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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TA-DAH!!!!! The Indigo Notebook Cover! (This one's really it!)

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Hey everyone!

Well, my toes are finally starting to thaw out. We've had near-zero temps all week in Colorado, but today's a balmy 40 degrees. I was too wimpy to write in my trailer in the freezing cold, so I camped out at my favorite coffee shop downtown-- Cafe Ardour. It's cozy and sunny there, with plenty of Orchid Oolong tea to meet my tea-fiend needs.

So... here it is... the cover of THE INDIGO NOTEBOOK!!!

I think the designer, Marci Senders, did a really nice job with it. (She designed the infamous Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants covers). Inside the suitcase, she included a few things that I sent her-- the crystal and the photos), which is very cool. I love the indigo-colored background and how it contrasts with the red suitcase.

The Indigo Notebook
is the first in a series of three books, each a different color notebook, each taking place in a different country. My editor also sent me the covers of the next two books in the series (but I'll save those so they'll be a surprise...)

A few random things I'll include in this post-- a link to an interview with my smart, lovely editor Stephanie Lane Elliot and another link to an interview with my smart, lovely agent, Erin Murphy. (I am very lucky to be surrounded by smart, lovely women. Actually, while I'm at it, here are links to the blogs of two smart, lovely members of my writing group-- Leslie Patterson (France, History, Art) and Carrie Visintainer (travel adventures).

I get lots of questions about my agent and editor-- what they do, how we work together, etc. So here it is, from their perspective. The SCBWI interview with Stephanie gives you a good idea of how an editor and author work together to revise a manuscript. The Cynsations interview with Erin gives you a sense of what she does as an agent, her relationship with authors, and the benefits of having an agent.

Okay, I'm off to the library to check out a book of ancient Nahuatl poetry. Nahuatl was the language of the Aztecs-- they created beautiful, resonant poetry-- and the language is also spoken today in parts of Mexico. My book Star in the Forest (Spring 2010) has a little Nahuatl in it, inspired by a good friend of mine from Puebla who speaks it.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, December 5, 2008

Carbondale's One Book One Middle School !

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Hey everyone!

It's a winter wonderland outside my house right now-- snow a foot deep, and the temperature a grand total of one degree. For the tough folks in the mountains of Carbondale, that's nothing, I'm sure! I had a fantastic visit there two weeks ago for their One Book One Middle School event. (What the Moon Saw was the One Book!) The brilliant librarian Nicole put this together,

with the help of energetic teacher/librarian June and other hard-working, creative people.

As I mentioned in the last post, I love Carbondale-- a small, friendly town with a stunning setting-- snow-topped mountains galore. Best of all, everyone in town was super-enthusiastic about my visit-- it made me happy! The four-hour drive was definitely worth it.

On Thursday and Friday mornings, the middle school students in the Carbondale area gathered in the auditorium of Carbondale Middle School for presentations on What the Moon Saw. (The schools were: Carbondale Middle, Community School, Ross Montessori, Waldorf, and Marble Charter).

I absolutely loved this gathering because most of the students had either read the book or were in the process of reading it. They had fabulous questions-- including some new ones that really made me think. (Like, why didn't Aunt Teresa just leave Uncle Jose, since he was such a jerk?) I felt honored that the students read the book so closely, and I was thrilled about their great response. (Big thanks to the teacher Michael who held the fickle microphone plug in the socket during my whole presentation!!)

In the afternoons, I led writing workshops in small groups, in English and Spanish. I discovered that many students are talented writers and storytellers with wonderful imaginations-- budding romance novelists, fantasy authors, comedians, actors, you name it.

I had fun talking with the teachers, too, and hearing about ways they've used the book in class and the kinds of discussion it generated. One teacher incorporated art into writing activities with What the Moon Saw. She did examples herself to share with her students, which I think is great.

Also in the afternoons, I signed books (and notebooks and shoes and jeans and T-shirts and foreheads and arms...) and chatted with the students.

Muchisimas gracias to all the kids and teachers and librarians and parents in the Carbondale area who made my visit so special!!! And huge thanks to Colorado Humanities and the Center for the Book, who paid for most of my visit-- what a great organization! If you'd like, scroll down to the next blog post to read about my elementary school visit in Carbondale on Wednesday.

