Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Publication Day for DRAMA QUEENS in the house

The dedication in my book reads, "To my daughter, Jennifer, and our jumble of a chosen family." Here's a picture of Jennifer at 16 accepting bouquets of flowers after a fabulous dance concert. Like the book's main character, my daughter is biracial. She's also tall and beautiful, smart and funny (with a huge laugh), deeply perceptive and good at anything she does. It's accurate to say that along with my many years in the theatre, she and the other members of our diverse and nontraditional family are the inspiration for this novel. That's what I love to write about -- family ties, relationships, all the ways we struggle to discover who we are and find the right path for ourselves in life.

Of course, in the act of writing, Jessie took off on her own (the way characters do) and became someone different from both my daughter and myself. Still, it was a relief to me when Jennifer read the final version of the book and gave it (and Jessie) her stamp of approval. I'll share more later about the other people who inspired this story.

Today we are celebrating a long writing, rewriting, editing, and publication process that has finally come to fruition.  Today you can buy the book (online at B&N, amazon.com, many other sites, as well as in bookstores). And you can find it in libraries, too. I hope you get your hands on a copy. I hope you read it and fall in love with Jessie and her crazy jumble of a chosen family. I hope you'll let me know if you do!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One Week Until My Book Comes Out

My new book, DRAMA QUEENS IN THE HOUSE (Roaring Brook/Macmillan) comes out next week. Tuesday, March 25, 2014 to be exact. I've been working on this particular book for nearly 10 years. The most intense work, of course, took place in the last three years since I signed my contract and went to work with my editor at Macmillan. The book has morphed and shape-shifted more than once during that time! And now, finally, here we are. Book launch ready. The book. And me. With only a week to go, I'm doing the things I know to do like: finalizing lists of all the people I want to share my excitement with, checking to see that local bookstores have ordered it, talking with their event coordinators to find out what I can do to help sell the book, agreeing to do some guest blogs and book give-aways -- those kinds of things. But am I ready?

Yes. And no. Excited. And terrified. I love my main character, Jessie, and her crazy nontraditional family. I'm so glad I got to go along with Jessie during a really important year in her life -- one where she has to deal with a lot of change and where she discovers some really cool things about herself and her place in the dramatic world of her family's theatre company. Jessie and I share a sense of humor, but she's a lot more outgoing than I am. And her family? Uh, yeah. A LOT more outgoing than I ever dreamed of being.

So as I sit here, crossing to-do items off a long list, I find myself feeling like the girl in the picture above. That picture of me was taken when I was Jessie's age -- 15, about to turn 16. Pretty smart, a reader, an artist, more introverted than extroverted except when I was performing. Then a miracle happened. All my self-consciousness disappeared and I became whatever character I was playing (from head cheerleader on pep rally days to my first dramatic onstage role as Tessie Hutchinson, the wife and mother who is stoned to death in Shirley Jackson's THE LOTTERY). When I defied my mother and the rules of my mother's religion and played that role (which, incidentally, won a best actress award at a regional competition), I had never even been to see a live theatrical production. That was about to change dramatically -- let's just say from then on the theatre was in my blood and nothing was ever the same again. Did I stop being introverted when I wasn't onstage? No. Not then, not in all the years since.

But the theatre gave me a voice. Maybe I should say -- gave me many voices to choose from. And the performance of those voices led me to writing poetry and stories and novels. And that led me to teaching and directing, which led me back to performance and writing and publishing . . . 

There's a lot to be excited about. Next week my book comes out.  It's the first I've written that draws its inspiration from my many years in the theatre and I hope it won't be the last. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Got Cover Art!

All of Jessie's world is a stage, and she's determined 
to become a player.

A lot has happened on the "book front" since I last posted. The title has gone from the original, It's Not the End of the World to All the World's A Jumble, and has finally been nailed down as DRAMA QUEENS IN THE HOUSE! It's been edited and copyedited and revised and revised and revised. And now the ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies or bound galleys) are done and making their way out to all the places publishers send them. 

Here's what the book is about:

Sixteen-year-old Jessie Jasper Lewis doesn't remember a time in her life when she wasn't surrounded by method actors, bright spotlights, and feather boas. Her parents started the Jumble Players theater, and theater is the glue that holds her crazy family together. But when she discovers her father is cheating on her mother with a man, Jessie feels like her world is toppling over. And then, on top of everything else, there's the delusional aunt who is predicting the end of the world. Jessie certainly doesn't feel ready to be center stage in the production that is her family. But where does she belong in all of this chaos?

