Friday, November 30, 2007

Goodbye, November


A lot of writers post poetry on Fridays. It even have a name: Poetry Friday. I'm not going to join that group, but I do want to post a poem today. The Writer has always loved this poem since she first came across it in The Egg and I, by Betty MacDonald. This poem is a good way to send off November!

No sun--no moon--no morn--no noon,
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day,

No warmth--no cheerfulness--no healthful ease,

No road, no street, no t'other side of the way,

No comfortable feel in any member--

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,

No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!

Thomas Hood

I don't get it. What does it mean? Poems are always so hard to understand. Can you explain it to me, Ellsworth? Tell me what it means. Okay?

I'm going to add a line--my apologies to Thomas Hood. No Winchester.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cynsation-al Interview

The Writer is on a roll this week.

She's on a roll every week. I peeked when she got on the scale Monday morning. Whew!

She did an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, fellow author, instructor in the Vermont College M.F.A. in Writing for Children program (The Writer graduated from that program in 2004), and world-class blogger for children's literature. You can read the interview and learn more about The Writer than you ever wanted to know!

Does she mention me? Am I in it?

As a matter of fact, you are.

Is it good stuff?

You'll have to check it out for yourself, Winchester.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cybils Nomination!


The Writer doesn't just write the Time Spies books. She also writes picture books and novels and nonfiction books. Today she was delighted to learn that her fall novel Seeing Sky-Blue Pink has been nominated for a Cybils award, in the middle grade fiction category.

The Cybils are cyber awards, judged by professionals in the industry. Most of them have blogs. A few decided to create an online award, another way of recognizing children's books.

Seeing Sky-Blue Pink is based on The Writer's childhood. In the book there is a cat that can predict the weather!

The Writer put me in another book? I'm glad she's finally recognizing my talents--

She did not put you in Seeing Sky-Blue Pink. You aren't the only cat in the world, you know.

Only the best.

Monday, November 26, 2007

One More Horse Story


The Writer wrote Horses in the Wind because she loves the Seabiscuit story, but also as a tribute to racehorses. A few years ago, The Writer attended a special celebration for Secretariat.

Secretariat was born in Caroline County, Virginia, not too far from where The Writer lives. The horse was nicknamed "Big Red" because he was a big, chestnut Thoroughbred. In 1973, Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby, setting a record, and then the Preakness. The final leg in the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes. What happened at Belmont that year has never been seen before or since in the history of horse racing. The Belmont course is long--a mile and a half--and is held only two weeks after the Preakness. Not much time for a horse to recover from two major races.

When The Writer attended this celebration, she met Penny Chenery, Secretariat's owner, and Secretariat's jockey. But she really didn't know much about the horse, so she watched the video taken of that historic race. She sat on the floor in the dark auditorium and could not believe her eyes. There were only 5 horses in the field that day. Secretariat overtook them all, even his rival, Sham. He had won the race before it was half over. But the horse didn't stop running. He ran and ran and ran. His jockey didn't pull up or ask anything of his horse. He let Secretariat go. The horse was running because he could. When it was over, Secretariat had won by an astonishing 31 lengths (a length is the length of a horse, the unit of measurement in horse racing). And had set a world record of 2:24.

Secretariat is listed number 35 in ESPN's Top 100 Athletes of the Twentieth Century, one of three horses. (Man O'War, considered to be the greatest racehorse ever, is 84 and Citation is 97). Secretariat was a big, beautiful, powerful animal. Go, Big Red!

You know, I can run pretty fast myself.

Only when somebody turns on the can opener.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!


I am posing with a few of The Writer's vintage turkey salt and pepper shakers. Winchester has a little stuffed turkey, which will describe us all at the end of the day. We wish you a happy day with family and friends!

Eat lots! I know I am.

Winchester, it's not time to pull the wishbone yet.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Winchester's Favorite Holiday


Okay, I'm writing the entry for today. Guess what my favorite holiday is?

Does it have anything to do with tomorrow?

Yes! It's the most wonderful day--food being cooked and crumbs dropping on the floor and food being served in the dining room and morsels falling from the table. And the best part of all--that yummy really good kind of chicken! Ummm! Kiss, kiss!

You mean turkey? I can't tell one Butterball from the other.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ella-Cinders


Old houses often have interesting lives, just like people.

