The writer-teacher-librarian world has so many wonderful conferences. Years ago I got to go to the American Library Association, and last fall I was at the meeting of the National Council of English Teachers.  These are amazing events, with energy levels through the (very high convention center) roof.  I attend as a presenter, but spend most of my time listening and taking in what others have to share. Also–I get to fan-girl at talks by favorite writers and bloggers.

This coming week it’s

I’ve never been to AWP before–let alone Tampa. And though I know Karina and Janet through e-mail and e-chat, I’ve never met them for real. Writing is a solitary profession, so the chance to talk shop and craft with my co-workers is a crazy delight.  Besides the Florida sunshine, there’s much to look forward to.

(By the way, AWP stands for Association of Writers and Writing Programs! Lots of university presses and MFA programs are represented, so the book-browsing should be stellar.)


Show and Tell

It’s school visit time again.  One of the questions kids often ask me is, What inspires you to write? My answer is always YOU!  Writing is usually a solitary job. It’s me, my cat, and my muse, who too often sleeps in or decides to spend the day with some other writer. There’s a lot of mumbling to myself, a lot of squinting out the window (where the view, Cleveland in mid-winter, is bleak).

So visiting with kids who brim with energy and curiosity, who have imaginations and hearts so big that they care about the characters in stories as deeply as they do real people–well. I always leave tired out, but in the very best way, having given and received in equal measure. The next day, I’m ready to dive back into my work, renewed and inspired.

Here’s the fountain of happiness one school made to celebrate the visit:

IMG_1333(Kids wrote things that made them happy on those beautiful strips of paper.)

And here’s a portrait of me done by a kindergartner:

IMG_1379 (I didn’t really step on her, I promise!)

And here’s me, enormous talking head, during one of the many terrific Skype visits I’ve gotten to do this month:

DU_PlyiW0AAYqyO(It was as cozy as it looks.) (I’ve been everywhere from Alberta, Canada to the Bahamas, all in my PJ bottoms.)

Lots more visits to come! I won’t be lacking for inspiration any time soon, thank goodness.


Almost Time



Almost time to say goodbye to a year that brought me much personal pleasure, as I watched my children (grown but still my girls) navigate big, new professional risks (amazing to me, a woman whose career has been forged mostly in solitude, here in this house, at this old desk where I sit typing right now).  And as I listened to my granddaughter learn to speak (first the  Genesis syndrome, naming everything she saw, and now the sentence, declarative and interrogative and, most fun of all, the joke!) And as my love for my old friends deepened, and my delight in (still) making new friends reminded me how generous life can be.

Almost time to say goodbye to a year when my third Cody book, Cody and the Rules of Life, was published, and Every Single Second came out in paperback, and I sold a new picture book to Candlewick (picture books being the hardest of all for me to write,  the idea for this one came a zillion years ago, but only got itself onto paper last spring) which will be illustrated by a fabulous artist (how am I supposed to wait till 2020 for it to come out can someone please tell me???) I traveled farther and more often than ever before for my work, and can’t begin to say how grateful I am for the welcomes I received from young readers and the teachers, librarians and parents who nurture them.

For all that pleasure and good fortune, this is still a year I don’t for a minute regret leaving behind. The natural disasters and the mass shootings caused pain that will be years, if ever, healing. The country’s divisiveness is toxic, and I personally spent way too much time fueling my own fury at the Other Side.  I rarely make new year resolutions, but this year I resolve to be informed, but instead of letting the news eat my brain, I will let it feed my heart and move my feet. I’ll be working for change, in my community and state. And as always, I’ll be reaching deep into the well of hope as I write.

Welcome, 2018!!



How the West Was Done

I was invited to a book festival here

las vegas

It was my first time ever in Vegas, and all the movies and fiction didn’t prepare me for its strangely endearing mix of crassness and innocence.  I found myself loving the temple of Luxor– in that desert climate it was so easy to imagine we really were in Egypt! The Bellagio wowed me with its marble floors and formal Italian gardens and this Chilhuly ceiling.


Also–those dancing waters? How do they do that?  After a while though, round about the time we reached the awful Excalibur, the desire to be awed and wowed started to fade, and as night came on and the seams started to show, I was happy to know that the next day I’d be meeting the real Las Vegas–i.e. the families who live here. I had two wonderful school visits.

tricia2_origPlotting a story arc with K-2 students

tricia4_origStory hour with Brian Wenzel’s terrific “They All Saw a Cat”

The next day it was on to

IMG_0984where I was on a stellar panel

DMsTBXaUEAEQNiKand met some author heroes of mine (I knew Sharon but meeting Ibi was a first and an honor)


Afterwards Paul and I got in our little rented Yaris, which made going over 40 mph feel reckless and thrilling, and headed for Utah. But that is another post entirely.

