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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Whew... the trilogy is complete!

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Hey guys,

Last week, I discovered this in a little padded envelope at my doorstep: an advanced review copy of The Jade Notebook!

And then the brand new paperback version of The Ruby Notebook arrived! It made me happy to arrange the trilogy in a row, sit back, and say whew... because man oh man, is a trilogy a lot of work. 

There were fun moments, of course... like research trips to Ecuador, France, and coastal Mexico.  But the hard part for me (next to the tight deadlines) was putting another story on hold while I finished the Notebooks series.  I signed the contract for the series in 2007 (or maybe 2008?)  Anyway, it was 4 or 5 years ago.  And after writing Indigo (while revising Queen and Star and drafting Ruby and Jade and becoming a new mom), I started developing a story idea that I LOVED...

... but I didn't have time to write it!  So I stole moments here and there to scribble a bit about the story in my notebooks, and I couldn't wait to really dive into it... Then finally, this year, I've been able to fly with it... I'm going to be mysterious (sorry!) because my creative process works best if I spend my energy *writing* the story rather than blabbing about it... but suffice to say, I'm really, really excited!

On a different note... Lil Dude and I just did a holiday craft project together.  The key to engaging him in an art project is to 1) make it last no longer than three minutes and 2) involve violence of some sort.  So, I decided to skewer oranges with him (which, predictably, transformed into a sword-fighting scenario).  We then stuck cloves into the gouged-out holes, and ta-dah, we have fragrant little orange orbs trying to forget their traumatic past.

Love and happy winter wishes to you and yours!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Personalized Books for Holiday Gifts...

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Hey everyone!

A few days ago, I walked around to my favorite indie bookshops in Old Town, Ft Collins, and signed their stock... so if you want to give an autographed copy of one of my books as a gift, and you live in this area, you can go to Old Firehouse Books, Matter Bookstore, or The Clothes Pony.

If you live out of my area, you can still get signed copies sent to you (or to your giftee)! Just go to the Old Firehouse Books website here (this links to The Queen of Water, but if you're looking for another one of my books, just scroll down on that page and write the title in the "search" field on the right sidebar.)  I'll come into the store within the next few days and personalize the book to whomever you'd like!  During checkout, in the "comments" section, note that you'd like an autographed copy, and the name you'd like me to sign it to.  The only catch is that if you need these to arrive before Christmas, you need to order them by *Dec 15*!

If you are in Ft Collins, check out this great article (by Kerrie Flanagan, new literary arts columnist for the Coloradoan!) with recommendations for books by local authors-- it's a handy list for holiday shopping...

A brief update on the current craziness in my life, in case you're curious: We're in the midst of a GIANT house renovation, and, since it's taking longer than we'd initially thought, we have to move out of one rental home and into another this week.  Not fun, not fun at all.  (Our house will be ready in March.) Lil Dude calls our new apartment a "hotel"... and it will be a bit like a hotel since there's only one bedroom in it (but alas, no room service or indoor pool).  Wish us luck!

Hope you're enjoying winter-- hopefully yours is more peaceful than mine.  Time for me to have chamomile tea and sleep... Lil Dude will awaken me well before dawn, as usual.  Sigh.  Yawn.  G'night...


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lil Dude's Literary Debut

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Hi everyone!

A few days ago was my 4-and-a-half-year-old Lil Dude's "Gotcha Day" -- the anniversary of the day he came home with us from Guatemala. He's been with us four crazy-wonderful years! In honor of his Gotch (his nickname for the big day), I thought I'd share with you his first literary efforts.  Like his mommy,  he just finished a trilogy.  Unlike his mommy, he took not one year, but a single day to complete each masterpiece.  Last week, I found one of these waiting for me each day in his cubby at preschool.

POO.... the raw, graphic, edgy new trilogy by Lil Dude!

As you may have guessed, we're living in the midst of potty humor stage.  And I must admit, I'm guilty here... You see, Lil Dude is a wildly exuberant child who has a pretty limited attention span for sitting quietly and practicing letters (which is fine.) But then one day... a miracle: he was sitting quietly and asking me how to spell words!  The words were "poo" and other potty words that fascinate 4-year-olds, but I didn't care.  I was so delighted he was sitting quietly and writing my dictations that I just went with it... I was willing to embrace the idea that potty humor might be his path to literacy.  But it occurred to me too late that he might take his new poo-writing skills and run with them...  

And voila... here you have it, the Poo Trilogy.
Have a happy day!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

I love my writers' group!

