Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bust Through and Bloom

It's been three years since the Boston Marathon bombing wreaked havoc on the lives of many. The incident occurred about two years after the publication of The Running Dream, where the life of Jessica, the main character, is changed forever when her leg is crushed in a bad accident and has to be amputated. I spent two years researching, writing, interviewing, submerging. For so many reasons, I wanted to get the details right.

And then the Boston bombing happened. I wanted so badly to help, knowing that their lives would be a struggle both in physical recovery, but also in finding a life beyond the nightmare and injustice. I wrote about it in the post Why I Keep Wearing the Same Three Outfits.

It's one thing to write a story about a character who has the strength to endure the agonies of a cruel twist of fate, it's another to watch real people do so. Not personally knowing any of the victims, I could only follow via social media or the news...from afar. And then there was the remarkable connection I wrote about in It's a Small World After All, where one of the bombing victims turned out to be the daughter of a bookseller I met on my very first book tour.

And that connection drove home another horrible facet: Imagine being the mom.

I tear up just thinking about it.

But then imagine witnessing your daughter not just survive, but develop a determination to walk again, dance again, life a full life again...and then somehow bloom in ways you could not even have dreamed of.

I try to track all the victims, but the two I want to spotlight today are Heather Abbott, who has done guest speaker assemblies at schools who have used The Running Dream as an all-school read, and Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who's mom is the bookseller I mentioned. Both have found ways to bust through their circumstances and bloom.

Heather now helps provide others with specialized prostheses. You can read about her and her love of stilettos (really!) in this People Magazine article.

You might have seen Adrianne on Dancing with the Stars, or on Anderson Cooper, but this Monday please root her on as she takes to the streets of Boston to run the marathon. (There's a news program about her here.) She's running in association with the Limbs for Life foundation to which you can donate if you are so inclined.

I know people who have become bitter and miserable because of things much less life-altering than what the innocent bystanders at the Boston marathon were hit with. Adrianne and Heather show us that there's a choice you make in your heart when faced with the cruel things life may throw at you. Are you going to give in to the unfairness of it? Let it destroy you? Or are you going to bust through and bloom?

What you have to go through to move on may seem impossible, impractical, or totally unfair, but it's really the only option for a happy life.

Find a way. Bust through and bloom.

Thanks for checking in. I look forward to meeting up with you in the comments. Meanwhile, Go Runners! #BostonStrong

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Treasured Box

Twenty years ago, I gave my first speech. It was to a gymnasium full of students at the high school where I taught math and computer programming. I was comfortable talking to 30+ students at a time in a classroom setting, but facing the gymnasium packed with the entire student body? I was terrified.

The assembly was arranged because my very first book, How I Survived Being A Girl, was coming out that weekend. I was there to share the trials and setbacks I'd faced in the publishing process. I was there to encourage students to set goals and work steadily toward them. I was to be a beacon of hope for them in achieving their dreams.

Being a reliable soldier, I promised I would fulfill these expectations.

Then I careened toward a cliff and told a gym full of teens about my first car. 

This was high school, after all. I wasn't going to hold their attention for 45 minutes with talk of setting goals and the steady application of effort. It also wouldn't have done much for their teen attention spans if the story had been about my parents gifting me a slick new car boasting German engineering.


So I guess it's a good thing that my first car was a self-funded junker. A fixer-upper. A ridiculous heap. 

The story I told included my misguided efforts to paint the car myself and the hazards I suffered while changing the clutch, and wound into bigger themes of persistence and determination. 

The delivery was a wild ride. It was also the first time I went "airborne" in a presentation. But I survived and, in the end, the administration let out an enormous sigh of relief and the students gave me a standing ovation--something I will never in a million years forget.

I was thinking about all of this today for two reasons. 

First: I've been asked to give the closing speech at a writer's conference in October, and I've decided that sharing the story of my junker totally fits the bill. 

Second: Thinking about the above, it struck me that it's been twenty years--twenty years--since that first assembly. Which means that for twenty years--twenty years--I've had this mini Underdog lunchbox on my desk or within reach of it, since it was a post-assembly gift from one of my teaching colleagues. 

