Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Bryce" & "Juli" Weigh In On "Wild Bird"


It was in August seven years ago when Flipped came out in theaters. It was an exceptional experience. Many of you have already heard the tales, so I won't repeat them, but for those of you who haven't, track down a copy of the anniversary edition of Flipped and read the thirty new afterward pages to get a sense of what went on behind the scenes. From meeting Rob Reiner (who directed the film) for the first time to why the movie was set in the 50s and 60s when the book was written as a contemporary story, to the how the movie has expanded the audience for Flipped - there are some good stories there!

People ask me when another one of my books is going to be adapted into a movie, and my answer is that it's not right to get greedy. Flipped was turned into a feature film by the director of The Princess Bride for goodness sake. And he wanted to do the film because he read and loved the book.

Hello? He read and loved the book!

It would be bad karma to want more.

One of the fun and also unexpectedly wonderful things about the Flipped book-to-movie experience was meeting the cast of the film. The "kids" were all so nice and down to earth and patient. We had a premiere where, for two showings, they stood with guests for hours, smiling and taking individual pictures as people filed into the theater. They were such troupers!

Premier night, the thing that also struck me about Callan (Bryce) and Israel (Garrett) is that they're funny. Like, really funny. I have lots of pictures of Callan mugging for the camera. They're hilarious, but they're gonna stay in my vault. Seven years later he's not needing to see them pop up around the internet.

What I will share is that since Flipped came out, Callan's been in lots of projects, like I Am Number Four, The Great Gatsby, Blow Your Own Trumpet, and Hacker to name a few. If you want to see the full list of what he's been up to, check here.

Madeline's been busy, too, working on such projects as Mr. Popper's Penguins, The Haunting Hour, Scandal, Blink, with multiple other projects completed just this year. In all our communications, she's kind and upbeat and focused on her faith and doing good. Check out the full list of her projects here.

Stefanie Scott, who played Juli's best friend (Darla in the book, Dana in the movie) was really busy with A.N.T. Farm after Flipped and has lots of other projects completed. Very impressive!

Israel, Stepfanie, Madeline, Callan - an awesome bunch!
And Israel Broussard, (who played Bryce's best friend Garrett) has also been in a bunch of stuff - including Fear the Walking Dead - and is starring in Happy Death Day, which my son (the one who loves "funny horror films") is dying (h-hm) to see. It releases on October 13th (a Friday) and you can learn more and watch the trailer here.

For all of them, Flipped was one of their early projects, and seven years later, Callan and Madeline were both kind enough to make the time to read and blurb Wild Bird. I love what each of them had to say (see opening graphic), and it means a lot to me that the book resonated with them.

So this month brings a sense of nostalgia (how could seven years have gone by since the Flipped movie came out ?!?) and optimism for the future. Wild Bird comes out on September 5th and I can't wait. Years in the making, it's finally almost here and I'm hopeful that everyone will have reactions similar to Callan's and Madeline's.

For more information about the book, click here.

Fly, Wild Bird, fly!

Thanks for checking in - see you in the comments!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

This Is My Why

Where did you get the idea for this book? is a common question authors get. Usually, authors relate an anecdote of some sort. Or share an epiphany. Or confess to having read something in the news that sparked the basis for their story. (Florida authors seem particularly adept at this.)  

I do fumble about for adequate answers to share with people who ask, but the question I  wish they'd ask instead is Why did you write this book?

The why is so much more important.

It's actually everything.

Why did I spend years of my life thinking about, researching, plotting this story? Why did I obsess over word choice, balance, message, accessibility, theme, resolution, heart? Why did I put myself in this world, endure this character's agonies? Why? Why? Why?

For Wild Bird, the answer comes down to reflection. Reflection on how seemingly insignificant choices can set us off in a slightly wrong direction, which, over time, can land us in a place we never intended (or wanted) to go.

Reflections on the importance of friendships in shaping our direction.

Reflections on the questions we should ask ourselves when we're young. The ones that will help keep us moving toward where we dream of being. The ones that matter most.

When we're young and under the guidance of parents and teachers, we're given rules. Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not cheat. Think about the 10 Commandments -- it's simply a list of things you should not do. The rules we're given when we're young become our de facto moral compass.

