Tuesday, February 24, 2009

God bless President Obama!

Every once in a while, a leader finds his or her way into office, and the impossible comes within reach. I truly believe President Obama is our miracle -- our bonified leader. And after eight years of George W. Bush, I am so proud and so grateful. God bless this man and help him find the energy and will to transform our nation -- to get it back on track to be the shining nation of compassion and leadership. What a remarkable man.

BTW, the photo is from Vanity Fair, at this URL:


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The people we "know."

For years, when people have asked me who my best friend in high school was, my answer has been Andy Smith -- Andrew Smith now that he's a grown-up and a writer.

He was, at the time, the funniest person I'd ever known. He taught me how to write, how to question, how to yearn. He broke my heart twice -- once when he asked Key to the homecoming dance instead of me. I went with Kirstin, a German foreign exchange student in my photography class instead, just so I could BE there. But my heart was standing in Key's shoes (and boy, were they crowded).

Incidentally, Looking Glass was our band for that dance. And believe me, you haven't lived until you've heard "Brandi, you're a fine girl...what a good wife you would be...." a dozen times, live, in the course of three hours. Looking Glass had more hair than they had hit songs. : )

We spent a whole lot of Friday and Saturday nights at Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Mann's Chinese Theater, Pier I, Marie Calendar's, just where ever life and his Toyota would take us. We shared dreams and movies and records. He was my very best friend. I thought.

But now that we've reconnected, I realize I hardly knew him. I loved him. Don't get me wrong. He was my best friend and I wouldn't trade those memories for anything. But the kid I thought I knew and the man he's turned out to be don't always reconcile.

For example, in one of his most recent blogs he says he hates movies. Man, we saw dozens and dozens of movies when we were kids. It was one of our favorite things to do. Or I thought it was. Now I wonder, was it just my favorite thing to do and he put up with it? I didn't think so. Star Wars, Fantasia, Indiana Jones, The Omen, the Exorcist, those were all his idea. Good ideas, but his. But did he love movies then, if not now?

Maybe we never really know the people we think we know. Or maybe "know" is subject to relativity. I know how Andy reacts when I explode a ketchup packet and it hits his wheat jeans hours before the school day is scheduled to end. He REALLY doesn't like it. I know how loud he can scream when he's pretending to be terrified after seeing the Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the drive in. I know how frustrated he was when Mr. Smith threatened to shut down the school paper if we let the ACLU take the district to court in defense of our free speech. I know how much that manuscript he and Chris N. wrote meant to him, all those years ago. In fact, I still have it.

Maybe the rest -- all the things he never told me don't really matter -- at least not when you're looking forward, rather than back. Guess I'll wait and see. As for the second time he broke my heart, well, that's to be continued. If there are so many things I never knew about him way back then, maybe he had blind spots too.
Here's to the future.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Junior Library Guild -- PERKS!

Okay, I admit it. I'm a trophy hound. It's been true since the first day I realized winners get shiny golden things, while losers get to watch the smiling winners. I have horse show ribbons, journalism competition plaques, tennis trophies, and -- whenever possible -- book award trinkets and certificates. I love them. I can't help it.

So here's the latest one -- the perks just awarded through the Junior Library Guild. Six of my books have been JLG selections over the years, but this is the first year they've offered a certificate and lapel pin. Color me content with the neat new goody.

THANK YOU, JLG. I'm thrilled. ~ Kelly

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

GET LIT asks: What keeps you writing?

Asa Bradley emailed today asking me and Claire Rudolf Murphy to respond to that simple question as part of the GET LIT festival here in Spokane, and I'm delighted to be included. So here goes.

I could be flipant and say the desire to stay housed and fed keeps me writing, because as a single mom, writing isn't just fun for me, it's my job. It is the work that keeps my kids Kerry and Vanessa at Eastern Washington University and Spokane Falls Community College, too. But my choice to make writing my life's work is about far more than money.

What keeps me writing is probably a burning curiosity. I was born with an unyielding need to discover the who, what, when, where, why and how of virtually any topic that crosses my field of vision -- dinosaurs, mummies, Bigfoot, albinism, any subject that makes me urgently wonder. Because I never really graduated from topics that also appeal to kids, they are the best candidates with whom I can share my enthusiasm. So I happily write for kids.

I write for the kid I once was -- the reluctant reader tomboy who never found the books she might REALLY want to read. She finds them now because she writes them. And the reactions of the kids like me constitute the second primary reason I keep writing. I do it to help the "weird" kids out there -- kids like the kid I was -- understand they are special and they are not ever truly alone.

That's what keeps me writing. Well, that and the price of electricity in Spokane. Talk about a topic that makes me curious. : )

Thanks GET LIT -- for the prompt, for letting me visit remote schools as part of the festival team, and for every other terrific opportunity you've afforded me. I'm glad to be part of the team!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wow, one more from Whitworth.

A few weeks ago, Chris and I visited a children's literature class at Whitworth College here in Spokane. Sophie, a 19-year-old journalism student, told us about her plans to create a kid lit blog, and she's done exactly that. GREAT job, Sophie. Thanks for including me!

Publishers Weekly, YAY!

And...SAVING THE BAGHDAD ZOO was in the Publishers Weekly Fall 2009 previews. How fun to see my book mentioned right after my friend Chris Crutcher's new book, under the same Greenwillow banner. It said:

Greenwillow goes to the head of the class with Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School by Herman Parish, illus. by Lynn Avril, the housekeeper’s picture-book debut; Angry Management by Chris Crutcher, three loosely connected novellas starring past Crutcher characters; Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A Story of Hope and Heroes by Kelly Milner Halls and Major William Sumner, a photo-essay about the mission to rebuild this Iraqi landmark; Duck and Kangaroo by Edward Lear, illus. by Jane Wattenberg, nonsense verse illustrated with original photos and archival prints from Lear’s time; and Santa’s Stowaway by Brandon Dorman, about a determined elf and an unforgettable sleigh ride.

Yikes & Skypes

Has it really been a month since I posted? I'd feel bad, except no one reads my blog, so I've only disappointed myself. : )

I've been pretty busy with assignments, school visits and Skype experiments.

What is Skype? It's an online forum -- free so far -- that enables member-to-member video communications. Because TALES OF THE CRYPTIDS is on the PSLA's Young Reader's Choice nomination list, I've had the opportunity to talk to several classrooms in PA about the book via Skype, and it's been tremendous fun -- at least for me.

The discussion among children's writers and illustrators, with regard to Skype, is what to charge for time invested. For illustrators, I can see exacting a fee, because prep time for illustrators is a little more extensive. But so far, I'm not charging for the opportunity because I see it as a promotional opportunity along with an outreach. But I'll reserve the right to change my mind.