Literary Crime

Literary crime

 

I’ve been struck this week by two crimes of a literary nature. Naively, I’ve thought lovers of books, reading, writing, the publishing world would be too elevated to sink to theft and fraud, but I’ve been wrong.

First, I learned of a literary agent who accepted clients, but never sent out their manuscripts. When they nudged her for feedback from the editors, the agent forged letters from them. Only recently was she discovered and exposed. What possible gain could she glean from such fraud and inaction? Maybe access to another’s creative work which she could pass off as her own? I haven’t heard that anyone has uncovered her motivation.

Then, I read of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s rare books heist. A long-term archivist and a book store owner joined forces to steal and sell volumes from the rare books section of the main library. The theft over many years added up to a loss of over $8 million before the two thieves were discovered. At this point, the library has only recovered an eighth of that money. The archivist claimed to have been paid a little over a hundred thousand dollars during a period of twenty years or so. The book store owner probably accumulated much more. Still, the motivation for such criminal efforts eludes me.

 

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Safety vs. Independence

 

 

As a Deaf-blind person, I’ve faced the conflict between safety and independence several times. On a recent week-long trip to England with my husband, I confronted this concern once again.

During the actual six days of our visit, my husband had to work or be in meetings at least two. I actually relished the prospect of those two days alone to finish up a writing project.

Dave, my guide dog, was back home in Pittsburgh. We’d boarded him, since England required expensive veterinary paper work, another costly chip, and a fee for Pennsylvania state forms, so I made do with my cane. Our room had access to food and a bathroom, though inconsistent we fi and front desk help. No problem. I planned to utilize MSWord, not the internet. I also wasn’t marvelously oriented to the inn, let alone the neighborhood, but I assumed the room provided all my needs. And so, it did—the first day.

The second day, however, it failed me. My husband didn’t return when expected. At first, I didn’t worry. The archives must have been open longer than he’d thought, and he was taking advantage of the additional time. When he still hadn’t shown an hour later, though, I worried. I couldn’t access him by phone or e-mail. He could have been locked in the castle tower containing the manuscripts by accident or even design—mugged and beaten on the walk home. He could have had a heart attack, even though he didn’t have any health problems. He was certainly old enough for surprise illnesses.

And if any of these things had happened, he wouldn’t be able to reach me by phone or e-mail. Plus, probably the archivist had no contact info for me, no idea of my whereabouts. A mugger wouldn’t care, and the paramedics couldn’t reach me, even if they’d tried me in the numerous Alexanders in Bob’s cell’s contact list.

I tried to quell the hysteria by rational action. I thumped to the front desk, hoping to get help to call the archivist whose name I did know—desk unoccupied. I tapped back to my room. In another half hour I’d begin knocking on strangers’ doors or, worse, screaming for attention. And that’s when Bob appeared, buoyant, breathless with excitement.

“The archivist could stay till 6, and, Sally, I found every record I needed.”

I slumped on the bed. “we can’t do this anymore. I’m on foreign soil, and I’m not independent here. I should never be without cell and e-mail reception unless I have a land line or solid mastery of the building and the neighborhood.”

Bob sat. “Oh, God, that’s true.”

We realized we hadn’t faced the potential risks of disability, older age, downed electronics, etc. Clearly, in new terra firma, we needed to prepare responsibly and take certain measures to ensure safety. Big wake-up call for future travel!

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Instagram for Dave, my guide dog

 

I haven’t blogged for a while because I’m becoming so addicted to posting on Instagram, I don’t have time. I’m actually speaking for Dave, my guide dog, who astoundingly communicates his thoughts and wishes and his needs and obsessions very clearly.   For instance, he stretches intensely on the sidewalk to greet a fellow canine, even a female canine. He actually stretches toward many things he wants to sniff, ladies, for instance, flowers, garbage. He stretches like a pointer dog toward anything he wants—a ball underneath a chest, and today–the ocean waves. He actually didn’t simply point, he pulled himself loose and had a quick body surf in the cold waves. He was pretty surprised by the northern Atlantic’s temps. If he wishes to play ball, and if he’s indoors with his harness off, he always wants to play ball, (a few Pirate baseball players need his obsession), he thumps his tennis ball at my feet. If I pretend I haven’t heard in order to do some of MY work, he squeaks it intolerably, so that I have to snatch it and toss it to kingdom come. If thumping and squeaking don’t work, he whines. You get the idea.

