Thursday, February 24, 2011


New Zealand's flightless, nocturnal Kakapo parrot.
Critically endangered.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a public lecture at the University of Rhode Island called Should We Engineer the Climate, as part of the lecture series The State of Our Oceans, which you can view online here. This really was an eye-opener, and I feel I’ve experienced a fundamental shift in my consciousness over the days since.

Funnily enough, as during most fundamental shifts in consciousness, I suddenly find my days peppered liberally—and seemingly coincidentally—with strong messages and occurrences of the same kind from multiple directions: I happen to be listening to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom on audio book, which I chose completely unaware of its green messages; Nestmate’s older gas guzzler had a major mechanical issue last week causing a significant rethinking of our relationship with vehicles in general; and other things like that too numerous to mention here.

Of course we are surrounded by environmental news and messages, suggestions that we make better choices (as simple as the ready availability of cheap green bags in many stores these days), and warning sirens. The alarm bells are ringing everywhere. It’s a matter of whether we choose to be aware of those messages, choose to hear, choose to wake up and make better choices as consumers (therefore applying pressure on corporations and governments), or continue blindly down a path of destruction, not only for ourselves, but for the other species who inhabit our planet. It’s easy to block out these messages and think, “My little bit of consumption doesn’t make a difference. My contribution to the damage won’t hurt a bit.”

But if one is actually informed about the effects of their behavior—and this really goes for any area of life—one has to ask oneself: “Will I give myself the permission to willingly and carelessly and selfishly add to the destruction when simple changes in behavior would lessen my impact? Is that who I really am?”   

I have always been fairly green. I use green bags when I do my shopping, I recycle, I am diligent about turning off the lights/heating/appliances when they don’t absolutely need to be on. But now I feel a need to do a whole lot more. So, I’ve decided to include a green component to my blog, for starters. (I'll also be walking and riding my bike much more often). Being informed is the first step, and then it becomes a matter of personal responsibility and choice. I hope you will take the time to read, watch, and think about the things I’ll be posting here from time to time.

And don't worry, it's not all going to be didacticism and doom. I fully believe humans have the ability to innovate and solve these issues, so I'll be sharing information and ideas along those lines.

Here’s an intriguing starter:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Too Quiet

No the title of this post does not refer to the fact that I've not been blogging much lately! It's in response to a question posted on my local SCBWI listserv about what 'too quiet' means in a rejection letter for a picture book. Since I'm often asked this question, I thought I'd share my response here. 

To understand what `too quiet' means, consider your story in terms of narrative structure and character arc. Does your story introduce a protagonist with a problem right at the beginning? Does the protagonist's problem and ensuing tension increase until the climax? Does the protagonist solve their own problem? Does the climax come right before the end, at which point there is resolution for all?

If you answer no to any of these questions, that's very likely the reason for the `too quiet' comment. I have often made that comment myself on manuscripts, which might strong in other ways and beautifully written, but in which nothing much actually happens, there is no tension, nothing driving the protagonist's growth forward. Often such manuscripts are journeys through an environment, explorations of a moment, vignettes.

Now, on the subject of my own sluggishness in blogging, I'd like to say that, after a little much-needed respite, I'm back and ready to take your editing questions, edit your paragraphs and sentences, and discuss all things kids' bookish and writerly and grammar related.