Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Well Hello, September

I guess you kind of snuck up on me, September.  I mean, I knew you were coming, but I did not expect you quite so soon.

To me, September is the official beginning of Autumn.  Oh, I know the equinox (great word, equinox) isn't until September twenty-something, but ever since I worked as a young college student at Goldwater's department store and Sept.1 was the mandatory switch-over-to-Fall-wardrobe-deadline-or-get-written-up-we-don't-care-how-hot-it-is, the first day of September has always signaled Fall.  (Yes, there were many days were were sweating up a storm in our preppy flannels, sweaters and woolen skirts as the New Mexico Summer hadn't finished with us until well into October...But Goldwater's was unsympathetic to the plight of the sales associates. Can't sell the Fall line unless the sales clerks wear the clothes!)

Anyway, here's a few things I look forward to most as Fall approaches:

  • Cooler weather!  (Until the Santa Ana winds come.  Boo!)
  • Colorful and crunchy leaves. (So stereotypical, I know, but I love them.)
  • Friday nights with homemade soup and apple crisp for dessert
  • Children (my own) who are excited by homework and not bored by it yet
  • The smell of fireplaces burning in the chill of the evening
  • Saturday soccer games
*sigh of contentment*

Welcome, Fall!


Here are a few of the recipes I am most looking forward to making:

green chile stew
Greek lemon chicken soup
bacon waffles

So hungry!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Random Things: The Weekend Before School Starts Edition

1.  Since I will have my own classroom again, I am seriously considering not giving any homework except for reading. (As in read some books, for goodness sake!!)

2.  Trying to figure out a way to wear an Indiana Jones outfit to school on the first day without looking like I am trying too hard.

3.  Had some mangoes at a teacher meeting yesterday.  Usually I don't like mango, but it was so yummy!

4.  Ate at Benihana last night--wouldn't it be cool if dinner every night was performance art? (Probably wouldn't be as exciting with a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese...)

5.  Written very few words this week.  Not happy about that.  At all.

6.  Fresh baguette=awesome.  Old baguette=yuck. (No, it's okay, I didn't need that tooth anyway.)

7.  Bought some frames yesterday to put some of my bookcovers in...yes, I am three books behind. But the frames are bought.  Hopefully I'll get it done before 2012.

8.  I am afraid to make a list of everything I need to do this weekend. It is not good to live in fear, but there you have it.

So, what's the randomness that's clogging your brain these days?


Monday, August 22, 2011

In Which I Judge Books by Their Covers

I mean, we all do it, don't we?

And I can't really explain why I am drawn to certain book covers over others.  Much of it is just personal preference. Some people like Swiss cheese, some like Monterey Jack.  Some don't like cheese at all (but I really can't conceive of this situation myself) but you get the idea.

That being said,  here are I few books that are soon to release (or have just released in the last few months) that draw me to their covers.

First up is Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver.  I love this cover so much!  I love how it's like I am looking through a magical peep-hole--and oh, what a peep-hole!  Love the carvings.  (I am guessing that they are supporting characters to the story)  Again, I know very little about this book ,but I am guessing that the friendship of the girl in the picture (probably Liesl) and the little furry thing beside her is a very important part of the story.  Oh, I can't wait.  Releases in Sept.

Next, we have Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier.  It's no secret that I love  a cover with a silhouette on the front.  And, oooohhh, look at the sneakiness of  the boy!  I bought this the other day based on the description ( the greatest thief, who is really a boy with no eyes who has three sets of FANTASTIC eyes), but I picked it off of the shelf in the first place due to the cover.  Love.  Looking forward to digging into this one.  Released in Aug.

When I look at the cover of With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo, it tells me that this book is going to be full of heart.  I am kind of expecting to cry a little when I read this, but I love a good middle-grade book that makes me tear up.  I love how the pieces of paper floating by seem a little mysterious.  Disclosure:  I have read Tess's blog for a couple of years, but she is in no way forcing me to love her cover.  I simply do.  Releases in Sept.

Kat Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis.  Nothing says fun like a floating teapot!  Seriously folks, this cover simply oozes fun (or pours fun, I should say.  Difficult for tea to ooze.  At least I wouldn't drink it if it did ooze.)  I love the old-fashionedness of the setting, yet look at our girl's hair.  Ha!  She is going to do things her way, I can just tell.  Love, love, love a strong middle-grade heroine.  Released in April.

