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!!
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.
- Current Location:Panache Coffee
- Current Mood: contemplative
- Current Music:Jane's Addiction
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.
- Current Location:Panache Coffee
- Current Mood: accomplished
- Current Music:Radio BDC.com
Sept. 14 • 3-5pm Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA
"Ghouls, Ghosts, and Gangsters" with Ellen Booraem & Ammi Joan Paquette
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!
Oct. 5 • 7-9pm Books on the Square
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!
Nov. 16 • 10:15-11:30am AASL Conference
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
Signing in the Penguin Booth
Nov. 25 • 11-12pm ALAN Panel Presenter
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.
- Current Mood: busy
Book release day is the "official" on-sale date for a novel. Even though Amazon shipped it a little early, or some stores may have had it on the shelves for a day or two (and this is basically okay unless your book is a Super Amazing Title like HUNGER GAMES, TWILIGHT, or anything by Dan Brown). Today is the book's birthday.
Even though review copies of MOXIE have been around since October, and professional reviews like Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal have been out for several weeks, it's nerve wracking to know that people--real people, people that I know (or don't know)--can now read it. It makes me wonder, "did I do a good enough job?" "What if people are bored by it?" "What if no one likes it?" "What if there's a mistake in there that no one noticed until NOW?"
And, worst of all, "What if NO ONE READS IT?" Gah!
A lot of time goes in to a book--time away from my family, my friends, cleaning my house--and this novel, especially, feels very dear to me. It is a book I had a strong vision for, is a story that I was really excited to tell, and has a character who I adore. It's also a bit of a love letter to Boston. The city appears as a character in the novel, and I really want readers from near and far to understand Boston's uniqueness.
And now it's out there. I'm trying to breathe.
What's making me feel awesome are all the congratulatory Facebook posts, tweets, texts, and emails that I've received today. I'm so lucky to be surrounded by people who support me and are excited for me. Thank you.
My plan for today is low key: I'm home with the kids. We'll run some errands later; if I can get a chance to put myself together maybe we'll stop by a local book store or two and I'll sign some copies. Maybe tonight I'll toast with my Fabulous Husband. I might go for a run. But I'll be thinking about Moxie, wondering what the people who pick it up in the bookstore, or who download it on their eReader, think about her. And feeling pretty proud that I brought her into the world.
- Current Location:Home
- Current Mood: accomplished
Moxie is pretty awesome.
She lives in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood of Boston, in a two-family house with her mom. Her grandmother, Nini, lives in the downstairs apartment. Her grandfather, Grumps, used to live there, too, but he has Alzheimer's and now is in a care facility. Moxie is street smart. She's got a thing for funky patterned tights. But, more than anything, Moxie is into music. Specifically, Boston music--punk, classic, ska, and rock. Her taste in music reflects who she is--maybe a little "off step" from the rest of the kids in her grade, deeply attached to her hometown, and a bit edgy.
I've made a playlist of some of Moxie's favorite songs. They were songs that I listened to a lot while I was writing the book, songs that Moxie listens to in the novel, and there's even one that Moxie doesn't like. You figure out which one that is.
You can find the playlist on Spotify if you're into that (you can follow me there--bostonerin). If you're not, here's the track list:
Aerosmith – Sweet Emotion
Aerosmith – Seasons of Wither (Live)
Dropkick Murphys – I'm Shipping Up To Boston
Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Where'd You Go
Dropkick Murphys – Memorial Day
The Del Fuegos – Don't Run Wild
The Cars – You Might Think
The Standells – Dirty Water
Letters To Cleo – Cruel To Be Kind
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Impression That I Get - Album Version (Edited)
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Someday I Suppose
J. Geils Band – Freeze-Frame - 2006 - Remaster
The J. Geils Band – Musta Got Lost - Live
The Cars – Good Times Roll
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – I Want My City Back
Dropkick Murphys – The Boys Are Back
Aerosmith – Come Together
Dropkick Murphys – Sunshine Highway
Dann Russo – Ruby Red Hair
Letters To Cleo – I Want You To Want Me
If you're not familiar with these tunes, I hope you check them out. I'd love to know if you find a new favorite.
- Current Mood: cheerful
- Current Music:Dropkick Murphys
The first time I attended the marathon, I was about 6. My dad took me to a spot on the route--somewhere in Hopkinton? Ashland? I don't really remember where we were, but it didn't matter because I was fascinated by watching thousands of people run by in their 80s short-shorts. Where were they going? Why was it going to take them so long to get there? Could I do that?
