Monday, March 30, 2009


This past Friday night, I visited with a mother/daughter book group in Peabody, MA. They had been reading THE SACRIFICE and asked if I would like to join them for their meeting. Mother/daughter or Father/Son book groups were not around when my girls were little. I wish they had been. It was such a fun night!

The girls started with pizza and then, we all got down to discussing THE SACRIFICE. When the evening was over, I thought about why these groups are so great - and why if you are a reader, you should try and start one yourself.


1. OKAY - THE OBVIOUS: YOU GET TO READ GREAT BOOKS. Book groups get suggestions from each other and from the readers in their group. You may love a book, and it is great to share it with others. On the other hand, you may not have heard about another book that is equally wonderful. Librarians can make suggestions on what to read. But isn't it better to hear about a book from your own friends - ones who share the same love of reading or interests that you do?

2. YOU GET TO EAT JUNK FOOD - Admit it. If you stayed home for the night, your mom would be serving broccoli and salmon. But no mom would dare to serve that at Book Group! Book Group nights are all about the pizza or some equally fabulous food! And if make-your-own sundaes or homemade brownies finish off the night, even better!

3. YOUR MOM MAY THINK SHE IS SPENDING TIME WITH YOU BUT YOU ARE ACTUALLY SPENDING TIME WITH YOUR FRIENDS - What better way to have an evening with a ton of your friends? Imagine this: "Hey mom, can I have twelve girls over for the night and could you make extra special food for them and clean up after us?" Not going to happen! But if you say, "Hey mom, can I have twelve girls over with their moms to discuss a book and have dinner?" Guess what? You've got a party!

4. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, IT WILL MAKE YOUR MOTHER, FATHER, AUNT, WHOMEVER YOU INVITE VERY, VERY HAPPY. - I'll let you in on a little secret. There is nothing moms love better than spending time with their daughters. Same goes for fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents. On Saturday night, my college daughter brought six of her roommates home to spend the night. I was in heaven! If tomorrow was my last day on earth, I would want to spend it with my daughters. That said, your mom will love doing this with you. And as they say, when mommy's happy, everybody's happy! And it will make you feel great to do something for her - Trust me!

So go on! Start a mother/daughter, father/daughter, mother/son, grandmother/grandson whatever book group. You have nothing to lose and a party to gain!

Monday, March 23, 2009


Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting an elementary school out in Western Massachusetts. During my second presentation of the day, one young student was quick to inform me that she wanted to be a writer. What she didn't realize is that she already is a writer! Students so often think that being a writer means being published. But if you write, you are a writer now! In order to showcase this fact, I have decided to do a series of monthly interviews with young and aspiring WRITERS I meet on my travels. And so Mary will be the first of these monthly interviews.

Are you a student who is a writer now and wishes someday to be published? Follow me on my blog and contact me via my website:, and you may find yourself being interviewed, too!

Here is a picture of this young and refreshing writer along with our interview.

So Mary, why is it that you want to be a writer?

I think it is really fun to write, and my Mom and Dad think that I have some talent.

Do you see yourself as more of a novelist or a picture book writer?

Definitely a picture book writer. I like the stories in picture books and the illustrations.

How long have you been writing?

I've been writing for about a year and a half now, although I've been reading lots of books, too.

Who are your favorite authors?

Jan Brett for picture books, JK Rowling and Kathleen Benner Duble!

Well, thank you! That is quite a nice group of authors to be included in. So can you tell me a little bit about some of the things you've written?

I've just finished a picture book entitled MOUSE'S BIG PROBLEM. It is the story of a mouse who is planning a party at his house. Unfortunately, all his friends, like Bear and Tiger, are too big to fit inside his house.

That sounds like a terrific story. I can just see the illustrations, and I am dying to know how he solves his problem. When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to run around outside, playing soccer or pretending to be an animal. I read and watch TV. My favorite show is SWEET LIFE ON DECK. I am in a play right now called THE THIRTEEN COLONIES. I also love vacations to the beach, playing cards, doing puzzles and finding sea glass.

