Interview with Colorado author Todd Mitchell!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I’m happy to welcome Todd Mitchell to the blog!

Todd is the author of several extremely-cool-sounding novels for young adults, including one Colorado Book Award winner and another finalist. Welcome, Todd!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

ToddMitchellHeadShot1I’m a transplant (been here 15 years). I grew up in Illinois (someone has to get the short straw). I first came to Colorado when I was 10 and fell in love. An aunt and uncle of mine lived in Fort Collins, so I came back and visited them on my own as soon as I could. The first time was when I was seventeen, and drove out West with my closest friend. Then I drove out here again when I was in college in a car I bought for $400. Both times, I got in a car accident in Fort Collins, which I guess is fate’s way of telling me to stay here.

Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

Backwards by Todd MitchellMost recent book: 

BACKWARDS (Candlewick Press, 2013, for ages 12 & up)

This is an odd book. It’s a bit of a mystery, a psychological thriller, and a romance told from the point of view of a character called the Rider who’s trapped in the body of a suicidal teen. Not only that, he’s stuck traveling backwards in time. So he needs to figure out what he’s doing there, and what his purpose his, and ultimately how to take over and make this life his own.

Other books:

THE SECRET TO LYING (Candlewick Press, 2010, for ages 14 & up, Winner of the Colorado Book Award)

The Secret to Lying by Todd MitchellThe story of James, a high school sophomore, who gets into a school where no one knows him and decides to reinvent himself as the person he always wished he could be. This book explores what happens when your life becomes a lie.

 

THE TRAITOR KING (Scholastic Press, 2007, for ages 8 & up, Finalist for the Colorado Book Award)

Part fantasy, part reality. While searching for their missing Uncle Will, Darren and Jackie discover a secret family history that pulls them into a fantastical Otherworld. (It’s kindof like The Lightning Thief, but with figures from Celtic mythology instead of Greek.)

 A Flight of AngelsA FLIGHT OF ANGELS (Vertigo, 2011, for ages 14 & up)

This is a graphic novel that I co-authored, working with four other writers (Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, and Louise Hawes). Basically, a bunch of supernatural beings find a fallen angel in the woods and each tell stories to determine what they should do with it. Definitely for more mature audiences. The art, by Rebecca Guay, is incredible.

 

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

TMitchellIrelandHere’s a picture (it’s in Ireland). Hey, you asked for my favorite spot. In all seriousness, my best writing happens outdoors. By which I mean, I write every day in my basement (which has a decent view of a pond), but when I get stuck I go for a run, and my best lines, insights, and ideas usually come to me while I’m running. So I run daily. And I run everywhere.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

See above. Having so many beautiful open spaces to run in. Also, the weather here is incredible. I love all four seasons (though fall is my favorite). But running in fresh snow and making tracks is pure bliss. In Colorado, there’s a culture of healthy living, which is essential for a writer (otherwise, I get lost in my own head). One other thing I love about being a writer in Colorado is that there’s a surprisingly vibrant and talented YA and Children’s Book community here. Within just a few blocks of my house, I know five other extremely well-published and best-selling YA and Children’s book authors. That’s pretty amazing.

Thank you, Todd, and congratulations on the publication of Backwards, which sounds amazing! (And fall is my favorite season, too–good call there. 🙂 )

Your first chance to win a copy of ALL FOUR STARS!

ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman coverJust a quick note to let you know that the wonderful Krista Van Dolzer is giving away an advance copy of my debut novel All Four Stars over at her blog. This is your very first chance to win an early copy, more than six months before it hits the shelves on July 10!

The link:

Book Recommendation and ARC Giveaway: ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman

Good luck if you enter!

The day the Internet gave me a hug

Excitement!

Excitement!

When I first created this WordPress blog in 2012,  I quickly stumbled upon the “Freshly Pressed” page, which seemed to feature all sorts of interesting-sounding blog posts. “Wow, it would be pretty cool to get one of my posts up on this page,” I thought. But I assumed it was basically impossible, and soon forgot all about it.

