Little blog time today. Much family time.


Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes. Your month is almost over!

Today’s mindset: organized

Today’s prompt: Write down the scariest dream you ever had. If you don’t remember the details, make them up. Now figure out the metaphors/image systems and write another scene using those tools, i.e., the trees in SPEAK


Booktour news and WFMAD 25

No, the firewood isn’t here yet. Yes, it’s going up to 80+ degrees so we are unlikely to need it tonight. But OfficeMouse and her Faithful Companion are leaving soon which means it will be BH and me on stacking duty. Maybe I should invite everyone in Blogland to come help. I could feed you all snap peas and jam.

Happy Birthday today to my friends Ashley Kauffmann, Tanya Lee Stone, and Ed Spicer!! Ed does terrific work with teen readers out in Michigan.

My good friend Elizabeth Partridge suggested that I alert all of you to Lois Lowery’s blog. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Elizabeth has a blog, too.

I am starting to get early information about the CHAINS booktour this fall. I will be in these regions. (Most places I am slated to be around for two days somewhere from late October to late November. All details as soon as I get them, I promise!)

Minneapolis, MN
Denver, CO
Chicago, IL
Omaha, NE
Milwaukee, WI
Dover, DE (Delaware Book Festival)
McLean, VA
Ridgewood, NJ
Millbrook, NY (near Poughkeepsie)
Boston, MA
Rochester, NY
Atlanta, GA
Miami FL (Miami Book Festival)
New Orleans, LA
Oxford, MS
Jackson, MS
Bethlehem, PA (right, Stef?)
Oswego, NY

In addition, I’ll be speaking at the New England Independent Bookseller’s Association (Boston, MA), and the Great Lakes Booksellers Association (Dearborn, MI) tradeshows before the tour starts, and I’ll be in San Antonio, TX for the NCTE/ALAN conference.

After the last event, I will go home, burn my suitcase, and turn off the telephone for a few weeks. But, really, I am extremely excited about this tour.

Booktours don’t happen without writing, so let’s focus on that!


Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes. Be shocked at how fast the time flies.

Today’s mindset: melancholy

Today’s prompt: It’s Friday so it’s time to bathe in poetry. Do the exercises in poet Kate Clanchy’s workshop today. Feel free to share your poem in the Comments section!



The minor family emergency didn’t escalate, thank heavens. My mother fell Tuesday night and we spent yesterday doing the rounds with doctors and the hospital and x-rays. She’s home now, though I won’t say she’s exactly comfortable. She broke three ribs.

She’s going to be fine; the fractures are uncomplicated and there were no other injuries. In a week, she’ll feel much better. Normally I might ask for funny stories I can tell her, but laughing hurts too much right now, so if you have a kind thought or a prayer for comfort, those sure are appreciated.

J.L. Bell has another cool post about how an alleged John Adam’s quote turned into historical “fact.” This is a must-read for anyone thinking of writing historical fiction or non-fiction.

Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: sowing conflict.

Today’s prompt: Take your favorite picture book or fairy tale and write what happens next, after the last page of the story. Add on a new challenge for the character; a new story arc of complications and solutions, and character growth. Hint, you’ll probably need to introduce a bold conflict right away.


Fact Checking and WFMAD 23

There is a great story in many history books in which John Adams calls the year 1777 “the year of the hangman” because all those sevens lined up together looked like gallows. The implication was that if the British defeated the Patriots in the American Revolution, the Patriot leaders (like Adams) would all hang.

It’s a great quote; vivid, layered, and short.

I wanted to use it in the book I’m working on right now, so I started hunting for a primary source so I could verify the wording. Couldn’t find one. I found many people saying Adams said this, but no one pointed to the evidence that actually proved it. I could not find it in a searchable database of his writing, nor several other collections of his writings.

I turned to an 18th-century expert who writes a terrific blog about the time period: J.L. Bell of Boston 1775. He did his own investigating and came up with some surprises for me. And now I have to find a different quote. Darn.


We’re having a minor family emergency here, so this will be short today.

Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes, no matter what else is happening around you.

Today’s mindset: family comes first, but writing is a close second.

Today’s prompt: this is a free association drill. I’d like you to scroll down, down, down, until you get to the magic word of the day. When you do, write about all the images this word conjures in your head. Be specific and detailed in your descriptions. If you get stuck, repeat the word over and over out loud, no matter how silly you feel, and write whatever is flashing through your mind. If you stumble across a particularly vivid image, or one that for whatever reason hits you emotionally, stay with that one and write to your heart’s content.

Scroll down for the magic word…

Keep scrolling…

Almost there…..

Magic word = Spam (the kind you eat, not the kind that clogs your email inbox)


Showing Fangs, Seeding Ideas & WFMAD 22

Our wood for the winter should arrive this week. Whatever day it gets here is guaranteed to be 90 degrees and humid. It’s a law of physics. Wood needs to be stacked in garage = unseasonably hot weather + new hatching of mosquitoes and deerflies. But it’s comforting in a weird, sweaty way, to know the wood is coming, because it means I can start thinking of cool fall nights with a fire crackling in the fireplace.

Since I have starting fires on the mind, I might as well share my curmudgeonly opinion about whether YA books get enough respect in the field of literature. (Chasing Ray is doing a great job gathering opinions about this.)

This is a generalized opinion, not specifically tied to any one article or blog post. It comes after nearly a decade of being introduced as “the lady who wrote SPEAK.” If you are easily offended or irritated, you should probably change the channel now.

They don’t respect us for writing YA? Who gives a damn what they think? People who don’t understand the significance of YA literature to our culture are either ignorant or they are idiots.

Ignorance I can deal with. Lots of folks have been busy for the last fifteen years. They missed the revolution and are just now beginning to hear about this thing called YA. They lack information. Without information they are not in a position to judge. So if they look down on me for writing books for teenagers, it’s easy to shrug off their opinions because they are grounded in nothing.

Idiots don’t deserve my time or energy. They are the ones who make grand pronouncements on literature, who believe that the best way to educate a 14-year-old who reads below grade level is to shove Great Expectations down his throat. Then, when the kid says that the book sucks and that all books suck, and he reaches for his game controller, they are shocked and appalled at this horrifying, illiterate generation.

Idiots sometimes write dense short stories in which nothing happens that cause a sub-section of erudite inhabitants of Brooklyn to twitter and fawn, but leave the rest of the reading world scratching their heads.

When idiots look down their oh-so-refined noses at the raucous world of children’s and YA literature, it says oodles about the condition of their own spirits without contributing to the discussion at all. So I guess instead of flipping them the bird, I should try and be a little more understanding.

Or maybe not.

Are you sensing something defensive about this rant? Something snarly, cranky, maybe a little over-the-top? Yeah, I’m feeling my adolescent oats. I suspect I always will. That’s part of what makes me an enthusiastically happy YA author. I adore teenagers and I have a lot of empathy for what the culture puts them through. They are disdained, disrespected, patronized, criticized and scorned.

Gee, that’s the same attitude YA authors often run into.

So maybe the ignorant and the idiots are good for us. Maybe we need them to keep snubbing our work and dismissing our dreams because it reminds us what our readers are facing every day.

Any thoughts?

WFMAD Day 22

Today’s goal: Hasn’t changed. Write for 15 minutes. Don’t stress about the number of words you produce. Your brain is not a factory making word-widgets.

Today’s mindset: hopeful

Today’s prompt: I’m thinking ahead to what seeds I want to order for the garden next year. (BTW, if anyone has had success with using nematodes to control Japanese beetles, please tell me about it.)

I keep a gardening journal. As ideas come up for long-terms gardening adventures, I write them down. I need to ponder some ideas for years before I can really see the best way to execute them.

The same thing goes for books. There is a Future Projects file on my computer that is huge, and notebooks stuffed with ideas. These are the seed packets for my writing for the next decade.

Use your fifteen minutes today to write down seed-ideas for your writing for the next ten years. Let your imagination go wild.