Archive for the ‘Children’s Fiction’ Category
May 13th, 2013 Posted 12:39 pm
A few years ago, when I was going through the process of looking for an agent and then an editor, I started noticing some names popping up over and over again on the websites and twitter feeds I haunted. (I’m pretty sure most of us do that — wannabe authors, I mean. We form a sort of virtual worldwide community, bonded together by the adversity of rejection and – finally, maybe – by success!)
One of the other authors I noticed, just about on the same career trajectory I was following, was Bridget Zinn.
I didn’t know much about her until I saw a tweet with her name in it. She had gotten her book deal, it turned out!
But the tweet was about a fundraiser. Because in the middle of all her great writing-related news, Bridget had also learned something else. She had cancer.
Her smiling face prompted me to bid on items in a silent auction to help with her medical bills. I offered up prayers and thoughts of healing for this smiling woman I’d never met – because I did know her, in a way. I knew her hopes and dreams were the same as mine, her path very similar. We were both almost there, almost to the shining moment of seeing our books on the shelves, our names on the spines, our stories in the hands of young readers.
And then Bridget, the effervescent librarian, writer, and new member of the kidlit tribe, died.
She would have been an Apocalypsie, a member of the supportive group of debut kidlit authors whose first books were slated to come out in the 2012 (the supposed end of the world, according to Mayan calendars). Her book was delayed a bit, understandably, and it came out in March of this year.
And it’s fantastic. POISON, her debut YA fantasy, is delightfully funny and fast-paced, the exact sort of book I buy for my myriad nephews and nieces. The sort of book kids fall in love with and hand around to all their friends at school.
When Bridget’s cousin asked me to take part in the Austin leg of POISON’s national book tour, at the amazing local indie bookstore, Bookpeople, I was honored and excited. A whole group of Austin authors came together to help launch Bridget’s book, to celebrate for her. To celebrate her.
I have given copies of her amazing book to libraries in Texas and Japan – and I’ll probably keep giving them! I adore this book.
But the copy I got at the Austin signing - filled with the names of Austin authors and a stamped signature of Bridget’s - means something more to me. I keep it near my writing desk for a reason. On those days when I feel like surfing the Internet or eating my weight in M&Ms instead of writing, seeing Bridget’s book reminds me that we don’t know how much time we have to fulfill our dreams. And when I open it, and see the names of the writers who came to support her life, and her work, I remember I’m not alone, no matter how solitary the writing life can feel.
The world is filled with stories to write, moments to savor them, and friends to help celebrate every step on the journey. And if we’re lucky, books like Bridget’s can fill that journey with laughter and delight.
If you would like a special signed copy from the Austin launch of POISON, they can be purchased from Bookpeople directly.
I’d like to invite you to celebrate Bridget’s life, her book, and the community of authors that launched her debut novel by giving away a copy of POISON. If you would like to enter, leave a comment about someone who has inspired you (A writer? A teacher?). Comments will be accepted until May 24, midnight CST. Names will be printed out, placed in a hat, and the winner drawn by my ten-year-old kid. (Let’s not get too fancy, people.) If the winner does not respond within 48 hours with a valid email address to the contest notification posted on my blog, another name will be drawn until someone who’s paying attention wins!
Oh, and North America only for this, please. Good luck!
April 22nd, 2013 Posted 10:17 am
Wow. I just finished my copy edits for Nightingale’s Nest (which will come out on February 20, 2014), and I am minutes away from beginning a new project.
I LOVE this part of writing. I also get lost in it, a bit, and that means I’ll be back to posting only once a week on this blog. I mean, really, I type with T-Rex fingers – I can only do so many words in a day!
So, my promised post to writers about traveling abroad for school visits will come later.
Today, I leave you with this link, in honor of Nightingale’s Nest. Have fun listening to a real-world nightingale! And I hope so much you will love my Nightingale, when you meet her.
In other news, I was delighted to be a part of the Austin launch of the late Bridget Zinn’s debut YA novel, POISON. Here’s a bit about the book – you should buy a copy or two! It’s delightful and fun, funny and hopeful. I adored it.
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
And here’s a picture from the Bookpeople POISON launch last weekend – with Patricia Hoover, Cory Putnam Oakes, Bridget’s husband Barrett Dowell, and her cousin Mary Zuniga.
Now, I’m off to write some Very Scary Parts of my next project. YAY!
April 19th, 2013 Posted 10:21 am
As promised, I’ve saved some of the very best from my author visits in Japan for last.
When I arrived at Yokota West Elementary School, I knew something was up. The kids who saw me in the parking lot started squealing and shouting, “It’s Nikki Loftin! Look, it’s Nikki Loftin!!!” Think if Harry Potter walked into the house elves’ annual convention. Yeah, like that. I could not stop giggling.
