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Monday, September 15, 2014

Pumpkins: The Novel of the Gardening World (and the latest book from a favorite MG author~ w/ giveaway!)

Pumpkin patch on 9-14-14
Pumpkins are one of those plants (technically fruits) that you have to wait for. They sprout fairly quickly, which gives you something to get excited about, but the process seems to drag on forever. Pumpkins, which are already available for plucking from enormous cardboard boxes outside of my local grocery store, are a lesson in patience.

My daughter and I planted the pumpkins in this photo months ago and have watched the vines grow, been delighted by the appearance of tiny yellow balls, thinned away certain plants to let the others grow better, and now we're just watching them get bigger. We're waiting. It's no use trying to hurry them along~ they'll get done when they get done.

Sound familiar? Novel writing can be a lengthy and exhausting process. Moments of excitement are followed by slogging through paragraphs that attempt to move the plot forward~ paragraphs that you know will need to be cut eventually, but at the time aid in helping you get to where you need to be in the story. Extra vines, if you will. And paragraphs of brilliance, little golden gems that delight the writer, are sometimes just disguising themselves as the same thing. Darlings that will need to be pruned for the greater good of the patch.

The pumpkins shown above would benefit from another 30 days of growth, but I'm not sure they'll get it. Unfortunately I live in a place where this sort of thing happens quite early (see other photo): SNOW.
My front porch, 09-12-14
These very short glimpses of winter threaten to shut down the entire pumpkin operation. You can cover the patch with canvas tarps, you can invest in snow-proof electric blankets to keep them cozy until Colorado changes its seasonal mindset the following day, or you can move to a more produce-friendly state. I didn't do any of those things when the snow hit last Friday, but the pumpkins seem to have survived all on their own. Tough little guys. They must really want to finish growing and get carved up as jack-o-lanterns.

In closing, don't let a few unexpected storms ruin your novels, er, pumpkins (see, now I'm getting them confused and to be fair, short stories and picture books can take just as long to "bear fruit," but my writing experience is mainly with children's novels). A growing novel is a hungry, stubborn, tough little thing, so don't give up on it.

Random fact from this fun picture book we picked up from the library: The Maxima pumpkin variety can gain as much as 5 POUNDS A DAY.


OKAY, GIVEAWAY TIME! *UPDATE: The winner is Julia Tomiak! Congratulations, Julia! Shoot me an email with your address and I'll ship it to you :)

One of my favorite middle grade authors is Stuart Gibbs. He's written the The Last Musketeer series (The Last Musketeer, Traitor's Chase, and Double Cross), the Spy School series (Spy School, Spy Camp), and the Fun Jungle series (Belly Up, Poached). I happened to get my hands on an advanced copy of his latest, SPACE CASE (which will be released tomorrow), and absolutely loved it.

It's an adventurous murder mystery with an amazing setting (Moon Base Alpha!), always-stellar Gibbs humor, and a full cast of characters/suspects. I want to pass it along to a lucky reader so just leave a comment and consider yourself entered in the giveaway. The pages have only been touched once and it's a shiny, like-brand-new copy :) *UPDATE: Winner is Julia Tomiak

Book Description:
Like his fellow lunarnauts—otherwise known as Moonies—living on Moon Base Alpha, twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson is famous the world over for being one of the first humans to live on the moon.

And he’s bored out of his mind. Kids aren’t allowed on the lunar surface, meaning they’re trapped inside the tiny moon base with next to nothing to occupy their time—and the only other kid Dash’s age spends all his time hooked into virtual reality games.

Then Moon Base Alpha’s top scientist turns up dead. Dash senses there’s foul play afoot, but no one believes him. Everyone agrees Dr. Holtz went onto the lunar surface without his helmet properly affixed, simple as that. But Dr. Holtz was on the verge of an important new discovery, Dash finds out, and it’s a secret that could change everything for the Moonies—a secret someone just might kill to keep...


  1. Thank you thank you Jess. I'm editing my ms (again) and fully appreciate the pumpkin analogy. It's been awhile since I've looked at it, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to cut some vines after a little time away. Thanks for the encouragement.
    My kids love the Spy School books and we're always looking for a good read, so pick me! Pick me!

    1. Glad your kids like the Spy School books! I know another one of those is coming out next year!

  2. Great analogy, Jess. I think I've gone through all those stages, several times. Being patient, and refusing to give up, is sometimes the hardest thing to do.

    And I can't believe you've had snow already!

    (Don't worry about entering me in the contest. I'm deluged with books right now!)

    1. Thanks, Beth! Yes, the snow is gone for now, but it's sneaky stuff and could return any day now :)

  3. It looks like I'm about to pull three pumpkins from our vines.
    And we have new growth that just happened this last week and may get three or four more out of it, not counting the other three that aren't quite ready yet.

    1. Nice! I'm thinking that we'll get about six total.

  4. Glad your pumpkins survived the snow. And yes, writing is like that. Let someone else win your awesome book who has time to read it. My TBR list is too high as usual.

    1. I can only imagine the size of your TBR list! Thanks for offering to let someone else win the book :)

  5. Love the analogy, and I'm glad your pumpkins survived the first snow.

  6. I love anything pumpkin this time of year & love your post! I read it at just the time I needed it, i.e. after another rejection. I'll consider that the snow :( But like your pumpkins my manuscript will survive to see another day. Good luck with your actual pumpkins, hopefully they'll be ready in time for Halloween!

  7. Holy cow--snow! I'm not ready for that yet!!
    We tried to grow pumpkins, but some nasty bug ate through the stalks. :( Hopefully my novels in words will be more successful!

  8. You blogged! Also, you had snow! Also, another fun pumpkin fact: the number of seeds inside a pumpkin has zero to do with the size of the pumpkin.