School Visit Season: San Antonio & More!

Hi, friends! I’ve been slacking on the blog since I’m working on four projects simultaneously. (Don’t ask, and don’t wag your fingers. I know it’s probably against every rule of writing, but I HAD NO CHOICE. I’ll explain if and when I can!)

In any case, along with all those projects, I’ve been doing school visits. Last week, I had the most fun at Alamo Heights in San Antonio, at both Cambridge and Woodridge Elementaries.

Librarian Lori Bauml at Cambridge Elementary. What a great way to start the morning, signing all those books and more!

The librarians had prepared the kids and the teachers so well that even the one assembly where the microphone didn’t work (with 175 fifth graders on the floor of the library!) went exceedingly well.

Rock Star Librarian Alena Keene-Carlson at Woodridge. I would have killed for that library collection – and library tree house!) when I was a kid.

One of the coolest parts of the day was being greeted by the superintendent of schools, who came to watch my first presentation! Okay, sure, it’s great when the superintendent shows (and it also hints at how seriously a district takes literacy), but the best part was this particular guy, Dr. Kevin Brown, was already a friend. He was the Assistant Principal at the school where I taught many years ago, and he was as wonderful back then as he is now. Even if he’s lost a little hair. 🙂

Now, back to the current manuscript, which I am in love with, even if it’s taking longer than many of mine. It’s got a family who may be my favorite characters I’ve ever written. Oh, please, let me get this story right… I love them so.

(Of course, as an author, I still have to torture them, love them or not. Sorry, sweet fictional family I love. I’m coming for you with TRAGEDY this week. *cue evil laughter*)

 

 

 

A Valentine for You: The Youngest Marcher Giveaway

My friends, I am filled with love for all of you! And because I am in such a loving mood, I am going to give one of you an incredible gift: a signed first edition of Cynthia Levinson‘s The Youngest Marcher.

The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson

Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, this picture book tells the story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a young civil rights activist who went to jail in Birmingham during the children’s marches. She was one of many! The jails filled with children, and eventually these marches helped break the back of institutionalized segregation.

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Cynthia’s books are amazing – if you haven’t read her book We’ve Got a Job, you need to drop everything and read it now. If you want a book for any age that can show you exactly what civil disobedience and peaceful protest can do – even when the protestors are under 10 years old- Cynthia’s books are the best.

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So, how do you enter? Well, leave a comment on this post along with a valid email address by February 13, telling me why you or your child or your school or library needs this book! I will ask my husband to pick his favorite comment on Valentine’s Day, and it’s yours! (High likelihood of extra prizes, folks. Because LOVE!)

*This is open to anyone in North America. You don’t have to be a librarian or teacher, just need the book.

New Year’s Wish

Happy 2017, friends!

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I have been away in paradise, and came back with jet lag and a muddled sense of time. (Fiji time is addictive – no deadlines, no worries, no stress. Bliss!) So far this year, I’ve unpacked, written a few chapters that MIGHT even be good, and taught youth group and Sunday school.

A lot of people make resolutions at the start of a new year, and I do, too – writing ones, anyway. (I’ll be making that list this weekend at a writing retreat! Lodge of Death, here I come.) But this year I chose a word, an intention, as well:

Light.

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(Even more fun: “Light” followed by a drawn heart. #light<3 !)

I hope this year to remember to be lighthearted, and to turn to the light when times seem dark. To be a bringer of light into dark places. To remember the Light of the world. To shine my own light, even when it’s raining. This little light of mine?

I’m gonna let it shine. Because even on a stormy day, a little light can make a miracle.

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Here’s a year full of rainbows, miracles, stories, and light. Write on!

Holiday Reflection: What Lasts?

Happy December, friends! I’m taking off for a couple of weeks, and was trying to think of a worthwhile post to mark the end of this very difficult, very strange, and sometimes wonderful year.

And then my teenager asked me about my writing. Actually, he asked me why I write the books I do.

I get asked all the time at school visits what inspired me to write books, and my answers range from “fairy tales” to “I like to imagine scary stuff” to “I like to make children cry or laugh or scream.”

And that’s all true.

But I realized there was a pivotal moment a few years back that started my writing engine up after years of idling. My stepfather Chas, who I loved dearly, passed away from cancer. When it was time to clean out his office at the University of Texas, I went with my sister and mom, and we worked for hours. And what I remember was that, aside from three things, everything was either given away or thrown away.

The three things we kept were:

1. The artwork he had made. Wooden sculptures he’d carved, metalwork and leather work he’d done, that somehow had made their way to his office.

2. The books he had written. These were all highly technical, as he was one of the smartest men in the world. (I believe he had an Erdös number of 2. ) Still, we kept them because he had made them. They were receptacles for his spark, and contained a part of him outside of our memories that was lasting, that remained.

3. A Starbucks gift card.

The gift card was converted to caffeine in days. But the books and the art? We still have.

I had a head full of stories at the time, and hadn’t begun to tell them. That day in Chas’ office, I realized my mark on the world had yet to be made. And I wanted to make one. To be exact, I wanted to write something that would last, that would change hearts, soften the hard world somehow, that would help kids like I was see a kindred spirit/story. It was and is my Big Dream, even though it’s a hard one to bring into reality. But it’s worth fighting for, worth the struggle. every day.

