South Carolina Interlude...

Note the *alligators* on the banks...

Hello, dear readers!

I will briefly interrupt my series of Amazon posts to give you a little update on the trip to South Carolina that I took with my co-author, Maria Virginia Farinango, to talk about our book, The Queen of Water, with middle and high schools.  This was our first time in SC, and we loved it!


 We scheduled the visits for Friday and Monday so that we could get to know Charleston over the weekend. Gorgeous city!

A friend of Mrs. Crawford's gave us a fascinating walking tour... did you know there were *pirates* in Charleston?  I had no idea.... and I do watch lots of pirate-related movies thanks to Lil Dude.

We had the most amazing weather-- 60s and 70s and sunny much of the time.

I wish there were more pink houses in the US.

Prettiness everywhere...

These gas lights were so atmospheric at twilight...

I love water, and there was water *everywhere*! Charleston is on a narrow peninsula, with islands around it, and we visited a couple of them.

I've done a number of school visits around the country for The Queen of Water.... but these were the first schools that invited Maria along, too.(Lugoff-Elgin High and nearby Middle School, Charleston School of the Arts, and Charleston Academic Magnet School.)  Maria came all the way from Ecuador!  It was really special for both of us... and this was a great way for her to learn more of U.S. history.  The Charleston area was a big Revolutionary War and Civil War site.

Ancient graves.  Apparently, these winged skulls were precursors to cherubs.

Mrs. Crawford took us to the Middleton Plantation in Charleston, and it was stunning.

Camellias and Spanish moss everywhere.

I love trees-- these old live oaks and magnolias made me very happy.

Maria was enchanted by all the animals we saw on this plantation-- goats, hens, roosters, peacocks, cows, egrets, swans, horses.... we took a carriage ride, pulled by these enormous horses. It was interesting, but sad and disturbing, for her to learn about the history of slavery in the U.S. (She herself was a child slave from ages 7-15 in Ecuador.)

Our trip was organized by the incredible twin teacher sisters, Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Crawford.  They were loads of fun to spend time with!  We were completely immersed in sweet, warm Southern hospitality.


Here we are on Sullivan's Island. I had major cravings to rent a beach house here and lounge around reading novels and drinking sweet tea.

On Friday, we were at Lugoff-Elgin High School, and the nearby middle school came to join us, too.

Awesome bunch of students...

Maria performed a beautiful dance to the music of her husband, Tino Picuasi, an Andean flute musician and singer-songwriter.

These were the lovely girls at my lunch table-- I could've talked to them for hours-- three super-creative writers and readers. Our lunch, by the way, was shrimp and grits and fried chicken and sweet tea and all kinds of Southern yumminess!  We were very well-fed on this trip...

Here we are with our host, Mrs. Howard, Spanish teacher extraordinaire, and Anne Lemieux, extremely wonderful, imaginative, and energetic librarian.

Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Crawford made us feel like family.... and we did get to know their entire extended family-- *four* generations, from their dear mother to charming grandson.

As I said, we ate very well.... plenty of items from the bacon and butter and grits and biscuit food groups. Yummmm.

Here we are at Old McCaskill's Farm-- a welcoming bed and breakfast in Camden, SC, run by friendly owners Kathy and Lee.

Look at the fun basket that the students of the School of the Arts in Charleston put together for us... so thoughtful. Chock full of treats.  Monday with these students was wonderful, too, but such a whirlwind, I didn't get a chance to take many photos there.

Incredible trips like this are unexpected author perks that I never even dreamed of when I started writing my first book.  And another wondrous part of being an author: meeting readers like Katie, who came all the way from Decatur, Georgia to chat with me and Maria at our Books on Broad event in Camden, SC.  What a HUGE honor for us!  (Thank you, Katie-- our hearts are full!)

Thanks for coming by! (Y'all come back soon now... ;-)



Battle of the Books!

Hey guys!

I just had the best time in the Terre Haute area of Indiana, presenting as part of their awesome Battle of the Books!

Star in the Forest was one of about twenty books involved in the battle, and I was honored that they asked me to come and meet all the participating kids, who came from schools throughout Vigo County.  There were a few hundred kids total, and they were all amazing!  And so were the teachers and librarians who worked so hard to organize the Battle events.

I wish I'd remembered to take pictures at the presentation, but I was so busy chatting with these incredibly enthusiastic students that I completely forgot.  (Thanks, Angie Miller, for the above photo!)