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Me, Laura Pritchett, Karye Catrell (aka Cricket McCrae), Dana Masden

Hey all,

The night before last, my beloved Old Town Writers' Group did our annual event-- this year the theme was "Feast of Fools."  Our idea was to read stories and essays that turned the good cheer of the holidays on its head... or something like that. After hearing everyone's readings at the event (and reading my own), I realize it would've been more accurate to call it something like "Death, Destruction, and the Holidays".... Or "Murder, Mayhem, and the Holidays."  But then, we might've scared people from coming... ;)

 Sarah's husband, Travis dressed up as the "Bad Santa emcee" and did roasting-style intros... (er, don't ask about the bottle he's holding...)

If you're wondering why the  photos are blurry, it's 1) because of the current extremely messy state of my house which prevented me from locating my easy-to-operate camera in the mad dash to get out of the house on time (the priority was helping Lil Dude locate every one of his policeman costume accessories for the outing...)  and 2) because I'm the opposite of mechanically-minded-- already Lil Dude (age 4) has surpassed my abilities in this realm...

Thanks for reading! Happy weekend!

Laura  P.S.  *And nice news-- THE QUEEN OF WATER  is a School Library Journal Best Book of 2011!  Thank you, SLJ!!!*

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gratitude, mothering, and writing

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Natasha Wing (fabulous picture book author), Sarah Scobey (great librarian), Laura Pritchett (talented novelist and writing group buddy) and me at the reception for Geraldine Brooks

Hi guys,

Hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving!  We did-- we had a giant potluck dinner with old and new friends, complete with a bonfire that captivated Lil Dude.

One of the many things I'm thankful for is my amazing book-loving community of Fort Collins.  A couple weeks ago, Geraldine Brooks came to town as part of Fort Collins Reads-- this year we read her Pulitzer Prize winning book March.  

Geraldine Brooks (and by the way, thank you Natasha for sending me these pics!)

She was one of the most charming, smartest, wittiest speakers I've heard... although I must admit, I'm easily enchanted by accents and she had an endearing Australian one (though she now lives in Martha's Vineyard.)

Geraldine's rapt audience at the reception

It's always inspiring for me to hear other authors talk.... and I always learn something.  Nowadays I'm often on the lookout for good advice about how to handle being an author and the mother of a young, wildly exuberant child.

Geraldine said she has a Pavlovian-dog response to the sound of the school bus whisking her children off to school.  She makes a bee-line to her office and starts typing (or "listening to dead people" as she put it.)  When the school bus drops her kids back at home, she stops her workday and focuses completely on them.

At a reading in Boulder last month, Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) told us one of her secrets of focus and productivity in the midst of little-kid-chaos: the "Freedom" app, which is now PC as well as Mac compatible!  It costs ten bucks to download, and it is so worth it. (I downloaded it that very night after I heard Laini speak). You just type in how many minutes you want to be disconnected from wireless Internet, and *Freedom* keeps you offline for that time period.  Bliss!  No distractions... I love it.  I've been SO much more productive the past six weeks. (Thanks, Laini!)

I think both Laini's and Geraldine's advice comes down to finding a way to be focused and present on the creative project at hand-- either your child(ren) or your book-in-progress or whatever else it may be.  Good to remember!

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Magic Stick

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Awesome teacher Ms. Nielsen-Drake and me with the Magic Stick! Note her gorgeous shawl from Chiapas, Mexico-- where part of my next book is set!

Hey guys!

I just got back from a fun visit to Steele Elementary in Colorado Springs... the fourth-graders read Star in the Forest and the fifth graders read What the Moon Saw. I absolutely LOVED hearing about all the connections the kids made with the books-- their interpretations and insights-- and most of all, how they took the idea of the Magic Stick (in Star in the Forest) and ran with it!  (For those of you who haven't read the book, the Magic Stick is a kind of metaphor for kindness, courage, and strength in the face of upsetting situations.)

Here's Ms. Nielsen-Drake's explanation of how the stick has become a vibrant part of her classroom!  (I changed the kids' names to first initials):

L wrote that he thought he needed a "magic stick" like Zitlally's. And then wrote, "Just kidding." I wrote back with, "Done!" And put a beautiful stick on his desk that looks like a bird's head. The stick has ended up with a life of its own in my class. Every time someone is feeling sad or in need of some comfort, he/she either asks L for it, or someone else thinks he/she needs it, and it ends up on that child's desk the next day. E's grandpa died. Someone put the stick on her desk. Today it was W's rat dying because his little brother dropped him, and so Will had the stick all day. It is SOOOOO sweet, the life that this stick has taken on! The other cool thing is that kids notice when someone, other than the "keeper-of-the-stick" L, has the stick and become very considerate and kind of that person. Isn't that amazing?

