Grand Prize Winner, fourth grade

Congratulations to all the finalists and grand prize winner of the What's it Like to be a New Kid Writing Contest! Seven schools participated in the writing contest, and many, many well-written and creative entries came my way. I must say to all the students who entered: Thank you so much for your hard work, your creativity, and, most of all, your honesty in the stories you shared. I enjoyed every single essay.

Here's how the contest worked: I scored the papers on these elements: opening line, details, anecdotes, how the essay relates to Violet or Melissa, effort, and emotion. After reading each essay at least three times, I selected a pool of finalists, and from that pool, I selected a grand prize winner for each grade level. Finalists received the new Violet Raines paperback, a bookmark, and a little alligator (glass, not live!). Grand prize winners received the same booty, with the additional prize being the hardcover of the newly released The Summer of Moonlight Secrets and a written critique from me on their paper. The prize winning essays and photos of their authors are featured on the student page of my website.

But I enjoyed the essays so much, I thought you would, too. For the next three weeks, I'll post one grand prize winner over the weekend. I know the young writers would be thrilled to see any comments you might leave on my blog or my Facebook profile.

Without further ado, here is Caroline, the fourth grade Grand Prize Winner, and her essay. (Click on essay to enlarge it.)

BOOKLIST likes The Summer of Moonlight Secrets

My editor just sent me this review from Booklist. MY DAY IS OFFICIALLY EXCELLENT!

"Eleven-year-old Allie Jo’s family runs and lives in the legendary, timeworn Meriwether Hotel in Florida , where 13-year-old Chase is a summer guest with his travel-writer father. Although the kids’ first meeting is somewhat contentious, each has encountered the beautiful, mysterious 16-year-old Tara, who is unfamiliar with the modern world, drawn to moonlight swims, and determined to remain hidden from others. When Tara reveals her fantastical story, Allie Jo and Chase decide to help her, but a suspicious stranger’s arrival brings difficult dilemmas as they try to sort out the truth and the right course of action. Allie Jo and Chase are appealing, credibly realistic characters who face both extraordinary events and everyday issues, including resident mean girls. The alternating narratives, including Tara ’s voice, add suspense and depth to this entertaining and intriguing blend of fantasy and reality, myth and mystery, that celebrates friendship and compassion."— Booklist

Book Release Day--A Journey in Photographs

In Which My Mom Moves to Orlando--FINALLY!

My mom closed on her house last week, and she and my sister and I spent the weekend cleaning. Mom's standards are somewhat higher than ours; we worked harder on her house than we do our own! But in any case, YAY! Mom lives here now! And the best part is that my mom knows how to sew on a sewing machine, so she can fix up some of my clothes and that one bedspread. Heh-heh! Just kidding, Mom!

We love ya, Mom!

Young Writers Writing Well, and Come See Me, May 26th!

I've read and reread the entries to my writing contest at least three times. The prompt was to describe what it's like to be a new kid or to encounter a new kid. I was surprised by the number of students who described themselves as quiet. Many spoke of not raising their hands or avoiding things that would cause them to get noticed. They worried people would think they were weird.

The honesty in some of these essays was heartbreaking. These students were so brave to share their true feelings in print, and I was impressed with their insights and observations. A few of the essays contained humor and melancholy in one fluid narrative--that's quite an achievement for young writers.

I'm proud of all the students who entered. It was hard to select winners with so many well-written essays to choose from. But choose I did. Tomorrow, I start my visits to morning announcement to award prizes.

Look for winning essays to be posted on my website in June! In the meantime, come to the Barnes & Noble Waterford on May 26th, 5:30-7:00 p.m., where I'll be signing copies of The Summer of Moonlight Secrets!

An Ode to My Sister

In a split that will be remembered as legendary in family history, my sister and I took opposing sides when the family played THE GAME on Mother's Day. THE GAME would, of course, be Catch Phrase. When I shook her hand before the timer started, I knew I held the fingers of dead person. She was going down.

I crushed her.

And now, an ode to my sister:

An Ode to My Sister

O my valiant warrior,
thou learned in word and verse,
You stood on the other side,
and there you suffered the curse.

Do not rely on the mother,
She knoweth not your clues,
Myself, you said, not off, you said
They waited on a muse.

Then I, your sister, leaned,
"Ion?" I asked. Confirmed.
With me, my sister stay,
Away from the game-infirmed.

Chris Richman on Elevator Pitches

Upstart Crow Literary agent Chris Richman demonstrates how to boil a novel down to twenty-five scintillating words in an excellent post on the Upstart Crow blog. Check it out!

Good Words for The Summer of Moonlight Secrets, Barnes & Noble Tonight, and other stuff

When I write stories for young people, my goal is to deliver an experience, an experience I hope will delight the reader and give them something to identify with. There's no better feeling than when a reader connects with your book.

