Monday, July 30, 2012

Just Another Day in the Park

I was walking through the Boston Common to an appointment the other day when a man yelled something to me about what he intended to do to me.  It was physical and vulgar. I ignored him. First safety rule: don't engage.

Waking back from my appointment, I passed him again. This time, apparently offended by my non-reaction last time, he yelled at me that I was arrogant. He kept yelling after me as I walked on. He listed many of the unpleasant personal characteristics he perceived me to have. I ignored him.

Then I forgot about it -- until I decided I wanted to blog about it. I couldn't quite get a handle on what it was I was trying to say, though, so I e-mailed a few friends. Rebecca and Jess helped me work it out -- thanks guys -- so what I'm about to say is a joint effort.

Random abuse from misogynists, in one form or another, is a routine part of many -- most? -- women's lives. It happens to every kind of woman. Women of every shape, size, and color; femme women and butch women; anyone who identifies or reads as a woman. As Rebecca wrote to me, "It happens when the shouter finds the woman beautiful and hot; it happens when the shouter finds the woman ugly. It can be sarcastic; it can be an invitation. It can mean 'get away from me' or 'get over here to me'." It is done by men who say something uninvited believing themselves to be delivering a compliment, and men saying something uninvited who know themselves to be delivering an insult, and the point I want to make is: IT'S THE SAME THING. Again quoting Rebecca, "really it's all the same when it's shouted to someone on the street." It's seeing a person as a body and no more, and not just that, but a body unworthy of respect. Plus, as Jess pointed out, no matter what is meant by it, it always feels like a threat.

Routine experiences like these, experienced by my friends, my sisters, by me and by strangers on the street around me, are among the many reasons I found myself needing to write Fire.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Checking In

Re: Bitterblue travel: I'll be in Sweden (Stockholm and Kristianstad/Malmö), Spain (at least Madrid, not sure beyond that yet), France (Paris), and the Netherlands (at least Amsterdam) in September -- it's official, my transatlantic flights are booked -- and I'll post more details when I have them.

Re: blogginess: There are a few updates I need to post to this blog, including some sort of page of Bitterblue reviews... I'm afraid some aspects of the blog have dropped to a currently unreachable part of my priority list, so things aren't as tidy around here as I prefer them. I will get to it some day. In the meantime, what blogging time I have, I'm trying to focus on new posts. I have a couple planned. One is about Tim Riggins. :-)

Re: gorgeous clouds, check out this stupendous link to "60 insane cloud formations from around the world." Thanks B, via B! :)

And re: awesome music videos, I love this ASL interpretation of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know." Everything, from lighting to acting to staging and costuming, works for me in this -- I feel the pain coming off of them in waves. Thanks R!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Margaret Mahy, 1936-2012

New Zealand writer Margaret Mahy died on Monday, July 23. She was 76 years old.

Margaret Mahy could write emotions like sadness, fear, the desperateness of courage, so that you felt them as you read. A few lines from Alchemy (2004):

Certainly the sound of her sadness had spread itself backward and forward through time.

The feeling he had been trying to create – the feeling that the day was just another day – began to shiver out of line.

He could not see an inch beyond his nose. Squinting down in its general direction, he found he could not even see his nose. All the same, still whistling and hissing to himself, reminding himself how real he was, then nodding and muttering agreement with himself, Roland stepped forward yet again, before pausing and groping backward.

She described physical sensations brilliantly. In these lines from 24 Hours (2000), Ellis wakes up with a hangover:

Ellis did not open his eyes. It seemed safer to linger in the darkness behind his lids, for his head felt as if it had split from side to side.... His stomach heaved, and heaved again, as if it were trying to tear itself out of him and set up a separate life in another part of the room.... Bending down, he imagined the top of his head was going to flop open, and that what was left of his brain would fall, squelching, on top of the phone.

She wrote fabulous sexual tension, but also strong, thoughtful, complex women. From The Changeover (1984):

The sight of Sorry standing at the school gate that morning had filled her with a soft electricity, exciting but not totally amiable.

