Sunday, December 28, 2008
Google had been kind enough to tell me LAWKI had been highly commended, but I certainly wasn't expecting a pretty certificate in an engraved silver frame. So you'd think I'd be happy. Well, I was, but I was also a tad resentful. Where will I put it? How fast will it tarnish? When I downsized a few years back, I'd gotten rid of all my silver, and I can't say I've missed it. Grump grump growl grump grump.
And that (or a few hours later) was when I had my epiphany. I'd been thinking about my new year's resolution. I love new year's resolutions, and one of the great pleasures I get out of being Jewish is I can make them twice a year. I have mixed results (I'm still struggling with not taking the Lord's name in vain), but I love the idea of self-improvement. I'm a liberal. I always think things can get better.
I looked at the lovely silver frame with the even more lovely certificate, and I thought about responsibilities. I have my share of them. I have a book to write. I have professional obligations. I have an engraved silver frame. I have a 97 year old mother, who needs groceries every single week. And I have an extraordinary ability to whine. Even as a young child, it was much commented on (never favorably).
So I made my new year's resolution. Starting in 2009, I will embrace responsibility, a phrase which can be squooshed into the word Ember (which, by the way, is an excellent name for a cat, in case you're looking for one). I have a book to write because it's been my desire to write a sequel to LAWKI since before I finished the first draft. I've wanted to know what became of Miranda, and now I have the opportunity to find out, and to find out about Alex, and the delicious security of knowing other people want to find out also. I have professional obligations because for the first time in decades, people are actually interested in me and my writing, and are kind enough to let me know. I have an engraved silver frame because my book came in second out of who knows how many books published this past year in the UK. I have to buy groceries for my 97 year old mother because I'm fortunate enough to have a 97 year old mother, who still has her brain cells, and whose company I adore. So why the heck am I whining?
For those of you without 97 year old mothers, I have an analogy. Let's say you have a dog and the dog needs to go out and it's raining. You don't want to take the dog for a walk, because you don't want to get wet. Perhaps you whine (well, I would). But then Ember kicks in. You have the responsibility for walking the dog, because you have a dog. A dog that jumps up and down when you come home, and sits on your lap, and gives you big slurppy kisses. If you don't have a dog, but your husband behaves in a similar way, well then take him out for a walk. With or without Ember, you'll get rained on, but at least you'll remember how lucky you are to have that responsibility.
So that's my personal betterment plan for the upcoming year. I don't anticipate a hundred percent success rate, because I really do love to whine. But I've found a prominent place for my silver framed certificate, and I've told my mother to make up a shopping list. I'm up to date on my emails and every morning I think about B3, so that when I'm ready to start work, on Jan. 5, I really will be ready.
Bring on the new year. I've got everything, except silver polish, that I'm going to need!
Monday, December 22, 2008
To everyone who has dropped in here at some point or another, I hope your holiday season is all you wish for and your new year is even better.
Special holidays greetings to everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment on my blog in this crazy, confusing, and very memorable year of 2008:
Alan, Alexa, Alice, Analie Andrea, Anne, Anne Bradshaw, Anne M, Anne Marie, Anita, Anonymous, Anonymous A.G., Anonymous Alyssa, Anonymous Ann Marie, Anonymous Anonymobleak, Anonymous Bess Bartlett, Anonymous Catherine, Anonymous Donna Cash, Anonymous Haley, Anonymous Jen, Anonymous Jennifer L. Griffin, Anonymous Jessica, Anonymous Jessica, Lexi, Abigail, Samantha, Anonymous Katie-Anne, Anonymous Laurie, Anonymous Leah, Anonymous Linda Goff, Anonymous Martian, Anonymous Melissa, Anonymous Nancy, Anonymous Person, Anonymous Rena, Anonymous S, Anonymous Santa Fe, Anonymous Susan, Anonymous Walter Slezak, April Henry, Avneizik, Baylee, Becky, Beth Fehlbaum, Author, Bethel, Booktalker, bottle-of-shine, Brandi, Bubbles, Carole McDonnell, Caroline, Catherine, Caylee, Cheryl, chickadee 1607, C.K., C.L.M., Colleen, Dawn, Debbie Cholley, donna, Eneira, Erin, Esther, Glen, Haley, heather t, HipWriterMama, Jackie Parker, Jade, Janet, Janni, Janni Lee, Jenna, Jenni, Jen Robinson, Jessica, jnifer 3, judi, Judi (Australia), Julio, KC, Kris Hickey, Kristina, Lauren, Lee, leona, Librarian D.O.A., Librarina, Linda, Linda Jacobs, Lisa, Little Willow, Liv Eriksson, Liz, Marci, Marcus5372, Maria, Meg, Megan G., Melody, Minna Leigh, Misrule, Missouri-loathing Anonymous, Mr. Cavin, Mrs. Corbett, msannakova, Ms. Yingling, nerdfightersftw, noonie, Nora, Paige Y. PAMELA ROSS, Patti, rbury, Reading Fool, RIMH, Ronni, sarah, Sarahbear9789, sarcare, Savannah, sciteacher, S.M.D., softindierocker, Stephanie, Susan, Suzanne, Syd, Tanner, Texas Pixie, The Real Original Anonymous,Todd Strasser, Walter Pidgeon, Wendy, wheremytruthlives, Whitley, wild-force-71, Vicki In IL, Victoria, J, Violet, Wendy, and Yvette.
Whether you're chiding me or praising me, laughing at my foolishness or sharing my sorrow, you're part of what has made this year so special for me. Please know how much I cherish each one of you.
Friday, December 19, 2008
This has been one of the most stressful weeks of my life, starting last Wednesday night, when my flight to Illinois was cancelled, through Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, when I arrived home from Illinois just before 2 AM.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I was scheduled to fly to Chicago yesterday, for school appearances today and tomorrow. I got to the airport knowing the flight was delayed. After a while, it was announced that the flight was cancelled. Since I needed to be at the school in the morning, there was no point rescheduling for a flight today, so I drove home.