I'm really happy with the new title and the cover art.  The process of writing and selling and rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting) a book is such a long and intensive one, it's almost anticlimactic to have it suddenly done.  But then the ARCs arrive and it's an enormous thrill to hold the bound copy in my hands and know that in a few months the actual hardbound book will be coming out! (March 2014 from Roaring Brook/Macmillan) 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Blog-o-Sphere Featuring: Nina Kidd

Paul Beier and Celia with F7, May 1989

“The Next Big Thing” or Blog-o-sphere Project, is a fun way for writers all over the world to connect and share information about their current writing project or upcoming book. One of the writers I tagged to participate in Blog-o-sphere is a dear friend of mine from Southern California, Nina Kidd. I'm most familiar with Nina's fiction writing (which is fabulous) so am excited to learn more about her current project, a work of nonfiction, and to post it here.  Thanks, Nina!

Nina Kidd

In the Blog-o-sphere Project, one writer tags another writer who answers a set of interview questions and then tags five more writers. I was tagged by a Renaissance woman: poet and actor, teacher and visual artist as well as generous friend, Julie Williams. I used a bit from Julie’s wonderful YA novel in verse Escaping Tornado Season, to illustrate Vividly Visual writing for my writing MFA lecture at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Julie has been kind enough to allow me to guest blog my answers on her blog site.  Thank you so much, Julie!

Here it is. . .

What is the working title of your book?

Paul Beier: A Scientist Speaks Up

Where did the idea come from for the book?

As I began nosing around about what was wrong with the  group of mountain lions that live in the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles, repeatedly people sent me to one mountain lion expert. I soon found out that Dr. Paul Beier is more than a mountain lion man. By the time I met him Dr. Beier had became a world expert on wild lands conservation. Even better, he is a master at partnering with and persuading stake holders across the board to take positive action to save threatened wild species by conserving their travel routes, mile by mile.  His strategies for building and conserving wildlife corridors have given a hopeful face to 21st century wildlife conservation worldwide.

I had to tell Beier’s story to kids for its adventure and grit, but also in hopes they will eagerly join in the adventure of exploring the wild and helping it survive wherever they are.

What genre does your book fall under?

Narrative nonfiction for readers 9 to 12.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?

Hmmm… Bearded, sinewy, with shifting colors of:  the wide eyed idealist, cornball charmer, the Sherlock Holmes logician, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird in the courtroom, but with a spitball streak of devilment: Ewan MacGregor, or Aussie Simon Baker (plays Patrick Jane, in TV’s The Mentalist)

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

 Again and again the important people shoved biologist Paul Beier aside when he explained how to save the mountain lions and other animals slowly dying in the shrinking wild lands among California’s suburbs; but Paul’s idea was more powerful than any of the big guys and now it is saving struggling species around the world.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll represent myself to trade publishers, starting with the editor who suggested it.
How long will it take you to write the first draft?

I should have a first draft done by the end of this year.

What titles would you name for a comparison to yours?

Pamela Turner’s A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts;  Charles and Emma by ­­­­­­­­­­­­­Deborah Heiligman; The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O’Connell, Donna M. Jackson and Timothy Rodwell

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

An idea: Instead of the old Conservationists Fighting Builders and Developers scenario, wildlife corridors for animals, birds, insects (and even plants) is a proactive specific plan that local communities can put into action with the assistance of scientists. Paul Beier’s plans are showing us that humans and the wild can be good and respectful neighbors. We can slow, even stop many of the animal extinctions that we are causing. Once young readers catch on they can look at their own hometowns in a new way. Kids can see animals, and even plants, on the move beyond their own back fences or even in their own garden. As Paul Beier says of finding and preserving wildlife corridors, “It’s exciting because it connects people to the land.” 

 What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Mountain lions! How can a mountain lion, the size of a St. Bernard dog, kill a moose -- an animal five times its size? How does a scientist find one and put on a radio collar to follow it?  What do you think of a person who crawls on his belly in thick underbrush, alone and unarmed, to reach a female mountain lion and examine her newborn kittens?

I’m tagging ---

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I'm taking an eight-week online workshop with artists, Jane Davenport and Teesha Moore. I can't say that mermaids or circuses are big images (or inspiration) in my own artwork or writing. But when I saw the announcement I knew I had to do it. And I've learned to trust that kind of "knowing." You know, where your head feels like it's going to fly off and be its own balloon. 

