Stories and Leftovers (and a great indie bookstore!)

The day after Thanksgiving, still full of turkey and stuffing and apple pie that wasn’t quite up to snuff (Mom wasn’t here this year), my daughter and I drove to Montpelier for an annual tradition at the fabulous Bear Pond Books.  The post-Thanksgiving “Stories and Leftovers” event is an opportunity for families to come and hear some relaxed read-alouds as well as do some holiday shopping.  I read my newest picture book, OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW.

Then I got to relax and enjoy the other authors reading from their work. Leda Schubert read two of her new picture books, READING TO PEANUT and THE PRINCESS OF BORSCHT, which made me laugh out loud so much I had to take a copy home.

David Martin not only read his two newest picture books (LITTLE BUNNY AND THE MAGIC CHRISTMAS TREE was so cute!)  but also played his guitar and sang. (There was something in this song about flapping your tongue, which is why this picture looks a little funny.)

Reeve Lindbergh read her warm, wonderful book, HOMER, THE LIBRARY CAT.

And Beth Kannell read from her new filled-with-secrets-and-puzzles book for middle grade readers, THE SECRET ROOM.

Thanks, Bear Pond Books, for a wonderful day-after-Thanksgiving!  If you weren’t at the event but would like to order signed books, we did leave a few behind for the later shoppers- just give Bear Pond a call at 802-229-0774.

The Magic of NCTE

I spent a whirlwind three days in Chicago for the National Council of Teachers of English Convention.  If you happened to sit near me on the plane ride home, you might have wondered why I couldn’t stop smiling.  Here are some of the reasons…

My NCTE trip began in the loveliest way possible…meeting up with friend Linda Urban at the airport after our early-morning flights arrived. We had time for a breakfast and writer-talk before heading out to a shared school visit.  We spent the afternoon with the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th graders of Brook Forest Elementary School, home of uber-librarian John Schumacher, one of Library Journal’s official “Movers & Shakers” for 2011. Just step into Mr. Schu’s library, and it’s easy to see why he caught LJ’s attention.

The Brook Forest library is beautiful, bright, and vibrant, and a place where kids so obviously feel loved and at home.  And boy do they ever celebrate books here!

This is the picture book wall, where kids post a sticker for every picture book they read during Picture Book Month. There were hundreds – in fact, I suspect thousands, of titles already. Just awesome.  The students and staff at Brook Forest really know how to make a visiting author feel welcome, too.

Even the poles were decorated!  Here’s Linda, checking out some student art, featuring my Ernest from SEA MONSTER’S FIRST DAY and her Mouse from MOUSE WAS MAD.

And then there was the cake…

…which was as delicious as it was beautiful.  The kids at Brook Forest ran the show for this author visit, reading the introductions and then coordinating the Q and A session that followed.

Here’s Linda, Mr. Schu, and me…

…and here’s Linda signing her awesome author poster.  These all become part of the Brook Forest Library authors wall, where Mr. Schu features authors & illustrators who have visited, in person or via Skype.

You can read more about our visit to Brook Forest (and even see some videos!) on Mr. Schu’s blog, “Watch.Connect.Read.”

On Thursday evening, it was back to Chicago, where I got to have dinner with the fantastic Walker/Bloomsbury folks, including my editor, Mary Kate, who is smart and sweet and funny, and who loves dessert as much as I do. She understands that one should never be too full for a brownie sundae.

Friday began with our NCTE author panel on using author critique groups as a model for classroom revision activities. Matthew Kirby, Eric Luper, Linda Urban, and I joined educator/author Denise Johnson to talk about the power of peer critiques for writers of all ages.

You can click here to see our presentation, via SlideShare.

After the presentation, Mary Kate whisked me off for my signing, where the Walker/Bloomsbury folks had built this amazing tornado tower of EYE OF THE STORM review copies.

From there, I headed over to the Scholastic booth to sign MARTY MCGUIRE along with illustrator Brian Floca!

This was the first time Brian and I had ever signed together, so it was great fun, especially since he brought along some original illustrations for the second Marty book, MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS, which comes out in April!

Friday evening, I spoke and signed at the BookSource cocktail party for educators & staff developers, along with an author & poet I’ve admired for a long time, Nikki Grimes. Nikki had come straight from the National Book Awards and was losing her voice but agreed to speak anyway, after a cup of hot tea. Halfway through her talk, though, her voice just wasn’t holding up, and she looked over and motioned for me to join her at the podium.  “Can you help me with this?”

