June 30, 2008

We Have a Winner!

A huge thank you to the millions of, um 4, people who contributed great ideas in the comments section of my recent blog.

Your names were carefully written on scraps of paper and tossed into an almost-clean Tupperware container that once held macaroni and cheese. Then the Grand Wizard of Contests (our 15-year-old son) used a very special pair of gold-plated (okay, plastic) salad tongs to extract the winning entry.

And the winner of our Great Idea Contest is . . .

BETH LEVINE. Here's the helpful idea Beth posted in the comment section:


If you need to find "real people" to interview for a book or article, this guy will send out your query to his list of thousands! I put in a query and had 50 responses in an hour!

Beth has generously chosen to donate her prize -- a paperback young adult novel -- to 826 Valencia. They are currently trying to stock a satellite program in a middle school. I'm sending a copy of my novel today. Click here to see how you can contribute. Scroll down to "Odd Books?"

If anyone wants to know what an agent's day is like, pick up a copy of Water Cooler Diaries: Women Across America Share Their Day at Work. My agent, Tina Wexler, has a day-in-the-life piece in the book detailing the many things she does during the day, including squeezing in reading manuscripts while riding the train to and from work.

Thanks to Elizabeth Willse for her recent review in the New Jersey Star Ledger:

The title of Donna Gephart's smart, funny novel, "As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President" (Delacorte, 240 pp., $15.99), says it all. Vanessa Rothrock has enough trouble fitting in when her Mom is the governor of Florida; but once the presidential campaign begins, Vanessa feels she can't even talk to her mother without an appointment with the press secretary. Gephart does a beautiful job blending a tense political race with Vanessa's junior high dramas.

All I want to know, Elizabeth, is: Did my family pay you to write that?

Have a great week everyone!

June 24, 2008

Nice Interview

A big THANK YOU to Sandra Louden, greeting card writer and friend extraordinaire, for her very nice interview in Absolute Write.

Sandra and I connected when I worked as an editor at a greeting card company. Then we met in person for the first (and only) time at a writer's conference in Western PA. I was very pregnant with my first son at the time. He's now a whopping 15 years old. Time flies!

If you'd like to read Sandra's guest blog about how to write and sell greeting cards, click here.

June 22, 2008

Three blogs, one tip and a CONTEST!

Every day, I check several blogs that inspire and offer useful information. Here are three that I highly recommend:

1) Shrinking Violet Promotions hosted by Mary Hershey and Robin LaFevers. This blog offers a bevy of marketing and promoting tips with a generous serving of grace and generosity thrown in for good measure.

2) Cynsations hosted by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Queen of Giving Back to the Children's Litature Community. On her blog, you'll find oodles of interviews, book giveaways and more useful information than you can shake a number two pencil at.

3) Alice's CWIM Blog hosted by Alice Pope, editor of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, shares news and musings.

And here’s one tip to promote your work and have fun in the process: When doing an event at a school or participating in a book signing, hold a drawing for a book or appropriate giveaway. For example, Debra Garfinkle might give away a rubber chicken because of this and this. Ask only for the person’s first name and e-mail address on a slip of paper. After the event, choose a winner, e-mail a congratulations note and ask for a mailing address. Send the prize and then -- here’s the important part -- put each of the e-mail addresses you received in a database that you’ll use to send e-mail notices when you have exciting book news, like a new book coming out.

Now, the CONTEST: Share a blog, Web site or tip in the comment section below and I’ll choose one winner to receive a paperback children’s book. The winner will be announced Monday, June 30th.

Good luck and thanks in advance for sharing!


June 19, 2008

Shrieking and Signing

Sometimes, when I'm driving and see a cute couple pushing a baby in a stroller, I want to slam on the brakes, leap from my car and shriek, "Don't you realize that adorable baby will one day morph into an evil zombie from Planet Teenager?!!"

But I don't.


I showed no restraint, however, at our local Barnes & Noble.

While a woman was perusing the children's section along with two children, I oh-so-casually mentioned that I wrote the book they were standing in front of. "Yup. That's mine. Right there."

I think the woman wasn't sure whether to believe me or call store security, but I was wearing my "Be Careful Or I'll Put You In My Novel" T-shirt, which obviously proved I wrote the book the woman was now holding. And showing the girl. And . . . asking me to sign.

We talked awhile and she picked up another copy for herself. Hooray. Two books down. 98,753 to go.

If anyone happens to be in Vero Beach this Saturday, stop by Waldenbooks at the Indian River Mall between 1 pm and 3 pm. I'll be wearing a silly skimmer hat, like the girl on my cover and signing copies of my novel along with the very talented Carole Crowe, who will be signing her lovely picture book, Turtle Girl.

Not only will I wear a skimmer hat, I'll also wear a T-shirt with a picture of the cover of my novel on it as will my husband and, well, anything else we can think of to sell a few books and more importantly, embarrass our teenage sons.

Happy weekend,

June 17, 2008

A Literary Adventure

Just got back from a trip to New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In New York, hubby, oldest son and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city while youngest son went to a friend’s graduation. During our visit, I enjoyed a lovely lunch with my agent and editor. One of the three of us ate octopus and wore blue toenail polish. Hint: It wasn’t me!

