Sunday, June 22, 2014

What I've Been Doing

My cat has been wondering.


Reading.  Lots of reading.  I'm starting to get twitchy with all of the books on my plate (desk/dining table/office floor/coffee table/living room floor).  This judging gig has me feeling a bit like a TV show nutjob hunting for patterns in the stacks of data that fill my house. 


The strange thing is, you do see patterns.  I remember taking a Hemingway and Faulkner class in which we read something like eight of each author's major works.  You really feel like you get the whole picture of what a writer is trying to say when you read that much of their writing in one chunk.  I used to think you could paint a portrait of an artist by studying all of their creations.

Well, expand that to a survey of young people's lit for an entire year. 

Every book is different.  The style, the artwork, the plot.  But I suspect if I laid it all out on the floor and looked at it from high above, I'd see a statement about our Now, this moment in time with it's wars and fashion, it's economy and politics and fears and hopes. 

For now, it's all in stacks and boxes around my house, and I'm feeding data into my imagination.  And I'm a little crazy from it all (see photo above).  It looks like chaos, but I swear it all makes sense.  And it's huge.  And it's glorious.

How great is it, that people write?  That books are made and shared?  Oral tradition is a beautiful thing, but the written word is so intimate.  A whispered secret, or a silent shout that feeds us, one at a time.  And we digest it and we grow.

I will stop because now I think I sound nuttier than I want to.  If I don't post for a while, it's because I'm reading.  And enjoying myself every crazy step of the way.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

National Book Awards? I'll Be the Judge of That!


 
National Book Foundation, Presenter of the National Book Awards
 

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, I dreamed of a certain kind of lifestyle.  One that involved sitting around reading books.  I'd do the reading.  Just send the books and keep them coming.  Sadly, my mother said, nobody gets to sit around and read all day.
 
Well.  A few months ago, I was invited to be a judge for the National Book Awards in the Young People's Literature category.  The NBAs!  That's like the Academy Awards of the book world!  Of course I said yes.  Wouldn't you? 
 
Now, it's crazy days at my house.  The dream is coming true.  This evening when I came home, fourteen books were waiting for me.  That makes 65 and counting.
 
Awesome.  This is the best gig in the world. 
 
It's a lot of work, as any previous judge will tell you.  Hundreds of books will be read by these eyeballs of mine and those of my fellow judges before the summer is through.  Maybe it's your book, or a book you love, or a book you haven't even heard of yet but will very soon.  I want you to know I will cherish the experience.  Thank you to the authors who poured their hearts and minds into their work.  Thank you to the National Book Foundation for the honor of being a part of these prestigious awards, and for bringing a little girl's dream to life.
 
Top of the world, Ma!
 
National Book Award Winning  Medal




 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Host the Author! - School Visits Fall 2014






Calling all teachers and librarians! 

I'm scheduling author visits for the 2014/2015 school year and I want you! 

Author visits are a great way to engage your kids and your community in the art and joy of writing.  But you know that already.  What you might not know is how much I love to visit schools and libraries.  Writing is my greatest passion, and that includes talking about it with readers, non-readers-- quite frankly, anyone who will listen.  It's fun!  It's necessary.  Everyone has a story.  Let's help them tell it!



Thanks to my crazy life, I offer:
  • Talks about my writing career, animation, film, comic books, and more.
  • Writing workshops-- I can show you kids how to come up with story ideas and shape their work into a useful three act structure.  These sessions are storytelling improv, with kids sharing their ideas to move the narrative forward.  It's hectic, hilarious, and invigorating for all involved. 
  • I like to tailor my visits to your needs.  I come from a family of teachers, so I know this is key.  What's in your curriculum?  Let's see how we can address it together.



I'm setting a goal of two school visits per month, possibly three.  So far I have space available this September, and a slot in October as well.  I will be in the New York area in November, so that's a possiblity as well.  If you are interested in other dates, let me know. 

I love to travel, so don't let distance be an obstacle. To date I've done visits in California, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Nevada, Washington D.C. and Louisiana.  And the list keeps growing.  You can read more about my visits here.

Sound interesting?  Drop me a line and let's discuss and make 2014 is the year of the author visit!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Daily Rituals-- How I Write





















A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Daily Rituals:  How Artists Work by Mason Currey.  It's a fascinating compilation of the work habits of well known writers, artists, musicians, scientists and other creatives.  The book spans a few centuries and many continents with descriptions gleaned from personal correspondence, biographies, and the like.
 
I love it.
 
Last week, I was in the countryside of Northern California on a writing retreat.  I found myself working and reading this book by turns, trying to understand my own methodology when I write.  As a writer with a day job, my work schedule while on retreat is vastly different from the usual post-dinner grind.
 
In a regular working week, I don't sit down to write until after a full day of work, dinner and some TV with my darling husband.  So that means 10pm or so, for an hour or two, longer if the work is going well.  (I confess there is lots of websurfing and noodling around during these two hours, or I'd get more done.  But the brain needs to do what it does... or so I tell myself.)  I'd rather be tired the next day and know I accomplished something, than fidgety because I quit early and lay awake wondering why.
 
