February 27, 2009

Florida Book Award

This week, I received wonderful news. My novel, As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President!, won a silver medal in the children's literature category of the Florida Book Awards.

Hearty congratulations to the gold medal winner -- Newt's World: Beginnings by Susan L. Womble and the bronze medal winner -- Missing Math: A Number Mystery by Loreen Leedy. And hats off to all the Florida authors included in the competition.

In other news, I've been invited to speak at a conference in Fort Lauderdale to a group of librarians, media specialists, educators and parents. If you fit into any of these groups, I'd love to hear what you'd hope to learn from an author presentation.

I'll also be talking with students at a middle school and at an area library the day before the conference, and am really looking forward to meeting the students.

My editor sent another revision letter for my novel, so I'll be busy thinking, rethinking, researching and revising during March.

But for now, I'm off to watch our 14-year-old son compete in a 3-point competition at half-time during his league's basketball playoffs. I will be the crazy lady in the stands screaming, "Go, Gephart!"

Hope you all have a lovely weekend as we say so-long to February. When I lived in Pennsylvania, I was happy to see gloomy, chilly, icy February pack it's bags and go. But here in sunny South Florida, I savor February days. With breezy, spring-like weather, I stroll through street festivals, choose brightly colored veggies at green markets, kayak at a state park and enjoy strolls through parks or along the beach. It almost makes up for the terror of hurricane season in the early fall!

Have a wild and wonderful weekend!

All best,

February 19, 2009

A Remarkable Book for Young Readers . . .

This is Danette Haworth . . .

This is her book . . .

This is how you can buy it . . .

*** IndieBound *** *** Amazon *** *** Barnes & Noble ***

I loved this book. Violet Raines is my new literary best buddy.

And that's no taradiddle.

February 18, 2009

Ew, Gross and No Ghosts!

This is part of a container garden called "Pop's Patch" that I planted last month in our back yard. Today, like I do many days, I yanked off one of the lettuce leaves, popped it in my mouth, chewed and swallowed. Then I pulled off a neighboring leaf and turned it over. Little black bugs crawled all over it. Gulp.

Despite rinsing my mouth with water and mouthwash (Tom's of Maine, if you must know) and brushing my teeth vigorously, I can't get the feeling of tiny little bugs out of my mouth.

When I told my youngest son, he reminded me, "Oh that's not so bad. Remember yesterday when you ate almost a whole slice of bread before you noticed the green mold on it?"

Yeah. Thanks.

And because there is no possible artful transition, I'm going to forge ahead into the second part of this post.

For those loyal reader's of this blog (Diahnka, Myra and well . . . you know who you are), there were indeed no ghosts at the St. Augustine inn this past weekend.

Hubby gave me two gifts for Valentine's Day:

1. A night in an inn at St. Augustine, FL that was supposed to be haunted.
2. A cold.

The inn was lovely and old and had a balcony that looked out on a cobblestone alley. The cold was just annoying. In our room at the inn, there was one painting as you entered that kept tilting, but I think that was just because it was hung badly.

These are the things I forgot to take pictures of during out little getaway:

1. Our fabulous cousins -- Jo, Mark and Drew, who fed us and made us laugh and showed us really cool old family photos.

2. Our fine, fun friends the Mays -- Paul and his three amazing gals! -- who met us at this cool restaurant.

3. The gigantic fort at St. Augustine, built in, oh, the 1500s.

4. The inn where we stayed, the fabulous view of the water, the cool shops, the street musicians on practically every corner, the beautiful Spanish architecture . . .

You get the idea.

Here, in my infinite wisdom, are the three photos I did take:

1. Hubby, in front of the oldest wood school house in the country.

2. Me, in front of the oldest wood school house in the country.

3. A really cool vulture that we saw from the McDonald's drive-thru, when we stopped to get coffee for hubby.

Moral of these stories?

1. If you're going on vacation and need someone to take photos, don't ask me.

2. Don't eat bugs. (Or mold.)

February 13, 2009

Here Comes the Judge . . .

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of helping judge the delightful essays written by 6th and 7th grade students at Independence Middle School.

Some of the essays nearly had me in tears while others made me laugh out loud. I wish there were more than two prizes for each grade.

Winners won't be announced till Tuesday, so I can't say a word, but I want to congratulate all the students on writing such terrific essays!

And thanks to Lisa Petroccia, Media Specialist, who organized the event and provided a delicious lunch.

Here's a photo of Lisa and Frank Cerabino (one of the other judges), fabulously funny local news columnist for the Palm Beach Post.

I'm off to a (supposedly) haunted inn with Hubby this weekend. I'll let you know if we bump into any ghosts in the night.

Have a great weekend!

February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Book!

One year ago today, you came into the world . . . and into my mailbox!

You were welcomed by family and friends . . .

And all manner of goodies . . .

Because you came into the world, you afforded me opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise, like meeting uber-passionate librarians at a cocktail party thrown by my publisher, Random House, at last year's ALA meeting in Philadelphia. I also had the pleasure of watching the award announcements, meeting the amazing people from Random House and getting to know these fine writers . . .

1. Liz Gallagher, who wrote The Opposite of Invisible
2. Maria Padian, who wrote Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress
3. E. M. Crane, who wrote Skin Deep

I also had the joy of giving a speech and workshop at the FL SCBWI conference and meeting the very funny and kind, Sid Fleischman.

