Twas the Night Before Book Launch…

Tomorrow is release day for THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.   One of the bloggers who interviewed me this week asked about my plans for the big day…September first.  My mind raced…

I’m supposed to have plans for the release date?  Well…I guess I’ll probably get up and have coffee.  Wait…are we out of creamer? I think we’re out of creamer. Need creamer. Let’s see…what else…? I did get my new sneakers, finally, so I’ll probably go running.  And hey…September first is a Tuesday, right? I’ll need to get J to cross country practice, and I have to get groceries because we were away over the weekend and there’s not much in the fridge…even if we do have creamer, which I doubt.

Finally, I had the sense to talk about my upcoming launch party at Flying Pig Books, how we’ll have the Great Tree Identification Challenge for kids and Nonna’s famous funeral cookies.  But that’s not until Saturday, September 5th – five days after the fact.

Here’s a secret about launch day.  That magical day your book is released into the world.  That day you’ve been waiting for forever and ever, or at least it feels that way.

Not a whole lot happens.

The witty   illustrated this in what I thought was a particularly witty account of the release day for his YA  novel BUG BOY.

It reminds me a little of my tenth birthday. I remember getting out of bed, knowing that everything was different, and yet I felt just the same.  How could that be possible?  I was ten!  TEN!  I was a decade, all by myself!  Shouldn’t there have been fireworks or marching bands or something

Despite the lack of a parade, it was a great birthday, and I went to bed that night with the knowledge that I’d crossed a milestone. Double digits.  I’d never be just nine again, and just the quiet knowing was enough.

I expect that’s sort of what tomorrow will be like.  The party will come later — and we’ll do some fun stuff here online, too, including a big contest and giveaway for book clubs — but tomorrow will be that quieter milestone.  What will I be doing on release day?  Maybe that morning run. Definitely the groceries.  And then a little hiking – because the leaves are just starting to turn, and a mountaintop in the Adirondacks seems like as good a place as any to celebrate a book about fall.

Heading off Book Challenges

There have been some excellent discussions online lately about student choice in school reading programs and how schools and parents should work together to provide those choices.  I keep a huge variety of books — both MG and YA titles — in my 7th grade classroom library.  I give book talks, and every day, I make the teachers’ version of hand sales to my student customers, recommending new titles based on the last thing a student read and loved.  Our school library, which has seen a huge increase in circulation in the past few years, operates on much the same philosophy.

Occasionally, the broad range of book choices leads a parent to question a particular title that’s in our school library or in my classroom library.  Last year, I decided I’d try to be more proactive about book challenges and choices, so at Open House, I spent some time talking with parents about how we can all work together to make sure the kids have great book choices that meet all of their needs.  I shared this talk on my blog during Banned Books Week, but with school starting again, I thought it might be worth an encore. Here’s the book-talk I’ll be giving on for parents on Back-to-School night:

Our school librarian does a phenomenal job making sure that there are books of interest to every student in our building.  That’s a lot of students.  A lot of different students.

This middle school serves sixth graders as young as ten years old and eighth graders as old as fifteen.  Five years is a big gap, and those are no ordinary five years.  The difference between ten and fifteen is the difference between Legos and iPods, the difference between trick-or-treating and Homecoming Dances. The difference between child and young adult.

Our kids are not only different ages; they arrive at school with different reading levels, different backgrounds, and different experiences that have shaped their lives in both positive and negative ways. They have different needs when it comes to reading.

The book that is perfect for your wide-eyed sixth grade girl isn’t likely to be a good fit for a fifteen-year-old boy repeating eighth grade.   The book that eighth grader will read and love is probably not one that would be right for your sixth grader right now.  But as teachers and librarians, we have a responsibility to serve all of the kids who come to us. We have a responsibility to offer literature choices that speak to all of them and meet all of their diverse needs.

Kids, in general, do a fantastic job self-selecting books, and when they find they’ve picked up something they’re not ready for, they’re usually quick to put it down and ask for help choosing something else. As teachers and librarians, we’ll offer recommendations and steer kids toward books that are age-appropriate, and we encourage you to talk about books with your kids. We have multiple copies of many titles in our library.  Let us know if you’d like to check out two copies of a book so you can read together.  And if you find that your student has chosen a book that you think might not be the right book for him or her right now, talk about that, too. 

We respect your right to help your own child choose reading material, and we ask that you respect the rights of other parents to do the same.  If you object to your child reading a particular book, send it back to the library, and we’ll help your student find another selection.  We’ll put the first book back on the shelf because even though you don’t feel it’s the right book for your child right now, it may be the perfect book for someone else’s.

