Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Bolivian Hat Is Back In Business

I just got an e-mail from the generous folk at Marion Lloyd Books saying they've sent me four more ARCs of The Dead And The Gone. As it happens, I was in a foul mood until I read that, and now I'm all jolly and lovable, so I'm doubly appreciative.

So here's the deal. My mother, Freda Pfeffer (hey, she gets excited when she googles herself) insists that one of the four copies go to the first person who had e-mailed a request last time, so that one is now officially reserved.

But the other three are going to give the Bolivian hat another workout. I kept all the handwritten e-mail address slips (minus the three that I pulled out last week) in a just in case plastic sandwich bag, so back into the hat they can go. I know there was at least one person who regretted not having e-mailed, so if she, or anyone else who missed out on the last drawing, wants to e-mail me, their address slips will go into the hat as well.

I'll do the drawing whenever the "books" arrive, and mail them out as soon as I have the selectees' actual mailing addresses. Since I don't know when the ARCs were sent or how long it'll take for them to get here, I can't give an official deadline. But I will inform all of you as soon as I've drawn the names out.

Anyway, I am just delighted that more of you will be getting U.K. bound proofs. Be prepared to translate things into American though. I was skimming through my copy the other day and found that a building was being kept at 13 degrees. That seemed awfully cold to me until I remembered that their 13 is a lot warmer than ours!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Good Skates

I had a great time at Skate America this weekend, but on the assumption that not all of my slowly gained readership cares about figure skating, I'm going to add a comment to this entry about the skating, instead of discussing it here.

I went with my friend Janet Carlson, to whom The Dead And The Gone is dedicated. I hadn't told her, so she was surprised (and I hope delighted) when I gave her the Marion Lloyd ARC and suggested she read the dedication page while I stared at her. I figure I can use her full name because it's in The Dead And The Gone, after all, and now she can google herself and find this blog entry. If I just wrote Janet, she'd get lost amongst the Janet Renos and Janet Lynns and Janet Lennons and Janet Leighs (none of whom will find this blog entry the next time they google themselves- sorry, all you famous Janets).

For most of the weekend, Janet did the driving as we checked out various antique stores, and we used her GPS Thingy as a result. Hers has no hint of a foreign accent, but it lowers its voice for a sexy dramatic effect every time it says, "Destination."

I'm afraid my beloved GPS Thingy got jealous. On the drive home, we had a lovers' spat. At one point it even demanded that I make a u-turn! Yesterday I sent it flowers and candy, and I'm hoping all is forgiven. I'm committed to our relationship, and willing to go into couples counseling if need be, but my beloved GPS Thingy seems to think if I just do as it says, we'll stay right on course.

But exciting though the skating and the antiquing and the u-turns were, the highlight of the trip happened at the Adamstown Public Library, where we stopped so I could show off my blog to Janet (shocking though this may be, many of my friends don't actually read my blog). I felt a fierce desire for Janet to admire the drawing the itinerant courtroom artist had done of the Bolivian hat and me.

It turned out the Adamstown Public Library had a copy of Life As We Knew It! There it was, sitting unread on its shelves! And the Adamstown Public Library had my book The Riddle Streak as well, also sitting unread on its shelves!

Naturally I was thrilled and showed the books to Janet. And Janet, beloved friend that she is, promptly told the librarians at the Adamstown Public Library who I was.

Coincidentally, an itinerant Pulitzer Prize winning photographer happened by at the exact moment when Janet "outed" me. And here is the potentially Pulitzer Prize winning snapshot of the event.

The librarians at Adamstown could not have been nicer about our unexpected visit. If any of you are ever in Adamstown, Pennsylvania, be sure to drop in and say hi. Just don't tell my GPS Thingy that it's your destination. I hate it when it sulks.

An Announcement Not An Entry

I'm delighted to announce that the Listening Library audiobook of Life As We Knew It is on the YALSA Nominations for 2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults list.

