December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

It's been an awesome year here at Wild About Words.

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

We added a new feature this past year at Wild About Words -- 6-1/2 Lists of wise advice from agents, editors, pumpkin carvers, etc.

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

Season for Sharing, Day 5 -- Big Dog Ranch Rescue

If you are a dog lover, which I have been turned into by my pooch-loving hubby and son, you might want to support this place -- BIG DOG RANCH RESCUE.

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

Season for Sharing, Day 4 -- Save Our Oceans with Edie Widder

My dear friend, Janeen Mason, introduced me to Edie Widder, President and Sr. Scientist at O.R.C.A. (Ocean Research and Conservation Association).

Janeen is an artist who loves the ocean.

Here are a couple of the covers of books she's written and illustrated:

I love Janeen's brilliantly colorful artwork and I love brilliantly colorful her!

So when she asked me to come to her home to have lunch with some interesting people, I said, "YES!"

One of those people was Edie Widder, whom Janeen knew when Edie worked at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution -- a very cool place.

Edie studied bioluminescent sea life -- sea creatures who generate their own light -- and is an expert on the subject.

To watch a fascinating talk about bioluminescence, check out Edie's TED video: Glowing Life in an Underwater World . . .

When I met Edie, she was quiet and unassuming. You'd never guess she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, based on her work with ORCA.

But when she talked about what ORCA is doing to help the oceans and what is at stake if we don't all do something to help the oceans, I was captivated. I went home and made a donation.

If you'd like to donate to help Edie Widder and her team help our oceans, here's the link.

Thank you.

December 15, 2010

Season for Sharing, Day 3 -- Write On -- 826 Valencia, Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers is a work of staggering genius. He inspires me to believe there is no limit to the good work one person can accomplish when passionate about something.

Dave Eggers wrote these books (and many others) ...

He began an innovative literary magazine and publishing company -- McSweeney's.

And he created 826 Valencia -- a writing tutoring center and pirate supply store. Dave Eggers envisioned this place to be one where editors could work on McSweeney's while neighborhood students came in after school to do their homework, receiving one-on-one attention.

826 Valencia in San Francisco has evolved to more than 1,400 volunteers and a variety of locations both national and international.

The work done there is innovative, yet simple -- helping kids share their voices and learn about how much talent they have to offer.

To learn more, watch Dave Eggers give a talk about the program when he won a 2008 TEDPrize.

As an author, I donate to 826 Valencia because I believe good work like that spreads ... and should be supported.

December 14, 2010

Season for Sharing, Day 2 -- Six Families, J.A.M.ming and One Dog

Today's "Season to Share" is hands-on, local stuff.

If you live outside Palm Beach County, though, you can make a donation to help.

If you live inside Palm Beach County, there are THREE opportunities that need your IMMEDIATE attention.


Every year, the Palm Beach County school district identifies the absolutely neediest families in the area. This year, 70 families were choosen for the program.

Each year, our family adopts a family. We take our boys and shop for essentials (and I mean essentials, like food, clothing and bedding) and a few toys and books for the children. It's fun to have an excuse to shop for little ones.

Angela Feaman, an absolute angel, runs the program. Along with her full-time work, she drives all over the county picking up donations and coordinating efforts.

This year, it's almost Christmas and SIX families still haven't been adopted.

If you can adopt one of the six families or even make a small donation for Angela to do the shopping, PLEASE contact Angela Feaman via e-mail at feamana(at)

2) One year ago on Thanksgiving, a terrible tragedy happened where I live.

A mentally ill man brought a gun into the home of a cousin who invited him for a holiday dinner. At the end of the evening, this man opened fire, killing several family members, including a precious six-year-old girl, Makayla Sitton, who lay sleeping in her bed.

Makayla was a student at my dear friend, Sandra's music school -- Jupiter Academy of Music.

To honor Makayla, a scholarship has been created in her name. This scholarship allows students, who couldn't otherwise afford it, to receive music instruction and education. To donate and bring the gift of music to a child and to honor Makayla's life, click here: Jupiter Academy of Music Makayla Sitton Scholarship Fund.

To learn more about the Jupiter Academy of Music, where our son takes lessons, check out this video:

3) A dog.

My friend, Christina, who lives in Delray, found a dog in her backyard with no tags. Animal Care has the dog right now and the owners have not been located so far.

The dog is a Shiba Inu. If you can help, please contact my friend, Christina directly at herself(at)

Thank you.

December 13, 2010

Season for Sharing, Day 1 -- Camp Mak-A-Dream

Every day this week at Wild About Words, I'll share one worthwhile program to support during the holidays . . .


"One week can change a lifetime."

Camp Dream provides a week of FUN for children, teens and adults dealing with cancer. They also have a camp for siblings of ill children.

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?


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

Last School Visit and Book Signing of 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

Book Signing & Fun Photos

My last book signing for 2010 will be at Barnes & Noble at Legacy Place in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Wednesday, December 8th from 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Big THANKS to Catherine Spinella, uber-awesome school librarian for posting these fun photos from my recent visit to West Essex Middle School.

Stay warm!

December 2, 2010

So You Want to Write a Novel

Funny, this is exactly how I sold my first book to Random House . . .