Fan mail Friday

Wow, am I behind on answering mail again! Sorry, folks–that’s what happens when you’re a writer on deadline, and I’m juggling TWO of them…

I have some great fan art to share with you this week, though. First up is a wonderful group portrait of the book club girls by Claire.

Claire's art

(As always, if you click on any picture here on my blog, it should enlarge for you.)

Claire, I love your attention to detail — Cassidy with her hockey stick (and Chloe!), Becca on her cell phone, Megan shopping (!), Jess with one of her goats and a book bag, and Emma reading (of course!), with Pip peeking out from behind her. Brilliant! Thank you so much for sending this to me!

It’s interesting, this week as I started in on my pile of mail again after neglecting it sadly for a bit, I found that I’d received letters from a wide range of locations. Claire is from the United States (Tennessee, to be exact), while this next piece of artwork is from Zoie, a reader in Canada (Ontario, to be exact):

Zoie's art (1)

Thanks, Zoie! I love this card!! And I love what you added inside, too:

Zoie's art (2)

Because who doesn’t love PIE on their birthday? Or any day? Funny thing is, we often have pie instead of cake for family birthdays, because we are all serious pie fanatics. When my oldest son was just a toddler, he requested pumpkin pie for his birthday, with Teddy Grahams marching around on it. We were happy to oblige!

Continuing with our world tour, let’s hop from Canada on to my final treat for you today, which comes from two sisters living in MALTA!!!  (Click on the link to learn more, or look it up on a map.) How cool is that? I have readers in Malta!

This picture is by Amy, who also told me that she has nine tortoises for pets. How exotic! I would dearly love to meet them.

Amy's artDon’t you just love this drawing? I do!  You’re a wonderful artist, Amy. I love Jess and her braid, Megan with her stylish outfit, and Cassidy with her Red Sox T-shirt (by the way, GO RED SOX!). Well done!

I’m giving Amy’s sister Megan the final word today. This made me laugh out loud. I absolutely love it — wouldn’t it be great on a T-shirt? Thank you, Megan!

Megan's art

 

 

Oregon Spirit Book Award

Oregon Spirit Award sticker

Absolutely Truly cover 2014

I’m thrilled to announce that my book ABSOLUTELY TRULY is the winner of this year’s Oregon Spirit Book Award in the Middle Reader category!

*::* throws confetti! *::*

This award is presented each year by the Oregon Council of Teachers of English (OCTE) to “the author of a distinguished contribution to children’s literature or young adult literature that engages and encourages readers’ imagination, discovery, and understanding, reflecting the spirit and values held by Oregonians.” Wow! To say that I’m honored is a vast understatement.

I’m in SUCH good company on the list of winning and honor books — which includes a number of dear friends! I share weekly writing dates at our favorite coffee shop with Susan Blackaby, for instance, who received an honor in the picture book category for The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oregon (a book I ADORE!). And there’s also my friend Trudy Ludwig, honored for her moving story Gifts from the Enemy, and Eric Kimmel and Graham Salisbury and April Henry and Elizabeth Rusch and Barbara Kerley, among others.

Fine Oregonians all, and fine writers. Congratulations, everyone!

 

 

Calling all young artists!

Betsy-Tacy-Deep-Valley-Homecoming-cover-Mankato-TImes

 

Hey there Betsy-Tacy fans — I just read about this competition in the Mankato (Minnesota) Times, and since there are so many fine young artists who visit my blog, I thought I’d pass the information along!  The contest is being sponsored by the Betsy-Tacy Society and Mankato’s Carnegie Arts Center, and winners will be announced at this summer’s “Deep Valley Homecoming.”  Click here for full information and an order form.

 

A big time in the Big Apple

A number of you have asked me about the Edgar Awards and my trip to New York last week. Here’s the full scoop, complete with about a zillion photos!

It all began with this:

Edgar Awards invitation

And why was I invited to attend the Edgar Awards banquet? Because my book ABSOLUTELY TRULY was a nominee! As you may know from my previous blog posts, this was cause for much excitement, much laughter at “Dress to Kill” (gotta love that), quickly followed by much panic — I’ve never been to a black tie event in my life! What would I wear? And what would my husband wear?

More on that soon…

Meanwhile, it was time to pack our bags and hop on a plane to New York.