Congratulations to Emily Bauer who made Life As We Knew It come alive.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And Now The Bolivian Hat Can Retire

I'm pleased to report that 33 people e-mailed their interest in Marion Lloyd Books ARC of The Dead And The Gone. That meant everyone had a one in eleven shot of having their e-mail address picked out of the Bolivian hat. Those odds are considerably better than winning the lottery but you'd rather win the lottery, I'm sure.

Still, the names have been drawn, and I've e-mailed all three winners. For those of you who didn't win, just remember," Lucky In Lotteries, Unlucky In Bolivian Hats." That's always been one of my favorite morals from Aesop.

To make sure only chance was involved in the selection process, I kept both eyes closed while I drew. As it happens, an itinerant courtroom artist happened by as I was sticking my hand in the hat, and immortalized the moment.

Notice how much weight I've lost since Monday!

Thanks again to all of you for your e-mails. I received so many wonderful messages, some from people I've had previous contact with, and others from people I've yet to get to know. This has been another great week for me and Life As We Knew It thanks to all of you. I'm very appreciative, and only wish I had another 30 ARCs to mail out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

For Those Of You Just Tuning In

First of all, I want to remind any of you still interested in having your e-mail address put in the Bolivian hat for a chance at one of the three advance reading copies of The Dead And The Gone that Marion Lloyd Books was kind enough to send me, you have until Thursday 8:00 PM EST to use the darling little link on the left to let me know. In case you need further convincing, hovering around this paragraph are the front and back of the Marion Lloyd Books promotional presenter.

My fragile ego and I are pleased to report more than three people have sent e-mails. Thanks to all of you who have expressed interest.

I didn't really have much of a chance to discuss my visit to Bishop Fenwick High School. I had a great time there. The students were terrific, asking all kinds of questions about Life As We Knew It, the process of writing and editing it, and the likelihood of a sequel. While issues of politics and religion were brought up, not a single one asked if I was a New York Yankee fan. Given that my visit took place the morning after the Red Sox clinched the pennant, I think they were remarkably kind.

I'm the one with the microphone and the neatly tailored pants suit.

At some point when I have a few hours to kill, I'll write a blog entry about the wonders of my GPS Thingy. But for now I'll only say that I love my GPS Thingy so much I'm considering having children just so I can name them GPS Thingy.

Finally, I'm thrilled to report that Life As We Knew It was named to the Teens' Top Ten list, sponsored by YALSA. I would credit Google with letting me know a mere ten minutes after the list was announced, but actually it was Bloglines that had the scoop. My congratulations to fellow Harcourt author Vivian Vande Velde, whose book All Hallow's Eve (13 Stories) also made the list.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Anyone Want An ARC of The Dead And The Gone?

You have no idea how many cutesy names I came up for this entry, but I'm just back from my exciting trip to Peabody, MA and Bishop Fenwick High School and I'm too tired to remember any of them.

Anyway, Marion Lloyd Books, UK publisher of Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone, just sent me slightly anglicized advance reading copies/ uncorrected proofs of the latter, and at my request, they included three additional copies for me to offer to people who read my blog.

I have no idea how many of you would be interested and since I love each and every one of you (including the ones I haven't ever had contact with), I've decided this is the best approach:

If you are interested in having a copy, send me an e-mail via that cute little link on the left. Just say you're interested, or you want one, or you hate my guts but you'd like a copy anyway (well, if you put it that way I won't love you anymore, but I gather you're all right with that). I now know to check the junk folder (some of my best e-mails end up there), so if you send me an e-mail, I'm certain I'll find it.

I'm going to Skate America on Friday, so Thursday 8 PM Eastern Standard (or daylight, whatever it is) Time is the deadline. This is not a "first three who write and ask" offer.

If three or fewer people are interested, well there's no problem, except a bruised ego (and with the reviews Life As We Knew It has been getting on Amazon lately, my ego knows from suffering). If four or more people express a desire, then I'll write little slips with people's e-mail addresses on them, and pull three of them out of a hat (I have the hat too; it's from Bolivia and it was a gift, but that's a whole other story). I'll e-mail you back, ask for your address, but realistically speaking, won't mail the ARC out until Monday (the sooner I get to Skate America, the more practice sessions I can see).

