"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why Boys Aren't Reading

Some of you may know I volunteer one day a week at my son's elementary school library. Why do I love this?
  • First, I get to be there when my son's class comes in.
  • Second, the kids recognize me.
  • Third, I'm around books, get to see what's checked out, get to read once all the books are shelved.
  • And fourth, the kids ask me for recommendations. This, I think, is my favorite part. (okay, actually it's seeing my son, but this is a close second).
Anyway, most of the time, the kids who ask for recommendations are the boys, especially in the fantasy section. This past week I recommended GREGOR THE OVERLANDER and CITY OF EMBER to name a couple.

I noticed a couple weeks ago fliers being handed out advertising a mother/daughter book club. Great idea, isn't it, and I've always thought once my five-year-old daughter is old enough, I would love to do this with her. But this past week it dawned on me—why is it always a mother/daughter book club? What about the boys?

We talk about how boys stop reading as they get older. We make lists of recommended books for the boys to get them to read. But are we part of the problem by not encouraging it as a "boy" activity even at a young age? When boys see these fliers for book clubs, does it associate reading with girls? Does it make reading seem less cool. Ask yourself does it encourage them to read more or less?

I'm going to do my part, not to get boys reading, but to KEEP boys reading. I vow to start a son/parent book club next year when my son hits fourth grade. It seems like the perfect age to nurture the love of reading I see in so many boys who walk into that library. They want to read cool books.
So who's with me? Who's willing to start their own son/parent book club?


More personal notes:

Special thank you to Reader Rabbit for the awesome review of THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD. My favorite line from the review:
"The Navel of the World is one of those wonderful times where the sequel of a series is even better than the first. It was funnier, more original and faster paced. This book was just so much fun to read!

Have you been curious about Critter? Check out his newest adventures with Beth Revis at Writing it Out! have fun, Critter!

If you live in the Austin area, please come to a joint book release party I'm having with Jessica Lee Anderson, author of the upcoming BORDER CROSSING.
Sunday, October 18th, 2009

And have a great week!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reading for Craft

I wrote a post over at The Enchanted Inkpot the other day titled WISE OLD MAN—CHARACTERS AND CLICHÉ. For it, I dug out a couple of my books on craft, namely THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell and THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler. Okay, I watched a couple Star Wars movies, too, but that was sheer good fortune of my kids asking yet again to watch them. Obi Wan and Yoda are definitely nice mentor figures.

Anyway, my point is that while writing the post I realized how long it's been since I sat down and read a book on craft through. Probably nearly a year. I've done a ton of reading but not a book on craft.

I read in someone's blog post the other day that the theory was out there that if you are reading then you are reading for craft and that craft books could be a bit superfluous. Do I think this is true? No way.

Just skimming through THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler made me realize how much I need to go back and read it again. Reading about his thoughts on mentors made me realize what I need to do with my mentors in my current WIP. I can do so much more with them. I can make them have a purpose beyond existing. (And for the record, my current WIP has two distinguishable mentors.)

Some of my favorite craft books just to pick a handful are:

What are your thoughts on craft books? Love them? Never read them? And how often do you re-read?

And Happy Thursday! I'm heading to a librarian event tomorrow, so I'm not sure there will be a Five on a Friday this week. Maybe. Maybe not.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hanging with the gals!

Can I mention how awesome hanging with other authors is? I can? Thanks :)

Hanging out with other authors is priceless. Such a blast. I can't recommend it enough.

Jessica and Me after driving for seven hours :)

Last Thursday and Friday I headed up to Oklahoma to take part in an author panel at the school librarian's conference, Encyclomedia. Our group of ten authors split ourselves into two groups. On Thursday I watched a kick-butt panel with

Stacy Nyikos, author of DRAGON WISHES
Suzanne Morgan Williams, author of BULL RIDER
Jenny Meyerhoff, author of THIRD GRADE BABY
Eileen Cook, author of WHAT WOULD EMMA DO
Cynthea Liu, author of PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE

Jenny, Eileen, Suzy, Cynthea, and Stacy

These gals were awesome, kicked butt, and sold tons of books.

Our Friday panel consisted of

PJ Hoover (me), author of THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD
Jessica Lee Anderson, author of BORDER CROSSING
Zu Vincent, author of THE LUCKY PLACE
Barrie Summy, author of I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES

Barrie, Jessica, Donna, Me (PJ), and Zu

I tend to think we were awesome also, kicked butt also, and sold tons of books also.


Besides the panels, other highlights included dinner with the whole group and author Tammi Sauer, and TV interviews with BJ Williams. You may remember me posting my TV interview from last year here. I'll post the new one when it's up.