Me again: How cool is that?!  I can't tell you how much I LOVE this!  Thank you, L, for starting this tradition, and becoming the keeper of the magic stick.  And thank you to Ms. Nielsen-Drake and her amazing students for their kindness and creativity!  This is the stuff a writer's dreams are made of!

Manitou Springs

My whole trip was a treat! I stayed in the Avenue Bed and Breakfast in Manitou Springs (giant thanks to the awesome owners, Randy and Gwen, and Natalie of Black Cat Books, and the Manitou Springs Library friends and Author Fest organizers).

 Avenue B n B

Thanks to everyone involved for a refreshing and energizing author visit!


PS -- Some nice news-- The Queen of Water has been selected for School Library Journal's Best Books of 2011 list!  Yippee!  It's also on the TAYSHAS list, which is an important reading list for students in Texas!  Thank you, SLJ and TEXAS!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You Can Never Be President (my adoption rant...)

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Hi guys,

I thought that in honor of National Adoption Month, and on account of the one-year-before-the-next-presidential-election mark, I'd post this little editorial I wrote (with the intention of sending a version of it to the paper, and I still might). Okay, let me just jump on my soapbox here...

"You Can Never Be President"

When my four-year-old gives me the daily update on what he wants to be when he grows up, it usually alternates between police office, tornado fighter, and spaceman.  My response:  You'd make an awesome (fill-in-the-profession)!

I'm dreading the day he says president.  He was adopted from Guatemala at nine months, which means, as we all know from the Obama birth certificate hullabaloo, he can never be president.  I hate the thought of telling my child that although his American-born classmates can be president one day, he can't. 

My latest book, The Queen of Water, tells of my co-author's, Maria Virginia Farinango's, childhood growing up indigenous in the Ecuadorian Andes.  She was told that Indians were meant to be servants, not students.  She was told to aim for nothing higher than menial labor, that a professional career was out of the question.  She struggled against these societal messages for years, and finally, as a teenager, began to prove them wrong.  She taught herself to read.  She worked to pay her way through school.  She began her own business.  And the  ultimate triumph-- she co-authored a book about her life.

When American teens and adults read her story of injustice, they are outraged.  How can you tell a child (especially a smart, plucky little girl like Maria Virginia) that she can't shoot for her dreams?  How can you tell her that certain professions are off limits to her simply because of her heritage

But we do it here in the United States.  I'm going to have to deliver the same message to my son someday when president replaces spaceman or tornado fighter.

I'd been hoping that during the ridiculous debate about Obama's birthplace, someone would say, wait a minute, why does it matter where the guy happened to emerge from a womb?  And wait another minute, given the social changes in America over the past few centuries, why does this antiquated requirement still exist anyway!?

Thousands of infants and children are adopted internationally each year.  On arrival, they are American citizens.  In most cases they have American parents and they've lived in America most of their conscious lives.  (And although I'm focusing on adopted children here, the same argument could apply to immigrant children.)  Why should we have to tell these children they can never be president?

The majority of Americans have a personal connection to an adopted child.  We understand that families and friends consider our internationally adopted kids equal to their American-born peers.  Let's make sure that we never have to tell these children that they can't shoot for their dreams— whether they aim for police officer, spaceman… or president.

To learn more about this issue, visit .

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Jade Notebook page proofs...

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Page proofs for JADE-- all 374 pages (with The Little Mermaid for scale...)

Hey all,

Thought I'd do a quick post to tell you that the review copies of The Jade Notebook will be out in a few weeks-- can't wait!  In the meantime, I'm going over page proofs.  This stage is so much fun-- the book finally feels like a real thing, with the final layout and font and inside design and everything. 

As I've been going over it, I'm realizing how happy I am it has a mid-February release date.  That's precisely the time of year when I get really, really, really sick of winter... and I start craving beaches and tropical waters with every freezing-cold cell of my body.  I think it'll be the perfect time-- the miserable almost-end of winter-- to be transported to a little Mexican coastal town.

Here's the epithet (is that what it's called and how you spell it? i think so...)  It has to do with one of the themes of the book-- learning to embrace the delicious mess of life.  That's something I've often struggled with. Right now, especially, I'm in the midst of lots of chaos-- living in a rental house while our house is being majorly renovated... my stuff mostly in boxes in storage, not knowing where anything just waiting for that dancing star to be born...

