Books -- reading and writing.
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And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Happy almost birthday, Richard Peck

Yes, I missed the exact day. But it's April so I'm going with that.

I love this blog's "literary birthdays" feature.

Click on it quick. Some great quotes from Mr. Peck.

My favorites are the last two:

  1. Nobody but a reader becomes a writer.
  2. The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.

For more great Richard Peck quotes, check out Irene Latham's post, written after he spoke at the KAIGLER BOOK FESTIVAL in Hattiesburg, MS at the University of Southern Mississippi a few years ago.

Quotes like these:

"Childhood is a jungle, not a garden."

"Kids are not looking for authors in books; they are looking for themselves."

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Thank you, Pope Elementary

Skyping is so much fun!

This week a great group of readers from Jackson, Tennessee, appeared on my screen, fully prepared to present me with their reaction to THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.

The first thing I saw upon answering their Skype call? A whole room full of kids waving their copies of "Destiny" in the air.

And then they held up illustrations and explained why they'd chosen that moment to feature. 

Here they are. 
(Apologies in advance. My Skype image was a little fuzzy that day.)

Here we go!

 Green birds!
(Guess what? They're making a lot of noise right outside my window today.)

  Mr. Dawson and his Bait Shop. 
This student told me she thought he played an important role in the book.
I confessed that he is a character I like a lot. Even if he had to be beefed up when I edited.

 The piano. No explanation needed!

 Bird's eye view of the piano (no pun intended), modeled after the book cover image.

Thank YOU, Pope Elementary!

And a special thanks to my friends at Scholastic who made this particular Skype event possible.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Just Like Me

(Is that a perfect book title, or what?)

Happy Book Birthday Week to my friend Nancy Cavanaugh's third fabulous book.

I'm beyond excited that she's stopped by to introduce you all to this newest middle-grade novel.

Kick off your flipflops and stay awhile, Nancy. Let's talk!

You've drawn from your own life for your previous novels, is there a little bit about you in this book? Were you a camper? Counselor? Do you love or hate swimming/ canoeing/ hiking/ soccer? As a former camper, counselor, and lover of summer camp, I think you described the camp activities so well.

Summer camp is one of my most vivid childhood memories.  Notice that I didn’t say my “fondest” childhood memories.  My camp memories include the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The “good” was always the active fun of activities with my friends (swimming and boating were my favorites) and enjoying a week of complete freedom away from my parents.  The “bad” was the camp arguments with difficult cabin mates, strict counselors, or the time I got strep throat at camp.  And the “ugly” was that awful camp oatmeal, the really bad bug bites, and the way my clothes felt damp all the time.  (Oh yeah, and the sand that always ended up in the bottom of my sleeping bag when I didn’t brush my feet off well enough before I crawled inside. I always HATED that!) 

In spite of all that, I really did love going to camp, and I think summer camp really changes kids.  At the end of the week, everyone returns home a slightly different person, which is why I chose Camp Little Big Woods as the setting for this story.        
But my daughter and her friends going to summer camp were the real inspiration for JUST LIKE ME.

AUGUSTA: I know Chaylee is proud of her mom!

Tell us a little about the design of this book? I love love love the puzzle pieces at the head of each chapter, the fabulous cover design of canoes, the uber cool little envelopes for page breaks. Who gets to decide what goes where and why? 

I LOVE the way JUST LIKE ME looks too, and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t have anything to do with the way the book looks. Thank goodness for that!  The art design team at Sourcebooks is responsible for how wonderfully creative all my books are in terms of design.  The art team works closely with my editor to come up with a concept for how everything will look and how it ties together with the story.  Throughout their process, my editor does show me the ideas they are working on. She not only asks for my input, but also asks if I have any ideas of my own. It really is such a team effort.   

AUGUSTA: Speaking of teamwork, there's a wonderful subplot about teamwork and helping friends in your book. Is that one thing you hope kids will take away from JUST LIKE ME?

As a former teacher, I spent lots of years encouraging the students in my classroom to not only get along, but to actually work together. I think it’s one of those things that I’m always trying to impress upon young people because it’s such an important life lesson.    

AUGUSTA: Ah, yes. Life lessons. I love that about books! I know kids will read this novel for fun and they'll get those lessons, because it feels very true. But there's also a serious side to Julia. Was that hard to write? 

Though this book was inspired by my daughter who was adopted from China, the character of Julia is completely fictitious, and finding Julia’s story was quite a struggle. I’m an adoptive mom, but I myself was not adopted. I really had to dig deep into my imagination and emotion to put myself in Julia’s shoes and figure out what her struggles and issues would be. 

AUGUSTA: And you did that so well!

Here's a bonus question, just for fun and because so many writers who aren't lucky enough to be published yet would love to know more about school visits, which you're so great at.
What's the funniest question you've ever been asked at one of your many school visits? (Other than Are you a millionaire?!)

When I do my school presentation for my book THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET, I bring engine parts and talk about how taking apart an engine and putting it back together again is very similar to how we as writers take apart our writing and put it back together when we revise it. Well, at one school visit a couple years ago, the microphone was acting up during my presentation, and it kept making that really annoying buzzing sound. A student interrupted my talk to ask, “Since you know how to take apart an engine and put it back together again, would you be able to fix the sound system?”  I’ll let you guess what my answer was.

Want to know more about Nancy and her books?

Check out her website, HERE.