Category Archives: Events

Book Tour: Southern California Edition

This spring, I have teamed up with the lovely author Elana K. Arnold for a book tour. We’re a great match up because we both have new middle grade novels (A BOY CALLED BAT and the QUARTZ CREEK RANCH series) as well as new young adult novels (WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF and POINTE, CLAW). For each stop on our tour, we are doing both a middle grade event and a YA event. I’ve just returned from the Southern California leg of our tour, and I am bubbly with things to report!

#1

Elana has a bird named Bird, a cat, and two dogs, including this endearing fluffball, who won my heart even though she ate my toothbrush!

#2

The Getty Museum is an architectural marvel perched on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. The paintings inside and the gardens outside were spectacular.

#3

Highland Park has vegan tacos and vegan donuts and men in high-waisted plaid pants. The Pop-Hop is a very cool bookstore, and I got to hang out with Antonio Sacre, one of my favorite writer-storytellers.


#4

Once Upon a Storybook in Tustin has reading nooks, a mouse door, and a wall of fame for authors to sign. I saw lots of my fav books on the shelves including VOLCANO RISING, THE MUSIC OF LIFE, THE SOMEDAY BIRDS, and RAMBLER STEALS HOME.


#5

Gatsby Books in Long Beach has a store cat, a Carrie Fisher super fan, and was hosting a Night Vale event right after Elana and I talked about Feminism and the Female Body. I regret that I did not buy a t-shirt!

#6

Planning an extra play day turned out to be a stroke of brilliance. The beach had whales and dolphins and lots of teeny-tiny bath suit bottoms.

#7

We ate at Snow Monster, and I found my new life motto.

#8

Being with Elana K. Arnold is incredibly inspiring. She’s a brilliant, deep thinker, and her books are some of the best I’ve ever read. We wrote together every day,  talked about our new WIPs, and debriefed this weird business we work in. She fed me donuts and let me hang out with her super cool family. I am grateful to call her my friend.

#9

We are coming for you in the Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle. Click here to go to my events page for details.

When You Don’t Win

(Photo by Laura Stanfill)
At the Oregon Book Award

I have attended the Oregon Book Awards for years. I love being in the Gerding Theater when it’s packed with other people who love stories and who understand what it takes to create a life of words.

I was thrilled when THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN was selected as a finalist for the young adult literature award. And of course, as the awards ceremony approached, I thought about winning. I wanted to stand on the stage and be acknowledged as a valued member of the Oregon writing community. I wanted to get a little more love for a book that hasn’t sold as well as I had hoped. And most of all I wanted to share it with the family and friends that have been in the trenches with me.

When the awards ceremony finally rolled around, I was nervous. I picked my outfit careful. I invited my people, who came in a rowdy, optimistic crowd. I wrote a  speech. My anxiety was subtle but present. I wanted the book to be recognized, and I feared that if it weren’t then I might somehow think less of my own work.

As it turned out, I did not win.

Was I disappointed? Yes. Not a lot, but a little. It never feels good to be passed over. It always hurts a little to have your work judged and found wanting. So yeah, I felt a little bad, and I worried about letting down my family and friends who came to the awards ceremony ready to cheer for me.

But the next day, I visited a class at one of Portland’s alternative high schools. The students had just finished a unit based on THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN. We had a really good conversation about the book. These teens, whose lives are anything but easy, connected to Rakmen and his story. They got what I was trying to do.  And this ultimately is what really matters to me—that a reader who needs a story like this finds it.

I didn’t win, but losing didn’t make me feel any different about my book. I wrote the book I need to write and I put it out into the world. That feels like an accomplishment. So in honor of that, I’m going to share with you the speech I wrote but did not get to give on the stage at the Gerding. I mean every word of it.

I wrote a book about the saddest, hardest thing that ever happened to me—the death of my daughter, Esther Rose. It took 10 years to be ready to write it. It took me another five to actually write it. 

