Monday, May 31, 2010

Chatting with Sarah Prineas



This week's interview is with Sarah Prineas, whose third installment in her wonderful Magic Thief series--The Magic Thief: Found--came out last week. The new book has DRAGONS! And, of course, the fabulous gutterboy-turned-wizard Conn, who Kirkus calls "one of the most deliciously infuriating protagonists ever." (I stole that last bit right off Sarah's blog... but it's true and I couldn't have said it better!) Along with many starred reviews and accolades, The Magic Thief received the E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor award in 2009. It was also selected as an NCTE Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts. Sarah's books have made numerous state reading and awards lists and, most recently, was just named the 2010 Beehive Book Award winner. The series is also being published in a bazillion foreign languages around the world.

As usual, I asked Sarah to answer the same questions as everyone else. So lets get to it!


Q: When you were a child, what did you like to ‘pretend’ most? How much of a role did your imagination play in your life?

A: A huge role! I grew up with three imaginative sisters. We read a lot and we were allowed one hour of TV a week, which meant we spent a lot of time playing together outside. We had a huge costume box and would write and put on plays with other kids in the neighborhood. We played Little House on the Prairie, and because we all had short hair, we wore towels on our heads for our “long hair.” We also played Planet of the Apes, which was mainly racing all over the woods behind our house, being pursued by, and hiding from, imaginary apes.


Q: Do you have a favorite word, words, or quote?

A: My favorite word is “scintillating,” which means “bright and sparkling,” because my mother used it in a letter to me when I was ten (“we miss your scintillating conversation”). I don’t really have a favorite quotation, but I love and adore the last paragraph of the Ride of the Rohirrim chapter in The Return of the King. Tolkien’s writing there is truly scintillating.


Q: When you were growing up, was there a specific book (or books) that changed you somehow—a book that you feel is responsible for a little (or big) piece of who you are today?

A: You know, I read all the time when I was a kid, but I can’t remember a specific life-changing book. In college I read The Lord of the Rings, and that has been the real life-changer. I just finished reading it aloud to my son, and I think it’s changed his life, too.


Q: If you could pick any book to live inside for a day, what book would it be and why?

A: Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder—because of the delicious breakfasts. I have kind-of an obsession with bacon.


Q: What do you do when you have a tough writing day? How do you get through it?

A: I am the worst-disciplined writer in the world. If I’m having a tough writing day, I don’t write, I do something else instead, trusting that at some point I’ll be ready to get back to the work. So far, that’s what works.


Q: How do you like to celebrate when you finish writing a book, get a good review, etc?

A: We have this amazing cake shop here in Iowa City, so I go over and get a beautiful layer cake with buttercream frosting. The store people all know my name, I’m there so often. Mmm, cake.


Q: What’s up? Tell us about where you are in your writing process right now. What’s out? What’s coming? What are you currently working on?

A: Right now I’m in this awkward in-between stage. The third Conn and Nevery book, The Magic Thief: Found, came out on May 25th. A few weeks ago I gave my editor a revision of my next book, which may or may not be called The Crow Lady’s Daughter. So now I need to shift gears and finish working on the next Magic Thief book, currently known as Chimney Swifts. At some point this summer I need to decide what my next book after that is going to be and start working on it. I’m looking forward to starting a new project very much.


Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to visit with me and the readers of my blog. I'm having fun imagining you as a child playing both Little House on the Prairie and Planet of the Apes. You didn't say you played them at the same time, but what an interesting mix that would have been if you had! (I always had short hair too... I would wear tights on my head to pretend I had two long braids.)

To find out more about Sarah and her books, check out: www.sarah-prineas.com

Check back soon for future author chats! I've got more amazing authors coming your way this summer. It's better than the ice cream truck. To read previous interviews, click on the Author Chats label at the end of this post.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Word of the Week (even though it's been a year)

Last year, I was all about the Word of the Week. Like so many things while deadlines loomed, my Word of the Week fell by the wayside.

