middle grade

Ripples from a book

Yesterday the ALA Youth Media awards were announced. It’s a big, big day in the world of children’s literature. Lives are changed by the experience of winning a major award. Careers take a flying leap forward. It seems like everyone in the industry knows the name of the winners, the names of the winning books.

Five years ago, after another ALA Youth Media awards day, I was pumped up with some excitement of my own. No, I didn’t win any big award but I did learn that my middle grade novel, Hugging the Rock, was named an ALA Notable. And it got a lovely, shiny  sticker on the cover.

Let me tell you, that pretty much rocked my world.That was when the book was in hardback. Then it came out in paperback. Then it sold to the UK. Then, well, then Tricycle was sold, the new publisher decided not to reprint the hardback version, and then, well, we got the news that Tricycle was going to be shut down for good. It was hard to remember that happy, shining moment five years ago when my book was new and people were giving it a lot of love. Hey, that’s the way it is in this crazy, wonderful business.But this past week has been filled with some other happy, shining moments with this book. I’m getting those requests from students for book report information (which is all on my website, if you just go to the “about me” page.) And some of those requests were prefaced with the student feedback that showedme they had actually read the book. One student told me that she wasn’t Rachel, the main character, but that she was Sara, and her best friend’s mom was just like Rachel’s mom in the book. She said reading Hugging the Rock helped her understand her friend a little better. Right to my heart with that one.

Then, this week, I received an email from a gentlemen who is going to facilitate a library discussion on Hugging the Rock with a group of students. He wrote to share his story with me and asked me some questions about the book. He was doing some heavy duty research on the story before he talked to the students because he knows, this is a tough topic and not one a lot of people want to deal with. So he spent some time reading my website and then my blog and it led him to this entry where I shared a college paper written by a young woman who identified very strongly with Hugging the Rock.

And then I got it. Some books make a huge splash all at once and get a lot of attention. And that is great and wonderful. (I’m all for anything that gets kids excited about books.)

But some books make ripples instead of splashes. If you’re someone who had a book come out this year and you’re wishing you had a great big splash, I say, don’t worry. There are still ripples to be made. Some books take time to find their audiences. Some books, like Hugging the Rock, need time for the adults to read them and then, to put them into the hands of the children who need to hear the stories.

Sure, who wouldn’t want to make a big splash now and then. But hey, a ripple can go on and on and on every time someone shares a book they love with someone they know needs to hear the story.

So if you can’t make a splash, make a ripple.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , |18 Comments

Winner of the Hugging the Rock Book Trailer Contest!

Congratulations to FreshBrain user caitlin1591 who is the winner of the $1,000 “FreshBrain Video Book Trailer Scholarship” based on my book, Hugging the Rock. There were so many really talented teens who entered the contest and I want to thank all of them for the time and effort they put into their trailers. Many of them really went for the heartstrings, just like my book.

Thank you, Cailin!

Monday, January 18, 2010|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , |6 Comments

Poetry Friday Roundup

The Poetry Friday round-up is here so leave your links in the comments and I’ll round them up through-out the day. (Note, I’m on West Coast so expect some delay.)

I had so much fun doing this audio of the first poem in my book Hugging the Rock that I thought I would repost it for Poetry Friday. It’s called, NO ROOM. I hope you like it.
Read about the evolution of the poem NO ROOM from its inception here or read about the $1000 schloarship contest for teens who create a book trailer for Hugging the Rock here.

CREDIT LINE: Posted with permission from Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown.  Copyright © 2006 by Susan Taylor Brown, Tricycle Press, Berkeley, CA. www.tenspeed.com.

NOTE: I have removed the played due to some issues with LJ Embed. You can listen to it by going here instead.

The round-up – a little later than I planned but life had other ideas for me today.

Nandini Bajpai has an original about an Itchy Dog at Notes from New England.

Jama Rattigan is celebrating Johnny Appleseed’s birthday with a poem by Marge Piercy and 4 apple cake recipes:

It’s a feast for the eyes and the ears over at Educating Alice where Monica Edinger shares about the forthcoming book Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Julie Larios offers us a poem by Margaret Gibson titled “Autumn Grasses” – it’s based on an Edo painting by Shibata Zeshin.

A Year of Reading has a poem about fall by Georgia Heard, along with information about her upcoming blog tour!

Today at My World/Mi Mundo the celebration continues for Hispanic Heritage Month with a poem by celebrating Gabriela Mistral, the first Nobel Prize Latina Woman winner in 1945.

Laura Salas shares an original poem called “Without” (not the same as last week’s Without Rancor):
And this week’s 15 Words or Less poems are here.

Heidi Mordhorst is pointing everyone toward the important not-exactly poetry book If You Find a Rock  by Peggy Christian.

Gisele LeBlanc gives us an original poem for children, titled, “Magic Cure“.

Kurious Kitty shares “Invictus” and Random Noodling celebrates the International Day of Peace.

A Sleepy Elf is in with a poem about sleeping (and other things), called “Things” by William J. Smith

Linda is in with four original tanka.

Sara Lewis Holmes blogged about Sherman Alexie yesterday and today she is featuring his new collection of poetry, FACE, and one of the poems in it, “How to Create An Agnostic.”

