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Friday, July 18, 2014

Hungry For A New Middle Grade Book? ALL FOUR STARS Giveaway!!

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin
Boy, do I have a tasty treat for you. Gladys Gatsby has arrived!

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated, but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world. But to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret. Easy as pie, right?

I first met author Tara Dairman's wonderful character Gladys Gatsby when 250 words of Gladdy's bold culinary antics were featured in a contest entry on Miss Snark's First Victim. I fell deeply in love with that single page, so you can imagine my feelings about an entire book full of this charming heroine. I wasn't a bit surprised when I learned that the manuscript had been snatched up by a fabulous agent and, shortly after, a very large publisher.

Spirit, humor, heart, and mouthwatering dishes make All Four Stars a must-read for any lover of middle grade literature, particularly young chefs-in-the-making and young foodies. And all of the delicious food items mentioned in the book have been personally savored by the author, who sampled some of the world's most scrumptious meals and nibbles during her 2-year, 74-country honeymoon...yes, it's true, go read about it here). Here's a sample of the fantastic industry praise All Four Stars has gotten:

 Gladys is a lovable character with plenty of spunk and desireand readers will happily cheer her on, while the fresh plot adds a delicious dimension to the host of stories set in sixth grade.

The [restaurant-reviewing] plan goes disastrously and hilariously awry, but Gladys and fine food ultimately triumph. The characters are well drawn…Give this one to your young foodies.-SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Younger readers (especially those who know their way around a kitchen) will be amused by Gladys’s reviews of her parents’ horrible cooking (“The peas… arrived at the table in a soggy, mushy state fit for a baby”) and her plot to get to New York City without alerting any adults. The triumphant conclusion makes this a tasty read.

Gladys turns out to be surprisingly canny and resourceful…and Gladys’s psychological journey and personal transformation are solid and credible. [An] entertaining story about the joys of following one’s bliss.

All Four Stars has been named an Amazon Best Book of the Month for July

The book was released on July 10 and I've already bought 3 copies for myself and family members. I love it so much that I'm giving away a copy to my blog readers as well. *Just leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered. The winner will be chosen via Random.org on July 25th.*

Tara's Website: http://taradairman.com/

Follow Tara on Twitter (@TaraDairman)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Power of Books: Our Very Own Squash

Sophie's Squash, by Pat Zietlow Miller & Anne Wilsdorf, has been a very popular book at our house since it came out last year. It's been SO popular that it should have come as no surprise several months ago when my five-year-old wouldn't let me cook a spaghetti squash I bought, instead insisting that it was her new friend. She named her squash Lucy. A little background on the book, for those of you who aren't familiar:

On a trip to the farmers' market with her parents, Sophie chooses a squash, but instead of letting her mom cook it, she names it Bernice. From then on, Sophie brings Bernice everywhere, despite her parents' gentle warnings that Bernice will begin to rot. As winter nears, Sophie does start to notice changes.... What's a girl to do when the squash she loves is in trouble?

The recipient of four starred reviews, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor, Sophie's Squash will be a fresh addition to any collection of seasonal books.

What's a mom to do? I let her draw a face on it and "Lucy" was carried around, brought on wagon walks, and tucked in at night for...well, for a long time. As gardening season approached (it's late in Colorado due to occasional snowstorms in April/May), I gently suggested that we make Lucy a bed in the backyard. The squash fell and broke open on the way to the garden, so I let my daughter sprinkle some of Lucy's seeds in a few different spots before we buried the halves of her. And so this:

Has turned into this:

There are three little sections of green in this photo (except for behind her~ those are weeds)~ all from Lucy

Now we're just waiting for the final step~ finding a baby squash.
Illustration from Sophie's Squash
This book is a joy all on its own, but the fact that it prompted such a great activity with me and my little one makes it extra special. If you have any wee kids/grandkids/neighborhood kids who have birthdays coming up, I highly suggest getting a copy of Sophie's Squash along with your choice of grocery store squash. It's a fun gift pairing. And a sequel to the book, Sophie's Seeds, is coming soon.

Hope you're enjoying some fun activities this summer!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Grants and Contests for Writers~ A Discovered Resource

Every now and then I search around Ye Olde Internet for grants and contests that I don't end up following through with because I either A) forget about the deadline, B) feel like novel drafting is more important at the time, or C) Life intervenes. During one of these recent quests, I discovered a website that might already be familiar to some of you:


FFW is a website that has several different pages (including Grants, Contests, and Markets) that direct you to a variety of opportunities.

Warning~ some of them are location-based (example: for an Arizona writer) and some are subject-based (example: project must support social welfare in some manner). I'd set aside a good hour to peruse the possibilities as you may have to sift through lots of things that won't apply to you in order to find golden tickets.

After a fairly quick assessment, I was pleased to see that they do have up-to-date grants/contests and the deadlines are (mostly) stated. Here's one contest they list:

ALICE MUNRO FESTIVAL SHORT STORY COMPETITION http://alicemunrofestival.ca/?page_id=306 ENTRY FEES $10 and $25. Limit 5,000 words. Deadline August 1, 2014. Both the teen and adult categories will award first place $500, second place $300, third place $200, fourth place $75 and fifth place $25. Portions of the winning stories may be read during the gala event on September 27.

