Showing posts from July, 2015

Who's Minding the Kids? or Maybe, Who Are the Kids Minding?

We went to a summer festival on Saturday, and it was a good one: lots to see, a wonderful (though hot) day, and even some old friends we hadn't seen for a while. One incident sticks in my mind, and at the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy, I'll describe it. We were browsing the craft show, and a boy of about eight was playing with a vintage toy. His mother and grandmother (I'm guessing) were several tables away, looking at what they wanted to look at. The proprietors of the booth were watching the kid, and it was plain they weren't happy. After a minute, the grandmother looked up, saw the boy, and said, "Honey, the lady said you shouldn't play with that." The kid ignored her as if she hadn't spoken. So did the younger woman. Finally the owner said, "That's seven fifty if he breaks it." At that the older woman got angry. "Come on, Sweetie," she said. "We wouldn't buy anything here anyway." Two questions rose

Like a Million Tiny Knives

A woman once told me how painful it was for her to attend her son's Educational Placement Conferences. (The names are different over distance and time, but I mean those meetings where a group of teachers and educational experts sit down with a student's parents to decide how he's doing and what his future in education should look like.) "One by one," she said, "they tell you what's wrong with your child. Some try to be nice about it, but by the end of the meeting, you feel like you've been pummeled with his faults and failings. You know you have to face them for your son's benefit, but it's not easy and it never gets any easier." That's exactly how it is for an author to be edited. Your book--your baby--is submitted to someone whose job it is to point out what's wrong with it. That line you thought was cute? The editor suggests you take it out. The punctuation you struggled to get right? She doesn't agree. And the plot: &q

The (Sometimes) Dreaded Book Signing

Any author who's been at it for a while knows about the dreaded book signing. Whole after-dinner speeches have been done on the subject, and it's always good for a few laughs at author conferences. You have a book signing. Nobody comes, or at least nobody comes to see you. Customers ask for directions. They wonder where the Detroit Free Press can be found. They ask if there's a bathroom in the store. They pass by quickly, refusing to meet your eye lest you seize their arms and force them to listen to your spiel. (I get it. I've seen authors so determined to sell that they embarrass themselves.) But there are good book signings. I was at McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, MI, last Saturday, and that's always a treat. M&E is one of the top indie bookstores in the nation, mostly because of the people who own it and their knowledgeable staff. They move through the store with alacrity, finding just the book to suit their customers' needs. Want a beach read? He

The Cat Who'd Been Through Hell

I came across these photos recently of Taz, who was my daughter's beloved cat for many years. He'd had a terrible life when they met. He'd been kept in a box and apparently tormented, so he'd developed a tendency to attack first. He was Persian, with long, gray hair and very sharp claws. The shelter (in Bahrain, where cats are not beloved) had intended to put him down until my daughter showed up one day and decided he was the cat for her.   It turned out that Taz was exactly the cat for her, though not for anyone else. After spending the first few months in a closet in her bedroom, he finally began venturing out, but she was the only one who could deal with him. Anyone else who invaded his territory got a snarl and a swipe, often even if you were just passing by. The maid who came once a week would knock on the door and immediately ask, "Madam, where is the cat?" She was terrified of Taz, and that was just the way he liked it. When they were ready to move