Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting, and please let me know how this blog served you.
Kim Tomsic

Friday, December 31, 2010

Eleven Favorite Albert Einstein Quotes for 2011

Kim’s 2011
Eleven Favorite Albert Einstein Quotes:

1. If you want to be part of the future, you have to be part of writing it.

2. Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.

3. A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

4. It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

5. I never think of the future, it comes soon enough.

6. Imagination is more important than knowledge

7. If you’re out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor.

8. An important thing is to not stop questioning.

9. We should take care not to make intellect our God; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.

10. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.

11. Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.

And a bonus quote, because it’s my favorite (drum roll please):

The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to NOT Reading

CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING by Tommy Greenwald (Roaring Brook Press/July 2011 ) for middle grade readers is about Charlie Joe, a reluctant reader, whose cool-dude reputation is centered around the fact that he’s never read an entire book from cover to cover.

An advanced copy of CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING arrived in my mailbox along with a towering pile of vacation mail. As I scattered bills and letters across the kitchen counter, I realized I couldn’t start a new book—I had several pieces of luggage to unload, stacks of laundry to wash, children to feed, and pets to attend. I was also 85% (Kindlespeak) into another book. With a cluster of beckoning priorities, a guide to NOT reading seemed safe in my hands. I knew itwould be harmless to peruse the first few pages of the “guide” as I walked from the kitchen to my upstairs bedroom. My intention was to set the ARC on my nightstand and save it for another day. But in the 47 steps it took to travel the distance from room to room, I had read to chapter four. It was quick. It was easy. Another few pages wouldn’t hurt. Yep, I was hooked.

The combination of short chapters, fun fonts, and a breezy/amusing plot suckered me into flipping page after page with a sense of accomplishment. Charlie Joe should be ashamed if his intention is to get people to not read, because read I did. He packs the book with humor and he stuffs it with tips like, “don’t care about the main character” but then compels you to worry what will happen to him following utter humiliation, dire consequences, and yet another crazy scheme.

Author Tommy Greenwald nails the middle school voice in CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING. His tip lists are hilarious (helpful oxymorons-- “good book” “nice library”) and his descriptions are spot-on middle school: i.e. The Amish: “[People who] deny themselves basic necessities like cars, electricity, and Game Boy.”

CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING cannot be discussed without making a Wimpy Kid reference. Fans of one story will be fans of the other. There was also a little High School Musical drama moment in the story, but as Charlie Joe’s sister would say, I’ll leave that for you to read and discover.

With lists, tips, plot points, and good intentions, Charlie Joe attempts to stay true to his premise: to deliver a guide to not reading. He did his best, but I read cover to cover and rate this book a 4 out of 5. It was not preachy or teachy, but instead light, fun, creative and (dare I use a Charlie Joe oxymoron) one fun read!  Available in July 2011 from Roaring Brook Press (an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group) $14.99. ISBN 978-1 59643 691-6 .

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2011 "I Can't Wait" YA/Middle Grade Reading List

2011 is looking book-sweet and I can't wait to read these titles: 

1. NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT by Gennifer Choldenko (Dial/ February 2011). I only had to see the author’s name, Gennifer Choldenko, to know that I can't wait to get my hands on this. Not only am I a huge fan of the Newbery winner, AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS (a “five” lollipoper), but I’m also a huge fan of the lady behind the words. Ms. Choldenko spoke at an SCBWI conference I attended. She was gracious, lovely, funny, and encouraging...mirrors to her work which is absolutely entertaining.
2.  Crystal Allen’s middle grade novel, HOW LAMAR’S BAD PRANK WON A BUBBA-SIZED TROPHY (release date: Feb. 2011).  This book is about a thirteen-year-old who vows to spend his summer changing his image from dud to stud. The manuscript gained a lot of attention and ended up selling to Kristin Daly-Rens at Balzer and Bray/ Harper in a six-figure, two book deal.  Behind Crystal Allen's debut novel are talented, respected people:  editor(Kristin Daly-Rens) and agent (Jen Rofe).  The writer/agent/editor trifecta combined with the buzz about this exciting book make it number two on my 2011 "can't wait" list. 

