Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 3, 2008

Talking with the Moon and Birds

Saturday I went with Peg Davol to the Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival. I enjoyed listening to Carolyn Coman talk, especially about her earlier darker work, though I respect the need she expressed to explore and live with a lighter part of herself these days. I got to say hello to Jerry Pinkney and tell him how much I loved the illustration he did for the story I wrote about Woodrow Wilson in Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. I got to shake his strong hand. Fangirl moment.

And before a talk that didn’t interest me as much, I slipped out to walk to the wonderful Toadstool Bookshop. There I found a book called Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist by Sharman Apt Russell, who appears to be an environmentalist and scientist, too, which intrigued me. I’m not thinking of switching religions, but this is the tradition of the person I’m writing about who lived 3000 years ago. I’d been aware I’d been treating her world view too much on the surface, and I have to attempt to believe with her. If the moon and river is talking to her, for instance, I have to listen.

I brought this book and another to the counter, where the clerk said she’d bought it, and put it on her pile, and we had a brief talk about those piles.

“Oh, what is the book?” asked a woman beside me, winning my heart, as I, too, always want to know what books people are reading, talking about, or even putting in piles.

I showed her and said, “Who can resist reading about someone who believes she’s a bird?”

Apparently this woman could. Her smile turned stiff as she turned away, but not before I noticed she was holding “Badger’s Parting Gift.” It’s interesting how we let, even encourage, children to read about animals with active inner lives, then draw lines that suggest: time to grow up.



  1. Oops. Boy, you never know when a totally innocent comment will be taken wrong, do you? Too bad.

  2. This is what happens when I let my daughter go off to college. If she were there, she’d be, mom, just pay for the books, don’t be chatting with strangers..

  3. Oh, how I wish I’d been there with you, going on a little escape to the bookstore.
    I’m glad you had a lovely day. 🙂

  4. There’s been a huge taboo on “animal people” ever since the furry fandom. Understandably so, because there is so much bizarre sexual weirdness floating around it. For some reason though, this has been allowed to soil every anthropomorphic animal into the furry category. If you have any interest whatsoever in drawing something anthropomorphic or interested in something anthropomorphic, that will suddenly label you a furry, which labels you a bizarre sexual deviant.
    I had drawn this picture
    Then a kid from school said he thought I was a furry because I drew this. I drew it for my friend who really likes anthro animals. I don’t have anything against animal people, but dude, no I don’t really want to be called a furry. My interest in fuzzy animals is completely innocent.
    From what I have learned there are “furries” who are just simply really really into animal people but not in a weird way, but the fact of the matter is that those people are not who people think about when they think about furries. They start thinking about sexual deviants.
    I always try to explain that animal people in themselves are not necessarily “bad” or make you a “furry”. That we watch cartoons full of them, read books full of them, read comics with them in it.
    A lot of people don’t know what “furry” is at all either. I didn’t and I started to do art commissions for people of animal or dragon characters they had online for money last summer. I was just drawing animals as far as I was concerned. Then people were like those are furries stay away from them, or asking me if I was a furry. Most of the people seemed fine to me. But I felt uncomfortable with people thinking I might be a “furry”.
    I guess just like anything you get a few weirdoes and they give a bad name to everyone.

  5. It was such a nice day for a walk, too, if chilly, and I hate to be in Keene and not get to that store (Peg had to be back for a concert, so no going afterward). Conferences are good, but so is a bit of truancy…

  6. So here’s a world I knew nothing about! Which might be okay… sorry, R, now I’m the lady scuffling away at the bookstore! But you know I love you!

  7. Dude! I’m the lady scuffling away at the bookstore! haha That is what I am saying!

  8. Isn’t it wonderful when you discover a new “right” book like that. And how sad for the woman that she couldn’t even go there as a possibility.
    “Her smile turned stiff…” Perfect.

  9. love to scuffle with you!

  10. I’ve been writing this book off and on for years; feeling something not quite right… slowly slowly I find things to fix.. and yes, great, when a book helper appears!
    I guess I’m feeling more sympathy for the woman, but I guess we should remember, don’t ask if you don’t want to hear the answer!

  11. Oh good, I’ve just gone and put this book on hold–it looks fascinating. And with your encounter in the bookstore, it’s interesting to observe how we humans begin to shut down to seeing the world afresh as we age. It’s a good reminder to all of us to stay open to wonder.

  12. Oh, yay, that should have been you beside me at the counter. When I went to an online store to paste in the picture, I noticed the author has some other books that also look fascinating — just to tempt you — but I have to remember: one at a time! My piles are toppling.
    Yes, a very good reminder to stay open to wonder as you put it so well. And if we want to surprise people with our work, we have to be open to surprise as we write.

  13. Lets get outta here!

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