Listen to Your Mother – video release!!!

14 Jul

So while I’m frantically revising picture book manuscripts to take to Highlights Summer Camp

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Fake picture of me….

 

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The Real Me

 Listen To Your Mother released the 2016 videos from shows in 41 cities. As promised, here’s the San Francisco Show! I’m second in the line-up. It was a privilege and an honor to be on stage with all of these amazing women. Cheers!

Summer Life Saving

17 Jun

I hadn’t planned on going to my niece’s wedding. She was getting married in Orlando last week and had planned a large party/reception for friends and family in Illinois in early July. In honor of her grandparents (my parents) who had been married 65 years, she had decided to get married on their wedding anniversary, June 10.

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But when I received my niece’s email, asking friends and family to send or bring a rock to the wedding, I knew I had to go. You see, my mom LOVED rocks. She once chased a Caterpillar D10

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working on road construction through a field on her little John Deere

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to ask the driver if he would push a mountain of a boulder onto the farm ground. He did.

My niece learned to love rocks—well, that might be a stretch—she learned to wash the landscape rocks that surrounded my parents’ house. My mother believed that the landscape should be washed every spring, and the grandchildren (once the kids were grown and gone) were just the people to help her do it. So my niece learned to LOVE washing rocks.

It was natural that she would want rocks for her wedding. They’re a symbol of a strong foundation, right?

I got the email and immediately knew I had to TAKE the rocks to Florida, not ship them. We boated over to Angel Island, scavenged one large 10-pounder, one fist-sized, and a handful of smaller green stones called serpentine. Perfect! I would skimp on clothes and carry these in my luggage.

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Yes, the TSA left their calling card in my suitcase. They must still be shaking their heads, wondering why anyone would cart around a bunch of rocks.

Anyway, I delivered those rocks and myself to Orlando four days later. The ceremony was quite moving, with my nephew telling his rock story during the ceremony. A few months earlier, he had been shopping for a First Communion gift for a family member and saw a pile of rocks at the store. One read something along the lines of “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The saying reminded him of his grandfather’s calmness and how he dealt with stress. The second rock he picked up read “This Too Shall Pass,” his grandmother’s favorite saying. He decided those two rocks were meant for him, and he bought them along with a communion gift.

Then a couple of months later, he gets this request from his sister to bring rocks to her wedding on a date that honors their grandparents. So instead of keeping those rocks for himself as mementos of his grandparents, he gave them to his sister. (Yes, he is a fantastic guy!)

Really, those two rocks were my parents’ way of sneaking into the wedding.

Now, fast forward a couple of hours after we all head out to the hotel pool complex.

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We’re settling in, when my sister-in-law passes by a couple of people shaking the arms of a little girl lying on the pool deck. They had just pulled her from the water, and she’s not responsive.

Sooo, my sister-in-law grabs my niece and nephew (her kids) who happen to be physician’s assistants. They find no pulse and begin lifesaving techniques that include an inverted heimlich with the girl’s head below her waist. My nephew tries to activate the little girl’s gag reflex by sticking his finger down her throat. (Someone calls 911. Concerned bystanders suggest laying her flat. NO! Don’t do that! They also suggest giving her a glass of water. REALLY??) Still no response, but the heimlich is pumping lots of water out of her. My nephew tries again and again until he gets a gag from her and she begins to vomit water and food. Another few seconds of heimlich with her head down and she’s still vomiting but begins to cry. Success!!

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In honor of the wonderful world of Disney

Paramedics arrive, give her oxygen, and prep her for heading to the hospital, where she will stay for observation.

Two days later, I leave for home and get a text with a photo of my niece and nephew “meeting” the little girl and her babydoll at the hotel after she was released from the hospital. I’m not going to show it here because I don’t have a release from her parents, but suffice to say, I cried when I saw all three of them together and smiling.

Soooo, everyone, it’s summer swimming pool season. Please be vigilant. This was one of two bright spots (wedding, too!) in a horrific week for Orlando. Watch those swimmers, and if they don’t know how to swim, keep them in floaties whenever they’re near the pool. The one shown below snaps behind the child’s back, so they can’t take it off themselves. 

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Remember, a child slips below the surface without making noise. Be watchful, and listen for silence.

