Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 2008 Wrap-Up

Fellow VCFA'ers Rachel and David and Gwenda inspired me to also try the first-line-of-the-first-post-of-each-month-of-the-past-year thing. Which produced the following, which mostly just makes me realize that some of my first sentences are very long and that I should probably strive for punchier first lines in 2009. And maybe try to be a better blogger overall, so I can spend less time explaining/apologizing for not posting. No first sentence for August, and December's is the first line of this post. Which is either cool and full-circle-y or kind of lame...can't decide. Anyway:

Here's hoping the new year brings good things to everyone, all around. I was settling down to begin work on writing (well, reading and prewriting for) my first critical essay in 12+ years (part of an MFA application, due March 1) and I had a sudden urge to check that I'd locked the front door and there was a large spider climbing the wall in the front hallway. I seem to be continuing my trend of not blogging very regularly. I was honored to be interviewed by First Book as part of their celebration of National Library Week! All right. Found out last night that an appointment today was being canceled, so I find myself with the gift of a suddenly free morning. So clearly this posting-at-least-once-a-week thing is not exactly happening. Okay, so I kind of skipped August. I'll be reading and signing Library Lion at the NYPL Library Shop at 2pm this Saturday, October 18 - please come by if you're in the area, and bring your kids! Got back today from Rochester, NY, where I attended the 12th annual Rochester Children's Book Festival on Saturday. Fellow VCFA'ers Rachel and David and Gwenda inspired me to also try the first-line-of-the-first-post-of-each-month-of-the-past-year thing.


So what's been going on in the last month or so? First there was the Savannah Children's Book Festival, which was great fun and only got rained out at the very end, which wasn't so bad considering what the weather reports had been suggesting. I had a wonderful time with old and new writer friends, including Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Delumba, and Charles and Debra Ghigna. I also got to meet the amazing Mo Willems, which was very cool. And I bought way too many pralines at the candy shop across from the restaurant where a bunch of us had dinner after the festival.

While I was in Savannah I also spent a few days visiting my mom and Bob in Richmond Hill. We had a great time even though I had to work a lot while I was there and didn't get a chance to play Boggle even once. I did, however, manage to get a delicious Chic-fil-a sandwich on the way to the airport. Thanks, mom! :)

I had a lovely Thanksgiving with dear friends (Ginny, Len, Bridey, Joe, Ryan, and Evie) in Maryland. I made the cranberry sauce for the first time, and was very excited about this as evidenced by the many, many photos I took of the cranberry sauce in progress. A sampling:

There were, of course, all the other delicious Thanskgiving items, like stuffing, which is the very best part of all, and turkey and sweet potatoes and everything else. Here is what my plate looked like just before I began the traditional eating of way too much:

Earlier in the day there was also the new tradition (for me, anyway) of the lasagna lunch, and Joe actually made a special mini cheeseless version just for me:

Okay, okay, enough pictures of food. Everything was so good, and best of all was getting to spend quality time with people I love.

After Thanksgiving, unfortunately, I came down with a terrible cold which became a terrible sinus infection and kind of knocked me out of the world for a couple of weeks. Took FOREVER to get really better, and I ended up needing to ask for an extension on my final packet for school. But eventually I finished Packet 5 and then plowed through the surprisingly time-consuming end-of-semester paperwork and now I am officially done with my first semester! Can't wait for the next residency in January, when I will get to see all my school friends and find out who my next advisor will be.

I also finished final changes on The Dragon of Trelian, and then the final final changes, and then the last couple of really final last-minute changes. And now it's done! Or at least, I am not allowed to make any more changes. :) The ARCs have been produced and look great (although they were printed with the pre-final changes, so the last rounds of fixes are not reflected therein). I am also now allowed to share the cover art, which looks like this:

Yay! The cover artist is the fabulous Antonio Caparo.

The official release date for the novel is April 14, 2009. Why not go ahead and preorder your copy today? :D

In between all of the above I have been doing the usual watching of Netflix, playing too much online Scrabble, and having fun with some of my favorite Brooklyn people. One particular favorite Brooklyn person whisked me off to Vermont for a much-needed wonderful weekend getaway and later to Connecticut where I had a lovely Christmas with his family and met some very nice new people and learned how to make gravy and play Rummikub, among other things.

I've still got a bunch of things to take care of for school before the January residency, most significantly trying to revise as much of my novel-in-progress as I can before handing it off to my next advisor. We also received our workshop books, and I'm looking forward to reading everyone's pieces and getting ready to discuss them at the rez.

