Whatims – April 9, 2018

Lord and Taylor. You’ll notice that I missed last week’s post. That was because last week was a doozy. The biggest lesson I learned: when life gives you lemons, sometimes you throw them back up.

I was struck by some wicked mystery illness that knocked me out for a couple days, and the timing was terrible. I had to cancel a signing and a meeting with my editor at the Texas Library Association, which was just such a bummer. In this writing biz that can be so solitary, I was really looking forward to getting to interact with people! I’m feeling myself again, finally, and here’s what I’m doing this week.

What I’m Writing: I was able to start the third draft in my fantasy middle grade, and this draft is all about emotional layering, tugging at your heartstrings and all that. For me, the emotional layering is the hardest part. It’s got to feel authentic and right for each character in their specific life situation, but I’m feeling so connected to these characters at this point that I think I’ll be able to make them and me cry as we go down this emotional rabbit hole.

What I’m Reading: Jessica Townsend’s NEVERMOOR. This is such a great middle grade fantasy-adventure about a girl who finds herself in the fantastical city of Nevermoor after one real lousy childhood with parents who should be ashamed of themselves, Bethenny Frankel-y. But all the magical adventures she has with a cast of quirky new friends make her sad beginnings worth it.

What I’m Thankful For: Librarians! I was able to spend one nice afternoon with librarians at TLA before being struck by the Ailment from Hades. Librarians are superheroes, and I’m so thankful for them championing books everyday. Here’s me waving to all the librarians I met last week and all the ones I have yet to meet!

Whatims – March 26, 2018

What I’m Writing: I just finished the second draft of the fantasy-adventure middle grade THIS MORNING! I’m feeling on fire! Got back from Kinko’s with the printed and bound copy so that I can go through that and hand edit for Round 3. I’ll be getting into emotional layers to make sure this puppy really sings (aka makes us cry).

What I’m Reading: Carrie Jones’s TIME STOPPERS. Carrie is teaching the Write. Submit. Support. group I’m in at the Writing Barn, and she’s a middle grade master! I’m having fun diving into her fantasy world and learning from the best!

What I’m Thankful For: Customer Service! Today has been chock-full of needing to call Customer Service numbers for flights I messed up and WordPress issues that technologically-stunted me cannot always figure out. Everybody was so nice and patient with my “Wait, I need to do what-nows.” I have become my grandmother, and I’m not looking back.

Whatims – March 19, 2018

Lord. And. Taylor, folks! Just got back home from seeing LOVE, SIMON, and it is the greatest coming out/gay love story I’ve ever seen! More on that later this week. It’s taking everything in me to dry my happy tears and focus on something else, but I’m going to give it a shot!

What I’m Writing: I’m heading into the last quarter of the second revision of my MG fantasy-adventure. These past few days I’ve actually been able to use a couple scenes from the first draft. Although about 80% of that first draft is getting cut, it feels good to know that some of what I wrote before can be used!

What I’m Reading: Holy smokes, y’all! I just finished Tomi Adeyemi‘s CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE this morning, and it is an absolute must-read. It is a YA African fantasy with epic battle scenes full of butt-kicking magic and forbidden romance that makes Romeo and Juliet look like they had it easy. Go. Out. And. Get. It.

What I’m Thankful For: This week I’ve got to give a big thanks to all my Picture Book II students in the online course I’m teaching through the Writing Barn. It is so easy for me to get caught up in middle grade when I’m in the midst of writing one, but these 12 writers have reminded me how exciting and enriching it is to be a picture book author as well. Thanks for reigniting that PB flame, you guys!

Whatims – March 12, 2018

Last week was an action-packed five days full of school visits, energetic kids and superhero librarians! I always get a little anxious leading into them, but have such a blast while reading and creating stories with the students. They keep me fired up to write more so I get to visit more!

What I’m Writing: We’re going strong with the revision of my fairytale-based fantasy MG (and by we I mean me and all the characters screaming inside my head). Still at that chapter a day pace, and feeling confident I can keep it up to have this draft done by the end of the month. I didn’t just jinx it, did I?

What I’m Reading: Sayantani DasGupta’s THE SERPENT’S SECRET. It’s the first in the new middle grade fantasy-adventure series, Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond. I totally recommend this for fans of the Percy Jackson series. There are so many fantastic magical hijinks, all centered around Indian folklore which I have never had the opportunity to dive into before. I’ll be looking for the sequel when it comes out!

What I’m Thankful For: I am so into all the book-to-movie adaptations we are getting this month, starting with A WRINKLE IN TIME through to READY PLAYER ONE at the end of March. The movie I’m most excited for is LOVE, SIMON, the movie adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. Teenage Me can’t believe that there is going to be a major movie about a gay, high school love story. I’m going to see it this weekend when it releases so that movie studios know people will spend their skrilla on LGBTQIA+ movies at the theater! Let’s all go!

