I Join a Blog Tour

May 19, 2014 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, writing | By

Lynn Hazen was the first friend I met when I started writing for children seventeen years ago. We’ve been friends – and readers for each other – ever since. It’s fitting that Lynn Hazen is the one who tagged me for my first ever blog tour. Lynn introduces me to many things that I end up later enjoying. Thanks, Lynn! Here goes…

What am I currently working on?

All my work is fiction. I’m revising a tween novel about a preacher’s daughter, which is completely different from my own family. My husband is a minister, but I have two daughters, the family in my novel has only one, and our real church is three blocks away from where this fictional church is set. My novel is completely different from my real life. Also I’m working on a young reader’s series about a male one-eyed cat. My one-eyed cat is female. I like to write outside of my comfort zone.

And I’m revising a middle grade novel about a leprechaun and a picture book about a little square. These two are, however, entirely factual.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well, my YA is unfinished. My middle grade is unfinished. I have one Early Reader finished in a series, but it’s not published yet. Same goes for my picture books. I would say lack of an ending is the major difference between my work and the work I read. Since I’m a librarian, a good portion of the books I read are completed. Those, naturally, are the most satisfying, and entertaining, stories to read to children. As a writer, however, I do read a number of manuscripts in various states of completion.

Other differences include that I write about religion from an unusual viewpoint: from the inside but also slightly irreverently. I would also say my work is different because the worlds I create all closely resemble the real world, but are just a bit off.

If I could triangulate a place for myself on the literary landscape I would want to exist between Judy Blume, Richard Peck and Norton Juster. That’s a pretty big triangle, so even if I have really bad aim, I may be able to find myself somewhere in there.

Why do I write what I write?

Well, my main goal is to entertain. Only a reader would be able to say whether I’ve attained that goal or not. Someday I dream of inspiring someone to speak up, or to change. I think every writer wants that secretly: to better the world by changing somebody, or to give someone hope. That’s my secret desire: to save the world with a word or two.

 How does my individual writing process work?

Horribly. It’s redundant, with many extraneous parts: like a Rube-Goldberg machine of writing. Sometimes I’m drawing (leprechauns and squares), sometimes I’m researching, Sometimes I’m staring at the wall. I call that thinking. Sometimes I’m reading. Lots of times I’m drinking Diet Coke. Sometimes I’m just scrolling up and down the pages really fast to see the blocks of text I’ve created and verifying that they look like a real book. Wowie! That’s when I know it’s time to go and watch TV. At least TV will have a plot.

Who’s next? Tag you are it!

I am tagging my multi-talented friend Susan Taylor Brown.


Susan Taylor Brown: Full-time dreamer, poet, writer, and artist.

Susan  is the author of the middle grade verse novel Hugging the Rock, which was named a Notable Children’s Book. Some of her other books include Oliver’s Must-Do List, Can I Pray With My Eyes Open?, Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo, and Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom in addition to over 50 books for the ESL market.

Susan has been the recipient of several grants from the Arts Council Silicon Valley which allowed her to be Writer-in-Residence for the San Jose Alternative Schools At-Risk program and to teach poetry to incarcerated teens.

In addition to writing, Susan is a mixed-media artist, nature photographer, and a gardener obsessed with California Native plants. When she’s not doing something creative, she’s probably deep in conversation with Zoey, her white German Shepherd.



Writing:    http://www.susantaylorbrown.com

Etsy:       https://poppiness.etsy.com


Visit some of these other authors on the blog tour:

Lynn Hazen

Sharry Wright

Ann Jacobus

Frances Lee Hall

Emily Jiang



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Is This Blurring the Lines?

November 17, 2013 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories | By

CoverGirl has come out with a new line. Watch the promo here.

And, no, its not a joke. There are plenty of how-to videos to go along with it. When I saw the full page ads on the inside and back covers of Entertainment Weekly, I was stunned.

To me, the criticism of the over-consumption in the Capitol in the novels was clear. The Capitol’s insatiable thirst (hunger) for more of everything drove the cruelty of the Hunger Games. In the book, it was grotesque, not something to be emulated.

In the movie the make-up and costuming was accordingly over-the-top.

Now that the movie has come out, CoverGirl (and Ms. Collins?) are capitalizing on the make-up artistry? Have we forgotten the point of the book?

I asked teens what they thought of the CoverGirl campaign. The answers I got were mostly about the beauty of the models, especially the woman who appears to be Kenyan. I cannot deny her striking beauty. And I wouldn’t want to. It was a good reminder to me that I see things differently than my kids do.

Start watching this interview with Hunger Games author , Suzanne Collins at 2:13 to see what she hopes readers will take away from her books.

I like what she has to say because she wants readers to question their society, their government.

But, then, we have this thing where her books are being used to sell make-up. Which, to me, blurs the lines, a little bit. Not really the lines between reality and fiction. Those lines are pretty clear to me: the fictional world created in The Hunger Games is being used to sell make-up in our real world.

I’m thinking of a line between two different words. And here’s a great video with a definition of word one: irony.

What’s word two? I would say hypocrisy, but no one is fighting to the death over this. That I’m aware of. Though I could kind of kill for that blue lipstick.

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The One and Only Ivan

November 4, 2013 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, Book Reviews | By

I absolutely loved this book. In my opinion, it belongs next to Charlotte’s Web on your bookshelf. Read it. Give it to any middle graders in your life. They will thank you.

Here’s my video review. Penny helped.


