I just finished a draft of the third book in my new CODY series. The working title is “Trust Cody”, but since I’m known for clunky titles, that will probably change.  It’s about 500 words too long, rough around the edges, etc. etc., but woot! It’s got a solid backbone (got backbones on the brain, as Cody is currently into invertebrates).

So…it seems like a nice time to share a bit of the advanced praise “Cody and the Fountain of Happiness”, publishing in April, has gotten, like this unbelievably generous quote from Sarah Pennypacker, creator of “Clementine”:

“Cody is perfectly charming and charmingly imperfect. I’m already hoping for more…”

And from Megan McDonald, who gave the world Judy Moody and Stink:

“Every First Day of Summer should start with Cody. Whether communing with ants, spouting science, or curing a case of the whim-whams, Cody’s story is witty, heart-warming and wise.”

Two masters of the early middle grade novel–never in a million years did I hope to keep company with them.

Finding a corner to sit in and count my blessings…



Moonpenny

February 10, 2015

MOONPENNY has its first review, a star from Kirkus. Let me say that when a reviewer (or any reader)  really gets what you were trying to do,  it’s a wondrous thing.

When one of an inseparable pair of friends is sent away, the other’s life turns upside down. Lake Erie’s Moonpenny Island is a tourist destination in summer and a small enclave of familiar weirdness the rest of the year. Flor loves it, riding her bike like a trusty steed, imagining the infinite possibilities of her world. Flor can hardly believe it when Sylvie, whose family is practically royalty on Moonpenny Island, announces that she’s being sent away to attend private school on the mainland. Further rocking Flor’s unsteady world, her parents are fighting more than ever, using ugly words that twist daggers of fear into Flor, her little brother, Thomas, and older sister, Cecilia. When the unthinkable happens and Flor’s Latina mother leaves the island too, Flor begins feeling less audacious and more uncertain. However, when she meets quirky new girl Jasper and her unconventional father, Dr. Fife, Flor learns what it means to really see the world around her as it is and not just the way she imagines it. Springstubb delivers a beautiful tale of friendship, family, loss and renewal. Her third-person narration is razor-sharp.The author delicately parallels Flor’s emotional minefield with the stark absolutes of Dr. Fife’s scientific study of trilobites. Poetic and poignant, Springstubb’s tale of friendship, loss, hope and heartache is so fresh and honest it will resonate widely.




I know it’s fall…

…but it feels a lot like spring around here.

My new books are starting to push their way into the light. This Thursday, November 13, there will be A Cover Reveal  for Moonpenny Island over on the wonderful blog  http://www.kidliterati.com/  It includes a giveaway of a signed ARC which I really hope you win.

And the cover for Cody and the Fountain of Happiness is almost ready to poke its way into the  sunshine too. I’ll keep you posted on that.

For now, I did a short post about my recent visit to Kansas  at http://middlegrademafia.com/ (who can resist being a member of that family?)

Hope you’ve got  spring in your heart and step today!



October 25, 2014

Our girl got married to the man of her dreams. Here she is dancing with him and with the other man in her life, her father. A week and a half later, and I am still discombobulated with joy.



Process

Few things make Writer Me more anxious than being asked to explain my process. I mean, like, being articulate is kind of my job, it seems, right?

And yet, if I’m honest I’ll admit that how I do what I do is mostly a mystery to me.  Here’s a little piece I recently wrote trying to figure out (for myself as much as anyone) what went into my two newest books, pubbing next year.

http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/



Islands

I’ve been back to my island.  A tiny trip, distance wise.  So why does going there always make me feel as if  I’ve traveled far away, to a place very strange and yet mine ? As if, who knows, this time I just might not come back?

Maybe because I grew up on an island–a Long one, to be sure, with so many houses and cars and shopping malls that I wondered, even as a child, if it might not sink.

Maybe because writers have always daydreamed about islands, whole worlds unto themselves, apart and removed, brimming with secrets.  An island throws you back on your own resources. An island taunts you, whispers, Live here if you dare.

Next month I’ll start sharing some things from my new book, Moonpenny Island, including the gorgeous cover. For today, here are a few of the photos I recently took , places and sights that spun my imagination and got me writing the story.

the ferry

how I get around

the little shop where I imagined my main character’s mother selling lighthouse salt and pepper shakers

the haunted, ill-fated swim hole in the old quarry

Enough for now! I’m making myself island sick!




A Mighty Girl

I love that Phoebe is keeping company with Penny and Sophie, two of my very favorite characters in recent illustrated books!

http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=6447

This is a great blog which, though it sells stuff,  is all about raising smart, confident and courageous girls.  Check out the girl-empowering Halloween costumes!

I also heard Phoebe was featured on “Shark Tank”, which to my disappointment turns out to be about people starting businesses, not the terrors of the deep.



De-blog

Years ago when our kids still loved to play Boggle with us (okay, make that eons ago), my husband tried to convince us that debag was a word. You know, he said, when you come home from the store, you debag the groceries.

I haven’t unpacked this blog, but I’ve been a blog delinquent for sure.

My new middle grade novel is due on my editor’s desk this week, that’s why. Today, I made it all the way to THE END (although one of my characters promptly insisted there is no such thing!) I’ll need three or four more days to re-read it, and work through a few more things before I take a deep breath, wish on a star, and hit SEND.

But for today, I’m breathing easy. To celebrate, I want to share a few of the books I’ve especially enjoyed lately.

