Help Me Celebrate My 20 Year Writing Anniversary


Twenty years ago today, I put Meredith, my then-youngest child, on the school bus so she could start first grade. (Yes, that’s her above.)

She was VERY excited to go. Honestly, I was very excited for her to go, too. I loved that girl with all my heart, but she was what we call in the North Country, “a heller.” Not a mean-spirited kid, but one that was 100% energy 100% of the time. If she was awake, she needed my full attention or there would be trouble.

After the bus pulled away, all the other moms and the stay-at-home dad went to the pancake house to celebrate, as was our annual tradition on the first day of school.

I did not join them.

I went back to the house and wrote down the date in my journal: September 7, 1992. I wrote a promise to myself under the date: that I would focus my writing energies for the next five years on writing a children’s book that was good enough to be published. If I could not make that happen by September 7, 1997, I would quit writing and go to nursing school.

My first book was published in 1996. I never went to nursing school, much to my mother’s dismay. She was always suspicious of this “writing thing.”

I could never have predicted what would happen as a result of the promise I made myself that day. I’ve published seven picture books, three historical novels, five YA novels, and a middle grade series. I am working on five books right now. My career has gone places I didn’t even know existed.

Meredith has grown up, too. She earned a teaching degree and is working in software sales, waiting for school districts to start hiring again. She got married in May, and bought her first house in July.


Thirty years ago this month, my mother (seen reading to Meredith above) was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thanks to good doctors and health insurance, she survived for 27 years, though the disease dogged her repeatedly. I also have a cousin and aunt who wrestled with breast cancer. (The children’s literature world learned this week about Judy Blume’s breast cancer.)

In honor of her grandmother and as part of her ongoing journey toward her own health, Meredith has signed up for the Susan G. Koman 3 Day Walk for a Cure in Philadelphia, on October 5, 6, & 7. She will be walking twenty miles each day.

::puts hat in hand::

Would you please contribute to Meredith’s walk? Any amount is appreciated. Do in honor of someone who has had breast cancer. Do it for Judy. Do it to celebrate the power of bringing art into your life. Do it as part of a promise you make to yourself about your health or about your writing. Do it if you’ve enjoyed my books. Do it to celebrate what lies ahead.

Meredith writes: “The walk is special to me because I lost my grandmother over 3 years ago to breast cancer. She had breast cancer almost my entire life and was able to fight it for over 20 years. She has been such an inspiration to all of us, and continues to be with us daily as we need her love and guidance. I wish she could have physically been at my wedding and physically be able to see my children (in a few years!!). I’m walking for a cure so that my children don’t have to have the same loss of life with their grandmothers. I’m walking for a cure so that if the genes are in my body, I can get through the disease and live a life of 100+ years.”

Thank you for the last twenty years, my friends. Here’s to the next twenty!!



Congratulations to all of the winners of the American Library Awards announced yesterday!

Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool won the Newbery









A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead won the Caldecott







The Dreamer, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, won the Pura Belpré Author Award. (Yay Pam!)








Grandma’s Gift, written and illustrated by Eric Velasquez, won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award.







One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author Award. (Yay Rita!)









Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Laban Carrick Hill won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.





The Printz Award went to Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi.









Jonathan Hunt has posted a list of all of the award winners (including Honor books!) at his SLJ blog. Go forth, enjoy, and read.


Starting the New Year on the Right Foot (or maybe the left…)

THAT was a good, long winter’s nap.

If you don’t remember (it’s been a while since I posted, explanation coming up), by mid-December, I was a wee bit of a mess. The book tour was fun, but long, and I got sick as soon as I unpacked my suitcase. This was my body’s way of forcing me to rest. And then my cousin died and …., well, it was awful. I spent the last two weeks of December not working. I cleaned and decorated and cooked and baked and baked and baked and slept and slept and slept and pondered mortality and the snow falling in the Forest.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I even made a Bûche de Noël (a cake made to look like a Yule Log).

Between Christmas and New Year’s we had waves of relatives and friends visit.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is the BH side of the clan.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic When the Halses came to dinner, we put out Christmas crackers that had crowns inside of them. Dad and Mom sported their crowns regally.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic My crown made me look like a dorkoramus, so my sister decided to keep hers on the table, not on her head.

New Year’s Eve was look and full of merry-making. New Year’s Day was sorting and cleaning and preparing new adventures.

I have to come clean on my 2008 Resolutions. They were defeated by the book tour. Specifically, the third week of the book tour. In truth, I rarely averaged running the 20 miles a week I had hoped for. I think it’s going to take a few more years of consistent training until my body can handle that without injury. I was able to write every day up until the first day of book tour that had a 3:30 am wake-up call. Also, I did not win the lottery.

I have learned my lessons.
1. Resolutions need to be reality-based.
2. Book tour is an alternate reality during which resolutions do not apply.

2008 Resolution Tracker Totals
Total Miles Run: 621
Number of Writing Days: 334

So, without further ado, drum roll … LHA’s 2009 Resolutions

I resolve to run 750 miles in 2009. (This is a more realistic goal than last year, but secretly, I really, really, really want to hit the 1,000 mile mark)

I resolve to write every day in 2009. (With the aforementioned altered-reality-during-book-tour clause, above).

I resolve to reduce my use of the word “should.”

On New Year’s Day, BH and I suited up and ran three miles in the snow to start on Resolution #1.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic 747 miles to go!

What are your resolutions?

carolyn mackler’s visit & a holiday in the forest

BH and I scurried down from the tundra to Syracuse last night to listen to Carolyn Mackler talk about her writing and her experiences with having her books challenged and banned.

That’s my friend and fellow author Ellen Yeomans on the left, Carolyn, and me with the goofy face.

Carolyn gave a terrific speech that including reading some letters from readers that moved me to tears. She’s had to deal with terribly nasty challenges, but she’s handled them with grace.

It was also very nice to finally meet my LJ friend freakfest! An unexpected delight was the presence of a group of students from Chittenango High School. Several of them remembered me from my school visit four years ago. It was really nice hanging out with them. I would love to see more area high schools sending interested groups of students to this library’s annual Banned Books lecture. It is a whopping teachable moment.

While Speak is at position #65 on the ALA’s Banned Book List for 2006-2007, Carolyn’s book, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things sits a few spots above it, and has made it to the Top Ten a few times. No author ever wants to have their book challenged or banned, but it provides us all with a tremendous opportunity to revisit the principals of the First Amendment and continue to fight for our guaranteed rights as Americans.

Which is more important now than ever.

And speaking of attacks on the Constitution…. I still think the bail-out bill gives too much authority to the Treasury Secretary, and not enough accountability.

But I am not going off on a political rant today. (Shocking, I know.) Today is the birthday of my youngest daughter, Meredith, aka The OfficeMouse, aka Daughter #3.

A rare photo of Mer sitting still.

Happy 21st Birthday, darling girl!