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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What I did on my Spring Break

Unlike lots of other parts of the country, Spring Break has come and gone for us. In case you're curious if I managed to get any writing done, watch the video to find out!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Batteries, Books, and Why I Love Austin

Happy Monday!

First off, a huge congratulations to Shannon Messenger who just signed with my agent, Laura Rennert. I'm thrilled for Shannon! Head over and congratulate her!

It's a short week here with no school Friday and short days Wednesday and Thursday, so I'm going to cram as much writing as possible into today and tomorrow. I get to take a nice diversionary break to change a car battery, but I'm waiting for it to warm up a bit so my fingers don't go numb on me. Also, I'm going to be writing some scripts for our elementary school TV station to advertise the school's upcoming auction. How fun is that? And Friday will be all about planting those shrubs I was supposed to plant this past weekend. Where did the weekend go?

So in the meantime, here are some of the awesome reasons to live in Austin, Texas if you are an author:

Spending the day writing on Friday with K. A. Holt and E. Kristen Anderson (I managed to set the time and snake my way back into the booth before the flash went off)...

And E. Kristen Anderson putting zombie stickers on the wall...

At Spiderhouse Cafe...

which has the most awesome patio in the world. I envision much of April and May spent here...

Seeing author/illustrator Mark Mitchell at the HEB (our grocery store)...

Dinner at Taco Cabana complete with Cerveza (my daughter declared this place "awesome, awesome, awesome")...

A Joint book release party for Varian Johnson and April Lurie both of whom I adore...

April's newest book is THE LESS DEAD and Varian's newest book is SAVING MADDIE.

Hope you guys all have a great week ahead!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Five Reasons to Visit a Juvenile Detention Center

Happy Friday!

For The Texas Sweethearts Friday roundup, make sure to visit our blog. We've got a lot this week including a picture of a cupcake and where you'll be able to get one in April!
(And now I really feel like making cupcakes. That's what the weekend is for!)


So Thursday, I was fortunate enough to do an author visit at the Williamson County Juvenile Detention Center. Last year I spoke there solo, and this year I spoke with author Jessica Lee Anderson. We spoke to two groups of kids ranging from ages 10-18. The first group was the kids who had not yet been sentenced and were in holding, and the second group included the kids who had been assigned to the detention center.

From one author to another, I'm going to give you five reasons why you should volunteer to speak at a Juvenile Detention Center:

1) Let's face it: the thought of speaking to a group of "troubled" kids is a bit frightening. I admit I was a bit nervous, having visions of getting heckled. But that feeling of fear is exactly why you should volunteer. To help us grow, we need to push ourselves. We need to do things that make us reach outside of our comfort zone and experience something new. So yeah, last year I was nervous, this year much less. But I did it and would volunteer year after year (or as long as they would have me come back).

2) Okay, in my talk, I mention how ideas are everywhere. Seriously, we write stories with main characters who are kids. And these are kids. The place is filled with story ideas, one after another. Just visiting the Juvenile Center is an experience. You get to see how security is done, how many guarded doors there are. And this will be perfect in the next novel you write :)

3) The kids were about the most polite group of kids I've spoken to. They never spoke out of turn. They greeted us. They applauded. They listened and payed attention. Sure, maybe they might get in trouble if they didn't, but as a speaker, I loved and appreciated their focus.

4) Have you heard of the Pay it Forward mentality? So, do a school visit pro bono for a good cause. The goodness you put out to the universe is bound to come back to you tenfold.

5) Yes, so I saved this one for last, and maybe it is the most obvious, but by volunteering to speak at a place like this, you are reaching out to kids who can use some reaching out. If I speak to one hundred kids at the center and make a positive difference in one kid's life, then I have something to be thankful for. And, based on the reactions today, I think that difference was made. I could see the spark of excitement in some of the kids' eyes that maybe they could actually write and be published one day. And that is worth everything.

So I feel like I need a picture since I love pictures in blog posts, so I'll go with one from my files. How about a typewriter to remind us all that anyone can write!

Hope you guys all have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

VA Festival of the Book

I hadn't been to the Virginia area sans leaves on trees in ages. Not since the kids hit school. So traveling over Spring Break was a real treat. I could see houses through the trees and see bridges and water and things I hadn't seen in a while.

On Saturday, I left the kids with my parents and drove down to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book. My panel wasn't until 2:00, so I first checked in with my fellow panel members Stacy Nyikos, Keri Mikulski, Barrie Summy, and Suzanne Morgan Williams. I love seeing these gals! They are bright and sunny and fun to be around.