Well, that's my interview with up and coming author, Mary. Tune in next month for my next featured artist. Until then, all you aspiring authors, keep on writing, and remember to tell everyone you meet, I AM A WRITER!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


So I am in the middle of my new book, MADAME TUSSAUD'S APPRENTICE and decided I would share with you some very strange facts about life in France in 1789. Wait! You don't know who Madame Tussaud is? Well, buckle your seatbelts then because her life was one bumpy ride!

She started out as Maria Gershotlz. Her mother was a maid to a Dr. Philip Curtuis. Dr. Curtius made wax figures, mainly to show new physicians how to operate (doing this on real bodies was illegal in those day!) He took Maria under his wing and began to show her how to do this herself. Now fast forward . . . Dr. Curtius moves them all to France where the King becomes interested in his work. He invites Maria (who is now 20) out to show his granddaughter (Madame Elizabeth) how to make these wax figures. Fast forward again . . .

It is now 1789. Maria is 29, and the people of Paris are starving. What do you do when you're hungry, poor, and your rulers are living in a place like this . . .?
You have a revolution! What else?
So the people rebelled. Poor Maria! She was declared a Royalist (a bad thing to be when people are a bit angry with that crowd) She is arrested. Her head is shaved, and she is slated to lose that head to the guillotine. Don't know what a guillotine is . . . It is a nasty bit of equipment that you lay your head down on and then a blade come whizzing down and chops off that lovely head!

But wait . . . Remember - Maria has special skills! She can make wax figures, including heads! So the National Assembly decides they can use that skill of hers. (Remember - there were no newspapers in 1789). So the new leaders of the French nation offer Maria this deal: if you will make wax replicas of the heads we guillotine (chop off), we will let you go free. So what did Maria do? You'll have to read my novel to find out! Ha! Ha!

But in the meantime, here are some fun facts about the French court and the French revolution (and not all of them will make it into my book - unfortunately)

1. When the King and Queen were overthrown, the new leaders of France wanted everything to be different - including the calendar and the time. So they created a whole new calendar and a whole new way of telling time. They changed the days of the week from seven to ten. Each day was divided into ten hours. Each hour had 100 minutes and each minute had 100 seconds.
Confusing? You bet! If you go to France now, guess what? They tell time and have a calendar just like ours! So this revolutionary change did not last long.

2. The winter of 1789 was so cold, that the Marquise de Rambouillet had her servants sew her into a bearskin to keep her warm. (Of course the servants stood there shivering and sewing! And I don't even want to think about the bathroom solution!)

3. The King's breakfast before he went hunting consisted of four chops, a chicken, six eggs poached in meat juice, a cut of ham and a bottle and a half of champagne (how did he stay his up on his horse?)

4. The King's wife, Marie Antoinette, commonly dressed and bathed in front of forty people!

5. Balloonists were famous people at this time. The first hot air manned balloon ride was launched from the center of Paris in 1783, and people went crazy seeing someone fly for the very first time!

6. Before the revolution, bread cost more than a week's wages! (So how did you pay for everything else. You couldn't - hence the revolution)

7. Some middle class people, wanting to pretend that they had more than they did, set up libraries in their homes where they installed imitation book spines with no books behind them so they did not have to actually read them but could pretend they owned them. (Pretty weird!)

8. Marie Antoinette was considered such a woman of fashion, that once when she was at the opera, eight women were injured pushing others out of the way to see what she was wearing: three had their feet crushed, two had ribs broken and three had their arms dislocated. (Sounds like the Oscars)

9. Before the revolution, there were only two documents that could be printed without being first reviewed by the police. They were a wedding invitation and a funeral card.

10. The Parisians visited their hairdressers every day but only put on clean clothes once a month (Ewww!)

11. Profits from Madame Tussuad's Museum in London funded three great museums: The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Natural Hstory Museum and the Science Museum. This was not a bad legacy to leave behind.

