A New Rating System

Not that I rate books publicly, but I kinda rate them in my head when I’m finished. I’ve been thinking about my rating system and decided to overhaul it a bit:

ONE STAR: I didn’t finish the book for whatever reason. Does not apply to books I fully intend to finish, like THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST BOOK 2. I swear I’ll finish you someday! (It’s been like two years…) This is more for books I didn’t finish because I found them boring, or I couldn’t connect with any characters, or any other arbitrary reason that has more to do with my personal taste than the quality of the writing sometimes. ON THE ROAD was a one-star book for me.

TWO STARS: I finished the book but I didn’t like it. A WRINKLE IN TIME was a two-star book for me. Most people disagree, and I agree with them that maybe there is something wrong with me that makes me not like this book. Anyway, if I finished the book, something compelled me to do it. Something drove me to finish it. Characters, motivation, writing. SOMETHING. So it gets two stars.

THREE STARS: I finished it and liked it alright. Not earth-shattering, I definitely don’t regret reading it. MATILDA was a three-star book for me, probably because I saw the movie first and the movie is FOUR STARS NO QUESTION and the book doesn’t have Danny DeVito or Mara Wilson.

FOUR STARS: I finished the book and WOW, it was really great. Superb writing. Compelling. Wonderful. A book that makes me laugh usually gets four stars automatically. For whatever reason, it’s not on my list of favorite books ever, but I do love it. MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF N.I.M.H. was a four-star book for me.

FIVE STARS: It made me cry AND it made me laugh. (Both are usually required.) It made me feel strong emotions. I can’t stop thinking about the book after I read it. I have to buy it and put it on the bookcase where I keep all my other favorite books. I would buy out this book’s merchandise. I would maybe get a quote from this book OR THE BOOK’S COVER tattooed on my body. THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE was a five-star book for me. (I could totally get “Bindy Mackenzie talks like a horse” tattooed on me FOR SURE)

All my examples, except the five-star one, are from authors who are now dead, so they can’t get offended. That said, feel free to tell me how wrong I am. I AM VERY USED TO IT.

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SYNC Audiobooks!

I’m revising my book (see previous post) but I’m updating for a different reason. I think I’m gonna try and do the SYNC Audiobook Summer thing – it’s a program that offers free audiobook downloads of YA books every week (see HERE). Some I won’t listen to because of time (mostly the adult books that are sometimes paired with the YA books), and there are some books I’ve already read (WORDS IN THE DUST, HOW IT WENT DOWN, GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, ON THE JELLICOE ROAD, THINGS FALL APART, and BONE GAP). Still, it should be fun. I’ve already listened to last week’s book, VIVIAN APPLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD, and just started this week’s book, THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER.

My audiobook listening has really increased lately! Some recent faves: BAD FEMINIST, DUMPLIN’, TINY PRETTY THINGS, THE MAGNIFICENT MYA TIBBS: SPIRIT WEEK SHOWDOWN, and PAX. Mmmmm, audiobooks.

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BOOK IS DONE

Well, I ding dang did it! I finally finished the book I’ve been working on for longer than HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL. Time will tell whether it’ll be published or not, but hey, finishing is half the battle! Also, I think it’s a darn good book.

I will say that if it gets published, the acknowledgments are gonna have to be their own entire chapter.

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Robin’s Favorite Audiobooks of 2015

I’ve started listening to audiobooks since I ride my bike to work and they’re a nice (and not loud, so I can still hear the outside world) way to pass the commute. Also, I joined a gym, so I can knock out even more audiobooks than I used to. Here are my favorites of 2015 (not necessarily published in 2015 though):

 

1. THE COST OF ALL THINGS by Maggie Lehrman, read by Sharmila Devar, Shannon McManus, Jesse Bernstein, and Nicholas Dressel

The cost of all things

I think I would have loved this book just as much had I read it instead of listening to it, but listening to it did give me an appreciation of the language Lehrman uses. Sometimes listening to audiobooks is difficult because you notice things you wouldn’t notice in print. Repetitive sentence structure, or five bazillion instances of “said” that just grate. However, THE COST OF ALL THINGS didn’t have any of those problems. I loved the words as much as I loved the whole novel, which follows a girl who pays a large sum of money for a spell to forget her dead boyfriend. I won’t go into further detail, because it’s nice to listen to the novel just unfold.

Voice cast also did a great job. Another thing that will kill an audiobook for me is the narrator. There are four here, though, and they’re all good, and they all seem to get their characters.