3.  PEARL(Candlewick Press/July 2011) by Jo Knowles.  Again, I base my interest in this book on past performance.  She delivered JUMPING OFF SWINGS as well as LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL.  Both are riveting Young Adult books that each have received an entire shelf worth of awards.

4. FORGOTTEN (Little Brown/Spring 2011). "Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that's left is a note telling her about a day she can't remember. The whole scenario doesn't exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can't recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can't make sense of, she realizes it's time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future."  Could this really be the teen version of When You Reach Me?  Not only do I trust work represented by Cat Patrick's agent, Dan Lazar, but I also seem to relate to the protagonist...now wait, what was I doing?

5.  LEMONADE AND OTHER POEMS SQUEEZED FROM A SINGLE WORD (May 2011/ Roaring Brook Press) a quirky poetry book by Bob Raczka and Illustrated by Nancy Doniger.  This Middle Grade poetry book is described as "part anagram, part rebus, part riddle--these poems capture scenes from a child's daily life and present a puzzle to solve.  Sometimes sweet, sometimes funny, but always cleaver..."

6.  LEARNING TO SWIM by Sara J. Henry (Crown Books/February 2011) made my list when I discovered review after review written by those lucky enough to have ARCs.  Publisher's Weekly calls it, "an impressive first novel."  Meg Clayton on Twitter says, "Mystery readers are in for a treat."  Northshire Bookstore says, "I will hand-sell "Learning to Swim" until my fingers bleed."  And award-winning author, Daniel Woodrell, says "from the grabber beginning to the heartfelt conclusion, Sara J. Henry's Learning to Swim is an auspicious debut. Fresh setting, well-realized characters, cleanly written, with a mysterious and suspenseful story - just what I was looking for."  Daniel Woodrell is the author of The Death of Sweet Mister and Winter's Bone

7.  VILLAIN SCHOOL: GOOD CURSES EVIL by Stephanie S. Sanders (Fall 2011/ Bloomsbury kids)
The title alone makes me want to crack it open. 

When Rune is caught doodling in class at Master Dreadthorn's School for Wayward Villains, the last thing he expects is a reward. However, when he reports to the Dread Master's office for detention, instead of scrubbing slug slime, Rune gets awarded his very own villainous Plot! Rune is overjoyed until he discovers that he must steal a baby, find a henchman, kidnap a princess and overthrow a kingdom. And he only has one week! He embarks on a journey with his Conspirators, the lovely and lethal Countess Jezebel and the furry and slightly slobbery Wolf Junior. Along the way, Rune encounters unlikely friends and even more unlikely villains and learns what it takes to be truly Villainous.

8.  CHARLIE JOE JACKSON'S GUIDE TO NOT READING by Tommy Greenwald (Roaring Brook/Spring 2011).  Based on  information provided by my good friend, Google, there seems to be something very Gordon Korman-ish about Tommy Greenwald.  Translation--the book promises to be hilarious.  Review to follow.  UPDATE:  THIS BOOK HAS BEEN READ AND REVIEWED...PLEASE SEE LINK http://t.co/xTsHHry

9.  NOTES FROM THE BLENDER (Egmont/May 2011) by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin has been promised as one of 2011's most hilarious books.  It's a YA story of when the loser-dude's widowed father marries the popular-girl's mother. A little Brady Bunch/Meet the Fockers/Modern Family rolled up into one funny story. 

10.  PLAYING HURT (Flux, March 8, 2011)written by fellow SCBWI member Holly Schindler.  Holly's debut novel, A BLUE SO DARK, received the following review: "Breathtakingly, gut-wrenchingly authentic...A haunting, realistic view of the melding of art, creativity, and mental illness and their collective impact on a young person’s life."—Booklist, starred review.   PLAYING HURT naturally landed on my "can't wait" list.   


Saturday, December 18, 2010


MOCKINGBIRD by Kathryn Erskine is about the quest for Closure told  from the voice of ten-year-old Catlin, a girl with Asperger's Syndrome. 