We tag-teamed the rest of her speech, with Nikki giving the brief introductions and me reading her poems aloud. It was little scary, since I was reading cold, but mostly it was just fun and awesome.  I kept thinking, “I’m standing here reading with Nikki Grimes!”  Here we are after the reading & signing was through.

Nikki’s new book with Walker/Bloomsbury, PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL, is a funny, wonderful novel in verse that I got to read in full after the event.  It’s not to be missed.

And then… (Friday went on for a long time!) it was off to the Scholastic Family Dinner, which was on top of the Hancock Building in Chicago.  If the elevator that whisked me up to the 95th floor without stopping hadn’t already made me lightheaded, the view would have finished the job.

I’d just gotten over my dizziness when Jim Murphy pointed out that all the chains for the blinds were swinging back and forth a little. (Leave it to the nonfiction guy in the room to point out that it was due to the whole building swaying in the wind!)

I had one more stop to make after the Scholastic dinner, and that was to meet up with some of my author and teacher Twitter friends for a late-night cup of tea.  It was great to meet so many people I’ve already grown to call friends through our talks about books, teaching, and writing online.

From left to right, here’s Jen Vincent, whose blog Teach Mentor Texts is a must-read for teachers, Jenni Holm, author of amazing books including the new A VERY BABYMOUSE CHRISTMAS,  & Colby Sharp, an amazing teacher whose enthusiasm for books & reading is contagious not just for his own students but all over the internet via his blog, SharpRead.

And then I went to sleep for a few hours.

Saturday brought two more signings, REAL REVISION with the wonderful Stenhouse folks, and OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, at the Chronicle booth.

And finally, on Saturday afternoon, I was one of four keynote speakers at NCTE’s Middle Mosaic, along with Janet Allen, Teri Lesesne, and Gordon Korman.

Here’s Teri, speaking about books that address the Past, Present, and Future.  If you want to see her terrific slideshow, it’s available here.

After my talk, it was off to the airport.   (The fact that I shared a cab with Gordon Korman scored me major cool-points with my ten-year-old daughter.)   This weekend will be quieter, with turkey and good books and family.  But I’m still smiling over so many moments from this trip. Thanks, NCTE friends… You sure know how to celebrate reading & writing!



I was in Chicago last week for NCTE, the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, and it was an amazing three days of presentations, book-talk, and best of all, lovely conversations with teachers — some old friends, some online friends I was meeting in person for the first time, and some brand new friends.  I have lots of pictures that I’ll share…just as soon as I find the cord that connects my camera to my computer. It’s here somewhere….really…

But for now, I’m home getting ready for a quiet Thanksgiving and also pinching myself over some lovely news.

OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW made the New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2011 list.  I’m beyond thrilled to see the book that illustrator Christopher Silas Neal and I created with Chronicle in such amazing company.

Like the snowshoe hare in this illustration, OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW may be a little tough to find as we get closer to the holidays.  It’s gone into a second printing, but if you’re looking for copies right now, here are a couple options.

This Friday, I’ll be at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont for Storytelling & Leftovers event starting at 11am, along with David Martin, Leda Schubert, Beth Kanell, and Reeve Lindbergh. If you’d like to ask about a personalized, signed copy, the store phone number is 802-229-0774.

The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid also has copies in stock, some of them signed, and their phone number is 518-523-2950.

Happy Thanksgiving – I hope your holiday is filled with family & friends, great food, and good books!


I must poke my head up from the flurry and flutter of NCTE speech-writing and Mom’s-leaving/soup-making activities to shout:

Deva Fagan’s new book, CIRCUS GALACTICUS, is out today!

I met Deva in 2009, when our debut novels came out and we were part of a group event at Books of Wonder in NY, with my THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. and Deva’s FORTUNE’S FOLLY.

(Don’t get confused…that’s actually me on the left, holding Deva’s book.)

My daughter had Deva sign a book for her at the event…and we never saw the kid’s face all through the dinner that followed because she was lost in the book. We’ve been Deva Fagan fans ever since.  Teacher-friends…you might remember Deva’s name – and her sage advice on revision – from my book, REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS. She shared great stories on how she’s revised her novels, including the latest…

CIRCUS GALACTICUS is out today and is absolutely enchanting.  Brilliant and unique, it was a book that I was so sad to see end. Its title and cover capture the spirit of Deva Fagan’s outer-space circus story, which has all the fantastical mystique you’d expect, along with some emotions and situations that will feel very familiar to teens…including the idea that sometimes you have to travel far from home to find your heart. Highly recommended!

Spread the Word about Marty McGuire! (You could win a $100 bookstore gift card, books, & writing workshops!)

