Friday, February 5, 2016

Five for Friday

First Friday in February!
Here's five things on mind:

1. Just 3 months plus a few days until May 17th, pub day for IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS ! I am seriously so excited about this book. Because accidental immortality and murder mystery and star-crossed romance and a forever-seventeen-year-old girl named Emma who ends up a hard-boiled private eye but refuses to stop searching for the boy she loves. His name is Charlie. And oh my gosh, you guys, Emma and Charlie. Plus a down at the heels detective named Pete Mondragon. And did I say Emma and Charlie?? Please be on the lookout!

2. Obsessed with the musical HAMILTON. Have listened to the cast recording a zillion times. Have checked the bio it's based on from the library. I admit that I HAD NO IDEA. Because somewhere I was assigned the Federalist papers and I never could make my way through it. And now I just look at a ten dollar bill and I'm all gooey and teary-eyed because THIS STORY! Lin-Manuel Miranda is a freaking genius. Those tickets for the Broadway show are impossible to get for a reason. (seriously! Even my own sort of BIG CONNECTION,  the one who can get anything, really, even she couldn't promise me access to tickets for the next time I'm going to be in NYC. ) But HAMILTON. Listen to it!!

3. Have lots of things to say about the current presidential campaign but this is not the place to say them. At least not in this particular post.

4. Current TV obsessions: YOUNGER on TVLand, which is not a perfect show but definitely has a lot to say about the publishing world, some of which is occasionally right on the money. and a lot to say about what it means to be a middle-aged woman in this country even now in 2016 when we should know better but we really don't. Plus it stars Sutton Foster who is so talented and brilliant that I would watch her in pretty much anything, including the far-too-soon cancelled Boneheads of a few years back.  Still hanging in there with SUPERGIRL and trying to catch up with iZOMBIE. And if you read this blog, you know that's just some of it. And did I mention that season 2 of TRANSPARENT on Amazon Prime is absolutely perfect and moving and so utterly watchable??

5. Since the McAllen book festival in November, I've had this THING for enchiladas with mole sauce. Holy cow I love that stuff.

And okay, I have so much more to say about so very many things, but I need to write 1,000 words this morning.

Tim next time...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In Which I Talk About ROOM by Emma Donoghue

ROOM was a brilliant film that has stuck with me since I saw it Sunday. Everything works: the cinematography, the nuanced performances, the lighting, the stark contrast between the first half of the film and the second. It is a tough and brutal story, about a seventeen year old girl who is kidnapped and held captive in what is essentially a sound-proofed garden shed for seven years. She is raped every night by her captor. Two years in, she has given birth to Jack, whose fifth birthday opens the film. And it is quickly becoming apparent to Ma, which is what Jack calls her, although her real name is Joy, that if they do not manage to escape soon, their captor, referred to only as ‘him’ or ‘Old Nick’ will try to kill them. Or at least Ma. As with the book (which I am only now reading), the POV is through Jack’s eyes. Room is his only normal. It is not a prison to him, it is simply his life. And then he manages to help save them, a piece of the plot I won’t give away, although you do see a piece of it in all the trailers.

 If you have been afraid to go see it, go anyway. I will probably see it at least one more time. It inspired me to check the book out of the library and I can say that the film stays very true to the text.

I had not wanted to read the book. I’m not fully sure why except to say that I thought –falsely so—that it would be sensationalistic or lurid or whatever. It is none of those things, although clearly there are larger agendas in the actual text that reach beyond the story of this one mother and son. I am glad that I am reading it now and I’m honestly blown away by Emma Donoghue’s prose, by her narrative choices, her ability to use a five year old to tell this story in a way that makes sense and is in fact, the best way to show the world that Ma has created for him in one 12x12 room that seems to Jack a much larger place. His narration allows the reality of Ma’s horror to wash over use between the lines and it is all the more horrific because of that. Her true situation in contrast to the world that she has created for Jack. And the film (Donoghue wrote the screenplay as well) manages to capture all this as well, also through Jack’s eyes. Including freedom in the 2nd half, because Room is the only world Jack has known and so freedom means something very different to him than it does to Ma.