I did manage a few pictures with my delightful liaison, Kathy Deal, who gave me the warmest welcome an author could hope for...

My farewell lunch included this gigantic milkshake... I didn't even get hungry on the plane ride home.

 I was so impressed with all the friendly cooperation among community members to make this event a success!  Thank you, Vigo County, for an unforgettable visit!

And now, on a different note.... I can't resist whispering this to you:  
Exciting, new-book-related stuff is happening in my life right now!  I hope to be able to tell you about it soon... but in the meantime, let's be secretly happy together! :-)


Visit to the Southern Ute reservation in SW Colorado....

Hi guys,

One of the best unexpected perks of being an author is this...

... traveling over the Rockies to lovely nooks in my state that I've never had the opportunity to see before.

I do about a dozen school visits per year, mostly in Colorado, but also farther-off places like California, Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, Pennsylvania.... It's so interesting to get to know more of my country.  Above is Marcia Vining, the awesome librarian mastermind behind my visit with the middle and high schools.  I love meeting creative and BIG-thinking librarians like her... such an inspiration! Her community is really luck to have her.

It's also really exciting for me to meet students who are working on their own stories and novels.  I connected with several teens who are passionate about creative writing... Emerald, above, is one of them!

Thank you, Ignacio, Colorado, for the warm welcome!

I hope you all are enjoying these first inklings of springtime... I'm guessing my juniper allergies will kick in any day now (ugh)... but I'm eagerly searching for the first crocus of the year (yay), now that the snow here has *finally* melted.


One Book One Unionville: The Queen of Water!

The Queen of Water inspired art by student Terner Thompson

Hey, guys!

Just got back from an author visit to Unionville, Pennsylvania for their One Book, One Unionville program.  I was honored that they chose The Queen of Water for their first year!  The program was initiated by teachers at the high school, and they did a great job of getting the entire school and community excited about the book. 

I gave two assembly presentations for students, giving a behind-the-scenes look at the book, and then did a third presentation in the evening for community members.  I loved everyone's enthusiasm and insightful comments and questions... such a treat for me!

The goal of the program was to "promote student success by instituting a new academic tradition, creating a sense of belonging through shared experiences, providing opportunities for school and community interactions, and encouraging students to further reflect on citizenship and engagement."

The high school students and faculty read the book over the summer, and then had discussions and projects related to the book.  I also did two Skype visits with community members at the local public library.  The program was well-publicized through the town's newspaper, and a number of book clubs chose to read and discuss the book. My visit was the culmination of months of reading and discussing the book.

I was thrilled and a little nervous that Queen would be the first book of the new program-- I really wanted it to be successful so that the community would continue with this program for years to come.  Thankfully, the feedback was really positive about the book selection and my presentations... I'm excited to see what book they choose for next year!

One of the coolest parts for me was to talk with readers and see how they connected with the book.  

Student Terner Thompson did this amazing illustration, inspired by the end of the book. He wants to be an animator.  I think he'd make an incredible one, judging by this masterpiece. 

In the school library with wonderful administrators and the talented Terner

with the delightful librarian Diane (who styled her hair and chose her pretty water-themed blouse just for my visit!) She presented me with this gorgeous book on Longwoods Gardens.

Awesome student projects were hung around the library... I always love seeing interesting activities that teachers come up with and the creative ways students approach them.

Zoom in on the above pic, and you'll see this great scene with Cheetah the goat fending off angry dogs! Love this!

And another close-up-- such a beautiful drawing. My interpretation is that it's young Virginia curled up on the sheepskin rug that she imagines is Cheetah. That's the night when she first comes to the Doctorita's house and is feeling lonely and scared.

I have to admit, I get a little thrill when I see the words "The Queen of Water: The Movie."  This student cast Salma Hayek as the Doctorita-- she's a great actress, so I think she'd be able to pull it off.  Ah, maybe one day....

Here's a close-up of part of a project-- I thought it was so cute-- Virginia on the forbidden red sofa watching the forbidden MacGyver, hahaha!

This newspaper activity looked fun... there's an article about the winner of the Queen competition, as well as a review of the Hotel Otavalo, MacGyver gossip, and new classes at the Republica de Ecuador school.  

Thank you, Unionville, for your warm welcome!  I was so impressed with your great energy, and wish you lots of luck with future One Book One Unionville programs!


P.S. I wasn't sure who to credit for the above student projects and artwork, but if you see yours, let me know, and I'll credit you in the caption!  ;-)