Fast-forward to January 6, 2014, and my first post of the year on the group author blog I contribute to, Emu’s Debuts (also with WordPress). For once, instead of throwing something together at the last minute, I actually had most of a piece drafted in advance, reflecting on a surprising phone call I’d recently had with my mom. I’d pretty much been on writing hiatus since early December, when I’d turned Gladys 2 into my editor, so maybe my brain was really itching to tell a story. In any case, I felt pretty good about how this piece had turned out, and was pleased that within a few hours of posting, it seemed to be striking a chord with our blog’s regular commenters and even with some of my friends and family members.

But I certainly wasn’t prepared for the e-mail I received that afternoon. “I hope your blog is ready to welcome some new readers,” it said. “Your post will be featured on Freshly Pressed as a WordPress.com editors’ pick!”

Whoa! I was pretty excited, to say the least. I called my husband at work, and then my sister, but neither of them picked up. Then I called my mom, who did answer, and got as excited with me as a person who barely knows what a blog is possibly can. 🙂

Anyway, the next couple of days saw a great influx of visitors and commenters to our group blog–and while I tried to brace myself for the backlash and nuttiness that I know exposure to the Internet-at-large can bring, I have to say that the notes and stories that have been shared on the post have been really lovely so far. I don’t write to get people to like me, but at least for the past couple of days, I’ve kind of felt like the Internet was giving me a hug. It was a nice way to kick off my debut year.

So, all of this excitement has led to a little reflection on my part. I don’t usually blog about personal stuff, but I guess I need to acknowledge my two most successful blog posts of the last year*–the ones that got the most hits, yes, but also the ones that triggered the most comments and tweets and e-mails telling me that what I wrote had resonated with someone, or helped them out in some way–were the ones where I did go out on a limb and share some personal experiences.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to turn this blog into a weekly confessional (trust me, no one wants that!). But I know that some things debut authors (and not-so-debut authors) debate about a lot is how best to use social media, and how protective to be of your privacy, and how much of your personal story to put out there. And for me, surprisingly, the right answer to that last question may just be “a little bit more.” Because sometimes, sharing a true story really does help connect you with other people in a genuine way.

What do you think?

 

* Those posts were “First Drafting: Now 96% Faster,” and “A Different Kind of Call.”

 

Interview with Colorado author Stephanie Blake!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I’m happy to welcome middle-grade and picture book author Stephanie Blake to the blog!

Stephanie is the author of the middle-grade historical novel The Marble Queenwhich was a finalist for the 2013 Colorado Book Award. Welcome, Stephanie!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Stephanie BlakeI was born in Hawarden, Iowa. My parents moved the family to Colorado when I was five. I’ve lived all over this beautiful state.









The Marble Queen by Stephanie BlakeTell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

My first middle grade novel came out from Two Lions in late December 2012. It’s called THE MARBLE QUEEN. I just sold a picture book to Albert Whitman called MY ROTTEN FRIEND. It will be out in March 2015 (tentatively). It’s about elementary school zombies. [<–Interviewer’s note: AWESOME.]




What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

I live in gorgeous Castle Rock. I can see the rock from my backyard and my kids and husband like to hike it. I’m scared of heights, so I have never been up there.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?
I’m always inspired by the other Colorado writers I know. It’s fun to see everyone at the RMC-SCBWI Conference each year.

Thank you, Stephanie, and congratulations on the new picture book sale! (Also, I didn’t even know that you could climb Castle Rock–too cool!)

Foodie Kidlit Friday: Interview with A TANGLE OF KNOTS author Lisa Graff!

Foodie Kidlit Friday iconWelcome back to my new blog series, Foodie Kidlit Friday! On selected Fridays, I’ll be talking to authors of great food- and cooking-themed books for kids and teens, giving books away, and sharing recipes from my own forthcoming foodie middle-grade novel, All Four StarsToday I am thrilled to welcome the fabulous Lisa Graff to the blog!

Lisa GraffLisa is the author of numerous middle-grade novels, including The Thing About Georgie, Umbrella Summer, and most recently, A Tangle of Knots, (which has a big foodie element and was longlisted for the National Book Award!). A former children’s book editor, she now writes full time. You can learn more about her at www.lisagraff.com.

Here’s a little more info about A Tangle of Knots:

Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born.  And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever.  However, these encounters hold the key to Cady’s past and how she became an orphan.  If she’s lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent.

Tara Dairman: Welcome to Foodie Kidlit Friday, Lisa!

