I’m chuckling over the word “encounters.” In my Rule of Six (or Seven) list, that word flows naturally: encounters with beauty, encounters with living books, encounters with ideas to ponder and discuss…
But when I lift the phrase out of the list, it becomes comical. My entire day is a series of “encounters” with books. I might as well say I’ve had an encounter with air, or that my feet have encountered floors.
Actually, come to think of it, my feet have had plenty of encounters with books, too, because there is never not a stack somewhere in kicking distance. Right now: beside my bed, next to where I leave my slippers at night—i.e., exactly where I groggily aim my toes in the pre-dawn darkness every single morning. You’d think I’d learn after the sixth or seventh stubbed toe, wouldn’t you?
Narrator: she wouldn’t.
But okay. With what books have I had a particularly close or meaningful encounter in the past week?
When You Reach Me
Well, I finished our readaloud of The Wind in the Door, the sequel to A Wrinkle in Time. And for once I wasn’t tormented with indecision over what the next readaloud should be: I had Rebecca Stead’s lovely When You Reach Me waiting in the wings. It’s a natural next book after Wrinkle. (But we’re studying the parts of a cell in our biology lessons, so OF COURSE I had to read Wind in the Door first. After that book, you’ll never forget what mitochondria do.)
When You Reach Me is, as I expected, going over like gangbusters. Scott listens along with us, and since it’s set in 1979, with a narrator only a year or two older than Scott and I were that year, it feels like home. And Miranda’s Manhattan neighborhood is familiar to us from the years we lived in Queens and worked in Manhattan.
For Huck and Rilla, this setting and time period are new territory, an interesting backdrop to an incredibly gripping story. Miranda’s favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time, and she quotes from it or narrates bits and scenes quite often. I love love love internal references like this: they’re the best kind of organic connection, and our brains loooove connections. I’m always talking about giving kids hooks to hang other knowledge on, like the way the Horrible Histories English monarchs song is a useful set of hooks for us to sort other historical events by. “That happened around the time of King John,” I might say, and the kids burst out with: “Poor King John, what a disaster, rule restrained by Magna Carta.”
Anyway, we’re about a third of the way through When You Reach Me and I’m beside myself with happy anticipation of what’s in store for my listeners.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time with B.J. Fogg’s Tiny Habits, which I devoured when it first came out and have been enjoying revisiting more slowly. One of my 2020 achievements was becoming a certified habit coach via Coach.me, because—as you know if you read Bonny Glen back in the beginning—habits have been a subject of particular interest to me since the day I first picked up a Charlotte Mason book in the mid-’90s.
Tiny Habits adds new layers to the subject through Stanford professor B.J. Fogg’s research on human behavior and what he calls “behavior design.” His premise is that you can coach yourself into any behavior you wish if you approach it incrementally, taking advantage of certain hardwired aspects of human behavior—and that willpower has nothing to do with this process. He explores prompts, ability, and motivation—motivation being the least powerful factor of the three, when it comes to creating a habit.
James Clear’s Atomic Habits and Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before also unpack this topic and explore related strategies. Gretchen incorporates her unique and highly useful theory about the Four Tendencies into her discussion of habit formation. I loved her book, because she zeroes in on the importance of understanding yourself (your tendency) in establishing the right bite-sized habit and the best-for-you prompt.
A very long postscript
This post could go on and on, but I’m trying a new practice. I have hundreds of unfinished draft posts sitting in my queue—because life is so full that if I don’t publish them right away, it’s hard to come back later. The momentum is gone. The energy I have for persistent, gradual progress on a piece of writing goes entirely to my books and to my working creating Brave Writer literature guides. But whenever I let my blog slip, I start to feel twitchy. It’s an important chronicle for my family and an important vehicle for my own learning and exploration. I need to write in order to know what I think. And I need to share that writing—narration is such a crucial piece of learning and critical thinking!
