Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


My Querencia

This has been a summer packed with family gatherings and concerns, writing-related SCBWI business (which brought together 6 of our One Potato...Ten spuds), and the realization of a dream. Although I didn't manage much actual writing time, other than revising my first picture book manuscript, I did finally move into my long-awaited writing cabin.

The construction began last winter and continued sporadically through spring and into mid-summer. We hired a team of good-humored men to build the frame of what they teasingly called my "play house."

Then my husband did all of the interior finishing work. (I helped paint :>)

The exterior staining of the wood and painting of the door is still to come before winter sets in, and the bookcase may end up being my Christmas present, but the essence of my "querencia" is here for me to savor.

Just this past week, I traveled to North Carolina for four school visits. At Jacobs Fork Middle School (near Hickory), I led the students through a writing exercise in which they wrote about their querencias. I was amazed at some of the results after only a short 15-minute writing time!

In Spanish, querencia describes a place where one feels safe, a place from which one's strength of character is drawn, a place where one feels at home, where "whenever you return to it, your soul releases an inner sigh of recognition and relaxation."

This is mine.
Where is yours?


What a Summer!

For a long time Portland, Oregon didn't really have any summer. It was cold and rainy. But I had decided to dedicate June and July to writing and that I did! I wrote that novel that I have been talking about for so long, Late She Came to Know.

Then the sun came out, brilliant and warm. It brought a baby! My second grandson, Parker Raymond Kelly, was born August 31st. He's glorious!(See profile photo)

With him came other good news. My Alicia Alonso:Prima Ballerina got starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher's Weekly.

What next? A biography of Salvador DalĂ­. I did the preliminary research this summer, and I'm ready to start writing!


What I Did Over Summer Vacation...

Like Christy, I was busy with work most of the summer (though I did have a marvelous week in Lake Tahoe to relax, so I won't complain!). My summer projects included getting ready for the publication of my latest picture book, The Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Stories. The photograph is from the publication party at the Red Balloon Bookstore in Saint Paul last month, where kids came in homemade masks to enter the Scary Face Contest.

I read stories and drew pictures to a trolley full of pajama-clad kids in two separate events sponsored by local bookstores.

Just last week I was author-of-the-day in the Alphabet Forest at the Minnesota State Fair, a project masterminded by the amazing Debra Frasier. Kids came and took part in fun, creative, literacy-based, free activities. For my day, I had kids create their own "Hidden Alphabet" bookmarks with rubber stamps (don't you love the wild "Fair Hair" of those two girls?).

And throughout the summer I've been working on a revised dummy for the first book I'll be both author and illustrator, Art Attack. The sketches are going well, but I could easily fill another summer with finalizing the drawings.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful weekend in Maryland presenting at Edie's SCBWI conference. At the conference I got to present with my editor from Sterling, Meredith Mundy, which was the first time I met her in person, and was a real treat.

Yes, it was a very full, and very fine summer!

Oh! and if you saw a flock of pigs soaring through the clouds, that's because I finally succumbed and signed up for Facebook.


Vacation, who me?

Today was my radio debut on KQED public radio. Listen to my Perspective and leave a comment. I'm archived at http://www.kqed.org/a/perspectives/R201109060735/. You can still hear the piece streamed live tonight at 11:30 pm (Pacific time) or in a more extensive program of 9/11 Perspectives on Sunday, September 11, at 7:37 am.

Much of this summer I've been finishing art for a picture book for Philip Lee, a publisher familiar to many of us. I began art direction and design work with Philip back in 1991, working on Lee & Low's first list. One of my projects a few year later was John Coy's book Strong to the Hoop. I went on to illustrate books for Lee & Low (including three by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen). More recently my authorial debut with the company originated with an aside Philip made in 2002, about wishing he had a picture book about Isamu Noguchi. Philip left Lee & Low before my Noguchi book published. I'm excited to work with him again in his new venture, Readers to Eaters (http://www.readerstoeaters.com/).

Readers to Eaters mission is to promote food literacy from the ground up, so children and families become active participants in their local food culture.
They do so in three ways:
1) Retail books about food, featuring newly published and classic titles, popular as well as undiscovered staff picks
2) Publish books about food for children and their families, as well as teachers and librarians, whom are essential in the food dialogue
3) Develop programs and events about our food system by partnering with farmers, gardeners, chefs, teachers, librarians, parents, organizations and communities

Our School Garden! kicks off the Readers to Eaters publishing program and I am the illustrator and designer. Here are a couple of pages for a sneak preview.


Summer summer summer...

Summer is just about officially over. Looking back on the writerly things I did, there are a few that top my list. I was thrilled to be a speaker at the SCBWI conference in Maryland along with David, John, Lauren, Betsy, and Edie. Definitely a highlight of the summer.
At the conference, my editor Liz handed me her revision notes for my novel The Raft. I'm happy to report after all my hard ( okay, perhaps a tad obsessive) work the past month, it went to copy edits on Friday. Whew.
The most inspiring thing I did this summer involved my work as the Harney County Writer in Residence. Since my stint started in January, I've been in schools all over the county. In early August, I did workshops at the Eastern Oregon Academy, a court-ordered facility for boys ages 12-16 who have found themselves in trouble for one thing or another. The boys are there for a year. I wasn't sure what to expect, or if they would even want to do any writing.
I was blown away. They had all read The Compound and had so many questions for me. They were so receptive and engaged, and all are amazing souls with heartbreaking stories. One boy brought his piece up for me to read and I wept, I couldn't help it. Those boys may feel like no one listens to them, but through their words on paper, they have discovered their voice. Many were already poets and writers long before I showed up, and the work they shared with me was so powerful.
The week I spent with them was my favorite of the entire Writer in Residence program and I was sorry to have to say goodbye. To me, they were so inspiring and they made me want to go home and be a better writer. They made me realize that, despite wanting to please my agent and my editor and the reviewers, I need to be writing for my readers. That sounds dumb, I know, I mean, who else would I be writing for? But honestly, in the world of YA, there are so many adults you have to make happy that you forget your actual intended audience. I won't be doing that anymore.