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Pinch me.  Am I dreaming?

*Tigger dances blissfully around room*

I’ve just received word that WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN has been honored with the Library of Virginia’s Whitney and Scott Cardozo Award for Children’s Literature!

When a Dragon Moves In

*Breaks for another Tigger dance* 

Sorry, I’m back...*sheepish grin*

When I first received “the call” from Dan Stackhouse of the Library of VA congratulating me, I could barely speak. I was so shocked, so humbled, so thrilled and so grateful, it was all I could do to squeak out a “THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH” in between the “OMGs”!

I remember asking him if he could feel me hugging him over the phone.

Yes, I really asked.

Believe it or not, they haven’t retracted the award yet.

I immediately started scouting for rooftops to blast out my news, my joy…

But mostly, my intense gratitude.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being an author (okay, I’ve learned A LOT…but, for the sake of this post, I’m going to pick one…) it’s that writing may be a solitary thing, but the journey to being published is NOT.

And I am blessed to have so many extraordinary people in my corner – by my side – guiding me each and every step of the way!

So, without further ado… *clicks cyber megaphone on*

Jumping Jodi

A ton of love, hugs and gratitude – in no particular order – going out to:

All the wonderful folks at The Library of Virginia (including an extra hug to the person who nominated DRAGON)! ;-) I can’t even begin to find the words to describe what an honor it is to be among such esteemed company (books AND authors).  *sniff* 

To all my favorite librarians, booksellers and teachers…the amazing people that have not only been so generous to me and to DRAGON, but continue to ignite those sparks of creativity and nurture original thinking in all of us on a daily basis through the love of books.

To my tremendous critique buddies, both on-line and in-person, who continually guide, encourage and inspire me; who celebrate my successes and are never at a loss to provide a shoulder, a tissue and a hug when rejections come.

(I would be remiss if I didn’t send out special thanks and love to partners/friends/sisters Mindy Alysse Weis, Megan Gilpin and Kimberly Sabatini…we share not only manuscripts, we share hearts.)

To the fabulous folks at SCBWI and Verla Kay’s Blue Board, who represent a never-ending source of information, inspiration, passion, compassion and friendship.

To my amazing editor and friend Shari Dash Greenspan, my brilliant illustrator Howard McWilliam and the entire Flashlight family, for bringing my Dragon, my vision, to life.

To my fantastic editor and friend Mary Rand Hess, and the entire Story Pie Press family, for cheering my every project as if it were their own.

To my friends – those I’ve met and those I’ve yet to meet…who have read DRAGON, blogged about DRAGON, shared DRAGON, embraced DRAGON and ultimately voted for DRAGON…!

To my parents and siblings, for sharing books with me from day one and through their love and confidence, allowed me to believe I could create something so special.

To my loving husband, Larry, my best friend, the “muse-ic” in my life, who supports me in every way – every day! – and is relentless in his pursuit to build the perfect sandcastle.

To our two beloved and incredibly talented sons, Alex and Steve, and to our new daughter-in-law Jessica, who, along with my husband, have decided that growing up is overrated, and through their unrelenting faith, love and support never permit me to doubt myself as I pursue my dreams.

Finally, to one anonymous little boy, who stuck a piece of seaweed in the door of my husband’s sandcastle several summers ago, prompting Larry to say, “Look! It’s a dragon tail. Our castle is so cool, a dragon moved in…”

And allowed us once again to see life as it should be seen…through the eyes of a child.

I sincerely hope you can all feel the love, gratitude and virtual hugs attached to this post. And consider yourselves warned. You will get a real one when I see you!

'Cause that's just how Methinks.  xoxoxo

SCBWI is Family

Children’s writers are among the best people in the world.

I always feel so pumped after an SCBWI conference. And this year’s New York experience was no different. Despite the fact that it’s been a week since the conference began, I am still inspired beyond words.

You may think it’s because of all the jaw-dropping talent who delivered keynote speeches, like Chris Crutcher, Cassandra Clare and Kathryn Erskine.

You may think it’s because attendees were rewarded not only with a surprise announcement from Jane Yolen, but also with an impromptu visit from Henry Winkler.

You may think it’s because of the incredible breakout sessions and panels, led by industry experts, who both filled and expanded our minds.

And you’d be right.

But it’s so much more.