Our dinner group at Abuelos

Also I have to mention the darling Maltese one of the vendors brought along each day. Carter made us smile and we vowed to come get him if we needed help selling books. Luckily that wasn't the case :)

Zu, Barrie, Carter the Maltese, Jessica, and Me (PJ)

Thank you, Oklahoma!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Encyclomedia 2009 — Here I come!

I'm off at the crack of dawn (actually before) tomorrow morning. I plan to pick up fabulous Austin author Jessica Lee Anderson (author of TRUDY and the upcoming BORDER CROSSING) and head up I35 to Oklahoma City!

It's going to be a fun, fast two days including our author panel, a book signing, a TV interview, and being able to hang out with authors and librarians. How cool is that!

I'm on the Friday panel with the fab authors on the postcard below:

And there's another panel on Thursday with the authors in this postcard:

I'll post pics and details next week!


In other news, for your chance to win an ARC of THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD (the second book in my trilogy) and a copy of THE AMETHYST ROAD by Louise Spiegler, head over to The Spectacle and mention your favorite thing about fall.


Special happy 5th birthday to my daughter today! We're off to buy tons of art supplies for her after school. And of course eat a cupcake or two.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Skeleton

Toward the end of last week, I finished a first draft of my new WIP. Sure, it's wonderful to get it done, but there's no way I'd ever, ever let anyone read it. Why? My first draft stage sort of goes something like this:

1) Come up with an idea.
2) Write idea down.
3) Brainstorm while working on something else.
4) Work on outline, character worksheets, settings.
* I stay in stage 4 until I have an outline with something that resembles a plot. This plot has plenty of holes in it, but I'm not so concerned.
5) Begin writing.
6) Keep writing. Don't look back.

* During this stage, if for some random reason I realize something I've written needs to change, I make a note in the margin and move on. This can be something minor like changing a character's name or gender or something more major like deciding not to kill off the main character's standard poodle. What this means though is that for someone reading my first draft, the dog may die, but then instantaneously come back to life totally unexplained. I'm good with this. I have a note in the margin to change it. But if I were taking someone else's valuable time to read something of mine, the last thing I want them saying is "the dog died and then came back to life. Is this a zombie novel?" (especially since it is not, in fact, a zombie novel).

I like to think of my first draft as being some random sketch of the human body. There are bones missing. Most of it is void of all muscle and skin. Some patches have skin and even a bit of hair, and the baby teeth are just starting to come in. But wait, someone took away one of the femurs; this thing can't stand.

Those writers who outline and stick too it may be aghast at my method. But it works for me. It gives me the skeleton I need to revise. I'm looking at probably re-typing the entire thing this time around. I only realized the true role of two of the minor characters once I reached the end of the novel. I wrote in present tense and I want to change to past. My dual POV characters took plenty of time to find their voices, and even then, they forgot them throughout.
But the bones are there.

How about you? What does your first draft look like?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday! I feel like I'm finally back in my normal school year groove. I even made it to my son's school library to volunteer today. Love that both copies of THE EMERALD TABLET were checked out!

My five for the week:

1) It's the moment you've all waited so patiently for. Who will get Critter?

Critter's friend is sad. Or if I was pretending to show and not tell, I may say, "Tears pour from Critter's best friend's eye."

Well, it looks like Critter will be heading to the Biltmore because

Beth Revis
at Writing it Out is the winner!!!!!

Beth, email me your address and I'll get him out!
Goodbye Critter! We've loved having you here in Austin!

2) Huge thank you to Liz Garton Scanlon for naming THE EMERALD TABLET as one of her best summer reads.
In case you don't know, Liz's newest picture book, ALL THE WORLD, just came out this week! I can't wait to get my hands on one!
In case you live in Austin, Liz will be celebrating at BookPeople on Saturday, September 26th at 11:30.

3) And speaking of Austin and BookPeople, our SCBWI meeting is this Saturday, September 12th, at 11:00. Chris Barton, author of the brand new picture book THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS (Again, I can't wait to get my hands on one!) is speaking on writing picture book biographies.

(There seems to be a picture book theme going on.)

4) And speaking of Austin SCBWI (do you like my train-of-thought thing), registration for our annual conference opens on Saturday, September 12th. This conference is going to be huge. It's going to be amazing. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a featured author.

Conference faculty includes:

Check the website for details.

And seriously consider coming!

There are critiques available, and tickets for a Friday night party at Authors Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith's home and a Saturday night BBQ party at Author Meredith Davis' home.