I guess that's everything for now. Probably won't post again before the year is out, so here's wishing everyone a wonderful final few days of 2008 and a happy, healthy start to 2009!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today's Write-or-Die Results

Okay, I won't keep posting it every day. Just sometimes. :)


Friday, November 21, 2008

Write or Die

Hats off to Dr. Wicked. I have been having a terrible time getting moving again on my novel-in-progress for school, and while clicking around the internet, procrastinating up a storm, I read about Dr. Wicked's Write or Die application on schoolmate Rachel Wilson's blog. As the evening wore on and I had accomplished little more than starting two or three new games of Scrabble on Facebook, I decided to give it a try. And wow.


Hooray for negative reinforcement! And enforced freedom to write without stopping. I set a goal of 1000 words, then started typing. Afterward, I pasted the result into my Word doc and spent a little more time going back over the text, changing all the straight quotes to smart ones and adding/editing a little bit as I went along. And now I feel like I'm moving again.

p.s. My final word count for the day after my post–write-or-die once-over was 1273. Yay! I've got a daily 1000-word goal for the novel (every day between now and December 6 except for Thanksgiving) as I try to push through to the end of the first draft. Don't get too excited—"first draft" is a very generous description here, considering there are huge gaps in the narrative and lots of skipping around and things that already need changing in the early chapters...but still. Getting the major events sort of worked out through the end would still be awesome, and should make revision next semester a little easier than it would be if I hadn't yet figured out where the story will end.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rochester Children's Book Festival

Got back today from Rochester, NY, where I attended the 12th annual Rochester Children's Book Festival on Saturday. I've been going for about...five years? Six? And it just keeps getting better and better. There were more than 40 authors and illutrators this year, covering everything from board books to YA novels. Amazing numbers of kids and grown-ups came to get books signed and listen to readings and do fun activities. It's wonderful to get to meet and talk with so many book-loving people, and to see author friends I only get to hang out with once or twice a year at events like this one.

Here is the festival hall in the morning, before it was opened to the public. That's Bruce Coville right in the center, and Vivian Vande Velde with the camera to the left. You can also see some of the fabulous volunteers (in the yellow t-shirts) who make this event possible (not to mention awesome) year after year:

Here's the hall a bit later, after the doors were opened:

Packed does not begin to describe it. I don't even think this was the festival at its busiest point.

Later on, there was a celebratory dinner, where the authors and illustrators and organizers and volunteers got to kick back and relax after a great but exhausting day. I didn't take nearly enough pictures, but here are a few. I am in most of them, because I like to get my picture taken with fabulous people.

Me with author Mark Shulman, whom I also know from the Kindling Words retreat and who is a great person to talk to when you are stuck on a story idea and need advice:

Me with Newbery-award winning author Linda Sue Park:

Leander Watts and I with Spock-hands and blinding flash:

Me with author/illustrator Dan Mahoney, who was also nice enough to ferry some of us around in his car on festival-day:

Fearless leader Carol Johmann, being thanked on everyone's enthusiastic behalf by Volunteer Coordinator Barbara Underhill:

Festival attendees who stopped by my table got to see a special sneak peek of the cover The Dragon of Trelian. If you weren't there, you will just have to wait. :)

Can't wait to go back again next year! In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the fifth annual Savannah Children's Book Festival next weekend. If you're in the area, I hope you will come on by!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Three Weekends of Reading and Signing

This Saturday, November 1, at 1 p.m., I'll be reading and signing Library Lion at Best Bargain Books in Centereach, NY (WalMart Shopping Center, 217 Middle Country Road). Please come by and say hello!

The following weekend, I'll be reading and signing at the Rochester Children's Book Festival on Saturday, November 8. If you're in the area, this is a GREAT event with lots of authors (more than 40!) and fun activities and wonderful people. I've been going to this festival for about five years now, and it's one of my favorite annual events, both because of the author friends I get to see while I am there and because of all the great kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and other folks who come out for it every year.

The weekend after that, I'll be presenting and signing at the Savannah Children's Book Festival on Saturday, November 15. This is another fabulous event with multiple authors, including Marc Brown, Katie Davis, Charles Ghigna, and Mo Willems! Plus, it's in Savannah, where you can get delicious Chick-fil-A and pralines (yum!).