You'll have to tilt your head to see the first page of the first chapter (click the image to make it bigger.)  Or, you could go to The Jade Notebook page that I recently added to my website for an excerpt.  (And it's available for pre-order now for e-reader and hardcover: indiebound or amazon or Barnes and Noble.)

So, I just got back from an author panel with Amy Kathleen Ryan (author of Glow).  Fascinating to hear about her journey, process, routines... and it came out that we both have backgrounds in anthropology. Here we are at the Northern Colorado Writers studio...

Okay, must drink tea and go to bed now...


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Using my Anthropology Background in Writing Queen

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Maria Virginia's parents, 2005

Hi guys,

One question I'm often asked is how my anthropology background informs my writing.  I talked a bit about this a year or so ago in an interview with the wonderful blogger Charlotte (You can read the interview here.)

outside of Maria's parents' house

I thought it might be interesting to talk more about my anthropology background in terms of Maria's and my process of creating The Queen of Water-- the book in which I most consciously used my anthropological training.  In the initial stages, I approached this project the way I did my Master's thesis-- listening to Maria recount the story of her life (tape-recorded), asking her lots of questions along the way, and looking at her story (including the language she used) through an anthropological lens-- searching for layers of meaning-- emotional, social, cultural, etc.  (And of course, I also spent time in Maria's native village with her family and read academic books on socio-cultural issues in the Andes.)  The difference with Queen is that I could take it a step farther than my Master's thesis because Maria was an active participant throughout the entire process.  We went over every scene many times and explored these layers of meaning.  Maria is so intelligent, self-aware, and perceptive that we were able to have fascinating on-going discussions about her experiences in terms of class, gender, and ethnicity.

Maria's parents' house (used to be clay, now cement block)

Here's an example: She often described people in terms of their weight and skin color-- features that we talked about extensively; together, we broke down the emotional, social, economic, and cultural meanings of her descriptions.  In the impoverished indigenous community where she was born in the 1970's, it was considered beautiful to be plump, which isn't surprising considering the food scarcity. (Her village was one of the poorest in all of Ecuador.) When young Maria refers to her older sister (who left at a young age to be a maid) as plump, this is considered a good thing because it means she has more than enough food. In contrast, during Maria's early childhood, she was thin because of malnourishment and poverty.  Young Maria also describes her sister as being fair-skinned, which again, she considers a good thing, as it indicates that her sister is now part of a higher social class that doesn't have to work in the fields to earn a living.

Maria's parents' cow

Young Maria notes, with the fascination of a little girl, that the Doctorita (a mestiza) has more body fat than the women in her village.  This sets the Doctorita apart as having money and belonging to a higher social class.  But after Maria has lived with the Doctorita and started to internalize middle-class mestizo values of beauty (as seen on TV, in the exercise book, and expressed by people in town) she becomes critical of the Doctorita's weight. She sees it as a weakness, as undesirable.  As a teen, Maria's bout with anorexia is tied up with these class-related notions of weight and skin color.  She wants to become thin and pale, since that's what she perceives as culturally desirable in her new social milieu. 

Maria's parents' house

I think that as an anthropologist and a writer, it's essential not to impose your own cultural assumptions on other societies.  And it's essential to understand that within each unique society you're dealing with, there are complex, multi-faceted, and layered meanings behind descriptions of characteristics like weight and skin color.  I was glad to have developed this perspective in my anthropology coursework and research-- I think it helped me to not take any elements of Maria's story at face value, but thoroughly explore these cultural meanings together with her... which is one reason the book took six years to write. ;)

view from Maria Virginia's parents' yard

I have lots more about the process of writing Queen on my website... You can read an interview with Maria and learn which elements of her story were slightly fictionalized here.

Okay, Lil Dude keeps bursting in the room to ask if I'm ready to go to the river.... must go now!  Thanks for reading!


Monday, October 17, 2011

walking down memory lane....

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Hi everyone!

I'm wrapping up my Maryland trip now-- I did a visit to my old stomping grounds, Dunloggin Middle School. It's so interesting to walk through the same halls I walked as an awkward 6th grader (yes, I was a very awkward 6th grader-- at that point, my mom still ordered my clothes from the Sears catalog-- she'd get me an array of the same style of shirt in various pastel colors, with mix-n-matched coolots (spelling?) in the same array of pastels.  I did get a little less dorky in seventh grade, and even less in 8th (at least, I thought I did-- who knows, really). 