I knew something was a little off with Charlotte, but I thought she had worms, or some other intestinal problem that humane society kittens frequently have. I had brought my vet's phone number with me (he doesn't have Wednesday hours) so I could call from Illinois and make a Saturday appointment.
My friends Marci and Bill dropped by on Charlotte while I was at the airport, and left a message for me that she was fine. She'd sat on both their laps.
When I got home last night, Charlotte was very happy to see me. She sat on my lap and when I went to bed, she climbed on as she always did.
But when I woke up this morning, I could tell that something awful had happened. I raced her to the vet, who said she had died. I asked why, and was told with kittens it was impossible to tell.
I've rescheduled the trip to Illinois for Sunday-Tuesday. I've sent emails to all my friends to tell them about Charlotte. Now I've written this blog to tell all of you. I told my friends not to call, and I won't be answering comments or emails, at least not for a while. The shock and the pain is just too overwhelming.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
In spite of distractions like Charlotte the kitten, model and movie star (see the previous entry for Charlotte watching Charlotte watching Charlotte, a concept Pirandello would have envied), and having other self selected obligations, like reading Susan Cornish by Rebecca Caudill, before I go Illinois, where Life As We Knew It is nominated for the Rebecca Caudill Award (I started it last night, and thus far am really enjoying it. It's about an eighteen year old girl who gets a job teaching in a one room schoolhouse, whose students are the kids of white sharecroppers), I have actually begun writing This World We Live In, aka B3.
(I'm hoping you'll be so dazzled with the adorableness that is Charlotte, you won't notice how clunky that sentence was.)
Speaking of clunky, I wrote 24 pages (two days worth of work; I want to write 12 pages a day, although I have to admit Wednesday, when I began, the 12 pages took longer than I'd thought they would), and then I realized that I needed to get the action going in the story faster. I can get lost in the beginnings of my books, establishing background and characters, but that doesn't mean readers want me to take my time. As one of my editors taught me a long time ago: Start the story as close to the center of the action as possible.
This is good advice, but particularly tricky for B3. On the one paw, it's a sequel to LAWKI. On another paw, it's a follow up to the dead and the gone. But on a third paw, it's a book some people who've read one but not both of those books might read. And on the fourth and final paw, it's a book some people who've never read either book, or who read and forgotten them, might read. I guess that's four and a half paws, which could give you pause.
Did you know that Anne Boleyn had six fingers on one hand? I saw A Man For All Seasons in NYC yesterday and Sir Thomas More never mentioned that once.
Back to B3. Having written 24 pages, I've cut 4, to get the action moving faster. Then yesterday, while waiting for the play to begin, I realized that I'd made a plot mistake. I have Matt not walking to town because he's still too weak from the flu, but I plan for Matt to walk to the Delaware River to go fishing for shad (Todd Strasser pointed out to me that shad run in the Delaware. Todd loves to fish. I thought shad looked like minnows, but I researched them and they look like full grown fish). I also decided, so that the action could move along faster, that Matt would meet and marry Syl while he and Jon are there fishing for shad. I figure there are a number of people there, all of whom presumably learned from Todd that shad run in the Delaware in the springtime.
I had Miranda and Jon walk to town so they could talk about all the deserted houses and how they should go through them to see what they could find. Originally Matt was going to find Syl in one of those deserted houses, but now that he's going to meet her at the Delaware, maybe I should dump all that stuff, which would certainly move the action along that much faster. Heh.
When my editor worked with me on LAWKI, she had me cut the beginning. When she worked with me on d&g, she had me add some stuff (description of how people in NYC were as Alex walked home). These beginnings are tricky things.
And I'm distracted. There's Charlotte (currently taking a bath on my lap). There's people coming over to meet and admire Charlotte. There's mother obligations (she has no interest in meeting Charlotte, but she laughed at the second of the Charlotte videos). There's Illinois. At the end of next week, my friend Hilarie is coming over to meet and admire Charlotte, and my friend Joyce is coming for the weekend to meet and admire Charlotte. And at some point. I've got to get Charlotte to the vet for her next set of shots.
After all that, I should have clear sailing until the US National figure skating championship, in mid-January. I won't be there, but I'll be able to watch it on the net, and undoubtedly I will.
So the only commitment I'm going to make to B3 before I leave for Illinois is to have the first 20 pages edited and ready. Ideally, I'll get some additional writing done, but I'm not going to go crazy. At least not more crazy.
Speaking of beginnings, I found the following while doing a Yahoo search the other day. It's all about endings, but I find it particularly funny because B3 is going to have a completely open ending:
Has anyone read the book the dead and the gone or life as we knew it by susan pfeffer?
don't read them the book is really interesting but the ending a dissapointer she never ends her books! you count on a sequel but no there isn't one she keeps on making non ending books. it will piss you off so don't read them if you already have leave me a comment on it as an answer. i am not reading another book by her again!
However, I've been getting emails from people lately who've been asking when This World We Live In will be published. Spring 2010 remains the answer, assuming everything is still all right with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. But for those of you who are impatient (a small group that would include me), I'm going to wander over to thirdmoonbook, put in there the parts of this entry about B3 and then cut and paste the first diary entry of B3 (roughly four pages long). I don't intend to keep putting in parts of B3 over there, but I figured there might be people who'd like to hear from Miranda again. So if you're interested in reading the first few pages, already edited, but most likely to be edited even more, feel free to go there.
I will go back to reading Susan Cornish and playing some more with Charlotte!
