A Trick and a Treat: Reviews & Licorice

It’s Halloween week, and I am celebrating by writing a short story that I hope will scare the pants off young readers someday, somewhere. Yes, I’m taking a short/two day break from my novel writing. You see, I had sort of lost my mojo, and I remembered that writing is supposed to be FUN.

So I’m writing the MOST fun thing I can think of… and strangely, while I’ve been writing this short story, going back to my work-in-progress has been sounding more and more exciting by the hour. I have fresh ideas!

It’s weird, this writing life. I’m glad I love it so much.

In the spirit of Halloween, I have two things to share with you! Both were treats for me, really… but the first one was sort of trick-ish for the kids involved. Go to the link to see!

  1. That VERY cool thing done by a teacher with a Guys Read book club is here. Check it out! It involves black licorice and my creepy story, “Licorice Needles,” from the Guys Read: Terrifying Tales anthology. Honestly, if I had this guy for a teacher? I would have joined a thousand book clubs. (Note to self: write more candy-themed creepy stories. They seem to work.)
  2. A review for my book, Nightingale’s Nest, showed up this week! It was written by K.L. Romo, a member of the Writer’s League of Texas, for a series on the award winners of the 2014 WLT contest. I love the review, and the League. If you’re a Texas writer, you should join! It will make your writing stronger, your writing community larger, and your breath fresher. I promise!

Now, back to the story. It’s set in a school library, where the ventilation system makes the strangest noises overhead, and kids mysteriously disappear every time the librarian takes a sick day…

SO MUCH FUN. Happy Halloween!

 

School Visit Fun & Pics in PW

Howdy, y’all! I’m back from Oklahoma again, and working hard on my next book. Not much time to blog, but I’ll drop a few pics from my super fun days in Tulsa with Kerr Elementary Librarian Extraordinaire Kim Sloggett…

Kim was lovely...

Kim was lovely…

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She rolled out the red carpet!

She rolled out the red carpet!

and then another spectacular day with Jennifer Newkirk (Deercreek Elementary) and Teresa Murrow (Prairie Vale Elementary) in Edmond…

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Even the water bottles were welcoming!

Even the water bottles were welcoming!

 

When I came home, I found out my photo had appeared in the Publishers Weekly round up of photos from the Texas Book Festival. Sweet! I felt very famous.

And that reminded me to give you all a closer peek at ALL the fun from that week! Here are my husband’s snaps of the Texas Book Festival fun. Thanks, Dave!

Now, back to work. I really do have TON to do. Write well, friends!

My Week in Books: Texas Book Festival 2015 & More!

 

Every year, there’s a holiday I love more than any other. I get to see all my friends, and my family, and go to fancy parties, and eat too much, and enjoy the sights, and buy tons of gifts for myself and others.

Of course, I’m talking about the Texas Book Festival. And this year? May have been my favorite ever. I’m off to Oklahoma for some school visits in a few hours, so I don’t have time to fill in tons of links and share everything, but here’s some pictures! If you haven’t been, go next year. It may turn out to be YOUR favorite holiday, too!

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Started out a great weekend with a Reading Rock Stars school visit at a local elementary school... where I gave away about 100 copies of Wish Girl!

Started out a great weekend with a Reading Rock Stars school visit at a local elementary school… where I gave away about 100 copies of Wish Girl!

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Hanging out at a party with Margo Rabb and Rebecca Stead.

 

Best interview ever with 11 year old Michaela!

Best interview ever with 11 year old Michaela!

had the chance to meet some longtime online friends, like the amazing Salina Yoon...

had the chance to meet some longtime online friends, like the amazing Salina Yoon…

... and YA author Adam Silvera...

… and YA author Adam Silvera…

... and A G Howard...

… and A G Howard…

... and Meg Medina...

… and Meg Medina…

Took a panel selfie on Sunday with Nick Courage and Rebecca Stead.

Took a panel selfie on Sunday with Nick Courage and Rebecca Stead.

Getting silly with Pig in a Wig author/illustrator Emma Virjan

Getting silly with Pig in a Wig author/illustrator Emma Virjan

Saw some of my parents' long-time friends...

Saw some of my parents’ long-time friends…

... one or two of my favorite librarians in the world. Hi, Diane!

… one or two of my favorite librarians in the world. Hi, Diane!

Hi, Michelle! Why are librarians so stinkin' cute???

Hi, Michelle! Why are librarians so stinkin’ cute???

Hey, that's Cory Putman Oakes, amazing MG author of Dinosaur Boy! Oh, yeah, and someone named Margaret Atwood.

Hey, that’s Cory Putman Oakes, amazing MG author of Dinosaur Boy! Oh, yeah, and someone named Margaret Atwood.

I'm so proud of my city and my state for hosting such a great, free event celebrating books, authors, and readers!

I’m so proud of my city and my state for hosting such a great, free event celebrating books, authors, and readers!

Tweens Read 2015 Fun!

