Thomas, James, and Scary Jack Frost!

Tigger Goes Ice Skating!

Tigger Goes Ice Skating!

A Great New Book by Agent Mary Kole!

Mary Kole’s new book on craft, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, (Writer’s Digest Books, Dec. 2012), isn’t the kind of book you just read; it’s that kind of book that fires up your brain, makes you stop every few pages to grab a pen and paper, and dash out a line or two. I recognized many of Kole’s points, but the insight was this: Much of what an author does is instinctual; what Kole has done is pull the tools out of the box and assign names to them. How much more useful a tool is when you’re aware it exists!

Culling from specific, contemporary works, Kole explains writing practices and goals. In illuminating “high concept,” she says, “[Readers] want stories that . . . lift them out of the everyday.” Then she asks, “What’s something they can’t experience in reality?” (p. 31) She then cites and deconstructs loglines for Holes, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Hunger Games, and more. It’s this analysis throughout the book that  inspires you to put your own work through the same machinations and see if it’s strong enough to hold up. Tips are specific: “Make your middle grade characters firmly thirteen and under” (p. 8), and her discussion on the six things readers should know within the first chapter (p. 78).

Shaded boxes throughout the text contain exercises addressing character specifics, theme specifics, voice specifics, etc.  Here, Kole takes the abstract and makes it concrete. You’ll want to print these exercises out and put them together for reference, a boiled-down toolbox for all your work.

In Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Kole delivers a user-friendly, specific text on the craft of writing. I found it so useful that it sits on my desk—open—as I work on my next manuscript.

I read Writing Irresistible Kidlit as an advance copy, and Kole uses as one of her published samples my first novel, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning. 

In Which We Discuss You Tube, BARGAIN DEALS, Seinfeld, Orny Adams, Orange Blossoms

Did I ever tell you you're my hero? haha

Did I ever tell you I have a You Tube channel? Please check it out! Danette Haworth You Tube Channel Great stuff for authors, including an interview with Barnes and Noble CRM, Geoffrey Shoffstall.

Bargain deals: Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning is available in HARDCOVER FOR LESS THAN $5.00 ON AMAZON! Perfect for your middle-grade reader this Christmas! Also, I've been keeping a craft book open as I work on my new manuscript--lit agent Mary Kole's Writing Irresistable KidLit, available in paperback and ebook. Perfect for the writer on your Christmas list! Look for my review soon!

JERRY SEINFELD and ORNY ADAMS! On separate dates in January, I get to see Jerry Seinfeld at the Bob Carr, Orlando, and Orny Adams at the Improv! I cannot wait! I've never seen Seinfeld live before, but I have seen Orny and he was excellent. Not only that, but he did a meet-and-greet afterwards and was so patient with me and my sister, spending probably fifteen minutes or so with us because my iPhone camera was flaking out (which, honestly, worked out, because we got to spend more time with Orny!). The only thing that could make the new year better? Brian Regan tickets in February! Dare I to spend more money on comedy?

And finally, Casey and I were hanging around in the backyard today, and I swear I smelled the sweet, powdery scent of orange blossoms. My neighbor's trees are ornamented with perfectly round, shiny oranges, but no blossoms. A close inspection of the greenbelt behind my yard (read: marsh populated by gators, river otter, rattle snakes, scorpions and more) revealed some kind of weedy tree, resplendent with tiny white buds, emitting the sweet perfume.

That is all for today! Tomorrow, back to work!

Riley, I Hope You Got an A on your Book Report!

Fifth grade reader Riley sent me this email:

"I love the book me and jack so much i am doing my book report on it so if you could write back that would be so cool. I love the book me and jack."

I wrote back, asking what Riley's favorite part was, and after receiving the answer, I provided never-seen-before behind-the-scenes info on that particular part of the book. In turn, Riley went all out on the book report. Here's the pic Riley's mom posted:

Yay, Riley! It looks like you did a lot of work on that poster! I hope you received an A for your book report!

Awesome Visit at Blankner School in Orlando

Yesterday, I visited Blankner School in Orlando to talk about writing, inspiration, and what makes up a story. I'm here to tell you the students at Blankner were just the kind of people you love to visit! Attentive, engaged, responsive--I saw heads nodding when I hit certain points; people laughed when I hoped they would; and we all had fun with the audience participation bits. Thank you, Blankner students! And good luck on all your writing!

UCF is Bowlbound vs Ball State! (and I don't even care about football!)

