Getting there

Hi everyone,

Six months ago I weighed the most I’ve ever weighed, 225 without clothes. I’ve fluctuated from 205 to 220 for 50 years and at slightly over 6’4″ I’ve been able to carry that much and not look bad. But with age I’ve grown a lot more stomach than I like.

With promptings from my doctor I cut back on alcohol and sweets and started drinking more water. I didn’t change my diet in any other way except to be a bit more aware of portions, but the weight began to come off at the rate of about a pound per week.

Yesterday I weighed 201. By the time my six-month physical rolls around in two weeks I expect to step on the scales at 200 and show a 25 pound loss in half a year. That wasn’t actually a goal when I started, but I’m pretty happy with the result. I’m still not getting to the gym as often as I should to tighten stomach muscles but I’m still a work in progress. A writer sits too much so part of my issue is to fight against my occupational hazard. I think I’m making progress.

Placing a state reading text

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I was pleased to reach a reprint agreement for an excerpt from one of my cave books to be used in an online resource that will be available to Wisconsin educators and students. The deal had been under discussion for some time. This is the third state to use material from the same book over the past few years.

Finished a new poem for one book yesterday and will finish a new one for the next book of poetry today. Then it’s back to a spec project with a friend and fellow poet. Onward and upward!

Trying to make it all happen

Hi everyone,

It has been a balancing act lately between travels and writing but so far so good. In October and November I’ve done or will have done three literature festivals, one school, one conference, two business trips, and been in Mexico, Kansas City, Higginsville, Parkville, Santa Rosa Beach, New York City, Rochester, Baltimore, and Portland. Wilmington is coming up but we might push that one back until later.

Meanwhile the end is in sight for my 12th and 13th books for teachers that I’m co-authoring with Mary Jo Fresch and Laura Robb respectively. They are both scheduled for 2020 releases, one in time for ILA and the other for NCTE.

Before I leave town again in a few days I also need to sketch in what I’ll speak about for two proposals for ILA next year in Columbus. One will be a three-person presentation. The other will be an eight-person institute. I have feelers out to libraries and books stores in several places for signings and talks in the spring when my next book of poetry comes out and in the fall when a picture book (with Jane Yolen) will be released.

Yesterday I heard from my editor on a trade book that has been under contract for some time that she’s ready to move forward so in the coming days I need to respond to her questions and suggestions about the manuscript. I’m especially pleased about this because it will be a book of poetry that I’m keen on it.
I need to get back to three other book ideas with other authors (two poets and one artist) that are in various stages ranging from a promise to a few drafts, and I have some things of my own that are calling, no, yelling at me. And then there’s that perfect title that needs a story . . .

Now all I need is to write it

Hi everyone,

I have an intriguing title in mind that doesn’t seem inclined to go away. It sprang from a conversation I recently had in which I described a debate between two men forty years ago. It was, to me, one of the funniest dialogues I’ve ever heard. One man was trying to convince the other about a preposterous position he was taking and defending well. The other man was perplexed and didn’t really know how to respond. As I retold this favorite story, the compelling title suddenly formed.

If I use this title to write the original story, it won’t produce anything I could sell, certainly not anything for children. It might lead to a telling scene in something longer, but unless the reader has been introduced to the characters and gotten to know them the episode wouldn’t be funny. Is it the title of a collection of poems? A picture book featuring an inquisitive child? A short story? I just don’t have a clue.

But a title like this doesn’t come along often. I can’t put it down. I’m delighted with it. It’s my new toy. It’s going to lead to something. Sometime. Meanwhile, ideas are bubbling in a stew yet to be identified. Maybe all it needs is a pinch of salt and a little more time.

How the big boys (and girls) do it

Hi everyone,

Our house guest the past few nights has been Herman Johansen, our dear friend and wonderfully talented actor., We always love catching up on Herman’s news but on this occasion we also learned something new about how actors sometimes audition for a role.

The evening after he arrived, Herman’s agent sent word about an upcoming part in a drama with a deadline for submitting a short video at 10:00 a.m. Mountain Time the next morning. Without skipping a beat, he printed the script, took it to the bedroom to practice, memorized it in short order, and reappeared ready to roll. He looked for a wall in the house that provided suitable background, played with lights until they were the best he could do, and invited us to help. Sandy read the part of the second actor in the scene and I sat on a chair in front of Herman and recorded him on his cell phone.

Herman did half a dozen or so takes on the first scene. We thought each was fine but could see slight differences as Herman experimented with facial expressions, voice tone, and projection of his character. We did a second scene as well. It didn’t require quite as many takes but again I was fascinated by the process an actor goes through to decide how he will give flesh and blood and shape and soul to a character that exists only through words on a sheet of paper.

Later Herman did a bit of editing, selected what he would submit, and clicked the result off to be judged. All this took a hour or so. Then we returned to our conversation as though there had been no interruption. “Nothing” to it. Will he get the part? There are more than 80,000 SAG actors in Los Angeles alone. It reminded me of what writers go through, submitting our work in competition with others from all over the world. I’m betting on Herman. I could never do what he does but it was great fun to watch how it’s done. Besides, now I can add “camera man” to my vitae! Thanks for the experience, Herman!