Friday Five

It’s been a busy week, so I’m sneaking in under the wire with five quick things on a Friday…

1. SeaMonsters…  I had a phone conference this week with the editor for SEAMONSTER’S FIRST DAY, one of my picture books with Chronicle.  We talked about the illustrator sketches, which are so funny and awesome they make me bounce up and down a little every time I see them. Also, I love that my job involves having serious conversations about what a sea monster’s belly ought to look like.

2. Tractors…  I’m reading Marina Lewycka’s A SHORT HISTORY OF TRACTORS IN UKRAINIAN, which is a book I probably would never have picked up on my own (because, really… tractors?) but the band director at my school recommended it.  That’s enough for me, since he is also the person who told me about Elizabeth Kostova’s THE HISTORIAN, Jean Hegland’s INTO THE FOREST, and another book, the title of which has eluded me, but it was gorgeous, rich, full of longing, and set in a circus in Venice.  Anyway, TRACTORS is turning out to be not about tractors so much as family and forgiveness, our weaknesses as human beings, and our strengths.  It’s making me laugh, too.

3. Audio Books… Confession: I am kind of an audio-book failure. I start listening with the best intentions, but Inevitably, I end up drifting off somewhere else in my mind, only to tune back in after several minutes have passed and I am hopelessly lost.  Until this week, when I popped in this CD during my drive to a couple school visits.

If you haven’t already heard people raving about Jandy Nelson’s THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, it’s a YA novel about a girl whose sister has died suddenly, and she finds herself feeling both crushed with grief and filled with passion for two different boys who fill totally different roles in the new life she’s trying to navigate.  It’s funny and sad and joyful, full of music, and life-affirming, and after I finish, I’m going to have to go get the print version, too, because I love it so much.

4. Number Four is a secret. Sorry. Forget I mentioned Number Four.

5. Vacation… My school’s spring break started today, so I’m  looking forward to a week of family, reading, and playing outside. I’m taking a bit of an Internet break, too, so the blog will be quieter than usual. I hope you have a great week, full of good books, good news, and sunshine.

Friday Five: The Author Visit Edition

Spring seems to be the busiest time for author visits, and since I’m both a coordinator of visits for my school and an author who visits other schools, I thought a special Friday Five was in order…

1. My students were lucky enough to have not one but two great author events this week!  The first one was a live-and-in-person visit from Rebecca Stead, the author of WHEN YOU REACH ME, winner of this year’s Newbery Medal. Here’s Rebecca talking with our seventh graders. 

She was lovely and wonderful, and I’m actually in the process of putting together a much more in-depth blog about everything an author can learn about school visits from watching her go through her day. 

2. Yesterday, our advanced creative writing class had a Skype visit with Deva Fagan, the author of FORTUNE’S FOLLY and the forthcoming THE MAGICAL MISADVENTURES OF PRUNELLA BOGTHISTLE.  (She showed us an early copy of that one!)

We talked with Deva about books and writing in general, but with a special focus on beginnings.  The kids in our group are in the early stages of new projects right now and loved having the chance to ask about outlining and brainstorming and those stops and starts that often go along with starting something new. Deva compared it to making soup…the gathering together of lots of ideas that start out looking like a big mess but eventually simmer into a lovely, coherent stew. I like that.

3. On the author end of school visits, I’ve had a few requests for in-person events lately and should probably announce officially that I can’t book any more visits for this school year.  In May, I’ll start scheduling next year, so if your school is interested, just drop me an email from my website contact page any time between now and then, and I’ll be send out a note when I’m beginning to schedule 2010-2011.

4. I’m still doing Skype chats with classes and book clubs that have read THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. and those are much easier to schedule, so I’ll be continuing through the school year.

5.  Here’s where I’ll be over the next few months:

School Visits:

March 19 – Mooers, NY Elementary School (AM)
March 19 – Highgate, VT Elementary School (PM)
April 7 – Colchester, VT Middle School
April 8 – Saranac, NY Elementary School

Conferences: I’ll be giving workshops on Skype author visits  at both of these!

