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MAURICE SENDAK AND I

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Thursday, 10 May 2012
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SENDAKMAURICE AND I met in the late l960's after ...WILD THINGS.  We met at meetings -- here, there, hither, yon. He was the first author I interviewed for BOOKS ARE BY PEOPLE (Citation Press, 1969).  He asked to see what I wrote about him.  He liked it.  He encouraged me to go ahead with a project of interviewing 104 authors and illustrators for the book.

Prior to BOOKS ARE BY PEOPLE being published, I was in contact with Dr. Richard Bamberger, then editor of the international journal BOOKBIRD.  Richard wrote asking about my book, especially in regard to my interview with Maurice.  In a letter dated 2/2/l968, he wrote from Vienna:

"It would be very interesting for our readers to get introduced more information about this famous illustrator" (sic)

The interview appeared in the 3/69 issue of BOOKBIRD.  The lead article was was written by another dear friend, Lloyd Alexander, reprinted from THE HORN BOOK (4/1968).

In l977, at an NCTE meeting in New York City, I put together a panel, "Journey of a Book" with Joan Robins, promotion director at Harper, Misha Arenstein, a teacher in Scarsdale, Ursula Nordstrom and Maurice!  What an afternoon.  Rather than speaking to the audience Ursula and Maurice had a toy-telephone, back-and-forth conversation about working together.  The ballroom was packed.  We had about an hour.  No one would leave.  It went on -- and on.  The session was taped on a small 8-track tape.  I cannot find it anywhere. I don't even think NCTE could locate it at this time.  If so, it would be a rarity...a true collector's item.  What a loss!  Ursula and Maurice talking together!

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MAY-ING

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on Saturday, 05 May 2012
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IT IS MAY -- or how could April pass by so quickly!

I begin by congratulating Sylvia Vardell on her gargantuan production of THE POETRY TEACHER'S BOOK OF LISTS.  Everything about it, including a quote from me, can be found at www.poetryteachersbookoflists.blogspot.com 

This is a resource for everyone to bring poetry and children of all ages together.  There is simply nothing like this volume.  Every school and public library should have copies.

The Lee Bennett Hopkins/Penn State Poetry Award was given to Lee Wardlaw for her book, WON TON: A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU (Holt).  There was one honor book, HIDDEN, by the incredible Helen Frost (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).  WON TON is the 20th book to receive the award.  It is hard to believe that twenty years ago Ashley Bryan received the first award for SING TO THE SUN (HarperCollins).  The first event was held at the Governor's Mansion in Pennsylvania on a very rainy night.  Ashley and I have been friends for a very long time...long before he wrote ...SUN.

I was happy to receive a contract for a forthcoming book which I am plunging into with great enthusiasm after completing work a new book of poems (more about that one at a later date!)

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HAPPY APRIL

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on Friday, 30 March 2012
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DR_SEUSS2April and I turn another year chronologically on the l3th -- Friday the l3th.  Thank goodness I am not superstitious.  I say 'chronologically' because there are two very nasty words I cannot utter -- 'old(er)' and 'retire(ed)'.

April l9th, I deliver a talk at Edison State College in Fort Myers, Florida, for the Edison Speaker Series as part of their 50th Anniversary celebration.  The talk is "Celebrity Encounters in Writing."  Thus, back to the late 1960's, early '70's, when I hopped hither and yon interviewing close to 200 authors and illustrators of books for children.  What memories.

Working on the speech gave me impetus to delve into a bevy of files -- pulling out a host of memorabilia.

The letter on the left is, of course, from Ted Geisel, Dr. Seuss, who sent the greeting to me in 1991, on the publication of a collection I did, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, where I included a verse   from his HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU (Random House, 1959).  Along with the note I received a copy of his ...BIRTHDAY TO YOU, warmly autographed. 

 "HILARY' in the note refers to Hilary Knight, the wondrous illustrator of the ELOISE series, who illustrated my SIDE BY SIDE and HAPPY BIRTHDAY (both Simon & Schuster; both long out of print).

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PART 2 - MARCHING ALONG

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on Thursday, 01 March 2012
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MARCH brings bugs -- NASTY BUGS - the official publication is March l5 (Dial Books).  Reviews have been wonderfully nasty including the lastest PUBLISHERS WEEKLY which ends:  "A squirm-inducing tribute to our blood-sucking, garbage-eating insect friends."  All the poems in the collection were especially commissioned.