The University of Central Florida (UCF), my alma mater, place of fond memories, and land that occupies my dreams in which I have the cliched experience of knowing I have a test but have not attended class and I'm walking and walking and where the heck is the building and if I could find my friends (Ann, Grace, Sieglinde, Steve, Dennis, Colin, or Alan) they could tell me where I'm supposed to be and where my classes are. I can never find them, and the campus is endless, with high tech new building I am unfamiliar with. In any case, UCF vs Ball State! GO KNIGHTS!

In Which Kelly Asks Dolly Parton, "Are They Real?"

One funny lady and a truly good sport!

The Best Book Light!

As a person who reads into the night, I've tried out and tossed out many a book light. But I've found one that I love--the Mighty Light. It's the perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite someone who reads when they should be sleeping.

(This is the color I have!)

SNL Parody "Michael Buble Christmas Duets"

In Which I Open the Christmas Season

Mom: Are you going shopping Friday?

In honor of the Christmas season's soft opening in October, I join retailers in starting my elfin activities on (pre-)Thanksgiving. Even YouTube knows how much I love this video--I'd typed only BRU when YouTube filled out Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band--Santa Claus Is Coming To Town! (Start at 1:10)

After Midnight (well, almost)

It's almost tomorrow.

Confound and Conquer on Thanksgiving (Scrabble Tips)

Well, most of us like Scrabble, and if you're anything like me, you like to win. My sister-in-law played on Words with Friends a word with no vowels. In preparation for turkey day, I am committing to memory a few words with no vowels; these are especially important because not only will you score with a challenging rack of letters, your opponents will likely challenge you and lose their turn, heh heh.

If you search the Internet for "words with no vowels," you'll find quite a few lists. Don't be hasty, though. Double check these words to see of they're in your dictionary, otherwise, you'll be the one taking a zero. If you come other across words you want to use, make sure they're not abbreviations, acronyms, proper nouns, or hyphenated words.

Here, from MW Eleventh Edition, are words to confound and conquer your loved ones with:

  • crwth
  • nth
  • sh
  • tsk
Good luck, my friends.

What's Not Cool Anymore and What Is

It's getting toward that time of year when lists start popping up: what's in, what's out. Let me be among the first to put up my List of Words and Phrases and Ideas that Don't Need to be Used Anymore:

List of Words, Phrases insert Oxford Comma and Ideas that Don't Need to be Used Anymore
--really? (intoned sardonically)
--"ish" (overused, not fresh)
--Not so much. (Not so clever.)
--Derisive comments about Twilight and the actors. (Hasn't everything been said already? Get over it.)
--Obama's birth certificate (Please, not four more years of this.)

 List of Always Cool 
 --the word "cool"
--"Live long and prosper." Also, the Vulcan hand greeting/farewell, the Vulcan nerve pinch, and--if you can achieve it--the Vulcan mind meld
--William Shatner
--Leonard Nimoy
--Star Trek
--allusions to Arrested Development
--Mitch Hedberg
--playing guitar
--physically/mentally strong female characters who are also nice, such as Sarah Walker in Chuck. I want to kickbox like her.
--my brown boots, twelve years old. They are so cool.

Barnes & Noble Rep Gives Tips for Author Visits

Barnes & Noble CRM, Geoffrey Shoffstall talks about in-store author events: how store personnel prepare for the visit, and what authors can do to make their visit successful before, during, and after the event. Please check it out!

Chatting with Chris Tozier, middle-grade Fantasy Author

Middle-grade author Chris Tozier and I had the pleasure of participating in Lake Forrest Prep's Book Fair at Barnes & Noble Colonial Plaza. By the way, if you didn't have the chance to make it, the store has signed copies of Chris's Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus and signed copies of my books, A Whole Lot of Lucky, Me & Jack, The Summer of Moonlight Secrets, and Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning.

Chris has an unusual story behind the inspiration for Olivia Brophie. Enjoy!

Rejection Letter

My son's teacher tasked the class with writing poems. My son, child of a writer, composed a poem rejecting a poem. I am so proud.

Why Keep Your Wedding Dress?

Growing up Air Force (and BTW, I've learned you're not supposed to cap AF in certain contexts, but for me, Air Force will always be capped), I grew up not holding on to things, space-taking memorabilia that ends up needing to be dusted every now and then--the only attention you'll ever give it later.

This is part of the pragmaticism that flows in my Air Force dress blue blood.

My daughter has more remnants of her short life than I do of a life lived in three countries, including seven different US states before I was fourteen. My sister marvels at the stories I tell of our childhood. She doesn't remember this stuff, and she's older than I am. But my head was the only container I could keep my mementos in: the bear, chain around his neck, who walked down the main road--a dirt road, traveled by as many donkey and carts as by autos--he walked down the dirt road with his owner on Sundays and if you threw money in their general vicinity, the bear would dance for you. That was in Turkey. I remember the bear and the dust and the dirt road.

