Sep

17

2015

The Boys in the Basement Found Their Groove

Filed under: Chasing Adaptation, Drafting, Pondering, Stuff I Love, Touching the Surface, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

When I wrote my first book, TOUCHING THE SURFACE, I was obsessed with my musical playlist. I hardly ever wrote without it playing in the background. When I was brainstorming parts of the novel, I listened to certain songs over and over again. To this day, any of the songs on that list evoke very strong writing/book memories for me.

And then I stopped. Cold turkey.

I haven’t listened to a thing while writing since. And I’ve tried. I’ve made playlists for books I’ve worked on, but they never took on the life of that TTS playlist.

But… There’s always a BUT, isn’t there? Recently I found myself turning off my audiobooks while I’ve been running and listening to my workout music while giving the boys in the basement (my inner creative genius workhorses) time to day dream.

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It’s been very helpful. I’ve had things I’ve been stuck on (for a thousand years) come bubbling to the surface. In excitement, I’ve done silly little dances of gratitude mid-run. Luckily I run on back mountain roads where there’s a limited amount of people witnessing my foolishness. Eek!

I’m not sure if these music fueled runs, or something else entirely, piqued my curiosity, but recently something possessed me to pull out the old, hardly been listened to playlist for my work in progress, CHASING ADAPTATION. Part of me wonders if it may have been morbid curiosity that caused me to dust it off. This novel has been written and rewritten so many times and with so many changes, I couldn’t even imagine the playlist being connected to my current scribbles.

But, as I listened, I found myself more than a little surprised at how perfect the songs were for the book I’m writing NOW. It seems a part of me has always known what I’ve been trying to say. The emotions, the questions, the feels and the wonder haven’t changed at all. Perhaps, the truly hard part is finding the RIGHT words to connect the dots between what’s always inside me and what gets printed on the page.

In honor of the boys in the basement, finally finding their groove, I thought I’d share one of the songs from the CHASING ADAPTATION playlist…

 

FIX YOU by Coldplay

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you’re too in love to let it go
But if you never try you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face
And I

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Do you have a playlist for your writing or any of your creative ventures. How does it work for you? What ignites your bones?

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Sep

15

2015

Tipping Points

Filed under: Community, Pondering, Writing

As I’ve been following the good, bad and ugly at my children’s former school district (lots of families feeling ambushed with an unwelcome and unorganized redistricting) I recently came across a few conversations where one group of people were having a violently strong reaction to ANOTHER negative thing happening in the district. But within these conversations there was debate, a bit of a clash on how this new problem should be emotionally and physically handled.

As someone who is no longer ankle deep in the WCSD do-do, I can absolutely understand the calmer heads who are trying to stay logical and grounded. But as someone who’s had this same school district pile negative things on top of me faster than I could push them off, I also feel a huge amount of sympathy for those who are hurt, frustrated and angry. *A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small In fact, I feel a little bit nuts in my ability to relate to the wide range of emotions people are feeling.

But to step outside of THIS particular situation, the whole thing has gotten me thinking about why some people are filled with an inferno of need to right wrongs. And why some people have the ability to roll over any ups and downs with little to no resistance. I think there are a zillion factors that play into this–especially individual personalities. But one thing that resonates with me is that each person has a TIPPING POINT. I think of this as the spot when everything changes. A tipping point might happen when someone has been asked to carry too much and the weight of a dust bunny might be enough to push them to fight.

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But a tipping point can also be something that flips a person into a state of understanding, acceptance or perhaps defeat and exhaustion.  As I said, I’m a bit familiar with both kinds of tips *Entangled Roots

Ultimately, it’s complicated. And while tipping points in real life are so stressful, we don’t want to be caught up in the middle of them on a regular basis, as a writer, we want LOTS of tipping points. It’s important for us to digest what we’ve experienced, so we can call upon it later to write relatable words that make people feels real emotions. We want to study other people’s tipping points and add what we’ve learned from them to our writing.

True story–no one wants to see a character that doesn’t struggle and grow. No one falls in love with a book where nothing ever happens.

As you observe yourself growing and changing and you see the people tipping around you, remember it’s more important to call on the universal feelings than the particular details. For me, surviving the WCSD has been a study in tipping points. What tipping points have informed your writing?

PS–sending all my love to my WCSD peeps. I’ve always got you on my mind. <3

 

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Sep

8

2015

Whoa! It’s Tuesday

Filed under: Uncategorized

Three day weekends mess me up. The rest of the week I’m usually late for everything. Accidentally doing Monday things on a Tuesday can make things interesting too. In order to solve this problem, I really think we should ALWAYS have three day weekends. One day for running errands and working around the house. One day for hauling kids to sports and doing other high octane fun things and then one day to just chill the heck out.

I see you nodding your head in agreement. The person who can make this happens totally gets a cupcake–a really good cupcake.

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But in the mean time, while we’re waiting for the implementation of the standardized 3-Day Weekend format, you can give me a round of applause because I didn’t just write this blog post on time (despite the weekend confusion) but also managed to get in today’s YA Outside the Lines Blog written in a timely manner to. If you’re interested (and waiting for 3-day weekends) you can check it out…Getting Schooled is a Mobius Strip

Now I’m off to get some writing done. What would you do if you had an extra day added to your weekends?

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Aug

25

2015

Seasons: Love the One You’re With

Filed under: Family, Pondering, Vacation Madness, Writing

ONE WEEK FROM TOMORROW MY KIDS WILL BE BACK IN SCHOOL!!!!!

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(Me doing the happy dance)

Please don’t judge my enthusiasm–I really do sympathize with the back-to-school teachers. (((hugs)))

Truly, it’s not because I didn’t love having them home–we had a fabulous summer.

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I got some projects done around the house. Cleaned out and organized all my clothes and the closets and drawers that hold them. *fist pump*

Then it was vacation time…

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We went to Vancouver on our way to Alaska.

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Then on to the Disney Wonder.

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Tracey Arm, Alaska

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Skagway, Alaska

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Juneau, Alaska

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And Ketchikan, Alaska too!

We also did some local stuff with visiting family…

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The 9/11 Museum.

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Summer in NYC

And then it was off to LA SCBWI!!!!

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Caught a baby dragon <3

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And happily hanging with my tribe. <3

And then a road trip to Lake Placid with my Mom…

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Miracle on Ice


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AuSable Chasm

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And Whiteface Mountain.

But even when I was home, there was lots going on. Camps for the kids and just hanging out and enjoying the gorgeous Hudson Valley.

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And while I absolutely did lots of writing over the summer, it was always writing that was done in and around other things. It was moments stolen here and there.

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Which sometimes made it feel as if I was trying to type with a wee beastie in my way.

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So, as great as the summer was, I’m looking forward to some longer, quieter, uninterrupted stretches of writing time.

And while my boys are moaning and complaining about their impending doom…

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I think they’re secretly excited to see their friends again and perhaps to get away from their annoying mother.

(I know–hard to believe *snort*)

And of course, the trade off for that newly acquired work time will be lunches and homework and a never-ending schedule of after school and weekend sports and activities. But that’s okay. Although I have a reputation for hating change, I’m a seasonal girl–always more than ready for the next change of weather after the previous three months. And maybe, since I can’t slow down time (even if I wanted to) it’s a good thing that there’s some change I actually enjoy.

Love the one you’re with.

