Well, hello there. It’s been a while!
Where have I been? I’m so glad you ask.
Under a rock is the answer. A very particular, very heavy rock.
I spent this last year teaching.
Yes, last fall I accepted a job with a one-on-one private school. I taught English and Life Skills to students with a variety of learning needs, from ADHD and dyslexia to autism and severe anxiety.
It was very rewarding. I met some incredible kids and inspiring teachers. Education is amazing, because you literally get to see your work growing up in front of your eyes. Someday I’ll probably end up writing about the experience.
It was also hard. Extremely hard. Even if I don’t mention the hours (ahem, unpaid overtime), that doesn’t even begin to touch on the stress and the chaos, the student meltdowns, the last-minute sub requests, the weekly Contagious Diseases Roulette, the discipline, the lengthy and critical parent emails, the active shooter drills.
If you can read this, go thank whoever taught you to read. No, really. Stop what you’re doing. Okay.
For myself, I decided to step away from the position at the end of the school year. While my teaching experience left me with immense respect for everyone who works to help young people grow up okay in a world that isn’t, I also realized that being a full-time classroom teacher isn’t for me. A worthwhile experience in itself. And the reason I have been mostly MIA from the writing/publishing world for a year.
Which was one of the hardest things about this job. Writing gives me life, and it was so tough to have nearly no time to work toward my passion. However, in spite of the chaos, I did still manage to accomplish a few things on the writing front this year. I wasn’t very good about communicating them, though, so here’s a brief recap in case you missed anything!
- I released audio versions of The Illuminator’s Gift and The Illuminator’s Test
- I gave a TEDx talk called “Do Something Worth Writing”
- I had a poem published in an online literary magazine
- I wrote a handful of new poems
- I’m just happy I stayed alive for a year, let alone published anything!
Now that I’m starting to recover from a year’s worth of lost sleep, the creative juices are flowing once more. I have a few new projects coming down the pipe, at least two of which I hope to release before the end of the year! Keep your eyes peeled for:
- An audiobook of The Illuminator Rising, read by my awesome British narrator, Wendy Wolfson!
- A completely new book! It’s still very much under construction, but I will say that it is a book of poems.
I focused on fiction writing during my English studies and have never primarily thought of myself as a poet. Yet I’ve been writing poetry since I was 12 and have read, studied, and taught poetry in various contexts. I’ve even written about poetry, shared a few poems, and interviewed a poet on this blog. More importantly, poetry is the clearest way I know to give voice to the truth as I see it. And to make music with words, because words are beautiful and interesting and filled with all the meaning in the world. It will be very different in genre and tone from my previous books, yet I can already see that they will share a number of themes, such as loss, hope, and redemption.
More details to come! For now, I am happy to be climbing out from under my particular rock.
A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very, very long time:
I got to meet Kate DiCamillo!
You probably already know who Kate DiCamillo is, because she’s THAT famous. But if you don’t know, then it’s high time you had the pleasure. She’s written numerous short stories, picture books, early readers, and middle-grade novels. She’s one of, oh, SIX people to ever win two Newbery medals AND a Newbery Honor, plus she served as the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature in 2014-2015.
Also, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, she’s my writing idol. Her books (two of which are on my Top 30 Favorite Books of All Time list) touch my heart and make me both laugh and cry. I love to teach them almost as much as I love to read them. Their key themes are empathy, creativity, community, and the mixture of joy and sorrow we encounter in life. I want to be her when I grow up.
Which is why I didn’t think twice about driving 3 1/2 hours to see her speak on a Friday night. She’s based in the Midwest and almost never makes appearances in northern California. To borrow a Hamilton reference, I wasn’t about to throw away my shot.
Listening to her speak was worth every minute of the drive. She was funny, down-to-earth, and supremely articulate. She spent most of the time fielding questions from the audience, and her answers validated so many of the things I have experienced and come to believe about writing. One of my favorite quotes of the night:
“As a writer, you have to have everything open: your eyes, and your ears, and your mind, and your heart.”