I remember England, too, and to this day I don't know why I had to share a room with my brother when it made more sense for me to share a room with my sister. We rode the train from Ipswitch to London to see Buckingham Palace and I waited for the queen to lean out of a window and wave to me, but she never did. The changing of the guard was boring to my five-year-old self. Better was my dad's shrill whistle, two fingers in his mouth--he stopped traffic with that whistle. The double-decker bus stopped for us and we ran, happily climbing to the top. This was even better than that boring old castle with a queen who never came out.

I'm all grown up now, with children of my own. I can't stand clutter. My wedding gown, dry cleaned at a fee almost the cost of the gown itself (though not to worry, I had no train and my mother taught me to be frugal), lies unseen, shrouded in blue plastic, boxed in cardboard, tucked away, forgotten in our closet. There is no one in the house who has any sense of curiosity about it. I weigh the same as I did then (not bragging, it's just the way it is); I feel no need to try it on, admire it, or gaze at it with feelings of any sort.

But in my head, oh, in my head: my mom had pleurisy when she flew down early to help me the week before my wedding. She spray painted and beribboned a hundred and fifty tiny candy baskets. She took birch tree branches and laced them with white Christmas lights and placed them around the reception hall. Even though they were divorced, my dad flew down about the same time. I remember how that felt, the wishing that they had never divorced because I knew, we all knew, my dad still loved my mom. He had a bad back, so he got the guest room and my mom got the couch. This was when I rented a house with my brothers and sister. One night, my dad talked about grandkids. It wasn't embarrassing. I wanted him to have grandkids--he was going to be a great grandpa. To this day I remember THAT conversation and I remember him crying over the phone two years later when I called late one night to tell him his first grandchild had just been born and I remember him sending me an airplane ticket when she was five months old just because he heard her laughing on his answering machine, and I remember he died three weeks after our visit.

I still have the shells from his twenty-one gun salute.

I never look at them.

I rarely visit my brother's grave. He is not there.

Photos are painful.

My daughter isn't going to wear my dress. Why am I keeping it? I threw out the portion of cake we kept because by our first anniversary, it was freezer burned and tasted awful. The dress is a dress; it isn't the fabric of my life--just a couple hours of my life, a costume, almost.

I got married. I am married. I plan to stay married.

But I need room in my closet for other things.

Good Words on LUCKY from BCCB, a nice way to end the week!

My editor sent me this nice review for A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY from BCCB:

You’d think winning the lottery would solve all your problems in an instant, but sixth-grader Hailee finds out it isn’t that easy. She has to go to a posh new school, for one thing, a circumstance that she did not foresee or desire, but her parents want her to have a better education than they had. Her new cell phone also brings new conflict with her parents, as she immediately becomes addicted to texting and checking her Facebooks updates. Her biggest challenges, though, are moral ones—now that she has access to the popular girls who live in the big houses, will she continue to do what she knows is right for her, like joining the Library Club, or sacrifice her principles to earn the favor of girls who don’t share her values? Hailee has a fresh, quirky outlook, peppered with wryly humorous observations that ring both wise and age-appropriate. Her direct questions to the reader as she ponders moral questions create a friendly intimacy, and readers will be gratified that she doesn’t always make bad choices, even when it’s tempting to do so. She’s got a down-home relationship to church on Sundays that threads through her decision-making in ways that many readers will relate to, and the changes that the lottery win makes in her daily life are small enough to insert a healthy dose of reality into that cherished fantasy. She also bookishly sets her emotional troubles in the context of familiar middle-grade novels, a trait that amps up both her likability and her credibility. Readers will definitely feel as though they have made a new friend in Hailee.

Loss of a Black Flip Flop

Loss of My Wedged Black Flip Flop

O, wedged black flip flop
to all you did match
That's why I packed you
and closed the latch.

Suitcase open
still early dawn
left was there
right was gone.

I called the airport
I filed a claim
They said they didn't have you
and that is my pain.

Right is still missing
Left is now home
I look for you always
The web I do roam.

Wedged Black Flip Flop

An Email from Riley

i love the book me and jack so much i am doing my book report on it so if you could write back that would be so cool i love the book me and jack--Riley, age 10


Hailee Richardson is on the lower rung of her neighborhood’s economic ladder, but things take a turn when her parents win the lottery. Though Hailee sees big houses and a horse in her future, the story plays out more realistically. While three million dollars is a lot of money, it’s set up to come in installments over decades, so a new lifestyle isn’t in the works, except for one thing. When Hailee learns that her parents are transferring her to the exclusive Magnolia Academy, she tries to fight it, but soon enough she becomes intrigued with what it offers, even as she tries to redefine her relationship with her neighborhood BFF.