I’m going to be thinking about this story for a long time, about motherhood and childhood, and the awful things people do to each other and the human spirit that allows us to survive. About how generally impossible it is for us to understand situations we haven’t physically experienced. About this story of a woman and her child forced to make their own world.

Go see ROOM. Then let me know what you thought.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

To the Lodge!

Twice a year, a group of us kidlit writers head out to the woods, about half-way between Austin and Houston. For three solid days we write, critique, inspire and read. Okay there’s some silliness and wine and a lot of snack food that sneaks in there. A lot of it, actually! (Full disclosure, we ran out of wine last summer, so I guess this time, everyone made sure to compensate.)

But here’s the important thing: 18 women converge in one enormous, ramshackle hunting lodge with crazy amounts of insane taxidermy. (Think tiny deer arranged in a rowboat with flowers. Mounted heads with smiles.) We range in age from 20s to 50s. We write YA, MG, and picture books. Most of us are multi-published. Some of us are not yet published. Some are in between. All of us are dedicated to our craft. All of us are committed to bringing stories to the world.

We cook meals. We respect dietary needs without making a big deal of it. (“Gluten-free folks, those paler muffins are for you!”) We support and amplify and encourage each other’s careers in ways big and small. We laugh. We write. We dream. We get a little raucous in the evenings. Okay maybe a lot. We celebrate HUGELY our successes.

And as my friend Lynne Kelly pointed out after this past weekend’s retreat, there are no fights. No posturing. No table-flipping and honestly, no cliques or sub-grouping or secret whispers. NONE.  Seriously, none. We would make a really boring reality show.

Because we started with a smaller core group and because we’ve been doing this for awhile now, sometimes I forget the true, kick-ass wonder of this. How much I appreciate these retreats, especially after a difficult, transitional year like this past one where—in ways both good and bad—almost nothing turned out the way I expected. But none of that mattered this past weekend. Only the work and the company and the inspiration of fierce, brilliant women who are my tribe, my people, my collective creative force.

And the occasional misguided squirrel crashing into the window.

Friday, December 11, 2015


Y'all!! I have waited so long for the moment when it was time to reveal the final cover for IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS, which is coming on 5/17/16 from Soho Teen/Penguin Random House !!

But finally, I can show you and more. In fact, it was revealed yesterday in an exclusive on, with an interview that the brilliant E. Lockhart did with me and two sneak peek chapters! Yes, that REALLY HAPPENED!! Here's the link:

IWALT is Tuck Everlasting meets Veronica Mars. Thriller. Murder mystery. Fairy Tale. Accidental Immortality. Star-crossed romance. A forever seventeen year old girl who won't give up the search for the boy she loves. Yeah, I know! Everything we love all in ONE BOOK!

The cover's in the EW piece but I can't stop looking at it, so here's the gorgeous cover:

I am so excited to introduce you all to Emma and Charlie and their wildly romantic story!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

That Time I Went to McAllen Book Festival

I don't know why I have never been down to what we in Texas call the Valley, but until this weekend, I hadn't. I didn't know what I was missing. I was missing amazing people and amazing food and landscape that was clearly different than where I lived. A library created in what had been a Wal-Mart- turning a consumer concrete jungle into a gorgeous space for people to read and create and research and learn and listen and even eat!

Let me say it right here: I love McAllen, Texas and all its surrounding cities! I had the best school visit at Fossum Middle School. I got to work and visit with amazing librarians, including Mary Rodriguez and Elizabeth Hollenbeck and Dawn Rapoza! And mostly I got to talk books, books, books, with adults and kids and everyone in between. Plus the best Mexican chocolate mocha latte I've ever had.

A few pictures for you:
Paneling with Jennifer Ziegler and Lindsey Lane

talking books with Lindsay Cummings and Chris Barton and lots of people!

A chamoy Margarita. 

Enchiladas Poblanas with mole sauce.

