Friday, December 31, 2004

The Little Black Dog Gallery and Bookshop

"The Little Black Dog Gallery and Bookshop was started by children's book author Jackie French Koller. Jackie has written over thirty books for children of all ages including picture books, chapter books, novels and series." Visit online and at 16 Union Avenue in Westfield, MA.

Happy Birthday to Cyn

I'm officially a year older today. There's nothing like having your birthday on New Year's Eve to make a person reflective. Sort of a double whammy.

So, for 2004, I must say--to mutilate Dickens--it was the best and worst of times. I visited San Francisco and sold my second novel and hosted a novelist workshop and went "home" to Kansas City thrice and lost my dad and spoke in Indianapolis and started two blogs, and, well, there's more, but enough about me. Three of my best friends had babies and two of them got married. My husband finished his second novel, which will come out next year. The house has more furniture. I found my share of heroes and faced a few dragons--some slain and others befriended. The new president is the old president, and half a world a way, it must feel like the apocalypse. God is (particularly) in vogue, reality TV is (thankfully) fading, and it never fails to amaze me, the generosity and perseverance of the human spirit.

For 2005, my resolution is to show more kindness.

P.S. Author Uma Krishnaswami listed a number of books to look for in 2005. Very classy.

P.S. Watched "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" on DVD, which was pretty much what I'd expected. It sort of does and doesn't work in the same way that "Legally Blond 2: Red, White, and Blonde" does and doesn't work. Also finally saw the last half of the last season of "Sex And The City," which I found especially enchanting in light of the fact that Carrie and Alex's hotel room was at the George V. Can't believe even Alex didn't make time for the restaurant. One of the many reasons Big was the better choice!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

In The Small, Small Night

Received a review copy of In The Small, Small Night by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Rachel Isadora (Greenwillow, 2005). Kurtz's 2004 fantasy, The Feverbird's Claw, also was a Parents' Choice award winner.

In other news, Mercury, Bashi, Leo & Blizzy have a new vet; you can learn more about her at Cats Love House Calls.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A Tuna Christmas

It was a beautiful 70 something degrees and sunny here in Austin. I enjoyed lunch with Greg and Anne Bustard (author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Simon & Schuster, 2005)) at Guero's to celebrate her sale of "Do-Si-Fido" to Ladybug; then Anne and I did some shopping on South Congress and she picked up a birthday present for a friend at Mi Casa (one of my fave stores!).

Tonight Greg and I had sashimi at Kyoto and then wandered up Congress to the Paramount Theatre to enjoy "A Tuna Christmas."

In other news, it was a treat to receive a holiday card from HarperCollins (Laura Geringer has the nicest handwriting), and I'm greatly thankful Alex Sanchez is safe in Thailand.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Tsunami in Asia

Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

This Is America Essay Contest

Charlesbridge is sponsoring an essay contest for This Is America by Don Robb, illustrated by Christine Joy Pratt (Charlesbridge, 2005). Students from third to fifth grade are eligible. Really cool prizes, by the way.

In other news, it's snowed clear down to Corpus Christi. And if you've watched "The Year Without A Santa Claus," you know what snow in Southtown means! Snow Miser and Heat Miser have worked out another truce. In any case, how about getting into the act. You can make your own snowflake at Popular Front.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The beauty found between lines of Christmas letters

I'd like to recommend "The beauty found between lines of Christmas letters: For those of us who have forgotten to mention Jesus" by Stephanie Marshall from yesterday's Houston Chronicle. Stephanie is a gifted writer and dear friend.

Merry Christmas!

What Greg gave me: three scoops of bath ice cream (you must try it); nambe salt and pepper shakers that look like vampire hunting weapons.

What I gave Greg: cat-themed bowls; a book on writing comedy; and a Swiss pen (perfect for a writer-lawyer-engineer!).

What we gave each other: an arts-and-crafts bookcase for the library.

It was an honor yesterday to receive cards from Little Brown and Harcourt. Speaking of Harcourt, they have an interview up with Caldecott-illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon--gotta love those husband-wife teams!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Sushi Keilbasa

Some Leitich Smith holiday factoids:

tonight we're having sushi keilbasa, using the recipe in Tofu & T.Rex;

tomorrow we're having lox and bagels for breakfast;

dinner will be tortilla soup, turkey with whole wheat stuffing, French green beans, and berries for dessert;

Greg also picked up a tiny bottle of caviar (la ti da);

the theme of our tree is music;

we have a kissing ball hanging from the parlor entry;

red and green pillows are on the chairs and daybed;

Cyn's favorite pillow says "Dogs Have Masters; Cats Have Staff."

