Thanks to Don Tate for his recent comments about Hugging the Rock on his blog. I haven’t heard from a lot of fathers of daughters yet so I had been waiting anxiously for his feedback. Also a big thanks to Camille at Book Moot for her review of Hugging the Rock with a prod and links for librarians to place orders for their own copy. Camille also posted her review on Amazon which I greatly appreciate.
Thank yous are in order, some long overdue:
Thanks to Kelly over at Big A little a and Jen Robinson at Jen Robinson’s Book Page for putting Hugging the Rock on their lists of top books for 2006. I’m honored to be listed with so many other wonderful books.
Some recent reviews for Hugging the Rock by loopiesnood http://loopiesnood.livejournal.com/1002.html and booksbynight http://booksbynight.livejournal.com/5721.html . Oh and Bookshelves of Doom reviewed it here:
Thanks to kidlit_kim for posting this review to YA Books Central and in the September issue, this review from School Library Journal:
Gr 5-8-Presented in brief, free-verse poems, this is a poignant character study of a dysfunctional family. In the opening sequence, Rachel watches her mother get ready to “run away from home,” packing up the car with everything that is important to her, except her daughter. When Mom is gone, neither Rachel nor her father can cope. Rachel shuts down and ignores schoolwork and friends, questioning why her mother left and blaming herself. Dad does not initially provide much comfort, closing himself off, too. As in Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick, 2000), father and daughter gradually grow closer together out of necessity and begin to pull together as a family. Rachel must accept the painful truth that her mother, who suffers from bipolar disorder, never really wanted to settle down or have children. Her father, who in the past had left most of the parenting to her mother, begins to play an active role in Rachel’s life and reveals his softer side, ultimately becoming more involved and affectionate. Written in straightforward language, the text clearly reveals Rachel’s emotions, describing moments both painful and reassuring. This novel will be therapeutic to children dealing with the loss of a parent or a mental illness.-Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Thank you to everyone who is supporting Hugging the Rock. It’s a real warm, fuzzy feeling when people read your book and then like it enough to tell someone else about. Blog posts, reviews, bookslists – they all add up. So if you have read Hugging the Rock and liked it enough to reccomend it to even just one person, you have made a difference and I’m grateful.
My arm is really not any better but I’m going nuts not doing anything. When this all happened about four years ago the doctor basically said this is your life as long as you continue to type. (Or do anything else using that muscle on the right side, such as peel potatoes and use scissors which is how I caused a flareup.) So until I can leave the dayjob (not in the immediate future) I’m going to have to be careful of the typing I do after hours or put up with the pain that really isn’t going anywhere unless I just quit using my right arm for good. I figure wading back into blogging can be more easily controlled than some other typing I might do. And I must confess that I worry about disappearing from view if I don’t pop up more often (which isn’t a good thing with a book coming out in a couple of months). And I really, REALLY missed not having anything for poetry Friday.
So first a couple of thank yous. First to booksbynight for her championing of Hugging the Rock to Booksense. It’s a thrill when people love your book enough to tell others about it and try to help it get recognition. And thank you to Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy for her wonderful review of Hugging the Rock. There is a bit of spoiler talk toward the end but she warns you if you don’t want to read that far.
And now for a question. If I were able to convince my fabulous editor to do a bit of guest blogging, (actually we’d do some back and forth with her and me and then I’d post it here but I’m sure she could be convinced to pop over and answer some questions), would that be of interest to readers? If so, what might you like to see discussed? We thought of breaking down another poem, one that had a lot of editorial process to it. Are there any editorial questions about Hugging the Rock that you might like to address to her? Once I get an idea of what people might want to read, I see what I can do to convince her to join in the fun for a day or so.
I usually start researching a new book while I am in the midst of a current project. The idea behind that being I want to shorten the down time between finishing a book and diving into something new. It doesn’t work because no matter how much pre-research I have done I seem to always need a few months of down time (woe-is-me I’ll never write again time) between books. It’s my process and I try to honor it even if I don’t like or understand it.
