I Bought an Extra Present, so…GIVEAWAY!

Well, apparently I had a brain blip while I was preparing my holiday shopping list. NO book is really a wrong book, and absolutely no book by Kate Milford is in ANY way a wrong book. But I didn’t buy the book I MEANT to buy for a certain someone on my list. And that’s all I’m going to say about that here, because, shh…sekrits!

Anyway, the extra book I now have in my possession is Kate Milford’s GREENGLASS HOUSE, which is made of awesome.

So much awesome that even though I already have a copy in e-book form, I was tempted to keep the lovely print version for myself.

But that is 1) silly and 2) not in the holiday spirit. What IS in the holiday spirit is to pass it along and either introduce someone new to the awesome or fill in a painful gap for someone who has all the rest of Kate’s books, but not this one. Or…oh, any of the many other possible reasons.

Giveaway time!

Leave a comment and tell me one book YOU are giving as a holiday gift. Or if you’re worried about someone seeing the comment, just write “sekrit” with your preferred spelling. You’ve got all week, and I’ll draw the winner the weekend of the 17th.

Good luck!

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Summer Vacation: A Few Memories & A Spontaneous Giveaway

Yesterday, my son finished up his sophomore year of high school.

Excuse me a moment…

Anyway…other than an ever-increasing freakout the older my son gets, what the last day of school means to me is Summer. More specifically, summer vacation. Which comes with a load of feelings and memories from my past decades years. Like…

  • Carrying the heavy backpack home from school, loaded up with all the junk from my desk. No, I didn’t have the neatest desk in the world back then. Actually, it looked a lot like my bedroom. If you don’t believe me, talk to my dad. Wait, don’t, you’ll just give him a nostalgia-based ulcer.
  • Reading, reading, and reading. And more reading. And then some more reading. In bed, in my room, with the drape barely opened. It’s only with age and the colder winters we’ve been having that I’ve become anything like a sunshine and warmth fan. As a teen, I wanted a dim, shady cave of a room, where I curled up on my bed with the book of the day. (That’s why there was always a clean path from my door to the bed, well–okay, from the bookshelf to my bed. Again, talk to my dad.)
  • Camp. Not a lot, but at least a week of Campfire Girls’ day camp at Camp Takeneko (I am absolutely positive I am not spelling that right!), with our straw mats that were miserably itch to sit on and singing songs that–if you started me off today–I could join in on and sing easily to the end. And a couple of summers, the big sleepaway camp, also through Camp Fire, at Camp Natoma, where we slept under the oak trees (and the oak worms). We made key chains out of that plasticy stuff–you folded four pieces over (and under?) each other–oh, what IS that stuff called? OKAY, SPUR OF THE MOMENT SUMMER GIVEAWAY: THE FIRST PERSON WHO LEAVES A COMMENT WITH THE NAME OF THAT PLASTIC STUFF (without looking it up–you’re on the honor system here!) wins a copy of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. JUST BECAUSE.