Haworth does an excellent job of portraying the modern kid’s life (cell phones, Facebook) mixed with evergreen problems like trying to fit in with the popular crowd and cheating on tests. She also makes the smart decision to have the lottery win be a plot point that propels the story into places that will interest kids most, rather than be its center. The fact that religion plays quietly and comfortably into the narrative is another plus. Booklist

From My Son's Journal

When you live in a tropical state, this kind of entry doesn't actually surprise you:

The Ice Cream, the Spider, and Me

We sat by the window after getting our ice cream. Peeling green paint revealed an old peach underneath, and a spider. I let coffee and chocolate ice creams mingle in my mouth. I wonder, I thought, if he's a jumping spider.


He jumped like a flea, his trajectory my direction.

Why are daughters always so embarrassed when their mothers scream in public places?

Bargain price for Me & Jack!

The Kindle edition of Me & Jack is &1.99! Get it while it lasts!

At Jack Kerouac's House, Writing Poetry

At Jack Kerouac's House, Writing Poetry

I remember staying up too late the night before, watching an episode of a detective show on my laptop, and then a second, and

I wanted to watch a third but

I told myself No, it's almost two a.m. You'll be too tired in the morning.

I remember I accidentally woke up before seven. Six shots of espresso moved like sludge through my veins.

I remember Jack's house was on the Christmas tour a few years ago. I asked the host to show me where Jack sat when he worked. The floor slants down in that room. His mother slept in a cramped bedroom just off, and he slept on a cot near his work, I think. I remember I sort of felt sorry for Jack. I could feel him hemmed in that room, his success hemming him in. That day was hot and sticky even though it was December, and I wanted to absorb Jack but too many people coming in and out and the walls closing in, the blinds were closed, and I didn't know how Jack could work like that.

I remember the first poem the writer-in-residence had us write was an "I remember" poem.

When I remembered my bossy sister and my grandma's ten brothers and sisters throwing money at us, the other writers at the workshop laughed and that made me feel good. I remember other people wrote about sad things and that made me cry, which made me feel good, too.

I remember the big white dog with brown eyes who looked into mine and made me miss my own dog, even for those few hours.

And I remember driving home, climbing the stairs, closing my door, and secretly rereading my first poem just so I could hear the laughter again.

Behind the Scenes: Scraps of LUCKY Turn into a Novel

For me, the writing of a story almost always begins with voice, a voice so strong that it carries with it the gender, age, location, and disposition of the character. All I have to do then is think of what could be the worst thing that could happen to that character. If the voice is strong enough, I can drop the character into any situation and know how she’ll react. That’s where the real work begins: finding the right situation to exploit the voice in my head.

While I was in line edits for Me & Jack, I got hit by this image of two girls and a bike. Not just a snapshot image, it was like a short video of an old memory. The girls were in a driveway. I saw lots of trees, and it was that kind of warm/chilly day you get in spring. The main character had just convinced her reluctant best friend to let her ride her new bike (a new bike, and it wasn’t even her birthday!) by agreeing to pay a dollar and a pack of Smarties. As the MC rides away from her friend’s shouted instructions and warnings, she feels as free as the honeysuckle air wafting under her nose, yet she can’t help but compare her friend’s flashy new bike to her own embarrassing old red boy bike, bought for three dollars at a garage sale last year.

The image of these two girls was so strong, I picked up a scrap of paper and wrote down the main character’s viewpoint of that scene, dialogue and all. The words flowed like water from the tap. Other thoughts popped up over the next few days and I wrote them all down. Later, I nixed some of them and expanded others, but what remained were those first words spoken by twelve-year-old Hailee Richardson, owner of the red boy bike. She didn’t know it then, but her whole life was about to change.

The first three chapters are available on my website. If you compare them to the scraps—and if you can decipher my scratchy writing!—you’ll see that the first few published pages don’t differ much from the first scrappy words spoken by my then-nameless main character.

Parts of this book were written on the backs of old grocery receipts, a must-have for every writer’s purse.

I hope you get the chance to enjoy A Whole Lot of Lucky! Keep reading and writing!
This post first appeared in From the Mixed Up Files, July 31st

Great Stone Face Award, Me & Jack and more!

I've discovered more about New Hampshire's Great Stone Face Award and I can't help but feel excited!

