Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Felicity Pickle & The NYT!

Before I gush and get a little sappy about the amazing readers I met last week, I wanted to make extra-especially sure I shared this happy news:

A Snicker of Magic was reviewed in the New York Times last Sunday!!! And it's a lovely review.

Click here if you'd like to read Elisabeth Egan's thoughts on Felicity & Co (she called the story "whimsical and bewitching"!!!). I still can't believe it!

Dad and I went to Starbucks that morning so we could buy a hard copy. Here's a picture of him, proudly holding the issue, just before announcing to everyone within earshot that my book is reviewed in there:

He's the sweetest!

I don't write much in coffee shops anymore. I'm in a weird season where I like to write in the quiet, listening to nature-sounds (rain, in particular). I like space to talk to myself (or my dog) without people worrying that I'm a French Fry short of a Happy Meal. But I have written heaps in that particular Starbucks, and I have no doubt I spent some time in Midnight Gulch there. The barista working that day has been there as long as I've been going there. He's an older guy with a kind smile who always says, "Hello, sweetheart!" when I walk in the door. That morning, I pushed my paper across the counter, ordered my coffee, and whispered, "Guess what? My novel is reviewed in this issue."

He glanced up over his glasses. "Is that right?"

I shook my head excitedly. Cartoonishly.

"Then show me!" he grinned.

So I turned to the page, just to show him. But he twisted the paper around so he could actually read it. As the line grew steadily longer, he cleared his throat and read, quite loudly: "New Girl in Town..."

He beamed. He cheered. And then he wouldn't let us pay for my coffee.

The sun was sparkling that morning, and the world was barely awake. While we waited for our coffee, I held the paper close against my chest, like I could press all the words against me, and I looked at the corner seat where I used to write. And wonder. And hope. It all made me tear up a little bit.

Not every review is good.

Not every story becomes a book.

Most people only hear the Cinderella-part of a publication story; the part where you actually get to do the thing you dreamed about. They gloss over the years you spent writing and wondering and learning and waiting and hoping.

Sometimes, it takes a long time. All the time, it feels like a miracle. I'm totally aware that my book is a sweet, quiet book. That most people will never know about it. That I'm not a big deal. But everything about this matters so much to me. And as much time as I spend sinking in self-doubt, I think it's important to celebrate the sweet moments when they happen. I would be wackadoodle not to celebrate this. My. Word. I've imagined some wild things, but I don't know if I was ever brave enough to imagine some of the wonderful things that have happened.

Don't give up on the hoping and dreaming part, is all I'm saying. Find the perfect window seat, the one where rain smears against the glass and sends tear-shadows over your pages, and write your heart out.

I'm grateful and excited and still a little bit stunned. What a day.

Yes, yes, yes!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pack up the Pickled Jalapeño! (AKA: Details for Ohio, Texas and North Carolina events!)

Did I tell you I almost bought a Willie Nelson makeup bag for when I travel? Besides being totally awesome in every way, it seems like the kind of thing that could become a good luck charm, doesn't it? Like, "Turn the car around! I forgot my Willie Nelson makeup bag!

Alas, I don't have the bag. Yet. But I'm traveling to a few FUN events this week in Ohio, Texas and North Carolina to talk about A Snicker of Magic this week. Pack up the Pickled Jalapeño! 

Here's the info: 

O H I O - Tuesday, April 8th 
Reading, Presentation & Book Signing hosted by Fundamentals Bookstore
Delaware County District Library
Delaware, OH
6:30 - 8:00

For more information:
(You can also check out www.funbooksandmore.com)

T E X A S - Wednesday & Thursday, April 9th - 10th TLA (Texas Library Association) Conference

San Antonio, TX

Wednesday, April 9th
4:00-6:00pm - Scholastic Literary Reception

Thursday, April 10th
9:00-10:00am - I'm signing A Snicker of Magic at the Scholastic Booth!

2:00-3:20pm - Graveyard Shift: Building Programming around Mysterious and Scary Books
A panel discussion with James Preller, Jonothan Stroud and Penny Warner moderated by Sally Miculek. I'll be the short girl in the skull-print cardigan. 

N O R T H  C A R O L I N A - Saturday, April 12thTween Panel Extravaganza hosted by The Fountainhead Bookstore

Skyland Theater
Hendersonville, NC

2:00 - 4:00pm
Ticket info: http://www.fountainheadbookstore.com/events.php

If you're at any of these events, I hope you'll say hi (and show me a picture of your dog)!