There are only two things I ask of you. One is not to resell the ARC, since it says on the back cover not to. The other is if you like The Dead And The Gone once you've read it (oh, I guess that's another thing I ask- please read it), say so somewhere in public. If you don't like it... well my poor bruised ego will just have to deal with it.

I am now going to unpack. I hope to hear from at least three of you between now and Thursday evening!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cover Story

As you all know, I wrote a book called Life As We Knew It. Harcourt published in about a year ago.

Marion Lloyd Books, a subdivision of UK Scholastic, also published Life As We Knew It.

But a different cover design was originally considered by Marion Lloyd Books and ultimately rejected.

My good fortune with LAWKI continued, as US Scholastic also decided to purchase the rights for its bookfairs and bookclubs.

The other day I received an e-mail from a school librarian in Missouri, who had been kind enough to e-mail me previously to say how much she and her students had enjoyed Life As We Knew It. But this time she was very upset. She had just gotten books from Scholastic for a bookfair and this is what the newest version of LAWKI looked like.

No boy will ever read a book with that cover! she declared.

Of course she was right. Now I was very upset.

I forwarded her e-mail to my agent and my editor. They agreed she was right. Now they were very upset.

Harcourt e-mailed Scholastic. Why did you use this cover, they asked, and not one of the other two?

Oh dear, Scholastic e-mailed back. Just a misunderstanding. Next printing, we'll change the cover to this or this:

So I recommend you all run to your nearest Scholastic bookfair and buy multiple copies of Life As We Knew It with this cover. They're guaranteed to be collector's items, and the sooner that printing sells out, the sooner Scholastic will publish one with a cover boys won't reject!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It's Her Party And I'll Cry If I Want To

Last night I dreamt (we know each other well enough for me to be telling you this) that one of my closest friends in the world (like a sister to me, if I had a sister, which I don't, so maybe she's like a brother to me since I have one of those) gave a party and didn't invite me. I walked into her apartment and found the party going on. Without me. On account of I wasn't invited. By one of my closest friends. Who didn't invite me to her party.

I spent the rest of the dream in that particular combination of righteous indignation and self-pity that I actually find pretty pleasant. This morning, however, I sent my friend an e-mail informing her our friendship was over (when I spoke to her on Sunday, she mentioned that she was very far behind on her e-mails, so she probably won't even find out she's no longer a brother to me for months).

Because of my extremely delicate and sensitive nature (stop snickering; it hurts my extremely delicate and sensitive nature), I've had to learn techniques to keep from not being invited to parties. One trick I've discovered is to crash the event. Or better still, create the idea of the event in some unsuspecting soul, and then crash it.

Last summer, during one of my obsessive googles, I discovered that Bishop Fenwick High School, in Peabody, Massachusetts, had made Life As We Knew It required reading for their entire student body. For a writer, on a scale of one to ten with one being the misery and suffering that us delicate and sensitive writers endure on a regular basis and ten being the Pulitzer Prize, this was a seventeen. Maybe even a twenty-three.

Naturally I googled Bishop Fenwick High School to learn what I could about it, and I was thrilled with everything I learned. It is a very impressive college prep high school. See for yourself:

Thus, without a moment's hesitation, I wrote Bishop Fenwick High School a letter inviting myself for a visit. Bishop Fenwick High School countered by closing for the summer.

But eventually summer ended and I heard from them. Since the phrase "order of protection" was nowhere mentioned, I pushed my advantage. And pushed some more. And maybe even a little more, until Bishop Fenwick High School got it in its well educated head that it had invited me to visit next Monday and meet its fabulous student body, all of whom have read Life As We Knew It. Maybe some of them even like it.

But even if the entire student body of Bishop Fenwick High School hates my book (oh I hope not!), I'll still get to meet them and talk about my book and wear my new pants suit.