Fast forward through a dozen years, several moves, and most of my freshman year at Boston College. BC is past the top of Heartbreak Hill, at approximately mile 21 on the route. We cheered the runners on from Main Gate or Comm Ave. By that time, I knew that I wasn't a runner and would probably never muster the courage to jog more than a mile, let alone 26.2 of them. But that made me respect these people all the more. Their discipline. Their commitment. Their incredibly inspirational spirit. Their absolute craziness. Some people ran in costume, some ran hurt, some ran like it was the easiest thing they'd done all week and others like every step might be their last. But they were out there. My junior year, I lived off campus, right in Cleveland Circle--a block away from the route's curve from Chestnut Hill Ave onto Beacon Street that is so treacherous for wheelchair racers. That was also the Marathon's 100th year. The crowds were massive. There were thousands of extra runners. I remember watching from Beacon Street, screaming for racers to "Go! Go! Go! Four point two miles to go!"
When I graduated from BC, I moved to Brighton--the Commonwealth Ave side of Washington Street, where my roommates and I could walk down the street several blocks right into Washington Square to cheer on the runners. By that time, I was a marathon die-hard. I also learned the stories behind some of the runners, like the Hoyts. Dick Hoyt has run the marathon, pushing his son Rick in his wheelchair, almost every single year since 1981. This year, John Hancock Financial services commissioned and dedicated a bronze statue of the two of them at the starting line in Hopkinton. They were a mile away from the finish line yesterday when the explosions happened. Or Johnny Kelley, who competed in the marathon 61 times.
After living in Brighton for a couple of years, it was time to get my own apartment. I had a job in publishing, and a car, but I couldn't afford anything in the vicinity of the city. So I struck out along the marathon route--figuring that as long as people could run to Boston from where I lived, I wasn't too far away from the city that I worked in, hung out in, and loved. I ended up in Natick. My apartment complex driveway opened onto Rte 135--right at mile 8. And on Saturday mornings in March, the training groups would start showing up, dodging frozen puddles of mud, braving fickle New England temperatures, testing out the route. On Marathon Monday, I'd go out and watch the runners with my neighbors--and, one year, with my boyfriend's brother. But I never watched the marathon with my boyfriend.
See, my boyfriend at the time--now known as FabHusband--had his own Marathon Monday tradition: tickets to the Red Sox game. It's the only major league baseball game played at 11am on a Monday. So when the bulk of the runners are coming down Beacon St, through Kenmore Square, the attendees at the Sox game are there to greet them and cheer them on. We'd meet up later; I'd get the game recap and give him a summary of who I saw--Will Ferrell, Tedy Bruschi, the Hoyts, some guy dressed as a clown, whatever.
I had the crazy idea that I could run it.
No. Too crazy.
But I walked it. Twice? Three times? I did it as part of the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, raising money for cancer research. My friend Erica did it with me. It happens in the fall, not on actual marathon Monday, but it's on the actual route and oh my God, did I have an even greater appreciation for those who ran. I walked through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Chestnut Hill, Brookline, and into Boston. Holy moly, that's FAR. Those runners are AMAZING.
When FabHusband and I got married and bought our house--yeah. We're on the marathon route in Framingham. Our street empties out about a mile from Rte 135. And so I've gone: alone, with the dog, pregnant with CC, pushing her in her stroller and holding her hand. FabHusband still goes to the Sox game.
And then came last year. Bugger, my son, was barely three months old. My cousin had won her way to elite runner status in the Boston Marathon. We had a party at my house at 8am--my parents,aunts, uncles, cousins, her boyfriend, her boyfriend's dad--and went up the street to cheer her on, wheeling baby #2 in the stroller. She came in 15th for the women in 2012! Amazing. And this year, same thing: elite runner, bib F26. Her boyfriend had qualified, too, and was running with bib 1067. She finished 21st for the women, shaving 11 minutes off last year's time (last year a lot of elite runners were prepping for the Olympics); he finished in just over 3 hours, at 1:15. We are so proud of them.
They left the finish line at 2:30. Safely.
