Wednesday, April 29, 2015

An Open Letter to Jon Scieszka

Dear Jon,

Just wanted to let you know how much of an inspiration you were to me when I was a young teacher who dreamed of being a writer.

I first got to know you through your book, THE TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS. My teaching colleagues and I actually used to have competitions to see who could read it aloud with the best, funniest voices.*  I loved that book to infinity.

And then, THEN you wrote THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES. Wow. This book. It was a game changer. So completely bizarre, yet absolutely wonderful.  Countless first graders in my classes throughout the years learned to read by reading the Giant's Story over and over and over again. (And don't get me started on Jack's Bean Problem!)  I read it for the first time when one of my student's checked it out from out school library on its very first day in the school. The librarian told the student she MUST bring it back the very next day so others could check it out. It was on One Day Only circulation. Well, the student forgot and the librarian was pretty darn mad. I felt bad about it, since I had vouched for the child, so during lunch, I ran to the bookstore and bought another copy, supposedly to give to the librarian for her collection, BUT...I didn't end up doing that.

I kept it for myself.
  Image result for stinky cheese man

I could not let it go!!**

The best part of this story, though, happened when I received my Scholastic Book Order and the publisher had enclosed a cassette tape featuring an interview of you and Lane Smith!  I played it right away, naturally.

When you said that you were a schoolteacher and a writer...well, that rocked my world. That someone could do BOTH of the things that I loved so much was just so incredibly affirming.  The fact that you were successfully balancing writing and teaching inspired me not to give up.

Because of you, I have been a teacher for nearly thirty years, and an author for almost twenty.

And now, my students (third grade) are falling in love with Frank Einstein!
I really wish I had thought of this!! 

And don't get me started on this:

No words can properly express the awesome. 

So, thank you, Jon, for proving by example that there was hope for me. Thank you for instilling the spark of resilience and optimism within my heart. For writing books that break all the rules and expertly manage to worm their way into the hearts of kids everywhere.

I am forever grateful.


*Yes, I usually won. But my colleagues would probably say that they won. But they would be incorrect. It was ME!

**The student did bring the book back, of course. It just took an extra day. Not really that big of a deal. However, I was a newish teacher in New Mexico (and my husband was still in school) which meant I was about as far down on the pay scale  as it is possible for any teacher anywhere to go, The fact that I went out and bought a hardcover book is a testament to Stinky Cheese Man's amazingness.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cat Video and LA Times Festival of the Book

I thought I'd try something a little weird and read my book, NO, NO, KITTEN! to my cat Elvis. To be honest, he was not quite as enthusiastic as I had hoped. Maybe there is a reason cats don't usually read.

However, I persisted. Writing teaches you persistence.

Read it to your cat today!

(Disclaimer: No cats were sent to Jupiter in the making of this video!)

Also, I am going to be at the LA Times Festival of the Book on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. signing books. Macmillan is being very generous and offering a free arc of this book: 

with any purchase of this book:

I am so thrilled and honored to be included in this amazing event. The fabulous Once Upon a Time Bookstore (which is one of the most amazing indy bookstores in all of California, maybe even the world!!) is hosting me at their booth, #732. I will be signing with the amazing Cynthia Kadohata and Julie Berry.

Come by and say hi! The event is COMPLETELY FREE!! 


Monday, April 6, 2015

Alchemy (thoughts on writing lifted directly from my writing journal)

Sometimes I wonder how stories come to me. They don’t come all at once, of that I am certain. I get the scent of a story, or an inkling, but until I begin writing, even if it is only writing like this, then nothing will happen—writing is the alchemy that brings the story into the world. It might exist on the other side, in the ether, but until I put words on the page, I cannot coax it through the passage. I cannot make it manifest into this world without, for lack of a better metaphor, saying the magic words.

And so, I start with an inkling and I tinker away, just like I am doing right now, where I write around the writing until I get something, a moment of bravery, where I will type a few words that might, just might, lead me into a story. I am unsure for a while if they will actually work, uncertain if I have uttered the correct incantation and so I do not commit to them. Yet. Instead, I let them smolder on the page, burn a bit, and see if a story begins to simmer.

Eventually, this inkling begins to grow roots, feet, or something strange altogether, but something the story can stand on none-the-less. And then slowly, like leaves unfurling, the story reveals more of its secrets to me. And the truth is, usually, I don’t even know what I am growing!  Is it a vegetable? A flower? A tree?  They all look the same when they come sprouting out of the ground, but soon, they take their shape.

The hard part is when I think I am growing a flower and it is really a cabbage, a short and stubby thing that does not want to be tall and graceful. It only wants to be a cabbage, and instead of trying to make it into the best cabbage I can, I keep trying to coax it into a lily.

 Never going to happen.