On Reading and Writing: Ambiguity, Sequels, Series, Responsibility

I just re-read Lois Lowry’s The Giver. In the story (for the 2 people left in the world who haven’t read the book or seen the movie) one of the rules of the dystopian society is to seek precision of language. So if one were super hungry you wouldn’t say you’re starving because you’re not literally starving. I think we would actually do well in our country to seek that kind of precision of language, as it seems we’re moving toward a different type of dystopia, where words and sentences have no meaning, and today’s lie is tomorrow’s truth, or even this afternoon’s truth, or even the next Tweet’s truth. But that’s not what I wanted to blab about today. I found it ironic (or should I say incongruous?), that the ending of The Giver was left ambiguous and up for multiple interpretations given the focus on precision of language in it. That’s one of the things I want to talk about.

Did Lowry set up that dichotomy on purpose? Apparently there are multiple interviews where she weighs in with her interpretation of the ending. And she wrote three more books in the “series,” after years of getting plagued with questions from readers. Apparently in book three, Messenger, she says definitively what happened at the end of The Giver. But Messenger was published 11 years after The Giver. It totally irks me that she weighed in. Because I believe Lowry originally wrote The Giver as a standalone.

So, why am I writing about this? (Maybe because I’m in grad school and I’m thinking too much?) Well, because I’m thinking about authorial responsibility, and how as writers we bear responsibility for what we put down on the page. But where does that responsibility end? If our readers are dissatisfied with not knowing something from our stories, are we obliged to clear it up for them with another book, or a Tweet or blog post? (I’m looking at you here, Jo Rowling!) I mean, as a publishing professional I get it. Writing another book for people who are clamoring for one means another book deal, money, potential subsidiary rights or dramatic rights deals, money, foreign rights sales, money. But is that enough of a reason to write another book? There are those who say, “yep!” That’s not enough of a reason for me.

imgresIn my opinion, if Lowry’s intention was for the ending to be ambiguous, then I don’t believe she should have weighed in on what happened at the end. Stand up for writing an ambiguous ending, woman! Say that you wrote it because you wanted people to imagine different things. But, if she actually had something else in mind, then I believe she should have tried to get that down on the page in the first place. And again, I get it. She was a different person in 2004 when Messenger came out than in 1993 when The Giver came out. It’s ok for her to change her mind and write another book. I guess.

What do you think about (unexpected) sequels and follow-ups coming out years later? How do you feel about authors weighing in on the meaning of their work?



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Directions for a Blabbermouth Thanksgiving Game

I just can’t write another heavy thing. So, instead, I’m going to give you directions on how to play the best game ever. Play it with your friends or family when you get together for Thanksgiving or the coming holidays or just for the heck of it. And honestly? I’m not really a “game person” (some might even say I’m not a “have fun” person). But this is TOTALLY FUN.

play-charadesThis is a game that we play in my extended family, when we all get together. It’s called Rumpelstiltskin. It’s sort-of-kind-of a charades game. And I promise you, it’s the best game ever. I’m sure other people have other names for it. I’d actually be interested in hearing them (in the comments) if you do. As the years have gone by, and the kids have all gotten older (and more adult-ish) and the adults have also gotten older (but still aren’t anywhere near mature) we sometimes find ourselves playing Drunkelstiltskin… you kind of just add gin or bourbon and then play the original game. Anyway, here’s how you play Rumpelstiltskin!

It’s best to play with at least 9 people. More is even better. So, everybody writes down about 5 or 6 names of people or characters (fictional, or real, or historical, or whatever) on small pieces of paper, and you fold them up, and put them in a bowl or hat or something like that. Don’t tell anyone what names you wrote down. You can write Ghandi, or Bugs Bunny, or Aunt Sadie (assuming you have an Aunt Sadie), or Michael Jackson, or Louisa May Alcott, or Ragnar Lothbrok, or whatever. Just names of people, characters, pets, etc…

Now you randomly break into teams. So, what that means is that you can’t pick your teams. So do it however you want. Pick names from a hat, draw straws, use an app. Whatever. With 9 people you would do 3 teams of 3.

imgresThe way you play is:

1. the teams take turns

2. one person on the team gives clues about the names to the people on their team

3. only the people on their team get to guess the names

4. someone on another team keeps the time; the turn is over in one minute, then the next team gets to go

5. when your team guesses a name correctly, you keep that piece of paper for that round

6. You can only “pass” on one name per round. If you do pass, the name goes back in the hat.

7. The whole round is over when there are no names left in the hat

8. At the end of the round, you count up each team’s papers and then put them all back in the hat for the next round.

9. The team who got the most names wins. But everyone wins, because it’s SO. MUCH. FUN.

But here’s what makes it fun…


The first round you can say ANYTHING except the name on the paper.

The second round you can only say ONE WORD.

The last round is TOTALLY SILENT.

For all three rounds you can act things out, gesture, point, whatever. But you can’t spell things out. And if the name is “Bill” you can’t say “Rhymes with Phil.” If your team doesn’t guess a name, when your turn is over, you can’t tell them what it was.

And that is how you play Rumpelstiltskin!

I promise you, it’s fun. If you suck at charades, it’s still fun because then it’s very funny.

Wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. And peace. And Love. And equality. And kindness. And health (and healthcare). And adequate food and shelter. And, and, and…





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A Letter to My Blog Followers

escher hands

Hello, my lovelies,

As so many of you are, I am devastated by the results of our election. It’s difficult for me to put words to the many thoughts and feelings I have. In all honesty, it’s been difficult for me to even allow myself to feel those feelings. I’ve been further distressed this past week by all the infighting that I’ve seen online, between people supposedly “on the same side.” It’s breaking my heart. A lady once said we’d be stronger together. Remember that? I still believe that. It’s how I’m living my life.

I don’t know how much I will be blogging in the future. I created The Blabbermouth Blog because I wanted to talk to writers and people in the publishing industry, about writing and publishing. But it’s difficult to write a post about “story arc” or “10 things to improve your query letter,” when it feels like the world is crumbling. 

So, here’s what you can count on me for:

  • I will continue to try to make a difference in our world in the way I have always done since joining the publishing industry 7 years ago, standing firm in my commitment to representing the stories and voices of people who have traditionally been marginalized.
  • I will continue to be unabashedly, unapologetically, and loudly feminist, talking about feminism, defending and supporting and working for the rights of women and girls.
  • In small and large ways, with my money and my individual actions, I will work even harder to support the rights of people of color, people of all religions (and no religion), and those in the GLBTQ+ community.
  • In small and large ways, with my money and my individual actions, I will continue working for healthy and sustainable environmental policies.

Here’s what you can not count on me for:

  • I may or may not be active on social media; social media isn’t always the best thing for my mental health.
  • I don’t post where I donate, when I volunteer, and all of that. Please know that doesn’t mean I don’t care or think that I’m not in action.
  • I may or may not just talk about writing and publishing on this blog. If you don’t care for that, you’re welcome to read someone else’s blog.

For those of you who’ve been reading The Blabbermouth Blog for a while, you know I’m all about peace and love. I know that’s a strength. But just so you know, that doesn’t mean I’m not kicking ass and taking names. For me, the personal is political and the political is personal.






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