5) I'm off to Oklahoma next Thursday and Friday for an author panel at the Oklahoma school librarian's conference (also known as Encyclomedia). More on that next week, but I'm getting my PowerPoint all updated and starting to get excited!

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Critter wants to know...

Are you feeling lucky, punk? Are you? Are you?

We've had a wonderful time with Critter here in Texas. Thing about Critter though? He doesn't like to stay in one place for too long. He claims it makes him smell like fish, and seeing as how he's kind of a cow...well...smelling like a fish simply won't do.

Critter made friends, read some great books, and even went to Kung Fu once. He's pretty sure if he hung around here a bit longer he'd get his black belt. But alas, that is not Critter's style.

Critter with his new best friend.

Here's what Critter needs to know:
Where should he go next? He needs to know. He wants to know.


1) Those who want to participate can leave a comment in the comments section to have a chance to have Critter come to visit you.

2) On Thursday at midnight I will draw the name of the lucky person who gets to have Critter come for a visit (so comment soon). I will get your mailing address from you and will send Critter to your house. Make sure I can contact you!

3) When you get Critter in the mail, write your name and city location.

4) Now you get to Send Critter someplace else. Host a contest for Critter on your blog and then send Critter to the winner from your blog. (the critter is made of a light weight foam board, so it should not be too expensive to mail.)

5) Christy Evers will track Critter's location so we can see where he has been and where he will be going.

There are 16 name spaces on Critter. My name is on the #2 spot. So, Critter gets to go to 14 other places. The last person will send Critter back to Christy Evers.

So. Are you in? Please make sure that you are willing to keep Critter going on his adventure if you sign up for this. If you don't follow through, you'll break Critter's heart (and ruin the fun for the rest of us.)

So read the small print, and then leave me a comment.

Tell me, what is the most fun thing you will let Critter tag along for?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Five on a Friday

Hope everyone has a great holiday weekend planned!

My five for the week:

1) Last night read and loved FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist) by R.L. LaFevers. I totally recommend it for the 7-10 year old range. My son will LOVE it!
* And on a side note, I'm looking forward to interviewing R.L. LaFevers next month over on The Enchanted Inkpot.

2) We're on season 3 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. You know, this is the season where they change uniforms and get more in touch with the characters' feelings.
* Side note here: My son has determined that he likes Picard over Kirk. Overall, I like TNG better, but Kirk was "The Captain."

3) Critter is still enjoying Austin.

He had a beer the other night (out of a frosty Star Trek mug no less).

Then he spent some quality time with the tortoises, King Tort and Nerfertorti. (That's Nefertorti in the picture below. King Tort was hiding at the time.)

Where will Critter go next? Make sure you visit next Wednesday. I'll be looking for a nice place for him to travel to when he departs Texas.

4) Both kids are at school during the day which is making for some serious good writing time. My near-term goal is to get through the first draft on my current WIP. The finish line is very close!
But yes, please keep in mind this is a first draft. Yikes!

5) I took my antique horseshoe out of the garage and brought it to my office! I figure I'll take all the luck I can get.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Winner and Critter

Thanks for all the great audiobook comments! I've just started I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU by Ally Carter on audio and have high hopes for it. It seems like the type of book which will fall into my audiobook boundaries.
And as for the page, I'm nearly done with PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS by Michelle Zink. It has a very Libba Bray A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY feel to it, doesn't it? Enjoying it, btw!


Now, the moment you've all been waiting for :)

The winner (based on random number generation) of the three-pack of books including:
WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA by Christine Marciniak
DRAGON WISHES by Stacy Nyikos
LIFE IN THE PIT by Kirsten Landon


Email me your snail mail address and I'll get them out!

And next up on the interview front, look for a rocking interview with Keri Mikulski, author of SCREWBALL and CHANGE UP and happy proud owner of a new four book deal with Razorbill/Penguin!!!!! Check back for that soon.


For those Critter curious, I'm happy to report Critter has arrived safely in Austin.
Yesterday, he went to Home Depot with us to look for new kitchen cabinet doors. He insisted on taking a picture in the bathroom section.

* Note: These toilets are the display models. I did not take Critter in the potty.
** Note: That is my daughter, not my son :) She wants to make her own Critter now and is sad he must be passed on.

Critter then headed to the bookstore where he helped me make some fantastic selections.

And after the bookstore, he was so excited about books, he insisted on having a picture taken on my bookshelf here at home.

Ah, the life of Critter. I'm thinking I'll hold onto Critter a few more days, sign my name, and then we'll see where he's going to go next!

Have a great Wednesday!