Cascades from planeCascade Range from 30,000 feet

See why I love living in the Pacific Northwest? This was the view as we left Seattle, flying over the Cascade mountains. Sigh.

It’s always a treat to fly through Seattle. And I mean that literally:

Dilettante Chocolates SeattleDilettante Chocolates kiosk

Whenever we have a layover at Sea-Tac, I make a beeline for Dilettante. Fabulous hot chocolate! And so many choices!

Dilettante signDilettante’s menu

Make mine milk chocolate, please. Mmm. Wonderful!

But there were wonderful things awaiting us in New York, too, including this:

HVF at S&SWelcome display at Simon & Schuster 

This is what greeted my husband and me when we stopped by my publisher for a celebration. (Ignore whatever weird thing my left hand is doing, OK? We’ll just chalk that up to an excess of excitement.) Simon & Schuster had not just one but THREE books nominated for the Edgar Award!  Huzzah!

Stuart Gibbs, Naheed Senzai & HVF at S&SStuart Gibbs, N.H. Senzai & moi

On the left is Stuart Gibbs, standing in front of his absolutely hilarious book SPACE CASE. In the middle is Naheed Senzai, with her tender and moving story SAVING KABUL CORNER. Me? I’m the one with my eyes shut, dazzled by all the talent in the room!  Which includes the walls behind us–they’re covered with book jackets featuring award stickers for things like the Newbery and Caldecott medals. So cool!

After the celebration, it was time to go back to the hotel and grab a nap before the award ceremony. Hello, jet lag! And then it was time to get ready…

Steve & Heather at EdgarsJames Bond Steve Frederick and me

This was the selfie we took in our hotel room, before making our grand entrance. In over 30 years of marriage, I’ve never seen my husband in a tux before. I was dazzled…

Heather & Steve glammed up for the EdgarsAll glammed up for the Edgars

And here we are, dressed to kill indeed! I accessorized with this:

Edgar Awards badge

Woohoo! And with sparkly silver shoes, which you’ll see in a moment. The MWA (Mystery Writers of America) gave us each a swag bag…

Edgar swag bag

… which included this fun item:

Poe bandages

Hilarious!

Simon & Schuster placed a full-page ad in the program showing off our books:

S&S Ad Edgar program

So cool! Thank you, S&S!

Here’s a picture of me with my smart and lovely editor, Kristin Ostby. Kristin is Stuart’s editor, too. (She’s good at her job.)

Stuart & Kristin & HeatherStuart Gibbs, Kristin Ostby & moi

I gawked at several celebrity authors, including Sara Paretsky and Stephen King (too shy to introduce myself to either one), and I met the amazing Lois Duncan:

HVF with Lois DuncanHVF with Lois Duncan

Lois is the author of such books as I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and HOTEL FOR DOGS. I’ve been reading WRITTEN IN THE STARS, a newly-published collection of short stories she wrote and published in her teens. Impressive! She was being honored with a “Grand Master” award.

Mostly I hung out with my friends who also write middle-grade mysteries, though:

Edgar Juvenile nomineesN. H. Senzai, Marcia Wells, Stuart Gibbs, moi, Kate Milford

This is the only picture I have of the vivacious and fun Marcia Wells, who is as sparkly in person as the dress she was wearing. I laughed out loud reading her terrific EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER: MYSTERY ON MUSEUM MILE. Love that Eddie!

After the cocktail party and photos, it was time to go into the swanky ballroom for dinner.

Edgar Awards menuEdgar Awards banquet menu

Mmm. It was delicious. The decorations were awesome, too–and some of them were edible!

Edgars atmosphere

Here’s a closer look at the white chocolate Edgar Allan Poe…

White chocolate Edgar

…which I didn’t get a chance to taste, because my agent Barry Goldblatt beat me to it!

Agent steals chocolate Edgar

Speaking of Barry, like my editor Kristin Ostby, he had not just one but TWO clients nominated for an Edgar — yours truly and Kate Milford!

Barry Goldblatt with Kate Milford & HVFKate Milford, Barry Goldblatt & moi

And Kate’s book won! Deservedly so, because GREENGLASS HOUSE is a very special book and a wonderful read–I hope you all rush right out and snag a copy!

