Tuesday, January 27, 2009

awards season is not just for movies

This is late-breaking news to those who follow children's books, but anyway: I am so pleased that The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman has won the Newbery Award, the country's highest honor for contributions to children's literature.
This title is one that we selected for the Cybils shortlist, and without any dissent, so I whole-heartedly agree with the Newbery committee's choice! If you don't know the book, basically, imagine The Jungle Book if, instead of a human child being raised in the jungle by animals, the child is raised in a cemetery by ghosts -- while a murderer is on the prowl, looking for him. Sounds creepy, and it is, but not overwhelmingly so. It's sort of about connection, and finding your place in the world. The characters and situations are wonderful, the prose beautiful. And, it's fantasy, which doesn't always get noticed by awards committees, so YAY!

Another of our Cybils shortlist titles received a Newbery Honor: Savvy, by Ingrid Law. Yet another, A Curse Dark As Gold, won the Morris Award. A book that I would really have liked to see on our list, Nation by Terry Pratchett, got a Printz Honor. That one was an almost-shortlister which I enjoyed very very much. So many good books! I'm curious to see what the Cybils judges will choose as the *best* off those powerfully strong shortlists. A very tough decision! Though I loved Graveyard Book, of course there is a big part of me that wants to spread awards around, recognize books that aren't already #7 on Amazon and 7 weeks on the NYT bestseller list, you know? I mean, there was always that voice in my head, during the judging, wanting to lean toward the books that haven't already found huge audiences. If I was split between two books, I'd want to honor the one that wasn't famous yet. But you try to blot that out and just think of the work itself. Still, I root for new authors, up-and-comers, and titles that deserve attention but just, due to the turning of the wheel of luck and marketing dollars, haven't gotten it quite yet.

In a NYT interview yesterday, Neil Gaiman said this:
“You always have this Platonic beautiful ideal of a book in your head, and then you write something which isn’t as good as that,” he said. “The Graveyard Book’ is the first time I’ve had a Platonic ideal of a book and written the thing and looked at the book and said, ‘You know, I think you’re better than the thing I set out to write.’ ”

Interesting to note, the book had been gestating in his head for about 20 years, ever since he used to take his son to ride his tricycle in a graveyard. Sometimes books incubate for a long time; sometimes, I think, they have to -- not every book is ready to hatch immediately. Like a dragon egg -- legend has it they incubated for years. So. I'm just saying. Some books are dragon eggs. I like this quote by Mark Twain:

"There are some books which refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn't because the book is not there and worth being written -- it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself."

The book I am ensconced in now had a bit of an incubation period while I took a break and wrote a different book for NaNo. By the time I was done with that (and not in love with it, by the way), this one was ready to be written, and this one I am in love with. Like it's found its proper form. There are other books in my head which have been waiting MUCH longer, and I do wish there was a magic spell for getting them all out and down on paper, but there's only the old-fashioned way: one word at a time!

Meanwhile, you know what would be FABULOUS??? If this honor accorded The Graveyard Book were to coincide with fabulous ticket sales and much success for the movie Coraline (also written by Neil Gaiman), opening February 6, and the stop-motion film studio, Laika, here in Portland, were to immediately embark upon an adaptation of The Graveyard Book, thereby reemploying all those amazing animators and set builders and model makers who worked feverishly on this stunning movie. I would love to see Portland become a new hub for animation -- especially this kind of animation, where things are made and built by hands. You know? Where models are painted with tiny paintbrushes and trees are made out of popcorn and giant scale dollhouses are built with. . . wood and nails and glue. Wouldn't that be AWESOME???

(I was just reading this awesome book about renovating an old mansion in Casablanca, and the author notes that the reason traditional crafts in Morocco (like bejmat tilework and tadelakt plastering) are still alive and well there, while crafts die out in so many other countries, is because the royal family has kept them alive -- has commissioned so many building projects over the years that the apprenticeship system has kept on. I love the idea of people building things and making things, which is why I love stop-motion so much. Keep people building and making!)

Go see Coraline when it opens! Help build a stop-motion industry in Portland, Oregon! Help employ artists!!!

Here's the trailer. And I don't know about you, but when I'm watching it I have to remember: this is not CG, this is not all done on computers. Those are dolls, every single one of them, every single movement is a fraction of film, with puppeteers (OCD puppeteers?) moving every single finger, every single everything, in tiny increments) and all those background are sets. Every flower was made by hand. It's AMAZING!


[Added: for a small inkling of the craft involved:]

[Added: two people commented to tell me about the knitter of tiny sweaters for the movie; this I had to see for myself. Check it out!]

(there are a bunch more Coraline-related clips and stuff on youtube if you're keen.)

P.S. It's snowing again in Portland!!!!!!!!!!


jenn said...