 

2. FUZZY MUD by Louis Sachar, read by Kathleen McInerney

Fuzzy Mud

Sachar is one of my favorite authors and I think his writing style translates well to audiobook. McInerney does a really great job here with the cast of fifth- and seventh-graders.

 

3. SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli, read by Michael Crouch

Simon vs the homo sapiens agenda

Funny, heartfelt, and a really good narrator.

 

4. FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE! by Tim Federle, read by the author

Five Six Seven Nate

I avoided this book for a while, because I’d really liked BETTER NATE THAN EVER and I was afraid the sequel wouldn’t hold up, BUT I WAS WRONG

 

5. MASTERPIECE by Elise Broach, read by Jeremy Davidson

Masterpiece

Another book I avoided for far too long. I remember a lot of kids in one of my after-school programs reading this when it came out, so it’s always been in the back of my mind. However, I like to read physical books if they have illustrations, so I was holding off. I really shouldn’t do that! But I like looking at illustrations and they’re never included with my downloadable audiobooks.

 

6. KINDA LIKE BROTHERS by Coe Booth, read by John Clarence Stewart

Kinda Like Brothers

This one had maybe my favorite narrator of the year. He knew just where to put the emphasis, and even though his voice was clearly an adult man’s, he got the intonation and cadence of a preteen boy down PERFECTLY. I laughed out loud many times while listening.

 

7. IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE by Eric Gansworth, read by the author

If I ever Get out of here

I’m gaining an appreciation of authors reading their own audiobooks. It makes sense, they wrote it, so they’ve got the voice in their head already. Still, I know not everyone is the best reader. But Eric Gansworth is.

Coming up next: My favorite Graphic Novels of 2015!

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SMART Author Fair

On August 22nd, from 12-2pm, I’ll be signing at the SMART Author Fair! See below for more details, and click on the image to see the event on Facebook, where you can RSVP to the event. There will be many other authors in attendance, including Rosanne Parry (Heart of a Shepherd, Written in Stone), Heidi Schulz (Hook’s Revenge series), and Victoria Jamieson (Roller Girl)! Hope to see you there!

Meet-Me-at-the-SMART-Author-Fair

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Website Update

I’ve gone ahead and cleaned up my website. JUST A BIT. Just enough.

I’ll do another update soon. What’s happening now, though? Well, for one, I got promoted at work. For two, I finished PAPER MOON, that book I kept talking about finishing. Now I’m in revisions! For three, I don’t have an appropriate link for this, but I’ll be in ALA in June! In San Francisco! I’m there for work, but if you’re there and want to say Hi, I certainly won’t stop you. But I may talk to you about comics.

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ALA Media Awards

We’re so close to the awards now! And I know I haven’t done a proper “Top ____ List” of books I read last year, which will hopefully happen soon. Last year was a good year for reading.

I’m sadly not very good at predicting Newberys, but I do always hope it’s a book I’ve read (and enjoyed!), so I hope that this year it’s WEST OF THE MOON or UNDER THE EGG or BROWN GIRL DREAMING. (If EL DEAFO wins, that will be exciting too, but I think the Newbery committee will likely adhere to the rules. :\ )

As for the Printz, I have no idea. Maybe GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE? I read that last year. I think it’d be great if OTHERBOUND got at least an honor. Same deal for STRANGE SWEET SONG and LIKE WATER ON STONE. And since graphic novels can win the Printz, wouldn’t it be awesome if THROUGH THE WOODS got some recognition?

Not sure if WE WERE LIARS will end up on the list. There was a lot of buzz when it first came out, but I feel the buzz has died down since. It’s a very divisive book. (For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed it!)

Aaaaaand I don’t read enough picture books to even begin talking about the Caldecott.

However, as always, I’ll be live-tweeting the event, because it’s the most fun I have all year. Join me?

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Latin@s in Kidlit Guest Post

Today I’ve got a guest post up at Latin@s in Kidlit! I talk about my grandmother, Patty “Lola” Nova, and share a couple of the stories she used to tell me as a child. Head on over to read more!

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Oregon Book Awards

The Oregon Book Award finalists have been announced, and guess what? HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL is one of them! Below are all the nominees for both the children’s and young adult categories, from the Literary Arts website. I’m very pleased to be in this company!