To help me get there on time, I even bought one of those GPS thingys. There's this tiny woman inside it who tells me when to make right turns and lefts. She sounds like just like the Swedish Chef, so it's quite possible she's an illegal alien. Don't tell Lou Dobbs. He's particularly concerned about the Swedish illegal alien problem.

The next big event I intend to crash is Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize Gala And Penny Social. On the assumption he also googles obsessively, this is my chance to let him know I voted for him and saw An Inconvenient Truth. How many other people can claim that?

Just send me an e-mail, Al. My little illegal alien Swedish chef GPS thingy has already given me the directions to Stockholm, Sweden. Make a right turn onto the Atlantic Ocean and drive for a few thousand miles.

And for you, I'll even buy a new pants suit!

Monday, October 8, 2007

I'll Spare You The Life; Just Take The Lessons

A couple of days ago I got an e-mail from a reader of this blog asking if I'd thought about doing an entry on editing to go along with the ones on writing.

My initial reaction was no, since I'm not a good editor of my own work. But after a fair amount of thought, I decided my initial reaction was super duper correct. I am blissfully oblivious to problems and weaknesses in my own writing. I tell the stories I most like to hear and write in the style I most like to read. What's there to criticize?

However it did occur to me I've been taught a lot of lessons about writing and being a writer over the millenia, and those I could pass along. These lessons are so significant I intend to use boldface. Be prepared.

1. My junior year of high school I wrote a humorous autobiographical essay for the school paper. A lot of people read it and liked it and told me so, making me very happy. Fool that I was, I pushed my luck and asked my English teacher, who didn't like me, what she thought.

"It's like everything else you do," she said. "Every sentence starts with 'I.'"

Naturally I denied it, but on further examination, I realized she had a point.

Now the moral of the story could be, The people who don't like you are more likely to offer honest criticism. But here's the boldface moral:

Don't start every sentence with the word "I."

This can be tricky in a first person narrative, but it's worth the extra effort if it keeps your main character from seeming like an egotist.

2. My senior year in high school, I took a creative writing class. The other students were all bright and talented; many of them ended up writing or editing. We'd stand in front of the class and read our stuff and be criticized viciously. I was so traumatized by the experience that I decided I had no future as a writer (my career plan since first grade) and went to college with every intention of becoming a Great Film Director instead. Luckily for me and the film industry, I stumbled back into writing. A number of years later, I read some of the things I'd written for the creative writing class and found there had been no change in my writing style from senior year of high school on.

So is the moral of this story, High school kids can be mean? Nah, we all know that. The moral is:

Your peer group, even if you have reason to respect them, may not be the best judge of your writing.

Remember that when you read your work to a writer's group. Some of their criticism may be useful, but don't assume it all will be.

3. The next three lessons have to do with my first book, Just Morgan. As a senior in college, I decided for reasons too lengthy and uninteresting to go through, to write a book. I knew I wanted to write one for 11-13 year olds (I was 20 at the time) because that was the age when I'd first developed critical awareness; I knew what I was reading was junk and that I could write better. I decided to write a story about a girl who gets involved in a political campaign as a volunteer. She meets a cute boy, but her candidate loses.

I told this basic plotline to a very good friend, who said, "That sounds like something you'd like."

Of course my immediate reaction was to deny it, but I gave it some thought and realized not only was she right (especially the part about the cute boy), but if I wanted to write for 12 year olds, what I needed to think about was what would 12 year olds like. I thought back to when I was 12 and remembered that all I'd wanted was to be an orphan. Immediately, I dumped the political plot and wrote a book about an orphan.

While the moral of the story could be, Your peer group, no matter how much you might scoff them, might actually know what they're talking about. But no, here's the boldface one...

If your audience is children, tap into the child within you.

4. So I write the manuscript and with the help of one of my professors, a publishing house reads it. I have lunch with two editors, who offered some sage advice on rewrites. One thing they specifically pointed out was that I had two characters that basically did the same thing in the story. "Keep the boy," they said. "Dump the girl."

I did as they told me and they accepted the book for publication. I bet you think the moral is going to be, Editors are smart. Well they are, but that's not the moral, which is:

Don't use two characters if one will do.

