Wednesday, March 4, 2015

#TSOLG Paperback Palooza: Five Random Questions with Kat Yeh

Kat, letting go in the sun! 
To celebrate the paperback release of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO on March 31st, I'm super excited to announce that I am hosting a reading and writing (!!) Author Palooza at the Huntington Public Library on April 19th, 2015.

Several other amazing kidlit, MG and young adult authors 
will be joining me for the fun and hands-on writers workshop, and I thought it would be nice to get to know them -- and me -- a little in the weeks leading up to the event. 

You may read all about the event HERE on the facebook event page, and even if you can't come to the event live, please join the event page and follow along in the fun.

So, on to the getting-to-know-them part of the festivities... 

I've asked the guest authors to share their favorite piece of writing advice (or quotes that have helped or inspired them) as well as to answer five random questions from a big list I provided. Many of their answers are quite entertaining! You'll see! 

So, over the next several weeks, I will share their answers (and may even chime in with my own answer to the occasional question in pink ...)

Adorable Kat. 

Up today, guest author Kat Yeh, author of the brand spanking new THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE which Kirkus Reviews called ". . . stuffed with charm."

You can read all about Kat HERE

I asked Kat to share her favorite piece of writing advice and she said,

"Write the book only You can write. I can't remember who said that - maybe a lot of people have, but it makes such complete sense. Why would you ever want to write as someone else? Only you can say and write and express that which is completely and utterly You."

Now on to Five Random Questions with Kat Yeh...

1. What did you want to be when you grew up? 

Why a writer of course. And an artist. I think as long as I'm using creative energy, I'm happy.
 (so, then, apparently, I'm one of the few who didn't know I wanted to BE a writer from an early age. I mean, I loved to write, always, but never dreamed I could be a writer... some of the other realistic and unrealistic things *I wanted to be when I grew up in likely order of appearance: an olympic gymnast [silver medalist not gold, not because i was realistic, but because i preferred the look of silver jewelry over gold...]; a broadway actress ["it's a hard knock life..."]; a medical examiner ["I'm Quincy, dammit!"]; an entertainment manager, and a lawyer... which i went with. )

2. What's the grossest thing you ever ate?
Sea Cucumber. I was very young and I thought it was going to be some sort of underwater vegetable (makes sense right?) - and NOT a sea slug whose defense in the underwater world is to turn itself inside out, revealing its innards, and making itself so repulsive that no creature would consider eating it. Except of course, humans.

3. Worst job you ever had?

During my freelance writing days, a friend hired me to write copy on a consumer pamphlet. It turned out to be for Lysol and on How To Clean A Toilet. For someone deeply wanting to connect and express myself creatively, it was a definite low. 

4. Which one book do you wish YOU wrote?

The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley

5. Besides writing, what's one superpower you wish you had? 

Obviously, the ability to spread peace and kindness and empathy.

So, there you have it. . . some advice and a few random things about Kat Yeh. Hope you'll check out all her books, and if you're anywhere local, you'll join us at the Huntington Public Library on April 19th for the reading, book signing and, if you're a tween or teen writer, the hands-on writers workshop with all these fabulous authors! Registration begins April 6th! And don't forget to preorder a paperback copy of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO

Just a bunch of authors waiting for Summer.

xox gae

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

#TSOLG Paperback Palooza: Five Random Questions with Selene Castrovilla

Selene, soaking in some Summer.
To celebrate the paperback release of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO on March 31st, I'm super excited to announce that I am hosting a reading and writing (!!) Author Palooza at the Huntington Public Library on April 19th, 2015.

Several other amazing kidlit, MG and young adult authors 
will be joining me for the fun and hands-on writers workshop, and I thought it would be nice to get to know them -- and me -- a little in the weeks leading up to the event. 

You may read all about the event HERE on the facebook event page, and even if you can't come to the event live, please join the event page and follow along in the fun.

So, on to the getting-to-know-them part of the festivities... 

I've asked the guest authors to share their favorite piece of writing advice (or quotes that have helped or inspired them) as well as to answer five random questions from a big list I provided. Many of their answers are quite entertaining! You'll see! 

Over the next several weeks, I will share their answers here (and may even chime in with my own answer to the occasional question in pink ...)

So, first up today, guest author and fellow Long Islander Selene Castrovilla, author of MELT, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, SAVED BY THE MUSIC and several other books for children and teens. You can read all about Selene HERE

Her newest novel, MELT, a dark and edgy YA was described by Kirkus reviews as, 

You can "look inside" MELT HERE.

"A fresh, emotionally complex bildungsroman of young American love that looks long and hard at violence, and at what can overcome it.” 

I'm in the middle of MELT now and loving it, though know it's a dark and edgy story to read...  
If you want to follow Selene on Twitter you should do so @SCastrovilla and on facebook HERE.

Okay, here we go:

Selene's favorite piece of writing (and life) advice: 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't –you're right.”  -Henry Ford

(I love that one too!)

... and, this one: 

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Now on to Five Random Questions...

1. What's your silliest childhood memory? 

One of my silliest memories was starting a singing duo with my friend Miriam. We called it “The Scarecrow and Selene” inspired by “The Captain and Tennille.” She wore a purple straw hat we for some reason had, and I wore a flannel, flowered nightgown. We sang the songs which came on some solid gold hits of the 70's album I'd ordered from TV. Thank goodness performances were limited to my living room.
              - funny, I have an eerily similar one with my sister, except we were Sonny & Cher. . . you don't need to know more. 

2.  What's the grossest food you ever ate?

Frogs' legs, in France.

3. Worst job you ever had?

I was a gas station attendant. It was smelly, and I had to pump gas in the pouring rain. Also, the uniform was unflattering. I was a freshman in college, and boy was this job motivation to stay in school!I don't have any secrets. I've written about them all. Oh, maybe one: I often pretended to play the flute during band recitals, because I was afraid I would make a mistake.

4. Most embarrassing thing. . . ?

I could never do gymnastics in gym. I sucked at everything in gym, but gymnastics was the worst, because it was one person at a time and everyone was watching. Over and over I had to run up to that horse thing, and I could never make it across. Once the gym teacher kept me hanging over the edge, and pointed out my purple socks to everyone. I felt humiliated, not because he showed my socks but because of the way he was prolonging my embarrassment. It was also pretty bad when they picked teams for sports games. I was always one of the last people on the side, and the captains would sigh when they were forced to take me. I could write a book just about gym. It would be a sad book.

 - oh that would be a sad book and is a very sad tale! (*hugs teenage Selene*) And, seriously, what the eff is it about gym class...?!?

However, I will say that suck as I may have at everything else, I was a gymnast as a kid, but was HORRIBLE at team sports, and, so, was picked last for the teams too! If you slow-pitched a ball to me (then and now still) I could hit zero pitches out of ten. Possibly, negative one. p.s. Selene, you'll notice I put all your answers in purple! 

5. What's your most useless skill/ability?

I can sing the preamble to the Constitution (learned on School House Rock.)

All waiting on Summer...
So, there you have it. . . some advice and a few random things about Selene. Hope you'll check out all her books, and if you're anywhere local, you'll join us at the Huntington Public Library on April 19th for the reading, book signing and, if you're a tween or teen writer, the hands-on writers workshop with all these fabulous authors! Registration begins April 6th! And, If you haven't read THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO yet, or want to gift a copy to someone you love, please preorder a paperback copy. 

Nothing makes an author happier (or helps more!) than preorders. . .  

xox gae

Sunday, February 15, 2015

THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO: Paperback Palooza coming soon!

Shiny paperbacks, hot off the presses. Ready to ship... 

So, if you follow me on facebook or twitter, you know I'm super excited for the paperback release of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO coming sooner than you know.

March 31st to be exact!

To celebrate, I've decided to have a big party -- as big as I can -- and to give back to the local library community that's been so supportive of me when I do.

As such, on April 19th (making sure we're clear of possible major snowstorm...) from 1 - 5 pm, I will be hosting a two part, tween & teen Author Palooza at the Huntington Public Library.