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa GraffA Tangle of Knots takes place in a universe where many people have a special Talent—and for one of your characters, Cady, that Talent allows her to instinctively bake the perfect cake for any person. I love this idea, and was wondering what your inspiration was for it.  Is there a real Cady out there? (And if so, can she move in with me?) 

Lisa Graff: I wish there was a real Cady out there! If so I would beg her to make me cake all the time. I’m not sure exactly where the idea came from, to be honest, although I do remember that I was in an airport when I decided that’s what Cady’s Talent should be, so most likely I was incredibly hungry at the time.

TD: Cady is one of many characters in A Tangle of Knots, and her story one of many intersecting plot threads. But somehow—like ingredients in the perfect recipe—every thread comes together in the end in a deliciously satisfying way! Did this require a lot of planning before you wrote the book, or were you able to make connections as you drafted? 

LG: Lots and lots of planning was required for this book, which was tough on me because I absolutely hate outlining. For most of my books I prefer to start writing a draft and going wherever the characters take me–which always ends up with me having to do TONS of revising on the back end, but I would happily throw away two-thirds of a draft rather than outline beforehand. For this book, though, I knew that would be an impossible way to do things. I spent three months brainstorming and outlining before I wrote a single word, and my outline–no joke–ended up being 72 typed pages. And, of course, I still had to do a ton of revision after my first (several) drafts. But the outlining was worth it, definitely.
 
Absolutely Almost by Lisa GraffTD: Cady’s scrumptious-sounding recipes for cakes for various characters are sprinkled throughout A Tangle of Knots and are also available on your website—as is a recipe from one of your other books, Sophie Simon Solves it All. Do you have plans to write any more foodie-themed books in the near future? 

LG: The main character in my newest book, Absolutely Almost, which comes out next June, is more than slightly obsessed with doughnuts, although he doesn’t make them himself (he only eats them).

TD: When you were developing recipes for A Tangle of Knots, did you have to do a lot of test baking at home? Which recipe was the trickiest to get right, and do you have a favorite of all of the cakes?

LG: I tested so many cake recipes for this book! I knew I wanted to include nine different cake recipes in the book, and I wanted them to not only represent the nine main characters but also cover a wide range of cake types and be recipes that children could theoretically make themselves fairly easily. I think I tested about thirty or forty cakes before I settled on the final batch that’s in the book now. (It was a tough job, but somebody had to eat it. I mean, do it…)

Lisa testing cake recipes!The trickiest cake for me to get right was V’s Mystery Fudge Cake, which is basically a lava cake (a chocolate cake with a gooey chocolate center). I knew from the get-go I wanted to do a lava cake for her, but I tried out recipe after recipe, and none of them worked at all! I must have made four or five “lava” cakes that ended up having no “lava” in them. It was very frustrating. I finally found a recipe that worked really well, though!

I love all the cakes in the book, but my favorite at the moment is probably Miss Mallory’s peach cake. Or Will’s s’more cake. Or… I think I might have to go find some cake to eat now!

Thank you so much, Lisa, for talking to us today about writing and food! And wow–that s’more cake looks incredible!

Readers: If Cady were to bake you your ideal cake, what would it taste like?

Interview with Colorado author Claudia Mills!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I’m happy to welcome chapter book and middle-grade author Claudia Mills to the blog!

Claudia Mills, Philosophyclaudia.mills@colorado.eduphoto by: Larry HarwoodClaudia is the author of a very long list of children’s books (seriously, check it out–it is impressive), and Kirkus reviews recently called her “a master of the school story” (also very impressive!) Welcome, Claudia!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

I’m a transplant, directly from Maryland, originally from New Jersey. I came to Colorado for my day job (professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado in Boulder) and for my husband’s dream (he was raised in Golden, and once we had our boys, he had his heart set on raising them in the West).

Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

My two most recent books are Kelsey Green, Reading Queen and Zero Tolerance, both published this past June by Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Macmillan.

Kelsey coverKelsey Green is a third-grade-level chapter book, first in a series called Franklin School Friends. Kelsey, a passionate reader, is determined to read the most books for her grade in a school-wide reading contest, but there’s only one problem: Simon Ellis is reading even more books than she is. Or at least, Simon Ellis says he is reading more books than she is. She and her two best friends, Annika Riz (who is a math whiz) and Izzy Barr (who is a running star), decide to make a top-secret cheater-catcher plan to see if Simon has earned his status as Kelsey’s chief rival, or not. This book is my valentine to readers and book lovers everywhere.

