Sunday, January 31, 2010


I remember when Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief was published, I wanted things to happen faster than they were. The first four Sammys were written before the books were picked up by Knopf, and with a backlog of stories waiting, I wanted people to keep up, follow along, know what was happening next in Sammy's world.
My in-house publicist at that time told me that it was better to have a gradual build; that slow and steady was good; that it made for a solid career.
I could appreciate the theory of this...but I still wanted things to happen faster than they were!
I think this is pretty common, not just among authors, but in many facets of life. We want to hurry up and get there!
When my kids were little, I wanted them to sleep through the night. Then I wanted them to talk and to walk and to get out of diapers. Then I wanted them to quit clinging to me when I dropped them off at school. And on and on. Every phase seemed to come with a struggle attached to it.
Just like life.
But now my kids don't cling, and sometimes I wish I could go back and have some of those gonna-die-without-you hugs.
I try to apply these lessons to my career. Back when we lived in a 400 square foot house in a bad part of town and I'd get up at five in the morning to write a little on a Sammy Keyes book before going to teach school...I wanted that phase behind me. I wanted publishing success. NOW.
But it's like Sammy was in her infancy, and I was going through the sleeplessness phase. Now she's got a crush, for goodness sakes! Pretty soon the hugs will be gone!
Now, it's not like the pace has been torture. I've enjoyed this long, slow build. A lot of really good things have happened along the way, and my publicist was right--it has made for a very solid career. I think about the quick flash of some authors (or actresses, or whatever), and in a way I feel sorry for them and their skyrocketing success. How on earth will they ever top that? It's almost impossible, yet most will spend the rest of their life trying.
So I take a deep breath and tell myself to enjoy where I am while I'm there. In the blink of an eye, it'll be over.
Just like life.
So those are my musings for this week, probably propelled by the fact that things seem to be accelerating at somewhat dizzying rate. And for those of you who are following along, here's the low-down:
  • The meeting about Sammy Keyes to TV went very well. (And if you're one of the people who has written in with concerns, I hear you. And believe me--I'm at least as concerned as you are! The last thing I want is for Sammy to come off the page and onto the screen in a way that will ruin her. Unless I'm 100% convinced that the transition will be a good one, I'm not going to do it!)
  • The Swear to Howdy writers are a hoot! (And no, there's NOT a deal--they're just "shopping" the script, hoping to get a production company excited about it. There are scripts all over Hollywood and very few of them actually make it to film. It's just been nice to have these writers so enthused about my little 'overshadowed' book.)
  • The Flipped movie is wonderful! And Thursday night's cast and crew screening at Warner Brothers studio was so much fun. (I was told at the party that the movie may come out sooner than September--obviously it would make sense to release it when kids are out of school--I'll be sure to let you know when I know more.) So two big thumbs up from Mark and me -- they've done a beautiful, heartfelt job.

So that's all for this week! Thanks for checking in. I'm looking forward to seeing you here next Sunday!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

What a Week!

