Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Because I can move furniture with my mind, that's why.

One of the benefits to my particular style of writing (which is writing whenever I have a minute or two--regardless of where or when that may be, whilst eating lunch (although not on a soup day...impossible to write on a soup day), or waiting in the car during a dance lesson or something like that) is that the story has time to unfold in its own way, in its own time.  In other words, though it may take a long time to write a book in little snippets of time, it never feels rushed as I write.  The back of my brain is always processing where the story might go always stays just a bit a head of my hand or keyboard.

HOWEVER, the pain-in-the-rear part of writing over a long period of time is that sometimes the writer (me) imagines the setting looking a little different each time I happen to be writing a scene in that location.  Yes, sometimes the walls change color (easy to fix) or THE FURNITURE MOVES (not so easy to fix.) How can the hound be next to the bench?  You said on page 143 that the bench was next to the door.  If the hound is next to the bench which is next to the door, wouldn't Thomas trip over the dog before he gets to Trinket when he rushes into the room?  It seems like the bench is across the room?  Is there a second bench?  If so, perhaps it is not a bench, because then it is confusing as to which bench it is.  Maybe it is the bed? Or a chair?

Yes, I move furniture with my mind.  Sometimes I picture a room one way.  Sometimes it looks another.  I suppose it might help me to draw little maps of rooms and such, except that my drawing skills are not that all.  And remarkably, I am completely unaware that I do stuff like this--this mental room rearrangement.  Perhaps one too many episodes of Spouse vs House were on as I was falling asleep at night.  I ONLY notice this when someone else points it out.

Yes, I know you are all wishing that you were my editor!  Doesn't it sound like a fun job!!??

Off now to re-read the bench scene.  What's another word for bench, by the way?


Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Midsummer's Knight's Read In Which Hijinks Ensue....


That's what I am.

No!  Not like these fries at Gibson's in Chicago, here served with filet sliders w/ maitre d' butter.  And no, I don't know anything about maitre d' butter except that it should be served on everything.

I am fried in the sense of being exhausted.  (Yeah, I know, you already figured that out.  You are smart, after all.)  I just got home after a significantly delayed flight and had to present a workshop for teachers in a graduate class at San Diego State University about Storytelling and Early Literacy Development FOR 3 HOURS.  Seriously.  Even I get tired of me after 3 hours.  (And folks at SDSU, thanks for not throwing stuff at me...)

Anyway, someone one said (probably a famous person, for famous people are always saying stuff) that a picture is worth a thousand words.  So here are some pictures of my excellent adventure in Chicago, but not very many words I'm afraid.
Really, I wasn't as cranky as I look here...except for maybe a little at my GPS on my phone, which kept trying to tell me that the bank on the left was actually a library (which was on the RIGHT, Hagatha!  THE RIGHT!)

Lovely story area in Des Plaines.  With the castle and clouds, I felt right at home!
What?? Get this picture out of here.  This post is supposed to be about my adventures and not about what I ate.  (Except that the broasted chicken sandwich at Chick n Dip in Hampshire was incredible!)

Yes, as a matter of fact that is my castle back there.

I know...just a poster about me....but I thought it was cool!

Sir Andrew and Sir James...yes, folks, there were KNIGHTS at the show in Bartlett!!

How lucky can a queen get??  Two fabulous knights!

Dudes.  They battled.  Seriously.

And there were crafts in Geneva (Father's Day cards depicting knights in shining sweet!)

And crown shaped cookies (even sweeter!)

Mark Twain and I having a private moment in Batavia.  (I know.  It totally looks like he is sniffing my hair.  And I don't know how I feel about that.)

An indoor lunch picnic because it was so hot outside the queen would have melted.

Hey, Italian Beef Sandwich!  Get out of my post!  I am not talking about food.  This is about adventure.

My peeps at the South Elgin Assisted Living (it was Bring-Your-Grandparent-to-Storytime.)  Remember, you are never too young for a good story.

Ooooh!  Pretty, pretty Plainfield.

Heigh-ho, off we go!

Me and a small friend.

I know!  Librarian Vince's crown is spectacular!