(My) Linnea in Monet’s Garden

Do you know the wonderful picture book by Cristina Bjork and Lena Anderson? My daughters and I loved it when they were small.

And now we have our own real life Linnea! Here we are at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her somewhat disconcerted expression may be due to how quickly I snatched her up as she arrowed toward those flowers in the lower right hand corner.


Two down and who knows how many more to go–hooray!

22089573_1589799371042127_5649290075855566793_nYesterday I finished draft # 2 of my new novel. Well, finished–the very last scene is only sketched in. I was too tired to actually write it!

As you can see, there are birds. Also baby goats. Volcanoes and vultures and a haunted turret. This one  is affectionately known as my Off the Wall Book.

I lay awake last night thinking of all the changes I need to make. And feeling the usual self-doubt. But underneath it all, a percolating excitement. I’m on my way, I’ve got a story worth crafting.  A writer can’t ask for more.

National Book Festival

It’s been a writer-dream of mine to someday go to the…

IMG_0789…and this year I did! My book Moonpenny Island was picked to represent Ohio in the…

IMG_0794…where every state, plus U.S. territories, had a booth.  What an honor and what a wild, wonderful day. Thousands–for real–of readers came out to share their love of books. I’d never seen anything like it. In between meeting and chatting and signing, I was able to duck away to hear Alice McDermott,  Gene Luen Yang, Javaka Steptoe, and Kelly Barnhill wow the crowds.  Roz Chast, my all-time favorite cartoonist, was there too,  Can’t even begin to name all the writers I was unable to catch. A ream of writers! An exaltation of readers! Truly a dream come true.




Once Upon a Time…

…there was a haunted house. No one had ever lived in it, at least no one the children knew. It had always stood on the corner, empty and dark except for the small, dim light that burned in an upstairs window.  The children dared each other to climb the crumbling front steps onto the porch, and some did, only to run back down with pounding hearts. Bones in the cellar. Ghosts in the attic. They were sure of it.

The neighborhood grown-ups, as you might guess, considered the place a hazard and an eyesore. Someone must own it–everything was owned by someone.  But year after year the house stood, empty and neglected and a little bit closer to falling down.

So, at last the city tore it down. The grown-ups were relieved. The children felt sorry.

How big the lot was. The old house had taken up most of it,  but when the rubble was cleared away, everyone was surprised by how much empty space there was. What to do with it? The city said it was up to the neighbors.

And so…something new began to grow. little library 2

Flowers. Some planted, some volunteers. little library

A little free library. (Which is, the narrator will now interrupt to say, her favorite thing of all. And to which she adds,  once or twice a week, children’s books she’s loved or hopes some child will love. And which makes her feel like a fairy godmother, a book fairy–but that must be another story…)

IMG_0623Art. Some by grownups…


…and some by children.

In honor of the haunted house, which some still wistfully remember, our little community park is now called

little library 3May it live, happily ever after!

(And lest you think the park has suffered an earthquake: I have no idea why my photos all loaded sideways, or how to right them. Deepest apologies if you have gotten a kink in your neck reading this.)

I Am Too Lazy to Think of a Title Here

Actually, summer is  a time when I do a lot of writing, long stretches mostly uninterrupted by school visits or appearances. Right now I’m working hard on a total revision of a middle grade novel that sadly imploded, and I think it might possibly maybe in some regards and in certain lights be going very well.  Next week we’re going away for some time by the ocean (my other mother) and since I’m on a roll I don’t dare take a break. I’ll be bringing the book with me, spending the mornings writing, walking the beach with my characters.

It wouldn’t be summer, though, without my garden…


…and Wednesdays with my grandbaby…

at the museum…and a visit to a summer reading program (which used to be my very favorite thing about working in a library) where I had the time of my life…summer reading…and the summer book festival at one of my favorite indies, Loganberry Books, where I got to kibbitz with my buddy Megan Whelan Turner (undocumented by photos, fortunately!)

I also want to write about my local little free library, but that deserves real thought and…I guess I am too lazy right now. Keep cool, everyone.