Wow, what a week! Lots to report, so probably no musings this time, just an update. Top of the news heap: Mark & I have been invited to the cast and crew reception and screening of Flipped. It's happening next week (!) at a theater on the Warner Brothers film lot. So next Sunday I'm hoping to have a fun report to post about that. In other "Hollywood" news: The screenwriters who were interested in Swear to Howdy have sent me their first-draft script--they did a great job! We had a conference call today, which went really well, and I'm feeling very optimistic about the potential here. Key to me is that these writers really love this book, and it shows in their script. AND you Sammy Keyes fans will (I hope) be happy to hear that I got a call about having Sammy as a series on a new network (that focuses on family programming). Ordinarily I'd be very skeptical about this (and worried that the process would morph Sammy into someone I didn't recognize or like), but the key here is that the CEO has read the books and is a woman who likes Sammy just the way she is, and I've been told that the network would want my input. So I'll keep you posted on that, too! In book news, Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher is back off my desk and on my editor's. She had some good suggestions (like she always does) and then going through it again, I had a couple of extra ideas, too. And after our "Think Tank" entry and comments, I was sure to mention Sammy's shoe charm :-) Which brings me to the result of the "Think Tank" -- I've consolidated the best ideas and submitted them to Random House for consideration, really focusing on the idea of a shoelace charm. And since this is the 13th book and Sammy is 13 years old, I'm thinking a horseshoe charm just like Sammy's would be the perfect item. (Good luck to offset bad?) I'd wear one, and I know a lot of you would, too! Our own fashion trend :-) Also, I've seen the rough sketch for the book jacket, and as soon as it's done and I have permission, I'll post it here for you to get a first look at. Right now I'm working on the rewrite for The Running Dream (which is a stand alone book, and the reason I'm late with Wedding Crasher). It's going very well, and I've seen (and LOVE) the preliminary art work for the jacket. We also came up with a new "family band" song this week. It's rough still, but smokin' hot! Tssss! (Sorry I'm being a little hyper. Band practice always amps me up.) Anyway, here's the link to the "secret" site, if you haven't already been there. (If you're at a school and myspace is blocked, try: --fidelity is not as good.) And last, but certainly not least, ETRTR news: My trip to Oklahoma for the ETRTR winner is shaping up, and aside from the usual school visit activities, they've asked me to put on a mini concert for them. I said I would IF some kids from the school played with me. So they're putting together a little rock band to help me shake the rafters off the gym. It should be a blast! (The principal and librarian there are SO cool...!) And I'm happy to announce that my contact at First Book had TWINS. Boys. I used to think I wanted twins, but then I had a child and realized one boy at a time was plenty overwhelming enough for me! But I'm excited for her and her husband, and the kids, too -- they've obviously come into a great family. And that, my friends, is the news for now. Thanks for checking in--I'll see you here next Sunday!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Power of Small

I was talking to a friend this week about Flipped becoming a movie, and it struck me that the path back to how this enormous film project began is worth retracing.
Worth remembering.
Starting at the end... How does a man like Rob Reiner get interested in your book?
I think the traditional route is that the book or story gets pitched, either by an agent or a screen writer...or it's a huge best seller that everyone's heard about. But the trail here is not a traditional one. It involves Rob Reiner doing a very un-Hollywood thing: He read the book.
And what would a man like Rob Reiner be doing, reading a "kid" book?
Spending time with his kid. Apparently his family was on a flight and his son was reading the book for school.
And why would his son be reading my book for school? It's a romantic comedy with a white cover and an upside chick on it--certainly not obvious "boy" material.
Because Flipped won the California Young Reader Medal and schools throughout California "adopted" it into their libraries, with some schools making it required reading the year of or following its win.
And why did Flipped win the California Young Reader Medal?
Hm. Well, the obvious answer is that kids liked it. This award is a kid-vote award, open to all books published in the US, and in California there are only 3 nominees per category and kids who vote are required to read all three. (Almost all states have a similar award, but in most states there are 10 or 20 nominees per category. However, kids only have to read three of the titles in order to vote. I think California's structure is fair...but the downside is it's hard to get on the list when only three titles are permitted per category.)
So a better question, then, is how did Flipped get on this short list in the first place?
A librarian nominated it.
So there it is, then. The reason Flipped is becoming a movie.
A librarian.
I like this thought. I like this path. I like remembering that little things can make big ripples. And I like to remember that all of us move through this life saying things and doing things...little things...and some of those things go on to affect other people in big ways.
It's good to remember.
It's good to believe in the power of small.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I've been experiencing an unusually long streak of happiness. I'd say I don't know why, but I think maybe I do. And it's actually rather counter-intuitive, considering I've just had another birthday, and I've had a long (somewhat notorious) spell of hating my birthday. I think this happiness comes from a sense that there are good things right around the corner; that life is ahead of me, not behind me. Not the usual sentiment of a woman my age. Granted there are lots of things slated to happen in 2010 (like the Flipped movie!) but they will come and go, and this feeling seems deeper and stronger than that. It feels like possibility. Like lots of new, unexpected things are about to happen. Who knows what? I almost don't care what. I just like the feeling of possibility. Now, I think part of the reason I feel this way is because my family had a really wonderful Christmas break together. Mark had time off, and the boys had vacation from school and they got along great. They went shopping together, did homework together, slept in the bunk beds and yakked through the night. They seemed to really appreciate each other, which made me so happy. I've told them both since they were small that my big wish in life is that they will be friends--as children, but especially as adults. It's the one thing I want more than anything else in the world, because I think with that all the other hurdles they may face are manageable. Also, we don't live a life of big entertainment. We don't even go to the movies that much. Mostly, we entertain ourselves here, and one of the things we do is "Family Band". My younger son hates when I call it that because it sounds so lame. So the rest of us call it that, just to see him pull a face. Our "official" band name is Thing 2 (because all of us are second children, except for our first son, but he got out-voted). We really should be The Parsons Family, but that sounds cheezy. You think The Partridge Family when you hear The Parsons Family, but we're like The Partridge Family meets Metallica. We're loud. Oh, and (little detail) we're a real band. Anyway, this vacation we raised the roof quite a few times, and recorded a new original ("Reputation"). Mark just mixed it down tonight, and it's SO much fun (and it totally rocks). Maybe I'll upload it and provide a link next week if anyone's interested. Double-anyway, playing loud guitar is my therapy, so I got a lot of it this break, which must certainly be contributing to my happy state of mind. I think everyone needs some sort of creative outlet to up the happiness quotient. Or at least stay sane. Write, paint, sculpt, shake the walls with a Marshall amp...something. I really think the two things that keep me sane are running and my guitar. Like Evangeline in Confessions of a Serial Kisser, plugging in an electric guitar transformed me. Gave me an outlet for rage and joy and pain. Triple-anyway, Mark plays the drums and until a few years ago, our kids used to tell us to TURN IT DOWN! How backwards is that? But now they play with us (lead guitar and bass) and they don't think it's weird or uncool to be in a band with their parents. They like it. I just shake my head in wonder at that. I have the best kids. The best husband. The best family. And it makes me happy. Really, really happy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

