My grandparents lived on a farm out in the country. For a couple of years, starting when I was about 13, while my mom went back to school, we lived on the farm in my great grandparents' old house.
The summers I spent there are some of the strongest memories I have to this day. I don't think I knew how much I loved being on the farm. I loved wandering around. I'd visit the old playhouse that my mother had played in when she was younger. I'd swing on the tire swing. On hot days, the cool barn was the place to go. Upstairs in the barn was a built-in trampoline my grandpa had built for his three daughters. Here's the old barn, built around 1929, as it looks today:
Some afternoons, my grandma and I would go bike riding on back country roads, collecting pop cans and bottles from the ditch as we went along.
While strawberries were in season, I would ride the bus to the fields and pick berries. I soon learned that picking berries all day made for one very long day. At least for a 13-year old. I talked my grandma into picking me up at lunch time some days. Those were the best afternoons, because we'd go back to her house, have lunch, and watch soap operas for a couple of hours. (Thanks to me and my obsession with Luke and Laura, my grandma got hooked on General Hospital and continued to watch it for many, many years to come, usually before her afternoon nap).
I made $75.00 picking berries that summer. My grandpa had promised to match whatever I earned, so I finally had enough money to buy myself the dog I'd always wanted - a purebred cocker spaniel. I named him Lucky.
I miss my grandma and grandpa. I miss wandering around that old farm. I miss my sweet dog, Lucky.
But I still have summertime, along with the lazy days and fun times and sweet fruit it brings. Thank God, I still have summertime.
And then I was like - cool your jets, Lisa. Yo, this is supposed to be the summer of some much-needed R&R!
There is a part of me that wants to jump in to every cool thing offered if it could potentially mean a) an opportunity to spend time with people around the blogosphere who I think are cool, b) more exposure for me and my books or c) something that motivates me to get more books written.
But the thing is, I have been at this writing thing a long time now, and I no longer want to do it 24/7. There was a time when I lived and breathed writing and promoting and everything in between, and I don't want to do that anymore. First of all, I don't think it's healthy for me and second of all, this is now my job, and how many times have we heard, you won't be on your death bed, looking back at your life, wishing you worked more? I'm really trying to treat it more like a job.
Because I've been at this a long time now, I know I can write a book in 2-3 months with my tried and true 1,000 words a day. And I also know that summer is my most favorite time of the year. Rachel and I have actually talked about this, and summer is NOT fun where she lives, (down south y'all) so it's logical, I suppose, that summer rolls around and she's ready to stay inside with the glorious A/C and write. Okay, so deadlines help with that decision too, of course.
Summer is when I want to PLAY, as much as possible. Although I will have to work some too. Most likely, I'll have two editorial letters this summer, on two different middle grade novels. I don't really need to write anything new on top of that, when there are hikes to go on and berries to pick and pools to swim in and beaches to comb.
For about nine months of the year, give or take three days, Oregon is dreary and gray. Perfect writing weather, really. And during those eight to nine months, I'm usually working in the early mornings on weekends too, because I don't want to lose any momentum I have in either drafting or revising. So I'm working a LOT during those months. It's taken a long time for me to get to this place where I tell myself it's okay to take a break (as much as possible) during the summer.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about writing and breaks. How do you decide when it's time to take a break? Do you schedule them, or take them as they come? Do you have a favorite time of the year when you want to be playing more than working, like me? Do you think I'm crazy, wanting to try and step away from the writing world this summer?
Check out all of these adorable pictures, which I was told I could share on my blog. So impressed with all of the details that went into the decorations and everything!
Each girl took home a paperback copy of the book with a personalized and signed bookplate. Isn't a book the best goody bag gift ever? I love it.
So fun, right? There you go - your next birthday party all planned, right down to the cupcake shaped pinata!!
At some point, Thereasa asked me if I might be willing to Skype with the group for a few minutes, and since I was free that evening, I said sure.
The day arrived, and it was a beautiful day. My husband and I took a walk with the dog in Laurelhurst Park, a lovely park in NE Portland, and had a really nice afternoon. When we got home, I was thinking more and more about the scheduled Skype visit and how the club was meeting just twenty minutes away from me. I told my husband, "I think I'm going to go and surprise them." He asked me some questions, to make sure I had really thought it through, and after answering them, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to go!