Me, Keri Mikulski, Stacy Nyikos, Suzanne Morgan Williams, and Barrie Summy

I had plans to meet my very cool agent Laura Rennert for coffee at 10:30 which meant I could peek into the first panel at 10:00 for a bit. This panel featured Kathy Erskine, Fran Cannon Slayton (who is also one of Laura's clients), Sara Lewis Holmes (who I previously met when she came to our Austin SCBWI conference), Sue Corbett, and Irene Latham.

Kathy Erskine, Sue Corbett, Sara Lewis Holmes, Irene Latham, and Fran Cannon Slayton

Coffee with Laura Rennert was a blast. She told me nice things like how talented I was and stuff like that which of course made me smile.

Me and Laura Rennert

At noon, I went to a second panel which featured Laura Rennert, Deborah Heiligman, Bonnie Doerr, Emily Ecton, and Ruth Spiro. The panel was packed (standing room only) and was fabulous!

Our panel provided some fun in that we had no screen to project our PowerPoint presentation on, so we had to drape a white tablecloth over a trellis for viewing pleasure. Not the most ideal, but we had a great time. And a special thank you to Sara Lewis Holmes for moderating!

Our make-shift screen

Barrie, Suzy, Keri, Me, and Stacy before our panel

Afterward, at our signing, I met fellow blogger Sara McClung (who really does have nice feet even in person), James (aka Book Chic) who is just like his very cool vlogs, Susan F. Robertson of Wastepaper Prose who has a camera to stomp out all other cameras, and David Macinnis Gill whose book BLACK HOLE SUN I am totally looking forward to. I also met the only other "Powers of Matthew Star" fan in the world (okay, not quite). It's nice to know I'm not alone in my adoration of the show.

Barrie, David Macinnis Gill, and Me

James (Book Chic) and Me

James and Barrie

Barrie, Susan F. (Wastepaper Prose), and Me

The final panel featured David Macinnis Gill, Jennifer Hubbard, Amy Brecount White, and Paula Chase Hyman. It rocked, and all their books sound amazing.

The literary cocktail party followed at an old theater which featured fancy, fancy hors d'oeuvres and wine (no Cab, but they did have Merlot).

Stacy, Jenn Hubbard, Anne Marie Pace, and Sara Lewis Holmes

Irene and Bonnie Doerr

Barrie and Fran

After the party, Fran, Irene, Bonnie, Stacy, Suzy, Barrie, and I headed to a late dinner, though based on the portion sizes, it's arguable whether dinner in the right word. In the words of Barrie Summy, "This is a dinner for someone who has already eaten." (I have video footage of us laughing about the dinners, but it's a bit dark; I'll see what I can do.)

Suzy, Stacy, and Irene

My meal

Barrie's meal (along with three other people)

I loved the festival! It's was perfectly run, top notch, and a total great time!
Thank you!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Five (things I've done besides writing) on a Friday

I'm totally psyched for the Virginia Festival of the Book. I'm on a panel Saturday, March 20th, at 2:00 pm in case you're in the Charlottesville area! I'll post some pics next week. I'm also having coffee with my agent, Laura Rennert, who will also be there.


I'm cataloging my thoughts on writing while on vacation, but in the meantime, I'll give you five things I'm doing besides writing on vacation:

1) Played three games of croquet today. I won two. My son won one (nice bit of rhyming there). I LOVE croquet. It has to be up there in the top three favorite games to play. Croquet reminds me of sunny days, green grass, and leisure time.

Croquet Painting by Winslow Homer

2) Watch JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, the 1954 version. In case you don't know, this is my all time favorite movie. Love. It. Almost as much as I love croquet.

3) Reading. I've read a few other books and just started WITCH AND WIZARD by James Patterson.

4) Took a nap. And it was a nice one.

5) Put together a YouTube video to play before our Virginia Festival of the Book panel on Saturday. Why? Why not.


And as a special treat, here are five things I have not done while on vacation besides write:

1) Dishes

2) Laundry

3) Cooking

4) Woken up early

5) Commented on too many blogs! I'm sorry! I'll be back commenting next week :)

Happy Friday! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Huge Congrats to Beth!

I am so excited for my awesome critique buddy Beth Revis! Beth just sold her debut novel(s) in a MAJOR deal to Razorbill. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE will come out Spring 2011!

Head over and congratulate her when you get a chance!

(Cascarones just seemed appropriate!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Winner and Patience!

When you get a chance, head over to The Texas Sweethearts blog where we have Jessica Lee Anderson talking to us a bit about patience and her writing journey.