It's the first week and I don't want to do anything else. Never mind that it's snowing in mid-April. Never mind that today is tax preparation day. Never mind that I'm in another "stage of waiting" in the book publication process. I'm surrounded by art supplies. And I'm watching and listening to two of my favorite creative people share their process with us.

Not only that, but the "us" happens to be several hundred wildly creative artists (and that means a whole bunch of interesting new blogs to explore). There's so much inspiration going on here, my fingers are tingling!

And THEN, wouldn't you know -- as soon as I began to work with the shapes and journal-making process I knew where my own inspiration was coming from. So now I'm digging through old (really old) manuscript piles to find a collection of poems I started about 25 years ago. I called them my Fat Lady At the Circus poems. It was one of those projects that started with a bang and then I let it slip away. Of course it's about all those things that ring my artistic chimes. Family, body image, theatre, gypsies, carnival trailers, gender identity . . . ahhhhh, my own take on Mermaid Circus. Yipppeeeee!

Best antidote to a late spring EVER!!!

Happy creating! Whether it's collage or painting or writing or cooking or (gulp) gardening or . . . you name it, throw yourself into the process, and enjoy!

Side note: My intention was to add this image as a blog button, but I am a little technically challenged at the moment, so that will have to wait until I receive further instructions.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

BIRD HOME (digitally altered image of 24X24" mixed media collage)
An Almost Spring Celebration . . .

It's almost spring here in Minnesota. I know the birds are acting as if it is. The chipmunks just came out of their winter hibernation and are going at our bird feeders like they're starving (my guess is they probably are). I am so impatient to get into the gardens and start mucking about. More than that even, I want to be able to throw the doors and windows wide open, to turn our thermostats down a few degrees, and wear anything other than the sweats I live in all winter long.

When you live in a cold climate like this, even the HINT of spring is a cause for celebration!

I'm happy to say that my upcoming novel has finally found a title: ALL THE WORLD'S A JUMBLE. And, after going through a number of rewrites with back and forth communications between me and my editor at Roaring Brook/Macmillan, it's gone on to the copy editor. (Hallelujah!) There will be more tweaking in a few weeks. And by this time next year, it should be out! More cause for celebration.

And here's some more! This week I was invited by my fabulous poet friend, Diane Kendig, to participate in "The Next Big Thing," a fun blog-o-sphere project that links writers all over the world. Diane posted my interview on her blog today. I hope you'll take a minute to read about ALL THE WORLD'S A JUMBLE on Diane Kendig's blog. I've tagged writer friends, Linda Townsdin, Nina Kidd, and Sandra Martin and will be posting their interviews and links next week. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year 2013!

How is the new year treating you? My wish for you is that it's getting off to a fabulous start!

I'm just coming up out of the deep hibernation of what I hope is the last big rewrite of my upcoming book. Let's just say, the holidays slid by in a blur of words, words, words. Even without the pressure of a writing project, it's easy for me to hibernate this time of year. As I look out my window right now, snow is starting to fall again. It's warmer today than it's been (it's all the way up to 15 degrees)! My cozy basement studio with its wall of windows is a pleasant place to hole up and create.

So, is the rewrite done, you ask? Uh, no. Not quite. But I'm so close I can taste it. And so absorbed and obsessed I am even dreaming about it. My morning journaling is now always about the story. More problem-solving happens in that journal than anywhere else. Even my massive story board (see below) takes a back seat to the journal.

It seemed like a good idea to take a little break this morning and open this blog back up after a year hiatus. Who knew a year could fly by like that?

The book is IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD, a YA novel due out sometime soon from Macmillan/ Roaring Brook Press. My editor, Nancy Mercado, is coming back from a delightful hiatus of her own, and I'm looking forward to moving into the next stages of this project with her.

Here's what I do most days after the words have dried up. Lately I've been finding ways to incorporate some of my poems into my visual artwork. In this one, titled "Spring Morning," the poem is written in white and silver ink on the blue sky. There's nothing like dreaming of spring and new boots and gardening when the entire visible landscape is white and shades of grey.

SPRING MORNING (acrylic on stretched canvas 20X20")

What are you up to these early days of this first month of this new year? Are you finishing up a creative project you began in 2012 (or 2011 or 2010 or 2009 or . . .)? Are you starting something brand, spanking new? Whatever it is, I wish you all the best with it!

What is it and how is it going? Write and tell me about it. I want to know!