Somehow, in between all of these events I will be keeping up with my reading and writing for school, going over the pages of The Dragon of Trelian ("pages" are when the publisher sends the text all laid out in pages for the first time, in the same typeface and everything that will be in the book, and it's my last chance to make any significant changes), and finally really getting to work on a sequel to TDoT, which so far is just some vague ideas and a page or two of notes.

And sometime soon I will need to work on editorial revisions to my upcoming picture book ARGUS (no pub date yet, but we're looking at 2011 at the earliest, sigh) and hopefully one of the other picture book manuscripts I'm working on will come together into something my editor will want to publish. There are three or four I'm actively working on right now; I will give them some code names for further discussion, because that's fun and will let me avoid having to talk about their actual prospective titles or what they are about:

Picture Books Currently in the Running:

  1. Codename "Secret" (has been through multiple drafts, still trying to find the right approach)
  2. Codename "Baker" (first draft completed; will be included in my next packet for school so I can get some feedback from my MFA advisor)
  3. Codename "Two" (latest draft currently with my agent for her thoughts)
  4. Codename "Mike" (revised version currently with my editor)
  5. Codename "Frank" (first draft in progress)

Okay, the fifth one is currently only one sentence long and so obviously has quite a ways to go, but it's a good sentence, and I'm kind of excited about it, so I'm still going to consider it as being in the running.

But speaking of writing...I should get to work. Blogging doesn't really count, I guess.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Library Lion at the New York Public Library Shop!

I'll be reading and signing Library Lion at the NYPL Library Shop at 2pm this Saturday, October 18 - please come by if you're in the area, and bring your kids! Reading starts at 2pm, and I'll be staying after to sign books. Not sure how much after, though, so if you want to get a book signed, don't come too late!

Here's all the info:

Saturday, October 18, 2008
2:00 p.m.

The Library Shop
New York Public Library
5th Avenue and 42nd Street

Saturday, September 27, 2008

ridiculous procrastination

It's interesting to me how I continue to sink to deeper and more ridiculous levels of procrastination the closer I get to my next packet deadline. Here is what I have been doing lately to avoid writing:
  • Wasting time on Facebook (nothing new there).
  • Scrolling through home tours at Apartment Therapy and daydreaming about all the ways I could fix up my apartment.
  • Looking at lolcats.
  • Ordering things online. This morning, even though I knew I had limited time today and wanted to get right to work, I ordered a plastic chair mat to protect my floor, a tray for Cleo's cat food and water bowls, a new drain strainer for my kitchen sink, gray shoelaces, a litter-trapping carpet square for Cleo's litterbox area, and a new toner cartridge for my printer. All things I need and have been meaning to get for some time, but it certainly didn't have to be TODAY.
  • Deciding I absolutely must buy a pot rack right now, then, after looking around for way too long at different types and measuring the space above my stove and looking at photos of other people's kitchens online, deciding I need more time to figure out exactly what I want/need in that department and not ordering anything.
  • Emailing all my friends to whine about how I'm not getting any work done.
  • Eating Lucky Charms.
  • Feeling bad after eating too many bowls of Lucky Charms.
  • Watching Dexter on Netflix.
  • Looking up Rita from Dexter on imdb because it was killing me that I couldn't figure out who that actress was, then being really appalled at myself for not immediately realizing it was Julie Benz, who played Darla on Buffy/Angel. Did I not just recently finish rewatching all of Buffy? Yes. Yes, I did.
  • Playing with the Pandora Radio website.
  • Trying to find (more) good music to write to.
  • Taking on more freelance editing work and then doing that instead of writing because it's due even sooner.
  • Scheduling and then unscheduling personal trainer appointments.
  • Scheduling and then unscheduling doctor and dentist appointments.
  • Looking up "unscheduling" on Merriam-Webster and deciding to use it even though it's apparently not a real word ("unscheduled" is a real word, but "unschedule" and "unscheduling" are not).
  • Making way more plans with friends than I should even think about making right now.
  • Collecting books for one of my essays and then not reading them.
  • Posting to my blog.

All right. Now that I only have about an hour of worktime left to me today, I should get to it. And then tomorrow, tomorrow, I will REALLY start working early in the day. Until it's time to get ready to go out because of course I have plans tomorrow evening, too.

Sigh. And also: sigh.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

whiny and growly

If there's a fly in my apartment, doesn't my cat have a responsibility, an obligation, to chase that thing down and catch it? She should be running after it with her eyes all wide and crazy and her mouth making little unconscious chewing motions. Instead she just lies there on the floor, kind of glancing up with annoyed disinterest whenever it buzzes by. I have tried urging her on with both supportive words and general mockery, but to no avail. Some predator. Lazy thing.

