Archive for the ‘Stuff I Love’ Category

Mar

31

2016

THE SWEET SPOT Blog Tour!!!!!

Filed under: Book Auntie Braggery, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Contests, Cover Art, Middle Grade, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love

Today I get to be a part of THE SWEET SPOT Blog Tour!!! What is that, you ask?

It’s me getting to celebrate a fabulous book and it’s new publisher…

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Here’s a little bit about THE SWEET SPOT…

When thirteen-year-old Sam Barrette’s baseball coach tells her that her attitude’s holding her back, she wants to hit him in the head with a line drive. Why shouldn’t she have an attitude? As the only girl playing in the 13U league, she’s had to listen to boys and people in the stands screaming things like “Go play softball,” all season, just because she’s a girl. Her coach barely lets her play, even though she’s one of the best hitters on the team.

All stakes now rest on Sam’s performance at baseball training camp. But the moment she arrives, miscommunication sets the week up for potential disaster. Placed at the bottom with the weaker players, she will have to work her way up to A league, not just to show Coach that she can be the best team player possible, but to prove to herself that she can hold a bat with the All-Star boys.

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My review of THE SWEET SPOT…

This is an important book for girls and boys. In a world where two former female West Point graduates can kick butt in Ranger School, there is NO REASON why a girl who loves baseball and plays as well (or possibly better than the boys) shouldn’t be allowed–EXPECTED– to play. In Mozer’s novel, the sweet spot is that place on the baseball bat that’s just right–allowing the batter to hit it out of the park. But there’s also a sweet spot in life and it’s when EVERY PERSON is in the place where they get to be the best version of themselves. Mozer’s book isn’t an easy fix. It’s hard to figure out who and what you’re supposed to be with other people throwing around ignorant labels, sterotypes and abusive behavior. The Sweet Spot reminds us that even though it isn’t easy, one of the best ways to attack adversity is with determination and a positive attitude. I’m so delighted to know there are authors like Mozer out there making sure that all kids are represented on the shelves. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

As part of THE SWEET SPOT Blog Tour, I was luck enough to interview the fabulous author with questions about her wonderful book and her new publisher, Spellbound River Press.

Check it out…

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Author Bio:

Stacy Barnett Mozer is a third grade teacher and a mom. She started writing books when a class of students told her that there was no way that a real author who wrote real books could possibly revise their work as much as she asked them to revise. She’s been revising her own work ever since.

1. How was The Sweet Spot reinvented by Spellbound River Press? Banner_cl The book has a snazzy new cover designed by illustrator Lois Bradley and the paperback has a fun new interior look (the boring chapter titles have been replaced by baseballs). I was also able to update the content since the Mets surprised us all and ended up in the World Series last year and former Mets player Mike Piazza, who is mentioned in the book, is now in The Baseball Hall of Fame. The only thing the Mets can do now to make the content outdated is to win the World Series – and that would be fine with me!

2. Tell us a little about this brand new press and how you were discovered by them.

Spellbound River Press is a new press for middle grade books. For their first list they sought out authors who had books that were either self-published and getting some attention or series that had been traditionally published but the next books in the series were not picked up. My book fell into that first category. I knew one of the authors whose book was picked up through the SCBWI. He suggested I submit my story. The press loved everything (except for the cover).

3. I’ve read The Sweet Spot and loved it – but for your up and coming readers, tell us a bit about the book.

The book is about a 13 yo girl named Sam who has always played baseball with the boys, but has now found that she is no longer accepted by everyone. Her coach feels she has an attitude about this and tells her that the only way he will recommend her for All Stars is to get a good report from baseball camp, but when she arrives they hadn’t been expecting a girl and it all goes downhill from there.

4. One of my writer friends was recently doing a school visit and she was using a football comparison to make her point to the students. On a whim my author friend used the pronoun SHE when talking about the football player. Eyes widened. Questions were asked. Several boys wanted to know WHO IS THIS FOOTBALL PLAYER WHO IS A GIRL??? I know you are actively involved with Sporty Girl Books. Can you tel us a little bit about why you write for sporty girls and what you are aiming to accomplish by writing non-traditonal books?

I will tell you that it was never my intention to write a book that was non-traditional. Sam is a baseball player because I was writing a story about a girl who goes camping and in one of the scenes I decided to have her surprise some boys by showing off her wicked baseball skills. As a lover of baseball (huge Mets fan), I thought it would be fun to have her be good at the sport. That one scene turned out to be everyone’s favorite and I developed a new plot line around it. When I was first proposing the change, my husband asked me whether or not it would even be an issue, for a girl to play baseball, in this day and age. So I researched it and found out that it is, indeed, a big issue. I also found out that there were very few books written about the topic. That lead me to talk to others about other sports that weren’t getting attention in books (football definitely being one of them) and that’s what lead me to start the blog. I am still surprised how difficult it is for girls to play male dominated sports. I’m also surprised how little media attention women’s sports receive. But that also doesn’t mean that I think all men think this way. Every now and then a reviewer calls me a bad person because my book suggests that all boys think girls should not play baseball. If they read my book, they would see that Sam has way more male supporters than those who stand in her way. I think that is true in the real world as well. I have been very happy to see that The Sweet Spot has had a wide range of supportive readers. Boys and girls. Those who love sports and those who have no interest in playing. The heart of the book isn’t about baseball, it’s about never letting anyone stop you from following your dreams. From finding your own personal sweet spot. I think everyone can relate to that.