So those are my fun French Revolutionary Facts. Hope you enjoy them!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


So this past week, the group of us pictured to the left, (from top-hand left-side) myself, Lisa Greenleaf, Muriel Dubois, Ann Pernham (MSLA past president and director Region I), Jarrett Krosoczk, Mary Newell DePalma, Gerry Fegan (MSLA President Elect), Nancy Werlin and Diane Mayr were asked to judge the Massachusetts School Library Association's bookmark contest. Now, we, as humans make judgements every day: decisions like "yeah, I think I will eat my lunch directly from the crunchy peanut butter jar with a spoon" or "oh well, my overzealous washer has once more devoured a matching sock. I guess I'll throw its mate away." or in the case of my youngest daughter, "Never mind. She wears socks that don't match anyway, even when I buy her perfectly good ones in colors that are distinctly meant for each other." So who would have guessed that a simple bookmark judging contest would be so hard? But truly, it was. Each bookmark was so amazingly creative and so beautifully produced. It was incredibly difficult to make a choice, and yet that is what we had to do!

It made me realize that life is a lot about choices and judging and not all of it reflects truly on our abilities. For instance, my youngest daughter is now applying for colleges. She won't get into them all, of course. And when that happens, I, as a parent, will console her and remind her that she is still a wonderful kid with lots to offer, even if she does wear strange socks!

So why is it so hard for me to remember this when my own work gets rejected? Not every manuscript is for every editor - just as every book isn't for every reader. And what about those editors themselves? Imagine getting loads of submissions but only being able to push for and publish a few!

Just as I felt as I was looking at all those beautiful bookmarks and college admissions people must feel looking at thousands of applications, editors must frequently wish they didn't have to make a choice. They must sometimes agonize over which manuscript to take, and one will eventually be judged and rejected

So my advice this week to writers and illustrators, to myself and to all the kids who will soon get a college rejection or those students whose bookmarks weren't chosen: Rejection is not the end of the world or a definitive judgement on your abilities. Keep trying. Keep drawing and working and revising. Eventually somebody out there will choose you!

Now I will leave you with some of those wonderful MSLA bookmarks to enjoy:

Monday, March 2, 2009


So this weekend, I attended three, yes, count them, three hockey games. I watched my daughter's team win their final game in a thrilling last second victory. I watched my daughter's high school boy's team get creamed in a game that I hope will spur them on in the championships they are headed to on Wednesday. And I watched my college daughter's team win a thriller against a team that was ahead of them in the standings.

So while I was watching all these hockey games, it occurred to me that hockey is actually a lot like writing. First, to be good at hockey, you have to practice. No big brainer there! But I remembered people asking me what I did when I first moved to Boston. When I told them I wrote, they asked me what I'd published. When I told them I wasn't published yet, they always gave me this sad, little smile. Isn't she cute? But what they didn't know was that I was working hard - perfecting my craft. Just like you will find a dedicated hockey player alone on the ice or on some local frozen pond when everyone else has gone home, I was working hard at getting better.

And yet to be in the game, you can't really go it alone. It takes teamwork in writing as much as in hockey. Even before you reach your goal, you will need coaches who are willing to look at your skills and tell you how to improve. My books would not be what they are today without my editor, my sales team, my writing group and my hockey-fanatic, manuscript-critic husband there to support me - giving me that assist, passing me that puck and cheering me on as I flew down the ice

Saturday afternoon, while I watched the Andover boys get penalty after penalty, I felt their pain. How often had I got rejected just when I thought my goal was in sight? How many times had I gone offsides, lost my way in a manuscript that needed just a little more tweaking, just a little deke to the left or to the right that would have made my story that much stronger, that much more publishable?

And those refs - the ones that control the game without any input from you? Well, I've had my fair share of book reviews I'd love to have argued about. But as with hockey, it is far, far better to let them do their job, thanking them for their hard work and dedication to the game whether you like their decision or not. For while you may get bad calls one day, the next game that same ref will hand give you a power play that might land your book on the best seller list.

And in the end, there is nothing sweeter than watching the puck hit the back of the net or seeing your book hit the shelves. So no matter where you are in the process, published or unpublished, remember you will lose some games and win others. But the joy of it all is in the game itself and the knowledge that there is always hope in the next season and the next book.