How the grinch stole Halloween

I have a confession to make.

Halloween is my least favorite holiday of the year.

I can’t help it — I just don’t enjoy dressing up.  The last time I had fun on Halloween was when I was in elementary school.  My mother sewed black velvet cat ears onto a headband for me, and I went dressed as Catwoman.  That costume made me insanely happy, and I wore it as often as I could until I outgrew it.

I don’t like scary stuff, either.  No horror movies for me, no spook houses, not even a corn maze.  Yep, I’m definitely a Halloween grinch!

How about you?  Do you like Halloween?  If you do, what will you go dressed as this year?

Thank you, Texas!

I love the Lone Star State!

It was a whirlwind trip, but I had a great time.  The day I arrived in Houston I got to visit with fans at the fabulous Blue Willow Bookshop:

And hang out with equally fabulous bookseller Cathy Berner:

Cathy took me to Rogers Middle School in Pearland, where I visited with the 5th and 6th graders.  Afterwards, I was interviewed by some of the students.  They asked great questions and were totally professional, just like a real news crew!

I also got to hang out with librarian Sherri Bell.   Look how cute and teeny she is next to me!  I’m a giantess!

Cathy and I also visited Memorial Parkway Junior High in Katy, where I got to hang out with another librarian, the totally hip Ellen Barnes:

Now I don’t feel like such a giantess.

See that piece of paper I’m holding?   Ellen is so hip, she made a QR (Quick Response) code for the flyer advertising my visit.  If you hold your cell phone over it, it takes you to my website.  How cool is that?

After Houston I flew to Austin for the Texas Book Festival, which totally rocked!  It’s an amazing event, with so many authors and panels and signings and parties it made my head spin.  In fact, it made my head spin so much that I forgot to take pictures!  Except this one:

That’s me with a new friend at a party.  Who wouldn’t want such an amazing piece of artwork in the entryway to their home?  I sure would.  In fact, if I could have fit it in my purse, I would have been sorely tempted to sneak off with it…

During the festival, I was on a panel with Nancy Tillman, whom I’d never met even though she lives right here in Portland.  We had to go to Texas to get to know each other!  Now I’m in love with her books — they’re gorgeous!

In Austin, I also met up with an old college friend, and the two of us went to dinner at Sandra Bullock’s fabulous restaurant, Bess Bistro:

No sign of Sandra, just tons of great food!

From Austin I flew on to Dallas, where I spent two wonderful days hanging out with Kristine Abramowitz from The Story Book House.  She has two boys, too, so we had lots to talk about.  Kristine took me to visit a couple of schools, including Timbercreek Elementary in Flower Mound.  I was surprised to see this when we drove up:

Talk about making me feel special!  If you look closely at the sign, you’ll see a little mouse hidden in my name.  There were mice hidden all over the school that day, in honor of my SPY MICE books.  In fact, a lot of the staff and students came dressed as spies!  Here I am with school principal Vickie Abshier, librarian Terri Halloran, and Charlene Matthews of the PTA (and yes, I know I’m wearing the same purple shirt — it’s my favorite piece of clothing at the moment):

Are these fabulous ladies fun-loving or what? In fact, that pretty much sums up Texas — fun-loving and fabulous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know you’re in Texas when … (cont’d)

You see a bench like this in your hotel lobby:

Aren’t those framed arrowheads on the wall above it cool?

And in another hotel lobby, I spotted the last letter sent from the Alamo in 1836:

It was on the wall outside the men’s room.  Kind of an embarrassing place to stand with a camera, but I’ll do anything if it involves history.  I can’t help it.  I’m a nerd that way!

Another sure sign of Texas is this gorgeous blooming sage:

And finally, what other state serves the world’s best BBQ at the airport?!

Yum!  Thank you, Salt Lick!

 

You know you’re in Texas when…

… the hotel you’re staying at leaves an adorable little ceramic cowboy boot by your bed, with a note attached telling you to place it on the covers if you want to “preserve and protect our natural resources” by not changing the linens each day.

This boot is so going home with me.  I love Houston!

 

Texas bound!

                                                                 I’m heading to Texas!

Hope to see some of you there!  I’ll be at the Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston on Thursday at 5 p.m., and at the Texas Book Festival in Austin on Saturday at noon!  Heading to Dallas, too, but just for school visits, no book signings…

Click here for all the details!

 

What Hannah said…

So a blog comment below from one of my young readers included this great line:  “… to read from the past will bring you a great future.”  Hannah was talking about classic books, and how my series has inspired her to read some of them.

I’ve certainly found this to be true in my life — for one thing, all those classic novels I read as a teenager inspired me to write the mother-daughter book club series!  And for another, knowing and living with characters like Jo March and Anne Shirley and Elizabeth Bennet and Betsy Ray enriched my life immeasurably, and gave me a circle of friends that stretched back almost 200 years.

Let’s brainstorm on Hannah’s comment for a moment.  How has reading classic books enriched YOUR life, and how do you see reading them bringing YOU a great future?

SoCal Book Tour Recap (Part 2)

Let’s see, we left off after the fabulous Mission Viejo Readers’ Festival, right?

The following day was Sunday, and the Orange County Children’s Book Festival.  This was another fun-filled event, and came complete with singing, dancing fans!  (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

First a little local color, as they say.



You’ve gotta love a festival that allows people to bring their dogs.  Especially cute little Westies (West Highland Terriers) like these!  They were with the Westie Rescue of Orange County & Beyond — I wanted to take one home with me!


I pinched this photo off the WROC website — isn’t he adorable?  Yes I want one, yes I do…

But I have two dogs already and that is enough in my tiny little house.