Zero-Tolerance-CoverIn Zero Tolerance, Sierra Shepard is a seventh-grade honor student and “perfect” girl who has never been in trouble in her life – until the day she brings her mother’s lunch to school by mistake. In the lunch is a knife to cut her mother’s apple. Sierra, good girl that she is, turns the knife in immediately, and finds she is now facing mandatory expulsion under her middle school’s “zero tolerance” policies for drugs and weapons. Of all my books, this is the only one I’ve written where I myself didn’t know how it would all turn out until the very end. I kept on writing to see: would Sierra get expelled or not? And if she did, by that point, would she even care?

photo couchWhat’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

I write curled up on a little couch with a blanket, clipboard, pad of paper, pen – and mug of hot chocolate. So no view. But very cozy!

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

For me, the best thing is being part of my terrific writing group. I’ve been a member of this group for twenty years, and together we have published over a hundred books during that time, everything from children’s books to adult mysteries, science fiction, literary fiction, and nonfiction about Colorado history. The best Colorado thing about my writing group is that we have a retreat every summer up at Lake Dillon. We spend a whole weekend writing, reading, talking about writing, talking about reading, walking by the lake, and sitting in a hot tub under the Colorado stars. That’s when I most think what a sweet thing it is to be a writer in Colorado.

Thank you, Claudia–and may I just say that both of your new books sound completely fabulous? (As does that retreat at the lake!) 

Interview with Aiken Avery, author of The Disaster Tourist

Ahoy there, blog readers! (Yes, that nautical greeting was deliberate–you’ll understand why in a moment.)

The Disaster Tourist by Aiken AveryIf you follow me on Goodreads, you may recently have seen my ecstatic review for a book called The Disaster Tourist, which takes place on a round-the-world cruise and is one of my tippy-top favorite reads of 2013. But I wasn’t content merely with reviewing it and gushing about it to friends. I just had to hunt down the author, Aiken Avery, and lure him over for an interview at this here blog.

Luckily, hunting him down wasn’t too difficult, since Mr. Avery and I were college classmates (where we both studied creative writing with Ernie Hebert). And even more luckily, he agreed to share his insight and wisdom about travel, writing, travel writing, and today’s publishing options for literary novels. Hooray!

Here’s a blurb about the book itself, and my interview with the author follows. (Also, since this is a blog usually devoted to children’s literature, I should probably insert a disclaimer here that this is most definitely an adult novel, complete with strong language, queer content, and all that good stuff.)

About The Disaster Tourist:
When foul-mouthed RG boards the S. S. U. Sea for its fall semester voyage, she does so with her usual intentions: knock people down a few pegs and hopefully score some hot chicks along the way. But intentions and itineraries don’t always sync. Part international romp, part descent into madness, The Disaster Tourist follows a crew of sometimes thought-provoking, often ridiculous characters as they circumnavigate the globe on a cruise ship turned floating college. RG’s plans to corrupt her lovely, wholesome Midwestern classmate Dottie fail when she turns out not to be the simple beauty she seems. The two forge an unlikely partnership—straight with gay, principled with radical—as the climate on-board, and in the various ports of call, grows from silly to paranoid to downright dangerous. In the end, The Disaster Tourist strives to capture what it means to be an American abroad in the 21st century.

Tara Dairman: Welcome, Aiken Avery!

Your debut novel, The Disaster Tourist, takes place in so many different locations—Japan, Vietnam, China, and India, just to name a few—and you write about them so evocatively! Here are a couple of my favorite descriptions:

India was like an ice cream cone with every topping imaginable—not just ice cream ones but pizza toppings, too, salad toppings, cereal toppings, and then handfuls of dirt and sh*t thrown on for good measure.

The poor—which, from what they could tell, was everybody—subverted physics in order to balance great loads of merchandise on tiny carts and rickshaws and bicycles, Pisas of metal tins, breaching whales of straw baskets, to name only ten degrees of the surrounding three-sixty.

I was wondering how you carried out your research on these locations for the book. I believe that you’ve been to most or all of these places yourself—did you go back to journals or photographs? Rely on memory? Or did you need to look to books and the Internet to bring yourself up to date on these destinations?