I'm heartbroken. Devastated. Angry. A day that is designed around the celebration of the human spirit, courage, and determination--a day designed for family and friends--a day that my favorite city celebrates joyously; destroyed. I'm furious that next year, and forever, there will be a shadow. A pall. There will be sadness and mourning and remembering. It shouldn't be that way. The sidewalk I've walked on hundreds--thousands--of times should not be splashed with blood and shown on the news. It should have been covered confetti and Dunkin Donuts cups that were whisked away over night--not frozen in a crime scene. Tufts and the Brigham and BI and Mass General and BMC should be treating shin splints and sprains, not shrapnel wounds. I should be able to scan the news coverage for shots of my cousin at the starting line (you could totally see her in the morning), not turning off the TV to hide this sorrow from my kids. I shouldn't be feeling grateful that everyone at my house yesterday went to Heartbreak Hill to cheer her on and skipped the finish line. I should be feeling proud of sharing this tradition with people who don't usually come to Boston.
I am thankful that the race volunteers, police and medical teams at the finish line reacted so quickly to triage and treat the wounded; and I am not surprised at the generosity of Bostonians offering shelter, and coats, and landlines and wifi and hugs and hand holding. The people who live here are good people.
I shouldn't have to write this today. I shouldn't have to remind you--and myself--of the wonderful parts of the marathon, that for 116 years was run in peace and with joy. You shouldn't have to feel sad, or shocked, or afraid to come here, or go out, or attend an event. We shouldn't need your prayers.
But we do.
And this is the thing with love stories. Sometimes you get hurt. Sometimes things go wrong, and you don't know why. And you learn to live with the hole in your heart, but it never goes away.
- Current Location:Panache Coffee
- Current Mood: sad
- Current Music:Dirty Water, The Standells
So, earlier today we learned that the FBI has some leads on the Gardner heist--you know, the theft of 13 priceless works of art from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum? My July release, MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING is based on the theft. Moxie is feisty and smart, and comes from a very unusual family. When a stranger appears at her door, the visit launches her into a race against the clock to solve this decades old mystery.
But I'm not the only one writing about the theft. Kate Messner, author of so many fabulous books, including the Silver Jaguar mystery series, and I were drawn to an article in today's Boston Globe.
Here's the article headline:
FBI says it has identified the thieves in Gardner Museum heist; paintings’ location still unknown (read the article here)
Kate and I started tweeting back and forth as the news broke--her Silver Jaguar mystery series features a villainous international ring of art thieves--and we decided to take our conversation to our blogs. Here's a more formal look at her books and what she thinks about the theft at the Gardner 23 years ago:
• The Gardner Heist is referenced in almost all of your Silver Jaguar books, right? Can you tell me how, as an upstate New Yorker, you learned about and connected with this mystery?
The Silver Jaguar Society mysteries begin with CAPTURE THE FLAG, which came out this past summer. The books are about Anna, Henry, and Jose -- three kids whose families are part of a secret society to protect the world’s artifacts. The group’s arch rivals are a gang of international art thieves known as the Serpentine Princes -- criminal masterminds who are suspects in just about every unsolved art heist history has known, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.
I was actually drawn to this heist when I started researching art thieves in history as I developed the characters in the Serpentine Prince gang. Two heists in particular stood out -- a stunning (and still unsolved) 1972 break-in at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the thefts at the Gardner Museum -- and there are mentions of both starting with the second book in the series, HIDE AND SEEK, which comes out next week. The connection grows in the third book, MANHUNT, which is coming in Spring 2014.
• I know you do a lot of on-site research for your novels. Did you tour the Gardner while you were writing the books in the series? What was something unexpected or interesting that you learned about the theft, or the museum, when you visited?
The third book in the Silver Jaguar Society Series is set in Boston and Paris, and I spent time in both cities researching the museums, other sites, and especially works of art that are woven into the plot. That included the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (and like you, I also did lots of reading and viewing - LOVED the documentary STOLEN!)
Two things really struck me about the museum -- first, those empty frames on the wall. They really do invoke a tremendous sense of loss. And the second thing that has really stayed with me is John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner herself. The painting is striking on its own, but I couldn’t help thinking about it in connection with the heist. She was there, in her museum, when the thieves sliced those canvases from the frames!
• What do you think happened to the art?
I was quite sure Vincent Goosen and the other Serpentine Prince members had stolen it until this week’s news broke from the FBI. Now I shall need to reevaluate... :-)
• Can you share an excerpt from one of the books that references the Gardner Museum and the empty frames?
Sure - and actually, in this scene, there is a new (fictional!) empty frame...
