Apply now to become the next Thurber House Children's Book Writer-in-Residence!

>> Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Four years ago, I was honored to be the Thurber House Children's Writer-in-Residence for four weeks in Columbus, Ohio. I lived in the attic of James Thurber's boyhood home, led writing workshops with local students, and had lots of time to work on my then-current work-in-progress: The League of Seven, which comes out this August! I had a great time--and you will too!

The application period is now open for the 2015 Thurber House Children's Writer-in-Residence. Here are the details:

Qualifications: Candidates must have at least one middle grade (roughly 3-6 grade) book published by a traditional trade publishing house, but no more than five and one new middle grade book under contract. Must have experience teaching/working with children in an educational setting.

Program: This is a 4-week residency during June, July, or August 2015. The specific time period is negotiated with the selected author. During the stay, the resident will teach writing-based activities to middle grade children for eight to ten hours per week in a variety of community settings, including the Thurber House Summer Writing Camp.

Past Thurber Residents: Deborah Wiles (2001), Kathryn Hewitt (02), Natasha Tarpley (03), Laurie Miller Hornik (04), Shelley Pearsall (05), Sam Swope (06), Lisa Yee (07), Alan Silberberg (08), Hope Anita Smith (09), and (10), Alan Gratz (11), Donna Gephart (12), Jane Kelley (13), Kristen Kittscher (14).

Stipend: $4,000

Housing: A furnished, two-bedroom apartment is provided on the third floor of Thurber House, the college home in Columbus, Ohio of James Thurber. All utilities except telephone are included. Internet access is available. Furnishings include all basic household items. No allowance is offered for travel or moving expenses; employment benefits are not provided.

Deadline for receipt of application materials is November 1, 2014.


Of Shakespeare, Rayguns, and Independent Bookstores

>> Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In 2007, I learned an important lesson about independent bookstores.

My second novel, Something Rotten, a contemporary young adult mystery based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, came out that year from Penguin. I expected that it, like my first novel, would be carried everywhere—by independents and chains and online. But a few months away from the publication date, my editor e-mailed to tell me the bad news: Barnes & Noble wouldn't be carrying my new book. The one person who chose what books all six hundred-plus Barnes & Noble stores would carry had decided that mine wouldn't be one of them. “We don't do well with Shakespeare adaptations,” Barnes & Noble's book buyer said. And that was it.

My second book was saved by independent bookstores like Malaprop's. With separate book buyers at each bookstore across the country, they each made the decision about whether or not to carry my book. And most did. Independent booksellers made Something Rotten a success, and for that and everything they've done for the five books that followed, I'm eternally grateful. As thanks, and to help make sure that every book and author and reader get a chance to connect, my family and I have committed to buying our books only from independent booksellers like Malaprop's, our local indie.

So when the time came to promote my eighth book, the first in a middle-grade steampunk fantasy trilogy called The League of Seven, I wanted to find a way to not only sell books, but sell books through Malaprop's. I'd seen online retailers offer digital short stories that download free with the purchase of ebooks, and thought, why can't Malaprop's and I do the same thing with my good-old-fashioned print book and a specially-printed short story? So that's just what we're doing.

The League of Seven is the story of seven super-powered kids who use rayguns and airships and steam-powered machine men to battle giant monsters called the Mangleborn. (If your kids like Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books, or the Justice League and the Avengers, this is right up their alley.) The trilogy is set in an alternate 1870s America where all contact with Europe was lost in 1770, forcing New England's European population to join the Iroquois League, becoming the seventh “tribe” in what becomes the United Nations of America. One of the architects of that union, Benjamin Franklin, is the star of the prequel short story I've written, called “Join, or Die.” In “Join, or Die,” Franklin battles sea serpents with the help of a young monster expert and a group of Mohawk warriors during a (greatly) re-imagined Boston Tea Party. It's lots of fun.

Malaprop's is printing up “Join, or Die” as a limited-edition chapbook that will be given away for free to anyone who pre-orders The League of Seven from Malaprop's between now and August 19th, the book's publication date. I'm really excited about this chapbook—it's being specially-printed and numbered, the binding is being hand-sewn, and it will be available exclusively through Malaprop's. And the story's pretty great too, if I do say so myself. :-)

I'll also be signing and personalizing all the pre-orders and chapbooks, which can be picked up at the store or shipped to you at home. You can pre-order your copy of The League of Seven in person at Malaprop's, online here, or by calling Malaprop's at 1-800-441-9829. I hope you'll pre-order a copy of The League of Seven and the limited-edition chapbook “Join, or Die” for a young reader in your life, and continue shopping at your local independent bookstore to ensure that every good book has a chance to find its readers!


Me, podcasted

>> Thursday, October 10, 2013

In which I am interviewed on the Reading and Writing Podcast.


The Lady Doctor!

>> Monday, September 9, 2013

Meet the Youth Best In Show winner from the 2013 DragonCon Masquerade contest: The Lady Doctor and her steampunk companion K-9!

Jo loves watching Doctor Who, so she designed this Lady Doctor costume for herself. There's lots more about how she made it herself over at Wendi's Shiny Happy World blog.

Jo was especially proud of the vest, which used all different brass buttons. The coat is pretty great too. You can just see the really spacey lining here, on the lapels. Her hair is dyed TARDIS blue.

I helped her with the rocket boots. She still did all the spray painting and the drilling and gluing but I was there as the technical advisor. One of her Monster High dolls has rocket-powered boots, and so Jo wanted a pair too. The silver rockets are actually upside-down plastic things you put on chair legs to keep them from sliding. We glued them on with Gorilla glue, which held surprisingly well. The boots were thrift-store finds, spray painted with a really super copper color Jo picked out.

The whole ensemble, before she went on stage in the Friday Night Costume Contest! This was a fun costume for Jo--and one she could walk around in afterward without too much trouble! She did trade the rocket boots in for a pair of red Converse high tops for roaming the hotels though...

Congrats, Jo! So proud of you!

For more pics of the steampunk K-9, and to see how I built it, check out the next post.

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