That I’m standing here, that I survived much less that I wrote a book is a testament to those who held space for my grief as well as my writing: my husband, my parents, my other children, my writing group, my closest friends, my agent. Most of them are here tonight.

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe it was my moral responsibility to make meaning out of tragedy. THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN contains everything I know about grief and loss and the healing power of wilderness. 

It turned out that the writing of this book was my own way back from broken. And that’s a good thing. I’m proud of the book, but it exists because my daughter died. And the complex, sweet pain of that is staggering. 

Such is the power of story, and I am so grateful to share it with each of you.

Repeating the Ancient Tale

On Saturday, my sweet daughter will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah. She will lead our community in ancient prayers and chant ancient words, and more importantly she will find her own meaning in them.

As Jews, our task is to wrestle with narrative–to preserve history, to reinterpret the past, and to write new stories that will carry us into the future. It’s a tradition that resonates with me as a writer and as a person who has seen again and again the power of stories to change lives.

Also on Saturday, in a beautiful intersection of occurrences, my next novel, POINTE, CLAW, enters the world. Somehow it seems fitting that this book, which wrestles with the challenges girls and women face in our culture, is born alongside my daughter’s passage into adulthood in the Jewish community. It’s a fierce story and she is a fierce girl.

I hope you’ll understand that I’ll be focusing on my daughter this weekend. Book celebrations will follow later in the week. I’ll be posting a series of answers to questions posed by early readers of POINTE, CLAW–some serious, some goofy, some revelatory–also I’ll be sharing a mind-blowing review by a teen reader. Lots of book events to come in Los Angeles area, the Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle. Details here.

To close, I want to leave you with one of my favorite poems. (I honestly don’t know the author. It’s been attributed to multiple people.) I’ve shared it before. These are words I return to again and again. I offer them in love.

We are simply asked
to make gentle our bruised world
to be compassionate of all,
including oneself,
then in the time left over
to repeat the ancient tale
and go the way of God’s foolish ones.

This weekend we repeat the ancient tale and go forth to make gentle this bruised world. Join us.

 

Pony Parties are the Best!

One of the bright spots in January 2017 has been launching the Quartz Creek Ranch series that I co-authored with Kiersi Burkhart. We are so proud of these books for 9-12 year olds. Each one is full of a diverse cast of characters, taking on real issues in heartfelt ways. The ensemble nature of the books makes them a ton of fun both to read and to write, and of course, horses make everything better!

Our Oregon launch party at Roundabout Books was a great success. We told horse jokes, played pin the stirrup on the pony, challenged our knowledge with horse trivia, and ate cupcakes. It was super! Thanks to Arwen, Lily, and Beryl for being amazing party planners and to Cassie for hosting our fun event!

Here are some highlights:

And of course, you can order books any time! Click here for buy links!

Booklover’s Burlesque–Come Curious, Leave Transformed

loungeI write frequently about claiming space—space to create, space to protest, space to explore sexuality. On a day-to-day scale, claiming space is about getting an entire seat on the bus to yourself or calling out microagressions or expressing your own desires. On the scale of a life, it’s about staking out our territory in the world and claiming the right to be our true selves.

One of the things that I hoped to accomplish when I put together THE V-WORD was to create a space for conversations about who we are sexually and who we want to be sexually. I wanted to break through the wall of “nice girls don’t” and “boys will be boys” to reach a truer place.

Reading THE V-WORD was supposed to feel like sitting down with a smart group of older sisters or aunties and realizing that our sexual selves don’t need to be shoved in a closet. It wasn’t supposed to be erotic or titillating.

So why—you might ask—am I celebrating the publication of THE V-WORD with a burlesque show? Young adult readers can’t even attend. And talk about titillating… We’ve all seen those pictures of Josephine Baker and Bettie Page—va-va-voom!

