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Linda Sue Park's blog Winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal for A Single Shard
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1. One more photo...

At the Rochester Children's Book Festival, some of the many volunteers run the Busy Bookworm activity center, with book-centered arts and crafts for young readers. This year, there was a simple-but-GENIUS craft project to go with XANDER'S PANDA PARTY: an awesome paper-plate hand puppet!



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Sarah Mead, with book and puppet. Sarah not only helps with the activities but also does the Festival's website.

I am the proud owner of one such puppet. Every home should have one (along with the book, of course). ;-)

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2. Misc photos, aka 'things you didn't know about M.T. Anderson'

November: The Rochester Children's Book Festival. Captained by Sibby Falk and Kathleen Blasi, with help from scores of volunteers, this event gets better every year. I get to meet hundreds of readers, and hang out with the authors & illustrators.


At the Festival, signing books with the help of a special visitor:

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(photo credit: Stephanie Dobbin)




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Susan Beckhorn Williams and Paul Zelinsky.




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Bruce Coville & Jane Yolen starred (as agent & editor, respectively) in a skit written for the occasion by Sibby Falk and performed at the post-Festival dinner for authors & volunteers.


December: Rochester Area Children's Writers & Illustrators Christmas party. Graciously hosted by Vicki Schulz in her family's lovely home, this year's entertainment was a talent show. The talents on offer were varied and delightful--from Deena Vivian's recitation of all 44 presidents to Bill Thomas playing the mountain dulcimer to Marsha Hayles arm-wrestling, I learned things about the members that I hadn't known before! M.T. Anderson was a special guest, and his talent was awe-inspiring: He can play Rossini's William Tell Overture by hitting himself in the face.

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(photo credit: Vivian VandeVelde)

Now if that don't make you wanna read his books, I don't know what will. ;-)



For the next year or so, I'll be doing almost no school visits and relatively little travel, for two reasons. One, I'll be in The Cave, working on a project.

And two, this is my world now...

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Wishing everyone a safe and joyous holiday season!

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3. LA

What a trip!

Thursday, Nov. 7

--Flew to LA (via IAD, airline geography again…). Did a little writing on the plane (good girl). Packed my own lunch (survival tactic for long flights): wild rice-lentil-quinoa salad with walnuts & dried cranberries; edamame; an apple. Excellent.

Decided to have the full LA experience and rented a car at the airport.

Drove to Sunset Strip for dinner at NIGHT+MARKET, Thai street food. (Thanks to cousin Randy for the recommendation!) Really interesting menu. The sour sausage and the hog collar were my favorites.

More importantly, I met my friend Margie there. We hadn’t seen each other in maybe thirty years! But with a rare few people, you fall right back into comfortable conversation as if the years were minutes, and it was just wonderful to catch up with her. I promise that ‘next time’ will happen much much sooner!

Margie and I were in the same freshman dorm at Stanford (Gavilan, FloMo). In my junior year, I left to go to France for my term abroad. In those days you could see air travelers off at the gate. Just as I was about to board the plane, Margie came running through the airport and surprised me with a bon voyage gift, a necklace whose pendant was a tiny exquisite ceramic clown. I had never seen anything like it before or since.

For thirty years, through many moves from city to city and even continent to continent, I cherished that little clown. At one point his chain broke, and I did a dreadfully amateurish restringing job. One of his shoes chipped off. But he stayed with me, and the way I am about my belongings, that's saying something. (To this day I have no idea what happened to my albums, including Springsteen bootleg....)

So I wore the clown to dinner that night.

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Isn't he beautiful?


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With Margie--a terrific reunion.


Drove from the restaurant to my hotel in Calabasas, a ways out of town, but convenient for the next day. Bed at 2:00am EST, zzzzz…


Friday, November 8

--School visit: Viewpoint School in Calabasas. Three presentations, to grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8. This visit was the result of persistence and long planning by ELA teacher Tracy Wymer, who made the original contact, and Michele Shumow, primary librarian. It was a real pleasure: the students well-prepared, enthusiastic, and attentive. The final bonus: meeting a 6th-grade student who had read A LONG WALK TO WATER over the summer and initiated a fundraising drive for Water for South Sudan! I hope to have some photos from Viewpoint soon.

Drove back into town. Getting my freeway chops now. Dinner at Osteria Mozza with Lin & Alan Oliver, Stephen Mooser, and Sally Crock of SCBWI. I had the burrata with bacon, then sweetbreads with spinach and artichokes. Oh, and a very good perfect Manhattan.

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Mozza's sweetbreads. (Those paying attention will spot the Manhattan, with homemade brandied cherries, yum.)


Lin and Steve are top of the pops to me. They founded SCBWI way back in the day, and have overseen its remarkable growth into THE BIGGEST WRITERS’ ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD—more than 20,000 members worldwide. Despite this, they remain among the warmest and most approachable folks I’ve ever met.

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With Lin Oliver


Great conversation, plus a celebrity spotting: Diana Nyad, the endurance swimmer. Wow, is she in good shape—I guess she’s in her 60s, but she looks 40, tops!

Freeway again, return to hotel. In bed either early (PST) or late (EST).

Saturday, November 9

--Hello, freeway. A short trip this time: to the Skirball Cultural Center for the Southern California Children’s Literature Council’s Fall Gala. Many thanks to Marjorie Arnett, Betsy Kahn, Maxine Lucas, and the rest of the board for their hard work on this wonderful event.

I gave the keynote address, then got to hear the acceptance speeches of the award winners (given annually to authors/illustrators who reside in SoCal): for YA, OUT OF REACH, by Carrie Arcos; for historical fiction, KING OF THE MOUND, by Wes Tooke (baseball story about Satchel Paige!); for poetry, LOOKING FOR ME, by Betsy Rosenthal; and the winner of the Dorothy McKinzie award for contribution to children’s literature Allyn Johnston, publisher of Beach Lane Books. I enjoyed hearing the other authors (with thanks to Wes for the KEEPING SCORE shoutout), and Allyn’s speech was the perfect way to end the day.

