word craft


Blog Posts from the Beginning

This writer’s day 

This writer’s day: Up at six, and by six-thir­­­ty (with cof­fee near) work­ing on new book, focus­ing on the last third. Chat with my pub­li­cist about evolv­ing web­site. An e‑mail from the edi­tor of forth­com­ing book, Sophia’s War, inform­ing me that she is send­ing the first pass gal­ley. For the first time I get to

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I have pub­lished a lot of books. I have lots of read­ers. I have won a lot of awards. But I have nev­er sent in a new book—as I have just done—to an edi­tor with­out feel­ing ner­vous, and wor­ried that it might be reject­ed. And I have been reject­ed. Once upon a time I submitted

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Finishing a book 

How does it feel to fin­ish a book after work­ing on it for months, if not years, every day, and for most work­ing hours? As the writer Har­ry Eyres has sug­gest­ed, it is a “tri­umphant moment of loss.” Famous­ly, Vir­ginia Woolf suf­fered acute depres­sions when she fin­ished her nov­els. Not so uncom­mon among writ­ers. It’s

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Criteria for a Good Book 

Some years ago a young stu­dent (I no longer have name or where­abouts) sent me the fol­low­ing “Cri­te­ria for a good book.”  I believe it was a stu­dent assign­ment.  In any case, here it is, just as it was sent (and spelled). I’ve nev­er read a bet­ter analy­sis of what children’s lit­er­a­ture is. Cri­te­ria for a

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My First Reader 

Who is the first read­er of my books? My wife, Lin­da. (I read some­where that Madeleine L’Engle had her hus­band read her books to her. Now that took courage!) Some­times Lin­da is will­ing to let me read the book to her. Patient soul. Or she reads the book on her own, and I wait nervously.

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Remembering Ray Bradbury 

The New York Times (6/7/12) ran a long obit­u­ary about Ray Brad­bury, his life, his work, and his influ­ence as a writer, and as a per­son. Brad­bury was a man who seems to have been an enthu­si­ast for life, and filled his writ­ing with that pas­sion.  Par­tic­u­lar­ly touch­ing were the com­ments that fol­lowed the obituary. 

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Reading from my work 

On June 26th I will be at the Shenan­doah Uni­ver­si­ty (Win­ches­ter, VA) 2012 Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture Con­fer­ence. Along with oth­er writ­ers and illus­tra­tors we will focus on the con­fer­ence theme, lit­er­a­ture for boys. While I will take part in a cou­ple of pan­el dis­cus­sions, I will have a solo spot, doing what I most enjoy at

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Book Culture 

One of the cru­cial things that dri­ve writ­ers, I think, is the desire to be part of what I refer to as Book Cul­ture. This is the uni­verse of the book; writ­ing, read­ing, mak­ing, pub­lish­ing, book-sel­l­­ing, libraries, edit­ing, design, marketing—and you can add much more to the list, I’m sure. If you were a very

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Why write for children? 

Every once in a while, an adult, upon learn­ing what I do, asks, “Why do you write for chil­dren? Wouldn’t you have more sat­is­fac­tion writ­ing for adults?”  A cou­ple of recent let­ters from kids answer that bet­ter than I can. A third-grad­er named Iva, wrote, “Because my class reads your books a lot we imagine

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Resetting My Narrative Grooves 

I very much enjoy read­ing short sto­ries, and mar­vel at their pow­er, and their abil­i­ty to cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive expe­ri­ence, how­ev­er brief. I even edit­ed a col­lec­tion (with Car­olyn Shute) that has no theme, oth­er than qual­i­ty. It’s called Best Shorts. Over the years I have writ­ten num­bers of them. There are two col­lec­tions of my

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