Tornadoes and Tigers: My Most Exciting School Visit Week Yet

Wow!

I may be the luckiest author in the world. Well, okay, in MY neck of the woods, anyway. But I couldn’t believe how wonderful last week in Edmond and Oklahoma City was. I took a ton of pictures at the schools I visited.

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On Monday I was in Edmond at Centennial Elementary, with the powerhouse librarian Michele Scheffe.

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She made me feel incredibly welcome, with her decorated school, gifts of candy, and special treats for the kids who came in to chat with me at lunch and in the writing workshop.

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(All you can eat candy, kids. You should ALL beg your librarians to invite me to your school. Sometimes it results in an ALL CANDY DAY. Just sayin.’)

And then that night, Michele and the other gals took me out to a great pizza dinner!

On Tuesday, I went to OKC to Cleveland Elementary, where Super Librarian Kay Childers introduced me to two of the smartest, most artistic kids in town.

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These two girls decorated the ENTIRE school – I mean, every hallway! The auditorium was covered with art the art teacher had her classes do – everything from witches to screaming kids to candy and food.

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The library even had a sycamore tree, filled with the exact things in Gayle’s nest in Nightingale’s Nest. I was blown away.

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Thanks, Kay!

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Then on Wednesday, I was back in Edmond, with a wonderful trip to Clegern Elementary…

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Small classes, focused kids, a decorated library? YES!

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Then on to Orvis Risner Elementary. This day was very exciting… possibly because the night before, we’d been up all night listening to tornado sirens, and watching for TIGERS. Yes, the tornadoes that whipped though Oklahoma on Wednesday night hit the Tiger Safari facility in Tuttle, and the tigers got out.

So, sweet librarian Rachel Edgren had gotten practically NO sleep – between tigers, flooded roads, and tornadoes, she hadn’t even been able to get home the night before! We both may have felt a little tired, but I was greeted at the door with a giant Sonic cherry limeade (you have to be Southern to understand. It’s a traditional hospitality item, LOL), and a giant smile. Orvis Risner was wonderful! The writing workshop there was a highlight.

Then on Friday, I was welcomed to Cross Timbers Elementary, where I spoke to enormous groups – who honestly, were the most focused, intense kids I’ve ever met! Good listeners and great questions – whatever they’re doing at Cross Timbers, they’re doing it very, very well.

Cross Timbers

In the middle of all the schools, tigers, tornadoes, and weather panic… I had time to visit Best of Books in Edmond again! It was a wonderful evening, seeing some kids I’d met before, and some new friends, and talking about all my books. I even read a short excerpt from the Guys Read story that comes out in September. Creepy…

What a great week. I have a couple of weeks of writing ahead of me, and then summer! I can’t wait. I’m going to a conference, two writing retreats, and a family vacation to Seattle/Vancouver Island. I hope you all have as much fun as I plan to!

** Wow! This Nerdy Book Club Review just went live! Thanks, Irene Kistler, for reading Wish Girl and responding in such an amazing way. You are the best!

 

 

 

Back to OK!

Well, darn. Yesterday, I wrote a super long post, with pictures of all the things I’ve been doing, and super funny parts, and snarky parts, and I put it up on line… and by this morning it vanished into the ether. Hmmm. Ghost in the machine? Was I never meant to share all that lovely humor and information with you?

In any case, I probably won’t post again for a few days, as I’m back to Oklahoma (woohoo! I LOVE these school visits) on Sunday for another week. Y’all try to have as much fun as I’m having – and keep on writing!

Failure and Success: Dancing With the Beautiful One

On the inside door of my writing desk, I have an assortment of pictures, drawings, lists, and poetry. Each item taped on the door, as well as those items in the cabinets by my head, has a special meaning.

But I’d like to talk about one poem in particular today, in light of a couple of reviews (of Wish Girl) I read over the past few hours that reduced me to tears.

The poem in question was taken from a concert program.

One of my favorite musical groups in the world is an Austin-based choir called Conspirare. When I go to their concerts, the heart of the director, Craig Hella Johnson, is always apparent. He feels things deeply, thinks deeply, and his choir’s performances touch the audience in a way I’ve never experienced with any other singing group.  (Side note: When I invited a friend to the upcoming concert, she asked what the choir would be singing. I answered, semi-joking, “The Glorious Heart of Craig.” She said “Buy the tickets!”)

In his program notes, Craig includes all the texts he and the other composers included. One of them was a poem by Hafiz, translated here:

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If I didn’t have these words close at hand, some days I don’t think I could continue to write. You may not have suspected this. I post a lot of things on this blog, but most of them are positive. The truth about being a writer is that most of what I do fails. Most of my decisions I have to rethink. Most of my manuscripts will never make it to the shelves.

I am constantly failing, in my own eyes and in others. The reviews of my books frequently point out just how far short I fall, what a terrible job I am doing at this thing I have devoted my life to. It is difficult to ignore them.

