Zach and Lucy have arrived!
I’m thrilled anytime a project I’ve had a hand it makes it across the finish line, but these books are special for the number of firsts they represent. They’re the first books I wrote in partnership with another author, the first of my books my own children have read to me, and the first of my books to have been illustrated (thank you, Mark Chambers!). But they’re special for another reason.
A couple of years ago, my good friend and critique partner, Stephanie Guerra and I were having dinner. We were both in a bit of a funk about our individual work at the time, and both realizing we wanted to have a little more fun with our writing. And in a curry-fueled moment of solidarity, we decided that maybe we should try writing something together. Something fun. Something different.
That was one seed for the Zach and Lucy stories. The other was laughing about the crazy shenanigans we pulled as kids to make money. My sisters and I used to put on shows or haunted houses in our basement and charge the neighbor kids to come. Steph has even better stories about her siblings, but those are hers to tell. And I realized as a parent of young kids, I was seeing my kids do the same kinds of things. My son and daughter often open stores in our spare bedroom, or haul all of our stuff from the garage to the front porch and then invite me to come and buy it back like some crazy groundhog day version of a yard sale. Stephanie had similar (and even funnier!) stories to the same effect. And we wondered if there might be something to the idea of a pair of industrious, scheming siblings who play this way, who spend more time preparing and staging their play than they actually do playing.
But working on these books reminded me that I do the same thing in my work and life. Sometimes, the most fun is to be had in setting up for the big idea. The anticipation. The buildup. The dreaming of how wonderful and fun it will be. And sometimes we need the fun of preparing for something to give us the momentum we need to get through the harder parts later.
Luckily, Zach and Lucy get to enjoy both the fun of dreaming up their ideas and the joy of seeing them play out. There are bumps along the way, conflicts to work out, and unexpected, delightful outcomes at the end. And even more luckily, so did Stephanie and I had similarly fun journeys as we worked on these stories. Isn’t that what play–whether its writing a story or opening your own museum–really all about?
I hope so. And I hope readers of all ages find Zach and Lucy’s stories half as much fun to read as they were for Stephanie and me to write.
PS: I don’t know why we’re called the Pifferson Sisters. That curry was pretty strong.
Every March, a particular magical madness takes over the Tri-Cities area of Washington state. And it has nothing to do with basketball.
Ok, so maybe we are on a basketball court, but only because we just finished hanging out with 1,400 amazing student reader-writers and it was the only space big enough for us all to be at once. And Allen Zadoff* was showing off his dunking skills.
I was lucky enough to join Cavalcade of Authors this year. Michelle Lane of Enterprise Middle School and her dedicated team of teachers, librarians and volunteers put on an incredible event, bringing together 17 young adult authors and 1500 students for a day of reading, writing, talking books, and loving stories. I’m so thankful that I got to participate. I’m thankful to have had a chance to talk with such enthusiastic readers. Most of all I’m, thankful to Michelle and her team and her donors, all of whom understand how powerful these connections between writers and readers can be. It is the very best kind of March Madness, the kind that matters more than which college basketball team will win the tournament**, the kind that lasts a lifetime and creates devoted fans of reading and the power of stories.
*Allen Zadoff, who I met on the plane over for the first time but kind of wish had been my best friend in high school. Or now.
**Kentucky. Of course.
My only sports as a kid were competitive swimming and running, so I know precious little about football. I do know that I love the Seahawks. I know that even though they lost the Superbowl last week, I’m still rooting for them, already looking forward to listening to Warren Moon and Steve Raible call games next year.
And I know a little something about yards after contact.
When players and coaches and fans talk about what makes Marshawn Lynch so special on the field, they always point to his yards after contact. His ability to take a hit or three or four or seven and keep running the ball forward is unmatched. His ability to keep running even while dragging a defender along behind him earned him the best nickname in the NFL. He has an incredible knack for advancing the ball–sometimes only a yard or two–despite the fact everybody is trying to drag him to the turf.
Yards after contact.
Writing is a lot like that. Sure, once in a while writing a story or revising a scene is like catching a sixty yard Russell Wilson pass in the end zone. But not very often. More often, it’s running the ball through the defensive line. It’s absorbing the contact, but still gaining yardage.
Sometimes it’s in the back field. Self doubt? Contact. Laziness? Contact.
Sometimes it’s on the goal line. Rejection? Contact. A bad review? Contact.
Contact is inevitable. But making yardage after wins games. And it gets books written. It gets writers published. It gets stories that need to be in the hands of readers into those hands.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go Beast Mode on the draft I’ve been working on.
Merry, Merry! In the event that you’re looking for gift ideas for your loved ones, signed books are always wonderful. And if you are interested in gifting any of my books, I’ve got a deal for you.
Village Books in Bellingham, WA is a fantastic independent bookstore just up the road from my house. And while I love books from just about anywhere, buying local and from an independent shop is never a bad idea. Plus, Village offers .99 shipping on all purchases, or free shipping on purchases over $40. Because they’re local (and generally awesome), you can even request signed personalized books when you order. All you have to do is write a note in the comments section detailing how you’d like the book personalized or if you just want a signed copy, and the good folks at Village books will let me know.
My kids headed back to school this week, which means that I am back to working as well. While I’ve got a project I’m excited to start working on, I’m also finishing up proofs on my book coming out in 2015. River Runs Deep represents a number of firsts for me as a writer. It is the first of my novels written with middle grade readers in mind. It the the first of my stories set in my beloved home state of Kentucky. It is the first (and likely last!) of my books set almost entirely underground, to feature messenger pigeons, knot tying and wacky treatments for tuberculosis.
And I love it all. I also love the cover art created by the talented Grady McFerrin.
So excited for this book to come out next summer. In the meantime, I completely need that cover printed on a t-shirt. And possibly a throw pillow.
I’m delighted to share that A MOMENT COMES has been named the winner of the 2014 South Asia Book Award! It is an honor to be in such great company with the other titles on the list. Click on through for the other great titles for more information about the award.
In other news, my next novel for Atheneum has a title. Titles are hard, hard, hard. Most of the time. SHIFT was easy. WRAPPED was even easier. But A MOMENT COMES was tough to land on. For those who are interested, that title actually came from the speech that Jawalharal Nehru (the first Prime Minister of India) delivered on the eve of India’s independence. The speech is a stunner, and the words matched up well with the themes in the book, but even then that title took ages to decide on.
The new novel–which is set in Mammoth Cave in Kentucky in 1842–has been called various things over the last three years of living on my laptop. The Cave Book (too obvious), Giant’s Coffin (too weird), and Cave’s Breath (yeah. Too everything else.) But thanks to my editor, it finally has a real name: RIVER RUNS DEEP.
I like it. And plain old MAMMOTH was already taken.
A Moment Comes is a nominee for the SCBWI Crystal Kite award! This is a peer-voted award and I’m honored that this book is among the finalists. If you’re a member, head on over and vote for your favorites in your region. Meanwhile, I’m working on edits for my book coming out Summer 2015, still painting our giant barn (RED for DAYS!!!!!), and planning out my gardens and our summer trips.
And I’ve been reading some great books lately. I just started Nazi Hunters by Neil Bascomb, and it kept me up way past bedtime last night. Amazing stuff.