A Quick Shout Out for This Year’s ALA Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the ALA awards, especially to my friend Laura Watkinson, who translated Soldier Bear, winner of the Batchelder award, the best work of translation of the year. Wow!! Soldier Bear was originally written in Dutch by Bibi Dumon Tak. It tells the true story of an orphaned bear cub adopted by Polish soldiers in Iran during World War II. Can’t wait to read it.

It’s always exciting to find out the winners, and this year I was totally psyched to see Laura so honored. To find out more about Laura, check out her website here. She lives in Amsterdam, and we met through SCBWI.

I’m also so pleased to see two former Vermont College instructors winning the Newbery and the Caldecott: Jack Gantos for Dead End in Norvelt and Chris Raschka for A Ball for Daisy.

Coming up: a dyeing project and an interview with app developer Sarah Towle.

Amsterdam, the Espresso Book Machine, and Thoughtful Children’s Apps

Last weekend I had the chance to attend a conference in Amsterdam hosted by the Netherlands chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

The event was packed with interesting speakers and attendees from England, France, and Germany as well as the Netherlands. Highlights: writing workshops by Erzsi Deak and by fellow Vermont College alum Sarah Blake Johnson, a demo of the Espresso Book Machine, and news from the Wild West of app development for children and young adults. Here’s a write up of the conference by Mina Witteman, Dutch author and brave conference organizer. Thank you, Mina, for all your hard work!

The Espresso Book Machine is a new concept available in just a few locations, where you can print out high-quality paperback books on demand. The American Book Center in Amsterdam offered a demonstration to us.

As you see above, the machine itself looks like a computer attached to a very fancy printer with clear glass sides. It smells strongly of ink and glue. A video demo of it is viewable on the ABC website here (look down the right column for “ABC’s EBM in action”). In addition to printing the double-sided pages, the machine also trims and binds them and adds a cover. The result is very like what we call a trade paperback (high-quality-not-newsprint pages, with varying trim sizes).

The inside pages are all in black and white, but covers are printed in full color. If I recall correctly, there’s a 15 euro charge to use the machine and the books themselves cost around 15 euros a piece.

I wasn’t able to stick around long enough to hear much about the various applications of the machine. It’s a vehicle for self-published authors as well as traditional publishers and those seeking out-of-print books. It will be interesting to see how it fares in the current market, with all the changes going on in publishing.

What do you think? How would you use the EBM? Can it compete with e-books, or is it trying to? Is its target market the same or different from e-books?

I was also really intrigued by the work of the app developers who attended the conference. Apps for children weren’t something I had given much thought before. I thought apps in general were video games and personal organization tools, with maybe some room for animated children’s books.

Taking a look at the work of Omar Curriere and Sarah Towle gave me a whole new insight into the medium.

Omar’s company, OCG Studios, approached American illustrator Roxie Monroe with the idea of creating an ipad (and later iphone) app based on her intricate maze books. Ms. Monroe spent months creating original, hand-done artwork, and a team of six programmers spent three months developing the app. The result is frankly stunning. It’s part maze, part treasure hunt, part ABC game with a little car you can move with your finger—so cool! Check it out at the address linked above. There you’ll also find one of Roxie Monroe’s books turned into an app, which is a lot more intense a project than it might sound. It will be exciting to see what else OCG comes up with.

The other app developer I met was Sarah Towle, whose company, Time Traveler Tours, specializes in travel apps for students and their families or teachers. Her first offering, Beware Madame La Guillotine really blows my mind. It’s part book, part interactive travel guide, part scavenger hunt. I didn’t know an app could do all that. It definitely offers something that I have to admit the printed book can’t. I can’t wait to see what comes up with next.

AASL: Revving Up to Write Bibliography


The AASL conference was a fun blur of activity. I saw some dear old friends and met lots of new people, too. Thank you to everyone who attended my signings and concurrent session. Thanks especially to media specialist Debra Heimbrook, who presented along with me.

Debbie shared some books at the end of our session that she recommends for teaching and talking about writing. Since we didn’t get to include those in our online handout, I’m listing them here:

Brown, Marc. Arthur Writes a Story. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1996.

Allen, Susan and Jane Lindaman.  Written Anything Good Lately?  Minneapolis, MN:  Millbrook Press, 2006.

Rylant, Cynthia.  In November.  New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2000.

Wong, Janet.  You Have to Write.  New York:  Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002.

Clements, Andrew.  Frindle.  New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1996.