A little sidenote: As you know, if you were at my visit, I was impatiently waiting for the cover art for my next book The Indigo Notebook... and I'm still waiting! Arghhh! I'll post it as soon as I get it. Some good news about The Indigo Notebook is this: they're making an audiobook for it, which will come out in Fall 2009, at the same time as the book. The audiobook of Red Glass will come out in this spring, around the same time as the Red Glass paperback.

Okay, thanks for reading and checking out the pics! (You can click on them to make them bigger).

Abrazos to all,

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Crystal River Elementary in Carbondale!

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Hey everyone!

I had a blast in Carbondale last week! I have lots of pics from my trip, so I"ll divide this into two entries-- this one will focus on the Crystal River visit, and then, in a few days, I'll post the middle schools visit pics.

So, I have to admit that when we scheduled the visit for the third week in November, I was pretty nervous I'd have a long, terrible drive in a blizzard, since that's not uncommon in the mountains of Colorado this time of year.

But it was a perfect and breath-takingly beautiful four-hour drive there. Sunny and so warm I was wearing jeans and a tank top and even turned on the AC for parts! I listened to a Lila Downs CD over and over and relished the time to just sit and let my mind wander wherever it wanted to go. I felt grateful to be living in this gorgeous state.

I stayed at a very cool strawbale house in downtown Carbondale with a very cool family.

It made me want to live in a strawbale house. There are real bundles of straw in the walls-- well insulating and energy efficient and green-- and it just gave me a good feeling.

I spent Wednesday at Crystal River Elementary, where we focused on a story I had published in Cricket Mag a few years ago called Drops of Wax. It takes place about 70 years ago and it's about a friendship between a Gypsy girl and a Mixtec girl, with fortune-telling and waking from the dead and magical healing powers. It was inspired by some real-life tales told to me by my Mixtec curandera friend Maria Chiquita.

Two groups of fourth grade girls did fabulous performances of the story for each of the grades.

This was the first time I'd seen it acted out, and I loved it! I talked for a bit about my writing process and journey, and did a couple writing workshops.

There were lots of Spanish-speaking kids in the school, which always makes visits extra-exciting for me. They have all kinds of interesting personal connections with my stories. All the students came up with super-creative stories of their own during the workshops-- we did plenty of writing and laughing together.

Thanks, Carbondale, for a very warm welcome to your town! It seems like everyone knows everyone (and they all have good things to say about each other). Everything seems to be in walking distance-- the schools, library, restaurants, neighborhoods-- which I loved. I'll treasure the memory of this trip!

Be sure to check back next week to hear about the visits with Carbondale middle schools.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Trailer, Harris Bilingual, OSHER... and OBAMANOS!

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Hi everyone!

I've been pretty busy lately-- finishing up my comments on the copy-edited version of The Indigo Notebook, getting permission to use all the Rumi quotes in it, giving input about the cover art for the Notebooks series (which I'm happy Delacorte let me do-- it's uncommon.) The cover art that you see in the October 7 post has been changed-- they're in the midst of doing a photo shoot now for the new cover art, and I'll post it here as soon as I get it!

I have an essay on the Colorado Author's League Website this month-- it's about my writing trailer-- check it out!

I've been doing lots of events lately. Here's a photo taken yesterday at Barnes and Noble in Fort Collins at the Day of the Dead fundraising event for Harris Bilingual. Martha, in the orange, is a friend of mine and the librarian at the school (she also helped me with the latest revision of the collaborative memoir about my Ecuadorian friend Maria Virginia's girlhood!) I love Harris Bilingual-- it's a really special community of kids, parents, and staff.

Here's a photo of the OSHER class at CSU. Nancy Hansford (book review columnist in the Coloradoan) put this lecture series together-- four local authors who write about international topics-- Kari Grossman (Bones that Float), DJ Murphy (A Thousand Veils), Greg Campbell (Blood Diamonds). It was fun to be part of this-- the students were fabulous and enthusiastic.

On Tuesday I'm leaving for a teacher's conference in Pittsburgh (I'm proud I finally learned to spell that.) I'm hoping I'll find some kindred souls in the hotel cafe to celebrate the election results with. My teacher friend at the Barnes and Noble event told me the Spanish verb for Obama in the nosotros form-- !OBAMANOS!-- "Let's Obama!"

