Nikki Loftin

Archive for the ‘People I Love’ Category

The Very Best Writing Advice

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April 16th, 2014 Posted 12:25 pm

I just came back from the Houston Writer’s Guild Annual Conference. It was wonderful. I shocked everyone in the morning with my hilariously inappropriate keynote (and can I say, thank goodness the audio recording was turned off? Now the rest of the world will have to imagine how inappropriate I got.), and then did a query workshop in the afternoon.

A selfie from the evening party, me with HWG President Pamela Hutchins. She's a bundle of energy!

A selfie from the evening party, me with HWG President Pamela Hutchins. She’s a bundle of energy!

In between sessions, people came up to me asking for writing advice. I never know what to say – where you are on your writing journey really decides which bit of advice will be most helpful. But I read this article today, at The Storyteller’s Inkpot, by Jane Resh Thomas, and I think it might be the best, most helpful, succinct writing advice I’ve seen in a long while. 

Do what she says, and you’ll rock it.

Oh, also! In Nightingale’s Nest news, the first line of that very book was one of those featured in the Publisher’s Weekly Shelftalker blog here! Very cool.

And, as promised, here’s some of the text to the starred review for NEST from the Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books!  And a link to it, if you’re curious. :)

Magical realism meets coming of age in this sensitive and haunting novel, with the relentless, eroding effects of family tragedy in full relief. Sympathetic but not saccharine, Loftin’s portrayal of Little John, with his tremendous sense of responsibility and his unflagging feeling of guilt, as well as his need for love and acceptance, will resonate with readers who carry life’s burdens. The otherworldly Gayle will captivate their imaginations as she flutters in and out of reach … but it’s Little John who will capture their hearts. Read this aloud and have both boys and girls alike utterly enraptured.

UTTERLY ENRAPTURED, do you hear? Oh my gosh, I’m gonna go faint now.

Write well, friends!

 

TLA 2014: A Starry-Eyed Writer Reports Back

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April 14th, 2014 Posted 11:49 am

Oh, the wonder that is the Texas Library Association’s mammoth annual conference! I only had two days there this week (due to other conferences I will blog about soon, which were also superb), but in those two days I lived a lifetime.

Okay, well I picked up enough books to LAST a lifetime anyway. :) And met some amazing people, and saw some dear friends. Here’s a string of pictures, in case you are curious as to who exactly goes to these things…

Debut YA author Sara Kocek signing her wonderful book!

Debut YA author Sara Kocek signing her wonderful book!

I snagged an ARC of Varian Johnson's new MG, The Great Green Heist!

I snagged an ARC of Varian Johnson’s new MG, The Great Green Heist!

I attempted to take a respectable selfie of me and author/illustrator Don Tate, but Kari Anne Holt and Ruth McNally Barshaw photobombed us.

I attempted to take a respectable selfie of me and author/illustrator Don Tate, but Kari Anne Holt and Ruth McNally Barshaw photobombed us.

The utterly lovely Cynthia Leitich Smith busy at one of her signings!

The utterly lovely Cynthia Leitich Smith busy at one of her signings!

A new friend! Author of Fat Angie, e. E. Charlton-Trujillo.

A new friend! Author of Fat Angie, e. E. Charlton-Trujillo.

Oh, the company I keep! Here's a quick snap of the panel I sat on: Deb Caletti, Leila Howland, Jennifer E. Smith, and Elizabeth Eulberg. They were wonderful!

Oh, the company I keep! Here’s a quick snap of the panel I sat on: Deb Caletti, Leila Howland, Jennifer E. Smith, and Elizabeth Eulberg. They were wonderful!

Fun! I got to meet an agent-sister, Cora Carmack, who writes the spiciness. :)

Fun! I got to meet an agent-sister, Cora Carmack, who writes the spiciness. :)

Victoria Scott and Greg Leitich Smith signing at the Texas Book Festivals booth.

Victoria Scott and Greg Leitich Smith signing at the Texas Book Festivals booth.

I snagged a copy of Bethany Hegedus' newest, Grandfather Gandhi. So good...