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How do you do with the change of seasons? Back to school? Did you get more writing done over the summer of less? And what’s your favorite season? Mine’s fall–I consider it my own personal new year. <3

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Aug

18

2015

The YA Story Sisters-Back to School Giveaway

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Contests, Publishing, Reading, Stuff I Love, The Ladies Noir, Writing for Children, YA Books, YA Story Sisters, Young Adult (YA)

A couple weeks ago you may have heard me talking about The Ladies Noir, a group of YA writers who’ve banded together to help each other with the creation and marketing of our stories. Since then, the group realized The Ladies Noir wasn’t the right name to encompass the diverse writing styles of 30 different authors. So…drum roll please…we are now the YA Story Sisters (YASS) which I LOVE!

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And to celebrate our, we are kicking off our new group with an epic back to school giveaway that includes 15 books from 11 of our authors…

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You can enter the giveaway here…

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

We are so excited to have you follow us on the new YA Story Sisters FB page. Remember…every author has her story.

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Aug

13

2015

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 3

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

In case you’re wondering, by Day 3 of #LA15SCBWI I’m a little tired. But I’m not alone. You should have seen what happened when we had a coffee break and there was no coffee left! Kinda funny actually–is it still called a keg stand when you’re twisted upside down to get your mouth around the dregs of a coffee urn?

Anyway–now that I’ve fried your brain, it’s time to hear the Sunday morning special. Deborah Halverson and the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT. 

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I never miss this keynote–Deborah goes to great lengths to keep us up-to-date on publishing and trends. My fingers were flying as I took notes. Here’s a bit of what I captured…

*Last year’s children’s book sales were highly impacted by movies. Think The Fault in Our Stars, Insurgent etc… But even so, sales are not flat in the children’s market.

How to understand how what you’re already writing (no following trends please) fits in…

Picture Book

-short and bold

-character driven

-illustrations tell 1/2 the story. Ex-Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

-Non-fiction still of interest-particularly narrative non-fiction

-Common core related books seem to be settling down. There’s still room for growth, but not explosive growth.

-PB’s that have layers

-re-readable

-funny character driven that has series potential

-emotional depth/connection

-diversity

-authentic experiences

Chapter Books

-there is room for new series

Early MG

-Diary of a Wimpy Kid has become a very popular format

MG

-MG has perked up

-Everything goes in MG

-Slow and steady can sometimes break out as a hit. Ex–Wonder

-Editors are seeing a wide selection in their inboxes but still not enough diverse submissions.

-WANT: Books with a literary soul and commercial legs

YA

-Editors are intensely selective

-Seeing a lot of contemporary in their inboxes. People are often too quick to writ to the “middle” and hit genre expectations.

-WANT:

-beyond a black and white view of the world

-deep personal experiences

-scifi/horror

-looking to diversify their lists so it’s not all contemporary when the pendulum swings

And in the internal world of publishing…

-our past sense of unbalance is stabilizing.

-eBook subscription packages are a thing.

-Indie sales are up due to the Buy Local movement, slower eBook growth and publishers rethinking their practice.

 

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Next up was our second morning keynote by Stephen FraserMIDDLE GRADE PERFECTION: WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM CLASSIC AND BEST SELLING BOOKS

Poor Stephen, he ended up in the seat next to mine at breakfast one morning and we chatted. FYI he’s a tremendously pleasant guy to talk to as you’re shoving muffins in your mouth. But as the conference went on, Jodi and I (my breakfast buddy and roomie) kept bumping into him. Our fear was that he might think we were stalking him. But really, we just kept turning up in his path like pennies. Hopefully he feels richer for having met us. LOL!

But on to the fabulous keynote…

*MG readers are some of the most loyal readers in the book world. They are strong, willing attentive readers but they are also strong critics.

If we examine the classics and best sellers, what do we learn from them?

1. Charlotte’s Web–Carefully crafted writing

2. Stone Fox–Drama

3. The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles–Imagination

4. The Clockwork Three–Mix genres, don’t be afraid

5. Heart of a Samurai–Bring history to life

6. Holes–Use humor

7. James and the Giant Peach–Be unapologetic and have fun

8.  Junonia–Write to the emotional age of the child

9. Missing May–Place is character

10. Sarah Plain and Tall–Bring a visual quality to your work, make each word resonate

11. The Secret Garden–Let joy spill out

12. Harry Potter–Don’t worry about length

And that is your MG reading list for the fall. <3

 

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The third keynote for the morning was Shannon Hale–Opening up the Clubhouse: Boys, Girls and Genderless

Shannon was INCREDIBLE. There has been so much on the internet lately that has made me sad and discouraged about all things boy, girl, man, woman, feminine, masculine etc… Truth be told, I found myself shutting down because the heart of most of the rhetoric was about raising people up–even if we have to do it by knocking other people down so we can get a leg up. I found it spiritually discouraging. Shannon was different. She was honest. She was thoughtful. She was hopeful. She was generous. She was above all on Team Human. Here’s some of what moved me…

*You are not NO thing. You are something–with YOUR thing. (On writing in your own voice and style.)

*Shakespeare wasn’t afraid of writing interesting women. I don’t know what happened?

*Boys–why are you so afraid of Princesses???? I’m so sorry you have to live in such fear. ROTFL!

*Boys, who told you you can only do half the stuff? (On girls being told they can do or be anything.)

*It’s NOT an equal playing field for women authors or boy readers.

*Boys are taught to be ashamed if they want to read a book about a girl or a “girly book.” We have a lot of work to do.

*Quoting editor Jordan Brown when asked where the Judy Blume for boys is? “Judy Blume is the JUDY BLUME for boys!”

*It wasn’t until people read novels about people in other circumstances that they were able to empathize. Reading novels creates empathy.

*Can you dig it? I CAN DIG IT!

 

At this point in the conference I came up with not one conference word, but two. Here’s what came together for me as the conference was winding down…

tell them your story

MINE–I picked this word because one of the messages thumping me over the head over the weekend was that it will be my unique voice, heart and soul that will sell my books. Chasing trends and the success of others will only leave me in the shadow of others. I don’t want to be standing beneath or behind anyone else. I intend to shine my own light.

TOGETHER–This made me laugh because my words are so oppositional, but while my writing is mine and mine alone–publishing is so much harder to navigate if you are alone. My tribe is instrumental in me reaching to be a better writer. They help me keep my inner compass pointed in the right/write direction. They inspire me and remind me that this isn’t easy for anyone. They mean the world to me.

 

My first Workshop of the day was with Allyn Johnston and Mem Fox–LET’S TALK PICTURE BOOKS…Q&A AND SOME READ ALOUD FUN

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Let’s just start off by saying I could listen to Mem read picture books for days. That voice! But in addition to captivating the audience with her fabulous PB’s. Here is what Allyn and Mem had to share…

*I’m inspired by emotional experiences.

*I don’t want 5 of your 20 manuscripts–I want the one you care about–the one that’s going to change the emotional temperament of the reader.

*You should have only enough words that you’re ready to turn the page when the child is done reading the pictures.

*Adults are so much more inept at reading and understanding the illustrations than children.

*Worry more about the soul of the story than the word count. <3

*Beautiful language doesn’t undercut illustration.

*Illustrator notes are outrageous.

 

And it’s time for the Golden Kite Luncheon & Awards presentation with a keynote by Dan Yaccarino

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SCBWI Member of the Year–Lee Wind!!!!!

“My tribe–my family.”

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For Picture Book Illustration–Melissa Sweet and THE RIGHT WORD

“I hope we all find the right word whenever we need it.”

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For Picture Book Text–Kristy Dempsey and A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT: ONE BALLERINA’S DREAM

“By writers and illustrators, I mean friends and fellow dreamers.”

“Deep joy is only found in fulfilling our purpose.”

