Happy Birthday, E.B White!

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This is one of my all time favorite quotes, and it feels like a pretty appropriate one to share on E.B. White’s birthday. (He would have been 118!) Thanks to a writer who brought us such a thoughtful, compelling story, and possibly the only spider I will ever like.

(Original photo by dixieroadrash)

Summer Solstice Reading List

Sunset...

Photo: Sunset by Martin

“Do you ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it!”–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone! In case you’re not up on your astronomy, this is when the northern hemisphere of the earth is most tilted toward the sun, giving us the most daylight of the year. (Summer hemisphere friends, this happens for you in December.) This year the solstice coincides with the Strawberry Moon, aka June’s full moon. Lots of cool stuff going on in the sky today!

 It also marks the beginning of summer, which feels like a great day to share some of my suggestions for summery reading. In ascending order of target age of reader:

  • The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
    Cozy and clever story of sisters on summer vacation.
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
    Life and death and eternity, all on the hottest day of the year.
  • A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle
    The most famous of the Austin family novels, about grief and hope and dolphins.
  • Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke A. Allen
    I never went to summer camp, but I want to sign up for  Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types.
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
    Fun and surprisingly moving story of family, love, and why you need your friends.
  • Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs
    Set at a summer program for gifted and talented students, Gloria is in my heart forever.
  • This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
    Touching story about family and coming of age, paired with beautiful art.
  • 99 Days by Katie Cotugno
    When a summer at home means having to face your old loves and mistakes.
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
    Old money and secrets and tragedy on a private island.
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
    Magical lights and cakes and wallpaper feature in this summer story of coming home.
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
    The original summer love story.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Wild parties and the most self-destructive summer romance ever.
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
    Set on a day in June, a lyrical story of connection.

What are your favorite summery stories? Share them in the comments!

Links Galore

All the links I’ve been saving:

Blueprinting Your Novel, Evel Knievel, and Why Sympathy Is Not a Positive Attitude: the NESCBWI 2016 Conference

At the annual NESCBWI conference, surrounded by writers and illustrators and editors and agents, it’s easy to think about community. Writing can feel like a solitary job, and it’s good to spend a weekend with people who really get it. And being around people who get it was just what I needed.

Due to scheduling and budgeting, I didn’t get to go to any writing retreats in the last year, and I didn’t realize how much I needed that time with my writing community until I got to Springfield. There’s something about being surrounded by people who share your passion and by setting aside time to remember that, no matter what the struggles, you are a writer.

A few favorite moments from the conference:

  • BSoS crit group NESCBWIGetting to spend time with my critique group, including two members who no longer live in the New England area and make the trip out for the weekend.
  • Showing off our love for The Bitter Side of Sweet by crit group member Tara Sullivan.
  • Wendy Mass‘s touching and hilarious keynote, including gems like “It’s easy enough to write what you know. Write what you want to know about,” her giant scroll of rejection letters, and how she takes magic lessons.Swings
  • Also, Wendy Mass’s blueprinting/outlining method that might legit change my writing process for the better.
  • Tara Lazar on how picture books need to be the more exciting narrative roller coaster.
  • Patrick Carman’s keynote about being inspired by Evel Knievel and how we are all entrepreneurs.
  • Amitha Knight and Padma Venkatraman‘s thoughtful and engaging workshop on writing disability, with tons of helpful resources and frank discussions about things like how “sympathy is not a positive attitude.”
  • An awesome panel about working with booksellers and educators, including shoutouts to graphic novels as legit reading.
  • Winning a copy of Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles in her fabulous NESCBWI bookstore‘improv’ writing workshop.
  • Seeing The Chance You Won’t Return in the conference bookstore alongside so many wonderful books (and so many wonderful books by friends!)
  • Spending time with lots of my favorite local writers and illustrators (even though there were still people I somehow didn’t run into all weekend).

I headed into May feeling inspired and rejuvenated and ready to write. No matter what you’re working on now, I hope you can find a chance to connect with your fellow writers and remember what we’re all in this together.

NESCBWI Prep: My Dos and Don’ts for Conference Newbies

One of my favorite annual conferences, NESCBWI, is this weekend, and I’m so psyched to see lots of wonderful writer and illustrator friends for a weekend of bookish inspiration. But only a few years ago, I was a total NESCBWI newbie, and was headed to Springfield equal parts excited and nervous.

In case you’re a newbie to the writing conference experience, here are my tips for getting the most out of your weekend and having a blast.

