Nikki Loftin

Archive for the ‘Family News’ Category

Ready or Not, 2014 is Here!

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January 3rd, 2014 Posted 5:01 pm

And I am SO not ready.

The paperback for Sinister Sweetness releases in about two weeks.

Nightingale’s Nest releases at the end of February.

My first round of edits for Book #3 (Wish Girl, but the title is one of the “edits.” I’m taking suggestions) is due February 15.

The School Visit and Conference season begins in January…and never stops.

And… this month alone I have a Cotillion Ball for one of my kids, and a Major Goat Show for the other one. Two family birthdays, company staying from overseas, and a Pinewood Derby.

*sob* I resolve to… go back to bed for a month?

It would all be Much Too Much, except that lovely things like this article by Anne Ursu keep popping up… and this Best Reads of 2013 list… and this Books to Watch For post…

It almost makes me not quite so panicky and awkward-feeling. Almost.

Thank goodness for that lovely Billy Collins book I got for Christmas! Poetry makes it all better, somehow. This year, I resolve to read more poetry.

I think that’s a resolution I may actually manage.

Happy New Year, friends! I wish you a thousand happy beginnings.

 

November: School Visits, Keynote Coolness, Peruvian Stuff, & Goats

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December 2nd, 2013 Posted 12:00 pm

I’m sorry, dear blog readers. I have neglected you for an entire month! I had a lot going on this month, including company from overseas and cookie recipes to perfect for the Exquisite Long-Awaited Season of Baking that’s just ahead.

Baking is a priority, people. A high priority.

So I’m going to jam a whole lot of pictures into this post, and get back to my baking. Oh, and writing, I probably should do some more of that soon. :) *plans to write with icing on cookies*

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. The Library Jubilee Annual Conference in Waco, Texas, which was amazing and fun! (Sorry for the blurry picture, we were having too much fun to focus our cameras.) I gave a keynote speech and got to share my happy librarian memories – as well as stories from a ton of author friends. It was awesome.

Coordinator Sherry McElhannon and I helped convince all the Region 12 Texas librarians of their innate rock star-ishness earlier this month.

Coordinator Sherry McElhannon and I helped convince all the Region 12 Texas librarians of their innate rock star-ishness earlier this month.

2. Then Sam Bond, one of my favorite writer friends in the world, and a founding member of the Soup Salon, had her debut book launch party in November! The book, Operation Golden Llama, is the first in what will be a series of around-the-world middle grade adventures, featuring five cousins and a cast of intriguing animals and criminals. :)

My writer friend's debut book! So cute and super fun to read. But some now!

My writer friend’s debut book! So cute and super fun to read. But some now!

The first book is set in Peru. Look at that amazing cover!

The first book is set in Peru. Look at that amazing cover!

The launch party was packed. And there were LLAMA COOKIES.

The launch party was packed. And there were LLAMA COOKIES.

3. I was invited to do a special author visit at a high school in Round Rock, Texas. The librarian, Angela, and her lovely assistant Anna, posed for this picture right before the visit.

Check out those great high school librarians.. and their picture book month selection, too! What clever gals. Picture books are perfect for high school.

Check out those great high school librarians.. and their picture book month selection, too! What clever gals. Picture books are perfect for high school.

I taught two writing workshops that day on making memorable characters to some very talented students. It was fun and exciting and slightly scary – I usually teach younger kids. It went well, though – and I have proof! This picture was taken afterwards… and the librarians are still smiling. Thanks to Cedar Ridge, Angela and Anna for hosting me! Y’all are lovely.

Still smiling!

4. What else happened in November? OH, my kid also won a third place ribbon with one of his gorgeous goats. Just in case you’re interested in such things. OF COURSE YOU ARE. YOU CARE DEEPLY. (Ignore the fingers in the photo.)

Random photo of my son winning third prize at a goat show. This IS what author blogs are for, right?

Random photo of my son winning third prize at a goat show. This IS what author blogs are for, right?

5. Last week, we all took a Thanksgiving break to the beach. Then… when I got back from vacation, THIS was waiting for me!

It's so fluffy!!!

It’s so fluffy!!! In an evil way!

 

Oh, I love it! The paperback cover for Sinister Sweetness, out on January 16! It’s got shiny places, and matte finish places, and it’s a design my goat show kid came up with. I love it to pieces. What do you think?

Now, back to baking. And, um, writing, yes. That too.

Happy December, friends!

 

Famous Authors and Goats: October Shenanigans!

