Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is there more to being an optimist than seeing the glass half-full?


I happen to be a natural optimist. It comes very easy to me to see the positive in most situations. I look at obstacles and conflicts as things that will lead to growth. And I have to tell you, that trait was extremely helpful in dealing with years of rejection letters (as well as lots of other things life throws at me). But let me be clear... sometimes the glass is not only half-empty, it is bone dry.

Anyone who thinks optimists are always happy doesn't understand optimism.

Here's the truth about optimism and that glass half-empty or half-full question: Despite how much water is in my glass, I know how and where to get more. I know how to turn on a faucet.

Sounds obvious, right? But think about what it really means. Instead of emphasizing the present view of things, it focuses on my ability to be resilient. It acknowledges that there will be times when everything will go wrong, and I'll feel terrible. But an optimist sees those times and those feelings as temporary. An optimist is able to time-travel, so to speak, and put faith in the future when this immediate crisis or obstacle will be a thing of the past. An optimist looks for ways to get to that future.

I could go on and on about optimism and resiliency, but I don't have to because there is a fantastic new blog all about this topic. It's called The Irrepressible Writer, and it's written by Carol Grannick, one of my critique partners. Carol gives fabulous step-by-step practical advice about how to bring optimism into your life. Optimism CAN be learned. And it can definitely improve the quality of your life. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You've Written a First Draft. Now What?

You've finally done it. You've finished your novel! It's amazing. You actually wrote an entire story from start to finish. It's brilliant. It's original. It's a masterpiece. It will certainly go to auction and become a bestseller and get you on Oprah.

No? That's not how it works?

But why not, you cry!

Because, you have to revise. Every successful author revises. And as overwhelming as that might seem, there are ways to wrap your brain around the process. There are tricks. There are things that work and things that don't. There are ways to get lost in the revision, spending years changing things without making any real progress, and there are ways to revise purposefully and powerfully.

To learn how to revise like a pro, please come to The Book Stall in Winnetka, Wednesday, November 11 at 7 pm. I'll be giving away all my secrets.

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

An Optimistic View of Writing Distractions

I'm trying really hard to finish this first draft of my next novel. Here are some things that are helping:
1. My critique group is loving it so far.
2. My daughter is loving it so far.
3. I am loving it so far.
(These three things are totally mind boggling, considering this is a first draft.)
4. I feel some pressure to finish this draft by the middle of December so I can a) enjoy winter break without feeling guilty for not working and b) sell the book sometime next year before everyone forgets I'm an author.

And here are some things that are definitely not helping:
1. I just cut about 20 pages because I'm pretty sure I was heading in the wrong direction. I was following my outline when I should have been following my characters.
2. My time gets sucked into the abyss by: doing laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, exercising, doing my hair, walking the dog, driving kids places, Facebooking, reading, watching TV, volunteering at the middle-school library, planning a retreat, buying birthday presents, teaching a writing workshop, doing school and library visits, being a friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a mom. I fully realize that most of these things are the fabric of my life. I'm lucky and blessed to be able to do them. But still... they all take time. A part of me wants to hide away in a little cubicle and spend two weeks doing nothing but writing. I wonder how that would turn out.

And last but not least, here's something that might fall into both categories...
1. I'm taking a Harvard class online called Through the Looking Glass - The Philosophy, History, and Literature of Childhood with Professor Maria Tatar. Yes, it will take time (There are fabulous lectures to watch, books to read, and discussion groups to attend!), but I'm hoping I'll be richer for the experience, and maybe that will make me a better writer.

Come to think of it, all those "distractions," all those things that suck my time, they are all things that can enrich my life if looked at from the right point of view. So that little cubicle... no matter how inviting it seems... is really not the key to my happy life. My happy life is all around me, pulling me in a million directions, keeping things busy and interesting.

Maybe I'll finish this draft by winter vacation, and maybe I won't. But I will try my best. And I'll enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wanna Go to Jemma's Camp?