So, I can really channel Dave in my Instagram posts. And that’s my explanation for the blogging silence. Somehow Instagram seems more addicting, at least at the moment. I’m channeling Dave in the obsession department, actually. I’m counting my followers. Honestly, the loss of one or a dozen followers is a rejection I hardly can cope with. But I’ve found a cure or at least a coping mechanism. I unfollow those who’ve dropped me with a gusto reserved for revenge criminals. “Ha, take that!” I hear myself yelling. And I do really think technology is bringing down the human race! But if you’re in the vicinity, drop into @davetheguidedog and say hello. Better yet, follow Dave.

 

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Children’s Literature Author, Richard Peck

 

 

Sadly, author, Richard Peck, has died (May 23, 2018). The author of over 40 books, he won a Newbery Medal for A Year Down Yonder in 2001, a Newbery honor in 1999 for A Long Way from Chicago, and a National Humanities Medal in 2002. Fifteen or twenty years ago Richard Peck came to Pittsburgh for a Western PA SCBWI conference, and my husband and I along with my friend and author, Colleen McKenna and her husband had the pleasure of taking him out to brunch. Bob and I then drove him to the airport for his return home. He was a delightful, kind guy. In 2013 he spoke at the LA summer conference of the SCBWI, and Bob and I went to his workshop on first sentences. He said that often he’d written 250 pages before finding his title and first sentence, but he thought that these two elements were critical steps to discovering the books’ main themes. At the end of the workshop, we joined the many going onstage to greet him. Richard came forward and hugged me, remembering our brunch and car ride together. Although the conspicuousness of blindness is a perk in being remembered, I also think Richard was the sort of person who truly registered his interactions with others. His head hadn’t been turned by success. I found him bright and funny, sensitive, respectful, dignified, a person who exhibited the finest qualities of the human spirit, as co-head of the SCBWI, Lynn Oliver, said in her remembrance of him. Fortunately, we can still connect to him through reading his many books. Thank you, Richard Peck.

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Figure of speech

I love to learn new literary terms, like paraprosdokian. Paraprosdokians are figures of speech where the latter part of the sentence takes an unexpected and often humorous turn. It can play on double meaning and can be anticlimactic. Comedians love paraprosdokians.

Examples:

“If I could only say a few words, I’d be a better public speaker.”

“There but for the grace of God goes God.”

“If I am reading this graph correctly, I’d be surprised.”

“On his feet he wore blisters.”

“Take my wife,please.”

“I had a lovely evening, but this wasn’t it.”

 

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Love one another.

I go to a church every Sunday, a church I love so much that I may sound as “Pitchy” about it as I am about a book I’ve written. It uplifts me, the way a beautiful book or piece of music does. The church is Christian, interracial, multidenominational. Despite many years of study and reflection, many of the Christian tenets remain mystery to me. I have no certainty, except that love, Jesus, forgiveness—all are wonderful models for a life. When I struggle with the concept of resurrection, for instance, I feel completely overwhelmed. But something much simpler such as forgiveness or loving one’s neighbor as oneself seem also close to impossible.

Our minister spoke of love, and not the squishy, Hallmark card kind of love necessary. She talked of valuing everyone, really seeing everybody’s worth. That, she said, was one of the qualities under that “love” umbrella. In loving one another, we, second, had to be moved by these people, to feel compassion for them. Third, we had to love them despite their faults. Imagine! There are people I truly love, but just hate their faults; their faults push all my buttons and make me crazy. Finally, she said we have to value and care about their flawed selves and not worry about how they change our former identities, neighborhoods, countries, our globe. Wow! Maybe resurrection is easier to achieve!

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picture book conference

 

The Music in George’s Head by Susan Slade is a picture book about George Gershwin and is the spark for a Pittsburgh literary conference. The WPA SCBWI invited the author, illustrator, art director, editor, and agent to speak about the book and about writing the simple, but beautiful genre of the picture book. It begins tonight at the Airport Hyatt and has drawn regional published and aspiring writers to attend the many workshops and have their writing critiqued. The book represents biography for the 5-7-year-old reader, giving a bite of history that can leave her wanting more with each year. The publisher, Calkins Creek, and editor, Carolyn Yoder are Pa treasures, associated with the familiar magazine, also a gem, Highlights. Children’s writers in Western PA are blessed by the volunteer efforts of the trio of organizers in our WPA chapter. Thanks Marcy, Kate, and Nora.

 

 

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