Thursday, September 30, 2010

San Francisco adventures and a book signing

We are at last getting settled in our new city! Its so gorgeous here, I could spend hours wandering around the different neighborhoods taking it all in. I love that gardens are still in full bloom... there seem to be rose bushes and nasturtiums and bougainvillea everywhere.

This is the view from a nearby hilltop, looking north towards the Marina. The hill we hiked to get there was so steep it had stairs!

The architecture around here is just amazing.

Here are some shots from a recent hike around the Lincoln Park area; China Beach, Lands End, and the Sutro Baths.

This Sunday I'll have my first book signing for Disappearing Desmond, which just came out last month. I'm excited to get to know some west coast book stores and read the book to kids for the first time! If you're in the area please join me. Here are the details:

Sunday, October 3rd
11:30 am
Kepler's Books
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 324-4321

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

rubbing elbows

So I was incredibly honored to be one the authors at the Boston Public Library's Literary Lights Event this past Sunday:
One of the best things at this event was something that Jerry Spinelli noted in his speech, it was an event where there were more children than adults:
Which made it wonderful. Also what made it quite wonderful was that I got to rub elbows with literary greats such as Karen Hesse, Neil Gaiman (!!) and the aforementioned Jerry Spinelli.

See how happy I am?
They were extremely nice to me, especially considering how awkward I felt during certain star-struck moments. Thank goodness for the the children and everyone involved who helped smooth things out for me for the rest of the event, making me feel like I wasn't quite akimbo next to the other authors. I think this is the first time where I can honestly say my hand did get tired from signing. Never has a muscle cramp caused such happiness! Ha ha!

And with that, I will leave you with the little speech I said upon receiving my lovely award:

When I asked what they’d like me to talk about in my five minutes, they said any tips or advice that would be helpful to a young writer.

Well, I like to think I am still a young writer but I guess according to the actual calendar I am not. I remember one of the first stories I wrote. It came to me like magic, as if the gorgeous rainbow the sky ended at my brain. The words poured out of me like a fountain and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. When I was done, I knew it was great. It was best story ever.

And because it was the best story, I decided it should be published. I sent it to a publishing company and waited for them to make it into a book.

Instead, I got a rejection letter. “We’re sorry, we cannot offer publication of your story,” they said. “Well, what did they know?” I thought and I sent it to another publisher and got another rejection. And then another publisher and another rejection, again and again.

Finally, I put the story in a drawer and, this is very, very important, I wrote another story. And I wrote another story after that and another after until over ten years later, I am now here at the Boston Public Library with my stories being honored alongside Jerry Spinelli, Karen Hesse and Neil Gaiman.

So, recently, I opened that drawer with my first story in it. And I read it. And you know what?

It was absolutely awful.

No wonder it wasn’t published. Reading it was like 1,000 raining clouds inside your bedroom while you are trying to sleep. I was so, so embarrassed that I had thought it was the best story ever.

So when I was trying to think of advice for young writers, I came up with this:

Be humble. Know that what you have written is not the best.

But, also, be confident. What you will write will be better.

Monday, September 27, 2010

SCBWI Carolinas

This past weekend I flew down to Charlotte, NC for the SCBWI Carolinas conference. We all promised not to blog or tweet any details, so instead I'll just post a few pictures and say that it was a truly exceptional conference. I personally learned a lot from the wonderful faculty, including Dial Senior Editor Liz Waniewski (who started as our intern in the Boston office 10 or so years ago!), Art Director at S&S Laurent Linn, and author and marketing guru Shelli Johannes-Wells.

The audience during the First Pages session
Liz speaks about Dial
me and faculty member author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba

Elizabeth and my delicious (and partially eaten by this point) red velvet cake
Shelli's decadent chocolate dessert (yes, I had a bite...or two...)
The pool!
Shelli sharing marketing and publicity wisdom
Some of the faculty on the last day.
L to R: Authors Steve Watkins, Fran Cannon Slayton, me, Shelli, author Alan Gratz (top), agent Chris Richmond, and Liz

It was really great getting to know everyone at the conference--my only complaint is that I didn't have more time to spend and actually see the city. Oh well, I'll just have to go back again someday.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

For the love of mice

Last night a four-year old I babysit for exclaimed, angrily and dramatically:
"For the love of mice!"'
Then he said he wanted to whisper something in my ear:
"For the love of Christ!" (His mother swears sometimes, and his father really disapproves.) He added, "But we're not supposed to say that."
He looked up, worried:
"Is it all right to say 'for the love of mice'?"

