Love from USA Today and a Skype visit with readers

USA Today gave an early shout-out to WINTERGIRLS and the 10th anniversary edition of SPEAK in the Book Buzz column yesterday!!! (There was dancing in the Forest.)

Once the excitement about that died down, it was time for the First Grand Experiment With an Online School Visit. Through the miracle that is Skype, I sat at my desk and talked to a class of 7th graders who live hundreds of miles away. Because both of our computers have cameras, we could see as well as hear each other.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is what the visit looked like at my end.

Their teacher, Kate Messner, is a friend and a fellow author. This was all her idea in the first place, so thank you, Kate! She and I tested the connection over the weekend, and then first thing in the morning yesterday, before the actual event.

You can read a detailed explanation of how the visit went (complete with more photos) on Kate’s blog.

How did it go from my POV? Excellent. It took about an hour of my time. I didn’t have to travel and sleep in a hotel. I really enjoyed being able to see the faces of each reader. I was able to hear their questions and enjoy interacting with them. I also got to be a little bit of a ham, knowing that my face was about 10 feet tall on the projection screen.

There were a few glitches. We lost the connection several times and had to reboot (or reconnect or reskype – we need a new verb for this) which was a wee bit frustrating, but not that bad. The quality of the video was not what you’d imagine, going by the visual quality portrayed in the ads on TV. Both of those problems could be a result of my location way out in the boondocks. We frequently have pixelation issues and limited bandwidth. We’ve had the technicians from Time Warner out here countless times and they have a different explanation every time.

I have another test Skype visit next month, with a group of teachers from the American School in Warsaw, Poland. (Yes, it’s the one I visited a couple of years ago.)

I am thinking of offering Skype visits to book clubs after this Spring’s tour and to classrooms starting in the fall. If you are a bookstore or book club interested in something this spring or summer, email me at laurie AT writerlady DOT com. If you are interested in a classroom visit, watch this space in September. I’ll make an announcement when I have it all figured out.

House of Penguin

Yesterday was Penguin Day.

This is the fun part of being an author; meeting my new publicist, Allison.

Videotaped some online publicity pieces.

Best part of the day: meeting with 8th graders from the Little Red School House and hearing their comments on WINTERGIRLS. (More on this tomorrow.)

We had a party back at the House of Penguin with a cake that looked like the book and I got to say thank you to everyone, especially my editor Joy and the talented team who came up with the WINTERGIRLS cover and interior design.

There was a bunch of meetings and a dinner and I crashed into bed. Off now for another meeting and then to the airport.

One Month and Counting!!!!!!! (and more W&PQ)

Let the countdown begin!

WINTERGIRLS goes on sale one month from today!!! In a month, I’ll be on my way to the airport to catch a flight out to California for the beginning of the book tour.

The spring will be almost as much of a travel blur as last fall was.

Laurie’s Totally Excellent Spring & Summer Roadtrips:
1. Book Tour
2. Visit to Lima, Peru
3. Los Angeles Times Book Festival
4. College graduation of Daughter #3 (YAY!!! ::throws confetti and dances::)
5. International Reading Association conference
6. American Library Association conference

The good news is that I won’t be on the road for such long stretches this time. Being able to come home to my husband keeps me sane, even if it’s only for a couple of days.

Oh, and I’m going to New York City in a few days for some interviews and meetings. I have no clue what to wear. I always feel like a hick when I go to the Big Apple. Probably because I am a hick. Hicks are the new geeks, don’t you know.

My wardrobe issues would all be solved if the rest of the world would join me in my version of sartorial splendor: flannel shirt and jeans, pony tail and sunscreen. What more does a girl need?

I can’t believe there is only a month left until the book is out! My stomach is jumpy and nervous and excited and freaking out just a bit.

Gah. That last sentence didn’t make much sense, did it?

You wrote: what’s it like when on tour, for your writing? Do you have much time/energy left for writing, do you make yourself work on a particular project, or is it only if a deadline’s edging close for a contracted project that you would write while on tour? (It sounds like you need to get this one done before the tour – which suggests you don’t have much time for writing at all – is that frustrating or are you kept too busy to notice that much?)

I do not know what book tours are like for other authors, so my answer only pertains to me.

I ADORE going on book tour. It’s fun and rewarding. I also really, really appreciate the fact that my publisher is willing to spend money putting me on the road, and that booksellers are willing to go to all the trouble and preparations required to set up my visits to their stores and the schools they work with. Because I value what these folks are doing for me so highly, my time and energy while on tour is fully at their disposal.

What does this mean? It means there are days when I have to wake up at 3:30 am, catch a flight to the next city, spend all day signing books and visiting schools and stores, grab veggie wraps from Subway for lunch and dinner, do an evening library presentation and fall into another hotel bed at about 10 pm. Even a relaxed day will start at 9 am and not stop until 9 or 10pm.

But like I said: I love this!! It is energizing to meet readers and I am always honored when people take the time to come out to a bookstore to see me.

The down side? Well, I get sick of the veggie wraps. I rarely have enough time to exercise. And it is very challenging to squeeze in writing time. I try. Usually I can steal half an hour or so while waiting for a plane. And flying time is a wonderful place to jot down ideas, or let my mind drift to new projects. The publicists try to schedule in the occasional day that has some down time – that’s always nice – so there are a few extra hours on days like that for the writing. However it’s impossible to get consistent blocks of time from day to day.

But I must admit, it’s a pretty sweet problem to have, so I’m not whining. I am incredibly fortunate and blessed to have the chance to go on book tour.


Want a WINTERGIRLS Discussion Guide?

I have a handful of spiffy WINTERGIRLS discussion guides, courtesy of Uncle Penguin.

If you want me to mail one to you, please leave an address in the Comments section. First come, first served until they’re all gone.

We will return to our regularly scheduled questions about writing and publishing tomorrow.

ETA: If you don’t want the whole world to see your address, simply ask me to screen your comment and I will happily do so. Thanks to the person who suggested this!

EDITED: All the guides have been spoken for. I’ll get them in the mail this week.

Writing & Publishing Questions Batch #3, with ice and snow

Must start with art today. Nature’s art.

Our back porch has a metal roof. The last two days have been warmer than usual and the thick blanket of snow on the roof has been slooooooowly sliding down. Then it refreezes. Next day it warms up, slooowly slides some more, and refreezes.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Early this morning, it looked like this.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic It is a frozen waterfall of snow that reminds me of the classic The Great Wave at Kanagaw by Katsushika Hokusai.

I am sure that by mid-afternoon the house will shake and there will be a rumble and the whole thing will slide off.

Speaking of freezing and thawing, thank you Jennifer for an extremely well-written review of Wintergirls!

Now back to our regularly scheduled questions.

You asked: What are your daily tasks as a writer?

Well, I write a lot, though not nearly as much as I’d like. I’ll take yesterday as an example. I started work at 6:45 am. Took a quick lunch break, several breaks to make tea, and a half hour off for dinner – for a total of say and hour and a quarter away from the work. With those exceptions, I was at my desk until about 9:30 pm.

What did I do there? The most important thing was fleshing out a chapter that’s been bugging me. A lot of things happen in this chapter, so I had to back up and double-check my sources to make sure I had the historical facts correct. I spent about eight hours on the chapter.

The rest of the time was spent on email: writing a historian about gaining access to some manuscript sources that are not available to the public, checking with the publicist about a small bit of writing she had me do for NPR, asking my agent about a foreign tax question, a half-dozen emails from librarians and teachers and another half-dozen from readers (who were not asking for homework help.) Oh, and I dealt with some needed doctor referrals. And I took some time out to blog, and do a quick social networking sweep, adding requested friends on Facebook and MySpace, etc.

What did I NOT do yesterday that I wanted to? I didn’t run. Didn’t go to the gym. Didn’t make a dent in the email. Didn’t take care of any of the fanmail that’s been piling up. Didn’t work on my taxes. Didn’t work on my presentation for the upcoming booktour. Didn’t work on the needed content for the website update. I’m pretty sure I didn’t brush my hair, either.

My “me time” was just before bed. I spent an hour drawing. I’ve been doing more of that lately. I have no aspirations to be an illustrator. Mostly I’ve been copying other people’s pictures. It’s surprisingly relaxing and a nice way to wind down after a long day. (I also snuck in a few pages of a biography I’m reading about Louisa May Alcott and her father – that was when I ate lunch.) I went to bed at 10:30pm, fretting about all of the stuff that I didn’t get finished.

But I have to say, when I was deep in that chapter, life was grand.

You wrote: Several times I’ve seen publishers asking for short stories, novels etc:
But trying to find out what number of words they mean can be difficult. What is your view of the various lengths?

My only concern about length is to make my stories as short and the writing as tight as I possibly can. But I understand your desire for some guidelines. I strongly suggest you check out the best website for information about publishing books for kids and teens, Information about Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children’s Books: The Purple Crayon. The site is maintained by former editor Harold Underdown, who wrote the Absolutely Necessary Book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books (If you enlarge the cover image, you’ll see that I blurbed the book, which I rarely, rarely do.) Those two source will give you more specific information than I can.

Off to attack another chapter and wait for the snow wave to crash.