In addition to these, I'm doing classroom visits at two schools near Columbus, Ohio. I didn't list them above, since they're private events, but I can't wait to meet those readers! The fact that hanging out with students, and talking about books and storytelling, is technically part of my "job" never ceases to amaze me. That's the best part, for sure. I'm forever amazed at the way words connect us all. 

I'll post a few updates on my Facebook page this week, if you'd like to follow along with the shenanigans. 

Have a great week! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

gone nerdy.

Hello there, daydream believers!

I got to guest post over on the Nerdy Book Club yesterday about the books that made me brave and the lion who makes me want to roar. Here's the link, if you'd like to take a gander:


One of my favorite conversations to have with other booklovers has to do with *the* book. The book that came along when you needed it. The book you swear was written just for you. Maybe Harry was ignored in the cupboard under the stairs at the same time you were ignored in the corner of the cafeteria. Maybe Mia Thermapolos figured out she was royalty around the same time you figured out how to use your voice. Maybe Speak gave you permission to scream. Maybe Where the Wild Things are brought out the wild animal in you. Taught you life was a wild rumpus and you shouldn't let it pass you by. Or perhaps you're a King or Queen of Narnia, too. Maybe you know what it feels like when the roar of a lion rattle your bones a little bit.

Is there a novel that helped you get through a tough situation? A book you read when you were younger that you have never, ever forgotten? Or is there a book that makes you feel in ways you can't describe? I would love to hear about some of your favorite books down in the comments!

I'm going to grab my coffee now and go back to work. Please send snacks. And pictures of cute animals. (Cute animals = puppies, kittens, otters, Hugh Jackman, etc.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

spring comes, sweetly.

What is this ... brightness?!

The sun has finally decided to visit my corner of Tennessee, which has me in a state of euphoria. Typically, I crave dark places. I love rain and dreary days and cloud cover. Weather that makes most people sad makes me want to skip, skip, skip to m'lou. But even I, in all my vampiric tendencies, was getting desperate for some light. Welcome, Spring!

Here are a few sweet updates for the merry month of March:

- Natalie Aguiree, from Literary Rambles, interviewed me last week. I wrote about what inspired A Snicker of Magic and how I got my agent, Suzie Townsend. Natalie is also giving away a copy of Snicker, and you have until March 15th to win it. You can read that interview here. Literary Rambles is a site that was super helpful to me back when I was researching agents. I can't believe they have so much updated information on there. Kudos to Casey and Natalie!

- Virginia Boecker, who is swiftly becoming one of my favorite people, interviewed me for the Freshman 15 site. This site is mostly for authors with a debut novel in 2015, but they invited me over anyway. They're sweet like that. You can read that interview here.  Virginia's YA novel, The Witch Hunter, comes out from Little, Brown next year. Because I know she's such an incredible writer, and because of my nerdy infatuation with British history, I am counting down the days.

- I won't be on social media much for the next few weeks while I dive into *drumroll* Something New. But I've updated the events page and contact information on here. In April, I'll be in San Antonio (at TXLA!), Cincinnati (for school visits!) and Hendersonville, NC. The North Carolina event with The Fountainhead Bookstore is going to be so much fun, and several middle grade authors will be there. I hope you'll say hello if you're there too!

- Folks have been asking me for book recommendations lately. I might have mentioned some of these already, but here goes:

For older teens (and adults): I'm wild about John Corey Whaley's Noggin. (That's actually the title of his book. I don't mean it, like, I'm obsessed with his face. His face is adorable and he's charming, but I'm not taking about his noggin, but his Noggin. Savvy?) (...is this getting awkward?) Noggin is out in April and it's one of the most unique stories I've read in ages. Funny and intelligent and highly likely to make you cry in a good way. Also, for older readers: I've just experienced the vortex that is Megan Shepherd's The Mad Man's Daughter. I'm through book two now and ... have to wait a year for the third. Rats! It's a gorgeously written scary-Gothic love story. On that same note, I've been meandering through Shelly Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. This is a book my editor recommended, so I knew it would be lovely and smart. It's darkly enchanting; the kind of writing you want to sink into slowly. It's unsettling in a good way, savvy? And Castle has one of my new favorite character names: Merrikat. For older readers, I'd also recommend Karen Russel's Vampires in the Lemon Grove, a collection of short stories full of bright writing and magical realism. If you love to write, and like to be devastated by the sheer beauty of a sentence, this book will thrill you.