Campfire looking out over South Twin Lake (Star Lake in the book)

Camp Star Lake, the fictional camp Jemma goes to in Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire, is based on a real camp: Camp Birch Knoll in Phelps, Wisconsin. It is a fantastic place for girls ages 8-16 to make friends, learn new things, and have the time of their lives. Sessions are flexible, anywhere from 1-8 weeks.

The director of the camp, Gary Baier, is available to come to your house to give you the scoop, or you can come to one of his open house presentations that he's holding at The Courtyard by Marriott in Deerfield, lllinois on Thursday, October 22, 7 pm; Wednesday, October 28, 7 pm; Sunday, November 8, 1 pm; Tuesday, November 17, 7 pm; or Sunday, November 22, 1 pm. Gary is very low key, and you will not feel any pressure to make a commitment. You will simply be getting information.

Sheetsliding just like Jemma does in the book!

Please know that I do not get any kickbacks from Camp Birch Knoll. I simply love that place and wish as many girls as possible can have the experience I had growing up there. If you have any questions about CBK, feel free to shoot me an email. You can also call Gary directly at 1-800-843-2904.

I'm trying to include a file here that tells more about the open houses. Hopefully you're able to see it: OPEN%20HOUSE%202009-pdf.pdf

Names of Characters and Authors

I love naming characters because it's challenging and fun, and when you find the right name, you just know it. Unlike naming babies, where the child is just a bundle of sweetness who you hope will grow into his or her name, naming characters is all about making the name fit the person (or not, if that's the effect you're going for).

Sometimes I name my characters for the meaning behind their names...
I gave Cara Segal (main character in Julia's Kitchen) her name because I thought of her as a caring person who would learn to soar over her problems.

Sometimes I name my characters after someone I know...
I gave Jemma Hartman her name because the name Jemma is unique and sweet, and my adorable dry cleaning lady is named Jemma. (No, I do not get free dry cleaning now, but the real Jemma has bought many copies of my books!) Jemma got her last name from my cousins, the Hartmans, and it's Jemma's heart that's at stake in this story, so that made sense.

Sometimes I name a character for the sound of the name...
In my forthcoming picture book, the love interest is named Zoey Maloney. Isn't that just fun to say aloud? Zoey Maloney. Zoey Maloney. It makes me smile.

Sometimes I name a character for a real person who bids on getting their name in my book in a silent auction fundraiser...
Darby Coleman, the counselor from Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire, is one such person. I'm offering that opportunity again next month at a silent auction to benefit Lungevity, a wonderful organization dedicated to finding a cure for lung cancer. I wonder what the name will be. I like having to figure out which character will fit the winning name.

And speaking of names, have you been to Teaching Books Author Name Pronunciation Guide? This is such a fun website. Authors tell how to pronounce their names, and they also tell a little bit about their name. Ever wonder how to pronounce Jon Scieszka? Or Wanda Gag? Or Esme Raji Codell? Want to find out what D.J. MacHale's initials stand for? Or M.T. Anderson's? Want to know what the A stands for in my name or what my particular challenge was with my name when I was growing up? All this and more can be discovered with a simple click of the mouse!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thank You, Muscatine, Iowa.

I'm writing to you from Muscatine, Iowa, the pearl button and watermelon capital of the world! I spent the last two days meeting with all the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, talking with them about the writing process and about being an author. It's been a blast. The kids were great, and the teachers, librarians, and school administrators here in Muscatine have impressed me with their dedication to the students and their hospitality to little ol' me. Tomorrow, I head to Wilton, Iowa, for a few more presentations, and then I'm homeward bound. All these Iowa school visits happened because Julia's Kitchen is on the Iowa Children's Choice Awards reading list this year. I am so honored to be included with such fantastic books!

A few of my favorite moments:
Donating the books I collected for Mati Hepker, Little Miss Iowa, whose platform is literacy and who lost all her books in a house fire last week. Thank you so much to everyone who helped with this very fast book drive! If you want to donate books to Mati, shoot me an email, and I will give you the address where you can send them.

