I just came back from the Houston Writer’s Guild Annual Conference. It was wonderful. I shocked everyone in the morning with my hilariously inappropriate keynote (and can I say, thank goodness the audio recording was turned off? Now the rest of the world will have to imagine how inappropriate I got.), and then did a query workshop in the afternoon.
A selfie from the evening party, me with HWG President Pamela Hutchins. She’s a bundle of energy!
In between sessions, people came up to me asking for writing advice. I never know what to say – where you are on your writing journey really decides which bit of advice will be most helpful. But I read this article today, at The Storyteller’s Inkpot, by Jane Resh Thomas, and I think it might be the best, most helpful, succinct writing advice I’ve seen in a long while.
Do what she says, and you’ll rock it.
Oh, also! In Nightingale’s Nest news, the first line of that very book was one of those featured in the Publisher’s Weekly Shelftalker blog here! Very cool.
And, as promised, here’s the text to the starred review for NEST from the Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books! And a link to it, if you’re curious.
At twelve-years old, “Little John” Fischer isn’t so little anymore. A recent growth spurt allows him to help his father earn money chopping and hauling trees—work that’s physically demanding and emotionally devastating, given his younger sister’s recent fatal fall from a dead branch. Drowning in the guilt of not having caught her, Little John plays along when his mother talks as if his sister’s still alive; he also ignores his father’s drinking and hides his family’s dwindling solvency from his best friend by avoiding him completely. Lonely and unbearably sad, he meets Gayle, an abused foster child with a magical voice that enchants the birds and heals the wounded. She trusts Little John immediately, leaping into his arms from her “nest,” the branch of a tree where she claims her parents will find her one day, and even following him into the home of Mr. King, the wealthy and unnerving landowner from whom she usually flees. When Little John sells her voice—and her trust—to Mr. King for the money to cover his family’s rent, he knows he must make it right, no matter the cost. Magical realism meets coming of age in this sensitive and haunting novel, with the relentless, eroding effects of family tragedy in full relief. Sympathetic but not saccharine, Loftin’s portrayal of Little John, with his tremendous sense of responsibility and his unflagging feeling of guilt, as well as his need for love and acceptance, will resonate with readers who carry life’s burdens. The otherworldly Gayle will captivate their imaginations as she flutters in and out of reach, singing the injured back to health and calling the birds to her with her voice, but it’s Little John who will capture their hearts. Read this aloud and have both boys and girls alike utterly enraptured.
UTTERLY ENRAPTURED, do you hear? Oh my gosh, I’m gonna go faint now.
Write well, friends!
Oh, the wonder that is the Texas Library Association’s mammoth annual conference! I only had two days there this week (due to other conferences I will blog about soon, which were also superb), but in those two days I lived a lifetime.
Okay, well I picked up enough books to LAST a lifetime anyway. And met some amazing people, and saw some dear friends. Here’s a string of pictures, in case you are curious as to who exactly goes to these things…
Debut YA author Sara Kocek signing her wonderful book!
I snagged an ARC of Varian Johnson’s new MG, The Great Green Heist!
I attempted to take a respectable selfie of me and author/illustrator Don Tate, but Kari Anne Holt and Ruth McNally Barshaw photobombed us.
The utterly lovely Cynthia Leitich Smith busy at one of her signings!
A new friend! Author of Fat Angie, e. E. Charlton-Trujillo.
Oh, the company I keep! Here’s a quick snap of the panel I sat on: Deb Caletti, Leila Howland, Jennifer E. Smith, and Elizabeth Eulberg. They were wonderful!
Fun! I got to meet an agent-sister, Cora Carmack, who writes the spiciness. :)
Victoria Scott and Greg Leitich Smith signing at the Texas Book Festivals booth.
I snagged a copy of Bethany Hegedus’ newest, Grandfather Gandhi. So good…
A very blurry picture, as we were at fancy schmancy dinner – but here is the truly gifted author Jacqueline Woodson. A highlight of the week was spending time with her.