When I got there, I walked up to the house and rang the bell. A woman answered and I asked, "Are you Thereasa?" She smiled and said, "No." She stared at me and then a hint of recognition passed over her face. "Are you the author?" I whispered, "Yes. I'm here to surprise everyone. I hope Thereasa likes surprises!"
A girl came around the corner as we walked into the house and I asked, "Are you Emily?" She gave me a big smile and said, "Yes!" I said, "Emily, I wanted to meet you! So I decided to come and see you in person instead of through the computer."
I walked into the family room where everyone was gathered, and the look on their faces was priceless. They were happy to see me and I was soon signing books and after that, answering lots and lots of questions. It was a great group of girls and moms and they made me feel so welcome.
Here are a couple of pictures from the evening.
Like I told them - writing can be a lonely job at times. Connecting with readers is one of the best parts of being an author, so as much as I wanted to make it a special evening for them, it was something I did for myself too. I knew they would remember the surprise for a long time to come, and the evening spent chatting with them would be something I would carry with me as well.
Thanks to the Moms and girls who so kindly welcomed me into their club for the evening. I had a great time and I hope you did too!!!
Sunday was the all-day institute put on by eight incredible authors and me - Carolee Dean, Carolyn Meyer, Caroline Rose Starr, Kersten Hamilton, Kimberly Little Griffiths, Uma Krishnaswani, Esther Hershenhorn and April Wayland. We talked about using the story strategies of professional authors to inspire a love of reading and writing.
Here we are, looking all professional and authorly.
We went out to dinner the night before, where much fun was had, as you can see:
Simon and Schuster took its authors out to dinner Sunday night. I sat near the incredibly talented and kind author/illustrator Peter Reynolds and his brother, Paul. Here is a picture I took, so I'm not in the picture, but you can see Peter and Paul to the right, and that's Carolee on the left. And Carolyn Meyer who turned around just as I was snapping the picture.
Peter drew me this little gem that I plan to frame and place on my desk:
I didn't take many pictures at the convention center on Monday. I signed books for an hour in the S&S booth and met lots of fabulous teachers. I did find Kate Messner, who was there signing a bunch of her books, including her latest release, EYE OF THE STORM:
Of course you can't visit Chicago and not have deep dish pizza, so Carolee, Caroline and I went to Giordano's downtown Monday night and had ourselves a fabulous dinner.
Tuesday I went to Blackhawk Middle School where I did three presentations for each of the grades and signed lots of books. It was a great day and the teachers and librarians there are obviously very passionate about reading.
Check out the wall of poems that kids wrote, inspired by one of my books that they read:
There were a whole bunch of sweet thank you notes, too!
And here's the stage lined with welcome posters:
Now, I'm back home, with some work on a manuscript I need to get to. When I'm finished with that, I plan on taking a much-needed break for a few weeks. I'm a very tired author about now...
Originally it was titled CHERISH.
As is usual when I begin writing a book, I had a few seeds of ideas that I started with.
First, I wanted to do something in and around a flower shop. I'd written two previous novels where a flower shop played a role and neither of them were ever published. I hoped that maybe the third time would be a charm. I loved the idea of the flower shop being my main character's safe place. And so, where Rae's job is sunny and bright, her home life is dark and sad.
In fact, there are strong themes of dark and light throughout the novel.
Check out this flower shop in Vienna. So adorable, yes?
I love it when there are mysterious notes or clues or something like that in a story, so I decided to add mysterious, anonymous flower deliveries to the story. Who is sending flowers to people throughout town and why do the instructions always have Rae's name on them?
Finally, I wanted to try and challenge myself, and wanted to write this book in a bit of a different format. Rae's story is primarily told through flashbacks. This is a tricky thing to do, in case you're wondering. The reader learns on the first page, something bad has happened to Rae, but it's not revealed until the end of the book what has happened.
My first draft had Rae doing a project in Language Arts called The Cherish Project (thus the previous title CHERISH). My editor had the brilliant idea that instead of the book reports she was doing, which were kind of boring to read, I could somehow have poetry play a part in the story.
And so, Rae is a poet. Through her poetry, she can express her feelings about her abusive step-father and her distant mother. And then something happens at school, and poetry begins to play an even bigger role in Rae's life. So although it is my first YA novel not written in verse, poetry still plays a part in the story.
