Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Hang in There kind of post

The past twelve months have been a bit... strange.

I don't want to go into specifics, but those of you who are published authors will understand when I say that this business is not for wimps.

I hike a lot with my family, and it reminds me of the hikes that have steep hills to climb and as you go along, you wonder if there will be anything up ahead that will make the hard work worth it. You tell yourself to enjoy the here and now, to not focus on what's ahead, but that's easier said than done sometimes, especially when the hill just goes on and on and on. You wonder if it will ever end. You sit down, take a rest, and it's then when it's easy to become discouraged.

You wonder if you should just give up and go home. You start to feel like maybe you don't belong. Like maybe only the best hikers belong here, and you are certainly not one of the best.

There have been a few times over the past twelve months where I've felt pretty discouraged. One disappointment can be hard, but when you have a string of them, it can be especially so. And yes, once or twice, I was so discouraged, I thought about giving up. But I kept telling myself it's always darkest before dawn. And sitting on the couch, feeling sorry for myself, wasn't really going to solve anything.

I also kept telling myself that maybe things happen for a reason and maybe I just needed to trust that everything would work out in the end, if I just hung in there. I've certainly seen it happen before. Right after I quit my full-time job a few years ago, I had a full manuscript rejected along with some proposals, and I seriously began to think I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.

And then, inspired by P!nk's "Glitter in the Air,"  I wrote THE DAY BEFORE. That book saved me. Those characters, Amber and Cade, and their magical day at the beach, became my escape from all of my worries. Every day, when I opened that document, I got to escape to the beach too. I have never loved writing a book as much as I loved writing that one, because it was exactly what I needed at the time.

So this time, I reminded myself of Cade and Amber and THE DAY BEFORE, and I told myself what I needed to do was to find a story I cared about. Characters who could help me escape the worry and heartache, and let me be me, in the best way possible.

So I kept writing.

Seven or eight months ago, I felt like this:

Now, I pretty much feel like this:

taken 4/28/13 at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

So, in case there is anyone out there right now who is in that dark, discouraging place, I just want to say - hang in there. This business is HARD. The set-backs and disappointments can get inside your head and mess with your confidence in the worst way.

I know. I understand. I have been there, more than once.

Find a story only you can tell. Create characters you can fall in love with. Don't worry about whether others will love the story. That's not the most important thing when things are looking dark - the most important thing is that YOU love the story.

Find a story and let it save you.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Happy National Poetry Month!

It's April, and you know that that means!!

So... is it okay to read verse novels as a way of celebrating National Poetry Month? After all, if we want to get really technical, they aren't *truly* poetry, are they? I would say no, they're not.

But they are definitely poetic (or at least, they should be). And so, I say, verse novels are a fantastic way to celebrate National Poetry Month. And here begins my once-a-year appeal to everyone to give verse novels a try if you've never tried one before.

Some people are scared of verse novels. They worry they'll be hard to understand; that they'll be too poetic. Let me assure you, there is nothing to be afraid of. Now, I can't guarantee you'll like verse novels. Some people don't. They are indeed different. But hard to understand? Not generally.

To prove my point, here is part of a note I received (and I get many like this one each year):

"Today my daughter, who is 14 years old, read your entire novel, I Heart You, You Haunt Me from cover to cover. She could not put it down and even read it through dinner. While this may not seem like a big deal, this was in fact, somewhat of a miracle to me. You see, she does not enjoy reading. She's been dealing with dyslexia from the 2nd grade on. Reading comes with difficulty and takes up a tremendous amount of energy for her. We've tried several styles, different genres, but nothing really lit her fire. Today was the first time she actually told me she was really enjoying reading. We've now ordered more of your books. From our little family on the east coast, I wanted you to know of the miracle that occurred in my living room today. God bless you and thank you."

My wish for National Poetry Month is that more teachers and librarians will realize what a gift verse novels can be for some readers. Please, make a point to read some and know the ones that are appropriate for the age group you're involved with, and don't be afraid to share them with students.

If you need a place to start for title suggestions, here is a list of verse novels, voted on by readers.