And the most fun aprt of all? Spending time with rock star librarians like Diane Collier! Oh, the conversations we had, the jokes we made, the blisters we wore on our heels hiking around the convention center for days…
And that was my two-day TLA recap in photos! It was a great week. Speaking of which, I should probably go write up a post about that other starred review now…
I am the very busiest of bees these days, with all sorts of conferences coming up! First off, I am going to be doing an author signing (and sing and tap dance, or whatever they have planned for me) at the American Booksellers’ Children’s Institute in San Antonio on April 7.
I’m sort of overwhelmed at the number of Nikki’s Favorite Authors who will be there, and it is ALL I can do not to take a suitcase full of books to get signed by them. But I have to remember, I am technically one of the fancy people at this, and I have to act cool.
Oh, wow, I wish I knew how to be even slightly cool.
Even more challenging (considering my lack of coolness) will be the Texas Library Association’s annual meeting (also in San Antonio), that same week! If you’re there, you can find me signing books in the exhibit hall on Thursday, April 10, with a panel appearance at 2 pm. (I’m also going to some Very Fancy Dinners, and I MUST remember my table manners. Thank goodness for the Texas YA Round Table’s margarita night. I never have to remind myself which fork goes with nachos.)
And then…. the super fun begins. That very Saturday, April 12 (MY BIRTHDAY BY THE WAY), I will be the keynote speaker at one of my favorite places in Texas – the Houston Writers’ Guild Annual Conference!
I have prepared a speech that will have people laughing so hard – at me – that certain necessary bodily functions may be compromised. As you all know, I have no shame. Attendees of this conference will find out exactly how little shame that is, when I read from my very earliest drafts of… Azrael’s Redemption, an unfinished novel about a Scottish lass and a fallen angel who, um… can’t get it up. And I’m not talking about flying here.
It is some of the worst writing in the history of words. (And also, given his “problem,” lacking a crucial aspect of that thing steamy romances are pretty much required to have.)
I’m also teaching a 45 minute query workshop there, so if you’re getting close to sending something to an agent or editor – or even writing back cover copy for your book - you should probably be there as well!
Some very lovely news regarding reviews for Nightingale’s Nest is about to come out, so I’ll post back in a day or three when I can share. Until then? I’m writing again, strangely NOT on my middle grade WIP! Up until midnight last night, swept away by the gruesome YA I started last year. I’m ready to finish it! Or it’s ready. I think it will be strange, and frightening, and very, very different from my other books. But the story has captivated me again, and I must finish it. MUST.
Happy Writing, Friends!
Links to Internet Loveliness:
A 5,4,3,2,1 Blog Post on Colby Sharp’s blog about Nightingale’s Nest. I loved writing this interview!
A VERY COOL Advanced Writing Workshop at the Writing Barn in Austin, with Jo Knowles and Robin Wasserman. This looks stunning: Discovering the Beating Heart of Your Book.
Okay y’all, so I’m doing this really cool thing (way too cool for old-fashioned me) this Tuesday afternoon, from 4-5 pm CDT, over at the Penguin Young Authors Early Word page! I’ll be joining superstars Lisa Von Drasek and Nora Rawlinson for a chat about any and all Nightingale’s Nest-related things. It’s a chat for librarians, so this invitation is for those folks. (But aren’t we all librarians, deep in our darkest fantasies? I know I am.)
Okay, the truth is? I’ll probably answer ANY questions you/they throw at me. So, if you feel you are a librarian, and you feel it would be fun to ask me awkward questions, or even just normal ones, please show up! I will love you forever, in my deep librarian-soul.
You can even leave a question in advance here …. do it. You know you want to.
Last year I participated for the first time in Kate Messner‘s author sign-up for World Read-Aloud Day. I had so much fun, I couldn’t wait for it to come back around – and here it is! Happy World Read-Aloud Day, friends. I’ll be Skypeing with classes from all over America – Wisconsin, Illinois, and all over Texas!