Spring Night (After Wang Wei via Robert Okaji)

10 May

Well, it seems I’ve been inspired by one of my favorite poets, Robert Okaji.

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Spring Night

(after Wang Wei via Robert Okaji)

 

Dogwood petals sigh in spirals, blessing my recline.

Spring darkness rests on hollow muted hills

while moonlight strikes the owls awake,

their hoots slipstreaming through ravines.

 

Unlike Robert, I named the birds and took liberties with the tree petals. I’m writing a new rhyming picture book right now, so this detour was a welcome respite. Feeling a little spring-feverish. Ahhh—ahhh—Cheers!

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What Lies Between Us – Nayomi Munaweera

29 Apr

This past Saturday, a friend and I hosted a women’s literary dinner at my home. The guests of honor were Nayomi Munaweera

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and her devastating new novel, What Lies Between Us.

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First, a little background.

Fifteen years ago, Nayomi was earning a PhD in English Literature when she realized she wanted to write fiction instead of WRITE ABOUT fiction. So she dropped out of school (cue parental angst), moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and spent the next decade working various jobs while writing Island of a Thousand Mirrors, a novel about the Sri Lankan civil war and its effect on families. 

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Nayomi’s preferred cover

The novel won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region, was longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize, and was chosen as a Target Book Club pick this past January. Here’s the Target cover:

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This latest edition includes information about Nayomi’s family (including photos), book group questions, recommended further reading, and a sneak peak at the first chapter of her new book, What Lies Between Us.

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This new novel explores the much more private trauma of sexual abuse, mental illness—including postpartum psychosis, and its impact on families. It depicts the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship bound by a thin strand of desperation with the tensile strength of a spider’s web. A strand that extends to a new baby girl, a strand that will come to break.

“Motherhood. With her birth a new person is released in me. A person who has nothing to do with the person I was before. I had not known until I crossed into this new land what would be asked from me. What is asked is everything.”

The novel also shines a light on how patriarchal and class-based cultures pressure women to make choices that follow others’ expectations rather than their own preferences. And how patriarchy fashions a woman’s sense of self as a reflection in someone else’s eyes. And that reflection is often fractured, missing essential pieces.

Early on in the novel, the narrator tells us “It was something I learned then. That you could take the crumpled remains of something destroyed and smooth them into newness. You could pretend certain things weren’t happening even when you had seen or felt them. Everything done can be denied.”

But much later, she capitulates: “Nothing is forgotten or finished. All of history is lodged in the earth, in the water, in the strata of our flesh.”

Nayomi shared the background behind her story, saying that women who kill their children are often considered monsters. She wanted to explore what was hidden behind that label. What were the stories behind women such as Andrea Yates who drowned all five of her children in the bathtub? Nayomi’s research found that these women often do show early signs of distress, but no one really understands just how close to the edge they are until it’s too late. Similarly, the young mother in this novel is surrounded by co-workers in the medical profession and other intelligent people who don’t fully comprehend the depth of her struggles. 

San Francisco Chronicle writer, Anita Fellicelli, gave What Lies Between Us a stellar review. She wrote: “Trauma is rarely captured in literary form with as much fiery intensity as it is in Nayomi Munaweera’s devastating second novel, What Lies Between Us…the novel sinks into the kind of heart-wrenching darkness found in Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved.’…It’s a testament to the power of Munaweera’s dazzling, no-holds-barred storytelling that the novel’s climax still feels shocking.”

I agree. This book shattered me.

And I must disagree with the Kirkus reviewer who lauded the book before saying: “The melodramatic framing device only distracts from the crystalline precision with which Munaweera renders the richness of the immigrant experience as well as her character’s singular longings, fears, joys, and demons.”

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That statement left me wondering if the reviewer was male, because every woman I know who’s read this book did not think of the story’s setup as a “melodramatic framing device,” but as real life fallout resulting from sexual abuse and/or mental illness, experiences that many women share. Experiences that are often hidden from consciousness while heavily influencing the course of their lives. Some end up killing themselves or becoming society’s monsters.

So, be off with you Kirkus! To me, it’s not so much about the “richness of the immigrant experience” as about the darkness that lurks within too many women’s lives.

Nuff said.