Laura @ Author Amok says, “Donald Hall is reading here in central Maryland next weekend. I’m sharing his seasonal poem, “Ox Cart Man,” to welcome fall.”

You can find a little bit of Eugene O’Connell posted here.

Tabatha A. Yeatts offers some ancient Greek poetry by Sappho today.

An original cinquain for dog lovers by Kelly Polark.

Poetry Friday on The Stenhouse Blog shares “The Light of September”  by W. S. Merwin.

At Wild Rose Reader, Elaine Magliaro has a poem for Banned Books Week. It’s a revised version of Book Talk 2007, a poem about censorship that she wrote because of the kerfuffle caused by a certain word that Susan patron included in her book THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. At Political Verses, Elaine has another original–“Dirty Dancing with the Stars: A Poem about Tom DeLay.” And at Blue Rose Girls, Elaine shares a poem by Elaine Equi titled “Ciao Bella Chocolate Sorbet.”

Semicolon is highlighting Felicia Hemans’ poem: “The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck and its imitators.”

Karen Edmisten brings us Taylor Mali’s “Undivided Attention” this week.

Today at Teaching Authors April Halprin Wayland shares a lesson in writing about uncomfortable feelings and an original poem about jealousy.

Lectitans is in with “Against Cinderella” by Julia Alvarez.

Susan at Chicken Spaghetti chimes In with a post that links to poetry by Colin West, including two tongue twisters.

In Honor of Fall the Write Sisters share a favorite from Robert Louis Stevenson at

After reading The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker, an enjoyable book about a poet with writer’s block who has to write an intro to an anthology of rhyming poetry, Emily Cook looked up Sara Teasdale and found a poem perfect for her day.

Jules from 7-Imp says, “I’m in today with a poem from a friend, Shannon Collins“(And some picture book art, too.)

Father Goose shares his original poem “Ars Longa, Vita Brevis“.

Jiill Corcoran put together Poetry for the Classrom: 6 fun poetry lessons for teachers and visiting authors.

Tracy Marchini has an original about a prom date related break-up.(not autobiographical! 🙂 )

Lorie Ann Grover has the I’m missing-my-daughter-blues and shares an original poem titled “Off to College” and at readertotz they have “There was a Little Guinea-Pig”.

Bildungsroman posted lyrics from the song More than Fine by Switchfoot.

Jone at Check It Out has some fun haiku riddles inspired by Tricia (The Miss Rumphius Effect)

Carol of Carol’s Corner is in with a review of Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough’s new book, A PLACE FOR WONDER

Friday, September 25, 2009|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: , , , , |44 Comments

Hugging the Rock on TV

How exciting is it to see a copy of your book on TV?

Very. Very very exciting.

A huge thank you to author Katie Davis for showcasing my book, Hugging the Rock, on TV(in Connecticut)http://tinyurl.com/nffgvm for Father’s Day round-up.

Sunday, June 21, 2009|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |9 Comments

Listen to Me Read – Doctor Dan From Hugging the Rock


In addition to my native garden inspired Haiku for every day in April I am also happy to be able to share permission to do a few audio recordings of some poems from Hugging the Rock to help celebrate National Poetry Month.

CREDIT LINE: Posted with permission from Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown. Copyright © 2006 by Susan Taylor Brown, Tricycle Press, Berkeley, CA. www.tenspeed.com.

The Poetry Friday roundup today is at Becky’s Book Reviews.
 
 
 
 

Today’s poem is Doctor Dan.

Listen to Me Read – No Room From Hugging the Rock

When I was thinking about Poetry Month for this year I knew I really wanted to find something different for me to do in order to feel more involved. So in addition to my native garden inspired Haiku per day I asked my publisher if I could have permission to do a few audio recordings of some poems from Hugging the Rock.

And they said YES!

I have permission for do one audio recording for each Poetry Friday in April. I knew which poem I wanted to do first but I’m still trying to pick out the other three. If you have a favorite, let me know.So here, for the very first time, is an audio of the first poem in the book. It’s called, NO ROOM. I hope you like it.

CREDIT LINE: Posted with permission from Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown. Copyright © 2006 by Susan Taylor Brown, Tricycle Press, Berkeley, CA. www.tenspeed.com.

Who's Hugging the Rock?

It’s always hard for me (and perhaps for many authors) to talk about myself and my books. Sometimes I fear people will think I am putting more credence in my words (or self) than I should. Other times I perhaps don’t value myself or my words enough. Sometimes it’s just hard to toot your own horn. Which means it is especially nice when someone comes along who understands where a story might have sprung from or who looks at a story I have written in a completely different way and makes me wonder if that was what I meant all along.

I’ll tell you right now that this is a long post but one I think is worth the time it will take you to read it.

Over the period of writing Hugging the Rock I was asked (and asked myself) what this story was really all about. I started off thinking it was about my daughter and her father. I ended thinking it was about me and never knowing my father. But now, several years after the book has been out, Erica Harrington makes me wonder more about the mother in the story.