The Lee Bennett Hopkins/Penn State Poetry Award was announced.  The 2012 winner is WON TON: A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU (Holt) by Lee Wardlaw; one Honor Book: HIDDEN by Helen Frost (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

POETRY MUSING

Norma Farber (1909-1984) and I enjoyed years of correspondence.  I have in my files many of her unpublished poems as well as a treasure of other mementoes she sent me.  I was thrilled to hear from her son, Tom, who sent me her adult work - YEAR OF REVERSIBLE LOSS - Norma's journal written after the death of her husband, Sidney.  Sidney Farber, a pioneer in chemotherapy of cancer, died in l973.

Norma published many extraordinary children's books.  After reading ...LOSS, I would suggest you hold your breath -- fast and hard. If you do not, Farber's writing will take your breath away.  It did mine.  For more on this beautiful, visceral work see www.elleonliteraryarts.org

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MARCHING ALONG - PART 1

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Tuesday, 28 February 2012
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DR_SEUSS

 

In the late l970's, Theodor S. Geisel, (Dr. Seuss, of course,) and I had a long series of correspondence from his home in La Jolla, California.

On galleys to a book wherein I had interviewed him, an error about his birthday was made, later corrected.  Ted wrote the following on his iconic CAT IN THE HAT stationery...something I cherish.

The book was BOOKS ARE BY PEOPLE, one of my earliest professional books subtitled INTERVIEWS WITH 105 AUTHORS AND ILLUSTRATORS OF CHILDREN'S BOOKS.

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FEBRUARY-ING

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Thursday, 02 February 2012
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Although I always look forward to  a New Year -- a new beginning -- I find after too much December jingling-all-the-way, January can be a dull month.  Warm "winter" weather here in Florida - an average of 80-degrees each day -- causes one to constantly think summer, to want to engage in  lazy summer things.

I had the chance to watch  LIBRARY OF THE EARLY MIND, co-produced by Steven Winthrow -- a wondrous film which anyone in the business of children's literature should view.  Personally, it was like visiting with dear friends -- Lois Lowry, Brian Selznick, Jack Gantos...on and on.  This is a film to treasure, to view over and over.  For more information see:  www.libraryoftheearlymind.com

I am working on a second adult novel which makes me realize -- again -- that writing is such a pleasure, and at times, a pain.  The whole process is one of exhilaration, joy -- doubt and anxiety.  Yet, I am having a wonderful time creating characters who make me laugh out loud.

I gaze around my library looking at thousands of books and sit in awe of so much talent.

Next month my new collection, NASTY BUGS (Dial) will appear with16 poems, each especially commissioned by such greats as X. J. Kennedy, J. Patrick Lewis, Alice Schertle, as well as a few surprises from 'newfound' writers.  How lucky I am to know such talents and be able to work back and forth with them. They bring poetry alive.

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JANUARY JOTTINGS

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Monday, 09 January 2012
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January seems listless after so much jingling, twinkling, ho-ho-ho-ing, et. al.  Yet it is a welcome month to clean up the old and start on new pathways.

I'm off to a good start with the publication of NASTY BUGS, illustrated by the whimsical, Will Terry (Dial). KIRKUS, a tough publication, stated in a great review: "As the bedbug says, 'absolutely deeeelicious'; ALA BOOKLIST says, " This book will have you itching and scratching in no time.  Bright colored illustrations sparkle and glow in a vibrant palate..."

This fall my picture book with Stephen Alcorn, MARY'S SONG, will be be published by Eerdman's - my nativity lovesong.  2012 will seem like Christmas all year long!

I finished my first adult novel, TRUDY'S PALACE, loosely based on my mother's life, and am well into a second adult novel, a comedy.

At an after Christmas art show Charles and I bought an incredible new bronze sculpture by one of our favorite artists Bill Wilfong.  And can one make love to one's new Amish-made cherry desk?  Yes!  It's a knockout in every way.

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DECEMBER-ING

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Wednesday, 30 November 2011
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December-ing is simply that!  A month filled with Christmas-ing, a month to slow down professionally and simply enjoy wonders the season beholds.  Family gatherings, church pageants, a children's production of THE NUTCRACKER, parties, and our gala Christmas affair we share with dear friends.

When there are a few moments I will dip in and out of an adult novel having finished the rough draft.  I am in no hurry with this one.  It will come as it comes.  My problem is that it is so funny I laugh aloud when writing it. It is a hoot to be working on something so humorous.