Catlin and her community are forced to deal with a tragedy that is beyond nightmare quality:  a school shooting.  Because the story is told from Catlin's point of view, the tale is is painful and beautiful as well as funny and quirky.  One side of Catlin's Asperger's is that she  is legalistic with words and behaviors.  This adds a delightful element of comic relief to a difficult subject.  For example, every day cliches like "keep your pants on" take on a literal connotation.   Another example of Catlin's need for literal behavior comes after a kid succeeds at bullying and dons an evil "grinny" smile.  Catlin says, "You shouldn't smile when you do something bad because a smile is supposed to mean you're being nice.  I wish people would follow the Facial Expressions Chart like they're supposed to."

I haven't seen the Facial Expressions Chart, but throughout my read of MOCKINGBIRD, I laughed and cried in all the right places.  This is a fantastic story with brilliant writing and voice.  MOCKINGBIRD easily earns a five out of five lollipop rating.

On November 18, 2010, MOCKINGBIRD won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.  It was published by Philomel (a division of Penguin) in April 2010 and can be purchased for $15.99 at a bookstore near you (Boulder Books or Tattered Cover in Colorado).  For more about the author, Kathryn Erskine, you can visit her bio page.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Room: A Novel vs. the 1998 Best Foreign Film (directed by Benigni)

Book Review
Room:  A Novel by Emma Donoghue 

Where to buy in Colorado:
Boulder Book Store  1107 Pearl
Tatter Cover   on Colfax, Highland Ranch, or Lodo in Denver

There's been a pile of press surrounding Emma Donoghue's book ROOM.  It's certainly a "ripped from the headlines" type of tale, reminding me of the California tragedy when a girl was held hostage in a couple's backyard shack for several years.

ROOM is told from the POV of Jack, a five-year-old boy who was born the second year of his ma's seven year captivity. Jack has never seen anything beyond the eleven-by-eleven room where they are held, but he is none too bothered by the the living situation; it's all he knows and his mother has gently framed the circumstances. 

Somehow, the sweet way ROOM is told (and Jack's innocent understanding) reminds me of one of my favorite movies:  Life is Beautiful by director Roberto Benigni.  This 1998 Academy Award winning foreign film depicts an Italian Jewish father who is forced with his son into a German concentration camp.  The son is young and does not speak German, so instead of relaying the terrifying situation accurately, the father purposefully mis-translates the German guards' scary threats. He tells his son they are on an adventure and everything is a games.  He invents inaccurate and hilarious translations to replace the vile things that are truly said.  Although the subject matter is dark and bleak, I found myself laughing throughout the film.  ROOM is handled in a similar manner.

ROOM offers much to enjoy.  There is a certain sweetness to the book as well as fantastic moments of tension and excitement.

ROOM was released September 13, 2010 by Little Brown and Company.  It is available hardback with a list price of $24.99.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Top Twenty Texting Terms by Teens


Are you in the know?  Here are the top twenty texting terms teens use.  If twenty is not enough, visit the website Internet Slang Dictionary Translator 

BF / GF Boyfriend / Girlfriend

BRB Be Right Back

CD9 Code 9 - means parents are around

GNOC Get Naked on Cam (webcam)

GTG Got to Go

IDK I don't know

(L)MIRL (Lets) meet in real life

LOL Laugh Out Loud

MOS Mom Over Shoulder

NIFOC Naked in Front of Computer

Noob Newbie

NMU Not much, you?

P911 Parent Emergency

PAW Parents are Watching

PIR Parent In Room

POS Parent Over Shoulder


PRW Parents Are Watching

S2R Send To Recieve (pictures)

TDTM Talk Dirty To Me

Warez Pirated Software

W/E Whatever

WTF What the F@*x?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holiday Urban Legends

For those who missed the Today show, I'm here to recap the top four holiday urban legends.

