Tag Archives: Marion Dane Bauer

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I’ve never felt so old!

Of course, I’ve never been so old, but then everyone can say that, even a six-year-old.  We are always, on any day, the oldest we have ever been.

The difference, I suppose, is that today I know I’m old.  I know it in my bones.  And I understand in a way I never have before what knowing something in my bones means.

The reason for this surge of new understanding?  I’ve just moved.

Age precipitated the move.  For most of the last decade I have been renting a lovely, two-story house with a tuck-under garage which made it a three-story house when I carried groceries or laundry up from the basement.

I’ve never had a problem with stairs.  I saw stairs as good exercise built into my day.  My partner’s and my bedrooms and my study were all on the second floor and the laundry room was in the basement along with the garage, so I was happily up and down those stairs many times every day.

Or at least I was happy until some stress in my lumbar spine began to cause occasional leg weakness.  When I found myself holding both banisters and pulling myself up the stairs very slowly, I began to reconsider.

We looked at senior residences, but I didn’t feel ready.  Yes, I know I’m eighty. I should be ready, but I’m not.  Even though I began my career in the corner of a bedroom, I couldn’t imagine giving up my study, and senior residences with two bedrooms and a usable study are almost impossible to find.  Besides, giving up a house is giving up having my own private patch of the outdoors on the other side of my door.  And that patch of outdoors feeds my soul.

So we began looking.  We began more than a year ago actually with a very patient realtor.  But we couldn’t get on the same page and nothing that we saw was quite . . . it.  Until, finally, it was.  The house we’d dreamed came onto the market in the afternoon.  We let our realtor know we wanted to see it now.  We spent twenty minutes walking through.  Then we leapt.

And we’ve been landing ever since.

We got the house, the loan, the movers.  We got the boxes and the tape and the enormous rolls of bubble wrap.

And we started packing.

And sorting.  I spent two days sorting through the files in my study, more than forty years worth of professional files and personal ones, too, such as a forgotten treasure-trove of letters surrounding my son’s death.  Then I spent more days sorting and culling books.

And packing.

And sorting.

And packing.

Until the day came when everything went onto a truck except for us and Sadie, our one-eyed sheltie.

It all came off the truck and we were here!

And we were so, so tired.

And I, at least, suddenly knew myself to be old.  Very, very old.

But today, at last, my study is up and working.  No pictures on the walls yet, but I sit here at my familiar keyboard with three yellow tulips in a purple vase at my side and a new yard yet to be explored stretching beyond my window.  And I am so glad to be 80 and looking ahead to the all-on-one-floor future, however long or short it may be.

And I am glad, once more, to gather words and see them appear on the screen before me.  This is it, my heart says.  I am home.

And I am.

I am.

A One-Word Controversy

hello, I have a question pertaining to, The Stuff of Stars.  I have not read it, but I just saw a posting about Ekua Holmes’ illustrator award & it brought me to some reviews. One quoted the book… “in the deep, deep dark a speck floated, invisible as thought, weighty as God,”

I thought the book was in support of the Big Bang theory, but I read the quote & wondered why God was mentioned.   I’m sure if I had the book, I’d have a better understanding.  Will you please shed some light?

Thanks!

 

Juliette

The Stuff of Stars

Dear Juliette,

Yes, I used the word God in The Stuff of Stars.  And yes, The Stuff of Stars supports scientific concepts about the way our universe came into being.  But the two are not incompatible.  Only those whose belief is so narrow that they are convinced God can’t exist unless the beautiful stories of the Bible are taken as statements of fact see science and the concept of God as incompatible.

I am not, in fact, a theist myself, but there is no word in the English language that carries more weight than the word God.  So that’s the one I chose.  “Weighty as God.”  I knew using that word would create controversy, and when my agent presented the manuscript to the editor, I had him ask her if she wanted that word to stand.  She said, “Yes.”  So the word “God” is out there, touching some readers deeply and upsetting others.  And when I go back to examine that opening line, I can’t imagine a better way to bring my readers to a feeling of awe before an unfolding universe, which is exactly what I want.

If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on this topic, check out the blogs on my website, www.mariondanebauer.com.  Scroll down through the titles of past blogs to find one called “The Stuff of Opinion.”  That touches on this same subject.

I wish you well in all ways, Juliette, and I hope this helps to answer your question.  I appreciate your taking the time to ask it.

Best,  Marion

 

I was, indeed, glad to have the question asked.  I only wish I could have answered it for a larger audience, which is why I’m bringing the discussion here.

When a book comes into the world, it takes on its own life.  Little of what happens to it or is said about it even filters back to the book’s creators.  I have had occasional hints of the hum set off by my choosing that most controversial of all words, but I have little opportunity to defend my choice.

As I said to Juliette, I am not a theist.  Much of what gets attached to the concept of God—all knowing, all powerful, judging, controlling, even loving—makes me itch.  But having grown-up in a Christian church and having once lived the better-be-quiet-about-what-you-really-believe role of a pastor’s wife, I have thought long and hard about the meaning of the word.

And I’ve come to decide, as a word person, not a theologian, that I like it.  I like it precisely because nothing has more weight in our language than the word God.  I can’t think of another that carries the same force.  Universe, when it’s used instead, doesn’t touch it.  Life force conveys the concept, but without feeling attached.