    We did macrame, too, it being the sixties and early seventies, we swam & showered & had the backs-of-our-ears checked for cleanliness. Good times, good times.
  • August vacations. August. In the summer. Since I grew up near Pismo Beach, and a lot of those vacations were driving ones (luckily, way back then, we could all read without getting carsick), we spent quite a bit of time sweltering through Arizona and New Mexico. Once Hawaii and once Texas. (Tip: Don’t ever go on a double-loop roller-coaster, twice in a row, in 113-degree heat. Just don’t.) We had good times there, and I mean no negativity to all of you who live happily in those regions, but you might be able to guess why I fell in love with Oregon and Washington. And ended up living in NorthernCalifornia.
  • My first summer jobs. I’d give away another copy of my book to the first person who guessed where I got my first job ever, but it’d be just too easy. Yep, the used bookstore in town. (Owned, by the way, by the past secretary of my elementary school, in who’s office I sat with the flu and vomited onto the floor just in time to prove to my mom that I was actually sick and not faking it. But that’s another story.) I worked part-time at her bookstore (mostly telling people that, no, that month’s issue of that particular romance series hadn’t shown up yet) and part-time at a children’s clothing store in Pismo Beach. There I sold sweatshirts to kids who had come over from the central valley, to our foggy coast, in shorts & tank tops; and I learned to make a bow out of wrapping ribbon, by hand, to top off the grandparent-to-grandchild presents I wrapped.
  • Typing up dog and cat records and cleaning exam rooms. After paying my dues in retail, I ended up working summers for my parents at their veterinary clinic. Yes, you’re right–I’ve listed only the glamorous parts of the job. Seriously, other than some of the cleaning and some of the holding down of dogs with sharp teeth that didn’t want to be held down, I loved that job. We were almost always busy, and I met some wonderful people. Their owners were often pretty nice, too.
  • Quiet birthdays. Since I’m an August-born and, at least back then, pretty shy, I remember feeling pretty detached from my school friends by the time birthdays came around. I know I had parties when I was young–I remember Musical Chairs in the kitchen of our first house and some Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and I had a couple of small sleepovers when I was older, but I think I was probably happiest with family cake and, you know, a new book. This might be a memory to check with the rest of the family, though!
  • Afghans. One more repeat–sixties and early seventies. One summer, I think I was twelve, my cousin came to stay for a week (more?) and she, a good friend, and I all crocheted granny-square afghans. And I mean granny-square. One. Big. Square. I believe mine was made up of yellow, orange, hot pink, lime green, and purple. I could check, if I were so inclined, because I still have that afghan. No matter how much you’re inclined, as an adult, to purge Stuff, there are some things you just don’t throw out.
  • Boredom. Yes, I think this may be the true function and purpose of summer vacation. To give the kids just enough off-time so that when the end of summer rolls around, they’re–if not ready–at least resigned to school starting back up again. Ready for something different. I know I was. Plus, you know, there were all the cool school supplies to buy–notebooks that were waiting to be written in, pens that were still filled with ink, Pee Chee folders to doodle on. Teachers that still had all the potential, at least, to be wonderful. And friends to see again. One more fresh start.

What about you? What are a few of your favorite (or not-so favorite) summer memories. Join me in a few moments of time travel and share something from those vacation weeks. And don’t forget, if you know what that plastic stuff is called and you’d like to win a copy of my book, leave a comment to enter!

The Gift of Writing for Kids—Bruce Coville Book Giveaway

So, this past weekend, I headed up to Sacramento for the SCBWI Spring Spirit conference. Which ROCKED. I may do another post this week telling more about it, along with perhaps a few car photos from my research trip, but what I wanted to talk about this morning was Bruce Coville‘s talk. Or part of it.

The part where he talked about why we write for kids. (Hint: It’s not the money.)

Slight detour first. I am very clear, personally, on why I write for kids and teens. Yes, I hope that they’ll read and love my books; yes, I think about them as the audience while I’m writing; yes, I try and figure out the best way to make my story connect with their world. But the full truth is that I do this writing…for me. I write because I need to, because I love the way it feels when words come off my fingers onto the keyboard. I write specifically for kids and teens because those are my favorite books to read, because the “club” I most want to belong to is the one whose members are the authors whose books I devoured as a kid. I admit it–I write for very selfish reasons.

I hear so many people talk about the book that most impacted them, the book where they first recognized themselves or the one that changed the way they saw the world. Honestly, I don’t have one of those. Every book that has hit me strongly as a child, as a teen, as an adult has hit me as an author. As in, WOW–look at the characters this writer created. Look at the way they built that world. Look at how they made me cry. Look at the flow of the prose. The books that are listed in my head as the most important are the ones that just made me–even more than before–want to be a writer. While I may have loved their content, the content is not what hit my life–it was and has always been about the writing.

But Bruce said something in his keynote that made me start thinking. And the basic thread is one we’ve all heard before, but it struck a chord for me Saturday. He basically created a picture, onstage in front of us, of The Kid who has just discovered reading. The one who has found THE BOOK (whether it be about content or prose) that, for him or her, has just opened up an entirely new world–the world of stories on a page. I don’t remember what that book was for me. The story goes that my big sister came home from first grade. played School with me, and taught me to read. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that my favorite thing in the world was to curl up with a book. I don’t remember the magic of discovering that feeling.

I do, though, know what that magic looks like on the face of another child. I know what it looked like on my son’s face; I know what it looked like on the faces of his young schoolmates, and I know what it looks like on the face of the boy or girl sitting on the floor of the bookstore or library, oblivious to everything that is going on around them.