Dining with teachers, librarians, and a few of their children at terrific local restaurants. On the first night, I met with some children's book author friends at The Button Factory Restaurant. This restaurant used to be an actual working button factory. It's right on the Mississippi River, and they used to take mussels from the river and punch buttons out of the shells. Pictured below are Jill Esbaum, Connie Heckert, me, Beth Elshoff (the teacher/librarian extraordinaire who coordinated my whole visit), and Linda Carwath.

Answering funny questions from kids, such as, "Do you like pudding?" and "Who is your favorite Disney character?" They also asked wonderful, pertinent questions, too. :-)

The only problem with this whole visit? I'm a Michigan Wolverine fan in Iowa Hawkeye country!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Very Fast Book Drive

So you know that my first novel, JULIA'S KITCHEN, is about a young girl dealing with the tragic aftermath of a house fire. I'm heading to Iowa next week for a few days of school visits, and in a sad twist of irony, I found out that one of the teachers in the district I'm visiting just had a house fire last weekend and lost everything (but thankfully everyone survived!). This teacher has three kids in the district as well. Her daughter, Mati, is Little Miss Iowa, and Mati's platform is literacy. They had purchased numerous books for Mati to use as she presents to groups, and now all those books have been lost. There is a book drive to help replace the books. Since I am driving there on Monday, I thought I would bring as many books as I could to help with this book drive. If any of you have unused books you'd like to donate, please contact me at brenda at
Thanks so much!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

This, for sure, is the number one question people ask me, and I'm guessing that's true for most authors. I have my standard answer... I get my ideas from real life plus imagination. But I just realized I could answer that question totally differently.

I get all my ideas in the shower.

It's true. My best thinking happens in that fifteen minute span of hot water, soap and shampoo. I don't know what it is about that time and space, but ideas and plans become crystal clear while I shave my legs or rinse out the conditioner. Just this morning I had the biggest, best epiphany about my work-in-progress. I am so excited to get to work.

What about you? Where do you think best?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back to school, back to work

Happy September! Okay, I realize I'm two weeks late, but it took me a while to get all my kids settled into their respective schools and for it to feel like September was actually here. To me, September means back to work. Productive writing time. A fresh, clean start. I'm ready to sink my teeth into my work-in-progress. This fall I plan to finish my first draft of this novel, plus I've got some fun school visits lined up, and I'm continuing to facilitate the writing workshop at North Shore Writers Studio with Jenny Meyerhoff. All good things!

Oh, and here are two links from The Prairie Wind (SCBWI Illinois' e-newsletter):

This one is my latest Book Look Column. Ever struggle with first person, past tense? I examined Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars to see how a master handles it.

And this is a fabulous column from Carol Grannick, the irrepressible writer. She writes about dealing with self-doubt and negative emotions and being open to surprises in hard times.

Here's to a productive fall!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Exciting News!

I'm so psyched! I just found out Tedd Arnold will be illustrating my picture book, The Yuckiest, Stinkiest Best Valentine's Day Ever!
I love Tedd Arnold. If you're not familiar with his work, he wrote and illustrated the Parts books, the Fly Guy books, and more. His artwork is wacky and sweet and loved by kids and adults alike.

How lucky am I??

This picture book journey of mine has been a lesson in patience, good things coming to those who wait, and the power of revision.
I wrote the first draft of this book when my twins were in 2nd grade. I revised it for five years. I sold it when they were in 7th grade. They're freshmen now. And they will be seniors in high school when it comes out! (And that's if everything goes according to plan.)
It's a crazy business, but I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Surprise in the Mail!

Look what I got in the mail today:

What is that, you ask?
I asked myself the same question.
And then I remembered.
It's that book! The one about revising. The one that has a whole chapter devoted to how I revised the first chapter of Julia's Kitchen.
I'm not kidding when I say I had forgotten all about this book. I think it was four years ago when I gave Sandy Asher some drafts of my first chapter and answered her questions about the revision process.
A lot has happened since then.

I was a little scared to read the chapter about me. I wondered if I'd said anything embarrassing. It turns out I did, but it was just one thing. One teeny tiny thing. One thing I plan to forget all about. Obviously, I'm good at forgetting.