I snagged a copy of Bethany Hegedus’ newest, Grandfather Gandhi. So good…

A very blurry picture, as we were at fancy schmancy dinner - but here is the truly gifted author Jacqueline Woodson. A highlight of the week was spending time with her.

A very blurry picture, as we were at fancy schmancy dinner – but here is the truly gifted author Jacqueline Woodson. A highlight of the week was spending time with her.

And the most fun aprt of all? Spending time with rock star librarians like Diane Collier! Oh, the conversations we had, the jokes we made, the blisters we wore on our heels hiking around the convention center for days...

And the most fun aprt of all? Spending time with rock star librarians like Diane Collier! Oh, the conversations we had, the jokes we made, the blisters we wore on our heels hiking around the convention center for days…

 

And that was my two-day TLA recap in photos! It was a great week. Speaking of which, I should probably go write up a  post about that other starred review now…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Houston Writers Guild Conference and Other Loveliness!

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March 30th, 2014 Posted 8:05 am

Hi, friends!

I am the very busiest of bees these days, with all sorts of conferences coming up! First off, I am going to be doing an author signing (and sing and tap dance, or whatever they have planned for me) at the American Booksellers’ Children’s Institute in San Antonio on April 7.

I’m sort of overwhelmed at the number of Nikki’s Favorite Authors who will be there, and it is ALL I can do not to take a suitcase full of books to get signed by them. But I have to remember, I am technically one of the fancy people at this, and I have to act cool.

Oh, wow, I wish I knew how to be even slightly cool.

Even more challenging (considering my lack of coolness) will be the Texas Library Association’s annual meeting (also in San Antonio), that same week! If you’re there, you can find me signing books in the exhibit hall on Thursday, April 10, with a panel appearance at 2 pm. (I’m also going to some Very Fancy Dinners, and I MUST remember my table manners. Thank goodness for the Texas YA Round Table’s margarita night. I never have to remind myself which fork goes with nachos.)

And then…. the super fun begins. That very Saturday, April 12 (MY BIRTHDAY BY THE WAY), I will be the keynote speaker at one of my favorite places in Texas – the Houston Writers’ Guild Annual Conference!

I have prepared a speech that will have people laughing so hard – at me – that certain necessary bodily functions may be compromised. As you all know, I have no shame. Attendees of this conference will find out exactly how little shame that is, when I read from my very earliest drafts of… Azrael’s Redemption, an unfinished novel about a Scottish lass and a fallen angel who, um… can’t get it up. And I’m not talking about flying here.

It is some of the worst writing in the history of words. (And also, given his “problem,” lacking a crucial aspect of that thing steamy romances are pretty much required to have.)

I’m also teaching a 45 minute query workshop there, so if you’re getting close to sending something to an agent or editor – or even writing back cover copy for your book -  you should probably be there as well!

Some very lovely news regarding reviews for Nightingale’s Nest is about to come out, so I’ll post back in a day or three when I can share. Until then? I’m writing again, strangely NOT on my middle grade WIP! Up until midnight last night, swept away by the gruesome YA I started last year. I’m ready to finish it! Or it’s ready. I think it will be strange, and frightening, and very, very different from my other books. But the story has captivated me again, and I must finish it. MUST.

Happy Writing, Friends!

Links to Internet Loveliness:

A 5,4,3,2,1 Blog Post on Colby Sharp’s blog about Nightingale’s Nest. I loved writing this interview!

A VERY COOL Advanced Writing Workshop at the Writing Barn in Austin, with Jo Knowles and Robin Wasserman. This looks stunning: Discovering the Beating Heart of Your Book.

Nightingale’s Nest Launch Party and Blog Tour Updates

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February 24th, 2014 Posted 7:44 pm

Oh, friends, I am one tired little bird.

But it’s  the lovely kind of tired you get from having one of your life’s great dreams come true, so I am NOT complaining! I am happy tired.

I spent the weekend planning for and throwing two parties for the release of my novel, Nightingale’s Nest. The first one was at phenomenal indie Austin bookstore, Bookpeople, and I was utterly overwhelmed by the number of friends and family who came out to help launch this book.

Nightingales_Nest_Launch-7929-L

My agent, Suzie Townsend, flew down from New York, and friends and librarian-friends drove in from places as far as San Antonio, Houston, Hico and Waco, to attend. What a gift!

