December 30, 2010
How to Survive Middle School came out April 13th, 2010, received two starred reviews and landed on the Texas Lone Star State Reading List. Yehaw!
I had the great pleasure of speaking to students at middle schools near and far, chatting with young fans at book signings, speaking at several conferences, Skyping with book club members both in the United States and in Canada, enjoying fun events at several wonderful independent bookstores and speaking at a bookfair hosted by the amazingly generous Arthur Levine.
2011 already looks exciting.
I start the year as a faculty member at the 10th annual Florida SCBWI Conference in Miami.
The new year will also find me speaking at SCBWI conferences in New England and Pennsylvania, as well as participating in a number of exciting book-related events here in Florida.
I have a couple new writing projects going out, and the blog will be exploding with new content in 2011.
Next week, look for a brand new 6-1/2 list from a dynamic writing/teaching duo.
And, of course, the annual list of books I read/listened to this past year will be posted. (Care to hazard a guess at the number?)
Wishing you a happy, HEALTHY new year filled with delightful surprises and exquisite moments.
With all good wishes,
December 19, 2010
Mini Writing Conference -- 6-1/2 Lists of Advice from Editors, Agents, Authors and a Really Cool Kid
I've gathered the year's worth of blog posts here for a free mini writing conference. Hope you find something useful, inspiring . . . and fun.
1. Lauren Tarshis -- What Makes a Good Short Story (Lauren is the editor of Scholastic's Storyworks Magazine. Not only is she an excellent editor, she is also the author of several books, including Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and the I Survived . . . series.)
2. Kate Messner -- How to Survive a Skype Visit (Kate is a teacher, Skype visit expert and author. Her newest novel is Sugar and Ice, which is an Amazon Best Book for December.)
3. Tina Wexler -- Ways to Impress and Agent (I'm grateful to call Tina my agent and my friend. She'll return to I.C.M., International Creative Management, in January, after her maternity leave.)
4. Cynthia Lord -- Secrets to Successful School Visits (This year, Cindy had 70 events to promote her TWO new books -- Hot Rod Hamster and Touch Blue. Cindy is a Newbery Honor Award recipient for her novel, Rules.)
5. Paul May -- Funny List of Things to Do While Waiting for an Editor or Agent to Call (Paul is not only a talented writer, fun friend and fantastic family guy, he recently took on the post of critique group coordinator for SCBWI Florida. Thank you, Paul!)
6. Cynthia Leitich Smith -- How to Promote Your Book Like a Pro (Cynthia's blog, Cynsations, is a great resource for the children's writing and illustrating community. She's celebrating the release of her new picture book, Holler Loudly.)
7. David LaRochelle -- Ways to Carve a Fantastic Pumpkin (Besides carving pumpkins, David has TWO new books out this year -- 1+1=5: And Other Unlikely Additions and Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet. I'm a big fan of his novel, Absolutely, Positively Not, which won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award.)
8. Austin Towle -- Things I Wish Authors of Books for Kids My Age Knew (This post, written by a 13-year-old, received the most comments!)
I hope you enjoyed this mini writing conference. Look for more 6-1/2 Lists in 2011!
December 17, 2010
We visited several times because it's so much fun to walk through the gate and be greeted by a ton of dogs lopping toward you. They come to visit because they are free to wander around and enjoy the large space on the ranch, that even includes a small pond.
Most of the dogs are weimaraners.
All the dogs need a good home, even though the Big Dog Ranch Rescue is a wonderful temporary home and the people who work there are so dedicated.
It's where we got our two bozos -- Teddy and Benji -- affectionately called Theodorable and Butthead!
Thanks for considering the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in your holiday giving or any of the organizations mentioned this week at Wild About Words.
May YOUR holidays be happy, healthy and filled with peace!
December 16, 2010
December 15, 2010
December 14, 2010
December 13, 2010
"One week can change a lifetime."
