90-Second Newbery Festival: San Antonio Pics

Wow! I had the most fun weekend ever in San Antonio, celebrating great books, smart kids, and wonderful short films. I got a few photos, too, so I thought I’d take a break from writing for a few minutes to share.

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The crowd was amazing! By the end, it was a full house, with beaming parents, grandparents, and kids everywhere.

The crowd was amazing! By the end, it was a full house, with beaming parents, grandparents, and kids everywhere.

Author James Kennedy and I were set to battle to the death… THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE…

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… but then we thought better of the “Newbery Death match idea”…

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… and we went with “Friendly Co-Hosts with Great Fashion Sense” as our schtick instead. (Check out my Cinderella shoes! And James’ velvet tux. We rocked it.)

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The winners got trophies AND HUGE CASH PRIZES for their schools! Fame, glory, and money for schools? A perfect combo. (That’s rock star librarian Irene Kistler in the background, BTW. Hi, Irene!)

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This young lady modeled her “The Giver” beard. She is an aspiring writer, an actor, and pretty much who I wish I had been as a kid. Rock on, Simone!

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And that’s all!

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I hope that, if you live in or near a city with a 90-Second Newbery Festival, you’ll go – or even better! – make your own film and enter. It’s the coolest, truly.

 

The Last Authorly Events of 2015

Wow! What a year 2015 has been. From the paperback release of Nightingale’s Nest (and the two awards it won!!!), to the publication of Wish Girl, and then the Guys Read: Terrifying Tales anthology, to all those trips to Oklahoma and Minnesota and elsewhere… it’s been full!

I have three more fun things lined up for Author Nikki… and then I will go into a social media/blog/email- free cave and finish writing my next book. It’ll be just me, my laptop, and an endless supply of tea and chocolate. Writer Nikki, kicking it old school.

But before I do that… I’ll be signing copies of Nightingale’s Nest and Wish Girl at the Humanities Texas Annual Holiday Book Fair this Saturday, December 12, from 10:00 am–1:00 pm at the Byrne-Reed House, 1410 Rio Grande Street in Austin. The author line-up looks fantastic, and I’ll have some treats for friends who come in… Stop by and say hi!

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And I have a super fun morning of writing workshops planned for tomorrow morning at Galindo Elementary in Austin… and a Skype visit with Ms. Rattner’s class up in New York! Those kids have been reading Wish Girl, and have a ton a great questions for me. There’s nothing more fun than engaging in literary conversation with smart, passionate learners!

A couple of those students made an Animoto video for Wish Girl. Check it out. Isn’t it the coolest thing? Thanks, Taylor and Grace!

Now, I’ve got to get some gifts ready for the kids at Ortega Elementary who sent me their amazing stories, and a little something for the writers at Galindo as well…

 

Reading Rock Stars 2015 in Houston

There are some days when being an author is the Best Thing Ever. Thursday was one of those days for me. Thanks to the Texas Book Festival and the Reading Rock Stars program, I was invited to present to 4th and 5th grades at Crockett Elementary in Houston, Texas.

Outside Crockett with authors Don Tate and James Luna.

Outside Crockett with authors Don Tate and James Luna.

The school itself was beautiful, and decorated to the hilt! There were giant posters of our book covers…

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a permanent art installation with pics of our book covers, painted by art teacher extraordinaire Claudia Elizondo…

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posters and murals everywhere…

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the school orchestra came and played for me!!!

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and they had made trees with decorations that matched each of the three books. Here are some “wishes” that kids made to hang on the Wish Girl tree:

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After presenting to a bunch of kids, the best part of the day came: when I got to hand a signed copy of my book to every kid there. I got hugs, tears, laughter, and a whole lot of thank yous.

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But I was the one thanking those lovely folks in charge – the Texas Book festival, HEB grocery stores for their huge financial support of the program, and even La Madeleine in Sawyer Heights for the scrumptious lunch!

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And, honestly? I was thanking God for allowing me to be a part of this. Sometimes it’s hard to see if your work really matters. This week, I had no question at all.

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Gratitude: it’s the theme for this month. I am thankful for all of you, too, friends! Go do good work in the world. Your work matters, too. Do it with love.

NCTE 2015: Packing my Warmest Fancy Pants for Minnesota

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Hiya, friends! I am preparing for a whirlwind two days in Minneapolis this weekend, where I will be rubbing shoulders with some of the finest teachers and librarians in the nation, and trying to hold my own with some of the best authors ever. Which authors?

That would be Kate Messner, Anne Ursu, Tracey Baptiste, Linda Urban, Laura Ruby, and Christina Diaz Gonzalez. Oh, and our panel will be moderated by Colby Sharp.

I’m super duper nervous, actually.

If you’d like to come witness the stammering, blushing, and silliness that will be me in the presence of so much awesomeness, join me! I’ll post the schedule below. Oh, and if you show up for my signings, you’ll get either a deep discount OR a free book! Hope I see you there.

Saturday Schedule:

9:00 – 10:00 AM                        Signing at Anderson’s Bookshop

Booth# 950| Minneapolis Convention Center

NIGHTINGALE’S NEST & WISH GIRL will be available for sale at a 20% discount off list price.

 

12:00 – 1:00 PM                         Signing in Penguin Young Readers booth

Booth #316 | Minneapolis Convention Center

We will be giving away copies of WISH GIRL

 

2:45 – 4:00 PM            Panel: Exploring Tough Issues Through Magic & Fantasy in MG and YA Literature with Nikki Loftin, Linda Urban, Kate Messner, Anne Ursu, Laura Ruby, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, and Tracey Baptiste

                                                Room 101E | Minneapolis Convention Center

 

 

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.