Writers’ League of Texas Conference and then… Off to New Mexico

I don’t know what it is about the area outside Santa Fe, but there’s something there – in the air, the land, the light – that inspires me. It’s inspired lots of other artists, too. In fact, Georgia O’Keeffe herself painted in the place where I wrote large portions of Wish Girl, Nightingale’s Nest, and the manuscript my lovely agent Ginger is sending around right now. (It’s hard to type with fingers crossed, you know.)

Double rainbow loveliness!

Before I leave, though, I’ll be serving on a panel at one of my all-time favorite writing conferences – the Writers’ League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference. I get to talk about how to prepare for publication day, and I think it will be a lot of fun and very helpful to authors approaching their debut pub date, as well as the newly agented or pre-published.


I hear the 2018 conference is sold out, but if you missed it don’t hesitate next year! It’s always a wonderful experience.

Keep writing, friends, and reading, and go somewhere that inspires you!

Spring at the Library!

Hi, y’all! I’ve been away from the blog for a while, mostly working on a couple of new books, but also visiting some great schools and libraries. I had a wonderful time last weekend at the new Seguin High School library. They had their first ever Matador Book Festival, and I had the great honor of being the afternoon speaker. It was pretty much Saturday author perfection – a giant room filled with books, librarians, parents and young readers.

Here are a few pictures of the day, although you can see some more on Twitter if you’re curious!

Christy Holt, super librarian, gave me my own Matador Library t shirt! (And bought me the most amazing shrimp tacos. Mmmmm.)

How do you know a district has GREAT administrators? They show up on Saturday to read to the kids! Bravo to Superintendent Matt Gutierrez for showing your students they matter – and books are fun!

Games and a book fair…

… and a good friend from my Zumba teaching days was there with her daughter! What a gift.

Over the next month, I have a couple of deadlines to meet, more school visits/writing workshops to look forward to, and my son is graduating from high school, so… see you in the summer! I wish you warm days, lots of ideas, and the time to sit down and put them on the page…


February Writing Fun: Texas Writes and Bookfest by the Bay

This month has been so full… and starting in a week or so, it will be full of fun, writing things! And if you live in or near Corpus Christi or Yoakum, Texas, I’ll be in your neck of the woods soon, and we can do some of that writing together.

This month, I am delighted to be a part of the annual Teen Bookfest by the Bay festival taking place in Corpus Christi on February 17th. It will be at the American Bank Center from 9 am to 4:30 pm and it’s free.

There will be some of MY favorite authors there… maybe yours, too!

Then, the following Saturday morning, Feb. 24, I will have the great pleasure of presenting a writing talk/workshop for the Texas Writes series, hosted by the Writers’ League of Texas. Phenomenal author Christie Craig (or C. C. Hunter) will be there with me, and I know it will be fun! Here are the details:

Place: Carl & Mary Welhausen Library 10AM


FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC | Pre-registration Suggested (361) 293-5001 | Refreshments Provided

Hope to see you soon!


A Poem for My Grandma

Hello, friends. I’ve neglected my blog terribly because I’ve been taking care of something–someone–else. I’ve neglected my writing as well… but I’ve gotten a lot better on the guitar, and my singing voice is back in form. (Did you know I was a singer? I majored in voice at UT Austin before the page called me away.)

I sang my grandma out on Wednesday night. The week before, I brought her balloons and blueberry muffins and flowers for her 98th birthday. We laughed and talked about the kids for hours, even though she wasn’t feeling well.

One week later, she was gone.

Grandma was my biggest fan, my confidant, and more like a twin to me than a grandmother. She loved me completely, and I loved her back the same way. I’m so glad I took the time this year to care for her.

What a gift.


When I knew she was passing soon, I realized I would be asked to write her obituary, Instead, I wrote this poem.

My grandma was
watermelon and
one more chocolate
a favorite hymn
a salty mouth
a sweet little voice
and a fierce love that
went around and around
her kitchen with
broken toes and a strong back
for thirteen years.
She was
a hug a yardstick
a whole jar of divinity
underwear in the back bedroom
Spaghettios in the pantry
cookies and grits
vegetable soup and
bran muffins
interesting cakes
laundry on the line
feeding the old people
a radio left on
and more. She was
a drive in the
violets and birdsong
red lipstick
black hair
Solo Serve shoes
a packed lunch at the movies
in a Jeep Collins bag
mischief in a laugh
and horseshit little Eva.
Grandma was
everyone’s favorite
25 more kisses
than anyone else.
January 24, 1920

Goodbye, 2017!