Then a convivial lunch at the Marmalade Cafe in Sherman Oaks with the CLC Board and a guest, my dear friend Theresa Nelson.

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Theresa at front left; Marjorie Arnett at rear left; Maxine Lucas, front right; CLC President Betsy Kahn, third from right, and other members of the CLC Board, with me in the middle there somewhere.


Driving into town for dinner, I had my only encounter with the dreaded Freeway Monster: A trip that had taken about forty minutes on two previous occasions took almost an hour and a half. It was, to be honest, awe-inspiring, and I arrived at the restaurant appropriately flustered. But I would brave the Monster ANYTIME when Angelini Osteria is the destination!

Last meal of the trip: at Angelini, which might be my favorite restaurant on the planet. It's always so hard to decide what to order there; this time I had the beef marrow (dramatic presentation, a large bone split and grilled), which came with the most delicious little dumplings (gnocchetti), then the pasta alla norma, with eggplant. I also ordered the sea urchin pasta, which I shared with the table. Greedy, I know, but I only get to eat here once a year!

With me at dinner were Theresa and her husband, the actor Kevin Cooney. Dinner at Angelini has become almost an annual event for us, and it's invariably one of my favorite evenings of the year.

Flight home without incident (no small thing these days...). Did a little writing again, and now this morning I had Gramma duty. Lucky me!

Thanks to all who helped make this trip such a pleasure. I love LA.

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4. Road fun

Late September: SCBWI Rocky Mountain region annual conference. Keynote, breakout, and workshop intensive. A lot of work, but also a lot of fun! Many thanks to RAs Todd Tuell and Denise Vega and all attendees for a great weekend.

October: East Baton Rouge Parish Library Author-Illustrator Program. A terrific two days thanks to Children's Services director Pabby Arnold and the rest of the staff. An enthusiastic and supportive audience. And as if that weren't good enough, the folks in Baton Rouge sure know how to eat! :-)

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With librarians Tara Dearing and Pabby Arnold.


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Hallelujah Crab--a soft-shell crab, stuffed and deep fried, at Juban's restaurant in Baton Rouge. SERIOUS YUM.


--New York & Philadelphia. Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, Children's Book World in Haverford, PA. Thanks to both stores for hosting me and Matt Phelan, presenting XANDER'S PANDA PARTY, and to the folks who came to the events, especially Diana Sinche and her students in NY and Roberta Jacoby and students in PA.

Brooklyn bonuses: I got to spend time with Dot; great eats at Talde with Dot, cousin Randy, friend Nancy; a fun dinner with author Matt DeLaPena and his wife Caroline.


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With teacher Diana Sinche (back row second from left) and her students from MS 217 in Queens, at Greenlight Bookstore.


At Children's Book World, Matt and I were joined by David Weisner, who talked about his new picture book MR. WUFFLES!

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Matt Phelan (left) and David Weisner signing at Children's Book World, David peering at me suspiciously.


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With David and Matt at dinner after the event. Resurrection Ale House in Philly, where we shared lots of good things to eat & drink, including octopus, brussel sprouts, beef tongue, and craft beers.

I'm blogging from the Philly airport, awaiting my flight home. For the rest of the week, I get to take care of The Grandbaby...

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...for whom I recently knitted this sweater:

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I love traveling and meeting readers. I love taking care of The Grandbaby even more. :-)

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5. A party for a Party!

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You're all invited to XANDER'S PANDA PARTY! (Official publication date Sept. 3, 2013.) I can't wait for folks to read it because of the WONDERFUL illustrations by Matt Phelan.


The fun begins with the book trailer, thanks to the folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2t3Ta3J-TFs


MORE FUN: Lovely reviews for the book!

*
"Phelan takes Park's jaunty story about a panda with a complicated social life and develops it still further. . . . There's food for thought throughout." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

*"The upbeat, mostly rhyming text provides a surprising amount of information about animal families and species without tripping up the pace. . . . Perfect for young animal lovers and a great read-aloud for storytime."
—School Library Journal, starred review

*"Liberal use of internal rhyme. . . makes Park's text sing as it relates how Xander tackles each new challenge." —The Horn Book Magazine, starred review

http://www.lspark.com/books/panda/panda.html


LIVE FUN:

in Rochester, NY, Saturday, September 7
11:00am LAUNCH event!
Pittsford Barnes & Noble, 3349 Monroe Ave, Rochester NY
http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/80991


in Washington DC, Saturday, September 13
10:30am Reading and signing with Matt Phelan
Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave, Washington, DC
http://www.politics-prose.com/event/book/linda-sue-park-matt-phelan-xanders-panda-party


in Brooklyn, NY, Saturday, October 19
11:00am Reading and signing with Matt Phelan
Greenlight Bookstore, 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY


in Philadelphia, PA, Sunday, October 20
1:00pm with Matt Phelan and David Wiesner,
reading & signing XANDER and David's new book MR. WUFFLES (I know, right?!!)
Children's Book World, 17 Haverford Station Road, Haverford, PA


BEST FUN:

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First Grandchild, three weeks old. Aka "One Cal burrito to go, please".

(You didn't think I could possibly do a post without a grandbaby picture, did you!??)


Thanks to all for joining in the celebration!

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6. The greatest joy

Callan Reeves Dobbin is home today.

Clever lad: He decided to make the joy of a first grandchild's homecoming even greater by giving us a little scare at the start. Callan was born at 12:01am on August 11, 8lbs, 7oz. On emerging into our world, he had some trouble breathing, so he spent his first days in the neonatal intensive care unit...getting a little stronger every day, until at last his parents were allowed to take him home this morning!


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'Look, Ma, pacifier AND nasal cannula, pretty good stuff, am I right?'