5. Tell us a little bit about your book launch and the best way to get The Sweet Spot.

This is one of the last stops on The Sweet Spot blog tour. But you have a chance to win THE SWEET SPOT in a Goodreads giveaway. The book is also available on Amazon and you can request it at your favorite Indie bookstore. You can also buy it directly from www.SpellboundRiver.com. And don’t forget to like it on Goodreads, rate it, and write an honest review once you’ve read it!

Social Media Links:

www.StacyMozer.com www.SpellboundRiver.com

www.facebook.com/StacyMozerAuthor

www.twitter.com/SMozer

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29474468-the-sweet-spot

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Sweet Spot by Stacy Barnett Mozer

The Sweet Spot

by Stacy Barnett Mozer

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
 

Enter Giveaway

 

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Mar

29

2016

YA SCAVENGER HUNT Spring 2016

Filed under: Author Events, Blogging, Check-it-out, Community, Contests, Fun and Games, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Stuff I Love, Touching the Surface, YA Books, YA Scavenger Hunt, Young Adult (YA)

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt!

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This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for a prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online until April 3, 2016!

 

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are NINE  (yes, you heard me correctly!) contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the ORANGE TEAM!

 

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But there is also RED, BLUE, GOLD, GREEN, TEAL, PURPLE, SILVER, & PINK-each with 20 authors. You can participate in all the hunts for a chance to win different sets of signed books! If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage.

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SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Directions: Hidden somewhere below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number in ORANGE. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the ORANGE team, and then add them up. And don’t worry if you have to take off your socks and use your toes to keep track. A calculator works too.

 

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

 

Rules: This contest is open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by 04/3/16, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered. Now it’s time to get started and check out the good stuff…

SCAVENGER HUNT POST

PANDEMIC by Yvonne Ventresca

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Pandemic is a contemporary young adult novel about an emotionally traumatized teenager struggling to survive a bird flu pandemic.

In Pandemic, only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder’s sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. When people begin coming down with a quick-spreading illness that doctors are unable to treat, Lil’s worst fears are realized. With her parents called away on business before the contagious outbreak–her journalist father in Delaware covering the early stages of the disease and her mother in Hong Kong and unable to get a flight back to New Jersey–Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness.

With friends and neighbors dying around her, Lil does everything she can to survive. Just when it all seems too much, the cause of her original trauma shows up at her door. Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.

Ages 12+, Sky Pony Press, May 2014. Hardcover, ISBN 978-1628736090.

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Before becoming a children’s writer, Yvonne Ventresca wrote computer programs and taught others how to use technology. Now she happily spends her days writing stories instead of code, and passing on technology tips to writers. Yvonne is the author of PANDEMIC (Sky Pony Press, 2014), winner of the 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (Atlantic region). PANDEMIC is a young adult novel about an emotionally traumatized teenager struggling to survive a deadly bird flu outbreak.

Yvonne’s other writing credits include a short story in the YA dystopian anthology PREP FOR DOOM (2015), two nonfiction books for teens, AVRIL LAVIGNE (a biography of the singer) and PUBLISHING (about careers in the field), as well as various articles for teens and adults. You can visit her website at www.YvonneVentresca.com.

Pandemic Exclusive Content

  This is a deleted scene from my novel, Pandemic. At one point, this was the novel’s opening. It shows a glimpse of Lil’s friendships and her life before the Mr. B incident and the pandemic.

Five months earlier:

Lockers slammed as the usual Friday afternoon joy filled the school. Kayla and Megs walked down the hallway in front of me. I caught up, slipped between them, and linked my arms through theirs.

“Hey, Lil,” Kayla said.

The loudspeaker interrupted with Mr. Fryman’s last announcements of the week. “Don’t forget that Monday is Spirit Day, so please show your school pride by wearing red and white,” he said. “Congratulations on donating over 200 pounds of non-perishable food for the Thanksgiving drive! This season, I’m thankful for all of you! Don’t forget, charity begins at home. And success is a journey, not a destination!”

“Principal ‘Cliché’ is at it again,” Megs said. “Will he ever stop?”

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” I said.

Megs laughed, but Kayla moved away from us and stood straighter, head up, chest out. At first I thought we’d annoyed her again. Then she did the head tilt, which meant an attractive guy had entered her orbit. As I glanced around for the usual suspects, I almost walked straight into the English teacher who helped me coordinate the food drive in between his debate team coaching.

“Hey, Mr. B,” Kayla said, all white-teeth smile.

“Happy Friday, ladies,” he said. “Liliana, we’re meeting in the parking lot. I have directions to the food pantry and—”

“Debate team practice on Tuesday?” Kayla interrupted. “I’ve been working on a new speech for Original Oratory, Myths about Love.”

“Sounds good. I can’t wait to hear it.”

She beamed after him as he continued toward his classroom, greeting students and making small talk as he went. Mr. B had convinced the other English teachers to exchange homework passes for food donations, which greatly increased our collection size.

“He’s like the school mayor,” I said.

“The mayor of hotness,” Kayla said. “That dark wavy hair, those brown eyes.”

“Oh stop,” I said. “He’s at least thirty.”

“So?” Kayla said. “I’m mature for my age.”

Someone had supposedly seen Mr. B with a student over the summer. What I figured was gossip, Kayla took as an encouraging sign. She’d spent all of last year crushing on him. It looked like our sophomore year would be more of the same.

“Gross.” Megs scowled. “And illegal.”

Kayla flipped her hair back, ready to argue.

“Are you nervous about the next debate?” I asked, hoping to derail their fight.

“No,” Kayla said. “I just envision people naked. I have a vivid imagination.”

I shook my head, leaving Megs to deal with her as I left to meet Mr. B.

