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?

Appreciating your goodness and harvesting rocks

Wow. You guys are incredible. I can’t begin to express how much your comments and emails about the New York Times discussion board kerfuffle meant to me. Thank you, thank you!!! I am blessed to have such kind readers and friends!

Because of the stress from the past six months of travel, and losing my Simon & Schuster editor (he was laid off last week – I am still too upset to blog about it rationally), and everything else, I’ve been mostly gardening this week. Despite the soothing effect of attacking the boulders in my garden with an iron bar, pick axe, and rototiller, I am still having nightmares about zombies. Go figure.

But the rocks are slowly yielding, seeds are being planted, and I have no doubt that the zombies will soon crawl back to where they belong.

Cottage Update!!!

While I’ve been wielding my pick axe, BH and his tribe of elves have been hard at work at the cottage.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is the interior of the north end. The windows are up high because there will be bookshelves underneath them.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic They have put the Magic Window in place in the south wall, and filled in the gaps around it. The glass guy is supposed to be here this weekend. He’ll install the clear, insulated, UV-filtering glass – can’t afford stained glass yet – someday!!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The insulation crew did their job this week, Coler Natural Insulation of Ionia, NY. Their spray-foam insulation is based, in part, on soybean oil and is a healthier choice for both me and the environment.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Insulation guy at work! The cottage is much, much quieter with the insulation in place. Next step, along with the glass being put in place, is for BH to put up the ceiling and interior walls.

Last but not least notes!

Gail Carson Levine has started blogging. Drop by and welcome her to the blogosphere!

TWISTED won the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award, given by the Indiana Library Foundation (and named after one of Kurt Vonnegut’s characters – how cool is that!?) Thank you, Indiana!!

TWISTED was also nominated for the Kentucky Bluegrass Award. Check out the whole list!

Off to hit zombies with a shovel…


Not only have I worked on books every single day this year, but I posted to the blog every day in July, too. That’s so much blogging, I think it qualifies as blahhhhging. I have no idea how people do this regularly.

I will not be posting as much in August. The new book is whining for more attention and the tomato harvest is beginning to roll in which means I’ll be canning. (Yes – photos – I promise!) I welcome any and all salsa and zucchini recipes!

(One food preservation question – has anyone frozen zucchini?)

So blogging will be sporadic this month. Come September I’ll revert back to my obsessive ways, I promise. CHAINS will be published on October 21st and there will be lots of tour madness to share.

But now, serenity.

The first sunflower out back just bloomed.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Happy August, all. Good Lammas, too.

down to the wire pesto recipe & WFMAD 30

The Goddess of YA Literature ventured into picture book territory yesterday and reviewed a number of recent picture books, including INDEPENDENT DAMES. It is an honor and a hoot to have the book compared to the MAGIC SCHOOL BUS books, which I love.

A couple of you have asked for my pesto recipe. I mostly wing it, but here is how I made yesterday’s batch:

6 cups basil leaves (I stuff the cups, cram the basil in, so it’s a lot) washed and destemmed.
1 generous cup chopped pine nuts
1 and one-fourth cup grated Romano cheese (you can use Parmesan – it’s worth buying the good stuff)
10 cloves of garlic. Maybe 12.
Somewhere between three-quarters of a cup and one cup of good olive oil

I don’t have a food processor so it takes a while to chop all the basil into a mush, but the smell is worth it. Once the basil is chopped, stir in the other ingredients. Add a dash of salt and two dashes pepper. Make sure everything is well mixed.

Last night I tossed the fresh green beans with pesto. I think I could eat it with anything, including oatmeal. Might experiment with making pesto bread….

Making it fresh in the summer is fun, but I wanted to have some to enjoy when the snow piles up into 15-foot drifts come February.

Step One – freeze small portions of pesto in glass jars.

Thaw slightly to remove from jars.

Stick in vacuum sealer bag.

Suck out all the air and seal (this is really fun to watch).

Voila! Let it snow! Yesterday’s batch was enough to fill seven small jars worth of pesto, plus eat at dinner, plus have enough to munch on for a couple day’s snacking.

How do you make your pesto?


Today’s goal: write for 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: fantastical

Today’s prompt: Start out with the magic words “Once upon a time….” and write a fairy tale about the upcoming presidential election. Use common devices like villains, enchanted objects, interventions by fairies, etc.


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.