Writing it Right is an excellent book, one that should not be forgotten at all! It shows how 20 children's book authors (of picture books, short stories, and novels) tackle revision. There are examples of early drafts, middle drafts, and published versions, so you can see the progress the author made. Sandy Asher offers up wonderful commentary on what is missing in the earlier drafts and how the author fixed things in the later drafts. She frames it all in terms of nine essential questions writers should be asking as they revise. There are also interviews with the authors, a few editors, a manuscript consultant, and an agent. Lots of wisdom to share.

I really believe this would be an excellent book for anyone interested in learning more about revision. But don't take my word for it. Look at what all these experts are saying! You can purchase the book at the Writer's Bookstore.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ever Wonder How Much Money You'll Make as a Picture Book Author?

Planning to retire?
Think selling that book will be the answer to your money woes?
Think again.
Author Barbara Kanninen polled over 100 authors (first time, veteran, agented, and unagented) about their advances and contracts for picture books they sold, and the results are here.

The truth is, I've never met a children's book author who is in this business for the money. We like making money, but we are compelled to write stories.

Bottom line... keep on writing, but make sure you have another source of income!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another Jemma Hartman Lookalike!

Introducing Eva...

What a cutie! She even has a flower barrette, just like Jemma. Eva is the latest winner in the Jemma Hartman Lookalike Contest, so I'll be sending her a free, autographed copy of my book. If you know someone who looks like Jemma, send me a photo, and they can win, too!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

One Kid Home, Two to Go

Sammy is home from summer camp! All three of my kids go to different camps. Why? Because all three are different kids with different likes and needs. Sammy goes to a theater camp called Harand. He loves it! One of the things that sets Harand apart is their philosophy about sharing starring roles. Everyone who wants to be a star gets a chance to shine. So for example, if they were putting on The Wizard of Oz, there might be 5 Dorothys, 3 Scarecrows, etc. The kids take turns being a star and being in the chorus. This way they learn the importance of both parts.

There are a couple of great things about being a boy at theater camp. First of all... there are plenty of girls! There are probably 3 or 4 girls for every 1 boy. But second of all... you get to have some pretty choice parts. This summer, Sammy got to have starring roles in two plays! He was Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. And he played Harvey Johnson and Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie. Here are a few highlights from his performances:

Pretty impressive considering he learned both plays in about 2 1/2 weeks!

Since Sammy's been home, we've seen the Harry Potter movie (disappointing) and we've gone to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Harry Potter exhibit (terrific, yet strange we didn't see any mention of JK Rowling or the books!) Now if I could only get him to unpack!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Camp Birch Knoll Book Tour Photo Essay

This week I had the unbelievable opportunity to go back to camp. My novel, Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire, was inspired by my six summers at the best place on earth: Camp Birch Knoll in Phelps, Wisconsin. Gary Baier, the director of the camp, invited me to come up to camp for a Fireside program to talk to the girls about my experience as a camper and to tell them about the book. I was pumped!

I took my puppy, Ozzy, with me. He was not too excited about the prospect of a seven-hour car ride.

But he soon got the hang of it.

And before too long, we were driving through the entrance to camp! I couldn't help but break out in the Camp Birch Knoll song.

Just like Jemma, I was dazzled by this view of the lake.

I showed up right in the middle of their Sunday afternoon program: CBK's Got Talent. My daughter, Faith, was very happy to see me.

I stayed in the Upper Lodge, which is off-limits for campers. Faith was dying to go up there, but of course I didn't let her. Suffice it to say the Baiers are very hospitable hosts!

The girls put on their finest for the Fireside program. Here's Faith and some of her cabin-mates.
They took this opportunity to show me all their songs and dances they'd made up so far this summer.
Dinner was famous "Ed's Chicken," as featured in my book and in my memory. Yum!

After dinner, Ozzy enjoyed belly rubs from all the campers.

And hugs from Faith.

Finally it was time for the friendship chain leading to the Fireside service. "Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold..."