ETA: I finished reading Susan Cornish and it was considerably more sophisticated than I'd anticipated. It actually mattered to the story that all the kids at the school were white. The heroine (Susan Cornish) is waiting for the Supreme Court decision on Brown v. Board of Ed, and towards the end of the book, she reads a book written for UNESCO that explains that all people are the same. She reads some of the book out loud to her students and is accused of being a Communist, and she has to defend herself against segregationist politicians. Unlike real life, she wins in the end, falls in love with a handsome young reporter who's covering her case, gets engaged to him a week after they meet, and gets a foundation grant to study wherever she wants whatever she wants (she doesn't have to apply- they just offer her one). She decides to study in Denmark and convinces her brand new fiance to quit his job and go with her to Denmark. Of course her school remains segregated, but that's because the Supreme Court hasn't handed down its decision yet. The UNESCO book apparently was quite convincing.
On the other hand, she seeks out ministers to conduct religious services in the school, so Susan Cornish wasn't all that familiar with the First Amendment. But you can't have everything.
Friday, December 5, 2008
I ran out of double A batteries for the digital camera.
It could be argued I've overcompensated since returning home from the supermarket with a packet of 16.
But great cinema is just that. So here is Charlotte The Kitten keeping me from working, and Charlotte The Kitten watching Charlotte The Kitten.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
At some point, maybe even later today, I'll write a real blog entry (or at least what poses as a real blog entry here), but I just downloaded this fabulous film noir movie of Charlotte, and I'm way too impatient to wait and actually write something.
So here's Charlotte!
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
In case you have any doubts- look at the infamous right side of the blog. Look at all those neat, seductive links.
But I'll throw another one here right now, to prove to you (and me) that I can still remember how to do it. The New York Times had a depressing article about my publisher. I'm choosing not to worry, even though I have yet to see my contract for B3. I intend to start writing on Monday and hope for the best.
My plan is to write in the mornings, lead a normal (or what passes for normal) life in the afternoons, and exercise in the early evening. Usually I exercise in the mornings, but I like the idea of waking up and going to work. I haven't figured out yet whether I'll write for a set time or aim for a set number of pages. It probably doesn't matter. The guiding principle is not to go berserk, write for eight or ten hours daily, and get nothing else done. There is no need for obsession. None. Nary a need. Totally unneeded.
Of course for the first two weeks, the schedule is going to be at least partially ignored. I'm going to have dinner with my friend Cynthia on Tuesday, and with Todd either Wednesday or Thursday. So most likely I'll have to exercise in the morning. Then the following week I'm going to Illinois for two days of school visits.
I haven't even begun and already I'm off schedule. Le sigh. I also remembered today that after I finish reading American Eve by Paula Uruburu, I need to read Susan Cornish by Rebecca Caudill. Life As We Knew It is nominated for the Rebecca Caudill Award in Illinois, and I feel a strong obligation to read a book by her before going there.
I happen to own Susan Cornish because I collect books with Susan or Sue in the titles. Marci tends to find them for me. Susan Cornish will be the first of the books I'll actually have read. It actually looks pretty interesting.
But no matter how talented Rebecca Caudill was, I bet she couldn't make links look lovely!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I've done a speck of redecorating. I moved the list of places Life Has We Knew It has been nominated for awards in over to thirdmoonbook. My guess is there won't be a conflict between those of you who don't want to be spoilered and those of you who obsessively read the list. Frankly, I didn't want to have to spend the next few months editing out states and countries where LAWKI didn't win, so I listed everyplace, even those where LAWKI has already lost, for my own convenience.
I also moved over there what the critics were saying about the dead and the gone and added some juicy quotes from John Green's NY Times review over here.
Having cleared up all that space, I added links to six (count them six) blog entries I wrote over a year ago on writing and editing, just in case any of you are interested.
I also changed the look of the blog, to make the links on the right a little easier to see.
I'm off to find the John Green review (not that I'll have to look that hard to find it) and maybe play with colors.
Once again, happy Thanksgiving. And please know how thankful I am to all of you.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Friday morning, I received a phone call telling me to go to the lobby and wait for a lift to take me to an 8 AM breakfast. That's what I sat on, while I waited. I assume the phone call was a clever scheme by jewel thieves to get me out of my room, so they could break in and steal my jewels. Alas for them and me, I didn't have any.
I went back to my room and ordered a room service breakfast, which I ate alone, considerably after 8 AM. That's what my tray looked like after I was finished.
Here's Mary Pearson, author of the extremely popular The Adoration Of Jenna Fox. We were on a panel together. Actually, we were the panel, since the other two panelist wannabes decided they didn't wanna. I bet they're sorry now, not getting to have their pictures on my blog.
And this is Edward T. Sullivan, who wrote the Harcourt Life As We Knew It discussion guide. It was an unexpected pleasure to meet him.
Monday, November 17, 2008
After a great deal of thought, both on the exercycle and the treadmill, I've decided the blog nickname for This World We Live In is B3. That stands for Book 3, since it will, after all, be the third book of the trilogy. B3 is easy to type and will always be in good taste, even if by some chance This World We Live In changes its title between now and when it's actually published.
I tried to figure out spoiler tags, but Blogspot (which I'm very fond of) doesn't seem to want to make them easy. So here's the obvious solution to the spoilering problem.
Anytime I write a blog entry that is spoileresque, that discusses small or large plot details of B3, I'll put B3 in the title of the entry.
Let's say I write an entry about how I'm the greatest writer ever because I solved a particularly tricky plot problem with B3. If the entry is merely about my fabulous wonderfulness, then the title will be: I'm The Greatest Writer Ever. But if in the entry I explain what the problem was and how I solved it, then the title will be: I'm The Greatest Writer Ever B3.
If you see a B3 in the title, and you don't want to be spoilered, then say HA! and go elsewhere (the saying HA! is required).
