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Saturday, May 16, 2015

What I've Been Up To

May has always been a busy time for me. Part of that stems from the fact that I am a teacher and winding up a school year is far more difficult that starting one out. There are SBAC tests to live through, field trips, school-wide Olympics, multicultural festivals, Open Houses, end of year concerts, graduations, promotions...and I am sure I am forgetting a lot here.

It's also a time of great reflection. And I have personally been reflecting on this school year a lot.  You see, I have loved this year so much. Every Sunday evening when I'd be sitting miserably thinking about how early I'd have to get up the next morning, I'd remember the class I'd get to see on Monday morning and just like that, my whole attitude shifted. I'd be excited to get up.

So I've been thinking about that, and trying to figure out how to bottle some of that optimism to save for next year so that when the well starts to run dry (and it will, oh yes, it will) I'll be able to pull the cork out of the bottle with my teeth, swallow some back and say, "See?  It ain't so bad."

And I've also been writing. New stuff.

I spent most of Jan, Feb, March, and April revising a very special book. I love this book, but I took a real risk by writing it, and I still have no idea what will become of it. But it is different and, well, it threatened to sap the very soul from me a few times. But then it was done....and revised....and....well, I felt so light. I felt brave enough to start something new.

I started in again with a picture book or two. Perhaps something involving a Space Hippo. Perhaps also something else involving a few of my former literary creations (*cough* good knight *cough*).

And then, well, I started typing a few words about something that I can only describe to you as weird, fantastical, heartfelt, and...weird (again.).

And in a few short weeks, I'll have TIME to pursue these crazy ideas full time!  I can't wait!

So, that's what I've been up to.

How about you?


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. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Best St. Patrick's Day Ever

In honor of one of my favorite holidays, St. Patrick's Day, I am pleased to present to you the cover of SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY (July 7, 2015)

Gilbert Ford did the art. He is awesome. I love the colors he chose.

Yay!! Now I don't have to have the fake cover thing anymore!! Or the COVER TO BE REVEALED thing. Yay!!

Here's the description of Secrets of Selkie Bay:

In their present-day tourist trap of an Irish seaside town, famed for its supposed involvement with selkies in the past, three sisters are faced with the sudden disappearance of their mother. Crushed by the loss, their father is struggling to carry on. To make matters worse, there are rumors afloat in the village that their mother herself is a selkie who has now shed her human form and gone back to sea. As Cordie Sullivan, the oldest daughter, tries to learn more about her mother's vanishing, she must find the strength to help her family move ahead, even as she discovers an increasing number of clues that point to a hidden island off the coast--a mythical kingdom of the selkies.

And you can click HERE to read the first review from a librarian.

This story is so close to my heart. Now I'm off to make corned beef hash, which might be the best way to eat corned beef ever.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

One Crazy Week

This week really began before this week began, if that makes any sense. You see, a couple of weeks ago, I went up to Long Beach for the the Southern California Independent Bookseller's Children's Literacy Day to give away free copies of NO, NO, KITTEN!
Boyds Mills gave me stickers and everything!
It was so much fun, giving away copies of my little book to SoCal indies. Then a very cool thing happened. I met Maureen Palacios from Once Upon a Time bookstore in Montrose. She'd brought several of my books from her store for me to sign. Then she told me about how GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT was the book that her daughters took to school to read in front of their classes All By Themselves. And she told me how her husband, who was just learning to read in English back then, used to read GNGK with her daughters (who are in college now!!)

Wow. Those are the stories that mean the world to an author. The world.

Maureen and I, after I wiped away the tears.
Then this happened:
Yes. This is my principal acting the role of Kitten in the school production of NO, NO, KITTEN! (Yeah, I know--I didn't have a tabby cat costume. We had to settle for jaguar pajamas.)

Kitten wants a basket. (Not to wear on your head, Kitten!!)

And there's that puppy!!
On Monday, some of the teachers helped me bring No, No, Kitten!   into the world via performance. It was pretty hilarious because really, I had no idea what the kitten and puppy were actually going to do at any given  moment.

And on Tuesday, the Carlsbad Library hosted me for Read Across America.

Thanks, Librarians, for setting up  such a great craft!

The kids made rocket ships, just like Kitten!!
On Wednesday, my friend Mr. Schu premiered the No, No, Kitten! trailer on his blog (which was made by my amazing illustrator, Lori Nichols!!!) on his blog. Here is a link.

And then on Thursday, the Official Launch at Barnes and Noble:
The table is ready! There is a give away for Kitten prints on the left, and free Kit-Kats in the middle, and of course, BOOKS!

My monkey Oreo is telling me that he wrote a book called NO, NO, BANANA!

And then one of my students DID write a book called:
This Banana wants to rule the world!

So this was a pretty awesome week. Very exciting and exhausting. I'll leave you with this:



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Getting Ready to Launch the Baby

This week is going to be busy!

Monday- Assembly at Jefferson Elementary School to kick off Read Across America. My staff will be performing NO, NO, KITTEN!  It goes without saying that high-jinks will ensue.

Tuesday-Celebrate release day with my class by doing fun things.
Favors for my class!

 Read Across America at the Cole Library, 3:30 pm. I will be reading NO, NO, KITTEN! and helping kids find books to check out. There will be snacks and crafts, too!

Wednesday- Catch my breath.

Thursday-Official launch of NO, NO, KITTEN! at 6:00 p.m. There will be crafts and you can eat a Kit-Kat with Kitten! (But not Kit-Kats as cool as these. I mean, I WISH!

By Friday, I hope I am still standing. Seriously. (And next week, there is more!!!)

I can't wait for you to meet Kitten!