Author Archives: Adam Shaughnessy

About Adam Shaughnessy

I write books for kids. I also play games with them. Sometimes I get to combine the two, which is pretty great.

Playtime

This is (sadly) my last post for EMUs Debuts. I thought I knew what I was going to say. I’d actually written the post a while back. It was all about understanding the divisions of responsibility as an author—how we are storytellers and businesspeople—and about how to set boundaries so that the work aspect (the marketing and selling of books) doesn’t overwhelm the creative aspect or even the rest of one’s life.

But you know what? Forget it.

Because today is a Day. There are days and Days in life, and this is most definitely a Day. It’s the kind of Day that only comes around once in, well, about thirty-two years. It’s the kind of Day when the stars align just so and fair winds blow across all the oceans of all the worlds in this galaxy and in those galaxies far, far away.

Today I am going to see a new Star Wars movie with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.

Just writing that sentence makes me quiver with excitement. I’m not even kidding. And I can’t help thinking how important that is, and how crazy. I was ten when Return of the Jedi came out. I’m forty-two now. Thirty-two years have passed between that Day and this one and yet I’m giddy with anticipation about going to the movies tonight.

There is a point to this rampbling that relates to EMU’s Debuts and children’s literature, I swear, and I’ll get to it in a moment. First, though, I want to share a brief childhood memory.

My mother had the patience of, well, a Jedi. One of the many times she demonstrated this was the winter after The Empire Strikes Back came out. She looked out the window one afternoon and saw me walking in circles through the driving snow in the backyard. She didn’t think much about it until she looked out a little later and saw me still doing the same thing—just retracing the same circle over and over again in the backyard. She eventually lured me back inside with the promise of hot chocolate, but she must have thought I was crazy.

I wasn’t crazy. I was Luke Skywalker, lost on the ice planet Hoth. I think I spent hours out there, feeling the cold on my cheeks, blinking away the ice crystals that caught on my lashes as I tried to return to my friends in the Rebel Alliance.

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Life on Hoth. (Image from toltoys.com)

That right there is what this journey to published author has been all about for me. I began sharing stories with children because I wanted to inspire their imaginations and their play. I think story and play are the Oreos and glasses of milk of childhood. They forever go together. I want my books to be playgrounds where children can go to imagine and explore and immerse themselves in the story worlds I create. That’s what Star Wars did for me. I want to do that for others. Basically, if I inspire just one child to risk frostbite in her or his own backyard, then I will feel that I have been successful.

Of course, the best playgrounds are the ones you can share with friends (even if it does mean waiting for your turn on the slide). I’m very grateful for the friends I’ve made at EMU’s Debuts. It’s a strange experience, being on EMU’s. My time here has been relatively brief and it has overlapped (as is the nature of the blog!) with one of the busiest times in my life. So I feel like I haven’t been as present on the blog as I would have liked sometimes. And yet I feel a very real sense of pride and camaraderie every single time I see one of my fellow EMU’s books in a bookstore (which, naturally, I immediately buy because—as per my original, discarded post—this is a business we’re in, too).

So I want to say a sincere thank you to all of my fellow EMUs and to those of you who have read and commented on my posts. I hope the world proves small enough that our paths get to cross outside of the internet some day.

That’s it for me. It’s time to go play in a galaxy far, far away…

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The Entirely True Confession of a Fibber

Confession time.

My introduction post for EMU’s Debuts was about remembering to have fun. In it, I promised myself that I would try to have fun in the months between signing and publication. Now that my book has finally launched, I feel like I can share something that I didn’t really feel comfortable talking about for the past year and a half.

I didn’t really have a lot of fun.

Wait! Keep reading. That’s not a complaint! It’s the build up to a revelation. Because a couple of weeks ago, I finally figured out why I hadn’t been having much fun.

The epiphany came to me as I wrapped up my first school visit in front of an assembly of 500 K-5 students in an elementary school in Naperville, IL. The answer was so simple that I felt impossibly stupid—and overwhelmingly relieved.

Kids.