He kissed her very briefly and said, “The Sleeping Beauty always loves the prince who wakes her. You’ve had it now, Chant... no hope for you, I’m afraid.” / “I woke myself,” Laura said.

She had a special skill for capturing the eerie feeling that Something Is Not Right Here. From The Haunting (1982):

When, suddenly, on an ordinary Wednesday, it seemed to Barney that the world tilted and ran downhill in all directions, he knew he was about to be haunted again.

She described people so well! Also from The Haunting:

Great-Uncles Alberic and Guy were there of course, tall, towering and toppling a little bit like elegant hollyhocks.

There was trouble at once with the cool receptionist, she was so very white and immaculate that she seemed to leave a bright outline of herself in the air after she had moved on, so that you saw her where she was and where she had been at the same time.

She could make landscapes come alive. From The Catalogue of the Universe (1985):

They could even see, between broom and elderberry bushes, a foxglove forest, rank on rank of tall flowers, all looking east, all looking down, as if at the sound of the crash they had swiveled their long giraffe-necks within their collars of green leaves and were waiting to witness a miracle.

She stubbornly wrote, over and over, about the entropy we all like to pretend isn't part of life. From Memory (1987):

Jonny was becoming more resigned to the smell, and felt a sort of exhausted pleasure in this mad tea party. This was the hidden machinery of life, not a clean, clinical well-oiled engine, monitored by a thousand meticulous dials, but a crazy, stumbling contraption made up of strange things roughly fitted together – things like a huge water tap, the dogleg stairs, cheese in the soap dish, and a crocheted tea cosy stiff with dirt and topped by a doll’s broken face. Jonny had always been aware of this limping machine, even under the clean, smooth surface of his own home.

And -- she was funny! From the divine The Tricksters (1986):

“Much better!” Benny agreed, shooting out a spray of cracker crumbs. “Sorry!” he mumbled, breathing them in and then beginning to choke.

“Of course I’ll look after your damned baby,” Christobel was shouting in the living room as Harry went through it to her attic. “Just get out and take that accountant with you, or I might be tempted by him. He’s the best-looking man I know.” Later, Harry came down her ladder and found Christobel watching Tibby with a mixture of amusement and repulsion. Tibby was sitting on her pink pot singing to herself and shifting herself industriously across the floor. / “Gosh, motherhood must be terrible,” Christobel was grumbling. “The things you’ve got to praise people for!”

The Tricksters is about a stupendous young woman named Harry who is trying to form herself and discovers, in the process, the power she possesses to form the world around her. "Then, at last, sitting on her stretcher-bed, she took from the very bottom of her pack an old peacock-blue scarf folded around a heavy, square book. She unwrapped it and opened it very carefully, as if guilty secrets might fall from between its pages like pressed flowers. This was Harry’s secret. She was a writer."

Margaret Mahy is – Harry is – the reason my blog is named "This Is My Secret." Thank you, Margaret Mahy, for writing the books, the exact books, that are my greatest pleasure to read, and that make me want to write.

It breaks my heart to be writing this post.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fifth Avenue Pictures + a Podcast Interview

So, over three years ago, I spoke with Deirdre Johnson and Maria Ciccone at the Mount Kisco Public Library in Mount Kisco, New York about Fire. Only a few weeks ago, I spoke with Deirdre again and Deirdre's sister Mary Johnson, this time about Bitterblue, and the podcast is now available for listening. We talked about writing from Leck's perspective; my influences; naming; how fantasy can be a way to tell a true, real-world story; romance; lying; fathers and father figures; Hava; Thiel; characters, and how a writer comes to know them; advice for writers; and other stuff. And while you're over there, check out some of their other podcast interviews!

Ready for a walk on Fifth Avenue? As always, all photos were taken with my iPhone 4S.

Here's a candle in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

And here's a cathedral view.

A man doing road work.

 In a shop window, a lady wearing a lion shirt.

Closer look. 


My weirdest Fifth Avenue picture. I, reflected but substantial, am dwarfed by an insubstantial, headless, well-dressed woman who thinks it is smart to tromp on the food of doves and who lives in a world of cabs and limos, backwards writing, and one very ugly building. I am taking a picture of her and it seems that the picture is from behind, yet here is the picture I took, showing her from the front.