It kept going, and then I met the incredible librarian at YWES, Elaine Stephens, and I was the star struck one! She’s a bundle of pure energy and joy, wrapped up in an elegant librarian suit.
She had prepped the students so well for my visit, they came ready to learn, eager to listen, and extremely knowledgeable about me and my books. The day was jam-packed with fun, presentations, an amazing Japanese bento box lunch, and then – the piece de resistance – a visit to the fifth grade wing.
I was gobsmacked. The fifth grade teachers had transformed their wing of the school into a mini- Splendid Academy. I walked through the purple curtain and was greeted with the sight of table upon table of sweets and baked yummies. And than I was tackle hugged by a group of kids, one of whom whispered, “Thank you for writing this book, Ms. Nikki Loftin. This is the best day of my life.”
I could see why. They had all read the book, figured out the “rules” of Splendid Academy and applied them. For instance, all the kids were allowed to use their technology (I have never had so many iPad pictures taken of me in my life!), they were free to leave the classrooms whenever they wanted, lessons were voluntary, and eating sweets was the rule of the day.
Okay, I guess I would have had the same reaction if an author had been even slightly responsible for bringing that amount of awesomeness into my classroom.
Here are the rest of the pictures. It was even more amazing than you’ll see here – I’m not allowed to show faces of kids on this blog, and the faces – the smiles! – made the whole event worth every hour of jet lag. I will never forget this day, or this trip. What an experience! An author’s dream come true.
I’ll do a final wrap-up post for other writers about school visits next time – and show off my amazing “sayonara doll” that was given to me as a parting gift. But first, copy edits are due! And Bridget Zinn’s book launch party at Bookpeople is tonight! And my kids want lunch AGAIN. (Honestly, they want to be fed every single day! Sheesh.)
More in a few days…
April 15th, 2013 Posted 12:12 pm
There are moments on a writer’s journey when you wonder why anyone would want this crazy, rejection-filled life. If you’re in that spot, I’ve been there. I just want you to know, if you keep at it, and work hard, and have a little bit of good luck? Sometimes, the fairy tale comes true. And I’m finding out it can come true in ways you never even knew to wish for.
At Yokota Middle School, my fairy tale writing journey took on new heights, thanks to the teachers and the unbelievably organized and wildly creative library team of Cheryl Johnson and Annette Holladay. I cannot say enough good things about these phenomenal women!
Their library was easily one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, packed with books that I knew had only been released weeks before. Those kids may not even realize how lucky they are.
And the students! Oh, my. From the darling girl who let me know my novel was the first one she had ever read (try not to cry when that happens to you, I dare you!), to the eighth grader who presented me with a gorgeous, original piece of artwork based on my book – these kids blew me away.
When I walked into the first presentation of the day, for about 200 seventh and eighth graders, a boy (with a deep bass voice) yelled out, “Hey! I read your book! I loved it! It’s awesome!” The day just got better from there.
Here are a few more pictures, but they don’t do the day justice, since I can’t post photos of the kids here – and they were the stars of the show. Yokota Middle School lives in my heart now – and I will never forget the day I spent there!
You would think that would be all the amazing-ness I could happen upon in one week, right? But wait. My next blog post will feature Yokota West Elementary, and a fifth grade wing that transformed itself into a Splendid Academy, down to the tiniest details. Soon to come…
April 10th, 2013 Posted 12:39 pm
Welcome back, friends! Ready to see what happened on my first day of author visits on Yokota Air Base in Japan? Pretty much all awesomeness, with a little bit of charred author flesh for dinner. (Not really. But it was close!) Let’s start with…
Next post, you’ll see the amazing students and librarians of Yokota Middle School. And one of the nicest presents I’ve ever received, given to me by one of Yokota’s students!
Until then… sayonara!
March 25th, 2013 Posted 2:32 pm
Finally! Thanks to Dr. Nancy Roser of UT Austin and my tech-support guru/husband Dave Wilson, I have a Discussion Guide for you!
I know, I know. Deep breaths, deep breaths. Try not to faint from the joy.
If you are thinking about using my book in a classroom, book club, Girl Scout troop – whatever! – this guide is for you. I think it’s fun and not at all boring (thank you so much, Nancy!), and it even has cool links to some secret stuff in the book you might miss otherwise!
Oh, where is it, you wonder? Just click on the “For Teachers” tab at the top of the page.
Now, time to pack! All the food in Japan isn’t just going to eat itself, yanno. nomnomnom
March 10th, 2013 Posted 7:10 pm
Wow! I’ve been a little absent here, but it’s only because I’ve been so busy in my real life!