I’ve spent my entire adult career working with kids in one capacity or another. I was a classroom teacher for a number of years before moving on to a more administrative role in my school. I left that position to start an enrichment business. The whole reason I began writing was because I love sharing stories with kids. When my book first sold I was thrilled for a number of reasons—not least among them was the fact that I knew that having a book out there would give me the opportunity to engage with kids and story in whole new ways. So when I had to back off on my enrichment work to make time for my writing, I did so confident that it would be an equal trade.

But it’s a funny thing. You write a book for children. If you’re lucky (I was very lucky!) you sell that book. But then for the next 18 months the only people reading that book are other adults.

It wasn’t until I found myself in front of that group of kids that I realized just how far removed I’d grown from my intended audience. As old habits, old management styles, and (yes) old jokes kicked back in, I began to feel more like myself that I had in months. I was—finally—enjoying being a children’s writer.

We call our field Children’s Literature, and I think that name speaks to the dual nature of the genre. At the risk of generalizing, I think that those of us who write for children like to have a foot in two worlds—the story world of children and the literary world of adults.

The period of pre-publication forces us to place more weight on the foot that rests in the world of adults—of editors and revisions and reviewers. I wasn’t prepared for that. It unbalanced me. I share this post in case anyone else finds herself or himself experiencing a similar loss of balance.

The good news? Once the book is published, things change. The weight shifts. A friend recently told me that the night after my first school visit I sounded more like myself than I had in months. She was right. For the first time since getting the news that my book sold, I’m excited—really excited—about being an author.

So go ahead! Ask me if we’re having fun yet!

I’m finally able to give the answer I’ve been wanting to give all along.

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A college friend sent this photo of reading FIB with her daughter—one of the first times I saw a kid with my published book!

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Looney Love

Looney ExperimentAtticus Hobart, the protagonist of The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds, has a lot on his mind (that tends to happen when you have an imagination that works on overdrive). Bullies. Teachers. His dad. And, of course, Audrey Higgins.

Audrey is brave, assertive, and everything Atticus thinks he isn’t—and he’s crazy about her. In celebration of The Looney Experiment (and especially of Atticus and Audrey) the EMUs are sharing stories about our own crushes, loves, and romantic entanglements. Read on. It gets juicy!

Tamara Ellis Smith
In second grade I developed a crush on Jimmy Henricks.  (I know, I know, but I THINK I am remembering his name correctly!) I can’t recall, now, what it was about Jimmy that caught my attention. He had long eyelashes, I remember that, but I don’t remember much else…except that he played the violin.  So naturally I wanted to play the violin.  I begged my parents to let me play—which they agreed to—and I began to take lessons at school. I was never very good at it, but boy did I love those half hour sessions when I got to leave the classroom WITH Jimmy to go to our lesson down the hall to make beautiful* music together!

*Jimmy made beautiful music. I made sounds.

Debbi Michiko Florence
When I was in the first grade, I was extremely shy. I hated recess. I was at a new school and had no real friends yet. One recess, I was so upset I started to cry. I remember a teacher’s aide walking me from the yard back to the classroom. As we walked, we passed a boy who was the son of my mom’s friend. We’d met briefly. When we walked by him, he said, “Who hurt her? I’m going to get him.” I don’t think we ever talked after that, and I can’t really call it a first crush, but I thought it was sweet. And I finally stopped crying at recess and made friends after that. I think his comment made me feel less invisible.

Christine Hayes
When I was about five years old, my mom would often bring me along when she visited a close friend of hers. That friend had two little boys: Reid, also five, and Travis, a year or two younger. Though the memories have blurred around the edges, as memories do, I remember that we played Bionic Man and Woman, The Rescuers, and many other grand games of pretend. One particular day we decided to a little kissing, just to see what it was like. Later, I fessed up to my mom and told her, “Reid kissed me.” Naturally, when she asked where (as in cheek? lips? elbow?) I answered, “In the closet.” I’ll never forget my first crush on dreamy, five-year-old Reid what’s-his-name! 🙂

Elly Swartz
My first crush was a boy my family knew. The romance was short and sweet. One day he kissed me underwater at the JCC pool. I immediately popped out of the water, ran over to my mom who was playing cards with her friends and told her that Jimmy had kissed me. She smiled. I then promptly jumped back into the pool. And, that was the start and finish of our romance. 