Margi was a new author to me when I picked this up, but I am now a fan for life. “I’ve stolen the gold and hacked off the fingers and…swiped the wedding food. I’ve lied to my own little sister…” Astri is a wonderful character–brave, selfish, loving, willing to do anything (see the above) to save herself and her little sister. The writing is gorgeous, and Margi manages the trick of imparting history without us even knowing. I am recommending this to anyone who asks and many who don’t.

I’m always a bit wary of novels in verse. I really need to feel there’s a reason for the form. Here is a book I can’t imagine being written any other way. It’s the story of a Guatemalan boy whose life is brutally changed the day soldiers arrive in his village. Escaping alone into the forest, Carlos bands with a group of guerillas.  “Caminar” means “to walk”, and Carlos does, each step taking him further from being “solo un nino” (just a boy). Each poem perfectly reflects and enhances the actions and emotions it describes–slowing things down, making our hearts race, evoking the tender and the terrifying.

Oh wait–that’s me! Hanging with the smart, the sassy, the sweet-as-pink- cupcakes Jennifer Holm (she’s a lot like Babymouse, except without the whiskers). I got to introduce her as the keynote speaker at a Cuyahoga County Library event, and to compare notes (as we hung around the fridge) on how excruciating writing our last novels was.  Jenny’s has definitely turned out to be worth her dark nights of the soul.

It’s on today’s NY Times bestseller list! I just finished it, and it’s a deceptively simple, mostly happy read that I can’t stop thinking about. One of the themes is the power of science, and how like all things powerful, it needs to be employed with care. Yet the final lines are a wonderful, witty tribute to human possibility and discovery. Her economy of style is something I plan to study…



Pocketful of Pluck

Below is a post I recently did for the blog From the Mixed Up Files. It kind of expands on some things I said here last time. Think of it as   “A Ninny Contemplates Courage”.

Last week at graduation ceremonies for our daughter, who received her physician assistant degree, one of the speakers gave a piece of advice that made it hard for me to listen to what anyone else said.

“Keep your courage in an accessible place,” she told these future healers.  Immediately I had visions:  a capacious side pocket made for sliding in a hand and pulling out a fistful of pluck;  a small pouch concealing a shining dauntless stone;  a backpack bulging with fortitude.  I could use one of those things, I thought.

So often we talk about finding courage, as if it’s something that wanders off at the first opportunity. I was struck by the idea of keeping it with us, carrying it around, knowing just where to find it at all times.

The young people graduating that day are already far braver than a ninny like me will ever be. Their life’s work will be taking on the sickness and pain of others, of doing everything they can to ease and relieve suffering. They’d already shown their mettle,  learning about the endless complexities of the human body, and if you asked any one of them, she’d say she’d only begun.  A lifetime of learning lies ahead. The room brimmed with excitement and yes, a tinge of fear over what they’d taken on. The speaker’s advice was going to come in handy.

I found myself  thinking how the youngest children have no  concept of courage. They know go and see and touch, and the drive to do all those things propels them forward on those first juddering steps into the unknown. Toddlers never know where they’re going till they get there–and there often  lasts only a few moments before it’s on to the next discovery. Yet it takes bravery to leave the safety of a parent’s arms–just watch how often a little guy looks around to make sure Mom or Dad is still nearby.

As kids get older, the need for courage becomes conscious. Some risks are physical, like learning to ride a two-wheeler,  step onto a diving board, or pet that very large dog. Some are social–nerving up to make a new friend, audition for a part in the play, or  go to a very first sleep-over.

The situations that call for moral courage are the ones that the writer (and reader) in me finds most moving and powerful. From early on, even before they can talk, children have a strong sense of right and wrong, of justice and fairness. When my kids played make-believe, the stories they made up were always about good vs. evil, about the kind-hearted and true winning out over the greedy and dishonest. Real life, they discovered, was a good deal more complicated. And the older they got, the truer that became.

In the middle grade novel I’m working on now, my main character hates making choices. She’s slipped through life, getting away with things, not taking responsibility if she can help it–she’s so much like me at age twelve. In my story, she will, at last, face a decision she can’t escape.  She’ll have to find her courage, something she’s not used to keeping in a pocket or other accessible place. She’ll have to hunt and dig and probably ask for some help.

One reason I’m loving writing this book–why I always love writing for middle graders –is how central and powerful questions of right and wrong are to these readers. To be worthy of my audience, I have to think hard and deep, not just about how things should be, but how they are, and what we each, with our one wild, precious life, can do. Writing for middle graders forces a ninny like me to be brave, and for that I am very grateful.

****

One other line from that very wise and compassionate speaker, “The sun shines and shines yet never says to the earth, You owe me.”  



Summer, cont’d

Last week we drove through the Berkshires, where we lived once upon a time. Along the way, we stopped in Williamstown and went to the Clark Museum, a place that blissfully combines two of the things that make me happiest in this world–art and being outside. To get to one of the buildings, you climb up through a wood limned with white birch, and afterwards you stroll back down through a pasture (be sure to close the gate behind you).  From up there– views of mountains as far as you can see, as well as sculptures like this one:

Peek!

We drove on to Boston, where our oldest girl received her Physician Assistant degree. My favorite speech offered this advice: “Keep your courage in an accessible place.”  A pocket crammed with courage, a backpack brimming with fortitude–these young, compassionate, dedicated healers need just that.  Here we are with our own brave Zoe. 

No words for the love and pride!

And still some summer left!