Five Things on a Friday (and two of them are new books!)

1. My 7th graders are doing nonfiction literature circles discussions right now, with sets of the Scientists in the Field books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They are loving these titles — the stunning photography, fascinating stories, and all the connections between the work of the experts in the books and what they’re learning about the scientific method in science class.  I learned about this series from writer-friend Loree Griffin Burns, who penned two of its best books (and soon a third!) — TRACKING TRASH and THE HIVE DETECTIVES.  Since the books arrived at school for this literature circles project, I’ve been on a big SITF reading binge. More favorites include THE SNAKE SCIENTISTS, THE TARANTULA SCIENTISTS, KAKAPO RESCUE, and THE GORILLA SCIENTISTS.

2. Next weekend – Saturday, November 5th, is one of my favorite events of the year — the Rochester Children’s Book Festival.  It’s an amazing, super-charged celebration of books and reading. Check out this line-up! If you’re in the area, please come by and say hello!

3. I picked up another copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE at our library’s book sale this week, despite the fact that we already have at least one copy of this in the house, and possibly two. I have a bad habit of buying the same book over and over again at places like this – as if leaving a favorite title in a box at a garage sale would be like stranding a friend. Does anyone else do this?  There are two copies of Lev Grossman’s THE MAGICIANS in my closet right now because I couldn’t bear to leave them in the mess that was the Borders closing sale…

4. Sometimes in publishing, things have a way of dragging on and on, and then happening all at once…which is why I have news of two new upcoming picture books to share today, both with my much-loved editor Melissa at Chronicle Books.

The first is called THIS TREE IS HOME, about the animals (more than a thousand!) that rely on the giant Almendro tree that towers above the rainforests of Costa Rica, from spider monkeys and sloths, to the Great Green Macaw, to smaller creatures like this poison dart frog that carries its babies up the tree on its back to be sheltered in the rainwater pools of its bromeliads.

As some of you remember, I spent time in Costa Rica last summer and fell in love with the rainforest, so I’m super excited about this book!

5.  The second picture book is hard to explain without giving away secrets – so for now, I’ll just share that it’s about the care and keeping of stories.  I love this one, too, and have been hoping and hoping that it would end up with Melissa, so there were cheers all around when I got her recent email about the book. It had a one-word subject line: “YES!”

Hope everyone has a terrific weekend!

Celebrating Books (and helping a library!) at The Bookstore Plus

Last night was one of those nights when it was absolutely magical to be part of a community of people who love reading and care about books and libraries. Sarah and Marc Galvin, the owners of the fantastic Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, hosted a benefit fundraiser for the Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay, NY, which suffered major damage and lost its entire children’s collection in flooding during Tropical Storm Irene. The event came together in a flurry of generosity and talent.

When Albany artist/illustrator Laura Hamor heard what was happening, she volunteered her time and materials for a community art project. Laura often does artist-in-residence projects in schools, and she was amazing with the kids who  settled in for a night of sculpting and imagining!  Laura also donated a beautiful art supplies basket to be raffled off.

My daughter, who loves to make jewelry,  wanted to help, too. So Sarah and Marc set her up at a table in the middle of the bookstore, where she offered up hand-made earrings for a minimum donation to the library.

She ended up raising almost a hundred dollars to add to the library fund!

And of course, there were the books!

The Bookstore Plus is donating 20% of sales from the evening to the library fund. Authors Erin Dionne, Amy Guglielmo, Jon Katz, Ammi-Joan Paquette and I spoke and signed books throughout the night, including many that were ordered from afar. (Thank you!)

From left to right: Sarah Galvin, co-owner of The Bookstore Plus and the organizer of this whole amazing night, Erin Dionne, Amy Guglielmo, me, and Ammi-Joan Paquette. (I don’t have a picture of Jon because he spoke later on and was hidden by a crowd of book and dog lovers by the time I found my camera.)

Above, Ammi-Joan Paquette talks about NOWHERE GIRL, her beautiful new novel for middle grade readers. I love this book & will be blabbing about it in a lot more detail soon, but for now…just know that it should be on your to-read list. Next to Ammi-Joan, you can see Erin Dionne, whose NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK is warm and wonderful and so, so funny; and Amy Guglielmo, whose TOUCH THE ART series is amazing for introducing little kids to fine art in a way that’s friendlier than the necessary “no-touch” museum policies!