Later, I would face evil in the form of a deadly virus. But I didn’t know then that evil could come in many forms. It could even masquerade as a caring English teacher. That afternoon would change everything.

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next ORANGE Team author, Sarah J Schmitt!!!

Orange TeamSpread the word by Tweeting #YASH at least 7 times a day!!! But before you go…BONUS CONTEST!!!!!!

Here’s a chance to win TWO signed copies of TOUCHING THE SURFACE–one copy for you and one copy for your favorite school or local library. Check out my Rafflecopter for the details on how to win.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Mar

8

2016

YA Outside the Lines Crosspost–Words

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Fun and Games, Music, Pondering, Stuff I Love

Today is my day to blog over at YA Outside the Lines. Our topic for the month of March is WORDS. If you want to get your nostalgia on, you should hop on over to the YAOTL Blog check out how the School House Rocks!

SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK ROCKED THE WORDS!

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It’s Great to learn–knowledge is power!

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Feb

23

2016

Win My ARC of ALL FIXED UP by Linda Grimes

Filed under: Book Auntie Braggery, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Community, Reading, Stuff I Love, Wolf Pack, Wolfson Literary

Today is your lucky day–you have multiple chances to win my ARC of ALL FIXED UP (Ciel Halligan #4)

by the fabulous Linda Grimes!!!!

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Linda is one of my Wolf Pack Sistahs at Wolfson Literary and she was super-duper sisterly and sent me an advanced copy of ALL FIXED UP!!!  I love her for not making me wait to find out what happened to one of my favorite characters in the book world. And since I just finished reading ALL FIXED UP, I get to tell everyone how awesome it is AND I get to be one of the nicest people on the planet because I’m sharing my copy with another Ciel fan.

But before I get to the giveaway, let me tell you a little about the book…

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Coming May 24, 2016 — Tor Books

The hilarious adventures of human chameleon Ciel Halligan continue in the fourth installment of this original urban fantasy series, All Fixed Up.

Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire, has a lot of experience filling in for her clients–as them. A rare genetic quirk gives her the ability to absorb human energy and project it back out in a flawless imitation. She’s hard at work, posing as a well-known and celebrated astronaut, about to make a stunning announcement on behalf of the space program…when the photographer documenting the job sees right through her aura. Worse, it soon becomes apparent that he not only knows Ciel’s not who she’s supposed to be, but means her harm.

When Ciel’s elderly Aunt Helen—also an aura adaptor—is murdered in Central Park, and the same photographer shows up at the funeral, Ciel starts to feel even more exposed. Then more adaptors are killed in the same way, and she becomes terrified her friends and family are being systematically exterminated … and it’s starting to look like she’s the ultimate target. She turns to Billy Doyle, her best-friend-turned-boyfriend, for help, but when an unexpected crisis causes him to take off without a word, she’s left to rely on her not-so-former crush, CIA agent Mark Fielding.

Staying alive, keeping control of her romantic life, and unraveling the mystery of why adaptors are being pursued becomes a harder balancing act than ever in this new Ciel Halligan adventure from Linda Grimes.

And here is my review of ALL FIXED UP:

I’m just going to say it–I LOVE the Ciel Halligan books! I don’t know how Linda Grimes does it, but ALL FIXED UP is my favorite to date. The more she writes, the better she gets. Once again Grimes captures the perfect balance between humor, steamy romance and heart. If you like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, but want to add a supernatural twist, you are going to love Ciel Halligan!!!!

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And in case you’ve some how managed to miss this fabulous series, I wanted you to get a look at all the covers and some of the fabulous reviews. You do see that OUTLANDER’S Diana Gabaldon thinks it’s awesome too! Right along with RT Book Reviews and Library Journal. And me, of course.

And I don’t want you to leave without getting to know Linda a little better…

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Linda grew up in Texas, where she rode horses, embarrassed herself onstage a lot, and taught teenagers they’d have to learn the rules of English before they could get away with breaking them for creativity’s sake. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband, whom she snagged after he saw her in a musical number at the now defunct Melodrama Theater in San Antonio. (There’s nothing like a rousing chorus of “If You Wanna Catch a Fish You Gotta Wiggle Your Bait” to hook a man for a lifetime.)

Like IN A FIX’s globetrotting main character, aura adaptor Ciel Halligan, Linda has spent her fair share of time overseas, though fortunately under less stressful circumstances. Kidnapping and daring rescues are all well and good in fiction, but she prefers sanity in her real life.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. It’s time to give my ARC of ALL FIXED UP to one lucky winner!!! The Rafflecopter below will give you all kinds of chances to win.

Ready. Set. Go!

****If you haven’t started this series yet–Linda is also throwing in a signed copy of her first book in the series IN A FIX for the winner!!! It’s your lucky day!!!!!****

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Feb

18

2016

The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Pondering, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing, Writing for Children

The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2

I’m back…and I realized that in Tuesday’s SCBWI Conference Recap post, I forgot to tell you how cold it was outside when we woke up. Inside too, for that matter.

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Why I may have blocked it from my memory…

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This was the inside of my window on the 29th floor.

 

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But it did look rather pretty once the sun came out.

But I should probably stop giving you the cold shoulder and start filling you in on the rest of the SCBWI conference. When I left you on Tuesday…

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…a large crowd of Kid Lit SCBWI writers and illustrators were eating picnic style on the floor of the hotel lobby and Debbie Ohi couldn’t give away a piece of her black and white cookie. Yes, we are a strange group–just go with it.

After lunch I had my second Break-out/Workshop session of the day with Elizabeth Bicknell, EVP, Executive Editorial Directo & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press–WRITING PICTURE BOOK TEXT.