I have never met Erica but she won my heart by the kindness that she shows to my son Ryan. They both volunteer at the Loma Vista Life Skills class for adults with disabilities. When Erica told Ryan she was working on a children’s book project for school he put her in touch with me so I could offer whatever helpful tips I might have to share. It was fun to see her excitement as her own book took shape. Toward the end of the school year Erica sent me a paper she had written. A paper she had written on MY BOOK.

This was a first for me and I confess, I was a little bit nervous about opening it the first time. What would I say if it I didn’t like it? Luckily, that was not a problem. Instead I was blown away by her thoughts on the book. I also wanted to give her a hug of my own.

Today is Erica’s birthday, so it seemed like the perfect time to share this. Happy birthday, Erica! May you continue to touch the lives of many with your kind heart.

With Erica’s permission, her is her entire paper on my middle grade verse novel, Hugging the Rock.

                                               Who’s Hugging the Rock

                                                       by Erica HarringtonIn Hugging the Rock, Susan Taylor Brown tells the poignant story of a young girl abandoned by her bipolar mother, her painful attempts to adapt to life without her, and her eventual bonding with her father as they create a new life for themselves. Written in achingly touching free verse in the daughter’s voice, the story will undoubtedly lead most readers to identify with the abandoned daughter, Rachel, and to feel sympathetic toward her clueless but well-meaning father as he tries to make it up to her. Having survived an abusive childhood, I very often identify with the child victim because of the many injustices she must endure at the hands of an unstable parent.  However, Susan Taylor Brown so brilliantly sheds light on the frightening truths of being bipolar, un-medicated, and in the throes of uncontrolled episodes of manic depression that I cannot help but see the unfairness and cruelty of this gripping story through the eyes of the absent mother. While no one would deny the innocent young girl’s suffering in this horrendous situation not of her own making, I would argue that the first victim here is Rachel’s mother.


Rachel’s anguish is evident throughout the story. From the first it is obvious that Rachel is confused and distraught that her mother is packing to leave “with all the things that matter most” (2)—not Rachel: “…By the time she’s done / there’s no room left for anything else. / No room left for Dad. / And no room left for me” (3). It’s clear that Rachel knows her mother’s leaving makes no sense, but that doesn’t lessen the pain, and neither does her father’s explanation: “The hurt / settles in my heart / like one of those giant rocks you tie to something / when you want it to sink / and I feel like I am drowning / in the truth / of his words” (132). Her father’s pain, guilt, and bumbling attempts to bond with her are also apparent. In telling her the whole truth about her mom, Rachel’s father admits, “I felt like a failure” (131), and goes on to say, “…when I couldn’t give you the mom you deserved / I just stopped trying” (131). Their relationship begins to mend and rebuild when she lets him squeeze her hand and tell her lovingly, “…I wanted you then / and I want you now” (132). Both Rachel and her father are sympathetic victims in this situation. But what about the mother?

It’s easy to blame any mother who would abandon her child—she must be selfish or irresponsible or weak—because there is a far greater level of expectation than for fathers, a demand to be perfectly and instinctively maternal. The prototypical fairytale mother is either all-knowing and kind, or completely unfeeling and villainous. But what if your instincts are all wrong, not suited to this responsibility? What if you cannot do what society expects? It is Rachel’s mother who is truly a victim: of her disease, of society’s expectations of women, of society’s ignorance about mental illness, and of her husband’s selfish desire for a child, thinking that he could fix her by tying her down to what for her is a monstrous, impossible responsibility.

Rachel’s father admits his wife did not want a baby. She knew herself well enough to know she couldn’t handle it, but he pressured her anyway, knowing her history of serious instability. Rachel’s dad tells her “…how Mom said she wasn’t cut out to be a mother / and how he said she could learn / and how they fought about it until Mom gave in” (130). Some victory.
 

There is ample proof Rachel’s mother was unable to handle the responsibility of raising a child because of her unmedicated and uncontrolled manic episodes, both before and after Rachel’s birth.  The risks she took while Rachel was in her care are frightening: “My mom liked to drive fast / especially around corners / where she could jerk the steering wheel so hard / …and she’d take one hand off the steering wheel / …laughing so loud that I had to laugh too” (86). When in a manic state, there is a feeling of invincibility that a person experiences, and this euphoria can be dangerous because of the risks a manic person is willing to take without regard for those around them. Surely Rachel’s father knew this.Who is the real villain here, if there is one? If Rachel’s father knew his wife was “all mixed up inside” (129), to put it mildly, how could he knowingly pressure her into becoming a mother when she was so dependent on him to be her rock? He took advantage of this for his own selfish needs, admitting to Rachel, “…I needed to be needed” (129), and yet he didn’t support her the way she needed him to. He prevailed on her to have a baby, making a promise he had no right to make—”he tells me / how he promised her / that she could leave whenever she wanted…” (130)—putting her in an untenable situation and using guilt and Rachel as a pawn in his attempt to keep her from leaving. How is this fair to Rachel, to know that her mother could not be what she was expected to be, and that her father had brought her into this unstable life to fill his own personal void? Did he even consider the impact it would have on Rachel’s mother, let alone the impact it would have on Rachel herself?

