New England Tour: When Writers are Friends

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This is a story about second chances.

In elementary school, my best reading friend was Susan Hill. We read the Narnia books together, and both The Phantom Tollbooth and A Wrinkle in Time when they were newly published. In this photo from my third grade birthday party, Susan is the second from the right, with the gap-toothed smile, and I’m the second from the left, in the gray wool skirt. (Why wool in the spring? I don’t know. Ask my mother.)

When I started publishing books for children, Susan was one of the people I thought of — I hoped she knew that I was tapping memories we’d made together. But foolishly I didn’t try to contact her, and discovered too late that she’d died of cancer in her fifties.

Then several years ago I met the writer Susan Hill Long and felt like I’d been given another chance. When it turned out that Sue’s best friend in elementary school had been another Jeannie, we knew it was fate. Since then we’ve become very good friends indeed. And because we’re writers, we’ve shared a lot about our writing, our process, and the fears and joys that go along with being an author.

This week, on May 10th, Sue has a delightfully funny new book coming out, The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel. And yes, it really does have all those things in it, and they fit together in a glorious plot that makes me gnash my teeth with envy. (Sue’s a really good writer — did I mention that?) To celebrate her book, Sue and I will be visiting five New England independent bookstores over the next few weeks. We’ll be talking about her book, our friendship, and maybe I’ll give away a few tidbits about the last Penderwicks book, the one I’m working on now.

Here are the stores. Please check their websites for more details. And hope to see you at one of them!

R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison CT on Friday, May 13 at 5 PM

Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center VT on Saturday May 14 at 2PM

Broadside Bookshop, Northampton MA on Sunday May 15 at 3 PM

Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley MA on Monday May 16 at 5PM

The Children’s Book Shop, Brookline MA on Tuesday May 17 at 3PM (held at the Brookline Public Library)



Heading to Narnia


Well, not exactly. But I am going to be in Chicago discussing Narnia, among other matters, with my friend and fellow Lewis-ite, N.D. Wilson. On April 30 at 1 P.M. we’ll have a panel discussion with Elizabeth Bird at the Evanston Public Library. Then at 5 P.M. N.D. and I will meet again for an event at Anderson’s Bookshop in Napersville.

A Chair of One’s Own

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‘Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working.’

Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

Bank Street Bookfest

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On October 24, I’ll be in New York City for the Bank Street Bookfest. My panel — at 11:15AM — is called “Young Women in the (Plot) Driver’s Seat,” and will also include Laura Amy Schlitz, Kat Yeh, and Liz Kessler. But come for the whole day if you can, for there will be writers and artists galore, including my favorite dance partner Rita Williams-Garcia.


John Fowles and Me

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I have an essay in the current issue (Fall, 2015) of the Iowa Review. The essay, My Green Redoubt, discusses what I learned about privacy and secret gardens from the novelist John Fowles.

Families and (with Luck) Dancing

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On Saturday, August 1, I’ll be at the NYC Public Library for this panel with the fabulous Rita Williams-Garcia. We’ll discuss what it’s like to write books about families, especially, I imagine, families with lots of girls in them, since that’s true for both the Gaithers and the Penderwicks.

Dancing isn’t a scheduled part of the panel, but it could be a good way to celebrate summer, books, and families full of sisters.



Hitch, the Magnet Dog

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This is Hitch, who lives across the street from me. He’s deaf, but doesn’t know it. He’s also a magnet dog — anyone who sees him wants to be close to him. Sometimes if I sit on the grass, Hitch climbs onto my lap and licks my face and that’s about as fabulous as life gets. I have to be careful, though, not to do it while my dog Cagney is watching out the window, because when Cagney gets jealous, he barks and bothers the whole neighborhood. (And yes, one of Hitch’s eyes are green, and the other is blue.)

Sheep Shearing

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My friends Lucky and Blossom were sheared yesterday. They didn’t seem to mind, even when they were wrestled into the best position for shearing. Here they are checking out each other’s new summer cut. (Frankly, they both looked ridiculous, but we people were careful not to say that out loud.)

Home and Hubbub

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I’m usually reluctant to leave home, and who wouldn’t be with this view from her front porch? But this weekend I’m heading east to Boston for Hubbub, an event sponsored by the Boston Book Festival. I’ll be on a panel with the authors Mitali Perkins and Tor Seidler, and we’ll be talking about . . . home. And how home fits into the books we write.

The panel, at 11:45 on Saturday, June 20, will take place in the Old South Church sanctuary, on Boylston Street near Copley Square.