Last Winter Kiss – A Poem in Photos

I’ve been dreaming of beaches
and seashells,
drinks with tiny umbrellas,
and the smell of coconut lotion.

I thought I was tired of winter,
but deep in the woods,
she wooed me back today.

I fell for that old dappled sunlight trick,
and swooned.

Now look up, she whispered,

I stared at the sun through the trees
until my eyes watered.
She laughed,
And shook a glittering of snow
into my hair.

She gathered up her best bouquets,
painted all in white.

Beech leaves thin as paper
lifted teaspoons of grated diamonds
to sparkle in the sun.

Then Winter called me closer,

I have secrets yet to tell
before the thaw.

Things twisted and beautiful

…that you can only see with me.

She brought chickadees to sing
in a theater with no ceiling.

It had cushioned white seats,
and walls of cedar and pine.

So I followed her to edge of the world —
At least it felt that way.

We stayed a long time.

It was so quiet,
so hushed with silent white.

There was nothing left to do but head home.

Don’t go, she begged.

We can make angels.

I’ll paint your shadow in violet
on the snow.

(Stay another hour ~
I’ll make you taller and thinner, too!)

But there was hot chocolate to drink.

And Spring will come whispering warm in my ear
any week now.
Winter knows — how could she not? —
Mud and crocuses are impossible to resist.

But today – just for today –
She had me back.
I was smitten all over again.

Meet Marty McGuire! (And finally see the cover!!)

My MARTY MCGUIRE chapter book series with Scholastic launches May 1st, and my editor just gave me the go-ahead to show you the cover art that Brian Floca created for the first book.  So without further delay…heeeeere’s Marty!

I love both the cover art and the inside illustrations so much I can barely stand it. (Fact: I screamed in the middle of a crowded coffee shop when my editor told me on the phone that Scholastic had landed Brian to illustrate.)  And I can’t wait for Marty’s May 1st release. She’ll be available in both hardcover and paperback right from the start, and there’s an audio book, too. Here’s the jacket blurb:

Meet Marty McGuire! Marty would rather spend recess catching frogs in the pond than playing dress-up with the other girls in third grade. o when her teacher casts Marty as the princess in the class play, Marty’s absolutely, positively sure that there’s been a huge mistake! But after a special lesson in the art of improvisation, Marty comes up with her own plan to improve the play. Maybe a princess in muddy sneakers can live happily ever after, after all!

Marty’s available for pre-order on Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon – and if you’re a GoodReads person, you can add her to your to-read list here.

I’ll be doing a Marty McGuire Skype tour in May, so just drop me a note if you’d like me to visit your classroom or library to introduce Marty to your kids & talk about writing!

What Lisa Taught Me…

The world lost a talented writer and a warm, wonderful person when author Lisa Wolfson (L.K. Madigan) passed away this morning.  She was the author of award-winning books, FLASH BURNOUT and THE MERMAID’S MIRROR, a wife and a mom, and a friend to many – even those of us who were only lucky enough to meet her in person once or twice at a conference. She was just your friend right away; you knew that. She made sure.

When Lisa shared her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer on her blog last month, some of us put together photos and bits of writing to send her.  I have to think that Lisa, a writer who understood the healing power of words so well, would be okay with me sharing it with you, too.

What Lisa Taught Me…

That photographs capture time.

That words spoken swirl in the air

Like snowflakes

Landing on a sleeve,

Melting in a lovely instant.

That words written can stay,

And on beloved dog-eared pages,

Voices live forever.

They whisper secrets

And comfort and hope.


That we are all a little like Blake,

Loyal and flawed

Wondrous even in our mistakes.

Even as we stumble confused,

Reaching out a hand

To steady someone else.


That we are all a bit like Lena,

Searching for ourselves

In worlds unknown.

Brave and beautiful in our fear.

And loved.

Oh, loved.


That we are imperfect travelers

On this journey.

That even on the coldest day,

When the wind blows for all it’s worth

And there are rocks on the path…

Even then,

What a soaring, swooping, love-filled

Miracle of a journey

it is.

Skyping & Celebrating! World Read Aloud Day is March 9th

Where will you be on World Read Aloud Day?  Reading to someone, I hope!  If you want me to read to you or your students, just click here to check out my World Read Aloud Day celebration online; I’m sharing video read-alouds of three of my books (two that aren’t even out yet!)