“I write to discover my own empathy–or to be honest–to work towards it.”

Kristy has been someone I’ve followed and admired on social media since I first started my journey as an author–it was amazing to see someone who has inspired me–have an impact on more of her peers. Her speech was incredible. <3

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For Non-fiction–Candace Fleming for THE FAMILY ROMANOV

When the universe kept raising the question…who is interested in that?

“You are.” <3

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For fiction–Deborah Wiles for REVOLUTION

“I am a product of my professional organizations. SCBWI.”

“Giving my heart away has been the secret to finding it.”

And the Sid Fleishman Award was given his son Paul Fleishman to…

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Michelle Knudsen for EVIL LIBRARIAN

And from Dan Yaccarino‘s Keynote…

*Good work is never perfect.

*Don’t forget the power of visualization. Take time to picture your dreams happening every day.

*Get addicted to the divine spark of inspiration–try to bring the divinity of that spirit into your stories.

My afternoon Workshop was with Jordan Brown–FIVE PRINCIPLES OF REVISION

Just and FYI I will go to hear Jordan Brown talk about anything publishing related and quite a few things outside that topic too. He’s fabulous. I was taking notes like a boss because he had at least 45 principles I needed to remember. Here’s some of his best and most useful bits…

*Revision is hands down the most important part of the writing process.

*Your book should be about the most important story of your main character’s life.

*It’s hard to get perspective on your own work.

*You shouldn’t think of revision as an extension of the first draft.

*Revision is the opposite of drafting.

          -DRAFTING is peeling back layers.

          -REVISION is putting back layers that are more refined.

When revising…

           -Nothing is sacred.

           -Character drives plot.

           -Revision more often than not starts with cutting.

           -Surprise yourself–if it feels familiar to you, it’s probably familiar to the reader too.

           -Don’t be afraid to smart small–revision can be overwhelming.

*There are always things that are clearly important at the end of a book that weren’t at the beginning–go back and plant clues.

*READ, READ, READ!!!!!

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The final keynote of the conference was by Kwame Alexander: #BasketballRules Kwame’s NEW #LA15SCBWI Keynote (Because Varian Johnson stole his other one Hahahaha!)

Rule #1–It might look like a long shot but you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Rule #2–Put in the work.

Rule #3–There’s no single formula for success, but you have to have a game plan.

Rule #4–A loss is inevitable.

Rule #5–When the game is on the line, don’t be afraid, grab the ball and take it to the hoop.

Rule #6–You’ve got to have teammates. It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Look around…we are going to do great things.

And while that ends the formal part of the conference, you know I was in line half the afternoon to get my books signed and talk to all of these amazing authors and illustrators.

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Candace Fleming–yup–we both joined the SCBWI when we were 12 LOL!

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I loved talking about writing with Anna Shinoda and Debra Wiles also, but we chatted so long I got hustled on my way and never got a picture with her LOL!

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Meg Wolitzer!!!!!

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I was so stoked to finally get this book in my hands and to see Martha Brockenbrough have such an amazing moment. She has been a friend and an inspiration for such a long time. I consider myself so lucky to have her in my life.

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And I finally met my online buddy, Varian Johnson.

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Yup, I may have cried a little with Shannon Hale, but you can’t blame me–she moved me to tears. <3

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I’ve been getting books signed by Dan Santat for years. It put a smile on my face to see all his hard work come to his greatest success to date. I KNOW there will be so much more in store for him.

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And then before I knew it, it was Monday and I was on my way to the airport, full of ideas, inspiration and determination…and too many books in my suitcase.

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I had to pull out 13lbs of Baby Dragons and Beekles out of my suitcase to avoid a $50 luggage charge. But that’s okay–I always feel better when my signed treasures are close at hand.

If you missed the first two installments for the #LA15SCBWI Conference Recap, you can find them here…

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 2

I would love to see you there next year and if you have any questions about the conference, I’d be happy to answer them for you. It’s really a fabulous event, worth planning for if you’re able.

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Aug

11

2015

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 2

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Contests, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Uncategorized, Wolf Pack, Wolfson Literary, Writing for Children

It’s Day 2 of #LA15SCBWI and I can’t imagine a more inspirational start then hearing Dan Santat speak. Dan was this year’s Caldecott winner with BEEKLE, but what really makes it this keynote special is that Dan “grew up” in the SCBWI. Like many of the speakers I’ve heard over the years, he got his start in this tribe and he made that very clear…ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE TASTE: STORIES OF HOW THE SCBWI HELPED ME AND HOW I GREW AS AN AUTHRO WHEN I WASN’T AT THE CONFERENCE

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Over the course of Dan’s keynote, he made us laugh and he imparted tons of wisdom and inspiration. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place at the end of his speech. Here was my best take aways from Dan…

*Understand why YOU like–don’t be censored.

*If you have a closed mind, you’re going to miss out on the beauty of things.

*Comic books are soap operas for nerds.

*Learn from others. Ex. BREAKING BAD is a study in character development.

*Read Goodreads reviews with some common sense. You know when someone is giving you useful information that can help you grow. Also read the bad reviews of the classics to gain some perspective.

*Study the fundamentals–when you understand them, you then have the freedom to move around.

*Learn by imitation–don’t become a clone, use it to ADD to your fundamentals.

*If you do something hard once, you know you have it in you to do it again.

*Find your voice–stop imitating and start INNOVATING.

*Do what you love when the work will find you.

*Do it because you are passionate about what you do.

*If you put money in the equation, you’re never going to find it. It’s like chasing a shadow.

*Live and die by your own sword. If you put your faith in yourself you will tread water and survive.

*You don’t want to live with regrets. If I had quit I never would have had the Caldecott Medal. *cue sobs*

 

Next up was the AGENT’S PANEL: INSIDE THE CHILDREN’S BOOK MARKET

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JRJodi Reamer (Writer’s House)

APAlexandra Penfold (Upstart Crow Literary)

KNKristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency)

BGBarry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary)

BBBrenda Bowen (Greenberg Associates)

JBJenny Bent (The Bent Agency)

MODERATOR–LOLin Oliver

Here’s the advice and information that I took note of…

AP–You’re not acquiring a book, you’re taking on a life.

BG–Competition to get manuscripts read by editors is immense, so your MS needs to be in the best shape.

BG–9 to 5? WHAT IS THAT?

BG–You are the one in the driver’s seat. You get to choose.

JB–I don’t care who you are–there will be downtime in your career.

JB–Respect and honesty on both sides are key.

AP–Write the book that can get you above the noise.

BG–Editors should have the ability to take a flyer because a great smaller book can become a huge best seller. Ex–WONDER

JR–Social media should be natural. It should be you.

BG–We are colleagues. We’re not out to undercut each other. You’re not competing with anyone in this room.

AP–You never know where the connections are going to come from.

AP–If it makes me feel–I’ll follow you anywhere.

BG–We get jaded, but then we see something that knocks us off our seats and want to sell it!

AP–If you have a rich reading life, you will have a rich writing life.

BB–Best promo for a book is the next one. Keep writing.

JB–Be a mensch–Be kind. Be helpful. Be generous.

JB–I see social media as an opportunity to be kind to people and share.

 

Next up was my first Workshop of the Day. BONNIE BADER–CHAPTER BOOKS: WHAT’S WORKING AND WHAT’S NOT

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Some things that make a book–a chapter book…

-a milestone event

-a protagonist around the age of the reader (7-10 year olds)

-Roughly 80-120 pages

-size of type, density of illustrations

-expand the details of your character to make them unique.