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Elizabeth Bicknell

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Some of the books she used to illustrate fabulous and successful picture books.

Good things to know…

*Candlewick only does children’s books.

*Don’t make your story about too many things.

*No Flashbacks.

*PB’s are like a little play.

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Topics in PB’s shift over time but here are currently popular story lines.

Up next was a Fireside Chat between Lin Oliver and Rainbow Rowell

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Lin and Rainbow are way too adorable together!

Here are my favorite take-aways…

*When you’re writing 1st person, you’re writing monologues.

*Good novelists have good memories.

*The best comedy comes at the moment of pathos. (The intersection of funny and sad)

*Like a dog returning to his own vomit–it’s a long and very funny story!

*Rainbow’s outlines are emails to her agent.

*Her plots are derived from characters. Using characters to fulfill a plot is very different than characters creating the plot.

*The shared texts we have now are pop culture–it’s no longer scripture etc…

*People find the references that are there for them.

*If I’d written girls when I was younger, I think I would have accepted more of what the world told me to.

*On writing in an Omaha Starbucks–Hey! Writing in a NYC Starbucks is a very different thing. They are like public restrooms that serve coffee! ROTFL!

*Not in the past, and maybe not in the future, but right now I am privileged to write full time.

*Publishing is a game of speculation. Everyone is guessing even though everything seems set in stone.

The next Keynote required no guessing at all to know it would be good. I’ve heard the fantabulous Kate Messner on numerous occasions and I’ve also heard nothing but wonderful things about Linda Urban and they were going to be talking about MUSIC, MOUNTAINS AND MOCHA LATTES: SUSTAINING A CREATIVE LIFE.

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Kate spoke first and talked about her own journey to reconnect with a manuscript by climbing mountains.

*Sometimes we need one small thing to keep going.

*If climbing one mountain was good for my writing, climbing 40+ would be amazing.

*Put your butt in your chair, but when you’re stuck, get up.

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Then Linda Urban talked about how she’d rather have her finger nails pulled out than climb mountains, but how she found the same creative inspiration in a little red ukulele.

*Playing the ukulele causes a rush I wasn’t getting while I was stuck in my MS.

*The dopamine it provided and a long trail of small musical success restored my creative confidence.

*The negative voice in my head got bored while I was playing.

And then the lovely Linda sang for us <3

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And as you might imagine, these two inspirational and creative authors were each other’s biggest fans. So, please remember, if you can’t find a creative outlet that will lead you back to your writing–find a friend to have a Mocha Latte–it will work every  time.

After all this inspiration there was a book signing with Rainbow Rowell, the Art Browse and the Gala dinner followed by multiple socials and of course my group of lobby rats hanging out in the lobby–sort of. Remember how cold it was? Well, that lobby was a wee bit drafty, so for the first time ever, the rats took to the underbelly of the hotel (like all good rats do) and moved out of the cold.

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But as always–we stayed up talking way to long. Always one of my favorite parts of the SCBWI conference.

With not enough sleep under our belts, it was time for coffee, bagels and Day Three of the SCBWI conference. Once again our uber fantastic illustrators blew me out of the water with their gorgeous art and Jane Yolen got me all choked up giving out her SCBWI Mid-List Author Grants.

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And it’s always our pleasure to thank the staff of the SCBWI for all they do to bring us together for these amazing conferences and to let them know how much we appreciate all they accomplish behind the scenes throughout the year.

Our first Keynote for Sunday was Rita Williams-Garcia and she talked about DO’S AND DON’TS IN CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING FROM A DEFINITE DON’T.

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Here are some of my favorites from Rita–she was both moving and funny as she spoke.

*I loved telling stories–or as my mother called it–lying.

*Live in The Plan: I took every step possible in be coming what I envisioned. (She wrote 500 words every night as a child and rented out her sister’s typewriter to do it.)

*Don’t pick your major based on the hot guy with the afro–he doesn’t have any hair now!

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Rita on really being faced with the prospect of editing a manuscript for the first time.

*Don’t stay with an uncontracted project too long.

*Don’t isolate yourself–TRIBE!

*Don’t block out criticism.

*Don’t be a know it all.

*Don’t stop writing–live in The Plan.

*Live with gratitude–do what you’re doing–you’re here!

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Next up was Jacquelyn Mitchard–SAY GOODBYE TO ALL OF THAT: THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT ENDING.

Jacquelyn was literary, funny, thoughtful and informative–so much good stuff to digest.

*People love the 19th Century greats because the ending is so clear.

*The last sentence of a books, for some writers, is the first sentence they know about.

*Most books really don’t echo the promises made in the first pages.

*The reader doesn’t want it to end, so how do you make it okay for the reader? It should do more than tie up loose ends–your job is to lead the reader back into the real world.

*Leave room for interpretation.

*Say what you’re going to do, do it, then get the hell out.

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Since I don’t have a picture of the next panel, you should look at this one instead. This is what my hilarious friend, Scott Hammon, looks like after a Rocky-esque run up to the podium. He’s been waiting FIVE YEARS to win the SCBWI Conference joke contest!!! Watch out Jay Asher…Scott is very, very slowly creeping up after you. *grin*

Now back to the panel…

Moderator: RF-Ruben Pfeffer

AB: Alessandra BalzerVice President and Co-Publisher, Balzer + Bray and imprint at HarperCollins

EB: Elizabeth Bicknell–EVP, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press

GC: Ginger ClarkAgent, Curtis Brown, LTD

SD: Sarah DaviesAgent, Greenhouse Literary

AL: Alvina LingVP and Editor-in-Chief, Little Brown Books for Young Readers

The last panel discussion of the SCBWI conference was ACQUISITIONS TODAY: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES. This was a crazy interesting panel because it mixed editors AND agents and the quips and candor flying back and forth was both informative and entertaining. Once again I’ll be honest and say I spent more time listening to the fast flying information than taking notes. There was lots of information on preempts, auctions, bidding, multiple submissions and of course, everyone’s option on the lot. Check the #NY16SCBWI thread and TEAM BLOG for more detailed information on the panel.