During lunchtime on World Read Aloud Day, I’ll be sharing a Skype read-aloud with teacher Karla Duff’s 6th graders in Oelwein, Iowa.  Karla (she’s @teacher6th on Twitter) contacted me to be part of a special Skype read-aloud project for her kids, and I thought it was a great idea. In case other teachers & librarians want to join her in Skyping authors into classrooms and libraries for short read-alouds of their work, here’s a list of authors who are volunteering their time to do this on March 9th!  To make arrangements, please click on the author’s website to make sure his or her books are a good match for your students. Then email the author directly to make arrangements.  Happy reading!

Authors Available for Skype Read-Alouds on March 9th

Sarah Albee
Olugbemisola Amusashonubi-Perkovich
Sarah Brannen
Stephanie Burgis
Laurie Calkhoven
Katie Davis
Karen Day
Erin Dionne
Jennifer Elvgren
Elizabeth Falk
Jody Feldman
Brenda Ferber
Alison Ashley Formento
Deborah Freedman
Dee Garretson
Donna Gephart
Gwendolyn Hooks
Catherine Ipcizade
Tara Lazar
Richard Newsome
Darcy Pattison
A.S. Peterson

Sarah Prineas
Jean Reidy
Inara Scott
Laurel Snyder
Ruth Spiro
Anastasia Suen
Jennifer Trafton
Iza Trapani
Kristin Tubb

Linda Urban
Samantha Vamos
Greg van Eekhout
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Amy Brecount White

Authors who are listed… If your schedule for March 9th fills up, please drop me a note & I’ll remove your name.

Authors who aren’t listed… Please leave a comment with your name & website link if you’d like to be added!

best tracker

Maine Kids Celebrate “What Happened to Your Book Today!”

Last month, when I shared this poem, "What Happened to Your Book Today" on my blog, I got a note from Susan Dee, a 4th and 5th grade looping teacher in Biddeford, Maine asking if she could share it with her students. Of course!  I told her I’d be honored.

Today, she sent me a couple photos that made me cry in the best possible way.  Her students put together a classroom display of the poem, along with their artwork celebrating books that were "written just for them."

Thank you so much, Susan, and Biddeford students!  Your artwork is absolutely beautiful, and I’m pretty sure I can speak for all the authors whose books you read when I tell you that you guys are the reason we write.


My editor says I can share the cover art for my picture book, OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW.  Ready to think snowy thoughts?  Here it is!

OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW is the story of a girl who goes cross country skiing with her father and discovers the secret world of animals living under the snow. 

A little snowy trivia  now…

  • The illustrator for this book, Christopher Silas Neal, also did the cover for the book I’m reading aloud with my 7th graders right now, Laurie Halse Anderson’s CHAINS.
  • OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW is actually the first book my agent sold for me, though it’s coming out after four other titles she sold later on.
  • I wrote the first draft of this book on the back of a middle school attendance sheet, on a bus returning from a snowshoe field trip in the Adirondacks.  The ride was bumpy.  The draft was messy.  But it worked out.

OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW comes out this fall from Chronicle Books.

Book Love: Great stuff I’ve been reading lately

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a book recommendation, but that’s not for lack of great titles to talk about. Here’s a round-up of what I’ve been reading (and loving!) lately…

In DASH AND LILY’S BOOK OF DARES, David Levithan and Rachel Cohn tell the story of two New York City teens who meet through a notebook and get to know one another as it’s passed back and forth in some most entertaining ways. I loved this book, in part because Lily reminds me so frighteningly of a teenaged me, and in part because it’s just so warm, wonderful, and funny. It’s a delightful literary love story, and really…how do you not love a romantic comedy where the main characters are introduced via a red Moleskine notebook left on a shelf at the Strand bookstore? Highly recommended with a mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows.

Kids who live in a dump site of an unnamed third world country survive by what they find in the trash, until one day they find something that changes everything. It’s valuable, though they’re not sure why at first, and some people will kill to get it back.

I also loved that the world in this book isn’t black and whi…moreSome things I love about this book: the unnamed third world setting felt at times like India and at times like Latin America to me, so it has a real multicultural feel without that being the point of the story. I’d love to see more books like this, where the multiculturalism isn’t the point — but where it’s just one element of a larger story, and in this case, that larger story is full of mystery and intrigue.

I also loved that the world in this book isn’t black and white – the poverty-stricken kids who are the main characters do some questionable things — stealing, lying to the police, etc. to help achieve their goals and frankly, in the name of survival. The real world has so many gray areas that I think this will be a great discussion starter.

And finally, I liked the multiple perspectives. Sometimes it feels like an author uses multiple narrators just for the sake of it, but in this case, the different voices really led authenticity and perspective to the story and painted a more vivid, compelling picture of the community in which it happened. All in all, TRASH is a compelling page turner – and a unique read that I’d recommend for middle school readers.

