A few weeks ago I was honored to travel to Pasadena, CA, to the California Library Association conference to receive the California Young Reader Medal for Emmanuel’s Dream. This is a very special award because the winning book in each category is chosen by the kids themselves.
First, the award tea itself. There were teas and sandwiches and all kinds of yummies, and look at the lovely decorations:
It was fun hearing the other speakers and getting to chat with the librarians during the book signing. And it all came with an honest-to-goodness medal!
After the ceremony, I had some time to walk around and explore the city. The weather was perfect, and Pasadena is lovely.
I stumbled upon a street fair in honor of Day of the Dead. There were many talented artists selling their wares, vendors, music, dancing, a puppet show, and chalk art! There were a lot of people out and about enjoying the festive atmosphere.
I, of course, had to visit the local independent bookstore, Vroman’s!
The nice young women working there recommended Trejo’s Cantina for dinner, and it was so delicious!
The Vroman’s gals also told me not to miss the new ice cream shop in town, Wanderlust, which features flavors based on exotic travel destinations. They had me at ice cream! It was well worth the walk. I chose honey lavender, and it was divine.
As you can see, it was an amazing trip. Thank you so much, California young readers! 🙂
The month isn’t even over yet, but so much has been packed into the last few weeks it feels more like two months already! That’s not exactly an excuse for neglecting the blog, but, you know, life happens. Anyway…
Beachside Nonfiction Workshop
I started out the month at the Beachside Nonfiction Workshop with Candace Fleming & Jennifer Swanson. It was amazing! The faculty were all stellar, the location was gorgeous, and the attendees were lovely. It was fun hanging out with other nonfiction geeks for an entire weekend. We all struggled to answer the “So, what do you write?” question, however, since we can usually just get away with “Nonfiction,” and have that be the end of it! I didn’t take nearly enough photos, but here’s the view from my hotel balcony…
Yes, it was hard work. There were a lot of sessions, and they were mostly master level, plus networking and critiques. I came away with so much useful information and new ideas to apply to my works in progress. There were obviously some other perks, too!
Seattle Reading Council Appearance
In the middle of the month, some of the members of my critique group (and all agency-mates at Erin Murphy Literary, as it turns out!), did an appearance at the Seattle Reading Council. It was a billed as a “Books and Chocolate” event… what could be better?! We each talked about our books and process and then took questions. The crowd was mostly teachers and librarians, so it made for a wonderful evening of sharing book love (and chocolate!) among likeminded new friends.
I had an elementary school visit where I got to talk to several third-grade classes about my writing journey, grit, and writing with emotion, as well as several fifth-grade classes about evaluating sources and spotting fake news. It was an awesome visit with super-engaged audiences, but alas, no photos. You’ll have to take my word for it!
I have another visit coming up early in June (the last one of the school year!), so I’ve been making sure everything is ready for that one, too.
SCBWI-WWA Spring Conference
Finally, I attended and helped with the SCBWI Western Washington’s spring conference, Imagine That! It was a great weekend: hearing from inspiring speakers, getting feedback on one of my works in progress from a powerhouse editor, and catching up with author and illustrator friends in the industry. I’m still soaking it all up and processing what was said! Good stuff.
And, of course, there are those works in progress, too! Earlier this month I submitted both a nonfiction picture book revision and a graphic novel proposal to my agent. I’m currently revising a nonfiction picture book, a fiction picture book, and a middle-grade nonfiction manuscript. I’m also working on a brand-new nonfiction picture book draft and a young-adult nonfiction proposal. Busy, busy!
Yes, I do love my job. More so every day, in fact! =D
Okay, so it’s been more than a month since the launch party for Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive!, and this post is _way_ overdue. In my defense, we’ve been hard at work on the second book in the series, and a writer has to have her priorities, right? Alright, so perhaps there’s no reasonable excuse for how neglected my poor blog has been lately, but I’m vowing to try to do better going forward. And I definitely want to share some of the highlights from the launch party, so in the better-late-than-never category, here we go! =D
First, the cake! In the flurry of activity getting ready for a launch party, I always forget to take a picture of the cake at the actual event, so this time I took a picture of it in the shopping cart when I picked it up. It’s a good thing, too, because this is, sadly, the only picture I have of it.