There are also two boys in the story. A good looking boy who is new to school and takes an interest in Rae right away. They start going out. There are things she really likes about him and other things... not so much. There is also a boy who works next door to the flower shop, someone who is Rae's friend. And as time goes on, she begins to lean on her friend more and more, as Rae's affection for her boyfriend begins to turn to fear.
If you were to think of my book like a cake, the recipe for making that cake was not a simple one. There were a lot ingredients and the preparation required a great deal of complicated steps. It's a unique kind of cake. Different. I can't even describe the cake very well, and so, I have to just tell you that I hope you'll try it, and see what you think.
It's the publisher's job to decorate the cake and make it something that will hopefully appeal to a wide audience. There were so many choices here, as you can imagine, with a book that has a lot going on. In the end, they decided to focus on the romantic aspect of the story for the cover, and I can now share that cover with you:
In December, 2010, right before my sweet friend, Lisa Madigan, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she read an early draft of CHERISH. Her e-mail back to me, with a critiqued manuscript, had one word in the subject line.
Coincidentally, today is Lisa's birthday. She would have been 49 years old. (I love and miss you, Lisa).
Soon reviewers will be sent galleys. Some bloggers, teachers and librarians may read the book through Simon and Schuster's galleygrab program. And next January, thanks to my publisher Simon Pulse, the book will be available to the public to purchase.
I think one of the hardest parts of being an author is letting a book go. But it's time. The book doesn't belong to me anymore, and so, I have to let it go. To let it be what it will become out there in the big, scary, exciting world. My work, with the help of my friends, my agent, and my editor is (mostly) done.
And so, I will end this post by simply saying ~
Best wishes, dear book. My greatest hope is that you touch the lives and hearts of those who read your story.
I had a great time talking to the kids, signing books, chatting with the Library Tech, Mrs. Anderson, as well as the Language Arts teachers and the Science teacher who is the Author Visit Coordinator. The visit went so smoothly and I'm grateful to everyone for their hard work.
When I pulled into the parking lot, this is the sign that greeted me:
Inside, this sign was hanging above the library, where I did all six of my presentations:
The kids were invited to enter a writing contest to have lunch with me, and a whole bunch of kids wrote some amazing stories. They were asked to write about meeting one of their favorite characters from one of my books.
Here is a picture of some of the eighth grade students, streaming into the library.
The Language Arts teachers were so great about getting behind me and my books. The sixth grade teacher read SPRINKLES AND SECRETS to his classes. The seventh grade teachers read CHASING BROOKLYN. And the eighth grade teachers read I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME. One of the eighth grade teachers said she was also having the kids write some verse of their own. And the seventh graders acted out some scenes from I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME. So wonderful!
Thanks to everyone at South Middle School for an amazing time!
Next up - Blackhawk Middle School in Bensenville, IL!
Friday was beautiful and I spent the entire afternoon outside. People were actually sun bathing on the beach. It was a perfect day - warm, sunny and no wind. Today is a different story, which is good, because it makes me even happier to be going home.
I ate at Crazy Burger not once, but twice, so got in some good food while I was here as well.
For your viewing pleasure, here are some pictures I took at the Cupcake Madness event:
Yep, as some of you said, it was a tough job, but somebody had to do it! :)
Have a great week!
This is supposed to run in Publisher's Marketplace one of these days:
Lisa Schroeder's FALLING FOR YOU, about a teen girl who relives the love of a dangerous boy, and unravels the secrets that haunt her family, as she hovers between life and death, searching for light amid the darkness--and a reason to hold on, to Annette Pollert at Simon Pulse by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger, to be published in Spring, 2013.
I worked really, really hard on this book and I hope my readers like it. It's different for me - it's not in verse, although there is some poetry sprinkled throughout. It's also sort of a mystery -- from the first page, the reader knows something bad has happened to the main character, but it's not revealed what's happened and how it happened until the end of the book.
I finished line edits last month and I'm frantically working on copy edits right now, so we're still working hard to make it the best book it can be. Stay tuned in the coming months, when I'll tell you how you can read a sneak peek of FALLING FOR YOU long before the release date!