Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My favorite verse novel

We are halfway through National Poetry month. Have you been checking in on the progressive poem?

Today it's over at Tamera Will Wissinger's blog. I still have a while before it's my turn, but I'm getting a wee bit nervous. I love what they've done so far, I have to say.

Anyway, today I thought I'd share my all-time favorite verse novel. Most of you know I have four young adult verse novels published. In July, a new one hits the shelves, though it's half in verse and half in prose, so does that bring me up to four-and-a-half? I'm not sure...

Again and again, I've picked up this book, Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, to inspire me as I'm writing verse. Tracie has such a beautiful way with words. This book inspires me to reach (in a poetic sort of way) when I'm writing.

It's recommended for kids ages 10 and up, and I feel like many of my middle school readers would like this one. Honestly, I feel like there's a little something for everyone here. It was the winner of the Schneider Family Book Award in 2008.

From goodreads:

"Josie Wyatt knows what it means to be different. Her family's small farmhouse seems to shrink each time another mansion grows up behind it. She lives with her career-obsessed mom and opinionated Gran, but has never known her father. Then there's her cerebral palsy: even if Josie wants to forget that she was born with a disability, her mom can't seem to let it go. Yet when a strange new boy--Jordan--moves into one of the houses nearby, he seems oblivious to all the things that make Josie different. Before long, Josie finds herself reaching out for something she's never really known: a friend… and possibly more. Interlinked free verse poems tell the beautiful, heartfelt story of a girl, a family farm reduced to a garden, and a year of unforgettable growth."

A few of my favorite passages:

"Crickets sing their lullabies
to us,
and before dawn stretches
her arms into a new day
sleep tucks me in."

"Granny braced by the screen door,
fists on her wide hips,
surveying the sky,
daring the rain to

mist her face
with each gust.
Gran always says,
'This tantrum can't last --
but we Wyatt women will."

"I find Jordan stretched out
in the hammock.
Last summer, I tried it once;
tangled for hours,
frightened and helpless,
like a spider's dinner."

Do you have a favorite verse novel? Would love to hear about it! And I hope if you love verse novels, you'll check out this little gem. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My trip to Texas and the TLA conference

On Monday I woke up very early. As in, 3:00 am early, in order to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Dallas, Texas. I made it to Dallas just fine, it was the trip to San Antonio from there that got totally messed up and caused me to miss the bookseller event that night, with about 100 independent booksellers in attendance. It was SO disappointing. I could have been stuck at the Austin airport for hours and hours, if not for the kindness of a stranger, so thanks Steve from Omaha for at least getting me out of the airport!

After that frustrating snafu, however, things went well.

The weather was beautiful and I spent most of Tuesday morning walking along the Riverwalk.

Tuesday afternoon I did a panel with Ed. Tech Specialist Michelle Leggett and Librarian Seantele Forman. We talked about connecting students and authors via Skype and I think it went really, really well. Here we are before the talk.

Afterwards, we found a lovely spot along the river and had cool drinks and chips with guacamole. Mmmmm.... I even wore my new cowboy hat.

That evening, I signed Advanced Review Copies of The Bridge from Me to You. During our session, I had mentioned that this book was perfect for Texas, since I call it my small town, big sky, football is king book. I told them I had to do something with all of that love for "Friday Night Lights" that's in my heart. While I signed books, I had quite a few tell me once I mentioned "Friday Night Lights," they just had to come and get my book.

Y'all, clearly, these are my people!!!

I signed alongside Jennifer Ziegler who has an adorable-looking middle grade novel coming out next month (5/27) called Revenge of the Flower Girls. We had a line of enthusiastic librarians and they were all so nice and so many of them said really kind things about me and my books.

As a mid-list author, I think it's easy to feel like there aren't a lot of people who know who you are. These kind, excited librarians reminded me that there are people who know who I am, and to some kids, my books *do* matter. Their comments meant so much to me, and this kindness is one of the main reasons I love the Texas Librarian Conference. They are a great, great group of people.

