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Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Stir the Soup, and Zoomy visits The White House

Yikes, I’m afraid I’m not much of a blogger.  I like the idea, but the habit isn’t there.  Once the first giant snow fell on Chicago this year, I happily withdrew into my laundry room, where I write, and also into the making of many kinds of soup.  As our house is old and the first floor very cold in the winter, making soup is easy and inviting; there’s the chopping, stirring, good smells and then warmth of having the stove on for a few hours.  On any given afternoon, I’m in a big scarf and red slippers, hair on end, stirring the pot.
The other kind of soup I’ve been stirring is the word-and-idea soup that always precedes the actual writing of one of my mysteries.  I do a ton of research.  I write many notes, some in the middle of the night.  I like this stage, as I’m kind of floating in a bunch of thoughts, watching them as they bump up against and sometimes change each other in the process. 
Help, it sounds like I’m IN the soup here, instead of stirring it.  That could be.  Sometimes I’m not sure where I am in the mix, but I know this stage of making books is exciting and often surprising.  I try not to worry too much about whether what I’m doing is a ‘good idea’ or not, at least at this stage.  I just keep tasting the mix, and adding what feels right.  Okay, before we get off this soup thing, word-stirring is a slightly trickier process than stirring celery and carrots and bits of chicken, because you can add and then subtract.  With soup on the stove, you pretty much have to move forward.
Beth Puffer (center) of the Bank Street Bookstore in New York City, and other representatives of the American Booksellers Association, gave President Obama a copy of The Danger Box for the White House Library on January 20, 2011.

So, my winter has been busy inside my head but quiet outside.  One huge surprise from the outside world was learning that The Danger Box traveled to The White House as a special gift, to become a part of The White House library!  Wow, I even saw a photograph of President Obama standing by his desk and looking inside the book.  Zoomy, one of the characters in The Danger Box, would say this proves that turtles most definitely have wings.  I’d agree.
While I’m stirring the pot, I never imagine such glorious and amazing things happening to the ideas I’m stirring around.  I’d probably never write another word if I thought that way.  It would be too scary.  I’d stay in my red slippers and stick to stirring veggies in our old stainless steel soup pot.
Here’s how The Danger Box was opened at The White House this winter: http://news.bookweb.org/news/aba-presents-books-president-white-house-library