Summer Inspiration: Bookstore Signings

In the crunch phase of writing and producing a book, I spend so much time sequestered away in my office that I can sometimes forget that other people exist. Let alone that some of them read what I write.

And while I write for many reasons, not least of which is just for the sheer fun of it, one of my most affirming motivations to get back to work is seeing young readers enjoy my books. And that’s just what happened at my two bookstore signings this summer .

The launch party for The Illuminator Rising was held at Village House of Books on June 25th. The owners, Steve and Cheryl Hare, are incredibly welcoming and just some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. They even heralded the event with a window display of The Voyages of the Legend–a total dream come true for me!


I got to sit in the “queen chair” in the charming children’s nook.


DSC00026It was totally fantastic to see the standing-room-only gathering of young readers! They were full of eager observations and great questions. Some of them are on track to be writers or illustrators themselves, so watch out world!

The second summer signing took place at Bookasaurus, the children’s division of Leigh’s Favorite Books. Though space in the store is tight, they sure make the most of it! Again, it was wonderful to have the signing so well attended by strangers, friends, and family. These are just a few of the people who sustain me on my journey.


Some of the students who visited have been faithfully reading The Voyages of the Legend since the release of Book 1. I’m having the amazing privilege of watching them grow up–some, into very dedicated and articulate writers themselves!


And one more perk of the day. See that shop doorway on the left of the photo? That’s an incredible gelateria called Bella Roma. Gelato may or may not have immediately followed this book signing. I can’t think of a better way to end a day full of books, bookworms, and fun.

Graduation Day

This weekend my baby brother graduates from college.


He’s worked so hard to train as an engineer, and he’s going to be a great one. I’m so proud of him. I can’t wait to see him decked out in all this regalia. (Regalia. Isn’t that a great word?)


It reminds me of this thing that was happening three years ago.

Kodak 083

Graduation always looks perfect and cheery on Facebook. And it is indeed an accomplishment to celebrate. But more than that, it’s an open door to a world beyond: a world full of unknowns.

At breakfast this morning, I was reflecting to my bro that it’s important to do something you love with your life. Yes, a certain amount of money is necessary to living. And no job in the world will make every single Monday your favorite day of the week. But to feel some passion, some fulfillment, some purpose in what you’re doing with your life, both on and off the clock? That’s important.

These three years of my life post-college have been full of the unexpected. There’s been confusion. Uncertainty. Heartbreak. Disappointment. But some of my cherished dreams have come true in more dazzling ways than I could have wished for. And I’ve stumbled over some new dreams that my college self didn’t even have the imagination to visualize.


So good luck, Daniel. I love you always, and I wish you a spirit of adventure for the unknown road ahead. No one can tell you what’s coming around the bend. But with trust, vision, grit, and a good classic rock soundtrack, you’re looking at a mighty fine roadtrip.


California Bookstore Day

Last Saturday was California Bookstore Day–a statewide day of celebrating books and the independent shops that create warm, welcoming community spaces for them.

Better than Christmas, right?

Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

My friend and cover illustrator, Amalia Hillmann, and I spent the day glorying in the adorable children’s nook at Village House of Books. My book’s original cover art was displayed by a window, where the warm light made the gold paint shimmer and sparkle. One of the other visiting authors said it was like “a window into another world.”

Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

We signed copies for some brilliant young readers and got to chat about the process of writing, illustrating, and publishing a book.

Not going to lie: seeing The Illuminator’s Gift on display beside a wall of books including The Giving Tree and If You Give A Mouse A Cookie was a lifelong dream come true.

Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

One of the highlights of the day for me was getting to meet some amazing local authors. A.R. Silverberry, author of the young adult fantasy Wyndano’s Cloak, and I became book friends as we signed copies for each other.

Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

Laughter about fan comments, incriminating book research, and mundane day jobs was interspersed with tips about contracts, cover art, and professional organizations. Though I was the youngest author there, everyone (including shop owners Steve and Cheryl Hare and author liaison Lloyd Russell) made me feel like part of a literary tribe. We’re all just trying to follow the passion that’s been placed within us (and not end up living in cardboard boxes).

L-R: New friends A.R. Silverberry, Amalia Hillmann, me, Hannah Jayne, and Erica Goss with our books! Photo credit: Rebecca Hillmann/The Eclectic Illustrator

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, but honored to be welcomed into such a smart, quirky, fun book family. I look forward to introducing you to some of these wonderful people via blog interviews this summer!

My book haul at the end of the day

And of course, a day spent in a bookstore meant I couldn’t come home without books! My dollars ran out before my book cravings did, but I still managed to secure copies of Hannah Jayne’s Under the Gun, Vibrant Words by Erica Goss, Wyndano’s Cloak by A.R. Silverberry, and Mom*Me by Jennifer Castro. All signed, of course. Plus a cheery yellow book bag from Village House of Books.