Straight from the old photo album: Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima, Japan

Straight from the old photo album: Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima, Japan

Aiken Avery: I definitely appealed to my old photo albums for detail. I come away from a trip with a general sense of the place, but detail gets lost just because of the overwhelming abundance of it—especially in crowded places like China and India. In years past, writers might have needed to shell out for plane tickets to these places or bury themselves in books at university libraries (which I’ve done plenty of myself). Now, without the benefit of photographic memory, we have the Internet to help flesh out descriptions.

I’ll admit, it felt a bit like cheating, but I definitely made use of Google Earth! I could zoom in on a locale like Ho Chi Minh City and click on the icons for other people’s photos, a great feature of theirs. What does the Rex Hotel look like these days? What would a typical street scene bustling with locals look like? Now we have a wealth of evocative imagery and information right in front of us on our laptops. So yes, I’ve been to all of the countries in the book—authentic experience is still top dog—but technology helps to fill in the gaps.

TD: Follow-up question: Did you have any trouble separating your own, real-life experiences in and opinions of these places from those of your characters in the book?

AA: Like most people (I assume…), I leave a place with all sorts of conflicting feelings about what I’ve just experienced. Is India dirty and stinky and wretched in a lot of ways? Absolutely. Is it also a beautiful, diverse, fascinating place? Of course. I would go back and travel around it for a year if I was able (still barely scratching the surface). So I actually found that it wasn’t all that difficult to voice these varieties of opinions through characters; they already cohabitate, bickering in my head.

A scene on the Ganges river in Varanasi, India

A scene on the Ganges river in Varanasi, India

The really interesting question is whether or not I had trouble separating my real-life experiences from those of my characters. Fictionalizing real events, adding new people, contexts, twists—which I did often when writing this book, having gone on a study abroad program similar to The Disaster Tourist‘s “University of the Sea”—can change your memories of those events, or even replace them with the new ones to an extent. I don’t mean to say that I’m incapable of separating fiction from reality! I just mean that taking actual events and attaching meaning to them—in the way that the very deliberate process of writing always does for bare reality—can often place the fictional event even above the real one in importance. I now value my experiences much more because of what I was able to cultivate from them, if that makes any sense.

TD: Here’s another quote from the book that I loved, describing the main character, RG.

She could feel the claws of her personality climbing up the walls of her skull to predetermined places—a large, articulated crab getting into position—and then it was only through its eyes, the lenses of this refracted self, that she was able to see and act.

On paper, RG, might turn some readers off; she’s snarky and manipulative (not to mention doggedly, unapologetically anorexic). But I was completely charmed by her—just like many other girls on the ship are, and I’m sure many readers are, too. How did you come up with this complicated character—and did she take any turns over the course of the book that surprised you?

AA: RG is an amalgam of a few different people I’ve encountered: a solitary and obsessive exerciser from my college days (never knew her, but found her compelling); the beleaguered adopted daughter of relentlessly well-meaning Brahmin parents in Cambridge, MA (where I did a lot of private tutoring); and my own “Negative Nancy” inner voice. RG is a minority and a Devil’s advocate in every possible way, and as such, I risk alienating people who start reading and can’t handle her! Trust me, I worry about that.

But the intention was always for her to change, to soften and wise up over the course of the story. Really—without giving too much away, I hope—she was always meant to become more and more like her “silver linings” friend in the story, Dottie, while Dottie grows more and more (to RG’s horror) like the old, bitter RG. To say “the characters took on a life of their own” would be cliché, but yes, they changed in surprising ways—unpredictable even to me—as I slowly discovered what their motivations should be. I guess my long-term writing strategy is “plan, but in pencil.”

TD: You write such beautiful (and often twistedly funny) descriptions and observations. Here are a few of my favorites:

Her jokes were like puppies head-butting the gate to get out and play.

He’d been crying like an old man—which was to say that his eyes were completely dry over a low, trembling voice.

To go abroad, even to sail to the other side of the world, is to be taken for a walk on a leash—and then, inevitably, brought back home again.

This makes me curious about your writing process. Do the words just tend to just come out this way for you in the moment, or do you do a first draft more focused on plot and focus on the language later?