Whatims – February 26, 2018

This week is giving me LIFE! I’ve got a fire under me on this MG fantasy project I’m working on, plus I’ve made a deep dive into the TV show “Don’t Be Tardy,” and it may go down as one of the Top Ten Best Decisions I’ve Ever Made.

What I’m Writing: I finished the first draft of my MG fantasy-adventure this past week! I’ve been taking this first draft way slower than I usually do (more on that later this week), which allowed me to have all kinds of ideas for the revision. I’m going to jump back in TODAY!

What I’m Reading: Jacob Sager Weinstein’s HYACINTH AND THE SECRETS BENEATH! HYACINTH follows the titular character as she discovers that the rivers that flow under London are actually magic, and just what happens when the mischief in that magic is accidentally unleashed. I am flying through this, and I’m robsessed with the dry sass of Lady Roslyn, Hyacinth’s elderly companion on this adventure who I’m picturing a lot like Mrs. Doubtfire.

What I’m Thankful For: This week I have got to give a ginormous thank you to Debbi Michiko Florence. Not only is she an amazing writer (if you haven’t started her JASMINE TOGUCHI series, you have got to stop what you’re doing and get the first two books in the series RIGHT NOW), but she is an amazing friend. This past year Debbi and I started emailing each other on a regular basis, cheering each other on in our writing and filling each other in on our current adventures. I look forward to our emails, and it feels so great to have somebody who gets the author life by my side—even virtually—on this crazy writing rollercoaster.

Debbi, you complete me!

Whatims – February 19, 2018

Every Monday I’m going to give a rundown of what I’m writing, what I’m reading and what I’m thankful for. In short, the Whatims. Hopefully this will help out with three things: 1) Keep this fella on track to write everyday, 2) Spread the word about good books, and 3) Kick off the week with a little gratitude to avoid a Cathy case of the Mondays.

So here we go!

What I’m Writing: I’m nearing the end of a first draft of a middle grade fantasy-adventure. It’s about a love-adverse boy who finds himself stuck in a fairytale, and the only way out is to help Prince Charming find true love. I’m writing the ending this week, and I’m (Lisa Vander)pumped to get started on the revision! There will be a lot of fairytale research involved, which knowing me will include watching Disney movies and taking BuzzFeed quizzes on which Disney Princess would be my BFF.

I’m also working on a narrative nonfiction picture book about jellyfish! I’m shocked that I’m trying my hand at nonfiction. It’s always scared me, but it’s been a fun adventure. I’m nervous but excited!

What I’m Reading: Kim Tomsic’s THE 11:11 WISH! I have been on the edge of my seat waiting for this book. It’s about a girl named Megan who starts off a new year at a new school by making a wish at 11:11, resulting in all sorts of magical hijinks, both delightful and disastrous. I was lucky enough to see an early draft of this from Kim, and this book is everything I want and more! Kim, it’s catastrophically good!

I’m also reading a lot of picture book nonfiction right now to get inspiration for the jellyfish project I mentioned above. This week it’s IF SHARKS DISAPPEARED by Lily Williams, and ALABAMA SPITFIRE: THE STORY OF HARPER LEE AND TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD written by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Erin McGuire.

SHARKS is so well done, explaining the devastating effects the Earth could experience if sharks vanished from our world. Even though the subject seems like it could be rather doom and gloom, there is a strong feeling of hope throughout the whole book that details how an animal that might at first appear scary is actually an integral part of our environment that humans can help.

Bethany Hegedus is like my writing fairy godmother, so anytime she has a book come out, I’mma get that right away. Due to Harper Lee’s history of being reclusive, I didn’t know much about her, so I learned a ton about Lee’s life in ALABAMA SPITFIRE. I had NO IDEA she was besties with Truman Capote! Erin McGuire’s illustrations go so well with the story. I especially loved her depiction of setting. I could feel the slower pace of Alabama compared to the hustle and bustle of New York City.

I also left ALABAMA SPITFIRE feeling an even deeper drive to keep at striving to sell a novel one day, and also to buy a typewriter—preferably this fabulous pink Hermes one right here (not to say that Lee loved pink because as I learned from AS, she didn’t, but she did clack away at her typewriter!).

What I’m Thankful For: BookPeople! My local independent bookstore here in Austin, Texas. I always feel so welcome when I walk through their doors, and they are outrageously supportive of their local authors. In fact, I walked in this weekend and was pulled aside almost instantly to sign more copies of WHOBERT. It made me feel like a rockstar, which despite the long hair I’m decidedly not. Plus, Shannon the School Visit Coordinator has been a dream in getting presentations set up at local elementary schools.

To the Book People at BookPeople, I LOVE YOU! Thank you for all that you do!