Me and bloggy buddy Kelly Polark.  (She is about 6 feet tall and drop dead gorgeous.  So are her kids.  Well, her kids aren't six feet tall, but they are lookers, I tell you!  That is because the best looking people read this blog.

Yes, back to the fried-ness of this post.  (There are sweet potato fries from Culver's Butterburger.  Yes, there is a place that cooks burgers in butter.  Not maitre d' butter, but butter is butter, right?)

So, I wanted to take more pictures of me with all the kids that came, but it is very awkward to stop and take a picture in the middle of the story!  And for some reason (nerves, most likely) I kept forgetting to hand my camera off to someone to shoot some pictures during the performances.  Anyhow, the kids were so wonderful and polite and non-heckling (and some even printed my picture off the internet and had me sign them!!! Rockstar moment) and the librarians could not have been more awesome.  These folks love their libraries!  And their communities love them as well.  

Thank you for having me.  It was an honor.


What?  Are you expecting a picture of deep-dish pizza?  Well, me too!  Unfortunately the only picture is on the cell-phone and Hagatha is being stubborn and not letting me download it.  She is such a stinker sometimes.

Speaking of stinkers, blogger is not letting me move this bit out of the caption.  *sigh*

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bit by bit by bit with a guest appearance by Alex Trebek

Musings from a hotel room...

1.  I use the word "bit" a LOT in my stories.  I am editing one right now and it's there ON EVERY PAGE!  A bit of this...a bit of that...No.More.Bit.

2.  I had an Italian Beef Sandwich at Geno's East yesterday.  YUM.  Chicago food=yummy.  (Chicago style pizza, I am coming for you.  Tonight.)

3.  Folks around here LOVE their libraries.  AND the youth librarians know all the kids by name!! Literacy is alive in Illinois!

4.  My hotel has skinny mirrors.  I want to take one home with me.

5.  I watched the National Geographic Bee on TV this morning.  (Hey, I was taking a small break from editing.  Truly I am getting a lot done. I promise.)  Anyway, Alex Trebek hosts the finals.  I have a special interest because I am the sponsor of our school's Geo-Bee, and have been for the past ten years.  However, with budget cuts and time constraints, I have been thinking that next year we will not be able to participate in the Bee.  No time to run it, no money to fund it, no personnel to help...

And then I watched these children, 12 and 13 year-old brilliant, BRILLIANT children and...I guess I'll be hosting another Bee! (And getting my own subscription to National Geographic!!  So many places in the world have new names. I bow at the feet of these amazing kids.)

6.  I miss my kids.

more  later


P.S.  Um, this has been bothering me a little, so I'll just say it.  This year, all of the National Geographic Bee Finalists were boys.  Come on, girls!  A bit* more geography-love, I say!

* Oh no!  There is is again!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In Which I Go Off to Tell Tales in Chicago

Get ready!  Here I come!*
Hopefully, we'll have lots of this^.*
Here is the schedule for my Summer Library Tour Extravaganza!!
 (Okay, maybe extravaganza isn't the right word, but I will be performing a dozen times in as many locations in the next week and I am super excited!)

Here is the full list of dates and times:

June 16th

10:30 Des Plaines Library
     1501 Ellin Wood St., Des Plaines IL
2:00 Ella Johnson Library
     109 South State Street, Hampshire IL
7:00 p.m.  Bartlett Library
     800 S. Bartlett Road, Bartlett IL 60103

June 17th
9:30 Geneva Library
     127 James St., Geneva IL
11:30 Batavia Library
     10 S. Batavia Ave #2, Batavia IL
2:00 St. Charles Library
     One South 6th Ave., St. Charles IL

June 18th
2:00 and 3:15  Heritage Woods Assisted Living Facility
     700 North McLean Blvd.  South Elgin IL

June 20th
10:30 Plainfield Library
     15025 S. Illinois St., Plainfield, IL
3:30 Gail Borden Library
     270 North Grove Ave., Elgin, IL
7:00 p.m.  Glenside Library
     25 East Fullerton Ave., Glendale Heights, IL

June 21st
10:30 Cary Library
     1606 3 Oaks Rd., Cary IL

I am so excited!  All events are free, but some require a ticket, so check with the individual library if you need more information.  If you are a blog reader and are able to come to an event, make sure you introduce yourself!