From Kid's Books 101, written by Matt: "The Great Stone Face Award is an award that is given out every year to around 25 new 4th through 6th grade books  by the GSF Committee. It is sponsored by the Children’s Library of New Hampshire. The name “Great Stone Face” comes from the Man in the Mountain, which is the most historic landmark that was in New Hampshire. This year’s Great Stone Face books are really, really good."

The voting takes place next April, and the winners will be announced May. I'm proud and humbled to find my book, Me & Jack, in such notable company:

2012-2013 Nominees

STARRED Kirkus Review for A Whole Lot of Lucky!

Author: Haworth, Danette

Winning the lottery does not turn out as sixth-grader Hailee Richardson had imagined. Yes, she does get the new bicycle and cellphone that were high on her list of needs, but she also gets sent to a different school, prestigious Magnolia Academy. New and nervous, Hailee becomes consumed with Facebook and is targeted by an older risk-taking classmate who threatens to get this previously good kid, who doesn’t even swear, into trouble. Soon she’s alienated a new friend and said something terrible to an old one. Dramatic and imaginative, Hailee is both quick-witted and quick to justify herself. In her first-person, present-tense narration, she promises to tell readers the truth, and she does, in her lights. But readers will see through this unreliable narrator, recognizing her jealous moments and her social insecurity. They may even be relieved by her father’s “intervention,” which curbs her cellphone addiction. Hailee’s love for the hard-to-control bougainvillea vines and the ever-changing swamp maple outside her Florida window reflect her own issues. Her parents’ sensible approach to their newly acquired wealth contrasts nicely with their daughter’s exaggerated dreams. Haworth effectively captures the self-consciousness, self-absorption and limited experience of a preteen, and the seductive charms of Facebook friendships for that age. Realistic, modern and still familiar, this is a middle school story both children and their parents should read. (Fiction. 9-12)
 Kirkus Reviews


Ten ARCs for A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY on Goodreads!

OMG, Internet people! I just listed my little giveaway of one ARC for A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY on Goodreads and discovered my publisher already has a giveaway listed--TEN ARCs ARE UP FOR GRABS ON GOODREADS! Eleven, if you count mine! Check out my website for a sneak peek of the first three chapters. Enter here to win! Enter both! I just put mine up today, so it'll be active in a couple days. Good luck!


The first three chapters of my upcoming middle-grade novel, A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY, are up on my website. Come visit! And don't forget to enter to win an ARC on Goodreads!

Sinbad in October, Hard Rock Cafe, O-town!

It was announced, then cancelled, then sent to me by special email--Sinbad the comedian is coming to Orlando this October!

I sweated it out buying my tickets on Ticketmaster--a stopwatch appears on the sidebar and counts down how many seconds you have left to fill in your information before T-master decides you're taking too long and zeroes you out. I was upstairs and had the wrong credit card! I slid down the banister, took the stairs in a flying leap, and blurred my fingers, tapping in my name, rank and serial number.

Hey, Sinbad, we're coming to see you!

Conference Tip #4: Enjoy! And What to Bring

Hi conference goers!

I'm excited because I'm attending the SCBWI FL Mid-Year Workshop tomorrow. I'm excited because I can't wait to rub shoulders and talk shop with other writers. I'm interviewing Donna Gephart tomorrow for my second iPhone video, and Christina Farley is interviewing me. I'm critiquing manuscripts, and later I'm going out for dinner.

If you're going to a conference, anywhere, anytime, you've got to be prepared, no matter what stage of your career you're at. I say, stick to the basics. This is what you should have in your laptop bag (in addition to your laptop), because you won't always have time to run back up to your hotel room:

  • breath mints!
  • any medications you have to take during the day
  • bottled water
  • energy drink (if you need caffeine)
  • small snacks to eat during breaks (I'm talking protein bars or peanut butter crackers.)
  • chocolate never hurts
  • phone and phone charger
  • books you want other other authors to sign
  • bookmarks or business card
  • hair brush
  • basic makeup
  • cash and debit/credit card
  • pens/pencil/tablet
  • copies of your first ten pages, your first page, your query
Clean out your purse and/or bag before going to the conference; you don't want to be flustered during the workshop, trying to find a pen.

Dress business casual. You want to be comfortable, but you should also look professional--you'll be in the same room with people who make this whole industry happen.

You are a brave person! You're taking an excellent step toward furthering your career as a writer! I hope whatever conference you're going to gives you what you need. Make sure you eat! Don't get low on blood sugar! Take care of yourself and have fun, and remember, no matter how nervous you might feel, you're crossing a threshold!