But then adolescence happens and peer pressure (or curiosity or defiance or...) can lure us away from the things we've been taught not to do. Having friends, being accepted...it is a powerful force, one against which rules alone cannot compete. Our moral compass finds a new true north - peer acceptance.

It has helped me, I think, to see adolescence again through the eyes of a classroom teacher. I've seen my own youthful mistakes repeated by my students. I recognize the pressures and emotions and remember the agony of being that age. 

I taught high school for 15 years, and for many of those years I also worked two nights a week at the continuation high school, helping at-risk kids get through school. These were teens whose choices had betrayed them. And beyond getting their GED, most had no clear direction. They were young souls already lost. 

In education, we focus on helping our students complete the steps necessary to move forward toward careers. It's our job. But if I were back in the classroom now, I would pause that and ask my students to answer one life-defining question:

Who do you want to be?

Not what career are you after, or what position do you want to hold, but what kind of person do you want to be? What characteristics do you want to embody?

Because everything else in their lives will spring from a thoughtful defining of that.

So the why behind Wild Bird comes from reflections on the power inherent in defining our who. If we're able to define our who when we're young - if we're able to make our decisions by that guide - attaining happiness and fulfillment has a much better chance than if we let the pressures around us push and pull us in directions we never intended to go.

Wild Bird is the story of a girl who, at fourteen, is already defensive, bitter, angry, and lost. Her parents don't understand what went wrong. How did this happen?

It happened by degrees. The compass shifted. And, unfortunately, Wren's not alone. Nobody wants to end up where she did but a lot of teens do. And I don't claim to have all the answers - not by any stretch - but maybe changing the question can help teens consciously choose their direction. Maybe it can give them the strength and conviction to stay on the path they want for themselves. 

This is my hope for Wild Bird.

This is my why.
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(Wild Bird will be out on September 5th. If you'd like to read a short excerpt, there's one here.)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

In Search of Juli Baker


I've been getting a flurry of letters regarding Flipped from readers in Vietnam. 

I also learned that the Flipped movie was #5 at the box office in Korea last week. The movie was released in the US in August 2010, but hey, if you missed it here, you can catch it in theaters now in S. Korea. I don't know if the audio is translated, or if there are subtitles. Either way, how fun would it be to watch the movie in a theater there?

Why is it showing there now? I have no answer for that, either. The translated book has been available in Korea since 2005 (and through two different publishers) so maybe the success of the book has led to the showing of the film? 

Or maybe Flipped is just slowly making its way around the Pacific Rim.  I know that it's big in the Philippines. Some of my most passionate fans are from the Philippines. One teacher in particular is always ribbing me online about writing a sequel to the book. No explanation as to why I haven't written one is sufficient. He is relentless, but in a cute and humorous way.

Which brings me back to Vietnam. Last week I received an email about Flipped from a teen there. The letter was sweet and funny, but it also posed some really interesting questions and thoughts - ones that I want to share with you.

Let me set the stage by saying that the letter writer is a teen boy/young man, of sixteen. He points out that he was born in the same year that Flipped came out. He has watched the movie, read the book and "checked everything about Flipped and you and your books on Wiki and every fanblog."

So this isn't a simple case of 'When's the sequel?' He did his homework. And yet, he is not satisfied with knowing the whys of my not having written one. He summed it up by stating "The only thing that's sadder than a bad ending is an unfinished happy ending."

I want to grab him by the shoulders and say, No! Not true! How can you say that? An open-ended happy ending is...wonderful. It's full of hope and dreams and possibility! It makes you feel...alive. Like the future is yours to create!

He confessed to being a little obsessed with Juli Baker. Actually, what he said was, "I HAVE A CRUSH on your Juli Baker character. And I really hope that my girlfriend in the future would be someone like Julie." (LOL + 3 smilies.)

Do you love this guy, or what? I know I do.

But then his letter went deeper. Actually, a lot deeper. I am going to quote it here because any explanation or condensation of what he said won't do justice to his actual words. Please keep in mind that English is not his native language. 

It has been more than 15 years since you wrote “Flipped”. The world has change a lot since 15 years. Iphone, Internet appears, buildings are built. People start to looks at the phone’s light more than to meet other people in the proper light. And I start to wonder: “Is any girl like Julie really existed in this 2017 world?” And if that girl‘s really existed then what will she do? Will “the 2017’s Julie” keep climbing to another Sycamore tree? Or she would climb on top of some abandoned building to feel the world instead? Or somehow she would give up and just be normal to the world- the world with Ipod, Facebook,… ? Or ”2017 Julie Bakers” still be iridescent in her own freaking way?

