Wednesday, January 31, 2007


My mother is a smart, funny, beautiful, wonderful woman. But she has one serious flaw. When she reads a book, she often...

(Please brace yourself here. If you are prone to fainting spells, please sit down.)

... marks her place by laying the book face down, spine up, and open. Sometimes she will mark her place by sticking another book in there so that the poor book rests there, mouth open li
ke a patient waiting for a dentist to drill. Or she'll use a wad of tissue. Or even a pencil or (gasp) an uncapped pen!

And in response, the books cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: "The horror! The horror!"

But no more. Now, she will have...


Last week, my magnificently awesome husband designed bookmarks for INTO THE WILD. And today, the nice UPS man brought them to our door! They look super-spiffy, if I do say so myself. Here, take a look for yourself (front and back, click to see larger image):


What do you think? Super-spiffy, right?

We got 1,000 of them. The box weighed, like, 307 pounds. I spent a fair amount of time tonight admiring them. They look extra-super-spiffy when you take a stack and fan them out. I made my husband do that about 8 million times. Anyway, I am planning to bring a whole stack of them with me to the SCBWI Winter Conference and to Boskone. So if you see me at either event and would like one, please don't hesitate to ask. Also, if you are a librarian or a bookseller and would like some to hand out, please let me know and I'd be happy to send them to you. I'd like to do my part to spare the books of the world the horror of a bookmark-less existence.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My First Review!

Got my very first review today for INTO THE WILD! Yay!

The fabulous Miss Erin posted it on her blog this afternoon. Check out her review!

Miss Erin is part of the kidlit blog-o-sphere, a collection of bloggers who review and discuss middle grade and young adult fiction. She was a member of the nominating committee for the Fantasy and Science Fiction category of the Cybils Awards. And she is now on my personal list of all-time Most Awesome People Ever (jumping ahead of Abraham Lincoln, Helen
Keller, and even the guy who invented Raisinets).

Here's a quote from her review:

"Into the Wild is a fantastic story with a spunky main character and a fast-paced plot. The author weaves all of the well-known fairy tales into her book with an ease and clarity that makes the reading of the book a delight. Highly recommended for anyone who loves fairy tales, or is just in need of a good story."

My brain keeps playing that 80s Life cereal commercial over and over: "She liked it! Miss Erin liked it!"

This totally makes my day.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union

Me during the State of the Union:

Stare at the first paragraph of chapter five of the WIP (Work-In-Progress). Decide I need inspiration from fellow writers. Open up Maureen Johnson's blog.

Read Maureen Johnson's hilarious account of John Green's reaction to his Printz Honor, wherein he spills cat litter in Union Square and wants t
o buy a monkey to fetch his pencils.

Decide I want a monkey. Google-search monkeys. Find a list of famous monkeys throughout history.

Envy monkeys for their accomplishments. If only I were a monkey, and I had a typewriter, I could have written Hamlet by now...

Return to chapter five. Decide the first paragraph is fine. Begin twiddling with the second paragraph. Wonder if SWAT team is "SWAT" or "S.W.A.T." Return to Google.

Learn that the movie S.W.A.T. has periods. I never saw the movie. Wikipedia spells it without periods. Decide to trust Wikipedia.

Return to chapter five, which involves a dancing bear. Wonder if "dancing bear" is in Wikipedia.

It isn't.

Return to chapter five.

Hear applause from the TV. Wonder if there's some poor intern stuck holding up an Applause sign.

Wish that I had an Applause sign. My husband could turn it on every time I did something clever.

Decide that could be hard on the ego.

Return to chapter five. Wonder if I can finish chapter five before Bush finishes his speech. Decide to race him.

Pause to eat Raisinets. Wonder why that's not spelled Raisinettes. Too close to Rockettes? Picture the California Raisins doing a kickline. Wonder what happened to the California Raisins.

Hear applause from TV. Resist Google-searching the California Raisins.

Finish chapter five.

The state of my current draft is good. The state of my sanity, in question.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ridin' that train...

Yesterday began and ended on a train. I started the day on the Acela Express from Boston to New York. (I'd gone to Boston for a couple days on a business trip for my day job.) The Acela Express is a lovely train. It travels from South Station (Boston) to Penn Station (NYC) in 3.5 hours. The conductors are cheerful and make witty comments over the intercom. Sometimes they dance through the aisles and do backflips as they serve hot chocolate and, comfortingly, they all look like Tom Hanks...

In New York, I attended a reading at the KGB Bar, part of the Fantastic Fiction Series hosted by Ellen Datlow and Gavin Grant. This was my first time attending -- Delia Sherman introduced me to it -- and I had a great time listening to the readings, chatting with various people, and then eating yummy Chinese food. I even made it into one of Ellen's pictures! Well, more accurately, I'm in the background on the left, appearing totally oblivious to the presence of a camera...

