Oh my dears, what a time we’ve had! All of us—you and I. Our ten or so days of unbreathable air really did a number on me. Losing our daily walks, and my ritual of walking around the yard and literally stopping to smell the roses—brutal. On Friday the rain came at last, and the air went from Hazardous to Very Unhealthy to the miraculous-seeming Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Imagine celebrating a designation like that! Especially since three of us in this household fall in that Sensitive Group.
Today the AQI readout is green, glorious green. We can breathe deeply once more. Scott and I went for a walk yesterday evening and of course the world had changed during our days of huddling indoors. Summer slipped away and autumn is coming in: air quivering with golden light, trees tinged with color, asters and brown-eyed Susans stretching out their arms. All over the neighborhood, we saw giant sections of tree trunk sawed and awaiting removal—very likely casualties of the fierce winds that ushered in our days of smoke. Just around the corner, an entire treetop is sprawled on the side of the road, cordoned off. Scott and I had a moment of retroactive alarm, imagining what might have happened if our next-door neighbor hadn’t taken down the dear old dead birch in the sidewalk strip right next to the boundary of our yard. We were sad to see it go—but it kept dropping larger and larger limbs, and safety demanded its removal. Just in time, I think. If the winds had taken it down, all the power, phone, and cable lines would surely have gone with it.
This morning feels like a fresh start. I love fresh starts! I began a new embroidery piece during my creative-practice time—a Sarah K. Benning design, a tumble of fall wildflowers. Usually when I work designs created by someone else, I like to change up the colors to put my own stamp on the project. But this time I think I’ll stick to Sarah’s palette, which is full of yellow and gold and orange and brown—colors I seldom reach for on my own! Those brown-eyed Susans are insisting on it.
Something fun happening this week: on Wednesday, September 16, I’ll be doing an Inch & Roly readaloud on Snack & Read Live with SimonKids! Grab a snack and come join me for a live storytime on Facebook, at 11am PT / 2pm ET. Click the link to sign up for an event notification. I’m so excited and hope to see you there!
This Youtube video walks through a few more problems, including some with three-digit numbers and carrying over. The method works with larger numbers but gets a bit unwieldy beyond three or four digits.
Ahhh…a fun, full, hard, harrowing week is behind me. Not only did I have the excitement of the book launch, I also took a (truly excellent) four-day Author Visits workshop by Kate Messner & Julie Hedlund, and I had a writing deadline for Brave Writer. The workshop was terrific, with lots of practical strategies for reimagining our in-person school visits to fit this year’s all-remote reality. (Even schools that are reopening classrooms aren’t going to be bringing in authors and illustrators to meet the kids face-to-face this year.)
This week things are settling back to routine—this still-new routine in which the bulk of my work time falls between 6am and noon, and we homeschool in the afternoons. With only two kids left to homeschool, three hours is plenty of time for any high-tide learning we have planned. Then I log into Zoom for my afternoon coworking session (3-5pm PDT; see my Patreon if you’re interested in joining) and I usually keep going afterward until I run out of steam—usually around 6. A full day, to be sure! But I like it that way.
Today’s Tuesday, which means Poetry Teatime! Maybe I’ll see if Rilla wants to make some oat bars for our treat. We’ll also do some conversing in German (we’re using Talkbox.mom this year and having a lot of fun with it—I can share a coupon code if you’re interested). Rilla and I are cooking up some kind of longterm study project on frogs, one of her special interests.
Something I haven’t had enough time for this past month is reading! Hoping to turn that around this week. My Kindle is going to explode if I don’t give it some attention. I want to ask what you’re reading right now but that’s a dangerous question, when you already have a TBR list that stretches to the moon.
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!
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!
• 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!
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.
Have idea for book about a kid in silent film; start project file.
Begin researching, but you’ve got another novel coming out and it gets all your attention for a while.
Sell a different book on proposal, spend years researching & writing. Eventually decide it doesn’t want to be a YA novel after all; it’s an adult book. Probably not even a novel—it wants to be narrative nonfiction. Later, you’ll be intrigued by the possibilities this revelation opens up, but for a while it’s a hard pill to swallow.
Get breast cancer and move to Portland in the same week. Call your editor to ask if you can shelve the not-actually-a-kids’-book draft & give her something new, there’s this idea you’ve been playing with for a long time. Hooray, she loves the concept! Have this conversation in the hotel literally the day after moving away from the town where your book will be set. Then go do the surgery and radiation thing. Watch lots of silent films during your recovery.
Holy cats, you have a book to write. Reinvent your entire daily schedule so you can get pages done before the kids wake up. Research during every spare minute. Write like mad.
Plan a research trip to San Diego. Cancel the trip when your child is hospitalized for MRSA. Reschedule the trip when he’s better. Borrow your friends’ in-law suite. Spend days blissfully working in the microfilm archives of early 20th century newspapers. Find ideas for about six more books.
Summer 2018-early winter 2019
Write like mad. Hold down several freelance gigs on the side. Homeschool your kids. Panic a little each time you glance at a calendar. Turn in your manuscript on the last second of the last minute of the due date.
Edits! Revisions! Realize the grandfather disappears halfway through the manuscript, so just kill him off entirely. Sorry, Grandpa.
Copyediting! Galleys! Swoon over the cover art & squeal with glee over interior sketches. Fly cross country for your brother-in-law’s wedding & huddle over final pass pages in the hotel lobby. Start drafting your author’s note in the airport. Finish it at your favorite pub back in Portland after your trip. Write “author’s note” on the receipt (tater tots + a Coke) and stash it where you’ll find it a year later, just for the smile.
Make an appointment to have the weird spot on your nose checked. When the doctor wants to biopsy it, ask for a few days’ grace period. Call your brilliant photographer friend Jennie and book a head-shot session with her because your previous head shot is 12 years old and who knows what your nose will look like if the spot turns out to be something.
The spot turns out to be something.
Have a fascinating and unnerving surgery to remove basal cell carcinoma from the middle of your face. Get 45 stitches. Feel really glad you splurged on Jennie’s photos the week before Christmas. During your recovery, start making travel plans for next summer & hope your nose won’t look too scary for your young readers.
Oh hey it’s a global pandemic! Turns out no one cares about your nose, not even you.
Spend half the day on Zoom. Fondly recall the Before Times, when you went places. Cancel all your plans to go places. Figure out what to do for your book since school visits and conferences are off the table. Feel a little sick about the timing. Know that it could be worse. Suck it up and start sharing the preorder link. Hold your breath as the reviews start to come in. They’re great! Start breathing again. Scream for your spouse when a reviewer on Twitter compares your book to a Beverly Cleary novel. Wonder if you could have that tweet engraved on your gravestone.
Two weeks before launch day, become convinced you need bangs. Watch a lot of Youtube videos on how to cut your own bangs. Recognize that all these people have straight hair and yours is never going to look like that. Scrap the whole bangs thing. Stress over what to do on launch day. Realize that this is technically event-planning, an activity that lives at the absolute bottom of your skill set. Decide to focus on something that sits a whole lot higher on that list, which is reading to kids. Ask a local bookstore if you can make arrangements for people who want to order signed copies. Start a large-scale embroidery project to soothe your frazzled nerves. Realize you’ve been sitting with a needle frozen in the air for twenty minutes…because you’re lost in thought about a scene in your next book.
Small delights: flowering oregano and coneflower. Two ripe blueberries. Chickadees chatty in the bushes. The air still cool. Kimiko Hahn, Billy Collins, and Ross Gay in my head. Huck working out percentages in an absorbed murmur as he comes down the stairs. Bees in the lavender. Pens in the jar.