Finally, we have Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by  Ransom Riggs.  Okay, is this the creepiest cover you have ever seen or what??  And I don't like scary things.  I really don't.  And yet, I am drawn to this cover, for it seems ghosty-scary, but there is also something that is so compelling about it.  I cannot stop thinking about what secrets must lurk between the pages.  And the curiosity is getting the better of me!  Released in June.

So there you have it. Books judged by their covers.  By me.

Isn't book art wonderful?


Feel free to share your cover love, recent or far in the past.  Your choice.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Getting Books in the Hands of Children

That's what it's all about, right?  Getting books into the hands (and hearts!) of readers.  In my case, the readers are children.

So, I was so happy to see what Penguin (my publisher for the Good Knight Series) had cooked up for a couple of my books. They are re-releasing GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT and GET WELL, GOOD KNIGHT as part of their Penguin Young Reader Program.  I am thrilled, because that means more books in the hands of young readers!!

And look, they even did a little redesign on the covers:
This one releases in September.

This one comes out in January

And I don't know how many of you are familiar with the Imagination Library, but it is a program (started by Dolly Parton) that puts books into the hands of children FOR FREE.  I have been honored by the fact that they have been giving away TAKE CARE, GOOD KNIGHT in their program:

Here is a nice article about how some really great people who have made such a difference in the lives of preschool children in their community by seeing that books get into the hands of kids.  I mean, 10,000 books!  (That's a lot of books!)

Of course, my favorite part of the article was this quote:

Sometime this summer, the 10,000th free book was delivered to a child’s mail box. It may have been Julie Chaffee’s. Chaffee, 5, loves receiving the books in the mail. Her favorite is “Take Care, Good Knight” by Shelley Moore Thomas. “I like it because I get to read it to my dolly that I got at the garage sale,” she said.

Yes, I melted a little.  And there could have been a tear.  Because that's what it's all about when you write for children, getting the book into the tiny little hands and having them read it (or having someone read it to them).  

It's why we do what we do.

And Kudos to both Penguin and Dolly Parton for doing their part in helping our children become literate.  Knowledge is Power, and the better you can read, the more knowledge is available to you and the more control you will eventually have in determining your own destiny.

(Sorry to go all Jedi on you, but this is important, folks. Kids need reading.  They need books!)


Monday, August 15, 2011

You Don't Want to Miss This!

If you haven't heard about this....WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??
This free, online conference will be going on August 16, 17 and 18.  If you didn't get to go to SCBWI (or even if you did) this is a chance for you to attend workshops and interact with industry professionals right in the comfort of your very own your very own pajamas if you like.

I am honored to be a small part of such an amazing event. If you haven't clicked over to see the full faculty and the schedule of event, do it now.  I'll wait.  You can click here. 

I know, right?

Anyway, I made a vlog in which I am visited by some very famous, virtual guests...kind of.  My blog airs at 10:30 a.m. (eastern time), on Tuesday, August 16.  I hope you get a chance to participate in the coolest thing on the internet since Marcel the Shell with his Shoes On.  (google it if you don't know what it is...adorable!)

See you in the WOC forums!


Saturday, August 13, 2011


August is the time of year when I kind of look back and evaluate my yearly progress in preparation for the new year (of school, naturally.)  I joked back in January that this would be the year of revision for me.

Well, it was.  It still is.  But let's take a look-see, shall we?

1.  SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET-This was revised a couple of times and is now in copy-editing. (I kept thinking each round would get easier, but in truth, each round held its own hidden gargoyle of despair that I had to defeat in order to move on. But move on I did!)

2.  KEELIE OF THE LAKE-Revised this once for myself and once for my agent (who has it now).  I will probably do another round based on her feedback.

3.  Various Picture Book Titles-Er, um...yeah.  I played with a few ideas, but I haven't really written one in the past few months that I LOVE.  And that is what it takes when it comes to a picture book manuscript.  (Well, any ms, actually).  You must LOVE it and you must be able to visualize it in the hands of children.  It must work on every level you need it to work on.

I am a bit bummed that I haven't come through with something like this in 2011 yet.  But I am not giving up.  I have two ideas (pitifully low number) that I THINK can go the distance, if only I can conjure the perfect words.  (Because with picture book writing, it's conjuring as much as anything that gets the book written:)

4. New Book (mg novel):  Yay!  Something new in the year of revision.  It's tentative title is: Feathers, Songs, and Curses. I am about 1/3 of the way done.

Goals?  Well, before the end of the year, I'd like to get Keelie all shaped up and purty, and finish the draft of FS and C.  I'd also like to have TWO picture book mss that I LOVE and BELIEVE in with all of my heart and soul.