So here I am in the Scholastic booth, talking and signing:

Here's a picture I snagged off twitter. Author Jennifer Ziegler is on the left, and Sandra Carswell, a librarian who has had me Skype with her school, is between us. It was fun to meet Sandra in person.

Tuesday night, the Scholastic group took us out to dinner along with some fantastic librarians we got to meet and chat with. We went to a place called Biga on the Banks, and the food was SO GOOD. I took a picture of my dessert (because, you know me, it's all about the dessert) but alas, instagram is down and I can't get to it.

On Wednesday, I had an uneventful flight home, thank goodness!!

All in all, a great trip. Thank you, Texas librarians, for being so awesome. Let me tell you something - y'all know how to make an author feel special.

Hope to see you again real soon.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Signing event this Sunday, April 13th

I am back from the Texas Library Association and have some fun pictures and stories to share, but I keep forgetting to mention an event that is coming up SOON and want to make sure I tell y'all about it before it's too late. Do you like how I used y'all there? Obviously, Texas wore off on me.

So anyway - local peeps:

Kim Derting and I will be at the Bridgeport Barnes and Noble in Tualatin, Oregon from 3:00 to 5:00 on Sunday, April 13th. We're there supporting a book fair for Sherwood Middle School, but anyone can come by and see us to buy books and have them signed. I got a B&N coupon in my inbox today that is good through Sunday, so check yours and come and spend it!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Some poetry by Emily Dickinson

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! They’d banish us — you know!

How dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a Frog —
To tell one’s name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!
(c. 1861) 

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.

I say it just
Begins to live
That day.
(c. 1872)

To see her is a Picture --
To hear her is a Tune --
To know her an Intemperance
As innocent as June --
To know her not -- Affliction --
To own her for a Friend
A warmth as near as if the Sun
Were shining in your Hand.
(c. 1883)

To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a book it lie --
True Poems flee --
(c. 1879)

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happy National Poetry Month

It's April, and you know what that means, right?

Well, yes, pretty flowers, but that's not the correct answer. April is the month we celebrate poetry all month long! Yay!! I will probably post some favorite poems throughout the month, maybe even a few snippets from my own books.

For now, though, a couple of things I want to bring to your attention.

One of my favorite blogs, Full Eyes, Clear Shelves, is getting ready for their third annual verse novel week at the end of April. Are you a teen who has read and loved a verse novel? Or maybe a teacher or librarian who has seen the difference verse novels can make in some students' lives? Or maybe you are an author of verse novels like I am. If any of those things are true, they are looking for people to share thoughts, reviews, love, whatever, to help them celebrate. All you have to do is go HERE and fill out the short form, letting them know you are interested in participating. Don't be shy - I think it'd be so awesome to hear from a teen reader, especially, since not everyone understands the appeal of verse novels.

Next, there's this!

What is a progressive poem, you ask? Well, it's a poem that 30 of us are going to create during the month of April. Today the first line of the poem was created by Charles Waters over at his blog. Every day, another person will add a line until the poem is finished on April 30th.

I'm scheduled for April 26th.

Here is the list of contributors, if you want to follow along each day to see how the poem is progressing. Fun, right?

2014 Kidlitosphere
Progressive Poem

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show--Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer's Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
30 Tara at A Teaching Life

Happy poetry month one and all!!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Recommendations

First - how do you like the new design? She still has to add the social media buttons, but other than that, it's done and I have to say -  I LOVE IT! When Lauren, the person I hired to do a custom blogger design, sent me the pink typewriter image as an idea, I freaked out a little bit. I had mentioned the idea of a pen or pencil or maybe some typewriter keys as ideas for the header, and from that, she suggested the pink typewriter. How did she know that's so ME??? I'm not kidding when I say every time a pink typewriter shows up on tumblr, I reblog it. If you would like to give your blogger site a makeover, I highly recommend Lauren. You can find out more by visiting her etsy shop HERE.

Anyway, I haven't done a book recommendation post for a long time. I sometimes worry that people will have their feelings hurt if I don't mention one of their books. But, I can only read so much. I mean, I wish I could read ALL the books that everyone I know writes, but alas, I cannot. And until a week ago, I've been on deadline after deadline, and I didn't even have much time to read. So, right or wrong, here are some books I've read recently that I recommend.