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And I won’t lie. This finally Keynote is the one I waited the whole conference for. I cannot even begin to explain how much of a fan I am of Gary Schmidt. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at an LA SCBWI Conference and he blew me away. I’ve also had the chance to read his books with my boys. We very recently finished reading his newest novel, ORBITING JUPITER together. It is now my favorite Schmidt novel, which is saying something. And to more completely put this book in perspective, my 15, 12 and 10-year-olds asked that we put The 5th Wave on hold so we could read ORBITING JUPITER faster. I love my kids. <3

The final Keynote was entitled THE BOMBERS OF THE BOSTON MARATHON, AND THE PLANES OF 9/11 AND HOW ANTHONY WISHED THEY WOULD.

It would be madness for me to try and do anything other than write down what inspired and moved me as Gary spoke.

*Why is it that when a group of Kid Lit writers gets together, we get along? This doesn’t happen with adult writer, poets. It’s because we have the same mission–we do it for kids.

*”Nobody came because nobody ever does.” –Jude the Obscure   We are here to address this. We need to be the writers that show up.

*When an adult speaks to a child with honesty, they know that someone is telling them the truth and that despite the brokenness of the world–it is still worth living.

*We need to write for the kid sitting on the log who is waiting for someone to show up, because no one ever does.

          -Like Anthony during 9/11. He went outside to see if a plane was going to hit his building and when it didn’t, he was disappointed because it would have saved a lot of trouble. Is it any wonder that he’s serving a life sentence?

          -Like Jake, one year into his sentence. He loves the planets, especially Jupiter. When Gary sent him a book and a poster on the planets it was taken away. Once again, no one showed up.

          -Like Marlene, a high school student actively engaged in a writing activity with Gary. When two teen boys walk in (who don’t do anything wrong or intimidating) this girl shuts down completely. When they leave she reengages. What happened in her life, in this school that shuts her down like that?

*The deep heartfelt question that we must ask as authors is…what ails you? It is a question of human empathy.

*Story and art can reveal human empathy.

*Story insists on human complexity and multidimensionality.

*Watch what happens if you take the stance in life that EVERYTHING MATTERS.

*If you want to be a writer, you have to LOVE the world.

*The writer believes with her whole heart that we give the world more to be human with. There is a reason ISIS destroys art.

*We write to serve. We don’t tell the kids how to act, we sit down beside them on the log and we say the truth.

And that is why I love Gary Schmidt…

And that is why I rushed to his book signing table and proceeded to get all choked up as I tried to explain my heart, head and soul to a man who I’m pretty sure already knows it. Remember…he loves the world.

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Then there was the pleasure of meeting the newly minted Newbery Award Winner, Matt de la Pena. He’s the first Latino author to win the Newbery Medal for outstanding contribution to children’s literature with his picture book, LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE. Matt is a fabulous SCBWI success story and we are all so proud of him and his accomplishments.

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I also had the pleasure of getting my books signed by Oscar winner William Joyce!

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And then I got to hang out and chat some more with Oprah Book Club author (DEEP END OF THE OCEAN) and editor-in-chief of Merit Press,  Jacquelyn Mitchard.

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Yes, the talent and advice this year were incredible.

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And I can’t wait to read MELT by SCBWI Spark Award winner Selene Castrovilla. We were able to hang out at the Gala and she is all kinds of fabulous and everyone is raving about this novel!

And then it’s over–or is it?

Not for me, because it was Valentines Day and my hubby met me in NYC and we got to see…

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The Broadway hit, CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT.

I was blown away. No seriously, it was incredible. I hope you all get the chance to see it–it’s a beautiful and timely book that is brought to life right in front of your eyes. It’s one of those plays that will change how you see the world and the people in it.

Once again, Kid Lit shows up and I’m so proud.

But even after dinner and a show…you’ll find your way home. Back to your family. Back to your writing. And back to your cat who really, really missed you.

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Oh, wait–it was the dog who really, really missed you and the cat who hates it when you leave. And then you wake up in the morning and she’s sitting on top of you (really close) so you can completely understand what you’ve put her through. LOL!

I hope, whether you made the SCBWI conference or just read about it, that you’re all inspired and ready to show up for your writing life. I know I am. And now that these blogs are done, I’m ready to move forward on my WIP.

Did anything in the conference or the recap really connect with you? How is it effecting what you are working on? Have you wanted to write, but haven’t been sure how to start? The answer IS to show up. You must start some time. Why not begin today. The SCBWI will teach you everything you need to know. And I’d be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and see you next week.

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Feb

16

2016

The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Recap Part 1

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Freaky Friday, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

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It’s here, it’s here–it’s finally HERE! The #NY16SCBWI Winter Conference. And while we froze our writer and illustrator parts off this year–you know we still had a blast. Right along with the arctic blast. Here’s the highlights of the weekend…

I was thrilled to be able to head down bright and early–very, very early…

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…for The Professional Author’s Forum Intensive. For all you PAL members of the SCBWI, this was such a lovely addition to the weekend. You should absolutely look for more of these PAL events in the future.

