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!
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:
Rode a coal-powered steam train down a mountain
Free climbed ENORMOUS boulders (well, okay, not enormous)
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.
I am over-the-moon excited to show you the cover for my next book, NIGHTINGALE’S NEST, today!
Honestly, I had no idea I’d be posting about this so soon. But the lovely folks at Razorbill gave the go-ahead, and I can’t wait to share. This is, after all, the book of my heart, and I think the cover they came up with is stunningly gorgeous.
So… just to delay a bit, let me tell you about the book. Here’s the back cover copy from Amazon:
A powerful novel about friendship and family that calls to mind Bridge to Terabithia
Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or “Little John” as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree.
There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties.
But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy.
Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, Nightingale’s Nest is an unforgettable novel about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a girl with the gift of healing in her voice.
Intrigued? I hope so! Because right after that, right there on the Amazon page, are the BLURBS! I have to admit, when my agent, editor, and I started asking our favorite authors if they would blurb my upcoming book, I’m pretty sure we didn’t expect them all to come back with amazing quotes (any one of which would make an awesome tattoo, if I went in for optional pain).
But they did all write loveliness. Words I read and re-read, feeling as overwhelmed with gratitude as I can ever remember.
Here are some snippets from most of the authors:
PRAISE FOR NIGHTINGALE’S NEST:
“An extraordinary read—I had to tear myself away from it.”—Katherine Catmull, author of Summer and Bird
“Perfectly captures the challenges of growing up and dealing with loss. Get ready to have your heart touched.”—Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities
“Tugs and tears at the reader’s heart. . . . lovely and magical.”—Bethany Hegedus, author of Truth with a Capital T and Between Us Baxters
“Riveting. . . . This is a book you’ll long remember.”—Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of One for the Murphys
“Loftin’s eye for strange beauty in unexpected places often takes the reader’s breath away.”—Claire Legrand, author of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
“Will haunt your soul—and lift your heart.”—Kimberley Griffiths Little, author of The Healing Spell and The Year the Butterflies Came
“A haunting, beautifully told story!”—Bobbie Pyron, author of The Dogs of Winter and A Dog’s Way Home
“The kind of book I wanted to read slowly.”—Shelley Moore Thomas, author of The Seven Tales of Trinket
“This is a work of tremendous heart.”—Anne Ursu, author of Breadcrumbs
I declare, I may swoon, just seeing them all together like that. All those talented friends and author folk! And they all loved my book! And the longer blurbs (yes, these amazingly talented authors sent LOTS of words) will be in the opening pages of the final book.
Which you can (cough, cough) pre-order on Amazon already, if you do that sort of thing.
Of course, it’s not going to arrive until February 20, so you may have to stare at the picture of the cover, and re-read those blurbs obsessively until that day. Or maybe that’s just me. (And yes, you too, Mom.)
Oh, the cover? Is it time to show you the COVER? It was created by Japanese genius Tsuji Megumi, if you’d like to know, who may or may not be a magical creature from the land of Perfect Art. So, so talented.
Drum roll please…
I love it all. The girl, the leaf letters, the colors, the mood… Definitely time to swoon.
So, what do YOU think?
GET READY FOR
The 2nd Annual
SUPER SWAG SUNDAY!!!
When: June 24th thru July 1st
Why: For a chance to win lots of cool promotional items signed by 42 of today’s best middle grade and young adult authors!
Win? Did you say WIN?
Every day for seven days, Laurisa’s blog will spotlight some of the most amazing new books for kids and teens! Monday thru Saturday visitors will be able to enter for chances to win one of 6 swag packs containing everything from signed bookmarks and postcards, to pins, pencils, totebags, stickers, key chains, lip balm, charms and more!
On the last day, SUPER SWAG SUNDAY
, one last MEGA SWAG PACK
will be given to one very lucky winner! This pack so far includes everything listed above PLUS:
1- hardbound copy of THE UNWANTEDS signed by author Lisa McMann
1- TEST TASTE charm bracelet
1- TOUCHING THE SURFACE T-shirt
1 – LOVE AND LEFTOVERS charm necklace
1 – SEND ME A SIGN guitar pick
1 – paperback copy of EVERTASTER: THE BUTTERSMITH’S GOLD signed by author Adam Sidwell
1- hardbound copy of THE SCORCH TRIALS signed by author James Dashner
1- hardbound copy of THE ALWAYS WARS signed by author Margaret Peterson Haddix
1 – OyMG! T-shirt
1 – Original Artwork Print from FISHTALE signed by author Catherine Masciola
1- LOSING IT water bottle signed by author Erin Fry
1 – hardbound copy of LOSING IT signed by the author
And more prizes are still being added to the pile!