Hugging the Rock
brings out my deepest, most personal fears of becoming a mother and living my life the way Rachel’s mother does—a frightening, never-ending, manic swing of instability, inconsistency and absentminded, uncaring parenting. I feel as though bringing a child into the world when one cannot manage herself is the most irresponsible a person can be when diagnosed with a mental illness. Rachel’s mother did not want to take on that responsibility, she was pressured into it. I would argue, therefore, that it was the healthiest thing for Rachel’s mother to do to leave her daughter with her father because it shows, on some level, that she realizes she cannot fulfill the role of wife and mother forced on her by her husband, on whom she was dependent. The way Rachel’s mother behaves and the way her absence affects Rachel is my greatest fear as a woman with Bipolar Disorder—I do not want to have children for fear of allowing my life and personal relationships to fall in shambles. Susan Taylor Brown’s story of an abandoned girl is an anthem to the power of a father-daughter relationship, yet speaks just as loudly, if not more so, to the tragedy of an abandoned woman, forced to battle her mental illness on her own.

Thank you, Erica.

Thank you for reading my book with such an open heart and mind. Thank you for responding to my story with a full heart. And thank you for letting me share your paper with the rest of the world.

Monday, June 16, 2008|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |26 Comments

Middle grade historical fiction

Okay, my own brain is frozen but I know there are lots of folks out there who can help. My friend

is looking for some good historical middle grade fiction to read. If you’ve got some suggestions for her, why not pop over to her blog and let her know.

Thanks!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008|Categories: Books|Tags: , |1 Comment

Dublin & San Mateo appearances

Short notice, I know.  Reading and signing for Hugging the Rock.

Barnes & Noble
Dublin, CA 
Saturday, November 10th
1pm 

Barnes & Noble 
San Mateo, CA, 
Saturday, November 17th
1pm .

If you’re in the area, I’d love to meet you.

Friday, November 9, 2007|Categories: Events|Tags: , , , , |3 Comments

Sticker shock!

Oooh – isn’t it pretty? That’s an ALA notable sticker on my book.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007|Categories: Random, Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |52 Comments

2007 Notable Children's Books

I’m tooting my own horn here as I am very thrilled to have found out that Hugging the Rock was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book.   Here’s the complete list.  Congrats to all the wonderful books who made the list.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , , |100 Comments

some very nice news!

I had a lovely email from my publicist at Tricycle who shared this very nice news with me:

Hugging the Rock has won a place on VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) Magazine¹s Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers. It will be announced and published in their February issue.

I am doing a big WOOHOO here at work and scaring all the engineers.

Thursday, December 14, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |52 Comments

thank you to Don Tate and Camille at Book Moot

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.

Monday, October 16, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

Book launch party – the details

Yes, I am remiss in getting these detail of the book launch party posted in a timely manner. But there’s a good reason for that. A very good reason. The launch, pre and post, have been a cause for much self-reflection on my part. Which means that this is a very very long post. I didn’t have time to make it shorter.

Here’s the thing. The party was all about me. That’s a hard thing for an INFP, for an EXTREME INFP, and one that generally has issues with low self-esteem. In the weeks building up to it all, Hayley, my wonderfully energetic publicist, kept saying, “Are you getting excited about it? It’s going to be so much fun.” and I would say “sure” and hang up the phone and begin to worry that maybe I wouldn’t get excited and maybe it wouldn’t be fun and maybe the whole thing would be a flop and the only people who would come would be my devoted husband and in-laws and then my publisher would see that spending all this money on me and the book and the ARCs and everything was this big mistake because obviously I was not going to be able to pull off this competent writer thing. I think I did have one melt-down on the phone with Hayley when we were trying to decide what type of a launch to have and I was all for hanging it on some other community fund-raising event because people might come out to support a non-profit but I simply couldn’t imagine them coming to see me.

Reasons for me thinking that?

#1- I live in San Jose. Population, a million people give or take. Local news is not interested in a writer like me because I have no name (yet?) so coverage in the local paper (except for the online calendar which I don’t think anyone reads) is nada.#2 – I live in San Jose but I grew up in Concord which is about an hour away. But the thing is, I’m not in touch with anyone I grew up with so it was really a moot point. I don’t have a large circle of friends to draw from. My critique group is online and spread out coast-to-coast. I work with a bunch of mostly male engineers who indulge me my writing for children but, you know… So mostly thinking about the guest list was depressing. I felt like a social failure.

#3 – I may work in San Jose but I’m not active in anything. When I my kids were young and I lived out in Oakley we had baseball and soccer and gymnastics and 4H and horse shows and karate and PTO and so many events with so many people that the guest list would have been HUGE. I have only done 2 school visits since moving back to California so I didn’t even have those contacts to draw upon. (I hadn’t been doing visits because until fall of 2005 – the PB in print was spiritual and not appropriate for most schools.) The fact that I wasn’t active in my town was brought home to me when working on a recent grant application and community contributions counting for a large percentage of the “grade.” After reading that, I doubt I’ll finish the application.