It’s that first warm welcome from Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser. The anticipation of reconnecting with your writer buddies. And the promise of making new ones.

It’s the people.

Four years ago, I was a first-time, rather timid attendee. WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN was just a dream then, tucked into my briefcase for the Intensives. I felt lost in a sea where everyone seemed to know everyone else. Everyone seemed confident. Knowledgeable. Published.

Except me.

But then, something – someone – wonderful happened. While waiting on line for the bathroom (also a huge part of the SCBWI NY experience), I happened to recognize a nametag, or rather, a screen name added to a nametag. It belonged to the incredibly talented, effervescent Kimberly Sabatini (author of the soon-to-be-released TOUCHING THE SURFACE * squeee *!!!), with whom I had "spoken" on Verla Kay’s fantastic children’s writer message board (the Blue Board) so many times!

At the risk of sounding cliché, everything changed. Although Kim and I didn’t see each other for but a fleeting moment at that conference, she made me realize something very important:

I’m not alone. I am among FAMILY.

SCBWI is our community, or in Kim’s words, our “tribe”. It’s the knowledge that you’re not alone in a pursuit that is so often solitary. It’s a connection with people – with friends – who will guide you, support you, inspire you and hold you accountable…not only to produce, but to deliver your best.

It may seem like a tight group at first glance. Admittedly, the bonds are strong. But like the scene in The Grinch where every Who down in Whoville clasps his/her hands around the tree - only to break apart to let that sleigh through, the SCBWI circle opens again and again for new members to join, to feel welcome, to share.

Kim is now one of my best friends in the world. And I can’t even count the number of other wonderful folks I have since bonded with over the years, over the conferences. Some are published; some (to coin Lin Oliver’s phrase) are pre-published. Yet we all come together at SCBWI.

That’s why my head and heart are so full. That’s why I’m so inspired and pumped. That’s why I’m already signed up and looking forward to the next conference.

Will you be there?

Be Our Guest

Lately, I’ve asked to write some guest blogs.
 
Which has made me feel humbled, honored, excited…and terrified.
 
I think the first three speak for themselves. The fourth? Well, perhaps I should explain.
 
The people who have invited me into their blogdom are talented, inspirational and wise. I read, ponder and absorb what they say. I recognize many of the names of the people who comment on said blogs. I read, ponder and absorb what THEY say.
 
We’re talking some pretty awesome-in-a-true-sense-of-the-word people here.
 
And I think, how can I possibly contribute something worthy, something of true substance, something these intelligent folks don’t already KNOW?
 
Just days ago, I read a fantastic blog about perspective on Tara Lazar’s (incredible) PiBoIdMo challenge. Obviously, guest blogger and author Liz Garton Scanlon was talking about writing picture books. And it resonated with me in that context.

But it also struck a chord with me on another level. It reinforced the notion that we all have our own ways of looking at things, our own ways of processing information.
 
No one can see something in the exact way that I do. Through my eyes. Tangled up in my brain. From my heart.
 
With that thought in mind, I realize I do have things to say.  In the hopes of shining some new light, of offering a fresh perspective, of giving back to those who continue to give so freely, I respectfully and most graciously accept these offers.
 
I can only hope to inspire all of you a fraction of how much you’ve all inspired me. But I am very thankful for the chance to try.
 
Note: Please join me – and a host of amazing writer and illustrators – in accepting the PiBoIdMo challenge: 30 picture book ideas in 30 days, hosted by Tara Lazar. I’ll be guest posting November 18.  http://taralazar.wordpress.com/2011

And...it's a DRAGON!

 

People often refer to a book launch as its “birth” day. To me, it’s more than just a cute reference.

Each book has its own unique gestation period, where it grows and matures. Where it begins to form its own personality and character. The bones start to fuse, the heart begins to beat. You feel the joyous flutter with each minuscule change, totally enchanted as you watch your baby develop.

I’ve been so very lucky. My amazing editor at Flashlight Press, Shari Dash Greenspan, not only assigned the brilliant illustrator Howard McWilliam to breathe life into WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, she kept me in the loop the entire time, often sharing the magnificent sketches and layouts.

Those glimpses were my sonograms. I got tingly and teary-eyed as I gazed upon them, as every proud parent does.

And like any proud mom, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the day I could hold our sweet new little one.