1.  You'll save on heating bills if your fireplace is burning--False.  The popular Discovery Channel show MYTHBUSTERS proved that corners of your house actually get cooler when you burn a fire.  A doctor featured on the TODAY show said when you burn a fire, warm air is sucked out of your living room and up the chimney.  She also advised for better results to have a glass door in front of the fire; also for fewer issues with smoke, burn ash or beech.

2.  Poinsettias have killed pets and children--False.  There has never been a single confirmed death associated with poinsettias.  That's not to say they can't make you sick.  If you discover that your toddler has eaten a poinsettia leaf, have her/him drink a glass of milk...and what the heck, it's your baby, go ahead and call poison control.  **Side note, Christmas Lilies can kill cats.  If you are a cat owner, please keep the Christmas Lily out of your home.


3.  Allergies are over in the winter--False.  Allergens such as dust and mold are very prevalent during the cold months.  In fact, Christmas trees harbor mold spores.  If you buy a tree, have it cut fresh, on the spot.  The mold spores take a week to grow so that will give you extra time.  Furthermore, ask the tree farm if they have a tree shaker so you can remove mold spores.  If they don't have a tree shaker, use your leaf blower (or borrow one from a neighbor or rent one from Home Depot).

4. Wet hair causes colds--False.  Germs cause colds.  I would, however like to point out with this myth that although wet hair does not cause the cold, if your body is using energy units to try to stay warm, it will have less energy to fight a cold you may be getting...don't go out with wet hair!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Kill Zone: The Great F-Bomb Debate

The Kill Zone: The Great F-Bomb Debate: " James Scott Bell In John G's Friday post, he gave us clips of his most recent editorial letter. One of the admonition..."

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Book review by the Bookshelf Detective, Kim Tomsic
Five Lollipop Rating

The dramatic tale of high school senior Vera and the confusing mind game following the death of her best friend Charlie. Charlie and Vera’s friendship started at age four. When they were five and ten and twelve, their friendship was about sleepovers, a tree house, and keeping secrets (like the one about Charlie’s missing underwear or the other about Vera’s mom). When Vera and Charlie enter high school, their friendship is tainted by unspoken crushes, lies, betrayal, and addiction. While Vera tries to compartmentalize the dirty secret behind Charlie’s death, she is forced to confront the truth about other relationships in her life. Author A.S. King is a master of voice. She makes the reader easily believe that an eighteen year old girl, a dead boy, and even a pagoda are narrating. Hard issues are dealt with in an authentic and even funny manner, but it’s the hopefulness that keeps the pages swiftly turning.
Genre:  Y.A.  (Knopf books for Young Readers October 12, 2010 ISBN 978-0-375-86586-2 Hardcover $16.99)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Oprah's No Phone Zone to NO HOME ZONE

Escalating No Phone Zone Pledge to a No Home Zone Crusade by Kim Tomsic

The influence Oprah harnesses by speaking a few words is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s like watching the wind whip a flock of moths on a new course. People don’t complain about the infectious sway her opinion holds over the majority because Oprah has proven to be a brilliant steward of her powerful gust. Currently, Oprah is using her persuasive energy to encourage people to give up a wide spread addiction: cell phone use while driving. Her campaign is called No Phone Zone.

Forfeiting phone use in the car is a sandy pill to choke down—many of us have become accustomed to the convenience of getting our to-do list done on the road. It’s handy to respond to emails at red lights, search movie listings while waiting for trains to pass, and make quick return calls at toll booths.

Many Internet users are on the No Phone Zone campaign trail; a shocking email blast is currently filling in boxes. It shows graphic images of a decapitated person and what’s left of his mangled car after an accident—one which was allegedly caused by a texting driver. Oprah may be on to something with her No Phone Zone campaign, but I wonder if the crusade should be on a broader spectrum…something on the magnitude of No Home Zone.

No Home Zone

Driving down the road feeling traumatized by the above mentioned email blast, I was on the lookout for dangerous cell phone users. As I arrived at a red light, I took an anxious peek to my right and sure enough, a teen was chatting on her Hubba Bubba pink phone; to my left, there was a business man with a phone, no wait, not a phone but an electric razor clutched in his hand.