Here I am with reading teacher Dylana (oops-- I'm probably supposed to refer to her as Ms. ____, but I'm blanking on her last name.)  Very cool lady--  it's so fun to talk  with teachers between presentations.  I wish I could post pics of kids, but different schools have different rules about it, so I didn't take pics this time. 

Here I am with other great Dunloggin teachers... they're obviously all way too young to have taught me.  The last of my teachers retired last year, I think... *sniff sniff*...

I'm doing some author events at Mount Saint Mary's College in Maryland now... and this lovely librarian, Becky (I think that's her name-- my apologies if I got it wrong!)-- she gave me a beautiful image of the Virgin Mary for the little altar in my writing trailer.  Isn't that incredibly thoughtful and sweet?!  Thank you, Becky, for coming and for the delightful gift! I LOVE it!

Here I am signing books after the event ... with such great teachers and students! Earlier, we had a yummy dinner of crabcakes, which I can never get enough of on my trips to Maryland.) And my wonderful Aunt Liz came for the dinner and event. (She always gave me books as gifts when I was young-- she was very supportive of my writing aspirations early on!)

About a half hour before my ride came for the presentation, I was in the hotel room, planning to somehow make my hair look less poofy, put on a bit of makeup, go over my slides, and relax a bit, when the toilet overflowed (no fault of my own, I swear! In fact, it overflowed on a test flush-- the water level was weirdly low, and I had an inkling something wasn't right, so I did a test flush... and water started gushing out FAST-- within seconds the bathroom floor was completely underwater!  I ran for help (okay, in retrospect I realize I should've raced to the valve and turned it off, but I was wearing socks and that seemed icky.)  Luckily, my stuff survived and the carpet didn't get wet, but it was a bit of a frenzy getting my stuff out of that bathroom  and room and into a different one before my ride came... needless to say, there was no relaxation, presentation-going-over, etc...

It's interesting-- the craziness reminded me a presentation I did at the library a few years ago on the Day of the Dead celebration.  Right before I was supposed to start the presentation, I had to give the Heimlich Maneuver to a woman choking on a piece of pan de muertos.  The bread piece came out, she resumed breathing, and then, just a minute later, I started my presentation.  Plenty of adrenalin was racing through me, but it was the good kind, the life-saving kind.  My heart was pounding in a good way-- I felt elated that this woman (who I didn't know) was alive!  And I didn't feel  at all nervous about the presentation because a life-or-death experience puts any remnants of speech anxiety into perspective, you know?

Okay, I think I'm rambling now... it's late and I'm  going to sign off and maybe stream a sit com before bed. Thanks for reading!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Where I've been hiding....

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Hey yall!

Busy-ness has kept me away from this blog... my apologies!  Here's what I've been up to:

Hangin with friends!  Here are Amy Kathleen Ryan and Lauren Myracle -- we're celebrating Amy's new release-- GLOW!  This is an incredibly exciting futuristic novel -- if you haven't read it yet, you should-- but be aware it'll keep you up way too late at night...

Here's Victoria Hanley, brilliant fantasy author and woman of many talents, giving Amy (who's a new mom) a much needed massage.  (And then she gave me one!  Heaven!)

Todd Mitchell (author of The Secret to Lying, one of my all-time fave books), pouring the champagne...

So much fun...

 So, other stuff I've been up to... doing presentations and book club talks with Maria Virginia for The Queen of Water!  She's been in town for about 6 weeks , so we've been squeezing in lots of events before she goes back to Ecuador.  It's been amazing and heart-warming for her to talk with so many people who've read her story-- it's meant a lot to her (and to me)-- we both thank everyone who came to our events this fall!

Here we are at Front Range Community College, where we first met when I was an ESL teacher and she was a student! (That's ESL teacher buddy Sarita above.)  Maria wanted to be sure to get the American flag in the pic-- she loves the USA-- it's nice to see my country through her eyes.

I've also been conferencing! I did a lunchtime keynote for CLAS (Colo Lang Arts Society) in Golden. Here I am with a teacher from Centennial Middle-- her school is reading Red Glass as a One School Reads book... I"ll be visiting them in the spring-- exciting!