What a busy year it's been! There were radio interviews, newspaper interviews and even a local TV interview. There were blog interviews and wonderful reviews, like these:

“Gephart mixes humor, intrigue and compassion in her entertaining first novel.” – Columbus Dispatch

“This entertaining novel offers believable middle school situations, a rip-roaring finale and a funny, memorable heroine.” – Buffalo News

“Fabulous middle-grade novel about an awkward spelling-bee champ whose governor mother is running for the Democratic nomination. Timely, funny and written in a great voice.” – Staff Pick at Children’s Book World

“Laugh-out-loud adventures combined with just the right amount of drama make this a great read.” – Minnesota Parent

There were book festivals, creative writing workshops and signings at indie bookstores in PA, NJ, OR, NY and of course, FL and many, many wonderful school visits.

Perhaps the finest moments throughout the year were e-mails, like this one from a young fan:

"I think it's the most awesome book I've ever read. I think it inspires young girls to be courageous. Your book has inspired me to make a difference in the world, and it gave me hope to be courageous, too."

Happy first birthday, book! Before you know it, you'll be out in paperback, reaching even more young readers. And best of all, early in 2010, you'll have a sibling -- HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL (WITHOUT GETTING YOUR HEAD FLUSHED), DEAL WITH AN EX-BEST FRIEND,UM, GIRLS AND A HEART-BREAKING HAMSTER.

Thanks everyone for helping make this such a memorable first year!


February 11, 2009

Why We Need to Support Independent Bookstores

A few years ago, our older son and I took a road trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. It's one of our finest memories.

During that trip, Andrew and I spent a delightful afternoon in Port In A Storm Bookstore. One wall of the store is glass and overlooks a peaceful waterway. There was an excellent children's book section. And whoa boy did they support their local authors!

Andrew left with a stack of fantasy novels to read on the drive home. I left with a humor book from a local author and a collection of photographs from the area that I still enjoy thumbing through.

This store is a treasure, and we always looked forward to going back.

That's why I was saddened to read the following letter on their Web site:

December 5, 2008

Dear Port In A Storm Customers,

It is with regret that I must tell you that on January 18, 2009, Port In A Storm Bookstore will close its doors in Somesville.

Times are difficult for small businesses everywhere, particularly independent bookstores. We are all challenged by the growth of the Internet, the presence of big box and discount stores, and the general decrease in reading. Throughout the years, I have had to be creative to adapt to various economic and cultural changes in order to remain viable. Sometimes that is not enough.

Over the next weeks we will offer store-wide sales ranging from 25% to 45% off. You are encouraged to use your book-club coupons and gift certificates by January 18, 2009. All book-club credit coupons and gift certificates cannot be redeemed after this date.

Port In A Storm will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day.

I wish to thank our many customers and author and illustrator friends for their support and encouragement over the past ten years that I have owned Port In A Storm Bookstore.

Though I am considering other options for the future, I have no announcement to make at this time.

It has been a wonderful journey!

Jan Coates, Owner

February 10, 2009

Your Favorite Books?

The Palm Beach Post ran a great feature about getting children excited about reading. In the article, youth service librarians listed some of their favorite children's books and memorable moments that occurred during story hours.

The article inspired me to think of a few of my favorite books. Here they are:

Picture Book: Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith, illustrated by Marla Frazee (I have a copy with the original wonderfully gloomy cover art and I love it!)

Middle Grade Novel: A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban (This is exactly the book I wish I'd written.)

YA Novel: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie (I love this book for its honesty, humor and heartache.)

Adult Novel: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (My tenth grade English teacher, Myra Durlosky, recommended this gem. For those who are wild about words, I have one for you to sum up this delightful epistolary novel: CLEVER!)

Adult Non-fiction: Anne Lamott. (Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year, Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life, Travelling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, etc.) Ms. Lamott's truth-telling has gotten me through many of life's stages and challenges.

Please take a moment to comment and share your favorite books.


February 2, 2009


I just e-mailed my revised novel to my editor.

It took ten weeks to digest her five-page, single-spaced revision letter and tackle the changes. I felt like my manuscript went through Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and SlimFast as it shrunk from 315 bloated pages to 215 compact ones.

Here's how I handled the revision requests:

Day 1: Received five-page revision letter and 315-page manuscript covered with comments.
Day 1 (later): Decided editor was dead wrong. About everything.
Day 2: Re-read revision letter and admitted editor made a couple good points.
Day 3: Re-read letter AND manuscript. Thanked brilliant editor profusely for not letting my manuscript go into the world in such horrible shape.
Day 4: Decided editor was a saint and should have the wing of a library named after her!
Day 4 (later): Got to work.
Days 5, 6 and 7: Made all minor changes written on the manuscript pages.
Weeks 2 through 6: Pulled out the gardening shears for some serious snipping! While making major changes, listened to Edgar Meyer's Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suites approximately 3,947 times.
Weeks 7 and 8: Read through manuscript a couple times to make sure the large changes made sense and everything worked together.
Between weeks 8 and 9: Decided becoming a brain surgeon would be easier and less stressful.
Weeks nine and ten: Went over every single word to make sure it belonged. Several didn't. The ones that remained needed to pull their weight.
End of week ten: Attached manuscript, photo, dedication, acknowledgements, flap copy and a promotional plan to an e-mail for beloved editor and uber-agent. Hit send.
End of week ten (later): Breathed.

What now? Go to Disney? Nah, too expensive. Dive into the next novel? Nope, brain's depleted. Sleep for a week? Hmmm. Pay my bills and get reacquainted with the washing machine? Definitely!

I'm going to do what every neurotic writer does after she sends out one novel and before she begins the next -- I'm going to obsess about whether my editor will like the changes I made, spend time with friends, take walks, see a movie or two, re-introduce myself to my children and husband, cook something that takes longer than five minutes to prepare, kayak, play Scrabble with hubby and read, read, READ!

Before long, some mysterious force will pull me back to the page and I'll dip into my internal well and begin the process all over again. With joy!