Archive for December, 2010

2010 in the Rearview

December 31, 2010 @ 6:35 pm | Filed under:

The early part of the year was all about bread. And crows.

In the spring we spent a good bit of time in the Middle Ages.

I got LOST.

Because my kids are getting older, and their stories are their stories, this year I mostly blogged about books.

And posted pictures of this guy.


Looking back, I see it was a kind of mellow first half of the year, which is nice. The pace grew pretty intense come July, beginning with Comic-Con

…and almost immediately afterward we were zooming off on our cross-country adventure, me and the kids.

We saw some beautiful sights…


Meteor crater in Arizona



…and got to spend time with so many dear friends-and-relations. (I’m still bummed that I didn’t remember to take any pictures during our super-fun visit with Sandra Dodd in Albuquerque. She made the most wonderful monkey platter for my kids, and we talked and explored and played, and the kids never wanted to leave, and then it started to rain and we dashed for the car because I wanted to get to our next stop before the rain got too bad, and I was backing out of her driveway before I thought of the camera. C’est la vie!)

2010 was a year of literary fangirl dreams coming true, beginning with our visit to Rocky Ridge Farm, home of Laura Ingalls Wilder in Mansfield, Missouri.

(Dear Kim-from-the-gift-shop, if you are reading this—thanks again for the wonderful warmth and hospitality you showed us!)

In October, after enjoying the heck out of myself at KidLitCon, I had that splendid day in Mankato, Minnesota with the amazing Kathy Baxter and my beautiful, beautiful friend Margaret. I’m sure you remember Maggie’s hilarious account of our Betsy-Tacy tour. It was such a great day. (And then I got to spend the night at Margaret’s house and meet her brilliant children, and that was pretty great too.)

Melissa Wiley and Kathleen Baxter
Kathy Baxter, me, and the smile that ate my face. Margaret’s photo, shamelessly stolen.

Mrs. Ray's Brass Bowl!!
Mrs. Ray’s brass bowl. I about died.

The memorial walk. My feet. Margaret’s photo.

Winona's Wall
Winona’s wall. Margaret’s photo. My bliss.

Beside Betsy's porch
Betsy’s porch! My Margaret.

Also in October, the reissues of Carney’s House Party/Winona’s Pony Cart and Emily of Deep Valley came out with the new introductions by Mitali Perkins and me. And that was pretty darn exciting. Not just because I got to write an intro for a book I cherish deeply, but because Carney and Emily came back into print.

To celebrate the event, a wonderful San Diego-area children’s bookstore named Readers Inc. hosted a Deep Valley Book Party, at which I got to share my enthusiasm for all things Betsy-Tacy with a packed house of kids and parents. I read aloud the Everything Pudding episode from Betsy-Tacy and Tib, and we had lots of Q and A and cookies.

My favorite part of that whole event: the fabulous T-shirt made by one of Jane’s good friends, the lovely Miss E. Sanchez, commemorating Betsy’s Crowd and their songs, adventures, and catchphrases.


That was November, and then came this past month’s blur of CYBILs reading, and everyone being sick and getting better, and my parents visiting, and Christmas, and here we are. It was a fast year, a full year, a fine year.

I can’t wait to see what’s coming our way in 2011.


“And once again I am blessed…”

December 31, 2010 @ 8:37 am | Filed under:

These are poems that grabbed me this week. The Wendell Berry was quoted by Anne Lamott just after the Bird by Bird passage I posted on Wednesday. The Dickinson came my way in the recent New Yorker review of C. D. Wright’s One With Others, a book which sounds well worth seeking out.

Tell All the Truth
by Emily Dickinson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

The Wild Rose
by Wendell Berry

Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart.

Suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,

and once again I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.

This week’s Poetry Friday roundup can be found at Carol’s Corner.

Hit Me

December 30, 2010 @ 11:34 am | Filed under:

What was your favorite read of 2010?

Or *a* favorite, if you, like me, have a hard time committing to One Most Favored Favorite.

I’m hopeless at naming favorites. In grade school I always had to give valentines to everyone in the class lest someone’s feelings get hurt.

I was going to write a list of “Ten Books I’m Really Glad I Read This Year.” But in looking over my 2010 book log, I see hardly any titles I’m not glad I read. Even if I didn’t care for a book, I’m happy I read it. I learn as much from the books I don’t like as from the books I do.

Some books I’m super especially happy I read this year (I would put an extra heart sticker on their valentines) include:

Scrawl by Mark Shulman. A funny, wry, touching YA in the voice of a high-school boy who hides his intelligence behind acts of petty thuggery. The price he pays for narrowly escaping a juvie sentence is to write a journal during a month of detention under the watchful eyes of his guidance counselor. This journal is the book, and it’s a treat to get to know Tod as he slowly reveals himself on the page. I’d hand this one to any parent or teenager.