The official launch date, our baby’s birthday, was set at May 1st and I have been very busy nesting, trying to get everything ready for its arrival.

Then, a few nights ago, I got my first labor twinge. My dad sent me an email that Amazon had notified him the baby was coming. Any day now. I got another twinge. And another.

What was happening? I emailed my doctor, er, my editor. Could this be for real? Or was I in false labor?

Breathe, she responded, as every great birthing coach does. The book’s official launch date is still May 1st, she went on to explain, but it seems Amazon and some other online booksellers received their copies early and were fulfilling orders. Dragon should be in the physical bookstores closer to the actual launch date, she added.

Omigosh! My baby was coming early! A premie! I Tigger danced in between taking deep cleansing breaths.

Yesterday afternoon, the Amazon stork came to our house!

* squeeeeeeee! *

Yes, our precious book baby has arrived…and it is beeeoooouuutiful!!! It is everything I could have dreamed of and more.

I can only hope that those of you who have inspired me, guided me and believed in me – my beloved husband and sons, my awesome critique buddies, my extended family and friends, my amazing editor/publisher and uber-talented illustrator – know how grateful I am to have you in my life.

* bliss *

I would gush longer, but it seems someone needs a story. And one NEVER passes up the opportunity to read and snuggle with a good book.

At least that’s what methinks.







Most Valuable Players

 As I sit writing this blog on Super Bowl Sunday, I have a confession. I don’t really care about football. Not a very popular view when one is a graduate of Penn State University and lives right smack in the middle of PA, almost equidistant between Philadelphia (home of the Eagles) and Pittsburgh (Steeler Country), but you’ll have this.



What I do care about is bullying. Specifically, putting a stop to bullying.

This past Thursday on The View, the ladies featured a very special young man and his family. Thirteen-year old Nadin Khoury had been maliciously bullied by some teenagers, where he was not only beaten, he was suspended from a fence. This courageous teen went on national TV to share his story in the hope of bringing awareness to the situation and to encourage others to help end such senseless violence.

My heart twisted and broke as I listened; my eyes filled with tears. And yet, by the end of the segment, my heart filled with hope. As a surprise, Philadelphia Eagles’ players DeSean Jackson, Todd Herremans and Jamaal Jackson arrived on stage to offer their support and to applaud Nadin’s strength and integrity. DeSean Jackson, Nadin’s favorite player, put his arm around the young man, calling him “brave” and mentioned that if he ever needed anyone, they had his back.

Then Jackson took the shirt right off of his back, autographed it and gave it to the emotional Khoury. There was not a dry eye to be found.

So, no, I didn’t really pay much attention to the Super Bowl. In my mind, the most valuable players - the heros - were on The View last Thursday. At least, that’s what methinks.
Children's books are hard-bound hugs.

That's been my writerly slogan - my mantra, if you will - for several years now. And I believe it. With all my heart.

Which is the reason I find this obsession with e-readers somewhat troublesome.

No, I'm not going to blog about whether or not e-readers are the beginning of the end of printed books. (Although I certainly hope not. For me, there is always a tingly rush whenever I enter a library or bookstore and breathe in that aroma of papery potential...but, I digress.)

There are enough people out there discussing that subject.

I'm not even concerned that children will be using them. Personally, I wish my boys had had access to them in school, when it seemed the required textbooks in their backpacks weighed more than they did. But again, I digress.

I would like to address the subject of picture books, early readers and e-readers*. 

"Don't be silly," I've been told. "No one's going to entrust a toddler or young child with an expensive e-reader."

Ummm...not if Vtech has anything to say about it. Yes folks, for under $60, your child can have an e-reader. They're color-splashed, sturdy and easy to operate. And kids seem to love them.

Again, I have no problem with this. In fact, I think it's great. How can one argue with a machine that not only supports learning and reading, but also strives to foster a love of both?

What concerns me is that some people might consider these mechanisms a substitute for parent interaction. I worry that children will receive e-readers as a replacement for attention. We've seen it happen too often with television and video.

Today's technology can enhance our love of reading, of music, of the world around us. It can assist in teaching facts, promoting comprehension and building skills. It can be entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking.

What it can't do is talk about what just happened, mid-sentence, when a toddler's eyes grow large. It can't wipe away the tears, or tickle away the fears. It can't giggle or squeal at an illustration or inside joke.