AA: I can’t say I’ve never written a passage and then thought of an improvement—either to the plot or to the language—later on. An advantage to undertaking big, novel-length projects is that you have as much as a year or two for all of the best “improvements” to occur to you, sometimes well after the first draft. But for the most part, I focus on the language and the tone as I’m writing for the first time, not later. I’m glad you liked the head-butting puppies comparison—I came very close to ditching that one!

TD: You self-published The Disaster Tourist as an e-book rather than pursuing traditional publishing. Can you share what led you to choose this path, and how it’s working for you so far?

AA: At the time I was writing my first novel (a yet-unpublished Civil War story), self-publishing was basically taboo. In most cases, doing so meant that you had tried traditional routes and no agent or publisher would touch you, so you must have written a dud. The only recourse for duds was self-publishing. I used to go so far as to say that I would rather not publish at all than self-publish.

However, as I was writing my second book, the Kindle was introduced, and e-books really took off. Opinions both in the industry and among laypeople have shifted pretty dramatically on the subject of self-publishing, so a writer no longer has to pray for a big publishing house to discover his needle status in the haystack of the “slush pile.” He can be much more proactive about getting himself noticed: by taking the book to market himself and by proving, sometimes in a big way, that customers are indeed lining up with dollars in hand. I’m still learning the ropes, but I hope my marketing campaign will do just that.

Well, Aiken, I’m with you in hoping that many, many readers discover this incredible book!

To that end, here are a few links where you can purchase The Disaster Tourist:

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * Google Play

You can also find the book via the iBooks app on iTunes–and other digital formats (including optimized for laptop, if you don’t have an e-reader) are linked on its Facebook Page.

Thank you so much for this interview, Aiken Avery! And readers, if you end up reading The Disaster Tourist, please let me know–I’m dying to find some more folks to discuss it with. 🙂

Now & Later

Well, friends, blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground here recently–but that doesn’t mean that exciting things haven’t been going on behind the scenes, or that I haven’t got some great stuff lined up for you going forward! Here’s a little recap/preview.

NOW (well, not right now, but recently):

1) Writing: Hey, remember that post I wrote back in September about how I sped up my drafting process by 96%? (If you remember any post on this blog, it’s probably that one, by far my most popular post ever.)

Well, what comes after drafting is lots and lots of revising–which, in the case of my sequel to All Four Stars, involved writing a new 20-page insert to help round out the ending, cutting 8,000 words overall, and loads of other tweaks. But I am pleased to say that I finally turned that manuscript in to my editor last week, and I’m feeling pretty good about it! And I also need to say that this book would be nowhere without the insight of my incredible critique partners Ann Bedichek, Jenny Goebel, Jessica Lawson, and Lauren Sabel. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

2) Reading: I have also been busy reading advance copies of lots of 2014 releases, and people out there are starting to read mine! Thank you so much to those folks who’ve taken the time to leave reviews and ratings on Goodreads for All Four Stars and who have been sharing their ARCs with me. I have truly enjoyed every single ARC I’ve read so far, but have to give particular shout-outs to When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens (February ’14) and The Only Thing Worse Than Witches by Lauren Magaziner (August, ’14) in middle grade, and Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule (March ’14) in YA. Buckle your seat belts for these releases, folks–they are incredible!

3) Eating: I spent the long Thanksgiving weekend with family in the Washington, D.C. area, during which time we deep-fried a turkey…

Deep-fried turkey

…and also visited Ted’s Bulletin for homemade Thanksgiving pop tarts (filled with turkey and stuffing, and topped with sweet potato swirls and cranberry icing!).
Thanksgiving pop tarts

Yes, both of those things tasted just as amazing as they sound.

Later (or, in other words, coming soon–like, as soon as tomorrow!):

1) Interviews: I am really excited to be interviewing Aiken Avery, author of the fantastic literary/dark humor/round-the-world travel novel The Disaster Touristone of my top reads of 2013. That post goes up tomorrow, so please come back for it!

Foodie Kidlit Friday iconI’ve also got my next Foodie Kidlit Friday interview lined up–the lovely Lisa Graff will be talking about all of those scrumptious cakes Cady bakes in her 2013 National Book Award-longlisted novel A Tangle of Knots. Hooray! That should be up next Friday.