Many Holiday Blessings to you and yours!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Bloomsbury Buys Walker; New At The Purple Crayon

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc of the UK, the adult, children's, and reference book publisher, announced today that it has acquired Walker Publishing Company, Inc of the USA. Walker is a 45 year old New York based publisher of adult nonfiction and children's books. The business operations of Walker and Bloomsbury USA will be combined although the book imprints of both companies will remain as separate divisions within the US company. Completion of the sale is expected to take place on Dec. 31.

Also some neat new features at The Purple Crayon, including:

The Purple Crayon Blog: Questions about Children's Publishing Answered by a Children's Book Editor, and Current Children's Publishing Links;

Children’s Writers: Who Mentors Them Today? "Musings" for December 2004 by Margot Finke (part one of three). Check back in January for Finding The Perfect Critique Group and in February for Starting Your Own Critique Group.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Devon A. Mihesuah

Heard today from Devon A. Mihesuah at American Indian Quarterly who was interested in my writing an article.

Her novel, Grand Canyon Rescue: A Tuli Black Wolf Adventure, won the Oklahoma Writers' Federation Award for Best Young Adult novel; see the Book Locker to read an excerpt and purchase your copy. Also keep an eye out for her spring 2005 release, So You Want to Write About American Indians? A Guide for Scholars, Writers and Students.

Some promising picks from the spring/summer 2005 Harcourt catalog: Kitten's Big Adventure by Mie Araki; Hide & Seek by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine; Starry Safari by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Jeff Mack; The Hubbub Above by Arthur Howard; Kindergarten Rocks by Katie Davis; Searching For Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (companion to The Journey Of Oliver K. Woodman, which I highly recommend); Hotel Deep by Kurt Cyrus; Please Bury Me In The Library by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Kyle M. Stone; Fold Me A Poem by Kristine O'Connell George, illustrated by Lauren Stringer; The Librarian Of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter; Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles; The Spoon In the Bathroom Wall by Tony Johnston; Help Wanted by Gary Soto; Pinned by Alfred C. Martino; Funny Little Monkey by Andrew Auseon; among others!

Link of interest:

Advice on Voice from HarperCollins editor Antonia Markiet by Kelly Milner Halls.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

My Penguin Osbert

Received the world's cutest cared from Candlewick Press, which featured illustrations from My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, illustrated by H.B. Lewis (2004) and the Harcourt catalog as well as Let's Talk about Race by Julius Lester (my most searing intellectual crush), illustrated by Karen Barbour (Harper/Amistad, 2005).

In other news: editor Michael Stearns is leaving Harcourt for Harper; Random House is selling its own books (much to the annoyance of B&N); and Louis Sachar has left Frances Foster to do his Holes sequel at Delacorte.

Ick thought of the day: The mid list is disappearing faster than the middle class.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Why I Write

Writers are eternally fascinated with just about everything—hence, our role as observers, commentators, and storytellers. Perhaps then it’s no surprise we spend a fair amount of time pondering—for better and worse—ourselves.

One reoccurring question on writing lists is why one writes. It seems to me that people write for the same reasons they read: to learn, to imagine, and to escape.

It’s not uncommon to hear a published author say they’re not writing for the money—though women tend to say so far more than men and I strongly urge all of them to keep such altruistic thoughts far from their contract negotiations.

That said, I write to lose myself in story, to find myself in story, to better understand the world. I write because writing is my shelter, my guiding light, that which beckons to my strengths and demands they become stronger.

I write because, like life, writing is filled with uncertainty—both in terms of the process and the product. Writing makes me more alive. When I ache or soar in the midst of crafting a story, it is in every way like being in love.

I submit my writing for publication because the best thing to do with love is to share it.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Ararat, Lamont, Singer, and Stone

Dined at Ararat Middle East Restaurant for the first time last night, belly dancers and all. Will definitely be back.

On the much-discussed Lamont article, I suppose I'm more of an optimist. The truth is that I have become published, it did make my life better, and I am a happier person because of it. I've been moving steadily toward making a good living, and I'm certainly intend to make a great one because if that's not part of the goal, odds are, it won't happen. Dream it, achieve it. Bill Gates started out with a dream and a garage. I at least get to write on the daybed. I know there are folks who need a good kick to get them going down the craft road. And it is about craft first, last, and always. But I also know there are those who're just dreamers, and I'm not sure what's so wrong with that. Just by showing up at a conference, they're flirting more with their dream than most people do. Most set them aside or say "someday." Dreams can be scary. So, if they're dancing along the edge of a more self-revealing reality, who am I to judge? I hope they enjoy the dance and gather the courage to cross the line. It's worth it.

Links of interest:

What Makes A Good Young Picture Book? from author Marilyn Singer.

Calling All Teachers!/Peace Project from author Tanya Lee Stone.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Writers, Wannabes, and Booksellers

A couple of sites of interest:

Anne Lamont's article on takes a hard look at those conference-going writers who're perhaps "playing writer" more than putting words down on the page and maybe for the wrong reasons. Cranky or insightful? What do you think?