P.S.* Lovely art is by some equally lovely first graders!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Booksignings by Numbers

Number of little dragon finger puppets given away:  120

Number of Oreo cookies consumed:  210 (eating an Oreo cookie with Oreo the Monkey (puppet) was VERY popular!)

Number of bags of potato chips given away:  3

Number of kids who REALLY wanted those chips:  A bunch!

Number of hours spent in chair signing books:  (minus reading time) 3

Number of tiny bookmarks left:  0

Number of wonderful families who came out to a booksigning the last week of school despite their crazy busy schedules:  Too many to count, (and I am grateful for each and every one.)

Number of bites of a red chile (that my mom brought from New Mexico) burrito that I was able to take from 4:00-8:00:  2

Number of semi-decent author pictures:  2 (thanks, dad!)

Number of dollars in books earned for Jefferson Elementary:  almost $900

Number of days it took to recover: 1

Number of very happy authors:  1


Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Release Checklist

Making sure I have everything for tomorrow:

Tiny dragon finger puppets to give away--CHECK.

Close-up of tiny dragon finger puppets.

Huge bag of potato chips for a door prize--CHECK.
(There are potato chips in the story!)

Silly cup for summer slurping fun--CHECK.
(Perfect for when you are feeling thirsty on a road this away, too!)

Beach ball for door prize--CHECK.

Assorted adorable mini-bookmarks--CHECK.

Extra crowns for visiting royalty--CHECK.

Okay, so, um, all that is missing is me...and YOU, of course!

See you at Barnes and Noble, Oceanside, between 4-8.

Gratuitous cover shot.
I am reading at 5:30 and 7:00.  Drawings for silly stuff throughout the evening.  And even if you don't buy the new book, buy something great to read over the summer.  20% of all sales benefit Jefferson Elementary School!!  Yay!!

And special thanks to Connie, Jo, and all of the people at Penguin who helped assure that we would get the books on time!!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why You Need an Agent...Really

I have a wonderful agent. Her name is Joanna Stampfel-Volpe.  She is the bomb of all bombs.  I know you are asking yourself what is so great about Jo?

Let me tell you.

My first nine books were sold without an agent.  Now, that would make it seem like I knew what I was doing...but really, I was just pretty lucky.  But persistent.  There was a time when editors might send you a personal rejection, inviting you to send something else in if you'd like.  So, I'd keep track of where I had sent which manuscript and try to match stories to editors, NEVER submitting simultaneously because that was frowned upon at the time.  Again, I was lucky to find editors for some of my books.

But.It.Took.a. LOT.of.TIME.  Response times were slow and research took a lot of time, too.

Enter Jo.

In the past fourteen months since I found her (and she is a find, my friends), Jo sold my book, negotiated my contract, offered numerous editorial comments on manuscripts, prepped items for submission, AND did TONS of things to help out with a book (which releases next week) that was sold long before I met her.

She has done ALL of this for more than a year and is only now seeing any kind of financial payment.  Seriously.

The passion and dedication she shows blow me away.  *I am so lucky!* (Seriously!!  No payment until now!!)

And the best part is that because she looks out for me, I have more time to write!!!  With working a full time job and all, it is lovely to know that there is someone in my corner, calling my publisher to make sure that books get to events on time, commenting on my work, negotiating with my best interests at heart...

Again, someone up above smiled on me the day Joanna Volpe stepped into my life.


What?? You're still here?  You want to know where the next StoryQueen video is?

Okay, here it is...

But I need to say a few things first:

1.  Yes, I read to dogs. (Mikey saw me put on the crown and cape and he came to sit and listen!  And yes, that is him that you hear making strange growly noises.)

2.  Mikey does not want to eat cats.  (He loved little kitty.  Wha???)

3.  Yes, that is a toilet in the background.  Sorry.




Seriously youtube? I look like Popeye recommending spinach.