Category Archives: Grab Bag

My 2016 in Books

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2016 is over!  I say that with some relief.  I think a lot of us feel relief over the dawning of the new year.

But the end of a year is also a time of reflection, and Goodreads has this year (maybe it’s done so too other years, but this is the first I’ve noticed it) come up with a pretty spectacular few infographics to help reflect on my year of reading.

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*As of this afternoon, Tillman‘s Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You is still the highest rated book that I read in 2016, but it’s average rating is actually 4.58.  Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451 has also climbed this afternoon to 1,583,738 total reads by others.

There’s also a pictorial list of every book that I read this year.  Or there’s this form of that list too, which will give you more information, including my ratings for each book.

Here’s a fun fact that Goodreads missed in its infographics:  I read more than one book each by many authors this year.  I think that has something to do with my twice weekly story times,for which oftentimes highlighting an author is just simpler than highlighting a theme. I read the most books (12) by Mo Willems, no surprise there, and the second most by Rick Riordan (7).  After that followed Dr. Seuss with 4 books and Maggie Stiefvater, Roger Priddy, and Mike Curato all with 3 each.

I rely on Goodreads pretty heavily to help me track the books that I read (even that last tally, I discovered with its help). I like watching the lines of the bar graphs grow as the year progresses and racing myself.  This year, though I read 168 books to the 93 I read in 2015, it took me till Christmas Eve to pass last year’s page count total of 12,445 (2015’s totals are not entirely accurate because if I reread any books this year, those books are moved to 2016 instead of counting for both years).  I read far more picture books than anything else this year.  Reading for two weekly story times will do that to you, I suppose.  This year’s longest books is also significantly shorter than last year’s, George R. R. Martin‘s A Dance with Dragons at 1,112 pages.

As January progresses, I have a few more end of year lists to get to you: one celebrating all the five-star books that I read this year and another highlighting the books that included people of color.

I say it every year it feels like, but I hope to make 2017 a good year for my blog with weekly updates, helpful reviews, and some fun shenanigans.  Stay tuned.

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Shelfie with Cat

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IMG_0423While I don’t generally approve of my cat making her way onto this second shelf–from which I fear she can reach the things that we’ve moved to the third shelf to keep them out of her reach–I had to admit that she looked too classy and too photo-worthy sitting there, so I snapped a picture or two (in the first she was looking at the camera but blurrier than she and the books are here).  This photo just deserved to be shared here.  So here’s a shelfie.  Enjoy perusing the titles.

This photo has me thinking of perhaps adding a new feature to this blog.  Who would enjoy a Shelfie Saturday maybe that is just a post with a pretty picture of books–my books or the books that I work with or maybe even the book that I am writing?  There might be occasional cameos from my cat, but I’d never promise them every week.  What do you think, loyal readers?  Like the post if you think I should do the thing?

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TWO-HUNDRED FOLLOWERS!

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AKA: A thank you, an apology, and a promise.

First of all, I want to say a HUGE thank you to the 200 of you who have found my blog worth keeping up on.  Then I want to apologize because it wasn’t long after the two-hundredth of you chose to subscribe that I hit a busy patch in my life and have now had two weeks without an update.  I promise you that I have two review posts almost complete, but neither of them will be complete enough to go up on this Tuesday (which ends in 12 minutes).  I hope and endeavor to have one of them up for you next Tuesday.

Again, thank you.  I’m really gratified to think that someone–let alone 200 someones–might be benefiting from this blog that has become as much for me to organize my thoughts as to share them with anyone else.

Foretelling the Reception of Lee’s Second: Go Set a Watchman and The Casual Vacancy

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As you may or may not know, today marks the release of Harper Lee’s second published book, Go Set a Watchman, a companion to her famous To Kill a Mockingbird. Barnes & Noble prior to its release treated the book with a secrecy and suspense to equal their response to a new Harry Potter book. While the American company, Barnes & Noble, has been treating Go Set a Watchman with the utmost secrecy, The Guardian, a British-born newspaper (they’ve had an online American edition since 2007), released online Friday the first chapter of the book, a thing they wouldn’t have dared to do for any of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. As I woke up to open the story three hours early for the throng of people that Barnes & Noble expected to rush to buy the book, I started thinking of J. K. Rowling.

