Snow Bunny Retreat

February 25, 2012
Last year, a few of my writing friends met up in snowy Utah for a weekend of food and fun. We affectionately title the weekend SNOW BUNNY, for some funny reason that I can no longer remember. No, it has nothing to do with the this picture wherein I am wearing bunny pajamas and holding the world’s largest gummy worm. Christmas party. You know how it goes
Last weekend, SNOW BUNNY 2.0 went down, with the usual suspects, minus Becca Fitzpatrick, who got sick the day before (and was sorely missed), and plus one of my favorite people on the planet, Irene Latham, a friend from my days of Alabama yore. She’d missed the year before so I was glad she could make it this go around.
My parents have a house near Park City, and in this house lives a 5-foot stuffed moose that my sister-in-law gave my mother as a gift ten years ago (longish story). The moose is so large that sometimes I walk in a room and think it’s a stalker with large ears or one of those dorky beer guzzling hats. Like this…
quite possibly scarier than the moose.
But probably not as scary as that picture of me in the bunny suit. You can see why I didn’t squeeze those pink PJs into my carry-on.
A few trip highlights:
The HGTV dream house: Just a few miles away from where we stayed. Pretty sure I didn’t win, despite the fact that I entered everyday in the hopes of owning my own writing haven. We drove up, tried to sweet talk the security guard into letting us in, then commented, “Wow, it’s not that big in person, huh?” As you do when you see architectular wonders that have been built up in your head for far too long.
Milkshakes: I think that one is self explanatory. Raspberry brownie.
Watching Downton Abbey with people who care about Downton Abbey: I have tried to no avail to get my husband interested in this spectacular show. His take: “It’s just a bunch of British people in period dress being dramatic about history” Direct quote. In other news, he’s very hot, so we forgive his shortcomings. But whoa, the season finale! What a way to go. I anticipate a trip to BN really soon where I buy every book on the “If you like Downton Abbey, you’ll like this” endcap.
Oh. And writing. We did that too. I got some wonderful critique notes on my upcoming contemporary story, and might even have a title for said story. MIGHT.
Now, a weekend later, I am sitting next to my two-year-old’s crib so she can hold my hair and fall asleep while I get back into the blogging swing of things. As lovely as this is… yes. I miss those milkshakes. AND MY FRIENDS.

Snow Bunnies from left: Irene Latham, Me, Rachel Hawkins, Lisa Schroeder, Emily Wing Smith, Becca Fitzpatrick (in spirit), the moose.

I heart you hard, Scholastic and OCCBF!

October 6, 2011

IF you're a teen/have a teen in your possession and IF said teen attends a school in US and IF that school has an English/Reading teacher, than chances are high (roughly 73% by my calculations) that you can have access to scholastic book clubs. And you really want access, like, NOW so you can go to the October TAB book order and order Sean Griswold's Head for the low low LOW price of 5. I already ordered, because i'm narsacistic like that (but not too narsacistic that i know how to spell that word) and also bought another copy of I HEART YOU, YOU HEART ME by Lisa Schroeder and GIRL, STOLEN by April Henry. That's three authors from RAD. Here's the screen shot for SGH. The big surprise bonus was that it's also a featured booktalk title, which you can what here

Isn't he adorbs? Pretty much one of the most exciting things to happen yet as an author. I lived for scholastic book orders when I was a kid, spent all my babysitting money on books. Gleeful fun ordering my own book now as an adult, with daughters over shoulder saying "Buy that best friend journal instead!"
Also, had a fabulous Disney adventure. I think you can't say trip, it has to be adventure, right? I thought I signed a contract that said that. Afterwards, I was the last-minute moderator for the Orange County Children's Book Festival "Keepin it Real" panel with Jessi Kirby, Kirsten Hubbard and Andrew Smith. Someone filmed and posted on YouTube (this happens. Usually when your posture is especially bad and you know you're mom is going to call and say STAND UP STRAIGHT) But nonetheless, here it is. And now, I must away. I will be in Portland this weekend for the WORDSTOCK festival, speaking Sunday on two panels, SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT at 2 and a chat with buddy Lisa Schroeder at 4. See you there!