I'm not sure I'm bringing it back consistently, but I came across a word this week that I fell newly in love with and have used to excess (and to the annoyance of those around me). I even fit it into a bit of writing I was doing this week. The word is:

BOSKY

'Bosky' is an adjective that means: covered in shrubs, bushes, or trees; woody and/or shady.

A hillside can be bosky. So can a park or a ditch. Anyway, I've enjoyed pointing out all the bosky places I see.

Meanwhile, it's Memorial Day weekend, school's out here, and I have a nasty cold. But I already got out to see Prince of Persia (not too many bosky landscapes in that movie) and bought a sofa.

The second-to-last sofa I had was sacrificed when my daughter's pet hamster got inside it. It was an old sofa, thank goodness. Because I ended up tearing the thing apart to get the hamster out. We had another sofa after that, but it stayed behind when we moved two years ago. It was starting to look bosky... okay, that word doesn't actually work here. But it's fun to imaging leafy shrubs and tall trees growing up out of our old brown sofa.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chatting with Kimberly Willis Holt



Kimberly Willis Holt hasn't been sitting around twiddling her thumbs! As the author of a slew of books--from Piper Reed Navy Brat to When Zachary Beaver Came to Town (to name just two)--Kimberly has received numerous awards and accolades, like a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, Parenting Magazine and School Library Journal's 'Best Book of the Year', oh, and that little thing called The National Book Award for Young People's Literature. (Not so little.)

Now Kimberly has a new book out called The Water Seeker and, despite her busy schedule, took the time (so sweetly!) to let me interview her for one of my summer author chats.



So, let's learn a little more about Kimberly Willis Holt:


Q: When you were a child, what did you like to ‘pretend’ most?

A: I know this doesn't sound very glamorous, but I pretended to be a mother. I loved dolls and played with them much longer than most girls did. When we lived on Guam, I was the only girl my age living on our small Navy base in Barrigada. So I played with my younger sister and her friend. It gave me excuse to play with dolls in fifth and sixth grade. Although I'd probably have been horrified if any of my classmates knew.


Q: How much of a role did your imagination play in your life?

A: I was a daydreamer--even when I was interested in what my teacher said, my mind would drift to something else. There was a playground behind our home on Guam. I would swing for hours and look at the sky. I made up poetry while my toes touched the clouds. I'm very auditory and somehow I think that swing set contributed to the rhythm of words in my head.


Q: Do you have a favorite word, words, or quote?

A: It sounds corny, but I always tell kids, Dreams do come true if work hard enough at something. I believe that it is true in the arts. So many people want to be published, but they don't really don't want to do what it takes--to write.


Q: When you were growing up, was there a specific book (or books) that changed you somehow—a book that you feel is responsible for a little (or big) piece of who you are today?

A: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers changed my life. I picked the book because of the cover, but I quickly became captivated by the words and the characters.


Q: What do you do when you have a tough writing day? How do you get through it?

A: If I can't seem to write on the project I'm supposed to be writing, I might drive to Happy, Texas. That's forty miles from where I live and something about the wide open spaces relaxes me. Sometimes I set the timer and web about the problem I'm having with the story. And sometimes I just bake a buttermilk pie. Usually writers block is connected to fear, at least with me it is.


Q: How do you like to celebrate when you finish writing a book, get a good review, etc?

A: I have to remind myself to celebrate now. I've been at this for sixteen years. Twelve years being published. But we need to celebrate. I recently had a couple of local signings for The Water Seeker. That book took me a very long time to write--seven years. Two days before the first signing, I thought, I need to celebrate this. So I invited a few close friends and put some cheese and crackers on the table. It was two hours of bliss. I'm going to try and remember to do that more often.


Q: What’s up? Tell us about where you are in your writing process right now. What’s out? What’s coming? What are you currently working on?

A: I'm researching a new novel that takes place in Louisiana. That's all I'm going to say about that. I'm a bit superstitious. I believe in saving the energy for the page.


Thank you so much, Kimberly!

