I'm a little obsessed with spiders since a new neighbor took up residence in my doorway (warning: don't click if you're squeamish about bugs). The smart pal who tipped me on Sims' book told me it's just a plain old cross spider, Araneus diadematus. I find this funny, because to me it looks like a cat-eating tarantula. It's gotten even bigger since that photo was snapped (The Scientist claims it's because he leaves the porch light on for an hour every night to attract bugs), and observing it has been neat over the last few weeks.
If you're not sufficiently grossed out, just know this: EB White is weirder than me. Halloween is on Monday, so this little bit on White's spider fixation from an NPR piece covering the book is appropriately creepy. After meeting the spider that would inspire Charlotte's Web, then realizing it was about to make mini spiders:
White took out a razor blade and cut the silken egg sac out of the web. He put the sac in an empty candy box, punched some holes in it, and absent-mindedly put the box atop his bedroom bureau in New York.
Weeks later, a movement on that bureau alerted him to the fact that tiny spiderlings were making a Great Escape through the air holes. White was delighted at this affirmation of life and left the hundreds of barn spiderlings alone for the next week or so — to spin webs from his hair brush to his nail scissors to his mirror — until, finally, the cleaning lady complained.
Along with detail on the meticulous research and hours at the library that White put into his kidlit classic, The Story of Charlotte's Web also gives insight to his process. Here's a terrific thought for us slow writers out there. After finishing his first draft, White decided to shelve the book for a year:
He said in a letter to his patient editor: "I've recently finished another children's book, but have put it away to ripen (let the body heat out of it). It doesn't satisfy me the way it is and I think eventually I shall rewrite it pretty much."
Thank you, Mr. White, for making it okay to rewrite a book, pretty much. And also to be an eccentric spider-keeper.