So if you are an extreme INFP like me, perhaps you can understand my difficulty with the idea of the event. I wanted to do it. I wanted to be excited about it. But it really seemed like an uphill battle. Then I got a case of the gotta wannas. The gotta wannas are what you get when you want something badly enough to work your rear off to make it work even when the odds seem stacked against you. Publishing is a gotta wanna. This event turned out to be another. Thing is, I started off wanting it to be a hit for everyone else who wanted it to be a hit for me. I didn’t want to let down Nicole, my editor and publisher and a real rock to me or the energetic marketing team of Laura and Hayley who continually work like crazy to make me feel like a superstar or my husband EG who puts up with so much so I can write or my in-laws who are the best support system I could ever hope to have or Karen, my former agent who drove all the way up San Luis Obispo to be there or my current agent Jodi who finds time for me in the midst of the 1001 other things she has to do for people who are way more well known than I can ever imagine being and so on and so on and so on.

Leading up to the party I had a lot of time to think about two very important things. What to wear and what to read. The week before the event (I am good at leaving things to the last minute) I raced into Nordstroms and informed the salesgirl that I wasn’t leaving until I had one great outfit. It took close to 3 hours but we managed to find one. Another hour in the shoe department (alas, no red boots in sight ala thatgirlygirl but I did find some fabulous red shoes with the requisite pointy toe.) Deciding what to read took longer and right up until the moment I opened the book and started to read I was still changing my mind about that. It was helpful to have gone to Patty McCormick’s reading a few weeks before and see how she skipped through the book but still gave a nice representation of the story. I had many Post-it notes on pages of one book and then worried about losing the book before the reading. Things I also worried about: wondering where I would keep my purse while I was speaking, whether to pull all my hair away from my face (my mother’s voice in my head) or let it just hang down in front like usual, when to refreshen my lipstick so it would last the longest, when to go to the bathroom for the last time before things started, if I would mispronounce the word marmoset in the last poem I planned to read and what the chances were that I would either tip over on my 1″ heel or spill water down the front of my new and expensive clothes. Actually the chances were high on both of those things but luckily, neither happened.

The day of the event I went to work like any other day. My publicist called mid-day to go over a few things and said, “You’re at work?” My former agent called me from the road and said, “You’re at work?” I had lunch in the cafeteria with my friend MM and he said, “Aren’t you excited? I’m excited. Come on, get excited.” About then I started to worry that I WOULDN’T get excited and that I would mess the whole thing up. But about 2pm the adrenalin kicked in and I was like “OMIGOSH” it’s almost time for the party!

I went home early to be sure that I had plenty of time to get ready but of course I had several mini panic moments that almost made me late, the last of which was punching holes in the straps of my new shoes so they didn’t slip off my feet while I was walking. I could trip just fine without any help, thank you very much. I got to the store in plenty of time and lo and behold there was a parking place right in front of the store. This was a good thing except for the fact that it required parallel parking. Here’s hoping that none of the guests were in those cars I blocked while making a 10 point turn parallel parking exhibition.

The gracious Sandy (store events coordinator) was there to greet me with the words, “Oh you’re so early” which immediately made me feel like I had done something wrong until I remembered that I had told my former agent I’d be there early so we could chat. I went to the bathroom and pulled my hair back with combs, took them out then put them back in again. Put on more lip gloss and went out to wait for the food to arrive while they set up the tables and chairs.

Right about HERE is where the picture of the poster advertising my party and the book in the glass case outside of Books Inc would go had I remembered to take a picture. Use your imagination. Got it? It was better than that. And HERE is where the picture of the huge display of Hugging the Rock would go had I remembered to take a picture of it. They also had a few copies of Oliver’s Must-do List and Can I Pray With My Eyes Open? on display as well. Sigh. Next time perhaps I will remember.

Karen, (former agent) was the first to arrive with her dog Zoe.  Zoe had a stroke a few weeks ago but pulled out of it and the store let her come in and stay for the event. (Books Inc, at least in Mountain View, is a very dog friendly store) In case it seems weird for my former agent to be there you should know that Karen was the person who first showed Hugging the Rock to Nicole at Tricycle. There’s another whole long story about what happened after that and how Karen stopped agenting and I got the wonderful Jodi as my new agent but I won’t go into all that here.

All at once it seemed like people showing up right and left.

Food arrived and had to be arranged. Husband arrived and my first question to him was did I need more lip gloss. He said no. I asked if my lips were sparkly shiny and he said yes. But even so I went back to the bathroom and put on more lip gloss. (I know what you’re thinking. Stop laughing please.) He took the camera and promised to shoot lots of pictures. I don’t think we had time to chat again until we were both home.

I lost track of who came in when but each time the door opened and I saw a familiar face it was like being at a wedding and realizing that everyone was there to see you (or me, as the case might be.) People from my work showed up. Hugs ensued. People my husband worked with walked in. More hugs. People I used to work with but who had been laid off arrived and everyone was catching up with everyone else. Some old friends from SCBWI were there and some new faces for me, new writers just starting out joined in the fun. Walter the Giant and Jack from my acting class and I am sure I am forgetting people and I apologize. My in-laws arrived bringing friends with them. Nicole, my publisher and her husband and her father and step mom were there. Summer, another Tricycle editor and Laura and Hayley in marketing and publicity arrived and even Dr. Melody, the surgeon who set my broken finger, managed to stay for most of the event before being called to the ER. Around 60 people were there all told. People I work with made a lot of comments about how fabulous I looked which leads me to believe I should consider dressing a bit better for my day job.