On retreat, however, I hit my sweet spot.  When I was at Hedgebrook on retreat, I'd get up by 10 AM, make a cup of tea, an egg and some toast for breakfast.  I'd build a fire.  Then I'd sit down to write until around noon.  Then I'd shower for the day-- Hedgebrook has a bath house in the woods, so it meant a trek in my blue "smurf" robe (because I look like a smurf cleric in it) and my hot pink boots.  I'd come back, fix my hair, brush my teeth, and eat lunch.  I'd listen to the radio and/or read while eating.  Then I'd head down to the farmhouse at the front of the property and sit in the living room checking email, writing, web surfing and eavesdropping on the goings on in the kitchen where one of the wonderful cooks was prepping the evening meal.  An hour or so before dinner, I'd go back to my cabin, write a little more, grab my basket, and head back to the farmhouse for a communal dinner with the other writers.  After dinner and some conversation, I'd load my basket with an egg and some bread for the next day, snacks and my lunch, and return to my cottage to write until one or two in the morning, pausing only to eat more toast and watch a downloaded episode of Downton Abbey or Cranford.  (Period drama lends it self to cottages, I find.)
 
This past week was not a Hedgebrook retreat, but a stay with a generous family who kindly let me lurk in their guest house on a hillside overlooking vineyards.  It was heavenly.  I had a giant picture window that encouraged earlier rising, so I found myself getting up by 8 AM, making the requisite toast and egg (from the chickens right outside!  So good!), and cuppa.  Then I'd light the fireplace (gas fireplace-- no wood to carry!) and write until lunchtime.  No need to trek to the bathhouse as I had my own shower in the guest house.  I'd dress and eat lunch on the deck with nothing but the bees and the hawks for company.  And my copy of Daily Rituals.  After lunch, I'd go for a walk along the property or down the dirt road beyond.  Then I'd eat an apple, and keep writing until dinner called me away (if I was lucky enough to be invited to join friends) or I'd make my little supper and eat it while watching downloaded episodes of the first season of  Call the Midwife.  Then I'd write some more, or make plans for the next day of work.  Surf the web, check email, and go to bed between 11 PM and 1 AM.  And do it again the next day.
 
I get a lot of writing done on retreat.  In real life, three hours a day is an accomplishment.  On retreat... I just go.
 
*sigh*  So, that's how I spent Easter week.  If you made it this far into this post, do pick up Currey's book.  You'll likely find it very interesting, too!
 
P.S.  I do not know Mason Currey, I just like getting a peak into other lives!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What School Libraries Mean to Me

April is School Library Month!  Back in January, I was asked if I would participate in an American Association of School Libraries campaign.  Would I be willing to share a quote on what school libraries mean to me?  "Of course!" I said.  I sent the quote and kind of forgot about it, to be honest.  Until I saw this tweeted today:

120

Do you have a special memory of a school library?  Check out the AASL's twitter feed or visit their School Library Month webpage to see what other authors have to say about their own libraries. It makes for pretty great reading, especially if you're a book nerd like me!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Meet the Author - Grand Park's Downtown Bookfest 3/29/14

Goodness!  I've been so busy (writing, always writing), that I'd forgotten to let you know where I'll be next.  On the last Saturday of March, I will be at Grand Park's Downtown Bookfest here in sunny Los Angeles.

Book lovers unite!

I'll be joining awesome YA authors Cecil Castellucci and Sonya Sones as we read from our latest books.  We're on at 2:00 PM, the festival runs from noon to 5 PM.

2:00 PM Saturday, March 29 - Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles 90012

And also...

It's been pointed out to me that I failed to announce the arrival of Orleans in paperback!  Sorry about that!  We ran into it at Barnes and Noble on my birthday and my husband was stunned-- apparently, I failed to tell him, too.  So you're all in good company.

There's been one little change from hardcover to paperback, and that is the title font.  The vagaries of font rights (yes, you purchase the rights to use certain fonts), called for an adjustment.  I think it looks pretty good.  What about you?

"In the wild" at Barnes and Noble, the Grove, L.A.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today is my birthday!  As a Chicago girl born on St. Paddy's Day, I think it's appropriate to share the dyeing of the Chicago River as time lapsed by on YouTube by Frootis :
    

I used to live on the river and always thought it was kind of green anyway.  But not this gorgeous, shocking acid green.  Don't worry, it's just vegetable dye (and probably one of the least toxic things in that water)!

Yesterday, to celebrate my aging process, I took a trip with a friend to Ojai, CA, where we hit every bookstore we could find, including the gorgeous outdoor bookstore, Bart's Books.








http://www.bartsbooksojai.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/A595611_006A-1024x684.jpg 

Isn't it cool?

http://rackphoto.com/pp/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/bartcoin2.jpg

There are bookcases built into the wall outside that you can buy on the honor system.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_s0UxWHG1Y8I/S-BlsUhjUWI/AAAAAAAABsg/-3gLQO1MlS4/s400/DSC_0117.JPG


 That's the kids section on the left!

We also stopped in at the charming Friends of Ojai Valley Library Bookstore, Twice Told Tales, and Bookends Bookstore, which used to be a church!  Some of the pews have been repurposed as shelving, and all of the sections are labeled with Scrabble tiles. 

Courtesy Ventura County Reporter




It was a perfect day.  Today I plan on eating Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage and about a thousand cakes.  Or at least one slice.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!