So be sure to stop by laurisareyes.blogspot.com/
every day from June 24th thru July 1st
for plenty of chances to win. Stop by now and follow the blog to receive notifications of when the event starts posting.
See you then!
Happy Summer! It’s that time of year when some kids turn on the television for the next two months… and some start turning pages as fast as they can. Librarians all over have wonderful programs to keep kids reading. I’m doing some library summer book club visits to help promote in Texas – and on a wider stage… I’m pleased as punch to announce that my book, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, is one of the books on Kay Cassidy’s “The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest!” (Thanks, Kay!)
So, if you’re a librarian, a reader, or just interested in what this is all about, check out Kay’s page. And join the great hunt! Its’ free, it’s fun, and your kids may just put down the remote control long enough to fall in love with a book or two. (I’m off to mail a copy of my book to donate right now!)
Oklahoma is having some real troubles, y’all. I know lots of people may want to help, but don’t know what to do. Here’s one quick and easy way you can donate to American Red Cross Disaster Relief to help out – and you might even win one of the amazing books a whole bunch of authors have donated!
Click here to check out the amazing, generous, talented, and all around lovely Kate Messner’s blog post for directions to donate and be entered in the drawing. You can contribute $10 or up! You might win my book… or one of many dozens of others.
And let’s all keep Oklahoma in our thoughts. <3
Sorry for the slight delay on the winner announcement. I was enjoying the Memorial Day weekend with the kids… one of whom just drew a name out of a hat (okay, a popcorn bucket). And the winner of the new copy of POISON by Bridget Zinn is…
Hooray, Shelli! I know you’ll love this book. Shoot me an email and I’ll mail it to you.
Now, back to the New Novel. Have I ever told you people how much I love writing about magic?
A few years ago, when I was going through the process of looking for an agent and then an editor, I started noticing some names popping up over and over again on the websites and twitter feeds I haunted. (I’m pretty sure most of us do that — wannabe authors, I mean. We form a sort of virtual worldwide community, bonded together by the adversity of rejection and – finally, maybe – by success!)
One of the other authors I noticed, just about on the same career trajectory I was following, was Bridget Zinn.
I didn’t know much about her until I saw a tweet with her name in it. She had gotten her book deal, it turned out!
But the tweet was about a fundraiser. Because in the middle of all her great writing-related news, Bridget had also learned something else. She had cancer.
Her smiling face prompted me to bid on items in a silent auction to help with her medical bills. I offered up prayers and thoughts of healing for this smiling woman I’d never met – because I did know her, in a way. I knew her hopes and dreams were the same as mine, her path very similar. We were both almost there, almost to the shining moment of seeing our books on the shelves, our names on the spines, our stories in the hands of young readers.
And then Bridget, the effervescent librarian, writer, and new member of the kidlit tribe, died.
She would have been an Apocalypsie, a member of the supportive group of debut kidlit authors whose first books were slated to come out in the 2012 (the supposed end of the world, according to Mayan calendars). Her book was delayed a bit, understandably, and it came out in March of this year.
And it’s fantastic. POISON, her debut YA fantasy, is delightfully funny and fast-paced, the exact sort of book I buy for my myriad nephews and nieces. The sort of book kids fall in love with and hand around to all their friends at school.
When Bridget’s cousin asked me to take part in the Austin leg of POISON’s national book tour, at the amazing local indie bookstore, Bookpeople, I was honored and excited. A whole group of Austin authors came together to help launch Bridget’s book, to celebrate for her. To celebrate her.
I have given copies of her amazing book to libraries in Texas and Japan – and I’ll probably keep giving them! I adore this book.
But the copy I got at the Austin signing - filled with the names of Austin authors and a stamped signature of Bridget’s - means something more to me. I keep it near my writing desk for a reason. On those days when I feel like surfing the Internet or eating my weight in M&Ms instead of writing, seeing Bridget’s book reminds me that we don’t know how much time we have to fulfill our dreams. And when I open it, and see the names of the writers who came to support her life, and her work, I remember I’m not alone, no matter how solitary the writing life can feel.
The world is filled with stories to write, moments to savor them, and friends to help celebrate every step on the journey. And if we’re lucky, books like Bridget’s can fill that journey with laughter and delight.
