Tuesday, March 24, 2015

unboxed.


I love antique stores. It's a rare week that I don't go exploring in them. I don't collect antiques. (Scratch that: I do occasionally buy old books.) I'm not typically looking for furniture, or a funky old painting (though I'd love to find one). But I find heaps of inspiration in places full of pieces. Pieces that once belonged to someone else. That fit quite neatly into the puzzle of their lives. Old photographs and postcards always make my heart spin.

Someone loved her.

Someone missed him.

Someone treasured this postcard from Paris.

Someone used this old Valentine as a bookmark.

I like the scuff marks on old furniture. The tea stains and dog-eared corners of stories.

And I like the random knick-nackery, too. Like the box in the picture. I didn't buy the box, but there are two things I liked about it:

The leaves glued to the top were brittle. Like real leaves. They flaked off if you touched them. I know they were probably fake, but it would be cool if they weren't?  What if they were enchanted, magical leaves that blossomed and bloomed across this box for decades? The leaves kept it hidden. The ivy kept it tucked away. The box was buried beneath the leaves of a magical orchard until one curious (...greedy? fearful? brave?) boy came along and sawed the branches away ...

Where was I? The leaves!

Here's the other thing I like: the box was sealed shut. Or at least, it would not open easily. I thought about trying to pry it open. But I figured I would drop it if I did that; I drop everything. And antique stores don't like it when you drop their treasures. So I didn't try very hard to open it. But I wanted to.

And I wanted to pick it up, give it a shake. If I'd listened closely ... what would I have heard inside?

Marbles? Coins? A shuffling sound like cards or paper?

An old man's dream?

A forgotten love song?

A whisper? A warning?

I read an interesting story once, about JJ Abrams and a box. Like the enchanted leaf box, his did not open. I didn't remember how or when got it, but the box has been sealed shut for many years (maybe since he was a kid). He still hasn't opened it. And he says he won't. But he keeps it where he can see it, where he can take it off the shelf and shake it. Because it makes him want to be a better writer; it helps him remember the excitement that comes with surprise. With wonder.

What's in the box, you think?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

the love you part.



This weekend I'll be hanging out with this guy. He's fun and funny and pretty much my favorite person in the world. He is also my brother. Chase lives in Denver, and he loves it there. I'm grateful I can sneak away ever so often to spend a weekend with him. Colorado is a wonderful place, but he's the best part of it.

I dearly miss that nerd.

I remember when he decided to move, to ditch the Smokey Mountains for the Rockies. My heart was a storm over it. I had a tornado-heart. I was so proud, but I was also so sad, and those feelings kept swirling and swishing together in constant, crazy ways. It's nuts to me, how it is possible to miss someone so much and love them so much. At the same time. Hearts are miracles, is all.

I've always said jokingly (...but not really jokingly) that I want my own town where I can put all my family and friends. All together. We'd live on the same street, and hang out on weekends and eat cookies and have bonfires and play Clue. Doesn't that sound dreamy? Alas. :)

I miss him heaps, but the proud-part always wins out. Actually the love-you part always wins out. I'm proud of him for following his heart into the wild, wild west. I'm proud of him for being brave enough to become what he knew he needed to be. And I'm thankful for technology. We still talk frequently. As any loving big sister will testify; distance is really nothing when you care about somebody. I'm not that easy to get rid of. ;)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

goals and goalies.


So I've been raving about a recent read called The Swap by Megan Shull. My mom thought it was great. I thought it was great. And I just passed it off to one of my beloved best friends, Hannah, because I couldn't wait for her to read it. That's a definite marker for me when I read a great book: I immediately think of people I want to share it with.

The book is about two 7th graders, Jack and Ellie, who accidentally switch places. Ellie is stuck in Jack's body ... and Jack is stuck in Ellie's. It is funny and smart and heartwarming. And when I say funny, I mean I put the book down and laughed. It's a fantastic story.

One of Jack's quirks is that he's a goal setter. And he doesn't just set short-term goals.  He's only in 7th grade, but he's already working toward goals he's set for years down the road. Like, when he's an adult. Namely: playing professional hockey. And he's devoted to taking the steps to make it happen: he wakes up hours before he has to to run and train. He takes ice baths. He practices hockey even when he's not at practice. He's a force.

I was super-duper impressed by this because, my word, 7th grade! I've met lots of young readers over the past couple of years who put in that same kind of time, devotion and focus to something they're passionate about. I'm not surprised a 7th grader would commit to something that way. I just think it's inspiring. And I think I can sort of relate. At least a little bit ...

I mean, I have never, ever been an athlete. The only sport I know anything about is Quidditch. And my goals will never revolve around anything that involves running or physical coordination.

But. When I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to be an author someday. Even back then, I was consciously thinking about what I could do as I got older to maybe-hopefully-someday make that dream real. I think that's why my heart clicked quick with a character brave enough to shoot for a dream that seems so far away. So far fetched, even.

As an adult, I still have lots of goals. There are books I want to write, places I want to visit and big moments I want to see come to pass in my life. Sometimes I write down those goals and feel invigorated and full of shimmer-sparkling HOPE. And sometimes I write them down ... and feel a little sunk when I realize how far away it all is. I have a whole book of dreams and goals I keep tucked away where nobody can see it.

