To BEA or Not to BEA

This year’s BookExpo America (a.k.a. BEA) convention was held in Chicago. Some authors think the convention is too big, too overwhelming, too crazy to enjoy. But when Capstone invited me to sign copies of Baker’s Magic in their booth, I was thrilled to go. Not only that, my son Ben was invited by his employer, Fordham Press, to work in their booth, so midwaywe could share a hotel room and flight (and he could carry my heavy bag!).


I made the mistake of thinking that Midway Airport would be easier and less crowded than the notorious O’Hare. And of believing that people who rave about Southwest Airlines were correct. I won’t inflict details — suffice it to say that Midway and Southwest were on the national news every night this weekend being castigated for the way they handled passenger overload and security lines.


Airports aside, the two days we spent in Chicago were wonderful. Our hotel had adee[ fabulous view of downtown (and of their own beehives on the 9th floor rooftop, whose honey they infuse into their house beer). We had a near-lethal martini to celebrate our arrival and went in search of deep-dish pizza, which I had promised Ben, an Arthur-Avenue pizza snob, that he would love. And love it he did, though he refused to call it pizza. “Pizza-esque casserole,” he allowed.


DSC01125I checked in with the Capstone folk on Thursday and then wandered around wide-eyed, amazed at the masses of people toting their swag or lined up to see romance and YA authors. I stopped by to see how Ben was doing at his booth, and then I signed books at the Capstone booth for an hour — 250 books, according to the Capstoners! I only know that my hand ached afterward, and that I spoke DSC01136to more people in an hour than I usually do in a year.


The experience became a little bizarre when someone with a guitar starred tuning up next to us and then broke into a rousing and extremely loud rendition of “Footloose,” with convention-goers clapping, cheering, and singing along. It turned out to be the Kenny half of Loggins and Messina, promoting his new children’s book. The surreality grew when the Capstone folk donned Batman pajamas and popped champagne to celebrate their new book, Bedtime for DSC01149Batman. If I’d known this was what BEA was like, I would have gone when it was in New York!


Capstone took its local and visiting authors out to dinner afterward, and we ate delicious Italian food and got to know one another.  My publisher’s generosity more than made up for the mile-long lines at the airport the next day. Thanks so much to April, Shannon, Sheila, and the other Capstoners and to all the librarians, booksellers, and readers who stood in line for Baker’s Magic. Let’s do it again sometime (but not from Midway)!





Bouts Buns Bakers Rule!

The Bouts Buns recipe at the back of Baker’s Magic works!


Of course I knew it worked. I’ve tested it and tested it. I have friends in England who’ve made them. But it’s so great to have confirmation from reader-bakers, too! This photo proves that kids can bake a better bun than I can. Maybe they were super-happy while they baked, so the buns came out super-beautiful.



Here’s the baking.







And here’s the eating. The bakers even agreed to share with their little brother!



Talking, Reading, Baking

As always, I loved appearing at Books of Wonder, the fabulous children’s bookstore DSC01014 in Manhattan. It was great to meet my co-panelists, Aimee Carter, J.A. White, and Leila Sales, and hear them read from their wonderful new middle-grade books. I bDSC01013rought mini-Bouts buns, which disappeared quickly, and got to meet my publicist, the charming and slightly virus-ridden April Roberts, who brought swag for the audience. And I was so pleased to see some old friends. Dave and Martha, Shani and Michael, Judy, and Susan (and of course Phil and Ben) — thank you for coming out for the event!

A couple of days later, I went to the Mill Road School for mill road schooltheir annual author/illustrator tea. They provided a delicious lunch for an impressively large group of writers and artists (the Hudson Valley is teeming with us). Then I talked to three fifth-grade classes about how Baker’s Magic went from idea to bound book (I called the presentation Baking a Book, which involved taking a metaphor and stretching it just about as far as it could go, or possibly slightly farther). The students asked loads of questions, some of them really challenging to answer. Afterward, I got to hang out with the authors and illustrators in the library, eat brownies and cookies, and sign books for students. Exciting, exhausting — fun!



Baker’s Magic Update

bowIt’s a busy week for Baker’s Magic! I’m taking it to the wonderful Books of Wonder on Sunday, March 13. I’ll be appearing with Aimee Carter, J.A. White, and Leila Sales from 1 to 3 p.m., and I may even get to meet my publicist on this side of the Atlantic. Come see us — there MIGHT be 100_8176Bouts Buns!