I looked in my mirrors for an escape route from these dangerous drivers only to discover the car behind me was powered by a college student. She was brushing her teeth and spiting into an empty water bottle. When the light turned green, the shaver pulled away as he gave his chin a clean mowing.

I continued driving, nervous now of cell phone users and of people seeking to complete their morning hygiene while blazing down the road. Slowing to a safe distance from the shaver, talker, and brusher, I decided to change lanes. I signaled and glanced to my blind spot only to discover a thirty-something man holding a magazine on his steering wheel. Really? Reading while driving! My heart now bumping hard in my chest made me think I’d be guilty of heart attack while driving. I safely made a left turn, but felt overwhelmed with the amount of passing drivers toting Big Gulps and coffee mugs (I’ve heard the dangers of driving with hot coffee is equal to drunk driving).

Oprah’s campaign, No Phone Zone, invites people to “pledge to make [their] car a No Phone Zone.” I urge you to make it a No Home Zone—leave your novel, tooth brush, coffee mug, and coupon clipping at home. Oprah’s commitment states, “Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by pledging the safest driving behavior I can commit to.” For more information, visit http://www.oprah.com/packages/no-phone-zone.html.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Attention Writers: 60 Agents at One Conference!

Writer's Digest Conference

New post for the conference January 20-22, 2012

(YOU MISSED IT   :0(    January 21-23, 2011)


Andrée Abecassis (Ann Elmo Agency, Inc.)

Jason Allen Ashlock (Movable Type Literary Group)

Bernadette Baker-Baughman (Victoria Sanders & Associates)

George Bick (Doug Grad Literary Agency)

Brandi Bowles (Foundry Literary + Media)

Jamie Brenner (Artists and Artisans)

Regina Brooks (Serendipity Literary Agency)

Ann Collette's (Rees Literary Agency)

Marisa Corvisiero, Esq. (L. Perkins Agency)

Jennifer DeChiara (Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency)

April Eberhardt (Kimberley Cameron & Associates)

Diana Fox (Fox Literary Agency)

Diane Freed (FinePrint Literary Management)

Adam Friedstein (Anderson Literary)

Mollie Glick (Foundry Literary + Media)

Doug Grad (Doug Grad Literary Agency)

Katie Grimm (Don Congdon Associates)

Naomi Hackenberg (The Elaine English Literary Agency)

Molly Jaffa (Folio Literary Management)

Meredith Kaffel (Charlotte Sheedy Literary)

Mary Kole (Andrea Brown Literary Agency)

Katie Kotchman (Don Congdon Associates)

Jud Laghi (The Jud Laghi Agency)

Sarah LaPolla (Curtis Brown, Ltd.)

Sandy Lu (L. Perkins Agency)

Donald Maass (Donald Maass Literary Agency)

Alexandra Machinist (Linda Chester Literary Agency)

Victoria Marini (Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents)

Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management)

Kate McKean (Howard Morhaim Literary)

Peter Miller (PMA Literary and Film Management, Inc.)

Robin Mizell (Robin Mizell Ltd.)

Shawna Morey (Folio Literary Management)

Emmanuelle Morgen (Judith Ehrlich Literary Management)

Dana Newman (Dana Newman Literary)

Kathleen Ortiz (Lowenstein Associates)

Lori Perkins (L. Perkins Agency)

Adriann Ranta (Wolf Literary Services)

Janet Reid (FinePrint Literary Management)

Chris Richman (Upstart Crow Literary)

Rita Rosenkranz (Rita Rosenkranz Literary)

Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein (McIntosh & Otis)

Katharine Sands (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary)

Katie Shea (Caren Johnson Literary)

Jessica Sinsheimer (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary)

Michael Strong (Regal Literary)

Becca Stumpf (Prospect Agency)

Emily Sylvan Kim (Prospect Agency)

Suzie Townsend (FinePrint Literary Management)

Joanna Volpe (Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation)

Marissa Walsh (FinePrint Literary Management)

Elisabeth Weed (Weed Literary)

Roseanne Wells (Marianne Strong Literary Agency)

Natanya Wheeler (Nancy Yost Literary Agency)

John Willig (Literary Services, Inc.)