My agent and me!

My agent and me!

 

I gave a talk that included thanking the teachers I named in my book. A highlight of the event was being able to tell the world (or at least 200+ members of it) about these glorious teachers, and how transformational they are in the lives of their students.

One of the best: Mrs. Hilsabeck, my Senior English teacher

One of the best: Mrs. Hilsabeck, my Senior English teacher

Two more of the special guests/teachers, and some lovely friends!

Two more of the special guests/teachers, and some lovely friends!

 

There was cake, cookies, tons of other foods and drinks, nests to be built, and a dear face painter friend, Melissa Morgan of Woo Who, who did some of the most gorgeous birds and feathers I’ve ever seen!

Melissa hard at work transforming children into birds!

Melissa hard at work transforming children into birds!

I signed tons of books, and then raced over to the Writing Barn for a writer party, thrown to say thank you to the incredible Austin kidlit community for helping me find my way into my life’s work.

(Need more pics? Check out Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Event Recap! Thanks, Cyn!)

Now, the fun is over… and the new work is beginning! I have the first few chapters of my super secret project started, and I’m sending revisions back and forth on WISH GIRL to my editor, and I have some conferences and school visits, and it’s all glorious and good.

What bliss! What a gift it is to have good work that you love, and the chance to celebrate that work with your friends.

Thank you, friends.

Now, today’s blog tour stop is at the amazing Charlotte’s Library blog. She has posted an excerpt, a giveaway, and an incredibly thoughtful review. I love reviews – and I’d love to hear what any of you have to say about Nightingale’s Nest, when and if you get to The End!

 

 

 

 

 

If the Question is SCBWI, the Answer is YES.

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February 9th, 2014 Posted 1:32 pm

I just spent a day and a half in the company of some of the most talented, resourceful, creative, highly-skilled writers and illustrators in Texas (although some of them were from the Northeast, Oklahoma, California, etc., drawn into the vortex of awesomeness that is the Austin SCBWI). I learned so much, and met so many people who are working on so many cool projects, I can’t even start on the list here. But a few highlights of the Austin Annual SCBWI Conference were:

1. Matt de la Pena‘s incredibly raw, funny, inspirational keynote speech. He gave everything form great life advice to great writing advice. (Here’s one, re: success: “As a writer, you always want more. That can make you crazy, or you can just own it, and go write the best book you can.”)

2. Sitting on a great School Visits panel with rockstar authors Don Tate, Liz Garton Scanlon, and P. J. Hoover. The new “pro track” at this years’ conference was extremely helpful for soon-to-be or recently published authors. I predict this track will grow and start to attract more established authors from farther away, if they keep the level of programming going. (I WISH I’d been able to hear the talk we gave when I was first starting out! Would have been hugely helpful.)

3. Meeting new writers from the area, and critiquing some amazing manuscripts. Always one of the highlights of any conference – laying eyes on old and new friends, and on new writing! So much fun.

4. Sitting in on Liz Garton Scanlon’s Rhyming Picture Book Workshop. Except now I might start doing that. I’m not sure that would be in anyone’s best interest. Maybe I should go lie down and press a cool, damp cloth on my rhyme-fevered brow. :)

It was, as always, a lovely conference, run by some of the very best volunteers in the business. Hooray for Austin SCBWI!

So, if the question is “Should I join SCBWI?” The answer is YES!

And if you want to join, there are monthly meetings – you don’t have to wait until next year’s conference.

Extra Loveliness:

Austin author and NYT best-seller Chris Barton is doing a short interview and giveaway of a signed copy of Nightingale’s Nest! Click here, and scroll down to sign up in the big yellow box. Thanks, Chris!

Brittney Breakey over at Author Turf has an interview up where I share the naughtiest thing I ever did in school, and what I would change about Nightingale’s Nest if I could! Brittney, what is it about your blog that I always overshare? Ah, regret. :)

And Publisher’s Weekly has a review up for Nightingale’s Nest as well. Yay!

Now, back to writing. And preparing for the Launch of NEST! Or a nap. Hmmmm. Which one should I do first?

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…….

