Friday, February 25, 2011

A Beautiful Light Lost

In September 2008, I went to the Kidlitosphere Conference here in Portland. Of the many people I met that day, one of the most delightful was Lisa (L.K.) Madigan. Like many authors, Lisa had spent years pursuing her dream of publication, and that dream was about to come true: her debut YA novel, Flash Burnout, was published in 2009.

I liked Lisa immediately for her sharp sense of humor, her wit, her kindness, and her down-to-earth good sense. At the launch party for Flash Burnout, the loving tribute of thanks she gave her husband and son moved me to tears. As one of the Portland KidLit, Lisa was an enthusiastic cheerleader for all of the rest of us. Even in the midst of her own publishing ups-and-downs, she always made us laugh with her dryly funny, spot-on comments.

Her talent was immense. Flash Burnout is told from the point of view of 15-year-old Blake, and Lisa nails Blake's teen male voice. To our delight (although not our surprise, because the novel is that good) Flash Burnout won the American Library Association's William C. Morris Award for a debut YA novel. Lisa's second critically acclaimed novel, The Mermaid's Mirror, was published last year. After the years of writing and revising and struggling and waiting, Lisa had earned her place among the brightest lights of YA literature. I looked forward to many years of devouring her books and enjoying her friendship.

Those years are not to be. On February 23rd, Lisa passed away from pancreatic cancer.

I last saw Lisa in December, shortly before she was diagnosed. She'd been ill, but was already back at work and looking forward to getting back to her writing. Less than three months later, she is gone. She leaves behind her husband and the son who was her world.

The video below, in which Lisa thanks the William C. Morris Award committee, gives a taste of her wonderful humor. Lisa's tremendous grace and strength shine through in her last blog post. I will miss her. Godspeed, Lisa.

If you would like to donate to a college trust fund for Lisa's son Nate, please click here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Pint of Ale and the Deathly Hallows

The other night we caught a movie at one of our local pub theaters. We love our pub theaters, because 1) $3 admission, and 2) I've yet to see a movie that is not improved by pizza and beer. (Or if you prefer, a vegan wrap and Pinot Noir. This is Portland, after all.) One of our favorites is at the Kennedy School, which is an actual elementary school that sat empty for decades before being converted to a B&B. Guests bunk down in the former classrooms. There's an Honor Bar (no smoking) and a Detention Bar (light `em up!), and the school auditorium is now the theater. Instead of metal folding chairs, though, it's stuffed with vintage sofas, chairs, and loveseats, with little end tables for your grub and ale.

Another of our favorites is the Bagdad Theater.* The Bagdad is one of those old-timey movie palaces from back in the day, with a fabulous Mediterranean decor that has been lovingly restored.

And the movie? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Let me confess right here: I have not read any of the Harry Potter books nor seen any of the movies past The Sorcerer's Stone. Not for any snobbish or disdainful reason...I just sort of haven't gotten around to it. The main reason we picked it was because the showtime fit our evening the best. Sometimes, it's all about going with the flow.

Which goes for the movie, too. Because the last time I looked, Daniel Radcliffe was still like, twelve and had baby fat in his cheeks and he and Emma Watson had the same build. Apparently, much has changed. When you haven't seen a HP movie since little Harry was trying on the Sorting Hat, The Deathly Hallows Part 1 comes at you like a fever dream: gorgeous and incomprehensible. Sudden shifts in scene with no apparent reason...characters I couldn't place saying things I didn't understand...Ralph Fiennes without a nose. But I still had a good time. Although why Harry, Hermione and Ron spend the entire middle of the movie in a tent, moaning about how they have to find Horcruxes and a magical sword, or else all is doomed, but instead of actually searching for the damn things, they listen to the radio and get into snits with each other and then the sword coincidentally shows up like, ten feet from where they're camping...well, maybe it's explained in the book. (But hey, did I mention the scenery was gorgeous?)

So, OK. Apparently it's time I catch up with the biggest cultural phenomenon in living memory. All you Harry Potterities, what do you advise? Read all the books first, then watch the movies? Or watch, then read? Or...?

*Not all the pub theaters in Portland are owned by the McMenamin brothers--there's also the Laurelhurst, which is fabulous--but the McMenamins have four, including Kennedy and the Bagdad. The McMenamins specialize in buying old, abandoned buildings and either restoring them to their original use (like the Crystal Ballroom, which was and is again a dance palace), or converting them (the Chapel Pub used to be a funeral home, and has an eternal flame burning outside; Edgefield used to be the county poor house, later an insane asylum, and now it's a B&B and youth hostel with taverns, a restaurant, a golf course, pub theater, glass-blowing shop, a...oh hell, you just have to go there and see.) All of them are beautifully renovated and loaded with original, custom artwork that just makes me smile. Like this.