Following the runaway success of her Harry Potter series, Rowling, a British author, released The Casual Vacancy, a book condemned as “too British” by too many Americans and by many worldwide as not enough like Harry Potter. Her reviews were tainted by fans expecting another Harry Potter, never minding that the two books were written for different aged audiences.

I can’t claim any knowledge of how The Casual Vacancy was handled by bookstores in the U.K. or frankly of how it was handled in the U.S., but I wonder if the very American nature of Lee’s prior novel meant that the British newspaper felt Go Set a Watchman deserving of less sanctity than did the American company, Harper Lee being something of an American heroine.

I don’t think I would be alone in citing To Kill a Mockingbird as one of “the great American novels.” The novel deals with America’s historic and present problems of racism and classism and lauds the purported American ideal of individual worth. The more innocent parts of young Scout’s childhood are nostalgically read by many Americans. It is one of the bestselling novels of all-time by an American author. (It is soundly surpassed by only seven other novels by American authors.*)

I think Go Set a Watchman is Lee’s Casual Vacancy, certainly in the way it will be received. Already I had one customer tell me that she had heard that reviews complained about Lee “ruining” her characters (an impossibility, really, since Lee as the author is the only authority on her characters), comparing the novel to To Kill a Mockingbird without consideration not only to the history of the manuscript (which is an interesting one to say the least) or the intended audiences of each novel, which I believe differ, though I wouldn’t swear to it.

To escape such colored reviews of her next book following Casual Vacancy, Rowling published under the male pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Since outed as Galbraith, Rowling has done a decent job of slipping beneath the radar. Her latest publication, a hardbound copy of her 2008 commencement speech for Harvard University, I discovered only after it had been put on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, the publication having been subjected to no hype whatsoever.

As Go Set a Watchman uses the same characters as To Kill a Mockingbird, it would be impossible for Lee to have chosen a pseudonym, but I wonder if she might wish that she had been able to do so. Were she to publish a third book with a different set of characters and a different setting (unlikely sadly), I would be unsurprised to see her try to distance from the Finches and from Maycomb by choosing a pseudonym as Rowling did to distance herself from Harry and Hogwarts. I fear, as it did for Rowling with The Casual Vacancy, the hype and love for her first book will ultimately hurt the reception of Lee’s second.

*Yeah, so Wikipedia’s not the best source, but according to Wikipedia, those novels are Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code, J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County, J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur, and Johnston McCulley’s The Mark of Zorro. This list excludes non-fiction books, of which there were three by American authors that sold better than To Kill a Mockingbird according to this same source.

Full disclosure: I’ve not read even the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman, but I have been following the drama surrounding its publication.

In Defense of the Small, Women’s, Liberal Arts College

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Hollins University.  Photo credit to myself.

Hollins University. Photo credit to myself.

Today is International Women’s Day making this attempt to process recent events seem particularly timely.  I hope this says what I want it to say.

***

The world is big. Like, really big. Most of you are not from our little valley, down here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Most of you probably have not heard of Sweet Briar College if you’ve heard of Sweet Briar College at all till Wednesday when the college announced that at the end of this summer, they will shut their doors forever.

But sometimes things happen, and you have to process them. I process by writing, and I have a blog, so I may as well share my thoughts. So welcome to my thoughts.

Sweet Briar College was my first choice until a somewhat disastrous overnight visit changed my mind. I ended up at Sweet Briar’s rival college, Hollins University, and I never looked back—or maybe only once or twice.

The girl I was who dreamed of marrying a landed nobleman and running a household while walking about in opulent clothes and changing to go riding through fields and woodlands that I owned, that girl loved Sweet Briar. Wandering the grounds feels like wandering through a Bronte or an Austen novel. The wooden banisters are worn smooth by thousands of hands over decades. There’s one room in the library that could have been lifted from my wildest imaginations of my manor house, all dark wood, plush couches, and pleasurable fiction. The horse barn is the nicest I’ve ever seen—and I’ve seen a fair few. I’d have loved to spend nights going up to the observatory, from which I could view the night sky with so much less light pollution than, well, just about anywhere I’ve ever been.