With his lovely mama:

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And his terrific dad (who was once MY baby...):

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Proud paternal grandfather:

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The two grans made chocolate-dipped strawberries for the wonderful nursing staff on both the postpartum and NICU wards:

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The new family!

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'So I'm going home for the first time, what's the big deal?'


It's been a long time since I've fallen in love so hard and fast.... Read the rest of this post

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7. Twinkle twinkle little panda...

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I'm delighted to report that my new picture book, XANDER'S PANDA PARTY, illustrated by Matt Phelan, has received three starred reviews!

From Publishers Weekly:

*"Phelan takes Park's jaunty story about a panda with a complicated social life and develops it still further. In ink-and-watercolor vignettes, he animates the many zoo creatures Xander considers inviting to his party, capturing their expressions and interacts with a few quick pen strokes...."


From School Library Journal:

*"...(a) charming story that celebrates friendship and inclusion...The cartoonlike animals have wonderfully expressive faces, so even the wordless pages convey the panda’s feelings. The upbeat, mostly rhyming text provides a surprising amount of information about animal families and species without tripping up the pace. Perfect for young animal lovers and a great read-aloud for storytime." --Marian McLeod, Darien Library, CT


From the Horn Book:

*"Liberal use of internal rhyme--'Xander felt a little blue. He chewed bamboo, a stalk or two"--makes Park's text sing...." --Christine M. Heppermann


Publication date: September 3! Please ask for it at your local libraries and bookstores! :-)

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8. #4: with thanks to teachers, librarians, students and schools...

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In the print edition of today's New York Times, A LONG WALK TO WATER is #4 on the middle-grade bestseller list. This would be thrilling in any case, but it's even more special because the book, about a Sudanese 'Lost Boy' refugee, was first published in 2010. It's unusual for a book to make it onto the list for the first time three years after publication.

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How did it happen? Because of teachers, librarians, students and schools all over the country, and even internationally. From classroom readalouds to all-school and community-wide reads, young people and the adults in their lives have taken Salva Dut's story to heart. Often it's been a teacher or librarian who reads the book and shares it widely. Sometimes it's a young person: I've received several letters from adults who read the book after it was recommended to them by an enthusiastic young reader.

THANK YOU ALL, from the bottom of my heart--to every person who has read the book, read it and shared it, read it and talked about it. And more importantly, thanks also from Salva, his organization www.waterforsouthsudan.org, and the *hundreds of thousands* of people living in South Sudan who now have access to clean water because of donations from people who read the book.

Amazing. Simply amazing. And please don't stop now--let's see how long we can keep spreading the word! :-)


Locust Valley

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9. Visiting Alaska: libraries and SCBWI

In Alaska, I got to meet a whole bunch of readers and writers. I have the best job in the world. :-)

July 2, Seward Community Museum and Library. Librarian Rachel James hosted young readers and their families with snacks and drinks. I talked about books and reading and writing and A LONG WALK TO WATER, then did a signing. A great way to kick off my Alaska events! The Seward Phoenix Log covered the gathering: http://www.thesewardphoenixlog.com/story/2013/07/11/education/author-illustrates-the-power-of-change/1636.html


July 8, SCBWI-Alaska. Regional Advisor Stefanie Tatalias met me (along with Hub and Dot) for an early dinner at Simon & Seafort's, a landmark Anchorage restaurant with great seafood and stunning views. Then Stefanie and I were off to the Blue Hollomon Gallery, the venue for my evening workshop. The Gallery's current exhibit is work by children's book illustrators, curated by Amy Meissner (more on Amy later). It was the perfect setting for the workshop.

Because Alaska is so vast, Stefanie has even more challenges than most RAs, and she's been very creative about solutions! 'Live' at the gallery with me were half a dozen people, but the workshop was available virtually too. People joined in from all over Alaska, and from places like Hawaii and Montana as well! There were some tech glitches (for the remote participants, it came down to a choice of either seeing me or hearing me, so they got only a brief glimpse of me in action), but overall everything went smoothly. While in-person meetings will always have their advantages, this option is great for folks who wouldn't otherwise be able to attend. I hope the remote folks enjoyed the workshop as much as I did. Thanks to Stefanie and everyone who participated.


July 9, Anchorage Public Library system, Loussac branch. Loussac is the main branch of the APL system. In the afternoon, I gave a presentation in the auditorium to elementary-age readers, then signed books afterwards.

Later that day--oops, I guess it was evening, but it was still so light out!--I did a workshop at the Teen Underground, a space set aside for teen readers. They were a talented and respectful group; I loved working with them. Thanks to Jim and Candace for facilitating.

July 10-11, Muldoon, Gerrish-Girdwood, Eagle River and Mountain View branches. I enjoyed being able to visit each of these APL branches--all different, with staff working hard to serve their clientele. Even the drives in between were fun, with the mountains just outside Anchorage always in sight.

And a special treat at the Eagle River branch: I had seen illustrator Amy Meissner's terrific work at the Hollomon Gallery. Some of her illustrations are executed in textiles. She created an amazing fabric mural of a dragon which hangs in the children's section:

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It's two-sided!

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Detail:

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Although some of the audiences were rather 'intimate' ;-), all were enthusiastic and attentive. I really appreciate everyone who came to hear me speak, especially since the weather was so beautiful that week, it was hard to be indoors!

Many thanks to: Sue Sommers, Jim Curran, Lacey Hemming, Sue Sherif, Stephanie Schott, Denise Dargan, Terrie Weckerle, Dean Brovold, and Elizabeth Nicolai (fresh from ALA and the 2013 Newbery committee), all of whom took great care of me during my stay.


Obligatory food photo:

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King salmon prepared sort of Mexican-style, with rice, corn, black beans and a red-pepper puree. Underneath, a really good thick corn tortilla. At Kinley's in Anchorage. The king salmon was the best I've ever eaten.