This reminded me of how senseless many adult things are to kids - and also of how logical children are, in their own way. Their logic is pretty unhampered by knowing the reasoning behind things, so it's sometimes hard to see. I always feel like I've solved a mystery when I spot it.

This is a better example. Another child I babysit for always wants to walk on the double yellow lines in the middle of the street, and gets really mad when I won't let him. The other day, the penny dropped: I had just watched him cross a street at the crosswalk, stepping only on the white-striped lines (not the black spaces between them). The next street had no sidewalk, and once again, he wanted to walk on the double yellow lines in the middle of the road.
"But why not on THOSE lines?" he said and that's when I got it. (And explained what they were for. He hasn't asked to walk on them since.)

I love child logic -- when I can spot it -- and it doesn't often appear in books. Lewis Carroll uses it-- not one of my favorites NOW, but as a child I did like Alice. I liked the way she reasoned things out and thought she was really smart. The idea that her reasoning was funny never entered my mind. I actually don't find it funny now, either, but I know it's supposed to be.

Maybe that's why children's logic isn't written about more: children would approve of a character who displayed child logic, but not find her funny. Adults might -- but they might also find it boring or silly. What *I'd* like to do is write a mystery that used child logic -- their logic could solve the case. Adult readers might find the kids' thinking funny at first but then (as in all the best mysteries) everything would tie together and make sense at the end -- including the kids' thinking.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Poems for Banned Books Week (September 25-October 2, 2010)

I read with interest Alvina's post Speak Loudly the other day. I was really touched by the poem Listen that Laurie Halse Anderson wrote based on reader response to her book Speak. I'm posting Laurie's poem at Blue Rose Girls for you today--along with a poem that author Ellen Hopkins wrote last year for Banned Books Week and two poems that I wrote some time ago.

From the (September 24, 2009)
Banned Books Week adopts author's anti-censorship poem as manifesto
US author Ellen Hopkins, whose young adult fiction tackles controversial topics, writes a poem addressing censorship to coincide with Banned Books Week (2009)

An author of young adult fiction whose books have provoked bans and complaints in the US for tackling controversial topics such as teenage prostitution and drug addiction has written a poem that is being used to champion the cause of banned books across America.

The author, Ellen Hopkins, this week saw a school visit in Oklahoma cancelled after a parent complained about her New York Times bestselling novels Crank and Glass – loosely based on her own daughter's story of addiction to crystal meth. "I have had my books challenged before, but never had an event cancelled because of a challenge. I was then and remain incensed that a single person could go to the school and make that happen," said Hopkins. "No one person should have that kind of power. No person should be able to choose what anyone else's child can or can't read, let alone who they can see speak to. Some of the kids were devastated."

The idea to write a poem addressing banned books and censorship came to her after all her books were banned from an Idaho town, she said, because her novel Burned features a Mormon girl who is questioning her faith because she can't get help for her family, whose patriarch is abusive. "Pocatello has a large Mormon population, but half the town isn't Mormon. And the book isn't a slam against the religion, anyway ... it's one girl's story," she said. "How can half the town censor the other's ability to read something? Anyway, that's where the idea came for me to write a poem."

Here are two excerpts from Manifesto—the anti-censorship poem written by Ellen Hopkins:

To you zealots and bigots and false
patriots who live in fear of discourse.
You screamers and banners and burners
who would force books
off shelves in your brand name
of greater good.

You say you’re afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption
by perversion or sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones do break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.

You say you’re afraid for America,


A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Here is a revised version of a poem that I wrote in 2007 when there was a big kerfuffle going on over The Higher Power of Lucky, the children's novel that had won the Newbery Medal. Some folks were upset because Susan Patron, the author, used the word "scrotum" in her book. I'm posting the revised poem for Banned Books Week 2010. BTW, I’ve left off the final couplet that was included in the original poem: Who’s got a solution antidotal/For the current row o’er something scrotal?.

Book Talk
by Elaine Magliaro

Dressed in uniforms of blue,
The word police arrived at two.
With laser eyes, they scanned our pages
And locked our naughty words in cages.
Then up we cried: “You’ve taken text!
Will you remove our pictures next?”