People were nibbling on food and mingling and I was trying to make sure that some people met one another but it was tough. Then suddenly it seemed like everyone was seated and it was time to get started.

Sandy did a wonderful job of introducing me.  She went to my website and learned all about me and shared quite a bit during the intro. She read the book (yes, sometimes people introduce you that haven’t read your book.) She managed to get several plugs for people to go check out my website. And then she handed me the microphone.

I was ready. I had the book. I had the pages marked.  But wait, I still had my glasses on.

This meant I could see the people in the audience great but I wasn’t sure if I could read. If I had had more experience with microphones (this was my first time with one) I might have had the presence of mind to stop and put it on the stand and adjust it low but instead, I just took it from Sandy and started to talk, thanking people for coming and then going right into the first poem. Luckily I guess I had read that one enough that I could manage it slightly blurry but as soon as I came to the end I took off my glasses. This of course meant that I could read just fine but the people in the audience were a bit blurry. This might have been a good thing after all. I could see the outline of the Tricycle Press people standing in the back of the room. (Did I mention that there were so many people there that it was standing room only?)

Laura (marketing manager) kept gesturing to me to practically eat the microphone. The only hiccup in everything was that the mic had a short and it kept cutting in and out. Since I had no idea what to do I just kept moving the microphone around but didn’t pause in my speaking. Later I had many people tell me that I handle the mic problems like a pro but really I think I was on auto pilot and wanted to finish the speaking part. I’m grateful for whatever instincts carried me through.  I did not cry during the reading but I was afraid I might at either THE ROCK or MADISON. The last poem I read was THE TRUTH ABOUT FATHERS and I did not mispronounce marmoset. Whew! When I was done there was much clapping from the audience and much relief from me that I survived. Tricycle gave away a couple of copies of the book in a drawing and I sat down to sign them. When I looked up there was this tremendous line of people with more books for me to sign. I was, to say the least, a bit blown away.

The bookstore sold a lot of books and was very happy. My publisher and the rest of the Tricycle family kept telling me how proud they were of me. People came to give me more hugs, a few gifts, some flowers, and say goodbye. Then it was time for the part of the night I had been looking forward to most of all. Giving gifts to a few special people. I knew I could do flowers or chocolate but I really wanted something that would have staying power. The Tricycle Press crew is a new family for me and they have set the bar for my ideal publisher/editor/writer relationship.

So I had something special made for them. Rocks. Carved rocks. . There’s some writing on the back of each one too. It was great fun to hand them out and see their reaction. Michael at Let’s Rock did a fabulous job on them. They are even more spectacular in person.

I kept all my emotions under control until late in the evening when I was trying to tell the Tricycle team how much they meant to me and Laura said to me, “You get back what you give.” and I about lost it. In the several days post launch as I have been reliving it I find I am growing more, not less, emotional about it all. I think I finally have to let go of the image of the person I thought I was, the person I didn’t like so I couldn’t imagine anyone else liking either. I have to let go of the guilt of not being some imagined “perfect person” and realize that people like and accept me as I am right now. And if they all think I am a person of value then maybe I better start to believe in it too.

So that was my night of feeling like a super star. I wish you all could have been there to celebrate with me.

Saturday, September 30, 2006|Categories: Events, Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , , |85 Comments

Teacher's guide for Hugging the Rock

I can’t remember if I posted this yet or not but I did, some of you could probably do with a reminder, right? 🙂

Thanks to traciezimmer I have a fabulous teaching guide for Hugging the Rock. Go ahead and download the PDF. (You know you want to.) If you are a teacher or librarian and you use Hugging the Rock with your class, I would love to know what you did and how it went. 

Sunday, September 17, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , |3 Comments

Hugging the Rock reviews

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.

I don’t know if I posted a recent interview over at I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Little Willow over at Slayground and more recently, this interview with Vision Magazine

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.

Thursday, September 14, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |6 Comments

Thank you, Fuse #8 Production

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.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |7 Comments

FRICKIN' AWESOME!!!!

Those were the words from my Marketing & Publicity Manager when she got her first look at the galleys for Hugging the Rock today. And the publisher said the galleys rock and were absolutely gorgeous. Oh it’s going to be hard to wait until they get to me. (You HAVE entered the contest, haven’t you? Deadline is midnight.) And they are going to hand out galleys at the following conferences: PLA, TLA, IRA, BEA, ALA.

Translations for those acronyms are:
* Public Library Association
* Texas Library Association
* International Reading Association
* Book Expo
* American Library Association

Oh me. Oh my. I just wish I could figure out how to get my local paper to review me but it seems to be nigh on impossible. Time for me to go over my list of other reviewers and work on some good pr campaigns.

Yippee!!!