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. :)

 

 

Author Visit Time: Happiness is Hico, Texas

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October 9th, 2013 Posted 12:16 pm

So far in my writing career, I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself, my work, and my audience of middle grade readers. But this week, I discovered something about my home state.

It all started when I was invited by the truly lovely Marre Brister, librarian/superstar at Hico Elementary, to visit her school in Hico, Texas.

IMG_2608

Superstar Librarians make me happy!

Superstar Librarians make me happy!

First off, I had no idea where Hico was. Truly, I’d lived in the Hill Country my whole life and never heard of it. And now all I want to do is go back there. The place itself was darling, with immaculately restored early 1900′s buildings, giant murals, and cozy cafes tucked in between cute shops. The town has a motto, posted on the side of the road when you drive into town: “Hico, Texas: Where Everybody is Somebody!” How lovely is that?

And one student's shirt had a very different, hilarious motto!

And one student’s shirt had a very different, hilarious motto!

The school was gorgeous, the students attentive and excited, asking some of the best questions ever… and the librarian, Marre (shown here with her son, an avid 2nd-grade reader!), made me feel exceptionally welcome.

Marre and son, cutest kid in Hico!

Marre and son, cutest kid in Hico!

In the goodie bag she put together, Marre included a gift certificate for a piece of pie and a cup of coffee at the Koffee Kup cafe, for a snack on the way out of town.

I didn’t think my day could have gotten better… but as it turns out, it was true. Pie does make everything better.

My new motto.

My new motto.

I’m planning a road trip back soon! There are 13 kinds of pie I wasn’t able to sample, and a chocolate truffle factory (Wiseman House) I didn’t have time to explore, and a bunch of kids I’m going to miss! Thank you, Hico Elementary! You made my week so much brighter.

I have one chocolate truffle left... wait, no. They're all gone now. :)

I have one chocolate truffle left… wait, no. They’re all gone now. :)

More News: Congratulations to my friends Sara Kocek (Promise Me Something) and Amy Rose Capetta (Entangled), on the release of their debut novels! The event at Bookpeople was lovely and memorable. And the books are incredible!

Hooray for Amazing Books!

Hooray for Amazing Books!

Oh, and for those of you keeping track, I’m finishing the latest revision of my third book… today! I am ready for the next project. It will be a very different sort of book indeed. (Cue evil laughter…)

 

Writer Friends with Great Books: Lori Ann Stephens

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September 17th, 2013 Posted 1:33 pm

Every once in a while, a friend of mine – either online or real life – sends me a manuscript to critique or a new book to read. I almost always find myself holding my breath as I open to the first pages and begin. Will it be good? Horrible? Great? Will finishing it be like eating a mountain of goat poo? (By the way, we now have goats at my house, so there may be a lot of goat references from now on. Be warned.)

Or will the novel in front of me catch me by the throat and not let me go until that very last page is turned, and will I be happy – so happy! – for my friend, who has written this amazing thing?

Like I was this week when I read Lori Ann Stephens’ debut YA, Some Act of Vision.

Some Act of Vision by Lori Ann Stephens. No goat poo in sight. ALL AWESOMENESS.

Some Act of Vision by Lori Ann Stephens. No goat poo in sight. ALL AWESOMENESS.

(Published by ASD Publishing – and out today! Go celebrate with Lori here.)

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

After ten years of ballet lessons, Jordan Walker has finally landed her first principal role in Romeo and Juliet. Sweeter yet, “Romeo” has asked her to the May Fling Ball at Winston High. But a massive Texas earthquake triggered by the fracking activity nearby tears apart the community and Jordan’s future as a dancer. The Walker family survives the earthquake, but wake up the next morning utterly invisible.

On the run from a military with nefarious plans, Jordan and her family are forced to abandon their old lives and flee to Galveston. It isn’t until she meets Caleb, a blind musician, that Jordan dares to hope again. And the more their secret friendship develops, the more Jordan understands the danger she’s placed everyone in.

I had a great time reading this book, and I raced through it. Fast-paced and fascinating, I couldn’t stop reading. I loved the way Lori handled Jordan’s relationship with her little brother, and the love story with Caleb.

Some Act of Vision is great – and I see wonderful things in Lori’s future as a YA writer!