Our library will continue to have a wide range of choices for kids – to meet all of their varied needs and help them all develop a love of reading.  If we can ever be of help to you in recommending titles for your family, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Smells Like Fall in the Mountains

With just a week left before the kids and I head back to school, we’ve been getting in our "one lasts" this week.  One last bike ride to get Italian ice at the stand downtown. One last walk to the beach with friends visiting their grandparents across the street.  And one last trip to Copperas Pond, one of our favorite short hikes in the Adirondacks, ending with a gorgeous, clear mountain swimming hole.  But it turns out, the mountain started autumn already, while nobody was looking…

Quick-moving clouds and a chilly breeze meant only the brave went swimming!  (I was happy reading an ARC of Megan Crewe’s GIVING UP THE GHOST on a rock.)

We looked for frogs — this pond is usually hopping with them — but only saw one, tucked in between some rocks and looking like he was ready to call it a summer.  The air even smelled different than it did last time we were here, just a couple warmer weeks ago.  Crisper, and with that mix of earth and leaves crushed under hiking boots.

I know for many of you reading this, it’s still summery-warm, still bathing suit and cookout weather. But this week, we saw sure signs that fall is just about here.  The mountains always know first….

How They Got Here: 2009 Debut Author Jackson Pearce

Celebrating another book birthday today! 

Today, AS YOU WISH, a novel for teens written by Jackson Pearce and published by Harper Collins makes it way into the world. Here’s what it’s about, courtesy of Jackson, who is also the founder of the 2009 Debutantes, a group of debut writers for kids and young adults.

Seven months ago, Viola’s boyfriend shared a secret that ended their relationship. Heartbroken, Viola has resigned herself to near invisibility, until she inadvertently summons a young jinn out of his world, Caliban, and into her own. Here he will remain until she makes three wishes.

Jinn is anxious to get back to Caliban, but Viola is terrified of wishing, afraid her wishes will be manipulated into curses. Jinn knows that should she wait too long, the Ifrit, guardians of earthbound jinn, will press her to wish by hurting those around her.As they spend time together, Jinn can’t deny that he’s slowly falling in love with Viola, blurring the lines between master and servant. It’s only after Viola makes her first wish—for a popular boy to love her—that she realizes the feelings are mutual.

With every wish Jinn’s time with her diminishes, but the longer she waits to wish the greater danger she’s in from the Ifrit. Together, Viola, Jinn, and Viola’s ex-boyfriend try to outwit the Ifrit while dealing with their own romantic complexities and the alcohol-laced high school social scene.

For more on AS YOU WISH and Jackson Pearce, visit her website/blog where she shares stories of publishing and some mighty funny videos. This woman is dangerous with a FlipCam.  Really.   You can buy AS YOU WISH from an Indie bookstore through the ever-awesome IndieBound.

Where I’ll be this fall (and how to get a signed book even if you’re not there!)

First things first…a "virtual book signing" for anyone who wants a personalized, signed copy of THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z but can’t make it to an event…

Josie and Elizabeth and the other awesome booksellers at Flying Pig Bookstore are making it possible for everybody to attend our launch party in spirit, if not in person.  If you can’t make it to one of my events listed below but would like a personalized, signed book for yourself or for holiday gifts, we’re having a "virtual book signing" on September 5th, the day of my launch party at Flying Pig.  Here’s how it works:

  • Call Flying Pig Bookstore at 802-985-3999 and tell them you’d like to order a signed copy of THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.
  • They are fabulous and will have a form ready to take your order. They’ll ask for your name, contact and payment information, how many copies you’d like, and how you’d like them signed.
  • Right after our launch event on September 5th, I’ll sign your books and tuck a bookmark or two in each one.  (I’d send you some cookies, too, but they don’t travel as well.)
  • The fabulous Flying Pig folks will send out your order, and you’ll get your books in the mail.

Of course, if you can make it to one of my real live events this fall, I’d love to see you in person!  Here’s where Gianna Z. and I will be through the fall. Starred events are open to the public.

September 5- Flying Pig Bookstore, Shelburne, VT*
11am – THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z Vermont Launch Party!
(Vermont teachers & librarians who attend will be entered in a drawing for a free presentation at your school/library on Oct. 12th!)

September 6, 2009 – 2pm – The Bookstore Plus, Lake Placid*

September 11- Koffee Kat – 104 Margaret St. Plattsburgh*
4-6 pm – THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z New York Launch Party! 

September 25- Lake Forest Senior Living Community, Plattsburgh*
4 pm – Author presentation on writing for kids

September 26 – Burlington Book Festival*
11am- Fletcher Free Library-Writing for Children & YA Panel Discussion
(with Julie Berry, Linda Urban, Jo Knowles, and Tanya Lee Stone)

October 22 – New York State English Council Conference, Albany

October 24 – Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, VT*
2pm – Reading & Book signing

November 7 – Rochester Children’s Book Festival*
Rochester, NY

November 14 – Barnes and Noble, South Burlington, VT*
1-3 pm – Reading and book signing

November 19-24 – NCTE Annual Convention– Philadelphia
Nov. 20, 4 pm – Panel Discussion on Pairing Fiction & Nonfiction
(with Jenny Moss, Loree Griffin Burns, & Tanya Lee Stone)

November 25 – Dodge Memorial Library – Rouses Point, NY*
10:00 – Presentation for kids & families

Meet Ernest McSeamonster (coming from Chronicle Books in 2011!)