Lake Placid’s terrific Northwoods Inn donated rooms for authors who traveled from far away, and The Bookstore Plus staff worked hard to sort donations and get everything organized for the silent auction.  Illustrators, authors, and publishing folks from all over the country sent signed books and original art to be included in that auction, which raised a whole bunch of money (“a whole bunch” is the unofficial tally…as I’m not sure of the final amount!)

At the end of the night, I left the store tired but still laughing and feeling so thankful to have been part of this event. It was such a warm and wonderful example of how both independent bookstores and libraries really are the hearts of their communities.

The best news of all?  The chair of the library’s board of directors was there with a fantastic update.  Repairs and rebuilding are coming along, and with all the donations that have been sent from near and far, it looks like the library will be able to reopen on a limited basis next month with an amazing new collection of children’s books to replace those that were lost. They’re planning a grand re-opening for later this winter.

Thanks so much to ALL who have helped make that happen – from Sarah and Marc, to lemonade stand kids in Colorado, to publishers who boxed up books, to last night’s authors, artists, and earring-makers, and everyone who sent donations from near and far. You’re giving a community back its library, and I truly can’t imagine a better gift.


Confession: I will always be a band geek at heart. My junior high and high school years were spent marching my flute around fields and up and down neighborhood streets in parade formation in my small town, riding the band bus, and ogling the older boys in the percussion section. So really…was there any way I was NOT going to like a book called NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK?

Probably not… but I didn’t just like it; I loved it.  (Full disclosure: Author Erin Dionne is a talented writer that I’m lucky enough to count as a friend as well. I would have loved the book just as much if she were a stranger, though.)

Elsie Wyatt is a great twist on the classic fish-out-of-water story, a classic orchestra kid who’s forced to join marching band to show “ensemble diversity” for her elite music camp application. Her marching band life is a story of baptism by fire (On the first day, she drops her hat with the big fluffy plume, inspiring the entire band to chant “Chicken down” song at her until she starts clucking.) Things don’t get any more dignified from there.

This is a hilarious book that celebrates the best of marching band life in ways that had me both laughing out loud and getting goosebumps, remembering what it was like to be part of something so big and loud and awesome for all those years. On top of all that, it’s a tender, sweet, and funny story about family dynamics (Elsie’s dad is a symphony horn player), making friends, first crushes, and figuring out who you really are.

If you’d like a signed copy of this book, you’re in luck – Erin Dionne will be signing (along with me, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Amy Guglielmo, and Jon Katz, at The Bookstore Plus this weekend in Lake Placid, as part of a big fundraiser for the flooded Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay, NY.  You can read more about the event here – and the number to call to order signed books (call by Saturday morning, please) is 518-523-2950.

Christopher Silas Neal on illustrating OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW

Today is the official release day for OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, my Chronicle picture book illustrated by the amazing Christopher Silas Neal. It tells the story of a girl who goes cross country skiing with her father and discovers the secret world of animals living under the snow.

This Sunday, I’ll be signing books at a really special event — a gala fundraiser at The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, to help the nearby Wells Memorial Library recover from flooding during Tropical Storm Irene.  In addition to the silent auction and other benefit events, 20% of sales from the evening will be donated to the library.  If you’re planning to purchase OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW and would like a signed copy, please consider ordering through The Bookstore Plus. You can give them a call at 518-523-2950 any time between now and Saturday. Just let them know how you’d like it signed and that you’d like it to count toward the library fundraiser.  I’ll sign your book Saturday evening, and they’ll ship it out next week.

To celebrate the big release today, I invited illustrator Christopher Silas Neal to visit my blog and talk a little about his process for this book, from start to finish.

Hi, Chris! Let’s start at the very beginning… When a potential project like this one first crosses your desk at an illustrator, what are the things you consider when you’re deciding whether to take it on and then how to approach it?

I knew right away, this was the story for me. It’s simple, filled with great animal imagery and has a classic sensibility. It’s a quiet story which I thought would pair well with my visual approach which is most often simple, muted and restrained. Under the Snow isn’t a character driven narrative in the way most children’s books are. In this case, nature is the true star of the show and for my first endeavor into picture book making, I was looking for something that was more about atmosphere and less about designing and creating a character. The fact that your story takes place in the winter makes it all the better. Just a few words into your manuscript and I had already envisioned how white space and trees could be used to frame each page and how the layers of snow would frame each animal drawing. It’s a good sign when I can begin to envision the art before I’ve finish reading. I had a gut feeling I would enjoy making art for this book.

