September 29, 2011

Getting Unstuck and Inspired

The other morning, my brain was sludge.  The words wouldn't come.  I felt discouraged and frustrated.

I got myself out of the house and to the Cornell Museum of Art & American Culture with friends.

This is what we saw when we entered:

Castle built from Crayola Crayons.

There are two fine art crayon artists in the world -- Don Marco and his son, Jeffrey Robert. 

The first room was filled with Don Marco's art of the American West.  His depiction of American Indians was amazing.  I encourage you to check out his art here.  It's astounding that anyone could produce this art using crayons.

This centerpiece of the second room was created by the people from the Cornell Museum:

Here, we watched a video about how crayons were made.  This isn't the one we saw, but this video is from Sesame Street and is pretty cool.

Then we watched one about how Jeffrey Robert creates his crayon art, which is very different from his father's. 

One of Jeffrey Robert's pieces of art from the Cornell Museum exhibit.

You can view videos about Jeffrey Robert's art here.

The art knocked me right out of my slump. 

The next morning, ideas flowed and I wrote like my pen was on fire.  That evening my S.C.B.W.I. critique group said, "Donna, it looks like you've got the beginning of your next book."  Wahoo!

It isn't only art that inspires.  Check out this wonderful video (below).  Learn more about Kelan Lawson here.

Have an inspired day!

September 28, 2011

And the winner is . . .

Thanks to those who entered the contest to win a copy of this spiffy, nifty new volume:

My good friend, Random Number Generator, chose the winner. 

A drumroll and hearty congratulations to the winner:


September 23, 2011

Fun at Independence Middle School and Barnes & Noble

Which response was given by 6th graders to the question:  "What might be a good place for a writer to begin her journey?"

A)  Your home
B)  School
C)  Anywhere
D)  A toaster
E)  All of the above

The answer is E) All of the above.  Middle school kids are so much fun!  The smart-aleck boy who said, "Um, a toaster" will definitely land in a novel someday.  My favorite answer, though, is C) Anywhere because thought and truth went into that answer.

Had a blast talking with 400 6th graders at Independence Middle School yesterday afternoon.

That was followed by a two-hour event at Barnes & Noble, where students played flute, wind instruments and sang.  Lots of proud parents snapping photos.

I LOVED meeting young readers and chatting with them and their parents.

Here I am with Hannah.

A big THANK YOU to Lisa Petroccia (who appears in my book How to Survive Middle School) for inviting me.  And thanks to Lauren Pfretzschner for hosting me at Barnes & Noble.

Lauren Pfretzschner, me and Lisa Petroccia

September 22, 2011

And the winners are . . .

I'm going to announce the winners of the Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen giveaway, but first let's get something straight.

Writers are liars.  Flat out.  (And we sometimes get paid for it.) 

So, when I told you I was giving away two copies of Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, I lied.  I'm not giving away two copies.

YOU, lovely readers, did such a fantabulous job of coming up with creative comments that I'm giving away THREE Olivia Bean ARCs.

CONGRATULATIONS to the following winners:

1)  Kelly Baptist:  "It's more beautiful than 3 1/2 sleeping children... What is Reading in peace!"

2)  Literaryfriendships:  "The youngest Vernick, gymnastics-challenged, would turn cartwheels of joy. Final answer."

3)  Jennifer:  "Category: ELATION. Question: This event causes wild abandon. Answer: Winning an ARC!"

The three autographed ARCs will be on their way soon.

And in completely unrelated news:  This is my 400th blog post.  When did that happen!

September 20, 2011

Look Who's 84 . . .


One of Dad's favorite Florida places -- The Morikami Museum and Gardens

Dad has always been a huge supporter of my books.  In fact, he's been the first reader of each of my three books the moment the ARC has become available.  He loved Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen.  But then again, he's a huge fan of Jeopardy!

Here's Dad with the ARC for How to Survive Middle School.

Dad's a glass half full kind of guy.  In fact, he's a glass completely full and brimming over kind of guy.  But the past few months have been rough.  (The previous sentence is an understatement of epic proportions.)

June 15th, his partner of 17 years slipped quietly away from cancer, with Dad and her son beside her. 

