Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ending the School Year with Skype

This has been a very interesting couple of weeks.
Have you ever tried to talk to somebody when your roof was being repaired?
Have you ever SKYPED with a whole bunch of kids while your house was shaking?

I moved to my basement.
I moved to a corner of my room.
There was nowhere to hide.

That was pretty much how it went with my end-of-the-year Skype sessions.
There were times when I questioned my sanity in agreeing to do so many.
Especially since I had this teensy little writing deadline looming.

But each session made me smile.

The girls who talked to me during their recess and lunch.
The third graders who'd read the book as a class project.

And so many of the questions were truly thoughtful.

For example:
(These are from 4th and 5th graders)

Who helped you when you started out?

What character changed the most after working with an editor.

 What advice did your editor give you?

What's your favorite genre?

(I'm not entirely sure I knew the word GENRE in 4th grade...)

Also, I got to talk to two groups of kids who'd read THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.
Until recently, I didn't know much about how young readers were responding to my new book.

I was especially wowed by a group of 2nd grade advanced readers in Florida who really had some fabulous questions.
(And I added a new name to my Potential Character Name Book= Treasure!)

These bright, smart readers were from The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, MA.

They wrote a thank-you note that very day! Just like our mamas told us we should do.

And this group in Deerfield, IL.
(They told me all about the Bluestem List!)

Their teacher tweeted our picture. It always cracks me up to see that large <ME> on the screen. Paused mid-sentence!

Thanks so much @ARScattergood for talking to us all about Glory Be!— Jill Bonnette (@jill_bonnette) May 21, 2015

As the year winds down, I have to say AGAIN how amazing teachers and librarians are. How hard they work.
How they love books.
How they go that extra mile to connect with books and their authors.

Have a great summer, all you remarkable teachers and librarians.
Put your feet up, stare at the ocean or the lake or the mountains.
And enjoy those summer books.

Just for fun, here's a previous post about Skyping in your flipflops...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Greetings from New Jersey

Yesterday I had a positively FABULOUS school visit with some kids at the George Washington Carver School in Newark (Thanks, Scholastic!). Another blog on the school visit coming soon.

(Okay, here's a teaser. There were 125 kids, all had read the book, all had amazing things to say.)

Since I don't quite have all my photos from yesterday yet, on this rainy day in NJ, here are a few pictorial Jersey Love things you might not expect. Reasons I love spending time in my adopted home state of 25 years...

1. The grocery stores and the many, many Farmers Markets sell fig trees and figs.
The Farmers Markets alone would be reason enough to spend the summer here.

2. The July 4th Parade. I love bagpipers! I love parades!
Can't wait for this event, coming soon.
(Picture from previous edition. They really don't change that much...)

3. Visiting old friends and former libraries. This is the front of the Library of the Chathams, Main Street, Chatham NJ, all decorated for Flag Day or July 4th. I worked here as a reference librarian for five years before returning to the world of school librarianship.
This town loves its flags!

4. The train to NYC. Every hour, at least. Quick ride.

5. And speaking of trains. If you look closely at this view from the Newark Broad Street station yesterday, you can see the Valley Landscape Silo in the distance.

Which reminded me of The Sopranos, that late, great TOTAL FICTION HBO show.

Which of course sent me looking for a clip with that silo. And here it is. Near the end.

UPDATE. I don't think the video plays anymore. It's no longer permitted to be embedded, as far as I can tell, so you'll just have to click over to this YOUTUBE and ride down Memory Lane in Tony's car:

We are shaped by all the places we've lived, aren't we? So far, nothing from The Sopranos has made its way into my own fiction (!) and probably never will, but that July 4th parade? Totally.

How about you? Is setting a product of your own life settings, so to speak?

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Template!

To write your novel with!

Of course, there's really no such thing.

But recently I found this "advice" buried deep in my files.

Here's the link:

And remember my Nerdy Book Club post about TEN THINGS I'VE LEARNED FROM KIDS ABOUT WRITING A BOOK?

Remember that dog?

Here's a funny thing from that article by James Thayer about your Main Character:

1)  They are kind when it counts. Not always, and maybe not mostly, but when it is important, the hero will do something kind. If nothing else he will adopt a dog, a common fictional device to salvage otherwise irredeemable heroes, which is called the Adopt A Dog Technique.

 I'm totally good with that.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Who's Reading Your Book?

This month has been Skype month
No, not an officially designated celebration, it just happened that way in my world. 