Janet Fox
My first crush was a boy named Peter. We rode the bus together in 5th grade, and he sat across the aisle. We talked, we talked, we…talked. Then I moved halfway across the country. All I remember about Peter was that he was tall and had dark hair. Oh, and the man I married a bajillion years later (not Peter)? Tall, with dark hair. 

Adam Shaughnessy
My first crush was in first grade. Her name was Jean Kelly. She was awesome. I seized every opportunity to spend time with her. I even befriended her brother, Kevin Kelly, so I could be around Jean more. I’d visit his house all the time and I was always disappointed when Jean wasn’t home. It drove me nuts that Kevin kept denying even having a sister!

It took me another year before I understood that two people could have the same last name but not be related. Oops. Anyway, Kevin had neat robot toys so it was cool.

Hayley Barrett
I’m a dawdler and a dreamer and was always late for school. When I was in fourth grade, I developed a crush on a classmate. (He shall remain nameless because I still live in the same town.) Anyway, I decided to reveal my crush by leaving a mushy note in his desk. I wish I could remember what it said, but I do remember that what-have-I-done, flop-sweat, sleepless night. I launched out of bed like a rocket the next morning and RACED to school, arriving even before the teachers. I yanked that note right out of his desk and he never knew. I still feel relieved. Whew!

Megan Morrison
My entire adolescence was a daisy-chain of (mostly) unrequited crushes. I didn’t fall in the kind of love that matters until I met my husband, and I had mostly given up believing that it would happen for me… but not quite. There was a part of me that still believed in the fairy tale, and that part of me was awake and alive the night I met him, in a bar in New York City. He wore a Voldemort t-shirt. I wore Weasley Is Our King. We talked Harry Potter and drank beer and were giddy with the at-first-sightness of it all. A couple of years later, just after we both finished reading book seven in the Harry Potter series, he proposed. We were at a vineyard with all our geeky friends, and the celebration was epic. In fact, our engagement made it into a book – HARRY, A HISTORY, written by our friend Melissa Anelli.

Has this compilation of the EMUs’ greatest love songs put you in the mood for love? Then pick up The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds. You’ll fall head over heels, guaranteed! You can find it at your nearest independent bookseller by visiting indiebound.org. Or find it at any of the following booksellers:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon BAM

Better yet, if you comment on this or any other post this week you’ll be entered to win a signed copy!

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EMUs and Friends

Maria Gianferrari’s Penny & Jelly: The School Show introduces readers to a girl and her dog and invites us to discover the talents and the bonds that the two share. The story was inspired by Maria’s own daughter, Anya, and the special relationship Anya shares with their family dog, Becca.

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In celebration of the launch of Maria’s warm, funny, and beautifully illustrated (by Thyra Heder) new picture book, the EMUs have decided to share photos of their furred, feathered, and otherwise fancy friends. Sometimes our featured EMU’s  allow their beloved animals to take center stage, sometimes they have included a best friend in the photo, and sometimes your favorite EMU’s step in front of the camera in order to share the spotlight themselves!


From Christine Hayes:

Chris and Cotton“This is me, my mom, and our dog, Cotton, when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Our parents brought him home one day as a tiny, wiggly surprise. He was a mutt, totally untrained, constantly stealing food off the table and chewing up Barbies and digging under fences, but he was OUR mutt and we adored him! Cotton and I pretty much grew up together. I had three older siblings, and as they each turned 18 and left home I was so glad Cotton was there to keep me company. He never told any of my secrets, and he made an excellent pillow. He was a true best friend!”


From Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (Note Coco’s excellent taste in reading materials!):

DSC_0005“This is my furry pal Coco. She’s a dream companion for a writer: She makes sure I get up when my alarm goes off at 5am, she camps out in my office whenever I’m writing to provide company and moral support but not distraction, she curls up by my side when I sleep, and petting her super soft fur is the ultimate de-stresser.”


From Megan Morrison:

ari_lola“My furry friends are Lola and Ari. My husband and I adopted this sibling duo from a shelter back when we lived in Brooklyn, and they moved with us across the country when we came to live in Washington. Lola’s special talent can be seen in the photo: she is a ninja. This is how she used to look out the door of our Brooklyn apartment. She’s always been small, skittish, and quick to climb away. Her other special talent is treading on my hair when I am trying to sleep. Ari’s special talent is being a big giant enormous fluffy meowmonster. He loudly and plaintively meows us into submission each morning, begging for his breakfast. We do not know why he feels the need to do this, as his breakfast is 100% guaranteed. His other special talent is rolling over to show his tummy.”


