Take Care

takecareTake Care, a picture book about taking care of the world — and each other — came out this week. It’s illustrated by Giuliana Gregori.

I write about where the idea for the book started over here and I don’t have much to add, except that this is my 10th book — with my name on it, at least. Double digits!

That means, according to my friend Carrie, that I’m officially a “tween.” It also means I’m still here, so I wanted to take a second and say thanks to everyone who has been a part of that, which more than likely includes you, if you’re reading this. THANK YOU.

You can order Take Care through your favorite indie or my favorite indie.

You can also find it online.

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Self Defense

I see posts online at the start of each year with recommendations on “how authors should behave,” a list of things we should do and not do in the year ahead, mostly related to social media and reviews and writing habits and conferences and publicity and — okay, mostly related to everything. So here’s my contribution: When you see advice, please only take the parts that feel truly right to you. Dump the rest.

Because some of the stuff these posts will suggest will make sense. But not for everybody. Not for me.

In the year ahead, I’ll be guarding my time. If I only have so many words to write during my lifetime, do I really want half of them to be tweets? There might be days — maybe even weeks — that I don’t log on to Twitter. And that’s okay. I can still keep my account. I can engage when I want to and catch up when I need to. Is it the most effective way to use Twitter? No. Is it the most effective way to remain healthy and focus on my writing? I hope so.

For me, it means abandoning Goodreads. Maybe you can hack it, but I can’t. I find it, if not soul-destroying, creativity destroying. I haven’t deleted my account, but I do try to uphold an OSHA-like record.

301 days without a workplace accident.

301 days without signing on to Goodreads.

Actually I’m not sure exactly how many days it has been because I’d have to sign on to find out. I’m not one of those advocating a change to the site. I’m just saying I avoid it like the plague.

If I hear, one more time, “well if you’re that sensitive maybe you should do something else,” I am going to scream. ARRRRGGGH. (That was preemptive. Also, a Charlie Brown reference.)

Here are the only things I want you to take away from this post:

1. Please take all of the advice you hear, even this, with a grain of salt. Some of the things people suggest will be good for you. Great, even. But some won’t be. See paragraph 1 about dumping what doesn’t feel true to you. Protect your creativity.

2. Find a community that will support you. Online or off. Big or small. Your community has to feel right to you, too.

If you’ve been writing for years and you’re still publishing, CONGRATULATIONS. If you’ve been writing for years and you haven’t published but you haven’t given up, CONGRATULATIONS. If it’s your debut year, CONGRATULATIONS. And if you’re just getting started, CONGRATULATIONS to you, too.

If you want to do this for the long haul, you have to trust yourself

And you have to protect yourself.

Over and out,


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Putting it out to the universe…

My friend Kristen Lippert-Martin said recently that if there were things I wanted to do, I should just put them out there to the universe. She meant mentioning it to actual humans in the hopes that they might have connections who would bring me closer to my goals, but I thought I’d just put some here, too, in this little corner of my blog, as the Internet is part of the universe and somebody might stumble across it. So. Ahem.

I want to keep writing my own projects that are rooted in humorous stories and often incorporate themes about protecting the environment, brothers and sisters, Virginia, memory, and Judaism.

I want to finish my novel with Wendy this year, and I want to finish a story I started a few years ago that was inspired by some art by Sarah Petruziello.

I’m sure my agent finds this incredibly annoying, but I want to explore new genres of children’s literature. Picture books and middle-grade novels are my sweet spot and always will be. But I’m interested in playing around with some easy readers and early chapter books as well. And in fantasy and super heroes, because the world needs more of them.

I’m also interested in work-for-hire projects to¬† supplement my personal, creative work. There are many categories I’d consider, but as a Nancy Drew fan, I’d love to take a turn at being Carolyn Keene some time. Have you heard of Tim “Ripper” Owens? It would be sort of like that.

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New Year’s Resolutions

For the past few years, I’ve been compiling a list of new year’s resolutions from the kidlit community. This year’s list is out now, but instead of appearing in this space, I’m sending you over to my friend Rachael’s blog over at Reading Rockets. It’s here!

If you have any resolutions you’d like to add, please feel free to add them in the comments. I love hearing what you’re up to!

I didn’t include an official resolution in this year’s round-up, though I’m thinking my newest book, Take Care, seems like a resolution itself. It’s about taking care of the world and each other. Pledging to do that this year, along with taking care of my family, my friends, my writing time and of myself, my physical self and my creative self.

Happy 2018!


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Catching up

Holy cow, it’s December.

I’m way behind on updates but highlights from this fall mostly revolved around THIS IS JUST A TEST, my middle-grade novel with Wendy Shang. They included:

-A review in the New York Times. This was huge because: New York Times.

And also because of this story, which I related via ephemeral twitter but will tell again here:

For the past few years, my father has had memory problems. He didn’t always know what I was working on, but he would always say: “If I look in my New York Times, will I find you in there?” He would say this whether I had a new book out or not. And the answer was always, “no.” My father died earlier this year. But when the review came out, I could still hear him asking me the question. It meant a lot to finally be able to answer: “yes.”

– THIS IS JUST A TEST was also reviewed in the Christian Science Monitor. It was named a Junior Library Guild book and a PJ Our Way book.

– Wendy and I appeared at the Library of Congress National Book Festival. We got to meet Dav Pilkey! We saw Roz Chast! We ate sparkly cotton candy. There are pictures someplace. If I find them, I will add them in. There is video of our talk, and though I’m a little hesitant about this (I haven’t screened it myself, as I never watch myself on video) here’s a link.

– We did a panel in November at the Virginia Association of School Libraries with Ruta Sepetys and Lamar Giles, moderated by Meg Medina. This was easily the best panel I’ve ever been on, anywhere, ever.

– I’ve heard from a few teachers whose classes are reading THIS IS JUST A TEST in school. If your class is and your students have questions, please let us know! We’re glad to answer them!

– I’ve also heard from parents who have been giving THIS IS JUST A TEST as a bar or bat mitzvah gift. I love this idea!!

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