Part 1 will be a 90-Second Read Event open to the general public of ALL ages! You do NOT have to be a Huntington resident to attend (but you do need to call the library, starting April 6, to register for Part 2 - details below).

I've been hosting 90-Second Read events for the past few years, and they are always a ton of fun both for the authors participating and the audience. What is a 90-Second Read Event, you ask? Well let's just say it involves a desire not to bore you, some prep and good timing on our parts, and a mean stopwatch and hotel bell, usually placed in the hands of an over-eager audience member whose finger is just itching to ding it. You can read more about them here:

p.s. Matt Blackstone WILL be coming to our Palooza on 4/19
and let me just say he is one of my favorite authors EVER to listen to read aloud.
If you're not laughing when Matt reads, we need to get you a new funny bone. 

Bits of summer swag that usually
find their way into a signed copy...
Following the 90-Second Read event, we will be have a signing where you may purchase any or all the participating authors' most recent books as a Friend of the Library fundraiser, not to mention get them signed all up pretty with your name in them, and likely jazzed up with swag.

And, then, if that's not enough...

All the super young uns and old fogies will leave (author-old fogies excluded, of course, who will stay) and we will launch into Part 2: a hands-on tweens & teens only writers workshop, where we will break up into small groups to talk craft (voice, story, character and, of course, where ideas come from) and do "five-minute" writing exercises followed by encouraging and constructive critiques, each group assigned their own traditionally published author!

And, yes, there will be cupcakes!!

In the coming weeks, I'm going to be hosting some fun meet-the-author features here on my blog, and even moreso, HERE on my facebook event page. There you'll learn more about the likes of Matt Blackstone, Sarah Darer Littman, Charlotte Bennardo, Selene Castrovilla, Henry Clark, Alan Katz, Tracey Baptiste and me, and I mean, truly important things, like the worst jobs we've ever had, our most embarrassing moments, and the meanest thing we ever did to a sibling.

Even if you can't come join in the fun on the 19th live, please join the facebook event page and follow along!

In the meantime, mark your calendars, and if you haven't read THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO yet, please preorder the paperback! Here's just some of the praise the book has garnered since its release last spring:

And even though the paperback doesn't officially release until March 31, preorders really do an author's heart and book lots of good. So please tell your coworkers and friends. Heck, tell strangers. Who can't use a little Summer right about now?

xox gae

Friday, January 23, 2015

An Impromptu Friday Feedback: 59 Reasons to Write and then some. . .

Five short years ago, I was still just a writer aspiring to be published.

Two critically-acclaimed, traditionally published books later, I hate to tell you, but I am merely the same thing.

Out on submission as we speak, trying to find not only the right editor for my current manuscript, but the whole publishing team that is needed these days to rally behind same, and this single, particular work of writing.

It aint easy. In fact, if I had the energy, knowing what I know now, I'd add a whole slew of chutes to THIS POST. 

The good news? I'd also add a whole slew of ladders.

Like the tween & teen readers I've met, who have been inspired to read or write (!) by my stories!

A reader named Francesca who was waiting for
her namesake book to come out. <3 b="">

Like the astoundingly caring educators I've met who spend their days AND NIGHTS wracking their brains for new ways to inspire students to read.

Like the Teachers Write! campers I've met, whose manuscripts I've started to read, many of whom I believe will be in the next crop of published MG & YA writers. . . or the crop after that. 

The beauty of writing, I remind myself, is there is no age limit or time cutoff. We have all the time we have.

At any rate, Teachers Write has been an incredible and inspiring part of MY writing life and now I am part of this beautiful book that Kate Messner made happen, and it's one of the great honors of my life.
59 Reasons to Write. Out this week!!!
And, this morning, I noticed on twitter that there's a whole #59Reasons hashtag developing, so I thought, why not jump on the bandwagon! So here, in honor of #59Reasons, is an impromptu Friday Feedback giving you yet a 60th reason to write. If you've been here before, YOU KNOW THE RULES. If not, please click on that link and read em. I will read and provide feedback on any excerpts received through Sunday morning.

