Archive for the ‘School Visits’ Category

A Writer’s Free Time

November 15th, 2011


Third Act 2nd Meeting July 2011








What do writers do when they’re not writing? Ummm , mostly hang out with other writers and attend book-related events.



Here’s one group of L.A. Children’s Book Writers that likes to gather together. Left to right, Kathryn Hewitt, Lin Oliver, Betsy Rosenthal, Marla Frazee, Eve Bunting, me, Susan Goldman Rubin, Susan Patron, Hope Anita Smith, Amy Goldman Koss (front) April Halprin Wayland, Ann Whitford Paul. Missing (because she’s taking the picture) is Sonya Sones. And Lisa Yee, who couldn’t make it that day.

Here we are again – this time Sonya’s in the picture – back row, far right, but Marla and Lisa are missing and Hope’s taking the photo. Hey – where’s Eve? She was there.

Third Act 3rd meeting2 August 24, 2011

I’ve also been attending a lot of more formal book-related events spanning the letters of the alphabet.

First came the SCIBA Awards (Southern California Independent Booksellers Award) two weeks ago in Long Beach, preceded the night before by a signing at the brand new and gorgeous Mysterious Galaxies bookstore in Redondo Beach. Summer According to Humphrey was nominated but I was pretty sure that The Marbury Lens would win and I was right. What chance does humorous middle grade have against an edgy dystopian YA book, but I had no problem with that. I did have a problem with the glitch that meant there were no books for me to sign. They had a plethora of writers there to sign, including keynote speaker Brian Selznick – a witty and wonderful speech, by the way. The other nominees had books to sign but not me. I was grumpy about it for two whole days.

Last week was the CLCSC Fall Gala and 50th Anniversary. Okay, that’s the Council of Children’s Literature for Southern California and was held in South Pasadena. Lois Lowry gave the keynote – how lucky were we? – and I saw a ton of writer and librarian friends, including Denise Doyen, Antoinette Portis (she was also at the SCIBA event), Eve Bunting, Susan Patron, Susan Rubin and Sharon Hearn, who receive a well-deserved honor for her contribution to children’s book in L.A. with her fabulous bookstore, Children’s Book World. I’m doing an event with Sharon this week.

Last night (after a fun baby shower with great friends – no, the shower wasn’t for me), I attended the CSLA (California School Library Association) banquet along with a ton of writers. Each of us hosted a table but I got the BEST table – a great group from Berkeley. My pal, Amy Koss was there, as well as old friends Barb Odanaka and Carol Tanzman. And I enjoyed meeting Maile Meloy, whose book Apothecary is hot and I can’t wait to read it. (I know most writers run around and get pictures of themselves taken with everyone they meet, but I like to talk to people and always find that distracting!)

But my favorite letters of the alphabet are SCBWI … a fantastic organization that’s a MUST for any aspiring  or published children’s book author or illustrator.

I have events this week at The Mirman School, Children’s Book World (at Overland Elementary School) …. then comes  Thanksgiving, immediately followed by a trip to NY – and that’s  immediately followed by 4 days in the Bay Area. Meanwhile, I’m writing Humphrey book 9 (title to come). Back to work!

You can always tell when I’ve been busy writing because I don’t blog much. For some reason, when I’m working on a book, I have to shut other things out.

But continuing with my recent book tour …. After leaving San Francisco, I headed to Minneapolis where I visited Creek Valley Elementary in Edina and Kenny Community School in Minneapolis.  Then my terrific media escort, Tim,  took me to Wild Rumpus Bookstore. There are lots of wonderful books there … and some very interesting tenants.  Cats and chickens roam the bookstore … and living below the horror section are the rats, of course.


Wild Rumpus ferret, Minneapolis 9.15.11




A ferret is not a potential friend for Humphrey  







 Spike at Wild Rumpus 9.15.11

 I have a crush on Spike and his big smile.




Betty, Nicky, Drew, Tim at Wild Rumpus 9.15.11 Me with Nicky and Drew of Wild Rumpus, and Tim

Minneapolis was beautiful but I didn’t have much time there as I was off to Chicago that same night. The Arista Hotel in Naperville is very cool and contemporary. The TV in the bathroom mirror was the best perk of the trip. 

Arista Hotel Bathroom TV 2 9.11





     Munhall School, St. Charles, IL w Kristin Kaye 9.16.11 Munhall with Kristin Kaye

I started the next day at Munhall Elementary School (Go, Mustangs!). They were impressed that I wore the school colors. In the afternoon, I met with enthusiastic friends at Elm  School in Burr Ridge. And the icing on the cake was my signing on Friday night at Anderson’s Bookshop in Downers Grove. Kathleen March could not have been more welcoming and I had the best bunch of Humphrey fans show up! They entertained me as much as I did them. The surprise mystery guests turned out to be my editor, Susan Kochan’s, niece and sister! A little later, illustrator Larry Day happened to be at the shop … and he’s also doing a book for Susan right now.  Thanks to my media escort, Mary Jo, for her great driving and patience.