I lived in Golden for a summer when I was about 20-- I worked at a restaurant downtown which required that I dress like a cowgirl. I remember reading lots of mythology collections from all over the world that summer, and writing lots of short, fantastical stories.  I loved hanging out in a little park by a dragon sculpture, writing in my notebook.   This trip brought back good memories of my summer there... here's the view from my hotel patio... so pretty:

Writing news: I've finished up copy edits for The Jade Notebook (Feb 2012 release), and am now waiting for page proofs.  I'm getting ready to do an author visit to my old middle school in Maryland, then a visit at Mt. St. Mary's College, then my 20th high school reunion... should be interesting!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Guatemalan Queens

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Hi guys,

My friend Leslie drew my attention to these artsy photo portraits of Guatemalan indigenous reinas. They were selected as queens in what appears to be an event similar to the Ecuadorian Queen competition that Maria Virginia (my co-author of The Queen of Water) participated in.

Most of the Guatemalan queens are Mayan, and like Maria's Queen competition, these events emphasize cultural connections. For example, the young women have to give a speech in their native indigenous language.

The photos are contemporary, although they look old-fashioned because they were taken with this kind of camera... I think they look beautiful, but it's too bad that the vivid colors aren't captured in the photos. You can see the full article and photo essay on the Guardian website here.

Here's a black and white photo of Maria taken by a French magazine photographer after she won a Queen competition as a teen... definitely a bit sassy with the off-the-shoulder look!

I'm so glad these Queen events occur in other parts of Latin America... it was an important way for Maria to reconnect with and value her own roots, and I hope it does the same for other young women.


Fort Collins and Loveland friends: Hope you can join Maria and me and one of our events coming up--

Sept 20
Tues, Loveland Public Library. Presentation and Discussion with Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango (!) 6:30-8:00. Everyone welcome. 

Oct 6

Thursday, 12:00-1:30 The Queen of Water Presentation/Discussion with my co-author, Maria Virginia Farinango, and me. West Conference Room, Longs Peak Student Center, Front Range Community College, Larimer Campus (Harmony and Shields), Fort Collins. Free and open to the public! (Arrive early—the parking lot is huge and crowded!)

If you're a teacher or librarian who's coming to this CLAS conference, please come say hi to me!!


Sept 23-24

Fri and Sat, CLAS (Colorado Language Arts Society) Conference, Luncheon Keynote and Breakout Session. Golden, CO. Registration required.


Thanks for reading!



Friday, September 9, 2011

Queen Party with Maria Virginia!

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Hey everyone!

Maria and I had so much fun last night at the party... thanks to all of you who came or sent good wishes!  Maria was radiant as always, in a lovely new blouse and anaco with lovely embroidery...

The party was at an awesome coffee shop, Everyday Joe's, in downtown Ft Collins.  Our friend Maria Luisa played gorgeous music... she studied Andean flute music with Maria's amazing musician husband, Tino, and other musicians in and around his Quichua community in Ecuador.

The little kid crowd had fun playing their own music and dancing and running around on and off-stage... (Yes, that's an image of MacGyver in the background, hehehe.... we had a slide show running with photos of Maria's life, some of which you can see here and link to from here ...)

It was such a great feeling to have so many friends come out to celebrate.... here's my good friend Laura Pritchett-- writing group buddy, and incredibly talented author (of Hell's Bottom, Colorado; Sky Bridge, and other books).  She was a big help in figuring out how to shape Maria's story.

 Such a warm atmosphere with our friends...

We had a contest/drawing, and my dear friend Flora (who volunteered in my ESL classes back when I was still teaching) won *twice*... she's super sweet-- we all discovered that she's had crushes on Rambo and John Travolta.  (The entries had to include your name and your first TV character crush (inspired by Maria's crush on MacGyver)....more about all that in another post!)

Choosing lucky winners from the basket...

 Julio (originally from Jalisco, Mexico!)  won a copy of Red Glass... he had some really poignant reasons for his first crush on Matilda (a character from a movie I haven't seen but sounds good.)

Here's my good friend Todd Mitchell, author of The Secret to Lying, one of my all-time favorite YA novels.  And he's got some dazzling YA fantasy manuscripts up his sleeve, too... hopefully soon to be shared with the world.

Beautiful writer/reader girls came-- here I am with Kelly and Lydia!

It's been fun catching up with Maria-- she just came to town from Ecuador a few days ago.  She showed me a bunch of great recent pics of her family, which I'll share with you in another blog post.  I'll also share more pics of the party then... I realized Ian didn't take many of Maria (he had his hands full with Lil Dude, who gets super-excited at these events and tends to bounce off the walls as the evening progresses.)  I know some other people got more pics of Maria, so you'll see them soon...

(If you missed last night, don't despair.... we're doing some other events in the area soon.  You can check my Events page for details.)  Thanks for reading!