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Monday, June 28, 2010

Colorado Book Award!

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Hi all! 
Exciting news-- The Indigo Notebook won the Colorado Book Award in the YA category!!!  Yippee!

The awards ceremony was in Aspen on Friday, so Ian and Lil Dude and I made it a fun weekend excursion. We didn't know what to expect from Aspen-- I'd always associated it with rich people and movie stars-- but we discovered it was a really comfortable-feeling place where you could find reasonably-priced mac n cheese and mickey mouse pancakes (well, if you weave through the Lexuses, and go past the Prada shop...)  Lil Dude had a blast playing in the fountains and jumping over (and into) the narrow little creek-water-feature that winds through downtown.  A comedian-balloon-man made him a Little Mermaid balloon sculpture, and Silly Susan sang him The Farmer and the Dell while he banged on the bongos. Bliss!

But since this is my book blog, I'll move the focus back to the awards... I wish I had pics to share, but Ian's camera was acting weird. (It's funny, in the two previous Colorado Book Awards ceremonies I've attended, we had camera issues, too... in those cases, forgetting the camera altogether!  At least this one was a step in the right direction...)  Here is an exclusive, behind-the-scenes photo of me powdering my nose in the hotel bathroom before the event.  (Who knows what possessed Ian to take that pic...  ;)

You can sort of get the idea of the indigo dress I got on ebay (Mom, this is mostly for you, since you were asking about it...)  It's too bad the skirt part is cut off, since that's Lil Dude's favorite part-- he made me twirl around in the hotel room for a while in princess fashion (he's really into princess dresses, and feels they're best accessorized with his big plastic chainsaw and fireman hat, which, fortunately, were left at home.)

Here is the single photo we have of the actual event...

That's me in the middle... the one with three faces... To my right is Helen Thorpe, who wrote Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming to Age in America (she won in the nonfiction category!) Yay, Helen! (who is incidentally the mayor of Denver's wife, and brought their son along, too)  I've heard so many good things about this book, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

To my left in that picture are my friends Karla Oceanak and Kendra Spanjer, who won in the juveline category for Artsy-Fartsy: An Aldo Zelnick comic novel.  I just read this on the way home from Aspen as Lil Dude was (thankfully and finally) napping.  What a funny-yet-edu-ma-cational book!  Highly recommended for boys ages 8-12 everywhere, especially reluctant readers!

I was also thrilled that my friend Denise Vega won in the children's category for her beautiful book, Grandmother, Have the Angels Come? Sweet and moving and poetic, with gorgeous, colorful illustrations.

You can see the full list of winners by category here. Thank you, Colorado Humanities and Center for the Book for this honor! If you live in Colorado, you should swing by their website and see what they have going on, especially if you're a teacher.  They do loads of cool literature-related programs.

Let's see, other news... here's a pic of me and Lindsay Eland at our reading at The Tattered Cover a few weeks ago, showing off the pretty silver engraved bookmarks that the TC gave us in honor of our event.  TC is my absolute favorite giant indie bookstore ever!

If you ever get the chance to hear Lindsay read from her book Scones and Sensibility, do it!  She does such a great job reading her narrator's voice with this funny, snooty English accent... it'll put a smile on your face, guaranteed...

Twas a lovely wee crowd... here I am with an enthusiastic young reader.

That's all for now... but soon I'll be posting the winners of the Spring Contest, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I'll keep doing my happy dance... join me if you'd like! ;)

photo credit m frost

Thanks for reading!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Star Teacher Reviews and French Pastries and Giant Boulders...

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Hey all,

Happy summer solstice to you!  Summer's flowing along swimmingly for me... just had a fun camping trip to Wyoming with Ian and Lil Dude, who pretended the giant boulders scattered across the landscape were fire stations and fire trucks (and of course, he was the fire chief). 

 I've been going on nice long walks along the river nearly every day, which is so good for my soul!  Today, though,  I was determined to catch up on emails and mail packages of books and organize files and make phone calls and all those things that pile up while I'm on long walks.  I got a big chunk of it done, thankfully, and I'm hoping tomorrow I'll be able to focus on writing more of The Jade Notebook and wandering by the river.

 I can never get enough sunshine through leaves, especially quivering aspens...
I recently taught Lil Dude what "dappled light" is, and now he points it out every time he spots some!

I want to get some good writing days in before I leave for Aspen for the Colorado Book Awards (this Friday (!!!)  The Indigo Notebook is one of three finalists in the YA category, and of course I used the occasion as an excuse to I buy an indigo dress from ebay (which you'll see pics of next week!)

I've come across some lovely online reviews of Star in the Forest, which I thought I'd share with you in my blog since Ian hasn't had time to post them on the actual website. The two I'll quote from now were written by educators, which brings a nice perspective. 

Here's a blurb from the blog "Tina Says..."  She's a librarian-teacher in Iowa at a diverse school:

"I have already ordered this one for my school library, knowing that many of my students may have their own experiences about immigrating to the United States...This is definitely a thought provoking book, appealing to many readers in my school."