At Fireside, campers and counselors shared songs, poems, and beautiful thoughts. I spoke about my terrible start to camp my first summer there (fought with cabin mates, ran away, was considered the "Big Mouth of Cabin Six") and how I came back and made the most of every summer afterwards and how I took the values I learned at CBK into the rest of my life. I read an excerpt from Jemma Hartman, and the girls loved it. Then awards were given, and finally, the new Firelighter (camp role model) was announced, and her cabin clobbered her with hugs.

Here she is, another camper extraordinaire!

Afterwards, Gary surprised everyone when he told them he bought copies of my book for every camper and counselor. Cheers all around!

Cabin groups came into the Lodge one at a time to eat fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, ask me questions, and get their books personalized.

The funniest question of the night was, "I want to have a book written by me, but I don't want to write one. How do I do that?" My answer was to become a celebrity.

The girls enjoyed looking at my old yearbooks, laughing at the fashions from the late 70s and early 80s.

And they loved the tattoos I gave them.

The next day I had to say goodbye to the magic of Camp Birch Knoll.

And head back in the car with Ozzy.

When I was sixteen years old, during my last summer of camp, Gary gave me a quote by Walt Disney that has guided my life ever since. I give it to you now with the hope that you will all follow your dreams and have the good fortune to see them come true...

"Think about the person you'd like to become.
Believe in yourself, based on the thinking you've done.
Dream big dreams, based on your belief in yourself.
Dare to make your dreams come true.
Think. Believe. Dream. Dare.
Become the person you know you can be."

Thanks, Gary, for everything!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jemma Hartman Lookalikes!

I was planning to write a great blog entry about my absolutely-amazing-highlight-of-my-writing-career visit to Camp Birch Knoll this weekend, but that post will have to come another day because this is just too funny...

When I first got a look at my beautiful book jacket, created by Greg Swearingen, I fell in love. It was perfect.

Then some people who knew me as a kid thought Jemma looked a lot like me, and I had to prove to them that I was not nearly as cute.

That's me in 1978, my first summer of camp.

Then my daughter told me there was a girl at Camp Birch Knoll who looked exactly like Jemma. Lo and behold, I saw quite a resemblance.

But then I got an e-mail from the proud Nana of Clara Rosemary D. Clara is a dead-ringer for Jemma!


Do you know someone who looks like Jemma? If so, send me a photo, and I'll post it here. Girls who look the most like Jemma will win a free autographed book from me!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eagle River Fun

I had a blast this weekend in Eagle River, Wisconsin. It was Visitor's Weekend for most of the summer camps up there, so the town was packed with tourists. Perfect for a book signing!

Here's the indy book store that hosted me.

And here I am with my daughter, Faith.
What a fun book signing. My target audience kept walking through the door. A highlight for me was watching a girl's eyes open wide when she realized I was the author of Julia's Kitchen. She was from Kansas, where JK was on the William Allen White Children's Book Award List last year, so she was very excited to meet me.

We ate lunch at Soda Pops, where you're supposed to order unusual bottles of pop, but where I ordered a plain old Diet Coke from the fountain.

And we got the world's best fudge at Tremblay's. As I'm writing this, I'm realizing I left the fudge in the hotel fridge. Oh no!

Good thing I'm going back to Eagle River next weekend to make a special appearance at Camp Birch Knoll. Another stop at Tremblay's is in order.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ALA wrap up

As promised, here are a few pictures from my fun day at ALA.

Four authors all represented by different agents at the Andrea Brown Agency. That's Cynthea Liu, Jenny Meyerhoff, me, and Tammy Sauer.

The creators of Baby Mouse: Jennifer and Matt Holm

An arc of Catching Fire, the follow-up to Hunger Games. Notice the tape? You couldn't steal that thing (or even peek inside) if you tried!

Cool man of the hour (year?), Neil Gaiman, Newbery Award winner for The Graveyard Book. You should have seen the line to meet him!

Things I didn't take pictures of but wish I had?
  1. My writing "sister" Jenny Meyerhoff meeting M.T. Anderson
  2. Signing copies of Jemma Hartman in the FSG booth
  3. All the terrific FSG people
  4. Meeting Kathy Dawson, editor extraordinaire of my forthcoming picture book at Dial.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Future Fan Mail

Yesterday at the ALA convention, I was lucky enough to hear Laura Ruby give the author's perspective on writing about sexuality for teens.