Of course, sometimes it doesn’t even sting. Because sometimes I write things that don’t matter as much to me as others. Sometimes I write about fart jokes and falling down… but sometimes I write about kids I have known with leukemia, and kids who considered suicide.

Sometimes I write my own heartbreak.

When those stories are harshly criticized, it hurts. But I never, ever cry at those words. No, it’s words like the ones I read this week that make me weep — tears of joy and release, at being heard, at being understood.

This week, Margie’s review at Librarian’s Quest (Holding Hope in Your Heart) moved me to tears, as did Pamela Thompson’s review, which was included in the El Paso Times newspaper.

It feels like both of these readers read my poem out loud to me, the one that keeps me going on my very worst days – and that they understood what I was trying to do with Wish Girl.

You have not danced so badly, my dear,

Trying to kiss the Beautiful One.

You have actually danced with tremendous style,

O my sweet,

O my sweet crushed angel.

 

I hope someday, Writer Friends, someone will hear you every bit as clearly, and will share that with the world- or at least with you. It makes every single failure feel like it may have been a success, all along.  It makes the tears sweet.

Write well this week. Dance with the Beautiful One.

Books and People I Love: AWP15 & TLA Conference Pics

Howdy, friends! The past few weeks have been amazing. Nightingale’s Nest won the Texas Institute of Letters award (I already bookmarked the award money for new bookshelves, yippee!), I went to the huge AWP conference in Minneapolis to serve on two panels and do school visits, and then the TLA conference was in Austin. I signed with Permabound and Penguin at TLA, went to fancy dinners and cocktail parties, chatted about great books with great librarians, and even judged a book cart drill competition!

Oh, and during all that, I finished my WIP and a proposal, sent it back to my agent, and read a TON of books. Really, really great books.

So, I’m exhausted. And that’s why I’m just going to smoosh a whole bunch of photos in here for you to see what fun looks like. If you see a book here, consider it a FIVE STAR recommendation, and read it NOW. If you see a librarian? FIVE STARS and go buy her a latte. If you see another author? THESE ARE FIVE STAR AUTHORS. Buy their books! You will thank me later.

Here we go, AWP first…

Laura Ruby's transcendent Bone Gap. Airplane paradise reading.

Laura Ruby’s transcendent Bone Gap. Airplane paradise reading.

 

Jewell Parker Rhodes reading from her WIP at AWP.

Jewell Parker Rhodes reading from her WIP at AWP.

Ah, the literati! Janet Fox, Laura Ruby, me, Anne Ursu, and Kristen Kittscher. FUN!

Ah, the literati! Janet Fox, Laura Ruby, me, Anne Ursu, and Kristen Kittscher. FUN!

Pure energy in a woman-shaped package: Pamela Klinger Horn. She set up a ton of school visits for me in Minnesota!

Pure energy in a woman-shaped package: Pamela Klinger Horn. She set up a ton of school visits for me in Minnesota!

Ran into Brian Bliss at last! The End Times must be near. :)

Ran into Brian Bliss at last! The End Times must be near. 🙂

My super smart Geography of Nowhere panel: Janet Fox, me, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Geoff Herbach.

My super smart Geography of Nowhere panel: Janet Fox, me, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Geoff Herbach.

The ARC of my newest favorite MG read - Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes. BUY NOW.

The ARC of my newest favorite MG read – Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes. BUY NOW.

 

And now for TLA:

Coffee with bloggers! Teh amazing Celeste Pewter from a Reading Rook Reviews, and Xander!

Coffee with bloggers! The amazing Celeste Pewter from a Reading Nook Reviews, and Xander!

Bethany Hegedus, Evan Turk, and Arun Gandhi signing the glorious Grandfather Gandhi!

Bethany Hegedus, Evan Turk, and Arun Gandhi signing the glorious Grandfather Gandhi!

Joy Preble signing her newest YA, Finding Paris!

Joy Preble signing her newest YA, Finding Paris!

Anne Bustard first MG, Anywhere But Paradise, and me grasping my first copy... of many. :)

Anne Bustard first MG, Anywhere But Paradise, and me grasping my first copy… of many. 🙂

Annie Gaughen (A. C. Gaughen) - Apocalypsie Power!

Annie Gaughen (A. C. Gaughen) – Apocalypsie Power!

Pam Munoz Ryan and one of my favorite librarians ever, Diane Collier!

Pam Munoz Ryan and one of my favorite librarians ever, Diane Collier!

And another one of my favorite librarians: Steffanie Audel!!

And another one of my favorite librarians: Steffanie Audel!!

OMG! I finally met librarian Cynthia Alaniz!! Who was holding my book when we ran into each other. SO MUCH FABULOUS.