There were also gluten-free cupcakes with decorations that said, “The cake is a lie.” (That’s a geeky gamer reference, in case you haven’t heard it before.)
Before we even started the actual launch party event, I got to sign a book for a brand-new fan who just happened to be in the store when we started setting things up. Fun!
After thanking everyone who helped make this book possible (in broad strokes, because I could go on all day!), I did a little reading from the book. (You can’t have a launch party without a reading, right?) Since we were in a bookstore surrounded by books, I selected the story about book scorpions and book lice. What are those, you ask? You’ll have to read the book! And then you’ll have to decide if they’re real or not. 😉
Then we played a game show-style quiz game, using our smart phones. To my immense relief, it worked! People could answer using their devices and the system would let me see who answered the most questions the fastest.
Kevan won the first prize–a Bigfoot Air Freshener for his car. (Is Bigfoot a truth or a lie?)
She looks worried! I wonder what was in her bag? Ah, yes… I think it was the Groucho Marx Disguise Glasses (so she can fake her identity).
Dan was so excited to see what he won that he ripped open the bag and sent his prize flying halfway across the store! Fortunately, it didn’t hit anyone. If I recall correctly, he got the Enchanted Unicorn Bandages. (Are unicorns real?)
This young guest was clearly thrilled to win the Glow-in-the-Dark Jellyfish Ornament! (It’s as close as I could get to a Pacific Northwest tree octopus (see chapter 5) or the Praya dubia (chapter 6).
What did Laura Moe win? Was it the Dr. McPhee’s Snake Oil Soap? I think so!
And, finally, the grand prize winner… Alan won his very own Mike the Headless Chicken (see chapter 5)! Fortunately, this one is just plastic and doesn’t require food and water through an eye dropper.
It was a great launch party and such a memorable day. Thank you again to everyone who helped make this book happen, to Secret Garden Book Shop for hosting my launch party yet again, to Curtis Manley for catching all of these fantastic photos for me (except the cake in the shopping cart, of course), and to everyone who came to the event. I love being part of such a supportive community of writers, booksellers, and readers! 💙
I’m busy doing lots of private talks and appearances at schools and conferences this spring, but here’s one that is open to the public (especially tweens)!
On April 20, I’ll be presenting a workshop on nonfiction writing for tweens (ages 8–12) in Bothell, WA. Here’s the description:
Where do you find ideas and how do you decide what to write about? How do you get from there to the finished product? This workshop, presented by award-winning nonfiction author Laurie Ann Thompson, will answer those questions and more! Thompson will explain the process of writing compelling nonfiction, including research, planning, drafting, revising and editing. The presentation will be interactive and all participants will have a chance to craft an engaging nonfiction piece of their own.
Last year, Emmanuel’s Dream made its way to Cumberland Road Elementary in Fishers, Indiana, as their all-school read, a book selected to be incorporated across the curriculum in all grade levels. The school describes itself as “a school committed to inclusivity and global connectedness,” and they thought Emmanuel’s true story would be a good fit. Students and teachers read the book. I did virtual visits via Skype to answer the students’ questions and hopefully deepen the experience for them. And then everything came together in a serendipitous but impactful event for the entire school community! Here’s a photo from their event:
For the whole article, click here.
More recently, Brooks Global Studies in North Carolina also chose Emmanuel’s Dream as their all-school read! Their mission is to have their studies lead students to “understand how their actions as individuals impact the larger community of their classroom and the school, just as the actions of a single country affects the world.” Again, students and teachers read the book, and I called in via Skype to answer questions from students. And once again, students were in for an exciting surprise, when Emmanuel himself arrived, this time all the way from Ghana! It was a special treat for me, too, since I had a chance to talk to him during one of the Skype sessions.