Andersons Bookshop w Susan Kochan's niece Katherine, sister Joan 9.16.11




Me with Susan’s niece Katherine and her sister, Joan. 


Andersons Bookshop w illustrator Larry Day 9.16.11   With illustrator Larry Day 


Andersons Bookshop w Kathleen March 9.16.11  All thanks to Kathleen March of Anderson’s in Downers Grove for an unsqueakably wonderful evening.

And so it was back to L.A. on Saturday … was it real or just a dream? You can’t quite tell when you’re on a book tour!

Wonderland School L.A. with Myrtle  Keefe 9.12.11I’m still recovering from a whirlwind book tour. I’ve always heard writers talk about how you don’t even know what city you’re in. I wouldn’t go that far … but last Wednesday, I did have to ask someone on the plane what day of the week it was!

I got off to an easy start here at home in L.A.. I visited the wonderful Wonderland School, not that far from my house. There was a long break, so my media escort, Diana, took me to a large B&N where I signed books, then on to the Barnhart School in Arcadia.

With librarian Myrtle Keefe at Wonderland School

Barnhart School, Arcadia, CA w Alicia Yao








With Barnhart librarian Alicia Yao in front of the stunning stained glass windows at Santa Anita Church next door.

The enthusiastic southern California students gave me energy to get to my next stop which was: San Francisco! It’s only an hour flight to S.F. from Burbank, but the plane was 1 1/2 hours late arriving. Groan. Great hotel – The Prescott – and my media escort, Brian, arrived the next morning to whisk me off to North Hillsborough Elementary and South Hillsborough Elementary. Both are in – you guessed it – Hillsborough. In the afternoon, I had tea with three world class librarians. I don’t know about them, but I learned a lot!

In Humphrey’s words, Tuesday was a BUSY-BUSY-BUSY day complicated by world-class traffic jams. Still, Brian managed to get me to Walter Hayes in Palo Alto, Gardner Bullis in Los Altos, and St. Joseph’s in Atherton. I wish I could have had more time at each school but it was run in, speak, sign like crazy, race out the door. It wouldn’t have worked at all if the schools hadn’t been well-organized and without the help of wonderful Lisa from Kepler’s Books.  Another dash to the airport and I was off to Minneapolis.

Gardner Bullis School, Los Altos, CA w Jane Sanders 9.14.11

But I did leave at least part of my heart in San Francisco – a beautiful city with beautiful children!




Gardner Bullis School in Los Altos with Jane Sanders

On the road again

September 11th, 2011

Laguna Beach Lifeguard tower 9.11



            Beach Street, Laguna Beach 9.11  Last week, I headed down to Laguna for a speaking engagement and ended up on the beach! Thus is life in L.A.  Unfortunately I also ended up smack in the middle of the blackout with no traffic lights working and major traffic jams. But I was with my Aunt Katie and that made it so much better. The traffic just gave us more time to catch up.

I’m heading out of Southern California on a book tour tomorrow, sponsored by my publishers, Penguin. I actually start the “tour” here in L.A., visiting two schools and signing books. Then I hop a plane for San Francisco for two nights and more schools. Next stop: Minneapolis where I’ll spend less than 24 hours. I’ll end the trip in Chicago where I’ll have a public event:

Anderson’s Bookshop, Downers’ Grove, Friday, September 16 at 7 PM! I’m very excited about visiting this fabulous indy bookstore. Illinois readers have been big fans of Humphrey and The World According to Humphrey is currently on the state’s Bluestem Award list.  So y’all come!

I actually lived in Chicago for seven months too many years ago to mention. A fun, fun city. It has a beach, too.

That time of year again

September 5th, 2011

First day of first grade








I believe this was my first day of first grade (yes, I was and am tall). I think my mom is actually applauding the fact that my sister Janet and I are going back to school with our nifty new shoes, socks, and lunchboxes.

I mostly took the summer off from blogging – but definitely not from writing. I actually got a lot of that done. Now it’s back to school again and back to blogging for me. I will soon be visiting schools in L.A., San Francisco, Minneapolis and Chicago on a book tour sponsored by Humphrey’s publisher, Penguin. I have other dates coming up here in Los Angeles throughout the fall.

If you teachers, students and parents are having trouble transitioning back to school, check out Humphrey’s latest adventure: School Days According to Humphrey. Our hamster hero, Humphrey, is SHOCKED-SHOCKED-SHOCKED at the changes he finds in Room 26 as a new school year begins.

School Days cover