While it is possible that in a B3 entry, I'll also discuss other things happening in my life, my life isn't so interesting that if you skip an entry or two, your life will suffer. Besides you'll have the thrill of saying HA! And if something interesting really does happen (like winning that Nobel Prize For Literature I've been eagerly anticipating), I'll be sufficiently thrilled that I'll forget about work and write the entire entry on whatever it was that happened. Not that anything is likely to happen. Except maybe a kitten (I really want a kitten).
I am now going to put a little note on the right side of the page (where, I'm sure you noticed, I added South Dakota to the list of states where Life As We Knew It is nominated for a young readers award)explaining about the B3 system.
You may now go and practice your HA!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
There was any number of things that made my trip special. Four of the high school students enacted a scene from the dead and the gone (the girl who played Bri coughed so convincingly that even I worried about her health). There was an extraordinary box of every kind of brownie you might ever dream of waiting for me at the hotel. Some of the students prepared a complete and sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner for lunch on Friday. And I was given a Pierce City High School Book Club tee shirt.
The students asked excellent questions, not a bad one in the bunch. One of the classes of middle school students was particularly interested in why I did various things in Life As We Knew It. Why did Megan die? Why did Mrs. Nesbitt die? Why did Peter die?
You would think that since I got 10 out of 10 answers correct on the internet LAWKI quiz, and since I spent the time on the flight to Springfield, MO rereading LAWKI in preparation for writing the third book (still in need of a nickname), I would know why all those characters died. But I had to think about it. Megan was so that someone Miranda's age would die. Mrs. Nesbitt died because of her age; it just made sense that she would.
But as best I could figure out, Peter died simply because he'd served his purpose. He brought news of the outside world to Miranda and her family. The news was always bad, but at least it was a connection. And I didn't want him around to provide medical assistance when Miranda's family needed it the most.
I like Peter. What a shame he turned out to be a plot device.
I really liked LAWKI as I reread it. I'd still change the first and last sentences if I could, but I'd pretty much keep the rest as is. It's funny the way things date unexpectedly. Since Mom expressed her distaste for Fox News, most likely she'd approve of the incoming president and not call him an evil jerk (which turns out to be such a Sarah Palin thing to say).
There wasn't much that surprised me as I read (it's been almost two years since I really looked at LAWKI, but I used to reread it all the time, so I know it pretty well). The parts about Horton the cat made me sad though. There was one throwaway bit of business about Horton sniffing Miranda's face to confirm it really was her that almost got me crying. Emily my cat used to do that.
I want a cat so much it hurts. But I can't figure out if I want a cat or if I just miss Alexander and Emily. Cats have their own personalities, and even if I get one, it will be different from them.
No matter what, I won't even think about getting a cat before next week, because this week I go to Texas. What remain of my brain cells are engaged in trying to figure out what clothes to take. I'll be doing a school visit on Thursday, then NCTE on Friday- a panel discussion and autographing, followed by a small, very high class, dinner in my honor, cohosted by Harcourt and Random House (the latter being the publishers of the LAWKI/d&g audiobooks). In addition, it's supposed to be 37 degrees in New York on Wednesday, and 70 degrees in Texas on Thursday.
Not that I want it to be 37 degrees in Texas. But 70 in New York might make things easier.
So that's where things are right now. The next couple of days will be devoted to running errands, packing and repacking. Life as I know it is complex indeed!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I apologize for continuing to sound heartless and insensitive, but remember, no comments about the work in progress there, here, or in emails to me. Please.
I don't see why I can't be equally creative at 2 in the afternoon, but I had noticed I wasn't thinking about the third book nearly as much as I would have thought I'd be at this point. Instead, when I vacuumed yesterday, I pondered the reconstruction of the Republican Party, a fascinating topic, but not one that will leave me prepared to start writing Dec. 1.
While I'm chatting away, let me announce that I got an official congratulatory email from the OneBookNewJersey people, saying that Life As We Knew It won as the teenage selection in a landslide. I emailed back to confess that I'd voted once myself, even though I live in New York, so if the landslide consisted of one vote, they might want a recount.
Also my brother called to say people at his law office found the New York Times review of the dead and the gone all by themselves. Clearly a high class law firm.
I need to do a little more tidying over at the right side of the blog (the poll results are now gone, but I would like to put in something about LAWKI's landslide victory), but most of today will be devoted to preparing for my trip to Missouri tomorrow. I still don't know what I'm going to wear on Friday when I make my school visit. I'll be rereading LAWKI on the flight, taking care to hold it upright so everyone at Newark Airport can be tempted by its cover to run out and buy a copy. I learned that trick from all other New York Times best selling authors, except maybe a few who were dead. The dead ones had other tricks to teach me.
ETA: It turns out I like the thirdmoonbook blog as a way of writing down thoughts as quickly as I can, so the second entry now had an additional bunch of stuff added to it.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Another thing I don't seem to know how to do is get pictures previously posted to move over to this entry, so here's a link to the one that had pictures of my den, so you can really be impressed with how neat and tidy things are now: http://susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com/2008/05/six-pictures-are-worth-at-least-six.html
It's probably best I don't do this blogging thing for a living!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The review looks very fine in print also!
Friday, November 7, 2008
I admit I'm surprised that so many people voted (thank you, all 77 of you) and that there was a majority choice.
For the past week, I've given a lot of thought to how to handle the discussing/non-discussing of the book, and I came up with a solution, which will please me, if no one else.
I created a new blog. As of the moment, there is one entry, which is a synopsis of where the third book is at this point in my brain. Please keep in mind, I haven't begun to write it, and things will change many times before the book sees print, hopefully in the spring of 2010. Even the title has changed a few times, going from The World I Live In, to This World I Live In, to This World We Live In.
Which reminds me. Before I give you the link and all that, I need a nickname for the book. My editor came up with LAWKI for Life As We Knew It, and you decided on d&g for the dead and the gone. This World We Live In could be called TWWLI, but you got to admit it lacks magic.
