The Magic Stick

Awesome teacher Ms. Nielsen-Drake and me with the Magic Stick! Note her gorgeous shawl from Chiapas, Mexico-- where part of my next book is set!

Hey guys!

I just got back from a fun visit to Steele Elementary in Colorado Springs... the fourth-graders read Star in the Forest and the fifth graders read What the Moon Saw. I absolutely LOVED hearing about all the connections the kids made with the books-- their interpretations and insights-- and most of all, how they took the idea of the Magic Stick (in Star in the Forest) and ran with it!  (For those of you who haven't read the book, the Magic Stick is a kind of metaphor for kindness, courage, and strength in the face of upsetting situations.)

Here's Ms. Nielsen-Drake's explanation of how the stick has become a vibrant part of her classroom!  (I changed the kids' names to first initials):

L wrote that he thought he needed a "magic stick" like Zitlally's. And then wrote, "Just kidding." I wrote back with, "Done!" And put a beautiful stick on his desk that looks like a bird's head. The stick has ended up with a life of its own in my class. Every time someone is feeling sad or in need of some comfort, he/she either asks L for it, or someone else thinks he/she needs it, and it ends up on that child's desk the next day. E's grandpa died. Someone put the stick on her desk. Today it was W's rat dying because his little brother dropped him, and so Will had the stick all day. It is SOOOOO sweet, the life that this stick has taken on! The other cool thing is that kids notice when someone, other than the "keeper-of-the-stick" L, has the stick and become very considerate and kind of that person. Isn't that amazing?

Me again: How cool is that?!  I can't tell you how much I LOVE this!  Thank you, L, for starting this tradition, and becoming the keeper of the magic stick.  And thank you to Ms. Nielsen-Drake and her amazing students for their kindness and creativity!  This is the stuff a writer's dreams are made of!

Manitou Springs

My whole trip was a treat! I stayed in the Avenue Bed and Breakfast in Manitou Springs (giant thanks to the awesome owners, Randy and Gwen, and Natalie of Black Cat Books, and the Manitou Springs Library friends and Author Fest organizers).

 Avenue B n B

Thanks to everyone involved for a refreshing and energizing author visit!


PS -- Some nice news-- The Queen of Water has been selected for School Library Journal's Best Books of 2011 list!  Yippee!  It's also on the TAYSHAS list, which is an important reading list for students in Texas!  Thank you, SLJ and TEXAS!!

Back from Maryland Trip!

Hi all!

I'm finally recovered from the traumatic return flight with Toddler (he's nearly two now!) He had a meltdown on hour four of the flight, during the part where we couldn't get out of our seats, so I had to restrain this screaming, thrashing little creature for what felt like forever. (And he'd been such an angel on all our previous flights...)

Until that point, the trip went great. I spent two fun days visiting Dunloggin, my very own middle school from 1985-87. Some of the 7th grade reading classes just finished reading What the Moon Saw. What an honor!!!

I had some great conversations with former teachers of mine-- Mrs. Witt (in pic, she organized my visit), Mrs. Stanley (aka Mrs. Petrovich), Mr. Petrovich (in pic), and Mrs. Kehm.

The seventh graders did some cool projects based on the book-- like making their own book covers. Here are some of my favorites... there are definitely some students who have a future in book design!

They picked out "classic quotes" from the book for the back of their book jackets. I loved reading the quotes that somehow stood out to them-- it made me happy that they connected with these images and words. *Remember, you can click on the image to make it bigger!*

They also pulled out a bunch of metaphors and similes from the book (more that I'd known were in there!)

Shortly before I left for Maryland, I spent a Sunday afternoon at ALA in Denver, chatting with Random House folks and hearing Colorado teens talk about potential Best Books for Young Adults and loading up on free ARCs (advanced review copies). After the conference, I went to my friend Lauren Myracle's freedom-to-read event at The Tattered Cover. (She's one of the most banned authors of last year). Her event was a blast-- a perfect way to end the day-- she's as fun and funny and smart in person as she is in her books. Here we are with writer buddies-- Ron Cree (Desert Blood), Lauren (TTYL series; Bliss), Brandon Meyers (sci fi and fantasy), me, and Keira (avid reader!)

Okay, I'm going to do a post about my visit to Clemente Middle School now. If you haven't signed up for my every-other-month email newsletter, please sign up! That way you'll know about the book releases and tours and contests I have coming up this year. Also, if you haven't been to my new website yet, you should take a look-- my husband worked really hard on it.

Thanks for reading!

Springtime, finally!

Hi all! I'm in my trailer with the windows and door open and the sunshine pouring in-- feels great.

I've been busy with events and school visits and conferences lately. I had a great time at my school visit to Heritage Middle School in Longmont a couple weeks ago.

Here are some pics of projects that the students did, inspired by WHAT THE MOON SAW. (Click on the pics to enlarge). The projects incorporated material from different subjects-- reading, writing, geography/environment, culture, art... I was very impressed!

I did workshops and a presentation and had a yummy burrito lunch with some teachers and students who had written winning essays. Most of the kids at Heritage speak Spanish, which made the visit extra-fun.

Last week I had another school visit-- this one to Cherry Creek High School. I wish I'd gone to a high school with a campus like that one. It felt more like a college campus, and the library (where I did my presentations) had one wall of windows-- pretty spectacular! The librarians and students were very cool. I'd been a little scared (not sure of what, exactly...), since I mostly do school visits with younger kids... but everyone seemed to have a good time and was very nice to me.

At the moment, I'm doing more rounds of revision on my next novel (which has yet to be named-- my writing group is a hard bunch to please-- but it will come out around Fall 2009). I'm also trying to arrange my France trip (where my next novel will hopefully be set)-- I'm pretty unpleasantly surprised at the cost of tix-- three times what I was expecting! Ack!

Baby's doing great-- toddling all over the place, saying "nana" (which means grandma and fruit), doing sign language (and inventing his own... hitting his head means "Take me outside!" and "Vvvvvvv" with a twirling hand motion means "Turn on the fan! Or else!"

Okay, that's all for now. Thanks for reading!