A house can't have a life. It's not alive.

I think houses are alive, in a way, as long as people live in them. Anyway, the home of James and Dolley Madison, Montpelier, had several lives after the Madisons were gone. But in 1901, the house was purchased by William duPont, of the famous duPont family. He made a lot of changes, like I said yesterday. His two children, Marion and Willie, roamed the 3000 acre estate, helping with sheep shearing and milking. And riding horses. Marion loved horses. See, Winchester, there is a horse connection to The Writer's new book, Horses in the Wind.

Then how come there is a picture of you sitting by an old fireplace?

I'm getting to that. Marion grew loving horses more than anything. She was a strong-minded girl who rode astride at a horse show in Madison Square Garden. In 1915, girls were supposed to ride sidesaddle. When she grew up, she stayed at Montpelier, which became one of the most important horse-training centers in the country. She married a movie star, Randolph Scott. And she started the famous Montpelier races, which has steeplechase and flat track racing every November. The Writer went once. It was very exciting!

When Marion died in 1983, she left Montpelier to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She wanted the house returned to the way it looked when the Madisons lived there. Her father had saved doors, windows, fireplace mantles, storing them in barns and attics. He even saved a section of the original roof so it could be redone exactly the way it was originally.

I'm sitting by one of the Madison fireplaces that had been covered up for 150 years. Those are really old ashes next to me--maybe as old as 1844.

Awww. Poor little Ella-Cinders.

You're just jealous because you never go anywhere cool. The Writer and I will go back to Montpelier in 2008, when all the renovations will be finished.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ellsworth Goes to Montpelier


Last week I went on a research field trip with The Writer.

Where? To Tara in Gone With the Wind? Tell The Writer somebody already wrote that book.

No, silly. We went to Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison. James Madison was the fourth president and is known as the Father of the Constitution because he was the main architect of that document. His wife Dolley is known as the first First Lady. They lived in Orange County, Virginia, on a 5000 acre estate. At first the house was really small. Then they added on to it. And then added on to it again until the house had 22 rooms. I'm standing on the front porch by one of the columns. The yellow door with its fanlight and sidelights is called the "Presidential Door."

What's this got to do with the price of tea in China?

The Writer is starting a new Time Spies book in a few weeks. I can't say what it's about, but we went to Montpelier because The Writer needed to find out something for the story. If you don't mind, I'll continue with my own story. Anyway, after Dolley Madison sold Montpelier in 1844 (James Madison had already died), the next several owners began making changes. They covered the brick with pink stucco. They changed the staircase. Stuff like that.

In 1901, William duPont bought Montpelier. He made a lot of changes--added rooms and wings until there were 55 rooms when he was done. The house looked very little like the house the Madisons built. Montpelier stayed in the duPont family until the last owner died in the 1980s.
I'll tell you about her tomorrow. She did something really cool!

I still think this entry should be called "Ellsworth Goes to Tara."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Horses, Again


Please finish this story today! I'm so bored!

Winchester, you don't have the patience of a newborn gnat. I'm finishing it anyway, and not because you asked me to. Well . . . The Writer kept taking lessons right up to her 50th birthday. She checked out trail rides, but then . . . she decided she wanted to do something else for her big birthday. It would still be horsey, but also involve children's books. She and her husband went to Chincoteague Island, one of The Writer's favorite places on earth.

The Chincoteague Pony Center is part museum, part gift shop, part riding center. Riders put on a show with tame ponies, some the descendents of Misty of Chincoteague, who was a real horse and not just a character in Marguerite Henry's books. On her 50th birthday, The Writer climbed on a black and white pony (one of the bigger ones) and rode around the ring! She looked ridiculous, but she was very happy! Normally when she posted, her rhythm was up-down, up-down. On a Chincoteague pony, her posting rhythm was updownupdownupdown. She joggled all around the ring and loved every second.

And the point of all this is . . .?

I was just trying to tell you why The Writer wrote Horses in the Wind. She loves horses and she knows how to ride them. Sort of.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Writer Rides Again


The Writer suddenly loved all things horses. She bought horse jewelry. She bought a pair of pants with horseshoes printed all over them. She read Seabiscuit. She went to the famous Montpelier steeplechase race. And she took lessons at another barn down the road, Quad J Farm.