So when’s the next MARTY MCGUIRE book coming out?

I’ve been asked this question a lot in emails and on Twitter lately, so I thought I’d answer it here.  MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS, will be out in both hardcover and paperback on April 1st.  Illustrator Brian Floca is finishing up the amazing art now, and I hope to share the cover soon.  If you don’t already know Marty, you can read all about my nature-loving, trouble-making third grader here.

In the mean time, I’d love it if even more readers discovered the first Marty book, so I’m having a Spread-the-Word-About-Marty contest.  It’s easy to enter — just do something in the next two months to introduce Marty to new readers.  (There’s a list of ideas below!)

On January 15th, I’ll draw a name from all the entrants, and that person will win for a $100 gift card for his or her favorite indie bookstore. Then I’ll draw TEN more names to win signed copies of MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS when it comes out in April.

There will also be a special drawing for teachers/librarians entering with their classes or schools. To be included in this one, create a group MARTY MCGUIRE project either in your school or online (This can be anything – a bulletin board, hallway display, book trailer, acted-out scene video, student-created new scenes for the book on a blog…you name it!)  The top two class or school-wide Marty projects will win a three-day virtual writing workshop with me.  This includes a teacher-package of behind-the-scenes Marty stuff (rough drafts, revised pages, cut scenes, etc.) plus writing handouts for students, as well as three thirty-minute Skype writing workshop sessions over three weeks of your choice this spring.

To enter the drawing, fill out the contact form on my website with this information:

  • Your name & who you are (reader/blogger/teacher/librarian/parent/bookseller)
  • What you did to help spread the word about MARTY MCGUIRE.  It can be one thing or a whole list of things – I’ll put your name in the drawing multiple times if you spread the word in more than one way. Total honor system here; if you say you did it, I believe you. But if you do share something online, I’d love it if you’d post a link so that I can link to your website from my blog, too!
  • An email address where I can reach you if you win and write you a thank you note even if you don’t win.

Need ideas? Here are a few ways to help new readers discover Marty:

  • “Like” MARTY MCGUIRE on Facebook & recommend the page to friends.
  • Buy the book for a holiday gift for a kid aged 6-9 or for your child’s teacher (It’s available in both hardcover and $5.99 paperback)
  • Request Marty at your public library
  • Tell friends about Marty at lunch, recess, work, the gym, or your PTA meeting
  • Find Marty at your school’s Scholastic Book Fair & buy a copy or recommend to a friend.
  • Post about Marty on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ & include this link to her webpage:
  • Write a review on Marty’s GoodReads page, or add her to your To-Read list.
  • Share a review on Powells, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon
  • Pre-Order MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS at your favorite bookstore, or online and let friends know it’ll be available in April.

Especially for Kids:

  • Draw a picture of your favorite scene from MARTY MCGUIRE and share it with a friend or post on a website. (If you scan it and email it to me, I’ll post it on my blog!)
  • Tell your friends about Marty at lunch or recess.

Especially for Bloggers:

  • Feature Marty on your blog – feel free to use any of the information/reviews/ resources here:
  • Save this MARTY MCGUIRE promo jpg that my daughter made for me, and feature it on your blog or website.

Especially for Teachers and Librarians:

  • Recommend MARTY MCGUIRE for your state’s children’s choice book award list.
  • Share Marty with your students (and remember that I offer free Skype Q and A sessions with classes that have read the book – I’d be happy to chat with your kids!)
  • Book-Talk Marty in your classroom.  You can even download the first chapter of the MARTY MCGUIRE audiobook to share with your class.
  • Recommend Marty to the other teachers/librarians in your district. You can download the free discussion guide to share with them, too.
  • Create a group Marty project with your class or school to enter the special giveaway for a three-part virtual writing workshop.

Got other ideas for how to spread the word about Marty? Go for it!  When you’re done, remember to enter via the contact page on my website by January 14th, and include these things:

  • Your name & who you are (reader/blogger/teacher/librarian/parent/bookseller) If you’re under 13, please have a parent or guardian enter for you.
  • What you did to help spread the word about MARTY MCGUIRE.  It can be one thing or a whole list  of things – I’ll put your name in the drawing multiple times if you spread the word in more than one way. Total honor system here; if you say you did it, I believe you. But if you did share something online, I’d love it if you’d post a link so that I can link to your website from my blog, too!
  • An email where I can reach you if you win and write you a thank you note even if you don’t win

Good luck – and thanks, from Marty and me!