Christine Witthohn (Book Cents Literary Agency)

Michelle Wolfson (Wolfson Literary Agency)
Don't let this ship sail without you!! (your choice...fishing boat or cruiseliner :0)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Writing Wars: And then he saw...Blah, Blah, Blah

Writing Wars: And then he saw...Blah, Blah, Blah: "They should make more of these. Brevity is Key Shorter is always better when it comes to writing. Makes things less redundant, faster to ..."

Current Top Sellers on Kindle

This Week's Kindle Bestsellers (updated December 20, 2010 )

The Confession:  A Novel by john Grisham

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson (Knopf)

4-Hour-Body:  An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex, and Being Super Human by Timothy Ferriss

Cross Fire by James Patterson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson (Knopf)

Decision Points by George W. Bush

Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy
The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson (Knopf)

Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell

Room:  A Novel by Emma Donaghue (see review on this blog)

The New York Times

Hell's Corner - David Baldacci (Grand Central)

The Wall Street Journal

Mahjong Solitaire by Mobigloo

Heir by Grace Burrowes

Free Kindle Books

Freedom:  A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) by Jonathan Franzen

The Emperor's Tomb by Steve Berry

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Thursday, November 11, 2010

J.K. Rowling and Lucky Number Thirteen

J.K. Rowling is known as America’s first billionaire author. In a less fruitful period of her life, she was informed by her agent she’d never make any money writing for children; furthermore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected by twelve publishers—they said the story wasn’t commercial enough. But Bloomsbury, the thirteenth publisher she approached, was willing to ride the Harry Potter train.

The author of the seven book phenomenon is so well known today, her name is included in Microsoft’s spell check. But J.K. Rowling is not the writer’s real name; it’s just Joanne Rowling, no middle initial. The K comes from the name of her favorite grandmother, Kathleen. She chose to go by the penname J.K. because her publisher advised that her boy readers may not want to read a work by a female author. Unprecedented sales prove that nobody is bothered by her gender.

Ms. Rowling said she finally knew she was successful when she arrived in America for a book signing tour promoting her second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She rode in a car in downtown New York City and noticed an enormous line trailing down the street and wrapping around the block. She turned to her publisher and said something like, “What’s going on? Is there a big sale?” But the car pulled in front of Barnes & Noble and she realized the line was for her.

The idea to write the Philosopher's Stone (which happened to be the original title of her first book), came to Ms. Rowling when she was a broke twenty-five-years-old, freshly divorced from a thirteen-month marriage, and the mother of a tiny baby. She was penless (and penniless), riding a train from Manchester to London, and the ideas swirled in her head: I can write about a boy wizard, and this will be how the school will look, and there will be four houses, and these will be the classes he can take.
Ms. Rowling wrote her first book by hand in noisy cafes while baby Jessica slept in a carriage by her side. She completed her seventh and final book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), writing it in the peaceful quiet offered at The Balmoral, a beautiful hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. She says when she completed the seventh book, she was initially elated, but in an interview with Oprah she said, “it was a bereavement.” Harry Potter was her escape and when she was done, she cried in a way that she had only cried one other time in her life—the time when she lost her mother.

She says that if her mother had not died, there would probably not be a Harry Potter. She says her experience with knowing death appears on every other page in what Harry has to deal with. Other life events, such as her experience with clinical depression, have inspired characters such as the Dementors. Although Mrs. Rowling said she could write an eighth, ninth, or tenth Harry Potter book, she probably won’t. She doesn’t commit either way, but she feels number seven was it.

Ms. Rolwing says she will go on to write other things and she gives herself permission to not feel compelled to replicate the phenomena that occurred with the Harry Potter series. The last words in her final Harry Potter book are, “all is well” and it seems for Ms. Rowling, all is well too.

Personal Note: My two brushes with Harry Potter fame:

1. I had breakfast with Arthur Levine (American publisher of the Harry Potter series Arthur A. Levine Books). Okay, we were at separate tables, but we were inches apart!