Where was I? Oh yeah, blogging. What I'm going to do is blog about how the writing is going, no doubt describing various parts of the plot, right here. Then I'll move the entries over to the other blog, but this is my primary blog, and writing this book will be my primary activity for the next few months. So there are going to be many spoilers here. But if you don't want to know everything, you won't have to.
Now here's the other important thing. I don't want to know what you think about the synopsis. Maybe you'll like it or maybe you won't, but I'm a lot better off if I don't know. Lets say for the sake of argument there are 4 billion people on earth. If 4 billion people minus one should post comments saying the book is potentially the most brilliant thing ever written, I'll obsess over that minus one person. I'm going to be a lot happier if I can simply imagine everybody adores it, and not have to worry that maybe someone out there doesn't.
I've set the alternative blog up so comments can't be left (I hope; at least that was my intention). But I don't want you leaving comments, not positive, negative, or neutral, here. None. Comment on how clever I am to have come up with a way that people who wish to know all, can, and those who don't, can avoid much of it. Comment (please) on potential nicknames. But no praise, criticism, or suggestions on This World We Live In. If I want them, I'll ask for them, and most likely I will, since I'm never shy about asking you for help. But this is the most vulnerable time for me and I need you to be kind and let me make my mistakes on my own.
Boy, I talk a lot.
Here's the link. I hope you enjoy it (just don't tell me!): http://thirdmoonbook.blogspot.com/2008/11/basic-plot-elements-of-this-world-we.html
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I didn't want to say anything about it until I knew for sure that there really would be a review and that it really would be favorable. A week or so ago, I found out there really would be a review (to be published Nov. 9), and today I found out it really would be favorable.
Because of perfectly reasonable copyright restraints, I can't quote the entire section about d&g (we have to save something for the Times, after all). But here are some lovely quotes (I'm going to leave out the quibbly part, but it precedes the "But" in the review, in case you couldn't guess):
What makes “The Dead and the Gone” so riveting is its steadfast resistance to traditional ideas of hope in children’s books—which is to say this is a dark and scary novel... Pfeffer subtly explores the complexity of believing in an omnipotent God in the wake of an event that, if it could have been prevented, surely would have been... But the story’s climax and resolution feel achingly right. Pfeffer subverts all our expectations of how redemption works in teenage fiction, as Alex learns to live, and have faith, in a world where radical unfairness is the norm.
What a good day it has been (at least so far!).
Friday, October 31, 2008
I know there are differences of opinion amongst you about how much you want me to reveal and how much you don't. A number of you lived through a completely written third book that will never see the light of day (it was completely unusable, and besides, it's in the hard drive of my now dead computer). You may well not want to hear all about a whole different third book, even though this one really will get published someday. Or you may not want to be spoilered to excess. Or you may want to know each and every plot twist as I write and rewrite.
So I figured I'd set up a poll. Majority (or more likely plurality) will rule. You decide how detailed you want me to be about the plot and suchlike, while I resume dusting and vacuuming and cleaning the refrigerator.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
My friend Joyce Wadler, who visits me on a fairly regular basis, never believed in my ghost, or anyone else's for that matter. But she's written a very clever article for the New York Times on the problems of haunted houses, so I figured in honor of ghosts past and Halloweens about to happen, I'd provide the link:
Just in case nothing interesting happens to me between today and Tuesday, a very real possibility since I'm determined to finish cleaning my apartment, starting with dusting all the books in the den as soon as I finish this entry, and you probably won't be hankering for details about that or about my mother's eye doctor appointment on Monday, Happy Halloween! and Don't Forget To Vote!
I have now officially run out of excuses. Dust We Must!!!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I woke up at 3:30 this morning and while I probably fell back asleep, it felt as though I didn't. In my maybe awake/maybe asleep time, I worked out a storyline for Julie (the dead and the gone character come to visit the Life As We Knew It characters) so powerful and sad, that not only did I rejoice in the return of the bleakity bleak, I considered renaming Tyler, which I may yet do, and returning the title of the book to The World We Live In, rather than The World I Live In. All that at 5 AM.
I actually have a doctor's appointment of my own in an hour or so (just a regular checkup, but I'm hoping to get a flu shot while I'm there), but this afternoon I'm free to take a much deserved nap. I do my best thinking while lying on my bed mid-afternoon, so I'm assuming I'll analyze my middle of the night inspiration to determine if it's just too darn bleak, especially given the other ghastly things I intend to have happen during the course of the book.
My alternative activity is cleaning the living room, on my long slow march through cleaning the apartment. Granted, I could do the same thinking while dusting books and photographs, but a nap sounds way more appealing, especially on a cold, windy, rainy day like this one.
Either way, when Christy calls and nobly volunteers to listen to my plot, such as it is, she's likely to hear a lot more plot that's a lot more depressing than she would have had to endure on Sunday.
I wonder how fast she'll hang up on me this time!
Monday, October 27, 2008
I haven't forgotten that. Honest.
In the midst of everything that's been going on, I've been thinking about The World I Live In. My current plan is to start writing December 1 (I love a month that starts on Monday), and work Mondays through Fridays, and not some crazy I can't stop myself I must write write write! schedule.
The second half or two thirds, remains firm in my mind. I still need some stuff to happen before then. Or I need to move the second half closer to the start of the book. At some point, my brain will allow me to focus on that and I'll know better what I'm doing.
I did name the two new characters the other day. Tyler and Charlie. I explained to my friend Christy that names are shortcuts for the readers. The name Tyler has a different resonance to it than the name Charlie.
Christy wasn't a hundred percent in agreement, but she did accept the idea that it's better if characters' names start with different initials. Of course, Matt, Mom, and Miranda all start with the same letter, but Miranda tends to refer to herself as I. Matt and Mom though, I should have done differently. Le sigh.