I promise you this: When you meet the person who needs your Big Dream to see the light of kindness, or hope, or joy? To keep from giving up, from losing faith? You will thank every star in the sky that you persevered.

This holiday season, I wish you your Big Dream come true. Make art. Make literature. Make something that matters. Change the world. We are the magic makers, friends. We are the dreamers of dreams.

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90-Second Newbery Film Festival in San Antonio: Call for Entries!

Hey, San Antonio area friends! Last year, along with hilarious author James Kennedy, I had the great pleasure of hosting the first ever 90-Second Newbery film festival for San Antonio. (It was terrifying – I didn’t realize when I agreed that it meant singing and dancing on stage, as well as extemporizing an extended comedic sketch with James – and glorious. Those talented kids! Those amazing films! The fistfights with James!)

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This year, I’m doing it again… and if you know a kid in the San Antonio area, it’s not too late for them to send in a film! The deadline is December 16. Check out the link here for all the groovy details. And this one for the rules about the actual films.

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The deal is, kids read a Newbery winning or Newbery honor book, any one they like. Then, they turn it into a very short video, sort of like a book report on film except the very best ones add MORE. More pizzazz, more sparkle, more special effects or Lego animation, more humor, more horror, MORE!

The films last year were wonderful, and the afternoon was one I’ll never forget.With HEB as the major sponsor again, the event itself was also fabulous… and will be again!

This year, the awards ceremony and film screening is at San Antonio’s Charlene McCombs Empire Theatre (224 E. Houston St.) on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 3pm.

Come dressed to the nines, and be prepared to eat, drink, and laugh your heads off. (And if your kids don’t make a film this year, they’ll have fun AND learn what to do for next year’s festival.) Join me!

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Texas Book Festival 2016: A Shining Success!

The Big Event in Texas every fall for book lovers is the Texas Book Festival. This year, I had the great pleasure of presenting at the Texas State Library and Archive’s first ever Author Summit, a kick-off event for the Festival, held in the Library itself. They had Cooper’s BBQ, live music, and two authors, Caroline Gnagy and me (oh so fancy I felt!) presenting a panel on Striking Texas Gold for a crowd of about 100 authors and Book Festival stars.

It was glorious. I was nervous as all get out, but it all turned out fine! There was even a cute kid asking questions about my book, so I got into my comfort zone. 🙂

The truly lovely Rebekah Manley, surrounded by friends.

The truly lovely Rebekah Manley, surrounded by friends.

Author Anne Bustard, signing the big poster!

Author Anne Bustard, signing the big poster!Greg Leitich Smith has to wait his turn. 🙂

Me, Stephen Siwinski from the Texas Center for the Book, and Sam Houston behind us.

Me, Stephen Siwinski from the Texas Center for the Book, and Sam Houston behind us.

Selfie with one of my favorite authors ever: Shelli Cornelison.

Selfie with one of my favorite authors ever: Shelli Cornelison.

Then, the Book Festival itself began! I was honored to moderate a panel with Paul Griffin, Raina Telgemeier, and John David Anderson.

Paul Griffin talks dogs who DON'T die.

Paul Griffin talks dogs who DON’T die.

And of course, we took selfies.

Raina! Love this woman.

Raina! Love this woman.

Paul, me, and Dave. Fun times!

Paul, me, and Dave. Fun times!

In the middle of this all, I went to San Antonio and presented at the Friends of Northside Library’s first ever author night as well! (Yes, I took my vitamins that week.) My carpool buddies were Cory Putman Oakes and Mari Mancusi.

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Glam!

Then, it was back to the TBF to see panels with my good friends Cynthia Levinson…

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…and Chris Barton and Donna Janell Bowman…

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… then a quick run-through of the tents to snap a photo of the ultra amazing Texas Center for the Book volunteers who were doing a giveaway of Wish Girl…

Texas Center for the Book folks are the BEST!

Texas Center for the Book folks are the BEST!

And finishing my TBF with the awards reception at the Writer’s League of Texas booth, honoring Wish Girl as a finalist in the MG/YA category. Hooray!

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One last selfie with WLT executive director, Becka Oliver, and it was back home for me.

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You’d think that would be enough. But only a couple of days later, I was back at Joslin Elementary, having fun and talking writing with the kids. Thanks to Librarian Stephanie for the invitation!

 

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Now, I’m off to San Marcos for another school visit tomorrow, and then? Thanksgiving! Nothing but relaxing, writing, and hanging out with my kids, whatever their names are. I’ve forgotten. They probably grew up, graduated, and got married since the last time I was home. 🙂

I hope YOU have a great holiday! Make sure to hug your kids, call your Senators, and be present for those in your life who love you and need you.

 

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Schools, Libraries, and Festivals: The Most Wonderfully Busy Time of my Year

Last week, I was away from the page for a few days, teaching writing workshops and presenting at an amazing library and school on the Texas coast. I promised pictures from the visit to Galveston, but I was having so much fun I don’t have many! It was an incredibly jam-packed, outrageously fun trip, and I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness, generosity, and thorough professionalism of everyone at both Trinity School and the Rosenberg Library.