I love hearing authors present. I can learn so much from them. Laura's speech was funny, poignant, and meaningful, highlighting the point that authors write to reflect kids' lives and struggles, not to create them. Laura read a letter from a fan who had experienced something similar to Audrey, the main character in Laura's fabulous book, GOOD GIRLS.

It was such a perfect reminder that we write to reach readers, not to win awards or get fabulous reviews or hit the best seller lists (though I wouldn't mind any of those things).

So this morning, I did something a little nutty. I wrote a fake fan letter from a future reader of my current work in progress. It was a really heartfelt letter, and I'd be thrilled to get one just like it someday. I have it right next to my computer, and it's helping to keep me focused on why I'm writing this particular story.

ALA was fantastic for lots more reasons. I'll write more and post some pix soon!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Come Say Hello!

If you're going to be at ALA, please stop by and say hi to me. I will be there on Monday, July 13th at FSG's booth #1811 from 1-2 pm and at SCBWI-IL's booth #1626 from 3-5 pm.

I'll be signing copies of JEMMA HARTMAN and giving away all sorts of goodies.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Summer Lovin

Havin' a blast!

For anyone who is curious... this is what life is like for this particular mom of three teenagers when those three wonderful teens are away for the summer at overnight camp:

The other day, our weekly cleaning lady cleaned out the crumbs from the silverware drawer. Then she organized our paper-goods cabinet. Seriously. There's not much to clean when the kids are gone.

Instead of going to the grocery store and coming home with ten full bags of groceries only to hear complaints three days later that there's nothing to eat, I'm picking up just enough for dinner for two, plus maybe a carton of milk or orange juice.

Time spent parenting per day: approximately one hour (includes reading letters from daughter, wondering why sons don't write, writing long letters to daughter and short letters to sons, and checking the online pictures posted by camps).

With my parental duties temporarily on hold, I have dived headfirst into my next book! I'm a writer again, and it feels beyond fantastic. I'm using Victoria Schmidt's workbook, BOOK IN A MONTH. Loving it. It gives you little assignments every day, and if I write 5 pages a day (which I've been doing!), I'll have a first draft before the kids come home.

Other things I'm doing:

Trying to train passive aggressive puppy in obedience class (he rolls over onto his back for a belly rub whenever I attempt any kind of training exercise with him... cute but frustrating!).

Going to conferences. AJL and ALA are both in Chicago this summer, so I'm speaking on panels and signing books and meeting terrific librarians and authors.

Training in karate with some serious black belts. My regular training partner is in Italy, so I've temporarily moved up with these unbelievable experts. I am both intimidated and inspired.

Feeling like a newlywed with my husband even though we are coming up on our 19th wedding anniversary.

It's good. All good!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Online Reviews of Jemma

Check out these terrific reviews for Jemma Hartman...
This is from one of my favorite authors, Esme Codell.
And this one is from Jen Robinson, blogger and book reviewer extraordinaire.
Thanks for the buzz, ladies!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Two Published Authors for the Price of One!

I'm not very comfortable with envy.

I don't envy other people because I really like being me. And I absolutely hate being the object of envy. So what am I to do when I hear envious whispers about my critique group? Our group of four authors is pretty darn fantastic, and I feel lucky and blessed to be part of this group. But we are closed to new members, which means a lot of terrific authors are outside looking in. Truth is, I wish everyone could find a critique group like ours... and now they can!

The lovely and talented Jenny Meyerhoff and I have joined forces to offer a six-week children's book writing workshop through the North Shore Writers Studio. This workshop will be run just the way we run our critique group. Writers will get the same constructive criticism and support we give each other. I believe a critique group format with input from established authors is the best way to improve your manuscript and learn about the craft of writing. Plus it's a perfect opportunity to meet future critique partners. So forget about envy, and join us this summer!