I told Christy that I hadn't discussed the vast majority of the book with anybody, and asked if she'd be interested in hearing the plot, such as I now have it, so I could get some feedback. Her response was immediate. She had to get off the phone. That very second. Maybe even sooner. I didn't know a phone could be hung up that fast.
Hmm...Do you think it was something I said?
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I knew she was dying. She never got over Alexander's death, four months ago. She literally pined away for him.
Emily was six weeks old when I brought her home from the Humane Society. She died when she was thirteen. For her entire life, she had Alexander as a companion, someone to play with and boss around.
After Emily came to live with us, Alexander was royally annoyed. He was a year and a half old and in no mood for a kitten. Emily put up with this for one week, then made it clear to him that they were going to play. Emily always had her way with Alexander, who was sweetness personified. She could never get over the fact that after she provoked him, chased him around, and wrestled him, he'd win the physical battle. Sure, he was bigger. But she was Emily.
When it became clear to me that Emily was dying, a month or so ago, I decided to let her die at home, in her own good time. For weeks, I'd go to bed at night not knowing if I'd find her alive in the morning. Before going to Florida for the FAME conference, I worried she'd die right before I left, and I'd have to drive to the airport sobbing. All the time I was there, I feared I'd come home to find she'd died in my absence. A couple of weeks ago, she stayed on my bed for 36 straight hours. I was sure then she would die, but she kept on. She stayed in the places she liked, under my bed, on the bathmat, on my lap. She never seemed to be in pain, except briefly the night she died. She simply gave up on life. With the help of my friends, Marci and Bill, I buried Emily Monday afternoon. It was a beautiful October day.
I lead a very placid existence. I figured out a long time ago that my career has no steadiness and that I'm better off if things are relatively calm around it. But the past five months have been incredible highs and difficult lows. My friends, my family, my editor, my agent, have all helped me celebrate the highs and make it through the lows. I am eternally grateful to all of them.
I keep looking around my apartment, expecting to see Emily and Alexander. This morning, I woke up to the sensation of a cat jumping on my bed, curling up in the small of my back. Most likely, it was a dream.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Recently, I've received e-mails from teachers who are using Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone in their classrooms. I thought it would be a good idea to have a blog entry devoted to program ideas that can be used in schools and libraries.
My plan is to keep a link to this entry on the right side of the blog, and to update it with new ideas when I learn of them. I would appreciate it if any of you who have used LAWKI and/or d&g could either add comments discussing what you've done, or e-mail me your ideas (if you do e-mail me, let me know if you'd like to be credited in the blog).
I'm going to start with an e-mail I received from Ms. Jennifer L. Griffin, the 7th grade Language Arts and Literature teacher and her colleague, Mrs. Debbie Renauer, 8th grade Language Arts and Literature teacher, at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Louisville, Kentucky:
We are embarking on a great teaching adventure on October 14, 2008. We will be teaching LAWKI and td&tg to our students...with a twist. The boys will be reading td&tg and the girls will be reading LAWKI. They will then be sharing information with each other and comparing and contrasting. We will also have the seventh graders working with the eighth graders for the first time! Our science teacher is going to devote some class time to talking about the effects of the moon on earth; our math teachers are going to work on a pantry inventory project with the students (during which they will calculate how long their family could survive based on serving size, calories, and energy expended); our religion teacher will be discussing the religious aspects of both novels in her class; the history teacher will be taking class time to discuss other disasters in the world's past.
Here's the link to the official Harcourt discussion guide:
The next idea comes from California:
Prepare a Technology Enhanced Learning in Science (TELS) project, and have students search ScienceHack for science videos to be utilized for research or within a presentation. Cross curricular tie-in, Language Arts/Science: Students read, "Life as we knew it" by Pfeffer and searchs for moon, tides, earthquakes, vocanoes. View "Why doesn't the moon fall down".
Here are some program ideas from a library in Alabama that used LAWKI as its summer read:
June 12: Survival 101 - Wilderness survival expert Darryl Patton will present this introductory wilderness and primitive survival program.
July 3: Movie Night - Watch a movie on a 20-foot-screen. Popcorn and drinks provided.
July 10: About Asteroids - The Von Braun Astronomical Society will separate fact from fiction about asteroids and meteors. Participants will use telescopes to view the moon and the night sky, weather permitting. This program begins at 7:30 p.m.
July 18: Survivor Gadsden - Outwit, Outplay, Outlast! You'll need to be strong, clever and lucky to "survive" and claim fame under a full moon. All participants will be fed and watered! This program is from 7 p.m. to 10 pm.
Create a miniture survival kit out of a recycled Altoids tin.
Here's a comment from Linda Jacobs on Jan. 15, 2009:
Just wanted to let you know that my tenth-grade class is reading your books right now and loving them. The boys have d&g and the girls are reading LAWKI.
We've been doing some fun activities, too. For example, the girls had to write and read news reports about the actual night the meteor hit since the boys don't get that description in their book and a few days later, the boys had to do the same with Alex's body search at Yankee Stadium.
Last weekend, several of the girls got really freaked out because the actual moon was so huge. One girl even researched if that was normal!
I got an email on Jan. 20, 2009 with the following suggestion from literacy coach Beth Pace:
...there is an excellent piece in National Geographic from August 2008 called Target Earth. A friend suggested that it be used as a companion piece when teaching your book in the classroom. I think she is right!
And here's a link to a lot of discussion topics for both books.
Life As We Knew It is the 2009 One Book New Jersey young adult selection, and they have a lot of program ideas. Here's the link to all the info about LAWKI and the direct link to their program suggestions.
I particularly like this one:
Environmental Education:Environmental Education Week 2009 is April 12-18, 2009. Discuss water conservation, global warming, pollution, and other issues that affect our environment. Then discuss with your teens ways that they can get involved on a local level to help protect the planet.
Thanks to One Book New Jersey, a lot of libraries are using LAWKI in their book discussion programs. Here's a link to one which will also be having a Disaster Party!