Now, for something not usually seen here, I'm posting two of the possible openings for my piece of women's fiction most often referred to as SWIM BACK TO ME. I have a third, but am not posting it here now. You'll notice the first is more prologuey (yes, I made up that adjective) and the second right into the story. . .

So, does one hook you more? Make you want to keep reading? What works? What doesn't? You know the drill. And, if you're working on a piece and struggling with the same questions, I invite you to do the same. Although, I warn you (and myself!) that exercises like this usually invite an equal amount of writers arguing for each version. We shall see! 

p.s. I'm including the opening quote because I love it so much.

Sometimes God calms the storm. At other times, He calms the sailor.
And sometimes He makes us swim."

-Author Unknown

Choice One:
            The air is brisk, the sky, of an Ansel Adams photograph. Charcoal bestrewn with gray clouds, backlit by an ivory moon. Leaves rustle in the silhouetted tree branches above.  
            Below this moody sky I drift, on my back in a maroon one-piece, irradiated by the hot-white pool light which reflects the artificial turquoise of the liner. A mist of illuminated steam swirls at the water’s surface.
            Here I am, floating. 
Here I am, serene and breathing, soaking in the calm, relative-perfection of my life. 
            Here I am, content and grateful. 
This is me, in August. An expert at this ritual, at this state of being. After fifteen years of marriage and motherhood, this is my rote, my order, my routine.
And, if I knew better, I would stay here. I wouldn’t move a muscle. I would not get out.  Because, in a few short weeks, everything will be different.
Everything will be undone. 


Choice Two.

The phone is ringing, Richard is in the shower, and I have mayonnaise on my hands.
I can’t ask Cassie to answer it because she’s already running late which is ridiculous since it’s the first day of school. Of course, I’m not ready either, am still laying fake turkey slices between bread slices, a water bottle squeezed under my arm, a veggie chip snack bag gripped in my teeth. So, I let it ring.
            “Cassie,” I yell, dropping the chips to the counter and shoving the whole mess into her lunch bag, “Let’s go!”
            She appears, flying down the hall in a Little Miss Grumpy t-shirt, a pair of frayed jeans, and her new Steve Madden lace ups adorning her sleek, 5-foot-6-inch frame. She has make-up on, a new privilege permitted by us now that she’s in tenth grade. She’s done a good job – a hint of green eye shadow, some smoky eyeliner, and a pale blush gloss on her lips. Her long, corn-silk hair is just-brushed, splays about her shoulders, errant strands lit by filtering sunshine and static-charged rise around her head. She’s a lovely girl, my daughter, if difficult and moody at times, and, as always, the moment I see her, my morning’s anger and frustration melt away, and I want to hug her and tell her how beautiful she is. Of course, I wouldn’t dare.
“No meat, right?” She snatches the bag from my hand and kisses my cheek which actually takes me by surprise. She seems to scowl at me way more than anything these days.
“Right,” I say as if I could forget. She’s reminded me at least a hundred times in the past few weeks.
“Great! Thanks. I’m likely staying after. I’ll text you,” she says, and is gone.
            The front door slams and reverberates leaving this memory: Cassie's first day of kindergarten, her grip on my hand on the way to the bus stop, the only thing that belies her confident pace, her pigtails bobbing above her favorite yellow sundress with the white daisies and big blue bow in back. The bus arrives, and she suddenly buries her head so forcefully between my thighs, she nearly knocks me over, given I’m not anticipating. How Richard laughs and comments, captured on video forever, that, if she could have, she’d have jammed herself right back up into my womb. “So, fearless Cassie’s not so fearless after all,” he says, moving the camera to settle on my frazzled face after I’ve finally pried her away and hustled her sniffling up the steps of the bus.
The recollection fills me with a momentary, overwhelming, sense of loss. It’s one of the last times I remember her being anything but arms’ length with me. 


Monday, January 19, 2015

Words, wise and clear

Extraordinary pen & oil pastel by Lori Landau Art.
click HERE to visit her site.