How are your writing goals for the year coming along?


P.S.  Chapterbook?  (yes, please.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

So...I Have Map


My children's novel is going to have a map.

Not that I am new to the whole map thing.  I mean, Jennifer Plecas (my illustrator for A GOOD KNIGHT'S REST) put a map in that book:
Could it be more adorable?  I mean, just look at it!  And, there's the added bonus that a map makes it easier (and more fun)
for a child to retell a story.  Look!  You can follow the exact path the dragons took!
Hmm...that mountain is almost as cool as this mountain:
Behold the amazingness!  (I took this in Yosemite on Saturday.)  Theodore Roosevelt is now my favorite president for creating the National Parks Act (or whatever it was called.)

Anyway, my new book, THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET is going to have a map!!  They even had me sketch a lame version, but an actual artist is going to do the one for the book. Thank Heavens, or you would be looking at something with scribbles and stick trees.  I am so excited to have a map.  I mean, it probably won't be as intricate as this map:

(I really wish I could take my Lego people and play with them on this map!! My micro Indiana Jones, Obi-wan, and Harry Potter could wage some epic battles--What?  You don't play with your kids' toys?  Sure you don't.)

But a map!  A map!  Yay!

I would squee, but I am a queen, and hence far too dignified for squeeage.  But you can imagine that I am sitting in my throne clapping, if you like.  I clap like Dumbledore, with only two fingers on each hand.  It's a very classy way to clap.

Try it sometime.

I guess I am so excited about getting a map because I was the kind of kid who loved drawing maps, who loved watching pirate movies (just because they were likely to have a map!), who loved imagining imaginary places....

And now I get one!


Are there any books with maps you love?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Changes: National Parks, Jobs, Hair, and Twits

Oh, hi.

So, this has been a summer of changes for me.

1. In which I changed my mind....

See, I was really, REEAALLY going to go to the SCBWI conference in LA  this year.  Really.  I mean, all year long I thought, this is my year, baby.  I even socked money away so I wouldn't feel guilty about the big ding on the old credit card when I hit the pay button.  And then I looked at my calendar and realized that the ONLY weekend the ENTIRE summer that my little family could get away and do something was the very SAME weekend.  I was torn.

But folks, these people I live with have been so awesome to me this past year.  They have given up a lot of mom/wife time so I could write/revise/edit/tour and, well, I realized how much I miss them--how much I miss just hanging out with them. Sooooo, we are crazily going to hop in the car and go to Yosemite tomorrow.  Do we know where we are staying?  No!  Are we bringing appropriate footwear for hiking? No!  Do we have any idea what we are doing?  No!  (Watch for our upcoming special on the Animal Planet Show:  I Shouldn't Be Alive.)

2. In which my job changed:

So, there are these things called budget cuts. Perhaps you've heard of them.  And though I've tried hard to fly under the radar, it is hard to stay undetected when you are selected as Teacher of the Year.  But times are tough. Thus, my job will look a little different this year and it appears I will have my own class again as part of it.  I am excited, but a tad saddened. Here I am holding one of the many notes from kids at my school, letting me know how much they will miss having me come to their classes each week to tell stories and teach about writing.

But don't get me wrong.  I am thrilled to still be employed.  Many great teachers are not so fortunate.

3.  In which I wonder what is happening with my hair:

For a while, my hair might have looked like Xeno's.

Then it grew even longer, more like Lucius'.

This is me this morning in a still shot from a vlog.

I mean...wha??  Are we like triplets separated at birth??  #needhaircutandormajorconditioningnow.

4.  In which I have a change of policy:

I have always said I wouldn't join twitter because I feared the sucking away of precious time.  And I still fear it.  Listen...slurp...slurp...that is the sound of time being sucked away.  But I caved.  The reason?  Well, I discovered a way that twitter could actually SAVE me time.  You see, there are lots of people I would like to say something to, or books that I would love to recommend to kids/parents/teachers/whatever, but when I write a blog, I tend to ramble a bit. (What?  Like you haven't noticed?) And thus, it takes me a long time to write a post, and my best intentions go by the wayside.  However, twitter forces you to be short and sweet. I can tweet (still feel funny saying that word) about #bookseverykidshouldread and I am done in like a minute! And I don't feel the addictive tug of it that I was afraid of.  So, yes.  I have become a twit.  @story_queen, if you are at all interested.

Whew!  Off to pack mosquito repellent.  If you are going to SCBWI, have a blast.  If you are with your family having fun, enjoy!