We started off the day with the fabulous and hysterical Lin Oliver and the chance to introduce ourselves and state our questions and goals. It immediately cemented us into a workshop style, intimate group instead of an audience in a lecture.

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Lin Oliver, SCBWI Executive Director

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Half the room of the PAL Intensives

After the intros, we got down to business with the very informative Agent, Ruben Pfeffer talking about PUBLISHING WITH MULTIPLE HOUSES (INCLUDING WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR EDITOR LEAVES)

This was a very informative session, focusing on the reasons to publish or not publish with multiple houses. He hit upon the strategic, contractual, our preferences, economic need and circumstantial factors.

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Agent, Ruben Pfeffer (Ruben Pfeffer Content, LLC)

Next up was the I always get nervous around him even though he gives me no reason to, but come on he was the editor for the Harry Potter books, Arthur Levine chatting with Lin Oliver about LONGEVITY; HOW TO SUSTAIN YOUR CAREER.

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Arthur Levine, Publisher, Arthur A. Levine Books and Lin Oliver

Here are some of my favorite bits from the conversation…

*What is essential about people doesn’t change despite our fears about publishing.

*Produce a BODY OF WORK–stop flogging just one thing.

*Find contemporary analogies to your book AFTER you’ve written it.

*When we get sucked into our anxieties, we lose track of what stories we can write and who wants to read them.

The next fabulous collaborator for the Intensive was Martha Brockenbrough, author and SCBWI TEAM BLOG talking about DEVELOPING A SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM THAT’S APPROPRIATE FOR YOU.

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I’m not kidding–I’d love to see Martha do a detailed, whole day intensive just on this topic alone. She is a wealth of information and there were more questions than time to hear all her answers.

Martha started off by reminding us of our tendency to believe that when it comes to social media–If we build it they will come…

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That would be a NOPE.

But don’t worry, she gave everyone a wealth of advice on building relationships, finding your audience and focusing on platform, being positive, looking long term and being authentic. She was also able to compare and contrast FB, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Goodreads. And this was followed by tips on how to keep it all manageable. If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Martha, I highly recommend you take advantage of it.

After a quick and yummy lunch break, we were back in the saddle again hit the iconic kid lit author, Jane Yolen–ISSUES IN BEING A MID-LIST WRITER.

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Among a plethora of informative and inspirational information, Jane reminded us that as Mid-list authors, we could be writing three kinds of books…

  1. A Head Book-The book you’ve been thinking about because research or experience had made you curious.
  2. A Heart Book-You don’t know why you have to write it, but you just do. It’s about you, but it’s also about the kids too.
  3. A Pocketbook Book-You know you can sell it $

She also reminded us to write the best book you can and don’t forget to nudge yourself in the path of luck.

Next up, was BRANDING YOURSELF: CHALLENGES IN WRITING MULTIPLE GENRES AND CATEGORIES with Linda Pratt Agent, Wernick and Pratt Literary and Jacquelyn Mitchard Author and Editor-in-Chief of Merit Press.

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Linda Pratt

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Jacquelyn Mitchard (Deep End of the Ocean–Oprah’s Book Club)

Here are some of the highlights…

*YA is not a genre, it’s a category.

*Being Branded means that you’ve gotten to the point where readers will buy your book in any category or genre because it is recognizably YOU!

*There’s nothing you want more than to be a habit.

*If you wanted to be careful, you should have been a dental hygienist ROTFL!

Bonnie Bader was up next and I forgot to take her picture! What? But you don’t need to see her to benefit from her talk on SUPPLEMENTING YOUR INCOME. Bonnie gave us valuable information on Packaging, Work for Hire, License work and Ghost Writing. But you can see Bonnie sitting next to Arthur Levine during our Summary, Conclusion and Questions time. And of course they had to kick us out after 5pm because there was so much to discuss with the faculty of the day. It was an amazing group.

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And I’ll leave Friday behind with this great reminder from Arthur Levine…

“Our job is not to start trends, it’s to write books.”

After lots of meet up hugs with friends, a large group of us heading for dinner at Grand Central’s Oyster Bar (picture to come when Zainab figures out how to send it LOL!) the typical behavior of Lobby Rats hanging out in the lobby and not enough sleep (I can’t help but talk to my roomie Jodi Moore for half the night) it’s time to OFFICIALLY kick off the conference.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2016

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This group is more than ready…

For Lin Oliver’s conference stats:

*1,151 Attendees

*337 Published authors and 815 pre-pubbed

*48 states were represented. Considering the weather in NY we excused Hawaii for ditching us. But we also decided that maybe the reason North Dakota was ditching us was that no one lived there. :o)

*19 Countries in attendance including the USA

*Our ranks included a micro biologist, coffee roaster, oil trader, ventriloquist and a psychic!

The first Keynote of the day was William Joyce–BOOKS ARE LIKE THE ICE CREAM SANDWICH: HOW NEW TECHNOLOGY DOESN’T CHANGE MUCH OF ANYTHING BUT IT’S KIND OF COOL

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William immediately had us cracking up, telling the story of how he forgot why he’s picked that topic when he first agreed to be a conference speaker LOL! But he quickly found the original thread and sewed it all up for us.

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*Books=Ice Cream Sandwiches–hard stuff on the outside and good stuff in the middle.

*When people put a book on an app or e-device they claim they are doing it because they want the story to be “interactive.” What the heck do these people think happens when you read a book? You interact with it *head thunk*–to call something interactive it has to be more than just reading it on a screen vs between a cover.

*On starting his own Multimedia company: “Don’t make anything crummy.”

*Strong and better realities of a start up: Having to tell new, young employees they had to pay taxes. LOL!