I’m writing a picture book. I’m not sure whether or not a picture book can, by itself, create this magic–because they are so often part of cuddling with Mom and Dad, a grandparent, a teacher, an older sibling, a babysitter. I’m not sure whether or not this magic can be created with anyone else there, or if it is a simple, pure communion between a child and the book (and, yes, I think an e-reader qualifies!). What I think may be true is that there is an age-range, or reading-range, where the magic happens, and that it does fall somewhere between picture books and MG novels. Between the time the child starts to love stories and the time when they have already become book addicts and are now adding books and hours to their habit. I’m not sure if/when I will write a story that falls into that range, but I think–after this conference–that it must be a goal to think about.

I don’t know if Bruce Coville was the one who created that magic for my son. It may have been Bill Watterson, because the first time my son asked if he could read in bed before turning out the light, it was so he could lie there and “read” Calvin and Hobbes by himself. It may have been Roald Dahl. It may have been any one of the authors he loved when he was young. What I do know, and remember, is the click I heard in his reading world when he found Bruce Coville’s books. These were some of the first books I got him that were by an author I hadn’t read, didn’t know about. They were if not the first, some of the first, science-fiction stories he read. They were some of the first books that I picked up to read to myself, because my son loved them so much. My son’s favorites, and mine, were the Sixth-Grade Alien series, with Tim and Pleskitt as best friends. And then, of course, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, because…hey, it had a dragon. And a disappearing magic shop. And lots more.

They didn’t have any of the Pleskitt books at the conference bookstore. They did have another favoriteThe Monster’s Ring, which I think has the (very brief) scariest moment I remember reading in any of Bruce Coville’s book. I bought a copy, and I asked Mr. Coville to sign it (with, I hope, a minimum of gushing). And I’m giving that book away here.

I’d like to give it away to someone with a child, or who knows a child, that hasn’t read Coville’s books yet. I’d like to send this book off somewhere to a boy or girl who might not yet have fallen in love with books, or not yet found their stories. I’m not going to ask any of you to pass a test for the giveaway, or prove that you know the perfect recipient. If you just love these books yourself and absolutely need a copy, then go for it. If your son or daughter had this book and something happened to it, or they just can’t speak at the thought of having a copy with Bruce Coville’s signature on it, I totally get that, and they should get a chance to have that! But if you think around your world, and you know a kid who needs to find their book, who wants to love reading but hasn’t quite got there yet, then–please–enter. I want this giveaway to send a little bit of that magic into the world.

So…all you have to do to enter the contest is leave a comment below. But if you’ve got a story to share about your book, the one that grabbed you as a child and made you a reader, or the one that did that for one of your own kids, a student, whoever–I’d love to hear that, too.

I’ll run this contest for a week, and I’ll draw one random winner next Monday, April 11th. Feel free to spread the word!

Chronicle Books AMAZING Giveaway

Have you heard what Chronicle Books is doing?

They’re asking (more like letting!) bloggers post a wishlist of books from Chronicle, up to $500 (wow!), and then they’ll draw a winner from the (I’m guessing) ginormous pool of entrants. AND (yes, there’s more!), they’ll give the same pile of books away to a commenter at the winning blog.

So, what I’m basically saying is, if you comment here, you and I could win!

A very, very grateful thank you to Jama Rattigan for pointing me toward this contest. Make sure you check out her list and comment there, two, thus doubling your chances to win. And if you want to go crazy with commenting and entering, check out the list here of all the bloggers who are entering.

And now, without further ado…my Chronicle wishlist.

Vanessa Newton’s Let Freedom Sing


Bob Gill’s The Present


Jesse Hartland’s How the Sphinx Got to the Museum

Suzy Lee’s Shadow

Sandra Markle and Daniela Terrazzini’s Animals Marco Polo Saw

Muriel Harris Weinstein and R. Gregory Christie’s When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat

Peggy Mercer & Bill Crews’ Ten Cows to Texas

James Stimson’s Thirteen O’Clock

David Slonim’s He Came with the Couch


Robin Jarvis’ The Alchemist’s Cat

John Duggleby’s Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence

Michaela MacColl’s Prisoner’s in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel

Dilys Evans’ Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children’s Illustration

Susan Goldman Rubin’s Delicious: The Life and Art of Wayne Thiebaud

Susie Middleton & Ben Fink’s Fast, Fresh & Green: More Than 90 Delicious Recipes for Veggie Lovers