Happy book birthday to me!
It’s officially here! My new baby goes on sale today in bookstores everywhere!
A LITTLE WOMEN CHRISTMAS is so beautiful it practically glows, thanks to artwork by the gifted Bagram Ibatoulline. Seriously, I just keep turning the pages and smiling! Every picture book author out there knows exactly how I feel — it’s an amazing feeling to see one’s story come to life visually — but to have your publisher choose an illustrator like Bagram Ibatoulline for your book … well, that’s when you feel like you just won the Triple Crown.
(You also feel like you won the Triple Crown when Publishers Weekly gives your book a STAR and calls it “brimming with warmth … as crisp and clear as a snap of winter air.” Wow! Click here to read the full review.)
This story is close to my heart in several ways. First of all, of course, because it’s really Louisa May Alcott‘s story, and I’m just re-telling it in a different form, for a different audience. Louisa was one of my childhood heroes. I lived in Concord, Massachusetts, from fourth grade through tenth grade, just a short bike ride away from Orchard House, the Alcott family home where Louisa lived and wrote Little Women. Being an aspiring author myself, I was awestruck. I used to save up my babysitting money (a whopping 25 cents an hour back then) for the entrance fee, then ride over and take the tour as often as I could. I’m sure the nice people at Orchard House got a little tired of seeing my eager face!
It was incredibly inspiring to me to see the rooms where Louisa lived and worked. The half-moon desk that her father, Bronson Alcott, built for her so that she could have a place to write! The dining room where she and her sisters put on plays, just like my sisters and I did! I couldn’t get enough of it.
(By the way, Orchard House is making a documentary about the home’s 350-year history, and needs our help to fund it. If you’re a fan of Louisa May Alcott and Little Women, please click here to learn more about how you can support this important project.)
Back to Louisa and me. Let’s fast forward a few decades. My childhood dream has come true, and I am now a published author, thanks in no small part to the early inspiration which Louisa provided. I poured some of my gratitude and love for her into THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB, which is set in Concord, and in which my fictional book club reads Little Women. There was plenty left over, though. Can you imagine how delighted I am to be able to pay tribute to her once again, with this beautiful book?
Let’s celebrate! It’s a birthday party, after all. I have two copies of A LITTLE WOMEN CHRISTMAS to give away. If you’d like to win one, just share your favorite Louisa May Alcott quote with us in the comments below. (Don’t know one? Hint: Google is your friend.)
Winners will be chosen at random at midnight on October 12th. US and Canada only, please. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook or Twitter or other social media for additional entries. (If you tweet or blog or otherwise share on social media, please leave a link in the comments below so I can assign you an extra entry.)
BONUS: Anyone who contributes to the Orchard House documentary Kickstarter campaign will be assigned TWO additional entries! Any amount qualifies — just let me know you’ve contributed. We’re on the honor system with this one.
I recently returned from a writing retreat (more on that another time) to find a mountain of mail waiting for me. Snail mail! Email! Packages and parcels! Whee!
I love hearing from all of you, and I promise you will hear back from me, but it will have to wait until I finish the first draft of MDBC #7….
There is one bit of mail I need to respond to right away, though, and publicly. It’s from Cassie in Canada. Cassie is an aspiring writer, and an extremely talented one. I got a sneak peek at her future greatness thanks to an incredible piece of fan fiction that she sent to me. Here it is:
If you click on the picture, it should enlarge enough so you can read the title: “Gatsbing at Surprises”
Can you guess what she’s chosen for the mother-daughter book club to read in her story? Yep. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. An excellent choice, and one of my favorite classic novels!
As I opened this beautifully bound volume, I discovered the first surprise–she dedicated it to me! I got tears in my eyes as I read the inscription:
For Heather Vogel Frederick, who is my inspiration and whose delightful series
was the inspiration behind this book.
But wait! There’s more! She also included a note:
The only thing better than writing this book would be seeing your face when you opened it!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy your own series! Happy Reading.
Here I am, tears in my eyes and all:
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
Is that perfect or what? Don’t you just want to dive in? I sure did.