Memento Mori by Muriel Spark. Tart, wry, ascerbic, all those words that make your mouth quirk. My first taste of Spark, and I loved the pucker.

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Unset. Has been on my TBR list for over a decade. Made three attempts at in years past. This time, after reading Sally’s post that mentioned the new Tina Nunnally translation, I finally sank into it and it was a gorgeous, lyrical, heartstabbing experience. Afterward I was eager to dive into the next book in the trilogy, but the CYBILs were looming and Franzen’s Freedom had just arrived from the library after months in the queue. So now I have the next leg of Kristin’s journey to look forward to.

Feed by M.T. Anderson. Everything that already alarms you about our tech-addicted world will alarm you all the more after reading this book, but in a good way. It felt like an important cultural-literacy read to me, and I immediately passed it on to my 15-year-old despite mature content (ahem) and strong language.

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. It troubled me, consumed me during the reading, fascinated me in an entirely uncomfortable way. Like Byatt’s Possession, I’m finding that this one won’t leave me alone, even now, months after I read it. I can hear its footsteps creaking the floorboards in the attic of my brain.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. All of you who said I’d love it, you were so right. Reminds me, now I can finally read the Noel Perrin essay on this book in A Child’s Delight (which is where I first heard of Capture).

Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis. Two teenage girls drive cross-country with their feisty grandmother. (Had me at hello.) Turns out Mare (grandma) was a private in the African-American regiment of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, and her stories put us right there with her. Fascinating, engaging, full of warmth and candor. Loved it.

Argh, this post is KILLING ME. I keep scrolling down my book log and thinking “Oh! I need to add that one! And that one! And that one!” Can we just consider this a part one? More to come? If I am not too busy reading? Because I have a whole bunch of new stuff about to come into the library…

What You Really Needed

December 29, 2010 @ 3:59 pm | Filed under: ,

“But I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony.”

—Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird


December 28, 2010 @ 10:06 am | Filed under:

My Tumblr account worked well for me this past year as a way to log online reading (articles, notable blog posts—though inevitably many of the latter wound up in my Google Reader starred items, so I guess it depends on where I read something; I’m still more fractured in my chronicling than I would like to be). I need to be better about tagging, because once an article has Tumbld off the main page, I’m lazy about paging back for it. I could find something if I needed to, though, and that was the reason I set up the account.

I’ve tried half a dozen ways of recording the picture books I read to my younger set—which means I wound up with half a dozen incomplete lists. Messy. Paper just doesn’t cut it because Huck is a terror with my favorite Flair pens. Twitter would be fastest—I even set up a separate Twitter account just for book titles at one point, but I seldom used it because it’s a pain to log out of my main account and into the minor, and vice versa. Of course I could be perpetually logged into both at Brizzly, but I find I still don’t bother. I’m going to try using the Tumblr for this, too, a picture-book log, for a while. It’s such a fast and easy interface & I can jot notes longer than 140 characters if I so desire. So for now, until I forget about it, you can see what books my small fry are enjoying at the Read to Rilla” tag on my Tumblr rillabooks tag on my Diigo page. (Edited four days later: turned out Tumblr just wasn’t right for my picture-book logging. I decided to use my Delicious account instead—only to discover that Delicious is on shaky ground these days. So I’m going with Diigo for social bookmarking. The picture book log also appears in my righthand sidebar now.)

I’ll keep chronicling the rest of my reading here at Bonny Glen, and on Goodreads when I remember. My 2010 book log is on this page. 2009. 2008.

Clean Slate

December 27, 2010 @ 12:32 pm | Filed under:

As I mentioned to Penny in the comments, I’ve decided to give myself To Be Read-pile amnesty. All prior lists and reading projects are hereby officially scrapped, and I’ll read what comes to hand.

Which is not to say I’m actually getting rid of the various long strings of enticing titles I have accumulated here and on Delicious, Listography, Google Reader, and in notebooks all over the house. Heaven forbid. I’m just erasing my mental “I need to read such-and-such” recordings and starting from scratch.

(And mixing cliches, apparently. What do you want, it’s a vacation day for my brain.)

Clean slate applies to the blog, too, come to think of it. My backlog of posts, all those half-finished drafts: I’ll finish ’em when I finish ’em, if ever. New Year, fresh start.

Scott gave me two new Fred Chappell books for Christmas.


It was a very good Christmas. 🙂

The Quieter the Blog, the Noisier the House, Probably

December 20, 2010 @ 9:34 pm | Filed under:

My dad teases me that whenever he and my mom come to visit, this blog gets quiet. This is, of course, a cause and effect. Who has time to blog when 1) there is my mother’s soup to devour; 2) there are small children to rein in just before they completely flatten their grandfather with affection and bouncing; and 3) there is my mother’s rocky road sheet cake to devour?