Could you decide what your process was like for OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW (i.e. section of medium, research, planning, sketching, etc…all the way to finished art)?

You’ve managed to write something emotional, magical- with a great sense of rhythm that’s also jammed packed with information. The biggest challenge illustrating this book was maintaining a healthy balance of poetic-ness with educational and factual imagery. These two goals are seemingly at odds and an extremely subjective goal at the very least. I spend a great deal of effort eliminating reality from my work be it with loss of visual perspective and gravity, using abstract colors or, by simply letting emotion rather than logic guide me. With this book, it was necessary to add some of that reality back into the pictures. Ultimately, that tension between imaginary and fact is what makes this book unique and more unexpected than had the imagery been 100% scientific or 100% ethereal. Much like your beautiful words in Under and Over the Snow, the art is completely true yet is filtered through the imagination of a child.

This balance wasn’t achieved easily and It took a few rounds and some coaxing from Art Director Amelia Mack and Editor Melissa Manlove at Chronicle Books before we found the right mix. We started with a test piece which feels quite different from the art in the final book. The animals are blue and red- very cute and characters all to themselves. The problem with this approach is that they lack mystery and intrigue. They feel more like friends than they do an elusive ecosystem of creatures darting in and out of trees and freshly packed snow. With big eyes, and friendly smiles, we might expect the beaver, chipmunk or bear to strike up a conversation.

We did another round, this time adding more variety in color and eliminating some of the smiley faces. There’s still room for abstraction and imagination but in this next piece, I think we found the right mood and treatment for the animals.

At this point it was time to do sketches. Sketching is an essential part of the art making process. Drawing is thinking, sketching is planning- putting pencil to paper is how an artist arrives at ideas. When sketching for this book I kept everything loose and concerned myself more with the overall story and also how to break up the words on each page. Where should the next page begin? How big should the chipmunk be? What imagery will be on this page? How is the overall pacing of the book? Are there enough little animals and big animals, close ups and wide shots? These are the kinds of questions I would try to answer while drawing. Later on, I would work out how each creature would be drawn and what each tree will look like. My test piece was already approved by you, Amelia and Melissa- we had a good idea of what the final art would like so, it wasn’t as necessary for the sketches to reflect those kinds of details.

We tried a lot of different ideas including die cut pages (pages that are cut in irregular shapes) to reveal the animals under the snow. Dummies or miniature versions of the book, are a great way to study how the words and pictures are working as you flip through the pages. We would staple together my drawings into a little book and read through the story.

Next we solicited the help of an expert who examined my sketches and gave me pointers on how the animals would behave, their body position, and how each creature interacts with their environment. At this point I started looking for reference images. Some came from the expert, some I found researching books and on the internet and others came from you. I use reference in a lot of different ways. When drawing something very specific like a beaver’s lodge or a fox’s leap, a photo helps ensure that I know all the parts and proportions. Even if I distort or abstract these images in my drawing style, knowing how they look photographically helps. Other reference is purely for inspiration and I spent a lot of time looking at old naturalist drawings of animals and trees from the late 19th century.

This would probably be a good time to talk about how I made the final images for the book. My process is a mix of drawing, painting, printing making and digital art. I always start with an under drawing. From there I imagine how I might break up the image and how each part of an image will be created. The body of a chipmunk might be created by using acrylic paint, a brayer and a stencil. His eyes, nose and stripes created with pencil. I create each part separately, scan them, and put the parts back together again on the computer while also adding color. This allows to me use various different media for one image and the flexibility to move things around until I get it just right.

The process of turning sketches into pictures is what we call in the business “final art.” But, it’s not really final at all. From here we make little adjustments sending artwork back and forth to the publisher and, to you, to make sure everything is just right. Then, the printer sends proofs so we can see the color and check for last minute mistakes. And, after all of that hard work- I cross my fingers and hope the book looks great and that everyone loves it!

I know that you do a lot of work with advertising, magazine illustration, music, posters, and book covers. How is working on a picture book different from the other projects you’ve done?