Thanks for reading-- enjoy fall!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Colorado Book Award and Americas Award!

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Hello all!

Here I am in my trailer, coughing up a storm and blowing my nose like crazy, but happy nonetheless because... Red Glass won the Colorado Book Award in the young adult category last night! Of course, my husband and I forgot our camera, so after the awards we took this picture in our living room.

It was a fun night-- great company-- I saw writerly friends from Fort Collins and Denver and met some fascinating new people. The Colorado Humanities folks did a fabulous job organizing the event-- they had a slide show of six-word bios that the authors had written, and arranged a silent auction of author baskets. And yummy food-- dessert was an adorable columbine flower cupcake.

I hope you check out the wonderful books of the other finalists, who are both friends of mine (and Fort Collinites, too!) Teresa Funke's Doing My Part (historical fiction) and Todd Mitchell's The Traitor King (fantastical adventure). Here are Teresa and me.

So, here's a recap of the Americas Award ceremony in DC last week (Red Glass won!):

A whole bunch of my relatives came to cheer me on (and see Baby). Here are Grandmom and me at a Mexican restaurant afterward.

It was a cozy and heartfelt event-- really special.

The author Pat Mora's speech about her book Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico! (picture book winner) was fantastic, and she looked dazzling in red velvet and satin.

The illustrator of the book, Rafael Lopez was also a great speaker-- he said he thought of his mother's cooking, and going to the market with her in Mexico, as he painted these pictures... and then he read a haiku he wrote just for her (she was right there at the ceremony)-- it was very, very sweet. His artwork is stunning and vibrant and makes you want to dance and eat lots of chile (and chocolate and blueberries and peanut butter...)! He's the one holding the Guatemalan weaving in the pic (we each got these gorgeous hand-woven Mayan table runners as gifts!

And a pic of me and my sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. Witt (I still can't get used to calling her by her first name!) In February, I'll be doing a school visit at Dunloggin Middle School (where I used to go and where she still teaches!)

I did a fun school visit on Friday, but I'll write about that in a separate blog post since I need to get permission to use the photos.

Thanks for reading!



Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Indigo Notebook Cover!

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Hello everyone!

I just got back from my Maryland/DC trip! It was a good trip, but I have to say I'm happy to be back home, back in my lil trailer drinking tea (I've lost track of how many cups I've had so far today). Yesterday on the plane, on the way home, the cold that I was trying to fight off finally won. So now I'm sniffling and drinking tea, but it's not so bad since I have an amazing view of lots of luminous yellow leaves outside my trailer window.

Before I recap my trip, I have to show you the cover of my new book-- The Indigo Notebook!!! It's the first in a series. I'll try to do a book jacket-type summary here, but I must warn you, I'm not very good at short summaries... there's a reason why I needed 300 pages to tell the story in the first place!

The main character, Zeeta, lives in a different country every year with her flighty, ESL-teaching mom, encountering adventure, mystery, and romance on her travels. This year they're in the Andes mountains of Ecuador, where Zeeta's biggest wish is about to come true... and where she meets Wendell, an American teenager, searching for his birth parents. She agrees to help him on his quest, which leads them to a sacred waterfall, an indigenous Quichua village, underground tunnels, exotic gardens, and venemous creatures... and where they meet intriguing people hiding secrets. There's Mamita Luz, bread-baking mother of everyone, Taita Silvio, a famous shaman, and Don Faustino, who some say made a pact with the devil. Along the way, as Zeeta and Wendell grow close, she begins to wonder if the thing she's wished for all these years isn't the thing that truly makes her spirit fly.

