As always, I loved appearing at Books of Wonder, the fabulous children’s bookstore 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 brought 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 their 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!
It’s been quiet on the blog for a while.
(This is actually the sign for a fabulous bookstore in Claymont, Delaware)
I’m between books.
For the first time since 2009, I don’t have a book in the works. It’s a weird, unsettled feeling.
It’s not that I’m not writing! My hands still ache from typing at the end of the day. I’m churning out textbook materials at a furious rate, now that the industry has picked up a bit. I’m writing Common Core readers’ guides for trade publishers. And I’m working on something completely new and different that’s both exciting and unnerving for me.
Still, I miss that rollercoaster of ms-to-bound-book. The elation of acceptance. The despair of the editorial letter (four single-spaced pages of criticism? How could there be THAT MUCH wrong with it?). The nerve-wracking fascination of seeing a story change with every revision, becoming more and more itself. The pleasure of a manuscript copyedited by someone who notices that the truffle-hunting pig is the wrong gender. The elation of the first cover viewing. The pure joy of a box full of bound books. The anxiety of the days leading up to publication (the reviews! the reviews!). It’s a wild magnification of emotion, and without it, things are…calmer. Flatter. Quieter.
But the upside is, that calm is a place where I can write. Its flatness allows me to create my own imagined hills and valleys. In its silence, I can hear my characters’ words — and even, if I listen closely enough, their thoughts.
The Books of Wonder Great Middle-Grade Reads event was so much fun! Joining me at the table were three other great middle-grade authors:
Dan Poblocki, presenting his really scary new book, The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe. And Morgan Keyes, with the second book in her fascinating Darkbeast series. And, all the way from Australia, Catherine Jinks, presenting How to Catch a Bogle, set in Victorian England.
Jennifer Dee (@rifflemg) live-tweeted the event — a first for me! — and my HarperCollins editor, Andrea Martin, stopped by.
And as always, owner Peter Glassman and the enthusiastic and well-prepared bookstore staff were the perfect hosts. They made us feel just a little bit like rock stars — a pretty amazing feat, considering the real life of children’s book writers…