Gardening with chickens & ingenious bookstore event

A bunch of you have written asking for chicken update pictures. Earlier this week, BH and I took a couple of the girls out to help us weed the flower beds.

They are bug-eating machines.

A man and his chicks.

Along with the garden (we’ve been eating the first peas this week) and the chickens, we’ve been busy in the Forest preparing for ALA and this fall’s book tour. I’ll post my ALA schedule early next week. I’m not sure when I’ll have the tour details… certainly by August. I’ll be on the road a LOT, so I will probably be showing up wherever you live. If you bring your chickens to my booksigning, I will pet them.

On Monday night, we enjoyed a special book event, courtesy of the river’s end bookstore. Author Michael Perry is on tour promoting his new book, COOP, as well as his other titles.

   (His books make EXCELLENT Father’s Day gifts, btw – funny and heartfelt.) Michael is a small-town guy, like us, and is interested in encouraging people to buy local and live sustainably. Instead of the standard booksigning, for his event the bookstore took over a new restaurant in Oswego – La Parrilla.

    The restaurant was chosen because of its commitment to buying from local farmers. Guests had to buy tickets ahead of time – cost of book was included in the price of the ticket, as well as dinner.  The event sold out, we all enjoyed a very yummy dinner, and left with sore ribs from laughing so much because Michael Perry is a very funny guy.

Michael is posting on Shelf Awareness every day on his tour. His blog entry about Oswego gives his take on the evening.

   I’ll be spending Father’s Day with these two guys – my husband and my dad. I am in charge of deviled eggs and potato salad. They are in charge of the beer.

See you on Monday!

NCTE & ALAN recap – plus bookstore events


I spent yesterday snoring on the couch, recovering from the wonderful, high-energy weekend at the National Council of English Teachers Annual Conference. Thank you, thank you to everyone who stood in the long lines and who shared their stories of the impact my books have had on their students. You guys made me cry more than once – happy tears. Those stories humbled and honored me.

I am still fairly wiped out from the whole shebang, so let me pull my photos out of my back pocket and share them.

Here is Davis Macinnis Gill and I recreating our photo from last year. In last year’s acceptance speech and this year’s keynote address, I referenced The Scarlet Letter.

I ordered a Scarlet Letter shirt from for the occasion.

Melinda Campbell from Tuczon, AZ had her students create a tree of students reactions to SPEAK, and she brought it all the way to Philly to share with me.

I did not take a picture from the podium of the 600+ people who listened to me at the ALAN breakfast because I was too nervous. Thank you for not laughing at my poem!

I went hunting for my friends on the convention floor before my signing. Here is Jerry Spinelli with editor Alvina Ling.

My buddy Kate Messner was there!

Sharon Draper!!

Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney.

I spoke on the panel about author blogging with Justine Larbalestier, Maureen Johnson, Lisa Yee, and Barbara O’Conner. It was a fantastic panel!! I raised a point for all teachers to contemplate: Should we continue to spend classroom time on letter writing or has the time come to teach children how to compose appropriate email communication? What do you think?

I was honored to meet Risha Mullins, the KY teacher who has had books (including TWISTED) pulled from her classroom by her district superintendent and NOT returned, even though the review committee approved them. Risha received oodles of support from her fellow teachers. I am sure there will be more details soon about the progress of this challenge.

Along with all the speechifying and booksignings and panel and friend-stalking, I had three bookstore events in the Philly area with other authors. Here is the crowd that came out to the Doylestown Bookshop to hear Jay Asher, Lauren Myracle, and me. Actually, the crowd was about three times as many people as you can see here – my phone couldn’t get everyone in one pic.

On Sunday morning, Sarah Dessen and I had breakfast with 100 fans at Chester County Book & Music Company. Here we are with the members of a writer’s group, The First Novels Club, who followed us to the enormous, weekend ending last event:

It was an epic signing at Children’s Book World In Haverford, PA with T.A. Barron, Sarah Dessen, Steve Kluger, Justine Larbalestier, David Levithan, Lauren Myracle, Scott Westerfeld & Jacqueline Woodson. And me.

Yeah – it was a whirlwind. Exhausting. And wonderful and fun and energizing!

Halfway through the garden

If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Twitter the past week, you’ve noticed I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time in the garden. What’s up with that?

It’s my therapy.

After the insane amount of travel the past six months, my brain is fried and my soul is tattered. There was no earthly way I could dive back into writing. Many people take vacations when they get burnt out. Packing my suitcase to go away again was the LAST thing I wanted to do. So I pulled on my pink rubber boots, grabbed the shovel, and headed for the back yard.

The first order of business was the flower beds. Last year, they were home to both flowers and veggies, but this year all the beds we can see from the house are flower-based. (The beds we can’t see from the house get a little more sun, that’s why. And we have a short growing season, so we have to take advantage of whatever sun we get.)

It took about a week to get all the plants and seeds in. Our land is on top of a hill that is mostly glacial till. This means a large part of gardening means extracting large rocks and filling in the hole with imported dirt and/or homemade compost.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of a boulder that was two feet tall and big enough around for me to just be able to get my arms around. Thankfully, it had the good grace to split into 5 manageable pieces when I finally removed all the surrounding dirt and smaller boulders. The extraction took two hours. My back is a little sore, but it was worth it!

This week I’ll be catching up on more correspondence and beginning to shift my brain back into writing mode. And – most importantly – I’ll be whipping the vegetable beds into shape. I am fretting because I am very late getting my peas in – that will be the first order of business.

A few book notes.

WINTERGIRLS made The New York Times Editor’s Choice List. As did CHARLES AND EMMA, by my friend Deb Heiligman.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Last Friday, we enjoyed the very last event on the WINTERGIRLS tour, at River’s End Bookshop in Oswego, NY. More than 100 people came out; one guy drove up from Philly, others came from Potsdam, Rochester, and Rome (NY, not Italy). It was a blast. Thankfully, the fire marshal did not stop in to count heads.

And finally, what do you think of The Happiness Project? Is it a load of manure or something worthwhile, useful, and life-altering?

I am melting and other obvious facts

Remember how I moved up here because I love ice and snow? I’ll be crawling inside the freezer shortly. This will be the third day with sticky temperatures in the 90s. Ack. I hate heat. Ack. Ack. Ack.

I have a couple of freshly-chilled links to distract you, if you are sticking to your chair the way I am sticking to mine this morning.

My local newspaper, the Post Standard, has a nice article about our upcoming half-marathon and how I became a runner. You can see photos of BH and I running, plus additional bits from the interview on Shelf Life , the newspaper’s book blog.(Yes, I am very proud to live in a region where the newspaper has a reporter who covers books AND a book blog!)

Richie Partington has written a wonderful and moving review of CHAINS.

The Mad Woman in the Forest Writing Challenge starts July 1. If you’ll be joining us, it’s time to sharpen your pencils. In preparation, I’m going to recommend you check out a few books about the business of writing and the artistic process. If you want to publish a book for kids or teenagers, I really think you should buy Harold Underdown’s Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, 3rd Edition. Seriously. You’ll read it until the covers fall off.

Office Mouse got the camera talking to the computer yesterday! (I am still learning how to size the photos correctly. Another obvious fact.) What do you want me to put on a video?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Here is the Creature With Fangs all dressed up for our anniversary last week.

Oh! And I can show you pictures from last weekend’s book signing, too!

Where is my list?

Thank you to everyone who came out to the bookstore in Oswego last night! (I also snuck into Oswego High School yesterday, courtesy of English teacher Heidi Sheffield, and surprised several classes of students who have been reading SPEAK. Thanks, Heidi and kids!)

River’s End Bookstore celebrates its 10th anniversary on Sunday. If you’re in the area, stop by for cake and to congratulate them. Few people would have had the vision and determination to open a bookstore in Oswego. It’s a small town, surrounded by beautiful countryside that is rife with poverty and struggles. But Bill and Mindy saw the potential. They took the plunge and changed their community for the better. The bookstore has been a significant part of Oswego’s renaissance and is now the heart of downtown. Huzzah for brave booksellers!

Instead of a Friday Five, I need to write up my Friday & weekend to-do list:

1. Work on revision until eyeballs roll up into skull.
2. Mail the ARCs of CHAINS to the people who donated to Scot’s race (he’s almost to his goal!).
3. Pay bills.
4. Celebrate Daughter #2’s graduation from SUNY Cortland. Yay Jessica!
5. Move wheelbarrows of dirt and mulch until arms give out.
6. Sow carrots and eggplant and squash.
7. Remind readers that PROM will be the featured title on Readergirlz next month and that will be a blast.
8. Attend to various publicity things for CHAINS release in October.
9. Run.
10. More revision work…. the next deadline looms!

What’s on your list?