And that’s why she’s amazing.
I didn’t even feel awkward standing in the signing line with a gazillion starry-eyed elementary schoolers, because there were plenty of other starry-eyed adults in line too. I felt like a teeny bopper at a boy-band concert. Except…you know. Without the boy band. Or the concert. Much more fun.
And finally I got to meet her! In spite of the throngs of adoring and noisy fans around her, she was so personable and easy to talk with. We talked about writing and publishing and the themes of loss in her books. She signed all the books I brought/bought (including four copies of Because of Winn-Dixie, because, you know, a person needs four).
And I’m pretty sure I gushed about her all the way home. Life goal, unlocked.
Last weekend was the Bay Area Book Festival–the most bookish weekend of the year!
For the fourth year running, downtown Berkeley closed off several square blocks of traffic, and I ran a booth on Milvia Street. The difference this year was that, for the first time, I had the complete Voyages of the Legend series on my display table. It was a strange feeling to see the work of nearly a decade spread out in front of me.
It was really fun to see faces both new and familiar at this year’s fair! After working so hard to put out Book 4 last fall, I was especially encouraged by returning readers who came by specifically to pick up The Illuminated Kingdom.
My lovely mom did hand painting, using glittery designs from each of the four Voyages books.
It was a chilly, blustery day in Berkeley, but the carnival atmosphere was unmissable. The smell of kettle corn drifted tantalizingly from the food court and kids rode the mini train up and down the street, waving at passersby, all day long.
My booth neighbors, authors Raenell Jones and B.C. Hatch of Little ChickLit Books, were both lovely. Little ChickLit had this photo wall supporting girls in embracing descriptors beyond “pretty,” and asked me to pick a word of my own.
I picked the word “brave”–which not only represents Ellie’s journey in The Voyages of the Legend, but my own as I’ve navigated writing and publishing this series over the last ten years. It felt fitting.
11/18 was the launch party for The Illuminated Kingdom, hosted by the lovely Books Inc. in Santa Clara.
One of their amazing booksellers hand-drew this sign in chalk!
The entire staff was wonderful (and decked out in unicorn getup for a later event. What could be better than bookstores plus unicorns?)
I felt so honored by all the people who turned out for the event, even though it was the weekend before Thanksgiving! We read together from The Illuminated Kingdom, had some Q&A time, and of course, signed books.
My lovely mom did washable art on people’s hands (some Vestigians even got their fleet tattoos).
It was especially priceless to see the faces of old friends who have traipsed with me throughout the journey of this series. Plus the face of the small and perfect person to whom Book 4 is dedicated ❤
Thanks to everyone who came out for the launch! If you’re still looking to get a copy signed before Christmas, I’ll be at a table in front of the Recycle Bookstore West on 12/17 from 9:30-12:30 (during the Campbell farmers’ market). I also have more events coming in January, so keep an eye on my News and Events page!
Release day for The Illuminated Kingdom is just TWO DAYS away! To celebrate the launch of this final book of The Voyages of the Legend series, there will be a series of festive events, both in person and online. Here’s the list!
11/3: BOOK LAUNCH DAY!! Grab a copy and start reading!
11/4-11/17: Online book tour! Several awesome authors/creatives/book reviewers have graciously agreed to host book tour stops on their websites to celebrate the launch of The Illuminated Kingdom. Stop by!
11/4: Fantasy author Angela Wallace: book launch announcement
11/5: Fantasy author Kasper Beaumont: interview
11/6: Anglophile and serenity author Pauline Wiles: interview
11/8: Children’s author Jenn Castro: book launch announcement
11/10: Writer and artist Caleb Fong: book launch announcement
11/11: Fantasy author Intisar Khanani: book launch announcement
11/12: Author and book reviewer Anela Deen: book launch announcement
11/17: Fantasy author A.R. Silverberry: book launch announcement and e-book giveaway
11/18: In-person launch party at Books Inc. Santa Clara! Drop in starting at 2 PM for snacks, activities, reading, Q&A, and book signing!