-use a universal theme with a twist

 

What kinds of chapter books that are successful…

Magic Tree House

Junie B Jones

Princess in Black

George Brown, Class Clown

The Dory Books (Dory Fantasmagory)

Captain Awesome

 

LUNCH TIME!!!!

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The next keynote of the day was Jane O’Connor–BORROWING FROM LIFE: CREATING A CHARACTER

Here were some Fancy Nancy style tips to remember…

*Leave out all the stuff that’s boring.

*Eavesdropping is crucial to writing.

*Middles are a bitch.

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Jane was followed by Varian Johnson–IF IT WERE EASY, EVERYONE WOULD DO IT

Varian was open and honest and so touching with his ability to share his hard publishing moments with the audience. He had so much inspiration to share…

*The hard is what makes it great.

*We make the time.

*We all deserve to be part of the conversation, but we have to do the work.

*My job is to put words on paper. If the muse shows up that day–BONUS.

*Writing is a job that deserves to be treated as such. Set up a schedule.

*Don’t talk about it. Be about it.

*And while I’m not looking forward to my next failure…I know it’s coming.

*We’re writers…IT’S OUR JOB TO MAKE FICTION COME TRUE. <3

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My second Workshop of the day was with the lovely Wendy Loggia–FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK

Ia addition to hearing Wendy rave about my fabulous agent Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary and my Wolf Pack Sistah Kiersten White

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…I loved learning a little bit more about Delacorte Press. Did you know…

*Delacorte plans their books out way in advance to give them the best marketing attention they can give. If you were to sell a book to Delacorte today (8/15) It would not be slotted for publication until Spring of 2017.

*Delacorte does not have a acquisitions board. Editors can acquire what they choose.

*Delacorte does not compete with other imprints at Random House

*Wendy does all her own editorial reading.

*Why Wendy purchases a manuscript?

-emotional connection

-loves the voice

-thinks it deserves to be published

 

Our next keynote was Molly Idle–YES, AND: SETTING THE STAGE FOR CRAZY CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT

Sorry–was having an afternoon brain fart or a caffeine low and missed getting a picture of Molly. Just imagine a highly energetic creative teaching us how to use theater to create stronger writing and illustration on the page.

Ummm no pictures here either. I swear I wasn’t sleeping LOL! This was a great panel on DIVERSITY IN CHILDREN’S BOOKS: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS

MODERATOR–MPMiranda Paul

NYNicola Yoon

VJVarian Johnson

BCBrandy Colbert

JCJoe Cepeda

IWGIW Gregorio (didn’t attend due to illness)

This may have been my favorite diversity panel I’ve heard yet. Here are some bits from my notes…

VJ–You don’t need permission to write diversely, but you do need to do your due diligence. And remember you aren’t trying to write the experience of ALL the people–just the one that’s your character. Your research is not different than any other research for a character.

JC–I try not to overthink the issue too much.

VJ–I’m not a fan of the term, CASUAL DIVERSITY, but it’s when the characters featured are diverse, but the diversity isn’t the issue. Ex-Lando in Star Wars

NY–I’ve never been sassy a day in my life! (on sassy diverse sidekicks)

JC–Write and illustrate without fear and if you have fear, pretend you don’t.

 

 

And then it was time for the Saturday Gala! This year’s theme was Sparkle and Shine. And FYI the sugar cookies were amazing–I ate them before I could get a picture LOL!

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I hope all this fabulous information is helping your writing to sparkle and shine. You can catch me first conference blog installment here…LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1 At the end of that blog, you’ll see that I’m still running a contest to win a signed copy of…

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WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN by Jodi Moore

So don’t forget to head over there and take advantage of the opportunity. I’ll be back on Thursday with LA SCBWI 2015 Part 3!!!

 

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Aug

6

2015

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1

Filed under: Book Signings, Check-it-out, Conferences, Contests, Family, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing for Children

I had the perfect flight lined up for #LA15SCBWI. (The 44th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference) I was leaving NY at 1pm which gave me enough time to get the dog and the boys where they needed to be and plenty of time to get settled in LA before the conference kicked off on Friday morning. That was the plan, anyway. After getting through security I realized I had an hour delay on my Virgin America flight, so I grabbed a sit down lunch. Then that one hour delay turned into a two hour delay.
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So I read my magazines–standing up so I’d be ready for that 5+ hour flight.

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And I also checked on the puppy. Riley is the 10 month old GSD in the middle. I am the spy LOL!

And of course I checked the #LA15SCBWI twitter feed, where I discovered that @alioop7 (Sky Pony Editor Alison Weiss) was on the same flight. Let’s just say we bonded by the time we arrived in LA–MUCH later than we’d planned. After the 2 hour mechanical delay, this is how it went down…

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Everyone is loaded, but it’s starting to drizzle.

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Hmmm doesn’t look like we’re getting off the runway. A big storm is rolling in.

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The airport closes completely and we are stuck on the runway for over 3 hours. But…is that a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel? Yeah–not so much. It’s back to the gate to fuel up and hear more potential bad news. Now I’ve got my fingers crossed we get off the ground some time tonight. And I’m grateful that I didn’t have my kids stuck on the plane for five hours prior to the five hour flight. All those kiddos were fabulous BTW! And eventually, as the sun was setting, we were finally heading out.

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We arrived at the hotel at 11:37pm which was 2:37am EST. *yawn*

I’d like to tell you I went right to bed, but I was in a room with my favorite writing roommate–Jodi Moore and her baby dragon!!!!

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I think we both fell asleep mid-sentence. Basically nothing unusual.

After coffee and breakfast and more coffee, the first order of business was finding my RA the fabulous Nancy Castaldo.

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I was proud to be her one and only Eastern Upstate NY attendee. We need to at least quadruple that number next year–start your conference fund NOW!

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And then we are in conference mode. Poor Lin Oliver, she was suffering with a horrible tooth ache, but you’d never know it. Such a trooper!

Every year the faculty lines up to introduce themselves and they are each responsible for shouting out one word that is representative of them at the LA conference. Here were some of my favorite words…

community

backbone

intentionality

perspective

preparation (the H is silent)

juggle

codpiece

AND

YES!

anticip…

flip flops

curiouser

These words and my experiences over the conference always help me to come up with my own word or words as a takeaway. So watch for that in my last recap post.

And you can’t forget Lin’s Conference Stats. No Conference is complete without them…

*1173 Attendees

*437 Published

*736 Pre-published

*19 Countries in attendance

*48 States

          -This year we were missing West Virginia and New Hampshire.

There were also 225 different occupations listed on applications…

*pediatrician

*car pool coordinator

*choreographer

*VP of transformation

*event planner

*trucker

*opera singer

*bonsai artist

*incentives manager for Victoria’s Secret

and my personal favorite…

*International small arms dealer–mostly doll arms LOL! 

You’ve got to love us wacky children’s writers.

The first Keynote of the conference was with the legendary Mem Fox: INSIDE THE WRITER’S HEAD–THE WRITERLY THOUGHTS THAT LEAD TO SUCCESS. 

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If her rich voice and hilarious expressions weren’t enough, Mem also shared tons of wonderful and inspirational information with us. Here were my favorite bits of advice and encouragement…

*Adults love soggy sentimentality that makes kids want to throw up.

*Timeless books arise from genuine events that touch the author, not necessarily sadness.

*When writing picture books she keeps four children in mind…

          -One on her lap

          -One on the couch

          -One in bed

          -And the rest in the classroom.

*Mem WANTS to write books that kids don’t completely understand. She’s not here to keep kids trapped in familiar language.