After the award ceremony, we all hung out for a bit and basked in Kate’s reflected glory.

HVF & Kate post-EdgarsHVF & Kate

Kate and I compared shoes:

Sparkly Edgar shoes!

We both like sparkles. Mine are the silver ones, hers are — appropriately! — gold. And here’s her Edgar award:

Kate's Edgar award

Fun, huh?

And then the party was over. But the city still beckoned, and there was a full moon over Manhattan…

NYC night Spring 2015Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building

My two favorite buildings in New York, captured together right outside our hotel!

There was so much more to explore. My husband and I stayed on for an extra couple of days to get our fill of this amazing city. We walked for miles (seriously! we estimate we walked at least 15 miles in two days), downtown to 2nd Avenue Deli…

2nd Avenue Deli

… for the best pastrami sandwiches ever.

Then uptown to Central Park, which was in swoony full bloom…

Central Park Spring day 2015

Central Park

Central Park April 2015

Central Park Spring 2015

We stopped to refuel at Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie with Viennese kaffee und kuchen (cake and coffee) — mmm, Sachertorte for me — then walked back down Park Avenue enjoying more spring blossoms…

Dogwoods on Park Avenue

Next up? A play about Winston Churchill (James Bond my husband isn’t wild about musicals, so we settled on a subject of mutual interest).

Churchill set

Excellent choice! We loved it!

After that, it was time for a late-night bite. Like tuxedos and elegant long dresses, the Fredericks don’t do dinner at 10 p.m., but we did in NYC! We met up with my dear friend and former colleague Diane Roback, who steered us to Empanada Mama, a 24-hour spot (because let’s face it, who doesn’t have those occasional 3 a.m. empanada emergencies?) over on 9th Avenue that was FABULOUS!

Steve at Empanada MamaHappy customer

Just the sustenance we needed to face another long day of walking ahead. Next morning, we lit out for the High Line.

High Line sculptureSculpture along the High Line

If you’re ever in New York, you must walk the High Line! It’s a repurposed elevated railroad spur that’s now a mile and a half long park and walking trail. Great panoramic views of the city and the Hudson River, wonderful trees and plantings, and a very fun vibe. Plus, the new Whitney Museum of American Art has been relocated to the end of it on Gansevoort Street. We were going to stop in, but it was opening day and the lines were long and the day was gorgeous so we just kept on walking…

Hot Chocolate at City Bakery

… until our feet took us to City Bakery for hot chocolate. Because really, when is it never the right time for hot chocolate? Unfortunately, their homemade marshmallows were out of season (what? since when is there a season for homemade marshmallowy goodness?), so we had to drink our cocoa straight up. It was as excellent as I remember from the last time I was here. (Can you tell that I am a hot chocolate afficionado?)

And then it was time to say goodbye to New York and head home. Flying south from Seattle we dipped over Mount St. Helens and her stunning caldera (thank you, Alaska Airlines)…

Caldera of Mount St. HelensMount St. Helens – so close I could practically touch it!

…and arrived in Portland, where we were greeted by this sweet little face:

Billie -- Spring 2015Our dog Billie 

She missed us, and was happy to have us home again! And we were happy to be home, too, where our Pacific Northwest spring is in full bloom…

Rhodies in Gabriel Park

 … and where I have this to keep as a reminder of a magical trip to the Big Apple!

Edgar Award nomination certificate

In the Spotlight: Leila Howland

There are few things I enjoy more than shining a spotlight on authors and books that I love. I have a treat for you all today — Leila Howland is stopping by my blog to dish about her delightful new book The Forget-Me-Not Summer.

LeilaHowlandsmallLeila Howland

Isn’t she gorgeous? Talented, too. Leila is best known for her YA novels Nantucket Blue and Nantucket Red, but she’s got something new up her sleeve for readers this Spring, with the release of her first middle-grade novel.

For anyone who has sisters (that would be me, the eldest and bossiest of three), for anyone who’s ever dreamed of a summer on Cape Cod, I guarantee you’ll fall head-over-heels in love with The Forget-Me-Not Summer. I did, right from the moment I first met Marigold and Zinnia and Lily. How could I resist a trio of sisters with names like these?