This process is a lot longer. There are so many more parts in a picture book. For a book cover or poster, I create one image that embodies the entire story. Or more accurately, I attempt to extract one important detail from a story. It could be an object, character, or just an emotion. With a picture book, it’s not about setting a mood or summarizing- the art is there through the entire story. I had to learn to pace myself and not try to fill each page with every detail. With a book, it’s ok for some pages to be empty and some pages to be busy. I still have much to learn about the process and hope to get better and better as I make more picture books.

One last question… Which spread from this book is your favorite, and why?

Great question! I love them all of course. I really enjoyed creating the winter forest. While the animals were often drawn in a direct and straight forward manner in order to convey a fact, it was in the trees that I took liberties, using expressive marks and vivid colors. One spread that stands out for me is the fox leaping at his dinner.

I really love how he fills the page with red fur and, it’s one of the more energetic moments of the book. However, I do feel sorry the mouse- I’m sure other readers will feel the same way. In the context of observing nature, life and death are less about tragedy and more about balance. I suppose on this spread, it’s the fox’s time to shine, the mouse will have his turn on another page.

Chris, thanks so much for taking the time to share your incredible process – and thanks (yes…I’m going to say it again) for the gift of this art.

For anyone interested in learning more about Chris’s process, he has a great post on his own blog about creating the cover art for MAY B., a recent middle grade novel.

And again – if you’d like a signed copy of OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, just call The Bookstore Plus – 518-523-2950 – by Friday to order!

Saturday: An Awesome Indie Bookstore Benefit to Rebuild a Library!

Whether you live in the Adirondacks or far away, please consider participating in a big, awesome library fund raiser this Saturday evening at The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid.  This is something that terrific indie bookstore owners Sarah and Mark Galvin cooked up after nearby Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay, NY suffered devastating flood damage and lost virtually its entire children’s collection during Tropical Storm Irene.  You may remember seeing some of the pictures on my blog…

Lots of you tweeted about the library damage (and shared on Facebook and retweeted and tweeted again!), so donations have been pouring in.  But rebuilding and restocking the shelves is going to be a long process, so we wanted to do something more to help.

So this Saturday from 5-8,  The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a big reception, book signing, community art project, and fund raiser for the library.  If you live anywhere near Lake Placid, I hope you’ll join us for the readings, art, and silent auction of signed books and original children’s book art and prints. I’ll be there, along with artist Laura Ludwig Hamor (who has an amazing community art project lined up!) and authors Erin Dionne, Amy Guglielmo, Jon Katz, and Ammi-Joan Paquette.

If you’re far away, you can still make a donation to a gift card for the library by calling The Bookstore Plus at 518-523-2950.  You can also call to order signed copies of any of our books (Signed books make great holiday gifts, don’t you think?)













20% of sales from Saturday night will be donated to the library, so if you call The Bookstore Plus at 518-523-2950 any time between now and Saturday, you can order books, let the bookstore know how you’d like them signed, and ask that your order count toward the library fundraiser.

If you have friends who live in the Adirondacks or friends who love libraries, please consider sharing this post!  And if you live near Lake Placid, I so hope you’ll join us on Saturday if you can. It’s going to be a wonderful, fun night, all for a fantastic cause.

Real Revision: An Interview with Laurel Snyder

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that my first book for teachers, REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS, was released from Stenhouse this past summer. I’ve been celebrating with a series of author interviews on the topic of real revision…the nitty gritty, make-the-book-better strategies that some of my favorite authors use when they’re revising a project.

Laurel Snyder is the author of ANY WHICH WALL, PENNY DREADFUL, and her latest, BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX (my favorite Laurel Snyder book yet!). Heartbreaking, hopeful, and full of magic, BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX is the story of a girl whose life changes when the lights go out and her parents have one last argument before her mother loads the kids into the car and drives out of the state. When they land at her grandmother’s house in Georgia, Rebecca has to deal not only with her parents’ separation but also the angst of a sudden move, switching schools, and then…a magical breadbox that backfires? My heart ached for Rebecca, trying to navigate the stormy waters of a newly broken family while taking care of her little brother and dealing with questions of her own about who she wants to be at her new school. BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX is hard to explain – yes, it’s about a magic breadbox and divorce and seagulls and Bruce Springsteen and friends – but it’s one of those books that is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Middle grade readers – especially those who have been through a parental separation – are going to read this one, love it, and hold it close for a good long time.

Laurel’s visiting today to talk revision, especially as it relates to this book.