My opinion of Sweet Briar has been clouded both by that overnight visit and by the traditions and history of my own alma mater, which proclaimed the annual soccer game between our two universities “Burn the Briar Day” and sold student-made t-shirts proclaiming “Friends don’t let friends become Vixens” (the Vixen is the Sweet Briar mascot).

I never had the opportunity to interact with any of the Sweet Briar women or visit the college again after deciding to become a Hollins woman.

***

The announcement of the closing of Sweet Briar rings like death knells across the Internet (or at least within certain circles of the Internet) for a certain types of universities, or at least universities that, like Sweet Briar, share three qualities. Sweet Briar is a small, rural, women’s college. (And a liberal arts college besides, but enough large liberal arts colleges are thriving that I’m going to leave the argument alone for now.) Maybe the three stresses were too much, but each I feel has its benefit, and if the landscape of colleges becomes one where any of these three aspects is absent, we as a country will lack much. In this alternate universe where schools like Sweet Briar, schools like Hollins do not exist, social pressure probably would have found me in a college, but I would not be the woman I am, and I honestly don’t think that the woman I am now would much like the woman I would be.

I wanted a small university. I wanted a relationship with my classmates and professor. Coming from a town of 16,000 and a high school graduating class of 200, I was used to personal attention, and I was unwilling to give that up. I needed a small university. I would not be the woman I am had I not attended a small university. I am quiet by nature. I don’t like to be called on in class because I would rather reflect and observe and process and answer questions later, preferably in writing. Being in a small class and being called on even when I didn’t feel like the most qualified student in the room or the only active participant in a class (the reasons I’d have spoken out in high school) taught me how to express myself. The observation rather than participation mode of learning works for me, and I would have learned the class material in a large university setting, but I would not have fought for my turn to ask questions or to share opinions and I would not have become the more confident woman I am today, more unrepentant than my high school self about having opinions and more willing to share those opinions.

That town of 16,000 is a Connecticut suburb not long removed from its days of farming, with open spaces aplenty but shrinking and old stone walls dividing properties and crisscrossing the woodlands between. By the time I was looking for a college to attend, I’d been to New York City and Boston, and I knew I didn’t want that hustle and bustle or that gray. I am not a city-girl. I specifically avoided schools in large cities, as surely as I avoided schools that are cities, anything with a population to rival my hometown’s. The landscape of Sweet Briar stole my breath and nearly stole my heart—did steal my heart for several months, and I think in my heart, I always believed that Hollins never really did compare for all its green hills and lawns, and its shady garden, and cool creeks, and the woods that kept us bounded on two sides, and the horse pasture that formed the third side. Hollins’ grounds became home, and I felt and feel privileged to walk and run unchecked across them, to explore their crannies and surprises, but Sweet Briar’s grounds are nearer to what Heaven will look like, and I would have spent my four years discovering their secrets and communing with nature among the grasses and woodlands. I’d have been unhappy anywhere without greenery, and Sweet Briar offered me by far the best.

Lastly, women’s colleges. Let me tell you about women’s colleges. I stumbled across women’s colleges accidentally. I didn’t intend to go to a women’s college when I began looking for schools, I just didn’t exclude them, especially as my guidance counselor pinned Hollins as the school for me from the get-go. All of the colleges of which I became aware that happened to have the right climate (I wanted to move south and escape the cold) and environment (small, intimate, with caring professors, and enough greenery to keep me sane) also happened to be women’s colleges.

The small class size was necessary to teach me to speak out, but I think an environment entirely composed of women helped me speak out as well. We were women who shared ideas, ideals, and circumstances, and my classmates were supportive in ways that I think male classmates would not have been able to be, speaking as they would have been from a position of privilege that had been denied to us women since birth. My classmate and I were all of us in some way, however intentionally or unintentionally, coming from a background of repressed voices, and so we listened to one another and encouraged one another to speak out as some of us had never been encouraged to speak out.

In a women’s college, I learned to see the struggles of women, of myself that would have been repressed beneath the usual blanket of social etiquette in a co-ed environment.

