Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Yes, it’s been a REALLY-REALLY-REALLY long time since I blogged. A few years back, I had major neck surgery that took over a year to recover from. The absolute worst, most pain-inducing thing I could do would be to sit, especially at the computer. I kept the book-writing going, but I dropped the blog and other things, like school visits (local only) and travel alone, because I can’t carry much of anything and was told never to lift a bag into the overhead compartment again – yikes!

Please don’t get the wrong idea. I’m active and healthy – I just have some skeletal issues. Except for the eight months of waiting for the bones to fuse, I’ve been doing Pilates twice a week and a deep tissue massage once a week at a local Wellness Center for several years, so I’m in better shape now than before this all began!

But sitting – not so great.

The writing continued but I stuck to writing about Humphrey and couldn’t accomplish much more than that. Though we did manage to have a great time at our son’s wedding 2016 with the whole family.

 

Then on the fateful day of January 6, 2017, I completely wrecked my knee. I knew I was overdue for knee replacements, but one step onto the patio and boom- the knee was shot. However, I had personal and professional obligations to fulfill, so I had to wait until the end of May to get the replacement. At first I rolled around the house in a desk chair. Then I graduated to crutches, a cane and finally hobbling for a few months. I hardly ever even made it out to my dear writing house in the backyard.

I got a laptop (bad for the neck, good for the knee) and worked in the kitchen. Here is the GOOD NEWS: I had a total knee replacement and it went very well. I was always ahead of the physical therapy milestones and my surgeon called my range of motion “phenomenal.” But since they completely realigned my knee, it caused subsequent hip/low back issues which “laid me low”.

I guess my mind was still working, because back when I was working in the kitchen, I had a sudden inspiration for a new kind of Humphrey book. It was a very challenging idea … but I quickly wrote some chapters and an outline, sent it to my agent and editor and got a two book deal. One of the reasons I had to wait until the end of May was to finish the book so Humphrey’s fans could get it in 2018. (There were other reasons as well.) Even though I was in the kitchen, where there’s more hubbub (phone, husband, repair people, etc.), I got it finished.

During my recovery, I was able to work with my editor on the copy-editing of this book and several new upcoming Humphrey’s Tiny Tales and eventually I went back to my office and to my sessions at the Wellness Center.

Now that I’m well on my way to recovery, I have discovered a renewed interest in doing lots of things I was struggling with before: writing more, reading more books, learning new things, connecting with people. Things I couldn’t do for a long time. I will never carry a suitcase or anything heavy again and I’ll never run a race, but I feel like my old self again.

Now I head out to my writing house at 5 am (or earlier) with lots of energy, looking forward to life.

 

As we approach the “cover reveal” of the new book, due out in July, 2018,  and its subject matter (this is not exactly an According to Humphrey book,) I remembered this long silent blog and decided to start communicating with fans again.

*****HUMPHREY DISCLAIMER***** READ-READ-READ! *****

Hi, Humphrey here! Just to say that I read this blog post and it does seem as if Betty G. Birney BELIEVES that she writes these books all by herself. Which is kind of cheeky, given that she doesn’t actually have to experience all of my sometimes scary but always hamster-iffic adventures! Just saying …. you’d better take all of this with a grain of salt, as they say. And some lovely crunchy celery would taste very nice with that salt. THANKS-THANKS-THANKS for listening!

************************************************************

 

HOW TO BE IN TOUCH WITH HUMPHREY AND ME

There are several ways to communicate with me. Writing a letter is not the best way – you will wait a long time for an answer. But I answer emails fairly quickly. If you want to scan a letter and attach it, you can do that on the Contact  form. If you have trouble with that, let me know and I’ll tell you another way to do it.

To email me through this website – look for Contact link at the bottom of the Home Page or use this: https://www.bettybirney.com/blog/contact/

You can follow Humphrey on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/AccordingtoHumphrey/

You can follow me on Facebook using my name. You can follow me on Twitter @bettygbirney

(I’m just getting started on Instagram.)

You can sign up to a list of fans called Humphrey’s Handlers. http://www.bettybirney.com/blog/humphreys-handlers/

And you can come back here very soon as I get ready for the BIG reveal of the next book! Right, Humphrey?

  RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT!

 

 

 

Humphrey Show and Tell

January 24th, 2015


This week was so exciting, Humphrey’s whiskers were wiggling and his tail was twitching. I was pretty excited as well because of four BIG-BIG-BIG releases.