I came home with two special souvenirs. One was given to me by Terrie Weckerle, who drove me around on my last day. Her husband and son are commercial fishermen, and Terrie gave me a jar of smoked salmon caught and processed en famille!


On Wednesday, librarian Sherri Douglas--my contact for the trip, who planned the whole schmear--made a special stop for me. I'd been to the Anchorage Museum earlier in the day and had been awed by the baskets made by Native Alaskans. Intricate, beautiful, practical. They sold miniature versions in the museum shop, but those were out of my price range. So Sherri stopped at a store specializing in Native creations, and I found a lovely little basket--a perfect souvenir of my trip.


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Basket at right, with miniature celadon vase from Korea and miniature copperware from Peru.

THANKS, Sherri. HURRAH for Alaska libraries--I can't wait to go back!

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10. Alaska!

Alaska journal

I traveled to Alaska with Hub and Dot. The first week was mostly vacation, followed by presentations for the Anchorage Public Library system.

Monday, July 1: Flew into Anchorage around 8:00pm—midnight in New York. Still full daylight. Body very confused.

Drove to the hotel, had dinner at a nearby bar & grill (not very good, alas). Came out around 10:30, still full daylight, young kids riding their bikes in the streets!

Hotels here have heavy blackout curtains to help Outsiders deal with the 22 hours of daily (& nightly!) sunshine.

Tuesday, July 2: drive rental car to Seward. Stunning scenery: the highway skirts the Turnagain Arm of the Gulf of Alaska, with the Alaskan Railroad running alongside much of the way.

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Arrive in Seward. Lunch at the Smoke Shack, a remodeled railway car. Good pulled pork sandwich. Then we stop by the beautiful new Seward Community Library and Museum. Librarian Rachel James has arranged tickets for the Alaska SeaLife Center, where we spend the afternoon viewing sea lions, seals, octopi, salmon, puffins and more.


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Woody the stellar sea lion at the Alaska SeaLife Center--he weighs almost 2,000 pounds!


On Rachel’s recommendation we ate at Chinook’s on the harbor. Good eats: Dot had the halbut, I started with two oysters then had the warm mushroom salad with smoked scallops on the side.

Best part: Our window table had a view of the boat slips. For most of our meal, an otter was floating and playing there! I could have watched it all day…


Wednesday, July 3: A gray and drizzly day, but we were comfortable in the cabin of the boat for our fjord cruise. Out of Seward, into the Gulf and up the Northwestern Fjord. Humpback whales, dolphins jumping as if on cue. Bald eagles, seals, otters, puffins, millions of gulls, arctic terns. The glacier itself was awe-inspiring. And two humpbacks put on a perfect show, leaping out of the water several times—way better than that insurance commercial!


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In the Northwest Fjord.


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The glacier grumbled occasionally, a very impressive sound.



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Humpback show.


Thursday, July 4: The weather—grayer and drizzlier—discouraged us from going into Seward to see the famous Mt. Marathon race. Instead we hiked to the edge of Exit Glacier and then visited Mitch Seavey’s sled dog kennels! 16 beautiful Alaska sled dogs pulled us on a cart for a two-mile run.

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At Exit Glacier, with Hub and Dot. As Hub is always the photographer, it's hard to get a photo with him in it!



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At the Seaveys' sled-dog compound.


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Getting ready to go.


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GOOD DOGS!


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Dot makes a friend...


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...and another (one of the three-week-old puppies).



Friday, July 5: Drive to Cooper Landing. Raft trip down the Kenai River to Skilak Lake. Across the lake (with a stiff breeze off the glacier, brrrr…) to Kenai Backcountry Lodge, remote and beautiful.


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In full wet-weather gear.


Bald eagle on the riverbank:

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Ready...


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Set...

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GO!!!


Saturday, July 6: Hiked six miles total, to a point above the treeline where we ate a picnic lunch.

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Halfway up, view of Skilak Lake. (The odd headgear: mosquito nets, an absolute necessity.)


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From the top.


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Along the trail: the blond fur of a grizzly caught on a tree trunk.



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Dot wearing mosquito net, seen through "Old Splitty," a split cottonwood tree.


Wildflowers everywhere:

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Monk's hood and dwarf dogwood.


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Wild geranium.



Sunday, July 7: return drive to Anchorage. Stop en route at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for closeup encounters with wildlife (orphaned or injured, most are rehabilitated and then returned to the wild). Brunch at Anchorage’s (justly) famed Snow City café. Wandered through the weekend City market.

Up close and personal with moose...

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...and musk ox.

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Monday, July 8: Biked the Tony Knowles Coastal trail. Stopped to watch a pair of sandhill cranes picking through the mudflats.

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And on our way back, we saw our first big animal in the wild:

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MOOSE!


Vacation ended with a lovely dinner at Simon & Seafort's in Anchorage, where we dined with Stefanie Tatalias, SCBWI Regional Advisor for Alaska. I had the halibut. (Halibut in Alaska is different from halibut anywhere else. It's uber-halibut.)

It was a perfect way to finish our Alaskan sojourn. What a special place--I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to visit!

Next entry: presentations for the Anchorage Public Library system.

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11. Into the North...

Events in July--in Alaska! :-)

My schedule includes programs for readers of all ages, as well as a writing workshop through SCBWI (also open to non-members).

Tuesday, July 2: Seward Community Library
7:00pm
http://sewardcitynews.com/2013/06/author-program-for-youth-seward-community-library-museum/


Monday, July 8: SCBWI-Alaska, Anchorage
6:00-9:00pm "Becoming our own best editor"
More info here: http://49writingcenter.org/Instruction/classes.php


Tuesday-Thursday, July 9-11, Anchorage Public Library system

Presentations for elementary readers:

Tuesday, July 9, 2:00pm: Loussac Library

Wednesday, July 10, 2:00pm: Muldoon Library
6:30pm: Girdwood Library

Thursday, July 11, 1:00pm: Chugiak-Eagle River Library
3:30pm: Mountain View Library

Calendar here: http://www.muni.org/Departments/library/kids/Documents/summer%20reading%20calendar%202013%20legal.pdf

Teen Writing Workshop
Tuesday, July 9, 6:00pm-8:00pm Loussac Library

It will be my first time in Alaska. I can't wait!