Dorothy, me and Dad during happy times on an Oregon vacation with my sister and her family.

We loved having Dad with us for the summer.  It wasn't easy for him, though, to be away from his life in NJ, his fun, feisty friends, my stepsister and her family and the place he called home for over 35 years.  

But Dad enjoyed lots of Phillies games on TV with the boys, coffee with my hubby, time with Dorothy's son, Michael, and Dorothy's brother, Blair, and, well, a memorable run-in with an attack goose.  (Didn't know Dad could run that fast!)

Dad with Andrew, goofing around in a goose-free park.

As if losing his wife and having to move from his home wasn't enough, Dad's "vacation" in Vegas with my sister and his best friend three weeks ago turned into an ambulance ride to the hospital where he needed to have triple bypass surgery.

Thanks so Southwest Airlines, I was able to get a flight to Vegas before Dad's surgery.  And I was able to stay for a week so my sister and I could be mother hens by Dad's bedside.

Know what?  Dad's doing great.  The day of surgery he was up and walking.  Less than two weeks later, he was on the exercise bike and walking steps in rehab.  A huge thanks to my sister, Sherry, bro-in-law, Ben and nifty nephew, Ethan, for taking such good care of him.  He's recovering in their happy home now.

If you'd like to drop a note or birthday greeting to my dad, send it to the address below, and I'll make sure he gets it:  Jack Piltz, P.O. Box 2154, Jupiter, FL  33468-2154.


September 19, 2011

Win a Copy of the 2012 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market

What has 441 pages, an interview with Meg Cabot and a photo of a singing hamster?

The 2012 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, of course. 

And I'm giving away a copy.

"But, Donna," you say.  "Didn't you just give away books in your last blog post?"

Yes, astute reader, I did.  And you still have a chance to win one by clicking here.

But for now, it's all about this book:

Here are 6-1/2 reasons you NEED a copy of this book right this very minute:

1.  Cool interview with James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner.

2.  Audrey Vernick's (Water Balloon, Teach Your Buffallo to Play Drums, She Loved Baseball:  The Effa Manley Story) awesome article about writing nonfiction.

3.  A buttload of listings of conferences, awards and grants.

4.  Did I mention the interview with Maggie Stiefvater, author of Shiver, Linger and Forever?

5.  More magazine and book markets than you could shake a stick at.  (Although I have no idea why you'd want to shake a stick at magazine and book markets.)

6.  Wise words from M.T. Anderson (Feed, Thirsty, etc.) about experimentation in fiction.

6-1/2.  An article by yours truly about not fainting, vomiting or dropping dead when you give a talk in public.  (Helpful sidebars by Cynthia Lord and Alexis O'Neill.)

Alice Pope was the editor of CWIM for many years.  But now she's working with SCBWI, producing this cool blog.  Chuck Sambuchino edits CWIM now.  You can read his blog -- Guide to Literary Agents.

So, how do you win this handy dandy, nifty book, bursting with inspiration and information for those who write and illustrate for children?


1.  Follow this blog.  (Button to the right.)
2.  Leave a comment.
3.  Check back Wednesday, Sept. 28th to see if you've won (because I'll need your address to send you the book).


September 13, 2011


Hello!  My name is Blog.  And it's so good to be back!

Lots of fun things in store, but first . . .

What might YOU have in common with Alex Trebek, Ken Jennings and, um, my dad?

This . . .

I have TWO advanced reader's copies to give away.  And I want to send them (autographed, of course) to YOU!

All you have to do is tell me IN TWELVE WORDS OR FEWER why you want a copy of OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN.

Most creative comments will be selected on Thursday, September 22nd.  (Please check back to see if your comment was selected.)

The celebrity judges are as follows:

Jazzy Jaz
Tennis Ball Teddy
Benji, aka Butthead

Enter your brief creative comment and maybe you'll have something in common with Alex, Ken and Jack (my dad), who all have copies of OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN!

This contest is not open to residents of the State of Confusion or any of its territories.  Decision of judges is final.  Bribes in the form of kibble will be happily accepted.  Void where fun and silliness are prohibited.