Yesterday, book review blogger Liz Burns reviewed The Summer of Moonlight Secrets. I could tell by her review that she had entered the world of Allie Jo and Chase; when they ran up the secret staircases, she was right behind them. I felt like a happy balloon, floating up to the clouds after seeing her take on the book.

My agent liked this part of her review: "Haworth does a terrific job of balancing Allie Jo's independence and autonomy with caring parents, including how that family relationship impacts Allie Jo's friendship with Tara."

I liked the whole thing! But I really liked reading, "It is also funny!"

To read Liz Burns' review of The Summer of Moonlight Secrets, click here.


B&N and other stuff

I'm signing books tonight 6:00-7:30 at the Barnes and Noble Colonial Plaza as part of St. James Cathedral School's book fair. Stop by and say hi!

Also, contests: Today is the due date for all entries for the student writing contest I'm sponsoring. Eight area schools are participating. The prompt for the young writers was to describe what it feels like to be new or to be challenged by a new person (and relate this to Violet Raines). Winners receive the new Violet Raines paperback, and one grand prize winner receives the hardcover for The Summer of Moonlight Secrets, which no one in Orlando has yet!

Tomorrow is the last day to enter the Goodreads giveaway for SOMS. I'm pretty excited by that, too! More than 1100 people have entered.

It's cappuccino time. Have a great day!

IRA 2010 Chicago

First off, what a wonderful, beautiful city!

My first view of it was from above, in my comfy Economy Plus seat I'd been bumped up to. Chicago is silver, just in case you didn't know. For all my worries about hailing a cab, all I had to do was enter a queue with an official taxi sign, and I was ushered to the next available cab. Whew!

The smoke-scented taxi whisked me away. I forget how pretty the northern landscape is until I see it again--the fir trees, red buds, tulips--TULIPS! You really don't see those in Florida unless it's Easter and they're on top of the dinner table.

Chicago's skyline is beautiful. And as we entered the downtown area, I felt like I was in a movie. Doormen stood in front of buildings and smartly dressed people pushed their way inside through revolving doors.

My room--oh my gosh--my room! Walker Books is a generous publisher! My suite YES THEY GAVE ME A SUITE! was on the twenty-second floor and I had a gorgeous view.

After I got settled in, I met up with the Walker group: Melanie Cecka (Thank you, Melanie, for assuring me that leafy green lettuce was not furrowing between my teeth!), Katie Fee (You are too funny!), Emily Easton (When I spotted you on the couch, I recognized you immediately as a fellow literary type), Beth Eller (You are a riot!), and my wonderful editor, Stacy Cantor (Thank you so much for the excellent conversation and breathless fun!)

Melanie Cecka, Stacy Cantor, Danette Haworth, Emily Easton, Matt McElligott, Kate Messner

And now some name dropping! Not only did we dine in an exquisitely decorated restaurant, I laughed and talked with the gracious and warm Kate Messner (right), funny and nice Kirby Larson, Matt McElligott, who had some good stories, Chris Kurtz, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Donna Knoell (educational consultant), Susan Boham (teacher), and Claudia Katz (professor of Children’s Literature). Excellent conversation and food!

The convention center was humongous. Al Gore was there! I didn't see him, but he was there, so I get to drop his name! Henry Winkler was there! THE FONZ and author of the Hank Zipzer books. I didn't see him either!

I presented with Diana Lopez (above left) and it was amazing how well our topics went together. We'd discussed some things in advance, but we never went over our presentation points. We both talked about research, dedication, and the boys we once had crushes on!

I also got to meet Ingrid Law, author of Savvy. Ingrid had a long line of people, and when I broke away to get her book later, her purse was on her shoulder and her water in her hand. She very graciously stayed behind to sign my hardcover of Savvy and later she came to visit me at my signing! I know Ingrid online from Verla Kay's, so it was great to meet her in person! And we share an illustrator! Brandon Dorman illustrated her fabulous Savvy cover and lent his incredible talent to the cover for The Summer of Moonlight Secrets.

I met other editors and other publishers and oh, my gosh everyone was excited about books! (Pictured left to right at the Bloomsbury/Walker booth: Stacy Cantor, Danette Haworth, Emily Easton, Katie Fee, and Beth Eller.) It was wonderful. I felt like that bee girl in the video for No Rain by Blind Melon when she discovers people just like herself at the end of the video. It was hard to leave. I mean that in every way. My suitcase was loaded down with books and nearly tore my arm out of its socket.

This is what my dad used to say about Chicago:

"Put a chick in the car and the car won't go, and that's how ya spell Chickcargo!"

Stacy Cantor and me!