*I can kindle a love of language or I can kill it.

*Rhythm is in the marrow of your bones if you’re a picture book writer. Often books are written as if word choice doesn’t matter–rhythm matters.

*Without the right words, the death of a book is imminent, which gives new meaning to the end.

Next up was the Editor’s Panel.

AWAlison Weiss (Sky Pony Press)

SSSara Sargent (HarperCollins)

RMRotem Moscovich (Disney-Hyperion)

AJAllyn Johnston (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster)

JSGJulie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton/Penguin-Random House)

JBJordan Brown (Balzer+Bray/Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins)

Moderator: WLWendy Loggia (Delacort/Penguin Random House)

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I’ve heard MANY editor panels over my years of attending conferences, this one was very, very good. Lots of laughs, information, support and tough love. Here are the highlights…

WL–Dream Submissions?

SS–Fantasy–think escapism, swoony, transportive.

RM–Send me your awesome things.

AJ–Fresh take on universal themes. I want goosebumps. I want to read it again. Lots of room for illustrations.

JB–Character. We are doing our best work when we are expanding the reader’s capacity for empathy.

AW–Something that shakes up my own perspective.

JSG–Sense of humor.

Other bits of wisdom I jotted down…

JSG–I admire risk–even if it falls apart. I’m willing to work with that. It speaks to ambition.

JB–On the flip side, envy can be a powerful and useful emotion.

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Time for our first Workshop of the conference. SMALL PRESSES: THOUGH THEY BE SMALL THEY BE FIERCE with Alison Weiss (Sky Pony Press), Rana DiOrio (Little Pickle Press) and Emma Dryden.

This was awesome new information for me. I haven’t had a ton of small press exposure. Here are some of the things I learned…

*Small presses are very collaborative and involved with their authors.

*Accessibility–you know who is touching your book.

*Small presses think outside the box with how they market.

*They are often very involved with unique collaborations that are very helpful for their books.

LUNCH TIME!!!!!!!

And now that I’m full, it’s back to work LOL!

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Time for Meg Wolitzer and SWITCHING HATS: WRITING FOR ADULTS AND YOUNG ADULTS

And here is some of her random awesome…

*The hilarious writers say they get their ideas from Cleveland.

*A novel is a sort of concentrated version of who a person is. A bullion cube of sensibility.

*We want novels to feel like an approximation of life.

*If you know what preoccupies you, then you know what to write. Write what obsesses you.

*Self censorship is to be avoided–write as if everyone you know is dead.

*Write the book that reflects who you are when no one else is looking.

*The world will whittle your daughter down, but a mother never should.

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Next up was Adam Rex–HOW I MAKE PICTURE BOOKS

LOVE THIS…There should be picture books for every age. It’s not a form that people should grow out of.

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Next was another workshop with Wendy Loggia–FINDING YOUR YA VOICE

*I think it’s possible to hone a voice that’s authentic to you and captures your reader.

*Voice is the first thing I look for and it’s non-negotiable.

*I know I’m reading something good when I’m swept away and not thinking about the author.

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Oh boy–sorry to interrupt this workshop with a critique. This was my first LA crit–I was looking for a little guidance on an unusual project I’ve been messing around with. Just so you know, Bonnie Bader was super awesome and helped me so much.

***NOW BACK TO WENDY***

*Establishing multiple voices is HARD!

*What sets Delacorte apart? We do our own editing.

The last Panel of the day was the SUCCESS STORY PANEL: TIPS ON HOW TO REALIZE YOUR DREAM

This was a GREAT panel!!!!

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MBMartha Brockenbrough

MCMike Curato

SLStacey Lee

LNLori Nichols

ASAnna Shinoda

Moderator LWLee Wind

Across the board, every single person on this panel was persistent, putting in years of effort and hard work to cross into success. My biggest take away was there are no short cuts. Here are some of their best bits of advice…

SL–On attending an SCBWI conference…I felt as if I owed it to my story to go.

MB–Family comes first, but you shouldn’t be making sandwiches when you can be making stories.

MB–There is always a moving target in publishing–what satisfies us are the meaningful relationships.

MB–Resistance makes you stronger.

LW–The pressure is making us diamonds! #sparkleandshine

MC–It should ultimately be a joyful process.

MB–Just finish the draft–it’s got to be finished.

After a full day of conference fun, there was the PAL bookstore where I adopted a whole bunch of baby dragons!!!

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And–because I love you–I bought an extra signed copy of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN by Jodi Moore for a special giveaway.

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Coming… September 1, 2015 from Flashlight Press

A dragon friend understands the ups and downs of becoming a big brother

Preparations are in full swing to welcome a new family member in this sequel to the award-winning When a Dragon Moves In. A young boy has become a big brother and he and his beloved dragon dedicate themselves to entertaining the little baby. But when the drooling, crying baby somehow charms the dragon and his attention, the boy decides he’s had enough of this baby business. Adult readers will see the dragon as the boy’s alter ego—eager to cuddle with the new baby before the boy himself feels quite ready, then as a conduit to the boy’s acceptance of the baby, and finally as kindred spirit with whom the boy can commiserate. Younger readers will love the boy’s wonderful, though perhaps invisible, dragon friend who helps him be a good big brother.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please spread the word about the contest if–I’d love to see this dragon find a wonderful new home. And watch for the rest of my conference recap blogs coming next week. 

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Jul

23

2015

Disney Wonder and Alaska

Filed under: Check-it-out, Family, Fun and Games, In the Wild, Pondering, Running, Stuff I Love, Touching the Surface, Vacation Madness

GRATEFUL EXPANSION: Vancouver, Disney Wonder and Alaska

I’m home! And it’s been a fabulous vacation and I want to blog about it for a couple reasons. First of all, I know a ton of people that are going on an Alaskan cruise in the next few weeks and a few are even headed out on the Disney Wonder. Since it was my first cruise and trip to Alaska, I would have loved a heads up on packing and protocol. Now that I know “stuff”  I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with everyone else. My second reason for wanting to blog about the experience is what I call grateful expansion. Many of you know that when I was first married, my husband and I were stationed in Augsburg, Germany for four years.

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Those four years were expansive for me. I learned to see the world and the people in it through a completely different filter and I am so grateful for that experience. Since then, this trip was the closest I’ve come to replicating that feeling. I saw amazing things. I met incredible people. And I was immersed in the experience with people I loved. Now I’d like to share a bit of it with you…

Vancouver, British Columbia is awesome. I swear the nicest people in the world live there. From the moment we stepped off the plane, people were friendly, helpful and welcoming. In addition to that, there are a million fabulous things to do. My favorite was to bike around Stanley Park. Bikes are easily available for rent and it’s worth the cost. But check with your hotel first because ours had a limited amount of free bikes available to sign out.

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The trip around Stanley Park takes roughly an hour and a half if you rent from near the conference center. But, there is more to do in Stanley Park than ride bikes. 

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The aquarium. (Buy your tickets at the booth where you can purchase horse and buggy rides–then you don’t have to wait on line at the aquarium. Score!)

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Check out the totem pole park. This was our favorite pole.

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And as I mentioned above, take the horse ride around the park. You learn so much interesting information.

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Just don’t expect it to be fast LOL! The walkers were passing us.

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But the horses were awesome of course.

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There’s also a gorgeous rose garden.

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And watch for the regrowth. The new trees spring forth from the old stumps.

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And don’t forget to walk through those majestic trees (off the exterior bike path, deeper into the park) to find Prospect Point. It’s an amazing view and there are refreshments up there too.