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12. Misc photos & recent reading

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With Lindy Lorenz and Katie Sullivan at the Judson University Literacy in Motion conference. Lindy and Katie gave a presentation on how to use my books in the classroom. It was an AWESOME session--I was so impressed by all the work they do to connect their students to books! Made me wish I was their student... ;-)


Lunch yesterday with a very special visitor:

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Salva Dut, back from South Sudan for a visit! Salva is the subject of my book A LONG WALK TO WATER. It was wonderful to catch up with him.


Best fan photo ever?

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This is Smith, age two, who loves the book BEE-BIM BOP! so much that he wouldn't go to daycare without it! So his mom snapped this pic of him hugging the book while waiting for the subway. (Wow, do I love this photo....)


Recent reading: After a bit of a dry spell (a few books in a row that were kind of meh), I'm on a hot streak now.

--EXTRAORDINARY, by Nancy Werlin. YA fantasy, a modern fairy tale. I loved IMPOSSIBLE, by the same author. To my delight, EXTRAORDINARY is even better.


--PERFECT ONCE REMOVED, by Philip Hoose. Adult memoir. The author was a nine-year-old boy when his cousin Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. A must-read for fans of memoirs and/or baseball.


Currently reading ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE, by Benjamin Alire Saenz. YA fiction, contemporary realism. A 'sigh' read--which means that I'm sighing every few pages over the pure beauty of the writing and the compassion of the story. Would that many more YA books were this well written.... Read the rest of this post

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13. Off-topic but irresistible

I have two grand-dogs. They belong to my son and daughter-in-law, and several days a week, they come to my house during the day to hang out. Their names are Malcolm and Matilda; they're half-sibling golden doodles (from http://lakeviewdoodles.com/ ).

Matilda is what's known as a guardian dog; she returns to the breeder when it's time to have puppies. She just had her first litter--three puppies! I guess they're my great-grandpuppies?


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Tilda, counting to make sure everyone's there. (They're hers, even if they don't look like it--the father is a dark red poodle.)




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The biggest puppy, a boy.




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Second biggest, another boy, with his other great-grandma.




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The teeny-tiny girl--my favorite, so she gets another photo:


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Good thing all three of them are already spoken for, or I would have stashed one in my bag.... Read the rest of this post

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14. Judson University: Literacy in Motion conference

Literacy in Motion, literally: Today's sessions opened with a hiphop routine, complete with rapper!

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(This is not live blogging. This is very slightly tape-delayed blogging.)


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Dr. Steven Layne, conference director, who invited me to speak here.


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Author/illustrator Chris Soentpiet presenting about his many wonderful books.


There's a great vibe at this conference--everyone seems to be thoroughly engaged and also having fun. Later today, one lucky attendee will win this prize:

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A reading corner for classroom or library: rocking chair and bookshelf, complete with lamp, pillow, cozy throw--and *books*, too cool! (Wonder if I'm eligible for the drawing!?) ;-)

I'm up next. Time to start doing a little deep breathing.

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15. My cousin, chef & author

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My cousin Ed Lee has a new book out! (And yes, he's really truly my first cousin: His mom (hi Auntie Soon Ja!) and my dad are sibs. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy: food with Southern and Korean roots!? YUM!

Ed's restaurant, 610magnolia.com/ is in Louisville, Kentucky. These days he's on a book tour, which last night took him to North Carolina. My lucky parents, brother, and nephew got to eat dishes from Ed's book, and visit with the author himself!

(Ten years ago, Ed was working in New York at a place called Clay. I ate there with pals Julia Durango and Andrea Beaty. Ed's food was already really good, but since moving to Kentucky, he's been truly inspired by the agriculture of the region. It's driving me crazy that I haven't gotten to eat his food since then.)


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Chef Ed Lee with his aunt & uncle, aka my parents, who report that the food was terrific. Mom's favorite dish: the fried chicken.



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Chef Lee with my nephew Craig, newly minted UPenn grad. If Craig is my nephew, and Ed is my cousin, that makes them...um, first cousins once removed. I think.


Thanks to Fred--Craig's dad, Ed's cousin, and my brother--for the photos.

And finally, more congrats to Ed and his wife Dianne on the birth of their first child, Arden Rose (*my* first cousin once removed). Wow, what a busy time for the Lees--new book, new baby--hang in there and get some sleep!

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16. Not the first time, and hopefully not the last?

For the past two years or so, I've been humbled and honored by the many schools that have chosen to read A LONG WALK TO WATER.

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The students' response to the story of Salva Dut, one of the so-called 'Lost Boys' of Sudan, has exceeded all my expectations. I'd hoped young readers would learn a tiny bit about a little-known part of the world. They've gone far beyond that: They've come to admire Salva, and to turn inspiration into action.

Here's just one of many examples--a note I received from librarian Donn Riggi, Alden Middle School in western New York:

"I have an update on last year's A Long Walk to Water project!

As reported last year, Alden Middle School did a school-wide read of A Long Walk to Water, culminating with a visit from Linda Sue Park in December. Our school decided to devote all fund-raising last year to Water for Sudan, in the hopes of helping to build a well. We were successful in raising over $5000 and sent a check to them at the end of the school year. We just received a letter and photos of the well we helped to build in South Sudan. It is located in the village of Mathel Teng, in Tonj East County. We are thrilled to have been successful in helping this village have access to clean water.

And to think it all started with reading a special book!"


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Villagers with their new well, dedicated in honor of Alden Middle School.