Oh, friends, this year has been… memorable, to say the very least. For me it’s been full of tragic lows (my father died) and incredible highs (I wrote another “book of my heart” and signed with my lovely new agent, Ginger Knowlton). It’s been a year of writing fearlessly and reading with abandon. I’ve read some of my favorite books ever in 2017–I hope you read a few of the lists or listened to the podcasts!

Honestly, when I watch the news I know I’m ready to say a final goodbye to 2017. Except…


He would kill me if he knew I posted this. But he never reads my blog. Isn’t this awesome??? My favorite picture of him.

my eldest is graduating from high school and going far away to college next fall, so I’m sort of clinging to every last day, all those moments with him that won’t come again.

My big boy now. <3

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season, and a peace-filled and joy-filled new year. May you find yourself lifted up on the wings of glorious stories- whether they’re ones you are writing or reading – again and again as the days pass.

May you feel joy, and show love, and stop to listen to the wind in the grass and the dawn chorus and the peaceful sigh of a sleeping loved one.

Fill your days with beauty, and music, and magic, and love. I’ll try to do the same!



Recent Author Visits: What I’ve Learned

I’ve been doing a ton of author visits in the last few weeks. From doing a motivational talk for a Genius Hour project at Hobby Middle School (plus a silly, fun writing workshop)…

Thanks so much to librarian Terri Williams for the invitation and the wonderful gifts! The chocolate didn’t survive the trip home.


… to a Halloween Day presentation that scared the pants off the older kids at Boone Elementary…

… to speaking with an incredible group of young women leaders at the Ann Richards School …

WHO FED ME ICE CREAM!!! (This needs to become a thing.)

… to presenting for the Austin Public Library to kick off NaNoWriMo (Do NOT ask me how my NaNo word count is coming. Just don’t), quickly followed by the Texas Book Festival where I moderated a super fun panel for mega star authors Jennifer Ziegler, Victoria Jamieson, and Karina Yan Glaser…

I’ve been busy and happy and running from one thing to the next. It’s been author bliss, except for how little time it leaves for the Real Job (writing novels).

This is what my current WIP looks like… like my office exploded into paper and scribbled notes. Must Finish Revision so I can vacuum!

I learn something new every time I do an author visit, no matter what age the students, or what talk I give. This week, I had a question from a student about how long I’ve worked on a single novel. I had a sudden realization that I’ve been working on some of my novels my whole life! From the time I was in elementary school staring out a window and thinking, to the short stories I cranked out at UT Austin during my dark graduate school years, to now. The manuscript I’ve just finished (okay, revision is almost done! See pics above) is a story that’s been fighting to find its form, to be told, for over thirty years.

That’s a long time.

And when I spoke that answer out loud, I realized I have other stories that similarly have been hanging on in my mind and on my laptop. I “finished” a manuscript last year that was once a picture book, and then a novel. I thought it was ready to go… and now I know that it was too heavy/unwieldy for middle grade, too full of the things that YA novels do best. And so, you know what? I’m going to try YA.

This makes me tremble with fear and exhaustion… but you know what they say: NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER SURRENDER.

Double rainbow power to revise!

I think that’s the thing I get most from author visits: the exposure to young writers and readers who spark a fearless drive in me through their own energy and spark.

Well, that and laughter and ice cream.

Happy Writing, friends! And if YOU want to come to a writing workshop with me soon, try this one:

NaNoWriMo Workshop: Character Development

Wednesday, November 15 / 6:00-7:30 pm
New Central Library

Interesting, complex characters form the core of any great novel, but creating “fleshed out” imaginary people is no easy task. Join author Nikki Loftin for a discussion of character, including tips on better understanding the fictional people who populate your story.

All workshops are free and open to the public. No reservations needed. 




NaNoWriMo Youth Writing Workshops in Austin

Happy October, friends! I hope you’re doing what I’m doing these days! That is, writing spooky stories, picking your Halloween costumes, planning where to hide the Snickers bars from your own dear trick-or-treater children, and gearing up for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month!

Image result for nanowrimo

Actually, I’m not planning to write a novel in November… well, maybe I am. But it’s not a classic novel, so I can’t get to 50,000 words like the official NaNo writers do to “win.” (If I did that, I would have two of the sort of books I’m writing at the moment!)

I am celebrating the Writer’s Month of November with the Austin Public Library by presenting a VERY COOL panel on novel writing for all ages, and teaching a free youth writing workshop! Here’s a link to sign up with details, but I’ll cut and paste the descriptions of all the November workshops below.