So what I’ve decided to try—and I’ll be evaluating the success of this plan in real-time, as I go, probably out loud—is writing for a set amount of time (most days, 45 minutes) and then hitting publish even if I had more thoughts to think, or (as with this post) more books to dish about. I’ve rearranged the day to allow this pocket of time (swapping it out with my Morning Pages practice, because the truth is, Morning Pages bore me silly after about the third day) most mornings. And when the timer goes off, I’ll give it a quick scan for typos and then smash the publish button, even if I had more to say.
I have plenty of outlets for more polished writing. Patreon, Medium, Darts, Arrows, my books. For the first ten years, blogging worked brilliantly for me as a catalyst for discovery and analysis. I resisted the shift toward professionalization of one’s blog and I bristled at the trend toward prioritizing the inclusion of beautiful photos, creating a magazine effect. (Do you know what I do for images here these days, most of the time? I click the “Add Media” button and type a word, loosely related to the content of the post, into the search bar. Then I pick one of the zillion photos I’ve shared here in the past. Thus the ancient snapshot at the top of this post.)
Because social media favors posts with a captivating and properly sized “featured photo,” I kept leaving drafts in the queue to await a moment when I could take or find the right picture. And of course you’re supposed to use keywords and subheads or your SEO plug-in yells at you. Mine loathes the length of my sentences and paragraphs.
And I find that I no longer care. I seldom bother to share links to Bonny Glen posts on Facebook or Twitter any more. I use subheads sparingly and mainly because I love that shade of blue.
Now, I realize I’ve gone and written a whole second post to explain why I’m publishing the first one practically mid-thought. Once again, I’m thinking out loud, firming up my vague notions by articulating them to you.
This practice—which, again, is an experiment I’m testing to see if it clicks for me—will mean more frequent, less polished posts. If you’re still here reading Bonny Glen after all these years, and through my long silences, I’m guessing you won’t mind. If you ever feel I’ve given short shrift to a topic and you’d like to hear more, please let me know! I’d be happy to tackle it the next time I set the timer.
P.S. No time today for adding book links! If you’d like to give me the affiliate credit, here are links to my Amazon & Bookshop.org portals.
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A Wrinkle in Time, BJ Fogg, Blog, Bloggity, encounters with books, Gretchen Rubin, James Clear, Madeleine L'Engle, Rebecca Stead, rule of seven, rule of six, When You Reach Me
Annie Bloom’s Books, a wonderful Portland bookstore, has kindly offered a way for customers to order personally inscribed copies of The Nerviest Girl in the World. If this is something you’re interested in, you can place an order at Annie Bloom’s website and the shop will let me know. The following weekend, I’ll head across the river to sign the book and then the Annie Bloom’s Books folks will ship it directly to you. (Sundays are usually the best day for me to make a drive to the west side of town, so you’ll want to factor that into your timeline.)
On the book’s order page, you’ll see a note asking customers to include any personalization requests in the comments field at checkout.
Now’s a great time to get the ball in motion if you’d like to give the book as a holiday gift! I’m beyond thrilled to see how much fun kids are having with it—making hot-air balloon bookmarks, starting a Gordy fan club (!), and even shooting their very own silent films. I’m continually blown away by my young readers’ inventiveness. Check out my Instagram highlights for a passel of pics (and immense thanks to all the parents and teachers who have been sharing them).
Nerviest Girl on the web:
• Loads of resources & activities to pair with the book in this guest post at Random House Teachers & Librarians
• Brave Writer Arrow selection literature guide (includes Party School ideas for book clubs)
• California teacher Julie DenOuden of Girl on the Move wrote a Southern California Travel Adventure inspired by the book
• Podcast interview at Everyday Motherhood
• Interview with authors Anne Nesbet and Chris Barton at Bartography
Up, up, and away! I can’t believe The Nerviest Girl in the World‘s publication day is almost here! Friends around the country have been sending me screenshots of their Amazon delivery pages with my book marked “Arriving Tuesday.” Exciting!