Campers stay in cabins, enjoy fabulous meals, ride horses, go on field trips, swim, enjoy guest speakers, create masterpieces in the arts and crafts cabin, shoot a round of miniature golf, enjoy archery, climb a rock wall, etc.
How do I know so much about this magical place that's all about friendship and fun instead of pain and suffering?
BECAUSE I'VE BEEN THERE. Twice!
My dear friend, Cary, told me I had to go. After a couple years of persuasion, I finally went and met the most wonderful women and had the most amazing time. Our family will be supporting Camp Mak-A-Dream this holiday season.
Here's a photo of some of the adult campers, who were dealing with ovarian cancer. We were on a field trip to a beautiful park. Cary is holding up the T-shirt.
Won't you sponsor a camper this year to enjoy Camp Mak-A-Dream in Montana?
December 9, 2010
A big THANK YOU to librarian Karen Marchetto for inviting me to speak to the 6th grade students at Jupiter Middle School.
The day began with Hammy the Hamster appearing on their morning news.
I then proceeded to embarrass myself in front of more than 400 kids by telling them about my dork days of middle school, including the fact that I was a proud member of my school's ping pong club. Clearly, it would be impossible to out-dork me during those braces-wearing, pimple-erupting daze, er, days!
The evening after the school visit, I met great students, parents and teachers at Barnes & Noble, where I signed copies of How to Survive Middle School and As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President!
One girl insisted her father buy her a copy of As If Being 12 3/4 . . . even though she'd already read it. Another girl asked me to recommend books I enjoyed when I was her age. Turns out, she'd already read and enjoyed Mr. Poppers Penguins, so I told her A Hundred Dresses might be another good choice.
I love meeting and chatting with young readers. It's one of my favorite parts of the job.
It's been a fun, busy year of school visits, book festivals and conferences and I look forward to even more in 2011, but for now . . .
I'm going to relish time to finish revisions for Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen. Can't wait till she makes her way into the world Spring 2012.
December 6, 2010
December 2, 2010
November 29, 2010
We love books about writing!
Here are a few suggestions . . .
For general writing, how about these two classics from Stephen King and Anne Lamott?
If writing for children is your thing, try this annual guidebook, which is loaded with instructional articles, markets, contests, etc.
2011 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market
And for fun, try this PUNderful book by Avi . . .
A Beginning, a Muddle and an End (The Write Way to Write Writing) -- Avi
Please take a moment to share your favorite book(s) for writers in the comment section below. That way, when someone asks, "So, what would you like for the holiday?" we'll have a great resource from which to draw.
November 25, 2010
November 21, 2010
The adventure began with a visit to speak to the 5th and 6th grade students at HBW Middle School in Verona, NJ.
The next day, I was off to speak to the 7th grade students at West Essex Middle School. They certainly made me feel welcome!
Unlike in FL, where we have cafetoriums (cafeteria/auditoriums), there was a gorgeous auditorium with stadium seating.
I will never admit to how many slices of Jewish apple cake and lemon squares I consumed. But I will admit to having a FANTASTIC time! Thank you, West Essex Middle School!
Saturday, my buddy Elysa, met me in NYC, as did my agent and her new baby and my editor and her new baby.
After a scrumptious lunch at the Theatre Row Diner, made special by the scrumptious babies I held and cuddled, Elysa and I took in a Broadway Show – my first. Next to Normal was fantabulous and got a much-deserved standing ovation.
Elysa and I also saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Times Square, part of Central Park and Rockefeller Center. We wondered why they cleared the ice at the rink, except for one couple. Suddenly, the man dropped to one knee and put a ring on the young woman’s finger in front of hundreds of people. They skated a victory lap to a love song by Elton John. What a great day!
The next morning, I spoke at the B'nai Keshet Synagogue for the BK Book Festival in Montclair, NJ. A great group of kids and adults filled the seats. It was fun chatting with everyone after the event. One man had gone to the same elementary, middle and high school that I had.
I can’t thank Arthur Levine enough for inviting me to be part of the festival. And Margot, owner of Watchung Booksellers, for providing books, support and good cheer.