From Tamara Ellis Smith:

Image“This is a photo of Willow, who is my friend Kara’s dog, and my son, Jafeth.  I run on the river trails with Willow (and Kara) 3 times a week.  So she is my running partner, and she is also a frequent guest at our house, whenever Kara goes away.  In this photo she is hanging with my son, Jafeth, who she adores.  She has the really sweet talent of putting her face about as close as is possible to yours, without ever touching it, and then looking straight into your eyes.  There is NO WAY you can not pet her when she does that.  She is also wicked fast on the trail (a good motivator!) and an excellent chicken chaser (not so fun for my chickens) and an overall excellent neighbor and friend. We love her.”


From Penny Parker Klostermann:
penny“Since we don’t have a pet right now, I borrowed Bentley. He is a standard poodle who belongs to my closest friend. Bentley’s special talent is his hair! He never has a bad hair day. It’s always perfectly cute.”


From Laurie Ann Thompson:

prim cropped 2“This is my assistant, Prim. I call her that because she stays right beside me while I write and lets me pet her whenever I need some inspiration. She doesn’t walk much (bad knees) and loves to sleep, so she is very, very good at butt-in-chair time and a most excellent cuddler. She was a foster dog that we just couldn’t give back, and I’m so glad she found her way to us!”


1502762_724408124314747_778560849781098030_oLindsey Lane shared this photo of her with her shadow, Sombra, who shares the top spot on Lindsey’s Facebook page by appearing in her profile photo!


There you have it: EMUs with their animal friends. None of which are, disappointingly, actual emus. I’d have liked to see that. Do you have an animal friend that holds a special place in your heart or has a unique talent? Let us know in the comments! If you do (or if you comment on any post this week) you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Penny and Jelly: The School Show.

If you can’t wait a single moment longer than you have to in order to get a copy of the book (and who could blame you?) then click on over to pennyandjelly.com to purchase a copy. Or click on any of the links below!

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers Amazon.com Books-a-Million Barnes & Noble IndieBound Politics and Prose Powell's The Toadstool Bookshop
Also available as an eBook in several of these locations, and at iBooks and Kobo.

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Gifts and Talent

Mothman's Curse Final CoverFirst of all, an announcement: the winner of the Mothman’s Curse giveaway is TheSmitlyJotter! Congratulations! Christine will be in touch soon to arrange delivery. Thanks to everyone who commented and followed along with us through Christine’s launch. We hope you had as much fun as we did. If you didn’t win last week—stay with us! There are many more launches ahead this summer.

Next, I have a confession to make.

I forgot that I was supposed to post today.

Fortunately, the talented, helpful and far-better-organized-than-I Mylisa Larson sent me a heads up. That got me thinking.

If we remove the far-better-organized-than-I bit from the list of attributes above then we’re left with two traits: talented and helpful. I think there’s something about those two qualities, and the relationship between them, that merits some attention.

We all know people who are talented. We all know people who are helpful. But I think that if we were all to construct a Venn Diagram detailing the people in our lives who are talented and who are helpful then a good number of people would be listed in the in-between area—that special place reserved for people who are not just one thing or the other, but both.

That’s not a revolutionary thought, of course. Obviously we all know people who are talented and helpful. But I know that in recent years I’ve been developing a whole new appreciation for such people and how much good they do.

I think this awakening started when I began pursuing my Master’s in Children’s Literature. I had been away from writing and scholarship for a long time. I was (at least) ten years older than most of my classmates, who were all inconsiderately clever and creative and made me very conscious of my insecurities about moving from the education field (where I knew a thing or two) to the field of children’s literature (where I did not).

But as anxiety inducing as my classmates were, I was most influenced by my professors. And I quickly began to notice that the professors that seemed to be the most knowledgeable of their craft or area of scholarship were also the professors that were the most generous with their time and encouragement. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, or an observation born of gratitude. I think there’s a connection between talent and helpfulness. Maybe it’s because the most talented people are the most secure, and therefore the most open. Maybe talent demands growth and kindness nurtures growth—within and without. Maybe it’s more complicated than either of those thigns (or more simple).