Okay, so first I had the flu. Ick. But then I got better! And I jumped right back into school visits. If you know me, you know I get sort of excited about stuff. And I’ll admit, I got pretty darn excited at a couple of these visits – namely, to Lamar Middle School, and Zavala Elementary. So excited I, um, forgot to take pictures. But the visits were amazing, even with no photographic proof! I had so much fun. (Thanks to Mr. Saxton at Lamar and Ms. Bresnan at Zavala for allowing me to come into your schools and get a little crazy with your super-smart kids. You rock!)
I *did* remember to have the ninja-mazing librarian, Donna Rinn, at Bryker Woods Elementary take some pics. Thank you so much, Ms. Rinn, for the golden bowl of M&Ms, and the pizza lunch with your fabulous readers!
And then, this week, I participated in the super cool World Read Aloud Day. (Thanks to Kate Messner for setting this up for the authors and schools! It was so much fun.) This meant doing Skype visits with the schools who asked for them, where I would introduce myself, read a bit of my book to the class, then take questions. I ended by making book recommendations… and after I hung up, eating M&Ms. I’m not sure the teachers knew this was my very first foray into Skype-ing classrooms. I was SO nervous, but so happy with how it turned out.
Seriously, Writer Friends, take the Skype plunge. Even though the sound didn’t work right on one of my visits (I couldn’t hear them! It worked for all the rest. Weird.), that class Tweeted and IM’d their questions… and since they could hear me just fine, it all turned out great. And now I feel all competent and tech-capable. Who knew?
Here’s a link to the blog post one class did. Aren’t they clever?And tech-savvy? I KNOW. They will rule the world someday.
Thanks to Sara Allen in Missouri, Ben Gilpin in Michigan, and Irene Kistler and Jennifer Dunn in Texas! Let’s do it again next year.
Now, I have to run. I’m plotting a new novel, a terribly scary, even grisly one. Yes, for children. They like grisly. Trust me.
February 15th, 2013 Posted 9:39 am
In my writing life, I sort of expected to get the chance to speak with kids about my books. Because, you know, they’re FOR kids and all.
But life has a way of surprising and delighting, and this week I had the chance to speak (and listen) to a group of students who were all smarter than me. Or at least better educated. But possibly both.
Also, quite possibly, they knew my book better than I do. This class, taught by Professor Nancy Roser at UT Austin, chose my book to be a part of their “Grimm transformations” studies. They read my book in advance, and had questions and comments. Okay, I was prepared for this. But they had read it like they were planning to write their theses! And they’d thought so deeply about my story that I was humbled. What a gift!
Thank you Professor Roser, and thanks to your Language and Literacy Studies class as well. You made my week!
I ran from this event to a signing at the Barnes and Noble in Northwest Austin – busy! But super fun. Then I danced at the Texas State Capitol for the One Billion Rising event on Valentine’s Day. Political Action + Dance= Awesomeness.
Next week? THREE school visits. Eek! Hope you’re staying busy, too, friends!
February 8th, 2013 Posted 8:40 am
As promised, I have pictures from the Montgomery County Book Festival I attended in The Woodlands, Texas last weekend. Wow, those festival organizers sure knew how to treat writers well! The food was great, there were parties and amazing teen volunteers, and parents and kids who liked my gruesome humor.
And they had zombies.
Here’s the rest of the pics – enjoy!
So THAT was fun! And tonight is the Austin SCBWI conference! Seriously, I have the best job in the world.
And I got a new book idea last week, too… a very cool, horrifying magical one…
February 4th, 2013 Posted 9:24 am
What an amazing Friday I just had! I had the wonderful good fortune to be invited to Bauerschlag Elementary in League City, Texas for an Author Visit with their fourth and fifth grade classes, and two small-group writing workshops immediately afterward.
What fun! The PTA Literacy Chair is named Stephanie, and she is lovely. (But she is also named Alyssa Goodnight, and had a book released last week! Yes, I totally got my copy signed when I was there. How cool is that?)
The gym was FULL of attentive kids with insightful questions. I may or may not have said a few slightly inappropriate things regarding the delectable nature of children and the benefits of re-writing Rapunzel with long nose hair… but the teachers didn’t seem TOO fazed. LOL
The writing workshops were my favorite part, with kids coming up with the MOST interesting characters to write about. I’m hoping to receive a story soon with a TACO for the main character… (Come on, Bears! Send those stories!)
The librarian, Jenny Mullins, made a lovely basket of goodies for me, and had everything perfectly prepared… and Stephanie brought in lunch… I felt like a princess.
Thank you, Bauerschlag Elementary Bears! You can growl at me anytime.
Next up? Revealing photographic evidence from the Montgomery County Book Festival. Oh, the stories I have to tell about this weekend.