Middle Grade:
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Beautiful language along with lots of fun and unique characters make this one a winner:

Doll Bones by Holly Black
A little creepy but a delightful adventure story that highlights the difficulties of growing up:

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
A fun mystery with cool art history facts:

How to Outrun a Crocodile when your Shoes are Untied by Jess Keating
This is such a fun novel for tweens, filled with humor and heart (out June 1st):

Young Adult:

Better off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
Really cute - if you enjoy light and fun contemporaries, definitely check this one out:

Also Known As by Robin Benway
This one is so smart and funny - I LOVE Maggie and Roux. I need to get the sequel:

Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick
Beautiful writing and a riveting story make this historical fantasy a gem:

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Tough subject matter, but wow, so gripping and well written.

I hope to read a lot in April, so will have more recs in a month or two, I'm sure. Would love to hear what you've been reading and loving!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Keeping the joy alive

For the first time in a long time (like years and years) I don't have anything to work on, writing wise.

It feels strange. But also, nice. I can finally watch "Frozen!" And catch up on all of these books I've been wanting to read. And in April some of my favorite TV shows return for another season. "Game of Thrones." "Mad Men." "Call the Midwife."

Yes, basically, my life is all about stories.

So, how long am I not going to write? I don't know. I recently found the first pages of a story I started a couple of years ago that I really like, and that may be the next thing I work on, but not now. Not for a little while. Not until I get through this busy spring with some travel and appearances and getting stuff done around the house.

I've been thinking about how my writing life has changed from when I first started doing this as basically a hobby (since I had a day job) to now, when writing IS my day job.

Again and again I would write because it was fun. Because I loved making up stories and seeing where the characters took me.

Last year, when I had to write four books back to back, that didn't seem fun. It seemed like work. And, you know, it was work. I had a contract that specified when my drafts were due and I was getting paid to meet those deadlines.

Except for me, I knew the key would be to go back to the basics. Make the books fun. And that's what I did. With each book, I found something that made the book fun and exciting for me. That doesn't mean that it wasn't hard sometimes. Writing is often hard. The key is to write anyway, get through the hard parts, with the characters you love pulling you through.

I get lots of e-mails asking about getting published. Kids or teens wanting to know what it takes to become a published author. There are entire books on the subject, so it's not something I can easily explain in an e-mail. So while I refer them to books on the subject, and point them to helpful forums on the web like SCBWI's or the Absolute Write Water Cooler, I also try to say, in the nicest way possible, to not worry too much about that now. Write because it's fun. Write because you enjoy it and you want to get better at it. Write for yourself, because you love creating stories.

The publishing business can be brutal. There is no guarantee, ever, for any of us. My career could be over tomorrow. Even now, with over a dozen books published, I still have books rejected. I still get discouraged. But what pulls me back again and again is creating a story that makes my heart flutter. That is where the joy is - in the creating. Again and again, I have to remind myself of that. Love of story is what has pulled me back from the edge of "I can't do this anymore" many times.

I also think the pressure of creating and creating more can cause you to start to hate it. That's why I'm taking a break now. I want to be excited about writing when I return, instead of going to the keyboard filled with dread.

I've been writing a very, very long time. Because I love it. Because it's fun and challenging and satisfying and lots of other things. The most important thing I can do for myself as a writer is to not lose the joy that comes from writing.  Like the joy I found when I made this book at the age of seven or eight, that my grandma kept and gave to me when she found out I was having my first book published.

Okay, so it's not a very good story. There's no conflict and nothing much happens, but still. I finished it. I'm pretty sure I enjoyed creating it, even if there were parts that were hard (like drawing a lion when I was probably afraid it would look like a sheep).

And now, more than ever, I understand that joy is one of the most important things we can bring to our writing. And we have to do everything within our power to maintain that sense of wonder and joy.

So in the coming months, I will watch shows I love, read great books, frolic in the tulips, and much, much more.

I will be "not writing" and yet, all of it will eventually help my writing. I am sure of it!