Of course, I can't really throw stones in the laziness department, since I have done pretty much nothing but lie on my couch for the past couple of days, nursing this horrible cold. It may actually be a sinus infection at this point; it's starting to look that way, anyway. I got sick on my last day in Oregon, where I was visiting my dad, and have been feeling pretty awful ever since. And the timing is not very good, because I have tons of writing work to do. I have enough resistance to writing when I'm healthy; when I'm sick like this, the thought of actually trying to be creative is almost painful to contemplate. Pretty much everything becomes almost painful to contemplate. I turn into a big baby. To be fair, it's a really bad cold/sinus thing... we're not talking a little bout of the sniffles here. I actually threw my back out coughing yesterday morning. And my head is all heavy and yucky and I'm generally just feeling weak and gross and unable to muster much energy for anything other than pressing the buttons on the DVD remote.

Waaah. See? Big whiny baby. And I'm missing out on all kinds of fun social things this week, including some live music tomorrow night with someone I'd been looking forward to seeing. I suppose it's possible I'll wake up feeling 100% improved tomorrow morning, but somehow I doubt it. (In addition to whiny, being sick makes me grumpy and pessimistic. Grrr.)

Anyway. Oregon was great, and it was good to see my dad and some old and new friends while I was out there.

I haven't posted any photos on here in a while... here's one of my dad and me at the International Rose Test Garden in Portland:

Back to whining: there is some sort of pep rally or something going on at the school a few blocks from my house, and there is lots of VERY LOUD drumming and shouting going on. I am all for school spirit, but it's been going on for hours and it's one more obstacle to actually being able to concentrate on reading or writing or anything else productive that I should be trying to do. GRRRR!

My next due date for school (Packet 3!) is October 7, and I've got 30-40 pages to write on my novel, plus tons of reading, one new essay to write, and one old essay to revise. I have not yet started any of these things, except a tiny portion of the reading. And I don't really know where the novel is going, which complicates the whole "write 30-40 pages" thing. But my advisor gave me some very helpful comments, and permission to jump around in the timeline, which makes me feel a little less anxious. It also means having to trust that eventually all the jumping around will work out and I'll be able to work everything into one coherent narrative... but that's the part of writing that I always have trouble with, the trust and the acceptance that there will be lots of revising, and no matter how clean and right I try to make the first draft, revising is PART OF THE PROCESS, and not punishment for not getting it right the first time or in any other way something to try to avoid. Revision is where the real book comes together. I know this, intellectually; I just need to keep working toward truly accepting and believing it.

As my VCFA friend David has said: Hail the process!

I am trying.

And now all I can hear is Yoda's voice in my head: No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

[And after Yoda frees the X-wing from the bog...]

Luke: I dont- I don't believe it.

Yoda: That is why you fail.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Um, August?

Okay, so I kind of skipped August. Here's what happened: I did some writing, I did some reading, I tried to win tickets online to see Hair with my friend Steph but we never won, I went to the gym, I made a difficult decision and later reversed it, I received loving care and attention from friends, I went out, I stayed in, I stressed about Packet 2 (that part is still ongoing), I saw Hellboy 2 (so good!), I bought new earrings, I got two MRIs (but apparently I'm fine), I visited the library several times, I cooked bluefish from the farmer's market in my grill pan and it was delicious, I ate too much frozen yogurt, I made good use of Netflix, and as the month wrapped up I had a wonderful weekend off the coast of Maine with some very lovely people.

So far September has been mostly about writing/reading stress and getting ready to visit my dad in Oregon next week. I've still got another essay and many more pages of my novel-in-progress to write before Monday morning. So clearly it was time to procrastinate by updating the old blog here.

I should probably get back to work, though. Just popping my head up to say hello.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

July 2008 Update

So clearly this posting-at-least-once-a-week thing is not exactly happening. Maybe I should be shooting for once a month. Ah, well. It's not like blogging is the only thing I'm not doing as much of as I would like. (Hello, writing, reading, exercising, cleaning my apartment, spending quality time with friends...)

