Sunday, September 29, 2013

OK Mini-Post

Tomorrow I'll be visiting 3 middle schools in Moore, Oklahoma as part of a support / fundraising effort for the kids and schools that were affected by the tornadoes that blasted through this area in May.

By visiting, I don't mean sauntering through. Or just clicking through a slide presentation. I want to connect with these kids and their teachers and what they've gone through, which means I'll wind up being emotional and spastic and exhausted by the end of the day.

Which means I should go to bed right now because I'm in a different time zone and I've got a super-early start time in the morning.

But I will be back with more, and hope to have a picture or two to share.

'Til then, good night from Oklahoma!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Indelible Years

Looking over old class photos, remembering
Yes, my elementary school reunion happened, and it was a lot of fun! And it struck me again how powerful the growing years are. How they mold you (or scar you), and how they stick with you for the rest of your life. It was interesting to reminisce and listen to what people remembered. Besides recalling things about each other, there was quite a bit of talk about teachers. Which ones were nice. Which ones were mean. And which ones went crazy.

The kids in the neighborhood were like family--you saw them every day, you went to school together, you played in the street together, you played at their houses, you spied on them (and they spied on you!). They had a part in shaping you, and no matter the time or distance, you will always remember them.

I write for young people not because I can't write for adults, but because I think writing for young people matters; that what you experience during your growing years--in real life as well as in literature--will influence the person you become. What you're imprinted with during that time can be indelible.

Sammy Keyes is the person she is because I truly believe that she can help young people find their center. She's there for the fun and adventure that comes with having a good friend, but she's also there to help kids believe in themselves and face their fears on their way to becoming strong, confident adults.

Having so many of us travel long distances to see and celebrate the kids we knew in each other reminded me of the importance of who we were to each other back then, and how our shared experiences helped us to become the people we are today.

I'm so glad I went.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Olly Olly Oxen Free!

My first published book is titled How I Survived Being A Girl. It was bought by the same editor with whom I've worked on all my books, but she was at HarperCollins at the time so it's not part of the catalog I have at Knopf and (long story short) it is now out of print.

When I wrote HISBAG I had no idea what it meant to be published. Oh, I had a theoretical idea, but having written several books that never saw publication, I didn't think through the hazards of giving characters names too similar to those of the people on whom those characters were based.

Maybe I just didn't believe that this one would ever see the light of day (or bookstore shelves) either.

Nicknames seemed safe. Who would ever claim to be those characters? In real life (and in the book) the people next door were called Freeko and Fattabutta. (You read that right, and I will skip over the whole explanation of this because, really, nothing can explain away those names. Or excuse the things we did to them. Those are tales better left to the pages of a novel.)

When HISBAG came out in 1997 my mother suggested that I take out liability insurance in case Freeko and Fattabutta decided to sue me. I wasn't worried. We'd moved away ages before, and they didn't seem like readers.

Definitely not readers.

But fast forward to 2013 and sudden I am worried. Not about being sued. And not about any of the adults from the neighborhood. The last one standing moved into a 'home' earlier this year. (Which makes me very sad. She was an awesome neighbor. And such what a tolerant person! Her house was headquarters and she had so much patience for the wild neighborhood kids tearing through her house and yard.)

No, I'm suddenly worried because next weekend I'm traveling back to my hometown for an "elementary school reunion."

No kidding!

Most of me is super excited about it. Some of these kids I knew from K-6th. Formative stuff happens during that time and it'll be so much fun to reminisce about our shared experiences and hear each other's varied recollections. Just to see these people again after all these years and find out where they've wound up is going to be great. It's way better than a high school reunion. It's way more...pure.

But someone in the reunion group posted a comment about how I'd written a book about the neighborhood. And all of a sudden I'm going Uh-oh! I mean, it's been quite a while since I've read the book. What did I say about people? I remember that Andy down the block became Little Andy in the book. (Do you think he'll figure that out?) And will Wobblehead know who she is?

There's even a map in the beginning of the book pointing out who lives where!

And it's clearly The Neighborhood.

I guess all I can do at this point is hope that the "kids" take the book in the spirit intended, and recognize that it represents a magical time in our lives--a time where you could go "bombs away" on boys from the top of the jungle gym and no one posted you. A time where there were no rules in four square (back slaps and spins were fair and fine and expected). A time when getting slammed in dodgeball just meant you'd better move faster the next time someone hurled a ball at you.

I hope I still have some of my moves, 'cause there's no hiding from this, and I may just need to dodge and duck if enough of them have read the book.

Olly olly oxen free!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Consolation Surprise

So random Twitter people were selected for the Killer Cruise giveaway, and as far as I can tell none of the winners were my blog regulars.

Which makes me sad! I think the regulars here are the  nicest group of the internet. You're always so supportive of each other (and me, too!) and I was hoping at least one of you would be picked. So this morning when I was pouting about it to Mark he pointed out that I have a few of my own early copies of Killer Cruise that I could donate, and before you know it, we had a plan and got to work.

We printed the comments that were left at the blog over the last 6 weeks. We cut them into strips by name (making them approximately equal in size regardless of the length of the comment). The more active someone had been at the blog, the bigger their chance was of winning a book, but even if a person had left only a single comment over that span of time, they still had a chance to win.

Then we stuck all the strips in a hat (well, a grocery bag) and picked three names.

As luck would have it, the odds bore out in favor of multi-commenters.


Will the following people please start jumping up and down:
  1. "Optimistic4Ever" (I guess it pays to be optimistic!)
  2. "Gabrielle" (Mark actually pulled your name out twice. Lots of comments from you!)
  3. "Yusa" (I'm glad Mark picked your name--happy birthday!)
If any of the three of you happen to have also won at Twitter, please let me know so I can give the book to our first runner-up (who I won't torture by mentioning by name).

If not, please e-mail me your mailing address so I can ship you a book!

For the rest of you... I'm sorry again! Doing the best I can...

FYI, sometime during the week I'm putting up the new Twitter campaign (Free Book Fridays). The giveaway will run every Friday through the end of the year, but I'm making only one post about it so this Twitter stuff doesn't interfere so much with our regular programming (whatever that is, right?)

Anyway, know I appreciate all of you so much. See you next Sunday (and in the comments, of course!).

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Win a Killer Cruise!

I’m excited! Random House is doing a giveaway on Twitter for 3 autographed hardcovers of Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise.

Here’s how it works: : Follow me @WendelinVanD and tweet "I want to win a Killer Cruise! #SammyKeyes"

Do it before September 8th and that’s it! You’re entered.


On Sunday, September 8th we will announce three random winners  on Twitter and get book-mailing info from them via direct message.

So…go on! Tweet me!

PLEASE NOTE -- Because of shipping costs, we can only mail books to addresses in the USA.

PS After this we'll do a Twitter "Free Book Friday" through the end of the year with various Sammy Keyes titles. It'll be fun!