Nikki Loftin

Archive for the ‘People I Love’ 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. :)

 

 

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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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!