Arthur Levine, Margot Sage-EL, Donna Gephart
When it was over, I got into my rental car with my best friend – Lola – my GPS, and she got me back to the airport.
I had a wonderful time in New Jersey and New York and made some amazing new friends, but it was great to get home to my guys, my dogs, my cat and this . . .
November 16, 2010
It is with great pleasure that I write to let you know that your book, How to Survive Middle School, has been selected for the 2011 Texas Lone Star Reading List. The committee considered many books and felt that yours was exceptional and would be perfect for the list.
November 12, 2010
When Austin's mom contacted me about her son writing a guest post on my blog, I thought it would be great to hear what he had to say. 13-year-olds don't always get a voice. I suggested he write about what he'd like authors of books for children and young adults to know.
And he did.
But Austin did more than that. He wrote with honesty and wisdom about what every parent, every person who works with kids should know. And he did it eloquently.
6-1/2 THINGS I WISH AUTHORS OF BOOKS FOR KIDS MY AGE KNEW
By AUSTIN TOWLE, AGE 13
1. We don't like to be compared to other kids. When you compare us to little Timothy down the block saying how smart and well-mannered he is, it doesn't make us feel good. We like to be appreciated and complimented on our abilities. It may not seem like it but being complimented is one of the best things you can say to us.
2. We have our own sense of humor. You may hear us cracking up about something that doesn't even make any sense to you and you're racking your brain trying to figure out why it's so funny. But don't bother, we have our own sense of humor that sometimes doesn't make any sense. For example, I was with my friend, Pedro, and we started laughing and his mom asked us what was so funny and we explained it to her but she didn't have the slightest idea why it was funny.
3. One of the most important things, don't try to act our age. We don't think you're "hip" when you're saying cool, rad, or dude in every sentence. Just act your own age. We'd rather you ask us if we want to play "stickball" then you asking us if we want to go hit up the clubs. Another example, one of my mom's friends was with me and asked if I wanted to go shred down at the skate park. That is a prime example of overdoing it on the whole "be your child's friend kind of thing".
4. We don't want a lecture as a response to a yes or no question. You don't have to yell at us for five minutes about how bad or wrong that is, just say no. Oh and another thing, I'm pretty sure none of my friends would jump off a bridge and even if they did I wouldn't. So the next time one of us goes up to you and asks a question, just say yes or no.
5. Bullying is more of a problem than any adults can even fathom. The media blames schools or the parents, saying that bullying is a minor problem that is rising, Guess what? it's actually been a huge problem for a while. The problem is that most of the victims are afraid to speak up. Bullying occurs between everyone and happens everywhere. Guys bullying guys, girls bullying girls, guys bullying girls, and even girls bullying guys. Another thing, telling the principal and calling up the bully for confrontation is probably the worst idea ever. If you snitch, it will more than likely get remarkably worse. Trust me, bullies don't learn their lesson. They will keep at it until either you fight back or they are expelled.
6. Let us have our personal space. If we want to be alone, then let us be, it's not like we're plotting world destruction. I know some adults worry about their kids falling in with the wrong crowd or getting into bad habits, but you just got to have faith in us and have confidence in how you raised us. You raised us better than that.
6-1/2. It may seem like we don't want to be hugged or loved, but inside we do. We're just trying to act tough and grown up, but we always could go for a big ole' hug.
November 4, 2010
That's why I steer away from bookstore events, unless they follow a school visit.
November 2, 2010
Hope you all had a Halloween to dismember!
October 30, 2010
October 25, 2010
Have you heard from an agent? Sold a book? A magazine article? Has your child actually remembered to hang up her wet towel?
Whatever your good news . . . it's time to shout it from the rooftops or, in this case, the blogtops!
Post your good news in the comment section below. Let's read and celebrate each other's good news.
On October 30th, one comment will be selected at random, and that person will receive an autographed copy of HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL . . . to donate to the school, library or organization of his or her choice.
Let the good news roll . . .