    Okay, if you didn't already, now you love him, right? These are great questions to ponder. These are reflections on our world and how we interact with one another.

    Are things so fast and fleeting and on-the-surface now that we don't spend time truly knowing each other, let alone ourselves?

    Are we losing our iridescence?

    I need a tree to climb. I want to be wrapped in the arms of nature and think. No iPhone buzzing, no computer interrupting. I want to reflect on love and loss, tides rising and falling, and how no matter how far apart we live, we're really all neighbors looking to share a sunrise.  

    Sunday, July 23, 2017

    Given the Chance to Fly

    In a little over 6 weeks I'll be heading out on book tour for Wild Bird. It's a (mostly) West Coast tour, and you can see the schedule on my website's new Wild Bird page. There's also an excerpt from the book there which will give you a taste of what the story's like.

    Six weeks before a book comes out is when it starts feeling real. All of a sudden all that waiting you've been enduring transforms into panic about having too much to do before pub date. 

    What's to do? 

    Well, typically, it falls on authors to help to get the word out---to have the news about their new book be heard through the cacophony of competing sounds about other new books, and to somehow do so without being annoying or obnoxious. 

    It's a difficult balance. I think it's easier if you're an artist and can entertain people with your spontaneous sketches or with visuals from your works in progress. But when what you have is a book full of only words--words that you've spent a couple of years perfecting, words that must be read from beginning to end to convey the passion and purpose of the story--well, what you can do with 140 characters on Twitter or a snapshot on Instagram or a post on Facebook is pretty limited.

    But if you don't at least try, chances are your book will be launched from the nest and flutter helplessly to the ground. And if that happens, it may never regain the chance to fly because if your book is not one of the few your publisher has selected for a real media push, and your book hasn't managed to turn heads by "opening weekend," momentum will not be in your favor. There is just too much competition. Before you know it, people are on to the next season, the next thing.

    It's a hard reality. A frustrating reality. So when you see authors spamming you with news about their books, don't hate them. Instead, find it in your heart to have sympathy. And if the book sounds good to you, maybe even share or re-tweet their post, or hey, place an order in support. They've worked years for this moment. It's hard to watch it go by without at least a little fanfare, even if they have to generate it themselves.

    So yes. Six week from now, Wild Bird launches. There will be posts. I will try not to enter the Obnoxious Author Zone with them, but if I do, please forgive me. This book means a lot to me. I need to do what I can to give it the chance to fly.

    Thanks for taking time to read this. I hope you'll check out the new Wild Bird page and read the excerpt...and maybe I'll see you on tour.

    Meanwhile, see you in the comments!

    Saturday, July 15, 2017

    Sammy-opoly



    Do not get too excited. This is just a mock up! There is no deal with Hasbro/Parker Brothers to actually make this.

    But...isn't it fun? 

    This is what comes of sitting around the dinner table with my family, discussing how Sammy's world might translate to the Monopoly board. By midnight I had obsessively mocked up a Sammy-opoly board. Typical me.

    But I'm sure it could use improvement and I would love your ideas and input. If you see something missing or think of something you think would be better, speak up!

    I chose how to group/place the properties by balancing value, location (proximity to one another in Santa Martina) and theme.

    The  Heavenly Hotel edged out the Senior Highrise for cheapest property, but it was a tossup! 

    And I love that Hudson's Porch is the most valuable property. Not Marissa's house, not the Landvogt Mansion, not East Jasmine at all...and not Hudson's house, but his porch.

    I don't know about you, but whenever I play Monopoly, the most disappointing properties seem to be the ones between Free Parking (Skateboarding) and Go To Jail (Detention). They never pay off. And getting through them is such a slog. I'd rather go to jail.

    Speaking of...don't overlook the little letters around the jailbird. 😉

    For the 6 or 7 markers Hasbro/Parker Brothers seems to allow for special edition Monolopys I'm thinking...skateboard, binoculars, high-tops, police car, cat, catcher's mitt, horseshoe.... Other ideas? 