Okay…so this isn’t really Ernest. 

This is one of the many local tributes to Lake Champlain’s resident monster, Champ. And the reason I am looking so happy and grateful is because my agent sold my new picture book to Chronicle Books.  ERNEST McSEAMONSTER WANTS TO GO HOME, the story of an unhappy seamonster’s first day in a new school (of fish), is tentatively scheduled for publication in spring/early summer of 2011. 

For those of you who write and like long stories with happy endings, the version of this book that just sold was an 11th draft, and the editor had it in her possession for 11 months before everything finally came together this week.

I’m very lucky that my agent is good with details like contracts and clauses and things, because honestly, all I can think about is what a fun outdoor story-time we are going to have on the lake shore in 2011.  Launch party at the beach, anyone?


THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z will be out two weeks from today! If you’re a Vermonter, please mark Saturday, September 5th on your calendar if you can make it to the launch party at the fabulous Flying Pig Bookstore at 11am. We’ll have the usual reading & book signing, along with Nonna’s wedding cookies, the Great Tree Identification Challenge for Kids. Teachers & librarians present can enter a drawing to win a drawing for a free school or library presentation, so spread the word to your teacher & library friends!  My other 2009/2010 appearances are listed here, and of course you can always order GIANNA Z through IndieBound

And now…here’s my extremely non-traditional book trailer for THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z (courtesy of many great people at ALA 2009 and my background as a tv reporter/interviewer). It’s based on a game that main characters Gianna and Zig play as they’re working on their school leaf collection project.

If you’d like to share the book trailer on your own blog or site or really anywhere, please feel free to copy & paste:

Here’s the YouTube link:

And the embed code:

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value=""></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

Many, many thanks to the kind-hearted authors and librarians and illustrators and cats, etc. who participated in this video!  Gianna Z. and I are forever grateful.

How They Got Here: 2009 Debut Author Jennifer Jabaley

This post is part of a year-long series of blog interviews I’m hosting with my fellow 2009 Debut Authors, called "How They Got Here." 

It should be an especially helpful series for teens who write, teachers, and anyone who wants to write for kids.  2009 debut authors will be dropping by to talk about how their writing in school shaped the authors they are today, what teachers can do to make a difference, how they revise, and how they found their agents and editors.  (You’ll even be able to read some successful query letters!)  If you know a teacher or two who might be interested, please share the link!

Today…Jennifer Jabaley, author of LIPSTICK APOLOGY!

Four little words written in lipstick mean Emily must say goodbye to everything she knows.  Emily Carson has always been a good girl.  So when she throws a party the night her parents leave for vacation, she’s sure she’ll get busted.  What Emily doesn’t know is that her parents will never return.  That their plane will go down.  And the only thing left amidst the wreckage will be a tray table with the words: Emily please forgive me scrawled in lipstick – her mother’s last words.

Now it’s fall in New York City and Emily’s trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.  Her public tragedy captures the attention of more than just the media – and soon two very different boys at her new school are pursuing her: the cute, popular Owen, and the quirky chemistry partner slash pastry-baker-by-night, Anthony.  But even with such delicious distractions, Emily can’t let go of her mother’s mysterious apology.  Does she have the courage to face the truth?

With help of a whole new kind of family – one that includes a make-up artist to the stars, a teen hand model, and a wacky hairdresser – Emily must choose between the boy who makes her forget it all, and the one who encourages her to remember, and ultimately, heal.

Welcome, Jennifer! Tell us about the first thing you ever wrote that made you think maybe you were a writer.

The very first thing I submitted was a story for a contest for the magazine "Highlights". I didn’t win, but they purchased the piece. I was stunned, I had always heard how particular that magazine was and how hard it was to get a story accepted! It was the first time I thought, hey, maybe I really can do this!

What books did you love when you were a kid?

Judy Blume, Lois Lowry and Beverly Cleary were my favorites.

Is there a particular teacher or librarian who was a mentor for you in your reading and writing life?

I clearly remember the day my elementary school librarian handed me a Judy Blume book and said "I think you’ll love this author." She was instrumental in nuturing my love for reading.

Moving on to the here and now, most writers admit that making time to write can sometimes be a challenge.  When and where do you write?   Do you have any special rituals?  Music?  Food & beverages?

