It's a brand new year, and I'm welcoming it with a brand new feature
on my website -- a monthly newsletter. It'll keep you updated on
new work, old work, upcoming appearances and books by other authors
that I'm reading, enjoying and just have to share with you.
To begin, I'd like to thank all the readers who've taken time out
of their busy lives to email me. Writing is lonely and uncertain
work and your kind words often arrive just when I'm in need of a
bit of bolstering. I appreciate your support and encouragement more
than I can say.
On to new work. Though I still have not come up with a title, work
is proceeding on my new adult book. It's a sequel to The Tea
Rose, and the second book in the planned Tea Rose trilogy.
This new novel will follow the story of Charlie, Fiona's blacksheep
brother, and a wonderful, complex young woman with whom he falls
in love. The book will be published in 2005 by Hyperion in the states,
and HarperCollins in the UK.
A new young adult novel is also in the works. As with The Tea
Rose, I've no title yet. Titles are my weak point, as you may
have gathered. I can happily write a book that's 500 pages long,
but ask me to come up with something short and snappy -- a title,
synopsis, sound-bite -- and I'm lost. More info on this book to
come soon. Well, soonish.
And as far as old work goes, I'm happy to report that St. Martin's
Press will be bringing out The Tea Rose in paperback this
coming March. I'm also excited about a Readers Digest UK version
of A Gathering Light. (It's A Northern Light in
the U.S.) I'm nervous about this, too. Condensing means cutting.
Which parts of the text will they keep and which will they discard?
Can't wait to see how it turns out.
As some of you may know, The Tea Rose is published in several
foreign languages, and one of them is German. My husband Doug, who
obviously has way too much time on his hands, recently visited German
Amazon to eyeball the reviews. Since he can't speak German, he had
the reviews auto-translated and what came out is, in his words,
Here's a sample:
"I give seven of five possible stars for this fantastischen,
novel absolutely worth reading. The authoress connects tension,
Dramatik, a large Kriminalfall and a beautiful dear history with
a wonderful colored description of the trade in particular the dte
teehandels in outgoing 19. Century. The interest of the reader and
the tension elbow are kept perfectly up to the end upright. The
Protagonisten is affectionately and exactly drawn, carefully prepared
is also the Nebenfiguren. Several times, if one believes already
breathlessly, now everything would be clear, comes it to a new,
unexpected idiom. Make a can dte and pull yourselves you out the
telephone, before you unpack this book ... My clear read recommendation
for this great Schmoeker!"
Funny, huh? I always wanted to write a great Schmoeker.
And finally, on to Books I Am Loving. A new baby and two new books
of my own in the works are making sure that I have very little time
to read, but it's amazing how many pages one can devour while the
baby's devouring her bottle.
Am currently reading The True Story of Hansel and Gretel
by Louise Murphy, and I cannot put it down. It's about two Jewish
children whose father and stepmother abandon them in the winter
woods, in Poland, in order to keep them out of the Nazis' clutches.
They are found by a woman named Magda, whom the villagers call a
witch. There's also an oven, of course, but Murphy uses it -- as
she does many of the original fairytale's conventions, to an opposite
purpose. The story is so involving and heartbreaking and suspenseful
that I can't breathe properly when I read it.
Also reading Waterland, by Graham Swift, who wrote the
Booker Prize-winning Last Orders. I'm not sure what this
one's about yet, but I'll let you know as soon as I figure it out.
It's slower than Murphy's book, but it's beguiling and feels a little
like Michael Frayn's novel, Spies.
Recently finished Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect
Science, by Atul Gawande. It's a thoughtful and at times genuinenly
moving meditation on the promise and limitations of medicine, and
it's also an unflinching look into the life of a surgeon-in-training.
No, those brave men and women in green are not born knowing how
to perform open heart surgery. They have to learn. By practicing.
Sometimes on me and you. The chapter on Necrotizing Fasciitis, aka
Flesh Eating Bacteria, had me on the edge of my chair and swearing
off pedicures for life.
In the children's lit arena, I just read Neil Gaiman's Coraline -- it's so deliciously scary! When Coraline goes into the basement,
and the faux father doughy doll thing comes after her…oh,
man! Gaiman is such a visual writer, that he makes you feel you
really are there, trapped in the moldering basement, or fumbling
your way down a pitchblack hallway with something sneaking along
Am reading lots and lots of picture books these days with my new
baby daughter, Daisy. She is particularly fond of I Like it
When and I Kissed the Baby, both written and illustrated
by Mary Murphy. They are exuberant, colorful, funny, and tender
books and they effortlessly capture the very youngest readers' attention.
Robert Sabuda's Cookie Count also scores big with Daisy,
as does Animal Kisses by Barney Saltzburg.
I started reading to Daisy when she was only a week old. She couldn't
understand the words, of course, but she responded well to shapes
and colors. I didn't know that young babies enjoyed books and would
never have known to start her off so early if I hadn't read Mem
Fox's wonderful book, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our
Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. In it Fox, a renowned
children's author and literacy expert, explains the importance of
reading aloud to young children, and how reading aloud -- even to
babies -- has a profound impact on a tiny child's developing brain,
and later, upon his or her ability to talk, read and learn. Fox
credits the daily reading she and her husband did with their daughter
Chloe for helping Chloe know that she was loved and valued by her
parents, even when they were busy answering the demands of work.
Check this passage out:
"The sense of disclocation and confusion that occurs when kids
and parents don't connect disturbs children long after childhood
is over. In his brilliant book The Uses of Enchantment,
renowned child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim tells us bluntly that
children need to know above all that they're loved by their parents.
No matter how much they are loved by their grandparents, nannies,
or others, the love children crave most is the love of their parents.
And parents can show that love by giving children time -- it may
be as little as fifteen minutes a day -- to read aloud together,
to talk to each other, and to bond.
When Chloe was well into adulthood, I asked nervously if she felt
she'd been ignored as a child with all my frantic juggling of two
careers and the responsibilities of home. She was startled.
"Wasn't I the center of your world?" she asked.
"Did you feel you were?" I said.
"Of course. I was the center of your world, wasn't I?"
"Yes, yes, you were," I said hastily.
"Well, what are you getting at?"
Somehow, in all the rush and madness surrounding her childhood,
she'd picked up the idea that she was my central focus. Truly she
had been adored -- and is -- but from where exactly had she been
able to pluck the knowledge that she'd mattered more to me and Malcolm
than anyone else in the universe?
In large part, it was from the times we'd read aloud to her at night.
We were in our own space at those times, chatting about the books,
comparing them to other stories, empathizing with Eeyore in Winnie-the-Pooh about the general lack of "bonhomie" is his life, using
new words like soporific from the Peter Rabbit stories, being shocked
about the last little duck getting spanked yet again in The
Story about Ping, gossiping without shame about the people
we knew who were like characters in the books, discussing the Great
Questions of Life as they arose in the dilemmas and decisions we
encountered, reliving memories, weighing right from wrong, evil
from good. And then after we had talked back and forth, she'd snuggle
in tight and fall asleep with a head full of thinking, a heart at
peace, and a brain on fire with the excitement of books."
© Mem Fox 2001
I can't wait to show Daisy the amazing world of words that's waiting
for her -- from the Little House books to Rat and Toad and the whole Wind in the Willows gang, to everyone's favorite boy wizard.
What fun, what magic, what incredible journeys she has ahead of