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Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Club in Denver!

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Hey everyone!

For those of you going back to school, I hope your year is off to a great start! I had an amazing time at a mother-daughter book club meeting in Denver on Sunday afternoon. It was a cool, overcast afternoon, and seven girls (ages 13-15, I think) and their moms were gathered in a cozy living room... to talk about Red Glass!

They've been meeting for over five years, and most of the girls come from different schools. Books are their bond! For refreshments, they always make food from the book they're discussing at that meeting... I love this idea.

At their first meeting ever, they talked about Because of WinnDixie while feasting on a jar of pickles... and since then, they've made a tradition of having a jar of pickles at every meeting. (They're hard-core... when they read The Higher Power of Lucky, they ate SPAM.) So, for Red Glass, the most stunning part of the feast was this GORGEOUS cake!

Sally, who is also a writer of books for kids/teens, made the cake (during time she should have been writing... Sally, thanks for blowing off your writing for the day to create this scrumptious masterpiece! ;) Check out the red glass... she made the glass out of fruit roll ups! How creative is that?! Here I am with Sally, masterful cake-maker:

There was yummy mango salsa and guacamole and, of course, two big bowls of key limes that we squeezed all over everything, a la Limegirl!

And then, just when I thought things couldn't get any more delicious, Susan's husband waltzed into the living room with a tray of cinnamon hot chocolate in little crystal dessert glasses. Mmmmm...

Everyone asked really great questions about the characters and my writing process and all kinds of other things... what a fun discussion! Some of the girls and their moms are writers themselves, so they had some wonderful insights into the book-- really made me think.

I wonder if there are any mother-son book clubs out there? My son is two, and I would LOVE to be in a book club with him (well, once he starts reading, of course). I have enough writer/reader friends who have boys my son's age that I bet we could make it work in about five years. There probably wouldn't be as much squealing and giggling, though... ah well...

Muchisimas gracias, Maddie, Kaila, Smiley, Bessana, Dylan, Ellie, Natalie, and your moms!

On a different note, you'll be happy to know I finally send my draft of The Ruby Notebook into my editor, and am anxiously awaiting (and sort of dreading!) her comments... (let's just say that the manuscript was in a *very rough* form.)

Lately, I've been planning more release events for The Indigo Notebook this fall. If you're in Colorado, be sure to check out the Events page of my website and mark your calendars. I still haven't confirmed the Tattered Cover reading date, but I'll post it as soon as I know. Hope to see you at the festivities this fall!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dreaming of a massage and tamales...

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Hi, everyone!

I'm happy-- I just finished the latest revision of The Ruby Notebook, and spent the morning orchestrating book events to celebrate the release of The Indigo Notebook this fall-- October 13 to be exact-- less than 2 months away! (You can check out the events section of my website to see what's coming up... and I still have more events that I haven't posted yet (Boulder Bookstore and Tattered Cover in Denver. They're joint events with Victoria Hanley, and I'm excited because our book titles both involve purply colors in the rainbow:

I'm also happy because I'm getting a MUCH-needed massage this afternoon. The revision has wreaked havoc on my neck and shoulders... that's what happens when I'm writing under pressure, I've discovered.

Some good news! Red Glass was just selected as an Honorable Book for the Ohio James Cook Book Award for diversity in teen literature. Thank you, library lovers of Ohio!!! It's cool-- Red Glass is right alongside Sherman Alexie's book, which I absolutely loved (and which won the National Book Award for Young People's Lit-- very well-deservevd):

Here's an excerpt of a new review of Red Glass that I really love, posted by Minne of Athena's YA Book Review.

"... what I really enjoyed the most was all the cultural flavor...the description of boys selling tiny packs of chicles, the sounds of the cumbia, and the assembly line of tamale making. Now, for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about...chicles refer to gum, the cumbia is a rythmic style of music, and've got to eat them! Tamale making is a Mexican tradition still alive here in South Texas. Of course, many of us buy them by the dozen, but even I know exactly what the tamale assembly line is all about. Basically, a bunch of women (the grandmas, aunts, etc.) get together, especially during the holidays, and make loads of tamales for all to share and take home. It's quite an elaborate process of kneading, spreading, and boiling, but it does provide a pleasant time of sisterhood, laughter, and fellowship with all the comadres (close, female friends and relatives). Ok. l'll admit a little gossip probably takes place, too, but it's all in good fun. And, Laura describes it right on. It's been a while since I've done the whole tamale thing...I have to plan better this Christmas and get over to my Mom's whenever she gets the tamale making bug!

Read it! It'll get you in the mood for some awesome, home-made Mexican food. A road trip, yummy food, romance, true-to-life descriptions, and Laura's beautiful imagery...can't go wrong with it. You'll love it! Hmmm...I think I'll make some real tortillas sometime this week."