Bruel, Nick. Who Is Melvin Bubble? New Milford, CT: Roaring Brook Press, 2006.

Anything in the Dear America series for writing letters, diaries, journals

Pictures from AASL to follow.

Two Book Signings Friday, November 6 at AASL Conference


So I now have two signings on Friday. The first is from 9-10a.m. at the Boyds Mills Press booth at the exhibit hall. The second is from 12:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. at table 9, the Author Pit Stop. Please come say hi, and don’t forget to sign up for my concurrent session on Saturday at 10:15 a.m.

Revving Up for the AASL Conference: November 5-8, 2009 in Charlotte, NC


The national conference for the American Association of School Librarians will be held here in Charlotte, NC next month. I will be signing books at the Author Pit Stop on Friday, November 6 from 12:45-2:15 p.m. on the exhibit floor.

I will also be presenting, along with librarian Debra Heimbrook, a concurrent session from 10:15-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 7 in room 213D.

Our session is entitled Revving Up to Write: How One Author Fuels Writing by Reading, Plus: How an Author Visit Can Rev Up Writing at Your School.

Revving Up to Write emphasizes ways of collaborating with teachers to create writing assignments. I will also give suggestions for leading students in pre-writing exercises driven by reading. The program is also designed to encourage students to think creatively about using various library resources. Ms. Heimbrook will speak about using the library as a fueling station for writing, for those laps around the track as well as trips outside the raceway.

Come join us for an interactive session, including writing exercises designed to get you going.

Stay tuned for more details. I will also be signing books at the Boyds Mills Press booth at some point.

Panel Discussion: From Agent to Author–How a Children’s Book Gets Published


Last week I spoke at the Morrison Library here in Charlotte as part of a panel about children’s publishing. Joining me were Lisa Williams Kline, Tracey Adams, and Quinlan Lee. The event was hosted by the Charlotte chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. We had a good crowd who asked lots of great questions. Moderating was the talented Betsy Thorpe.

We discussed lots of things: Do you need an agent? How do you get one? How do you fit writing into the rest of your life? What should you say/ not say in a cover letter? How is an illustrator selected?

Lisa and I discovered we had both attended Vermont College, though at different times. I’m always glad to meet other writers, especially ones who live nearby!

Isabel Now Available as an E-book


Isabel and the Miracle Baby is now available as an e-book. Check it out, all you Kindle enthusiasts.

In other news, the art for Slowpoke is close to being finalized, and I should soon be able to share the cover artwork.  I’m also back at work on my young adult novel, trying it all over again in present tense this time. I’m not sure that I’ll keep the tense, but the practice seems to be helping me hone the story.

As a reminder, I’ll be appearing on a panel entitled From Agent to Author: How a Children’s Book Gets Published at the Morrison Library in Charlotte on October 7 at 7 p.m. More info here.

My interview with ETV is fast approaching, as well, and I’m busy preparing for my talk at the national AASL conference in November.

Off to write.

WNBA – Charlotte


No, I haven’t been drafted to the Women’s National Basketball Association. A group of fellow book lovers have opened a branch of the Women’s National Book Association here in Charlotte. It’s been really interesting to find other book-related folk in town. 

On Tuesday, September 15, we’ll meet for a networking event  at M5 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. This event and WNBA are open to anyone who loves books. You don’t have to work in the business or even be  a woman.

On October 7, I will be participating in a panel discussion at the Morrison Library. It’s entitled From Agent to Author: How a Children’s Book Gets Published. Agent Tracey Adams and fellow authors Quinlan Lee (also an agent) and Lisa Williams Kline will also be participating. The event runs from 7 to 9 p.m.

If you’re on facebook, search for our WNBA – Charlotte page for more information about the organization and about these events.

NC Experience

Saturday I participated in NC Experience an event for NC children’s authors at Broadfoot’s Bookstore in Wendell, NC. The highlight was having lunch with the other authors and signing books together. I especially enjoyed meeting Stephanie Greene, Joyce Hostetter, and Kevin Duffus. And of course, Eleanora Tate, who I heard speak at my own county library in Florence, SC when I was 9 or 10. Having enjoyed her books as a kid, it was a special honor to meet her again and to be on the program with her.

Here I am with Stephanie Greene, fellow Vermont College alum and author of the Owen Foote books and many others.

Below is Joyce Hostetter, a fellow Boyds Mills author. Her books are Best Friends Forever, Blue, and Healing Water, which just came out.

I regret not getting a photo of Eleanora Tate!