On Thursday January 22:

 

BOOK 11, Imagination According to Humphrey, was released in hardcover in the U.S. (It comes out in the UK on 5 February.) I love the cover and I’m especially excited because the book has a lot to do with using your imagination and writing. I’ve learned from many students I’ve talked to that writing can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. In this story, Humphrey tries to write a story and is surprised that his imagination doesn’t seem to be working. (Sometimes mine is a little sluggish, too.) Here readers can get some tips about jump-starting story ideas … and also read about real and imaginary dragons, as well as ghosts, crying babies and so much more.

Here’s an excerpt from the Booklist review – I cut out some spoilers and I don’t know where the reviewer got the idea that Humphrey’s been around for 15 years, but other than that, I’m pleased. (It’s 11 years, by the way.)

“Humphrey celebrates 15 years in this eleventh outing of the forever popular classroom pet series. In characteristic hamster style,
Humphrey solves a new sibling problem for a student, helps a lonely classroom pet in another classroom, and learns about creative writing.
Working along with the students, Humphrey experiences difficulty with the process. Birney cleverly intertwines various characters and subplots.
For example, a hissing bearded dragon briefly disrupts Humphrey’s concentration when Mrs.Brisbane is reading an absorbing book about dragons.”

 

The same day Imagination came out, BOOK 10, Secrets According to Humphrey, came out in paperback. I’m always happy when the paperback versions come out so more people can read about Humphrey’s adventures.

 

I’m thrilled that on Thursday, the Spanish translation of BOOK 1, The World According to Humphrey, was published in the US.  I’ve been hoping for this for a long time and here it is!

 


There’s been quite a gap in the audiobook releases but also on Thursday, this 4-book audio collection was released. It contains Mysteries According to Humphrey, Winter According to Humphrey, Secrets According to Humphrey and Imagination According to Humphrey. I hear from lots of families who listen to Humphrey books in the car.

Now Humphrey will have to spin his wheel until May, when the third Tiny Tales book is published: Humphrey’s Creepy-Crawly–Camping Adventure!

As for me, Book 12 is just about to go into editing as well as the fourth Tiny Tales book. Next week, I’m doing a Skype tour for Penguin Kids, visiting 16 classrooms from my desk. If you wish you had known about this opportunity and want to keep up with events like these, please follow Humphrey on his Facebook page.  www.facebook.com/AccordingtoHumphrey.  You can follow me as well. Also follow Penguin Kids – they always have great ideas for teachers and librarians.

HAPPY-HAPPY-HAPPY Reading!

 

 

It’s been an unsqueakably busy year – most of which was taken up by neck surgery and ongoing recovery – but I’m doing much better. Of course, for our furry friend, it’s been a year of great adventures, including the launch of the new shorter, illustrated Tiny Tales series. Humphrey’s Really Wheely Racing Day and Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem are already available and Humphrey’s Creepy Crawly Camping Adventure comes out in March. I’m so lucky that Priscilla Burris is the illustrator. I can’t think of anyone better suited to bring Humphrey and his friends to life!

Book 11 in the According to Humphrey series, Imagination According to Humphrey, will be published January 22 in hardcover. It’s all about writing! Also in January will be the paperback release of Secrets According to Humphrey.

As the year ends, I look back with gratitude for Humphrey’s wonderful fans – the best in the world. I wish each and every one of you a fantastic 2015! I hope you all read a lot of great books

Here’s a peek of me with Priscilla – I think we’re very colorful characters, too!

 

 


While Humphrey’s Tiny Tales are already available in the U.K., U.S. Humphrey fans have had to wait for awhile. The good news is, you only have to wait until August 28  – almost here! – and the first two books in the series will be released. YAY-YAY-YAY! Both books will be available in hardcover and paperback at the same time! I do love the hardcovers, however – especially because you can take off the dust jacket and still see the beautiful cover art on the actual book!

You can learn more about the stories, see some art, read reviews and even see Humphrey spin his wheel here on my website.

I’m personally in love with these books, not just because of the stories – which are shorter, for younger readers – but for the artwork by Priscilla Burris! I’ve long admired her (deceptively) simple, sweet and spicy children’s art,  so how lucky could I get? I don’t know how Priscilla manages to pack so much emotion in so few lines, but she’s the perfect illustrator to bring Humphrey and his friends to life. I also love the layout of the books – lots of white space for beginning readers, some large graphic type – really fun.

We both live in Southern California so I even get to see her in person from time to time. Here we are together after the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference earlier this month. Don’t we make a colorful pair? (If you want to write or illustrate children’s books, please join – go to scbwi.org and join – any writer/illustrator who is serious will tell you it’s been a lifeline, a support system and a total educational resource. Inspiring and fun.)