For middle grade readers (and readers, like me, who are middle grade at heart): I've been raving about When Audrey Met Alice, by Rebecca Beherens, Nightingale's Nest, by Nikki Loftin, and Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick. I think they're all destined to become classics, and more than deserving of all the high praise they've received. I've also been recommending Eliot Schrefer's Endangered and Kristin Kitchner's The Wig and the Window. Those aren't new releases, but I think they're classics too. I read them both last year and I've been shaking them in people's faces ever since. Cynthia Lord's new book, Half a Chance, is on my nightstand. It's my reward for myself for actually finishing *drumroll* Something New. For even younger readers, I'm a big fan of Timmy Failure (and his distinctive red scarf!) and I've heard the most marvelous praise for Erin Soderberg's The Quirks (this book is on my TBR but I already feel confident saying it's fabulous). Jon Muth's Hi, Koo! is out on my coffee table right now. Sometimes I read it before I start writing, because I love the way it helps me see the world. If you're looking for a book that wakes up your senses, and crushes down your inner-cynic long enough to turn loose your inner-poet, Jon Muth's books are the way to go.

And finally, for absolutely any person who loves stories: I'm beyond excited for is Dan Santat's The Adventures of Beekle. Go here and watch the trailer and then talk to me about it after you've wiped away your hot mess of tears.  I've pre-ordered it for myself, and I already know several people I'll be gifting a copy to this year.

What are you reading?

- I'm signing off today with a pic taken just after a recent Skype visit. After I met with a swanky group of readers, Biscuit jumped in my lap and tried to lick the screen. I wish I could figure out a way for Biscuit to say hi during Skype visits. She gets a little too excited and pounces on the computer, so we can't do it yet. But we're working on it.

Have a happy week!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

signed copies (and a magical echo).

Felicity Juniper Pickle has officially laced up her wordy sneakers and taken on the world. A Snicker of Magic is here!

I have a post coming soon that's a bit sappy, because that's how I roll. This experience has been such an adventure, so much that I don't even know how to process it into blog-form. I need to ponder it just a bit longer before I write it out. For now, I just wanted to let you know the book is HERE. And it should be available now anywhere you can buy a book.

I've also had some emails asking about signed copies of the book. Thanks to some modern magic, I can make that happen!

If you want a signed copy of A Snicker of Magic

* I signed stock for a few stores in California, including:

-  Once Upon a Time in Montrose, California. You can pop in that adorable store and pick up a copy or order it online: http://shoponceuponatime.com (If you live in Montrose, you already know this, but there's a magic spot in front of the store where you can hear your voice echo. It's so creepy-cool!)

- The whimsically-wonderful Hicklebee's in San Jose, California. Hicklebee's is a dream. I can't imagine discovering that bookstore as a kid. If you go by to pick one up, see if you can find where I signed the wall! :) http://hicklebees.com

- And at Book Passage in Corte Madera!  http://www.bookpassage.com

After speaking at Book Passage, the lovely booksellers there took me out on the floor to show me the display for A Snicker of Magic. If you think I burst into tears, you are correct:

* Check the events page, because I have a few more events happening this spring including events in Ohio, Texas and North Carolina. I'm also having a Book Party in my hometown in east Tennessee on April 26th. If you're nearby (or if you know how to teleport!), come say hi! A miniature pig named Oreo will be in attendance, and you will freak out when you see him. He's adorable! (So adorable that he *might* get a cameo in a future book ...)

* The lovely Alyson Kate made these bookplates for me. They're sticky on the back, so you can attach them to the inside cover or one of the first pages. Or your forehead, if you prefer. And Scholastic sent me the most adorable bookmarks. I would be happy to sign either one of those (or both of them!) and mail them your way. Just email me at nat.lloyd at yahoo with your mailing address and how you'd like them personalized. (They're normal-size bookplates, but for the sake of showing off their cuteness, they'll look a bit smaller here.)

Thank you so much for sticking with me through this adventure. When I first followed the Pickled Jalapeno into my daydreams, I never could have imagined where it would lead. I can't believe I get to spend so much time doing what I love. I'm floored, and a little bit shocked, that people want to read it.

I hope the Pickles find a home in your heart. They'll forever hold a special place in mine.

Here's to a most spindiddly dream come true.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

giveaways and gilbert.

Hey friends! Fluffy, goose feather snowflakes are fluttering past my window. Biscuit is curled up beside me, waiting for me to finish this so we can go watch Anne of Green Gables. I love going to Green Gables when it snows. Or rains. Or when the sun is sparkling.

...  maybe weather doesn't have much to do with my Green Gables obsession. Anyway!