Back to the festival — there were balloons and face painting, storytellers and musicians, and loads and loads of books.  Including mine!  Here I am at Mrs. Nelson’s booth, where I got to sign books and visit with charming readers like this one:


Another of the highlights of the day for me was getting to meet Jenna and Cassidy.  They are both big fans of my Mother-Daughter Book Club series, and they’d emailed me ahead of time to let me know that they would be performing with their dance troupe that day.  As it turned out they were scheduled to be onstage right after my signing — perfect!  I ran right over to meet them:

 

Aren’t they lovely?  And isn’t it funny how the patio table umbrella behind us looks like our own personal parasol? (I planned that of course … not!)

When it was time for them to go on, I got to sit with Jenna’s mom and watch their performance — which TOTALLY ROCKED!

That’s Jenna center stage, belting out a song!  She’s got a beautiful voice.

Here they all are finishing up another peppy number (they sang and danced to classic ’50s and ’60s rock songs, which was REALLY FUN!).


I just loved watching them — they’re part of the Orange County Song and Dance Company, and are an amazingly talented group!

Wow, what a whirlwind of a weekend!  I capped it off by going with my sister and my niece to see “Pride and Prejudice” at South Coast Repertory TheaterSigh.  Sheer bliss!  The acting was just superb.  Mrs. Bennet (Jane Carr) and Mr. Collins (Scott Drummond) stole the show for me, though — I giggled uncontrollably every time Mr. Collins went creeping across the stage.  He was hilarious.  In a very Rupert Loomis kind of way…

I wound up my trip with a podcast interview (more information on this coming soon), a great visit with the wonderful fourth and fifth graders at Springbrook Elementary School in Irvine, and finally, what no trip to Southern California would be complete without, a stop at:



Ciao for niao!

SoCal Book Tour recap (Part 1)

In a word — fabulous!

So fun to meet new friends (and old), and get to talk to my readers.  And all in such a lovely setting — beautiful, sunny Orange County!

I kicked things off with a Friday morning visit with the fabulous students at Lone Hill Middle School in San Dimas, and after lunch with a friend headed over to Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop in La Verne for a signing.  Here I am, looking ridiculously pleased with myself (book tours tend to do that to an authors):

As for Mrs. Nelson’s — what a BEAUTIFUL store!  I fell in love with it immediately.  They sell totally cool literary-themed T-shirts, among other things (like, um, books).  The staff is warm and friendly, the store bright and colorful and inviting.  I could have set up a cot and moved right in.  Instead, I signed books for readers like these two lovelies who drove ALL THE WAY FROM PALM SPRINGS to see me:

Take a close look at the books they’re holding.  They brought along their treasured, well-worn copies of THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB and MUCH ADO ABOUT ANNE for me to sign.   The pages were dog-eared; the covers nearly falling off.  Do you have any idea what an honor it is to know that your book is so loved?  I practically burst into tears when I saw them…

Thanks, girls.  You totally made my day!  (And thanks, too, to your mom for driving you all that way!)

After the signing, I went out to dinner with some Betsy-Tacy friends.  In case you didn’t know, in my new book HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, the book club is reading the Betsy-Tacy series.  They’re wonderful books, and they’ve introduced me to a whole lot of wonderful new friends who are fans of author Maud Hart Lovelace.  We had a great evening talking about — what else? — books.  (Oh, and by the way, I’m going to be speaking at the Betsy-Tacy Convention next summer in Minnesota, so mark your calendars!)

Saturday was equally wonderful.  I was invited to be a speaker at the Mission Viejo Readers’ Festival this year, which is a huge honor.  Check it out — they even post their authors on the electronic billboard that greets people as they drive into town:

I was sitting in the car at the stoplight with my sister and brother-in-law and my wee niece, and we saw the headliners flash onscreen (Cornelia Funke!  Linda Evans!  Molly Shannon!) … and then all of a sudden, there was little old me!  You should have heard us all screeching.  My head swelled up at least three sizes — it’s a wonder I was able to get out of the car.

I’m glad I could, though, because the festival was amazing.  The staff treated us authors (and our families) like rock stars.  We had special parking spaces.  We each had an escort.  And we even had a “green room” with treats!  I got to talk to a ton of my readers, which was the VERY BEST part, including a lovely mother-and-equally-lovely-daughter who had driven from SACRAMENTO to see me.

SACRAMENTO.

That’s, like, an eight-hour drive. I was speechless.  And honored.  And, well, speechless.

I also got to meet amazing people like FANCY NANCY illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser.  She’s not only talented, she’s beautiful.  And she has a sparkly tiara.

Another person I got to meet was Wendy Mass.  I’m a big fan of her books.  And I practically swooned when I found out she used to write for one of my favorite TV shows:  Monk.  (Which isn’t on any more, something I consider tragic.)

As for the icing on the cake — literally — the Mission Viejo Readers’ Festival gave each of us authors some thank you presents to take home. We got a framed print of our book, complete with their festival logo on it (I can’t wait to hang it on my office wall), AND we got a bundt cake from “Nothing Bundt Cakes,” which must be an ultra-cool bakery because the cake totally rocked.  Somehow I scored the Red Velvet cake, a Southern specialty that earned me brownie points with my brother-in-law.  He grew up in Mississippi, and it’s his favorite.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

THANK YOU, Mission Viejo!  I had a blast!

Tomorrow:  Part II — Orange County Children’s Book Festival and beyond!

 

 

In a festive mood….

Heading to the Mission Viejo Readers’ Festival today (SATURDAY) for an 11:45 presentation and book signing, then the Orange County Children’s Book Festival tomorrow (SUNDAY) for a 12 noon book signing!

Sunshine, authors, books, fun, what could be better?  Come join me!

Click here for all the details.