The lunchbox was meant as a token of camaraderie and support but it has served to remind me of something more important than going airborne, or the joyful disbelief of my first standing O. 

It reminds me who I write for. 

It reminds me why I write.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Coming Up For Air

I know it's been ages--like, a year since I checked in. I miss this community and actually think about my regular readers often. I hope you'll say hi in the comments and let me know what's gone on in your world. I would love to know. 

Events in my life and the end of the Sammy Keyes series left me in a pretty emotional state, but I've channeled that in a positive way through my writing. I have a new middle grade (best for kids in 4th-6th grades) coming out in October. It's called The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones and is about a boy who has to spend his after school hours at a dementia-care facility where his mother works as a caregiver. It's about a lot more than that, but that's a pretty good summary of the situation. They say humor is the best medicine, and  the writing of Lincoln Jones served as a much needed antidote to the emotional toll of seeing my feisty, intelligent, witty mother succumb to the devastating effects of dementia. The book is also my way of gently guiding kids to the realization that--as hard as might be to imagine--old people were once kids, just like them. 

Besides the writing, I've been working on a new website--one that I can update myself, easily and often. It's got a lot of great content--pictures, information, teacher support downloads, and behind-the-scenes Flipped movie stuff. There's also a readers gallery, so send in your pictures and artwork! Check it out here:

I do have other news, but won't go into it now. I'll be back! For now, I just wanted to say hello and let you know that you've been on my mind. See you in the comments!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sammy Keyes Party Videos!

I promised I'd post here first with the Sammy Keyes Party's taken quite a while to get them done, but here they are at long last!

Here's an overview of the Sammy Keyes party...the entire documentary couldn't be included, but at least you'll see a little of the intro.

Also, the interview with my editor was made into a separate file, for those who are curious about our process. The interview was conducted by the amazing and wonderfully dynamic Walter Mayes

And last (for now), here's a medley of the live music we did at the party, including parts of the Sammy Keyes song! 

Thanks again to Tim Wadham, book missionary extraordinaire, whose vision and passion made this all possible. (And what other party's ever offered its guests mac'n'cheese'n'salsa?)

That's plenty to keep you busy for a bit, but following up on a few other things that may be of interest...
  1. Sammy will be getting new covers and reintroduced in Spring 2017. I'm very, very happy about that. I know it's a little ways off, but they're redoing all 18 paperback covers so that's a big undertaking. (Some of you are probably wondering, but I'm not sure if Kiss Goodbye will come out in paperback before then...)
  2. Flipped will have a 15-year anniversary edition next spring. I've written some fun extra content for it, and I'm holding my breath that a really cool idea for the cover gets approved...
  3. I have a new book coming out in Fall 2016. It's titled The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones. I'd elaborate, but, uh, it's secret?

I hope all this makes up a little for my silence over the past few months. I miss this community and think of you often, hoping you're happy and doing well. I'd love to see you in the comments!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bye For Now!

A few years ago, when it came to my attention that Sammy fans were wondering why a Sammy Keyes book hadn't come out in over a year (and that they were speculating about my possible death), I committed to writing a new post every Sunday through the publication of the last book in the series.

Kiss Goodbye was published back in September. And it made sense to keep the posts going through the tour, but now that we're back home, I think it's time to take a hiatus. My posts had become newsy more than inspired--a shift I wasn't happy with, but something that the wrap up of the series seemed to call for.

I will post when there is news. For instance, there was another meeting just this week about Sammy-to-TV. If a deal gets done, I will definitely tell you about it!

I want you to know that it meant so much to me on both legs of the tour to meet "people from the blog." I cannot begin to explain how absolutely wonderful it was to meet so many of you in person. The readership here is an extraordinary group and I feel so lucky that you have come to spend time with me every Sunday for years!

So this isn't "Goodbye" -- this is just me recognizing that it's time to take a break until something post-worthy comes along.

Meanwhile, here's waving at you!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Basement Tour

I had to remind myself several times this week that we're not doing this tour for the scenery. Interesting (or even varied) scenery is nice, but that's not the reason we're on this tour.