Wow. I just got back from the Tweens Read festival in Houston, hosted by the indie Blue Willow Books, and I am happy to report that it was THE BEST.

 

There were over 1800 kids!!!

There were over 1800 kids!!!

They made us little book cupcakes.

They made us little book cupcakes.

Ali Benjamin is even cuter than her cupcake.

Ali Benjamin is even cuter than her cupcake.

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They fed us burgers larger than our heads! Kevin Sands could only eat half of his. Amateur.

They fed us burgers larger than our heads! Kevin Sands could only eat half of his. Amateur.

Seriously, I felt very Dorothy-in-Oz the whole time. The other authors were rock stars, and also all incredibly nice people.

Ingrid Law, me, and Jennifer Nielsen.

Ingrid Law, me, and Jennifer Nielsen.

 

Linda Urban!

Selfie time with… Linda Urban!

 

Kekla Magoon!

Kekla Magoon!

 

C. Alexander London!

C. Alexander London!

 

Crystal Allen!

Crystal Allen!

 

Wendy Shang!

Wendy Shang!

 

 

The volunteers made us feel like honored guests at all times. They even clapped us into the library for lunchtime — like cheerleaders do at football games for the teams, if you can imagine that.

Karen, my amazing librarian/signing line wrangler!

Karen, my amazing librarian/signing line wrangler!

They made a SIGN of my HEAD. It's so... meta.

They made a SIGN of my HEAD. It’s so… meta.

But my favorite part of the day was when I got to meet kids who had read my books… and kids who had emailed me, and came looking for me.

KAYLEN!!! I am so glad we got to meet.

KAYLEN!!! I am so glad we got to meet.

It gave me all sorts of energy to work on my next book. I want to have more for Kaylen and all the rest to read!

I signed the wall at Blue Willow! I am now officially famous.

I signed the wall at Blue Willow! I am now officially famous.

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Thanks to Blue Willow Books and Penguin Books for Young Readers for sending me to Oz… I mean, Houston. I am overflowing with happiness today!

Kavin Sands, me, Christian Diaz Gonzalez, Linda Urban, and Katherine Applegate.

Kevin Sands, me, Christian Diaz Gonzalez, Linda Urban, and Katherine Applegate.

 

Tweens Read, Texas Book Festival, and more!

Hi, y’all! I am incredibly excited to share a few cool events I’m going to be at this fall. The first one is a conference I’ve been dying to attend for years – the amazing Tweens Read in Pasadena, Texas. It’s at South Houston High School, THIS Saturday, and keynote speakers are Katherine Applegate, Gene Luen Yang, and  Rebecca Stead.

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My panel, called Edge of Your Seat, will be running all day. And the other authors on it? Incredible!

Christina Diaz Gonzalez – Her book, Moving Target, is one of my favorite fast-paced MGs this year!
Jennifer Nielsen – Author of The False Prince and others, will talk about her new historical,  A Night Divided. I’m reading this now, and it’s SO HARD not to ignore all my work and read instead. SO GOOD.
Jackson Pearce – Author of amazing YA fairy tale retellings (um, yes, I may have a thing for these myself! She does them exquisitely) will present her new  Doublecross

Kevin Sands – Author of the brand new The Blackthorn Key, that gets a HUGE thumbs up from my own 12 y.o. reader: “As good as The False Prince and The Lightning Thief.” Wow.

I’m thrilled to have the chance to speak with these authors, and see other friends like Ingrid Law, Crystal Allen, and Polly Holyoke. It will be a great day. So, I hope to see you at this event if you live anywhere near Houston! Make sure to preregister here.

Later in October, I’ll be at the Texas Book Festival, presenting on a panel on Sunday, October 18 at noon, with authors Nick Courage and Rebecca Stead. Signing to follow!

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More later… I have a book I’m trying to write. I say “trying” because I’m eating healthy these days, and you know what that means. BTW, friends? Writing is hard. Writing without chocolate?

Almost impossible.

Interview With a Puppet: The Van Show!

Oh boy. I just got a link to an interview I did at the TLA conference last spring. An interview with a gorgeous, blue-haired puppet. (Of course I said yes! The Muppets were my LIFE when I was a kid.)

It’s not one of my most shining moments.I was starstruck. That’s the only excuse I have for talking like I’d just sucked three balloons’ worth of helium, and oversharing about chicken poop and other things.

In any case, I promised to share the link on my blog, and so… here for your entertainment, is my interview with Austin Public Library’s amazing roving puppet reporter. To my author friends? If a puppet ever asks to interview you… say yes. But try to act cool. Cool, calm, collected…

…sigh. I’ll work on it for the next puppet interview.

Thank you forever, Aunt Trudy.

My first grade teacher, Aunt Trudy, passed away this week. Aunt Trudy was an amazing person. She was generous and quick-witted, warm, kind, clever, and all the things you dream of having for a teacher when you are any age, but especially very young and learning how to love (or not love) school.

