May 29, 2010

EXCITING Book News . . .

Julie Peterson of the excellent blog, Booking Mama, just posted THIS REVIEW of HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Here's a peek: "Ms. Gephart is definitely a force to be reckoned with in middle grade fiction. She has the great ability to tell a good story while also making the reader laugh -- it's a great combination of fun! I also love that her books appeal to both boys and girls and that they have wonderful messages!"

Julie is a fellow Penn Stater and book lover and her review was so wonderful it made me want to cry. Thank you, Julie!

As if that weren't enough, there's THIS REVIEW from the Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books.

Here's a peek: "There are enough laughs, tears, and additional contributions from a camera-loving hamster here to make this one appeal to Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans."

And to top it all off, my editor just let me know HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL went into its THIRD printing.


May 18, 2010

A Secret . . .

Yesterday, I had my last school visit until the fall.

I told the 400 6th graders at Independence Middle School that I'd tell them a secret at the end of my presentation.

After I introduced them to Hammy the Hamster, gave my "6-1/2 Ways to Survive Middle School" talk and read the fight scene in the cafeteria from HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL, I shared the secret.

My book is based on their school. Even though it says otherwise, the cafeteria is their cafeteria, the courtyard their courtyard and the studio where the news is created is theirs as well. I included their principal and media specialist as actual characters in the novel.

In fact, Lisa Petroccia, uber-amazing media specialist has been so wonderful and supportive that she appears as a character and is in the acknowledgements page as well.

Lisa made my visit a delightful and memorable one with her careful and thoughtful planning. The students remembered me from my visit earlier in the year and made me feel like a rock star.

What a fun way to end a whirlwind of school visits, book festival and bookstore appearances and conference talks.

(I'd have photos to share if my computer hadn't died this morning.)

So, for now, I'm going to take a break from this blog and focus on writing the next book and on enjoying time with family and friends.

Play nicely while I'm gone and have a happy, healthy summer!

May 17, 2010

Books & Books Event

Holy hamsters! What a fun event at Books & Books yesterday!

There were some firsts at this event.

This is the first time I had an equal number of girls and boys in the audience. That was cool.

It was the first time my dad was able to hear me speak at an event. (He's visiting from New Jersey this week.)

Here's Dad with hubby, Dan, who drove and snapped photos and (most importantly) bought be a gigantic milkshake and fries when I was done. Thank you, guys!

It was also the first time anyone arrived with a LIVE hamster. Mhmm. Here is Reece, with his hamster, Buddy, hanging out with my hamster, Hammy, who is, um, a stuffed toy.

Here's Sofi, who happens to be a writer, too.

Thanks, Sofi, for the countdown e-mails until the event. You rock!

If you'd like to be a writer, like Sofi, here are two suggestions (besides read a lot and write a lot):

1. Get your hands on a copy of Writing Magic: Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine.

2. Subscribe to Funds for Writers: WritingKids by Hope C. Clark. Every two weeks, you'll find opportunties and contests for young writers in a wonderful e-newsletter.

Thanks to EVERYONE who came out to Books & Books Sunday to meet me and Hammy and have a fun time!

May 14, 2010


Great bison butts, is it really the weekend already?

I guess so.

Have a zingy zippity zebra of a weekend.

I mean, slithering snake bites . . .

It's time to don your silliest hat and your biggest glasses . . .

And your subtlest socks . . .

And do something ostentatious, outrageous . . . and fiendishly fun . . . and gosh-darn-it daffy and different!

Because for goodness sake, I mean . . . GREAT HAMSTER HINEYS . . .

That's what weekends are made for.


May 12, 2010

Career Day at Greenacres Elementary

1. A professional basketball player (with basketball in hand).
2. A sheriff with full riot gear.
3. And a helper dog, wearing a fancy tutu.

No, I was not at a party for the LA Lakers.

I was at Career Day at Greenacres Elementary School. And those are only a smattering of interesting careers represented! The students got to learn there's a whole wide world of possibilities out there.

As fifth grade students filed into the classroom, they greeted me with, "Hola" and "Hello" and "Are you the lady with Hammy the Hamster?"

What fun I had interacting with three classes of bright, energetic fifth graders!

I'm still surprised, though, when kids say, "I loved your last book and can't wait to read this one" because I'm still amazed anyone besides my family and a few close friends actually read my books.

A big THANKS to the amazing principal, media specialist, teachers, staff and FANTASTIC students at Greenacres Elementary!!!

