Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

Today I Skyped with kids all across America for World Read Aloud Day. It's a fun day where we celebrate books and reading. I only had one cancellation due to a snow day, so not too bad! I was worried there might be more than that.

Here's a couple rows of one of the groups I talked with:


Wow, what a cool looking library, huh?

I will get to talk to kids in person the end of this month when I travel down to southern Oregon for some school visits.

Talking with kids about reading and writing is one of my favorite parts of the job.

But for now, it's time to get to the other part of my job - working on the next book! While eating chocolate, of course.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Write what you want to know

Probably most of you have heard the old adage, "Write what you know."

Over the years, authors have argued it's actually not the best strategy. What might be better is to say something like, "Write what you want to know." In other words, go where your imagination and curiosity take you.



I can't lie, I'm pretty envious of the authors who (seem to me anyway) have huge imaginations. Authors like Laini Taylor, Holly Black, Kate DiCamillo, Maggie Stiefvater, Rick Riordan, etc. etc. They think big. Imagine big. Write cool stories about cool things.

If I've learned one thing over the course of my career these past eight years, it is this: do not underestimate the power of cool things.

What do I mean by cool? I don't even know if I can pin it down. It's something that makes people sit up and take notice. It's something that large groups of people love. It's unique, in a good way, to stories, and yet as a whole, it's not too unique.

I recently read the Printz honor book The Carnival at Bray, a young adult novel (ages 13+), and goodness gracious, that book is just SO COOL. I don't want to give anything away, but something happens part way through the book that made me shout out loud because I loved where the book was going so much. That's amazing, when you think about it.

I've recently realized that I have done a much better job at thinking about the "cool factor" when writing my middle grade books than writing my young adult books. I don't know why. And I don't know why I only noticed this recently, but now that I have, it's something I'm taking into consideration a lot more before I start in a new story. This writing thing, there is always SO MUCH to learn, it's kind of crazy.

So this is the week MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS comes out.



It's a story for people ages eight and up, and has received really nice reviews from all of the trade publishers. When I began writing it, I went into it knowing there were a lot of kids, girls specifically, who would go crazy for a story set in Paris. Like cupcakes, Paris is one of those things that is just fun. I know girls who have their bedrooms decorated with all-things Paris. Paris, in a lot of kids minds, is cool. And when I wrote the book, I knew there were hardly any books for the middle-grade crowd set there. But that wasn't even the best part -- I knew I would have fun writing a book set in Paris, because it's been a dream of mine for a long, long time to visit that incredible city.

MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS is definitely a book where I wrote what I wanted to know. Where I wrote about something I love to think about. Dream about. And I'm so incredibly excited for people across the country to discover this book and to go on an adventure with Nora around the City of Light.



I only wish I could provide everyone with french pastries to eat as they read!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

From My Mail

It's time, once again, to stop for a moment and say THANKS to all of you who have read my books and dropped me a note via email or regular mail. I try to respond to each and every one, though sometimes it does take me a while.


Here's what some readers have been saying recently:

"I just recently finished your book My Secret Guide to Paris. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! I found your book at the Scholastic book fair just recently. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who likes to read and write about Paris (my whole room is themed about Paris!) Your book was so great I'm planning to read more of your books." ~ Mackenzie

"I am reading your book My Secret Guide to Paris. I love it so much. I'm not done with it, but so far it is my favorite book ever. My mom said to make a movie from a book, I would have to buy the rights. So I'm writing to ask you if the rights for this book are for sale?" ~ Mary, age 10

"I just wanted to tell you that I love your It's Raining Cupcakes books. I own them all and continue to read them over and over. They're pretty much the only books I read. I just wanted to tell you to keep up the awesome work and to let you know you are my favorite author." ~ Brighton

"I liked to read about the cupcake shop. I am 7 years old. My favorite book is It's Raining Cupcakes. My favorite part of the book is making cupcakes." ~ Kyler, age 7

"I adore your books, but I'm especially fond of the Charmed Life series. I am reading the 2nd book currently and the first few pages got my face stuck to the book and I'm curious about the next part. Keep up with the work and don't get stressed." ~Vanessa

"For a while now, I've been reading your books. My favorite is I Heart You, You Haunt Me. I have no idea how many times I've read that book since 7th grade. Every time I was upset I'd read your books and they would give me happiness." ~ Kathy, HS sophomore

"I wrote you a few years back in 2011 about your books. Back then I was 14 and now I'm 17 and I still love your books. Every time I finish one I can't wait until you release a new one." ~ Leah, 17

You guys make me smile. Like this:



Keep being awesome - and don't just tell me how much you love them, please tell your friends too!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Winner!!


Congratulations to Lisa A. who has won the signed Advanced Copy of My Secret Guide to Paris! I promise I didn't choose her based on her name. :) The random generator did the choosing for me.