Hope you like the cover! And I hope you read the book! (It'll be out in September 2009). Okay, I'm going to recap my trip later because this blog is acting weird-- not letting me cut and paste the pics, and there are lots of them! So... I'll wait and tell you about my trip later. Actually, that is probably the logical thing to do since I need to get permission to post some of the pics anyway.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Authors for Obama

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Hi dear readers,
Just a quick note to say that I support Obama, and so do over ONE THOUSAND other authors of books for kids and teens!!! And the list is growing by day... check it out. I am proud to have my name there (and it alleviates my guilt for not going out door to door to register voters...).
I just discovered the site YA for Obama (Young Adult for Obama), which I highly recommend visiting. It links to author Sarah Zarr's blog post about why she's voting for him-- she made a right on-target point about how the concept of "evil" comes up in political speeches-- read her essay yourself! I was cheering.
Okay, now that I feel I did something for Obama's campaign, on to writing! I'm going to answer "Conversations with the Author" questions for the Readers' Circle Guide which will appear in the back of the paperback of Red Glass (which will come out in the spring.) I could write an entire (not nececssarily interesting) book on everything that inspired this book, so the challenge is to pare down my answers to a reasonable length. I'll have to be ruthless. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 22, 2008

RED GLASS Give-away and Banned Books Week!!!

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Hi all!

So, there were a few links I meant to post but plum forgot about. The first is to Yat-Yee Chong's blog. She's a Fort Collins area writer (a very talented one) who's interviewing the finalists in the young adult category for the Colorado Book Awards. The other finalists are friends of mine and wonderful writers-- Teresa Funke and Todd Mitchell. So here's the link to my interview.

And something very cool-- Yat-Yee is orchestrating a signed book give-away of Red Glass! Hurry-- the deadline for entries is Thursday!! Go! No matter where in the country you happen to live! Enter now! (And while you're at it, check out her blog-- I had lots of fun perusing it...)

Support the First Amendment, Read a Banned Book

The second link is for Banned Books Week, which is coming up in a few days. In celebration of it, why not read a banned book? Here's a list of books banned in the past. Some books on there that I read when I was young are:

Are you There God? It's Me, Margaret.
The Giver
The Headless Cupid
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
James and the Giant Peach

and when I was a bit older...

A Prayer for Owen Meany
Slaughterhouse Five
Snow Falling on Cedars
House of Spirits
DaVinci Codes

So go and read a banned book! (My, I'm being bossy today, aren't I? Must be a mix of living on practically no sleep (Baby has had a string of colds since he started daycare...) and fighting off one cold after another (it's a losing battle, since it's hard to avoid being covered with Baby's snot...)

Yet he's still adorable, even when he's a little walking germ colony. Very adorable. He is extremely polite and affectionate, especially to inanimate objects. He always says goodbye and blows a kiss to everything in the room/area before we leave it. My favorite is when he says BA-BYE to the river near our house and showers it with kisses from the bridge... because I think the river really appreciates this...

Okay, I digress. Time to go make a glossary and pronunciation guide for The Indigo Notebook! We're at the copy-editing stage-- it's exciting! I'm getting to see ideas for the cover art, which makes the book feel so much more tangible-- makes me realize it really will be out there in the big wide world soon. (Well, relatively soon-- the advanced review copies (ARCs) should be out in a few months.) Okay, I'm really going now...

thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Silver shooting star chaos

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Hello all,
(on the cusp of fall),

I just got home from El Paso. My baby and husband are both asleep now-- hubby is completely worn out from three days taking care of baby alone. Speaking of cusps, baby's fifth tooth is now poking through!

I still feel happy-giddy from the conference I went to. It's called REFORMA and it's the part of ALA that focuses on Latino literature and serving Latino people. It was fun to be in a place where pretty much everyone could speak Spanish (both in the conference and in the hotel and in the whole city). I was a little frustrated because (although I'm fluent in Spanish) French kept trying to weasel its way out of my mouth. I kept saying oui instead of si and maintenant instead of ahorita. (I was in France in July/August, so French is stubbornly clinging to its space in the Foreign Language part of my brain, elbowing out Spanish.) It's mystifying how the language parts of the brain work, isn't it?

I was BLOWN AWAY by the other authors there! I was on a panel (of award-winning authors of Latino literature-- Red Glass represented the Americas Award) with the lovely picture book author and illustrator Yuyi Morales (winner of Pura Belpre award among many others). There's a low-quality pic of us above (taken at the book signing with my cell phone camera), and another one of her, below, performing with these fantastic puppets she makes.

And here's Juan Felipe Herrera (winner of Tomas Rivera award, among many others). He was really, really funny.

