Nikki Loftin

Archive for the ‘People I Love’ Category

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

 

 

A Celebration of Bridget Zinn + POISON Giveaway

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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.

Photo from Bridget Zinn POISON book launch

PJ Hoover, Barrett Dowell (Bridget’s husband), me, Cory Putnam Oakes, and Mary Zuniga Johnson (Bridget’s cousin).

 

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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Splendid Events in May!

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May 6th, 2013 Posted 12:21 pm

Hiya!

I’m back, just to show a couple of pictures from recent events, and share a couple of things I read that I thought were amazing.

First, I’ve been having fun – writing, yes, but also doing some short talks, interviews, and school visits!

I did a Skype school visit with a wonderful group of kids in Manor ISD, and their lovely librarian Micheal Harper. Thanks, Ms. Harper, for bringing me into your library and letting me chat with those great kids!

I had a lovely time last week presenting to the Austin/Houston Society of Layerists and Multimedia artists on creativity and not giving up. I spoke, signed books, and had an excellent brunch as well. Thanks, gals. (Here are a few of the members with me!)

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A few days ago, I had the chance to present to a lovely group of kids at the Austin Jewish Academy’s book fair. Some of the kids in the audience were quite young, so I toned down the scary bits… but I don’t think they would have cared! I also talked about other books I’ve loved recently that were for sale at the fair: One For The Murphys, The False Prince, Gustav Gloom and the Peopletakers, The One and Only Ivan, and more. I love seeing kids get excited about books, don’t you?

Here I am with Sharyn Vane, the liaison who invited me to the AJA:

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And now for a couple of very good things! First, if you are a teacher or librarian, you’ve probably heard about Claire Legrand’s book, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. Well, she’s giving away TEN copies to celebrate the paperback launch! So hop on over to her blog and enter. I adore this book!

Next, the lovely Rebecca Behrens (author of the 2014 debut WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE), singled out my dear Principal Trapp on her “favorite villain” post on a new website for MG books. Thanks All For One and One Four Kidlit, and Rebecca, too!

I adore this post by the Penderwicks author Jeanne Birdsall. Touching, lovely, and so true. Books really do save lives – and childhoods.

Now, it’s back to the page for me. I’m a busy bee these days, and I gotta make the honey. Write well, friends!

Next up: School visits at Oak Hill and Wooldridge Elementaries, and… oh, did I mention? I’m going back to the AROHO Writing Retreat/Conference at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico this August! WOOHOO!

 

Cherry Blossom Days: Pre-Author Visit Pics from Japan

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April 7th, 2013 Posted 9:31 pm

I just spent a week in Wonderland! Well, Japan, actually – but I happened to arrive at the height of cherry blossom (sakura) season, and I’m pretty sure Wonderland has nothing on trees that snow pink blossoms, leaving a carpet of petals on the ground.

Pink petal snow. Magical!

I went to Tokyo to visit my friend Emily, and also to do some school visits on the local Yokota Air Force Base.

Emily, me, and two English-speaking volunteer tour guides at a shrine in Tokyo

Honestly? So many wonderful things happened on this trip, I don’t know where to start! I’m not sure the cherry blossoms were the highlight – the visits to Yokota West Elementary, Joan K. Mendel Elementary, and Yokota Middle School were by far the most amazing experiences I’ve had in a long time.

Those kids! Those remarkable, talented, engaged, excited kids! I get all warm and squishy just thinking about them. And do not even get me started on the teachers and librarians…

I will never be able to thank the Middle School librarian, Cheryl Johnson, and her cohort, Annette Holladay, enough for bringing me over and organizing the whole thing. But I’m going to try!

Cheryl Johnson, Librarian Extraordinaire! And some Author Lady.

Today’s blog post is some of the pictures of my days in Japan prior to the school visits. The next three will be dedicated to the three schools I visited while I was there. I hope you enjoy the weird and the wonderful – and author friends? If anyone ever asks you to do school visits in Japan? SAY YES!!! The readers over there are far more amazing than the blossoms.

 

Everything is Japan is cute. It's the law. Even trains must be cute.

Even Buddha statues must be cute, it seems.See what I mean?

 

My sad attempt at taking arty pics of statues.

Hey, wait! Somebody forgot their shoes!

Oh, never mind. They're his.

 

More cuteness: Two "harajuku girls" in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo. They dress this way on weekends. LOVE!

Yeah, okay, it's all gorgeous,right? But I'm hungry. Hey, let's get some noodles!

Yum, noodles! But... wait... do those noodles have EYES??? AHH! Shirasu! Run!

Easter candy? Much better! Emma won't share...

But Gabe will! Emma and Gabe are some of the first readers I met in Japan (at an Easter party). Also, two of the most awesome!

More sakura blossoms and schools next time!

Sayonara, Friends! I miss Japan already. But I still have the jet lag – and the photos – to remember them by! Also, a lot of yummy Japanese candy. Moshi, anyone?

More in two days…

School Author Visit: University Edition

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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. :)

Wow! Those are really mature-looking school kids! But with excellent taste in literature.

 

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!

No surprise this woman has won a ton of teaching awards. She's amazing!

 

Do you see the cups of M&Ms, Skittles, and popcorn on the tables? Themed! Not shown: the gingerbread and lemonade.