Wow, I've seen several previews for Coraline and I didn't realize those are all real dolls and sets, not computer animated. I think, actually, you may have mentioned that here before but I forgot. That's amazing! I was planning to see the movie, but in an idle, if I get around to it, kind of way, but your post makes me a lot more eager to make a point to see the movie in the theater. (And in the first week too, as I understand those are the numbers that count in the Hollywood World.)

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Jennifer! I know what you mean about Hollywood numbers -- doesn't it seem nowadays that if a movie doesn't make $50 million on opening weekend that it's a "failure"? Crazy!!! Imagine if that were the case with books!!!

Amber Lough said...

It's snowing here, too, and I'm about to make my way out into it and maybe roll around and get wet. Not just for my sake, of course, but for the glee of young-ones.

liz elayne lamoreux said...

i love it when you share books with us here...makes me so happy.

and i cannot wait for this movie. have you seen the short movie about the knitter of those tiny items that is on the corraline website? (does that sentence even make sense?) it is amazing!

and i so enjoy the glimpses into your writing process/experience.

S R Wood said...

Regarding the Coraline trailer:


And as far as books that are -- or are not -- ready to be written yet, the vexing thing is that we can't tell without just trying it. If it works well, it was ready. If not ... well, not. Sometimes I think mistakes are just things to get out of the way to make room for the real story.

Laini Taylor said...

Amber, enjoy the snow! I can just imagine Elizabeth all bundled up!

Liz, I have not seen that movie, but I will look it up. Sounds cool!

And Seth, I know. I feel the same way. The path to the right story is paved with dreadful first efforts and second efforts. . . it's the only way.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I think there is going to be Graveyard Book movie (Gaiman mentioned it on the Today show this morning); no word on whether it will be stop-motion though. I hope it is; those little things are amazing.

Lexi said...

Hoo-rah! Hoo-rah for Graveyard book!

I am so so excited for Coraline movie, and rillyrilly impressed with the puppets. I think that I will make puppets when I grow up, now. Yes indeed.

Diandra Mae said...

I haven't been this excited to see a movie since high school, when I saw the previews to Nightmare Before Christmas. I cannot wait!

Regarding the "gestation period" of pieces...I find that true of not just stories, but also characters. Some just don't want to go out of my head and on to my sketch pad when I think they should. They're downright ornery about it! :)

Also, it is 76 degrees right now in Houston, but we're supposed to get freezing rain tonight and have a high of 45 tomorrow-argh!

Laini Taylor said...

Oh wow, Anamaria -- I did not know that. Must investigate. It could be great live action too, and if it isn't stop motion, I hope that Laika will pick up another awesome project and just keep on making movies.

Lexi: do it! I'm crazy for puppets, even the more theatrical old-fashioned kind, like the marionettes of Prague. I think part of why I love Prague so much isn't just that it's GORGEOUS, but because there are puppets everywhere!

And Dee, wasn't Nightmare extraordinary? Have you watched the making of? Blew my mind. (have fun with your crazy weather!)

Kjersten said...

I just saw another cool trailer for Coraline, Laini. It shows a woman knitting a sweater used in the movie. Wow, trippy miniatures!

Lisa Schroeder said...

Oooh, Laini, I love your wish for all those people who worked so hard on Coraline. I'm wishing that too! And I can't wait to see the movie. :)

pixiel87 said...

My mum used to make tiny teddy bears when I was little - often with little knitted scarves and beanies and stuff that were about the same size thread at the knitter in that clip... I love minatures too, though I don't have the neccessary precision to make them myself (yet) - it's fun to look at the world and imagine it tiny... :) Thanks for sharing this Laini - your blog is my favourite writers blog I've ever read!

Charlotte said...

Oooh, I like that knitter of tiny sweaters!

Anonymous said...

I think we must have told you that our visit to the Coraline set in Portland ABSOLUTELY blew my mind. I second all your wishes with an exception for our friend Nick who was the one who gave us the tour. I'd like him to stay at home here in NZ for a little while. Of course he could go back to Portland eventually for more stop motion work since I have plenty of good reasons to visit Portland anyway!

Vivian Mahoney said...

Wow! I can't believe the knitting video!

I'm listening to the audiobook of The Graveyard Book. Neil Gaiman narrates it--perfect!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more! Oscars and Grammy are fun, but there is so much more to honor out there... you may get a kick out of this site.... dedicated to awards in ALL areas!

Heather said...

I love Althea Crome (bugknits.com). Miniature knitting is on my list of things to do (or ways to blind myself). I have all of the tiny knitting needles and everything, although not as tiny as hers! The smallest I have are 0.38mm. Just to give you an idea, Persephone's heart tattoo, flower and skull were done on 1.0mm. Small!

Anonymous said...