It took a little while longer to sprout, but there’s a fighter in me planted there by my experiences at Hollins. My experiences there opened my eyes—or gave me the tools to see the truth when it was in front of me later in the work field, in relationships. That fighter learned to speak out. She learned to see the injustices that needed righting. She learned to be unafraid to get dirty, to not dislike the grease of fried chicken on her fingers, to be unafraid of paint splatter or the “herpes of all craft projects”: glitter. She left behind the prim and proper lady who wanted to be only another ornament in an ancient household and peerage of ornaments, that woman who first fell in love with Sweet Briar’s campus.

There’s one thing more that the Hollins environment did for me, the most important thing. And I hope this is true of Sweet Briar too.

I would not trade the friendships for anything. I have a solid group of friends, any of whom I would take a bullet for, and among whom I know for whom I shouldn’t take a bullet because they’d be too wracked with guilt. Six of us meet weekly to discuss our lives and whatever else comes up, anything from trifling matters like television shows to big things like current events and societal problems.

Those six are the bulwark that keeps me together, at least as important as my family. It makes me so sad that there are those who do not have this support network and when I try to explain to them what my friends mean to me cannot understand. Those six are an absolute and true Godsend. But they are a small, small part of Hollins for me. We are all of us family—the whole of the university—and while we have divisions, our cliques, at the end of the day, we are Hollins women—everyday. Living with these girls was like living among an eternal educational summer camp or slumber party.

Now that I am an alumna, the divisions have ceased to matter near as much. No matter where we are or how many years divide us, Hollins women support one another. I once met a Hollins woman in a tack shop in Connecticut. She offered to let me ride her horses during that first meeting, before we’d even realized that we were Hollins sisters; it was an instantaneous Hollins recognition. I was recognized as a Hollins woman by man who, as a young orphan, had been “adopted” by Hollins women, students who took him out and bought him Christmas presents and generally loved him even if they couldn’t take him home. He stopped me at work to confirm that I was a Hollins woman and then to reminisce about those years, ask after me, and advise me.

We call the alumnae network “the Hollins mafia” because they are everywhere, unexpectedly, and those in the network will move earth to help you once they realize that you’re family.

In the end, Hollins and Sweet Briar share much, both small, women’s, liberal arts colleges, and neither in a large city, though Hollins is in a much more active area. We need small colleges like these to give personal attention to our students, to tease answers out of the more reluctant speakers, and to teach them to speak. We need women’s colleges to continue to inform our women, to show them the world in a new light. As I write this, women are demanding equality, fighting again for our rights. We fight against microaggressions and violence towards women, the unequal social footing, and unconscious and conscious degradation of our sex.  I know the Sweet Briar Vixens and my Hollins sisters will all back me up when I say:

Please, please, let’s not let this one university’s closing spell the closing of universities with their qualities and of their caliber.

***

My heart goes out to the Vixens and residents of Sweet Briar, VA. I know the college and college town more intimately than some as someone who so strongly considered the college. I know how tiny, how rural is Sweet Briar, VA. My heart goes out to those who work in the town of Sweet Briar, the population of which is almost entirely college students and staff. Without the college, I don’t know what will happen to that strip mall. I don’t know what will happen to that town.

I know that if it were my college, if Sweet Briar had been my college, I would be heartbroken to know that soon there would be no home for me to return to.

Vixens, we’ve been rivals for a long time, and I’m sure you’ve enjoyed that rivalry as much as I did. In this trying time, I hope we can learn to be friends. I hope we can focus on our commonalities and not on our differences. I know that no home will ever replace your home, and that your home is what they’re taking away from you, I hope you can find a little solace elsewhere, at Hollins if Hollins is where you choose to find rest. I know it may be too hard to come to us.

Presents Under the Tree

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A friend sent me this message:

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Happy Christmas.

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He wore the bow as if it were the most natural thing in the world, as un-self-conscious as he had been when he had stripped in the walled garden to explain to her what to expect on her wedding night.  I could almost ignore it, but the shiny, red curls were just too garish in his dark, untidy hair.

“Cam,” I asked, “what’re you doing here?”

He grinned.  “You wanted me here.”

“Well, yes, of course.  I mean it’s Christmas–”

“So I came.”

“Won’t Amalie mind?”

“She knows I’m here.”

“Of course she does.”

I put on the kettle and cut slices of plum pudding.  We ate while seated crossed legged on the floor, a most unsophisticated banquet for the queen’s consort.