I love-love-loved Nancy Werlin’s EXTRAORDINARY. It’s a story about friendship and promises, faeries and ancient debts, but more than that, it’s about how our lives and selves are shaped by the people whose lives intersect with ours. A beautiful, page-turner of a paranormal novel with a social conscience. This would make a great literature circles book for older middle school and high school readers who love paranormal because they’ll get their magic and romance, and some weighty issues to talk about, too. Highly, highly recommended. And if you’ve already read it, you should check out this recent post from Janni Lee Simner ( ), who discusses the book from the point of view of a Jewish reader who is also a lover of things Faerie. Lots to think about, but don’t read it until after you’ve read the book because, as Janni warns in the post, there are spoilers.

THE DAY BEFORE by Lisa Schroeder is the story of a precious 24 hours, in which a girl whose life is about to change the next day crosses paths with a boy with a secret deadline of his own. I requested this book through Simon & Schuster’s e-galley program for two reasons. First, I’m a fan of Lisa’s beautiful, poetic writing myself and second, because I have a contingent of seventh grade girls in my classes who devour everything she writes. I read this book in a night (be warned…it’s tough to stop once you get going!) and loved it for its romance, its mystery,  its magic, and its moments…those moments that we sometimes don’t stop to appreciate until something makes us. The poems here sparkle like a collection of favorite seashells at the beach, and I can already tell I’m going to have to referee fights over this one when I pick up a copy for my classroom library when it releases in June.

And finally…two writer-ish books…

In writing THE FOREST FOR THE TREES: AN EDITOR’S ADVICE TO WRITERS, long-time editor Betsy Lerner has crafted a book that’s part literary memoir, part self-help for writers, and part behind-the-scenes in publishing. All of it is entertaining or useful, and often both.  As a writer, I appreciated everything from the tough talk on getting down to work (without excuses) to the thoughts on staying creatively focused in an industry that sometimes knocks that spirit down. And of course, I loved the behind-the-scenes stories that pull back the curtain, like in the Wizard of Oz, to reveal that our editors are very much human, too. A great book for writers and people who want to write, and probably for editors, too.

Though I read SPARK: HOW CREATIVITY WORKS through the eyes of a writer, I truly appreciated the common ground that creative people in all sorts of disciplines share…the willingness to take chances and fail, the need to "fill the well" from time to time, taking in scenery and art of other kinds. And the variety of artists included — author Julie Burstein produces the public radio show STUDIO 360 and draws from a decade of interviews — is truly impressive, from poets and novelists, to sculptors, landscape artists, photographers, and musicians. The collection of essays and interviews between these pages is both inspiring and comforting, I think, for artists who spend so much time working alone and yet need to know that we aren’t really on our own at all.

So…I’m reading Suzanne Selfors’ MAD LOVE right now (funny and wonderful!) but will need a new book when I finish.    I’d love recommendations for MG or YA fiction or narrative nonfiction and also a good craft book for writers…something like BIRD BY BIRD or ON WRITING.  Any suggestions?

Teachable moment: Huzzah, Egypt!

I’ve been reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s CHAINS with my 7th graders as they study the American Revolution next door in Social Studies.  If you haven’t read it, it’s an amazing historical thriller full of great writing and topics for discussion — a perfect class read-aloud/read-together. We were all set to read Chapters 12-14 this afternoon, then review poetic devices like similes, metaphors, and personification and talk about how Laurie makes use of them in her writing.

But at lunchtime, I popped onto Twitter and saw the news from Egypt, tweeted far and wide.  Including this:


In the last ten minutes of lunch break, I shortened the poetic language lesson to free up some time so we could start class with live video from MSNBC…millions of people waving flags and cheering in the streets of Egypt.

We talked about what it might mean for the future of Egypt and United States foreign policy. We imagined the conversations happening in other nations’ presidential palaces tonight. We compared Egypt to Tiananmen Square of 1989 – a demonstration that ended so differently.  Could there ever be another Tiananmen Square, given how small and connected our world has become? We talked about the fact that this peaceful revolution is history happening, history that probably couldn’t have happened, couldn’t have come together the way it did, even five years ago, and we talked about why – 24-hour news, cell phones, the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter.

When I showed the kids Laurie’s tweet, they grabbed their books. "She wrote this!"  And we talked about Isabel and where she might have fit into all this, were she living in 2011 Cairo instead of 1776 New York.  Then we read our next installment of CHAINS with bigger thoughts about revolution and freedom and what it all means.

Huzzah, indeed.