Friday, March 17, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |30 Comments

Galleys and blurbs and many things

So when Cynthia Lord knew her galleys were coming for book Rules she got the bright idea to hold a little contest to see when they would arrive and offered to send a copy of the galleys to the winner. I’ve been racking my brain  trying to think of a unique contest of my own for the galleys but no such luck. I decided that if you’re going to copy, why not copy from the best? With credit to cynthialord I hereby launch the official Hugging the Rock “When Will They Get Here” galleys contest. My publicist said they have been ordered and will be at the publisher on Friday. This Friday. Then mine will be shipped to me. Note: Both my publisher and I are on the same coast.

By my reckoning I should have them by the end of March so here are the ten arrival date options:
3/19, 3/20, 3/21, 3/22, 3/23, 3/27, 3/28, 3/29, 3/30, 3/31  Pick one and win!

And another plug for you to sign up for my newsletter (just in case you forget to read my blog.) The first issue will go out shortly and, if you’re a subscriber, there will be another contest in the newsletter to win a copy of the published book.

Getting early attention for your book is really important but I think it’s also hard for many writers to do because so many of us, (like ME) are introverts. I have a hard time jumping up and down and asking people to look at my book, read my book, review my book. But I truly believe that Hugging the Rock is the best thing I have written yet and if it takes me going out on the limb to the uncomfy zone to talk about it, I will. So that brings me to the topic of blurbs. My publisher mentioned it was time to start thinking about blurbs. Blurbs are endorsements, bits of praise, the appear on the cover (back or sometimes front). Actually they’re used in all sorts of promotional efforts.

Usually they’re by someone famous but my publisher said they use blurbs from regular readers, reviewers, librarians, etc for all sorts of things. But asking people to read for the purpose of blurbing is hard. First off, just because you like a person doesn’t mean you will (or have to) like their book. But some people don’t understand that. Some people think that if you hate their book you hate them. And some people are afraid to be asked to blurb for one person because then they’ll feel like they are fair game for everyone else to ask. So it’s a decidely awkward place to be. I’ll just say this, if you read a copy of the book, in galley or final form, and you want to comment on it, good, bad, or whatever, you can send to me, but you can also send to any comments to Laura at the email above.

Hugging the Rock is a journey of the heart that does make many people cry, but it is a hopeful journey that portrays a relationship not often seen in children’s books, a positive relationship between a girl and her father. In writing this book I gave myself the father I’ve never known.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , , , |18 Comments

Pa-pa-pa Pages – I have pages

I’ve spent the last few days going over the pages for Hugging the Rock. What a difference it is to see it in actual design form. I LOVE the interior font they chose for the titles. It’s perfect. It’s a little scary being at this stage of the game, going over each line knowing you can’t really rewrite something unless there is a very VERY good reason for it but still needed to make sure the book is as strong as you possibly can make it. I still love the book, though, and that’s important. A few of the poems still made me teary eyed which I consider a good thing when you think of how many times I’ve gone over the book in the last oh, 3 years.

And the cover. I can’t show it to you yet but can I just say that the cover is amazing. It “speaks” volumes and that’s a bit of a clue for you mystery buffs.

Okay, back to work. Pages need to be back to my editor by Thursday and then I have a book proposal on another project due by the end of this month before I take off for our SCBWI Asilomar conference.

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , |5 Comments

D for Done, done, done

Whew! I finished going over the copy edits of Hugging the Rock. My editor finished going over what I did and the book is now on it’s way to design. Thanks to my critique group and my verse novel group for all their help with my rapid requests for input.

I won’t see the book again until it is in “pages” or “galleys” which is the same thing. Evidently the term pages is rising to the top to mean the same thing as galleys. It was hard going through the book, yet again, wondering, worrying that anything else we did might “ruin” the book. All I can say is thank goodness for my wonderful hand-holding editor who assured me that she wouldn’t let me ruin it. It’s just a different part of the brain when you reach this stage. I did end up writing a new poem for the book, well several but we only used one new one, but for the most part it consisting of tightening things, wondering if there were stronger words that could be used in some places, agonizing over my line breaks. I think the part that amazed me most of all, it always does, what a difference a single word can make to a sentence. Gosh I love that part of the writing.

We’re waiting for sketches still on the cover and I’m anxious to see them. I’m VERY excited about the person who is doing the cover but I can’t say anything yet. Oh boy, though. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

Thanks to all who have read the excerpt of Hugging the Rock and sent me kind words. I really appreciate the support. For those still looking to read, you can find the excerpt on my website.

Now off to get caught up on a week’s worth of everyone else’s blogs.

 

Friday, January 27, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , |19 Comments

Take one savvy editor

add one sharp copy editor, let them work their magic on my manuscript and wow!

I’ve read through the changes after copy editing, the suggestions, and the questions and I have to say that there is again very little that I don’t agree with. A few lines in one poem that I will fight for. Some poems need new titles, stronger titles. The hardest part is that there are a few places that need more material, new stuff. I’m doing research but I’m finding it the hardest to get back into the voice of my character, especially since this character is a young girl and the character in the next book, the one I’ve been anxious to jump into, is teenage boy.

But I’ll get there. Word after word.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Word after word

It came back today.