12/17: Book signing at Recycle Bookstore West! 9:30 AM-12:30 PM (during the Campbell farmers’ market)–one last chance to get Book 4 signed before Christmas!
Celebration time! I hope to see you at some point during the festivities!
THE ILLUMINATED KINGDOM
The Final Voyage of the Legend
Coming November 3, 2017!!!
“…[an] astounding, imaginative world…”
The Vestigia Roi has risen up to retake their home island of Rhynlyr, but all Ellie can think about is rescuing her missing brother, Connor. Guided by a dream of Connor’s whereabouts, Ellie disobeys the Council’s orders and stows away aboard the Legend. But a simple rescue mission quickly goes wrong as Ellie and her friends confront new monsters and old enemies. The crewmembers of the Legend soon find themselves waging a last, desperate battle to save not just Connor or Rhynlyr, but their entire world. As the One Kingdom hangs in the balance, Ellie and the Vestigia Roi must ultimately decide what they are fighting for—and how much they are willing to sacrifice for it.
After more than nine years of writing this series, the fourth and FINAL book in The Voyages of the Legend series is almost ready for you to read!!! And I’m so excited to share it with you!
Here’s what you can do to be part of this exciting launch:
1. Hop on Amazon.com on November 3rd and get your copy of THE ILLUMINATED KINGDOM! (It would be an extra bonus if you’d leave a review!!)
2: Stop by the launch party on November 18th for a signed copy! The party is at 2 PM at the Santa Clara Books Inc. There will be a reading, Q&A time, and of course lots of books! I’d love to see you there!
3. Spread the word about the book release! It takes lots of voices to create a successful book launch. So if you’re excited about this book, tweet it out or tell a friend!
I’m so excited to share this series finale with you!!!
(Before you read this post, you should go grab your sale e-book of The Illuminator’s Test! It’s on sale July 21-23, with the lowest prices at the beginning of the weekend–just 99 cents!)
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, because I’ve been in the writing cave, working hard to get BOOK 4 of The Voyages of the Legend ready for you to read this fall! Title reveal coming soon…
But when I’m not in the writing cave, sometimes I get outside and talk to people 😉 Here’s an update on some fun, bookish events I’ve been up to lately!
My booth at the Bay Area Book Festival (Berkeley, CA). The best part was seeing readers I’d met last year who came back for more! I’m already looking forward to next year 🙂
A school visit to an amazing classroom. I can’t even believe the ideas these brilliant and creative 5th graders came up with during our workshop on “Creating a Story”!
In June, the Recycle Bookstore Book Club read The Illuminator’s Gift, then invited me to join their conversation! Such fun talking books with people who like to read them!
I was thrilled and honored that The Illuminator’s Gift was named a Finalist for the Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition and a Semifinalist for the BookLife Prize in Fiction. I did an interview for Shelf Unbound, which you can read here. BookLife gave the book a score of 8.75/10 and described the story as “…dramatic, steadily building adventures set in a vividly imagined world.” Yay!
I joined author Jody Lee Mott on his Dream Gardens podcast to talk about one of my favorite, favorite books: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Kate DiCamillo is one of my writing heroes, and it was really fun to articulate just what I admire about her writing! Listen in to hear our conversation.
Video is probably my least favorite publicity medium (I’m always more comfortable behind than in front of a camera) but I’m working on it! I now have a YouTube presence, thanks to Alida Winternheimer and Kathryn Arnold of the Story Works Round Table. We had a fun video chat about the characteristics of middle-grade fantasy, with a second episode releasing in the future.
Phew! That was a lot! Time to get back to the writing cave now. But if you run a classroom, book group, podcast, or other literary event, I’d love to do a workshop or Q&A with you! Click on my Contact page to get in touch!