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November 4th, 2013 Posted 7:03 pm

Howdy, friends!

October was a fun month. It started off with a great local event, a winetasting fundraiser for the Dripping Springs Community Library. I emcee’d (a first time for everything!) for special guest, Texas-based singer-songwriter, editor, and author Kasey Lansdale.

 

Kasey Lansdale, editor of Impossible Monsters and me!

Kasey Lansdale, editor of Impossible Monsters – and me! Selfies rule.

 

Next up was the Texas Book Festival. Lynne Kelly, author of the prize-winning MG novel, CHAINED, came to visit me and my goats.

These goats:

Don't worry, Lynne. They don't attack as long as you stare directly into their eyes.

Don’t worry, Lynne. They don’t attack as long as you stare directly into their eyes. Never look away.

I never knew how cute goats could be. Baby goats especially.

Abatha, world's cutest goat

Abatha, world’s cutest goat. Staring at you.

At the Book Festival, I got to hang out at the Writer’s League of Texas tent, watching friends of mine – like Laura Cottam Sajbel, sign their books.

Laura writes fascinating nonfiction! Dive into her new book - the water's fine. :)

Laura writes fascinating nonfiction! Dive into her new book, BUOYANT – the water’s fine. :)

Then, I got to stand around looking important and drinking champagne with Kelly Bennett, author of tons of books, including Vampire Baby and One Day I Went Rambling, winner of the Writer’s League of Texas picture book category book award.

 

Kelly is almost as cute as her book!

Kelly is as cute as her book!

A huge thanks to the Writer’s League for choosing my book as the MG/YA category winner! I already spent the money, of course. But the memories will last a lifetime…

Happy day!

Happy day!

After I was done being Fancy People, I got to hang out with some truly Famous Fancy Ridiculously Talented Authors.

Anne Ursu, Katherine Catmull, and Claire Legrand. A smorgasbord of talent!

Anne Ursu, Katherine Catmull, and Claire Legrand. A smorgasbord of talent!

Claire LEgrand, Heather Terrel, and Me. An authorface sandwich!

Claire Legrand, Heather Terrell, and Me. An authorface sandwich!

Claire signing her latest masterpiece, The Year of Shadows. SO GOOD.

Claire signing her latest masterpiece, The Year of Shadows. SO GOOD.

Also, I got to hang our with a Texas librarian, her lucky duck husband, and her awesome kids!

Also, I got to hang our with a Texas librarian, her lucky duck husband, and her awesome kids!

 

These are the sort of clothes one wears to the Texas Book Festival. :)

These are the sort of clothes one wears to the Texas Book Festival. :)

 

How was YOUR October, friends?

Now, on to November! Home of one of my favorite holidays… mmmm, gravy. :)

 

 

Raising Goats, Writing Novels: It’s Exactly The Same

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September 25th, 2013 Posted 8:49 am

There is a lot I do not know about taking care of goats. A LOT. As the new, confused owner of two Boer goats, I can say with confidence that I did not know goats needed quite so much care! There’s the food, water, shelter, minerals, trailer to haul them, brushes, medicines, clippers, shearing equipment, halters and leads… I’m only mentioning a few of the things here, the list is too long. And I haven’t even begun to talk about the training.

Yes, training. You see, these goats aren’t just ordinary goats: they’re show goats (for my ten year old son, who wants to be an animal scientist when he grows up). And while ordinary goats might be able to get by on some hay, a weedy lot, and a tin can or two, show goats take very special care, handling, and constant attention. My son isn’t just raising these goats to be goats: he’s raising them to be the Best Goats Ever. He doesn’t want them to be good goats – he wants them to be GREAT. “Don’t think you’ll win the shows this year,” he hears when he tells people about his goal. “It’s ridiculously hard to win as a new goat owner. Impossible.” He gets this. But does is change how he handles his goats?

No.

Well, maybe. I think it might make him work harder.

And that, dear friends, is how raising goats is exactly like writing novels for publication. You can choose to write just for yourself – think of those regular goats with the tin cans, happily munching away, not a care in the world. But when you choose to step into the show ring, to send your words out into the world to be judged, to be measured against all the other debut and already-published authors, to be held up against classics and best sellers… you have chosen a much harder path. People will tell you to give up. They will tell you “it shouldn’t be this hard.” They will claim it is impossible.

