Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


My Summer...

It's hard to believe summer is already at an end!  I wish I could say I finished a manuscript or signed a new contract or am about to launch a new book, as some of my fellow spuds are doing. My summer has been busy, but not filled with much time for writing.  The day after school was out my husband and I headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week with both our children and their families.  It was a wonderful week, especially with my brother looking after our parents so I could relax.  Here's a photo of all of us on the beach at sunset.

That same week, I began teaching an online writing workshop through McDaniel College's graduate certificate program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.  It was a busy 8 weeks, but I think I learned as much as my very talented students, and I hope to continue as an adjunct, teaching in the program.  In fact, I've been asked to be a faculty advisor for one of my students during her MLA final project--writing a young adult novel.

Throughout the teaching, I was also planning and preparing for our annual 2-day regional SCBWI conference, which went off without a hitch in mid-July.  We had an amazing line-up, including keynote authors, Richard Peck, Deborah Wiles, Sally Walker, and Bobbie Pyron; editors Mary Kate Castellani of Walker Books/Bloomsbury, Stacey Barney of Putnam/Penguin, Christine Peterson of Capstone Press, and Rotem Moscovich of Disney Hyperion; and agents Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary Agency, Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary, and James Proimos of Welcome Literary; and a very talented illustrator, Jaime Zollars.  Here's a photo of me with Richard Peck at my home for the faculty dinner the night before the start of the conference.  What a joy to have him here in person!

I also managed to get away to Los Angeles for the 41st annual National/International SCBWI Conference, which was another amazing week, jam-packed with marvelous speakers and good friends in the writing industry.

Any spare time amidst these many endeavors was taken up with helping and caring for my parents.  Just yesterday my husband and I helped move them to an assisted living facility 10 minutes away, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will settle in well.  The apartment is tiny, but we worked hard to make it as homey as possible with their own furniture, paintings, and other well-loved belongings.  I will, of course, be seeing them frequently, but I hope to have a lot more peace of mind knowing that they have capable caregivers available at any time day or night.

I'll close with a lovely photograph of my father with my youngest granddaughter (his great granddaughter), Piper Drew Hemingway, on his lap a couple of weeks ago.  It's one of his happier moments over these past difficult months.

Ooops!  I forgot to say that I now have my mother's 7-foot harpsichord (built in British Columbia by Sabathil & Son) sitting in the great room of our log cabin!  It is a "French Double" with a hand-painted soundboard made of Canadian Cedar, an American Black Walnut case with gold banding, and Rosewood double keyboard.  I'll post a photo in a future blog post.  In the meantime, I try to slip some practice time into my busy days as a way to calm my mind.


Whidbey MFA in August

Don't look for me here. I am the bad photographer. But the MFA at Whidbey in August was fun!

Not just because of the BRAVE immersion into the cold water but because of the BRAVE  immersion into the program. You see here faculty and students together. We are one body. 

I must highlight my dear friend and visiting faculty Susan Fletcher (not in picture) whose audience is still asking for more. She spoke about emotions. Hidden emotions. Do we want to go there? Susan says that if you don't, you must. OUCH!  

David Shannon (not in picture) is another favorite. He is funny, honest, down to earth.

Both of these authors and many others are giving back.

Thanks yo them.   


Summery summary

As predicted, my summer was spent dedicated to the new book that I'm illustrating. I just finished painting spread #10 out of 14. The final artwork is due in October, and as long as I keep at my slow-and-steady pace, I'll make it.

When I looked back at my journal entries for the past three months, even though it felt otherwise, I discovered I had done plenty of other things besides sit at my drawing table. I gave presentations at several libraries and teacher workshops, especially enjoying the time I was housed at a beautiful B&B in Lanesboro, MN. I had numerous "game nights" with my friend Gary and others (Dominion in all its variations is our current favorite game). My launch party for It's a Tiger! at the Red Balloon was great fun (and the book just received a starred review in School Library Journal...roar!). And like Potatoes Lauren and John, I spent a day as the "Home-Grown Author" at the Minnesota State Fair's Alphabet Forest, a very happy way to wind up the summer.

My summer vacation begins late this month when Gary and I head to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for five days. I am very much looking forward to plenty of hiking and time spent outdoors near Lake Superior.


This summer I didn't venture too far from home, except for a weekend at the American Library Association (ALA) conference in Anaheim. Here is a photo during my session signing books at Lee & Low's booth, showing off f&gs of my upcoming fall release, Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building.
I also signed Our School Garden! for Philip Lee's new publishing venture, Readers to Eaters. I worked in-house in publishing for many years, so it is fun when old friends and colleagues come West and I can see them.

One highlight of the summer was celebrating my mother's 90th birthday. I am fortunate that she is healthy in body and mind, and lives only five blocks away.
I traveled vicariously when my daughter went to Madagascar. She has been studying mouse lemurs with a research group at Stanford. This work culminated in the rainforest with the Stanford group teaching biochemistry to Malagasy students. Here are some Malagasy boys and the endangered Greater Bamboo Lemur (only 15 left and she saw two).

I also spent the summer developing curriculum for a new Graphic Design program I am teaching part time at my daughter's high school (my old hs). Kate is a senior this year, so I am invading her territory, but she has been most gracious about my arrival. Summer ends early here; we're already in the fourth week of school!


Summer summer summer...

I cannot believe it is Labor Day. For the most part, summer is over. In no particular order, here are some highlights of mine, some writing-related and some not.

1. My youngest graduated from high school. Definitely some tears, but also a sigh of relief that our days of K-12 education are over. She is on to be a Duck at the University of Oregon. ( As we are a Badger household, this has given rise to some conflict in terms of the impending football season.I did find myself cheering for the Ducks the other night though. It will be rough if they once again meet the Badgers in the Rose Bowl....)

2. I completed the sequel to The Compound as well as the equally painful first round of editorial revisions. I'm expecting the next batch of notes from my editor this week...

3. I got the contract for my middle grade series signed. The deadlines are wild: Book 1 due Jan 15, Book 2 draft due March 15, Book 2 final due June 15, etc. etc. Good thing I will have an empty nest.

4. My third YA novel The Raft was released August 21. We had a launch party at The Book Parlor, my local indie bookstore, and while I was in Minnesota on our family vacation, my family surprised me with this cake.

5. Another highlight was heading back to Lambeau Field for a Green Bay Packer game.
6. And I took my youngest to NYC for a couple days. I had breakfast with my agent, lunch with my editor, and saw some fabulous shows. Here we are about to head out to Sister Act.
So it was a great summer, I got a book written, and I'm onto the next season...