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

I had, and still have, many flaws as a parent. 

One of the best things I think I did right as a parent -- which I got from my mom who did the same -- was to pay attention to Martin Luther King day and all it stands for with my boys. 

When they were really little, I would sit them in my lap and we'd listen to his speech on the computer -- or at least parts of it -- and talk about him and what it means to be tolerant and what it means to stand up for one another. 

Now they are bigger, but I still email them a link to the speech every year and remind them why we are home and not at school or work on this day. I'm proud that they fondly remember the year we got a washable paint roller and wrote some of the words to MLK's speech on our front window at home. . . as many as we could fit. . . then watched as people stopped to read them and take them in. 

There is a reason many of us are home today. Make sure your kids know why. 

And, too, that they know how much work there is still left to do.

To listen to his speech, click on the link above or go here:

gae heart emoticon

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year! A few good bookish things, a lot of revising and some vagueness and waiting.

lying in confetti... what else does one do on January 1?


Happy 2015.

Been so busy, hard to find my way here.

Mostly busy revising my manuscript called THE MEMORY OF THINGS.

I have my reasons and some self-imposed deadlines... we shall soon see if they amount to anything. . .

In the meantime, I have a ton of goals for the New Year, some you'll find HERE  if you want... others, well, I'll let you know how I do.

You? Any new goals for 2015?

There's a "thing" that goes around in the amazing teacher/educator circles I'm now lucky to run in called OLW (maybe it's not just limited to them?) which stands for One Little Word. You're supposed to pick a word to be the focus of your year: some choose grace, or writing or inspiration or some other magical word. Those are all good, but I'm actually thinking of choosing the word "focus" for my focus... for the very same reason I'm here. The revising got hard, and I went, "ooh, blog! Different easier shiny thing!" I need to stop getting distracted by the shiny things. . .

Speaking of shiny things: a few lovely year-end notes for THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO: It won a Nerdy Book Club Award HERE (did you click there?)

This means a lot to me. The NBC members are VORACIOUS readers. I've never met a group as a whole who cover more Children's Lit reading in one year. So to make their list... well it's a very good thing. Oh, and FYI, I'm a two-time recipient, SEE, HERE, so I think with a third I should at least get a tiara and a sash. . .win a new car. . . (*spits so as not to jinx anything. . .*)

THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO also appeared on a few other wonderful Year-End favorites lists that I know of:

Those are always wonderful to see!

And, last but not least,

you all know how I feel about my involvement with Teachers Write! and the extraordinary Kate Messner, right?!?

Well Kate's book, 59 REASONS TO WRITEMini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachersbased on the TW! program, in which I am a contributor (see?!):

Comes out this month on the 13th, from Stenhouse.

Kate's lovely acknowledgment. . .

I have a whole section on my Friday Feedback portion of the program, as well as appear in several of the "The Best of Q & A" sections. It's very cool and exciting to be included in a book that may be used to help inspire teachers around the country!!

Tiny snippet sneak peek.
If you know teachers who teach writing, teachers who want to write themselves, please share this beautiful new resource with them.

So that's it. I have a bunch of appearance-y things coming up. Will update the sidebar with those this week! In the meantime, I'm off to focus again. Hopefully some fun new book news may appear in the coming weeks... cross your fingers for me.

Happy New Year!

xox gae

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Feedback: First delirious sentences before the brick wall...

Hello, brick wall, my old nemesis. . . 

Friends, campers, writermen, lend me your ears,

I come to burrow in words, not to flail in the haze of them. . .

Hmmm. Yeah, no. Sorry about that. Don't mind me.

Hey, so long time no see!

But I know that for many of you, it's Nanowrimo month and you're nearly half way through...

I have been, uh, writing, if not exactly Nano'ing...

I wrote a mess of a 3,500+ word short story (adult, not YA) which was a huge accomplishment for me as I am terrified of them (been reading some Cheever and Carver and trying to unravel the mystery of what a short story is -- and is not). It was a cool exercise. The opening looks like this:

I hope to go back to it one day soon and reorganize, revise and flesh out. There were things I really liked about it.