She taught me to love school. She taught me that reading was about the words on the page and the feeling of a soft hand guiding mine as we turned it together. She taught me that I could write something that would make her laugh, and I tried to do that over and over. She taught me about fairness and gentleness, in a time of my life when not everything that should have been gentle was.

Have you ever had a teacher like that? Or different, but who gave you that lifelong spark for learning? Or one who showed you, told you, in some way, that you mattered, and changed your life – or at least your view of yourself – for years to come?

If you do, have you told your teacher what she or he meant to you?

I will be forever grateful that I had the chance to tell Aunt Trudy what she meant to me. I did it in a letter, in person, and then in a slightly more permanent way, by naming a character in Nightingale’s Nest after her. And now, even though I am sad she is gone, I don’t have regret.
All I have is a heart filled with love, and a life that was made infinitely better by a woman who cared.

By a teacher who loved me, too.

Thank you forever, Aunt Trudy.

Aunt_Trudy

 

 

Why I Didn’t Answer Your Fan Mail (Um, I DID)

This isn’t a blog post, exactly, but an attempt to get in touch with the lovely young reader who has sent multiple emails to me, sharing thoughts on Wish Girl and asking all sorts of questions.

I got those emails, Kaylen, and I emailed you back, but it seems you are not getting my responses! I’m so sorry. Sometimes kids have wonderfully protective email addresses that don’t allow responses from good-strange author people. This makes me happy for those kids (this means they are not also getting emails from bad-strange Internet people), but sad to think that my responses are lost. Even sadder is the thought that possibly, those readers think I am ignoring them.

So, listen up, everyone: If you email me, and don’t get a reply, either try again, or send a real letter/snail mail to P.O Box 26, Dripping Springs, Texas 78620. And I promise, you WILL get a response.*

 

  • TBH, every once in a while, my computer eats one of these lovely emails, too. So just send it again! Or mail. Or send a pony express. Or just a pony. I’d love a pony.

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In other news, my mail carrier brought me a special package yesterday! It’s a little hard to read here, but it’s a gorgeous glass award from the Writer’s League of Texas for my book, Nightingale’s Nest. Thanks, WLT! You made my day.

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Guys Read Contest Winner, Italian Edition & More

Wow! My kids are tough judges. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest last week!

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So, last week’s blog contest winner was picked just this morning, and Nina Weaver is the winner of a hardback copy of Guys Read: Terrifying Tales, for her middle school students. I hope they scream and cry, Nina! haha not kidding

We had a runner-up as well. Carie Juettner, whose comment was the “funniest, and like a real story,” will receive an ARC of one of the creepiest and most wonderful books I’ve read in a LONG time: Janet Fox’s The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle.

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It doesn’t come out until next spring, but you’re ALL going to want to get this one. It is the literary equivalent of Swiss chocolate. I could not put it down, and I was sneaking in chapters when I should have been doing Real Work Things. It’s a creepy gothic tale, that reminded me of Joseph Delaney’s The Last Apprentice series, and even a bit of The Chronicles of Narnia. Seriously, it’s that good.

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In other news of OMGOSHAWESOME… my mom happened to walk into a bookstore in Rome on her summer holidays. She asked if they had a copy of my book, Wish Girl, in Italian. And they did!  Check this out? Isn’t it lovely? Bellissimo! Also, I’m going to go feel famous now while I do the laundry.

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(Yes, I know it’s not right side up. But look! They’re lying down in the grass… it’s so ARTY!!!)

And after that laundry fun, I’m planning to go read a few new books I splurged on. Hey, it’s a long weekend, right? I gotta do something with all that time. I’ve heard incredible things about these three books, and I’m dying to see if it’s all true.

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Author Copies! A Guys Read: Terrifying Tales Giveaway

Guess what? My author copies for the anthology, Guys Read: Terrifying Tales, arrived today!

Aren’t they creeptastic?

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I had SO MUCH fun writing my story for this collection, and I’m eternally grateful to Jon Scieszka for inviting me to join in the fun. If you like stories by Claire Legrand, R. L. Stine, Dav Pilkey, Rita Williams-Garcia, Kelly Barnhill, Michael Buckley, Adele Griffin, Daniel José Older, or Adam Gidwitz, you are going to want this dark, creepy, deliciously disturbing book. (I won’t even mention the spine-chilling illustrations inside. SO GOOD.)

And if you want to win your own copy, full of stories that will haunt your dreams for FREE, all you need to do is leave a comment here telling me EXACTLY WHY you need a book full of horrible, awful, sinister stories (for you, your classroom, the kids you babysit, whomever) and I will allow my kids to pick their favorite answer in one week!* Oh, and don’t forget to leave your email address so I can contact the (un?)lucky winner.

I’ll announce the winner on September 6! Be creative. Be menacing. Be terrifying, if you can. Good luck!

*Sorry, y’all, North American addresses only. I have mouths to feed. Mouths full of needle-sharp teeth, hungry for red, raw meat.