Google just led me to this idea, which was inspired in part by The Dead And The Gone.
I yahooed yesterday and found a library that had a Jeopardy like game based on LAWKI. My guess is I would have done very badly at it, since I can never get the answers to sound like questions.
My heartfelt thanks to all of you who are using my books and to those of you who are sharing your ideas.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Today's interruption comes from the Garden State. I am thrilled to announce that Life As We Knew It is the teen winner of 2009 One Book New Jersey.
I know I voted for it once, and so did my brother and sister-in-law and my agent (they all live in New Jersey), and I do believe some of you voted as well (I seem to recall a reference to a former boyfriend from Hackensack, or was it Paramus), but I choose to believe some actual teenagers from New Jersey voted for it as well.
It is a New York Times best seller, you know. Somebody must like it.
If you follow the link sufficiently, you'll discover a variety of One Book New Jersey shirts available for purchase. With winter coming, I'm favoring the hoodie myself. And the teddy bear. And the refrigerator magnet.
Life as I know it has lots of happy new shopping posibilities. Thank you New Jersey!
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Today's New York Times Book Review section has the children's best seller lists in it. In print for real. And there's Life As We Knew It, number eight in the Children's Paperback listing (with a darling little 3 by its side to indicate it's been on for three weeks).
I figured they were due a print listing for children's books best sellers, but couldn't be sure if it would be this week (Number 8) or next week (no LAWKI whatsoever).
The listing, by the way, looks exceptionally beautiful. They spelled my name right and everything. So now, in addition to having a cap, I have an actual piece of newspaper to prove I really am a New York Times Best Selling Author.
And a very lucky one at that!
Friday, October 10, 2008
The more I think about it, the more pleased I am that the dead and the gone has a Jan. 2010 publication date. LAWKI had a year and a half in hardcover and that worked out really well.
I e-mailed my agent and said the working title of Book 3 is The World I Live In. That can be shortened to TWILI (which is kind of cute), but I'm thinking of it as The Willies, which I'm hoping the climax of the book will provide.
I also told her to request a May 1, 2009 deadline for the contract. But the reality is I have the beginning, most of the middle, and the end already in mind.
I still have a lot to do, including being absolutely positively sure the ending is what I want. Right now I have no doubts, but I'm in that early infatuation stage. Ironically, although there will never ever be a fourth book, TWILI has an open ending. It also has an unresolved mystery for its climax, which will really drive readers crazy. And yet I love it.
Anything more, and this wouldn't be short and quick. So I'll stop right here. Have a great holiday weekend!
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I hadn't seen Todd since my 75th book party, way back on June 1, and it was good to spend time with him. We talked about career stuff, aging parents and pets, friends, books, movies. He was just back from a two week book tour in Germany. We had a lot to catch up on.
When we got up to leave, a well dressed man came over to us. He said he'd been having dinner with someone on the other side of the restaurant, and while he couldn't hear a word we'd said, he'd loved watching us talk, because we were so animated. It was good to know that the art of conversation wasn't dead.
I've been praised for a lot of things in my life. My mother, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, thinks I'm cute. But never before have I been lauded for an inaudible conversation.
Then again, Todd is very good looking. That always helps.
What I couldn't tell Todd, because it didn't happen until this afternoon, is that Harcourt, my agent and I have agreed to terms for the third book. Alas, my very cute mother pointed out this means I actually have to write it.
I knew there was a catch somewhere.
Fortunately, I've been doing a fair amount of thinking about Book Three. I had my weekly epiphany that lots of bad things happen in Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone and therefore lots of bad things are going to have to happen in Still Untitled, or else people who really like LAWKI and d&g because of all the bad things that happen in them are going to be very disappointed (this could well include my editor).
It's a tricky balance between having things get better, so my characters can stay alive, and having things get awful in new ways, so my readers won't get bored. I've been picturing a scene where the cellar floods (no electricity for the sump pump), and while they're bucket brigading the water out, Matt collapses headfirst and Miranda has to lift his head up to prevent him from drowning. She and Jon get Matt out of there, but for the rest of the book there's the struggle between terror of Matt's dying from his weakened heart and his refusal to behave like an invalid.
As things progress, I'll keep you posted. I figure the book won't come out for another year and a half and by then you'll have forgotten everything, so you can read the book and be surprised all over again.
And just think what animated conversations you'll be able to have about it!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
This afternoon, I did something I regard as genuinely semi-clever. I got out my ARC copy of LAWKI (I'm very sentimentally attached to it) and skimmed through it to see how many episodes there were and how many pages I devoted to each. As I located an episode, I numbered it and wrote it down. For example, there's crazy shopping day and Miranda eats the chocolate chips and Dad and Lisa's visit. The biggest episode got divided by three, flu, stove backfires, flu. Including the first fourteen pages (which I labelled Prelude), I found twenty episodes, with the biggest gap between crazy shopping day and something I listed as Dan. There's no shortage of things happening in those pages, but nothing I regard as an episode (while I was writing LAWKI, I called the bigger episodes set pieces).
Then I made a list of things I'm thinking may happen in the third book (I really need a title- Starry Night, which I used to favor, is more a d&g title, and The World We Live In doesn't sound like Miranda). I'm pleased to say I had ten possible episodes already in mind. While things are sufficiently in flux that I can't say for sure all ten will end up getting written, I do have two big set pieces that I assume will- a tornado that knocks down Mrs. Nesbitt's house (I picture Mom walking over there and weeping uncontrollably, which is something Mom almost never did in LAWKI), and a trip to Julie's Fresh Air Fund family's home (Julie will almost definitely be the d&g character I bring over to LAWKI).
