Monday, November 25, 2019

The importance of school visits

I came across this article about how school visits have "a lasting impact" on students and thought I'd mention it here. From the article:

"In June 2019, The National Literacy Trust in the UK reported that pupils had authors visit their schools:
  • Were twice as likely to read above their expected level for their age
  • Were more likely to enjoy reading and writing
  • Were more likely to be highly confident in their reading"
Take those points in for a moment and really think about what they mean. ONE author visit can make a world of difference for kids.

A wonderful class I Skyped with

I know sometimes the thought of hosting an author for a day can be intimidating to someone who has never hosted an author before. But please remember, we want the day to be successful too and will work with you and help you. I have a tip sheet I send whenever I book a visit along with a short list of items I need to help make the visit go smoothly. Honestly, the number one thing is not difficult, it just takes a commitment from the teachers, and that is getting the kids familiar with the author's work before the day of the visit by book talking and reading aloud. Kids do much better if they feel like the know the author versus going to a presentation by a stranger, and the way they feel they know the author is through getting to know the work.

I also help you figure out if it's feasible to partner with a bookstore or not for selling books and am happy to provide order forms for you. And if you can't or don't want to do it, it's okay! Students do love getting signed books but I think most authors understand that you are busy and you may not have the bandwidth to make it happen. Some schools have great volunteers to help make it happen, but that isn't the case everywhere so don't feel bad if it's not feasible. 

Funding is often the big thing that holds schools back from hosting an author but there are lots of solutions. I've done a couple of visits that were funded by grants that teachers applied for. A school can also seek out sponsorship with a business who would fund the author for some advertising in return. Sometimes the PTO is more than happy to do a special fundraiser for the visit. There are also bookstores that offer schools a 20% discount on books so the school can sell them at full-price and use that money to pay for the visit. That's just a few ideas, there are plenty more.

There is an informational page on this website about my school visit presentations and pricing, but please feel free to reach out if you have questions and I'm happy to answer anything you'd like to know. And if a Skype visit would be more your thing, I'm always willing to do those as well. A short Q&A Skype is free if the students have read one of my books, or you can pay for a longer one with a writing presentation and time for questions at the end.

If you're a parent, student, teacher, or librarian and would like one of my author visit brochures to present to pass around and/or share with the administration, you can drop me a note with a mailing address at

I love getting kids excited about reading and writing. That's my number one goal at my school visits. When I talk about using juicy words or how revision is more than fixing spelling and talk about what REAL revision means, teachers tell me later that they love that I'm reinforcing what they've been telling their students for months. 

Yes, school visits take some extra work. But work that is very much worth it in the end.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Looking for Alaska and looking back

Back in 2005, I had been pursuing my dream of writing and publishing books for young people for about four years. I had signed my first contract for a picture book titled BABY CAN'T SLEEP to be published by Sterling. I was going to conferences and reading as much as I could online about books and authors in the kidlit world. Somehow, I don't remember how, I heard about this book called LOOKING FOR ALASKA. So I picked it up and read it.

I specifically remember closing the last page on the patio, so sad it was over that I immediately began rereading it. I loved those characters. They made me laugh and cry and think. My husband remembers me laughing in bed and asking, "What's so funny?" and me reading parts to him. Six months later or so, I listed the book on my "best of" list on my LiveJournal blog in December, 2005.

When it won the Printz in January of 2006, I did a little blog post about it and who should reply but John Green himself. At that point, he wasn't famous. He was just a regular person, like me, trying to make a go of writing books for kids and/or teens.

So this past week, I watched the adaptation in the 8-part series that's on Hulu. It is so well-done. Truly one of the best book-to-screen adaptations I've ever seen, if not the best. (Please note: it's not appropriate for children. I'd say 14 and up is probably about right).

Image result for looking for alaska photo

I'm probably going to watch it again. It's that good. And on twitter I told the producer, Josh Schwartz, how much I enjoyed it and he kindly replied: "Thank you. Everyone on the show was committed to honoring what the book has meant to so many."

I went to an SCBWI conference in July, 2006, and John's editor presented a session that I attended. During the Q&A time, I told her that I had read the book in 2005, before it had won the Printz and how much I loved it and I said something like - "I know the book changed a lot during the revisions, but when you read the book the first time, did you know you had something special?" And I remember her talking about the memories she had as she read it for the first time and knew, without a doubt, she had something incredibly special.

Thinking back to 2005 is a strange and beautiful thing. I was so excited to have sold a book but also wanted so much more. Our community on LiveJournal was special and magical. I was caring for two children, working, and getting up early to write books. In 2006, as the TWILIGHT craze was growing, I thought, what if I try writing for teens? I drafted one novel but just couldn't get it to work. And then, I had a dream about a girl whose boyfriend died but he loved her so much, he didn't want to leave. I woke up that morning with a strong sense of love, went to my computer, and started writing. It was different, a little strange even, but man, was I excited about that book. I wrote this (and more) on my livejournal blog after that first exciting morning or writing.