May 11, 2010

Book News to Use

1. WIN an autographed hardcover copy of HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL on GoodReads.

2. Guess what comes out in PAPERBACK May 25th? Right! AS IF BEING 12 3/4 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT! (Did I hear someone say, "Now I can afford a class set."?)

3. To make room for those brand new paperback copies, Amazon is selling hardbacks of AS IF BEING . . . for the ridiculously low price of $6.40. (Did I hear someone say, "Hey, that would make a great birthday gift for that special tween in my life."?)

4. Don't forget -- There will be a hamster party/book signing/reading at Books & Books at 3 pm this Sunday!!!

May 7, 2010

Hammy Hamster vs. Sammy Sumo -- A CATastrophe!

We last left Hammy Hamster and Sammy Sumo at odds with each other.

There was pummeling . . .

There was pounding . . .

Something had to be done. Right?

Votes were taken and tallied and the clear winner was HAMMY, but wait a minute. What's this?

Reinforcements were called in to investigate.

Clawed N. Scratch, the head of the CATastrophe Prevention Department, questioned Hammy.

Then he questioned Sammy. "Run, Sammy. Run!"

Sammy didn't run. Hammy ran, but he was on that darned hamster wheel and didn't get anywhere.

That's when Clawed N. Scratch took matters into his own paws, er, mouth. He solved the problem with TWO quick gulps.

And took a nap.

Unlike Hammy and Sammy, hope you have a PURRfect weekend!

May 5, 2010

Hammy Hamster vs. Sammy Sumo

Hammy Hamster was minding his own business on his lined hamster wheel when his agent called.

"Good news, Hammy," she said. "Your video is on Amazon. You're famous!"

Hammy couldn't believe it. He was so much better than all the other hamsters now.

He wore movie star glasses . . .

He nibbled chocolates . . .

Mostly, he napped while waiting for Oprah to call . . .

Until . . .

Sammy Sumo came to town. Sammy wanted to be a star, too!

"Sorry," Hammy said. "This town isn't big enough for both of us. Go make your own video!"

Sammy didn't take kindly to those words. He pushed his stomach out -- oh, nevermind -- his stomach was already pushed out -- and he bellowed, "Them's fightin' words, Hamster!"

Sammy jumped on Hammy. "Oomph!"

He pounded Hammy. "Ouch!"

Hammy needed to do something quickly.

"I've got to get in shape!"

So he lifted weight . . .

. . . until he was strong enough to fight back. "Whomp!"

Come on, Hammy and Sammy! Can't we all just get along?


Uh-oh! Was Hammy doomed?

He had no choice but to use his secret, super power -- something so secret it was to be used only in case of dire emergency -- HAMSTER FARTS!

It worked!

Will Sammy Sumo ever wake? Will Hammy Hamster triumph and return to his life of big-headed leisure? Or will Sammy Sumo get up and take over this town?


Vote for the outcome in the comment section below, then follow the blog or check back soon . . . to find out if Hammy Hamster wins or Sammy Sumo is the victor.

May 3, 2010

Two Things I LOVE About What I Do

1. Guess who got her FIRST fan e-mail for How to Survive Middle School?


Thanks, Ben! That was the best e-mail EVER!!!!!!!!!

2. The sold-out Michigan SCBWI Conference this past Saturday rocked!

As soon as I opened the door to my hotel room, I was greeted by this gift and a goody bag, filled with homemade baked treats. (Thanks, Janice!)

The fabulous volunteers made me and the other speakers feel welcomed. They thought of every detail during the conference. Really well-run.

I gave two workshops -- "12 3/4 Ways to Tickle Young Reader's Funny Bones" and "Creating Quirky Characters."

Here are the some of the gang from my first workshop.

I'm sure the fact that I was wearing a rubber chicken necklace had nothing to do with their smiling.

Here are the peeps from the quirky character workshop. I was so impressed with the creative ideas participants came up with during both workshops.

When I was done, a man came up and said, "I just wanted to tell you . . . you kicked butt!"

I loved that comment. And I loved the conference. I met lovely and interesting people, who are passionate about writing and illustrating.

And even though I was unable to hear Jay Asher's keynote and workshops or take a photo of him because the batteries in my camera died . . . twice, I had the pleasure of signing books next to him. And I stole this photo from his blog. Thanks, Jay!

Thanks to the fun and fabulous speakers: Jay Asher, illustrator/cartoonist Dave Coverly, author Jim Tobin, agent Beth Fleisher, editor Lisa Yoskowitz and editor Ruta Rimas. And a great big thanks to the wonderful folks in Michigan who worked their tailfeathers off to create a fabulous experience!