Thank you, Christopher Cheng, for taking this photo!

My Really Wheely Racing Day was inspired by an actual hamster race in Iowa – I’d visited the school and seen the video. There’s a frog race in the book, too, inspired by fellow Missourian Mark Twain’s story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”  One of the things you’ll see in the book actually happened. AND you’ll get to see Winky again -he’s the one-eyed hamster from Trouble According to Humphrey. Below is the real hamster that inspired his character. That photo is a little fuzzy because hamsters don’t like to sit still. But maybe you can tell that when he was born, one of his eyes didn’t open. It didn’t keep him from being an adorable hamster – he just looked like he was winking!

                    

My Playful Puppy Problem was inspired by another cute critter: my grand-dog, Bodhi! He was rescued running in traffic on the 405 Freeway here in Los Angeles, not too far from the airport. Angelenos will cringe at that thought — it has to be one of the busiest freeway sections in the world. But now he has a happy home. More recently, he has a brother named Flash, also rescued from not-good circumstances. They are truly lucky dogs! (That’s Bodhi in front – because he thinks he’s Top Dog).

       

  Didn’t Priscilla do a beautiful job?

 I loved seeing Humphrey, Og and all their friends come to life thanks to Priscilla’s talents. She and Humphrey have something in common: they both have big hearts!.


BEST-BEST-BEST of all – there will be two new books coming out for the next few years!

August 28th – start your engines!

Illustrations © Priscilla Burris


   


   

      


A huge pain in my neck

August 20th, 2014

An explanation for why I’ve been away from this blog for so long. Over a year ago – in July, 2013 – a neck issue I’ve been dealing with for years escalated and suddenly I was thrust into the world of pain and pain management. Over the past 13 months I have had innumerable tests and treatments. The only thing that helped was a course of steroids, which reduced the pain somewhat. Nothing else worked: muscle relaxers, epidurals, vicodin – zilch. I went into physical therapy, and then months of Pilates and massage (twice weekly). That became my life and I got stronger.

I had certain obligations and deadlines which made me put off the inevitable. On April 8, I finally had surgery: three discs were replaced on the right side, major clean up of arthritis on both sides of my neck and a titanium plate to cover the replaced discs and stabilize them. Apparently there was a large, sharp bone spur digging into my nerve: hence the tingling and the numb thumb. 4 1/2 months later, I am finally feeling better. The recovery is slow and long, but I’d been told that. In total, it will probably be a year or more. But my neck is finally feeling better and my thumb has some feeling back.

I’m not going to dwell on the gory details, tempting as that is. I’m appreciative that I’m finally feeling some improvement but still not ready to go back into physical therapy until the bones have fused. At least that process has started.

I can work and I’ve made adjustments to how I work. Early on, I got a sit/stand desk, as sitting is the worst thing for your neck and the rest of your body. All I do is push a button and the desk rises up or down. Sitting is the new smoking – a true no-no and I get up and walk for 1/4 or 1/2 a mile every half hour or so.

No more laptops  – ever. I have an all-in-one monitor which I love. It’s even touch-screen. And I have a very ergonomic set-up. I’m just sorry that like most of us, I ignored all warnings until I got past the point of no return.

I’m also sorry that I haven’t answered fan mail for a year! There are people out there who probably hate me.  I’m sorry that I’ve had to turn down all travel (I can’t lift over 10 pounds for awhile yet). I learned to say no – and believe me, people don’t like to take no for an answer. But I’m grateful that medical science is so advanced – this was a much worse operation only a few years ago. And I’m grateful that my body has been able to heal like this. Pretty amazing!

Through all of this, I have continued to write. Funny to say, but the month or so I was pretty much housebound was actually good for my creativity –  many new thoughts and attitudes grew out of that time.

Best of all, there’s something NEWcoming soon in the wonderful world ! On August 28, the first two books in the Tiny Tales series debuts in the U.S. The series has already been launched years ago in the U.K. but these are newly edited and newly illustrated books for younger readers. Shorter, illustrated Humphrey adventures! Best of all, they are illustrated by Priscilla Burris, who is like me, a southern Californian. She is PERFECT for Humphrey and I feel so lucky! I’ll be sharing the reviews (good!) soon and trying to keep this blog up-to-date. Thank you for your patience. And thank you to my husband, Frank, who made all of this run as smoothly and painlessly as possible.

I just can’t wait to go back to Pilates!