Well here’s the deal, when we get sexual with someone else, we bring our whole selves to the table—our emotions, our desires, our bodies, and our baggage. For many, how we feel about our bodies and how we claim space to inhabit those bodies can be pretty conflicted.

What I love about modern burlesque is that it empowers performers to celebrate their bodies—scrawny, curvy, old, young, variously abled—it’s all there on the stage to delight and yes, to titillate. They are performing for an audience, and yes, the performers want you to love it. But burlesque is just as much for performers as for the audience.

I love this TEDx talk by Lillian Bustle (definitely watch the whole thing and read this profile)! She says that when she saw her first burlesque performance she was blown away by the “daring, creative, funny women of all shapes and sizes [who looked] like they could walk through fire.” She wanted the confidence to claim the territory of her body and to love it. Lillian became a burlesque performer and says it is her “courage reference,” which means ”doing something brave and keeping that feeling in your pocket for times when you’re not feeling so brave anymore.”

Burlesque is far more than striptease. It is a form of creative expression that supposes, as Lillian says, that “Being beautiful is a decision that you make. Most of us sit around waiting for permission, for affirmation, for some other [person] to swoop in and tell us that we’re worthy, that we’re beautiful. It doesn’t have to be like that … you get to wake up one day and decide that you’re beautiful.”

If you believe girls and women should be able to explore, discover, and own their sexuality without shame, then COME to Booklover’s Burlesque: The V-Word on Friday, April 8th, at Crush Bar! You can help support the movement of encouraging young women to find, fight for, and use their voices when it comes to their sexual lives.

Come curious.
Leave transformed.

(And don’t forget to get your tickets in advance!)

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 7.27.32 AM

Readings by Amber Keyser, Sara Ryan, Kate Gray, and others!

Performances by Fannie Fuller, Lily Le Fauve, Judy Patootie,
Honey Le Fleur, Paige Rustles, and Lacy Knickers!

Books available for purchase!

Friends, pie, drawbridges, books and one happy author

This weekend I celebrated the release of my debut novel THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN at two amazing bookstores: Secret Garden Books in Seattle and A Children’s Place in Portland. It was surreal, humbling, exhilarating, exhausting, and wonderful. It is also a story best told in pictures.

IMG_6669
Rocked out to The Pointer Sisters while waiting for the Ballard Bridge.
IMG_6663
Ballard had braced itself for my arrival.
My road trip companions were amazing
My road trip companions were amazing!
They got me pie!
They got me pie!
I was much more nervous than I look in this picture!
I was much more nervous than I look in this picture.
You should all go to Secret Garden Books and buy a million books.
You should all go to Secret Garden Books and buy a million books. Only one of them has to be mine.
There was a secret reunion of the Mudflat Heathens. I am forbidden from revealing more.
There was a secret reunion of the Mudflat Heathens. I am forbidden from revealing more.
Perhaps 1/2 of Portland showed up the next day!
Perhaps 1/2 of Portland showed up the next day!
Seriously... half of Portland and ALL of my old creative team!
Seriously… half of Portland and ALL of my old creative team!
I got to do my reading in a forest!
I got to do my reading in a forest!
People left with fun swag and books and I left with a very full heart.
People left with fun swag and books.

And I left with a very full heart.

A huge thank you to my tribe!

I am blessed!

 

Book people are better than the Queen

Book people… you know the ones.

They run book stores. They are teachers and librarians. They craft careful displays of excellent books on Africa or antique airplanes or civil rights or poet-adventurers. Book people hold a book to their chests and then press it into your hands saying, “I love this story.”

Parents and children. Writers and readers. Tea drinkers and skateboarders. Scientists and artists. Book people share words and ideas and emotions and experiences. They will read Sailor Moo, Cow at Sea a hundred times. A thousand. Book people realize that they have two, maybe three, copies of the same book on their shelves. They shrug and say, “I loved it so much!”