Welcome, Laurel! How do you tackle the revision process? A little at a time as you write? Or all at once after you’ve finished a draft?

Both.  I’m always wishing I could be one of those people who just sprints blindly through the first draft, and then goes back to read the book and start over again, with their revision hat on.  But I can’t do that. I’m a tweaker. From the very beginning, I fiddle with each line.  I think this is because underneath it all I’m still really just  a poet-pretending-to-write-novels. My favorite part of writing isn’t plotting or world-building, it’s sculpting phrases, sentences, lines.  When I don’t allow myself that pleasure, it’s not as much fun to write.

That said, as I get further into the book, and the plot takes over, I tend to move faster and get sloppier.  So my first drafts are always imbalanced. The first half of each feels pretty clean, and the second half of each has GLARING issues, big sections of mess that need to be fixed.  The first chapter of the first draft can take me a month to write. The last chapter can take me a day.

But then comes the joy of a second draft. Of tinkering.

Do you have a favorite revision strategy that helps with any particular part of the process?

I have no idea if other people do this, but I keep a BIG list.  As I proceed into my first draft, I keep a list of “issues.”  It’s a separate document, because if I had to see it each time I worked, I’d never move forward.   On it you’ll find notes to myself about certain moments, sections of dialogue I need to work in, reminders to myself about themes that need to be developed through the book, or research I need to do for a specific scene, as well as logic problems and chunks od text I’ve edited out already. This list just grows and grows, and then, when I finally have a draft, I’ve got about ten pages of editorial notes to myself.  Then I print the list out, and chop it up into scraps of paper, so that as I read the draft, I can paperclip them into the places they need to be handled.

Like, on my list for the book I’m writing right now, I have a note that says, “The girls need to use a photoboth at some point? Woolworths?”  This is because later in the book, a picture needs to surface, as a plot point.  But I only figured that out late in the game. So rather than stop in the middle of the book, go back, write in a photobooth, I make a note. Then, when I’m done with the draft, I’ll snip that from the list, and then as I’m reading on my first pass, I’ll be hunting for a place to stick it into the draft.

It’s very concrete, this process. Like a puzzle. Totally removed from the actual “writing” of the book, and that’s satisfying to me.

How do you revise to make sure your pacing works for the story you’re telling? Were there any parts of your original manuscript for this book that ended up being cut?

Oh, gosh. Pacing is my weak spot, because I like to read slow books myself, and I tend to write slow books, so I really rely on outside readers to help me with this.  But yes, because of that, VAST sections and key characters often get cut.

The big thing that was slashed from Bigger than a Bread Box to assist with pacing was a character, a guy named Japheth.   In the original draft, Rebecca moved to Atlanta, and made friends with her next-door neighbor, a Caymanian kid named Japheth.  His father still lived far away, in the islands, and his family had real financial issues. He was going to be a chance for Rebecca to see that as hard as her life was, she had a lot to be grateful for. He was also just a really sweet character, and kind of mild love interest, in a non-sexy way.  It killed me to cut him from the book, but in the end I felt like Rebecca’s loneliness was its own character, and taking Japheth out moved the story along much faster.

I still miss him.

(Maybe he can make an appearance in another book?) Anyway, let’s talk characters. What strategies do you use when you’re revising to make them feel real & believable?

Oh, that’s so hard, because in each book my process of writing characters has changed.  With Rebecca, it’s easier, in some ways, because she’s basically ME. So I just have to feel for the moments when *I* wouldn’t do something, or *I* wouldn’t react a certain way.    But that’s not usually how it works.

Often for me, the first step to character revision is about making sure that in trying to make a character consistent, I haven’t made them into a stereotype of themselves.  I think a lot of books today make characters BIG by giving them “noticeable characteristics.”  Like, a girl who always tosses her hair, or a boy who cries at everything, or a woman who says “Zoinks!”  This works in sitcoms, I guess, but I’ve never read a truly incredible book where this worked, unless it was a satire or a parody or something.

So one thing I do is “search” my manuscript to see how often certain words or phrases get used. Like, Emma, in Any Which Wall, was perpetually, “staring at someone, not knowing quite what to say,” and she did a lot of “blinking” or “looking like she wanted to ask a question.”  You can get away with doing something a few times, but that’s not actually building a character.  The character comes from inside. If you strip about the gimmicks, and the character doesn’t stand up to the process, you don’t have a character, you have a paper doll.  You can always layer these moments back in, but an important part of revision for me is making sure I’m not relying on them.  Make sense?