I no longer identify as Christian, but I love the Christian concept of Incarnation.  Not as a one-time event, but as an every-time event.  And I love equally Quaker theology that speaks of God in us.  The two are the same.  They tell us that human life, that all life is sacred.

These days our public schools are trying rather belatedly to maintain our constitution’s standard of the separation of church and state.  As they struggle with that task, though, I wish separation weren’t automatically equated with exclusion, with no-discussion-possible, with slam the door on all potentially “religious” words and concepts and keep it locked.  I wish The Stuff of Stars could be presented along with the question, “What do you suppose the author meant by ‘weighty as God’?  Can you think of some other comparison that would work as well?”

I can’t, but certainly others will.

And so I used the God-word in a picture book.  I used it, not being a believer myself in any traditional sense, in order to present a vision of our Universe as vital, alive, holy.

A vision that might even save our fragile existence on this planet if we only take it seriously enough.

 

Grit and Magic

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Part of learning to create things well is just practice—putting in your time, keeping at it, refusing to give up when you make mistakes, which you are going to do a lot. Nowadays, people are calling the willingness to persist like this: grit. And yet there is another aspect to this business of creating things—call it joy, or inspiration, or magic, or whatever. And this part has very little to do with stiffening your spine and pushing past difficulties. So, in Falcon, I tried to evoke that delicate balancing act of grit and magic.

Susan Fletcher

LoonSong Again

LoonSong

This is my fourth year to write about, LoonSong, the unique Writers’ Retreat on Elbow Lake in the wilderness of northern Minnesota.

It is coming up again this fall, from Thursday, September 5th, through Monday, September 9th.  And once more, it will be magical.

Or at least it will be magical if it happens.

The lake will be there for certain.  And the singing loons.  And the beach.  And the kayaks waiting for paddlers.  The lovely old lodge will be there and the cabins.  The hushed woods all about.

The question is whether we will be there.

The faculty are in the wings and filled with enthusiasm.  Meg Medina, winner of the 2019 Newbery Award and author of other award-winning young-adult and middle grade novels and picture books.  Elisabeth Partridge, one of the most preeminent nonfiction writers in our field and winner of many awards.  Varian Johnson, author of nine novels, including The Parker Inheritance which was named a 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book along with many other honors.  Holly West, editor at Felwel & Friends and the YA imprint Swoon Reads.  Brent Taylor, a literary agent at Triada US.  Sarah Aronson, Carol McAfee, Debby Dahl Edwardson and me.

This will be my fourth year to attend and teach at LoonSong, and it has been magical every time.  There are other writers’ workshop/retreats around, of course, but two things make this one unique.

One is the place.  You couldn’t find a more serene and heart-filling location than the edge of a lake, surrounded by forest, a few miles from the Canadian border.  The very air will give you hope from your first breath.

Sunset at LoonSong

The second is size.  Because our facilities have room for only a small group, the entire workshop/retreat could better be billed as a long conversation.  There is no line between attenders and presenters.  We are a wide spectrum, some just beginning, others who have published for a long time.  But we are all writers together.

And once we’re there, we’re all in it together, playing and talking and listening and eating and learning from one another.

LoonSong is sponsored by Vermont College of Fine Arts, and if you’re interested in learning about the VCFA Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, there will be opportunity for that.  Some VCFA folks come just to be with other VCFA folks.  But those from VCFA comprise only about a third of our group.  Many from the Hamline MFA program here in Minnesota also attend and we’re grateful for their presence.  And many come with no connection to any MFA program at all, nor is any needed, because LoonSong is most profoundly place to be with other writers.

The work of writing is the most blessed I know.  But it is also deeply isolating.  All of us, whether we’re just wading into the cold water of our first manuscripts or have been writing long enough to sometimes feel a bit weary, need the stimulation and the encouragement and the understanding of other writers from time to time.  It’s what keeps us writing.

LoonSong offers that and so much more!

But I’ll be candid.  I’m not here to say, “Hurry to sign up while we still have a few spots open,” because the truth is we have more than a few spots open.  Sign-ups have been slow this year.

It’s a hard thing to come up with money for a conference.  Conferences are expensive.  They have to be expensive, because everything about making them happen costs big time.

But it’s also financially challenging to put on a conference, and if we don’t get full enrollment we’re going to have to close down this year.  We are nowhere near full enrollment yet.  In fact, last I heard there were still some of those highly prized single rooms available.

If you’re already signed up and want LoonSong to happen, then beat the bushes for friends who might join you.  If you’ve been watching our postings for a long time and thinking, Someday I’m going to do that, then make 2019 that someday.  If you’re hearing about LoonSong for the first time, then explore www.loonsong.org . . . and join us.  We would be so delighted to meet you there.

This gathering of children’s and young-adult writers is too good to miss.  And it is much too good to see go under.

Novel-Writing

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

My favorite thing to remember about novel-writing is an observation I saw taped to a friend’s wall in her office in graduate school: “Nobody asked you to write that novel”. Therefore novel-writing is a choice–you can always stop, always keep going. You are free to do whatever you want. Most novelists come to writing novels because they have been avid readers. Almost all novels, because they are capacious and hard to contain, are imperfect. Normally, “perfect” and “ambitious” cannot co-exist in the same novel. Therefore, most readers have plenty of opinions about how even a wonderful, beloved, and thrilling novel might be made just a little better. And so we try it. And we discover that it is both harder and easier than it looks.

Jane Smiley