This time the horse was tacked up already, but there were no ponies. She got a chestnut Thoroughbred with three white stockings and a white blaze down his nose. The horse's show name is Forgot My Sock, but his barn name is Ty. Ty had one purpose in life--eat. He wanted to live in his stall and eat or graze in the pastures. He did not like being a school horse. When the trainer brought him out, The Writer said, "Do you have anything smaller and narrower?" What she should have said was, "Do you have anything that moves?"

Riding Ty was hard work. The Writer had to kick him to get him to budge. She didn't like kicking the horse. She was afraid it would hurt him or hurt his feelings. That was The Writer's trouble. She wanted to be buddies with the horses. She also thought riding a horse would sort of be like driving a car. She found out fast that horses have minds of their own. After six months of private lessons, The Writer still could not post to trot! She felt like a failure. Ty was probably laughing. Who couldn't learn to post?

Okay, okay, she finally does learn to post. The end! Tell a cat story next!

Don't be rude, Winchester. The Writer did learn to post. She stayed with her lessons, though she never was able to gallop. Next I'll tell you what she wound up doing on her 50th birthday. Remember, she wanted to go on a trail ride.

I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Writer Takes Up Riding


Okay, it's been a few days, but I want to write some more about Horses in the Wind, the newest Time Spies book. Why did The Writer do a book about Seabiscuit? She grew up with horses around her, but was never horse-crazy like a lot of girls. When she was 49, she thought about what she wanted to do on her 50th birthday. Every day when she drove to Jazzercise, she passed two stables. The Thoroughbreds would often be out a pasture, their coats gleaming in the sun. The Writer decided she would learn to ride! And on her 50th birthday, she would take a trail ride!

This has disaster written all over it.

The Writer went to Hazelwild Farm, one of the stables nearby, and signed up for beginner's lessons. The trainer assured her that adults often took beginner lessons. On the first day, The Writer pulled into the parking lot. She was the only one who drove to Hazelwild. All the rest were tiny 8-year-old girls. At this barn, the students have to tack up their horses. The herd was rounded up before the lesson, which meant dealing with high-spirited ponies. The Writer was usually given Jake, the biggest pony.

Every week, she went into the stall to do battle with Jake. She would beg a different, tiny little girl to untangle her bridle and put it on Jake, or pick Jake's hooves (his legs were like cement pilings), or put Jake's bit in his mouth (he nipped), or tighten Jake's girth. The tiniest little girls would throw their tiny shoulders into Jake's middle to make him blow out the breath he was holding, while the great hulking Writer stood around.

When it was time to ride, the little girls settled into the saddles light as leaves and raced around the ring. The Writer bounced all over the place because she couldn't learn to post (this is Virginia and you learn English style). Jake liked to brush her off on the fence. Once he nearly broke her little finger. At the end of the 8 weeks, the little girls could ride like centaurs and The Writer couldn't post to trot, or even walk very well. She decided to move on to another barn.

You mean there's more to this ridiculous, boring story?

Monday, November 12, 2007

One More Week!


Next Monday is the Big Day! The first week of auctions for Robert's Snow begins! This is the final week of illustrators being featured on various blogs. To view the schedule, check out Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

You'll also find a complete list of all the illustrators who have created snowflakes for the auction and links to the blogs that featured each of them. The interviews are great! The Writer has read them all so far and now she wants to be a children's book illustrator, too!

She has enough work taking care of me.

True. Even picking you up, Winchester, is a big job. The snowflake featured here is by Wendell Minor. It's adapted from his recent book, Nibble, Nibble, with poems written by Margaret Wise Brown, who is one of The Writer's favorite people. She loves Wendell's work, too! Check out the snowflakes and get ready to start bidding next Monday!

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Newest Time Spies Book!


It won't be officially released until November 13, but I want to tell you about the newest Time Spies book now! It's called Horses in the Wind. The story is all about the historic match race between two of the greatest Thoroughbred racehorses ever--Seabiscuit and War Admiral. The time was 1938 and America had been in the Great Depression for years. They needed a hero and they got one. A horse!

The race was only between Seabiscuit, the horse from California, and War Admiral, the son of the greatest racehorse ever, Man O'War. It was held at Pimlico in Baltimore, Maryland. People all over America were stirred up over this race! Which one was the fastest horse? The only way to find out was to race them together. Find out what happens in the book!