All I know is that, since entering the world of writing for children, the people that have impressed me the most with their talent and skill have also been the people who are most inclined to encourage and support the growth of others. I think that’s true of the community here at EMU’s Debuts. I think it’s true elsewhere.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this? Maybe it’s a reminder to myself to remain appreciative. Maybe it’s a note that while I may not ever achieve the level of talent possessed by those that inspire me I can still aspire to match their generosity and level of encouragement. It’s so easy to forget to do both those things. Life is busy. There are weddings and honeymoons and medical tests and deadlines and new Batman video games to play. It’s easy to forget to be grateful and generous. But I genuinely believe it’s worth the effort, both for ourselves and the people around us.

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Let Down Your Hair—And Whip It…

grounded_cover (1)I am always amazed and delighted when an author finds a way to take a familiar character and present her in a way that is both recognizable and new. It’s no easy task. But if you’ve been following the blog this week, you know that’s exactly what Megan Morrison does with her new book, Grounded. While the Rapunzel that greets us in Grounded is familiar enough that reading about her makes us feel like we’re visiting with an old friend, her courage, agency, and adventurous spirit inspire us to view our old friend in a new light.

In celebration of all those qualities that Megan surfaces in the character, the EMUs have decided to collaborate on a playlist to accompany us all on our next adventure. Take it with you on your next road trip or enjoy it as you explore a new book (like, for example, Grounded!).

You need to have a Spotify account to listen to the playlists. If you don’t have an account but would like to create your own playlist on iTunes or any other platform, here’s a list of the songs from the EMU’s Adventure Playlist:

Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas (Anchorman Medley)
Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane
Right Now by Van Halen
Where the Streets Have No Name by U2
Inner Smile by Texas
Harbor by Vienna Teng
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
Roar by Katy Perry
Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
Don’t Stop Believing by the Glee Cast
Love Don’t Roam by Neil Hannon

One song remains unidentified on the list but I’ll leave that as a surprise. I’ll just say this: there’s one possible truth about Rapunzel that no writer has explored. Maybe it’s too controversial. But it has been suggested that the real reason Rapunzel grew her hair so long is because she is a HUGE Willow Smith fan. That’s all I’m saying.

[Edit: It was brought to my attention that the Spotify playlist didn’t appear for all users. I apologize for the error! It should load below. Thank you for your patience!]

Enjoy the playlist. And be sure to pick up Megan Morrison’s Grounded if you want to embark on a real adventure! You can buy it by clicking on any of these links:

Third Place Books

The Secret Garden Bookshop

Powell’s

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

You can also enter to win a copy by commenting on this post or any post this week. Megan has even offered to throw in a sweet chainmail bookmark as part of the giveaway!

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The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB Cover Reveal!

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I’m thrilled to officially reveal the cover for The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB, coming September 8, 2015! The artist is Gilbert Ford (www.gilbertford.com). I was thrilled beyond belief when I learned he would be providing the cover art. I’ve been a fan of his for yearsHis art is engaging and playful and I couldn’t be happier with the cover he created for my story (and you haven’t even seen the back, yet)!

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Sipping from the Mead of Poetry—But Not Really, Because That Stuff’s Gross

While researching my next book (which is due to mu editor far sooner than I’d like to admit), I came across this terrific passage in The Norse Myths, retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland and published by Pantheon Books, New York, in 1980:

What was his secret? It was as much in his manner as in his mine of understanding. Questions of fact he answered with simple facts. But to ask Kvasir for his opinion—What shall I say? What do you think? What shall I do?—did not always mean getting a direct answer. Sitting back in his ill-fitting clothes, as often as not with his eyes closed, he would listen to recitals of problems and sorrows with a kind, grave, blank face, He took in and set everything in a wider frame. He never intruded or insisted; rather, he suggested. Often enough he answered a question with another question. He made gods and men, giants and dwarfs feel that they had been helped to answer their own questions.

To give the passage some conext—it describes Kvasir, the sage, whose blood was used to make the mead of poetry (well before OSHA standards were enforced in the workplace).