Here’s a video they made of the inspiring event:
I love seeing how Emmanuel is connecting with kids and inspiring them to follow their dreams! Don’t you?
It may have been announced more than six months ago, but the ALA Schneider Family Book Award wasn’t actually presented until the end of June, at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando. I finally have some photos to share from this wonderful event honoring Emmanuel’s Dream, along with three other wonderful books by fabulous authors.
None of my flights went as planned, but I finally arrived late at night and went straight to bed. I spent Saturday finding my way around the exhibition hall and chatting with other kidlit folks who I happened to bump into, like these lovely agency-mates!
Then, that evening was the Random House “family dinner.” I love these events, because they’re often the first time you get to meet–and thank!–many of the people who’ve been working hard to make your book successful. This one was extra special, because it was the first time I got to meet my editor, Anne Schwartz. Squee! She is just as lovely in person as over email, and we all had a wonderful evening.
Afterward I met up with the fabulous Miranda Paul and we hung out at the We Need Diverse Books party, the Simon & Schuster party (I got a copy of Scraps signed by Lois Ehlert!!!), and the Nerdy Book Club party. There were great people all around, and at every stop I was reminded that this is a very good business to be in. I couldn’t stay out too late, though, because Sunday was the busy day!
First thing Sunday morning, I ran into the huge poster in the hallway of the convention center, and yes, I totally teared up, and yes, it was right before our signings.
We started out with back-to-back signings on the exhibition floor on Sunday morning, first for Random House, then for Follett.
Then we went to the photo session for the Schneider Family Awards…
followed by the ceremony itself!
Then it was off to the President’s Reception. (Thank you, Krista Marino, for the wine!)
That was followed by the Newbery Caldecott Banquet. What a treat! Every one of the speeches was powerful and moving, and I got teary all over again. Afterward, I got to catch up with one of my favorite kidlit bloggers, Michele Knott! 🙂
Still, Monday was arguably the best day yet. We were treated to the intimate Schneider Family Award luncheon, where we got to meet the award committee, ALA representatives, the other winners, and the agents and editors associated with the winning books. The highlight of the luncheon was when we got to conference call with the award’s sponsor, Dr. Katherine Schneider. She told us she’d read, and loved, all of our books, and shared why the award was so important to her. We were all moved by the conversation, and I’m extremely grateful to have been able to participate.
Flights were a bit of a stress-inducing mess on the way home, too, but I didn’t really care: The whole ALA experience was 100% worth it! Huge thanks to ALA, Dr. Schneider and the committee members, Anne Schwartz and the whole outstanding team at Random House, Ammi-Joan Paquette and everyone at Erin Murphy Literary Agency, the talented and classy Sean Qualls, and the inspiring Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah joining me on this incredible journey.
I recently wrapped up what I think will be my last in-person school visits of the 2015–2016 school year, and promotion activities for the three books that are out is starting to die down. This seems like a good time to pause and reflect on my goals and progress, especially since I was too busy at the beginning of the year to do my usual review and planning exercises.
Since this time last year, I’ve done:
1 high school presentation,
13 middle school presentations,
4 elementary school presentations,
6 Skype visits (including one to Hawaii, one to Brazil, and one more to go!),
3 radio interviews,
2 preschool storytimes,
2 teen library events,
1 adult library event,
2 Girl Scout workshops,
3 bookstore signing events,
1 book launch party,
1 blog tour,
1 book trailer,
1 storytime activity kit,
the Texas Book Festival in Austin,
the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference in Columbus,
the Pacific Northwest Library Association conference (PNLA) in Portland,
the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) conference in St. Louis,
one research trip to St. Louis,
Indies First! on Small Business Saturday at Secret Garden Books,
1 guest lecture at the University of Washington,
2 appearances at a children’s museum,
2 summer camp visits,
2 Twitter chats (including one for WWE moms!),
2 recordings for TeachingBooks.net,
1 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award presentation at SCBWI-WWA’s Inside Story event,
1 middle-grade book written and submitted,
3 picture books revised (but not yet finished),
1 YA project edited and revised (still in progress),
volunteering for SCBWI Western Washington, and
19 blog posts.