Stretching outside of the park into Coal Harbour there are lots more amazing sights…

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The view is gorgeous day or night. Watch the sea planes take off and land. If you’re hungry, be sure to eat here…

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The Cactus Club has the best buffalo chicken wings and lettuce wraps!

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And the view from inside is pretty amazing.

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Here’s the view of the outside looking in. Just like the Vancouver Conference Center, the Cactus Club has a living roof and you can climb up top and check it out after you’re full of yummy stuff. Other to-die-for restaurants in Vancouver were the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel. They had an amazing breakfast. We also loved Gotham Steakhouse, Cin Cin and Black + Blue.

On the other side is the Olympic Cauldron and on your way to the Cactus Club Loo you can check out three Olympic Torches on display.

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You also don’t want to miss some fabulous gelato…

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Bella Gelateria was the 2014 North American Gelato World Tour Champion! Expect to wait in a long line if you go in the evenings, especially if the weather is nice. As you might have guessed, it was worth the wait.

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And at the end of the day, don’t forget to put on your plush hotel robe and take it easy. Because before you know it, your ship will have come in…

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This is Canada Place and the spot where two cruise ships are parked every day. It’s right next to the conference center. Outside of Canada Place is the tourist center with lots of helpful people, internet access and free shuttles and transportation hubs to all kinds of fabulous local places. We took a shuttle to the  Capilano Suspension Bridge, Tree Top Adventure and Cliffwalk. We bought our tickets right in the visitor’s center before we got on the shuttle.

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But now it’s time to get your head out of the trees and put your feet on the ship because you are going to ALASKA!!!!!!

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I was worried about checking in, but the Disney Wonder made it easy. Be sure to read the booklet you are sent by Disney ahead of time and fill out all your paperwork online and print it out in advance. Also don’t forget to sign up for your port excursions on line. Some of them will sell out before you get to the boat.

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If you have the chance, get a room with a balcony, it was lovely. We spent lots of time on deck, but we also used the balcony on a daily basis.

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The bathroom is small (and in our case happily divided into two separate areas) but things can roll. I recommend packing things in small Ziplock bags so you can group things together but are still  able to see what you have. A hair dryer was provided in the desk drawer. No need to bring one.

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The space is tight without luggage, so be sure keep that in mind when you are packing.

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Disney gives you all the information you need to know what’s going on on the boat. It shows up on your bed every night along with an origami towel creature AND CHOCOLATE!!!!

There is also a Disney Cruise app that you NEED to download ahead of time. Once you hit the ocean, internet and wifi is sketchy at best and expensive on the boat. Download the app NOW (the 12yo didn’t do this and it took us forever and some extra cash to get him straightened out) and when you get on board just follow the directions to get hooked up on Disney’s Navigator system. This is also great because in addition to activities, weather, and dinning menus there is a CHAT component on the app. THIS IS HOW YOU STAY IN TOUCH ON THE BOAT! Someone can help you set it up if you need assistance. But it’s pretty easy and once you have someone’s ID number you can chat with them. The only negative was you couldn’t group chat, so I spent a lot of time repeating my messages to each child. But that’s what copy and paste is for. Also, my 10 yo doesn’t have a phone, but he was able to use an old phone of mine as a fancy iPod.

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Space is used very wisely on the boat, so come prepared to use it as smartly as you can. The trick I used to survive five people in a tiny area was to be organized. The boy’s suitcases were completely unpacked and each child had a shelf that fit all their stuff. Their suitcases were stored open (they didn’t quite fit closed) below the master bed. Their beds were convertible and were taken down every evening and put up every morning for space. The 0pen suitcases worked out really well because that’s where the boys then put their dirty laundry after I yelled at them. *shakes head* I do have a fabulous tip I’m going to pass on to you. Put an XXL Ziplock bag in everyone’s suitcase for dirty laundry (when you get home, just drop all the bags in the laundry room) and bring an extra for a laundry bag because there are laundry facilities on this boat! This will help you pack lighter which is important because there are so many weather possibilities.

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Everything is done with a swipe of your card. Easy peasy, but I don’t recommend doing laundry ALL THE TIME. Don’t spend your fun time doing chores–trying to go home with a clean suitcase. It’s just nice to know your stinky workout clothes can be washed. It’s also great if you spill something on your only jacket or if you run out of a particular item.

Here are my best tips…

*Watch the times and the machines and be prompt or your laundry will get pulled out and dumped on the ironing boards, which I think is completely fair with so many people needing to use the machines.

*Use a bag for a laundry basket and check your machines twice for runaway socks.

*Detergent is available in the machines. Just swipe your card to purchase. But I guess you can bring your own, especially if you’re scent sensitive. I am, but did okay with the Tide.

*Try to use the laundry at unusual times for the best results. My kids were out late doing activities and it was a good time to get it done while I was trying not to fall asleep. That ship air knocks you out.

But let’s talk about what to pack. The weather is unpredictable and you’re told you need dinner clothing and excursion clothing and coats and swim suits etc… It was enough to make me want to pull my hair out. Grrrrr I talked to people who had been on an Alaskan Cruise the week before us and the weather was in the 80’s and they were in shorts. I’ve also heard about trips with lots of cold and rainy weather the whole time. Our cruise was somewhere in between but erring on the side of good weather. But since you’ve got washers and driers, in my humble opinion, this is what I would bring if I were doing it all over again…

*For outdoor gear–think layers. I brought a mid weight sweat shirt that I ended up using all the time. And then a heavier fleece that I also used a lot. Then over either of those, or both if needed, I had a thin, packable down jacket and a thin, water proof rain jacket. Along with a hat and gloves and fingerless gloves for extra photo mobility– I had endless combinations I could layer and peel off. I also recommend you bring a small waterproof backpack to carry those layers and other small items during excursions. I found a lot of success with these Geckobrand Waterproof bags I found at Dick’s Sporting goods.

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We all had one and the boys used them as carry on bags for the plane. They were inexpensive and every time we went out they packed up what they needed for the day and I ended up carrying less and everything stayed dry.

*I also had a lot of success with packing thin, versatile sports/hiking style pants. My personal faves are Athleta’s Shasta pants. I own them in every color. They can be full length or capri and they have multiple pockets with some that zip and are big enough to hold my iPhone 6. The pants are on the expensive side, but I asked for gift cards for Christmas and my birthday and they are worth every penny. You can also find other similar type pants at LL Bean, Lands End and Title Nine. But I think you can get them in lots of places if you look. Having said that, I did bring one pair of jeans and one pair of knee socks and I wore those on the days I had colder excursions. This was when the laundry came in hands.

*I didn’t wear any of my shorts, but I’d still throw a pair or two in knowing I had the washers if needed.

*Shirts–I wore a mix of short and long sleeves depending on the day and my layering.

*I went nuts, bringing the boys and myself enough dress casual dinner wear for the dinning rooms. In my opinion, a total waste of my time and packing space. We had one dress up night and then the rest of the time we all wore whatever we were wearing that day. BUT…having said that, there were some families that did dress up a little bit more because they wanted to but there were plenty of people in dress that was even move casual than mine. Whatever floats your boat is what you should do. My boat floats in comfy casual wear and sneakers.

*Speaking of footwear. This was my go to shoe…

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These are my running shoes and they were perfect for walking around on deck, running the track, going on excursions or even to dinner. I also brought a pair of flip flops for the pool and one pair of dressier shoes. I’d leave the other three pairs I packed home if I was doing it again. The boys had dress shoes, flip flops and sneakers with them.