Do: use the conference hashtag
Intimidated by how everyone seems to know everyone else? Joining in on social media can be a great way to connect with a lot of people at once, and it’s way easier to meet people in real life if you’ve already interacted on Twitter. This weekend, follow along at #NESCBWI16.

Don’t: be scared to talk to people
I know, it’s hard to be the new kid. But everyone’s there because they love the same thing you do, and that means you already have something in common. Ask what they primarily write/what kind of media they use in their art/what book they’re totally fangirling over/how their last session was.

Do: take notes
It’s easy to think you’re going to remember everything from that amazing session on outlining, but details get fuzzy a week later when you’re diving back into your WIP. Bring a notebook or your laptop/tablet and jot down a few helpful points in each session.

Don’t: stress about remembering everything that was said in every talk/workshop
The stuff that really resonates with you will stick with you. Sometimes it’s more important to be present than to feel like you’re going to have to recite the workshop verbatim next week.

Do: get your time and money’s worth
Conferences can be expensive and take you away from your other responsibilities for a weekend. (Sorry, laundry, see you Monday!) Take part in workshop exercises, listen to the keynotes, join in on open mics, get a critique from an agent or editor. This is your weekend just to be a writer, so you might as well get the most out of your time that you can.

Don’t: get conference burn-out
Getting the most out of your weekend is one thing, but you don’t want to be so drained by it all that you end up zombie-walking through your last four workshops. Take some alone time when needed, or hole up in your hotel room and grab an hour of inspired writing time.

Do: dress comfortably
It’s a writing conference, not a fashion conference. (Miranda Priestly will not be there to judge you.) Modcloth-cute outfits are appreciated, but you’re also going to be walking from room to room and floor to floor and dodging people to get a seat at lunch. Comfortable shoes are key, and a lot of people wear jeans.

Don’t: forget to bring a few essentials
I like to have a notebook, a few pens, my cell phone charger, some business cards/bookmarks/other swag to hang out with my name and book on it, cash for the bookstore, and a reusable water bottle. Your essential items list may vary, but I think these are good basics.

Do: ask questions that benefit everyone
Most sessions have time for Q&A, but nothing’s worse than someone taking up 15 minutes on a question that only applies to their very specific situation. Think about questions that might apply to lots of other people in the group. If you have a specific question and the workshop presenter is available to talk after, bring it up individually.

Don’t: network all the time
We’re writers/illustrators, but we’re also people. You don’t have to be pitching your book or bragging about your daily word counts all the time. Remember that your fellow conference-goers are also people who have families, other hobbies, favorite movies, etc. The best ways to connect with your colleagues are when you remember that they’re regular humans, too.

Do: have a pitch for what you’re working on
This one is still hard for me, too. At some point over the weekend, someone will ask, “What do you write?” Instead of mumbling “Oh something about people and feelings, but it’s funny” like I do, think of a one or two sentence pitch for each of your projects.

Don’t: feel bad if you leave a critique without an offer from an agent or book deal
I’m not gonna say getting signed by an agent or editor can’t happen, but instead of worrying about getting that contract, try to focus on what’s working in your story and what you should consider in revision. And remember that not every agent/editor is the right one for you–maybe the one doing your critique could offer helpful suggestions, but ultimately isn’t the one who’s the best match for you or your book.

Do: have fun!
Conferences like NESCBWI are a great opportunity to meet people and learn more about your craft, but they should also be a chance to enjoy yourself among your peers. Writing is hard enough, so when we’re all together for a weekend, we might as well celebrate.

And if you’ll be at NESCBWI this year, copies of The Chance You Won’t Return should be available in the bookstore. I won’t be doing an official signing, but if you have a book and find me around, I’ll totally sign it for you (and give you a hug/high five).

Other conference tips? Share them in the comments!

This Weekend – Cape Elizabeth Author Fest!

Attention Maine book enthusiasts! This weekend I’ll be at the Cape Elizabeth Author Fest with more than 80 other fellow authors, meeting educators and librarians and book fans of all ages. The details:

Cape Elizabeth Author Fest
April 9, 2016 from 11am-2pm
Cape Elizabeth High School
345 Ocean House Rd, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Seriously, check out all the authors coming–it’s a great line-up, and I’m psyched to be part of it.

Check out the Author Fest 2016 Facebook page for more info and updates. Hope to see you on Saturday!

Links Galore

Lots of links I’ve been saving: