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Hi!

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Welcome to my blog! I'm the author of MODELS DON'T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES (Dial Books 2009), THE TOTAL TRAGEDY OF A GIRL NAMED HAMLET (Dial Books 2010),  NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK (Dial Books 2011), and the forthcoming MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING (Dial Books 2013). My books are for teens, tweens, and anyone who survived junior high.

MODELS is about an overweight eighth grade girl who gets entered into a beauty pageant for chubby teens and doesn't want to win. TOTAL TRAGEDY is about what happens when your family is obsessed with Shakespeare, your seven-year-old sister is a genius, and someone leaves mysterious origami pigs in your locker. NOTES features a cocky orchestral superstar who falls into marching band mayhem, and MOXIE is race-against-the-clock mystery set in Boston.

The books are available for purchase at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other independent bookstores. Oh, and you can even get my books for FREE! Check them out of a library near you:

You can read about my writing process here (scroll down for new entries).

Thanks for coming by!!


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Hi!






B
onBon Break magazine is hosting a Scavenger Hunt for World Read Aloud Day!
Reading aloud is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a book.
One that I've read aloud recently is BEEZUS & RAMONA, by Beverly Cleary.
UP! TALL! AND HIGH! by Ethan Long is another fun one to share.
G​​uess I'm a sucker for humorous titles.
Happily, I also have a soft spot for mysteries and puzzles.
That's why I'm giving you this clue.

I hope you figure it out!











WRAD


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BonBon Break magazine is hosting a Scavenger Hunt for World Read Aloud Day!
Reading aloud is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a book.
One that I've read aloud recently is BEEZUS & RAMONA, by Beverly Cleary.
UP! TALL! AND HIGH! by Ethan Long is another fun one to share.
G​​uess I'm a sucker for humorous titles.
Happily, I also have a soft spot for mysteries and puzzles.
That's why I'm giving you this clue.

I hope you figure it out!


<a href="http://www.bonbonbreak.com/WRAD-scavenger-hunt"> <img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-18713" alt="WRAD" src="http://www.bonbonbreak.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WRAD.jpg" width="250" height="250" /> </a>


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Writing Retreats: Why They're Important

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Sunday, I returned from three and a half days in Vermont at Kindling Words East--a retreat for authors, illustrators, and editors. It's an incredible experience: time to write, talk about writing, and think about writing. I left  full of new knowledge, eager to dive back in to my work, and more centered. Life had me a little jangly-edged lately.

But when I tell non-writers about a retreat, sometimes I get the impression that they think it's a lot of eating great food (there is that...Kindling Words is held at a culinary resort), soaking in a hot tub (some people took advantage of that amenity, but not me), getting spa treatments (okay, there's a spa there, too, but I didn't go), and sitting around (um, NO). Here's what goes on at a writing retreat (aside from any of the cool amenities), and why it's so valuable to people like me:

1. Craft talk: At Kindling Words and other retreats, there's usually a portion of time devoted to developing craft. Think of it as a master class, taught by an expert in the field. These formal conversations usually focus on how to improve the craft of writing--making the most of revision, or beginnings, or developing characters, or-or-or--the list could go on forever. This weekend, I was up and out of my hotel room even earlier than I would leave for work at my day job; ready to listen, learn, and take notes.

2. Networking: Writers work in a vacuum, typically. Although the children's book community is vibrant, we spend the vast majority of our time at a keyboard. Alone. Being around other professionals is valuable and necessary: there are a lot of ups and downs in this industry, and with the big changes in the publishing community, we're all trying to find our way. The conversations that happen around meal times and during social hours are generous with shared knowledge and support. I talked to people about everything from promotion, to balance of work and family and writing, to next projects and stumbling blocks. Spending time with people who understand you: amazing. Making friends in the process? Priceless.

3. White space: Something that I first experienced at Kindling Words, these are casual conversations around an attendee-generated topic. There's a white board in our central meeting room where you post your topic and meeting time. Want to talk about Scrivener? Meet in this place at that time and likeminded people will find you. Kindling Words featured white space topics on diversity in the industry, career management, illustration techniques, etc. Although I didn't attend all of the whitespace conversations, the ones I did pop in to gave me tools and techniques that are practical and that I'll put in to use right away.

4. Writing time: Perhaps the most important aspect of a retreat is time to write. Most of us have a jobs, and families, and other pressing needs that don't allow hours of unfettered work. We parcel out our writing time to the minute (case in point: right now, I have one hour and forty-five minutes before I have to be home to get dinner for the family). Having an opportunity to think, write, and create, without interruption is truly a gift--and one that everyone in attendance was grateful for. Even the full time writers, who don't have day jobs, need that time away from other responsibilities to refresh and refocus. We work out plot problems and come up with creative solutions because we have more time to think, instead of keeping an eye on the clock.

Being a writer is about creativity and imagination and fun--totally. But there are a lot of practical elements that go in to this vocation, too. By the end of the weekend, I was reenergized about my latest project and thinking about my career in different ways. I'm thankful for the organizers of Kindling Words (all writers, themselves) for taking their time to put together such an incredible gift for this community.

Hopefully I'll get to go again next year!


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Edgar & I Have History

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Wow. 2014 has started off with fireworks. Big time.

Yesterday I found out that Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking was nominated for an Edgar Award. Most people outside of the writing community aren't familiar with this award--it's not as recognizable as the Pulitzer, or National Book Award, or the Newbery & Caldecott. So a little about Edgar...

The Mystery Writers of America has been giving Edgars since 1945, to honor the best in mystery writing for the previous year in print and television (there used to be film and radio awards, too!). Named for Edgar Allan Poe, who's considered to be the father of the detective story, the award is given at a gala banquet in NYC each spring.

And holy shnikey, Moxie is on their short list! It is one of five novels in the Juvenile Fiction category!

For me, getting the Edgar nomination was a really big deal--not only because OMG IT'S THE EDGARS! (that's a huge part of it!)--but because of my history with mystery. And Poe.

When I was a kid, my family spent swaths of the summer in southern Rhode Island at my great aunt and uncle's beach house. My great aunt's sister (bear with me here), was an avid mystery reader. So was I. Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Nancy Drew...it didn't matter if it was a tea cozy or hardboiled, kids or "adult" fiction, I was in to mysteries (I wanted to be a detective for a little while). So when we'd visit, Charlotte (the sister), would bring me a stack of whatever she'd finish reading that spring--along with her old Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock magazines. I devoured them. And inevitably, there was an article devoted to each year's Edgar Awards in the stack.

How cool, I'd think. All those mystery writers in one place. Together.

It seemed romantic--and dangerous. The perfect place for a crime!

I'd search the names of nominees and winners to see if there were any that I recognized, and I'd be so thrilled if I did. I'd wanted to be a writer since I was six, but when I was deep into my mystery phase, I decided I could be detective on the side. Reading all those mysteries were a great way for a quiet, fearful girl to go on loads of adventures and get into imaginary trouble. Ultimately, I decided that a life solving crime was not for me, but I've never lost my love of the genre.

Fast forward a couple of decades...

Pregnant with my first child, my husband and I were sorting through name options. We didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl, and coming up with first names was proving to be a challenge. But a middle name? We had that set. We wanted to use a classic American poet/author's name (both of us are writers who overthink stuff)--and there was one American writer who we both greatly admired; no question.

Yes. Our daughter's middle name is Poe. We even celebrate Poe's birthday every year...

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Last year's party. Yes, we have two Poe action figures. And Poe art. And a lunchbox. Maybe a finger puppet. What?

So we live with Poe. Every day.

Deciding to write MOXIE--which, as a mystery, was a departure from my humorous contemporary novels before it--was a big risk. But it was a story I was dying to tell, about a city that I love (where E.A. Poe was born, natch), and I am so grateful that my publisher supported me in trying a new direction. I got to write about a girl going on adventures and getting in to loads of imaginary trouble. And then the MWA got excited about Moxie and her story.

So Edgar and I...we have history. And when I walk into that room on May 1st, it'll all come full circle. All those mystery writers in one place. Together. And I'm one of them! I honestly don't care if I come out of there with a statue; this is more than I could ever, ever have hoped for.

Thanks, Mr. Poe.
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2014 Theme: Be Deliberate

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I am a goal oriented, list making person. I love checking things off and feeling accomplished. So of course, I really like New Year's Resolutions. But last year, instead of making a quantifiable list, I took a page from jbknowles book and chose a theme for 2013: Make the Time. You can see how it went here.

This year, my theme is "Be Deliberate".

Here's how I want to implement that in my life:

Responses: I'm a reactor, a fix-it-quick -er, a talk first, think later -type person. This year, I want to be deliberate in my responses and interactions with others: take a breath (or three) before responding, think about what I'm about to say before I say it, and generally temper my bull-in-a-china-shop approach to plowing through life.

Writing: I'm working on a book right now, and I want to be more deliberate in how I approach my writing life. The night before, I will plan when I'm going to write each day, so I have an hour that I can look forward to and keep sacred. I want to make more deliberate choices in promotion/events and not overextend myself again.

Reading: My daughter is learning to read, and she loves books. I want to ensure that she sees me reading bound novels, not just digital media (typically I read "real" books in bed). So I've instituted Quiet Reading Time every day, where we each take a "real" book and read sitting next to one another. This is my favorite part of the day already (although it can be a challenge with the toddler running around, but even he is getting into it).

Health: 2013 was an awesome year in this regard--I ran 5 5Ks (!) and made a commitment to taking better care of myself. This needs to continue. To that, I want to add being more deliberate about my sleep. My kids are terrible sleepers, up during the night, and as a result, I drag through the day. This year, I want to be better about going to bed early when I need to--and working on getting these kids to stop being nocturnal!

So there we go. Entering 2014 one deliberate step at a time.


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2013 Recap

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The crush of the end of the semester, plus Christmas prep, plus regular mom-stuff, has left me a bit wrung out lately. So when I sat down yesterday to take stock of the year, I didn't expect much. I was pretty surprised at what I found.

Here's an excerpt New Year's entry from January 2013. Notes in blue.

Inspired by jbknowles, who creates a theme for each year, I've decided that my 2013 theme is "Make the Time." Too often, at the end of the day I find myself wondering where the time went (mostly it's been spent playing with small people on the floor of my living room). So I'm going to be more mindful of the time I have and how I'm spending it.

In 2013, I will Make the Time to:

1. Read - I read about 15 books this past year; I'd like to increase that to 20-25. I'm also on the awards committee for the Boston Author's Club, so I'm doing a lot of reading for that. I'll probably exceed that goal, come to think of it.
Whoo! I did! I read over 30 books this year. Not as much as my pre-kid, days, but I'll take it.
2. Write. Every day. - I typically write in big chunks, or steadily when I'm on deadline. This year, I'm going to write something every day--working on a book, or short story, or journal. I want to see what material I have at the end of a full year of writing. I'm giving myself a total of 30 passes for the year, though--30 days I can take off. So far, I've used two of them (unless you count this blog entry). Um. This didn't happen. So, I'm carrying it over to 2014. Writing. Every day.
3. Walk - There's a new-to-us treadmill in the basement. I can't wait to start using it. I'm starting slow at first, with just 30 mins, 3 times per week. Whoo!! Not only did I walk, but I RAN. I started galumphing through the Couch to 5K program with my friend, and worked up to FIVE 5Ks this year. I've made time to take care of myself, made time to commit to it. Success!!
4. Work - My day job is pretty demanding this year. I'm a department head with hiring and budgeting responsibilities, and then there's the regular grading and prep and teaching. Needless to say, I find myself scrambling on Sundays, or Tuesday nights before class. Not this year! I'm going to make the time to get through work in a timely manner. This happened! Although the January semester was hectic, this fall was much more manageable. Having our babysitter come once a week for a couple of hours really contributed to keeping life sane. I plan to continue in the spring.
5. Connect - From conferences and workshops, to just seeing friends more, I want to be more present in the communities I'm part of. Last year I hibernated a little (see "new baby," above), and I missed being part of the groups I love. So far, I'm signed up to present at the Whispering Pines retreat in March, the NESCBWI conference in May, and I have a proposal in for another conference. My girlfriends and I have also talked about getting together more regularly--without kids. Bring it on! Again--success! I got out. Whether it was promoting MOXIE, or attending conferences, or seeing friends, I was "out there" a lot more, post-baby. At times, maybe too much. This fall I felt a little over-extended. Okay, a lot over extended. Lesson learned.

So, 2013, I was more mindful of you. I also made a conscious effort to change my language--whenever I went to say, "I didn't have time to X," I stopped myself and rephrased it: "I didn't make the time to X." A small difference in verbiage, but it actually made a big change in the way I thought about my days and decisions. I made the time to do things that were important to me, and I managed to fit more in than I could have expected.

I've chosen my theme for next year, one that will hopefully piggyback on this year's and keep the momentum going. And I'm not going to wait
until January to get started.

Stay tuned.


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Let's see if I remember how to do this...

1. I miss blogging. Time is at a premium, and I find myself longingly looking at my blog and then turning to something else. I'm glad to get to it today. *waves shyly* Hi!

2. I'm prepping for two big conferences. I'm moderating a panel for the first time ever next weekend, and I'm spending time getting familiar with the books we'll be discussing. It's a big librarian conference--AASL--and I'm nervous. Not nearly as nervous as I am to present in front of a bunch of English teachers at NCTE/ALAN the following week. Eeek!!

3. All this prep means I'm not writing. But that's okay. I'm cooling the jets a little on what will (hopefully) be my 2015 release. I am aiming for February 1 as a completion date, instead of December 1. Happy to have the breathing room and hopefully the book will be better for it.

4. Balancing my priorities is hard. Family, work, writing, promotion...something is always getting dropped. This fall, I've opted to do a lot of in-person events at the expense of virtual outreach; not sure this was the best decision. Winter will see me more on social media, I think. And don't even get me started on the behind the scenes juggling that goes on to make it all happen. So grateful to my family for their patience.

5. But thankful that I get to do this. I am thrilled that these are my problems: Am I spending enough time on twitter? How can I reach out better to teachers? When do I have time to write this week. I mean, really. I'm a lucky gal--a lucky gal who works hard, but lucky nonetheless.


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I am not a runner

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After a lifetime of not-running, avoiding running, and complaining about the idea of running, I've run five 5Ks since June. (If you want great metaphors and inspirational posts about writing and running, there are other places to find those. This is not one of them.)

Truth is, I still don't consider myself "a runner." But I do run. Twice, hopefully three times a week, anywhere from 2.5-4 miles. I run with two friends. Sometimes we meet at a track, sometimes we meet in our neighborhoods (I hate those nights--pavement and hills. UGH). We started the Couch to 5K program back in March, and worked our way through the nine weeks to jogging success. As a goal-oriented, over-achieving type person, I sometimes find it frustrating I don't run particularly well. I gasp (often). I sweat (a lot). I walk (up big hills). But it is that goal-oriented, over-achieving type personality that keeps me out there--I mean, really, I can't let my friends go and be active while I'm sitting at home!

I don't run alone, I don't find it to be a meditation. I don't let the miles unfold under my feet as I work out plot problems or dream up character conflicts. Instead, my focus is totally self-directed: am I going to die (this is usually what I wonder for the first mile)? Is that tightness in my calf going to turn into a Charley horse and bring me to my knees (hasn't happened yet)? How far have we gone? When can we stop?

While we're running, my friend and I chat (she probably doesn't know that I'm doing big whiny-whines in my head. She does now). We catch up on our days, blow off steam about work and kids and 21st century life--I do my chatting and steam blowing in short puffs of coherent conversation, especially when we're really cranking--and we feel virtuous when we're done. At least we got out here, we say. We did that much.

Also, I enjoy having run, and having written, more than I enjoy those activities in the immediate present. The first mile is just terrible, as are my first drafts.

Huh. Writing analogy. There you go.

Despite my complaining, and my not-goodness at it, and not loving it--I am liking it. I like the social part. I like having accomplished something. I like having more energy, even on my most sleep-deprived days.  I like the feeling after, when I'm surprised at how far we've gone.

How far we've come.

Hmmm....

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Whoa. I have a lot going on this fall. Hope to see you at one of these events!

September

Sept. 14 • 3-5pm Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA
"Ghouls, Ghosts, and Gangsters" with Ellen Booraem & Ammi Joan Paquette
Ever wonder how writers create tense or scary situations? What are the steps to writing a chase scene, or the elements needed to surprise or frighten a reader? Join these three authors as they briefly discuss these craft elements, then we'll work together to create some suspenseful scenes of our own. Come prepared to write at the edge of your seat!

Sept. 21 • 11am-4:30pm Boston Teen Author Festival
Cambridge Public Library
I'm on a panel! (I'm not sure which one, yet) And there'll be books! Yay!

Sept. 28 • 10-4pm NESCBWI Encore!

Rhode Island College, Providence
Workshop Session: "Say What?" Crafting Realistic Dialog

Writing convincing, natural-sounding dialogue is one of the most difficult challenges for writers of all levels. In this active workshop session, I will identify what constitutes "good" dialogue, the significance of what is not being said, how to differentiate characters through dialogue, and when to use slang, profanity, and regional dialects. Together, we will explore the common conversational ailments of "floating head" syndrome and its cousin, locomotion-it is, and strategize ways to avoid them. Be prepared to read aloud - developing an "ear" for dialogue requires listening skills as well as writing skills!


October

Oct. 5 • 7-9pm Books on the Square
Providence, RI
Signing and party for MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING! Come to learn about the 1990 Gardner Museum art heist, stay for the book talk.

Oct. 19 • Boston Book Festival

Time & location TBA
I'm on a panel! With other, way cooler, authors. More details to come!

November

Nov. 16 • 10:15-11:30am AASL Conference
Hartford, CT
Panel Moderator: Rising to the Global Challenge: Literature as a Tool for Creating World Citizens
Panelists include: Cynthia Levinson, Ann Haywood Leal, Lynne Kelly, Tara Sullivan, Mitali Perkins, Natalie Lorenzi, Jeannie Mobley, & Mary Sullivan Walsh

Nov. 22 • 11am-12pm NCTE conference
Boston, MA
Signing in the Penguin Booth

Nov. 25 • 11-12pm ALAN Panel Presenter

Boston, MA
Introducing Junior Noir: A Funny, Fun Walk on the Dark Side
Co-presenter: Edgar Award Winner Jack Ferraiolo

More than just bubble gum mysteries a la Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, junior noir features complex subjects with high-stakes payouts. Our session will identify elements of the noir genre and how they manifest in stories for younger readers. Participants will look at specific titles and discuss these elements as they pertain to a range of readers-- from drawing reluctant readers in via suspense and fast pacing, to teaching the literary touchstones of noir to advanced students.




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News

• MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING (Dial 2013) was highlighted in the Atlantic Wire's Summer Reading Roundup!

• TOTAL TRAGEDY was named to the master list of Massachusetts Children's Book Awards 2013-2014

• New book alert! MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING will be in stores July 11 2013

• NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK is out in paperback! And it's on the Texas Lone Star List!

• TOTAL TRAGEDY has been named to the Texas Lone Star list as well as Kansas' KNEA Reading Circle catalog (with a starred recommendation)

• TOTAL TRAGEDY is out in paperback! Ask for it at a bookstore near you.

• TOTAL TRAGEDY has gone into its third printing! Thanks to everyone who bought it!

• MODELS has gone into its fifth printing! Thank you!!

• Have you seen the TT trailer? Go here & check it out:
http://bit.ly/b5xeGw


• Disney's Family Fun Magazine and Girl's Life mag both loved TT! Check out the reviews in their February issues!

• I've signed stock recently at the following stores:
- Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA

• Booklist says, "Some sisterly bonding, the sweet flutterings of a first romance, and a creatively contrived comeuppance for the mean girls make [TOTAL TRAGEDY] a cheerful read for younger middle-schoolers."