I hope you take some time today to read out loud to someone you love (it can be a dog or a goat, anyone, really). And maybe you could even take a few seconds to tell someone who thinks they/their kids are “too old” for reading aloud that you never outgrow the magic of stories.
You just forget.
I hope you all remember today that dizzy, thrummy, glorious feeling of being loved, paid attention to, cared for… read to. And share it with someone else. What would the world be like if, instead of arguing/bickering/fighting, we read aloud to one another those books that changed us, formed us, made us into the people we are?
Happy reading, friends!
Oh, friends, I am one tired little bird.
But it’s the lovely kind of tired you get from having one of your life’s great dreams come true, so I am NOT complaining! I am happy tired.
I spent the weekend planning for and throwing two parties for the release of my novel, Nightingale’s Nest. The first one was at phenomenal indie Austin bookstore, Bookpeople, and I was utterly overwhelmed by the number of friends and family who came out to help launch this book.
My agent, Suzie Townsend, flew down from New York, and friends and librarian-friends drove in from places as far as San Antonio, Houston, Hico and Waco, to attend. What a gift!
My agent and me!
I gave a talk that included thanking the teachers I named in my book. A highlight of the event was being able to tell the world (or at least 200+ members of it) about these glorious teachers, and how transformational they are in the lives of their students.
One of the best: Mrs. Hilsabeck, my Senior English teacher
Two more of the special guests/teachers, and some lovely friends!
There was cake, cookies, tons of other foods and drinks, nests to be built, and a dear face painter friend, Melissa Morgan of Woo Who, who did some of the most gorgeous birds and feathers I’ve ever seen!
Melissa hard at work transforming children into birds!
I signed tons of books, and then raced over to the Writing Barn for a writer party, thrown to say thank you to the incredible Austin kidlit community for helping me find my way into my life’s work.
(Need more pics? Check out Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Event Recap! Thanks, Cyn!)
Now, the fun is over… and the new work is beginning! I have the first few chapters of my super secret project started, and I’m sending revisions back and forth on WISH GIRL to my editor, and I have some conferences and school visits, and it’s all glorious and good.
What bliss! What a gift it is to have good work that you love, and the chance to celebrate that work with your friends.
Thank you, friends.
Now, today’s blog tour stop is at the amazing Charlotte’s Library blog. She has posted an excerpt, a giveaway, and an incredibly thoughtful review. I love reviews – and I’d love to hear what any of you have to say about Nightingale’s Nest, when and if you get to The End!
Happy Book Launch Week to you! (What, you say it’s not YOUR book launch week? That”s okay, I’ll share MINE.) I’m planning to celebrate with cookies, champagne, and a Blog Tour!
I’m super excited that Erica at The Book Cellar has a post up today with not only a giveaway of Nightingale’s Nest, but also the first excerpt from the book! So, hop on over and enter.
Then, if you’re a bird lover, go check out the lovely review of NEST on Jeannette Larson’s Bird Brainz blog.
You can still enter Chris Barton’s Bartography Express giveaway, too. Hmm. At this point, none of you may actually need to BUY this book. JUST KIDDING. I want you all to do just like my sister does, and buy enough copies to build a raised bed garden out of them.
Not enough for ya? Check back tomorrow… there will be MORE.
The MoCo Book Festival, aka The Sweetest Valentine Party in Texas!
Come out and join me (oh, and also some incredibly famous author types – just don’t get in my way when I’m trying to get their autographs, okay?) at the MoCo Book Festival this weekend! I’ll have some free copies of my books to give away during my panel, and I’ll be signing and hanging out with kids and teens the rest of the day.
So, have a Happy Valentine’s Day! And don’t forget – books make the very best Valentine’s gifts.