“Your pictures?” one policeman said.
“We only take the stuff that’s read.
Your naughty words must be excised.
Let all your authors be advised
To watch their words when they compose
Their poetry…and all their prose.”

Warning given…the men in blue
Then turned to leave. They bid adieu.
We books now left with words deleted
Feel somehow, sadly, incompleted.

Last fall, I wrote a poem about the Conservative Bible Project for my blog Political Verses. I originally posted it on October 20, 2009.

Here’s a little background information about the Conservative Bible Project from the New York Daily News (10/06/09):'s Conservative Bible Project aims to deliberalize the bible

Forget attacking liberal bias in Hollywood or in the media. One group says it's the Bible that's gotten too progressive.

The Conservative Bible Project is leading the charge to deliberalize the Bible by using a Wikipedia-like Web site to correct what it calls "errors in conveying biblical meaning."

Those errors are a "lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ," "lack of precision in modern language" and "translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one."

On its Web site - which is emblazoned with an Old Glory logo above the words "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia" - the group is seeking to create a fully conservative translation of the Bible that follows 10 commandments, er, guidelines.

A Poem about the Conservative Bible Project
by Elaine Magliaro

The Bible’s way too liberal—
And nothing could be worse.
Let’s go rewrite the holy book—
Each chapter, line and verse.

We’ll tell the stories “our way”—
Toss out the liberal bias—
The way the good Lord wants us to.
The devil can’t deny us.

We’ll include free market parables,
Excise the stuff we hate,
Avoid gender inclusive language
That can emasculate

The Great Book that we live by.
We’ll write the stories “right”—
Translate them “fundamentally”
To conservatives’ delight.


Banned and Challenged Classics from the American Library Association

Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century courtesy of the American Library Association

Books Challenged & Banned in 2008-2009 from the American Library Association

The Ten Most Challenged Titles according to the American Library Association (out of 460 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2009).

Slideshow of the Top Ten Most Challenged Titles 2009-2010 from

The 11 Most Surprising Banned Books from Huffington Post
(First Posted: 03-29-10 07:33 AM Updated: 05-29-10 05:12 AM )

Banned Books Week from Amnesty International
During Banned Books Week, Amnesty International directs attention to the plight of individuals who are persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read. Traditionally, Banned Books Week activities take place at the end of each September -- but the featured cases are not confined to a week. They continue to need your action.

The Kids’ Right to Read Project
A collaboration of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the
National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), the Kids’ Right to Read Project offers support, education, and advocacy to people facing book challenges or bans and engages local activists in promoting the freedom to read.

Texas Education Board Bans Popular Children's Author by Mistake from Wild Rose Reader (Januray 7, 2010).


At Wild Rose Reader, I have The Super Duper “Things to Do” Poems Post.

Karen, at The Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title, is doing the Poetry Friday Roundup today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

what's wrong with scroggins...

I've been busy working at the bookstore for the past few days so I haven't been able to get to the blog but now I have and I've read Alvina's post and now "Scroggins."

I got stock on this:
"For example, my review of the eighth-grade sex education curriculum revealed that children at the middle school are being introduced to concepts such as homosexuality, oral sex, anal sex and specific instructions on how to use a condom and have sex"

I don't want to get all political here, but ehem, dear I mention a girl with the last name of Palin? She might have been served well with a little lesson or two. That's all I'll say about that.

Please tell me there are intelligent Republicans out there and this isn't becoming a thing where if you say "Republican" it goes in tandem with the above and below beliefs/quotes. I HOPE people can think for themselves and not just become a bunch of sheep! Anyhow, I read on and then I got to where this guy got to talking about the book and movie Speak. I LOVED the book Speak. I also recently watched the movie. I didn't love the movie. I thought it fell way short. It was missing that something that the book had. But what this guy says about both the book and movie is just CRAZY. Is he on another planet?

"One such book is called "Speak." They also watch the movie. This is a book about a very dysfunctional family. Schoolteachers are losers, adults are losers and the cheerleading squad scores more than the football team. They have sex on Saturday night and then are goddesses at church on Sunday morning. The cheer squad also gets their group-rate abortions at prom time. As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page. Actually, the book and movie both contain two rape scenes."