Ending the year on several high notes:  receiving PARENTS MAGAZINE Best Books for Children citation for DIZZY DINOSAURS: SILLY DINO POEMS - AN I CAN READ BOOK (Harpercollins), published simultaneously in paperback, a  list consisting of only 20 titles.  I AM THE BOOK (Holiday House) received a EUREKA! Silver Medal Honor Book Award from California Reading Association, given to celebate nonfiction. Three of my titles, AMAZING FACES (Lee & Low), DAYS TO CELEBRATE (Greenwillow), and HAND IN HAND: AN AMERICAN HISTORY THROUGH POETRY (Simon & Schuster) appear on the Reading Is Fundamental  2011 Multicultural Booklist, supported by Macy's. Close to 600 collections will be given to elementary school classrooms in low-income communties throughout the United States.

An enormous amount of time was spent updating, after thirty years, an article for SOMETHING ABOUT THE AUTHOR a Gale Autobiography Project to appear next year.  Filling in thirty years in l500 words was quite the challenge.

I also penned a poem for Sylvia Vardell/Janet Wong's new e-poetry program, GIFT TAG (see www.poetrytagtime.com) based on a photograph of a stained glass window portrarying the nativity.

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A NOD TO NOVEMBER

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Friday, 04 November 2011
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October proved more writing-filled than I ever thought it would.

I completed JUMPING OFF THE LIBRARY SHELVES and sent it in to my incredible editor, Rebecca M.Davis at WORDSONG.

After months of working on my first adult novel, with the encouragement of my agent, Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown, Ltd., I finished the manuscript and sent that off, too.  I am now finishing a draft of my second adult work.

The good news I referred to in last month's post has come to fruition...a new anthology to be published with Eerdmann's, MANGER.  With MARY'S SONG, a picture book based on the Virgin Mary, illustrated by the incredible Stephen Alcorn, scheduled to be released next year, I am delighted to work on MANGER a totally different type of anthology.

Other projects are being discussed, honed, etc., with several houses.  It's been a good year!

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AH, OCTOBER

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Monday, 03 October 2011
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October surely falls on the calendar with full speed. 

A big event is the Lee Bennett Hopkins Writer's Institute held October l5th at Edison State College, Fort Myers, Florida.  In addition to my keynoting the meeting, this year Emma D. Dryden will be featured, sharing her vast publishing/editorial knowledge.  The morning is warm-wonderful. A special treat will be having two students from Diplomat Middle School in Cape Coral whose poetry I'll be reading.

I was asked to update a Profile in the forthcoming SOMETHING ABOUT THE AUTHOR after 30 years!  What a task.  So much has occurred in three decades.  Even I was stunned going back so far.

My poem, "Book" appears on the new p*tag program by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, the first digital anthology for teens offering 3l poets' work from A - Arnold Adoff to Z - Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, available now on KINDLE and NOOK  See the complete list of poets and further information at www.PoetryTagTime.com

Steven Withrow began the most exciting web program PACYA inviting me to be on the Advisory Board. Be among the first to jump into the site at  www.poetryadvocates.wordpress.com

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SEPTEMBER-ING

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Tuesday, 30 August 2011
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AUGUST kept me busy.

I wrote a poem for Jill Corcoran's forthcoming DARE TO DREAM...CHANGE THE WORLD (Kane Miller Books)about the incredible artist, Georgia O'Keeffe, titled "Painter." I chose O'Keeffe in that Charles and I twice stayed in an attic atelier she once lived in and painted from in a Taos,New Mexico, inn. One could feel her presence in a room where you had to climb an endless amount of stone stairs to reach. The poem will be paired with a usually wondrous verse by my dearest friend, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, titled "Cloudscape". Rebecca is one of those rare poets who gives me goose bumps with her use of language.

I also wrote a poem for a new Janet Wong/Sylvia Vardell young adult ebook project, p*tag being launched in October. The poem was based on an extraordinary photograph Sylvia took of a statue in New Orleans. The poem, "Book" is paired with the whimiscial work of Sonya Sones titled "Crush" -- a work about teenaged angst, of course.

I am beyond thrilled to be working again with Rebecca M. Davis,now working with Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong. A new collection, JUMPING OFF THE LIBRARY SHELVES is in the works. Of course the title is tentative and in very early stages of development. I did, however, write a poem called "Storyteller: For Augusta Baker". Augusta, one of the top librarians in the country, and a dear friend of mine was indeed, the storyteller.

Rebecca Davis and I go so far back I cannot even remember! We first met when she worked with my beloved agent, Marilyn E. Marlow at Curtis Brown, Ltd. Her career soared from those days to become an editor at houses such as Orchard Books, Simon & Schuster, and Greenwillow Books... we did books together at all houses!