I'm still looking for characters to die, and after writing down my ten episodes, I came up with one. I pictured Miranda going first to Samantha's family's house, and finding it empty, and then going to Dan's family's house, and finding Dan's father still living there. Dan's mother will have died a couple of weeks before. Miranda invites him to dinner (telling Mom she won't eat the next day), but when Dan's father comes over, he brings a bag of food. He hasn't told the people who are delivering food that his wife has died, so he's still getting her food bags. I don't know how long he'll last, but I think he's going to kill himself.
Another thing I've been working on is when the action of Book Three will begin. LAWKI uses a 2005-06 calendar, so I looked up to see when Easter was in 2006. It was April 16 or thereabouts, so I'm going to start Book Three a day or two later. Miranda's family seems to be more Easter Bunny than church going, but Easter is such a religiously fraught holiday, it'd just be easier not to deal with it.
So that's where things are right now. My mind is working at least part time, which is a start. At some point, I'll listen to the audio book of d&g, and the before I begin writing Book Three, I'll reread LAWKI, so Miranda's voice will be fresh and familiar.
And maybe by the time I have twenty episodes figured out, my agent and Harcourt will have agreed to terms!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Life As We Knew It will be 8th on the New York Times Children's Paperback Best Seller list Oct. 12 (I have no idea how or why the publishing industry gets this information so early, but it does and I have proof):
8 LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. (Harcourt, $6.95.) A girl’s diary reflects the catastrophe that ensues when a meteor hits the moon. (Ages 12 and up)
Okay, that doesn't really look like proof. I could have just typed that myself, instead of doing such a fabulous cut and paste job. Although, entre nous, I would never describe the action of LAWKI that way. I like the "ensues" part (a clever play on my name), but frankly just because a meteor hits the moon, that doesn't mean there's going to be a catastrophe. I'd say something about how catastrophe ensues when the moon moves closer to Earth.
Actually I'd say something about how incredibly brilliant the book is, before getting to the part about girls and diaries and moons and the suchlike. And maybe even something about how the incredibly brilliant author has a brand new pair of pale pink eyeglasses, chosen in part so that her glasses wouldn't look quite so much like Sarah Palin's. Now that I think of it, I'd also put it something about how the incredibly brilliant author is nice to her mother. And doesn't litter.
More to the point, the two of you who have offered to buy another copy of LAWKI should it reach 7 on the best seller list really don't have to worry. It's beyond astonishing it's made it to 8, and I have no reason to think, hope, or fantasize that it will get any higher on the list.
Meanwhile, my brain has been hard at work on the once again untitled third book. Originally I'd been adamant that it wouldn't be in diary format. But I'm hearing it that way, so I'm leaning towards Miranda picking her journal up again. Nothing is definite, but I'm just about positive Baby Rachel is a baby boy, and one problem Miranda is going to have is bonding with a real human being and not her imagined baby sister.
Speaking of which, I've figured out a very clever way of getting all that meteor/moon stuff out of the way in the very beginning of the book (there is an off chance someone will read Book 3 without having read LAWKI or the dead and the gone). Miranda is going to write a diary entry about having a dream where she tells Baby Rachel what happened to the world. Just the tsunamis and volcanoes, etc. Not the personal stuff. Why would even a dream Baby Rachel care that Megan and Peter and Mrs. Nesbitt died?
My editor, by the way, has expressed concern with just how many characters I intend to kill off. As of the moment, all the core characters are alive at the beginning and end of the book (and in the middle for that matter). But you can't kill off all humanity without somebody dying, so I'm looking around for possible victims. I'm sure I'll find some eventually.
I'm off to check my e-mails and see if my agent has anything to report. When there's an official deal, I'll let you know. Until then, I'll see what other words rhyme with 8.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I had a long, good talk with my editor about the soon to be upcoming third book. I have tons of thinking to do about it, but figuring stuff out is my favorite part of the process.
I can tell you this much (ooh, that's three paragraphs starting with I). Book Three will be a sequel to Life As We Knew It. It will start very shortly after LAWKI ends (maybe a day or two later, maybe a month or two later). It will start at the LAWKI house. One character from the core family of the dead and the gone will be in the story (we're leaning towards Julie but that's in flux). And we're comfortable with my developing the plotline of some combination of Dad, Lisa and the baby showing up at the LAWKI house, with a d&g character in tow.
You now know pretty much what I know. I still need to consider the contract offer, but that will wait until after Rosh ha-Shanah. In the meantime, I'll blow my nose, admire my bruises, and work on a plot.
Let's hope your life is more interesting!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Isn't the cap fabulous? My goddaughter sent it to me. My guess is she had it made specially for me.
Life As We Knew It is going to be on the Oct. 5 New York Times best seller list, moving from 10 to 9. I don't know if it fell off the list this week or if there wasn't a children's paperback best seller list this week, just that next week it'll be on. I am astounded and delighted that it's made it for a second week.
FAME and Florida were great, and I would tell you all about it, except that would require coherence. Also, I came home with a cold, and yesterday, for about five seconds, the cold migrated to my stomach and I was in so much pain, I collapsed (I don't think I fainted) and fell against the wood trunk I use as a coffee table in my living room. I bit my lip. I assume that's where the streak of blood on my cheek (tres dramatique- it looked like a dueling scar) came from. I have black and blue marks in unusual places and I think I bruised my ribs, since bending and coughing and sneezing hurt. It really could have been much worse, but I'm a very healthy person and I find it exciting when anything unusual happens to me.
My agent e-mailed me my publisher's offer for a third book contract, but between exhaustion, unpacking, blowing my nose, and answering e-mails, I haven't had the time to really think about it.
If I don't blog tomorrow (and my guess is I won't, which is why I'm blogging somewhat incoherently today), I'll wish all of you a happy and healthy new year today. I love that Rosh ha-Shanah falls in fall (even though I fell in fall and I'm not all that happy about that).
I'm off to make my Rosh ha-Shanah resolutions. And to wear my fabulous new cap!