Fragile, and fading, and brave.

My kids, when they woke up this morning, bolted out of bed and ran to where their dog was sleeping, skidding along the wood floors on their knees.

Harper nested in a clump of blankets next to the heating vent. The kids had organized it the night before, and I had carefully lifted my fifty-pound beastie – built for running, leaping, and agile bounding from rock to fence to rock – into the softness of her sick-bed.

harper

She will not stand. She will not walk. And outside of some half-hearted lapping of a half-cup of water, she will not eat or drink.

The kids snuggled around her, putting their faces next to her nose, wrapping their arms around her middle.

“You’re still alive,” the kids said. “I knew it.”

Last night, when I put Leo to bed, I told him that Harper was in pretty rough shape. She’s been in rough shape before, of course (heck, she’s like a million years old), but this feels different.

“Is she going to die?” Leo said.

“Probably not tonight,” I said. “But it’s hard to tell.”

“But she is dying.”

“Yes.”

“Maybe we should sell her.” Leo turned his body to the wall.

This sentiment surprised me. I spoke slowly. “That’s an interesting strategy,” I said. “What makes you say that?”

“I don’t want to watch her die,” he said.

We were quiet for a long time. The lights were off and the room was cold and he and I pulled closer under the covers. “I can understand that,” I said. “But think about Harper. She’s hurting and fragile and confused. But the thing that makes her happy is her family. You and your sisters, especially. She has been with you for your whole life. Don’t you want to be with her for her last, important days?”

“I hope she doesn’t die.”

“Me too.”

“But she will, though. Someday. Right?”

“Everything that is alive is fragile and precious. Everything is stardust and dirt and spring green and the breath of god, and then it fades away. Harper is fading. And so will we.”

“Harper is fragile,” Leo said. “But she’s brave. She’s not scared at all. She’s brave and snuggly.”

“And who knows,” I said. “She may rally.”

“What does rally mean.”

“It’s when someone is looking worse and worse, and suddenly they are better. Harper has looked pretty bad before, and sometimes I thought she was dying. And then she rallied.”

“I hope she rallies.”

“Me too,” I said. The wind howled outside. My dog was downstairs. Breathing. Breathing. Not getting up. My poor baby. “And who knows. She’s made of magical stuff. Maybe she’ll outlive us all.”

Leo sighed deeply. “Mom,” he said. He spoke slowly. Like he was explaining something obvious to an idiot. “There is only like a two percent chance of that happening.”

I told him that I liked those odds. And then I kissed him goodnight.

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Paperback Writer!

Holy Box of Books, Batman!

I know I announced this when it was official last week, but a HUGE books arrived in the mail the other day, much to the delight of Barnhills everywhere. And so I stacked them up. And…..well. Just look at them! So many! And just after I was complaining to my dear Anne Ursu that I didn’t have a single copy of my own book in my house because I was constantly handing them to children who looked like they may be in need of reading material someday, and viola! Books! Real ones! And they arrived in secret on my doorstep, and I can’t wait to hand them out again to unsuspecting children.

I feel like the tooth fairy. Except without the underlying dental conditions. Also: with books.

Things coming, things doing, and things done.

So, I have a confession to make: I have a ridiculously humungous amount of fun doing bookish events. Maybe I would feel differently if I wrote for grownups and was therefore speaking in front of audiences comprised largely of grownups. Cuz, yanno. Grownups are stodgy and a bit of a snore.

Now, I don’t want to offend any grownups reading this blog, and I really want you to know that individually I think you’re marvelous and I love you all very much. But. Let’s be serious. Kids are more fun.

I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings.

(Kids, if you’re reading this, please remember that grownups – while insufferably tiresome when collected in groups – are a sensitive, fragile lot, and you should always try to boost up their self-esteem. For example: You can tell them that they just said something smart. Or that they look terribly attractive in that sweater.)

Is there anything more awesome, I wonder, than sitting around with a bunch of kids and talking about stories? Honestly, I don’t think there is.

So, I’ve been doing some more bookish-type events lately, and I’m going to be doing some more.

For example, back in September, I was reading at Wild Rumpus Books, surrounded not only by a bunch of kids, but animals too! 

Kids!

Animals!

It was magnificent!

And then, just last Saturday I was at Red Balloon Bookshop. And there was cake. CAKE!

One of the perks of being trained as a teacher is that I’m pretty good at getting the kids to think of – and then actually ask- questions after my brief reading.

And their questions are always really interesting and esoteric and random and wonderful. Such as, “Thank you for reading but what are those books about?” And, “But why did you stop there? What happens next?” And, “But seriously, did you write all the words in this book all by yourself?”

That last one was asked with some incredulity.

By my own nephew, by the way. (Honestly! The respect I get around here!) (Et tu, Charlie?)

Anyway, I feel exquisitely energized by these last two readings, and I’m looking forward to the next appearances. For those of you who are interested I’ll be at the Twin Cities Book Festival this Saturday for a reading, signing and teaching two writing mini-workshops for children. Later, I’ll be at the AASL conference in Saint Paul at the end of the month, signing books. Then, on November 13, I’ll be doing a reading with Minnesota writer, extraordinaire, Anne Ursu, at the Second Story Reading Series at the Loft. And then, on December 3, I’ll be speaking at Nokomis Library, doing a reading and author chat with their youth book group, and I’m ridiculously excited about all of it.

If you’re around, come by! Say hello! Throw tomatoes! Or flower petals! Or autumn leaves! Make fun! Tell jokes! Stick around for coffee! Or whatever.

In any case, I’ll be there. Having the time of my life.