FMNSummerHC(1)

 

Q:  So Leila, tell us a bit about how this book came about.

A:  Several years ago I rescued a puppy. He needed two long walks a day around my Los Angeles neighborhood. On one of our walks I saw a girl I recognized from a TV show, hanging out with her friends from school. She was so poised and stylish, and I wondered what it would be like to be her. Then I thought, even more interesting, what would it be like to be her quirky little sister? Even though I’d lived in L.A. for years, for the first time I was really noticing the flowers in my neighbors’ beautiful gardens. I started looking up the names of the flowers and before I knew it Marigold, Zinnia and Lily had started to come to life in my imagination. 

 Q:  Your previous books – Nantucket Blue and Nantucket Red – were young adult novels. What drew you to middle grade? Were there any particular surprises/challenges in writing for this audience?

 A:  I absolutely love writing for teenagers. However, teenagers tend be more inwardly focused than tweens. After reading a lot of YA, I rediscovered a love for the more outwardly focused middle grade fiction. I loved connecting to a character’s search for meaning in the wider world. I started with Walk Two Moons [by Sharon Creech], moved on to When You Reach Me [by Rebecca Stead], and then I was hooked! Although I wouldn’t say it surprises me, I am continually in awe of how deep and profound middle grade fiction often is.   

 Q:  Your books (at least so far) are all set in New England – Nantucket and now Cape Cod, to be exact. Is this setting particularly meaningful for you?

 A:  I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and spent many summer days in small coastal towns in New England. There is something so unique and idyllic about New England in the summertime. Now I live so far from there. The Los Angeles summers are brutally hot and dry and I long for those small town New England moments. Writing about them is a way for me to be there in spirit.

 Q:  Let’s talk about family dynamics. The Forget-Me-Not Summer features three sisters (I was the eldest of three sisters, by the way!). Where were you in the sibling lineup? What prompted you to write about three sisters?

 A:  I grew up with an older brother, Gifford, and a younger sister, Maryhope. (And later in life I was lucky enough to acquire an amazing younger stepsister, Elizabeth.)  While Gifford and I were always relatively harmonious together, my relationship with Maryhope could be a little fraught. I wasn’t always the nicest big sister. As an adult I also know that some of that behavior stemmed from me trying to negotiate my place in the world and forge my own identity. I thought that tension would be rich material for a middle grade novel and a fun and meaningful way to honor the close bond that Maryhope and I now share.

 Q:  Is there an Aunt Sunny in your life?

 A:  I was lucky enough to grow up with my Great Aunt Dot, who lived just down the street from us in Providence. We had tea together every afternoon. Just like Aunt Sunny, she was a science teacher for many years. She was the kindest and wisest person I have ever met. A few summers ago when I was doing research for Nantucket Blue, I connected with an old friend and colleague of hers who lives on the island. She made me laugh as she told me stories about growing up on Nantucket. She also brought memories of Aunt Dot vividly to life. I knew I had to write about a smart, funny and wise great aunt.

 Q:  Favorite books when you were Zinnia and Marigold’s age?

 My favorite book hands down was Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. I must have read it ten times.

 Q:  What are you reading now?

 A:  The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. One day I’d love to write a novel in verse. I bet it’s a lot harder than it looks.

Q:  Favorite thing about being a writer?

A:  Letters from readers!

Q:  What’s next for you, writing-wise?

A: Readers can look for a sequel to The Forget-Me-Not Summer, which will be out next year. It’s called The Brightest Stars of Summer, featuring the Silver sisters back in Pruet for another season of fun in the sun!

Q:  Anything else we haven’t covered that you’d care to share?

A:  I’m obsessed with the new ice cream store near my house. It’s called Salt & Straw and they have the craziest flavors. My favorite one so far is almond brittle with salted ganache. 

Ooo, Salt & Straw! I know it well — it actually started here in Portland, Oregon. You have to try their Honey Lavender!  Yum…

Thanks so much, Leila, for stepping into the spotlight and visiting with us today! And now, my friends, a giveaway: a copy of The Forget-Me-Not Summer awaits one of you — just leave a comment below, sharing one of your favorite summer memories with us. Winners will be chosen at random at midnight on May 17th. US and Canada only, please. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook or Twitter or other social media for additional entries. (And 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.)