Even though I ground my books by tying them in some time or way to an aspect of myself and my life there is always some sort of research to be done. Research for me usually starts with reading a bunch of fiction that has been pubbed in an area that might be similar to mine. (Books that would show up on a list of “If you liked this book then you might like this one.”) So for HUGGING THE ROCk I read every verse novel I could get my hands on. Then I read a lot of novels about divorce and mental illness and family relationships. After I feel full up on fiction it’s time to dig in deep for the details and move to the non-fiction. For Hugging the Rock that meant a lot of psychology stuff, case histories, divorce stories – you get the idea. When I couldn’t stand to read another word it was time to get down to the actual writing. Well, the trying to write. As I explained in a recent interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith the words didn’t exactly race from my fingertips to the page.
Anyway. HUGGING THE ROCK is done. I’ve gone through the galley for the final corrections and after a last chat with my editor tomorrow it heads off to the printers next week. It’s time to write. I made a commitment to start a new verse novel that I will refer to by the acronym MTLB until it is sold. I know sort of what it is about. (It’s inspired by the year long writing program I did at an alternative school a few years ago.) I know sort of who it is about. (M and his dad and N and his dad and Mrs. W.) I did a lot of research the last six months on juvenile justice and poverty and teaching and a bunch of other stuff that may or may not make it into the book. I wrote a few poems. I wrote a couple more. Then I got stuck and found myself using the excuse that I needed to do more research. Read just one more case history. Google a few more phrases. Watch one more movie. (Hey, movies are GREAT for research.) But after a few days of this I realized the truth. I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t researching. I was just procrastinating. Sometimes I wonder if procrastination is just a stew bubbling on a backburner, waiting for us to throw everything into the pot, stirring and adding interesting ingredients until the smell overpowers us and we simply have to dig in.
So yes, research is important. But knowing when to stop researching is important too. The research will still be there after I finish a draft, if I feel I really need it but you can’t factcheck a book you haven’t written yet.
And in the “thank you for all the kind words about me” department, I’ve had a few more shout-outs. It always feels a bit awkward tooting my own horn but here goes:
My picture book Oliver’s Must-do List received a nice review from Jen Robinson’s Book page.
Jen also reviewed Hugging the Rock. My favorite lines in review? “Rachel’s voice is pitch perfect.” and the fact that she calls the Mother’s Day poem “brilliant” and that she said, “I give it my highest recommendation.” Wow! Thank you, Jenn.
Thank you so much for your support of my book.
Thank you to Fuse #8 Production for the lovely (and first!) review of Hugging the Rock.
My favorite lines?
“Hugging” is a particularly enjoyable read. Dealing with issues as difficult as those found in any Karen Hesse or Sharon Creech book, Brown gives us the story of those who run away and those that stay.
Hell, it’s downright gutsy to go and create a mother character that seriously does not love her daughter.
It’s really gratifying to hear that someone “gets” the book the way you had hoped they would.
Color me tired. My house is 3 houses from the sound wall for the freeway. The freeway isn’t much traveled at night and, actually, for the last year we’ve been really pleased with how quiet this house is. Until last night. Oh my gosh! CalTrans – the company that does the California state road repairs, must have been working on some stretch of 85 last night because about 10:30 some big machinerary started up REALLY LOUD and kept it up until 4am this morning. Since I get up at 5, well, let’s just say I had a lot of time to think about my WIP. It’s a good thing today is Friday because I know that by noon, I will be barely able to hold myself up at the keyboard. Yawn.
On the publicity side of things,
And I think Oliver “might” have his first visit all on his own real soon. I should know something next week.
Writing progress? Like I said, lots of thinking time last night. I know something happened at the amusement park and I’m not looking forward to that research. And there’s a dentist, who would have thunk it? Frankie said he needs a bike.
Received the first review for Oliver’s Must-Do List yesterday. It was with Kirkus and since they are famous for their zingers I feel I have dodged the bullet. They only had a minor quibble with the illustrations which is fine because I think it is more of a style thing. (Others have said they really like the illustrations.) I can only share about 20 words for fair use which makes it hard to decide what to use for quotes. Right now I am leaning toward:
Adorable…a heart warmer.”–Kirkus Reviews
Color me happy even if Starbucks forgot the whipped cream in my mocha this morning.
Writing progress: Frankie is one smart kid, Max likes pickles, and I know enough about his sister to make my stomach hurt.