I'm a little over a week into re-entry after my first residency at The Vermont College of Fine Arts. It was everything everyone said it would be, and more. Met some wonderful people (you can visit some of them online - see the list of VCFA peeps in the right-hand column); attended excellent lectures by faculty, visiting writers, and graduating students; received wise and helpful guidance from my awesome workshop group on two picture book stories I have been struggling with; enjoyed the (mostly) lovely Vermont weather; and was introduced to the addictive anagram game Snatch, which promises to haunt me for years to come. I was also assigned my advisor for the semester: Uma Krishnaswami! I am so looking forward to working with her for the next several months. Now I just have to actually stay on top of all that work... I've got 20 to 40 pages of creative work and two critical essays due August 12, not to mention tons and tons of reading.

I'm starting a new middle-grade novel for my semester project, and will be working on some new picture books as well. I'm also hoping to continue work on two other novels in my, uh, spare time (hahahahahahahahahaha)—a sequel to The Dragon of Trelian and a new, unrelated fantasy novel. Wish me luck. Wish me lots and lots and lots and lots of luck. Please.

In other news...Library Lion has been nominated for another state book award! It's the 2009 Nevada Young Readers' Award in the picture book category. Hooray!

And...I sold another picture book to Candlewick! It feels too early to share details, but I am very excited. I will post more about this when it feels appropriate.

So, with everything I've got on my plate, I have no idea how often I'll be able to post, but I'll try to pop my head up whenever I can. Hope everyone out there is having a good summer and doing fun things and enjoying life in general. :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

There Can Be Only One

At least, that's what I'm trying to believe with regard to the super-creepy spider that was in my bathroom this morning. He looked like he'd escaped from a National Geographic special: big, black, jumpy, fast, and possibly furry, although I certainly didn't touch him to find out. He almost got away, too, which would have been terrible...knowing he was in there, somewhere, but not knowing exactly where or when he'd pop out at me again...ugh.

A friend recently suggested that maybe the universe is trying to tell me something with all the spider encounters. And I thought, well, yeah, the universe is trying to tell me that it is vast and full of spiders. But I've been trying to think of other, more positive, possible meanings. For example, each time I face down one of these eight-legged beasties, I can't help but think about how far I've come in the spider-managing department. There was a time when I would have been paralyzed with fear, unable to even imagine doing the Dixie Cup catch-and-release thing. And so each time I handle a spider in my current still-phobic-but-much-better-able-to-deal state, I try to feel good about it. It's useful to remember that you really can change and improve, and that things that are hard now will not always be hard, and that lots of obstacles that seem insurmountable are actually things you might be able to get past at some point. Okay, maybe I'm getting a little carried away with the extrapolating, but hey, ya gotta take inspiration where you can find it, right? And if I can find something inspirational about spiders, by golly, that's pretty amazing. Well, to me, anyway. :)

ANYWAY. I really never intended for this to become such a spider-centric blog. Sadly, there just happens to be more spider activity than writing activity going on right at this moment. I do have some nice book-related news, though: Library Lion was nominated for the 2009 Colorado Children's Book Award! I just received a nice certificate in the mail. You can see the full list of nominees here.

In other news, I'll be visiting students at P.S. 33 in Manhattan this Wednesday. Can't wait!

Hope you're all managing to stay cool somehow. This heat is awful. I'm not a big fan of the summer in general, but this is crazy. CRAZY! Why can't it just stay in the 70s? Would that be so much to ask?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Quick June Update

Found out last night that an appointment today was being canceled, so I find myself with the gift of a suddenly free morning. The problem with gifts like these are that I spend too much time stressing about how best to use the suddenly free morning, instead of actually using it. Mostly I'm going to get in a couple of extra hours of work, I think, but I also thought I should add a blog post, since it's been a little while.

So, quick update:

Still not 100% sure the title we've sort of selected (mostly by running out of other options) for the novel is final, but when I know, I'll post it.

Still reading, reading, reading for the Vermont College MFA program.

Still dealing with spiders; there was a particularly speedy guy in the bathroom last night. He almost got away, but eventually was relocated down the hall.

Been rereading bits and pieces of David Allen's Getting Things Done in the hopes of, well, getting things done. It's a brilliant system but a little overwhelming to try and implement. Hours of internet searching, however, reveal myriad ways that other people have found to adapt the GTD system to be a little easier to swallow. I have been making lots of lists.

What else...? Saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall last night, which was really funny. Perfect for helping me get over my frustrating afternoon of dealing with my local Rite Aid that likes to close the pharmacy randomly and without warning, especially when I've walked all the way over there to get syringes for my poor kitty. Grrr.

All right. The morning is rapidly slipping away from me. To work, to work.