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FULL MOON...AND A GUINNESS RECORD

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on Sunday, 31 July 2011
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August l, 2011 is the official publication date of FULL MOON AND STAR (Abrams).  Since I have not written a picture book in eons, I am quite thrilled it is finally here.

FULL MOON... written in 2008, was taken by Tamar Brazis at Abrams in 2010.  Tamar immediately contractred Marcellus Hall to do the illustrations.  Marcellus also illustrated my original collection of poetry CITY I LOVE, one of the few books of poetry depicting urban life around the world.

FULL MOON... was a delight to write.  It combines a story of true friendship between two young children, Kyle and Katie, who write plays about the universe. The three plays, "Moon," "Star" and "Full Moon and Star," are easy for youngsters to perform. A paperback edition has also been published specifically for the British Isles/Europe markets.

From "Full Moon and Star:" 

STAR:  The thing I like most is that you and I are together every night.  I'm never lonely when you're around.  I love your graceful glow, Full Moon.

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NEW YORK EXPERIENCE

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Saturday, 02 July 2011
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TUESDAY - JUNE 28:  Off to New York City where Charles and I stayed at a lovely boutique hotel, ON THE AVE on West 77th St. and Broadway, a great New York find.  The evening at PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT.   The show is glitz; not much to it other than spectacle, great sets, costumes, and a night of fun.

WEDNESDAY - JUNE 29:  Lucy Calkin invited me to do a lecture at the grand campus of Columbia University.  I spoke to about l,200 educators from around the world.  What a great experience this was.  My talk was titled WRITERS - REAL PEOPLE.  Jason Wells at Abrams managed to have pre-pub copies of my latest picture book, FULL MOON AND STAR at the meeting.  What fun it was to autograph the book for the first time.  I am always surprised at the reaction to BEEN TO YESTERDAYS (Boyds Mills Press); the book touches people more than I could ever hope for.  In print for close to l5 years, the paperback edition, now in its l0th (or more) printing continues to amaze me.

The night was spent seeing BILLY ELLIOT, among the best shows I have ever seen.  The entire production is breathtaking.  To witness the young lead, PETER MAZUROWSKI, a l3-year old, making his Broadway debut, was beyond belief.  At the stage door we talked with his father who told us Peter, who studied dance at the New Hampshire School of Ballet, was booked in New York to do BILLY...; a star, indeed is born.  Then we talked with Peter, a charming child who performs the role twice a week.

THURSDAY - JUNE 30:  We had a lovely, leisurely lunch with my agent, Elizabeth Harding of Curtis Brown, Ltd. at the modern ISABELL'S on the upper West Side.  Then, dinner wth Laura Garcia, our Goddaughter's mother and dearest friend, at Charles' favorite haunt, EL QUIXOTE, part of the famous Chelsea Hotel, "home" to Arthur Miller, Leonard Cohen, and so many other brilliant literary luminaries. 

Later we went to see ANYTHING GOES with the amazing Sutton Foster, the new diva of American musicals.  Cole Porter still reigns on Broadway.  I asked the conductor how he felt conducting the lush Porter score each night.  "I have the best job on Broadway," he said, glowing.  "To do this every night is a miracle."  The old saw gets modern treatment via dynamic sets, costumes, and an added treat - a performance by Joel Grey.

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SUMMER READING

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on Saturday, 28 May 2011
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RE: BELOW BOOKS FOR SALE

 

Under "ENTER YOUR MESSAGE" on CONTACT page, list titles you wish to purchase and your address.  I will be in touch via email.

 

BOOKS AVAILABLE ON A FIRST-COME BASIS - THROUGH JULY 8, 2011 -- WILL BE SENT VIA MEDIA MAIL.

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POETRY AWARD HISTORY - PART FOUR

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on Thursday, 28 April 2011
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During the late l960's I studied for my Masters Degree at Bank Street College of Education when Bank Street was indeed at 69 Bank Street in the heart of Greenwich Village, New York, now an apartment building.  One of my teachers was Claudia Lewis, one of the best and most respected teachers in the field of children's literature.  I learned a great deal from her.  After receiving my Masters Degree I was offered a job at the college working at a newly found Resource Center on l25th Street in Harlem.  It was a tough decision for me to leave my six-year teaching position at Westmoreland School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.  I knew, however, the change would be a good one.

A great deal of my work was to bring literature into the lives of children in West Side Harlem schools.  What a two-year gig this was!  Children were brought to the Center to hear Ezra Jack Keats talk about his book creations.  Pura Belpre brought her life-sized puppets to perform PEREZ & MARTINA, Claudia would often appear to tell stories, authors and illustrators galore flocked to the Center.  It was literature-heaven!

