better than a picture.

Pretty much everyone has a photo (or a gallery) up on his or her website. I decided, instead, to ask people what I was like.

My friend Jessamyn West has an extraordinary eye for detail. Even though we only see each other twice per year on average, she can describe me with frightening accuracy. To wit:

Sharyn November is my elegant friend of a certain age with the elegant name and elegant mane whose shoes, grin and riotous self-deprecating humor assure you she's as much of a geek as you are. She leads with her chin, dresses in dark colors, and ties her hair at the nape of her neck. It's a lovely shade of mahogany, though sometimes darker/greyer at the temples. On a man it would look dignified, on her it also looks dignified. She's equally at home in a seedy dive bar or a cocktail party, though dressed more comfortably at the dive bar. Jeans don't suit her, they don't give her the same lines as her floor-length skirts.

She smokes impossibly long cigarettes and waves her hands around as she tells you stories of the dentist and her father. She brought a chicken puppet to a pool hall, she does not take herself too seriously. My mother would love her yet also not compare me unfavorably to her like moms can do if your friends are a bit too cool....

Sharyn can make me laugh from 3000 miles away, even over email, she thinks she is mean but she is nice.

Melissa Gould adds: anyway, yr hair is an amazing color. whether its provenance is a bottle or whatever.

my friend and author sara ryan, eloquent as ever:

of the people i am close to, sharyn is the one who can make me the most nervous.
she has high standards and a lightning-fast brain.
she suffers no fools, gladly or not.
when sharyn asks for your opinion on something, she really wants it.
she listens with an intensity that can be disconcerting.
she doesn't have manicured hands.
she is one of the most elegant smokers i have ever met.
she can put more expression into the single word "please" (the annoyed rather than the begging inflection) than anyone.

I did not pay Tom Dutcher to say this:

I have a mental picture of Sharyn in a big pink shirt (shirttails out) hole-ridden jeans, and bobbed (but still thick) mahogany hair. She's on stage (with or without guitar) bent at the knees, fingers splayed in a kind of "sock-it-to-me" or "gotcha" move. But best of all is the smile. She has a slightly crooked cat-that-ate-the-canary grin. Utterly charming.

Of course nowadays her hair is much longer and she has an entirely different wardrobe (she tells you all about it elsewhere). Other people will go on about her hair, which is distinctive in its density, more than anything else. Or maybe some will notice her strong jaw and nose, these are not masculine but womanly (many people mistake childlike features for feminine). But it's her smile that is unmistakably Sharyn. There are many variations on the Sharyn smile. She has a version of her crooked smile that defines sardonic. But my favorite is the dropped-jaw smile. Smiling open-mouthed, she'll tuck her chin into her neck and widen her eyes in mock surprise. This communicates "wow" better than any other expression I've seen.

Eyes are as much a part of a smile as the mouth and I've always admired Sharyn's. But look out for those daggers. I've been on her bad side (I deserved it) and believe me, you don't want to go there. Other people have had the courage to admit they're afraid of Sharyn at times. I'm no exception. Biting sarcasm, willingness to say out loud what others only think, and a deadly seriousness are some of her more formidable weapons.

Sharyn in motion: I'm convinced her energy and oral fixation are symbiotic. She's got a cigarette, candy or a swig of tea in her mouth at all times. That's a recipe for hyperactivity. There was a year where she never slept more than 3 hours a night. But maybe I'm wrong, maybe her body just has to keep up with her ever-active mind.

Read the rest of this site. You will not be 'hearing' a belabored writer's voice. This is how she talks, off-the-cuff in conversation. She's clever, critical and loves to make people laugh. She is a wordsmith, a true poet and flawless pop-song composer. But for someone who puts a lot of her life on the web, she is an intensely private person.

According to the not-easily-summed-up herself Erika Lopez:

I would say that you look like you should be "entering" all sorts of things late. I'm not talking about SAT tests or political luncheons. I'm talking about entering the kind of places where supposedly cool people in expensive black clothing and merlot in their hands, turn around to look at you. And I'm not just whistlin' Dixie up your skirt, either. Look at your hair, your strong face. Just sit there and look at it. Can you feel it?

And this, my dear woman, is the kind of cool that grows old like Norwegian wood, and not plexiglas.

Much to my shock, Halsted Bernard actually wrote something about me in her (now-defunct) online journal, tandem:

Sharyn, Cello

And underneath, alternating between mournful and inspiring, there is Sharyn, giving her advice while never assuming absolute Rightness. My favorite memory of Sharyn is a phone call we shared some months ago; she asked me questions. How did I feel about this, what did I think about that. I never suspected her of having ulterior motives, although if I did I'm sure she would reply that she doesn't have the time, don't be ridiculous.