As I was thinking about Jack and his goals and my goals and GOALZZZ in general, I came across a TEDtalk by Derek Sivers. And I think it's super interesting. He basically says that if you have a big goal ... you should keep it to yourself.

I've always heard the opposite, haven't you? I've heard you should tell people your goals, so they hold you accountable. But as I listened to his talk ... I wondered if there might something to it. At least sometimes.

For example, when I'm writing, I don't usually talk about what I'm working on for a good long time. Or I'm very vague when people ask me about it. I'm not superstitious about the process at all, and I'm not being cagey. But there's a certain excitement I feel in the early stages of writing, when I'm keeping a book to myself, when it's new and it's mine and I haven't shared it with anybody yet. And once I've shared it, the momentum seems to fizzle.

Don't get me wrong; I absolutely love sharing the stories eventually. There's something about every stage in publishing that I like. But I sometimes think early writing is more enjoyable ... and I even tend to write a bit faster ... when I keep it to myself to start. Maybe it's similar to what Derek is saying?

Here's the TEDtalk (it's a short one): http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_keep_your_goals_to_yourself?language=en

What do you think? Do you share your goals - big and small - with someone else? Or do you keep them close to your heart? 

Friday, March 13, 2015

where i'm going. where i've been.




Hello, Beedles! 

Biscuit and I are popping in to answer a few questions we've been getting lately. I mean, the most frequently question I get asked is probably: "Welcome to Starbucks! What can I get started for you?" 

But lately, I've met some sweet readers who've asked fun book-questions. And I thought it might be fun to answer them on ye olde blog! 

1. Are you writing a sequel to A Snicker of Magic
Not yet. 

… But know Felicity and Jonah have many more adventures. While there’s no sequel in the works yet, there is a distinct possibility you’ll see more stories featuring Felicity & the folks in Midnight Gulch. Maybe sooner than you think. Stay tuned. ; ) 

2. What will your next book be about? 
My next novel comes out in 2016. It’s a middle grade novel called THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY. It is about: 

A brave girl. 
A quiet boy. 
A singing ghost. 
Buried treasure. 
And hot chocolate … 

I just sent the book to copyedits, so it's going to start becoming book-shaped very soon. I can't believe it's already that far along. And I'm so grateful and excited I got to go through this process again. I'll get to share more fun details with you later this year, including the cover. Gilbert Ford is illustrating the cover again, and it's gorgeous. I can’t wait for you to see it! 

3. Do you do school visits? 
Yes! I try to book them as far in advance as possible so I can stay on top of my writing deadlines. If you're a teacher or librarian and interested in booking a visit, contact AuthorVisit@Scholastic.com or just go the Scholastic website and fill out the form about author visits. 

I also do virtual visits (Skype, etc.) with classes and book clubs who've read the book (or experienced it as a read-aloud). Virtual visits are a fun 20 minute time of Q&A. And they’re free. And sometimes Biscuit shows up. :) 

4. Will you be at any events this year? 
Since I don't have a book out this year, I probably won’t be doing many events. But I’ll update the website with more info if I do. I’m very excited to be doing an event in Chattanooga on May 9th. I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble at Hamilton Place with several awesome authors. I hope you’ll come hang out with us! 

5. How tall are you?
I thought this would be fun to answer here because people really do ask me this question a lot, a lot. On my last adventure, a random guy in the airport inquired about my height. I'm not self-conscious about my shortness, and I don't mind answering. But people have always seemed so surprised by the fact that I'm small. I’m 4’11”. Barely. 

6. Where have you been?!?! 
In the past year, I’ve kind of disappeared from blog world. I post pretty often on my Facebook page: 

www.facebook.com/NatalieLloydAuthor

And I tweet lots of pictures of Biscuit: 
www.Twitter.com/_natalielloyd

AND I HAVE A WEBSITE! 
www.NatalieLloyd.com

The website is a work in progress, but it's cool to see it come together. Soon I'll be adding a longer FAQ section that will be especially helpful for readers looking for info for book talks and homework. 

And I’m going to make an effort to churn out some quick (fun) blog posts again.

Which brings me back to where I've been. 

In the past year ... I've been writing. I wrote back when I was blogging frequently, too. But now there are different responsibilities that come along with writing. I enjoy all of it, and I’m super grateful for this season I’m in. I still can't believe I get to write books! And I can't believe people take the time to read them! I just don't seem to have as much creative energy left for quirky blog posts as I did. But I have been writing. 

And here’s where else I’ve been: 

I’ve been snuggling Biscuit. 
I’ve been reading. 
I’ve been spending lots of time with my family. 

I’ve been star-gazing,
flower-picking,
pie-baking,
and exploring. 

I’ve been listening to records on rainy days,
having impromptu dance parties in the living room, 
and meeting my friends for pancakes at the Cracker Barrel. 
(My goodness, I do dig those pecan pancakes.) 
(But I love my friends more.)  

I’ve had some sweet days lately. And I hope you’re having lots of sweet days too. 