Oh but book people are the best humans…

Patti at PNBAIt was my delight to spend the weekend with book people extraordinaire, first at the Pacific NW Booksellers Association Trade Show and then at the Oregon Council of Teachers of English and Social Studies Conference.

I did my first ever book signing for THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN and was thrilled to have the first book go to Patti, an educator that I met several years ago during a school visit. With the Queen

I had the distinct pleasure of exchanging books with Sheila Hamilton (ALL THE THINGS WE NEVER KNEW) and Ellen Urbani (LANDFALL).You are going to want to read these books!

I even gave the Queen a copy of my book. But you know what?

Hanging out with the book people was better! XO

 

You Do NOT Have To Save the World

On VivaScriva.com, a blog about critique and the writing process, I recently blogged about using Publisher’s Marketplace to get a handle on what kinds of manuscripts are and are not selling in today’s YA market.  (Get the nitty gritty details here.)  These patterns are still dominating my thoughts.

Even as the number of titles featuring zombies, dystopias, ghosts, murders, etc have surged, peaked, and ebbed, I’ve notice one thing that doesn’t seem to be changing.  There are a whole lot of main characters who have to, at least according to the log line, SAVE THE FREAKING WORLD.  Think Bruce Willis plus asteroids for the YA set.   Confession: I’ve written log lines like this for my own book.  (Hangs head in shame.  Plans to revise.)

As a fan, I love epic fantasy, but as a reader and writer, I’m captivated by fully-fleshed, step-off-the-page-real characters.  Hence my love for THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green and CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein.  The characters in these books are heroic.  They are heroic because they live richly and die bravely.  They don’t have to save the world.

Real teens live many lives–protected and dangerous, religious and not, lonely and social, quiet and loud, painful and triumphant–but very few of them have to single-handedly deflect an astroid from hitting Earth and thus save all humankind.  They just don’t.

They often have to survive terrible things and books can buoy them up.  (If you weren’t immersed in the loud and raucous #YAsaves conversation last year, this link will get you up to speed.)  They also like to have fun (one of the reasons I often prefer spending time with teens rather than adults).  Fun in real life and fun in reading.

Last night I attended to book launch for POISON, the debut YA novel by the late Bridget Zinn.  The tag line reads “Can she save the kingdom with a piglet?”  That’s right!  WITH A PIGLET!  What follows is about as far from the doom-and-gloom of the recent rush of teens-killing-teens as you can get.  Think THE PRINCESS BRIDE–good, silly fun.

It’s a good reminder in these dark days of YA that we can write stories about characters who don’t have to save the world.  All they–and we–have to do is create authentic lives, whatever that may look like.  And like Bridget, we should try to leave something good behind.

My heros (and genuinely FUN adults): the YA literati of Portland launching Bridget’s book with cupcakes and good cheer

 

Graph Your Novel (Seriously!) – Guest Post by Me @wilwrite

I’m excited to be on the faculty at the Willamette Writers Conference  in early August.  I’ll be talking about using critique to enhance your writing life, and I’m bringing my Angel Punk manpack to talk about transmedia.

If you want to join me (which would be amazing and cooler than cupcakes), click here to register.

And you can follow the conference blog to get more from all the faculty in advance.  My guest blog — Graph Your Novel (Seriously!) — appears on here and a teaser below…

If writing a first draft is like trying to out-run an avalanche, revision resembles digging out with a shovel.  Any tool that can cut through the details and provide a panoramic view of the shape of our story is useful.  Try a graph—seriously!

Pick 1-3 things that you want to focus on and that you can rate on a 1-10 scale.  Some examples include voice, pace, likeability of a character, emotional intensity, conflict, fluidity of language, narrative coherency, moving plot forward, or a character’s transition from one state to another.  If a critique partner is doing this for you, asking if s/he’s “lost” will help analyze backstory components.  One of my critique group members analyzed the “turn the page factor” on a scale from 1, completely uninterested, to 10, can’t stop to pee.  Read more…