Several dozen of the wells installed by Salva's organization, Water For South Sudan, were made possible through funds raised by schools whose students read A LONG WALK TO WATER. Young readers inspired to save lives: Does it get any better than that!?

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17. Elkins Park: a special school visit

Last week I was in the Philadelphia area, for a wonderful visit to Elkins Park School. Here's what the sixth grade does each year:

--selects and reads a book, beginning in January. In this case, A SINGLE SHARD.
--writes song lyrics based on scenes in the book, with help from the Living Bookshelf team of Connie Koppe and Bunny Feingold.
--works with a composer (Chuck Holdeman) to set the lyrics to music.
--designs and paints appropriate backdrops, with the help of art teacher Julie Baines.
--designs and produces clever invitations. Those for this year's event were modeled on a potter's wheel, with a wedge cut out of it; you spun the wheel to see the relevant info underneath!
--designs and produces programs...which were shaped like a celadon vase :-)

On the day of my visit, I gave an all-grade presentation and then led two writing workshops. After that, I got to sit back, relax, and enjoy the performance with the students, teachers, parents, and other guests: Professional singers came to the school and sang the eight songs composed by the students!



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With Roberta Jacoby (left) and Julie Baines.



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With some of the students who painted the backdrops.



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The performance!

Unique. Special. FUN. Many thanks to Roberta Jacoby of Elkins Park, and everyone else who contributed to this amazing day.

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18. Last pics from Peru

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Presenting at Colegio Roosevelt. (photo credit: Tina Raventos)



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Author Julia Durango has a session with the pre-K students.



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Heading out on the trail. My horse was Rayo, with Julia riding Hurricane. Tour by www.cuscoforyou.com; our guide Adriana was terrific.



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We rode a winding mountain trail to the dramatic salt pools, where salt has been harvested by families since pre-Inca times.



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With Bryan and Gabriel, our hosts at the Green House B&B. And Paco, on Gabriel's lap, and Laika.



Back in Lima, day of departure:

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Our last meal at Las Tejas in Miraflores included famous Peruvian dishes like choclo, giant corn...


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...and anticuchos, beef heart on skewers. One of my favorite dishes on the trip.



One final photo from Machu Picchu (which is now my laptop's background):

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(with thanks to the anonymous young man from Korea with whom we took turns exchanging cameras and snapping pics. Hurrah for tourism!)

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19. Peru, Part II

The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, May 15-19

We took a flight from Lima to Cusco, then a taxi to Huaran, a tiny hamlet in the Sacred Valley. Our accommodations were at the Green House, the best B&B I have ever stayed in. http://www.thegreenhouseperu.com Hosts Bryan (from Liverpool) and Gabriel (Buenos Aires) are funny, friendly, and gracious. Just one of many examples of their helpfulness: For our day trip to Machu Picchu, we had to catch a very early train. No time for breakfast. Bryan was up to see us off--with a bag containing a picnic breakfast of sandwiches, fruit, and cookies for us to eat on the train!

Julia and I are both dog lovers, so we were delighted by the three house dogs Paco (aka Puppy), Yana, and Laika. Laika takes special responsibility for the guests, cuddling whenever invited to, and taking them for a lovely walk to a nearby waterfall.

You can opt to have dinner at the Green House, cooked by Gabriel, and we did this three out of the four nights. Our menus:

Wednesday:
--sweet potato soup
--Green House beef stew over mashed potatoes
--apple crumble with ice cream

Thursday
--individual broccoli quiches
--Green House spinach cannelloni
--chilled lemon mousse

Saturday
--guacamole with tequenos (crisp rolled pastries stuffed with cheese)
--trout over a potato mille-feuille topped with salad
--chocolate brownie and ice cream


Nothing too fancy--home food instead of restaurant food--and every dish was delicious.


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The stunning view from our room at the Green House. Only four rooms total. The village of Huaran consists of a school and three tiny shops. (If you want shopping and night life, this is *definitely* not the place for you.)

Regular visitors to this blog know that I don't usually spend this much time describing my accommodations. But the Green House is special. I don't expect I'll ever stay in a more peaceful and pleasant place anywhere in the world.

Laika leads the way...

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...past the rainbow...

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...to the waterfall...

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Julia gets into the Green House groove.


Friday, May 17: Machu Picchu

Okay, so everyone takes millions of photos at Machu Picchu--you can't help it. But even the best photos cannot convey the essence of the place. Those below are just to prove that We Were There.


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Except for a few brief breaks in the cloud cover, it rained almost the entire time we were in Machu Picchu. Didn't matter. In the morning there were a couple thousand other people there. Didn't matter. The high altitude and hundreds of stairs had me puffing so hard I almost saw stars. None of it mattered: Machu Picchu is truly wondrous in a way that's impossible to put into words, even for someone like me who likes to put almost everything into words. We stayed until late in the afternoon, when the place emptied out almost completely, and it was even more magical then.

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There's still more to our trip (including a really fun horseback ride and a perfect final meal in Lima), but enough for now. I've been home for twenty-four hours and am still smiling.

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20. More from Peru, Part I

Home after a wonderful trip. Extra special thanks to author Julia Durango, who traveled with me: Julia speaks fluent Spanish, and if it hadn't been for her, I'd *still* be in the wrong taxi.... Many of the photos below were taken by her (JD).


May 11-14, in Lima:

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At Huanca Pucllana archeological site. (JD)


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In the Pueblo Libre neighborhood at the Museo Larco: saying hello to the resident Peruvian hairless dog amid lush display of bougainvillea. (JD)


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Whenever I'm traveling abroad and staying in hotels, I always have at least one impassioned "wish I had a kitchen!" moment. This was it for me in Peru: The local supermarket sold beautiful small scallops on the half shell with the roe attached. (JD)


At Colegio Roosevelt:

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With John Kurtenbach and Julia. (I think Tina took this photo?--Thanks, Tina!)