Dinner ended exactly at 10pm, perfectly timed for me to catch the 10:37 train home. While I normally love the LIRR because it lets me read lots of books on the ride home, it is not a fast train. The conductors,
while usually cheerful, do not make witty comments over the intercom -- or if they do, I can't understand them because they sound like when grown-ups talk in Charlie Brown cartoons. I have also never seen them dance through aisles with hot chocolate, though it's possible a few of them look like Tom Hanks...

Last night, the train stopped in Huntington. Normally, this is not a problem since it's actually supposed to stop at Huntington. It's what they call in train lingo "a stop." But it's supposed to stop in Huntington for five minutes. This train stopped for much, much longer. And that's when I discovered the other difference between the Acela Express and the LIRR: the LIRR does not have bathrooms...

Eventually, the train left, and Tom Hanks told us in his Charlie Brown voice that there was a broken rail at one of the stops ahead. Apparently, when it's cold, sometimes the rails split apart. Last night, it was freezing and the rails split apart. Seems like a rather serious design flaw to me, but hey, what do I know. Anyway, I eventually made it home and to the bathroom, which makes this anecdote rather anticlimactic. (But really, if I hadn't, and I'd peed myself right there on the train, you probably wouldn't have wanted to hear about it!) But just in case you feel shortchanged, now I'm going to tell you about the deer.

I never met the deer. He wasn't on my train. But he, like me, was trying to get home, and he, like me, was delayed by cold weather. CNN reported that a deer was trapped on an icy pond today...

Not a cartoon deer. A real deer. And he didn't have a perky rabbit to teach him how to skate. Instead, a helicopter blew him across the ice to safety with the wind from its propellers.

Seriously. Picture that. (If you can't, here's a link to a video of it.)

Can you imagine the "what did you do today?" conversation at dinner? No, not the pilot's conversation. I mean the deer's. "I was trotting along, sniffing for grass, and all of a sudden, a fat metal bird created a magic wind that blew me to the other side of the river! It took me hours to get back to the right side." And his mom would say, "That's the worst excuse for missing curfew that I've ever heard."

Maybe the helicopter incident will become part of deer folklore... Once upon a time, a deer was caught on an icy pond... Or, ooh, maybe it will be a cautionary tale that mommy-deer tell to their baby-deer: don't eat poison ivy, watch out for rattlesnakes, and be kind to helicopters...

Anyway, I think it's nice that both the deer and I made it home.

On a totally unrelated note, here's a link to my very first blog interview, conducted by kidlit-blogger-extraordinaire, Jen Robinson. The grand poobas of the Cybil awards have been posting interviews of some of the judges on the Cybils website. Mine went online this morning. So cool! And don't worry, I say nothing about trains, helicopters, or deer in the interview. Promise.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Must Sleep!

I am very, very, very tired.

This morning, I had a dentist appointment -- to fill three cavities! Three!!! Before this, I'd never had even a single cavity. 32 years of perfect teeth and then, pow, three cavities! What's up with that? I feel like my teeth betrayed me. Or perhaps it had something to do with those Raisinets... Nevertheless, since I'd never had a tooth filled before, I was petrified all week about this appointment. (And this song was playing over and over in my head.) Yet while
the dentist was merrily drilling away at my pearly whites, I fell asleep. Really. He had to wake me up! That is how tired I am.

Why am I so tired? I blame vodka pizza and rice pudding.

This week, I went into Manhattan not once but twice, for two different Drinks Nights. First was TADN (Teen Author Drinks Night). BIG turn-out this time. I chatted with many awesome people, some that I'd met before and some that I hadn't, like Libba Bray, E. Lockhart, and Jordan Sonnenblick. Afterwards, a bunch of us went out for vodka pizza (yum!), and after that, Coe Booth introduced Cecil Castellucci and me to Rice to Riches, a very Manhattan-looking place that sells various flavors of rice pudding in spacepod style cups.

Cecil took this photo:

We've decided that we look like an indie rock group and are thinking of touring under the name Rice Pudding. (Or maybe Rice Puddin'.)

I got home around 1am to find that my editor had sent me the final page proofs for INTO THE WILD (yay!). So I stayed up late and woke up early to review them.

Less than 48 hours later, I hopped back on the train to Manhattan and went to Drinks Night #2: Kidlit Drinks Night, a gathering of bloggers, editors, authors, and all other lovers of children's books. I chatted with many awesome people, all of whom I'd never met before, like Betsy Bird, Alvina Ling, Lisa Greenwald, and many others. Everyone was super-nice. Afterwards, some of us went out for pizza (I had a slice of the vodka-sauce pizza, of course), and after that... rice pudding in spacepod style cups!

I got home around 1am and stayed up late and woke up early to work on my day job (which decided to get ultra-busy this week).

So I think the cause of my exhaustion in the dentist's chair this morning is quite obvious. Clearly, someone's been drugging the pizza and rice pudding in SoHo! This looks like a case for... The Bloodhound Gang!

I told you I was tired...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Cybils Switch-a-roo

The finalists have been selected for the Cybils -- the Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards!!! The very hard working panelists have completed their ridiculously impossible task of whittling lists of around eighty nominated books down to five finalists for each category. Now the judging can begin! And as avid readers of this blog may remember, I was lucky enough to be allowed to serve on one of the judging committees. Judges have a much easier task than the panelists did. It's our job to read the five finalists and select a winner for the category.

