Sunday, April 12, 2015

new books on the horizon!

Pigs are flying and lightning is striking twice I got to share some fun news this week. 

I'm writing a series! 

Here's the announcement from Publishers Weekly: 

I'm excited, overjoyed and filled up with gratitude. The fact that I get to keep living out this dream come true - that I get to keep writing books for kids (?!?!) - makes me want to flop down in the floor and cry a little. I've done that, actually. Many times. 

I consider myself the luckiest author in the world to be part of the family at two amazing publishers. I'm actually working on copyedits for my next Scholastic novel right now. 

(Not like *RIGHT* now ... because I'm typing this post. But most other waking minutes when I'm not taking snack breaks or typing blog posts, savvy?)  

And for this new series, I get to work with Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins. The Katherine Tegen imprint is incredible, and they publish stories I've adored. I'm so excited to work with the team there, especially my editor Maria Barbo. 

I'm also excited about following a wily bunch of characters through a few books instead of hugging them goodbye after one. I love writing stand alone novels, because I like the feeling of discovery. The newness of it all. But I do have a hard time turning characters loose. Students nearly always ask if I'll ever write a series when I do school visits; and I always say maybe-hopefully-someday. I totally get the series-love. I liked getting to know characters, too (and still do!). I loved knowing another book was in the works. It's a fun process, and a big new challenge, but I'm excited for it! I can't wait for you to meet the Problim family. :) 

So just to clarify, here's what's on the horizon: 

- My next novel is called THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY. It will be out from my beloved Scholastic wizards in March 2016. This one is a middle grade, stand alone novel about a brave girl, a quiet boy, a singing ghost, buried treasure & hot chocolate. I'm working through copyedits for that one this week (which is surreal!). So you'll get to meet these characters in less than a year! And pretty soon, I'll be able to start sharing fun stuff like a cover (it's fabulous) and a summary. 

- THE PROBLIM CHILDREN series is scheduled to begin in Fall 2017. Those are the books I mentioned yesterday, that are being published by the swanksters at HarperCollins.

So that's a few years of books coming up, which is hard to believe. :) 

Sharing the stories I've written is a dream, and it's a responsibility I take so seriously. I know there are billions of books out there you could read. I still can't believe it when someone tells me they took the time to read my book, and they want to read another one. Thank you for the time and heart you've invested in what I write. Thank you for bringing your heart to the pages. I'm so grateful for you, and so excited for the adventures ahead.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


A SNICKER OF MAGIC is one of the nominees in the debut author category in the Children's Choice Book Awards. I was surprised and excited and HOORAY!!

I'm grateful to the committee who thought the story deserved a spot alongside all those amazing stories. As the name suggests, young readers get to vote. (I think young-at-heart readers can vote, too.) If you, or your students, want to get involved follow this link:

And please note: I'll still think you're the raddest no matter who you vote for. (Cece Bell has my vote.)

Once you get there, click on the funky doors and you can easily check your favorite book in each category. You don't have to enter any personal information, and there's an easy to way for teachers and librarians to enter group ballots as well. So it's all fun and sure to stir up fun conversation about stories. Voting is open for a couple more weeks, I think. Thank you, CBC wizards for including Snicker!


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

every book is a map.

I dearly treasure the letters readers send me. I can't believe they take the time to read the book, much less share how they connected with the story. This is a snippet of a poem from a young reader named Eden, and it's so special to me. I'm so happy Midnight Gulch was a stop on her literary road trip.

I so agree with you, Eden! I wish I had more time to read.

Sometimes I wish I could rest my hand on a book cover and experience the whole thing, all at once, just upload it all to my brain. The wonder, the worry, the hope, the magic of it all - the same way I do when I'm reading it. Just 10x faster. But maybe that wouldn't be as fun?

I think every book is a map. Some books have maps as endpapers; they create whole fantasy worlds. But even books with settings more real, more close to home, have maps inside them, I think. They're not maps you see; they're maps you feel. Maps help you find your way and face your fears. They help you find a little bit of courage along the way. And a whole lot of hope.

After I read Eden's poem, I started thinking about the places I would want to go on a literary road trip. And places I've been, that I'll never forget. :) Definitely Narnia. Definitely Green Gables. Hogwarts, obviously.

What about you? What are some of the town and worlds and fictional wonders you'd like to visit? 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


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):

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 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:

And I tweet lots of pictures of Biscuit:


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,
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?