LA SCBWI conference

August 12, 2011

In the last year or so, I've gone to some great conferences and book festivals and signings and schmoozes and get togethers. They're all fun, I meet great people everywhere I go, and I always come home and nap for about three weeks afterwards. Don't worry–I put some cereal on the table for my kids and turn on Disney channel. I have learned children can survive months with these basic staples.
But my most favoritest concert in the galaxy is LA SCBWI aka kids camp for kids writers. At other writerly shin digs, I'm either speaking or signing or meeting important people, and this all means I have to prepare and worry and put on my professional face (which closely resembles my fun face, just with more twitching). At this conference,  I can sit in the lobby and talk with writing friends I only get to see every year. Yes, I also go to classes taught by acclaimed, wise authors, BUT i was so gold star in high school that i never ditched so I have to live out those fantasies now. At writing conferences. That I paid for. 
This years conference, although an utter blast, was also bittersweet, remembering my dearly missed friend, LK Madigan. Our first in-person meeting happened two years ago in the conference hallway, and no, she was not wearing pants. Good times. Another best writing bud, Lisa Schroeder, was also noticeably absent, but she did come to Las Vegas to see the band LIFEHOUSE the previous weekend, and we played with my girls and ate cupcakes and had an overall grand time. I don't have a picture of us, because I am THE WORST at documenting major life events, but here is one picture from the poolside conference.

And now some highlights from the conference.

1. Author signing
I'm used to going to signings and having the majority of buyers either not know who I am or have not yet read my book. At the published author reception, i spoke with other writers who knew me and my work and it was pretty hard not to reverse fan girl and thank them for reading. Having readers is still pretty mind blowing, truly. Also, that people spend their money on my book? Forgetaboutit.

2. Adjoining rooms
Like I said, seeing friends is the best part of the conference for me, and this group of Utah authors are some of my favorite. I don't have an in-person writing group in Las Vegas, but I do travel to Salt Lake City regularly, so I'm like an occasional honorary member at their lunch table. Brodi Ashton (upcoming book is EVERNEATH. I will blog about this book in January. It is on my top 5 YA list for the year) had the idea, and lo, the adjoining rooms were genius. Along with Bree Despain (THE DARK DIVINE) and Emily WIng Smith (BACK WHEN YOU WERE EASIER TO LOVE), we had many late night giggles with the doors between our room open. Seriously, like camp, minus campfire and plus king-sized beds and maid service and balconies and room service. Which is how I like to roll.

3. The pajama party
I was bummed that the annual ball wasn't dress up this year, until I got my PJs on. And then I realized it is easier to cabbage patch in pink slippers and plaid pants. I am also in professional love with this DJ. Yes, if I say PROFESSIONAL, than it is totally kosher. And this was a professional conference, so…


4. Libba Bray made me cry. Twice.
Tears 1: Libba Bray (Printz winner, bestseller, author of BEAUTY QUEENS and A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY) gave a hilarious talk about writing the third book in her career launching trilogy. Did I mention I too am finishing the third book in my trilogy? She said it was hard. That she had to rewrite the entire book. That she was late on deadline, that she was a mess and… this is Libba Bray. This is an author who, from my internet vantage point, seemed to always have her stuff together. So wow, even the incomparable Libba Bray feels those same crazy feelings I've been going through? I'm not alone? This is NORMAL?  I'm NORMAL? 
Tears 2: Running into Libba Bray, and explaining to her that no one understands me but her and we should be best friends now, all while holding a blow up monkey I found on the ground at the dance. And using said monkey to wipe my tears. Impression? Made. Restraining order? Filed.

5. Craft
The best class I attended craft-wise was by Bruce Coville on intersecting plot and character. I took seven pages of notes. I replotted out my next MG idea. I do not feel like rewriting these notes now, but I will. Or, uh, link to someone who typed notes. Yeah, I'm a tease.

6. My agent. Agents.
I love her. My agent–Sarah Davies. Whenever I get the chance to spend time with her, I do, even if it means flying down for a conference during deadline (Which We Will Not Speak Of). Because Sarah? Makes things happen. During this trip, I also had a chance to meet with my film agent, Jason Dravis, and talk about some possibilities for various, er, works. Vague, much? Yes. But possibility is always lovely.