Good luck, conference goers! See you on the other side.

Conference tip #3: DON'T BE A STALKER Part 1 and Part 2

There are some people in publishing so well known to us online or through reputation that they are rock stars at conferences. I'm pretty sure Nathan Bransford and Kristin Nelson have wigs and fake noses in their laptop bags--how else to get through the madding crowd? I sat at the same table with Arthur Levine for dinner after a conference and he asked to look at my book. He touched it! This was like nirvana for me. I told my own editor about Mr. Levine's and my little exchange and she reacted the same way I did!

It's exciting to recognize people in publishing, but it's important to remember that although you feel like you know them, you don't, and they don't know you.

Conference tip #3: DON'T BE A STALKER, part 1

Now I'll be the first to tell you if I saw Nathan Bransford walking down the conference hall, I'd probably go over to him and tell him how much I've enjoyed his blog and his thread on Absolute Write. I'd mention one or two specific things he's said that helped me and of course I'd ask for a picture with him for my blog!

But that's different from waiting for him to emerge from the men's room, following him, cornering him (haha! I've captured my prey!), and saying, "Hey, I know you used to be an agent. I write X. Who in your former agency should I send it to?" That's just using people. And you can't disguise this kind of opportunist. "Hey, I read your blog. Can you read my manuscript?" WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

Conference tip #3: DON'T BE A STALKER, part2

Don't reduce people at the conference to your means to getting published.

Now all that said, if you should be eating lunch and suddenly discover you're sitting next to a BIG NAME IN PUBLISHING, it's perfectly fine to introduce yourself and enter into small talk. If BIG NAME asks you what you're working on, WOW! YES! go ahead and talk about it--but briefly--key word--BRIEFLY. Return the favor--what are they working on? What was the last book  they read and loved? How do they like the city you're in and have they had time for sight seeing? Basically, treat them like another person, because that's what they are.

Good luck, conference goers!

Conference tip #2: Be Friendly!

One of the greatest things about attending conferences is getting to see all your writer friends. Maybe you're lucky enough to have a local group with whom you're going to the workshop with. So much fun! You get to talk, encourage each other, eat together. It's comfortable and easy to stick with people you know, but be careful not to err on the side of being exclusive.

Conference tip #2: Be Friendly! Don't Be Exclusive!

Many other writers are attending the conference alone. Be open to conversing with friendly people who approach you, even if they're not in your circle. They only want the same thing you do--a pleasant exchange, relief in knowing they're not the only one who feels nervous/intimidated/excited. You're talking to someone who might become a great friend, a strong supporter, a good critique partner. This person you don't know might even be on bookstore shelves one day--you don't know! (Not that you should befriend people for the potential benefits they might extend to you, but writing is a solitary act--the pecking at the keyboard and such--and it's nice to take a break and visit your friends, even if it's online.)

Remember the golden rule (lifted from the Bible): Treat others as you would have yourself treated.

Go forth and have fun, conference goers!

Going to a Conference? Tip #1 PARTICIPATE!

The season of going to a conference is upon us, and many of you are attending a conference for the first time. Hooray for you!

Going to a conference can sometimes be intimidating. I went to my first conference by myself. It was a small conference in a small town, and all the other writers seemed to know each other, greeting one another by name as they trickled into the little hotel. I felt so alone.

But I shouldn't have. The other writers were friendly--they asked me my name, where I was from, and then this question: "What are you working on?" I didn't know how to answer! What if they stole my idea? I hugged my laptop bag closer and bluffed my way with words that provided no information; after all, my material was proprietary!

Well, I've been to quite a few conferences since then, and I'd like to share some tips with you this week so you can get the most out of your conference experience.

Tip #1 is the biggest and most important tip of all: PARTICIPATE!

 At my first SCBWI conference, the middle-grade track was divided into three or four groups, each with an editor or agent heading the table. An editor headed up my table, and she wanted to help us with our query letters. If anyone wanted to read theirs aloud, she said, the group could provide feedback. My blood raced through my veins at 500 mph. As the first couple of people read their queries and the editor critiqued them, I could hardly concentrate on what they were saying. This was my first query letter and NO ONE had seen it. Ever. No feedback or critique group--I was flying solo. What if my letter broke all the rules, didn't make sense, or worse--what if it was boring?

But I knew I couldn't leave the table without putting my letter up for inspection.

My hands shook so badly when I read my letter, I had to lay the paper on the table so people couldn't hear it rattling. My throat had suddenly dried up. My voice cracked and wavered. When I finished, the editor thought for a moment. Then she pulled a phrase from my second paragraph and said that phrase arrested her attention. The group agreed. She suggested I rework my query to get that phrase in the very first sentence of the letter.

