We decided to push the debut of Ambush’s next anthology, Love Stinks, down to late spring, a more traditional date for new titles. I’ve been sharing editing duties, and I have to say that if you do not already think love stinks before you start reading, such authors as Marni Bates, Eldritch Black and myself should be able top convince you that it does.
Well, dang, it finally happened. The 9th Annual Pear Slices opened at the Pear Theatre with my little epic, TOPPERS, leading off the evening. It was rather awesome to see five pages of verbosity transformed by Fred Pitts and Kelly Rinehart into something living at last. I’d sat in on a couple fo rehearsals and knew it was going to be good, but, hey, this was the preview — sets, costumes, lights, the works. And wok they did.
I am in awe of Kely Rinehart and Kimberly Gelbwasser, who transformed themselves from figures on wedding cakes to reanimated corpses to Bronze Age Scandinavian babes to maenads with nasal Californian accents, etc, all night long and every 5 to fifteen minutes or less.
If you’re in the Bay Area through early June, there are still tickets — or wer two nights ago. When word gets around about this production, I don’t think they’ll last long. IMHO, the two best plays of the evening are those by Peter Ross Nelson and Beverly Altschuler. But draw your own conclusions.
World Penguin Day? EVERYTHING happens in April. Thanks to Pam for bringing it to my attention.
I absolutely agree that Mr. Popper’s Penguins is the definitive work on the subject. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Pyatt, read it to us, and I read it for myself probably dozens of times while I was growing up. Captain Jack, the talking emperor penguin in the Uncle Pirate books, owes a lot to those birds.
Recently, I learned that the story behind the book is not a very happy one. Mr. and Mrs. Atwater were living happily in Chicago, where he worked as a reporter. Richard Atwater started the book for fun, got stuck, and put it away. Before he could pick it up again, he was stricken with some kind of paralysis and couldn’t work any more. The Atwaters were in deep poverty. Then Florence Atwater picked up the manuscript and finished it. It’s ben in print ever since, which is as close as reali life comes to “and they all lived happily ever after.”
By the way, there are fifteen species of penguin, including the Adelie, rockhopper, king, emperor, and blue. The blues are the smallest and live in burrows.
Everything literary in this country seems to happen in April. International Children’s Book Day (okay, that’s not just this country), National Library Week, and, next up, (now in fact) National Library Workers Week.
So, speaking as a part-time library worker, I want to thank the nation for all the appreciation my colleagues and I have been getting since Monday, and …. Oh, wait … you didn’t know, right?
No problem. Most library workers get a fair amount of appreciation for the jobs we do. Most library users are actually a little afraid of libraries and of the people who ork in them, so when they find out that we’re not there to intimidate or threaten them (what do they expect? “Put that book down now and march right out of this building. And don’t come back!”) they can be excessively grateful.
Most librarians (and it’s important to remember that not everyone who works in a library is a librarian. There are four or five other ranks of being, like angels) who go into public service really did do so in order to serve the public, and in these days of internet self-service reference (honstly, why do people want to make their own mistakes when they are already paying us to make mistakes for them?) a good reference question is more treasured than ever. I used to work in a place where we were asked for that kind of help so infrequently that when we got a good one, we’d go back in the work area and tell everyone.
We all have favorites. One of mine happened years ago when a young man trained as a bakery and about to open his own high-class pastry shop, came in and asked for a recipe for an elaborate French dessert which he hadn’t been able to find anywhere.
This was actually an easy out, given a good section of 641′s (cook books) which we had. In fact, I happened to know the book that would almost certainly have it, and did. Time elapsed, about thtee minutes. he could hardly believe it had been so easy.
And there’s the children’s programming. If you become a stoyteller, you’ll probably develop a following. Kids will show up every week to hear you do their favorite song. You get a name, like The Monday-Monday Man. On a good day, you may get your leg hugged.
So, thanks very much for the National Week, but the fact of the matter is that, in those places where budget cuts and city council recruited from America’s ever-growing community of self-imposed illiterates have so far spared the services, we library workers are getting plenty of appreciation just for doing what we do. Maybe what we really need is a National Library Patrons’ Moment of Thanks.
So, if you are one, thanks.
Hans Christian Andersen’s Birthday, April 2nd, is also International Children’s Books Day. It’s also the thirtieth anniversary of the day when I, somewhat randomly, brought a bouquet of daisies into the childen’s room of my local library in commemoration of that fact, which bouquet a young redheaded library assistant effiecienty prepared and vased, which led to ta talk baout crossbows which led to … anyway thirty years later, we are still finding things to talk about.
But I digress. Hans Andersen was born dirt-poor in a Denmark so conservative the king still ruled by fiat. Insanity ran in his family, and the fear of it haunted him all his life. But he grew up in a family of storytellers. His cobbler father, and his grandparents, when they were sane, filled his head with folktales and snippets of history that the boy used to concoct his own compensatory dreams of glory. It was the beginning of a fairy tale.
When he was still a boy, he left Arhus for Copenhagen in hopes of making his living as a singer — he had a superlative voice — and on the way encountered a party of nobles who were impressed enough with him take him with them and present him to the king. He got a shot at some education through their help, and his fairy tale entered its second act.
In the third act, he became a dighter, a word for which there is no equivalent in English, but which means a writer with an elevated style. His plays and essays earned him little attention in Denmark at first, but his fairy tales translated into English made him a celebrity in Britain, and caused his own people to take a closer look at what they had.
Andersen spent the rest of his life collecting accolades. They saw his tales for what they were — satires on social conditions in Denmark, a country where there really were little match girls freezing to death in alleys. This only made him more important as Denmark began to change into the liberal, decent nation it has become.
He was vain, insecure, demanding and greedy. He fell desperately in love with unattainable men women and men, but finally only cared about himself. He wrote his autobiography twice, to construct a past he could live with.
He remains not just a great children’s author but a great author. he demonstrated that stories that are written for children don’t have to ignore or deny the problems, even the horrors, of the real world. Writers like Suzanne Collins can trace a line of descent from Andersen.
All of which may be something to think about when you’re asked, “When are you going to start writing for adults?”
No, Suzanne Collins has not contacted us about offering The Hunger Games through this imprint. I have, however seen the movie. I thought that they did a pretty good job of sketching in the background of Collins’ dystopia without interrupting the flow of the narrative, a tall order in the circumstances. Apparently, though, a lot of people don’t agree. They find the sketching too sketchy. So, what do people think? If you have seen the movie but not read the book, did you find the exposition adequate? If you have read the book, do you think there should have ben more background? Could that have been done without slowing up the story? If you have opinions, you can post to my blog, dougreeswriter on WordPress.