I'll write more about horse racing in later entries. But look at this cover! I'm smack dab in the middle! Way cool!

Those horses may have been fast, but the fastest animal on the planet is a cat. The cheetah. So there.

You're just jealous, Winchester, because you're never on the cover of the Time Spies books!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Winchester's Closet


Winchester has a love/hate relationship with the closet under the stairs. That's where his dry food is kept, but also the vacuum cleaner, mops, and broom.

Hey! Those things can be dangerous! Especially that hairy mop thing.

The Writer keeps his dry food in a plastic bucket with a lid so Winchester can't get in it (he's been known to chew through bags). The bucket says "Deli-Cat" but the food inside is really diet cat kibble. The Writer didn't have enough stickers to spell out "Winchester" on the lid, so she put "Mr. Big."

Yeah. That' s me.

Half the time The Writer drops some kibble when she scoops it out. Winchester likes to duck in the closet and scratch around for those old, linty kibbles.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Are you going somewhere with this?

Yes. The Writer is also watching her weight. She gave away all the Halloween candy she bought for herself the day after Halloween (half price). But this morning I saw her open the candy drawer (now empty). She spotted a tiny box of Milk Duds stuck way in the back. She looked just like you as she clawed it out, cackling with glee.

That just goes to show that people and cats aren't that different after all. Do you think you can open this bucket for me?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ellsworth's Scrapbook



I finally finished my scrapbook! I went scrapbooking--or cropping, as we say--with The Writer and finished the last two pages. Here is the cover. Isn't it pretty? I used paper that has tiny little elephants on it. And the three buttons each have three little stick-on jewels in the center. That was my idea!

My scrapbook is 2 inches by 2 inches and has 10 pages with pictures of me when I was a young elephant. The Writer used to draw pictures of me when she was a little girl. She still has some of those drawings. She color-copied the drawings and reduced them 25 percent. The photograph of the inside pages of the scrapbook isn't very good--The Writer was too close or something. Look! I'm wearing the same headscarf! That photo was taken in 1962. I love my scrapbook!

I want a scrapbook all about my life. On the first page I can paste yesterday's newspaper article.

Will you give that newspaper story a rest? Sheesh!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Newspaper Story


Winchester! The Free Lance-Star is here!

LOOK! I'm mentioned first!

Let me see. Oh, for heaven's sake, you are.

"Winchester the Cat had been given a bath." Well, that part can't be helped, but the Reporter Lady was so impressed with me, she used me to lead the story. And you are--where are you in this story, Ellsworth?

I'm in the next paragraph. It says I was nestled in my small wicker basket. Which I was. The poor Writer! She's isn't mentioned until the third paragraph, if you don't count the subtitle under the title: "Local Writer Cherishes Writing: Candice Ransom is a prolific children's writer, very dedicated to her chosen craft." I hope she's not mad.

Why should she be mad? The title should read "Local Writer Cherishes Wonderful and Terribly Smart Black Cat." If she was more dedicated to me, maybe she would have been mentioned in the first paragraph.

The only reason you got top billing was because you carried on so much!

What can I say? The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Next time don't be such a goody-goody, sitting in your little wicker basket. Move over, I want to read about me again.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Getting Closer!


The auctions for Robert's Snow are getting closer! Every day five new illustrators' snowflakes are posted on different blogs. Everyone has worked so hard to help raise funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The first auction is November 19, two weeks from today. Oh, there are some gorgeous snowflakes to choose from. Go to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and check the schedule. Then go look at the snowflakes and make a list. Don't forget--more snowflakes will be posted each day. And not all the snowflakes are featured on the hosting blogs. You can see all of the snowflakes at Dana-Farber.

Ooo. I like that snowflake!

Yes, isn't it lovely? It was painted by Ellen Beier and illustrates the Hans Christian Anderson story, "The Little Match Girl." That's one of my favorite fairy tales. Ellen illustrated one of The Writer's picture books, The Promise Quilt. Click on the snowflakes! Pick out your favorites! Bid!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Bed Whiskers


Hee-hee! Look at Winchester! Two of his whiskers are bent. Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed?

I don't think it's very nice to call attention to it. Do I ever say anything about your worn spots?

I'm sorry. The Writer will lend you her flat-iron if you want to straighten those whiskers.

Very funny.