In MANHUNT, Henry visits the museum with his aunt the morning after a massive international art heist that resulted in the loss of more than a dozen works of art around the globe.
Aunt Lucinda’s stop turned out to be a seriously fancy-pants museum. “I can’t believe I’ve never brought you here,” she said as they walked through the big wooden door. “The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is one of my favorites.” She sighed. “It’s so sad you won’t get to see her.”
“Is she out of town or something?” Henry looked around at the chandeliers and sculptures.
“Oh, no. She’s been dead for nearly a hundred years,” Aunt Lucinda said, leading Henry upstairs and through a room full of paintings.
“I’m pretty sure I don’t need to see her then.”
“I wasn’t talking about seeing her in person,” Aunt Lucinda said, turning a corner. “I was talking about this.” She pointed to a plain brown frame that seemed to be showing off the wallpaper behind it.
Aunt Lucinda was getting weirder by the minute, Henry decided. “Is that, like, her ghost?”
“It was her portrait, Henry. Until last night.” Aunt Lucinda rummaged her in hand bag, pulled out a museum brochure, and flipped it open to a page with a painting of a tall lady in a black dress.
“She used to be in here?” Henry pointed to the empty frame.
Aunt Lucinda nodded and blinked her watery eyes. “I used to come stand in front of her when I felt like I needed wisdom or strength for a society mission.” She looked around quickly, then lowered her voice. “She was one of us, you know.”
“Oh!” Henry looked more closely at the lady in the brochure painting. Her eyes looked worried, as if she’d known all those years ago being painted that she’d be stolen some day.
• Kate, that is one of my favorite paintings! The Silver Jaguars better find it! Anything else that you want to add?
Just that I’m thrilled to have a fellow art heist geek sharing my excitement over this new development in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. I so hope they find the art unharmed. If and when they do, I think we should make a date to take our books to visit the day it goes back on display.
- Current Location:home
- Current Mood: happy
What is the Next Big Thing? It is an author blog tour. What’s a blog tour? A blog tour gives those on the tour a chance to meet different authors by way of their blogs. The Next Big Thing began in Australia. Each week a different author answers specific questions about his or her upcoming book. The answers are posted on author’s blogs. Then we get to tag another author. On and on it goes.
First, the questions.
What is the title of your next book?
MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING: A 14 Day Mystery. It releases on July 11, 2013 and is the first in a three book set. I can't wait!!
A little about it: Moxie Fleece knows the rules and follows them--that is, until the day she opens her front door to a mysterious stranger. Suddenly Moxie is involved in Boston's biggest unsolved mystery: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist. Moxie has two weeks to find the art, otherwise she and the people she loves will be in big-time danger.
Her tools? Her best friend, Ollie, a geocaching addict who loves to find stuff; her Alzheimer's suffering grandfather, Grumps, who knows lots more than he lets on; and a geometry proof that she sets up to sort out the clues.
It's a race against the clock through downtown Boston as Moxie and Ollie break every rule she's ever lived by to find the art and save her family.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
On March 18, 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers were let into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum after hours. They tied up the guards and walked away with 13 works of art, which have never been seen since. I live outside of Boston, and from the very first time I stepped into the Gardner, I've been fascinated by the theft. What happened to the paintings? Why haven't they turned up? Who has them? I had to write about it. So I thought about it for years until I finally found a character who figured into the story of the heist: Moxie Fleece.
What genre does your book fall under?
Contemporary mystery/adventure middle grade fiction
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oooh....I'd LOVE Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on Mad Men, to play Moxie. Her best friend, Ollie, is biracial: Caucasian and Korean. I'd like to see an unknown play him--and then he can star in the companion movie to MOXIE.
Who is publishing your book?
Penguin's Dial Books for Young Readers imprint
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I started writing it in 2010, and finished a draft in 2011. It took about a year--and then the revisions began!
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My fascination with the Gardner mystery really inspired the novel, as did my love of my adopted hometown of Boston. There are a ton of Boston landmarks and Boston-isms in the book. I really wanted readers to feel what it's like to live here.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Oh--so many things! There's Boston punk music, geometry, geocaching, and a really bad guy named Sully Cupcakes. It's a race-against-the-clock mystery and is super exciting.
Okay, I'm tagging Ellen Booraem next. Her book is also set in Boston. Wait'll you hear about it!
- Current Location:Panache coffee
- Current Mood: accomplished
- Current Music:REM, "The One I Love"