Not too shabby! It’s so easy in this business to feel like I never get anything done. I have a stack of in-progress manuscripts that I desperately want to perfect so they can go out and try to find their publishing homes, and every day that they don’t quite get there (or worse, don’t make any progress at all!) feels like a big fat failure. Listing out all of the things that I have done makes me feel a little bit better. I haven’t just been spinning my wheels, after all! I didn’t get to finish everything I had hoped to by now, but I did check off some big goals and also did a bunch of things I hadn’t expected or planned on. And, many of the things listed were firsts for me and/or major highlights, so there’s a lot of personal growth hidden in that list as well as some major accomplishments to be proud of. So, all in all, not bad!
Still, there’s so much more I want to do! My goals for the rest of the year include:
finishing up revisions for the first book in the Two Truths and a Lie series: It’s Alive!,
completing the photo research for It’s Alive!,
attending the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando to accept the Schneider Family Award,
revising my nonfiction picture book until it’s ready for submission,
revising one of my fiction picture books until it’s ready for submission,
revising the middle-grade nonfiction proposal until it’s ready for submission,
revising the YA project until it’s ready for submission,
finalizing the outline for Two Truths and a Lie, Book #2, and beginning the writing,
and writing more blog posts.
There are several other manuscripts I hope to finish revising, as well as a handful of new ideas I’m really excited about researching further and beginning to write, but those will all just have to wait until I complete the above. Revision is one of those things that’s difficult to predict how long it will take, so I’m not sure if this list is even anywhere close to doable. I’ll check back in January to let you know how I’ve done! 🙂
Last weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the Texas Book Festival in Austin, TX. It was a huge event, with over 300 participating authors and spread out over the capitol area of downtown. I had the honor of reading Emmanuel’s Dream with illustrator Sean Qualls to a huge crowd in the Children’s Read Me a Story tent.
First, Sean and I were introduced by the most adorable (and well-rehearsed) class of kindergarteners. They’d each memorized a line of our bios and had them printed on a card for the audience to read as they recited them in order. Best. Intro. Ever.
Then, Sean and I read the book together, taking turns with each alternate two-page spread. This was the first time we’d ever done this, and, in fact, the first time we had ever met! What a treat!
The best part for me was hearing about Sean’s process for making the art. I love the art in the book, and it was fascinating hearing the details behind it. I was able to share some of this new knowledge in a school visit a few days later!
After the reading, our talks, and a Q&A session, we headed over to the signing tent. We met some great people, including some of the kids who had introduced us and their parents, as well as local teachers, authors, and illustrators, including the talented Akiko White. Akiko has been getting her hat signed by illustrators for years, and it is quite a work of art, let me tell you! She was gracious enough to let me sign it… I tried to write small. 🙂
Many thanks to local author and friend Cynthia Levinson for the hospitality, camaraderie, moral support, and photos. You all are in for a treat when her new book, The Littlest Marcher, comes out (I got a sneak peek)!
Thank you, too, to Sean for being such a great co-presenter and awesome human being. I’m so happy we finally got to meet!
Thank you to Akiko and my friends Mike and Jeanne Dahmus for taking photos and giving me permission to use them here, and for buying books!
And thank you to the Texas Book Festival organizers and volunteers for making it all happen. It was such an honor to be a part of it all.
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to get to participate in another fantastic radio interview to talk about Be a Changemaker, and it was a blast! I really felt like the host and I just “clicked” and were on the same wavelength. I wish we weren’t on opposite coasts, because I think we’d have a great time hanging out together.
Please check it out here. Enjoy! 🙂