April 25-27 – International Reading Association
May 14-16 – New England SCBWI Conference

There’s also a good chance I’ll  be signing ARCs of my skating book, SUGAR AND ICE, at ALA in Washington D.C. at the end of June.  Please drop me a note if you’ll be at any of these conferences, as I’d love to say hello!

Five Things on a Friday

1. I’m Skyping with a before-school book club in Vermont this morning!  Five avid fifth grade readers are meeting me on the computer in a little while to talk about THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.  They read the ARC to help me with a special project, and I’m looking forward to our chat.  

2. Gianna Z has her own Facebook page now.  Won’t you stop by and be her friend?

3. One of my FB and real life friends, author Mitali Perkins, has a fascinating discussion about race and class in THE HUNGER GAMES up on her blog now.  

4. Have I mentioned that I only have 10 days of school left, counting today?  As bittersweet as it is to say goodbye to this year’s crew of 7th graders, I’m so looking forward to a summer that includes a retreat with some wonderful writer friends, a trip to NY to meet with my Walker publicist and editor and my editors at Scholastic, and my first ALA Conference.  Yay!

5.  It is raining today, which is…well…I’ve had about enough of the rain, even though my garden has probably enjoyed it.  I’m hoping this afternoon might bring one of these…

Hope your day is full of colors.  Have a great weekend!

Five Things on a Friday

1. Thank you so much to everyone who answered my plea for advice for a plunge-in sort of writer working on a project that demands an outline.  The fact that I can post a note asking for help here and have so many wise and wonderful writers respond with just the kinds of encouragement and ideas I needed…well, that’s just awesome. Thank you.  And if anyone else is looking for advice about outlining, click here to get to the post – then skip my ramblings and proceed to the wise, wonderful comments.

2. Based on #1, I have taken the plunge and downloaded Scrivener, a writing/organizing/drafting program for Mac people.  As much as I feel a little overwhelmed about learning a new software program right now, the arguments were there.  I like technology.  I am a Mac girl.  And   dropped me a note with information about "the Scriv" as she calls it, and told me she used it when she was working on ONCE WAS LOST. (October 2010, Little Brown).   I read my ARC of this book  in a single sitting on the porch this week while I was home sick; it’s truly one of the best, most beautifully crafted books I’ve ever read (and you know I read a lot.)  I’m not expecting Scrivener to turn me into Sara, but if it helped her to keep all those amazing characters and plot threads organized, that’s a good reason to give it a try.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

3. Speaking of ARCs, if you’d like to be entered to win an ARC of my upcoming middle grade novel, THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, you still have time to click here and leave a comment telling me what kind of tree you’d be if you were a tree. It’s fun, really…  Deadline is 11pm EST.

4. My list of Authors Who Skype with Book Clubs has grown by leaps & bounds this week and somehow ended up with a link on a librarians’ listserv.  I’ve gotten a  handful of notes from librarians in different states saying they’re excited to help their reading groups connect with authors for book discussions, so I’m tickled to know that folks are finding the resource to be helpful.  If you’d like to check out the list, it’s here, along with a link to some helpful information about Skype visits.

5. Including today, I have eight regular teaching days left, and then eight days of final exams, and then it is SUMMER!  Not that I’m keeping track or anything…but I’m kind of excited to have more time for bike riding and hiking and reading and writing and Scrivenering.  What are you most looking forward to this summer?

Friday Five

1. I got an ARC in the mail this week that made me very, very happy.

This one is for older readers (12+) than Lisa Yee’s earlier books, and it’s terrific so far. More when I finish…

2. Sarah Miller, author of Miss Spitfire, posted a video-blog about her use of Darcy Pattison’s shrunken manuscript revision technique this week.  If you’re looking for a way to see the big picture on a finished draft of a novel, you’ll want to check it out.

3. My 7th graders are doing a literature circles unit this month, and there have been some great moments in their discussions.  Their selections this time include The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages, The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin, Cracker by Cynthia Kadohata, and The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, among others.  I had to deliver Kleenex to the table reading Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson yesterday.  If you’ve read it, you know why.

4. I am plugging away on my new MG novel, Sugar on Snow.  I was stuck last night but got on the treadmill for about twenty minutes, and that managed to shake loose an idea for Chapter 6.  My goal is a finished draft by the end of November.

5. And finally, in what I can only appreciate as a brilliant twist of irony on the part of the universe… 

I have very recently finished revisions on my Fall ’09 middle grade novel for  Walker Books, The Brilliant Fall of  Gianna Z.  It’s about a 7th grade girl whose school leaf collection project is ruining her life.  I have been eating, breathing, and sleeping leaves since I started writing this book two and a half years ago.  The day after sent in my line edits, my 7th grade son came home with a packet for me to sign from school… the requirements for a ginormous leaf collection project, due at the end of October. 

Friday Five – Hand Sales in the Classroom

As authors, we talk a lot about "hand sales" — when a bookseller personally recommends a book to a customer in the store.  But that’s not the
only place hand selling happens. 

I often give quick book talks in my 7th grade English classroom.  I’ll pull a pile of new or favorite books from my classroom shelves or the school library and give quick pitches for them at the end of class.  My students keep a list books they want to read, so if they like the idea but are already in the middle of something, it goes on their to-read list.  It’s a great way to share new books with kids and make sure they always have a steady supply of recommendations.

In that spirit, here’s my Friday Five — a list of the most-snatched-up books from this week’s book talks, in no particular order:

~Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor — I read this last June, loved it, and couldn’t wait to share it.  The kids are loving it, too.
~Alabama Moon by Watt Key — One of my favorites for kids who ask for "something like Hatchet."
~First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover and First Daughter: White House Rules by Mitali Perkins — Super high-interest novels about a Pakistani-born girl whose dad runs for President of the United States. These books give a fascinating and incredibly timely look at life on the campaign trail and in the White House.
~Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney — This one consistently wins over the I-hate-reading crowd.
~The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson –  I loved this book, and it’s a title that some of my more advanced readers have a LOT to say about when they come by to talk books after school.

As for me, I’m immersed in the 1918 flu epidemic, with an ARC of Winnie’s War, Jenny Moss’s 2009 debut from Walker Books.  I’m halfway through and (aside from feeling feverish now and then because I’m so impressionable) LOVE the book.  Teachers who use historical fiction in the classroom will want to snatch this one up when it’s released in February.

What about you?  What new titles are you hand-selling this week?

Friday Five

#1  –  We spent yesterday afternoon here, picking lovely, fat blueberries, which led to…

#2  –  Blueberry pancakes for breakfast this morning!

#3 –  Speaking of blueberries, have you seen Laurel Snyder’s adorable book trailer for her middle grade novel Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains?  Laurel’s running a contest on her blog right now to give away a free copy.

#4 – I spent a delightful Thursday evening with readers and writers at the Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay, NY.  Elizabeth Inness-Brown and I were the featured authors at this installment of the Adirondack Center for Writing’s “Readings Around the Park” series. 

I finished reading Elizabeth’s novel Burning Marguerite just hours before the reading, so I loved hearing her read and talk about her process.  Burning Marguerite is a beautifully written book that reminded me of Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News.  If you missed this one when it came out a few years ago, it’s definitely a novel worthy of these last couple weeks of summer.

#5 – My composting worms have become little garbage-eating machines down in the basement.

Last week, I gave the worms a pretty healthy collection of cucumber and zucchini scraps and pear cores.  Here’s what was left —

Just a tissue paper-thin skin from the cucumber peels.

And the end I cut off a zucchini, in the process of being devoured.

At the moment, they’re chowing down on melon rinds, banana peels, and coffee grounds.  My vermicomposting bible, Mary Appelhof’s Worms Eat My Garbage, says you can dump in the coffee grounds pretty much every day.  I do it, but I keep giggling, imagining thousands of little worms all revved up on caffeine.  Maybe that’s why they’re getting so much done.