    I've got a long drive ahead of me, and on it we'll be brainstorming Chance (Shortcut) and Community Chest (Library) cards. Here are just a few early ones:

    • Take a ride in Hudson's Cadillac. If you pass GO collect $200.
    • The Nightie-Napper strikes again, pay $20.
    • Get $50 reward for returning softball statue to city hall.
    • Cracked a safe, get $100.
    • Fell off skateboard, advance to the Hospital.
    • Heather frames you. Go directly to Detention.
    • Caught ice blocking. Slide back three spaces.
    So take a gander and join the fun - give me your feedback and throw in your ideas. Let's play!

    PS Like I said - we're just goofing around, but ... maybe someday!

    Sunday, July 9, 2017

    Cover Reveal! New Sammy Keyes #4-8

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    I'm so excited, are you?

    Covers #4-8 have been finalized, and I'm sharing them here first. 

    Some of you have already seen Runaway Elf (#4) at online bookstores...which, yes, is confusing because it isn't out yet. Don't know how or why that happened.

    But you haven't seen the other four! 
    I'm loving the new covers - aren't they good? You may recall from a previous post that the illustrations are by Australian artist Craig Phillips. (If you're on Twitter you should follow him - his work is amazing!)

    Anyway, do you have a favorite from the new batch? Can you find the hidden numbers? (Click to enlarge image.) Some of the numbers are easy to see, and some...not so much! 

    When they first came across my desk I even used a magnifying glass while searching Snake Eyes for the 7. How classic-mystery is that? They've increased the contrast a little in the final, so you (probably) won't need to do the Sherlock thing, but humor me and say you didn't see the 7(s) right away. (That, by the way, is a hint.)

    This batch (#4-8) will be available on September 12th. And together with the first three they'll make up 8/18, or 4/9, or 0.444444, or almost half of the image that puzzles together along the spines. And all of them have book club/discussion questions inside. 

    In case you missed last week's post, or haven't seen the flurry of giveaways I've been doing elsewhere online, I hope you'll jump in and have some fun trying to win copies of the new editions. I'm doing a Free Book Friday, Get-1-Give-1 drawing each week through summer (and probably to the end of the year if I can get organized enough to coordinate it while I'm on the upcoming September/October tour for Wild Bird).

    So go find me on Twitter and Instagram (@WendelinVanD) and visit the Sammy Keyes (books) Facebook page. You can enter at all three places to increase your chances of having your name drawn. Plus you'll get to see a different "Sammy Square" each week, which is a lot of fun in and of itself. (I love how they remind me of what Sammy went through in each book.) I'll give you a sneak peek at next week's because that's what I do here, right?

    And last, but certainly not least, the results of last week's blog giveaway!

    (Drum roll, please...)

    Psst! Did you notice the background cloth?
    Randomly selected by good ol' names-drawn-from-an-actual-hat technique, the winner of two copies each of the first three new issue Sammys is...JESSICA, who identified her favorite Sammy scene as being from the pirate date from Dead Giveaway.

    Can I get a chorus of "Billy Pratt!"?

    Amen.

    Congrats to Jessica (please email me your mailing address), and to those of you who didn't win (or didn't check in last week), we will do it again sometime! Meanwhile, try your luck over on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 

    See you in the comments!

    Sunday, July 2, 2017

    Easy-Peasy Giveaway!

    Giveaway time! If you follow me on social you know I've started a giveaway where every Friday throughout summer we draw a winner who receives two copies of a new Sammy Keyes edition.

    If you didn't know that and want to join in, separate giveaways are happening:

    1) at the Sammy Keyes (books) Facebook page

    2) on Twitter @WendelinVanD

    3) on Instagram at @WendelinVanD.


    It's super easy to throw your name in the mix, so I encourage you to enter everywhere to increase your chances of winning.

    And now, here, for my faithful blog followers, I'm offering up two copies of the first three Sammys - one set for you, one for a friend.  ('Cause you guys are awesome 😊.)

    All you have to do is tell me your favorite scene from any Sammy Keyes book (no spoilers, please!). Describe it in brief in the comments below, and you are entered. Easy-peasy!

    In addition to the six (2x3) Sammys, I'll also send the winner one of the hardcover mysteries that I received while serving on the 2016 Edgar committee (young adult category).

    So enter here, and everywhere, and happy summer reading!

    Next week: I'm planning to share new art from the next batch of Sammys which release on Sept 12th. They're wonderful, and the hidden numbers are super fun.

    Have a great week. See you in the comments!