While I'm sad we can't squeal over Gilbert together, I do have some fun links to share:

First, if you'd like to win an ARC of A SNICKER OF MAGIC, Scholastic is giving away FIVE of them via the sweet folks at The Nerdy Book Club. Beth Shaum wrote such an incredible review over there. I hesitate to link it because I don't want your expectations to be too high (ha :). But I can't believe the story resonated with someone this way. I'm so grateful for her kind words. Click here for the review and the entry form if you'd like to have some ARC-love in your life. 

Scholastic is also sending magnetic poetry with each ARC. The magnet sheets are darn adorable:

Second, Beth was also kind enough to interview me on her blog today, and I had a wonderful time answering her questions. Eventually I had to cut myself off because I realized I was basically writing a whole other book on there. :) During the interview, I shared one of the specific places that inspired my fictional town of Midnight Gulch, if you'd like to take a look. Click here for that. 

In the way of updates, Biscuit and I cheered for the Broncos during the Superbowl. 

That ... did not turn out like we hoped. But we still love you, Peyton!

I've been working through more fun interviews. The questions are so thoughtful, and I've had fun filling them out. More links to come soon!

And I've been preparing for my trip to California! While I'm in that gorgeous, glorious state (which, from what I hear is still above freezing - huzzah!), I'll be doing a few classroom visits. I'll also be speaking at the SCIBA Children's Literacy Dinner. I can't wait to meet the booklovers attending. If you're there, I hope you'll say hi! (Warning: my SoTwang does not come with subtitles.)

And of course February 25th is when the book releases, and I've been getting ready for that too. I can't believe that day is almost here. It's really happening. I'll be flying home from California that day, so I'm not sure how easy it will be to find celebration ice cream in the airport. But I will try! Please go eat ice cream in celebration, savvy?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

once upon a trip to seattle.

"There's no falling back to sleep once you waken from the dream. 
Now I'm restless, and I'm ready to begin.
- The Avett Brothers

A few weeks ago, I got to visit Seattle with my Scholastic friends to hang out with the swanky booksellers attending Winter Institute.

Let me tell you a few things I know to be true of booksellers:

1.) They're a party.* As I've said before, I'm convinced nobody knows how to party like a bookseller knows how to party. (Though I've been told by librarians that they can throw down too, just wait and see.) But I have also come to realize that this is because, wherever book-people are, the party is there. Drinks and ice cream are not required to have a good time with these fine folks. They're fun and kind and charming regardless of where you get to meet them. I think story-people - whether they're readers, librarians, teachers, booksellers, bloggers, or writers & publishing peeps - have a wonderful, whimsical outlook on the world anyway. When you get to spend time around other people who love books the way you do ... it's a party situation.

*I almost typed that they are "the" party, but I didn't want you to confuse them with the great and iconic band, The Party, who rose to fame via the Mickey Mouse Club when I was in middle school. Please tell me somebody else remembers The Party?! ... Hark! I found them. Thank goodness for YouTube. CLICK HERE and be dazzled. 

2.) They're an inspirational bunch. I mean, my word, these are people who have made it their job to connect readers with stories they love. No surprise here, but I get a bit emotional when I get to chat with booksellers, librarians and teachers who work with young readers. I will always ardently adore books, but I've never connected with stories the way I did when I was younger. I hid my heart in books back then. And I'm so grateful the adults in my life gave me those books, stories that helped me find enough courage to bloom a little bit - both as a reader and as a person.

3.) They are courageous. Indie bookstores are often regarded as little engines that could/can/maybe/might. But there is no fog of gloom & doom surrounding booksellers, even though it's darn hard in this economy for people to buy books locally. There's a pioneering-spirit that unites booksellers, which makes for a wonderfully charged (in a good way) atmosphere.

4.) They're readers. This is a given, I know. But it's still worth celebrating. Booksellers don't see algorithms, they see readers. It's exciting to connect with a person who wants to matchmake you with a book you'll love. While I was at the party, I got so many great book recommendations from booksellers, and I never felt like it was because they were in sales mode. It's just because they love books.

So all that to say, I loved hanging out with the book-people I met. I'm so grateful I got to be there, and grateful for the time they took to chat with me about my book. It's not like they had to talk to me. They had so many important, professional things to do that weekend, but I felt like I was with a bunch of fun friends the whole time I was there. Here are a few pictures from my Seattle adventure:

I'm the dork that always takes a picture from the airplane window. I love the window seat, and this is how Chattanooga waved goodbye to me ...

... with a silver river-banner weaving through the city. And a sunrise, somewhere above the clouds.

Everything is possible. 
Everything is new. 

That's how sunrise makes me feel.