Cassie, you are a WONDER! You absolutely made my day, my week, my month, and more. I can’t thank you enough for this dear, heartfelt, amazing gift. Reading your story has been my treat to myself these past few evenings, after I finish my writing for the day. It’s ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, DARLING! (as Wolfgang would say). Oh, And I love love LOVE the “Author’s Note.”
She ends it with: “Since this is the author’s note, I guess it means my book is finished. It’s not great, it’s not even that good but in the words of Francis Scott Fitzgerald, ‘tomorrow I will run faster, stretch out my arms farther…’ Practice makes perfect and who knows, maybe books by Cassandra [last name deleted for privacy] will start appearing on your library shelves someday!”
I have absolutely no doubt they will. Here’s why: Those three words, “practice makes perfect.”
This is the heart and soul of writing–of any art, and any endeavor in life. Cassie obviously gets that. We have to work at the things we love, to become good at them, and then great.
Here’s what one of my literary heroes, Ann Patchett, has to say on the subject:
“Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story.” This is from her superb essay “The Getaway Car,” which as far as I am concerned is required reading for every single aspiring writer on the planet. It can be found in her book of collected essays, “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” and also purchased as a single essay here and here and here.
Practice makes perfect.
When I was Cassie’s age, I aspired not only to be a writer, but also a flutist. My hero was Jean-Pierre Rampal. I listened to his recordings endlessly, by turn inspired (because he was so phenomenal) and discouraged (because he was so phenomenal). I heard him twice in person, and swooned at his skill. I tried to echo his phrasing when I played the pieces he played, tried to mimic his tone and his passion for music. While I always fell short of his perfection (seriously, the man was superhuman), my technique greatly improved under this regimen. He gave me something to aspire to, and although I never became a professional flutist (my love of writing eclipsed my love of music at some point in college), I was a better musician for it.
It’s the same with fan fiction, and with the practice novels and practice stories we produce, and all the writing we do in fits and starts when we’re first beginning. Keep working at it, keep aspiring, keep practicing.
Practice makes perfect.
I’m signing off for a couple of weeks to FINISH MDBC #7 (which still doesn’t have a title, believe it or not).
Behave yourselves while I’m gone, OK?
I’ll have lots to tell you when I return, and lots to share, including a sneak peek (finally) of ABSOLUTELY TRULY, which is mere WEEKS away from its book birthday! (And which is available for pre-order from your favorite bookseller, hint hint…) It just received this glowing review from Kirkus:
“Moving from Texas to New Hampshire, displaced 12-year-old Truly Lovejoy finds herself solving two local mysteries while adjusting to small-town life.
Everything changes when Truly’s Army pilot father loses an arm in Afghanistan and returns home depressed, causing her parents to unexpectedly relocate to rural Pumpkin Falls to manage her grandparents’ failing bookshop. Just under 6 feet tall and worried she won’t fit in, Truly’s surprised how quickly she feels part of both school and community as she helps in the bookshop, tries out for the swim team and practices ballroom dancing for Cotillion at the Winter Festival. Convinced a signed, first edition of Charlotte’s Web she’s discovered will alleviate the bookshop’s financial woes, Truly’s determined to catch the thief when the volume vanishes. Meanwhile, a cryptic message she finds inside the book triggers an elaborate treasure hunt as Truly and her new friends decipher clues leading them to hair-raising escapades in the library, church bell tower and covered bridge. Truly tells her story in a relaxed voice, allowing readers to warm to her genuine, self-effacing, humorous, foot-in-her-mouth persona along with her realistically portrayed, fun-loving family and a bevy of eccentric Pumpkin Falls locals.
There’s never a dull moment in Pumpkin Falls with Truly Lovejoy on the case in this contemporary, feel-good series opener.”
I am so thrilled that the first review out of the gate is such a great one! Thank you, anonymous reviewer, whoever you are!
When I return, I’ll also be able to (finally) offer a few hints about MDBC #7 — and some pictures, too, since I’ll be spending some time on location at the place where the story is set. Fun, huh?
Ciao 4 niao, everyone!
P.S. And if you’re on deadline too, or you know someone who is, click here for DIY instructions for this cool door knob sign: