Thursday, October 31, 2013

Things I Love Thursday

I love going to a school where all the third through sixth graders had read The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester and invited me to speak to them.

The Fay School used my book for their One School One Book project. Each student received a copy of the book and read it with their families. 

They had some great discussions about the book in their classrooms.


I even had my very own bin in the reading classes.


In the hallway of the school was a Graffiti Board where the students posted thoughts and pictures.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Advice from the Trenches Part 1

I've done a lot of school visits over the years. 


Like anything else, I've learned some things the hard way. For anyone new to school visits - or anticipating doing them - I thought I'd pass along some of the more nitty-gritty advice from the voice of experience:
  • Always follow up with your contact person one last time just prior to the day of the visit to remind her of arrival time and equipment needs.

  • Ask about any parking problems you might anticipate. (Some schools have funky parking lots with sections reserved just for teachers or with gates that lock after a certain hour. Urban schools sometimes have limited parking and nightmarish street parking.)
  • When you see the sign that says Buses Only 2:30 to 3:00 - do not park there if you are doing an all-day visit - unless you want to be waiting for thirty minutes while 25 school buses load 1248 kids before you can leave.

  • Keep an energy bar, trail mix, Snickers, apple, Twinkies - whatever - in your bag. You never know what you can expect for lunch. I've had everything from potluck lunches prepared by parents to a pear and brie panini to nothing.

  • Bring your own water - but don't store it with your laptop unless you have really good insurance.

  • Always check in at the office first. Sign the visitor book. If there is a visitor's badge or sticker, be sure to wear one.

  • Don't be surprised or offended if the receptionist in the office doesn't know who you are or why you are there. That information isn't always related to others. Make sure you have your school contact name with you so you can tell the receptionist who is in charge.

  • Leave plenty of time to set up any technical equipment in case something goes wrong - but make sure your contact person knows you will be arriving early so someone will be there to meet you. (Trust me on this one. It's a bummer to arrive 30 minutes early and there is no one there to help you get started setting up.) It's also a good idea to request that your contact person alert the office receptionist that you are coming early.

  • Bring your own extension cords and power strips (with your name on them), batteries, adaptors, etc. Put your name on everything. Schools will have lots of that stuff, too, and mix-ups occur.

  • Have Backup Plans A, B, C, and D in case something goes wrong with technical equipment. I bring my own laptop and projector, but I also have the presentation on flashdrives and CDs. I also have my presentation on Dropbox in case I need to download it.

  • Bring duct tape to tape down cords. Trust me on this one - you will have 200 kids walking over your cords and the odds are one of them is going to send your computer or projector crashing to the floor (and you'll need that really good insurance that you wish you had). BUT, also bring painters' tape in case you are in a gymnasium. The custodian will be unhappy if your duct tape pulls up the finish on the floor. (Yes, the voice of experience.)

  • Some schools prefer that you not use the students' restrooms and that you use one designated specifically for adults (and, um, you'll probably want to, anyway.) Ask.

 [This post recycled from 2008 cause I'm a cheater like that.]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Things on Tuesday

I will pick up the hook.
You will see something new.
Two things. And I call them
Thing One and Thing Two
(Dr. Seuss; The Cat in the Hat)

 Thing One

Writing advice from Kurt Vonnegut:

Start as close to the end as possible.

  Think about it.

That's really good advice.

Thing Two

My heart's home is the Smoky Mountains. 
I have so many wonderful memories from time spent there during my childhood.

Six years ago (yes, that's right...SIX YEARS AGO) I talked about it HERE.

So I'm pretty excited that my husband and I just bought a house there and will someday move. 

A bit of a  nerve-wracking experience.

But I'm one of those superstitious types. I believe in good signs and bad signs and all that stuff.

There are some good signs here.

First of all, I was in the right place at the right time. The house hadn't even gone on the market yet. But I was there. Right time.

Next, the address is 27.

27 is our family's lucky number.

My son was born on the 27th.

Our current home address is 27.

Next....the bird nest.

I love to collect things. One of the things I collect is bird nests.

So imagine how happy I was when this was waiting on the steps of our new Smoky Mountain house!


So....a good sign? I think so.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Things I Love Thursday

I love this needlepoint (made into a little footstool) done by my mother-in-law.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Two Things on Tuesday

I will pick up the hook.
You will see something new.
Two things. And I call them
Thing One and Thing Two
(Dr. Seuss; The Cat in the Hat)

With school visit season in full swing and a manuscript to work on, my blogging has slowed down a tad.

So I'm starting a new blog post I'm calling Two Things on Tuesday to ensure that I get at least a little something in.

So, welcome to the debut of Two Things on Tuesday.

Thing One

Summer was drifting along so beautifully and then Fall came charging in.

The pool is closed:


 but my beloved screened porch is still open.


It's too cool to eat dinner out there but at least I don't have to look at the ugly plastic and tarps of winter yet. I miss those summer evenings.


My outdoor office is still open but requires a sweater.

And the firewood is stacked and ready for winter. 


Thing Two

I recently went to New York for a couple of days. I visited with my great FSG/Macmillan team. (I blogged about it HERE.) 

One of my favorite things about visiting publishing companies is seeing manuscripts in various stages of production. It's so much fun think that they will all someday be books. (It's also a great reminder of how much WORK goes into the creation of a book.) 

I had two books in production at the same time! The one on the right was later changed to The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester.

How to Steal a Dog

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cypress, Texas Part 4

Next I spoke to students at Warner.

Me with librarian Gina Moss

Next up? Duryea School

Me with librarian Alana Wilkin

The week flew by.

Last day: Keith School.

Me with Keith student Bethany Budnek

And the last school of the week: Swenke!

Me with librarian Angie Arnett

Swenke students

Thank you, Cy-Fair, for a great week!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cypress, Texas Part 3

Next I went to Lamkin. The kids were great.

Me with librarian Megan Casas

Then I spoke to students at Black School.

Me with librarian Julie Lenk

That night, we had a blast at dinner.

(l to r) Peter Catalanotto, me, Phil Bildner

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cypress, Texas Part 2

Day 2: Sampson School!

The students had made some awesome Lost Dog signs in honor of How to Steal a Dog


There were so many of them.

I wish I could have posted pics of all of them.

But here are some so you can see how great they were.

A special thanks to Mrs. Cabrera for helping with that project.

Me with Mrs. Cabrera

It was such a joy to meet librarian, Paula Morgan. (I think we are soul sisters.)

Mrs. Morgan and me

Some more Sampson photos:

Me with wonderful fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Callaghan.

Presenting to the great students at Sampson!

And check out this great gift: ornaments that represent three of my books:

Next stop?

Adam School

Thank you, Mrs. Anthony and all the great students!

Mrs. Anthony (left) and me

Chatting with students from Adam School