When I made it to Seattle, I found this in the hotel:

And had a mini-meltdown on the elevator. I can't believe it says AUTHOR. GAH!! I'm so grateful!!! It's absurd how long I stared at that name tag.

That night, I got to tag along to a reading by Lucy Christopher and Sara B. Larson at University Bookstore. I'd met Sara and Lucy before. They are both so kind and fun. And they're incredible writers. (They're also absurdly pretty.) Please excuse my giddy grin. I can't seem to calibrate my excitement at these things.

We had dinner at a funky little Southern-inspired place downtown. My favorite thing we ate, I kid you not, was Brussels Sprouts. I don't know if this is because my body was tired of 24/7 coffee at that point,  or if it was because Brussels Sprouts are just delightful and I've been missing out. Thoughts?

The next day, I got to meet Kathleen Ortiz. I know I've blogged about our brunch adventure already, but she's amazing so I'm posting our picture again:

She's a little bit too awesome.

After that, I got MORE COFFEE and hid out in my hotel room for a bit, working on my chat for that night's party.

It was such a beautiful view! Sparkly cities are so inspiring. Seattle, I adore you.

That afternoon, I tagged along with Lucy, Sara and some Scholastic friends while they signed stock at area bookstores. While adventuring, we visited a troll under a bridge. As one does.

We made a hero's approach, racing at The Freemont Troll head on....

... only to discover that our bravado was unnecessary. The troll is a misunderstood monster. His garbaldy-grunts and thunderous bellows might terrify the villagers on the bridge. But if you visit him in his lair, you'll find blackbirds resting on his shoulders, and love written on his hand:

While hanging out with the troll, I snagged a photo with Sheila Marie, another one of the Scholastic wizards I've come to know in the past few months. She's so fun and funny and cool, and she has this magical ability to make everybody around her feel like they're cool, too. I'm lucky because I get to chat with her pretty often. I'm so grateful for all she does. (Would have been awesome if the Troll'd made bunny ears over one of our heads, yes?)

After we visited the Troll, we went to a few more bookstores and then headed back to the hotel. Seattle was as stunning as ever.

I texted my mom the following selfie to show her the dress I wore. I followed it immediately with a text that read, "WOW. I AM SHORT." I suppose this should not come as a shock anymore. I don't mind being short, by the way. Not at all. But sometimes I become keenly aware of my miniature-ness. Figure shown actual size:

I met up with Lucy and Sara again, and we joined our Scholastic peeps for a delicious dinner. We went to an Italian restaurant with painted ceilings and sparkly wine and gnocchi that tasted like delicious little clouds.

And then it was time to party!

Just walking through the doors was such a thrill. I felt like I was dreaming.

That night is the first time I met author and illustrator Jon Muth. He is so kind, interesting, and talented. Jon has written and illustrated many incredible books. My favorite souvenir from Seattle is a copy of his soon-to-be-released new book, Hi, Koo!

I've been reading it in the mornings before I start writing. It's the kind of book that works magic inside you while you read it. Suddenly you come to the last page, and look up, and every sense is awake. You're keenly aware of the wondrous details all around you, all the time. It's a treasure.

Party people were treated to an ice cream buffet! (Pic from Scholastic's Twitter feed.)

We also had gourmet popcorn. I formed a mild to moderate addiction to the S'Mores flavor. Tiny paper scoops, which looked like tiny paper boats, were positioned elegantly beside the popcorn jars. Once the party was over, I basically used my paper boat like a shovel for the S'Mores-Corn. Elegance, be darned.

I tried to sneak out with this giant poster board of my book, but I was unsuccessful.

Beside the book, you'll notice a magnetic poetry board. Scholastic made the coolest sheets of magnetic poetry to send out with some of the ARCs. We had many brave word-collectors in our midst that night, who left their poetry behind on the board.

My favorite: "Fierce hope is magical." 

I feel like some wily poet was about to do some serious word-smithing with"sausage" and "smear" ... alas. We will never know.

These are just a few of the wonderful Scholastic people I got to spend time with on this trip:

I still can't believe I got to go. I still can't believe I even belong in a picture like that, but I'm grateful to be there. My Winter Institute experience is a magical memory I'll never forget.

Early the next morning, I began my adventure to Philadelphia. It's the first time I've ever seen the sun rise and set from an airplane. (I'll write more about that later.) As you might imagine, Seattle said good-bye in grand fashion:

Everything is possible. 
Everything is new. 

Here's to dreams-come-true, wide awake. :) Thanks for adventuring with me! :)