***

He could have chosen no more garish color than green for the bow that perched amid the true red tendrils of his hair.  I think he knew it too.  He wanted to draw attention to the effort that he’d put into his role.  He wore one of those soft, secret smiles as he lifted his hand from the lute strings, letting the last thrums of the song vibrate on the warm air.

“It’s a beautiful song.”  It was the best thing I could have woken up to, an alarm I would pine for daily once he was gone.  He didn’t acknowledge the compliment.  I didn’t expect him to.  Instead I fell back to our script.  “What’ve you brought me?”

I felt a pang of regret as he put the lute down in the case by his feet and reached behind his back to retrieve a bottle that he’d hidden.

“Avennish fruit wine.”

“And what’s in the wine?”

“The smile of a cat,” he said easily, “and Christmas cheer.”

I gave him a cat’s smile.  “I’ll have some of that.”

“What’ve you brought me?”

***

It was an odd noise that had woken me, a sort of huffing, wheezing, groaning.  I stumbled down the hallway.  The Christmas lights had been lit.   I had thought I’d unplugged them the night before.  Must not have.  It was pretty though, with it’s white lights twinkling.

“No!  Christmas trees are no good.”  A man in a blue suit came hurtling past me.  “Bad, bad Christmas tree.”

“What’s so bad about Christmas trees?” I asked the man.  He’d put himself between the tree and I, and with a flourish he’d drawn from his pocket a strange, bulky pen that he pointed like a sword now at the tree.  Its lights flickered.

“Oh lots of bad things about a Christmas tree.  Basically–”  He bent his long, lithe body around.  I had a brief moment to inspect his face before he grabbed my hand and finished, “Run.”

He yanked me out the door, and we were hurtling down the stairs.  We were a block away before I had time to notice the blue curling ribbon in his hair and it wasn’t till much later that I was able to ask him how it had come to be there.  I didn’t understand the answer.  I came to believe that he had used technobabble to cover the embarrassing tale.

***

My own characters are getting a little jealous.

“This is one of your worst ideas yet,” Aidan grumbled, affixing the green bow to his hair yet again.  It had a tendency to slip.

Darryn had an easier time keeping the bow from sliding.  He barely moved his head as he promised, “She’ll like it.”  He said it as if that covered any of the bows’ faults.

“She’d better.”

“After all this time?” “Always”

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Last year on Wizarding Independence Day (or V-V Day) I wrote a reflection on what life would look like for my friends, several celebrities, and myself without Harry Potter. This year I bring you a report from the field, best summed up: “After all this time?” “Always.”

Did you think we would disappear with time? Think again.

While our theme park in Orlando seems to be constantly expanding and a Japanese branch is opening in June, J. K. Rowling has announced a new film trilogy. Besides that, a J. K. Rowling sanctioned play discussing Harry’s life before Hogwarts is in the works.

I’ve found myself back in the fandom with the opening of HogwartsIsHere, which has been receiving copious amounts of positive press everywhere from Buzzfeed to Time to Comedy Central (I haven’t been able to find this link yet, but a friend posted about it).

Having been on the fringes of the beginnings of this project and having been invited back in as the website looks to expand, I can say again, “Always.” Being welcomed back into the active fandom really does feel like “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome [me] home.” I’ve very much been enjoying basking the in secondhand glory of HogwartsIsHere’s success, and now that we’re starting to put together teams for further textbook development, I’m really excited to get to know new friends.

It’s amazing what this fandom has done to pull people together and the passion that its fans can muster, the creativity, what we’ve been able to create and sustain when we pull together, projects like HogwartIsHere, Mugglenet, and The Leaky Cauldron, as well as the International Quidditch Association, which has become truly international with teams in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., Italy, and France.

And while we’re talking about rallying, let’s take a moment to recognize The Harry Potter Alliance for their efforts to decrease worldsuck (to borrow a term from a fandom with a bit of overlap).

This is a fandom that is still very active after all this time, and we’re not going anywhere.  If you’ve been away for a while, well, as I’m relearning “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

Happy V-V Day, Pottherheads!