Then, I started a new YA novel. . . the opening few paragraphs/pages were sheer writerly glory - writing with abandon, lost in the moment of a mood and image I wanted to convey . . and then I hit the brick wall. Way sooner than I had hoped. The brick wall that looks sort of like this:


It's a wall of shrieking loud words and self-doubt and confusion and frustration that I'm all too familiar with, and yet it shakes me to my knees every time.

How about you? You been Nano'ing? How's it going? Are you happy or pulling out your hair?

At any rate, it's a bonus off-the-cuff Friday Feedback (and if you're a teacher with students who are Nano'ing, I invite them -- and you -- to post in the comments both this Friday and NEXT Friday (November 21st). I will be away both Saturdays following this post, but will be back on each Sunday (plus throughout the day Friday) to comment. 

You know THE RULES:

What works for you?

What doesn't? (and why...?)

If it's an opening, does it hook your or compel you to keep reading?

And, remember: Regardless of how much *I* post (it's my blog, you know?)  please do not post more than THREE paragraphs if long, and FIVE if short. If lots of dialogue, use your discretion. And, if you're here from a particular teacher's class, please say so! 

Meep sticker designed by David Lanham.
Oh, and one more thing (as much a reminder to me as to you...): don't waste too much time editing or making beginnings of vomit drafts pretty. More often than not, they're not really you're beginning anyway, which means editing or revising them is only wasting time and stopping you from forward momentum.

So, without further ado, here's the ridiculously rough vomited opening to a thingy I am working on that will most definitely change over time:

The girl
The girl arrived in the middle of the night, and for days no one even knew she existed here.
The house where she was brought was three doors down from ours on the cul de sac, high up on a hill, and belonged to Dr. Betsy Mikkleson. It used to belong to Dr. Mikkleson and her husband, also a doctor, but the male Dr. Mikkelson had left in a great public flourish of animosity the winter before.
The Mickkelson property was pristine, the house itself a brick colonial with white, ionic columns offsetting an ornate, mahogany front door, the upper floor bedroom windows replete with added faux balconies, not that you could tell that much from the street.

The house was set far back on the hillside and a long circular driveway led up to it. Back in the days when old Mr. Andersen lived there with his emphysemic wife, Joan, all us neighborhood kids used to go up there, or at the very least, used to ride our bikes around and around that driveway, huffing and puffing at the top before flying precariously down and around again, using the pendulum momentum to get us back up the first half of the incline. 
The Andersens were a warm and friendly couple who would invite you in for tea with honey and Social Tea Biscuits, which, of course, no kid in their right mind actually enjoyed. The house was cluttered and dark, full of chintz curtains, old shag rugs, and broken and reglued tchotchkes on every counter and shelf. I remember when old Mrs. Andersen died in the middle of the night – and I was only about ten back then – how the sirens woke us and brought us all out to our lawns, but you couldn’t see the ambulance up there at the top of their hill, only watch its glowing red lights bouncing through the tree leaves like spooky red specters in dark.
She had lived there all my life, and then she was gone. Old Mr. Andersen went soon after, and the house stood empty for a year or two (infighting among their grown children, I think) before the property was sold to the Mikkelsons. 
See you all in the comments!
xox gae

p.s. for those of you who are new to this blog, my first novel for young adults, THE PULL OF GRAVITY, was a PSLA Top 40, a Bank Street College Best of 2012 and a Nerdy Book Club Winner for YA, and my second novel THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO has received glowing reviews from VOYA, SLJ and Kirkus as well as The New York Times, and is a Scholastic Book Order selection for teens. It is also available in audiobook. If you like what you see here, please check out my books, and, when possible, notwithstanding the Amazon links, buy from independent booksellers.  If you carry a select number of copies of my book(s) in your classroom or school library, I will Skype visit for free, and if you use my book(s) in your bookclub of five or more members, I will also Skype for free. Please feel free to email me for more information at