So I have to read five
books in the next couple weeks.


Reading five books is not exactly torture for me. I LOVE books. I think that bookstores are better than Disney World and that libraries are a little slice of heaven. We keep having to buy more bookshelves because I overflow them. When I go to the library, I have to force myself
to stick to the rule: no taking out more books than I can carry in one trip to the car. (I need this rule. The first time my husband accompanied me to the library, he offered to carry the books for me. Filled with glee, I skipped through the aisles, flinging books into his arms with wild abandon. We came home with about 40. Okay, it was more like 60. He now knows better than to accompany me to the library.)

Anyway, I thought I would be reading five fantasy and science fiction books. After all, I'd been placed on the Fantasy and Science Fiction judging committee. That would have meant that I would be reading these five fabulous books:

PTOLEMY'S GATE by Jonathan Stroud

SILVER CITY by Cliff McNish
THE LAST DRAGON by Silvana de Mari
PUCKER by Melanie Gideon

selected after much deliberation by the Fantasy and Science Fiction nominating committee
: Sheila Ruth, Michele, Gail Gauthier, Erin, and Kim Baccellia.

But that's where things got tricky. Notice that one of the finalists in the F/SF category is Tamora Pierce's new book, TERRIER. And as avid readers of this blog (or anyone who has come in contact with me
for more than ten seconds in the past few months) know, Tamora Pierce has written a blurb for my forthcoming book, INTO THE WILD. As a result, it might have looked a bit fishy if I picked her book for a Cybil. So... I got booted off the F/SF committee! Well, more accurately, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, I offered to switch to another category. Fortunately, Patty Cryan agreed to switch places with me, and I landed (quite happily) on the Middle Grade Fiction judging committee. And while it's too bad that I won't get to read those F/SF books (who am I kidding, I'll read them anyway!) and chat with the other F/SF judges (J.L. Bell, Fairrosa, Greg Fishbone, and Cassie Richoux), I'm very excited about joining the MG committee.

The MG committee is chaired by librarian/blog
ger extraordinaire, Betsy Bird, who has been wonderful about welcoming me to her committee. My fellow MG judges -- Jen Robinson, Eric Berlin, Sherry Early, and Brooke -- have also made me feel right at home. And I'm really looking forward to reading the five MG finalists:

A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR by Laura Amy Schlitz

FRAMED by Frank Cottrell Boyce
HEAT by Mike Lupica
KIKI STRIKE by Kirsten Miller
WEEDFLOWER by Cynthia Kadohata

selected with great care by the Middle Grad
e Fiction nominating committee: Betsy Bird, Kelly Herold, Stephanie Ford, Mitali Perkins, and Tracy Chrenka.

This is going to be SO much fun. These books look really great -- though, of course, they would benefit from a few more dragons, unicorns, and telepathic cats...

But really, what book wouldn't?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Recommended Board Books

Non-Existent Blog Reader Asks: Help! I'm thirty-something, all my friends are simultaneously reproducing, and I need to buy holiday presents for their babies. I want to buy them books, but I know they aren't ready to read Tamora Pierce or Bruce Coville yet. What should I get them?

Sarah Answers: Glad you asked. As with any genre, there's a wide range of board books out there. I do have a couple recommendations:

Anything by Sandra Boynton. Her illustrations are adorable, and her texts are witty. Plus you can get sets of them in gift boxes. The boxes themselves make excellent toys. (What is it with kids and boxes? Or cats and boxes?) Anyway, my favorites are: MOO BAA LA LA LA (baby-approved -- apparently very tasty), BUT NOT THE HIPPOPATAMUS (adult-approved -- the final joke always cracks me up), and HIPPOS GO BERSERK (gotta love the word "berserk" connected with "hippos").

SHEEP IN A JEEP by Nancy E. Shaw and Margot Apple. Initially, I was wary of this book because it includes a humorous car crash, and I worried that portraying car crashes as funny was teaching the wrong message. Then I snapped out of it. (Click here for an article about the "dangers" of another baby book, GOODNIGHT MOON). The rhythms and rhymes in this book make it a very fun read and a toddler-favorite.

THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT by Edward Lear and Jan Brett. My husband and I had our bridal party recite this poem at our wedding. We have since issued apologies to the reader who had to stand there and say "and there in a wood, a Piggy-Wig stood!" But it does make a nice poem to read to a baby. And this version... the illustrations are magnificent. If you look closely, you'll see there's actually a B Plot. I've never seen a board book with a subplot. Look for the yellow fish on each page -- there's a secondary love story told in the illustrations.

DADDY KISSES by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben. This is the best book ever written. Reason is: each page describes how a daddy animal kisses his baby cub/kitten/froglet/whatever. If your baby has learned to kiss, then the word "kiss" will prompt him/her to kiss you after each page. There is nothing in the world better than a baby kiss.

Happy reading!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year!!! May this be the year that all your dreams come true.