*I never used my swim suit, but there were adults in the pools pretty regularly–especially on the warmer days. My kids went in often. I would still bring my suit on the off chance I decided to take a dunk, but I preferred running and reading on deck in my free time.

*Speaking of running, there is a gym and a running deck so feel free to bring a couple work out outfits. I brought two and had planned to rinse in the sink, but was happy for those washers again.

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Also, when you run on deck 4, in addition to the amazing sights of British Columbia and Alaska, you get to see all the incredible people who work to keep the ship clean and safe. These folks are amazing.

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Part of the run includes this room at the front of the boat which appears to function as a work room for repairs. It was always fascinating to watch and someone was always waving at me or smiling.

*Bring magnets! I should have taken a picture, but ALL of the doors in the endless hallways of rooms look almost identical. My kids tried to join other families on several occasions. The doors of the rooms are magnetic and lots of people decorate their doors with magnets or pictures hung with magnets so they could find their room. Brilliant!

*You also get a Key to the World card (kids too!) and that’s your room key, credit card and ID for entering and exiting the ship. Most kids wear lanyards with card holders around their necks. You can buy these at the gift shop (once you hit open water) but if you have a lanyard at home–bring that puppy and save yourself some bucks. You can see my 12 yo’s lanyard around his neck as he grabs a selfie with Mickey LOL!

 

 

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Now it’s time to go on some excursions!!!! First up was Tracy Arm Alaska and the South Sawyer Glacier. AMAZING!!!!

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We hit the opening of the Tracy Arm Fjord at lunch time, so we were on deck having a BBQ when I SAW TWO ORCA WHALES IN THE WILD!!!!

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I miraculously caught a picture (not as easy to see this small) but they are there. Start watching for those orcas as you enter and leave Tracy Arm. It’s my understanding that this is the best time to spot them.

Can’t you see how happy I was to have witnessed those beautiful creatures in the wild???? Bucket List–CHECK!

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Keep your eyes open all the time because everything is amazing.

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The further in you get the more icebergs you’re going to see.

And then you’re going to see the South Sawyer Glacier…

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All I can tell you is that these little pictures do not do it justice. You will be in awe. Be sure to get to the front of the boat early so you have a prime spot for watching as you approach the glacier. And be sure to dress warmly because it was cold, especially with the wind. Bonus, the fabulous Disney staff came around with coffee, hot chocolate and soup in bread bowls to help keep you warm. I love them. <3

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Can you see all the layers I’ve added as we’ve moved closer to the glacier? We made it to .6 of a mile, the closest the Wonder has gotten so far this season.

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If you can’t take the wind, there is a break in the front, but I was outside in front of the glass. I was willing to be chilly to fully enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

And while my kids thought the whole thing was amazing, they were also entertained by being able to play on the sports deck with the glacier in the background. The 10 yo would score a goal and then take a selfie with the glacier in the background. *head thunk*

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Disney also grabs a 200 yo piece if iceberg that had calved off of the glacier. Then they brought it aboard for the kids and *clears throat* me to touch and explore.

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And lastly, after a perfect day, don’t forget to look for the iceberg at the end of the rainbow. It’s magical.

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Our next excursion was to Skagway, which was our first trip off the Disney Wonder.

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Skagway is a tiny little town that I loved.

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Our first stop of the day was the White Pass & Yukon Route train ride. Learn all about the history of folks racing to Dawson City for the gold rush.

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Our train car came with a stove, bathroom and complimentary water bottles. This was also the first time we had phone service since we departed Vancouver (unless you bought a plan on the boat.)

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Each car had a platform so you could get outside pictures. Some of the drop offs were very high and steep, making me really glad I didn’t have the job of building that rail line.

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Gahhh!!! We are headed to THAT bridge and tunnel way up there!!!!

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Here we are–ready to go in.

And don’t forget to look backwards from time to time. The view is incredible.

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The ship to the left is the Disney Wonder.

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Near the summit, keep an eye out for the Trail of ’98. This was an original, primary route to the Dawson gold fields.

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On the way back down from Fraser (the stopping place for the White Pass) you get to freeze your butt off in front of 1 of the 5 Welcome to Alaska signs in the state. *fist pump*

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And once you get back to Skagway, known as The Place Where the North Wind Blows, it is much warmer than at the higher elevations.

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We decided this is about as far as we’d happily travel the Yukon Trail LOL! And just so you know the folks who made the trip were carrying enough food and supplies with them to last a year. (Canadian entrance requirements) Which meant that each person was toting 2,000 lbs of supplies.

Even though Skagway is small, it’s BIG in history and you’ll learn all about it.

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And if you get hungry from all that history and shopping, stop by the Red Onion Saloon for some awesome nachos. I’ve never seen food disappear as fast as those did LOL!

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And last but not least…

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Don’t forget to get back to your ship for all aboard–THEY WILL LEAVE YOU IN SKAGWAY WITHOUT 2,000LBS OF SUPPLIES AND YOU’LL HAVE TO FIND YOUR WAY TO JUNEAU ON YOUR OWN.

Next up on our trip was Juneau. Juneau is super cool because the only way you can get there is by boat or plane. You can not drive a car to Juneau. In fact they have one 60mile road in town that dead ends. It’s called *drum roll* The Road. They also have The Bridge and The Channel. Juneau is also in the rainforest, so they get approximately 42 non-precipitation days a year. Unfortunately for us,  I was told that they’d already used them all up for the year LOL!

Make sure you get out early in Juneau because the all aboard time is very early due to the distance the ship has to cover that night. To compensate for the early departure, we went into town for two hours before our 10:30 excursion meet up. My only frustration with this plan was that we still didn’t have enough time to explore the town the way I wanted to.

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But I did find a book store!!!! And of course I stopped in to say hello to the wonderful folks at Hearthside Books. Make sure you support Indie Bookstores and stop by when you visit. I’m sure they would love to see you.

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Next up was our excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier in Tongass National Park.

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We only had an hour here, so we didn’t have time to go to the museum and see the movie. Bummer. But we did hike out to Nugget Falls for an up close look.

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I also want to give a shout out to the best bus driver ever–Whitney Houston!!!! It was totally NOT your fault that those 10 people didn’t make it back to the bus on time. ((((hugs)))) She also taught us the five finger method for remembering Alaska’s salmon. You can quiz me later. And so many hysterical stories I may never love another bus driver more. Forever.

Next up was whale watching and lots of singing of the Gilligan’s Island theme song…a three hour tour. LOL!

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I may have been so hungry I ate a reindeer dog on the boat. So, an FYI, limited snacks are available on board. I suggest you grab them right when you get on the boat if you’re starving because the line can get long and then the whales start showing up and you keep jumping out of line…

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Even with the rainy weather we saw a ton of whales, including two mom’s with their calves. <3

And then there’s me with some of mine.

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Of course there’s the argument…seen one whale, seen them all.

Teenagers.

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As a reward for surviving our wet and hectic day, we set the kids free on the boat. (Okay–we did that every day and they loved it.) But this time, while they were ignoring us for more fun things to do, we headed out for an adults only dinner at Palo. YUM, YUM, YUMMITY, YUM. Do not miss this dinning experience.  All the food and service is top notch. Ask for Leo to be your server, he was amazing and tell him Kim Sabatini sent you. <3 All the food was incredible, but the gnocchi was heavenly and the white bean soup was delicious. I may have tasted the tomato caprese and fallen in love, too.

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But the star of the Palo show was the chocolate souffle. It’s to die for and let’s face it–I know my chocolate. Luckily calories don’t count on cruises, right? If they did, I’m sure I could have gained weight just sniffing this treat.

