I wrote a love letter to Charles Darwin over here. My title was Happy Birthday, Friend. They had to make it something more edgy.. (and slightly wrong. The term Survival of the Fittest didn’t originate with Charles, but with Herbert Spencer.) But that’s just a quibble. I loved writing this, revisiting the old haunts, and thinking about my beloved Darwins. Of course it was a love letter to Emma, too.
This has been a Darwin week. I went to a great event at the American Museum of Natural History the other night. (Moderated by one Jonathan Weiner.) The occasion was the digitizing of thousands of Darwin’s manuscripts, notebooks and papers. You can see them here and also here.
Have fun browsing. Don’t forget to come up for air. And food.
Happy Birthday week, Charles Darwin! There’s a lot of excitement in the Darwin world right now because the Cambridge Digital Library has announced the publication online of more Darwiniana. Most importantly (being the child-centric person that I am) is the inclusion of the drawings of his children. When Charles discarded a manuscript draft, the children grabbed the pages and drew on the back of them. Their loving parents saved the pages not for the great man’s words, but for the kids’ drawings. I had known about these doodles when I wrote CHARLES AND EMMA, and do mention them in the book. But they weren’t available on line until now. You can see a slide show courtesy of The New Yorker here. They are a true treasure.
I re-found one of my own personal treasures last week. I was cleaning out shelves and closets (something I do when I’m waiting for book news, which I was) and I re-discovered a relic from my young adulthood. Just like Charles Darwin did when he was trying to figure out whether he should get married or stay single (he didn’t have anyone particular in mind at that point), I made a pro and con list when I was trying to decide if I should take a job writing for children. I had been living in Boston, but wanted to move to New York to be with my boyfriend. I got a marriage proposal from said boyfriend (Jon) and a job offer on the same day. The offer was from Scholastic, where I would be writing for Scholastic News Explorer, the fourth-grade classroom newspaper. Here is a picture of my pro and con list. I hope you can read my handwriting. (And please note, Scholastic people, this was before Scholastic had any huge hits.)
As you can see, I had no qualms about taking the job to be with Jonathan. Or about marrying Jon, but I did worry that writing for children might be tedious. It might not only not glamorous but sissy! (I can’t even remember ever using that word, let alone writing it down!) But at least it wouldn’t be hoity toity (like grown-up writing?) and it would get me to New York. Well get me to New York it did. And a lot more. Q.E.D. I made the right decision.
Last week I was tooling around town with my dearest Laurie Halse Anderson, and we found ourselves in the New York Public Library with our laptops. (OK, we actually planned it.) After writing (with Laurie) I walked to the dentist (without Laurie, who went downtown to protest with thousands of others), I came across this wonderful set of plaques in the sidewalk. Last week I tweeted and Instragrammed one. It was the perfect moment for that one (and always is). Check it out here.
This week’s is by Emily Dickinson. (It’s always a perfect moment for Emily Dickinson, I believe.)
And just for the fun of it, here’s another record of that day. It’s one of the few selfies I’ve ever posted:
That’s me, Laurie, and Fortitude. AMEN.