For more information about Kimberly Willis Holt and her books, check out her website at www.kimberlywillisholt.com


Check back soon for more fun author chats--to read previous interviews, click on the 'Author chats' label at the end of this post.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Lurv


This week I finished One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia. I'm so glad I did! It's so, so, so good. I lurv it! I hope many good things happen for this book. It's already received stellar reviews, but I think it needs a bunch of shiny stickers on its cover too. I do, I do!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Deja Vu

I just got back from a vacation--a real, non-working, Internet-free vacation--for which, I returned to a city I recently visited for an author appearance (I fell in love with the place and had to go back).

The funny thing was: when I got a cab at the airport, the taxi driver was the EXACT SAME one who'd driven me from the airport to my hotel several weeks ago! What are the chances of that? It's not as if this is a small town with only a few cab drivers. Plus, I stayed at the same hotel on my vacation. So, I had a moment of feeling like I'd jumped back in time, as my familiar cab driver drove me to my familiar hotel.

I remembered this particular driver easily. First, he drives a Prius. Second, he has good stories. In fact, he seemed almost disappointed to discover that I'd heard his stories already when I pointed out that he'd driven me a few weeks back. It didn't matter... turned out he had more. This time about hotel ghosts.

Even if you're not a writer, ya gotta love a cab ride with ghost stories!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chatting with Renata Bowers

Having concentrated for so long on Scumble, Scumble, Scumble, it's nice to move on to other things for a change. Now that I have a little more spare time, I thought it would be fun to ask OTHER authors some questions about THEIR lives as writers. We'll see who I can rope in to answer my questions in the coming months, but today I'd like to present Renata Bowers, author of the picture book Frieda B. Herself (illustrated by Michael Chesworth).

I met Renata recently, in Somers, Connecticut, while I was in town for a two-day school visit, and she willingly agreed to be my first victim--erm... ahem... I mean interviewee.

So, here we go! Let's find out more about Renata! (For more about Renata's book, check out www.friedab.com)

Q: When you were a child, what did you like to ‘pretend’ most? How much of a role did your imagination play in your life?


It was my quiet world as a child that fired my imagination and provided great adventures. I had this great rope swing; I flew on that for hours at a time. I had a modest tree fort built by my dad, that I just loved; I don’t remember exactly what I did up there, but I remember being blissfully content. And I had fabulous closet in my room that featured a long back cubby area for storage; I would shimmy back there and settle in with a book or a project. That was a haven for me. I always loved being in my own quiet corner of the world. And I still do.


Q: Do you have a favorite word, words, or quote?


I have many. But this one seems to best sum up my life’s desire right now:“Nurture hope in a child and the world flourishes.” (This is the motto of the Andrus Children’s Center in Yonkers, NY. Inspiring, isn’t it?)


Q: When you were growing up, was there a specific book (or books) that changed you somehow—a book that you feel is responsible for a little (or big) piece of who you are today?


I don’t so much remember a specific book, as a specific song. My family was very musical. It’s “Love You” by Free Design. I remember dancing and spinning in the living room as I played this over and over again on the record player.


“Give a little time for the child within you. Don’t be afraid to be young and free. Undo the locks and throw away the keys and take off your shoes and socks and love you…”


Q: If you could pick any book to live inside for a day, what book would it be and why?


I’d have to say the earlier Little House on the Prairie books. I absolutely longed as a child to spend time with Laura and Mary, taking lunch to school in a metal bucket and eating sugar snow in the early spring. Those books are so full of love, adventure, lessons, history, community. I’d live in Walnut Grove for a day, without thinking twice.


Q: What do you do when you have a tough writing day? How do you get through it?


What do I do, or what do I know I should do? Must admit, those often are two very different things. But what I find works best for me when I courageously choose not to have a pity party or clean the oven is to spend time reading something that inspires me and executes well the writing element(s) that’s currently elusive to me. I read Kate DiCamillo a lot. And Patricia Reilly Giff.