These are two people I could listen to speak for hours and hours and hours without tiring. They are great story-tellers, not just through the written word, but in their speaking and performing. They (along with Carmen Tafolla, Lucia Gonzalez, tatiana de la tierra, and Freda Mosquera) did a spectactular Noche de Cuentos show. Wow!

Even though it was 11:00 by the time it ended, which is past my bedtime, I felt energized and wanting to learn more about oral story-telling. I want to find some good story-telling workshops or conferences to go to.

I feel like the pathway from my mind/soul to paper/computer is well-traveled and fairly confident as far as telling stories... but from my mind/soul to my mouth is a different matter entirely. It's like the thoughts get lost and mangled on the way to my mouth. It feels so much easier for me to write them down.

But as someone wise said (Nietzsche??) "I'm always trying to do that which I've never done before so that I may learn to do it." Well, someone along the lines of Nietzsche said something along the lines of that.

One thing that Nietzsche did say was, "One must have chaos within to give birth to a shooting star." I have that quote hanging in my lil writing trailer. I often feel I have chaos within-- lots and lots of it-- and sometimes that makes me feel distraught and overall yucky, but then I remind myself about the shooting star thing. If everything was always perfect and easy in life, I wouldn't feel motivated to write anything. I'd just kinda float around, content. And if I did manage to write anything, the characters would be flat, happy, boring people. Well, that's what I tell myself at least to make my chaos within seem useful. That's the silver lining.

I am terrible at remembering quotes. The only way I remember them is if I write them down and put them in an obvious place in front of my face, like taped to the wall just over my computer. I think that's part of the bundle of reasons why a storytelling workshop would be good for me. I never can tell jokes off the top of my head either. I really admire people who can. So, I will give this story telling/ performing thing a try.

Here is Yuyi's latest book. It's called Nochecita or Little Night and the story and illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful-- the colors start at sunset and end up at night-- a rare mix of soft warm reds that melt into twilight blues.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Victoria Hanley's New Books!

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Hi dear readers!

I'm slowly but surely getting back into the swing of life in Fort Collins... it took a while! When I got back from France, I had to work non-stop on the revision for my editor for The Indigo Notebook, putting on hold everything else in my life (including emailing... sorry if I STILL haven't written you back-- I should be up to speed by the end of this week!)

As soon as I get caught up with everything, I'll start revising my next book, Star in the Forest, and start preparing for a bunch of conferences and author visits i have coming up soon (El Paso, D.C., Pittsburgh, and Carbondale)... it'll be a busy autumn.

I went to my friend Victoria Hanley's book release party on Saturday. She has two great books out-- Seize the Story!: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write and Wild Ink: How to Write Fiction for Young Adults. She's included interviews with me and other authors in both books (but that's not the only reason I'm pitching her books-- I swear!)

I get lots of requests for advice and recommendations for books on how to write for teens and for books for teens who like creative writing.... and I'm thrilled that I finally have two books on those topics that I can whole-heartedly recommend!

Seize the Story! talks about how to write great fiction-- it covers dialogue, descriptions, voice, beginnings, middles, and ends, setting, plotting, point of view... and it does so in an incredibly readable, friendly, personal way. Hanley's insights are based on her own fiction-writing experiences (award-winning fantasy) and years of doing workshops with teens. Hanley uses plenty of vivid examples to illustrate her points, and gives fun writing exercises at the end of each chapter. This book isn't just for teens-- it's for people of all ages starting their own fiction-writing journey.

Wild Ink definitely fills a gap, and fills it beautifully! This book contains all the hard-earned wisdom and practical advice that I wish I knew before I got my first book published. What I love most about Wild Ink is the compassionate, funny voice, and the abundance of personal examples. Hanley covers a range of topics on writing for teens, from overcoming self-doubt (which was a HUGE obstacle for me) to finding an authentic teen voice to submitting your manuscript. She gives a great overview of the sub-genres of young adult literature, and addresses all the common questions, such as the pluses and minuses of self-publishing, whether to include profanity or sex, and how to find your writing self. Hanley also includes interviews with agents, editors, and authors, which bring in a variety of fascinating perspectives. One thing that really sets Wild Ink apart from others of its kind is that it's obviously written from the heart, acknowledging the mysterious role of the spirit/unconscious self in writing... and as a writer who delves into this realm every day, I appreciate the way Hanley weaves it into her book.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gros Bisous from France! (And RED GLASS on Oprah!)