I just spent a day and a half in the company of some of the most talented, resourceful, creative, highly-skilled writers and illustrators in Texas (although some of them were from the Northeast, Oklahoma, California, etc., drawn into the vortex of awesomeness that is the Austin SCBWI). I learned so much, and met so many people who are working on so many cool projects, I can’t even start on the list here. But a few highlights of the Austin Annual SCBWI Conference were:
1. Matt de la Pena‘s incredibly raw, funny, inspirational keynote speech. He gave everything form great life advice to great writing advice. (Here’s one, re: success: “As a writer, you always want more. That can make you crazy, or you can just own it, and go write the best book you can.”)
2. Sitting on a great School Visits panel with rockstar authors Don Tate, Liz Garton Scanlon, and P. J. Hoover. The new “pro track” at this years’ conference was extremely helpful for soon-to-be or recently published authors. I predict this track will grow and start to attract more established authors from farther away, if they keep the level of programming going. (I WISH I’d been able to hear the talk we gave when I was first starting out! Would have been hugely helpful.)
3. Meeting new writers from the area, and critiquing some amazing manuscripts. Always one of the highlights of any conference – laying eyes on old and new friends, and on new writing! So much fun.
4. Sitting in on Liz Garton Scanlon’s Rhyming Picture Book Workshop. Except now I might start doing that. I’m not sure that would be in anyone’s best interest. Maybe I should go lie down and press a cool, damp cloth on my rhyme-fevered brow.
It was, as always, a lovely conference, run by some of the very best volunteers in the business. Hooray for Austin SCBWI!
So, if the question is “Should I join SCBWI?” The answer is YES!
And if you want to join, there are monthly meetings – you don’t have to wait until next year’s conference.
Austin author and NYT best-seller Chris Barton is doing a short interview and giveaway of a signed copy of Nightingale’s Nest! Click here, and scroll down to sign up in the big yellow box. Thanks, Chris!
Brittney Breakey over at Author Turf has an interview up where I share the naughtiest thing I ever did in school, and what I would change about Nightingale’s Nest if I could! Brittney, what is it about your blog that I always overshare? Ah, regret.
And Publisher’s Weekly has a review up for Nightingale’s Nest as well. Yay!
Now, back to writing. And preparing for the Launch of NEST! Or a nap. Hmmmm. Which one should I do first?
A few months back, I had the great pleasure or reading a debut novel written by someone I’ve only met on Twitter, Rebecca Behrens. She seemed super lovely, and I had my fingers crossed that I’d like her book.
I loved it! I even ended up blurbing it, and I’m so excited to let you all know that it comes out today. *cue confetti*
I’ll post the copy from Goodreads below the cover, but if you think you’d like a quirky, fun, fresh combination of historical and realistic middle grade fiction? Buy this one!
First daughter Audrey Rhodes can’t wait for the party she has planned for Friday night. The decorations are all set and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute-citing security breach and squashing Audrey’s chances for making any new friends. What good is being “safe and secure” if you can’t have any fun?
Audrey is ready to give up and become a White House hermit, until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary. The former first daughter gives Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun…and more problems than she can handle.
And here’s what I said about it:
“Rebecca Behrens combines charming and quirky characters from two different centuries, creating a believable, engaging story that tugs at the heart and tickles the funny bone.”
(That sounds intelligent and blurbish, don’t you think? I’m always afraid I’ll just blubber “like so much, likey like like, love it” and make a hash of it all. Blurbing is scary.)
In other news, I’m on the faculty of the Austin SCBWI annual conference taking place this weekend! It’s possible there’s still a space or two left. This is a great place to learn the ropes – and there’s a super exciting pro track this year, too! I’d love to see some of y’all there.
And if you’re from the Houston area, don’t forget to come to the Montgomery County Book Festival on February 15th. We’re going to have an amazing time.
Now, I THINK I’m supposed to be revising something. *gulp* Back to the cave. See you in a week or so!