1962, Hello-Goodbye

Quittin' time! Boy-oh-boy. I've worked hard this week. I've hacked my way through the forest of narrative, have slogged through the sludge of story, have reconfigured the path of possibilities, and have had several fantastic lunches along the way (none of which I can show you yet, because I don't know how to put images from my camera onto this ancient desktop, but I'll figure it out).

So... I'm officially declaring myself done-done for the week, at least with the actual words-to-paper of the narrative arc of Book One of the Sixties Trilogy. (Well... I will work this afternoon -- but the work will be administrative, not creative, and I will knock off at the end of the day freeeee, freeee, frreeeeee! until Monday. What a concept!)

I know the story will bubble this weekend while I do other things and, come Monday morning, I hope it will spill back onto the page. I'm taking the weekend off, and it's a rare thing. This is the third weekend -- in a row! -- I've deliberately taken off in the past SEVEN YEARS. No email, no administrivia, no computer whatsoever! BLISS.

Whatever happened to weekends? I got swallowed up in work, in survival, in keeping us solvent, keeping my daughter in college, keeping the house, keeping on, keeping on.

And the result? We've kept the house, we graduated college (heck, we got married!), we survived, and we thrived. We published LITTLE BIRD and ALL-STARS. And, thanks to Harcourt's good efforts, and now Scholastic's great support, and the support of all of you -- teachers, librarians, readers -- over the past seven years, I'm getting to take weekends off for a little while -- hope hope. We're trying it, anyway.

What I've been working on this week is shown in today's photos. The first book of the trilogy takes place in 1962. I'm immersed now in all things early-Sixties. What do you remember of the Sixties? Were you HERE? (There?) I was eight-... and then turned nine-years-old -- in 1962. This week, I've been playing music from 1962 (Big-Girls-Don't-Cry! -- sing it, Frankie Vallie! Sing it loud!). I've been culling photographs (trying to make sure I credit all of them and get permissions -- bear with me, please, this is a staggering job), studying news stories... and, as much as I love civil rights and feel close to that topic (witness FREEDOM SUMMER... and there is MUCH to write about, concerning civil rights, in the early Sixties), I'm going to reserve my focus on civil rights for the 1966 book, which I will start next, and concentrate now on two main events: the space race, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I've started over with a school scene -- remember, those of you who were kids in the Sixties, ducking and covering under your desks? Remember how glamorous were those astronauts? Remember meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans?

Did we really look like this in 1962?

Maybe some of us did. Advertisers wanted us to think we did. The way we never were, says a friend of mine. Maybe so. But this is how I see Franny and her family, as Book One opens... this is how I see them on the surface. This is how they strive to look to others... because this was the American Dream, was it not?

And yet, in 1962, we also looked like this:

and like this:

And we were on the cusp of this:

Every ending is a new beginning... I tell my students this all the time. As the Fifties ended and the Sixties began, we were on the cusp of more changes than we could imagine. As each day, month, year ended, we barely knew what to expect as the next beginning.

I've been thinking about this in my own life lately... an end of 7-day work weeks. A beginning to weekends off (I will have pictures for you next week, of our Grand Adventure in the North Georgia Mountains!).

And another end/beginning: Today is the last day Harcourt's San Diego office is officially open. The merger between Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt is complete. Next week, the official HMH -- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt -- becomes the official caretaker of my backlist -- LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS, THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS and ONE WIDE SKY. I need to update my website calendar page to reflect new contact information. I will. And a new era begins.

In LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, Miss Eula tries to convince a disconsolate Ruby (and herself) that "life does go on." And, as Ruby learns, it does indeed.

But I can't let a new era begin without honoring what-was... and so here is a loving shout-out to everyone I've worked with at Harcourt for the past 12 years -- Liz, Kate, Lori, Robin, Mary, Allyn, Kia (Author Promotions Goddess), Kara, Steve, Roseleigh, Amanda, Vaughn, Morgan, ELLEN!, Dan, and more... I miss you already. May the wind be at your back. It was my pleasure and honor to work with you. Thank you for everything -- and I do mean... everything.

And to those staying with the newly-merged company -- Jen, Paul, Laurie, Sarah, Barb, Kathy, Jeannette, and a scattering of others I know, here's to 12 more years -- at least.

AND, finally, to all the new HM folks I've met already -- (hey, Betsy... and Linda, I've still got that photo of us with Indy...), and to those I've yet to meet, thank you for welcoming me so warmly to the new HMH family. I hope to do you proud. Here's to our good work ahead.

Here's to a great weekend as well, for all of us. See you next week, refreshed, renewed, and digging back into the Sixties.... beginning again.

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