-- Minerva Vasquez, Athena's YA Book Review

Thanks, Minnie!!! I love reviews that have a personal touch like this one... and I REALLY love reviews that talk about food like tamales and make my mouth water. And the best news: I'll be visiting Minnie's school in south Texas next year! Can't wait... I'm already dreaming of tamales... Check out her blog-- Minnie gives really thorough reviews that give you a distinct *flavor* of the book.

Finally, another piece of good news: My fellow Old Town Writers Group member, Molly Reid, WON the NPR Three-minute story contest!!! This is huge-- there were over 5000 entries, and they picked HERS! I was alone in the car on the way home from the Denver airport when I heard them announce it on NPR. I was screaming and smiling and laughing and nearly had to pull over to calm down. You can listen to it here.

Okay, time to walk Luli-- she's making all kinds of weird noises and pacing the floor, giving me some not-so-subtle hints.

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Portland Retreat with the Gang of Erin!

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Hello everyone!

Sit back and relax... because I have a feeling this will be a ridiculously long post. Last week for four blissful days, I was at McMenamins in Edgefield (just outside of Portland) with my phenomenal agent, Erin Murphy, and some of the Gang of Erin -- about fifteen of her phenomenal authors (including one author-agent, who you'll hear more about soon!)

Oh, where to begin... first, the grounds, which more than made up for the 105 DEGREE WEATHER!!!

Outside view of a magical nook-tree in one of their gardens:

Inside the magical tree-nook! I really, really want one of these for my yard... I'd spend hours reading inside it.

Vineyards galore!

Zillions of sun-warmed blackberries to munch on during strolls around the grounds (which is what I did during afternoon breaks from my seemingly endless revisions of The Ruby Notebook.)

And now, for the artwork! Murals cover the three-story lodge, which used to be a poorhouse, and later an old folks' home, and now a hotel.

Tributes to the old-timers abound:

This mermaid was in the "Ladies' Lounge", and it makes me think of Ammi-Joan Paquette, who is now working on a novel involving mermaids! I've heard a bit of it, and it's fantastic...

My room featured the "Waltz King", who-- according to the story painted on the wall-- was a beloved resident of the old folks' home who loved to dance and is now waltzing in heaven... (A sidenote: this lodge is supposedly haunted, and although our breakfasts were abuzz with ghost reports from the previous nights, the Waltz King must have been perfectly content waltzing away up there, because he didn't bother me once...)

Even the exit signs and exposed pipes were decorated:

It felt like you could walk right into some of the paintings, like this pathway through a forest.

And now for the very best part of all... my fellow retreaters! We spent a lot of time hanging out and talking and eating and trying to stay cool. In the mornings, we met in the library and had semi-structured conversations about stuff like the intersection of market and craft, school visits, and permission to make desperate phone calls to Erin when we're overflowing with angst for one reason or another... (I haven't done this yet, but now that I know I can, don't be surprised if Erin gets a 3 a.m. phone call about my revision woes...) We also read aloud from our works-in-progress, and I was FLOORED. Every single person's work is extraordinary... completely riveting. We laughed, we cried, we bonded in a big way...

Back row, from left: me, Kathy Duval, Susan Hampton, Cynthia Levinson, Dawn Dixon, Zu Vincent, Erin Murphy, Colin McMucray
Front Row: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Tamara Ellis Smith, Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ruth Barshaw was having an outdoor adventure of some sort (a big rock? a dam? Washington state? can't remember...) when the above pic was taken. So was Conrad, but somehow, I don't have a pic of him. Sorry, Conrad! Anyway, here is Ruth, in all her artistic glory:

She carries a little sketchpad around everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE, like even in the hot soaking pool at 10 pm. Hardcore. She writes the funny and wildly creative middle grade series starring Ellie McDoodle, her alter ego:

Here I am with Ammi-Joan Paquette (the one I associate with mermaids) at dinner. Just behind Joan is Tam-- an amazing pre-published young adult author. So talented and smart... we had great conversations in the back seat while car-pooling to Powells to oggle at the gigantic selection of kids' and teens' books (and of course, getting giddy to see our fellow Gang of Erinites' books featured.)

Joan has just joined Erin Murphy Litereary Agency as a new agent on board, which we're all super-excited about. Interestingly, her globe-trotting girlhood has much in common with Zeeta's, the star of my Notebooks series. Joan wrote this gorgeous picturebook that entices the imagination... I'll have to pull Toddler son away from his trucks and trains and construction vehicles and enlist him to go fairy-tracking with me in our yard... I think he'll get into it!

Here is the hilarious Dawn Dixon (left) and yoga master Zu Vincent (right) at the wine-tasting place.

Zu Vincent is the lovely author of The Lucky Place, a young adult novel I can't wait to read! Beautiful cover, isn't it?

Here are the brilliant and fun Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Kathy Duval, Ruth Barshaw, and Colin McMurcray (our tireless Portland retreat organizer)

Kathy Duval has written a bunch of wonderful picture books, including this one:

Needless to say, Toddler is in heaven with the new books I brought home for him.

Speaking of Toddler, he'll be up from his nap any minute now, so I'll sign off now... Thanks for reading!