On launch day, Tuesday, August 18, I’ll be celebrating with a live readaloud and Q&A on Facebook and Instagram. Please join me (or have your kids tune in) at 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT, on Facebook Live or Instagram Live. I can’t wait for you to meet Pearl!
In other news: Giveaway alert!
Author (and friend) Chris Barton recently published an interview with Anne Nesbet and me about our middle-grade novels & silent-film favorites. Anne is the author of Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen, which, like Nerviest Girl, celebrates the early days of motion pictures. I had so much fun chatting with Anne and Chris. You can read the interview here (complete with some favorite movie clips)—and enter Chris’s giveaway of both of our books!
Out today: Everyday Motherhood podcast interview
The delightful Christy Thomas interviewed me for her Everyday Motherhood podcast. The episode airs today! We chatted about homeschooling, creative practice, Harriet the Spy, my secret history of writing Plumfield fan fiction, and my research & writing process for The Nerviest Girl in the World. Christy is a wonderful interviewer. Enjoy!
I hope to see you at the book launch on Tuesday!
Only one week until Nerviest Girl‘s pub day! It’s hard to think about much else. There’s an awful lot of behind-the-scenes work that happens in the months before and after a book’s publication—all kinds of outreach you’re supposed to do—without being obnoxious about it, of course. And yet everyday life rolls on, full of its usual deadlines and tides and busy-ness. On Instagram the other day I wrote about a new daily rhythm my family is trying out—a radical shift from my decades-long pattern of homeschooling in the mornings and working in the afternoons/evenings. We’ve flipped the day so that I work mostly before noon (with another burst in the late afternoon), and we do our high tide studies between 12 and 3. Today is only day two of this experiment. I decided to see if my old, tried-and-true method of blogging as a transition to other writing & paid work would work as well as it did when I was balancing babies and books.
First, the Nerviest news!
• Julie DenOuden, a California teacher and blogger at Girl on the Move, published a delightful piece about Nerviest Girl yesterday: Literary Travel: California Adventure. She uses the book as inspiration for a fun Southern California exploration. Makes me homesick for San Diego!! In a world without Covid, I’d be heading that way next week to celebrate pub day in the town that inspired the novel. I appreciate the opportunity to travel vicariously through Julie’s fun post!
Since she includes a visit to the San Diego mission, I’d like to recommend An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Jean Mendoza, & Debbie Reese. Important context for any study of the missions with kids. (Amazon affiliate link since I couldn’t find a listing for it at Bookshop.org. Odd!!)
• Do you subscribe to Chris Barton’s newsletter, Bartography Express? It was one of the first newsletters I created my treasured “Good Things to Read” folder for in gmail—the folder I turn to as an antidote to doomscrolling. You should definitely sign up in time for his August issue, which comes out tomorrow. Just saying!
• To celebrate launch day, I’m going to do a FB Live/IG Live readaloud event next Tuesday, August 18, at 1pm Pacific. More info coming soon, so think of this as a save-the-date. I’ll read a couple chapters of Nerviest Girl and do a little Q&A in the comments.
• Another fun thing happening next week: the Reinventing the Author Visit workshop with Julie Hedlund and Kate Messner. I was pretty bummed, last spring, to realize my fall travel plans would have to be canceled—I’d hoped to be making lots of school visits this year. I’m still hoping that! They’ll just have to be virtual visits. I signed up for this workshop to help make my Zoom/Skype presentations as lively and smooth as possible. (If you’re a teacher or school librarian interested in author visits, please keep me in mind! You can reach me via the contact link in my menu.)
More book-related news coming as the week rolls on. Right now, I need to hop up and put my bread in the oven. My baking schedule got jumbled this week—I usually prep the bread on Saturday and bake on Sunday morning.
Then I’ll work for a few more hours (with a break for fresh bread, obviously!!) and begin easing back into high tide with Huck and Rilla. Huck is taking an Outschool course that uses Hot Wheels to teach the physics of collisions. Rilla and I are planning some art history studies this year. I miss homeschool blogging and hope to do a lot more of it this season!
