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!