One of my favorite parts of being a mom is reading aloud to my kids. Even on the worst days, a good bedtime story (or lunchtime story, whatever) makes everything sparkly and wonderful. And you know what one of my favorite parts of being a writer is, especially while doing school visits?
You guessed it: reading aloud.
So when I learned last year that there’s such a thing as World Read Aloud Day, and that the amazing powerhouse author Kate Messner had a sign-up for authors to read from their books to classrooms across the country on that day, and that *I* could be one of those authors??? That led to one of the most fun writerly days ever. I Skyped with classrooms in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, and beyond. (Beyond=I forget where else.) It was super fun!
And it’s coming back again, on March 5. So, make sure to read out loud to someone that day – your kid, spouse, friend, gerbil – and if you’re a teacher, principal, or librarian? Don’t wait! Contact me or one of the other authors on Kate’s amazing list to get a FREE Skype visit for your group of kids.
It’ll make everything sparkly and wonderful, I promise.
Picture Book Ideas for World Read-Aloud Day (tested on my kids):
1. Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
2. Good Night, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas
3. Battle Bunny by Mac Barnett and Jon Scieska.
What stories do YOU recommend?
PS – The winner of my paperback was Christine Sarmel! Congratulations! Send me your physical address and the book will be on its way.
Hooray! It’s the release day for my debut novel in paperback. I’m so excited – I love the thought that more kids might be able to read my (slightly? extremely?) creepy fairy tale retelling. To attract new readers, my awesome publisher decided to give it a new cover. (And the artist Gilbert Ford, had done some of my most favorite covers in recent memory, so SCORE!)
The new paperback cover!
True Story: They had some trouble deciding on a new cover design. Finally, my amazingly sweet editor sent me an email asking if I had any ideas. Um, I did not. So I asked my then 10 year old son if HE had any ideas. He did. And the new cover? Pretty much his ideas, with some added flair. My kid is AWESOME. The back cover is also cool, with pics of the characters, candy, reviews…
Hey, what? You want to SEE the back cover? Then leave a comment, and I will send ONE lucky winner (US residents only please) a copy of my paperback! And, you know what? If you live in the US, and you send me an email to nikki @ nikkiloftin DOT com with your physical address, I will send you TEN stickers with the new cover… and maybe more things, too! (Spontaneity! It’s expensive but fun!) The clock strikes at midnight on Monday, January 20 on this one – so sign up soon.
Can you tell I’m excited? VERY.
And after you enter the giveaway, hop on over to the blog for one of the BEST bookstores, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, to read my extremely personal, scandalous tell-all interview… okay, maybe not tell-ALL … And if you happen to live in Seattle, they should have some of those lovely new cover stickers and stuff later this week, too! So ask. A huge thanks to SMB for featuring me on their blog!
Um, I’m going to post some other cool things here, because I had some nice stuff appear on the Internet this week, and I want to find it later, on those days when terrible reviews roll in and I question my very existence.(These days will come – they always do. Nice to be prepared, yes?)
Here, Future Nikki. Read THIS.
And now read THIS AWESOME THING.
Now get back to writing. ALL OF YOU!
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.
Merry Christmas! And an especially merry one to Erica and Lori, whose names were drawn by my eleven year-old son to win copies of my next book! (Now, you both need to send me your email addresses. )
(I know, I was only going to give away one copy, but I’m feeling the spirit of Christmas this morning.)
Lori and Erica, I hope you enjoy Nightingale’s Nest. And anyone else who entered, didn’t win, but would still like some swag? I will send stickers to you if you email me your snail mail address.
Ho ho ho! Now, off to wrestle that Hyperbole and a Half book away from my teenager…
In early December, I found out something rather remarkable, to me anyway.
My next book, Nightingale’s Nest – you know that one I wrote a couple of years ago, and knew no one would publish (too quiet, too weird, too Texan, too literary)? But I had to write it anyway, because it was demanding to be written, and I couldn’t rest until I had done it? That book I loved so much, it made all my other books jealous?
That book got THIS. A STAR!!!