Just came out of the oven!
Only nine days left until pub day! Delighted to share this SLJ review:
Photo by Jennie Baker
The Nerviest Girl in the World
WILEY, Melissa. 208p. Knopf. Aug. 2020. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375870385.
Gr 4-7–Set in early 20th-century San Diego, Pearl lives on a cattle and ostrich ranch. One day her brothers’ advanced horseback riding skills get them recruited to be “Death-Defying Cowboys” in a director’s moving pictures. While visiting the set, Pearl’s horse gets frightened, and her unique way of remounting her horse gets her noticed. Soon, she too becomes an actress. From jumping out of windows to sliding down ropes, she discovers a love for stunts. Life as an actress, however, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Her relationship with Mary Mason, a girl in town, is strained at best, and Pearl’s mama doesn’t like her doing stunts. Can Pearl learn to balance her acting with real life? Inspirational, funny, full of bravery, and based off a true story, Wiley does a great job of bringing the time period to life. The characters are engaging, realistic, and witty. VERDICT Readers who like historical fiction, nuanced heroines, and humor will enjoy this book. Recommended for libraries where funny historical fiction is popular.–Kira Moody, Salt Lake County Lib. Svcs.
Here’s a post I wrote on Instagram, the day before my cover reveal last week:
Real talk: here’s what my fancy author life looks like. Snuggled up in my writing chair with my boy (“We’re going to need a bigger chair soon, Mom”), breakfast half eaten, hair unbrushed, trying to overcome my profound self-promo embarrassment in order to give my book a proper sendoff. Huck helped me create my cover-reveal announcement on Canva and picked the color for the countdown clock in my Stories. It’s the time of day when we usually do math and Spanish and read poems, but the reality of work-at-home homeschooling life is: lots of days go in different directions! Right now Huck and Rilla are watching a really good video on space (How the Universe Works on Prime Video—so good!) and I’m sitting here writhing over hashtags. Hashtags! I have “Tom’s of Maine” written on the back of my hand to remind me we’re almost out of toothpaste. I’m wondering if it’s too early in the day for gummy bears. I’m thinking I should wrap up this post and go on a nature walk with the kids. I’m remembering I haven’t sent out an issue of my author newsletter in YEARS and I should really revive that thing for the cover reveal tomorrow! Eep! Forget the gummy bears: this calls for chocolate.
I should hashtag THIS post too but y’all, I’m hashtagged out. My bird clock just chirped the 1pm bird at 11am, so I guess that’s something I should go address. Okay! A plan! Chocolate and bird clock—no one can say I don’t have my priorities in order!
Six days later:
• Bird clock: fixed.
• Nature walk: didn’t happen that day but we made time for it on Friday, and on the way home we stopped for pumpkin snickerdoodles at the German bakery. Oh how I love living in a city neighborhood again! Today’s another pretty morning, a gray sky shot through with light, so I think we’ll make time for another walk this morning, after our Moominland Midwinter readaloud.
• Newsletter: still a work in progress. 😉 If you’d like to sign up to make sure you don’t miss its return issue, here’s a link. If you were signed up before, you’ll get it automatically (unless you unsubscribed at some point).
Here it is!!! I’m so excited to share this with you: the cover of my upcoming middle-grade novel, The Nerviest Girl in the World, which will by published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on August 18, 2020! This cover, which makes me squeak with joy every time I look at it, is by the awesome Risa Rodil. I’m over the moon!
I love it so much. The book is about silent film and ostrich-ranching and wild rides on horseback—and Risa captured all the excitement I feel about this story, which grew out of my time in East County San Diego, where the book is set.
(And just WAIT until you see the interior illustrations by Mike Deas! So great!)
August still feels far away, but I know the time will go fast. The book is already available for pre-order at Indiebound, Amazon, and B&N! (Pre-ordering is a really great—and much appreciated—way for you to help give a book a boost.)
Stay tuned for an ARC giveaway coming soon!