Sharyn claims she is not classy. She is elegant, striking, witty and bright. If this isn't class, I don't care to know what is.

I am most in awe of Sharyn, for what she's been through and for what she accomplishes on a daily basis. As a result of my own awe, it's hardest for me to talk with Sharyn because I am afraid of disappointing her with my naivete, my lack of a career, my youth. But I haven't disappointed her yet.

Simon Egleton, who is English (so he gets extra cool points) once compared me to Linda Fiorentino. He has since actually seen her and changed his mind, but has not yet come up with a substitute. (His equally wonderful brother cannot remember my name, so he refers to me as "the Movie Star." He thinks I have the face of a 1940s film star.)

Anna's version of me is visual.

As is Theo's.

Artist Number Three in a series: Mike Dringenberg.

Here is an anime portrait.

MCA Hogarth has her own take on it (with extra added nice commentary).

I have a very specific coat of arms.

Request: Even though it sounds incredibly self-serving, I'd really love someone to paint me la John Singer Sargent. If you know anyone who has the chops to do it, send them my way.

Here is an email from Naomi, who is English (like Simon!).

Once upon a time in a land not too far away, a soon-to-be-teen-reader discovered who Sharyn November was.

Sharyn is an amazing person and introduced me to so many of the books I love that I know she is the true queen of YA publishing. Better still, although she's so awe inspiring, she is a real person (she answers all my random emails) and really very cool. I can imagine her sitting on a stage somewhere, talking wittily to a crowd -- with a guitar, perhaps, and then singing along to some song she's making up on the spot; the crowd loves her. And the next day she's writing fortune cookie messages on intricate curls of paper.or talking to a class at my 6th form, blowing glittery smoke rings, while everyone -- and I mean everyone -- listens. There's a big "We [insert heart-shape] Sharyn" over the door.

I haven't met Sharyn yet but there's a strong sense of her personality in her emails, whether she's freaked-out (rarely) or enthusiastic (all the time), ironic or sincere. She says she wants to be a griffin, like DWJ's Elda, and with her beautiful, fiery hair, she so could be. I don't think anyone would dare to venture, "But griffins are gold." If I happen to mention her to authors I've fan-mailed or people online, I get "Sharyn rocks, doesn't she?" in return. With this kind of reputation, I think if I met her I'd be more than a little scared of her. After all, griffins are intense, dangerously spectacular creatures. No one in their right mind crosses a griffin.

All I can add to that is I love you, Naomi.

Jen "Reading Rants!" Hubert Swan has this to say:

You cannot do that nervous laugh thing around Sharyn. (You know, how sometimes you use short annoying bursts of laughter at the end of sentences as punctuation because you're not sure what to say next? We're all guilty of it) Because she will invariably stop the conversation dead and ask "What are you laughing about?" or "Why is that funny?" and you damn well better be able to explain yourself or she will continue to look hard at you until you do. This happened to me once. I have taken measures to make sure that it will never happen again.

I can't believe that Todd Columbine got around to writing the following. I guess I'll choose to take all of the masculine references as compliments. (For the record, my nose and jawline come from my mother, as do my hands.)

Sharyn is very hard to get a handle on, partially because I store words and not pictures, and partially because she moves at something approximating light speed. I remember being jealous of her skirts and her hair. I can get hair like that; I can't wear skirts like that.

I don't understand why her photos always make her look like she has such a masculine jawline. I don't remember seeing one. Maybe the photos are what she looks like when she stops moving.

Or maybe she really does have an overstrong nose and an overstrong jaw and carries herself with enough panache that you don't notice or care. Maybe she's really that elegant; maybe she's bluffing. Does it matter? Whatever she's doing, she's getting away with it.

Is she pretty? I don't know what that means anymore. I wouldn't mind trading bodies. That will have to suffice.

My rockin' Canadian pal, Andrew, refers to me as "super isbn, the magic librarian."

Marly Youmans wants me to read Robertson Davies:

I thought of you as congenial with Davies because: you are a bit larger-than-life in manner and have the dramatic-looking kind of beauty (often true of a Davies character, as he started in theatre); you are intense in your mental life (definitely Davies, who adores Jung); and you're associated with mythic and magical things. What I think is that Davies would have been glad to have invented you.

According to the esteemed Jane Yolen, I am "the punk goddess of children's publishing," which is one of the best compliments I can imagine.

A bass player of my acquaintance tells me that I am a combination of Fran Lebowitz and Captain Janeway. I am not sure how I feel about this.

According to Cynthia Leitich Smith: "Sharyn is the very image of Artemis from Wonder Woman comics. They both have that whole Amazon warrior queen thing going on."

