Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dear Steve Jobs:

I love everything Apple.

I love your awesome stores.

I love your gorgeous computers (except what is UP with those black ones?).

I love your iPod, your iMac, your iPhoto, your iWork...

.... your iEverything.

I love your Genius Bar.

I even love your boxes - so white and smooth and cool.

And your bags - with those cool drawstrings and all.


....I do NOT....


do NOT.....

love your stupid Mighty Mouse.

It is not Mighty.

No, wait, it IS mighty.

It is Mighty Stupid.

Mighty Awful.

Mighty Lame.

And this ridiculous video is, well, ridiculous. (Please, everyone, I beg you - watch this video. It takes about 30 seconds. You will agree with me that it is ridiculous.)

I have done those stupid things with your stupid mice.

I have even given up and bought NEW Apple mice.

But now you, Stevie Boy, have forced me to do what I really did not want to do.....

...and that is, purchase ANOTHER BRAND of mouse.

Writing Tip Tuesday

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Resist the urge to repeat yourself.

This little snippet of advice applies to many areas of writing - words, scenes, plot elements.

But it also applies to characters, particularly secondary characters.

Each and every character in your story should have his own role and function.

Ask yourself if there is any one character who "repeats" another character - that is, serves the same function within the story.

Ask yourself: If I take this character out of this story, what will change? Will the story be affected? Will anybody miss him?

If not, it's probably time to murder your darlings.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pant, pant

Got back from Texas at 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning (no First Class Romantic Dude on this flight...darn)

.....am still trying to get back into my "real" world. (That real world is about 60 degrees colder, too, I might add.)

Mail, email, vacuuming (where DID all that dog hair come from?), unpacking, blah blah blah....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My new best friend, Jen

Ohmygosh! I love this girl!

P.S. You are REQUIRED to watch the entire video....the best part starts at 5 minutes and 18 seconds.

Note to Jen: Thank you so much. You are my new bff. We can have so much fun crying together.

Author night in Mission, Texas

Author night in Mission, Texas was quite an event. I wasn't able to get too many photos, but here are a few.

Brian Lies reading a book he wrote as a child (sorry these are blurry..I didn't use a flash):

Brian wowing the crowd by drawing a bat (who was carrying the flag of Texas):

Elaine Scott showing some amazing shots of outer space:

And this is my new friend, Rebekah!
Rebekah loves to read, so we are definitely Soul Sisters!
(And her mom is...guess what? A librarian, of course.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I've met so many great librarians and students here in Mission, Texas. I've been so busy I've hardly had time to take photos, but managed to squeeze in a few today.

Librarian Liz Cavazos (left) and me

A great door decoration at Salinas Elementary School:

Me yammering away at Salinas Elementary School:

Thanks for the photos, Lupita!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New places

One of the most fun things about traveling to different parts of the country is seeing new things.

One school I was at today had a butterfly garden that was amazing. Mission, Texas is on the route of butterflies migrating to Mexico. I've never seen so many butterflies in one place ever. So cool.

I also saw a poinsettia tree. And I always thought they came from Stop and Shop Grocery Store. Who knew?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Everything's bigger in Texas.

I know it's a cliche, but it's true!

This was my first school - big - and brand spanking new. So new that they were literally still building it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Romance is in the air

On my flight from Boston to Houston (en route to Mission, Texas) there was a mightily-in-love couple. For some reason, they got separated so that he was in first class and she was in coach.

But he wanted to sit with her....

.....so he traded seats with me!

First class, baby!

Now THAT is one romantic guy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

So long, y'all

I'm heading out to Mission, Texas for a week of school visits with my pals Brian Lies and Darlyne Murawski, who are both part of the great team of Zade Educational Partners.

I'll be speaking at eleven elementary and junior high schools in the Mission Consolidated Independent School District.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

At least it has wheels

Our new car.

At least I know where my husband will be all winter.

But...I don't think it has heated seats or GPS.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Book Banners

Check out these cool book banners that were in a school library in Iowa City.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book voice

Flap copy.

Anybody ever tried to write it?

It's HARD!

Thank the good lord I've never had to write it from scratch and have only been asked for my input - because I'm afraid I wouldn't even know where to begin.

It's like that stupid, um, I mean, that supposedly worthwhile exercise where you explain what your book is about in one sentence...

Flap copy (the book description on the inside of the jacket):
  • Must be short
  • Must summarize the story without giving anything away
  • Must be short
  • Must intrigue the potential reader
  • Must be short
  • And, here's one of the most important ones: Must (well, okay - SHOULD) reflect the voice of the book.
  • And did I mention - must be short?

Remember a while back when I was discussing book voice?

Book voice (I think I made that term up. Like it?) is hard to define - in the way that writing voice is hard to define.