Oh yes, I have a free story sheet for 3rd through 5th graders here if you’re interested. It’s free. That’s why there are so many post-its on my book.

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Encourage At Risk Behavior

September 23, 2013 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, Book Reviews | By

Recently I ate dinner with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, who is brave. I say that not simply because she wrote Fat Angie, but because she came to San Francisco to meet a bunch of writers she didn’t know for dinner. Over the Bay Bridge. At six p.m.

Clearly, she’s not from The Bay Area.

But yet, Eunice set up a dinner – over the internet – with strangers, and drove up from LA – from the morning commute – to meet us. We brought the food. She ate it.

Not only is she brave. She’s trusting.

This dinner was one stop on Eunice’s “At Risk” summer. Rather than do a typical sign-the-title-page book tour, she is touring the country, actually meeting and interacting with her readers. She is taking some serious risks.

Although, I don’t think that’s what she had in mind by the term “at – risk.” I believe she meant working with kids who are “at – risk.” But her summer has put her in some high risk situations: driving rental cars in Bay Area traffic, meeting strangers in private homes, eating surprise food, and above-all-else, telling the truth about herself, to anyone who will listen. She puts herself at risk everyday.

To me, that’s the beauty in Eunice and her work. Her bravery encourages us.

That evening, Eunice did two things to make me braver. First of all: she spoke up. She simply sat at the table with us and told us about herself. Even though we’d never met. That was risky. Maybe we would have a different opinion or attitude. But she made herself vulnerable immediately, easily and with a laugh. Several laughs, actually.

Her honesty enabled me to speak up.

The second thing she did to make me brave was she listened. She paid attention to each and every person at the table. Listening is risky because you might not like what you hear. Or you might change. Or you might feel you have to respond. Eunice did respond. She asked questions after every story.

Eunice’s book, Fat Angie, may be a powerful force, but I believe its because Eunice is so gentle. She knows people so well because she can interact with us honestly. She can risk a conversation, risk her time, risk a change, risk a bad dinner, a different opinion, or a wrong turn. And laugh.

I hope you read Fat Angie. It’s about a girl who takes risks. She’s hurt, bullied and ostracized. But, ultimately, Angie’s efforts pay off. Angie is brave because she puts herself at-risk again, even though she’s been hurt in the past.

The book is a quick read because the characters enter your heart quickly, as if they simply sat down at your table and started asking you questions.

If you are a high school teacher, I’ve got a story sheet for your students on narrative structure (part of the common core). It’s free to download. Help yourself.

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Bronco Riding

September 9, 2013 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, Book Reviews, libraries | By

I’m subbing in a high school library for a few weeks. Before I started this job, when I mentioned it to parents, they would ask me, “Do high school kids even read?”

That question, naturally, made me a bit defensive entering this library. I’m writing YA, ferchrist’s sake. They better read.

Once I arrived at this library I did, indeed, discover that what the teenagers check out most is: computers. But that’s OK. They’re doing their homework.

But hey, I’ve only got a few weeks at this substitute librarian thing. I want to succeed at my future dream career as a YA writer/real librarian. I need these kids to read. So I did the best thing I could think of: what motivates each and every teen to read.

I put together a book display.

At least I picked a subject they might like: Uncommon Couples. That will motivate them to read. Right? Aside from the obvious chick lit, werewolf and vampire stuff, I included Marley & Me, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Double Helix, that sort of thing.

Then I hid behind the circulation desk and watched to see if any of them picked up a book.

I didn’t witness it, but later in the day, I saw Anatomy of a Boyfriend, by Daria Snydowsky, on the coffee table next to someone’s knitting.

Sweet victory.

But she didn’t check the book out.

Partial victory.

From my spot behind the circulation desk, I saw another girl reading the same book the next period. But she, too, left the library without stopping at the circulation desk.

I wasn’t sure whether this counted as a win for me and books or not.

Then, during lunch, a co-ed group of teenagers had gathered around the coffee table. They were taking turns reading aloud to each other. Boisterous laughter ensued. This is a librarian’s dream, right? A library full of teens, sitting together, warmly conversing, laughing, sharing literature aloud, during their free time.

It is a substitute librarian’s nightmare.

What the hell book was that? It was not The Double Helix.

They were reading Daria Snadowsky’s Anatomy of a Boyfriend. That book was really getting around. Nancy (not her real name), the other librarian, and I quickly looked up reviews for the novel, which I had added to the display without reading.

Rookie librarian.

“Oh, poop,” I said – not exactly what I said – as both of our screens filled with impassioned accounts of the book. I explained to Nancy how I innocently did a subject search for “dating” and found this cute cover. Then I naively stuck the book next to Anthony and Cleopatra, which no one had yet cracked.

Once lunch was over, Nancy retrieved the book from the coffee table. She opened it to a page – 151 ­– and read this aloud, “You’ve got a long night of bronco riding ahead of you, cowgirl.”

I frowned. “I’ve really enjoyed working with you, Nancy. I hope you like the new sub tomorrow.”

Needless to say, I took the book home and read it myself. You can see my GoodReads review here: link to review

I liked the book, so I put it back in the display. It faced a different direction, so I hate to say this, but it hasn’t been picked up since. However, I am pleased to report that some romance manga, Franny and Zooey, and Gone with the Wind have all been checked out.

And, I’m sure that Anatomy of a Boyfriend is available on any e-reader. You can check those out, as the kids know, at the library. Hey, maybe that’s why they’re checking out so many computers.

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