Now I just need to find more time to read.


I’m THRILLED to announce that I’ll be back at Village House of Books for a TIG-specific book party this summer! More details to come, but mark your calendars for the evening of Thursday, July 10th! 


Book Family

One of the things I didn’t realize I’d get when I wrote a book was a book family.

I thought writing a book was about sitting alone for hours and hours, documenting your thoughts and ideas, and sending them out to other people. Like a one-way letter to the world.

What I didn’t realize was that others would write back.

The Illuminator’s Gift is connecting me with all sorts of people: friends and strangers, children and adults, people who are like me and people who are different. As they read, the story becomes theirs. The ideas no longer belong to just me.

It’s the best thing ever.

DSC07038I’ve gotten to meet dozens of kids in schools. Some of them have written me letters with questions about the book that I’d never thought of before.



One girl even wrote a book report. I think her summary of the story was better than mine.



One precious boy had The Illuminator’s Gift read aloud to him because he can’t see the black-and-white letters on the page. He catalogued his reading time in Braille, a language of dots that I don’t yet know how to read.



And I’m not the only storyteller out there. Two anonymous writers sent me prequel and sequel chapters to The Illuminator’s Gift. Maybe I should take a leaf from their book. So to speak.



Maybe the most fun, though, is the e-mail correspondence I get to do with people I’ve never even met. As a kid, I was too shy to write to my favorite authors (even the ones who were still alive). I didn’t want to bother them or take up their time. Now I see that not only was I missing out on the fun of a correspondence–I might have made their day. I wish I’d been as brave as the kids who write to me now.

I thought writing a book was something I would start, then finish. That once it was published, the journey would be complete.

I couldn’t have been further from the truth. The journey is just beginning. What was once a one-way letter is now a two-way conversation.

I am blessed by a book family, bound together by words and pages.


I spent last weekend forgetting what decade I live in.

My paternal grandparents are very interested in family ancestry, and my grandmother is writing a book on it. Naturally, being the English major of the family, I am the editor (read: Aunt Josephine).

Family history is an interesting thing. On my mother’s side, I know my heritage is Eastern European, but a few generations back, it becomes impossible to trace the exact lineage. Both of my maternal grandparents had Jewish roots in Hungary, and during World War II, not only were many printed records destroyed, but many living records as well. Several of my Jewish great-uncles disappeared during the war, and it is only too easy to imagine what happened to them. When I walked through the sobering Jewish Museum in Berlin two summers ago, it was like staring into a chilling mirror of an alternate reality. A few decades later, a few different decisions, and it was easy to imagine my own picture on those elegiac walls.

The Jewish Memorial in Berlin

Since much of my maternal ancestry is shrouded in history’s fog, my paternal grandmother’s research becomes even more interesting to me. Far from being a dusty chronicle of births, deaths, names, and dates, my grandmother’s book tells the stories of the people who are partly responsible for my existence, as far back as the research goes. I heard stories about my father’s childhood wish for a pet snake, my grandmother’s employment under a chauvinistic Kansas newspaper editor, my great-grandfather’s shocking decision to send his daughters to college, and generations of farmers, pioneers, and immigrants before that.

My paternal grandmother’s family in 1945. She is standing on the left.

Being a young person in an individualistic culture can feel like being adrift, an unmoored raft on a lonely sea. Finding out where you come from–who went before you and how they confronted life’s challenges–brings a certain sense of security, of knowing your place in a larger web of people. It’s like belonging to a clan in Scotland’s clan system, or giving directions to a new place based on other familiar landmarks. Learning the stories of family members, even those long gone, helps me to better understand my own story by placing it as a succeeding chapter to theirs.

Besides, they are irresistibly interesting.

This is my grandmother’s grandmother, Cora (1856-1952). She grew up as a pioneer girl who lived with a fear of marauding Indians to the very end of her life. In her old age, she loved candy and spoiling her granddaughter, making handmade doll clothes and putting away pretty items for her hope chest. For a section of my childhood, I was convinced that I was Laura Ingalls and went nowhere without my checkered red dress and sunbonnet. I still treasure the doll clothes that my own grandmother made by hand. I wonder if echoes of personality can reverberate across generations. 

Great-grandmother Ada (1872-1962) was an educated working woman before the turn of the century. A seamstress by trade, she probably made this dress/hat she is wearing in her wedding photo. Married “late” (age 24!), she was a good listener and loved to read. As a gift, she gave my grandmother a diary which she kept daily through high school. I now have a copy. Perhaps there’s a bit of physical resemblance between us, too?

It is good to have history. It is good to be a part of something greater than yourself. I am blessed not to be a chapter without a prologue.

What is your family story? Do you know anything of your roots?