But for me, book voice means the overall feel of the book.

Its aura, so to speak.

I think it's important for the flap copy to reflect the book voice.

If the flap copy is upbeat and jaunty, the potential reader expects that the book is upbeat and jaunty.

If the flap copy is hip and edgy, the potential reader expects that the book is hip and edgy.

If the flap copy is quirky and humorous, the potential reader expects that the book is quirky and humorous.

The potential reader doesn't want to be misled by flap copy that doesn't adequately reflect the voice of the book.

Which leads me to why I was particularly thrilled to receive a draft of the flap copy for my next middle grade novel, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, written by a writer whose work I adore, associate editor at FSG and one of the Longstockings, Lisa Graff.

This flap copy captures the book voice perfectly:

Nothing ever happens in Fayette, South Carolina. That’s what Popeye thinks, anyway. His whole life, everything has just been boring, boring, boring. But things start to look up when the Jewells’ Holiday Rambler makes a wrong turn and gets stuck in the mud, trapping Elvis and his five rowdy siblings in Fayette for who knows how long.

Popeye has never met anyone like Elvis Jewell. He’s so good at swearing he makes Uncle Dooley look like a harp-strumming angel, and he says “So what?” like he really means it. Then an adventure comes floating down the creek—a small adventure, just the right size for a kid like Popeye—and it all seems too good to be true.

Still, Popeye can’t help but wonder: After Elvis leaves town, will Popeye ever be able to find any adventures again, or will he just go back to being a skinny-headed ding dong?

And I can't even tell you how happy I was to see that Lisa used the phrase "skinny-headed ding dong" - one of my personal favorites, if I do say so myself. (Lisa and I are both clearly stuck in our ten-year-old selves.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

Today I turn the tipping over to Philip Martin, of Great Lakes Literary Agency.

Philip Martin is the editor of The New Writer's Handbook (which includes my short article on working with kids, "Show, Don't Tell.")

He offers the following advice on telling a fresh story:

The core of the writer's challenge is to tell a fresh story. As William M. Thackeray (Victorian novelist, author of Vanity Fair), summed it up: "The two most engaging powers of a good author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new."

But how? How to put a fresh spin on old and common themes?

As children's book author Morris Gleitzman says on his website:

"I don't think you can make emotions up, no matter how good your imagination is. (. . .) All we can do is use the emotions we all feel every day. Love, hate, hope, fear, excitement, jealousy, sadness, guilt, joy, anxiety, etc. The characters in our stories may be feeling them for different reasons to us, but they're the same emotions. (. . .)

"So part of the storytelling process for me is to find interesting and unusual reasons for characters to have the emotions that the rest of us experience every day for familiar reasons."

The key to the trick: "interesting and unusual." In a word: quirky.

Too many beginning authors prefer to create a familiar, likable character, someone who doesn't rock the fictional boat . . . while the ones we enjoy the most (think about it) are often the quirkiest, from Pippi Longstocking to Holden Caulfield to . . .

Find the character that swims against the tide, and you've got a core element of a good story.

For more about Philip Martin, visit The Writers Handbook Blog.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sniff sniff

The saddest day of the year...

....putting the porch to bed for the winter.

Friday, November 7, 2008


If you read this blog with a blogreader and an entry came thru with a pic of Greetings from Nowhere and no text....

...that was a mistake.


Thank you, ever-vigilant Gusty.

Keeper of the Sanity

Look what my friendly (well, actually, he's kind of grumpy) UPS guy brought me today:

Compliments of my favorite geek, Empress of the Universe and Self-Proclaimed Nose-Nerd, Sarah Miller.

Why did I receive such a gift as that?

Because I am Keeper of the Sanity....which means I endured countless hours of endless whining and...UM...


wait a minute.

I didn't mean that.

What I meant was that the Sarah and I had meaningful and profoundly wise conversations about the process of writing.

Yeah, that's what I meant.

But here is the irony which gave us both a good chuckle:

I have no sense of smell.




So I can only imagine the scent of Paperback.

It's a nice scent, right?

If I smell horrible the next time you see me, please tell me.

But thank you, Geek-Girl....

Monday, November 3, 2008

Iowa City Part 8

I had the pleasure of meeting Iowa author Dori Butler.

Dori (left) and me

And a group of Iowa authors came by to see my presentation. I finally got to meet Jill Esbaum, my online buddy. I feel like I've known her forever but we finally met for the first time.

(l to r) authors Jill Esbaum, me, Dori Butler, Wendy Henrichs, Sarah Prineas

And then we went to dinner and talked about books and writing and school visits and all that stuff. So much fun.

(l to r) Dori, Britt Deerberg, Wendy, Jill, Sarah

These gals were all so smart and funny and warm and friendly.

I love Iowa!

Sunday, November 2, 2008