Many of the contests require entry fees, but here's the website's response to that:

Writing contests provide steps up for a writer – especially a struggling writer. A portfolio that contains contest wins means more than many clips. Can’t afford the entry fees? Consider entering one contest a quarter or something more amiable to your pocketbook. A few are free. Contests provide prizes, prestige and usually publication with many offering book contracts. Denouncing contests from your writing repertoire is like discounting an entire genre or refusing to eat yellow vegetables. You’re giving up something valuable that may serve you and your career well.

This might be a website to check every month or so to see if they've added anything that's up your alley. Feel free to chime in if you have any experience with FFW!

(Oh, and here's the lovely-as-always July contest round-up from Sub It Club: http://subitclub.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/july-contest-roundup/)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day! My Favorite Dad in Life & Kid Lit...

Dad holding my youngest kiddo
Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there!

If you have a chance to leave a comment on this post, I'd love to learn who your favorite fictional dad is. Mine has to be Danny's father in Roald Dahl's Danny, The Champion of the World

My father has always been a fan of music, particularly songs that tell stories. His favorite singers (including John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin) are ones who have interesting things to say, and he's one of those people who will play you a song, pause it, then repeat a lyric to see if you've realized how cool or poignant or meaningful it was.

He probably doesn't remember this, but he once told me that Paul Simon's "Graceland" was the most perfect song ever written. So this one's for you, Dad:
The Mississippi Delta was shining
Like a National guitar
I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the civil war
I'm going to Graceland
In Memphis Tennessee
I'm going to Graceland
Poor boys and pilgrims with families
And we are going to Graceland
My traveling companion is nine years old
He is the child of my first marriage
But I've reason to believe
We both will be received
In Graceland

She comes back to tell me she's gone
As if I didn't know that
As if I didn't know my own bed
As if I'd never noticed
The way she brushed her hair from her forehead
And she said losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow

I'm going to Graceland
Memphis Tennessee
I'm going to Graceland
Poor boys and pilgrims with families
And we are going to Graceland

And my traveling companions
Are ghosts and empty sockets
I'm looking at ghosts and empties
But I've reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland

There is a girl in New York City
Who calls herself the human trampoline
And sometimes when I'm falling, flying
Or tumbling in turmoil I say
Oh, so this is what she means
She means we're bouncing into Graceland
And I see losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow

In Graceland, in Graceland
I'm going to Graceland
For reasons I cannot explain
There's some part of me wants to see
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there's no obligations now
Maybe I've a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland

Sunday, June 1, 2014

One Month Countdown to Becky Thatcher and Co.

Hi All~
I've got a book coming out in just one month and my editor, the lovely Kristin Ostby of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, was kind enough to ship me a couple of early copies so I could see what they look like. Here they are:

(mine's on the left, next to shiny new editions of MARK TWAIN (!!!) books)
New editions of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are being released at the same time (to be sold individually and in a boxed collection with Becky T.). Iacopo Bruno did a wonderful job with the covers and interior illustrations and I'm excited for the books to hit shelves on July 1st

Munchkin# 1 w/ books

Munchkin #2 w/ books (looks like she prefers Huck Finn)
My parents happened to stop by last Thursday/Friday and I got to surprise them with the dedication page featuring two names that are very near and dear to me: Mom & Dad. They drove to Colorado after visiting my grandma in Iowa~ 11 hours just to see the grandkids~ before heading back across the country to their home in Tennessee. They called this morning, having stopped in Hannibal, Missouri, hometown of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. Here are a couple of photos they emailed me from the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum:

Becky Thatcher House (part of the Museum's property)

Boyhood Home (with nicely whitewashed fences)

Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum sign
And in weather news, it's finally starting to warm up around here. My 5-year-old gathered a bowl of hail during last week's storm and put it in the freezer to show anyone who happens to drop by, but other than that, I believe summer is on the way. Hope you're all doing well!

Monday, May 12, 2014

May Writing Contest Round-Up (and a snow update)

Once again, I'm going to direct you to the capable hands of the SubItClub blog for contest information. Here are a few of the items they have listed for the rest of the month. Go to THIS POST for a full list:

5/12: May Secret Agent Contest - Open to MG and YA. Qualifying entries are critiqued online.

5/15: Remixing the World’s Problems Challenge - Using the poems from Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer as inspiration, write your own remix poem. Winning remix will receive $500 from the author.

5/22: Query Kombat – Submissions will start on the 22nd with the first rounds beginning June 1st. Agents will be participating including Pam Van Hylckama Vlieg, Cate Hart, and Sandy Lu. More details will be posted on Michelle Hauck’s blog soon.

5/31: Write Club 2014 - Submit a 500 word sample to be considered for one of 32 participants that compete in weekly bouts. There are agent and editor judges participating.
In other news, we got more snow yesterday and it's still snowing as I type this post. My girls are set up at the kitchen table with spoons and bowls of snow in front of them. The 16-month old has plain snow, but I let my 5-year-old decorate hers with colored sugar sprinkles. I figure if you can't beat it, eat it.

This morning: Bike & Shovel

This morning: Porch chair (aka, snow lump)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day~ A Song Tribute

Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful mother!

In addition to throwing the most creative themed birthday parties ever, my mom loved to sing around the house and in the car. As a result, I am now notorious for making up silly songs and belting out the Frozen soundtrack with my own daughters. Some of my favorite memories of growing up with mom include our impromptu duets to Going To The Chapel, Hey Big Spender, and this song:

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!