If you would like a special signed copy from the Austin launch of POISON, they can be purchased from Bookpeople directly.
I’d like to invite you to celebrate Bridget’s life, her book, and the community of authors that launched her debut novel by giving away a copy of POISON. If you would like to enter, leave a comment about someone who has inspired you (A writer? A teacher?). Comments will be accepted until May 24, midnight CST. Names will be printed out, placed in a hat, and the winner drawn by my ten-year-old kid. (Let’s not get too fancy, people.) If the winner does not respond within 48 hours with a valid email address to the contest notification posted on my blog, another name will be drawn until someone who’s paying attention wins!
Oh, and North America only for this, please. Good luck!
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!)
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:
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!
Wow. I just finished my copy edits for Nightingale’s Nest (which will come out on February 20, 2014), and I am minutes away from beginning a new project.
I LOVE this part of writing. I also get lost in it, a bit, and that means I’ll be back to posting only once a week on this blog. I mean, really, I type with T-Rex fingers – I can only do so many words in a day!
So, my promised post to writers about traveling abroad for school visits will come later.
Today, I leave you with this link, in honor of Nightingale’s Nest. Have fun listening to a real-world nightingale! And I hope so much you will love my Nightingale, when you meet her.
In other news, I was delighted to be a part of the Austin launch of the late Bridget Zinn’s debut YA novel, POISON. Here’s a bit about the book – you should buy a copy or two! It’s delightful and fun, funny and hopeful. I adored it.
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
And here’s a picture from the Bookpeople POISON launch last weekend – with Patricia Hoover, Cory Putnam Oakes, Bridget’s husband Barrett Dowell, and her cousin Mary Zuniga.
PJ Hoover, Barrett, me, Cory, and Mary!
Now, I’m off to write some Very Scary Parts of my next project. YAY!
As promised, I’ve saved some of the very best from my author visits in Japan for last.
When I arrived at Yokota West Elementary School, I knew something was up. The kids who saw me in the parking lot started squealing and shouting, “It’s Nikki Loftin! Look, it’s Nikki Loftin!!!” Think if Harry Potter walked into the house elves’ annual convention. Yeah, like that. I could not stop giggling.
It kept going, and then I met the incredible librarian at YWES, Elaine Stephens, and I was the star struck one! She’s a bundle of pure energy and joy, wrapped up in an elegant librarian suit.
She had prepped the students so well for my visit, they came ready to learn, eager to listen, and extremely knowledgeable about me and my books. The day was jam-packed with fun, presentations, an amazing Japanese bento box lunch, and then – the piece de resistance – a visit to the fifth grade wing.
I was gobsmacked. The fifth grade teachers had transformed their wing of the school into a mini- Splendid Academy. I walked through the purple curtain and was greeted with the sight of table upon table of sweets and baked yummies. And than I was tackle hugged by a group of kids, one of whom whispered, “Thank you for writing this book, Ms. Nikki Loftin. This is the best day of my life.”
Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly…
I could see why. They had all read the book, figured out the “rules” of Splendid Academy and applied them. For instance, all the kids were allowed to use their technology (I have never had so many iPad pictures taken of me in my life!), they were free to leave the classrooms whenever they wanted, lessons were voluntary, and eating sweets was the rule of the day.
Okay, I guess I would have had the same reaction if an author had been even slightly responsible for bringing that amount of awesomeness into my classroom.
Supplies for creating your own candy playground models
Here are the rest of the pictures. It was even more amazing than you’ll see here – I’m not allowed to show faces of kids on this blog, and the faces – the smiles! – made the whole event worth every hour of jet lag. I will never forget this day, or this trip. What an experience! An author’s dream come true.
Lessons taken from the book…
Calligraphy station: Copying Ms. Morrigan’s handwriting.
Design your own tapestry rug, like the one in Lorelei’s classroom.
A cake of Splendid Academy! Principal Trapp would approve.
Tables of sweets!
No, seriously. This was their ASSIGNMENT, to make this stuff!
I’m getting very hungry…
Hungry? NOT a problem in this classroom.
Lovely presents from YWES! (And a doll from all 3 schools – more on that next post!)
My heart felt pretty much like this after this school visit!
I’ll do a final wrap-up post for other writers about school visits next time – and show off my amazing “sayonara doll” that was given to me as a parting gift. But first, copy edits are due! And Bridget Zinn’s book launch party at Bookpeople is tonight! And my kids want lunch AGAIN. (Honestly, they want to be fed every single day! Sheesh.)
More in a few days…