Fossum Middle School super librarian Mary Rodriguez

Even Gale likes reading FINDING PARIS

McAllen Library with Lindsay Cummings and Ray Villareal

Carolyn Flores teaches me and Lindsay how to draw a frog.

That time everyone wanted an arc of IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Five for Friday! And IWALT Bookmarks!

So Soho Press is still keeping the cover for next year's  IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS under wraps as best they can. ARCs are sneaking into the world to early readers/blurbers, and the come January to everyone else. But they approved these awesome bookmarks, created by my friend and writing partner Kristin Rae!

Yeah, they're pretty awesome and they hint so nicely at the cover while still not giving it away, so look closely! Very excited!

And in #2, a quick photo recap of last week's Texas Book Festival which was supremely awesome and such an honor to be part of!

Catching some sun with capitol behind us with me, A.G. Howard, Cory Putnam Oakes, Mari Mancusi, PJ Hoover

Our Blood is Thicker than Water panel in the signing tent: me, Heather Demetrios, Renee Watson

And yes, that is Margaret Atwood. 
Meeting fellow Soho author and all around awesome author and human and very tall guy, Adam Silvera

3. It is still summer in Houston. It should move on to Fall. Like NOW.

4. Looking forward to Comic Con Austin and then McAllen Book Festival and then some time to just write, write, write.

5. And between all the above and a brief jaunt to Florida to just hang on the beach in Ft. Walton where it's just you and the white sand and the birds and the sea turtles and it's heaven, I am also now getting better from strep throat/sinus infection. But yeah, it was worth it! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book Review: SAY WHAT YOU WILL by Cammie McGovern

As soon as I heard Cammie McGovern talking about her books at Houston's Blue Willow last week (she was touring with Julie Murphy), I knew this was an author who should have already been on my radar and somehow wasn't. It happens, I know. So many books; so little time. But I grabbed a copy of SAY WHAT YOU WILL, her debut YA title from 2014 and took it to the beach with me this past weekend and promptly devoured it.

SAY WHAT YOU WILL is about many things: Friendship. An over-protected but brilliant girl whose cerebral palsy traps her in a body that she accepts and tries not to let define her but which doesn't let her have the physical freedoms that would make life easier. A boy with OCD, whose fears and anxieties trap him as well. A star-crossed romance. The good, the bad, the ugly of living in this world -- of loving and losing and making mistakes and pulling yourself up. The difficulties of overcoming perceptions and fears. The terrible things we sometimes do to the people who love us, often because we don't love ourselves enough first. How hard and miraculous it is to find someone who truly 'gets you.' About how easy it is to mess up and miss opportunities to find your tribe, your people. And as main character Amy calls one of her favorite themes (and it's one of mine, too!): Oddballs finding each other. It is not by accident that Amy's favorite book, referenced more than once in the novel, is Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon, the story of three misfits who meet in a hospital.

This is a beautiful, beautiful book. It is gorgeously written, gentle and thoughtful. Amy and Matthew are as imperfect and damaged yet perfect and wonderful as any two characters I have ever read. Their story broke my heart, pieced it back together, then broke it again and eventually let me know that while a happily ever after might not in their future, their story is not over. First love is like that. It is often painful and intense and confusing and wonderful and awful all at the same time.

McGovern creates fully rounded characters in SWYW. The reader learns exactly what it is like to live with CP or OCD; their disabilities are deftly drawn in ways that don't always happen in novels. But be sure: this is not an 'issue' book, although in less capable hands it could be. It is real and heartbreaking and encouraging and one of the best books I've read this year, YA or other. I cannot wait to dig into McGovern's newest book,  A Step Toward Falling, just out from Harper Teen.

I'm sitting here looking for a quote to end this review and I'm feeling teary-eyed again in the best of ways just flipping through the pages of this wonderful, wonderful book! And here's your quote, from near the end, but it doesn't ruin anything, just gives you a sense of the words:
"They sat like that for a while, hands intertwined on top of the book. If he spoke, he knew his voice would betray him. It would crack and break and he'd start to cry. So they stayed just like that, as the light through the window drained from the sky."

For more about the brilliant Cammie McGovern, go to