And another review  from Kristine (who was a fourth grade teacher for many years and is now a Curriculum Coordinator) that appears in her blog The Best Book I Have Not Read --

     "I really enjoyed the entire story from sad beginning to happier ending. If you are working with students, I would recommend having them read Zitlally’s Papa’s folktale from the end of the book (p. 132) when the tale first gets mentioned. For younger readers, I think it help them stay grounded in the story and prevent confusion.
     As my daughter is immersed in an immigration study this week for social studies, I’m thinking this would be a perfect book to introduce the idea of modern-day immigration, both legal and illegal. With the background knowledge of Ellis Island, I think many students would appreciate having a simple, hopeful tale to help build their understanding of current day immigration.
      A great story that I could see being a read-aloud, a literature circle selection, or a book used in social studies as part of an immigration or culture study.
     Highly recommended."

Thanks, Kristine and Tina for your thoughtful reviews!  (You can read more reviews of Star and my other books if you click on the links on the right sidebar.)

Update on my accordionist search (for The Ruby Notebook release party):  I talked with a delightful award-winning accordionist today, who says that she (Vicki) or her talented brother Thomas will be able to play.  Yipeee!  And last Friday, when Ian and I were at La Creperie downtown for a rare lunch date, we talked to the owner, Jean-Claude, who will be preparing *French pastries* for the event!

I'd planned on making this release party a low-key event since I've been feeling overwhelmed lately, but I couldn't resist adding a few bells and whistles-- there are just too many scrumptious things in the book that I want to share with you!  So... Fort Collinites, mark your calendars for Oct 2, Sat, 7 pm, Old Firehouse Books (the event room in back...  follow the polka music...)

Please send The Indigo Notebook good wishes this Friday (although I'd be truly happy if either of the other finalists-- Rage by Julie Ann Peters or After by Amy Efaw-- won, too.  They're very nice author buddies who'd deserve the honor.)

Thanks for reading, everyone! 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


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 Hello everyone!

So I was looking for an accordionist to play at The Ruby Notebook release party (Oct 2, Old Firehouse Books, 7 pm-- come one, come all!). and I did some googling, and discovered this:

To my absolute delight, they're based here in my hometown of Fort Collins!  And to my further delight, I discovered (after a phone call), that I've actually met the founder of the group before at a reading conference! Cheri put me in contact with some talented accordionists, and I'm hoping that one of them will come and play.  The mission of the group is to "improve the image of the accordionist," who is often portrayed as geeky in popular media.  I'm proud to say that Jean-Claude, the accordionist in The Ruby Notebook, is faaaaar from geeky.... in fact, he's sizzlin hot (there's romantic tension between him and Zeeta, as you shall see... which makes things tricky with Wendell... but that's all I'll say for now!)  I hope that the Closet Accordion Players of America are pleased that my representation of Jean-Claude breaks the accordionist stereotype!

I actually met a number of hip young accordionists in Aix-en-Provence as I was *researching* (hehehe... love using that official word) The Ruby Notebook.  In fact, I met hip young street performers playing all kinds of interesting instruments...

Some of the main characters in Ruby are street performers, much like the ones in these pics (in my book there's a Romanian dancer and a tuba player...)

I took these pics in the Place de l'Hotel de Ville,  where much of Ruby is set... it's beautiful-- cafes and street performers and dappled light from the huge plane trees. Notice the accordionist below watching the other musicians... such camaraderie...

There was a nice older gentleman from Romania who was always out and about playing his accordion, but I didn't get his picture, and unfortunately, our communication was mostly limited to smiles since I don't speak Romanian. But I have nice memories of him...

Clarinet, how cool!  And I'd always just associated it with high school wind ensembles... And check out the cello, or is that a bass? I get them mixed up-- I love that these street musicians tote their enormous instruments all around town... cello, bass, tuba, drums...

... and even a harp! I loved watching this young woman's fingers flutter and fly across the strings... so graceful, and the melodies so heavenly and magical...

After a month in Aix-en-Provence (two summers ago), when I came back to Fort Collins, I noticed how differently people reacted to street performers here.  In Aix, crowds would gather, clap their hands, kids would dance, coins would fly into hats and instrument cases-- everyone was so appreciative of street performers.  But here in Ft Collins (and, I would venture to guess, in many or most parts of the U.S.), people try to avoid eye contact with street performers, as though they're bums scrounging for money, ready to harass you.  I rarely see crowds gather here, and it's sad because street performers add so much life and spontaneity to a town!  So now I usually stop and appreciate them, dance and clap a little with my Lil Dude, toss in some coins, and thank them. (It's funny-- my mom got into the street performers too, and at one point in Aix, she noted how Lil Dude (then 16 months old) was mesmerized by the music, and said proudly, "Oh, maybe he'll be a street performer when he grows up!"  (Forget being a doctor or lawyer-- street music is the way to grammy's heart.)

I think this is an actual photo of Aix-en-Provence that the designer used in the cover.  She just photo-
shopped in extra red flowers... c'est super-cool, n'est-ce pas?  And that's the dress I want to wear at my release party... if you've seen one like it anywhere, let me know...

I'll keep you updated on my accordionist quest!  And if you're in Ft Collins, mark your calendars for October 2.  Thanks for reading!


