Monday, October 26, 2009

Donate a Book; Buy a Book

Almost every Friday night for the past 10 years or so, I've been a volunteer with a writing program called The Beat Within. Each week, I join staff and other volunteers at the juvenile hall in my home town to hold writing workshops with kids, ages 14-18. The hand-written pieces from the workshops are then published into a weekly magazine, The Beat Within, which circulates through juvenile halls and prisons around the country. Each entry is published along with an adult response. It's an amazing program.

And now, I'm helping to raise funds to keep it going. We're asking authors to donate autographed copies of their books to give away as a thank-you gifts to donors. The drive is just getting started and already so many wonderful writers have stepped up, including from Newbery-award winner Paul Fleischman and Karen Joy Fowler, author of the bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club.

To read all the details about the fundraiser, click here.

We need your help if you are an author, or if you love books and kids!

For more info, contact me here or at

And please, please feel free to pass along this message and post it on Facebook, your blog, etc.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Dear Diary -- With Jillian Cantor

I met Jillian Cantor when we were both on the same panel at the Tucson Book Festival. The joke was that, in order to be a YA author, you need thick dark hair, to be named Jill and to have grown up in Philadelphia.

Jillian is the author of the wonderful YA novels, THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS (Harperteen) and THE LIFE OF GLASS (Winter 2010/Harperteen). Her first novel for adults, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, will be released in Fall 2010 by Avon/HarperCollins.

I'm so glad that she didn't toss her high school journal.

Here's Jillian:

In my upcoming release, THE LIFE OF GLASS, my main character Melissa keeps a journal during her freshman year in high school. It is a continuation of one her father kept before he died, a journal filled with strange facts and unusual love stories, a journal Melissa adds to by writing in the love stories she knows and discovers throughout the year, just so they won’t be lost.

Like Melissa, I, too, kept a journal during my freshman year in high school. Near the beginning I wrote, I’m a Freshman! Can you believe it? This is going to be a year for believing in myself, setting my goals, and reaching for my dreams. However, what follows reads like a soap opera – the boys I liked (which changed almost weekly, I should add), the fights I had with my friends. I’m not sure why, but I even gave my journal a name -- “Capricious” or “Capri” for short. Seems fitting now, looking at how capricious and whimsical I actually was back then, but how I came up with that name, I can’t tell you. I began all the entries by writing “Dear Capri,” (because I guess Dear Diary must’ve felt too boring to me!). Oh, and in the back I have a list of names I like for my future children – at the top of the list is Capricious, which I note will be the name of my first born. (I can assure you, that is not actually his name, though!)

Here are some excerpts from some of the entries. All the names are totally changed because. . . well, because I’m actually Facebook friends with most of these guys now, and even all these years later I would be mortified if any of them read this and realized I was talking about them!

Thursday, November 12, 1992

Guess what? Last Friday A. asked me out, but when I said yes he said JUST KIDDING. How rude and immature! Well now I have spies trying to figure out who he likes. A lot of people know that I like him now, but I don’t even care. In fact now I’m even questioning how much I like him. I keep flirting with B. Just a reminder that “there are other fish.”

Wednesday, November 25, 1992

Sorry I haven’t written in awhile. . .as for A. I wish he would ask me out, so I could say NO! Yuck!! . . .B is so funny, he makes me laugh all the time. He’s just a really awesome person.

Sunday, February 17, 1993

Well, long time no see. B. is SO long gone. I thought that I liked C., but then on Friday we had a dance, and suddenly I found D. very attractive. . . Options for the Dinner Dance are still open. Who knows? Anything could happen between now and June 11.

Friday, March 19, 1993 (12:04 AM)

I really like D. I want to go to the Dinner Dance with him, but I’m scared to ask him. What if he says no? What if he says yes?

Then there is a whole saga involving the Dinner Dance, in which one guy (E.), who I only liked as a friend, asked me and I said yes. But then this other guy (F.) who I dated on and off in junior high confessed his love for me and asked me, so I backed out on my yes with E. and ended up going with F. instead. I still cringe just thinking about it now. The rest of the journal pretty much chronicles my relationship with F., which really wasn’t much more than a friendship. We never even kissed – a point I obsess over for pages and pages.

And then the journal ends on September 3, 1993, which was the first day of my sophomore year and also the day I met my first serious boyfriend (who is now my husband). And after that, I never kept a journal again. Although, part of me almost wishes I’d kept writing, because that’s something I’d love to read now, what I was thinking and feeling when I first started dating my husband, what I would’ve written about him. And then the other part of me is REALLY glad I didn’t!

Kids Who Write

Every time I talk to a group of students, I inevitably get asked the same question by an earnest and passionate tween or teen: "I'm a writer. Where can I get published?"

Here's a resource list for budding authors, in addition to recommending that you create your own blog or website.(That's what I do!)

For writers 13 and under, there's the wonderful Stone Soup, which is published in my town (Santa Cruz, CA), and distributed all over the country. It's been described as "The New Yorker for kids", and I agree. For details on how to publish and subscribe, go to At this website, you'll find more resources. Click on "links" and click on "Young writers in print." Voila.

A wonderful salesperson at Anderson's Books in Naperville, Ill. suggested and its teen counterpart at

A friend pointed me to

Another: Kids who are immigrants or whose families are immigrants might enjoy entering Mitali Perkins' Fire Escape contests.

Now it's your turn. Have your found anything else either print or online?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Proust Questionnaire

Each week, Julie Halpern features an author on her Blog of Wonder: Proust Questionnaire. Today's guest? Me. Lots of fun to answer the questions. Check it out here.

Couldn't resist posting the picture of Proust's coffin.