It can't give a hug. Or take hold of a tiny hand and begin new adventures.




My kids grew up with Teddy Ruxpin. That adorable story-telling bear deepened their appreciation for fiction, but he was never a substitute for my lap, for my voice, for "our" nightly, snuggly read.

And that's why, whether a story is hard or soft-bound, whether it's lined in fur, metal or plastic, whether it's free-standing, battery-operated or plugged in, it's always best shared person-to-person, heart-to-heart. Because, as so many will tell you, children remember not the material things you give to them, but the experiences you share with them.

That's just how methinks.

* Just for the record: No child is ever "too old" to be read to. Discovering books and sharing them with others is a lifelong joy. That goes for hugs too. 








 
 

Lo...and Behold

There's a reason I haven't entered a blog post in a month. It's not that I haven't written one. In fact, I've written several. It's just that my inner critic and my inner editor ganged up on me and insisted on revision, after revision, after revision. Then they sent me a form rejection. On each one.

Sigh.

But I had an epiphany the other day. A revelation. A major break-through. And it was all thanks to one scientific study and someone else's blog. There I was, enjoying my morning coffee, gearing myself up to begin my daily scrutiny, when this news flash came on:  Perfectionists die earlier than those who take it easy. The hot liquid froze in my mouth.

"Ridiculous," snorted my inner critic, who dismissed the report and poured herself another cup of high test. "Why are you listening to this drivel? Don't you have a revision to polish?"

I slunk upstairs to my office and opened a manuscript. I honed. I refined. I buffed. My inner critic smirked. My inner editor groaned. I deleted. Began again. Repeated the process. Printed it out. Read it. Shredded it. Began again.



Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.

At some point, I went on-line to clear my head. There, amidst a sea of interesting and though-provoking posts, floated a life raft: a blog about inner editors vs inner critics, written by Malinda Lo and suggested to me by Anastasia Suen.  

I won't reiterate the blog, but I do suggest you go and read it. Because after I did, I realized my perfectionist tendencies are very much related to - if not directly caused by - my inner critic and my inner editor. So I banished my inner critic (and least I am actively trying to, it's easier said than done) and have switched my inner editor to decaf.

Now I am going to go back and pull up those blogs I wrote. And share them with you on a regular basis.

Well...after I spell-check them. 

'Cause that's just how methinks.

Methinks

Tap. Tap. Tap. Hello? Tap. Tap. Is this thing on...?  *clears throat*

Hi. I'm Jodi and I write for children (When A Dragon Moves In, Flashlight Press, Spring 2011) and young adults. I'm new to these parts. New to this community. New to this whole blogging thing.

I'm so excited to be here. It's taken me some time to get to this point, to work up the nerve to set up shop. You see, I've been writing for many years now, but this is my first official blog.

Oy. The pressure.

Should I try to be witty? Talk about what I write? Share my conference experiences? After all, I want to be a positive, contributing member of this community. I want to be a good neighbor.

So, with that in mind, I've decided to share a recent experience - and epiphany (love that word!) - that speaks volumes about, well, the way "me" thinks.


 

A lawn care professional came to our door the other day. With a not-so-subtle look of disdain at our yard, he shoved a brochure into my hand and said, "We can fix this."

I glanced at the neighbors' yards. On both sides. Across the street. All of them rich, lush, green. Impeccably trimmed, without one weed.

Martha Stewart perfect.

Our lawn is, well, not so perfect. It is dotted with weeds. Spotted with dandelions.  I took his pamphlet and slunk back into the house. The shame of it all. For a moment or two, I felt guilty. I even agonized. How could I have let our lawn go like this?

Then I remembered exactly how our lawn got this way.

What seems like only days ago (but is, in fact, years) two sweet little boys liked to pick "the pretty yellow flowers" for their mommy. And when those dandelions turned to white puffs, this mommy taught them how to make a wish and blow them into the wind so that their wishes would come true.

They shared this passion with their friends. Sometimes, there would be a blizzard of wishes in our yard.

Our boys are both in college now, as are most of their friends. I look at those pretty yellow flowers and I see little sprouts of precious memories. Each one representing a wish from the past. Wishes that I hope - for all of them - are coming true.

But if any of those kids should need them, those dandelions that cradle wishes for the future, they're still here. In our yard.

I shredded the brochure. 'Cause that's just how methinks.