Friday, June 11, 2010

What I've Been Reading...

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Hi everyone!
Springtime has been treating me well, except for these headaches that have been plaguing me lately.  But I'll focus on the good stuff in life.... I've been reading some great books-- the latest is Grace Lin's Newbery Honor book:

She weaves in Chinese folklore and mythology, and she did the gorgeous illustrations herself.  A magical  read, with a beautiful  message about gratitude. I discovered, while perusing her website, that she also wrote an "adoption fairytale" picture book, which I promptly bought for my Lil Dude, age 3.

He loves the book.  We usually pay attention to the author photo at the back of any book we read, since he's starting to understand that I'm an author, and he's interested in other authors.  He loves Grace's author photo, and points to it and says, "I love her.  I love Grace Lin."  "Why?" I ask.  "Because," he says, "she write nice words and she draw pretty pictures."  He loves the red thread coming from the queen and king's hearts, and always listens to my heart a few times during the book.  So sweet.

Photo credit: Alexandre Ferron

I'd heard about the bit of red thread folklore years ago, and loved it.  When I wrote The Indigo Notebook, I wove in the idea of a red ribbon, which has significance to Wendell, who is searching for his birth family in Ecuador. A number of readers have commented that they really like that element of the book, but I can't take credit for it.  Here's the quote from the beginning of The Red Thread: "There is an ancient Chinese belief that an invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all those who are destined to be together." I believe with all my heart that my Lil Dude and I were destined to be together, and I love how Grace portrays this idea with tenderness and humor and magic, on a level accessible to preschoolers.

Other books I've been reading-- Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams, another middle grade book-- lovely story of friendship and family and love, complete with a secret nook in the attic, wisps of ghosts, an intriguing old diary, a parallel story of a girl who lived in the house decades earlier.  I'm lucky to be friends with the wonderful author, Sarah, who I met a few months ago on our agent's retreat.

I'm now just about finished Ten Cents a Dance, a captivating young adult novel set in the early 1940s, which thrums with dance hall jazz -- the setting is just stunning, and the main character, Ruby, is super-spunky.

If you're curious what else I've been reading, check out the Goodreads widget-thingie on the sidebar to the right (you'll have to scroll down to the bottom).  You can click on the icon and it will bring you to my Goodreads page and you can be my friend and follow what books I'm reading (and of course, write glowing reviews about my books...  hehehe... ;-)

On a different note, I just got a shiny, gorgeous hard copy of the actual jacket of my book, The Queen of Water, which I'll take a picture of and post soon, along with some other photos related to the book.  I just love this cover!

I'm off to my NIA class now, and then I'll settle in for a few hours of writing more of The Jade Notebook.

Happy weekend!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What else I've been up to...

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Hey everyone,

Since the past few posts have been rather school-visit-centered, I thought I'd tell you about other stuff going on in my life this spring...

Gardening and flower-gazing-- here's a cool columbine hybrid that formed spontaneously in our back yard.

Savoring the blooms of my brand new tulips, which I planted last fall.  I love tulips (you may have noticed I mentioned them in Star in the Forest). Last year I finally remembered to plant some bulbs... and voila, they emerged last month in all their glory!

I also planted some flowers in pots by my trailer (where I've been writing more of a rough draft of The Jade Notebook-- yes, I *am* doing my job here and there, too)...

Hiking in the mountains (this stream was bone-chillingly icy)...

Riding the trolley with Lil Dude on weekends-- it runs just a few blocks from our house. We take it to City Park,  where we then get on a kiddie train, play in the playground for a bit, have a picnic, then catch a trolley back home.  (My son is really, really into this trolley-- sometimes, out of the blue, he'll say with urgency, "Mommy,  Mommy, I love the trolley SO MUCH!")

You know, sometimes (like now) I wish I didn't have the policy of not posting pics of Lil Dude online, because man-oh-man, is he an adorable 3-year old!!!  Ah well, you'll just have to take my word for it... or come to one of my readings, because he might be with me.  He was at this one at the Ellicott City, Maryland Barnes and Noble), sitting in my lap as I signed books (he got ahold of a pen and was also signing... the table cloth... oops, sorry Barnes and Noble).

Here I am with my lovely Aunt Liz, who's always given me heaps of encouragement... when she first found out I was trying my hand at children's lit, she started giving me children's books for presents.

Miss Rumphius was one of my favorite books she gave me (speaking of flowers)...

I've also been reading outside lately, which feels delicious-- it's been a while since I've indulged in outside-reading.  This was the hilarious book I read over the weekend...
It touches on all things French, existential, and amorous... and it was edited by my very own editor at Delacorte, Stephanie Elliott. Even though the main character-- a major francophile-- never quite makes it to France (just Montreal), reading it did inspire me to bring Ian and Lil Dude to La Creperie down the street for croissants and crepes on Sunday morning.

Oh, and a nice morsel of news I've been meaning to share with you-- The Indigo Notebook won the Colorado Authors League Award for YA lit!  Here I am with my good friends Denise Vega (winner in the children's category) and Gary Raham (finalist in two categories).

Have a delicieux week!

gros bisous,