Here are the specifics:
Date: Tuesdays, June 30-August 4
Time: 6:30-9:30 pm
Place: 1778 Second St., Suite 202, Highland Park, IL (right above Corner Bakery)
Tuition: $240

For more information or to register, visit Or e-mail

Friday, May 29, 2009

Setting the Record Straight: Where Truth and Fiction Collide

It's no secret that my new book is based on an actual camp, the camp I went to as a child and the one my daughter attends now: Camp Birch Knoll in Phelps, Wisconsin. And it's also true that the story was inspired by some real life events. But the story is fiction. And the characters are fiction. Really and truly!

Which is why it surprises me when I hear that people are trying to figure out who they are in the book. I've heard from campers and staff, friends of mine and friends of my daughter. Everyone has a theory as to who's who in the book.

It's kind of funny. I guess if someone wants to see themselves in my book, there's nothing wrong with that. But I figure I should set the record straight. So here I go...

1. The friendship triangle of Jemma, Tammy, and Brooke was inspired by a friendship triangle my daughter was in her first summer at camp, but it was also inspired by several different friendship and love triangles I experienced in my own life. The actual characters of Jemma, Tammy, and Brooke sprung from my own imagination.

2. The Darby-Todd relationship wasn't based on anyone at all. But Darby looks a little like one of my counselors at camp, Julie Goldsmith. And Todd, the hunky ski-boat driver, is a combination of all the cute ski-boat drivers I've ever had crushes on.

3. Just like Jemma, I once got to ride in the boat with the cute ski-boat driver, and I was totally embarrassed due to a booger hanging out of my nose.

4. Also, like Jemma, I had to learn the difference between "winning" and "earning" the Firelighter award. (I was Firelighter my third summer of camp.)

5. Eddie, the camp director, is a little bit like Gary, the current Birch Knoll director, and a little bit like Ed, Gary's dad, who directed camp when I went there. But Eddie is really just Eddie. And Maureen is Maureen. I make stuff up. That's why I'm a fiction writer.

6. Delaney isn't based on anyone in particular. But I really like her.

7. Kat and Annie look a lot like my best camp friend, Debby Lebold.

8. There is no such thing as the Star Lake Cup. I made that up. But I did compete in a sailing race on a blustery day, and Debby and I did capsize and almost sink our boat. Her sister, Jenny, came to our rescue.

9. I tried to name as many characters as I could after my daughter's and my camp friends. I even gave Firelighter to one of my friends who totally deserved it but never got it: Jennie Cohen. That was fun.

10. One thing that Jemma Hartman and I have 100% in common is how much we love camp. Best place on earth.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happy! Happy! Happy!

1. My son's Bar Mitzvah is this weekend!
2. My daughter is coming home today!
3. I'm drinking a yummy cup of Island Coconut coffee.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Book Launch Parties

So far I've had two terrific book launch parties for JEMMA HARTMAN, CAMPER EXTRAORDINAIRE. I have to tell you the truth... I get terrible jitters before these events. I worry that nobody will show up or if they do show up that I'll have nothing interesting to say. So far neither one of these things have occurred. :-D

It makes me realize, yet again, that I have married the best man on earth. Alan totally knows how to handle all my author insecurities and worries and excitement. He never gets rattled or sucked into my emotions, but he listens to me and assures me in his loving and humorous way. Thanks Bud!

Here are some pix from the first party* at the Barnes & Noble in West Bloomfield, Michigan:

A terrific turnout!

Meeting a reader from Ann Arbor

And here are some from the second party* at The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois:

Check out this awesome crowd. I'm showing a picture of the camp that
inspired Camp Star Lake in JEMMA HARTMAN.

Signing books!

Some of the yummy treats I baked for the party.

Big thanks to everyone who came out to these events and asked such good questions and applauded and laughed at all the right times! I still have one more book launch party* coming. It will by May 31 at 2 pm at the Deerfield, Illinois Barnes & Noble. Hope to see you there!

*My sons say these are not parties. They are book signings. But I disagree. We have a crowd of people. And fresh baked cookies. And laughter and love. Sounds like a party to me.