In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Read for the Fun of It: Teen Read Week, Oct. 12-18, 2008


[photo by librarian Heidi Dolamore]
Now that Molly Ballou's story, The Darkness Under the Water, is headed for bookstores and libraries this fall, what can I learn about the readers waiting for the book? I went to the Vermont Library Conference this week, and signed up to hear Beth Gallaway -- the Junior Director for NELA (the New England Library Association) and a vital team member of YALSA: the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association. Young (at least, for a person with a master's degree), savvy, and entirely into computer gaming (she brought up World of Warcraft a couple of times, and proved to the audience that gaming builds reading and writing skills!), she told the jam-packed room of librarians and book lovers about Teen Read Week.

This year's theme for Teen Read Week is BOOKS WITH BITE. The subtheme, as always, is "Read for the fun of it." Gallaway filled us with creative examples, excitement, vampires and other bloody notions, and a high-energy race through great ways to promote and enhance a reading event. Then we all brainstormed in smaller groups to come up with titles, activities, and promotion for our own Teen Read Week -- my group's title was "We Want Your Blood!" and tied the reading and reviewing to a blood drive. At least one high school in Vermont (in Manchester) already has student blood drives, which in my opinion makes a terrific way to support a community and help cope with disasters.

Worth knowing about: the YALSA blog, http://blogs.ala.org/yalsa.php -- and YALSA is on MySpace, too.

Even though Molly Ballou's story won't be published until November 12, Teen Read Week this year (Oct. 12-19) will be a great time to add The Darkness Under the Water to a reading plan. And if you live near Brattleboro, Vermont, or Madison, Wisconsin, plan to pick up a special early release copy of the book at the literary festival in Brattleboro (Oct. 3-5) or the Wisconsin Book Festival (Oct, 15-19). More on those later.

Oh, one more quick note: I found a lot of librarians with strong ties to Molly's story. It matters.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Molly Ballou's Story: THE DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER

It's early May, and in Vermont the daffodils nod bright yellow heads and the robins call out in early morning and late afternoon -- in between, they are quiet, protecting their nests and keeping the eggs warm. I'll know when the baby birds emerge, because the parents' behavior changes so much, racing around for food.

In my writing sanctuary, I'm torn between two spring patterns myself: preparing for the launch of Molly Ballou's story, THE DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER (Candlewick, fall 2008), and writing the story that Shawna Lee is whispering in my ears -- THE HUNGRY PLACE. One book calls me out to talk with people and share the excitement and adventure. The other turns me into a robin trying to cover all the blue eggs with the warmth of my heart, quietly singing a hatching song to myself.

Next week I'll be at the Vermont Library Conference in South Burlington, reading on May 13 and 14 in the author's cove, letting Molly Ballou tell you how it felt for her to be sixteen years old, living in a small Vermont village in 1930, when her Abenaki heritage -- which her parents had carefully turned into "being French Canadian," but which her grandmother still honors -- well, to make a long story short, Molly discovered that being Abenaki could mean being threatened by the Governor and Legislature of Vermont, and especially by the nurses being sent out into the communities to look for families who didn't match the ideal Vermont image.

But I'm getting ahead of the story. After all, when the book opens, what Molly is mostly struggling with is a sort of haunting, by the very snippy voice of her own dead sister, Gratia.

That too is part of what's hidden by the spring waters in Waterford, Vermont.