Hugging the Rock. My middle grade verse novel.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , , |31 Comments

Character flaws, ALA & other writing rambles

My editor told me today that we have to go another round of revisions on Hugging the Rock. I sort of expected it but each go around makes me worried that I’ll mess up the book or not be able to do what she asked me to do. She also said that they’ve printed up “The First Day” which is the first 14 poems in the book as a “teaser” for mid-winter ALA. So if you’re going to mid-winter be sure to stop by the Tricycle Press booth and take a look.

I woke up this morning and realized I have no idea what DC’s character flaw is….or much of anything defining about him outside of his love of flying. Oh my. The more I move forward, the less I know about the book. It reminds me of a favorite Ray Bradbury quote, “You’ve got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.”

Here’s hoping I can fly.

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 11, 2006|Categories: Writing Process|Tags: , , , , , |12 Comments

Everybody does it differently, revision that is

What did you think I meant? 😉 For me I knew I wanted to immerse myself in nothing but my book during the process, hence, my abscene from blogging for a while.

When the manuscript for Hugging the Rock came back to me with all my editor’s comments, the first thing I did (of course) was to read every single comment she’d made then let out a big WHEW in relief because nothing seemed impossible. The second thing I did was print it out (we’re doing this all by email) so I could scribble on the pages because I like to revise by hand. The third thing I did was freak out because, well, that’s just what I do, when something I want to do well is close at hand and I don’t want to screw it up.

Friday, October 21, 2005|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , , |9 Comments

Does your writing scare you?

Because the topic of my current WIP is less than pleasant and deals with some not very nice things happening to some pretty nice kids, well, it’s hard to write. I’ve always had a difficult time putting my characters into peril for a scene or two but this story feels like I am on a runaway train. I don’t even know anyone that has had these sorts of things happen to them so I don’t know where Frankie and his story comes from. I worry, as many writers do, that people (non-writers) will think the story is about my life. I worry, as many writers also do, that I won’t do the story justice.

To pump myself up I’ve been rereading some of my past writings about fear and emotional honesty in our writing. For me at least the two seem to go hand in hand. When I do it right – when I dismiss the editor on my shoulder and silence the critical voices in my head, when I shut my eyes, open my heart and let myself feel EVERYTHING, when I peel back the skin of the story and write with emotional honesty -writing scares the hell out of me. Everything I think and feel is right out there in the open for the world to see and that’s a terrifying and often paralyzing thought. But that’s what good writing does, splits you wide open and spills you into the world covered in nothing but guts and raw emotion.

I have to remind myself of this all the time, that my voice comes from honest emotion. But it’s hard. Excruciatingly hard. Because once the words are out there for the world to see people will make judgements about the person behind the words. They can’t help it and that fact intimidates a lot of writers (like me) to the point that much of what they write comes out sounding unbelievable.

So how does a writer do it? How do you move beyond playing it safe with your writing and move to new ground? Is it a matter of guts? Of instinct? Of a writing group with a really good cattle prod? Do you tie yourself in the chair and not let your spouse untie you until you’ve completed a certain number of pages? Lately it seems the more I try NOT to do it the more the fear and emotion come gushing forth. I wake up in the middle of the night, my heart pounding, and I realize it is because I saw Frankie and I knew what was going to happen to him, and knew there wasn’t a thing I could do to help him.

When I teach, I encourage my students to tap into their own emotional experiences and then channel that emotion into their stories. I try to do the same with my own work. My middle grade novel, Hugging the Rock, didn’t really come to life until I let myself feel the true depth of negative emotions I still carry about growing up without a father. The novel isn’t about that, it’s about a girl who stays with her father after a divorce and how the two of them build a new relationship together. But I allowed the pain of not having a father during those growing-up years to surface and then poured that emotion into the main character’s feelings about her mother during the divorce. I relived the longing for a father and the uncertainty of what having a father meant and used those emotions to fuel my character as she worked through her own new relationship with her father. The result? A character you can care about. A story that makes people cry because of the honest emotion. A book that people tell me rings true. Was it easy? No way. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

What can I tap into this time? The same pain, yes, but Frankie’s pain is different. His pain comes from a pain of only wanted to be loved and not understanding why the people who were supposed to love him hurt him instead. His pain comes from a feeling of helplessness that he doesn’t have the power to change his life. His pain comes from the belief that somehow he deserves all the bad things that are happening for him. When I see it listed out like that of course I know just what I have to tap into to tell the story but boy, I don’t want to go back to that dark place. It’s like standing outside the door to a cage and you know the monster is in the cage and you know you have to get into the cage and face the monster.

All creating, writing or music or art, all creative work demands courage from the creator. In order to write believable fiction we often have to be willing to bleed on paper. Go ahead and let yourself be scared. Let yourself feel every emotion – the pain, the anger, the longing, the laughter, the love. Let it bubble up until it boils over and then pour it into your writing. Rollo May, in his book Courage to Create, says, “If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also, you will have betrayed your community in failing to make your contribution.” Because of who you are and what you have experience, there are stories only you can tell. Feel the fear, dig deep and start writing.

Here I go – into the cage.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005|Categories: Writing Process|Tags: , , , , , , , |12 Comments