The fact that I spent most of the weekend in a cold-medicine haze didn’t help, either. My parents entertained the (coughing, sniffling) troops while I took a lot of naps. It has been raining here for days so the energy level in my living room was rather riotous, at times. This did not in any way deter me from taking the aforementioned naps.

I also read three CYBILs books, which is a very good thing since we are in the home stretch here, just a week or so to go before our panel’s powwow to finalize the shortlist. If you need me this week, look behind a book.

Poetry Archive

December 16, 2010 @ 8:51 pm | Filed under:

An archive of my sporadic contributions to Poetry Friday. For the schedule of hosts, check here.

This week’s host is the amazing Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm, whose daily original poems are a source of great delight to me! (Oh my goodness—I posted this last night and now, early on the 17th, West Coast time, I have awakened to discover Amy’s Poetry Friday roundup today contains a beautiful gift for me—a poem! Most wonderful wonderful, out of all hooping. Thank you so much, Amy—what a gorgeous gift.)

(This archive is a work in progress. I’m still working backward through 2006.)

June 2006

“Personal Helicon” by Seamus Heaney

“Portrait by a Neighbor” by Edna St. Vincent Millay—“Before she has her floor swept/ Or her dishes done,/ Any day you’ll find her/ A-sunning in the sun!”

“Patterns” by Amy Lowell (a poem I first encountered as a teen in Madeleine L’Engle’s Meet the Austins)

One for newborn Rilla: Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight”

“Childhood” by Rilke

And while they’re not technically Poetry Friday contributions, I want to include these poems in my archive so I can find them easily: our family “Where I’m From” poems. Mine, Jane’s (age 11), and, in a special gift to me, my father’s.

August 2006

Jane’s pick: “I Stood Tiptoe upon a Little Hill” by Keats

September 2006

“The Author to Her Book”—Anne Bradstreet

“Ho Ro, My Nut-brown Maiden” (scroll way down)

“Moving” by Randall Jarrell—“Never again will Orion / Fall on my speller through the star /Taped on the broken window by my cot…”

January 2007

Rigs o’ Rye—a Scots ballad I quoted in Little House in the Highlands, a story-poem I dearly love. “This lad he was a gallant bold, / a brave young lad nineteen years old;/He’s made the hills and valleys roar,/ and the bonnie lassie, she’s gone with him…”

“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”—a Keats poem we encountered in Swallows and Amazons

February 2007

On the Sonnet—Yes, it’s Keats again

“Oh happy living things!”—Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge

March 2007

“So the world woos”—one of my favorite poems: “Letters from a Father” by Mona van Duyn

April 2007

“A Green Cornfield”—Christina Rossetti

March 2007

Sisters—an original poem courtesy of wee Rilla

April 2007

Good Friday, 1613—“Riding Westward” by John Donne

“Thou little tricksy Puck”—my girls’ favorite poem, because it’s about their brother: Thomas Hood’s “A Parental Ode to My Son, Aged Three Years and Five Months”

June 2007

“Forests at the bottom of the sea”—Whitman’s “The World Below the Brine”

“That has made thee mine forever”—Bonnie Mary o’ Argyle

July 2007

“What is the grass?”—Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

“For my heart’s a boat in tow”—Loch Tay Boat Song, my favorite Scottish ballad

August 2007

“I wonder if the gardener knows”—Rachel Field’s “The Little Rose Tree”

September 2007

“The music in my heart I bore”—Wordsworth’s “Solitary Reaper” and selections from his sister Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal of their tour in Scotland, which served as research for my Martha books

October 2007

“Let fall one by one”—Heaney’s “Clearances,” chosen on the heels of a “Tolland Man” quote from the previous day’s Helixes post

August 2008

“The water is wide”—another Scots ballad

October 2008

“Understanding”—the poem by Sara Teasdale; the prayer by St. Francis of Assisi

“We must love one another or die”—Auden’s “September 1, 1939”

April 2009

“Fortify your inner life”—some Seamus Heaney

May 2009

“Oh for a bee’s experience”—during the height of my honeybee obsession, a bee trail and some Emily Dickinson

August 2009

“The Triangle Factory Fire”—a Robert Pinsky poem

And not part of Poetry Friday, but related to the post above:

Speaking of Robert Pinsky

It’s a Small Internet After All

September 2009

“The Fairy Tales of Science”—a rambly post inspired by Ransome’s Winter Holiday, with only a snippet of “Locksley Hall”

November 2009:

“Like little mice”—“Ballad Upon a Wedding” by Sir John Suckling, plus bonus picture of Johnny Depp

January 2010

“We are not really at home”—from Rilke’s Duino Elegies, “The First Elegy”

October 2010:

Poetry Friday, we meet again—a reposting of my poem, “Lena, Waiting for the Mail”

November 2010:

“Spend all you have for loveliness”—one by Sara Teasdale; one by me

Sestina—an original poem written in 1993

The Huck Edition—an original poem, “Olympian Heights,” courtesy of my 22-month-old son