This is me, dressed as a witch, teaching a talented group of kids at the Rosenberg Library how to write a truly terrifying tale.

This is me, dressed as a witch, teaching a talented group of kids at the Rosenberg Library how to write a truly terrifying tale.

One of about 16 devoted writers, hard at work. They even had snacks!

One of about 16 devoted writers, hard at work. They even had snacks! Also, we matched witch costumes. WIN!

The librarian who set everything up at the Rosenberg Library, Karen Stanley, was not only a great hostess for a visiting author… she also curates one of the most up-to-date collections of middle grade lit I’ve seen!

Here are only a few pics of her shelves…

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I kind of went nuts in there. So many amazing books I haven’t read – and so many I have! I could book talk for WEEKS in the Rosenberg.

The next day, I was ushered around Trinity School by my friend, the amazing Jen Salyer. The assistant head of the school, Amy Gaido, took my request for water between workshops very seriously…

All the little bottles, all MINE, with my initials. It felt very fancy.

All the little bottles, all MINE, with my initials. I felt very fancy.

And made time for a silly selfie in the chapel before the big presentation!

Jen, me, and Amy!

Jen, me, and Amy! I challenge you to find a more gracious, fun administrator anywhere!

Our writing workshops were fun…

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…and I even got a great piece of fan art in the mail yesterday.

Thanks, Cadee! Keep on writing - and drawing, too!

Thanks, Cadee! Keep on writing – and drawing, too!

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This Thursday, I am spending my evening at the Texas Center for the Book, speaking on a panel of two with author Caroline Gnagy, to celebrate Texas libraries, authors, and the Archives. It’s a humbling honor, and I’m only slightly nervous about speaking in front of so many of my state’s distinguished literary stars. I will wear my fancy red boots to cope with my nerves.

Then on Friday, I’ll be in San Antonio at the Friends of Northside Libraries event:

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And on Saturday, I’m moderating a panel in Austin at the Texas Book Festival! I’m so excited about this one, as the three authors are bringing three books to speak about that I adored. Raina Telgemeier, John David Anderson, and Paul Griffin will charm your socks off… come listen, ask questions, and get some signed copies!

 

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Library Visit and Festival Fun!

Howdy, writer and reader friends! I hope your fall is going as gangbusters as mine. I’m writing so fast and so long my fingers ache by 5 pm, and I wake up and race for the keyboard… it’s definitely my happy place.

That said, I have a LOT of fun things coming up. This Thursday, I’m heading to the Rosenberg Public Library in Galveston, Texas for a free writing workshop for 4th- 6th grade kids. I think there’s still time to sign up – but hurry!

Then, it’s on to a fun day of school visits at a Galveston school, with TONS of writing workshops (pictures to come)… then Halloween, my favorite holiday. It combines endless candy with terrifying creatures, a perfect combination.

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The following week, I’ll be presenting in San Antonio and Austin. If you are in San Antonio, you can come to the Friends of Northside Libraries “An Evening with the Authors” on November 4, from 6-9 p.m. This event sounds perfect for librarians, readers, writers, and book lovers of any kind.

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Check out the line-up!

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And that’s only the next week! The following weekend is the Texas Book Festival, where I’ll be moderating for Raina Telgemeier, John David Anderson, and Paul Griffin… but more on that later. I’m overwhelmed in the best of ways.

Write fast, and write well! The world needs your stories, friends.

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Houston Writers House: Day of Workshops!

Howdy, friends! If you happen to live near Houston or if you’ve been looking for a great excuse to visit the big city, I’ve got you covered. On Saturday, November 12, I’ll be teaching a whole DAY of writing workshops for anyone who wants to come along.

The day is titled The Art and Craft of Writing: Four mini-workshops to help you succeed as a writer.

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I’ll cover topics from self-editing to flash fiction to creating significant settings… and much more. Please join us!

It will run from 9 am until 4 pm at the Southwest Presbyterian Church – 6033 S. Rice Ave., Bellaire, TX 77401. Sign up here, and I’ll see you there!

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Trick or Reaters: A Little Sweet and Sinister Today!

Oh, what a frightfully fun day! I’m delighted to share a website just in time for Halloween that I think all my librarian, parent, teacher, and young reader friends will love!

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Illustration © Daelyne Bell

Go ring the virtual doorbell at the new Trick or Reaters site, a national effort to get stories into trick-or-treaters’ bags!

You can go to the site and read scary stories for all ages (and levels of spookiness), check out fun, free activities, and watch book trailer videos, too. Then, schools, libraries, bookstores, and families, and book lovers can download fliers (like Daelynne’s darling one above) to slip into candy bags this Halloween.

(Principal Trapp would like to recommend taping some candy to the flier. She said something about encouraging her students to eat LOTS of candy this year..)

You should definitely check out the link to my creepy contribution here, and then go spy on all the other (over 100!) spooky stories. BOO!

Let’s get kids reading for Halloween… and all year long!