Sunday, May 1, 2011

Out and about. Also: Setting.

First up, I want to let you know about a couple of events.

On May 7 (10 am - 4 pm), over 100 children's writers and illustrators (including me!) will be signing books and leading activities at the Hudson Children's Book Festival (NY). It's a stellar crop of authors (just to name a few: Amanda Marrone, Eric Luper, Jeannine Atkins, Jo Knowles, Kate Messner, Sarah Darer Littman, Michelle Zink ...) I'll also be appearing on a panel with Alissa Grosso, Wendy Mass, Colleen Murtagh Paratore, and Kristi Cook. I attended last year, and the enthusiasm in the room made it an incredibly fun event. If you're anywhere in the area, I urge you to stop by! Admission is FREE, and the books are for all ages: picture book through young adult.

If you're anywhere in the Philadelphia area, and you read The Secret Year (or plan to) and want the chance to discuss it with other readers, it is the featured title at the Big Blue Marble bookstore's YA book club for their May 26 session (7 PM). More information about the store and the YA book club are here.

Now for the writerly topic of the day:

I've been thinking about setting--the settings in which we live vs. the settings we find in books. Setting is one area in which I often crave the exotic, the sensory details of places in which I've never lived. It's often difficult for me not to view the setting in which I live every day as boring, commonplace, unworthy of description. Yet sometimes when a writer captures the small details that are so much like places that have been part of my life, I fall in love. This happened to me while reading The Centaur (set in 1947 Pennsylvania) and Main Street (set in early 20th-Century Minnesota). Although I haven't lived in either of those exact settings, I recognized little details. From The Centaur: a cocoa-colored welcome mat, the heady chlorine-scented air of an indoor pool, overheated high-school halls with their milky reinforced windows and waxy floors, the old dental sink (still in use when I was a child) with "the bright little bent pipe shooting water into it" and "the little comet-tail-shaped smear of rust" at the bottom of the circular basin. Main Street has several passages on people's parlors (souvenir ashtrays, school pennants) and kitchens (the drainboard soft from years of use and scrubbing) that remind me of real places. Whether familiar or not, it's those specific details that bring a setting to life.

There are at least two settings in my head where I've spent time and where I want to set a novel, but I haven't quite found the right story for those places yet. It's something to aim for, anyway!


  1. I'm so envious of your book signing. Give Michelle and Kate hugs for me. Give one to yourself too. Maybe I'll make the Hudson Children's Festival one of these years.

  2. It's a great festival, and seeing some Debs is a bonus!