*I highly recommend winning an Oscar–it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my clothes.

Oscar Win – Moonbot Studios from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

*Doing THAT (see above video) with all those young kids–amazing!

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And if you want to see something fantastic…check out the app IMAG-N-O-TRON:The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

But be sure to come back to this blog and keep reading because I’ve got a Panel Discussion up next. THE BIG PICTURE: CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING: NOW AND IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

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MOD: Lin Oliver

MT: Megan Tingly–Executive Vice-President and Publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers

AP: Andrea Pappenheimer–Senior Vice-President, Director of Sales/Associate Publisher HarperCollins Publishers

ML: Mallory LoehrVice-President, Publishing Director, Random House/Golden/Doubleday Books for Young Readers

JF: Jean FeiwelSenior Vice-President and Director, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group

JA: Jon AndersonPresident and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

I hate to tell you this–but this was such a good session that I listened without taking as many notes as I should have. I apologize but I’m pretty sure Team Blog will have some excellent tweets and recaps for you.

Then it was time for the day’s first break-out session or workshop. There were so many great sessions to choose from, but I picked CREATING TEEN CHARACTERS with Martha Brockenbrough and Rainbow Rowell.

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For this session I pulled up some rug in order to stretch my legs. Here were some of my favorite take-aways…

*Art inspires art

*I didn’t experience the events that happened in my books, but music got me to those places.

*It’s fiction, you get to make it up. (Oh, wait–Dragons ARE fake!)

In order to balance out my recap posts, I’m going to save the rest of the conference for your Thursday reading pleasure. While you wait, you can get a good laugh at all of us eating picnic style in the lobby.

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And remember–if you’re there at next year’s conference–Debbi Ohi will share her cookie with you. She couldn’t get anyone to split it with her!!! If she’d only showed up BEFORE I ate all that chocolate. *sigh*

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See you on Thursday with the #NY16SCBWI Conference Recap Part 2! While your waiting, tell me what session was your favorite if you were there. Or which one you would have loved to attend.

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Feb

11

2016

Planning Ahead for NY SCBWI

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, SCBWI, Stuff I Love

First of all–I’m gonna brag. Because this post is being written at 11:58 on Sunday morning 2/7 and you’re reading it on Thursday 2/11. Yes, I am ahead of the game! This is a huge accomplishment for me. This year I am systematically attacking my NY SCBWI conference prep with the hopes that this might be the year I get a good night’s sleep the night before. Or maybe I’m simply desperate to get out of the house after the scurvy wee germies invaded our home over the last few weeks. Either way, I vow to be squared away this year, particularly because I’ll be on a very early train for the Friday Author’s Pro Intensive.

I know that quite a few of you will be at the conference and I can’t wait to see you there. Feel free to come be a Lobby Rat. We are always hanging out in the lobby, talking and catching up, if you’re looking for something to do.

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Here’s some of the Lobby Rat Faces you can look for.

And for all of you who can’t make it to NY, I’ll be live tweeting about the conference over the weekend along with the SCBWI Conference bloggers

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and a whole bunch of other fabulous folks who are inspired by what they are experiencing. It’s the next best thing to being there–everyone shares so much amazing information.

You can follow along with the conference on twitter by using the hash tag #NY16SCBWI.

And of course I’ll be doing my regular recap blogs after the conference, so be sure to watch for those next week.

If I stay this organized and efficient, I’ll be ready to go before you know it!

Now the only question remaining…how do you think the head is going to be decorated this year?

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Leave your guess in the comments!

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Feb

2

2016

2,000 Miles!!!!

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, In the Wild, Pondering, Running, Stuff I Love

Woo Hoo!!!! On Sunday (January 31, 2016) I hit a HUGE running milestone. I’ve officially traveled over 2,000 miles since I started running. I’m probably irrationally proud of this feat, but I don’t care. If you’re a runner you probably understand, but if you’re not, I’ll try to show you how epic this felt to me.

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First off, I didn’t start running until May 21, 2010, which means that I didn’t start until I was 40 years old. So, yes–you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Over the years I’ve grown as a runner, and my runs now are much longer than they were in the early years (especially when my kids were younger–#runlikeamother) but ultimately I reached this goal in 403 runs and averaged 4.9 miles in the approximate 6 years and 8 months that it took me to do it. This was something I’ve stuck with, even when it was hard and it often was. Sometimes it still is.

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I was also able to learn some other interesting things about my almost 7 years of running…

*I wasn’t fast, but I wasn’t slow either–averaging 10’15” miles.

*I burned a grand total of 204,241 calories which was still not the right amount according to my butt and my fascination with chocolate.

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*I’ve run on every single day of the week, but Monday is my get it done day. And I don’t have a graphic for it, but I believe I’ve run more outside miles than treadmill miles.

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*I’ve also become a morning runner which was not what I preferred when I first started. Now it’s how I like to start off my day, especially in the hotter months.

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And the big question…how far would running 2,000 miles actually get me???

The closest match I could find would be an epic run from New York’s Empire State Building to Albuquerque, New Mexico which means that I could have passed out after getting a high five from my fellow writer/runner bud Caroline Starr Rose <3 How awesome is that????

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THIS!!!!!! SERIOUSLY—THIS!!!!!

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And since I’m still having fun and don’t plan to stop, here are my future running goals…

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*It’s 326 miles to the 2nd and my next Purple Milestone.

*It’s less than 1,000 miles until I hit 3,000!!!! Hopefully it won’t take me 3 plus years to get there.

*It’s 1,103 miles until I hit the black level on Nike+running.