Happy June, everyone.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Two-Spider Sunday: A Haiku

Unwelcome beasties.
Giant crawling in the tub.
Wee one in the sink.

* * * * *

They were both relocated (i.e., trapped in a cup and dumped out my kitchen window). The little one was a jumper and didn't want to get out. But I made him.

The other day there was a tiny one ON MY PILLOW. Just sitting right there in the middle of one of the pillows on my bed. Not okay! Just totally not okay!

Sigh. Stupid warm weather. I like when it is cold, and most spiders are sluggish and hiding.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reading Lists

I need to find a better way to keep track of the books I want to read. How do other people do this? Right now, I have a list on notepaper in the back of my datebook/planner, I have a Word file on my desktop, I have a list in Visual Bookshelf on Facebook, I have a somewhat outdated list on my website, I have a few things saved in my Amazon wishlist, and I have scribbled notes on post-its and little pieces of paper scattered around my desk.

This is not especially efficient.

I would love to have just one master place to keep track of books I want to read, but each of the above systems has particular benefits not shared by all the others. For example, the Word file is great because I can cut and paste reviews or listserve comments to help me remember where I heard about the book and what made me want to read it and why. But the scraps of paper are great for when I'm not at my computer, or when I am at my computer but Word isn't open and I don't feel like waiting for it (my computer is getting a little old and slow, and those extra few seconds it takes to open programs can sometimes feel like hours, and I am often late, rushing, or just impatient and have no time for such things). And the datebook list is great for when I'm out somewhere and I see a book in a store or get a good recommendation from a friend, but then sometimes I forget that I even started that list until the next time I'm out and someone gives me a recommendation.

As so often happens in various situations in my life, I find myself wishing for the Star Trek computer arrangement, so I could just say to the air around me, "Computer. Add Jumpy Jack & Googily by Meg Rosoff to Master Reading List. Include note that I read about it on the PlanetEsme blog." And Majel Barrett's voice would say, "Acknowledged. Title and note added." (I fear that technology is still some years away, unfortunately. Along with the holodeck. Sigh.)

I've got a new list now of books to read before my first residency at Vermont College, and those are currently divided on little pieces of paper titled "Get at Library," "Requested from Library," and "Ordered from Amazon." I will post them here, sort of as a backup (in case I lose my little pieces of paper) and also in case it is interesting to anyone. These are mostly just the novels and books on writing; there are also many picture books I want/need to read, but I'll have to tackle those another time. Maybe a library day where I try and read as many as I can at the library without checking them all out and carrying them home. I certainly can't buy them all; gotta save my moolah for tuition and besides, I'm already at full capacity on my bookshelves.

Anyway. Novels/stories and craft books I'm reading/going to read before July:

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
What's Your Story? A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction by Marion Dane Bauer
Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard
Trash by Sharon Darrow
The Painters of Lexieville by Sharon Darrow
Odd Man Out by Sarah Ellis
The Art of Writing for Children by Connie Epstein
Writing Books for Young People by James Cross Giblin
The Vanishing Point by Louise Hawes
Waiting for Christopher by Louise Hawes
The Gate in the Wall by Ellen Howard
Naming Maya by Uma Krishnaswami
The Broken Tusk by Uma Krishnaswami
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey
Every Time a Rainbow Dies by Rita Williams-Garcia
Rex Zero and the End of the World by Tim Wynne-Jones

If anyone out there has some awesome system of keeping track of their reading list(s), please share!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Novel update, MFA, and Behind the Book. And cookies.

All right. In the interest of avoiding having the most boring blog EVER in the history of blogging, I'm going to try to post more often. Like, a lot more often. Like, at least once a week. If not more than that. I have no idea what I'll have to say, but I'm hoping things will come to me. Sort of like that other kind of writing, where half the battle is to actually show up, and then sometimes you suddenly find yourself working on a story.

I'm also going to pretend that at the very least, I have some friends and family members out there who are looking at this thing occasionally (hi mom!) and so I won't feel like I'm posting into the abyss. As always, comments are very welcome, just so I'll know you guys are out there, occasionally checking in.

So, update. Right now I'm working on reviewing copyedits on my middle-grade fantasy novel, which is currently scheduled for a February 2009 release and which still does not have a title. Title selection has been proving extraordinarily difficult, and we are running out of time. Also, this copyediting stage is my last chance to make text changes with abandon, so it's kind of a high-pressure experience.