Speaking of which: Lucy Huntzinger pointed me to this Kate Beaton strip, adding: "This comic was totally you. I died laughing picturing you in it."

And Dave Cudmore says:

Sharyn is an inspiration to all she meets. Funky, funny, friendly and dedicated to her ART. The ART of steering kids to books that fit them like her personality fits her ... Many are fortunate to know her and see that there can be happiness in life's career choices. She is the best.

J. Christian (who is a sara ryan fan), rocks the house:

Sharyn is, among other things, sole resident of Sharynia. We can't go there ... but we can marvel at its chiefest glory. And damn, will there be marvelling when Sharyn's around. It's interesting. You forget how stunningly, simultaneously dense and auburn her hair is until you see it...and the rest of her... some outlying part of which is usually always moving. To wit: Sharyn leaning against wall during your panel [at ALA -- sdn], grooming herself with hands in feline manner. Or Sharyn in hotel room sprawled across chair, bare feet undulating like plants in the ocean. Not only does she possess the secret to perpetual motion, but I'm absolutely sure she is a reincarnation of rockin ancient Celtic babe Boudicca: tall, suave, cool as all hell.

My friend and ex-colleague Lisa Moore pointed me to a series of photos of the fashion/editorial icon Diana Vreeland: "Her personality and energy remind me of yours." And damn, look! She can smoke at her desk. Not fair.

One of my favorite authors and people, Tammy Pierce, thoroughly stunned me with this:

Sharyn must be seen/heard/savored to be appreciated. She is a hurricane of fresh air, outrageous opinion, wild enthusiasm, cynicism twirled with innocence, perception, humor, obsessions, and comfortable clothes all in one marvelously heady brew. You take her as she is, which for me is both wonderfully relaxing and totally invigorating. She's a sharp-boned goddess with coarse red hair (I don't care how it gets that way, it is her true color), peridot green eyes, a wide and vivid mouth, and a way of disposing her rangy body that fills me with envy. (Don't take this wrong; I am a straight female, but she is entirely engaging to look at and listen to.) She is the hope and future of kidlit publishing, which she loves with all of her considerable passion and wants to take to a visible level where presently clueless people will realize what an adrenaline-surging intelligent powerhouse kidlit has been and is. I could never make up someone like her and I would never want to. Any such attempts would be pallid sketches of what is much too fun a whole. Anyone who hasn't met her is living a sad gray life. Luckily for me, I'm no longer one of them. I want to be her when I grow up.

Elise Matthesen says: "You are interesting and a lot of fun to be around and you cut through bullshit like a chainsaw, woman. A tall elegant casual funny chainsaw." Edited to add: Elise and I are actually Marvel superheroes: Literature and Adornment.

Some random guy wrote a WisCon 30 report for the Internet Review of Science Fiction:

If Susan Ballion hadn't changed her name to Siouxsie Sioux and become a punk/goth goddess, but had kept all of her vicious humor and unsavory habits, could she have become a New York editor specializing in children's books?

The answer is named Sharyn November.

My kickass Summer 2002 intern, Jacqui, IMed me the following:

this is how i describe you to my friends: "my boss is great! she has the longest red hair i have ever seen, drinks [diet] mountain dew and flavored water out of this giant '60s-esque mountain dew goblet, has a chicken puppet in her office, is an internet addict, has a bizarre sense of humor because she takes everything very seriously [meaning: literally, at face value], and makes me laugh. we IM each other from 10 feet away, which she loves. also she makes fun of anyone who is mean to me, including my sister. gold star. best boss ever."

I didn't realize it until later, but Kat posted:

I figured out how to explain why I like you: it's because you remind me of Aerin and Sunshine and RM heroines in general. You're hard-headed, grumpy in an adorable way, quirky, passionate, don't do well with fools, and fierce in defending what you care about. You are also interested in what I have to say, and you don't qualify that. You were the first person in my life I could talk to about books who didn't interrupt me to ask, "Don't you have something better to do than read?" You may not always answer email [don't remind me -- sdn], but knowing you are out there makes my life better.

Only my doctor can tell you my blood type ... but you can take a guess.

One last thing. Remember that game you played as a kid, the "which animal are you" game? Well, one of my friends said that I reminded her of a griffin.

Griffins are beautiful, mad, moody, unpredictable, spectacularly conspicuous by being themselves and larger than life, scarily quick-witted, have huge, manic senses of humour which sometimes go over the edge into the wicked, do not suffer fools gladly, and are generally simply Not Tame, which makes them exciting if dangerous friends and enemies you really don't want.

Bizarrely enough, my college has, after many years, finally named their sports teams: they are all called the Gryphons. This does not mean, however, that I retroactively do and/or approve of sports.

Isn't all of this great? If you know me, write me with your own descriptions and I'll post them.

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