It’s not. But it is incredibly hard. You might have to get up to feed your writing, like my son does his goats, at 5:45 every morning. You might have to spend hours every day training yourself to be a better writer, knowing it could all be for nothing if the judge happens not to like your goat’s haircut… I mean, your style of writing. There will be a stupendous amount you do not know about writing and publication, and you will have to learn it on your own, or hunt for experts to help you, pay for some of that  help, buy the materials, trim and clip and shear and revise your work until it measures up to the best.

Your goat/novel might never win. But don’t let that change how you treat your writing.

Well, maybe let it make you work harder.

I’m still learning about writing, Every novel is a new challenge, every page a fresh headache some days. Sometimes, when I get really frustrated writing, I head out to the goats. I let them breathe their sweet alfalfa breath on my cheek, feel their soft fur as they encourage me to scratch their backs, watch them jump and run and leap with cute baby goat abandon.

And then I get up, go back inside, and tackle the page again. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. And at the end of the day, I’ll have scenes I can revise tomorrow… and some seriously cute goats who will listen to me read them, even if no one else does.

***

I had two lovely bits of news since my last post! First, the lovely Marisa Schouten did an interview with me for a cooking/family blog called FRESH. It went up last week – and she wrote a recipe for Sinister Sweetness to go with it! Lorelei’s Pear and Marzipan Puff Pastry Galette. (A galette, people. That’s fancy.) I’m cooking it for some writer friends next week – it looks divine.

Also, I am going to be signing copies of my *cough, cough* award-winning book, THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY, at the Texas Book Festival, with the Writer’s League of Texas! The signing will be on Saturday, October 26, probably from noon until 2 pm. I’ll give more details later. Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to Splendid Academy!

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August 21st, 2013 Posted 2:04 pm

What a year! One year ago today, my first book came out. It was an amazing day. I went with my 92 year-old Grandma to the closest bookstore, where she bought a copy. (I told her I’d give her one, but she refused! It was important, she said, to spend her own money on it. I have the best Grandma ever.)

My husband brought me flowers, and we went out to lunch at the restaurant where I first got the idea for the book. My mom joined us for dinner. It was a delight. Like the birthday of my life’s dreams. Perfect.

I’d like to say that every day of the past year has been just as lovely, but it’s not true. There have been hard days, days where I doubted myself, my writing ability, my hairstyle, my everything! Well, okay. Maybe not my dance moves. But most everything else.

But I never lost sight of the fact that I was living the dream. My dream, the one I’d first had when I was about nine, that I’d almost given up on for most of my life, and that I found again right around the same time the gray hair started coming in. And even on the hard days, I never lost sight of just how lucky/blessed I am.

Some of the most important and lovely things have happened for me in the past year. I had a book signing in Round Rock, my hometown, where my kindergarten teacher Aunt Trudy showed up – right as I was about to start talking about her, and how important she’d been in forming me as a writer! I still remember her leaning over my shoulder when I was four years old, giving me harder and harder books, pushing me, helping me see just how far I could go. She still has the same hairstyle, like white cotton candy.

I also signed a book that day to Herrington Elementary, named for one of my favorite teachers of all time, the late Linda Herrington. She made school fun, let me run off to the library by myself… and at her house, cooked me tomato soup one cold day, with oyster crackers floating on top. Campbell’s tomato soup will forever trigger one of my own Proustian “madeleine” moments, and I will always hear Ms. Herrington’s delighted laughter when I taste it.

I had an amazing book launch party at Bookpeople, where friends and family flew and drove from all over the country to celebrate with me. I was overcome, and thinking about that day still makes me feel oh-so-loved.

But the most memorable day – moment – has to be this one: in Japan, at Yokota Middle School, when a young dyslexic girl came up to me to tell me how much she’d loved my book, that it was the first novel she’d ever read, and that she just had to talk to me about it.

My book. The only book she’d ever read from start to finish.

Ah, yes. THAT was the moment. For that moment alone, I would have gone through all the hard and much harder days that followed the initial “yes” from my editor. For that look on her face, that smile and the sweet conversation we had after, I would go through all the not-so-lovely parts again.

I wrote a book that mattered to at least one child. What more is there to want in this writing life?

Happy birthday to my life’s dream. I hope yours comes true for you, friends. I will bake you a cake when it does!

XOXOXOXO

 

 

The Writing Magic of Santa Fe

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July 29th, 2013 Posted 3:38 pm

What is it about Santa Fe? I go there, I get story ideas. I go there with bad story ideas, I get better ones. It’s almost miraculous. I don’t even have to hike out into the desert or meditate or anything. Although that is fun, too.