OMG! I finally met librarian Cynthia Alaniz!! Who was holding my book when we ran into each other. SO MUCH FABULOUS.

Alicia Trader at the Permabound booth, who made me feel like a princess and I cried when she left town. Come back, Alicia!!

Alicia Trader at the Permabound booth, who made me feel like a princess and I cried when she left town. Come back, Alicia!!

Wow. Me, Lindesy Lane, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Please, do yourself a huge favor and go read their books this instant. They are unforgettable.

Wow. Me, Lindesy Lane, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Please, do yourself a huge favor and go read their books this instant. They are unforgettable.

And finally, Paige Britt signing The Lost Track of Time for Scholastic. Her book made a LOT of waves at TLA!

And finally, Paige Britt signing The Lost Track of Time for Scholastic. Her book made a LOT of waves at TLA!

Friends, I would love to go back in and add links at some point, but I have a speaking engagement in a few minutes, and I need to get ready. Have a great week! I’m writing up a storm (and not just blog posts) so if I seem crazy happy? It’s because I’m drafting again. I love this job.

 

Nightingale’s Nest and the Texas Institute of Letters!

I am back from a whirlwind week at the huge AWP conference in Minneapolis (It rained! It snowed! I made an idiot of myself over several famous authors!), and I’ll post a bit more about that later… but yesterday was my birthday and I got the most amazing present ever.

Nightingale’s Nest won the Best Children’s Book award for 2014 from the Texas Institute of Letters!

I am utterly delighted. Like… double rainbow happy. Thanks to the TIL. I am beyond honored.

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Now, for my librarian friends:

Would you like to get a copy of Nightingale’s Nest signed? Or an ARC of Wish Girl? Look for me on Wednesday at the big TxLA conference here in Austin. I’ll be signing Nightingale’s Nest at the Permabound booth #1433 from 3-4 p.m.. And Penguin will be giving away ARCs of Wish Girl from 1-2 in the author signing area, Aisle 11!

 

AWP15: Fancy People, Fancy Topics, and Fancy-Schmancy Me

I’ve never been to Minnesota, but some of my favorite writer people in the world live there. (Anne Ursu? Kelly Barnhill? Why must you live so far away?) So, I hopped on board when some of my other writer friends asked if I wanted to put together two possible panels for a Very Fancy Conference and see if we could get in as speakers!

Um, I didn’t really expect both of the panels to be accepted for this year’s AWP Conference. I guess with people like Geoff Herbach, Janet Fox, Nova Ren Suma, Samantha Mabry, Laura Ruby, and Kristin Cronn-Mills on them as well, I should have known.

So, I’m heading up to hang out with the literati, do a few school visits, sign some books, and (I think) dance awkwardly with poets and MFA professors.

If YOU happen to be attending the event, you can find me at the Minneapolis Hilton on Friday and Saturday, at times and places listed below. I’ll be the one trying desperately to sound as smart as the people next to me, trying not to freak out over their awesomeness, and wearing possibly inappropriate clothes.

Like a good train wreck? Come watch me crash and burn shine like the literary diamond I am. LOLOL

Room 205 C&D, Level 2

F278. Growing Up in a Magical Space: Magical Realism in Contemporary Young Adult/Children’s Literature. (,  ,  ,  ,  ) Magical realism is a genre in which magical elements occur naturally in a realistic environment—much as they do in childhood. As the popularity of dystopian fiction wanes in young adult/children’s literature, other genres take its place, including a blend of the contemporary and the fantastic: magical realism. Five published authors will discuss the unique place of magical realism in young adult/children’s literature and share their reasons and methods for working in this underrepresented genre.

Room 211 C&D, Level 2

S121. Geography of Nowhere: Suburban Landscape as Stage & Character in Young Adult/Children’s Literature. (,  ,  ,  ,  ) Contemporary young adult/children’s fiction is largely set in ordinary, often suburban landscapes. Characters experience love, loss, and growth amid the mundane world of sprawling shopping malls, high school football fields, and chain restaurants. Five published authors discuss the extraordinary nature of the everyday in crafting young adult/children’s literature.

Guest Blog Post: Kirby Larson’s Friend Friday!

One of my favorite things about being an author is the chance to meet (even if it’s only online) some of the world’s nicest, smartest, and most generous writers. Today, I have the great pleasure to be the guest post-er on Kirby Larson’s blog – yes, THAT Kirby, as in, the author of Hattie Big Sky, The Friendship Doll, Dash, and so many others. I wrote a little about Wish Girl, a little about my messy desk, and a lot about why I write these books with such thorny, dark parts for kids to read.

I hope you hop over to read! And thank you, Kirby, for calling me friend, and showing such kindness.

If you’re tired of reading about Wish Girl (could that ever happen? haha), check out Karen McCoy’s blog, where I give a few middle grade magical realism reading recommendations!