A new story is inside me
and now starting to appear to me
outside of me.
On paper.
Where it can become
what it is meant to be.

It haunted me all night.
Haunted is exactly the right word.
It's a titled A Haunted Love Story.
It's written in free verse.

I could write it all day long
if only I could write all day long.

But there's that thing called work.

So, Ava and Jackson,
I will see you again,
later on,
if not on paper,
then in my dreams.

I love LOOKING FOR ALASKA for the characters and a whole lot more. But I also love it because it reminds me of those days early in my career when publishing was new and exciting and anything and everything seemed possible. John Green's debut novel has been MUCH more successful than mine, but I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME hasn't done *too* badly, as far as debut novels go. It's still in print, 11 years later (and in its 11th or 12th printing). A lot has changed in the YA world since 2005. But one thing I know for sure, that Josh and John reminded me of this past week - it's all about the characters. Watching his show made me want to try writing YA again. Maybe I'll be successful in publishing something, maybe I won't, but if I can find characters like Ava and Jackson that make me excited to sit down and write every day, at least I'll have fun. And that's what it comes down to me these days - the writing better bring me joy, or why even bother? Oh, and I also want to try writing a screenplay. Because...why not!?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

2020 middle grade novel

The last six months, I've been working on a new novel and I can finally tell you about it!

Here's the official announcement:

So yes, the new title is DON'T JUDGE ME, which I really like even though it's much different than what I was using for my working title. This was a tough one so I'm thankful that my editor kept working at it until she found something that is pretty powerful and also memorable, I think.

Not sure when I'll have a cover to share, but I'm guessing it will be in the next couple of months. In the meantime, I'm going to try and get back to blogging more regularly. I deactivated FB although before I delete it entirely, I want to go back and direct people to subscribe to my blog here so they can get updates and news that way. I'd love to return to sharing writing tips, books I've read and enjoyed, and maybe some interesting publishing tidbits. Since I have a regular job alongside my publishing career, there isn't a lot of extra time, but I want to try and make more of an effort. 

As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate your support!

Monday, July 8, 2019

New book, new book, new book!

This is the week!

Some nice teachers and librarians read it a bit early and here's what they have to say:

"I loved how a contemporary issue like immigration is weaved into a story that kids can relate to. They might not know anyone who faces the same fears, but they understand families, friendships,  and the challenges of navigating life as an adolescent." - Kelly Tate, Teacher, Laurens-Marathon CSD

"Wish On All The Stars is a heartwarming story of three girls trying to make their world a better place. The girls are trying to save their local bookmobile while dealing with divorce, immigration, deportation and other family issues. I can’t wait to share Wish On All The Stars with my students in the fall!" - Aimee Bartis, Director of Library Services, Sunnyvale ISD

"Wish on All the Stars is a must read for preteen readers. Juliet, Emma, and Carmen are perfect examples of how friends can follow their hearts to make a difference in others’ lives and their community. These friends will tug at your heart strings and make you believe that with kindness, generosity, and perseverance you can make a lasting impact." - Deaneen Pashea, Teacher, East Noble School District

"This book is a great reminder to show students that they are never too young to start changing the world!  The girls tackle the task of saving their local bookmobile as they struggle with other issues at home.” - Deana Sain, Library Media Specialist, Bolivar Middle School


If it's not at your nearest bookstore, it'd be wonderful if you'd request that they order it. It'd help me out a lot. You can also ask that your library order a copy. It wasn't reviewed in many publications this time, so libraries may not even be aware it's available, sadly. So if you have a library card and logon to your library system now and then, you can check and see if there's an online purchase form you can fill out.

Okay, back to work on the new book that hasn't been announced yet. Stay tuned! And if you read Wish on All the Stars, thank you!! I really hope you enjoy it. 


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Hello from Puppyland

Friends, meet Alfie, or say hello again if you've seen him on some of my social media sites. He's a little over six months old and a ton of fun, except for the occasional messes in the house because getting used to a new family, new routine, etc. isn't exactly easy. But besides that, he's doing amazingly well. I thought he might be sad for a while from missing his old home and family who had to re-home him, but he just settled right in. I can hardly believe how relatively easy it's been.

The best part of it all is that I had hoped he and our cat, Luna, would become friends and play together and wow, do they! They love chasing each other around the house and through the garage.

And in non-puppy news, please don't forget I have a book coming out this July. In fact, exactly four
months from TODAY! I'm excited because it will be my first middle-grade novel available on audio!

Hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Hang in there, spring is just around the corner!