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Well, I'm not actually IN France anymore-- just got back a few days ago. This blog post is way, way overdue-- forgive me, dear friends and family and readers.

Okay, where to begin? First, if you weren't aware where I was last month, I'll fill you in: I was in southern France, in a town called Aix-en-Provence for a month doing research my next novel (the next one I'm writing, that is, not the next one to be published- the next ones to be published are The Indigo Notebook in 2009 and Star in the Forest in 2010. This one is a sequel to The Indigo Notebook, its title TBD-- I'm guessing it will be out in late 2010.)

So, you ask suspiciously, what kind of research exactly?

The best kind, the kind that involves sitting in outdoor cafes and jotting down notes in a little notebook,

listening to dazzling musicians in the streets (this is the group Gettabang, and some others were Samenakoa and Pense-Bete-- check them out!)

island-hopping by ferry off the coast of Marseille,

climbing around on ancient Celto-Liguric ruins,

following narrow labyrinth roads lined with buildings half a millenia old,

discovering little ancient courtyards

and fountains tucked in here and there,

walking down the street to the morning fruit and veggie market every day and getting these cute mini-melons

and lots of lavender honey for my tea

passing through the flower market near my apartment,

noticing the strange old faces carved over doors (the pins on his head are to keep pigeons from pooping on it, I discovered),

thinking about mysterious things-- like this very old lady who sat by a second floor window watching the goings-ons in the Place de la Mairie all day,

wandering around the giant Saturday morning market, lingering in the flea market section

meeting captivating people-- a lovely young Romanian dancer who speaks a zillion languages,

an artist-craftsman from Spain with an enchanting imagination and eye for the mysterious , a musician from Marseille who speaks perfect English with a rural mid-western twang from his exchange abroad year in Iowa (in response to my question about the most exciting thing that happened to him in Iowa, he replied, getting drunk in a cow pasture and hiding from an angry rancher wielding a gun. TP-ing houses was a close second.)

I lived in Aix for one year fifteen years ago my junior year in college. I stayed with a wonderful, warm family (who I spent time with again on this trip). Even then, I felt the town was brimming over with mysteries and stories that I wanted to tell. At the time, I wrote some stories set there, and now, many years later, I feel ready to write the book I've always wanted to write. So on this trip, I was revisiting places that fascinated me years ago, and discovering some new places, and soaking up ideas and floating back into the atmosphere of the place.

I love the town-- its zillions of fountains from underground springs-- it seems like every time you turn a corner, there's another ancient fountain. And you can actually drink from most of them, too-- people are always taking sips from them or washing their faces or dunking their feet in there-- I love that the fountains are so all-around useful in addition to being gorgeous. I love the sound of water tumbling into water-- it's so relaxing and mesmerizing. I spent a lot of time sitting by fountains and writing.

My favorite fountain was kind of hidden at the intersection of three narrow roads-- pigeons particularly loved this one, as did my son. It was very nook-ish. It's just next to the ivy-covered wall at the end of the street.

I rented out a cute little apartment on the fourth floor of a 17th century building... luckily, the fresh-baked baguettes and tartes aux fruits and pain au chocolat and quiches on every block provided me with energy to carry my 16 month old son up and down and up and down those stairs. My mom helped out a lot by taking care of Baby, giving me a few hours in the morning and in the afternoon to wander around on my vague research missions.

So you're probably wondering about this Oprah thing I casually dropped into this post heading... well, it's not on Oprah's couch exactly, but on her website... In the words of my lovely friend Lauren Myracle: "Holy Fish Cakes-- You've been OPRAH-FIED!!!" And indeed, amazingly, RED GLASS was chosen for Oprah's Kids' Reading List. Although the chance of me ending up on her couch is beyond miniscule, this is still exciting. Your average Joe has no idea what ALA BBYA means or what the heck Kirkus or Booklist are, much less what a starred review by them means... but OPRAH!! As one member of my writing group put it, "Oprah's like, more important than the president!" So, I have to admit a certain giddiness at this news!

Okay, thanks for reading all this! Savor summer!