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Odin, in eagle form, delivers the mead of poetry

The passage resonated with me on a number of levels. The educator in me responded to it because I think the words capture the habits that are exhibited by many of the best teachers I’ve known. But the writer in me responded to the passage, too. It caused me to reflect on one of the tasks I always find challenging when I’m pulling together a new work—figuring out how much information to give the reader, and when. I think this issue is particularly relevant when I’m writing a mystery (as I am right now). How many clues does the reader need? Am I being too obvious? Or am I being so vague that no one has any idea what I’m talking about? How do you strike a balance?

The more I think about these questions, the more I find myself going back to the fact that the quote struck a chord with both the educator and the writer in me. Maybe there’s not so much of a separation there, after all. I was always very sympathetic to constructivism, the educational theory that suggests people learn best when given the tools and experiences they need to construct their own understanding. In the end, isn’t that what we hope for as writers? That through our words we give readers the tools they need to construct an understanding of our story-worlds. What does the world look, sound, and smell like? What do the characters feel? I suppose one interpretation of the old “show don’t tell” adage is that it’s constructivism applied to writing.

Perhaps one way to think about how much information to give the reader, then, is to think about Kvasir’s hierarchy of information. Answer questions about facts with facts. After all, facts aren’t understanding. They’re the tools readers need to construct an understanding. So if there’s something the reader needs to know, don’t bury it too deep. But when it comes to the higher order level of thinking—understanding a character’s motivation, for example—be more cautious. Never intrude or insist; rather, suggest. And hope that in the end you give gods and people, giants and dwarfs the tools they need to make their own meaning of your story.

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Obsession (for Bunnies!!!)

obsession_image

Obsession. We all have one. Some of us have many, purchased in bulk from Calvin Klein, because you can never have too much of a scent that blends the “botanics, spices, and rare woods” that capture the…

Wait, no.

Sorry. Wrong sort of obsession. I’ve just been reminded that we’re talking about the other kind of obsession this week. That makes sense, given that we’re celebrating the release of Kevan Atteberry’s Bunnies!!!

This ebullient new book invites us to share in the delight of an adorable monster’s fascination with and enthusiasm for everyone’s favorite long-eared forest creature. In keeping with the joyful energy that Kevan captures so perfectly, I asked some EMUs to sound off on their own personal obsessions. Here’s a compilation of what the gang had to say about the things that trigger an over-the-top level of excitement in each of them:

Carole Gerber: My obsession is nearly always an adult novel or nonfiction book that I loved and devoured. Most recently, I read “Descent” by Tim Johnston in one long afternoon and evening. It’s a wonderful thriller and took my mind off being “grounded” at home on crutches as I recover from foot surgery. The only downside to becoming obsessed with a book is that I am always slightly annoyed at myself for reading it so quickly!

Christine Olson Hayes: I go crazy for flea markets and 1980s TV shows. Nothing like a little bargain hunting and cheesy television to brighten up your day!

Janet Fox: Mine would have to be Star Trek. I fell in love with the first series when it aired, followed TNG, and then exposed my son at an early age, which has resulted in a Star Trek mutual obsession – except that at age 23 he has now way surpassed me. Still, it’s fun to share those subtle references with him.

Laurie Thompson: Here’s a laundry list of my various and sundry obsessions: sea salt dark chocolate caramels; furry four-legged animals; birds, especially crows and hawks; pajamas; and, of course, BOOKS!

Maria Gianferrari: I have two obsessions. The first is hawks (red-tails in particular). I love scanning highway lampposts and trees while driving to see them perch-hunting (and it’s the subject of one of my upcoming books). My other obsession is dogs, or maybe Doggies!!!

Megan Morrison: I get Declan-level excited about lots of things, but today I want to shout ebulliently about BioWare video games! They’re role-playing games, and they’re excellent fun. Epic fantasy and sci-fi settings, great characters, compelling romances, and fantastic dialogue. If these games were BUNNIES!!!, I’d chase them around the woods all day and very likely frighten them with my ferocious glee.

Mylisa Larsen: KAYAKS!!! I don’t know what it is about those little right-down-in-the-water boats that makes my heart go pitter-patter but oh, I love them. 

