Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Interview with 2 Teen Readers

What to do when you have two fifteen-year-olds sitting at your table eating pizza? Turn them into a focus group and interview them about books, of course. I asked my daughter Tanzie and her friend Nika a few questions about recent books they've read.

What's the last book you read?

T: The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen ( Interviewer's note: this book will be out June'10. Tanzie was home sick one day when I had the first pages for the novel. Thus, the first teen reader of this book.)

N: Hunted by PC Cast, Kristin Cast

Thumbs up or down?

T and N: Up!

What genre do you like to read the most?

T: fantasy, fiction

N:supernatural, fantasy

Is there anything you don't like in books you read?

T: I don't like it when you can't relate to the characters. I hate stories that start out boring or confusing and you can't get into the story.

N: I don't like when something happens that could just happen every day, and it's just a lot of drama. I like things that are unique, like flying unicorns, you don't see those every day.

What is one of your favorite books you've read in the past year and why did you like it?

T: Looking for Alaska by John Green

It kept me reading and the characters were really interesting.

N: Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley

I could really relate to the girl, she was a lot like me.

Think of a book you didn't like and describe it.

T: Too many twists. You didn't even like the character. You have to like the character. The story was just too confusing. They forgot the basic story line because they added so much.

N: ( talking about same book as T) You didn't even know what to believe. It got confusing.

Describe the perfect book.

T: I have no idea.

N: The main character would be a really strong girl, who could take care of herself, and she would go on a big adventure to do something. Along the way she'd meet people and be betrayed and tricked and stuff. And fall in love with like an unexpected type of person.

So there you have it. Some very candid opinions about books by a couple of real teens.

Alastair McCrae

My summer was dominated by last weeks of life of my dear father-in-law Alastair McCrae. We spent three weeks driving around Scotland with him in July. This photo was taken at the Piping Centre in Borreraig on the Isle of Skye. On subsequent days we had a picnic in Elgol and stopped at the Talisker distillery for a wee dram. In Scotland, Alastair saw his older sister and celebrated his eightieth birthday with his twin brother Ewan at a great party in Perth.

We returned to England at the end of July and Alastair made the decision that he wanted to die at home. The doctors and nurses were excellent at providing what was needed, and everybody who wanted to see him got that opportunity in August. Alastair died peacefully on September 1 with his wife and daughter at his side.

The memorial service was held September 10 and Alastair had prepared some words and selected music. He wrote,
“I’ve had a wonderful life and it’s due to the many people who have contributed to it. The pieces of music today recall their generosity, love, and kindness to me. I’ve asked that they be played to mark my gratitude”.

For his eightieth birthday, I presented a gift of two bound pages. Alastair opened the wrapping and saw the first one that said: To Alastair. He thought that was a kind of card. He turned it over and saw the title page to my next book EYES ON THE GOAL. Then he realized that To Alastair was the dedication. "My dear fellow," he said as tears came to his eyes. "What a wonderful gift."

Wherever Alastair went, whatever he did, whomever he met, he brought joy and a sense wonder. We are all the richer for that.
Thank you, Alastair, for all your gifts.


What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I am back home and trying to resume my “normal” schedule after an eventful but also relaxing summer of sailing. Like a student begrudgingly returning to school, I’m turning in my first “assignment” for our blog (albeit one day late): “what I did on my summer vacation.”

After two unsuccessful attempts over the last two years (denied by gale-force northerlies that routinely howl down the Strait of Georgia) we finally made it to Desolation Sound. The area lived up to its billing as one of the most beautiful and pristine boating destinations in North America. Truly awesome.

We also fed deer by hand on Jones Island, caught plenty of Dungeness Crab, swam in the Poet’s Cove Resort swimming pool, saw orca whales off Lime Kiln Point, and found "treasure" at Pirate's Cove Provinvial Park (the picture is of our son, Ben, a pirate-in-training). Oh yeah, and I dropped the outboard motor for our dinghy overboard in Bedwell Harbor!!

Though I took a break from writing while on the boat, I did plenty of reading and bookstore browsing. One of the yearly highlights of our sailing season is visiting Sidney-by-the-Sea, on Vancouver Island, a small town that bills itself as “Canada’s only booktown.” Not an idle boast: there are no less than a dozen independently owned bookshops within a six block area! In Nanaimo, we also spent a (rare) rainy afternoon browsing the great selection of children’s literature titles at Literacy Central VI Used Bookstore. My favorite destination in all of the San Juan and Gulf Islands, however, remains Serendipity, a used bookstore occupying an old house, just up the hill on from the ferry terminal in Friday Harbor; with a great selection and reasonable prices, it’s a “must stop” for any bibliophile.

As for reading recommendations, these titles stand out: Alabama Moon, Stop the Train, Mortal Engines, The Thief, Not Just A Witch, and Sebastian Darke, Prince of Pirates.

That’s a snapshot of my summer. Now it’s time to get back to writing!


Riding the Roller Coaster!

My life these past two weeks has been a roller coaster ride--lots of highs with the release of ROAD TO TATER HILL, but also some emotional lows, including the disappointment of not finding the book on the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble or Borders. Then another "up" when I heard that a cousin found it on the shelf in Houston, Texas! I know there will be more ups and downs in the next few weeks as I head to North Carolina for a number of events. My comfort along the way has been my family (of course) and also my countless friends who have shown up at book signings and my launch party, have bought the book, and have helped to spread the word. Thank you so much!

A few weeks ago I posted the tale of the filming of the video book trailer for ROAD TO TATER HILL, written, directed, produced, and edited by my talented daughter-in-law, Mica Hemingway. I am happy to be able to post the finished version here on the One Potato...Ten blog. Thank you also to John and Alan Saunders for spending many hours filming in terrible weather, to John also for his work on the sound and color and voice overs, to Haley Eargle for being such a convincing Annie, to Eliza Muhler for providing Annie's voice, and to my dear friend Connie LaBrush for playing the part of Grandma. The instrumental dulcimer music is played by Larry Conger (with permission). If you love it as much as I do, you can find it on Larry Conger's CD "September on the MIssissippi" available through his website http://www.larryconger.com.

Before watching the video below, be sure to allow it to load completely by clicking on play, then click again to stop and go have a cup of coffee, tea, or glass of lemonade. By then, it should be fully loaded. Click play and watch. And please let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Road to Tater Hill from John Saunders on Vimeo.

Falling in...

So I'm sneaking in here. If I were a dog, my tail would be between my legs, because I was supposed to post last week. But my fall has been full of things to keep me busy in reality, keeping me away from my cyber-duties. In adddition to attending football and volleyball games every week, I've taken on some mentoring, some teaching at Gotham, and next week, a school visit trip to Indiana. It's easy to forget what I'm doing. But then there's always something to remind me why I do this. Yesterday, it was a package at the post office, containing the first copy of my new picture book, ( complete with a red bow from my editor) which I first signed the contract for in 2005. Wow, what a wait. But it has been so worth it, because I love the book and I think readers will too. Here's hoping you have a red ribbon day.



I love hearing about all your movies, launches, milestones and celebrations, and I especially love eating those virtual cookies. Congratulations my sweet potatoes! Here is a poem for all your hard work! (Borrowed from Garrison Keillor's compilation entitled Good Poems.)

by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.