This is a pretty amazing honor for me and my carnivorous tree. The other titles on this list are all huge achievements in the field of children’s literature, so I’m feeling quite verklempt to be included. Check out the Bank Street 2015 Best Children’s Books of the Year for more incredible reads. Some of my favorite authors are here!
Common Sense Media has named Dreamwood as the best book of 2014 (so far) for older kids. If you don’t already know Common Sense Media, check them out. They provide parents and educators with trustworthy information about media offerings so they can make informed decisions. I have consulted them SO many times when I’m deciding whether a book or movie is something I think is appropriate for my kids. So needless to say, HUGE honor. Love you, Common Sense Media!
But last night, I was in the kitchen, having some nice banter with my son while we cooked something. The phone rang in the other room, and I answered it. â€œHeather Ma-KEY?â€ said a manâ€™s voice (older, governmental), mispronouncing it. â€œYes,â€ I said. At that moment, someone came up behind me with a black fabric hood that I could just see through. As it went over my head and I felt it tighten around my neck, all strength left me. I understood â€œtheyâ€ were using something against meâ€”poison or a gas or magic. I tried to throw the phone down to make a noise to warn my son. But I was too weak. After initial panic and surprise my thought was â€œOh no you donâ€™t, you bastards.â€ Fade to black.
Of course I woke up frightened. Iâ€™ve been very stressed out latelyâ€”with work exhausting and overwhelming me, plus my book coming out in a week (haha, just a few things to do for THAT), plus the million soccer games and end-of-school stuff. Plus the fact that for years I havenâ€™t really rested or taken time off (whenever I take time off, itâ€™s been to work on my book!).
So in some ways I do feel physically vulnerable. The â€œsudden phone callâ€ IS what Iâ€™m afraid of right now.
But by other measures this was a good dream for me to have at this moment. Iâ€™m doing somethingâ€”publishing a bookâ€”that has taken years of effort, that at many times didnâ€™t seem doable. Possibly Iâ€™m afraid that it wonâ€™t happen, that at the last second some disaster will strike that could put it still out of reach. That fear is made of psychic crud thatâ€™s built up over years of working silently. Wouldnâ€™t facing itâ€”and clearing it outâ€”be a good thing?
Iâ€™m also afraid of what happens AFTER the book comes out. Change, no matter how badly you want it, can be scary, and not to oversimplify, is death of a kind. What changes would I like to make but am afraid to make right now? (A lot.) And to be honest, I guess I am afraid that this will be my one book and thatâ€™s it. But â€¦ so what? Iâ€™m pretty sure that if Dreamwood tanks or I never write again, Iâ€™ll deal. There are a lot worse fates, after all.
My death dream reminds me of these roadblocks and anxieties, how theyâ€™ve been building up in the wings of my subconscious. And yet itâ€™s also a great thing to go through. I died in the dream, which means the worst happened. But, according to the Buddhists, you should live as if youâ€™re already dead, because that means youâ€™re free.
And I am kind of proud that my â€œdyingâ€ thoughts were defiant and focused on protecting my son. Because I have worried that in doing what itâ€™s taken to get this book published, Iâ€™ve neglected my family. The dream reminds me to be their champion no matter what Iâ€™m going through.
Still, there is one last thing Iâ€™m afraid ofâ€”and this is probably the real danger in all thatâ€™s going on. Iâ€™ve felt so under the gun, and had to go so inward to deal, Iâ€™m afraid Iâ€™m taking myself far too seriously. Thank you, death dream, for all your lessons. But now itâ€™s time to stop, lighten up and laugh.
I’m celebrating Dreamwood’s publication with a launch party at Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore, 2904 College Avenue in Berkeley, on June 14 at 4 pm. If you’re around, please come on by. More info here.
I’m a little behind in wrapping up 2013, but I’m still going to do it! Or at least try to make some notes about what stuck with me, mostly in the cultural realm. In terms of actual life 2013 was an incredible year — all about pushing through and turning corners — but it was very very difficult. I’m so glad it’s behind me.
THE BIG NEWS
Guys, I did it. I finally finished up my book, which got a new name (Dreamwood) and went through copy edits, and now I have galleys. Actual honest-to-God ARCs. All I can say to everyone is thank you. Everyone who has expressed any interest or been supportive, it just means the world. You know what? I had the idea for this book about 10 years ago. It was a tiny little nubbin of an idea and I wrote some stuff down on legal pads and noodled. And then I went through a whole saga. Seriously a saga. But who cares about that now? Because it’s done! Honest! It comes out in June.
I read fewer books than usual this year – about 25 – partly because I was so busy finishing up Dreamwood. Here are a few standouts, kids and adult books all mixed together:
A Bend in the River, by V.S. Naipaul – easily my favorite book read in 2013. Wow.
Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan – This book has the most incredible voice. Willow is such an original, wonderful character, and her story had me wishing I could hug her.
Intuition, by C.J. Omololu – Ah, this book is fun. It’s a sequel that takes things to a new level, features one of the best love triangles I’ve read, and has you pondering the gift (or is it curse?) of being able to remember your past lives. I devoured it.
The Twelve, by Justin Cronin – more crazy vampire stuff on an epic scale by a really good writer. Increasingly you see lit fiction writers trying to write genre and they usually fail, which makes Justin Cronin all the more remarkable.
Canada, by Richard Ford – I was strangely taken by this. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I found myself thinking I preferred it even to The Sportswriter, even though it’s also ruminative to a fault.
This is the year I got way into Spotify. And I have to say, as a result, I’m listening to tons of music. Part of it is due to my day job, where I put the headphones on and try to laser focus. Here are my two most recent faves from 2013
Pusha T, My Name Is My Name – which was stripped down, minimal like Kanye’s Yeezus only not so overblown and without the lame lyrics (e.g., the infamous sweet and sour sauce line). This album had it all: hard, menacing (“King Push”), confessional storytelling (“Nosetalgia”), even the occasional dream (“Sweet Serenade”).
Deafheaven, Sunbather – Ha. Joke on me. Never thought I would listen to this kind of intense black metal but it’s amazing. It’s really hard to call out particular songs – but “Dreamhouse,” “Sunbather,” and “The Pecan Tree” are especially awesome.
Readers, I’m running out of steam on this blog post. Oh, I have so much to say about movies this year. But sadly not tonight. Before I go to bed here are my three favorites:
The Great Beauty
Happy 2014 to one and all!!!