5. The plot to Just Morgan goes pretty much as follows: A girl is orphaned in the first paragraph and goes to live with her uncle. At first they're both uncomfortable with the relationship, but by book's end, she and her uncle have grown to love each other.

Sound familiar? Of course. It's the plot of Pollyanna and Anne Of Green Gables and Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm and every Shirley Temple movie ever made. That's the theme that resonated most with me when I was twelve, and what I tapped into when I was twenty.

The book got published and got startlingly good reviews. One highly respected literary journal praised it effusively, specifically referring to its original plot.

To quote Bret Maverick's old pappy, "You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time and them's pretty good odds." And a fine moral that would be. But the moral truly is:

It isn't the plot that's original in a story; it's what you do with it that makes it your own.

Tomorrow I'm off to NYC to have lunch with the Harcourt folk, those wonderful people who published Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone (hi Google!). Here's the life lesson that a friend of mine taught me before my first business lunch: When you eat a piece of bread and butter in a restaurant, tear a piece of the bread first and then butter it.

Now there's a lesson that never goes out of date!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Well, The Comments Are Gone Again...

It was fear of LAWKI suffering from premature tomato doom that did it. I put in a link to the Coventry Inspiration Awards on the left side of the page, and poof- all the comments vanished.

I have an emergency call in to Sara, and I'm sure she'll get them back in place within a reasonable amount of time.

There's a lot to be said for the 21st century, but it really could stand some improvements.

Friday, October 5, 2007

It's Tomato Time!

Remember way back when I posted about how Life As We Knew It was nominated for an award in Coventry England, and how each week the website would splat a tomato on the book that got the fewest votes until finally the book without any tomatoes splatted on it would win?

You know why you don't remember? Because you have a life. Good thing I don't, because today I checked their website, and there was LAWKI, so far tomato free.

Naturally I voted. They did ask some personal questions (first name, age-thank goodness 20+ was an option- and postal code), all of which I answered honestly.

Anyway if you want to vote, just go to and scroll to the right, to the right, until you see the classy UK cover for LAWKI.

And if you don't want to vote, well that's okay too. I've suffered worse humiliations than having tomato splatted all over one of my books. Like that time in the school cafeteria when I went to sit down and Tony Kornheiser pulled the chair out from under me...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Little More Bookkeeping

Has anyone out there written a comment and then found it hasn't been posted? I've been told that's happened with at least one person, and I want to find out if it's a recurring problem.

This blog business is very nerve-wracking.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Happy Birthday Dear LAWKI

Today is the first anniversary of the publication of Life As We Knew It.

When I wrote LAWKI, I hardly told anyone, not even my mother, that I was writing it. I was doing it completely on spec, and I had no idea if I'd even finish the book, so I kept it to myself. Eventually I sent it off to my agent and she sold the book to Harcourt. Only then did I let people know I'd written another book.

In December of 2005, surrounded by friends at an annual Chanukah party, I announced that I had a new book coming out. "It's nice," I remember saying, "but it's not going to change my life."

I've never been so happy to admit I was wrong. In so many ways, all wonderful, LAWKI has been a life changing experience. I don't want to say this has been the happiest year of my life, because on the whole I've had a very happy life, but Life As We Knew It has certainly been the best publishing experience of my life, thanks to all of you, the people who read LAWKI and told the world, and me, what you thought of it.

A few weeks ago, I tried to name the five best things that had happened since LAWKI was published, and I couldn't do it. As soon as I'd hit five I'd think of one thing or another. Finally I quit trying, and just smiled. Of course I've been smiling for the past twelve months. But if I had to select just one thing, it would be how happy my friends have been for me. For the past twelve months,they've been smiling too.

Next Tuesday I'll be going into New York City to have lunch with my editor and other staff members from Harcourt. I'll pick up my brand new pants suit from the tailor on Thursday and spend the weekend debating which blouse to wear with it. And I'll smile. Why not. I've been smiing for the past twelve months.