 

Parts and Even More Parts – Perfect Picture Book Friday

22 Apr

So you’re looking for a couple of books from a brilliant author/illustrator? Ones that will make kids say “ewwww” page after page, all while laughing uproariously? Ones that kids will want to read again and again and again because each little twist is ingenious?

Tedd Arnold’s will do the trick:

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For the most part, his rhyme is spot on,

“I just don’t know what’s going on

or why it has to be.

But every day it’s something worse.

What’s happening to me?”

 

but purists will note that the rhyme on the second spread is—inverted! **!!Gasp!!**

“I think it was three days ago

I first became aware—

That in my comb were caught a couple

pieces of my hair.”

 

Now, one could argue that this book was published in 1997 and the rhyme police have gotten much more strict in recent years. But I will tell you that if you’re an author-illustrator and you come up with something as original as:

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“Then later on (I don’t recall

exactly when it was)

I lifted up my shirt and found

this little piece of fuzz.”

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“I stared at it, amazed, and wondered,

What’s this all about?

But then I understood. It was

my stuffing coming out!”

Editors may give you a “Get Out of Rhyme Jail Free” pass. Page after page of inspired body part distress.

Not content with one body part book, Arnold published a second called “More Parts” (not reviewed here), and a third called “Even More Parts” in 2004. Originally published under the “Dial Books for Young Readers Imprint,” they are now published by Puffin.

“Even More Parts” takes a literal look at body part idioms and their horrifying consequences.

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Tongue-tied, anyone?

Although each page includes small comics of several idioms for each body part, Arnold selects the funniest to fill the spreads. The end papers include mini illustrations of many more. Bonus: All of these books should engage even the most reluctant readers AND PARENTS.  

“Even More Parts” could also be used to support Common Core Curriculum in kindergarten through second grade.

Check them out!

Titles: “Parts” & “And Even More Parts”

Author/Illustrator: Tedd Arnold

Publisher: Puffin

Ages: preschool-second grade

This post is in conjunction with Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Surprise! Mother’s Day Gift!

12 Apr

I am NOT having an affair with my postman. He loves to ring and run, never waiting to see if I’m home. When I find the package on the doorstep, there’s not even a telltale trail of exhaust from his vehicle on the street. I’m not sure if he’s afraid of me or is an extreme introvert. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Not when he leaves this on my doorstep!

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My early Mother’s Day gift to myself, the last delivery in Tupelo Press’s subscription series, Cooking with the Muse, written and compiled by Myra Kornfeld (chef, author, educator) and Stephen Massimilla (poet, scholar, professor, painter).

This cookbook is crammed with delectable poems, essays, recipes, and food porn photos and illustrations. I can’t wait to get the pages dirty, because as well all know, like writing and sex, cooking is about the process as well as the destination.

The contents range from  “A Brief History of the Poetry of Food” to a year’s worth of recipes, essays, and poetry organized by seasons. It is more than splendiferous, folks! It’s a food-prose-poem orgy! Get busy and buy this for yourself or someone you love.

You can buy it all by its lonesome, OR you can still subscribe to last year’s series and get the whole kit-n-kaboodle (a nod to my buddy, author Mike Allegra) along with a discount for the 2016 subscription series.

Although the graphic shown directly below reads “2016,” it’s really the 2015 series.

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As you may (or may not) have noticed, last year’s subscription included Lawrence Raab’s “Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts,” a poetry title that was long-listed for the National Book Award. Tupelo Press rocks! 

Here’s the series being offered for 2016:

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So ya know what I’m going to do, right? I’m going to give myself a Mother’s Day gift for next year and order another subscription series.

And as long as the postman delivers, he can ring and run. It’s those beautiful Tupelo Press books that I’m pining for, not him. 

Click on the link below. After all, it is 

National Poetry Month!!!

Tupelo Press Bookstore

Cry, Heart, But Never Break – Perfect Picture Book Friday

1 Apr

I was so moved by another writer’s beautiful post about grief, including a picture book recommendation, that I wanted to share it for Susanna Leonard Hill’s PPBF. Here’s the book:

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And here’s the post. Enjoy!!

http://joycorcoran.com/2016/03/30/convergence-grief-books-life/

Title: Cry, Heart, But Never Break

Author: Glenn Ringtved

Illustrator: Charlotte Pardi

Publisher: Enchanted Lion, 2016

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