June 23, 2010

Why I Love What I Do . . .

Just spent the best hour of my day with the C.I.T.s at Jewish Camp of the Arts. What a remarkable group of young teens!

When I finished presenting, one girl said, "When I found out about this, I thought it would be so boring, but it was so much fun."

Another C.I.T. had to leave for a minute to kiss one of the young campers good-bye.

And when one of the C.I.T.s wanted to buy a book, but neither of us had the couple dollars change, she said, "Please keep it an donate it to a Jewish charity." Will do.

Such a bright, enthusiastic, NICE group of kids. They reminded me why I love what I do.

This was my last speaking engagement until fall. Then I have some really interesting gigs to look forward to.

Thank you, Jewish Camp of the Arts!

June 21, 2010

Writerly Inspiration . . . and a Few Laughs

Meg Cabot talks about writing a book in ten days that required no editing . . .

And Meg Cabot's HILARIOUS trailer from her new book, INSATIABLE . . .

Stephen King talks about the magical moment when you know you can be a writer . . .

Writing funny books with Henry Winkler (The Fonz) and Lin Oliver . . .

What will your video be like after you've reached your writing goals?

June 16, 2010

Seeing Stars . . .

No, the dog didn't pee on the carpet again. Well, yes he did.
No, the teen didn't stay on the phone past midnight. Well, actually, he did.
No, the dog didn't chew a couch pillow and the remote control. Um, yes he did.

But that's NOT why I'm seeing stars.

I'm seeing stars because my editor and agent sent news that How to Survive Middle School received its SECOND starred review, this time from School Library Journal. (The first came from Kirkus.)

Here's a peek: "With short chapters and broad humor, this one is for "Wimpy Kid" aficionados." Thank you, SLJ!

Go, Hammy! Go!

June 15, 2010

What a Great Day . . .

I woke to an e-mail from Robin Mellom, telling me about this review on her blog. Thanks, Robin.

But that's not the good news. The good news is that Robin SOLD HER FIRST NOVEL, um, two novels. And since I've been following Robin for years, I am so darned proud of her perseverance, great attitude and generous nature.

In other words, this woman deserves this!

Here's a bit of her bio from her agent, Jill Corcoran's blog:

"Robin Mellom has taught grades 5 through 8 and has a master’s degree in education. She has written local content for the entertainment section of The San Luis Obispo Tribune newspaper, and also co-wrote a series of manga-style algebra assessments for the UCLA Department of Education. Currently, she is a social worker for children with autism."

Congrats, Robin! I can't wait to read DITCHED. Hurry up, 2012!

In other wonderful news: Today, hubby and I celebrate our 19-year anniversary!

June 9, 2010

A Hormone-Filled Blender & Congratulations

A hormone-filled blender full of thanks to Laura Salas for this dandy review of my new novel, HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL.

And a margarita-filled blender of HOORAY and WAHOO to Rebecca Stead for doing something Louis Sachar did in 1998 with his amazing book, HOLES -- won both the Newbery Medal and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

Ms. Stead is among the winners of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for her fabulous novel, WHEN YOU REACH ME. If you haven't read it yet, treat yourself this summer.

June 3, 2010



School ends for our children today, so why are we talking about school visits at the beginning of summer? This is the ideal time to prepare and perfect your school visits. The beginning of the school year will be here before you know it. Will you be ready? Of course you will. Read on . . .

Two words describe Cynthia Lord: GENUINE and GENEROUS! I've had the pleasure of getting to know Cindy through her warm, wise blog, which I've enjoyed for years.

Cythia Lord's debut novel, RULES was a New York Times Bestseller and has received numerous awards, including a Newbery Honor. A former elementary and middle-school teacher, Cynthia also spent a year teaching on a Maine island, which is the setting for her second novel, TOUCH BLUE, August 2010. Her first picture book, HOT ROD HAMSTER, was published in February and became a Publisher's Weekly Bestseller. She lives with her husband and two children fifteen minutes from the ocean in Brunswick, Maine. You can visit Cindy on the web at www.cynthialord.com.

Cindy does about 40 school visits a year.


1. Be very clear with the person coordinating the visit what your needs and requirements are. I use a contract and then I also connect with the school about two weeks ahead of time to confirm everything (equipment, number of presentations, schedule, travel issues). It also lets me check in to see how much preparation the school has done for my visit. For a novel, I tweak my presentation based on whether or not the kids have all read the book, so it helps to know that ahead of time.

2. After the kids are seated, be introduced by someone at the school. That person has authority with the students, and that will be passed on to you through that introduction. That person will also know the school's way of getting kids' attention (two fingers up, clapping, etc).
The first few minutes set the tone for the whole presentation, so you want to engage the kids quickly. The most challenging student behaviors will come in the "down" times and the "dull" times, so the best thing you can do for classroom management is to keep the down time to a minimum and have an interactive and engaging presentation. Think of your presentation like a novel: a strong beginning, followed by rising emotion, logical sequencing with exciting scenes, and a strong and satisfying ending. And leave some time for questions at the end.

3. If you use PowerPoint, keep your slides simple. Use only keywords and high-quality images. It will keep you from being tempted to read off your slides, and the kids will be paying attention to you and not reading the slides.
A remote to advance your slides is a very worthwhile investment. You can get a good one for around $40, and it will allow you to move around the stage--which keeps the kids' attention more than if you are stuck behind a podium. Also, in a big group, some kids will have a better view of you than others. By moving around, you give more kids a chance to see you.

4. The school wants a personal connection for their students. Be sure that you are the star of your presentation, not your slides. Have at least a few things to show the kids or stories to tell them that they cannot find on your website or read in interviews with you. If the school has prepared the students well, students will have already been to your website and read available interviews with you. They should get something new from seeing you and hearing your speak.

5. Give students practical writing advice that supports school writing curriculum--teachers will love you for it. Some examples would be: thoughts about first drafts, adding sensory details, revision tips, etc.

6. If the students have been a good audience, compliment them and tell the teachers they can be very proud of them. It builds a lot of good will. Also tell the principal how wonderful the media specialist (or whoever organized the visit with you) has been to work with. It's a nice way to affirm the hard work that went into bringing you to the school.

6 - 1/2. After a successful visit, ask that media specialist to write a recommendation or to recommend you on her state librarians' listserve. Word of mouth is always a powerful tool in marketing for your school visits.

School visits can be a wonderful, fun way to get up close and personal with your #1 audience--kids!

Thank you, Cindy, for sharing your expertise and experience with us!

For more great information about successful school visits, visit this link -- Verla Kay's message board.

Last Chance to Win . . .

GOODREADS is hosting a contest to give away three copies of How to Survive Middle School. (Contest ends June 5th).

Speaking of good reads . . . The Summer of Moonlight Secrets by my friend, Danette Haworth went on sale May 25th and already sold foreign rights to Turkey. Way to go, Danette!

Speaking of summer . . . treat yourself this summer to a children's book destined to become a classic -- The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. I listened to it on audio book and found Gabra Zackman to be the best reader I've ever had the pleasure to listen to. Don't miss this gem!

And don't miss the amazing 6-1/2 list about school visits with Newbery Honor author CYNTHIA LORD coming soon to this blog. Her work RULES!

Stay tuned . . .