Jennifer Ziegler is also teaching… I may have to dress WAY too young and try to sneak into her workshop as a teen. I’m sure no one will notice the old lady taking notes furiously in the back…

Join me!

NaNoWriMo Author Panel

Wednesday, November 1 / 6:00 – 7:30 pm
New Central Library 

Featuring authors Nikki Loftin, Jennifer Ziegler, Charlotte Gullick, and Taya Kitaysky. Moderated by Writers’ League of Texas Executive Director Becka Oliver, this panel of writers will discuss the project of writing a novel—where to begin, how to plan, creating good habits, managing rough patches, as well as issues of craft. Nikki Loftin and Jennifer Ziegler typically write for young adult readers, and Charlotte Gullick and Taya Kitaysky write for adult audiences. This panel is a good fit for writers of all ages working on projects for various audiences.

NaNoWriMo Workshop: Plot Development

Wednesday, November 8 / 6:00-7:30 pm
New Central Library

How can a writer best manage different narrative threads in a novel project? To what extent must you plan, and how much of your plotting can be spontaneous? Join author Jennifer Ziegler for an exploration of how to string a compelling plot together and how how to keep it on track.

NaNoWriMo Workshop: Character Development

Wednesday, November 15 / 6:00-7:30 pm
New Central Library

Interesting, complex characters form the core of any great novel, but creating “fleshed out” imaginary people is no easy task. Join author Nikki Loftin for a discussion of character, including tips on better understanding the fictional people who populate your story.

All workshops are free and open to the public. No reservations needed. 


Bee Cave Book Haul Podcast Time!

Oh frabjous day!

Friends, if you are the sort of reader/writer/librarian/humanoid who listens to podcasts… or likes book reviews of fun/funny/wonderful middle grade books… or wants to laugh as I use ALL THE  EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! while talking about great books?* Then you should scurry over right now to listen to me GUSH and GIGGLE and GO ON AND ON about a half dozen or so of my favorite middle grade reads this year.

And who wrote this treasure trove of books?

These Magically Talented Authors:

Stephanie Burgis, Tracey Baptiste, John David Anderson, Heidi Schulz, K. A. Holt, and Tara Dairman.

Happy Book Day, Y’all! You’re going to have more than one happy day if you read these books, I promise!


*(No, seriously. I am like the late Crocodile Hunter on this podcast, minus the charming Australian accent. Although… a couple of times, I think I channeled him directly. Crikey!)

Back in the Saddle!

This has been an incredible fall for my writer friends who have new books out. This week, I celebrated with my good friend Tara Dairman, as she welcomed The Great Hibernation into the world!

I adored this book–it is full of humor, science, and the sort of parent-free hijinks that will delight young readers. I’d place it firmly in the hands of any second, third, fourth, or fifth grader, and then expect them to stay up late finishing it!


As for what I’ve been up to (besides celebrating the book launches of my wonderful friends!)…

I had the great fortune to be a guest author and writing instructor for the Austin Public Library’s Badgerdog writing camps this summer. Meeting those young writers gave me all sorts of energy for my own work! And I had a tricky new book I wanted to finish… so I snuck away to Pennsylvania for a few days.

I sat in my own private cabin at the Highlights Foundation

on an “Unworkshop.”

This is pure, free writing time. I did meet some other writer friends up there, so we talked at meals (oh, the meals! BEST RETREAT FOOD EVER) and then scurried away to write until bedtime.

It was bliss, if you’re in need of alone time, and quiet space to write. And maybe look at the flowers!

I finished a draft of my manuscript. I love it so. It’s about a character who’s been popping into my head since I was very young. In fact, I wrote about him in my Master’s thesis. He is a pony named Glue.

I can’t wait for you to meet him.

Be well, write like the wind, and enjoy the process if you can! (And if you can’t? Deep breaths, long walks, turn the page and write something wildly different. You may just find yourself feeling that joy again. It worked for me.)


KidLitCares Auction is Live Now!

Hey, friends! What are you doing here at my blog, instead of spending your free hours scrolling through the TWO HUNDRED (or so) amazing items on Kate Messner’s KidLitCares auction, for Hurricane Harvey Flood Relief?

I’m been bidding on items, but I hope some of you will check out the one I’ve donated: SEVEN signed books, as well as a free 30 minute Skype visit.

And just between us, if you’re an Austin-area book club, library, or school? I’ll do that baby IN PERSON for you.

Thanks for clicking on this link here right now. And happy shopping!