Absolutely! I think sometimes when we see the shiny finished book, it’s easy to forget how challenging the work of revision  can  be. What was the biggest revision job for this particular book? (timeline changes, new chapters, rearranging scenes, etc?)

Well, I already told you about the thing with Japheth.  I guess the other really big thing has to do with the climax of the book. I don’t want to spoil the ending of the story, but I had a hard time figuring out how BIG to make the drama of that scene.  This is less about plot, I think, and more about tone, which is sometimes a hard thing to discuss, because it’s so slippery.

But basically, the climax of Bigger than a Bread Box is a sort of “adventure book climax” and the book, though magical, is really a “coming of age” book.  Initially, Rebecca ran away from home for this scene, crossed state lines, etc.  But it was just TOO MUCH. I found myself afraid that the drama of all that would overshadow the real climax of the book, which needed to be inside the characters.  I almost went even further. I almost chopped that scene WAY back. But I felt like the book needed a big moment, a wake-up moment. And in real life, kids DO have intense dramatic things happen, so I ended up with a compromise.  But I struggled with that scene a lot.

Did this book keep its original title, or did it change along the way?

Original title. I’ve actually never changed a title, ever. Isn’t that funny?  I almost always know the title before I know the plot.  The book I’m writing now, Seven Stories Up (a prequel to Bigger than a Bread Box) feels like it might change. I keep waffling on it.

(If you weren’t such a lovely person, Laurel, I’d hate you for this. I think EVERY  one of my titles has changed!)  So where did the title BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX come from?

The idea for the book came from a car ride. My husband and I were driving to Iowa, with the kids in the car, and I said to him, “What if, in a book, a kid had a box that gave them whatever they wanted, but then they found out where the things were COMING FROM?”  Because we were trapped in the car for the next 20 hours, I had nothing to do but think about that. I kept whipping out my laptop, typing on my knees, making notes, as we drove along.  By the time we got to Iowa, it had become a bread box.  And the title just seemed completely obvious after that.

I’m a big believer that boredom and silence are required for generating ideas.  There’s not enough silence in the world today. Silence is KEY to revision too.

Anything else you’d like to say about revising this book?

Hmmm.  I do have something else, which is that I wrote THIS book about real memories. My parents divorced when I was eight years old, and my mom moved me from my childhood home in the seventh grade.  I’d be lying if I pretended this book wasn’t basically about my emotions during those two chapters of my life.  But part of revision, when you’re writing from memories, is about getting out of your own way.  Rebecca is a shadow of me, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have to respect the character and the book enough to set my own emotions aside when revising.  That turned out to be hard for me.  I’d never had that experience before.  When I got to the end of the book, and realized that the end was different than I’d planned–that was hard, and weird. In the end, the single greatest rule of revision is that you have to LISTEN to the book, get out of the way of your own intent, write the book that wants to be written. When you’re navigating your own emotions, that’s even harder. I was shocked at how amateur I felt. I wanted to make Annie and jim (Rebecca’s parents) love each other.  But that wasn’t for the book, that was for me.

Thanks for joining us Laurel!

And everybody else…you need to read this book if you haven’t already. Ask your library for it, or get it from your local indie bookseller.

Snow, Puppets, & a FREE Writing Workshop this Sunday in Vermont!

It’s been a pretty exciting week for my upcoming picture book, OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW.  I woke up Saturday to an email from my editor at Chronicle, letting me know about this glowing review in Publishers Weekly – my first-ever starred review!  I’m obviously delighted, not just for myself, but also for debut picture book illustrator Chris Silas Neal, who worked so hard on the illustrations for this book to make them match the mood so perfectly.

And this Sunday (10/9), I have an event that I’ve been looking forward to for weeks – kind of a double feature at Flying Pig Books in Shelburne, VT. I’ll be doing a story time and puppets activity for kids & families from 1-1:45, followed by a FREE picture book writing workshop from 2-4 for anyone who loves writing — adult or older kids.  There’s no charge, but space is limited, so please RSVP to Flying Pig at 802-985-3999 if you’d like to attend. Bring your notebook – the workshop will include plenty of quick try-it-now writing strategies.  Please bring a smile and sense of humor, too – we’re going to have fun!