Thanks so much to those of you who entered!!

I'm guessing you will be able to find the book on bookstore shelves in the coming days. The official release date is February 24th, but often books find their way out a little early.

Have a great week!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Giveaway - win a signed copy of MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS

Happy Valentine's Day!!

To celebrate, I'm giving away one Advanced Review Copy of MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS (pub date: 2/24/15) to some lucky person! But hurry, you only have a few days to enter to win.




The trade reviews are in and here's what they are saying!

Publisher's Weekly says, "This love letter to the City of Light will have readers believing that everything's better in Paris."

Booklist says: "A sweet, reassuring contemporary read."

Kirkus says, "Nora's hopeful, openhearted character is beautifully depicted."

School Library Journal says, "... will appeal to Francophiles and reluctant readers alike."


Entering is easy - just sign in to the rafflecopter below. (Sorry, US only, and you must be 13 or older to enter)

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Choices Writers Make

I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

The Parenthood finale was last week (I'll try to avoid spoilers) and there was a scene about halfway through the season that was perhaps meant to provide some subtle foreshadowing, when to me it seemed SO obvious that it was setting up the ending of the show. And I hated the idea. And when the time came, and the show ended exactly as I thought it would, I still didn't like it. That's not to say that the scene itself wasn't done well, because it was.

I just didn't want it to end the way Jason Katims, Executive Producer, wanted it to end.



I searched the hashtag on twitter, however and a lot of people loved how they wrapped up the show.

In an interview about the final episode, Katims said the more personal something is, the more people can relate to it. And so you, you have to tell those stories, even if they're painful.

And I wonder, what personal issues did I bring to the story that made me feel the way I did about the way they chose to end it? I'm sure there are many.

But the other thing I've been thinking about is that Katims most likely took his hardcore audience into account. How could he not? This was, more often than not, a show that made people cry. Everyone expected to shed some tears during the finale. He didn't want to disappoint them.

I struggled and struggled with the ending of my upcoming YA novel, ALL WE HAVE IS NOW. I still have small anxiety attacks about it from time to time, if I'm honest.

But as I was thinking about this show, and the audience, and Katims taking on the painful stories and knowing the audience would probably expect one more during the finale, I also thought of MY audience. And when I do that, when I think of who I write for, I realize I made the right choice.

Will some people hate it? Yes. I'm sure of it. Oh well. Can't please everyone, say artists/writers/musicians everywhere, every day, as they put their work out into the world.

A story is one long stream of choices. If we're lucky, our characters will lead us along the path and make the choices interesting and fun and easy. But sometimes, that doesn't happen. All we can do is keep our mind open to many possible choices, and then, when it's time, we have to just do it - we have to go with our gut and we have to choose.

Scary? Kind of. Maybe it'll work for some people. Maybe it won't. But whatever happens, the choice is made. So now I work on a new story, so I have new choices to worry about, instead of focusing on the one that's already been made.

In life and in writing, I think the best thing to do is to just keep moving forward.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Back to Work I Go

In December I went back to work part-time working with kids. The great thing is I have a very flexible schedule, and I get to choose the days I can't or don't want to work.

It's definitely cut into my writing time, like I knew it would. But I've decided that's okay. It makes me appreciate my writing time a lot more, actually. And the best thing? For 4-8 hours each day that I work, I stop stressing and worrying about my publishing career. I go to work, I am incredibly busy doing the tasks that need to be done, and my writerly brain is turned off for a while.

OFF.
Off, off, off.

Oh my goodness gracious, do you know how glorious that is? That crazy brain of mine does NOT like to be turned off. Stupid, crazy brain.

When I'm at home, I'm constantly checking e-mail. Is there any newsAnything happening over there in Please-Publish-Me-Land? I'm also tossing around ideas all the time. Should I do this next? What about that? And before long, I'm panicking, OH MY GOSH, WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT, IF I DON'T DECIDE THIS MINUTE MY CAREER IS COMPLETELY AND DEFINITELY OVER!

(Which is ridiculous, but I told you, my brain, it is crazy).

When I'm working, I can't check my phone unless I'm at lunch. It's off-limits and put away. And it's pretty much impossible to think about anything beyond the moment at hand.

Writing books is fun sometimes. It's also hard sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. And it can be stressful, when you haven't sold anything in a while and wonder if this is it, if the end is here.

I still love putting words to the page. I still love writing books that touch teens' hearts. Yesterday I got not one, but two emails from young women who have emailed me over the years. They've kind of grown up reading my books. When I think about that, really think about it, I get teary because holy sweet library, I've written enough books that it was possible for them to do that - to grow up reading my books! And they wanted to tell me again how much my books have meant to them, how much I mean to them.

I want to keep writing. But sometimes, the best thing you can do to get what you want is to step away a little bit -- just enough to make you want it, and work for it, even more.