What’s new with you? 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

end of the year wrap-up.

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you celebrated a new beginning with kind people, fuzzy animals, and lots of cheese dip. Last year felt like a shooting star for me. A few years ago, when A Snicker of Magic first found a publisher, I thought 2014 was forever far away. 

And the year is gone, a quick sparkle across my life and done. 2014 was a year full of joy and sadness and hope and wonder and worry and - unforgettably - a year when a long-time dream came true. I will never forget it. 

On New Year's Eve, Biscuit and I went to bed early. We snuggled and read until it was almost midnight. And then I turned on the song "Oceans," by Hillsong United, which is one of my Most FAVORITE Songs Ever. I wanted to hear that song when the clock ticked into newness. I wanted the first words I heard in 2015 to be beautiful. I sang along with the song too. Because I wanted the first words I said to matter. Inevitably, I'll say words I regret this year. I'll write a billion words I end up deleting because they don't fit. But I wanted 2015's first Once Upon a Time to feel exactly right. It was a sweet way to say goodbye to one year, and welcome a new one. 

I have an entire sappy post scheduled to run this week, about the best part of last year when it comes to the big journey I've taken with Snicker. I'm certain there will never be another year like this last one, and I'm so grateful for all of it. 

A Snicker of Magic also made a few lovely end of the year lists in 2014. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for the time folks have taken to share the story and wanted to share them here: 

On New Year's Day, Colby Sharp announced that A Snicker of Magic is one of the 2014 Nerdy Award winners. I love that community, and I'm honored to see Snicker on a list of such incredible books! Here's the link! 


NPR named A Snicker of Magic one of the best books of 2014! HOORAY! Thank you, NPR! Here's the link!


Parents Magazine named Snicker one of their Top 10 Children's Books of 2014! Here's the link!



The New York Public Library named Snicker one of their top children's titles for reading and sharing in 2014! Here's the link! 



Travis Jonker and John Schu, awesome librarians and passionate advocates for children's literature, named Snicker one of their best books of 2014. Whoa, am I honored to see the book on their list. Here's the link! 


I've also received some kind tweets from folks who picked it for one of their favorite books in 2014, and shared it on their blogs. Thank you for taking the time to do that! It means so much to me that you would take the time to write about the story. 

Today I'll dive back into revisions for the next book adventure, and while I can't WAIT for you to meet these new characters ... I know Felicity Pickle will always hold a special place in my heart.  I thought I visited Midnight Gulch (in my imagination) to tell Felicity's story. I had no clue how those wild characters - and the very real and wonderful readers I've met along the way - would change my life. This has been an amazing adventure. I feel so blessed to be able to share stories with you. Thank you, thank you for reading them. 

Here's to a new year, a new start, and a shining new day. Happy 2015! I hope this year is the best once-upon-a-time you've ever had. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

iParty!


Thank you iBooks editors for naming A SNICKER OF MAGIC one of the Best of 2014! You can check out the full list of books here: iTunes.com/ibooksbestof2014



And now Biscuit and I shall go have a little dance party to celebrate! 



Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas treats from Midnight Gulch!

Hello there! Biscuit is patiently waiting for me to finish a round of revisions so we can geek out over holiday fun. And while I'm not quite finished yet, I thought I would 1.) pop on here to say hello and 2.) offer up some holiday swag.

If you're giving A Snicker of Magic as a gift this holiday season, we'd be happy to send you some fun stuff to give along with the book! Our pack of fun includes the following:



- A Personalized Bookplate (for you to stick inside the cover)
- A magnet sheet of Felicity's favorite words (Scholastic made these and they are ADORABLE!)
- A bookmark
- An activity booklet (not pictured here, but rest assured it's snazzy)

There's no cost for us to send it your way. We're just tickled to be able to do it. I wish I could send some Blackberry Sunrise as well, but I don't know Oliver's special formula to keep it frozen. So we'll have to stick with paper-swag. :)

If you want a swag-pack, email nat.lloyd (at) yahoo.com by December 14th* and let me know:
- The name you want on the bookplate
- Your mailing address

Here are some answers to questions so far:

* YES, I still have everything "in stock" :) I don't have quite as many magnet sheets as I do other goodies, so email quickly if you're hoping for one of those.
* YES, we can send more than one set. So if you're giving the book to your niece, your high school gym teacher who loved ice cream, and yourself - I can send you three sets of stuff. Etc.
* YES, I can totally send it even if it's not a present. For example, if your awesome offspring read the book this year and you know he or she would love some swag - I'm still super happy to send it along!
* YES, I'm happy to send extra bookmarks to teachers! I don't have enough magnet sheets for every student. But I still have lots of bookmarks (and, for now, I can still send you a magnet sheet for your classroom.

And don't forget, #BeTheBeedle is still happening! (Click here!)

Happy Holidays from the gang in Midnight Gulch! Thank you so much for giving the Pickles a home in your heart this year. I can imagine many various wonderful and crazy scenarios, but I never could have imagined how rad this year would be. Thank you for taking the book to heart and sharing it with people you love. It's a joy and honor to share the story with you.