And…

*It’s another 3,106 miles until I hit VOLT status. *shakes with intimidation*

But what the heck–I’m planning on giving it a shot. If you had once asked me if I could run 2,000 miles I would have said you’re out of your mind. But I did it. So, I’ll keep shaking those rocks out of my socks and keep on moving. I wonder where it will take me next…

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Jan

28

2016

The Universe’s Librarian

Filed under: Audiobooks, Family, Pondering, Reading, Stuff I Love

Over and over again, I’ve had the strange and slightly mystical situation of having books show up in my life–demanding I read them. When this phenomenon happens, it always makes me feel as if the Head Librarian of the Library of the Universe has a book recommendation for me.

It always starts off with the book I need to read, catching my eye in a very subtle way. Then, with increasing frequency, I’ll begin to hear people talking about or I’ll keep bumping into blog posts or reviews or social media posts referencing said book. If I continue to be dense about picking the book up, I’ll find that it continues to keep popping up in front of me in different locations. I’ll see it on a shelf, I’ll notice someone reading it or it will stare back at me from a magazine I’m reading.

Sometimes, I’ll go so far as to be compelled to pick up the book and flip to the cover flap, and yet I still won’t understand why I’m supposed to read THAT book. I must drive the Universe’s Head Librarian bat shit crazy sometimes.

It seems accurate that I always picture the Head Librarian at the Library of the Universe as Yvonne Craig in the roll of Bat Girl. It’s hard enough to be a Librarian at a book and mortar building and get people to read. Imagine being an unexplainable force of book nature. The Universe’s Librarian must be a little bit of a super hero to help the people who rationalize everything, understand that what we need shows up. And sometimes it’s a book.

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One of the most memorable examples of Bat Girl, on her motorcycle, doing a high speed chase after me with a book in hand was with Malcolm Galdwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.

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This book was IN MY FACE. I saw it in magazines. I saw it on bookshelves. I couldn’t turn around without bumping into this book. From time to time I’d pick it up and contemplate it. I’d let my fingers run over the description before deciding that even though I’d read a couple of Gladwell’s books and was fascinated by them, I wasn’t ready to pick this one up at the moment. The wording didn’t overly resonate with me

In his #1 bestselling books The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has explored the ways we understand and change our world. Now he looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success. Drawing upon examples from the world of business, sports, culture, cutting-edge psychology, and an array of unforgettable characters around the world, David and Goliath is in many ways the most practical and provocative book Malcolm Gladwell has ever written.

I wasn’t going to read it. At least not now. I convinced myself the book was showing up everywhere because Mr. Gladwell had some mighty fine marketing people. I thought it was a coincidence that this book kept stepping in front of my face. I was so naive.

I can remember the moment that book won the battle and I made the decision to read it. I sometimes wonder if maybe I subconsciously agreed to read it, in order to shut the Universe’s Librarian up. Either way, I was in my local airport and attempting to grab snacks for a family journey. As I stepped off the escalator and walked to the shop–there is was–directly in front of me. AGAIN. I picked up the book one more time and then sat it back down, telling the universe that it could relax because I was going to purchase it as an audiobook–ASAP.

And I did. And a couple chapters in, a lightbulb went off in my head. THIS book was filled with profound thoughts on dyslexia. That book that I didn’t think I would connect with, moved me, supported my instinctual thoughts, it enlightened me, it gave me a dialogue to share with my husband and my dyslexic kids and it added to a spark that had been growing inside me in regards to a manuscript that was forming. I needed that book. I love that book. And I reread it often, because it unfolds for me differently every time I return to it.

Thank you Bat Girl–for not giving up on me so easily. But because of the memorable persistence of that particular book, I have never taken the all knowing Librarian’s book recommendations so lightly again. You don’t have to hit me with a Bat-a-rang over and over again…forever. Now I listen closer and watch more carefully.

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Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t have to work quite as hard to get me to pay attention. The Gift of Big Magic.

And most recently, When Breath Becomes Air, found me. I saw the cover on iTunes and without reading about it, I acknowledged that the title and the cover spoke to me, but I was in a rush and I’d have to check it out later. Then I opened a magazine and there it was. Immediately I understood it was for me and I had to know what it was about.

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For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

I dropped everything and bought it on the spot. I’m reading it now. If you aren’t aware, my lovely mother-in-law was just diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. So, today I wanted to acknowledge the Universe’s Librarian for always having my back. I appreciate you.

What books has the Universe’s Librarian persuaded you to check out and read?

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Jan

21

2016

Her Door Was Open for Thirty-Three Years

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Family, Pondering, Stuff I Love

Last night, after thirty-three years of service as a secretary in the school district I grew up in, my mother-in-law Joanne had her retirement party. After the facility ran out of parking spots, a parade of people who love and respect her got up to speak. But there was one young woman who made my heart catch in my throat. She stood up and talked about being a high school student who once did student filing in Joanne’s office. She choked up as she talked about how it had been a safe place for her–because surviving lunch was hard. She talked about how much it saved her to be in that office with my mother-in-law. She then went on speak about how, as an adult working in the same school with her now, Joanne has continued to be a bright spot and a safe place in her life.

Over all these years she was someone who mattered and had a big influence on her life.

Long before I married or even dated my husband, back when I was in Joanne’s high school, I watched with my own eyes as so many students found their way through her door and discovered what they needed. I know there were countless stories like the one above. I watched–I witnessed. When I think of the importance of what she did and who she was, I am reminded that we do not always know our own impact until a later hour in our lives. We do not always understand how important it is to open our door to others.

To my lovely mother-in-law…thank you.

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