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.
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.
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.)
Wow! I can’t believe the summer is almost over. I’ve been traveling, reading, writing, and teaching. Oh, yeah! Kids: there’s one last chance to take a (free!) writing workshop from me this summer, on August 9, 2017 from 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM at Laura’s Library in Southwest Austin. We’ll be re-writing fairy tales – please join us!
Next on New Things for Nikki: I’ve been invited to participate in a podcast! I’ll post links when it’s done (unless it’s horribly embarrassing, which is 100% possible). My job has been to find the BEST Middle Grade new-ish novels I can find, and gush about them for 7-10 minutes.
Oh, friends. I have found some of the most amazing books. FUN books.
Here are a few covers from some of my faves (I’m still reading for one more!)… I’ll share more about them all next month, when I post the gushing. (But you should probably buy these now for your collections. I will vouch for them all.)
And THIS ONE arrived today from the publisher!!! It’s not out yet, but will be soon. I love Tara’s other books, so I have a feeling I’ll adore this one, too.
And, last but not least, a small confession. A few years ago, when asked what the hardest part of writing was for me, I would immediately reply “revising.” Last week, when a kid at a writing workshop asked me that, I said (without even thinking about it) “believing in myself.”
If you’ve been wondering where my next book is… well, that’s the problem. I lost faith in myself, in whether or not what I was doing mattered, was important enough, or would be good enough again to find a wider audience. I’m working to find that confidence that I had in spades only a few years ago again… and in the meantime, I’m writing some wild, strange, amazing things.
It’s pretty wonderful, to be honest. Writing what I want, exploring different points of view, and forms, and genres. When you do see me again on those bookshelves?
I interrupt my summer writing and blog-ignoring to say a huge, happy book birthday to my friend Cory Putman Oakes on the launch day of her utterly amazing, incredibly fun/creepy/fast-paced/mysterious YA WITCHTOWN!
I snagged an early reader copy of this at the TxLA conference this spring, and read it on the plane to Florida a few weeks later. If I had known how much I was going to love it, I would have read it the INSTANT I picked it up. If you love YA, witchy books, a little romance, and a lot of mystery, you will love this book.
(And if you don’t love YA and witches – what’s wrong with you? Why not check out Cory’s other amazing books for younger readers! The Dinosaur Boy series is superb!)
Happy June! I’ve been writing as fast as I can, and reading whenever I have a moment. I had the very good luck to read a new middle grade book by Rebecca Behrens, The Last Grand Adventure, coming out March 2018 (so I probably shouldn’t even mention it! But it was so good!). In fact, I loved it so much, I blurbed it. If you know readers who like historical fiction mixed with adventure and heart, this one’s for them – and you.
Here’s the jacket copy!
Twelve-year-old Bea finds herself on a unique road-trip with her grandmother, as they search for her grandmother’s long-lost sister—the legendary Amelia Earhart—in this charming novel from the author of When Audrey Met Alice and Summer of Lost and Found.
It’s the Summer of ’67—and twelve-year-old Bea’s world has been shaken up. Her mother is off in San Francisco, while her father has remarried in Los Angeles, adding a stepmom and younger stepsister to the mix. Bea, unsure of the all the change happening around her, feels stuck.
So when her grandmother, Pidge, moves to a retirement community, Bea agrees to visit and help her adjust. But it turns out her grandmother isn’t interested in “settling in”—what Pidge really wants is to hop a train to Atchison, Kansas, where she believes she’ll be reunited with her long-missing older sister: the legendary Amelia Earhart. And she wants Bea to be her sidekick on this secret trip.
At first, Bea thinks her grandmother’s plan sounds a little crazy. But Pidge does have thirty years of mysterious letters, written in “Meelie’s” unmistakable voice, all promising to reunite. This journey might be just the adventure Bea needs . . .
Bea and Pidge set off on their quest to reunite with Amelia. But getting halfway across the country proves to be far more of an adventure than either bargained for. Their journey takes them from the desert to the heartland, in planes, trains, and automobiles. And their search just might lead to surprising truths about their family—and each other.
Peppered with details of the real Amelia Earhart’s fascinating life, The Last Grand Adventure is a poignant story about seeing the world, becoming brave, and discovering the meaning of home.
I hope you’re finding good things to read, too! Now I’m off to new Mexico to write like the desert wind…
Hi, friends! This is that time of year I get lots of sweet texts and emails asking if I’m teaching any writing workshops in the summer. And this summer, the answer is yes! I’ll be doing one at the Westbank Library on August 9th at 4:30 pm. This one is a free workshop, and I’ll be teaching kids how to take an existing fairy tale and re-imagine it so thoroughly they can make it into a novel… or at least a very fun, new story. 🙂 Go sign up today!
This summer I am especially excited to be a guest author at the famous Badgerdog Summer Creative Writing Camps, put on by the Austin Public Library Friends.
I’ll be presenting in Session 3, and I know they’ll have other wonderful authors teaching the whole summer, so if your kid is a budding novelist/poet/playwright? You know what to do.
Now, I’m off for a week in New Mexico with three teenage boys who are VERY EXCITED to be going to high school next year. If you live anywhere near Santa Fe, I apologize in advance for the noise.
Wow! I think I just now caught up on my email/sleep/healthy food backlog after the utterly stupendous TxLA conference in San Antonio last week. It was as fun as I had hoped, and I met so many librarians, authors, and readers – even young ones who somehow convinced librarians and/or relatives to check them out of school!
If you haven’t been to this conference, and you are a book lover, you should go.
Thanks to Penguin Random house for bringing me!
Selfie with YA Author Kara Thomas
Hanging with Akiko White and the CAKE at the Texas Sweethearts reception.
No TLA is complete without a selfie with Shelli Cornelison!
Book Lover Stacey Rattner came all the way from New York to smile and leap with Texas authors!
Eat, Drink (root beer), and Be Merry with young readers like Emma. She looked DELICIOUS!
I got to meet Mike Jung!
And see Jessica Lee Anderson’s new book… about BIG FOOT.
Leslea Newman’s newest PB, Sparkle Boy, is now in my collection…
Erin Entrada Kelly gave me side eye that made me giggle (but she signed my book, so we’re good)…
So many librarians! Cheryl Michulka of SPOT fame stood for a selfie…
… as did two of my fave Austin librarians, Celeste and Kate…
Celebrating new books with writer friends is always the highlight, though. Christina Soontornvat’s next Changelings book is coming this fall!!
I can’t wait to go back… although I can’t imagine better swag than what I got this year…
Why I was there! The Spirit of Texas Middle School list – a thousand thank yous to Texas librarians who selected my books!
Happy Spring, friends! I hope you have as many great books to read as I do… and as many good friends to share them with.
Hello, friends! I’m about to put together a handy list of all the places I’ll be this coming week at the HUGE Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio. But first, I’d like to shout out to all my local (San Marcos-area) friends! On Saturday, April 22, I’ll be reading my books, chatting with readers, and enjoying the glass-bottom boat rides with young readers and writers in San Marcos, Texas. I would love it if you would join me!
I’ve been going through some difficult times in my life, including the death of my father, and I’m not posting as much because of that. But I had such an amazing time this week in Authorlandia that I had to post some pics.
First of all, thanks to librarian Cate Sweeney at the Bee Cave Public Library for hosting my talk on writing in the Texas Hill Country!
The students in this “class” were a little older than my normal elementary to middle-school aged kids. But we had every bit as much fun!