Rape happens. It's sad, but true. Does this guy want to pretend that it doesn't? Speak is an amazing book for kids who need to deal with such a thing AND I think need to deal with anything that's happened in their lives and need to talk to someone but can't. I really identified with the book because when I was a teen I was teased a lot and I never told my parents about it. I felt just like the main character. I could feel her pain and knew just what it was like not to speak, only for different reasons. So even though I was never raped, I could still identify with the characters need not to speak. I think a lot of kids will identify for different reasons just as I did.

And not everyone goes to church on sunday. Get over it. Really. It isn't a sin. And for god sake, "a boy who is touching her female parts..." He describes this as if this never happens in teenage life. Rrrright. As if this is unholy or something. "Female parts." What? Weird. It's called dating and "making out," etc. Kids do it. Get a grip. And the movie did not make it seem like it was fun to get an abortion or like it was a fad or like everyone was doing it. This guy is just making stuff up! It's like he doesn't like the subject matter so he's just going to exaggerate or outright lie so that others avoid what he's asking them to avoid. It makes me sick. These people are trying to spread fear and paranoia and lies. And that's how they get followers. I hope this guy doesn't get far with his message because he's WRONG. Watch the film and read the book and make up your own mind! Please!


Happy Moon Festival!

Tonight is officially night of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and though I plan on celebrating it again this weekend with friends, I already had a lovely time celebrating it with my book this past weekend at the Museum of Chinese in America. Not only did I get to meet awesome author Lenore Look for the first time:
It was a great turn out and Thanking the Moon was very warmly received by the audience (people even tried the mooncake with the egg inside it!):
And, appropriately, I am very thankful! Not to just all who came, but to all who read my books--especially those who have stuck with me all these years, those wonderful readers who have grown up with my books! One such reader came to my event this past weekend and while Mom hasn't changed at all, look how much this reader has grown:

On the night of the Moon Festival, you are supposed to send a wish up to the moon that you want granted. But when I see photos like above, I kind of have a hard time thinking about what more I could wish for.

Happy Moon Festival, all!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Desmond spotting

I love it when your book shows up in unexpected places. Below is a recent sighting of Disappearing Desmond at MOMA in NY (thanks Kirsten!).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Speak Loudly

Over the weekend, the Twitterverse exploded with the news that an associate professor called books such as Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer immoral, demeaning, and basically "soft core pornography."

Read his rant here. His official, 29-page complaint to the school board can be read here. My response? Ugg. And maybe also "Eff you." Luckily, everyone else has responded much more intelligently and eloquently. The blogosphere and Twitterverse immediately lit up with protests (you can view everyone's posts by searching the #SpeakLoudly hashtag). Laurie Halse Anderson responded by saying:

My fear is that good-hearted people in Scroggins’ community will read his piece and believe what he says. And then they will complain to the school board. And then the book will be pulled and then all those kids who might have found truth and support in the book will be denied that. In addition, all the kids who have healthy emotional lives but who hate reading, will miss the chance to enjoy a book that might change their opinion.

Read her entire blog post here.

Sarah Ockler responded on her blog as well:

I’m not going to spend a lot of time defending my book other than to say what those who’ve read it already know — despite its lighthearted title, TBS is not about parties and sex. It’s about two girls struggling in the aftermath of a major tragedy, with grieving parents and unfamiliar situations and secrets that threaten to kill their friendship. It’s a scary world for them, and my job as a writer is to tell their story honestly, without judgment. And I know I’ve done my job because I hear from teens who’ve experienced devastating loss, and they tell me how much the book meant to them or how they could relate to the characters more than they can relate to their own friends somtimes. One email like that is all I needed to know that I did what I set out to do.

Her blog post is here.

There have also been some beautiful, supportive blog posts in response. One powerful, moving post is by C.J. Redwine who says:

But here's the truth. Rape happens to girls in high school and younger all the time. Ignoring it, silencing it, refusing to look at the terrible consequences doesn't make it go away. I'm a Christian and am passionate about my faith, and I cringe when I see things like this because there's a difference between being outspoken about SINS, like rape, and being outspoken against something that might help the victims.

And this is the part of this post that has me feeling like maybe throwing up would be preferable to typing, but I'm a big girl now and it's time to exercise my right to speak.

I'm a rape survivor.

Read her entire post here.

There are more amazing blog posts here, here, here, and here, the latter with additional links.