Now with two young kids (with vastly different sleep schedules) I rely on a baby sitter. When she comes I like to go to a local bakery with big wooden tables, strong coffee and great pasteries.

Do you have a favorite strategy for revision?

Honestly I think the best strategy for me is to take some time away. When receiving a huge revision letter it can be very overwhelming. If I try and tackle it immediately I can get very overwhelmed and frustrated. With just a little time away, suddenly things seem more reasonable.

What’s your best advice for young writers?

Find an idea that excites you! Accept criticism and use it to make your work better. And write because you love to write, not because you want to be a best seller or rich and famous.

What’s special about your debut novel?

II think what makes LIPSTICK APOLOGY special is that it combines both heart and humor.

What were the best and worst parts of writing it?

Best: falling in love with my characters.
Worst: That overwhelming feeling whey you’re uncertain how to proceed.

How did you find your agent and/or editor?

Tried and trued – query letter. I created my list of agents to query by reading the acknowledgement sections of the books I loved to see who the author’s agent was.

I think the best piece of advice for writing a query letter is do your homework! Reference a book that the agent has represented. For example in my letter I said "I’m writing to you because you represented The Nanny Diaries and I feel my writing style is similar."

Thanks, Jennifer!  Click here to learn more about Jennifer at her website. You can pick up your copy of LIPSTICK APOLOGY at your local independent bookseller, order it through one of my favorite indies, Flying Pig Bookstore (they ship!), or find an indie near you by checking out IndieBound!

Jump off a swing today!

Happy Book Birthday,  !

And in addition to those good wishes for Jo Knowles, author of JUMPING OFF SWINGS, I have some advice for the rest of you.  You need to read this book.

I had already heard praise from some early readers of JUMPING OFF SWINGS when I picked up an advance copy at ALA last month, and I adore Jo, so I was ready to like this one. Even so, I was blown away by the characters and the spare, poignant prose.

JUMPING OFF SWINGS is a book about love and sex and friendship, about loss of innocence and how we all survive it.  It’s one of the most beautiful, most honest YA novels I’ve ever read and reminded me of Judy Blume’s FOREVER in the way it approached the realities of teenagers’ decisions about sex without ever being heavy-handed. 

Read it. Your heart will ache for friends Ellie, Josh, Caleb, and Corinne as they deal with Ellie’s pregnancy after what was supposed to be a "one-time thing" at a party. The characters are so beautifully whole and real that I found myself thinking about them – worrying about them and wishing futures for them – long after I’d turned the final page.

The chapters – alternating between the four main characters’ points of view – are short, making this a perfect choice for reluctant teen readers, but really, it should be a must-read for every teen, boys and girls alike.

I’m with the Lorax

Rattlesnake Mountain has long been one of my family’s favorite hikes around the Adirondacks.  It’s always had a great mix of the things we love in a hike: a great view for a moderately challenging climb, cool mushrooms to look at, the occasional garter snake, a rock shaped like a chair that’s located at a perfect spot for a water break, and a tree that we’ve been calling "our tree" for ten years.  Here’s a picture of it we took a few years ago.

Rattlesnake Mountain was the first mountain my son ever climbed as a toddler. He was two and a half, and we made it as far as this tree before he was too tired to go on.  We played hide and seek around the tree for a while before heading down; he hid in the hollow, and I peeked around from the other side.  At one point, he lost his balance and started rolling down the hill until my husband caught him. 

On other climbs, as he got older, we’d pause at the tree and remember it as the milestone he reached on that first climb and talk about how much bigger and taller he was on each hike. And when my daughter came along and got big enough to go hiking, we told her the story and played hide and seek here, too. This strange-looking tree has become a Rattlesnake Mountain landmark for our family. A place to stop and catch our breath and say, "Remember when…."

J is 13 now, as tall as I am, and beyond fitting in the hollow tree, but he came along with E and me on our hike up Rattlesnake today.  Right away, we noticed something was different about the trail.  There’s been some serious logging on the mountain, which is private land, and there are scars.  Trails that are muddier. Tree stands that are more sparse.  E was immediately furious.  We reminded her that it is indeed private land, that the owner has the right to cut some trees, and that it’s been great that they’ve kept the mountain open to hikers all this time when it’s private property.  And the logging wasn’t irresponsible; nothing was clear cut. 

I thought I was doing a great job being the voice of reason, but then we came to this.

Our tree.

We were all so very sad. I felt like we should have tacked a little sign on it when we were here last fall: "Please leave this one. It’s important."  But that’s not the way the world works.

We continued to the top, where the view of Lake Champlain was as spectacular as always and had the added benefit of being filled with giant, prehistoric-looking dragonflies.  Can you see them?

It made us feel a little better.  Sort of.

But tonight, I can’t shake the feeling that a little bit of my kids’ childhood got chopped down along with that tree. Even here at home, hours later, I can’t believe how much I miss it.