ETRTR Winner!

Congratulations to CENTRAL MIDDLE SCHOOL in Edmond, Oklahoma, the winner of this cycle's Exercise the Right to Read challenge. What an amazing school. Not only are the staff and students enthused and involved, they're also generous and giving.
As many of you may know, first prize includes an all-expense paid author day visit from a certain ETRTR captain (and that would be me).
Now, I've visited Central Middle School before on a regularly scheduled "Author Day" visit, and I was really looking forward to going there again, this time gratis. However, Central Middle School put a very interesting and completely unexpected twist in the plot line--they bequeathed me to a "sister school" -- a middle school in their area that, due to funding, has far fewer extra curricular opportunities than Central--and booked a regularly arranged school visit with me for the following day.
I tell you, Central Middle School is amazing.
So this spring, I will be flying clear across the country to visit these two schools in Oklahoma...only that's only part of what's turning out to be something of a perfect storm.
You see, my book Runaway has won Oklahoma's Sequoyah Book Award (in the Intermediate category), and to celebrate this honor I have been invited to be a keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Library Association convention luncheon.
When word got out that I would be in Oklahoma for OLA, schools in the area started requesting me for Author Day at their school, and now you wouldn't believe my calendar--it's jam packed!
But the eye of this "storm" is that, in addition to the school visits and the convention, things have been arranged so that students and teachers from these schools (and others) will meet me at the starting line of the 5K Oklahoma City Memorial Run and, side-by-side, we will "Exercise the Right to Read" together through the streets of Oklahoma City.
The idea of incorporating an ETRTR community run "with the author" started in Fargo, ND, and if you're new to this blog, I urge you to read the "Fargo? You Betcha!" entry from October 4th -- three middle schools combined their resources and energies, did the ETRTR program, and met me at the Fargo Marathon 5K starting line to complete their "marathon" of reading and running. For their enthusiasm, creativity, and participation, these three schools will be awarded prize packages of books and audio tapes as outlined on the Prizes page of the Exercise the Right to Read website.

The schools that participate in this program continue to reinvigorate my faith in what can be accomplished by teachers, administrators, and students who are willing to "go for it." If you're interested in getting involved in the next cycle of ETRTR, check out the School Program page(s) at the Exercise the Right to Read website. It's a fun, free way to combine literacy, fitness, and community service, and (as you now know) there are prizes. Start planning now. I'll see you at the starting line!