Stephanie Burgis
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Chocolate inspiration, good reviews, and good links
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Mmmmm, brownies make the best inspiration! Patrick baked a batch of rich, chocolatey fudge brownies last night, and this morning I ate my first, with a big cup of milk (so, see, it was almost like health food....right?), at the beginning of our joint writing session. Wow! Total decadent delight - and immediate inspiration. I went from thinking, beforehand, uh-oh, I'm really not sure what happens next in this story...and I'm really tired, so maybe I should just take a nap first instead of writing... to zipping through the next hour and a half, writing about 1600 words and finishing the whole short story! (Yes, it's a very short story.) Chocolate wins again! :) And best of all, I really had fun with the story. It's a very light contemporary fantasy piece set in northern Michigan, and it felt just right for my mood. I went through it a few times to smooth stuff out, then printed out a copy to read to Patrick when he gets home from work tonight. After that, I'll try to take a few weeks off from it, as usual, and settle into revision sometime around early August, if revising KbS leaves me with any spare energy.

Writing this story, my first brand-new story in a while, reminded me of just how much I enjoy writing short stories. I've gotten distracted by novels over the past year, and of course I do love writing & reading novels more than anything else - there's nothing like sinking into a whole different world for 200+ pages - but because I'd been so absorbed in novel-writing, I'd forgotten the sheer pleasure of writing a complete piece in just a few days, riding a really focused wave of emotion and magic. It's so satisfying when it works.

So it was fun timing to find a really good review for my story "Stitching Time" (also set in northern Michigan, but with a very different tone than the new story!) in The Fix. You can read the review here. (Or, if you haven't read the story, you can find it in Issue No. 2 of Diet Soap, read it online in The Fortean Bureau, or listen to it as a podcast in Pseudopod.)

I also read a really fascinating article online this morning, via Sara Ryan: The Lion and the Mouse: The Battle that Reshaped Children's Literature, by Jill Lepore. It's about the history of kids' lit as a genre in the US in the first half of the 20th century, but it takes as its particular focus the battle over whether or not EB White's novel Stuart Little should be allowed to be stocked in the New York Public Library. According to the outraged ex-Children's Librarian, who still pulled the strings there at the time, the worst part of the book was that
White had blurred reality and fantasy - "The two worlds were all mixed up" - and children wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. "She said something about its having been written by a sick mind," E. B. White remembered.

Fascinating stuff, especially after being raised on Stuart Little as a recognized classic! And of course that shift in morés is a major theme of the article. One of the big complaints about kids' reading habits in the late nineteenth century was apparently
how the "young fry" read nothing but "the trashy": Scott, Cooper, and Dickens (one century's garbage being, as ever, another century's Great Books)...

If you're at all interested in kids' literature (or in a really good human interest story - because the people involved in this story are totally compelling, in both good and awful ways!), it's definitely worth reading the full article. And it makes me wonder which of today's "trashy" books for kids and YA will be considered classic literature in another hundred years...

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