ELOISE JARVIS MCGRAW AWARD FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
Judge: Lesléa Newman

Kim T. Griswell of Ashland, Rufus Goes to School (Sterling Children’s Books)
Susan Hill Long of Portland, Whistle in the Dark (Holiday House)
H. Joseph Hopkins of Portland, The Tree Lady (Beach Lane Books)
Deborah Hopkinson of West Linn, The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, The Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel(Alfred A. Knopf)
Elizabeth Rusch of Portland, Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World
(Candlewick Press)

LESLIE BRADSHAW AWARD FOR YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE
Judge: Mitali Perkins

April Henry of Portland, The Body In the Woods (Henry Holt)
Robin Herrera of Portland, Hope is a Ferris Wheel (Amulet Books)
Lisa Schroeder of Beaverton, The Bridge From Me To You (Scholastic)
Christina Struyk-Bonn of Portland, Whisper (Orca Book Publishers)

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An inspirational NaNoWriMo Post

I have some open tabs on my computer right now, both regarding the town of Melmond, which I needed to research for my current WIP, that YA novel I’m always yammering about. But I thought I’d take a quick break and talk about NaNoWriMo for a bit.

Back in 2005, after I’d been in college for a year, I decided to give NaNoWriMo a try. Though I’d heard about it many times before, this was the first year I was going to attempt it. (The lead-up to this was that I’d read a bunch of novels over the past year, most of them children’s and young adult, while waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out. Reading those books made me realize that I wanted to be a writer.)

I wasn’t cocky. I didn’t know if I’d actually succeed. I DID think I was a really brilliant writer, though, and that I’d probably only need to do one draft of my book before I needed to sell it. (This is terrible thinking and no one should think this.) The book I ended up writing was an adult novel. Down the line this novel would eventually lead me to Star Mackie and Hope Is a Ferris Wheel—that’s right! This was the Sixth-Grade Delinquents book.

I did not win. I got about… 25-30 thousand words in before November was up, though in my defense, November is a terrible month to have to write a novel, especially if you’re a student. Anyway, I failed, but those 30,000 words were my first 30,000 words on the way to being a writer. And I didn’t give up on my book, which, at 30,000 words, was not even CLOSE to being done. I mean, I did finish the first part. One part of four. Four parts total.

(I eventually calculated that, had I finished that novel, it would have been around 130,000 words. Before I finally stopped writing it, I reached 102,759 words.)

A little too much to handle for my first NaNoWriMo.

After that, I took it easy. I didn’t enter NaNo again while I was in school. Actually, that’s a lie. I think I tried it again my final year of grad school and failed. I got about 12,000 words in on that novel, a legit YA.

It was the year AFTER that, then, I think, that I finally won National Novel Writing Month. I did the bulk of my writing on this book, an older-MG/younger-YA, in the final week of November that year, and won with about thirty minutes to spare. Kind of terrifying.

Sadly, that novel I wrote was TERRIBLE! I shelved it, and didn’t look at it until last week, when I was reminded of NaNoWriMo again. I was surprised to find that the book started out pretty well before dissolving into meaningless drivel about three-quarters of the way through. I began thinking, “Maybe I can fix this,” instead of, “I want to light my laptop on fire.”

Anyway, if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you the best of luck! I am again attempting to use the month to finish my WIP, hence the Melmond tabs. I’ve got high hopes this year.

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Children and Poetry

Last Saturday, I went to Multnomah County Library’s used book sale to pick up some cheap books (while helping out the library!). I snagged some books I was missing from my collection, like LIAR & SPY and THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND. I also got a book of crockpot recipes, some animated movie soundtracks, and a book of urban legend comics.

But I also picked up a couple of poetry books, and one of them was the exact same book I used to read to my students, back when I worked in after-school programs.

The tough thing about the after-school program I used to work in was that we had kids ranging from age 5 to age 10 and 11. That’s a big range. While the older kids spent the bulk of their after school time doing homework, I had to have activities that would appeal to all these ages. (It was really hard.) One thing I did with the kids was read to them during snack time, when their mouths were full and they were most likely to be listening and attentive.

For a while, I read them Louis Sachar’s SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL. (Which was ALSO at the library sale, but I already own the series.) We went through all three books, and the kids really liked them! But I couldn’t just read the same three books over and over again, no matter how popular they were. I began searching for other books I could read aloud, and that’s when I happened upon this book in the school library:

random house poetry

I had a great idea upon seeing the cover. I checked out the book and brought it to the snack table the next day. To my surprise, the kids did not seem very excited about the poems, until I began asking them to pick a page number from the book (I gave them a range of numbers). After that, I’d count up the poems on the page and have another kid pick a number between, say, 1 and 6. Then I’d read that poem.

Doing that, I think, made the kids who picked the numbers more invested in the poem. They wanted to see if the page or poem that they picked would be good.