Dr. Roser even made a slide with my picture next to a bowl of Moolennium Crunch ice cream. LOVE!

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!

 

Pictures of Writerly Goodness

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January 21st, 2013 Posted 3:57 pm

I’ve been having so much fun the past few weeks! Too much fun to update my blog, honestly. But here I am, with pictures to make you jealous… or inspire you. Or to stare at when you’re supposed to be working. (Am I getting closer?)

So, this month I’ve been doing Official Writer Things. First off, the Lodge of Death Writing Retreat, where I spent time with some amazing writers (who are also some of my favorite people in the world).

I need fabulous author Jenny Moss to live next door to me forever. Love her!

Samantha Clark and Jo Whittemore look appropriately impressed at Salima Alikhan's reading.

Writers in the front... dead things in the back. So much death at this retreat...

We ate, we drank, we wrote, we read… we stared at dead things.

With some lipstick, it could work as a metaphor for some of my old manuscripts.

Then, I spoke on the Third Thursday panel for the Writer’s League of Texas at Bookpeople with Brian Yansky, Patrice Sarath, and Wendy Muse Greenwood.

Brian is the one on the far left.

Also present (as moral support) was the super fabulous Cynthia Leitich Smith, who hates it when people post photos of her on their blogs.

But it's such a great picture. How can I resist?!

 

And to wrap up, I presented at a local elementary school for two fifth grade classes, who were amazingly polite, attentive, and prepared.

Barton Hills is awesome!

I have a bunch of other events coming up in the next two weeks, including a school visit in League City, the Montgomery County Book Festival, and… oh, I don’t know, my line edits for Nightingale’s Nest to finish?

BUSY ME! I hope you’re having as much fun as I am, busy or not. Write well!

Good Friends, Great Books: Lindsey Scheibe Cover Reveal!

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November 2nd, 2012 Posted 6:09 am

One of the coolest things about the writing life is the writer friends who come along with it. I met one of these amazing people, Lindsey Scheibe, at a SCBWI monthly meeting and critique session a few years back. She read from a manuscript she was working on, and I knew right then I wanted her for a critique partner – and a friend!

We’ve shared tears, laughter, soup and manuscripts – and now it is my great pleasure to share the cover of her upcoming debut novel, Riptide, with you!

Isn’t it gorgeous? It should be one of your Must Reads for next summer!

Here’s the super-short pitch:

A seventeen-year-old is training for a big surf competition — her ticket out of an abusive household — and trying desperately to keep from falling in love with her best friend.

Congratulations, Lindsey!

Small Signings

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September 25th, 2012 Posted 8:07 pm

One of the things I’ve heard other writers fret about is the dreaded poorly-attended signing. From what I’ve picked up, this usually happens in a town pretty far from the author’s home, at a bookstore that either didn’t advertise the event, scheduled it against some major community festival/football game/shindig, or is a cursed venue for some reason (maybe they offended a zombie priestess or the local coven).

I know I’ll have one or more of these in my future. But recently, I’ve been a part of two small signings – intentionally small – that were sheer joy as an author to attend! Both of these were house parties, hosted by a person I knew well, and to which she invited her close circle of friends. People brought their own books for me to sign, and the hostesses provided a few more (which at least one of the gals bought from our local indie, Bookpeople! Yay!). There was wine, food, reading, signing, and wonderful questions in an intimate setting.

I know time is an real issue for authors (you see how spotty my blogging is getting? That’s for a reason, folks! So… busy…), and large events can seem like the best use of that precious time. But those are the places my friends warned me about – big, impersonal at times, and not at all sure to draw a crowd.

I think making time for small signings may be a very good idea! Want one-on-one time with your readers, and their parents/teachers? Try one! You’re guaranteed the most comfortable chair in the house, and you might even get a sidewalk chalk drawing to welcome you in!

 

Welcome to Splendid Academy!

Welcome to Splendid Academy indeed.

 

The artist!

The author and the artist

A Splendid spread!

A Splendid spread!

EAT! says the sand

EAT! Wait, don't listen to the sand!

First at the party

First come, first served! Hmmm... that sounded suspicious.

 

So, new authors out there? Every once in a while? Go small. (No matter what I said last week.)

Places to Win my Book!

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August 30th, 2012 Posted 4:28 pm

Hi, Friends!

Well, I’m as busy as a bee these days – and I haven’t forgotten I promised you pictures of the Big Launch. But you may have to wait. SO MUCH TO DO.

I’m doing a talk on queries, pitches, and synopses at the local SCBWI monthly meeting on September 8, 10 a.m.

Then, the following Saturday, I’m doing this!

Cool, huh? I get to read to kids, and support an amazing literacy initiative!

In addition to these things, I’m writing guest blogs and trying to remember to pick my kids up from the bus stop. Hey, I remembered one of them today, so that’s good, right?

Never mind. So, anyway, in the Land of Free Things… places to win my book this week include:

The Mother and Daughter Reading Team blog! (Um, there are NO entries yet here. So, I would think GO HERE FIRST!)

YA Reads!

I Read Banned Books!

So, what are you waiting for? Go win free books!

(And I’d like to wish a wonderful launch week to Apocalypsie Claire Legrand, author of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, one of my favorite MG reads of the year! Read it now, unless you’re phobic of bugs, in which case DO NOT. Happy Book Birthday, Claire!)

 

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. :)