To give you a taste of what you might find inside a verse novel, I'll share a couple of excerpts from my own books.


the air was cool
and crisp,
the way you want your sheets
when it's blistering

We walked to the park
and ran through the leaves,
picking them up
and throwing them at each other,
as if they were snowballs.

Instead of loud splats,
we got quiet flutters
of crimson and amber.


Back outside,
we stand
at the edge
of a cliff
and look out
at the endless supply
of blue.

                       It takes my breath away.

and me
and the sky
and the sea.

It's like a dream.
The kind of dream
you wish for again and again,
night after night,
because it was so good
the first time.

There are plenty of ways to use verse novels in classrooms, too. Verse novels are full of imagery, similes, metaphors, alliteration, and more, so there is much to be discussed in the way of poetic devices. Because they're novels too, you can also talk about plot and theme and have some great discussions around the story as well.

As the author of four verse novels, here is what I've learned over the years, through my interactions with probably thousands of students via e-mail, regular mail, author visits, and Skype visits.

* students DO notice and appreciate the poetic devices found in verse novels.
* students love it when a book makes them FEEL something, and verse novels are great at that.
* reluctant readers appreciate the white space on each page, and that there are no hefty chapters to wade through.
* many kids have told me they never read an entire novel by themselves until they read one of my books, and that feeling of success is such a powerful one!
* for many readers, a verse novel can be just the gateway they need to become lifetime readers.

A special thanks to all of my readers, and especially to the teachers and librarians who have shared my verse novels with middle school and high school students over the years!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Five things that make me happy

I am feeling down for a few different reasons, so in an effort to cheer myself up, here are five things that make me happy right now.

1. Oikos Greek Yogurt has some new flavors, and I am kind of obsessed. For lunch I just had Toasted Coconut with some fresh pineapple cut up in there. YUMM-O!!!

Banana cream is FANTASTIC (might be my favorite of the ones I've tried). Orange Cream is good. I haven't tried Key Lime but I have one in the fridge I'll try soon. 


2. I am loving New Girl this season, wondering if Nick and Jess are ever going to get together. But my DVR cut the show off, and I have no idea how it ended last week. He said good-night and then it was over for me. Did they go their separate ways or not? Please, if you know, fill me in! This show makes me laugh every single week. Love it so much.


3. And because I need to laugh right now as I juggle a hundred different things (not really, it just seems that way to me most days) I love this book that I'm reading right now. So fun. So funny. I love Nate and this book totally deserves all the buzz it's been getting.


4. I broke down and got HBO last month because I couldn't stand the thought of waiting for who- knows-how-long to watch the new season of Game of Thrones. Well, since getting HBO, I've watched a few movies I hadn't seen or even thought about for ages.

Rocky. Back to the Future. Sister Act. My oldest son even watched Back to the Future with me, and he really liked it. I'd forgotten what a GREAT movie it is. Definitely one to watch with your tweens/teens if they haven't seen it yet. Anyway, hooray for movies that stand the test of time!


5. And finally, bangs. I grew out my bangs two or three years ago and really tried to make it work, because I had this thing in my head that a lot of people think bangs are not stylish or something. I don't know. But last week I was tired of it and I asked my stylist to give me bangs again, she did, and I am so much happier. Not nearly as cute as Reese, there, of course, but yay for bangs, I say!

So what about you? What's bringing you a little joy these days?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Four. More. Books!

Yay, I can finally tell you what I've been working on!

I love writing for the middle grade crowd. And I love Scholastic, who do such a great job getting books into the hands of kids.

Two of my books at a Scholastic book fair

And now I get to write a MG series for Scholastic.

Here's the official announcement from Publisher's Marketplace:

Middle grade 
IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES author Lisa Schroeder's CHARM SISTERS, a four-book series pitched as SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS for tweens, featuring four girls who meet at summer camp and believe they've found a lucky charm necklace, to Amanda Maciel at Scholastic, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world).

Yay!!! I hope you're as excited as I am!

The deadlines are tight though, so that the first two books can come out in 2014. Which means I'm working like a crazy person to finish the first book so I can move on to the second one. I'm having a lot of fun, though, and am excited my MG readers will have more to read next year.

Let's eat some cupcakes to celebrate, what do you say?