And a huge thank you for all those who dropped by to wish Jo Whittemore cheers on the release of her brand new book, FRONT PAGE FACE-OFF! I wasn't able to make her release party, but I heard it was a smashing success. Way to go, Jo!

And the winner of an autographed copy of FRONT PAGE FACE-OFF is...

Robyn, please email me and let me know who to have Jo sign it to and where to mail it!

Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Break Friday

Happy Friday, everyone!

I'm here in Virginia until the 22nd! Plans for the week ahead include a workshop for a creative writing club on Tuesday in Woodstock, VA and then the Virginia Festival of the Book on Saturday the 20th. Not only am I on a really cool author panel there, I get to see a bunch more panels and authors! You can check out the entire event here.


I have to share this review from Teens Read Too for THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD. Yes, NAVEL got a FIVE STAR review and the GOLD STAR AWARD OF EXCELLENCE! Yay! I love Teens Read Too and am so happy about the review! Thank you, Tasha and Teens Read Too!
My favorite line from the review:
"THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD is definitely suitable for anyone looking for adventure and fun. I compared the first book of the series, THE EMERALD TABLET, to the PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS series, but after reading this book I dare say that they are better!"


So I'll probably blog and comment sporadically in the next week, so here are some reminders:

There's a giveaway for FRONT PAGE FACE-OFF by Jo Whittemore on my blog. All you have to do is comment on her interview post by the end of the day Sunday, March 14th. THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS are giving away a critique by editor Madeline Smoot. To enter, follow the Texas Sweethearts blog and comment on the critique post!

Have a great weekend and week ahead!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sweetheart Jo Whittemore - Interview and Giveaway!

I couldn't be happier to introduce today's interviewee:

The totally awesome,
really cool,
and funny
Jo Whittemore

Jo is the author of the Silverskin Trilogy, a superb YA fantasy from Flux, and her brand new novel FRONT PAGE FACE-OFF was released today! Is the cover darling or what?

**Stick around because I'm giving away a copy!

Not only is Jo a friend, she's also a fellow Texas Sweetheart (along with Jessica Lee Anderson). And without further ado, here is Jo...


PJH: Congratulations of the release of FRONT PAGE FACE-OFF! You’ve had a fantasy trilogy published in the past. Why the switch to realistic fiction, and do you plan to make the change permanent?

JW: Honestly, I NEVER thought I’d write realistic fiction because it seemed so much harder than writing fantasy. I have Michelle Andelman to thank for coaxing me to make the switch. She told me my strengths were humor and character, so why not try contemporary? And so I did…and can I say I love it? Is that blasphemous for a fantasy-phile? I don’t plan for it to be a permanent change, although right now it feels like I’m in a realistic fiction groove (though ideas are still buzzing in my brain for speculative fiction).

PJH: Tell us five things you collect.

JW:Let’s see…those souvenir pennies that you squash flat and imprint, hotel toiletries, miniaturized versions of things (tiny is cute!), stuffed bears, and anything Juicy Couture.

PJH: I love the background for FPFO! Why the background of the school paper? Were you an editor back in the day? If not, where did you get the inspiration?

JW:Thanks for the compliment! I actually worked on my first school paper when I was in fifth grade. We had a fantastically successful one-issue run, and at the time, I wasn’t a reporter, I was the cartoonist. Needless to say, I did not have a future in illustration. My comic was also a flop because it accidentally ran in the paper without words in the speech bubbles. Nobody understood it or thought I was particularly hilarious after that.
The next time I worked on the paper went much better. I was in college, and that was where I got most of the inspiration for headline news, hectic deadlines, and brainstorming sessions. I lived them all, baby!

PJH: What are three books you are looking forward to the release of in the next year (not including mine)?

1) I’m a huge Suzanne Collins fan, so Mockingjay
2) Will Grayson, Will Grayson because John Green’s humor cracks me up
3) As silly as it sounds, the graphic novel version of Twilight

PJH: If an apocalypse came, would you still find a way to write (even if this meant paper and pen)? And if yes, then how and why?

JW:Yes, because I’ve always found writing to be one of the best escapes. I can get out of my head and my situation and into someone else’s. Plus, I’m assuming post-apocalypse that all the libraries in the world are destroyed and technology is wiped out, so no literature is available. The people will need something to read, especially the ones who sprout a second head from the radiation.


OK, now the fun, fast part. Keep your answers as short as possible!

PJH: Fantasy Island or Love Boat?
JW:Can I say The A-Team instead? I had a crush on Face.

PJH: Guilty Pleasure?
JW:Doctor Who and my parents’ home cooking

PJH: Favorite Scooby Doo character?