We never did get through all 572 poems. After a few weeks the kids wanted something more structured and fictional, so I read them MATILDA. But hey – it did work for a few weeks. In any case, I look forward to reading all the poems in this book. Maybe randomly, or maybe in order. Who knows?

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Twitter is my playground

I feel like this is a pretty good indication of the kinds of horrible misadventures you miss out on if you don’t follow me on twitter.

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New for September

There’s not a whole lot that is new in September!

I feel like I should do craft-related posts here, but at the same time I also feel like maybe those are posts that are more helpful when I have more than one book available for people to read.

It would be nice to post the doodles and assorted drawings I do, but my tumblr is already a handy dumping ground for that.

Maybe I could post book reviews? Except I kind of do that at Goodreads already.

So… I will spend the next month thinking of things to go on this blog.

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Heavenly Donuts!

I think I’ve found my reading groove again. I started downloading audio books (from my library, legally!) and listening to them as I ride my bike to and from work every day. Last week I got through THE DREAMER by Pam Muñoz Ryan and BETTER NATE THAN EVER by Tim Federle. This week it’s THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS, which I read in elementary school and loved but don’t remember enough about it to consider it read.

Aside from that, I’ve been reading while eating breakfast and dinner as well, so I was able to finish Varian Johnson’s THE GREAT GREENE HEIST last week as well. FOUR BOOKS! Anyway, we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, I just wanted to share this picture.

photo (6)

I think there are three Heavenly Donuts locations in Portland, and here is one of them. The “Heavenly donuts!” catchphrase Star and her family use was a last minute addition, stemming partly from my love of slang and partly from my unease with making my characters say “Oh my God!” (Long story short: I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.) I needed an alternative, and this seemed to fit perfectly.

The One Four MG group did a picture post recently, and while I was not together enough to get a photo in, I would have submitted this one if I’d had it. But hey, it should be shared SOMEWHERE.

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New Events!

I’ve added an event (and hints of events) on my EVENTS page! I’ll be doing quite a bit of traveling in the fall. Only to Oregon and Idaho, but still!

In the meantime, I’m hard at work finishing up that YA I’ve mentioned a few times. I’d like to finish it by the end of August, so posts may be smaller and more sporadic.

I also went to San Diego Comic Con this year, which was a lot of fun. Met with a lot of great people, ate a lot of great food, saw a lot of great costumes, and sold a lot of great books. In fact, you should totally pick them up if you’re into comics at all:

IWTCV1 - 4x6 COMP SOLICIT

I WAS THE CAT by Paul Tobin, illus. Benjamin Dewey – ever wonder if your cat is actually plotting something sinister while it sits there and licks its paws? This book is for you. (It’s even for you if you don’t LIKE cats.)

ACOEV1 - 4x6 COMP FNL

ARCHER COE & THE THOUSAND NATURAL SHOCKS by Jamie S. Rich, illus. by Dan Christensen – I was telling people at San Diego that this book is like all the best parts of THE PRESTIGE. Great mystery paired with fantastic art, this book tells the story of Archer Coe, The Mind’s Arrow, a hypnotist who may be losing his mind.

BUNKER V1

THE BUNKER by Joshua Hale Fialkov, illus. by Joe Infurnari – I’m so proud of this book. It looks sharp, the story keeps you guessing, and I love how deliciously flawed every character is. The art takes this book to a whole new level – Infurnari’s subtle lines and color choices tell the story so perfectly. Great for time travel enthusiasts.

LETTER44 TPB V1 - 4x6 COMP FNL

LETTER 44 VOLUME 1 by Charles Soule, illus. by Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque, colored by Guy Major and Dan Jackson – imagine if there was actually a conspiracy so large that only the United States President and a handful of people knew about it. Such is the premise in LETTER 44. I read the first issue script over a year ago, and when I finished, I emailed Jill, the book’s original editor, and demanded all the rest of the scripts. This is an intricately-plotted story, drawn with amazing detail.

Of course, these are all adult-ish books, so I wouldn’t read these unless you’re at least thirteen. Okay, time to go write. Happy Friday!

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Writing Process

I don’t actually have a writing process.

When I talk to other authors, I don’t feel like I’m a good representative of the writing life. I don’t even write every day! I’d like to, but some days I’m too beat or tired, and I need to sit on my couch and eat chocolate. Or, go to the grocery store and buy chocolate, then take it back to my apartment to eat it.

You get the idea.

Lately, I’ve been a lot better about writing. I’ve been coming home, turning on my laptop, setting my iPad up to play a Pandora playlist called “80s Pop Radio,” and banging out words. But my laptop, which I’ve been joking is “at death’s door” for the last two years, has an annoying habit of randomly freezing.