Claudia and I became close friends during these years. Her first book, POEMS OF EARTH AND SPACE (Dutton, 1967) containing 24 poems, was one of the earliest books of verse to highlight space.  I had the opportunity to review the book for the NCTE journal, "Elementary English" - now "Language Arts." Claudia went on to do three more books of verse under the editorial guidance of Charlotte Zolotow at Harper & Row.  Many years later, just before her death, I included Claudia's "Three Skies" from POEMS OF EARTH AND SPACE, in SPECTACULAR SCIENCE (Simon & Schuster). 

In l998, Bank Street College initiated the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award given annually to a book of poetry.  Further information can be found at www.bankstreet.edu/awards

I was, am, happy to see this fourth, and thus far last award for poetry,  named for a wondrous, wise woman who taught me so much -- one whom I will always cherish for what she did for children, for children's literature and for me. 

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POETRY AWARD HISTORY - PART THREE

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on Wednesday, 27 April 2011
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Now there were two awards in the country - the NCTE Poetry Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award (see both below entries and my AWARDS page.) 

It wasn't enough for such an important genre.  After trying hard, very hard, to have the American Library Association (ALA) sponsor an award it just couldn't happen nor ever happened.

In l992 Susan Mandel Glazer was on the Board of Directors for the International Reading Association (IRA).  Susan and I were very close friends.  I approached her about IRA sponsoring the Lee Bennett Hopkins/IRA Promising New Poet Award.  Without a wink she brought it to Marie Clay, then President of IRA, who immediately got the idea rolling.

My objective was to recognize new talent in the field, thus the guideline was to honor a new poet who published no more than two books of verse.  The award would be given every three years at the annual convention site along with an honorarium of $500.00.

It took three years to go through various committees, et. al.  The first award was given in l995 to Debra Chandra for her wondrous collection, RICH LIZARD AND OTHER POEMS, Debra's second volume of verse after a stunning debut with BALLOONS AND OTHER POEMS (both Farrar, Straus & Giroux). 

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HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?

Posted by Lee Bennett Hopkins
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on Thursday, 14 April 2011
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A question I keep posing to my best friend, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, is "How does it happen?"

Well, how does it happen that I suddenly discover a box that I hadn't opened in close to seven years containing two full-length adult plays and a novelization I had written for one of them dating back to the early l990's? All of this was written at Kemeys Cove in Briarcliff Manor, New York, before moving to Cape Coral, Florida.

I'm working crazily to finish the novel and get it to my agent.  Somehow when I labeled this journal page ONTO TOMORROWS I didn't fully realize what tomorrows might bring.

Years ago when I interviewed Mary Stolz, she talked about Ursula Nordstrom being a great editor. She said: "My own respect for Ursula's judgement has led me to discard any manuscript that she really thinks unworthy.  The way she puts it is, 'Mary, this will lend no lustre to your name nor to Harper's'. Naturally, I should like my work to be as lustrous as possible, so I listen to her and consider any unaccepted manuscript simply a finger exercise."

Perhaps I am exercising my fingers on this new venture.  Yet, I doubt it.  I am having the time of my life writing, writing, writing in a new adventure.

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WHERE IS MAMA?

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on Thursday, 24 March 2011
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Several have asked: "Where's MAMA and MAMA & HER BOYS? Both books are alive and well in paperback with Boyds Mills Press.

MAMA, my first novel, appeared in l977 with Alfred A. Knopf. 1977! Close to a quarter-of-a-century ago -- and now with a new generation of readers. Ted Lewin did the jacket art. The book was quite well reviewed. PW stated "The not-to-be-missed first novel..." The late-Zena Sutherland said: "You'll remember MAMA!" MAMA & HER BOYS came out in l981 at the suggestion of Charlotte Zolotow at Harper & Row. In l981, l982 both books appeared again in hardover from Simon & Schuster. PW noted MAMA & HER BOYS was "Lighthearted and touching...(packed) with merriment and an understated lesson about different kinds of love and companionship."

Both books were breakthrough books, especially MAMA, dealing with a working-class, single parent who steals for the survival of her two young sons. Yes, this is a fictionalized account of my growing up with an extraordinary Mother. It was some life...one filled with LOVE.

MAMA on GARDENING: "Real plants are for people who sit home all day long and do nothing. When you're a hard-working woman, you don't have time to fool around with dirt and pots and water. Plastic plants are easier. All you have to do is dust them off once in a while."

MAMA on CHRISTMAS: "I never remember the Three Wise Men saying anything. The reason they were called the Wise Men is because they kept their mouths shut."

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