In other news, I've been accepted into the Vermont College MFA program in writing for children and young adults, which I am very excited about. The first residency is in July, and there is lots of preparation going on and plenty of stress and positive anticipation in about equal measure. It is going to be a LOT of work, but it will all be good work—writing the kinds of things I want to be writing more of, critical work on topics that relate to my writing, and reading other students' work and books by members of the faculty and more great children's literature and books on craft and other things.

In other other news, I had a fabulous school visit yesterday with a great class at P.S. 274 in Brooklyn. This visit was through the Behind the Book organization, which is a literary arts nonprofit group that does wonderful things in schools. If you'd like to help support them, please visit their website to volunteer or make a donation. The students I met with are working on creating their own books, and next week I get to go back and hear their first drafts and help them with revising! I can't wait; all of their ideas sounded very exciting and I know they are going to come up with some wonderful stories.

One last thing: I was up in Ithaca last weekend to visit some very dear friends, and I was shocked to discover that the Ithaca Bakery has stopped making my favorite cookies (chocolate chip walnut). They now only make regular chocolate chip, no nuts. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but those cookies are one of the things I really look forward to on my Ithaca visits, and I am greatly saddened to think that they are gone forever. If you live in Ithaca, please add your voice to mine in asking them to bring the walnuts back! I don't see why they can't make both kinds—with walnuts and without—and thereby keep all their devoted customers happy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First Book Podcast!

I was honored to be interviewed by First Book as part of their celebration of National Library Week! The podcast of the interview is available here (on the First Book Blog).

Please visit the First Book website to learn more about this wonderful organization.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another Nomination!

Library Lion has been nominated for the 2009 Monarch Award, which is the Illinois K–3 Children's Choice Award! You can learn more about the award at the Illinois School Library Media Association website.

Children's choice awards are especially wonderful because children get to vote on the books THEY like best. :)

Winners will be announced in March 2009. I hope the students of Illinois have a wonderful year of reading!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I just returned from a lovely time at the South Carolina Association of School Librarians conference. Despite the challenge of having to be awake and coherent and speaking to an audience at 8 a.m. (two days in a row!), it was a great experience and wonderful to be around such a passionate and dedicated and friendly group of library people. I also got to hear the announcement of the 2007–2008 South Carolina Children's Book Award winners and found out that Library Lion has been nominated for the 2008–2009 Book Award!

Oh, and the weather in SC was so beautiful - right in the 70s, just perfect!

And they make very good peach cobbler down there, just FYI.

Of course, one side effect of the conference preparation and traveling is that I have fallen totally behind in the March Madness writing project. It doesn't help that I'm not loving the way the writing has been going, either. This weekend will be about trying to get back on track and figure out how to catch up and start working toward fixing or changing or whatever else might be necessary to change how I feel about the MS in progress.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

March Update

I seem to be continuing my trend of not blogging very regularly. You know, maybe if a few more of you guys left comments once in a while... ;)

My MFA application has been completed and submitted, and so now I get to wait. Luckily, I am very good at this part, since being a writer often involves lots and lots of waiting (to hear from editors, agents, etc.). I don't mean I'm patient or anything, I just mean I'm familiar with how the waiting process works.

This month I'm participating in a "March Madness" project with a great group of children's book writers. It's sort of a mini-version of National Novel Writing Month. We each pledged to write a certain number of words or pages (or some other kind of measurable unit) each day in March, with the goal of having a complete (rough) draft by the end of the month. And if that weren't enough of a reward in itself, we get to eat one peanut M&M for each successful day. Mine are in the freezer, which makes them extra delicious. The combination of candy and peer pressure seems to be working so far: I've hit my goal of 1500 words per day for March 1, 2, and 3. The project I'm working on is a new young adult novel. I plunged in with only a vague idea about the characters and the story, so it will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Spider Drama and the Critical Essay

Why do the spiders seek me out? Why? Why?

I was settling down to begin work on writing (well, reading and prewriting for) my first critical essay in 12+ years (part of an MFA application, due March 1) and I had a sudden urge to check that I'd locked the front door and there was a large spider climbing the wall in the front hallway. He looked a little big (and especially agile) to try catching in a cup, and he was right near the front door, so I thought I'd just try to get him to climb on the end of the broom and then I could transport him right out into the hallway. I'm not sure I succeeded, however. He deftly avoided my first few attempts to load him onto the broom, and then I *think* I got him successfully out into the hallway, but then I lost track of him. So he may still be lurking in my entranceway (ugh, what if he gets inside my SHOES??) or he may be hiding in the brush of the broom (I can't make myself look too closely in there to check), or he may be hanging out in the hallway or crawling into someone else's apartment. Or, I suppose, back into mine. I guess this is why people kill them instead of just evicting them. But I can't bring myself to do that.