My Presentations & Signings at NCTE

It’s almost time for the annual NCTE convention, one of my favorite author/teacher events in the world.  (For the non-teacher-geeks among readers, NCTE stands for National Council of Teachers of English.)  I’ll be in Chicago for the convention Thursday through Saturday, and if you’re going to be there, too, I’d love it if you’d come say hi.  Here’s where to find me…

Thursday, November 17

I don’t have any public appearances Thursday, but I’ll be spending the afternoon with uber-librarian John Schumacher and his students!  I’m really looking forward to this because we Skyped last year, and I’m a follower of John’s terrific blog, so I’m delighted that we’ll get to meet in person and I’ll get to spend time in his terrific school library.

Friday, November 18th


Author Panel: Authors as Mentors for Peer Critique Groups
Chicago Hilton/International Ballroom South, 2nd Floor

Ever wonder how you can get your students to serve as more effective writing critique partners for one another? Educator Denise Johnson invited me to be part of this panel, along with authors Matthew Kirby, Eric Luper, and Linda Urban, to talk about our critique partners and groups, share some behind-the-scenes examples of how we’ve helped one another revise our now-published books, and offer guidelines for using those same strategies to set up critique groups in your classroom.


Signing SUGAR AND ICE (and possibly EYE OF THE STORM advance copies) at Bloomsbury/Walker – Booth #108


Signing MARTY MCGUIRE at Scholastic – Booth #900


Speaking at the BookSource Cocktail Party, along with Nikki Grimes.

6:30ish -9

Scholastic dinner

Saturday, November 19th




Signing OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW at Chronicle – Booth #603


Middle Level Mosaic
Palmer House/Grand Ballroom/4th Floor

I’m one of four keynote speakers for the Middle Level Mosaic this year, along with Janet Allen, Teri Lesesne, and Gordon Korman. (And yes…just seeing my name on the program next to those names is enough to make me swoon a little.) This is an incredible, energy-filled workshop, and I’m so excited to be part of it. My talk is called “Bullfrogs, Tiaras, and Sticky Notes: The Power of Play in Writing for (and with!) Kids”

In between all those things, I’ll be attending some sessions with my teacher-hat on (the line-up is really incredible – you can click a link to see the full program here) and ogling new books.  I’ll fly home Saturday night with a backpack full of books, and a head full of ideas.

Celebrating Books at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival

The Rochester Children’s Book Festival is one of the very first author events I participated in when my first book came out, and it remains one of my favorites. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a place full of so many enthusiastic readers, and every year it just seems to get better.

In addition to the usual excitement, there were some lovely surprises this year.  One girl, Katie, spent some time chatting with me about her own writing after I’d signed THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. for her at last year’s festival. This year, she came right to my table to get a copy of SUGAR AND ICE and let me know how her book is coming along. (“I finished, and I’m on my first revision!”) I asked her some questions, and she told me all about the changes she’s making since we talked last year. The excitement in her voice reminded me that those of us who write are truly kindred spirits.

My friend Penny came from Hornell, NY to say hi, give hugs, and pick up some books for her fourth graders. Here she is (in the middle) with my husband and me.

My online teacher-friends Andy and Tina came from the Syracuse area to enjoy the festival.

I’ve Skyped with their classes, but this was the first time we got to meet in person. After we’d chatted a little, Andy reached into his backpack. “I’ve got to show you something,” he said…and pulled out these student-created scrapbook pages for MARTY MCGUIRE.

How awesome is that?!  I couldn’t believe how thoughtful Andy was to think of bringing them…and to understand what it would mean to me to see them.

I always end up making new friends at this book festival, too.

These two brothers made the rounds with their grandmother several times before deciding on their books to take home  — and both ended up choosing OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW.  I gently suggested to them that one might want to get a different book and then they could share, but it apparently wasn’t up for discussion, so I signed two copies, and off they went.

And then there was Lily…

She came to show me the OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW collage she’d made in the craft room and then got a copy of her own.  “Please sign it to me. Lily,” she said. “It’s L-I-L-Y.”

“All right… L-I-L-Y.”  I started signing…


“Yep. I got it, Lily.”

“L-I-L-Y… L-I-L-Y…L-I-L-Y.”

Needless to say, her name is spelled correctly on the dedication. 🙂

It was a wonderful day, full of fantastic, friendly kids like Lily, and though I seem to have left my voice back in Rochester, I wouldn’t trade that time with readers for anything.

Many thanks to Kathleen Blasi, Sibby Falk, and ALL the organizers and volunteers who made this magic happen. It was truly an amazing day to be a writer and a reader.