Hi, friends! I’ve been gone on the world’s most awesome road trip with my family. We drove in my super-sexy minivan from Austin to Palo Duro Canyon, Santa Fe, Taos, Pagosa Springs, and Silverton… where we rode the train and got mooned by 6 people.

Seriously, Silverton/Durango people. Who moons? (Hmm. Good question. Note to self: Possible picture book title. Who Moons?).

Oh, look, a train! Oh, look a gorgeous countryside! Oh, look, hairy butts!

Oh, look, a train! Oh, look a gorgeous countryside! Oh, look, hairy butts!

Anyway… then we went to Mesa Verde National Park, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest National Park, White Sands, and ended in Fort Davis, Texas.

We did these things on the trip:

White-water rafted

Whitewater kayaked

Rode a coal-powered steam train down a mountain

Free climbed ENORMOUS boulders (well, okay, not enormous)

Went caving

Soaked in about 20 natural hot springs

Climbed into a ton of Ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings

Saw Californian condos, elk, wild turkeys, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, hummingbirds by the dozen, mule deer, tarantulas, and so many other things…

Also, did I mention the moonings? My kids will NEVER forget that part.

So. Much. Fun.

But the weirdest part was the revelation in a restaurant in Santa Fe, when I was sitting with my husband, moaning about how my current novel just wasn’t clicking. Over corn chipotle soup and fajitas, it suddenly became perfectly clear to me what was missing. (Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to leave my work on home when on vacation. It just doesn’t work that way for writers. I mean, I guess I could leave my brain at home in a jar or something. Note to self: Write a character who has a brain collection.)

Now, if this had been the first time I’d had a revelation in Santa Fe about a book, I’d think it was a coincidence. But it keeps happening to me, my whole life! I go to New Mexico, I think about writing, I get inspired.

If anyone can explain this, I’ll buy you a sopapilla. Of course, you’ll have to meet me in Santa Fe in August to eat it – I’m going back. This time, I’m going solo, to the amazing AROHO Women’s Writing retreat at Ghost Ranch.

I think, after a week of writing in the desert right outside Santa Fe, I’m going to have a good draft to start tinkering with.

Or who knows? Maybe I’ll get some more story ideas. It is sort of the place for that, for me anyhow.
So, where’s your place, Writer Friends? New York? Sedona? Your back yard? The shower?

I’ll see you in two weeks!

The Grand Canyon, which was just grand.

The Grand Canyon, which was just grand.

Life-Changing Advice: Crock Pot Edition

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January 9th, 2013 Posted 8:42 am

For Christmas, my mom gave me a crock pot. At first, I thought this was strange. Also, at second, I thought it was strange. “I have two crock pots, Mom. You know this.”

“But you don’t have this one,” she said. “This crock pot will change your life.”

Yes, my mom really, really likes this new brand of crock pot.

She called me every day after Christmas. “Have you used your new crock pot yet?”

“No,” I’d say. “I haven’t gotten it out of the box yet.” Or, “I haven’t read the manual.” And finally, “I can’t figure out how to turn it on.”

Don’t judge me, people. It’s a difficult crock pot to master.

I finally made soup in it yesterday. It was… fine. The soup was good. I could have used my regular soup pot. Did the crock pot change my life?

No. But it is a very good crock pot, with some extremely fancy non-stick action, and some other nice features. It may not have changed my life, but it gave me another tool to help get dinner on the table. (And as writer-cooks know, it gets dinner cooked without the typical “Oh, no, I burned the meal again, quick let’s order pizza” that usually accompanies a meal cooked while the Muse is sending Shiny New Ideas your way.)

I’ve been asked to speak in a couple of weeks about how to motivate yourself to keep writing, no matter what. Aside from “I need to make rent,” there are a lot of motivational strategies. Some involve punitive measures. Some involve kittens. There are thousands of ways, hundreds of blog posts with great advice.

But none of them are perfect for everyone. Not a single one is a surefire way for EVERY writer to keep going, to get back to the page with regularity. Not every great new idea is life-changing for me, even if it may be for every other writer in the world.

Some of them, however, are very good. Many of them are like my new crock pot – a new, effective tool that – while it may not change my life – will make certain recipes/projects easier.

So, what did you get for Christmas, if you celebrate it? Did any of you get a life-changing gift? Or a crock pot?

And if you have any great advice (other than punishment and kittens) for helping writers keep writing, I’d love to hear that, too! I’ll share it with the Writer’s League of Texas in a couple of weeks.

Write well, friends!