I loved her suggestion and implemented it. That query was for the first book I ever wrote, which eventually became my third book published by Bloomsbury/Walker--ME & JACK. Now the point here isn't asketh questions and be ye published, but rather become a better writer by taking risks to get the information you need. That's one of the reasons you're attending a conference--to learn! So if you can read from your piece, do so! If you can provide a comment or critique, open your mouth! When you can ask questions, ask them! You'll walk away from the conference with so much more if you brave it and speak up! Good luck, conference goers!

Three Beautiful Pharaohs

Recently, a group of Pharaoh Hound owners invited me to join their group. I did, and now I see photos daily of one of the most elegant dogs God ever created. The dog on the cover of Me & Jack is a Pharaoh Hound. Maureen Key-Del Duca gave me permission to share this photo with a little information that gives you an idea of their personalities: From front to back: Lola, Farley, and Titus, but Maureen tells me their nicknames are Lolabelle, Farticus (for a reason!) and Titus the bite us. Aren't they beautiful?

Me & Jack Nominated for Great Stone Face Book Award!

While perusing the Internet, I discovered a wonderful surprise: Me & Jack has been nominated by the Children's Librarians of New Hampshire for the Great Stone Face Book Award 2012-2013! This is such great news! I've read some of the other books in the list and I'm thrilled to be in the same company as Brian Selznik, Cal Ripken, Jr., Lauren Oliver and other great authors. Now I know what actors mean when they say, "It's an honor just to be nominated."

Thank you, New Hampshire Librarians!

Twinkle, Twinkle, Me and Jack

Twinkle, Twinkle, Me and Jack
Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.
Some schools have it on reading lists,
The book has adventures and turns and twists.
Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.

Bookstores ask me to come and talk,
On their shelves my books are stocked.
I will come and sign them then;
I will bring a fancy pen.
Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.

If you buy one, it'd be so cool.
You could show your friends at school.
A boy, a dog, and trouble await--
I hope you think this book is great.
Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.

The dog is noble; the boy is brave.
There's a bully in it, too. He misbehaves.
You might laugh and maybe you'll cry;
Maybe when you're done, you'll have red eyes.

Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,  
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.         

Dylan and Cole Sprouse!

Now they're good looking guys with deep voices, but look how cute and funny they were at six years old with Jay Leno!

An Ode to My Pain

Carpal tunnel
go away.
Rotator cuff
some other day.

Leave me now,
give me rest.
I've books to write.
All my best.

Violet Raines has won CYRM!

More than 300,000 students in California voted on their favorite books, and Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning won the California Young Reader Medal for the Intermediate category! I am thrilled and honored to announce this news--Violet Raines was my first book, and to have readers think so well of it is nothing short of wonderful.

Thank you, California Young Readers!

Can You Diagram this Sentence?

Years ago, I was editing a piece and could not for the life of me decide upon the proper grammar for a certain phrase, a colloquialism I've seen written two ways. I thought if I could diagram the sentence, I would then know how to edit it, but even with the help of The Little, Brown Handbook and CMS, I couldn't figure it out.

I ended up on the phone with a Writer's Digest editor trying to determine the proper wording for this sentence:

I better be going  OR

I'd better be going.

The editor was nice and offered a lot of advice, but she was not able to diagram the sentence, either, and asked me why I needed to. I explained my endeavor to her.

"You can't diagram that phrase," she said. "It's a colloquialism." She advised thusly: Use I better be going for informal prose, and I'd better be going for more formal prose.

I've followed her advice ever since, but it seems to me as if there's somehow an object in that phrase. It niggles at me. I better be going. Is this phrase actually shorthand, a phrase that represents a grammatically correct sentence from the old days, something like this: It is better for me to leave than to stay.

Better has to have a reason for being there. What do you think? Can you diagram this sentence?

Secret Stuff I Can't Tell You and Some Other Stuff I Can!

Okay, folks, I found secret good news on the Internet, but I need to wait until I hear it officially, otherwise, I can't tell if I'm reading properly or just dreaming. I'm not sure, but I think something good has happened for this girl:

Stuff I can tell you: The ARCs for A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY came in yesterday! Here are the front and back covers:

Come Downtown O-Town for POETRY SLAM Saturday!

Come to the cool downtown branch of the Orange County Public Library tomorrow at four to enjoy lattes, cheesecake, and the National Poetry Month Slam competition! I'm attending as a spectator, and I'm looking forward to it. Say hi if you're there--I'll be clothed in traditional literary black.