I love talking to kids about writing, reading, history, genres, characters, the truth or not the truth. So many great questions. Skyping has given me the chance to spread book love to places I've never been.  
(In my flipflops.)

But I got a question yesterday that truly stumped me.

Sixth Grade Boy in Wisconsin, to me: 
"Who would you recommend your book to?"

Now see, the librarian in me should be all over that.

But I stammered and hemmed and hawed.
Finally I mentioned a few authors I love, as in "If you liked THIS book, you'll like THAT book."

I think I mentioned kids who like books that take place in the past. 
But that's so not true. 

(True confession: My first draft of THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY wasn't even set in the past!)

Maybe I mumbled something about Books With Heart.

Because really and truly, one of my favorite tweets in the whole world had recently taken my breath away:

And just like that, my book had become


Be still my heart.

But the librarian in me still wasn't happy with my answer to that boy in Wisconsin.

And the writer in me didn't want to leave it at that.

There's been a lot of discussion recently about Boy Books v. Girl Books.
And judging a book by its cover.

What does the cover say to a reader about to choose a book?

Is that old adage about boys not reading books about girls while girls will always be okay with reading boy main characters hold?
 I doubt it. I've had tons of boys who love GLORY BE.

At a recent Book Fair, a student told me he'd read DESTINY five times already. He wasn't a baseball fan and he can't play the piano. 
Had some wise librarian or teacher had handed him that book because she knew his reading taste?

Do we need to stop pigeonholing books and kids' book choices?
Will all young readers eventually find those HeartPrint books for their own hearts?

Are kids' books just for kids anymore?

Based on this guy who has discovered and loved a few middle-grade novels, I'd say no.

I'm still thinking of a good answer to the question that sparked this blogpost. Who WOULD I recommend my own books to?

Writers- Have you been asked that question? 
Do you have a perfect answer?

I used to think I was pretty good at Readers Advisory. 
But when it's your own book, something feels different.

You might also like these posts about Skype:

Fun Skype in Georgia

Skype 101: the View from Here

And these about some of my own Heartprint books:

Kwame Alexander's Crossover

An Abundance of BOOKS

Hound Dog True

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thanks, Two Writing Teachers!

I love connections.

I met Stacey Shubitz at my fabulous Highlights UNWorkshop last summer.

When Stacey invited me to be the very first Guest Author on their new series, I was honored. And thrilled.

CLICK right here to go there.

And maybe win a book or two!

(While looking for a picture of Stacey and me, writing our hearts out in Honesdale, instead I found these poetry rocks that inspire Highlights workshop writers and make them smile. But do click on over to Stacey's post this morning to find out more about her, see pictures, and comment to win my books. Did I say I love making writing connections?)

(And PS, I first put revising pen to paper on my new book THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY, at one of the very early Whole Novel workshops, with Carolyn Coman. Many moons ago...)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Hats Off to Moms Who Read

Like mine did. Also, my grandmothers.
My next-door-neighbor grandmother, Carrie Byrd to those who knew and appreciated her, was part of our town's early efforts to build a public library. For much of her adult life, she drove her Hudson Nash the two blocks down the street to the library and went through a "murder mystery" (her words) every day or so.

My other grandmother, Emmie, went back to college in her later years and became a teacher. She's the one who gifted me with the Classics. I credit her for summers spent reading anything other than Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, which I got on my own and devoured.

Come to think of it, every adult in our family read all the time. My mother went for the Best Sellers, the books everybody was talking about. Her copy of Peyton Place was hidden in a drawer that was plenty low enough for me to find. And read. In 7th grade.

So let's hear a cheer for moms, stepmoms, grandmoms, aunts and others who love to read to their little (and big!) ones. 
And for all the other great things they've given us.

(Sticker via CafePress)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Food, Glorious Food!

I once started an essay for Mississippi Magazine with this sentence:
"I'm not a serious cook but I have a serious cookbook collection."

You can read the piece HERE.

(And apologies to the magazine if that site is using articles without permission.)

I love reading about food. And I admire those of you who write so beautifully about it. And prepare it so well.
For example, my fabulous foodie friend Lee.


Lee and I wrote together in our original New Jersey Writers Group. I can't wait for us to reconvene. (And maybe eat something Lee prepares from the Farmers Market!) 

 (haul from last summer's Farmers' Market!)

 I wish I had gorgeous food pictures to share. Click on over to Lee's blog and you'll see plenty.