Write Big or Go Home

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September 5th, 2012 Posted 6:04 am

 

I have a guest post up today on the excellent Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing blog. It talks about my launch party and “writing with edge.” Also, the best advice I got from the phenomenal Cynthia Leitich Smith. Go check it out!

If you’re in Austin this weekend, come check out my totally awesome presentation on queries, pitches, and synopses. How do you make an agent/editor fall in love with your writing? It might take a little mood music and champagne, metaphorically speaking. (Bow chicka bow wow…)

I also got very excited about this Shelf Awareness review. I wrote a “smart, enchanting book.” How cool is that?

Non-writing news: I ran my first race in a very long time the other day with my sister. Only 5K, and we may have stopped and started, but it was fun! If you’ve ever tried running alone, don’t bother. It’s only fun with a friend!

Then Dave and I took the kids to skate/ride bikes at the Austin Veloway. Followed immediately by a trip to Jumpoline Park, an old Wal-Mart converted into an entire warehouse full of trampolines. It was so much fun… we’re totally going back, as soon as the pain stops from last time. (Note to self: you are too old to do standing front flips on a trampoline. Don’t do it ever again.)

Oh, and now I have to go mail four copies of a contract off to my agent. Yep, you heard it: I’ve signed another contract, for a third middle-grade book with Razorbill! I may be doing this writing thing for a while…

Have a wonderful week, Writer Friends! And write something better than the poem I cranked out on Monday. Seriously, a love poem about Texas? I need to get back to the fairy tales. :)

Happy Book Birthday to Me!

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August 21st, 2012 Posted 2:17 pm

I am a soppy, sentimental, squishy person. I always have been, even if sometimes I hide it. I’ve been humming the words to this tune all week, and thinking about all the people I love, all the ones I feel so grateful to for this day.

An acknowledgments page just doesn’t cover it.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Thank you to all the people at Razorbill and New Leaf – especially Laura, Emily, and Suzie. Thank you to my amazing family and Writer Friends. My Writer Friends! Cynthia, Samantha, Joy, Nan, Shelli, Lindsey, Lizzie – too many to count. You are my tribe, and I’m so glad I found you.

Thank you to the book bloggers who have taken time to write and post reviews – and to Jen, for setting up my tour!

Thanks to Dave, who gaily canceled the fun cable channels, magazine subscriptions, and spent down the savings so I could have the time to write. And thank you to my kids, who have learned to cook their own dinners… and how to read manuscripts like professional editors.

Now I have a party on Saturday to get ready for – and you are invited! Bring an (un)healthy appetite – there’s going to be a whole lot of sweetness at Bookpeople on Saturday. :)

Making the Book Trailer + A Giveaway!

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August 2nd, 2012 Posted 6:08 pm

Oh, friends. There are parts of this whole debut author thing that scare me to death. Mostly it’s the technology-related stuff. (You may have picked up on the fact that I’m really the tiniest bit afraid of Twitter, even though I use it. And these nights I wake up in a cold sweat, having nightmares about Skype visits gone horribly wrong.)

So, making a book trailer would be one of These Evil Things, right?

Not if you are married to the world’s awesomest husband. WHICH I AM. And he happens to be an amazing photographer, AND a computer whiz. (My momma always told me to “marry tech support.” Thanks, Mom. Good call.)

This book trailer thing is going to be so much fun. I think.

In any case, we’ve been Very Busy taking pictures of kids with the most insane amounts of inappropriately sweet junk food… and then giving the food to the kids who model for us, of course. (One kid ate his entire PIE right after his photo shoot. A whole pie. There is a picture book I adore with a dog who did this. Buy it now.)

In any case, the trailer will be unveiled at my book launch party at Bookpeople in Austin, Texas on Saturday, August 25. (To which you are all invited. Go, buy your plane tickets!) I think it will be awesome. Here is one of the models. (My kid!)

First course of breakfast at Splendid Academy

 

Once you’ve enjoyed ogling my cute kid, trot on over to the ModPodgeBookshelf blog to read a new guest post I wrote on re-naming my main character in Sinister Sweetness… and enter for a chance to win an ACTUAL first-edition, SIGNED copy of my book!

And if you want to read some amazing reviews for Sinister Sweetness, check out the Mother-Daughter Reading Team, or Pure Imagination! Thanks, y’all – you’re very lovely, and I would totally bake you a pie. A whole one. Just for you.

More later in the week on the Amazing Joy Preble… for whom I would bake an entire kitchen full of pies. She has an awesome book coming out… and I’m going to do something very special for the occasion!