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With library assistant Tina Raventos and elementary librarian Michelle Roberts. And Knuffle Bunny.


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With the Simpsons. (Papier mache heads display in the elementary library. Thanks again to Tina for taking the photo.)


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With the students from the Korean club, who helped organize my evening presentation to the school's Korean community. Two of the students did simultaneous translation of my remarks--not an easy job! (JD)



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Delicious stir-fry of flounder and veg at Chez Wong, a quirky little restaurant in Lima. No menu: First course is flounder ceviche, with or without octopus (we had it with), followed by the flounder stir-fry, and then another flounder stir-fry with homemade black-bean sauce. Very simple food and very delicious.


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At Amaz restaurant, specializing in dishes made with ingredients from the Amazon region, several entrees were wrapped and steamed in bijao leaves. This is my hearts of palm and chicken, which was interesting and tasty; Julia's fish dish was even better.


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The Dunkin Donuts in Lima airport: a donut called Delirium.


Our wonderful stay in Lima was due to the efforts of John Kurtenbach, Lisa Gore, Michelle Roberts, Tina Raventos, and all the library staff at Colegio Roosevelt. Thanks also to the teachers who used our books with their students, and most of all, to the TERRIFIC STUDENTS who read our books and were such enthusiastic audiences!


Next entry: Part II, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

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21. Peru!

On Tuesday I finished a two-day visit at Colegio Roosevelt, the American international school in Lima. Librarian John Kurtenbach arranged a great schedule for myself and author Julia Durango, who's traveling with me. Julia saw the pre-K/K classes and did a joint presentation with me to grades 1-2. I saw grades 3-8. Attentive and enthusiastic audiences. A special shout-out to the Grade 6 group (which included a couple classes of 7th graders), all of whom read A LONG WALK TO WATER--they were my final presentation and a terrific finish to my time at the school.

Julia and I had arrived on Friday evening, so we'd had the weekend to explore Lima before starting work on Monday. On Saturday, John took us to two museums, including the beautiful Museo Larco, and introduced us to Pisco, the Peruvian national beverage. Sunday, we shopped the Indian markets and had dinner at Huanca Pucllana, a restaurant that overlooks an archaeological site that's dramatically lit at night.

I'm awaiting photos from the school; in the meantime, a few photos from our first days:

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Greeting visitors at the Museo Larco: a Peruvian Hairless dog, a native breed. Never seen anything like it!


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The ruins at Huanca Pucllana in Lima.


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At the Huanca Pucllana restaurant, assorted appetizers. In the foreground, chicharrons de cuy. Cuy is one of Peru's most famous dishes. (Look it up...)


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In the library at Colegio Roosevelt, pointing to the photo of previous visiting author Laurie Halse Anderson.


On the way from the Cusco airport to the Sacred Valley:

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Llama llama woolly mama!


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Julia and baby llamas.


It's difficult to post photos from here, so I'll probably wait until I get home to post more. And there *will* be more.... This is truly an amazing place.

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22. Random photos

From Chicago and elsewhere.


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Friends Grace and Iris who, with my longtime college pal Steve, shared a great meal with me at Frontera Grill in Chicago.



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Art Institute of Chicago Picasso exhibit: 'Mother and Child', with lost-and-found Dad.



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The guy could *draw*...



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Always gotta check out the Korean celadon.



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Latest knitting project. Knitters out there will know what I'm talking about: the triumph of finding...



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...the Perfect Buttons.



And last but certainly not least: Through the efforts of librarian John Scott, I've skyped a couple of times with the Friends School of Baltimore. In my presentation, I talked about how Koreans celebrate Children's Day--a national holiday--by going on a picnic and flying kites. Well, the school decided to have its own Children's Day celebration! :-) Teacher Jillien Lakatta posted this photo on Twitter:

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I thank the stars for great librarians and teachers helping literature come alive for their students.

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23. My kind of town

24+ brilliant hours in Chicago.

Thursday evening: Met dear friends Steve, Iris and Grace for dinner at Frontera Grill. Food all really good, the mushroom tamales GREAT.

Friday morning: Steve and Iris took me to the Art Institute to see the Picasso exhibit. Arranged more or less chronologically, a wonderful overview of Picasso's career. Enjoyed it immensely. Favorite part: the "Mother and Child" painting and the story behind its excised third figure. (Least favorite part: typeface on the walls difficult to read, especially from a distance whenever there was a crowd. Note to exhibit curators: for aging boomers, the font needs to be BIGGER and DARKER. And serif, but maybe that's just me.)

Friday dinner: with the Sutherland Lecture committee at Tesoria, an Italian restaurant on Adams St. Ann Carlson, Gillian Engburg, Janice del Negro, Lee McClain, Mary Ogilvie and Linda Ward-Callaghan were delightful company. Missing and much missed: Betsy Hearne (traveling in Ireland) and Roger Sutton (grounded in Boston). I had the burrata with caponata, and then the roast suckling pig. Food divine, conversation even better!

Friday evening: The Sutherland lecture. After Liz McChesney's welcome and Janice Del Negro's (terrific, humbling) introduction, I stepped to the podium and proceeded to speak for what felt like an aeon with a GIGANTIC NASTY FROG in my throat. It took approximately 75 attempts to clear it. This had never happened to me before; however, it is one of the recurring anxiety dreams which I have regularly before major speaking events. I wonder if now that it's happened I'll stop having that particular dream?

Anyway, the audience was very patient, and the frog finally hopped (hocked) away, and the rest of the speech (titled 'Writer vs. Author') went fine. The head count was nothing like it was last year (for Neil Gaiman) or will be next year (for John Green), but everyone was enthusiastic and supportive. At the reception afterwards, I got to chat with many of the folks who came.

A huge thank you to the Sutherland committee, the University of Chicago, the Horn Book, and the Chicago Public Library; to Clarion Books for sponsoring my appearance; and to everyone who attended.