7. Close Encounters of the Author Kind

My daughter just started The Magic Tree House books, and keeps begging me to write a chapter book that she can read now. Since that is impossible, being as publishing takes eons and kids grow up, I did the next best thing and took a picture with Mary Pope Osbourne. Notice the glint in my eye. I can't decide if it's excitable or manic. 

Lunch with authors that I stole from Leigh Fallon. We moved for the picture. We didn't eat Last Supper style the whole time.
(from the left) Josephine Angelini (Starcrossed), Bree Despain (The Dark Divine), Brodi Ashton (Everneath), Lindsey Leavitt (Princess For Hire),  Lani Woodland (Intrinsical), Leigh Fallon (Carrier of the Mark), Morgan Shamy (writer), Alexandra Monir (Timeless), Gretchen McNeil (Possess).

And now! Back to that deadline. I am painfully behind due to these two back to back deadlines, so please forgive my lack of blogging and/or email response. I should be back sometime in, oh, 2012. That is the year after this one, right?

The Things We Keep

July 10, 2011

My Grandpa Keith passed away last week at 92. Whenever I note his death, I feel a need to mention his age. He’d lived a very full life, and each year that he aged, we knew that he didn’t have much time left.
I thought knowing something was inevitable translated to being prepared. And I was wrong. I will miss him very much– miss him for me, but especially for my father, my aunt, and my wonderful uncle who took care of grandpa for any years.
In the closet of my father’s summer home are stacks of boxes filled with my grandpa’s life. I happened upon these boxes one night (happened=waited until everyone in the house was asleep so I could search the loot) and spent the next hour learning more about my grandpa than I had in my entire life. From a box.
Journals, letters, pictures, annotations, golf cards, file folders, paper clips, stuff. Stuff. Stuff. And so many questions. Who was this lady who kept writing during WWII and referencing an apple tart. Was the tart a joke or code? Who were all these people in the pictures? When did he sell real estate? Why didn’t I know that? And why was THIS stuff important, why were THESE the things he kept?
There was a person I knew, and that person i’ll treasure. He was my grandfather, and a good one at that. We saw each other a couple of times a year at best, with years sometimes passing in between. Our visits were often brief and surface, especially at the end when grandpa wasn’t always lucid. I was just a few pictures in those many, many boxes, but all those pictures and people and relationships formed the man he was. But one thing I got out of this past week is this–
I might not have known everything about him, but I knew something, and that something was pretty special. 

The Royal Treatment

May 8, 2011

 Is out! In stores! You can buy it, or go to your library and check it out! Or tell your friend to buy it (this week with the code listed below) and then borrow it. Or bid on a copy at the Help Write Now tornado relief auction. 
 My launch party was yesterday, put on by the fabulous Crystal Perkins at Barnes and Noble. Crystal is a good friend and a strong advocate for YA literature. Her book recommendations are always spot on. The store truly gave me the royal treatment, they even named drinks in the cafe after Meredith and Desi. And there was a security guard standing by my books. Although that was just where he happened to stand, I did feel a little Stephanie Meyer-esque. I’m very thankful to all my family, friends, readers and kids-who-just-wanted-a-free tiara who stopped by. Thank you thank you everyone!

Best of all, a bookfair was set up by BN this week. Use the code #10486058 at ANY Barnes and Noble store or at on ANY book during this week, and 10% of your purchase will go towards The United Way of Western Alabama for tornado relief. If we raise $2500, that percentage goes up to 15%. So Please please please spread the word on that. That’s not just for my book. ANY BN PURCHASE. You can go read a scandalous romance novel or buy your kid a puzzle or a boxed set of a TV show (I think you get the picture here), and you’re helping a good cause. Go you!

I’m headed to Orlando for IRA tomorrow, where I will presenting on a workshop on using social networking to enhance reading programs with Kate Messner, Cynthe Liu, & Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. I’ll also be signing at the Disney book, so if you’re there stop by. My hubby is coming along since it’s our wedding anniversary, and WE ARE GOING TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER. I daresay the man doesn’t quite understand how much geeking out is about to take place by yours truly. Mad geekery. If there is one publishing dream I have, it’s theme park after my book. Dream big, kids.
Dream Big.