This smartly-dressed lady, wisely prepared for flood conditions, has her binoculars trained in the wrong direction. Oy! Behind your left shoulder! Or maybe (noting the ghost bird's binoculars) the lady and the bird are friends, bird-watching together? If so, I would not say they've made themselves particularly inconspicuous. 


Two things I like about the Met: (1) the entrance fee is a suggested $25 but you can choose to pay whatever you like/can afford. And, (2) with the exception of some of the special exhibits, photography is allowed.

I would like an aura this blue. On occasion. Not every day.

Detail from Guillaume Budé (1467-1540) by Jean-Clouet, ~1536

I always like a picture of a woman with a sword. Even if I am inclined to leave out the severed head at the bottom of the painting. (Yes, I know, this was what swords were used for, cutting people. Listen, I'm taking the picture, I get to leave out whatever I want.)

Detail from Judith with the Head of Holofernes
by Lucas Cranach the Elder, ~1530

I like to wander aimlessly in the Met and see where I end up. This time I ended up in the American Wing among the glass- and tableware.

Someone with an excellent eye for color has arranged things around here.


Finally: I would like Edwin Austin Abbey to design me some shoes.

Detail from King Lear, Act I, Scene I
by Edwin Austin Abbey, 1898

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In the New York Public Library During a Thunderstorm

Great for lots of moody pictures out the windows (and a grumpy marble guy)...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Books of Wonder tomorrow with Melina and Gayle

A reminder that Melina Marchetta, Gayle Forman and I will be at Books of Wonder (18 W. 18th St. in Manhattan) on Tuesday -- tomorrow -- at 6 PM. There's a possibility we may be able to record the event, if we can get our technological act together... I'll let you know if that happens. Hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A NYC Event with Melina Marchetta, Gayle Forman and Me + Stuff and Things

I'm thrilled to announce that Melina Marchetta, Gayle Forman and I will be doing an event together at Books of Wonder on Tuesday, July 17, 6 PM, 18 West 18th Street, NYC. We're hard at work, planning something good. Spread the word! Gayle and Melina, who, unlike me, use twitter in the friendly manner in which it's meant to be used, have been tweeting about it -- go check it out.

Also, a note to New York Times Book Review readers: I hope you enjoy my interview this weekend. I think it's going to be online as well (possibly an expanded version online?), and I'll try to come back and update this post with that link, but I'm on the road and on vacation, so no promises.

UPDATE: here is the link to the nytbr interview (I hope).

Also! Cyrus Spencer is a dancer who specializes in animation popping and robotics. Cole Haribe's dance specialty is martial arts fusion. Brandon Mitchell's dance specialty is stepping. Add stupendous choreographer Christopher Scott and the beautiful sport of BASEBALL and you get a dance routine I love. Go to that link and watch the video "Meet the Top 20: Group Six Performance"... especially if you want to deal with Fox's crappy website. :D? OTOH if you don't want to deal with Fox's crappy website, well, I imagine a search for So You Think You Can Dance Cyrus Cole Brandon Baseball would yield less frustrating results....

This Is What Flash Mobs Are For

Thanks, Amanda.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Tall Ships Are Here

I'm generally not one to stand in long lines in the heat voluntarily, but there are some things I will line up for.

The tall ships have come to Boston for the 4th of July! I visited Brazil's Cisne Branco, Colombia's Gloria, Ecuador's Guayas, and Indonesia's Dewaruci at South Boston's Fish Pier. (FYI, the Charlestown Navy Yard is also overrun with tall ships. Tall ship visitation info is here.)

I boarded the Guayas. Guys, I have never seen so many ropes in my life.

 Notice that each notch is labeled, so that you can read which sail each rope belongs to.

And now, some flags.

 This is for my Brazilian readers.

 This is for my Colombian readers.

 This is for my Ecuadorian readers.

 This is for my Indonesian readers.

Thank you for sending your ships to my harbor. They made me very happy :)