Friday, July 18, 2014


Yesterday, I returned from my first writing retreat. Hardly anyone knew I was attending because I wanted to have this experience without the inevitable added pressure of, "Did you feel creative? Did you write a lot?" I've learned that there's only one thing that severely stifles my author brain: expectations.

But inspiration began the moment I stepped off the plane in Jackson, Wyoming at sunset.

The next morning, I drove to the Idaho cabin where seven YA authors would be gettin' their write on!

A cabin with its own waterfall right outside.

A cabin with a view like this!

Here's our host, Wendy Toliver, being interviewed by an Idaho station that did a story on us. The reporter who interviewed us was a lot of fun and asked great questions.

That first evening, during dinner, an intense storm blew through. Heavy rain! Hail! Clouds that wrapped around us, eliminating our view! Lightning! Wind that threw patio furniture, shattering a glass tabletop! Flickering lights!

And then, a rainbow.

We wrote at tables...

...or on the patio (once the furniture was put back in its place)...

...or at a downstairs desk...

...or sitting in a chair incorrectly (but comfortably).

And here we all are, the first seven attendees of the Cabin 'n' the Words YA Writing Retreat.

Here is the news report I mentioned earlier. Of course, as usual, they got my stats wrong. No, I don't know where they got that number. Yes, it was a running joke during the rest of the retreat. And yes, that made it worth it!

So, did I feel creative? Did I write a lot?

To both, I can answer...yes.

But even better, I made some truly wonderful, sweet, and inspiring friends.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

ALA 2014 - Las Vegas

It's been a few days since I returned from the American Library Association's annual conference. Physically, I've recuperated. But the inspiration and emotional high I get from hanging out with librarians, the brilliant people at Penguin, and other authors is still raging!

I wasn't expecting to attend this year, but I was invited to co-host an event organized by the Class of 2k14, a group of debut middle-grade and YA authors. I was in the Class of 2k7 (the original!), so this was a huge honor. But I was also excited about sharing the stage with Josephine Angelini again. Two years ago we were on an extremely fun author panel in Ontario, California.

But this time we were in Vegas, baby!

The 2k14 event was a Mid-Grade vs. YA trivia smackdown. On each chair was a bag o' swag for participants to take home. In the photo below are the teams clustered together to come up with answers to our questions. Winning teams got additional swag bags!

And here I am with the 2k14 graduates!

Afterward, I headed to the Penguin booth for a booksigning of my own. Here are the beautiful people at the front of that line!

As I walked the convention floor to grab signed books for myself, I also grabbed a pic with these three amazing authors.

It was my first time meeting Adele, my first time having an actual conversation with Mo, and Jacqueline is one of my favorite people to run into at these things. But y'know, we're all authors. It's not a big thing to chat with such respected book creators. We see each other as colleagues. Really, it's no big deal.

Okay, that's a total lie. While talking to them, I'm hoping I come off as part of the crowd, but I still feel like someone's younger brother who got invited to the party just so he won't tattle to the parents.

Being Las Vegas, I had to gamble. So I put one dollar in a slot machine, lost it, and really didn't see what the fuss was. So instead of losing more money, I grabbed a cab (which cost much more than a buck) to take me down to the Gold & Silver Pawn...otherwise known as the home of Pawn Stars!

Then I grabbed another cab to take me to the Luxor hotel and casino. The last time I was there was 1995. That's when I took a tour through their King Tut exhibit, which was my first audiotour, and at the conclusion I decided to one day write a book with that audiotour structure (cassette tapes instead of chapters; a recorded voice as one narrator and the thoughts of someone listening as another). It's a very lucky location for me!

Hmm... I guess I should have bet another dollar there.