Penny Parker Klostermann: My personal BUNNIES is Peeps! The sugar-coated, marshmallow, pink and yellow chicks and BUNNIES! It’s such an obsession that all my family and friends give me packs-a-plenty to devour around Easter. I’m a connoisseur of sorts. I only want pink or yellow. I don’t think the other colors are authentic. And I do yell PEEPS!!! when they appear in stores for Easter!

Rebecca Van Slyke: Besides the obvious DARK CHOCOLATE!!! and BOOKS!!!, I love POPCORN!!! and PENNIES!!! I seem to find a lot of pennies on the ground. I started saving it in a jar. When the jar is full, I donate it to a charity.

Susan Vaught: I get a bit stupid for anything that reminds me of my favorite science fiction or fantasy books, especially Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Dark is Rising. Yes, yes, I know, this screams GEEEEEEEEEK. I embrace my inner geek. I can’t help it. Elf, dwarf, hobbit, wizard, phaser, Millenium Falcon, some tall, dark and 1000 year old guy booming, “The Dark! The Dark is riiiiiiising!”–I’m there.

Tamara Smith: I have a few notable obsessions, things that send my heart racing, my mind thinking irrational thoughts, my muscles burning. Chocolate is one of them. So is peanut butter. And anything about the late actor River Phoenix. (Sigh.) But what comes to mind vividly right now is not an obsession of mine, but my newest son’s. Jafeth is OBSESSED with lights. Flashlights, candles, stars, the moon, lamps, ceiling lights and light switches. If he spots any of these his eyes (pardon the word) light up and he points and jumps. “La luz, la luz, la luz,” he chants. He will then (if it is a light switch) flip it on and off about fifty times, or he will then (if it is the moon) stare at it for fifty seconds, or he will then (if it is a flashlight) take it apart into fifty pieces. And while you need a little patience to ride the experience (and a strong heart that can withstand the strobe-like effect), it is tough not to be swept up in his enthusiasm. Lights are pretty cool, right? 

And, finally, my own personal obsession is pretty easy to identify. I believe that there is one true musical god, and that his name is Bruce Springsteen. Which works out fine, except for the nagging worry that when I die—regardless of how I’ve lived my life, good or bad—my immortal soul just might end up in Jersey (that’s a joke—no offense to readers who reside in the beautiful Garden State!).

Check back in tomorrow for another post celebrating the release of Bunnies!!! And remember, Kevan will be giving away two signed copies of the book this week. Leave a comment on this post or any others this week for a chance to win!

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Rules of the Game

hands_inWhen I’m not at home writing, one of the best things I get to do is visit schools, after-schools, and libraries through my enrichment business and work with groups of kids from all over. Well, I call it work. Really, we play games and share stories. But let’s pretend it’s work. The IRS does.

The first thing I do when I settle in to work with a new group is go over the rules for our time together. The rules vary from visit to visit, depending on the program I’m doing. But the last rule I share is always the same. Have fun!

Now, anyone who works with kids will tell you that you need to be prepared to revisit rules a fair bit. That’s true. But the ‘have fun” rule? That’s the one I generally expect to revisit the least.

As I begin this journey from deal to debut, though, I am surprised by the frequency with which I have to remind myself to “have fun.” I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It makes sense. The intimate relationship I’ve had all along with my story is about to change. Once it goes to publication, it’s not going to be me and my book anymore. It’s going to be me, my book, and everyone else. That’s a scary thing. What if everyone else doesn’t enjoy my story? It can be hard to have fun when you’re scared.

But rules exist for a reason. And “have fun” is one rule that deserves to be followed, especially in this case. Because this thing I get to do, that I suspect almost everyone reading this blog does—writing for children—this is the best thing ever. It doesn’t matter where we are on the road to publication. We are all absurdly lucky. I write for children in large part because it’s a way for me to express the love I feel for the books that shaped me as a child. What could possibly be more fun than that?

So I thought I’d take this opportunity in my first post for Emu’s Debuts to revisit the “have fun” rule. It’s a great reminder for me, and if anyone out there reading this is in a place where they need a reminder, too, then all the better. I’m excited to be part of this community and I’m looking forward to doing a great deal of rule-following with everyone in the days ahead!

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