The Association of Booksellers for Children offers a membership to authors and illustrators, which was news to me today. Thrilled, I signed myself and my honey up. Take a look at some children's book creators who already belong.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Moon Came Down On Milk Street

The Moon Came Down On Milk Street by Jean Gralley (Henry Holt, 2004). The moon has come down softly, and who will put it up again? Who will make things right? The fire chief, the rescue workers, the people. This brilliantly simple book speaks to our universal need for comfort, for heroes, for hope. It's perhaps the best "crisis" book ever published, as resonate and necessary for young readers as their grandparents. A must-buy for every school, household, and library. Ages 3-up. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Holidays, Friends, and (Of Course) Books

Quite a bustling December week. Toni Buzzeo was kind enough to send me some votives, reindeer ornament hooks, and wine swirly decorations. Talked to Katie Davis on the phone about her work in progress. Ran into Brian Yansky today at Suzi's Chinese Kitchen, out with his mom. Received a gorgeous e-card from Jennifer Ward. It's so delightful. I keep watching it again and again. Also received a card from debut illustrator Joy Hein, whose Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers (written by Kathi Appelt) is a stunner--gorgeous paintings, fascinating integration of art and learning.

By the way, Brian and I are on a husband-wife authors panel being hosted by the Writers' League of Texas next month. It's called "To Death Do Write & Publish." Really! Fairly hysterical title, I thought.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Hana In The Time Of The Tulips

Hana In The Time Of The Tulips by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick Press, 2004). Hana and Papa used to pretend in the garden that he was ill and she could cure him with a kiss or a race or a rose. But suddenly, Papa seems ill for real, struck by greed, and it separates him from simple pleasures, those he loves, Hana. This intensely personal look at Tulip Mania ("the first documented case of market mania"), which took place in Holland from 1634-1637, brings young readers to a family caught up in its midst. Most remarkable are the evocative narrative voice, the deft integration of the artist Rembrandt, and original illustrations that seem to have been lifted from museum walls. In the flap copy, Ibatoulline remarks that, in preparation to illustrate this book, he studied Dutch and Flemish paintings. Broad appeal from young reader to adult; as welcome in first grade as in master's classes in fine art and literature. Ages 6-up. See also Nancy Keane's booktalk.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Mayra L. Dole

It was a thrill today to hear from Mayra L. Dole, the Cuban-born author of the new multicultural bilingual books, Drum, Chavi, Drum!/Toca, Chavi, Toca! and Birthday in the Barrio/Cumpleanos en el Barrio (Children's Book Press).

Do surf over to her Web site to read the article on Writing Children's Latino Books (also helpful for writing any children's books), Dole's bio, her interviews (very interesting). Also be sure to check out her Cuban recipes, Cuban stories, and Cuban culture page.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Francess Lantz

In memory of children's/YA author Francess Lantz, donations may be sent to: Amber Brown Fund / SCBWI Museum of Children’s Books; 8271 Beverly Boulevard; Los Angeles, CA 90048. The Amber Brown Fund brings authors to classrooms.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Flurry

Not a flurry of snow, a flurry of activity.

Received two presents in the mail today--a kitty bracelet from Debbi Michiko Florence (so cute!) and a box of tea with a bundle of cookies from Kathi Appelt.

Also picked books off to the spring lists to review from HarperCollins and Clarion.

And sold an article on being a children's/YA author to Career World.

Plus, writing!

Busy, busy!

Vermont College

Next summer I'll be visiting faculty at the Union Institute & University/Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. M.T. Anderson, author of Burger Wuss and Thirsty (among others), is the department chair and called to talk to me about it last week.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Gruene, Texas

Went roadtripping with Greg down I-35 South to nearby Gruene, Texas to have lunch and shop for antiques.

Picked up a small craftsman desk and chair for the guest room (exhibit Greg driving the Olds down the interstate with Cyn squished in a corner of the backseat, praying all are not crushed by a passing semi).

The desk had been painted turquoise at one time, which we're sure dessimated the "condition" value of it, and though someone did their best, flecks of turquoise are still evident in the grain, on the under hardware, and flat across the bottom of the desk door (you have to crawl under to see it). But it's still a tremendously well made piece, and really, the turquoise gives it a sort of weathered southwestern charm. Besides, it was in the budget.

We put the desk and chair in the guest room and moved the seating of cowhide chairs and ottoman to the landing. The cats seem to like it there.

Katie Davis

Spent most of yesterday reading a manuscript for Katie Davis, one of the world's most sparkly and talented people. What I love most about Katie's work is that it's so authentically childlike, exploding with sincere emotion, and at the same time, often funny.

Took a break with Greg to take in the 2004 Armadillo Christmas Bazaar at the Austin Music Hall (think live music, food/drink, downtown, inside, art festival).