Perhaps My Last Message

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So last night, I lay in bed, finishing up the last few chapters of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Greening Cup, a very good book, and definitely my favorite of the eighteen Potter books that she’s written (absolutely love the conclusion!).  I was pulled from Rowling’s world by a strange wheezing sort of sound.  Well, naturally, I thought my roommate must have been kept up the latest episode of one of our favorite TV series.  I was just at the part of the book where one of my favorite characters is killed (in case you haven’t read the book, I won’t tell you who that is, only that he is a fan of Harry’s), and having no real desire to cry the tears that usual accompany that scene, I put down the book, knowing that my favorite Doctor would probably provide me with some well-delievered witticism to drive away my book-born sadness.

I was surprised to find my roommate’s bedroom door closed and light off.  I put my ear to the door, wondering if she was just watching in the dark for movie theater effect, but the sound seemed fainter here than it had in my bedroom.  Giving up on the idea that my roommate would provide me ready access to repartee that could banish my grief, I crept back to my room, moving more quietly now that I had ascertained that my roommate was asleep.

My own bedroom was not unoccupied.  The closet door had been pushed open, and a strange, blue creature was jumping on my bed, talking in a garbled language that I didn’t recognize into a small, handheld device.  His back was to me, but his bat-like ears must have alerted him to my entry, even though I tried to be quiet.  The creature turned around, stopped jumping, and regarded me with large eyes for a moment, before fiddling with a watch on his wrist.  He gestured to me, seeming to say, go away, but of course, it was my bedroom, I was tired, my book was on the nightstand, and I was going no where.

“Who are you?  And what are you doing in my bedroom?” I demanded.

He grinned.  His teeth were pointed and a bright white against his blue skin.  He tapped the clock face and said in very plain English, using my own hard-to-replicate-for-being-a-gallimaufry accent, “My name is Earth-worker (I can only assume that the translator gave me the meaning of the creature’s name rather than his name in his own language), and I come in peace.”

Well, I had to laugh, didn’t I?  What a cliche!  Especially as I happen to know that the name “George” means “Earth-worker” too.  “Are you an alien, George?” I asked him, because I could think of no other creature from whom his greeting would be so cliche.

“If you mean,” George said, “to ask if I am a foreigner to your planet, then, yes.”

I laughed again, and pointed to my closet.  “And you came through the wardrobe?”

He looked to where I pointed, and said, “Yes, through the portal.”

I laughed, but he asked me, “What’re you called?”

“If you’re George the alien who came to my world through my closet,” I said, still laughing, “then I must be dreaming or the Queen of England.”

He didn’t understand my cliche.  Instead, he bowed, his little hands on his forehead, and said, “It is good to meet you, Dreaming.  Or are you the Queen of England?”

“Oh go on,” I laughed, “I can be the Queen of England.”

George the alien told me then that he was glad to hear it as my position as queen, which he understood to be a title of leadership on my planet, would mean that he could treat with me directly rather than asking to see my leader.

By now of course, I was gasping, but when George held out his hand, and asked me to accompany him to his planet, where I could meet the High Councilor and Councilmen who governed his people, I thought I was far more likely Dreaming than a queen, so I took his little hand, which was cold, and allowed myself to be led into my closet.

Except I did not find the back of my closet.  I pushed aside the clothes and stepped out into a room with tiered rows of seating on which sat hundreds of small, blue creatures like George.  As George introduced me in my own English accent to one of them, who wore a crown and cloak, I muttered, wide-eyed, “I guess I am the Queen of England.”

Well, given such an opportunity, I could hardly stay here on Earth, could I?  George helped me to get back to my bedroom for just a few hours so that I could leave you all, all of you Earthlings, this message.  I am on Gravitaea, and I will represent you to the best of my ability.  I will tell the Gravitaean Council about all of our greatness, and try to keep the Gravitaeans or their neighbors from becoming greedy and seeking to take for themselves the riches of Earth.  I hope you all enjoy what’s left of the planet.  Perhaps sometimes George will help me back to Earth to give you updates on my time among the Gravitaeans, but the portal takes a lot of energy to open and even more to keep open for any extended period.  Then besides it took us three tries to find my bedroom a second time.  The Gravitaeans are only just developing portal technology.

For perhaps the last time, friends, I love you.  I’m sorry I don’t have time for more personal messages to some of you.  Think of me when you look at the stars.