right!
A select list by SLJ’s book review team created after the Newtown tragedy - sadly, an appropriate resource once again.
“The power of books is profound, but power does start in the children’s room. When we connect children with books…we are introducing them to the world.”—Pam Sandlian Smith, director of Colorado’s Anythink Libraries and opening keynote speaker at SLJ’s Public Library Think Tank.
Where I Work: Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)
A Sequence of Still Lifes from Daniel Handler’s office, with a few explanations.
(A) Books with which author is currently (and in one case, eternally) grappling.
(B) From left: Stack of books for author’s column in The Believer magazine, What The Swedes Read, chronicling the Nobel Prize in Literature; Buddha Machine ambient loop generator (orange) and Gristleism ambient loop generator (silver); manifestation of author’s 2013 New Year’s resolution to moisturize; old-school Rolodex.
(C) Scrap of paper found in street.
(D) From left: desk toy made for author from Andrew Sean Greer; water and tea; wooden box snitched from college library when author was a mad youth; statuette of Buddha from author’s father’s office; framed Dear Abby letter; framed honeymoon photo; boxes of stationery.
(E) Typed manuscript in-progress; legal pad on which author does most of his writing.
(F) Current favorite music.
(G) Visual art depicting the most important aspect of narrative.
(H) Inspirational quotation from Jane Hirshfield poem.
Lemony Snicket’s latest picture book, The Dark with illustrations by Jon Klassen, will be published this week.
“I love you sooo”