And when I got back to the hotel, I found out that the Mets had won their game against the Braves in the tenth inning. :-)

Saturday morning: A decadent breakfast at the hotel (the Sofitel, probably my favorite chain, very European). Now off to the airport.

I heart Chicago!

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24. a 17

If my days were rated on a scale of 1-10, yesterday was a 17.

I woke in New Haven, CT, at The Study hotel, quite a nice place. (Sleek nice as opposed to cozy nice.) The Study’s ‘theme’ is books. They partnered with The Strand bookstore in Manhattan to come up with a list of 100 titles everyone should read. At The Study, you can buy any of the books on the list—or the entire set of 100. I asked the desk clerk if he’d ever sold anyone the complete set. He looked surprised and answered, “I’ve sold five or six sets today alone.”

Pretty good place to start the day.

After a little exercise and a shower, I had a long phone chat with pal Julia Durango. We discussed our upcoming trip to Peru. (Note the casual delivery of that line….) Then I set off from the hotel into the glorious spring weather. I was headed for the library, and was hopeful that I’d find a quick bite to eat along the way.

What I found was three street-food carts in a row, all selling South American food. Talk about serendipity! I had an arepa (sweet corn & mozzarella) with pork, fresh salsa, rice & beans and fried plantains.

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Really delicious. Five bucks.


Then I went into Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library. I’ve been reading books set in Peru (see above casual statement) and learned only last week that Hiram Bingham’s archives are held at the Sterling. Bingham was (probably… arguably) the first explorer to lay eyes on Machu Picchu. In the Sterling reading room, three boxes awaited me; they contained Bingham’s letters and journals for the Yale Peruvian Expedition of 1911.

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The frontispiece is written in ink, quite legible, but the entries themselves are in pencil.

Much as I loved seeing and holding the actual small red leather-bound journal with which Bingham traveled, it was almost impossible to read the very faded pencil scrawl. Thankfully, Bingham had also produced a typescript in which he expanded into narrative the brief notes in the journal.

I started right at the beginning, with Bingham’s departure from New York in June. I already knew that the date he first saw the ruins at Machu Picchu was July 24. As I read through the typescript, I had to laugh inwardly at myself: I was leaning forward on the chair as the date crept closer to July 24. Even though I already knew what would happen, I couldn’t wait to read about it.

July 21 . . . 22 . . . 23 . . . and then—

July 25!?? What the freak—

There were SEVEN pages missing! The exact pages for the July 24 entry!

I almost knocked over my chair in my haste to find a librarian. Three of them examined the file. All were bemused. They apologized and said they had no idea where the missing pages were but would attempt to trace them.

Then I really had to laugh. I mean, what else can you do?

The mostly-blissful session in the Sterling Reading Room was followed by an event at the Beinecke Library across the street. The current exhibit being displayed on the mezzanine of the Beinecke, "By Hand," http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/exhibitions/hand-celebrating-manuscript-collections was curated by Dr. Kathryn James. Readers of The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers series might recognize her name: She's a character in the title I wrote for the series, TRUST NO ONE.

The 'By Hand' exhibit is breathtaking--a selection of the most famous and/or intriguing items in the Beinecke collections. And one of the display cases holds the Voynich manuscript--which is the linchpin of TRUST NO ONE.

To my surprise and delight, Kathryn decided to include a copy of TRUST NO ONE in the display case, as well as a couple of my manuscript pages! I sent her before-and-after pages for which my Scholastic editor, Rachel Griffiths, had made a suggestion for a change. Rachel's comments are printed out in the margins in bright neon colors, using the MS Word program--a rather jarring contrast to the vellum and parchment in many of the other cases!

Kathryn also invited me to do a presentation about my book and the research I had done, which included a previous visit to the Beinecke to look through the Voynich as well as to case the joint and figure out a way for Dan & Amy to steal the manuscript. (To find out if they succeeded, you'll have to read the book.) She did a lovely introduction, and after my presentation there was a wine-and-yummy-nibbles reception.

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With Kathryn James in front of the display case. Over my shoulder, a copy of TRUST NO ONE, and next to it, the Voynich itself!


Then Kathryn took a small group to dinner: Three librarians, editor Mallory Kass from Scholastic (standing in for Rachel, who is on vacation--Mallory did A LOT of the work on The 39 Clues), and a young reader (the son of one of the librarians. And I do mean READER). We had one of the best dinner conversations ever...and the food was good too. (Zinc restaurant in New Haven. I had a lentil salad and scallops.)

I can't thank Kathryn enough--for her help with the book, AND for the opportunity to present at Yale!

But the magical day wasn't over yet. When I got back to The Study, I listened to the last few innings of the Mets-Dodgers game...

...which the Mets won on Jordany Valdespin's walk-off grand slam.

WOW. What a day.

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25. E.L. Konigsburg

My four favorite Konigsburg titles, in no particular order:


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FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER.

--The *plausible* adventure story. A HUGE influence on my work. Even when writing my titles for The 39 Clues series, I wanted to Dan and Amy's escapades to be plausible (which is not the same as realistic), within the realm of true possibility for two kids traveling with an au pair. MIXED-UP FILES taught me that.


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A PROUD TASTE FOR SCARLET AND MINIVER.

--Historical fiction can be FUN, and funny, without having to be slapstick.


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JENNIFER, HECATE, MACBETH, WILLIAM MCKINLEY AND ME, ELIZABETH

--Friendship is *complicated*. At any age. Tell it true, even to the very young. (Hello, Frog & Toad, and Elephant & Piggy!)


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FATHER'S ARCANE DAUGHTER.

--IMHO, the most sophisticated mystery ever published for young people.

I got to meet E.L. Konigsburg once. It was surely one of the highlights of my life as a children's writer.

I'll miss knowing that she was in our world...but will find comfort by re-reading those four books over and over.

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