Colorado is for writersAnd next Tuesday, Colorado is for Writers returns featuring middle-grade author Claudia MIlls!

2) Recipes: Starting in the new year, I’ll be sharing recipes for some of the delectable dishes that Gladys cooks and reviews in All Four Stars. I’ve been developing these for a while, and am so excited to finally share them with the world!

Sneak peak: Tree nut tarts

Sneak peak: Tree nut tarts

So, stuff. It’s been happening. It will continue to happen. Stick around. 🙂

And the winner of GRAVE IMAGES is…

Greg Pattridge! Congratulations!

Grave Images by Jenny Goebel

 

Thank you to everyone who commented last week and helped spread the word about Jenny Goebel‘s fabulous debut novel, GRAVE IMAGES. It will hit the shelves in a couple of short weeks!

For those who didn’t win, you might want to add it to to your to-read listpreorder it, or, best yet, hit Jenny’s launch party at the Tattered Cover in Denver!

 

 

Colorado is for Writers will be back next Tuesday with an interview of Lindsay Eland–stay tuned!

Colorado is for writers

Interview with Colorado author Jenny Goebel (and giveaway)!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I am thrilled to welcome my friend and critique partner Jenny Goebel!

Jenny’s debut middle-grade novel, GRAVE IMAGESwill be published this month, and it’s a moving, somewhat creepy, and overall fantastically-written book. You can read an excerpt on Jenny’s website here. And if you are in the Denver area, you can hit the GRAVE IMAGES launch party at the Tattered Cover on Colfax on October 26!

Giveaway alert: Jenny has kindly offered to give a signed ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of GRAVE IMAGES to one lucky reader of this blog! See the end of the post for details.

Let’s get to know Jenny!

Jenny Goebel

 

First things first: Colorado native or transplant? Native. And I have some of the deepest roots you could ever hope to find. My great, great grandparents settled here back before Colorado was even a state, and every generation since has wisely decided to stick around. What can say, Colorado is an awesome place to live!

 

 

Grave Images by Jenny Goebel

 

Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress! Scholastic is publishing my middle grade debut, GRAVE IMAGES, this November. It’s creepy, it’s soulful, and hopefully, all in all, horrific fun. The story is about a monument maker’s daughter whose family hires a drifter to etch headstone portraits. When she discovers that the drifter is etching portraits of people before they pass away, she has to decipher whether he’s merely predicting the deaths or, worse, actually causing them.  I have worked as a monument engraver myself, but, rest assured, this book is in no way autobiographical.

Foreman Farley Has a BackhoeMy first picture book, Foreman Farley has a Backhoe, is being published by Grosset & Dunlap next summer (2014). Farley is a construction foreman who builds a schoolhouse using an assortment of heavy machinery. The text is written to the tune of Old MacDonald has a Farm, and Grosset & Dunlap has also contracted me to write two more picture books with release dates to be announced.

 

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space? Well, the view from my usual writing space is a long way from spectacular. I share a home office with my husband, and it faces the neighbor’s house—so, yeah, nothing but drab, gray siding.

View from the CabinHowever, I am very fortunate to be able to sneak away to write at my parents’ cabin in Grand County every now and then. That view is something else entirely! Aspen and pine trees, and wildflowers in the summer, and if I’m very lucky, an occasional deer passing by. When I don’t get lost staring out the window at the breathtaking scenery, I’m far more productive than I am at home—thanks in large part to one minute detail: no Internet connection.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado? Oh, it’s far too difficult to narrow it down to just one thing. The people, the history, the wildlife, the nature, the art and culture— there is no shortage of things that give life to creativity here. I’d say that Colorado is the opposite of suffocating for a writer. And one of the most nourishing facets has to be the writing community. So many great, supportive writers here in Colorado, and you, Tara, are one of the finest! (Interviewer’s note: Awww. Right back at ya, Jenny!) Thanks so much for asking me to do this interview, and thereby giving me the opportunity to brag about our wonderful state.

Thank you so much, Jenny! And congratulations on your debut!!

Giveaway: Would you like to win a signed ARC of GRAVE IMAGES? Just leave a comment that answers this question: What’s your favorite creepy book? The winner will be announced next Tuesday, October 15.

GRAVE IMAGES is available for preorder! Find it at
Indiebound B&N * Amazon * BAM * Powell’s * Indigo