Which is to say that this week provided more long, wide miles of corn.

And then wheat.

And then basically barren plains.

But in the towns between, there were people, and bookstores, and stories.

Everyone really does have a story, and for a lot of the indie bookstores--some of which have been around for generations--there are stories inside them, too.

We were in the little town of Seward, Nebraska where Chapter Books sits on the corner of a small, classically American-looking square. Outside, the two-story brick building is painted a lovely red with grey and white accents. It's quite beautiful. And on the inside where the bookstore occupies the ground floor, everything looks welcoming and well-organized--a really nice place.

But then we heard about the basement! A scary basement that the employees refused to go. And that upstairs were abandoned apartments. Rumor was, they were scary, too.

So of course I begged for a tour.

And they were scary!

But also interesting.

And I could feel the tickle of stories beginning in my brain. Who were the people who had lived upstairs? Had there really been a barbershop downstairs? How, with no windows? Where did the freight elevator go? Why were there large plastic-wrapped church artifacts lying among ancient newspapers? And what was in that large heavy crate, unopened for 50 years?

I had a blast on the tour of the basement (despite rumors of rodents of unusual size) and the abandoned apartments. Just the old furniture and wash basins were enough to tickle me happy.

How can this not make you wonder?
What struck me after we left Seward was that, yes, beautiful (and varied) scenery is nice, but the cool thing about being a writer is that there are stories waiting for you everywhere, even (or maybe especially) in the most unexpected places. You just have to listen. To the people you cross paths with, to the buildings you pass through.

Who needs scenery when you're allowed into a basement?

So that's my little musing for this week. Next week wraps up the tour and I am looking forward to our last several events...and then to getting home after 8 weeks on the road. (And getting my computer fixed!) Here are the final dates:

Monday 11/3 @ 7 PM, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT
Wednesday 11/5 @7 PM, Lyon Books, Chico, CA
Thursday, 11/6 @ 6 PM, Face in a Book, El Dorado Hills, CA
Friday, 11/7 @ 7 PM, Hicklebee's, San Jose, CA

And lastly, I noticed online that today is Jessica's birthday. As one of this blog's faithful followers and ever-thoughtful contributors, I want to send up a special cheer: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESSICA!

See you in the comments!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What Week Is It? (Corny Tales from Tour)

I wish I had some exciting tour news to relay, but since last Sunday we have left Wisconsin, traversed Iowa, made it halfway across Nebraska, and what we've seen this week is much like last week.


I have so many questions about corn.

For starters, how on earth can we consume all of it? I know it's used for feed and oil and maybe liquor?

But, seriously, I'm not talking about miles and miles of's been states and states and states of corn!

I understand we're in the world's breadbasket. But holy smokes. I can't even fathom processing all that corn.

Corn aside, we've also been to some great bookstores. The thing with indie stores is that they are all different. And I guess the one that was the most different this week was the Book Vault in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

The Book Vault is a repurposed bank, with three separate vaults inside that are used as speciality cubbies. There's the Mystery Vault (which pleased me enormously), the Local Vault (for local writers) and (if I remember right) the Science Vault.

There are three levels, with an open ceiling near the front door and register, and stairs that zig-zag up in unexpected places around and above the vaults. It was a bit like walking through a place with secret rooms and staircases--so cool!

A nice thing about this week was that we had our first real day off yesterday. No travel, no event, just stay put and relax (which meant reading, writing, and running...).

And why did we have a day off?

Well, because we were in Nebraska and had been (rightly) warned that nothing, could tear Nebraskans away from game day activities. Yes, the Nebraska Cornhuskers had a home game, and pity the fool who tried to compete.

So, when in Rome...

Or in Nebraska...
And it was actually great. We even watched a little of the game.

Go, Huskers!

And that, really, is the update. Next week I'll be writing you from Utah. I'm not sure where Corn Country ends, but I'm pretty sure Utah is past that boundary. But I'm also pretty sure they don't have a Book Vault.

Thanks for checking in, and for the comments you've been posting--I appreciate them more than you can know!