And of course now I can't remember if I locked the door again after evicting (or not) the spider with the broom. So I have to go back over there and check. It's not like I can be afraid of my front hallway forever, anyway. But right now I'm still in that post-spider-sighting stage of feeling like things are crawling on me.

(Checked the door; I *hadn't* locked it. Although it had been locked the first time when I originally went over to check before the whole spider drama.)

Maybe it's time for more exposure therapy. Ugh.

Anyway. I suppose I'll try to get myself back to a place where I can concentrate enough to do some close reading. Wish me luck; it's been a long time since I wrote an English paper. Hopefully it's like riding a bike. Fingers crossed. I just wish I didn't have the extra obstacle of now being on spider alert.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book signing in Essex, Vermont

I'll be signing books as part of the Kindling Words caravan tomorrow, January 24, 2008, 4 to 5pm, at Phoenix Books & Cafe in Essex, Vermont:

Phoenix Books and Cafe
21 Essex Way, #407
Essex, VT 05452
(802) 872-7111

I'll be one of more than 20 children's book authors and illustrators gathering at the store. If you'll be in the area, please stop by!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

For the Cat People

My friend Peter sent me this today. It's awesome:

You may enjoy it even if you aren't a cat person, but it's especially good for those of us who have been there.

While we're on the subject of funny cat things on the web, if you aren't already a fan of LOLcats, please go here:

(Warning: the LOLcat site can suck you in for hours. Maybe days. Seriously. Visit with caution.)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

MySpace and MySpiders

I've succumbed. I now have a MySpace page. You can find it here. Yay one more online collective! It's so weird to think that there was a time, not so very long ago, when the internet wasn't such a huge part of our lives. Craziness!

Spider update: Two more little guys who I have allowed to stay, for now. One is JUST small enough to not freak me out. The other was so tiny I couldn't evict him if I tried. Seriously, he's like the size of a pinhead. Maybe smaller. He was running around on the Chinese food menu when I picked it up a little while ago to place a delicious order (egg roll, shrimp with cashews, dry sauteed string beans, brown rice. Yes, I know it's a lot of food, but then I'll have lots of leftovers and won't have to think about making anything tomorrow, either.) Anyway, I will reflect the updated spider count in the SPLOG. (SPLOG! SPLOG!)

If anyone out there is actually reading this... how about a little poll. What's your favorite take-out order? Not just the kind (Chinese, Italian, etc.) but what specifically do you most like to get? Inquiring minds want to know.

Oh - I should point out -- because I'm sure you care! ;) -- that the above order isn't actually my current favorite. That was actually me mixing it up a little. My very favorite Chinese food take-out order includes chicken chow fun with no vegetables other than snow peas and the House Special fried rice. And every once in a while I let myself get General Tso's chicken, even though it is very bad for me, because it is just so delicious. Shrimp with cashews was one of my favorites growing up, though. Mmmmmm, Chinese food! I can't wait until the delivery guy gets here!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


I am not a fan of spiders. Because of this, inevitably, they are drawn to me and I have more spider encounters than anyone else I know. I've decided to keep a log this year of how many spiders invade my apartment. FYI, if they are below a certain size, sometimes I let them stay, because I feel it's good for me to become a little desensitized. The big suckers, however, have to go. I don't like to kill them, so what generally happens is I trap them in dixie cups and dump them out the window. Technically, that gives them a fighting chance. They kind of float, you know, and I'm certain they always find something to stick their sticky web trails to somewhere on the way down. I can't say for sure they can survive the cold... but hey, I'm not running a spider boarding house here. Unless they're going to start paying rent, out they go.

One time it was very windy and I was afraid the spider would get blown back on me if I tried to throw him out the window (which would be entirely UNACCEPTABLE) and so that one I evicted into the hallway. But then I kept getting nervous that he'd just crawl right back to my door. So really the window is the better option.

Anyway, I will keep a running count of the spider situation in the right-hand column of this blog. I will call it SPLOG, which is short for spider log, only much more fun to say. SPLOG! SPLOG! SPLOG! (Seriously, try it and see.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hello, 2008

Here's hoping the new year brings good things to everyone, all around.