Then on Tuesday, I’m going to the Mill Road School to give a presentation on Baking a Book to fifth graders. Afterward, I’ll be signing books in the library. So exciting to talk about Baker’s Magic to everyone!



Box o’ Books

They’re here!




For me, all the parts of the publication process are exciting (some parts are mixed with angst and/or despair, but exciting nevertheless) — the contract, the  editorial letter, the copyediting, the proofreading, the arrival of ARCs.  But nothing is more of a thrill than seeing bound books. They are real. They have a cover and chapter headings and a copyright notice. My words are on the pages.


They are something I created, and they’re going out into the world. What could be more exciting than that?

Kids Weigh In

Because Baker’s Magic will be published in the UK at the same time as in the US, my lovely UK publicist has sent the book out to LoveReading4Kids, an organization that publishes reader reviews of books. And the kids have spoken! Here’s a link to the website with the reviews. And here are a few things the readers said:

Miyah Smith, age 10, for ‘With a dash of humour and a good helping of excitement, Baker’s Magic has all the right ingredients for an amazing fairy tale.’

Alexander Bisland, age 10, for ‘I really like this book and I especially like the recipe it gives you at the end. I recommend this book to 9+ adventurous readers. I give it 6/6 stars.’

Holly Wilkins, age 12, for ‘Baking, trees and magic…If you like intriguing mysteries and a little bit of humour then you will love this book.’

Richie Upchurch, age 9, for ‘This is a great adventure story. An orphan, Bee, is rescued by Master Bouts the baker, and they bake magical buns to save the town from an evil mage. There’s also a recipe and Bouts Buns are YUMMY!’


Turkish Delight

Tulips on platter, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul


By now you might know that tulips play an important role in Baker’s Magic. Well, we visited the country of Turkey this month, and I noticed something strange and unexpected. There were tulips everywhere! Not growing, of course — it is December, after all. But there they were in the art — in mosaics, carpets, fabrics, and tiles.


Tulips and Turkey? But…why?



Tulips on wall tiles, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Tulips on carpet, Carpet Museum, Istanbul

It turns out that tulips come from Turkey. That’s right — we might think of them as Dutch, but they aren’t. Originally they grew wild in Asia Minor — what is now Turkey — and possibly in what is now Iran. Turkish people began cultivating tulips nearly a thousand years ago. In 1554 the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador to the Court of Sultan Suleiman in Constantinople (now Istanbul) first saw them. He expressed his amazement at the flowers’ beauty, and the Sultan sent some bulbs back to Europe. They came to the attention of Carolus Clusius, a botanist in Leiden, Holland. Fascinated, Clusius studied them and gave many bulbs to his friends. With that, the craze for tulips — known as Tulipmania — and their place in Dutch history began.

Tulip fields, Keukenhoff Gardens, Netherlands


The reviews for Baker’s Magic have begun to trickle in…and they are looking great! Even Kirkus has given the book a wholeheartedly positive review. Publishers Weekly liked it. And my first blog reviewer not only loved the book but made the Bouts Buns from the recipe in the back (and from the photos, they turned out perfectly)!

A few pull-out lines:

Zahler (Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters) has created a cozy fantasy adventure with tension, twists, and sweet treats. Bee and her companions are quick-thinking and determined heroes, and their journey to right wrongs should appeal to a broad range of readers. (PW)

While this joyful, creative adventure is filled with pirates, magic, missing trees, and a cuddly hedgehog, it is more than just a sweet ride. At its core, this is a story of bravery, resilience, and love. (Kirkus)

As they say here in London: HURRAH!



So THIS happened: Marvelwoods announcement




I am pretty much in shock. And in heaven. And, most wonderfully, in London! It’s an embarrassment of riches.


You might wonder how I could have sold two books within a few months of each other. I don’t actually write that fast. And nothing in publishing happens that fast! I finished The Marvelwood Magicians before writing Baker’s Magic, but I decided to change the narrative point of view in The Marvelwoods, so I rewrote the whole thing. And because the editorial wheels spin at different paces, Baker’s Magic found a home first. I love both of these books, and I’m incredibly happy that each is with an editor who loves it as I do.


Now I’d better start writing that next book…happy writer