It’s time for a new computer.

I’ve had my MacBook Pro since 2006, when I transferred to Mills College. It’s been a big part of my life. I’ve edited movies on it (including the HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL book trailer), recorded songs on it (yes, I am an amateur songwriter), written novels on it (plural! novels plural!), and bookmarked tons of websites I’d be sad to lose but never visit anymore.

Anyway, it’s time for a new computer and a new writing process. My process is kind of in flux in these dangerous, computer-freezing times, so it’s a good time to change up my routine. Maybe face my desk in another direction. Maybe do free writing in a notebook before I start typing. Maybe buy Scrivner and play around with that.

Whatever happens, I’m excited for a change of pace.

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The Margin Project and Margin Notes

At some point before, during, or after reading this post, you should check out Jen Malone’s THE MARGIN PROJECT. Jen is the author of AT YOUR SERVICE, a fun and bubbly MG I’m greatly enjoying right now!

Anyway, a few weeks ago I received an ARC of my book with tons of awesome margin notes from the fine authors at OneFour KidLit! These were awesome and made my day/week/life, so I wanted to share some of the least spoiler-y ones:

The Trailer Park Club

Mixed reactions to THE TRAILER PARK CLUB’s name

 

photo 9

SOMEONE DREW MRS. FEINSTEIN’S PINKY

 

photo 8

Ha ha ha, no one likes Denny

 

photo 7

I hadn’t really noticed, but Star is kind of obsessed with making sure the minutes are taken

 

photo 6

I’m so proud of that burn. Glad someone acknowledged it.

 

photo 5

Good to know that eating fingernails elicits a universally disgusted response

 

photo 4

This IS a nod to Alan’s lecture! I snuck this VCFA reference in at the last minute.

 

photo 3

Ha ha ha, no one likes Mr. Savage either

 

photo 2

People REALLY don’t like Mr. Savage. At what point can I admit he was based on me and not get eaten alive?

 

photo 1

SO GOOD. This made me laugh out loud for a solid minute.

 

I hope you had as much fun reading those as I did!

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Quick Update

It’s been a busy month!

Most of my time has been eaten up by my upcoming wedding, so I haven’t been able to post anything here. Amazingly, I’ve been able to do some reading–mostly comics, but I just finished fellow VCFA-er Rachel Wilson’s debut YA novel, DON’T TOUCH. Highly recommended, especially if you were ever involved in theater. (Find more info on it HERE.) Reading that book brought back a lot of fun theater memories.

After all, I met my husband-to-be on the set of a high-school play!

So, please give me a couple weeks to get adjusted. I’ll leave you with this Star Mackie doodle as a consolation prize:

 

stur mackie

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June 23, 2014 · 3:30 pm

BEA 2014

I am not at BEA this weekend.

But on the off-chance that YOU are, here are some things to pick up!

Evil Librarian jacket

EVIL LIBRARIAN by my friend Mikki Knudsen. At the Candlewick Booth! (2857)

8684768

HOOK’S REVENGE by my friend Heidi Schulz! At the Disney/Hyperion booth! (Don’t know which number!)

And if you go by the Abrams/Amulet booth, they may have some HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL poetry club guides. I haven’t confirmed this with anyone, though. They could be there, but if not, you should pick up OTHERBOUND by Corinne Duyvis or STEERING TOWARD NORMAL by Rebecca Petruck. And they will probably have ARCs of…

Winterkill-Kate-A.-Boorman

…by another one of my Amulet pub-sisters, Kate Boorman!

THAT IS ALL

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Exciting Things: Week of 5/12

Lots of EXCITEMENT this week!

1. STEERING TOWARD NORMAL by my pub sister, Rebecca Petruck, is out now! This book is hilarious and heartfelt – my favorite combination. EXCITEMENT!

18405502

2. Another debut is out this week as well: Kate Hannigan’s CUPCAKE COUSINS! I am ridiculously proud of this thing I made for it:

cupcake cousins

EXCITEMENT!

3. My local library is the best library in the nation, I’m pretty sure. Not only did they host a talk with Sharon M. Draper yesterday (which was fantastic), they’re also giving out personalized reading lists to card-holders. Of course I signed up for one. I’ll let you know how it turned out! Multnomah County Library can’t be beat! EXCITEMENT!

4. I’m attending my first SCBWI conference this weekend, woo-hoo! I hope to learn some good stuff and get a lot of doodling done. EXCITEMENT!

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