Turns out, Kirkus didn’t think Nest was too weird. They thought it was (an) “Unusual, finely crafted story of loss, betrayal and healing.”
Pretty much made my Christmas merry and bright!
So, to celebrate, I’m doing a giveaway of one Advance Reader Copy of Nightingale’s Nest. All you have to do is leave a comment here – “Merry Christmas” will do just fine! (And put your email address, too, so I can notify you if you win!) *Bonus: If you leave your favorite Christmas memory/tradition/story in the comments, I’ll give you TWO entries.
Then I’ll have my kid draw a name on Christmas Eve, and mail the winner a late Christmas gift on Boxing Day (12/26). Merry Christmas! May your skies and eyes be filled with wonder… and stars.
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.
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!
The first book is set in Peru. Look at that amazing cover!
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.
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.
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?
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!!! 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!
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.
Next up was the Texas Book Festival. Lynne Kelly, author of the prize-winning MG novel, CHAINED, came to visit me and my goats.
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. 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, 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 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…
After I was done being Fancy People, I got to hang out with some truly Famous Fancy Ridiculously Talented Authors.
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!
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.
The Texas Book Festival is upon us! Flee, flee! No, wait. Don’t flee.* Unless you’re running off to the official site to decide whether to see R. L Stine, Lemony Snicket, Sherman Alexie, Katherine Applegate, Anne Ursu, Claire Legrand… oh, mercy, I’ll never have time to see them all! But, by the power of coffee, I will TRY!
And if you’re there, and happen to want some champagne (and maybe a signed book? Full of scariness and sweets?), I will also be appearing at the Writer’s League of Texas booth (#415) from 12-2 pm on Saturday, as one of the winners of the WLT Book Awards. This is totally cool, and I am super-excited. But please don’t leave me alone at the booth, dear ones. I will have chocolate for you if you visit me.
Now, on to other topics. I started a new book yesterday. Um, no not the one I said I was going to start working on last time. (Pesky good intentions and all…) I got to daydreaming, and came up with this idea for a Middle Grade novel that will be funny… and ultimately tragic… and as controversial as anything I can think of.
I won’t tell you what it’s about. Let’s just say, it hasn’t been done yet, as far as I know. (I WILL call my Friend Who Knows All Kidlit Things soon and ask her if she’s read one like it, of course. Due diligence, yadda yadda.)
I wrote pages of it yesterday and today, and I keep thinking “they’re not going to let me do this.” (“They” being the People in New York who get to decide. My husband also thinks this may be the case, so I’m not being 100% paranoid.)
But the thing is, I don’t write for publication all the time. When it comes down to it, even if a manuscript goes nowhere, I still had the excitement and experience of writing it.
When it comes down to it, this is one of the stories I have to tell, taken both from my own deep dark past and our messed-up American present. I can’t NOT tell it. The protagonist of this one? Is pretty much me, aged ten. Kid Nikki wants me to tell this one.
So, I will.
But it terrifies me, a bit. Of course, I’ve come to enjoy the feeling. It’s like a literary roller coaster that I keep strapping myself into, no seat belts installed in the carriages, no operator to pull the brake…
It’s close my eyes and go time.
Write well, friends, and remember to let yourselves be a little terrified.
And Happy Halloween!
* I was thinking of what I do every time SXSW hits town. Stayin’ safe out here in the boondocks…
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.
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!
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!
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.
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. :)
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!
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…)
Every once in a while, I get asked to do an interview, ostensibly so readers can learn more about me. And sometimes, when the questions are perfectly insightful and meaningful and wonderful… I learn more about myself in the process.
This was the very first time I was asked about my first love in an interview, and I answered honestly. Coincidentally – serendipitously? – I am going back to my childhood backyard this very morning, to take a picture of that first love, so I can talk to kids about it when my love story to it comes out next February. A la recherche du temps perdu, indeed…
I hope you go to Kristina Perez‘s glorious blog, The Madeleine Project, and read my interview, or one of the many others she has there. (Isn’t she wonderfully clever to have come up with this idea? Thank you Kristina, for allowing me to answer your lovely questions.)