I’m off to celebrate Easter now… with a big trip to the huge AWP conference in Minneapolis (and school visits) scheduled for next week. And TLA after that! I’d better start packing.

Y’all have a great weekend!

 

An Unforgettable YA Writing Residency: Nova Ren Suma at the Writing Barn this Fall

Hi, writer friends! I am delighted to announce that the lovely Lynne Kelly and I will be guest teaching authors at a week-long writing residency program this fall at The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas. And Nova Ren Suma, who is one of the finest YA writing teachers around (as well as being a phenomenal writer!), will be the Big Cheese heading up the whole shebang. I cannot wait. I have very close friends who have taken her workshops and gone on to improve their writing immeasurably… and/or to sign with agents on the work she helped them with during those residencies. I just know this week will change some of your writing lives.

It’s November 10 – 14, they only accept 12 writers, and you need 75 pages of a manuscript to submit… so get going! I’d love to see you there.

The Writing Barn, picture copyrighted by my husband, Dave Wilson, so I can use it however I want.

The Writing Barn, picture copyrighted by my husband, Dave Wilson, so I can use it however I want.

 

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In Wish Girl News: Sara at the wonderful The Hiding Spot, gave Wish Girl a glowing review! Thanks, Sara.

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Best of Books in Edmond: Signing, Snakes, Superstar Librarians and a Reader I’ll Never Forget

Wow! I’m just getting caught up on my blog posts about last week’s Oklahoma wonderment! I have to admit, I have more fun in Oklahoma than anywhere else these days. Possibly because the librarians are so passionate and engaged with their kids, or maybe it’s the kids themselves… whatever it is, I love it.

Today’s post is about one small part of last week’s amazingness: the Best of Books event on March 11.

Best of Book is one of those hen’s-tooth gems: a small, family-owned bookstore with regular patrons that stop in every day for a chat as well as to browse the newest books. They support local authors as well as hosting super famous ones (Peter Lerangis and Wendy Van Draanen were there the same week I was), and they make every person who walks into the store feel valued.

I sure did. When I arrived, they had a gorgeous display of my books set up, with cookies and young readers already waiting! We painted rocks and had so much fun.

Rock paintingPainting more!

I did my talk, and chose The Perfect Volunteer (Tony, pictured here with permission of his mom) whose job was to hold very, very still with a snake wrapped round his ankles the whole time I read.

Tony & Snakey

A Chapter One has never been so long, huh, Tony? (He was awesome!)

Then I signed books for friends from near and far! Librarian Michele Scheffe from Edmond, as well as Janet Bass (who live-tweeted the whole thing!) and Jenny Regier, the co-creators of the wonderful Twitter chat #sequoyahchat. Jenny drove from Enid, which is a long way…

Janet, Jenny, and me!

And my long-lost sisters (how did we get separated in this lifetime?) Rock Star Librarians Tammy Matlock and Susie Masters drove from Stillwater, OK and made my night sparkle even more brightly!

Tammy Matlock, a few weeks before!

Tammy Matlock, a few weeks before!

Susie Masters!

Susie Masters!

After I was done telling funny, true stories,  I signed books for all the kids that had shown up. There was one girl in particular who kept peeking around the line to see me. She was trembling, and her lips were quivering when she got to the front of the line, almost like she was trying not to cry.

And then, when she told me who she was, I was the one tearing up. This girl had written me a letter (a real one, in the mail!) a few weeks before, and I wrote back. Then she came to see me in Edmond, even though she lives a full two and a half hour drive away in Muskogee.

Alison, pictured with permission from her Super Mom. Alison is possibly the nicest kid in the world.

Alison, pictured with permission from her Super Mom. Alison is possibly the nicest kid in the world.

She and her mom (who may win Mom of the Year) drove five hours to meet me, and get her book signed. I was stunned, delighted, and humbled. This picture (thank goodness I had the thought to get someone to snap a picture with my phone!) is now one of my great treasures.

And here’s why. The writing life is chock full of pain and rejection and disappointment. Sure, I talk about the exciting stuff… but for every good day, there are ten or twelve where the world tells you you’re not good enough, smart enough, and that nobody likes you/your work.

And then, every once in a while, it gives an author a moment like this. An unforgettable one that leaves a deep fingerprint on the heart.

Alison, you will never know how meaningful it was to see you there. Thank you, thank you. I hope your life is filled with magic and stories and as much joy as the world can offer.

(And, Author friends? Answer your fan mail. Every single piece.)

 

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Wish Girl in the NYT Review of Books!

Wow. Well, I was trying to get some pics put together to show of my amazing week in Oklahoma… but then this happened, so that other post will have to wait.

Wish Girl is in the New York Times Review of Books today alongside Dan Geimenhart’s lovely The Honest Truth. I feel all warm and fuzzy now. Thanks to Cynthia Kadohata for the amazing review.

I’ll just go cry some happy tears now.