Fittingly enough, next week is Banned Books Week. Let's celebrate the freedom to read! Speak Loudly, everyone!

Friday, September 17, 2010

new book sneak peek

This is a photo I took of the cover and title page for my new book. It's carved wood, which is something totally new for me that I thought I'd try out. Why not take a chance?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moon Festival craft!

As I mentioned earlier, in celebration of my new book Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival I'm running a week-long series of posts on the Moon Festival at my personal blog. Here's the one I posted today! Make sure you catch the rest of them! And don't forget you can celebrate the book & the festival with me Sunday the 19th in NYC at the MOCA's Mid-Autumn Family Festival!

No Moon Festival is complete without the soft glow of a lantern. Children often parade their lanterns of different shapes and colors. Nowadays lanterns can range from modern cartoon characters to rocket ships, but usually they are round (like the moon) or in the shapes of rabbits (because of the Jade Rabbit that lives on the moon).

Which is why I decided to create a bunny lantern craft! This bunny lantern is easy, fun and (I think!) extremely cute:

When I was a child in school we had a paper lantern craft, but I was never quite satisfied with it because those lanterns could never be lit. So when I created this bunny lantern, I made sure it could really GLOW:

Isn't that fun? But before it glows, it has to be made. To make this bunny lantern you will need:

1. a sheet of tracing paper at 8.5 x 24 inches (my sheet is 19 x 24, I cut it to the right size)
2. a ruler
3. a pencil
4. a pair of scissors
5. scotch tape (invisible/not shiny is better)
6. markers, colors of your choice (mine are peach, black, brown, light blue)
7. 4 inch lightstick necklace, any color (mine is yellow)
8. cord (should come with your light stick necklace)
9. a chopstick
10. bunny template, download and print HERE

STEP 1. Fold your tracing paper in half, to make an 8.5 x 12 inch rectangle:

STEP 2. Using the ruler, measure and make a line .75 inches from the edge of the long (12 inch) side. Fold on the line:

STEP 3. Repeat on other long side:

STEP 4. Tape both folds down. Make sure you tape down the entire length:

STEP 5. Fit the bunny template under you paper. Trace the thick black lines:

STEP 6. Cut out your markings, as indicated by the template:

STEP 7: Draw your bunny face. My bunny face uses 2 simple black ovals for the eyes, a brown circle for the nose, blue whiskers and a peach color in the ears. But you can make your face anyway you wish!

STEP 8. Poke a hole through the top of your bunny's head (both layers of paper). You can use a small hole punch if you have one. I did not, so I just used my pencil:
STEP 9. String your lightstick inside the bunny using the cord. Tie it loosely:

STEP 10: Tie the other end of the cord to a chopstick. Tie this tightly, perhaps wrapping around the chopstick a couple of times to keep it secure:

And your bunny lantern is complete:

Now all you have to do is wait until nightfall, activate the lightstick according to the lightstick's instructions (you may have to untie & retie the cord) and let your lantern GLOW:
Make one for all the kids on your street and have a Moon Festival lantern parade!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brooklyn Book Fest 2010

The Fifth Annual Brooklyn Book Festival was held yesterday, and it was a success. However, the coldish, rainy, Fall-like weather was a far cry from last year's beautiful, summer day.

I spent most of my time at the Youth Stoop (with a quick bathroom break/snack at the nearby Chipotle). Here is my Brooklyn Book Fest in pictures:

Author/illustrator Shane Evans signing books
Mary Kole and TS Ferguson
A long signing line for Rebecca Stead

Barry Lyga moderating the panel on "About a Boy" with Torrey Maldonado, Jacqueline Woodson, and Charles Fuller
I sat behind two reading gals

Kirsten Miller moderates the "Happily Ever After?" panel with Jenny Han, Sara Shepard, and Lauren Oliver
Tiger Beat performs! (Danile Ehrenhaft, Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, and Barnabas Miller on drums)
Tiger Beat groupies (aka Stacey Barney, Nancy Mercado, and Barry Goldblatt) cheer them on
Here are two excerpts of songs that Tiger Beat performed. First, the original song, "YA Song". David Levithan is holding up the lyrics, but they might be too small for you to read.

And they closed with the appropriate for the day, "Purple Rain":

The walk home in the rain at the end.
Till next year...