PJH: Computer or hand written?
JW:Mostly computer

PJH: First Draft: Revise as you go or just get it down?
JW:Revise as I go

PJH: Favorite natural wonder?
JW:Niagara Falls

PJH: Favorite myth?
JW:Cibola (Seven Cities of Gold)
PJH: Oooh, like in National Treasure 2 :)

PJH: Thank you so much, Jo! I loved having you here!


And now for your chance to win a copy of FRONT PAGE FACE-OFF, simply leave a comment before the end of day Sunday 3/14/2010!

Monday, March 08, 2010

SCBWI, Star Trek, and Critiques

So I had a total blast presenting at our Austin SCBWI meeting this past Saturday. I talked about how to put the power into PowerPoint, and I plan to post on that subject separately, but one of the biggest points I tried to get across was that just like our writing should have our voice, our PowerPoint presentations (and presentations in general) should be unique to us. And we should have fun with them. I certainly had a good time!

Huge thank you to everyone who came out to hear me speak!

Me talking about Star Trek, because I believe there is a place for Star Trek in any presentation :)

My upcoming events are a Creative Writing workshop at the high school in Woodstock, VA next week followed by an author panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I'm totally looking forward to both! And my agent Laura Rennert will also be in Virginia, so I'll get a chance to catch up with her.

Our author panel at the VA Book Fest


Over on THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS blog, we have a big announcement and a contest!
First, we've started a critique service. You can check out all the details here!
And second, Madeline Smoot, editor at Blooming Tree Press, has offered up a query and first ten pages critique for one lucky winner. So if you're interested, head over and check it out.

btw, do you know how valuable getting editorial feedback is? It's huge.


Now it's back to writing for me! I'm rocking on my new manuscript and loving it which is most important of all!

Have a great week!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Five on a Friday

I hope everyone had a great week! Here are my five for the week.


Tomorrow (Saturday), I'm presenting here in Austin, TX at our SCBWI meeting on how to put POWER into your PowerPoint! I can't wait! So if you live in the area and can make it out, the meeting is
Saturday, March 6th at 11:00 at BookPeople.
Be there (please)!


1) I love my Vado HD Video Cam. I want to record everything and piece it together, but I will try to control myself.

2) My son loved the MAGIC THIEF books by Sarah Prineas! So much in fact, after he read the first book, we (I) made the biscuits recipe from the back, and after he read the second, we (I) spent two hours cooking the chicken pot pie recipe from the back.
I felt totally domestic.

3) It turns out grocery shopping is not so dreaded after all. See, on Friday afternoons, our HEB has wine samples, beer samples, and fish samples (given that it's Lent). Last week I had two types of white wine while enjoying salmon with pesto sauce. And I even remembered the toilet paper (but forgot the Tide).

4) The Texas Sweethearts have donated a three-sets-of-eyes critique for the YABC auction. You can read all the details here.

5) I'm the new children's book reviewer for New Age Retailer! In case you don't get NAR, it's the leading trade magazine for the New Age market.
*Note: if your book is an upcoming or recent release and fits in the New Age category in some manner, let me know.


Click here for our Friday roundup from the Texas Sweethearts.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Writing, writing, writing

For those of you who watched the video I posted Sunday, you know I'm fresh onto a new writing project. And I love it. Can I mention how nice it is to be writing something I love writing? My last project, though a very good learning experience, never gave me those warm fuzzies. This one already has for which I am eternally thankful.

And now for some randomness...


I actually have five presentations this month! The first is this Saturday. I'll be presenting here in Austin, TX at our SCBWI meeting on how to put POWER into your PowerPoint! I've just about finished my presentation, and I can't wait! So if you live in the area and can make it out, the meeting is on Saturday, March 6th at 11:00 at BookPeople. Be there (please)!


We have a massive book giveaway for librarians going on over on The Spectacle. Massive as in eleven books! So if you're a librarian, head over and enter. If you're not but you happen to know a librarian, please let them know! Libraries love books :)


I got together with about fifteen other authors this past weekend, and we chatted about everything from favorite inspirational quotes to purple nail polish. And guess what? I captured a clip from just about everyone on video. If you hang in until the end, there's a free zombie haiku!


Over on The Texas Sweethearts blog, our featured sweetheart this week is the very cool Alice Pope, editor for Writer's Digest. And best off, Wednesday, March 3rd is her birthday! Show her some birthday love!


So it turns out I'll be at both BEA and ALA this year!!!!! Anyone else out there planning to make it to NYC or DC for either of these?


Hope everyone is having a great week!