Then it was off to Books of Wonder. I’d always wanted to visit this independent children’s bookstore. And there it was – loaded with shelves of brand new books and cases of really old books as well. But the best part of the space might have been Cupcake Café. Hubby and I thought they were the best cupcakes ever. But don’t ask our son’s opinion; he ordered ice cream!

New York must have been inspiring. On the train ride home, I came up with an idea for my next book.

A few days later, hubby and I made a quick trip to Princeton, New Jersey while my sainted in-laws watched our boys.

We wandered around campus, admiring the architecture of the old buildings and wishing we were young enough (and smart enough) to go to Princeton University.

Hubby and I spent nearly two hours in Labyrinth Books. Lots of children’s titles I wasn’t familiar with. Lots of good sale books. Let’s just say we did our part to support independent bookstores that day.

A few streets over was Jazams -- half toy store, half children’s book store. Entirely fun.

The public library astounded me. A three-story glass structure, it sported both a gift shop and café on the ground floor. And a huge children’s and separate teen section on the third floor. An aquarium added to the charm.

While in the Philadelphia area, we stopped into Newtown Book Store. I was delighted to discover my novel was chosen as one of the summer reading book club choices. Twenty-one copies were stacked in a special display.

At Children’s Book World in Haverford, my book was chosen as a staff pick. Owner Hannah Schwartz has been fostering a great relationship with schools and the community for over seventeen years. And Sarah, one of the employees, did such a great job of book talking several titles that we left with bags full.

Even though the book stores and libraries were great fun, the best part of our visit was spending time with brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, Pop-Pop and friends. We squeezed in lots of games, meals and laughter.

Now, I’m looking forward to the time and space to work on my new book. And perhaps, to making a dent in the ever-growing stack of books beside my bed.

Happy summertime,


June 6, 2008


I’m delighted to announce the sale of my second novel to Stephanie Lane at Delacorte Press.

Here’s a peek at the blurb that will go to Publisher’s Lunch:

Donna Gephart's HOW TO SURVIVE JUNIOR HIGH, about David Greenberg, a boy who dreams of becoming the next Oprah (the white, Jewish, male version), but whose day-to-day life is filled with embarrassing You Tube videos, bullies threatening swirlies, and a best friend gone ga-ga over girls, to Stephanie Lane at Delacorte, by Tina Wexler at ICM.


June 3, 2008


On the occasion of my 100th blog post, I want to say, “THANK YOU!

This writing gig is quite a journey, and I’ve been lucky enough to connect with amazing people along the way.

First and foremost, thanks to Hubby. He’s been both friend and cheerleader (not to mention breadwinner) through it all. You rock my world, babe!

Thanks to my two sons, who drive me nuts and melt my heart in equal measures. Despite what I say sometimes, I would never trade you guys for a hamster and a goldfish.

Thanks to my father-in-law, Jake, who stood beside me through everything and stood taller in heart than he ever did in height. I miss you, pal.

Thanks to my family and family-in-law for all the laughter and love.

A huge, honkin’ thank you to the friends who have seen me though good times, bad time and the wonky times in between. There aren’t enough words . . .

A heart full of hugs for my writing buds, who understand the neurotic personality of a writer like no other.

Thanks to my agent, Tina Wexler, for encouraging me to tell Vanessa’s story. I’m so glad to have you in my corner.

Thanks to my editor, Stephanie Lane, for embracing a certain klutzy character and a certain awkward writer.

Much appreciation to the educators, media specialists, principals and students who welcomed me into your schools this year. And to the kids who wrote me notes, like this one from a third grader: “Thank you so mush for telling us all about you and how to rihte a book. I think when I am groin up I miht be a rihter.” (This is exactly what my writing looked like at this age.)

A bouquet of thanks to the librarians who embraced my novel, especially my local librarians, who purchased my book for every one of their branches. And who never look at me strangely when I hover around the children’s books for hours.

Thanks to fans who’ve sent me uplifting e-mails, like this one: “I recently finished As If Being 12 and 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother is Running For President! Anyways, I really liked it, and I wish I had a Michael Dumas of my own. I only seem to get Reginalds... My sister made Mrs. Perez's lemon squares, and they were really good. I think it's pretty neat that you use your friends' and family members' names in your books.”

Three cheers to Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver for dedicating much of their lives to a little organization called SCBWI. You two are the fairy godmother and godfather of many a writer’s and illustrator’s dreams coming true!

It took me only twenty years of writing (greeting cards, articles, stories, puzzles, essays, etc.) and six unpublished novels to realize my dream of publishing a novel for children.

In Aaron Shepard’s book, The Business of Writing for Children, he reminds us, “It takes about eight to ten books to “establish” a children’s author.”

That’s why when I tell my agent I’m thinking of becoming an interpreter of Swahili or am sure I should write a book about the mating habits of albino kangaroos, she calmly talks me down from the ledge. “Donna, just write the next book.”

She’s right.

That’s all we need to do. Write the next book. Write the next chapter. Write the next sentence. The next word.

The rest will follow. I promise.

My novel did not garner a six-figure advance. It did not rocket to the top of the best-seller list. It did exactly what it was supposed to do – it went out into the world and touched some readers’ hearts and tickled their funny bones.

It allowed me to enjoy some amazing experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise, like sitting in the audience as the Newbery winners were announced and having Sid Fleischman touch my arm and compliment a speech I gave at a conference.

So, for this magnificent journey (so far) . . . thank you, thank you, thank you.

With love,