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Our last excursion was to Ketchikan. Rain was predicted but we ended up with gorgeous, perfect weather. So first on the agenda was zip lining in the rainforest of Tongass National Forrest.

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Safety before beauty :o) I’ve also got my Shasta pants on again.

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We had an amazing time and the staff of Alaska Canopy Zip Lining were wonderful and fun. It was the boy’s favorite excursion of the trip. Then it was into Ketchikan to hang out for the rest of the day. The weather was so gorgeous it was impossible to stop taking pictures.

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We even headed down to historic Creek Street.

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And of course I found another independent bookstore. <3 Parnassus Books, run by the sweetest former children’s librarian. I wish I had hours to roam the store.

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I found this book on their shelves and I can’t wait to begin reading it with the boys. A Tale of Gold by Thelma Hatch Wyss.

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After finding out the Fish House was closed, on recommendation we heard the Burger Queen was king. Unfortunately we were there on a Sunday and the food barge doesn’t come in until Tuesday and this burger joint was out of burgers. Boo! If you end up going and getting a burger I want a full report. We did make it to Annabelle’s for some clam chowder. Yum!

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But sadly, all good things must come to an end and packing and laundry must begin. *sob*

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With our nose pointed home, we headed back to Vancouver, but not without our last day at sea being extraordinary.

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Over the course of the trip I saw two orca whales, numerous bald eagles, humpback whales and sea lions. And then of course there were glaciers, mountains, sunsets, the ocean, captivating history, new friends and so much more. It is beyond words or pictures.

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This was my favorite lounge chair on deck and I spent hours reading and watching an endless amount of beauty go by. I shall miss that chair.

It was also time to say goodbye to…

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Giant Jenga

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The 24 hour coffee and hot chocolate machine. And the soft serve ice cream machine. *moans in despair*

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It was also goodbye to first run Disney movies (Ant Man and Inside Out) and movies outdoors on deck. So much fun.

The hardest goodbye was to Quinten and Oscar, our servers for the whole entire trip. Table #70 RULES!!!!

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They were the BEST and we miss them already.

If you are going on the Disney Wonder, you MUST request to be at the table of Quinten (India) and Oscar (Columbia). Call ahead if you must. Or as you board the ship, go immediately to Triton restaurant and ask to speak to someone who can make that happen. Then be sure to hug them both for me. Twice if you can manage it. I consider them friends now.

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Phew I think it’s time to put a fork in it–this trip is done.

I’m going to be honest–this post has taken me two days to write and my brain is fried. I covered as much helpful information as I could think of, but I’d be happy to answer any additional questions that show up in the comments. Feel free to ask away.

I’d also like to take a moment to let you know about my YA novel TOUCHING THE SURFACE since people likely to be researching a cruise on the Disney Wonder have kids who are YA readers.

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Touching the Surface
October 30, 2012
Simon Pulse – Simon and Schuster
Experience the afterlife in this lyrical, paranormal debut novel that will send your heart soaring.When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

“Sabatini creates an exquisitely tangible alternate reality, ordering the cosmos with impressive authorial derring-do, crafting answers to ontological questions with grace, disarming simplicity, and nary a trace of dogma. All while believable teens–teen souls, that is–tangle with affection, selfishness, and doubt. Thought-provoking and romantic, Touching the Surface takes risks with narrative and form, and succeeds on multiple levels.” –RBW (Chronogram)

“Soulful and inventive. A thoroughly original vision for what happens next.” –Daisy Whitney, author of The Mockingbirds

“This gorgeous, lyrical read will sweep you away.” –Jessica Verday, bestselling author of The Hollow trilogy

TOUCHING THE SURFACE is available here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound

Book Depository

If you would like a free signed book plate and a bookmark for your copy of TOUCHING THE SURFACE please drop me a line HERE and I’ll get one out to you asap.

If you would like a signed hardcover or paper back edition of TOUCHING THE SURFACE you can request one at my local independent bookstore Oblong Books and Music. If they do not have any signed copies in stock, I’ll be sure to make a special trip to the bookstore just for you.

And on a side note, I’ll also be sending out signed copies of TTS to the public schools in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. This way, at least a little bit of me will get to stay in Alaska. <3

I hope this blog post helps you have your very own grateful expansion. If you get the chance, let me know how it went.

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Jul

7

2015

Critique Partners, The Ladies Noir and PIXILATED by L.S. Murphy

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Community, Critique, Publishing, Stuff I Love, The Ladies Noir, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

I LOVE my critique partners. I have a very small group of friends who I’ve been working with for a very long time and they are amazing. I also have lots of critique support through my local Shop Talk. They never let me down. And then there’s my amazing buddies from the Class of 2k12 and the Apocs that I can ALWAYS call upon. But recently I’ve joined a new critique group I’m very excited about. We call ourselves The Ladies Noir and we’re a group of 30 YA authors supporting each other with critique and promo. I’m loving this diverse group already and I’m happy to begin sharing one of these great YA authors with you. PIXILATED by L.S Murphy is on TBR list but I wanted to be a part of her Book Blitz, so I’ll tell you about how awesome it was later. For now, here’s what you need to know to be excited…

Pixelated

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by L.S. Murphy

Release Date: 06/30/15

Bloomsbury Spark

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Senior Year. 

Middle of nowhere. 

What’s the new girl to do?

For Piper Marks, the answer is simple. She’s determined to have her photography rock the cover of National Geographic someday, and moving to Clarkton, Iowa for her last year of high school is not going to stop her. Even if her usual subjects have changed from bright lights and skyscrapers to fields, cows…and more fields. 

But when photographer at the local paper quits in a huff, she steps into his spot. Her new job keeps Piper busy capturing tackles, and zooming in on first downs and end zone dances, not to mention putting her directly in the path of varsity football star Les Williams IV. Her new friends warn her off, but she can’t resist the pull she feels toward this mysterious country boy. But this small town is keeping a secret, and it’s one that could destroy any chance they have to be together. 

It’s up to Piper to decide what to do with the distorted truth. Can she risk exposing her heart? It might be worth it, ’cause Les is about to change her world from black and white to fully saturated color. 

Add to Goodreads

Buy Links:

AMAZON│BARNES & NOBLE│KOBO

 Praise for Pixelated:
“In Pixelated, L.S. Murphy weaves a complex web of secrets and lies with a ‘will they or won’t they’ romance that kept me turning pages and holding my breath!” ~ Julie Reece, author of The Artisans and Crux

“Beautifully written, with a full spectrum of emotion and complex characters, Pixelated will tug at all your heartstrings. I easily lost myself in the world L.S. Murphy created and couldn’t stop reading because I needed to see how the story ended.” ~ Kelly Oram, author of Cinder & Ella

“L.S. Murphy brings something for every reader with Pixelated: romance, secrets, mystery, and a main character torn between two choices. Murphy’s writing is sharp and steeped in emotions, deftly hooking her readers from the first sentence to the last.” ~ Sarah Bromley, author of A Murder Of Magpies 

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About the Author
L.S. Murphy obsesses about St. Louis Cardinals baseball, fangirls over her favorite authors, and watches every episode of Doctor Who like it’s the first time. When she’s not doing those time-consuming things, the former farm-girl turned city slicker turned suburbanite writes sweet romances for teens and adults.

Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

GIVEAWAY:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz Organized by:

Unknown

YA Bound Book Tours

I’m completely intrigued by a girl wanting her work to grace the cover of a National Geographic–what intrigues you the most about PIXILATED???

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