Q: How do you like to celebrate when you finish writing a book, get a good review, etc?


I give in to the need to be highly animated. I have a tendency to jump, a lot. Dance. Laugh, whoop. Hug whomever is closest; if it’s my husband I’ll jump up on him. Grab the phone and call my parents. Jump some more. Cause the dog to bark a lot. Then after things calm down I just sit around and smile a lot.

I have a very patient family. Although I don’t know how successful they truly want me to be. It’s tiring.


Q: What’s up? Tell us about where you are in your writing process right now. What’s out? What’s coming? What are you currently working on?


Well, seeing as Dave and I self-published Frieda B. Herself (it was under contract, but the publisher had to pull out – so we blazed forward), I’m now calling on my years of working as a PR exec.

I’m focusing heavily on publicizing FBH right now, via book tours, school visits, media relations, online networking/evangelizing, website (friedab.com), blog (friedab.com/blog), facebook (Frieda B. Herself) and twitter (Frieda B. Herself).


Also, I’m researching/weighing future options of distribution. Currently, aside from various independent stores, FBH is only available for purchase at friedab.com.

Wish list? I already have four additional Frieda B. books written. I pray there’s a published series in my future… But for now, I’m free to be one day at a time.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pelicans Passing Through

I visited my favorite ponds last night at dusk. It was a beautiful evening. Chilly, rain clouds bumped up against the last bit of the pink glow from the sunset. I accidentally scared a mother duck and her eight ducklings out from under the boardwalk, then found my usual bench and watched swallows and red-winged blackbirds until it grew too dark and cold to stay.

But before I left, I noticed the pelicans. Now, one doesn't usually think of pelicans in Colorado. But they do pass through. I knew I'd have to return today with my camera, in hopes that they would still be hanging around.

To my delight, I saw three of them! To see them fly is really something. What a huge wingspan!
Anyway, I just thought I'd share my Friday pelicans.


The pictures and the video were taken on my silly little digital camera, but didn't turn out too bad considering how far away I was.


video

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In Memory, Rose Trevino

Rose Trevino (center) with fellow Newbery Honor recipient, Jacqueline Woodson, (left) and me at ALA 2009

I received the sad news yesterday that Rose Trevino, Chair of the 2009 Newbery Committee, died last week.

Rose held positions as the Youth Services Coordinator for the Houston Public Library and at the library in San Antonio before that. In Houston, Rose served one of the biggest Spanish-speaking populations in the country, and was dedicated to creating innovative services and programs for Latino youth.

Rose's voice was the first one I heard on the other end of the phone that early morning in January 2009--the enthusiastic voice telling me that she and the rest of the Newbery Committee had selected Savvy for a Newbery Honor.

I had the enormous pleasure of meeting and chatting with Rose at the festivities last summer and am sorry to hear that such a kind and lovely person has left us. My heart goes out to Rose's family, the rest of the committee, and the library community. Rose Trevino will always hold a very special place in my memory.

Monday, May 3, 2010

ARC drawing, birthdays, and eco-friendly non-stick skillets

Many thanks to all the people who entered my SCUMBLE advanced-reading-copy giveaway! There were so many of you, I decided to give away five copies and sent e-mail messages out to the winners this morning.

I would have sent one to everyone if I could have. I loved reading all of the different savvy talents people came up with, and all the great favorite words as well!

I had a very nice, very quiet and mellow 40th birthday weekend. My daughter and I went to the movies (the same movie--twice in a row--actually) then out for dinner at Buca di Beppo where we were surrounded by about fifty prom couples all dressed to the nines. My daughter let slip to the waitress that it was my birthday, so of course there was a big, singing, happy-birthday scene (always embarrassing, but fun). From my family, I got exactly what I most wanted: a Cuisinart GreenGourmet Eco-Friendly 12" non-stick skillet. It is marvelous. I plan to make eggs in it this morning. And maybe chicken in it tonight. Maybe crepes in it tomorrow... it is so lovely, I want to hug it.