See you there!

My New Book has a Cover!

Here's the cover for A Whole Lot of Lucky, coming out September of this year!

Orny Adams at The Improv Orlando

Orny Adams, you were wonderful!

Shot in the Arm for Writers and Goodbye

Hello writers!

Pumping myself up this morning and thought I'd share some words I found encouraging: I watched a video in which Joyce Carol Oates said the first six weeks of a manuscript are hell. Writers, we are not alone! Also, last year I went to an excellent seminar conducted by Candace Havens. She talked about fast drafting and writer's block, summing it all up with this: "When you're stuck, keep writing, even if it makes no sense." I can do that! I will do that!

And goodbye, for a few weeks, anyway. I've got to buckle down and write, so I'm dropping out for a while. Have a great day, and I'll see you later!

Two Flavors of Lucky is Now Called . . .

Two Flavors of Lucky is now called . . . A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY! Look for it September 2012!

Chasing Squirrels is Hard Work

Casey takes a quick break after freeing her territory--temporarily, anyway--of those cheeky squirrels who blatantly climb the oak and leap onto the bird feeder when she is trapped behind sliding glass doors.

Lizard Seeks Role in The Summer of Moonlight Secrets

So this lizard pops in through the screen, runs up the table scrambling right for me, and I'm all screaming and "AAAH THERE'S A LIZARD IN THE HOUSE!" but he waves his hands to shush me and says, "Are you the author of The Summer of Moonlight Secrets?"

I can't shut my mouth because, you know, this lizard has just spoken and he does not have an Australian accent. "Whatdja say?" I ask. I heard him; I'm just fudging for a few seconds to cover my disappointment.

His little hands looks like mine, if mine were green and lizardy. He folds them and shrugs his shoulders. "I hear there's a lizard in your book."

I nod. "Yeah, a few of them."

"I've come to audition for the part. I could play all of the lizards, actually--no one would know." Desperation glints from his bulbous eyes.

"It's not a movie." Yet, I secretly think. "It's a book. You can get get in hard cover, paperback, bookfairs, ebooks--"

He shakes his flourescent head. "I need a job."

"Have you tried insurance companies?"

He sneers. "Yeah, that guy. Do you know he's originally from Key West?"

"No!" I pound the table with my fist. "I knew that accent was fake! How'd he get to Hollywood?"

My new friend rolls his eyes. "He knew a guy who knew a guy--you know how it works."

He jumps off the table, squiggles across the floor, and just before he exits through the hole, he turns his head over his shoulder and says, "Well, keep me in mind, will you?"

"Wait!" I rise. "Can you do an English accent or maybe Irish?"

He smiles--at least that's what I think his mouth does--and he mimes tipping a hat. "Top o'the mornin' to ya, luv."

I clap with glee. "Bring me a headshot," I say. "I'll see what I can do."

A Plea to My Husband from our Garage (with apologies to those who read this last year, but the garage suffers untouched)

O Master of the house,

I am blighted and ashamed. Lift your hand to me, and I will be restored. Once, I stood, open and ready before you. Now my contents spill over like vomit from a drunk. Your neighbors to the south snicker as they pass; your own children hold their noses against my stench. In shame, they lift their scooters and roll out through the house. In shame, they enter only through the front door. In shame, my mouth remains shut.

But you, my master, have the power to lift this ruin from me. Remember when I was new, when you saw that I was good and housed your car and not trash in my belly. Do this for me this weekend, master, that I may lift my door and show my glory to your neighbors. He is good, they will say. We were mistaken. Your children will access my innermost parts and the feet of your bride will alight upon my floor once more.

And for you, I will house you in comfort and organization forevermore.

Horn Book and Linworth Publishing review Me & Jack

Linworth Publishing Company Reviews
Library Media Connection Reviews 2011 August/September
Josh Reed is from a single-parent home where moving is a way of life since his widowed dad is in the [air force]. The Vietnam War is being fought as he and his dad adjust to life in their latest home. They adopt a stray dog, Jack, [who] proves to be both a trial and a blessing. . . . This is a refreshing read that accurately portrays "life back home" during a tough time in our country's cultural history. Douglas K. Dillon, Ph.D., Library/Media Specialist, Lakota Plains and Lakota Ridge Junior Schools, West Chester, Ohio. RECOMMENDED ¬ 2011 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
Father and son, and their dog, Jack, are greeted with suspicion in their new town, especially after one soldier comes home and another is killed. The story touches on bullying, violence, war, friendship, and trust. Though there are some plot contrivances, the complex characters are well defined. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.