Sites of use to writers: eHow: clear instructions on how to do (just about) everything and How Stuff Works.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Horn Book Fanfare

Horn Book has posted its "Fanfare" books for 2004.

Also, I've learned that the technique Linda Sue Park has employed (see previous post) is "metafiction."

Friday, December 10, 2004

Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park has posted the first few pages of Linda Sue Park's new novel, Project Mulberry, which is due out in April 2005. They're really interesting. First, they're contemporary, which is noteworthy because Linda Sue is more known for her historical novels. And even more so, the narration is interspersed with exchanges between the protagonist, Julia, and the author, Linda Sue Park herself!

Linda Sue has been writing in new directions lately. This year's releases included The Firekeeper's Son (Clarion, 2004) and Mung-Mung (Charlesbridge, 2004)--both picture books, both wonderful and recommended!

Having been an LSP fan from the beginning, all I can say is, "lucky us!"

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Jane Kurtz

One of my fave children's authors is back from another trip to Africa. Surf by to see her petting a cheetah and read Jane Kurtz: Visit to Southern, Eastern, and Western Africa (2004) by Jane Kurtz.

Books on my to-read pile: Offsides by Erik Esckilsen (Houghton Mifflin, 2004); The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins, 2005)(the sequel to The Birchbark House); The Education of Patience Goodspeed by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster, 2004)(sequel to The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed), The Moon Came Down on Milk Street by Jean Gralley (Henry Holt, 2004); Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How A First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein (HarperCollins, 2005); Hana in the Time of the Tulips by Deborah Noyles (Candlewick, 2004); Pterosaurs: Rulers of the Sky in the Dinosaur Age by Caroline Arnold, illustrated by Laurie Caple (Clarion, 2004).

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Jorge Argueta

Check out an interview with Salvadorian poet and children's book author Jorge Argueta from

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

11,000 Years Lost by Peni R. Griffin

Greg and I took off down I-35 to The Twig in San Antonio this evening to attend Peni Griffin's signing of 11,000 Years Lost. I'm particularly interested in the manuscript--though I've yet to read this current incarnation--because all things Peni are fascinating and because I read the initial draft back when I lived on Lake Austin Boulevard. She told me about her Pleistocene Ice Age Extension Page (a companion to the novel), looked darling in her green-and-white dress, and generally was lovely to see.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Liz Garton Scanlon

Spent most of the past weekend working on a revision of a picture book manuscript I'm writing with Greg. I just love my husband. He's so amazing. And then our writing buddy Anne Bustard was gracious enough to look it over for us before we sent it out. Thanks, Anne!

Today's highlight was lunch at Katz's with Liz Garton Scanlon, author of A SOCK IS A POCKET FOR YOUR TOES: A POCKET BOOK (Harper, 2004). This debut picture book, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, is a must-read the whole year long and a must-have for National Poetry Month. Look for more great books from Liz in the future!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Researching Reality: How a Young Adult Novelist Researches

Read a PDF file of the article Researching Reality: How a Young Adult Novelist Researches by Alex Flinn, an Author Talk from VOYA (December 2004).

Alex Flinn is the author of Breathing Underwater (Harper, 2001), Breaking Point (Harper, 2002), Nothing To Lose (Harper, 2004), and Fade To Black (Harper, 2005).

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Florida for Kids

Young Floridians and their friends can find out more about this sunny state from the books of Sandra Friend.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Jingle Dancer Student Photos

Wow! I just received the most gorgeous set of photographs of students, projects, and Jingle Dancer from Mrs. McGuire and the grade two English-to-French Immersion class, Agnew H. Johnston School, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. They say, "We think Jenna is a gentle and unselfish girl because she took only one row of bells from each person."

How sweet! Thanks so much, and keep reading!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Multicultural Guide Books

Jingle Dancer, Rain Is Not My Indian Name, and Indian Shoes are all recommended titles in "Culturally Speaking: Contemporary Native Americans" by Sherry York (Library Media Connection, November/December 2004). It's essentially an annotated bibliography of contemporary Native books, divided by picture books--fiction, fiction, series, and biography for young readers.

I see that the author has a new book coming out, too:

Ethnic Book Awards by Sherry York (Linworth Publishing, 2005). "A unique resource for Americas, Asian Pacific American, Carter G. Woodson, Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpre, Syndney Taylor, and Tomas Rivera Awards!"

York is also the author of Picture Books by Latino Writers: A Guide for Librarians, Teachers, Parents, and Students (March 2002); Children's and Young Adult Literature by Latino Writers: A Guide for Librarians, Teachers, Parents, and Students (August 2002); and Children's and Yiung Adult Literature by Native Americans: A Guide for Librarians, Teachers, Parents, and Students (April, 2003).