2. At the lake in front of my house, I bumped into actor Devon Murray, the star who plays Seamus Finnigan. When I saw him, I said hello because I knew that I knew him…I thought he was perhaps a waiter at one of the restaurants I frequent. But when we spoke, I quickly figured out who he is (with his thick accent, it didn’t take much of a detective to do the math. F.Y.I.-- Ms. Rowling says that Arthur Levine is one of her two best friends

Author Buzz...it has nothing to do with Merlot

This came from an ad in Publisher's Marketplace (today's Publisher's Lunch)
"'Even if a publisher is on board, Authorbuzz.com is a great complement to their efforts. With my novel The Last Ember, Authorbuzz.com was able to use the great early reviews to push my debut thriller out. I was thrilled to wind up on the NYT bestseller list, which then led to extended co-op.' -- Daniel Levin
Reach 3,000 booksellers, 10,000 librarians, over a half million readers. And if it's a bookclub book - 25,000 bookclubs.
Write to them at Authorbuzzco@gmail.com for a menu and ideas. They're booking now for January – May. Including a special holiday month long effort.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nerd, Origin of the Word, And Proof that I am One

I can't help myself...I love knowing interesting facts.  But what if my so-called fun facts are only interesting to me?  Does anyone else smile when they learn things like where the word "nerd" came from, or am I the only wordnerd who cares (well, me and David Cook...remember, he called himself a wordnerd). 
The first documented use of the word Nerd is in 1950 in the Dr. Seuss story, If I Ran the Zoo.  One blogger who goes by the name Bron has used his engineering brain to track the origin of the word "nerd" and he points out its first use was by Dr. Seuss.  "A boy named Gerald McGrew made a large number of delightfully extravagant claims as to what he would do, if he were in charge at the zoo. Among these was that he would bring a creature known as a Nerd from the land of Ka-Troo."  So a nerd (per the illustrator) equaled this grumpy character pictured below (oh the power of illustrators).
After Dr. Seuss, Newsweek used the word in an October 1951 issue to mean a person who is "a drip or a scurve." The St. Joseph, Michigan, Herald-Press used the word again in June 1952, again with a negative connotation.  For deeper study (and argument) into the origin of the word, visit the nerd expert's blog

Monday, November 8, 2010

There's No Place Like Gnome

I went to the mall yesterday and sure as sherbet, they were already piping in the Christmas tunes.  My blood pressure climbed as I worried about what to purchase for my sister and her husband (they've already purchased Segways; if that doesn't say it all, I'll provide a TRANSLATION-they have everything found in a mall including the mall cop's transportation). More worries...what to buy for  Dad...another grilling gift? And what am I going to buy to bring to my crazy white-elephant-party? 
Instead of taking a dose of Caduet, I lowered my blood pressure (and please check with your doctor to determine if this is the proper course for you) by reading a review of Chuck Sambuchino's book How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will).   It was the perfect answer to my gift giving concerns.
Preparation is the key to success.  How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack is the only manual of its kind and your loved ones (especially those who have everything) will appreciate this hilarious book at Christmas (or sooner!). 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How to Find a Literary Agent by Kim Tomsic

Would you like to find that perfect literary agent for your project?  This article is packed with useful advice like please don't use glitter and rainbows to get their attention.

Start your quest for an agent by researching sources like The Guide to Literary Agents (GLA). Your goal is to search the pages and find an agent who is reputable and fits the type of book you are writing (picture book,young adult novel, romance novel, biography, historical fiction, cookbook, etc.). 

In the GLA, you will find a wealth of useful information including: agents name and email address; information about the agency for which they work; the agent's client list; their website/blogsite; if they're a member of various associations (i.e. SCBWI); how the agent prefers to receive submissions (i.e. snail mail or email/ query and first five pages/query only/attachments or no attachments/ etc.) and **vitally important** the type of projects the individual agent prefers (i.e. Middle Grade or YA or Picture Book, etc.) . You can also research agents and their specific taste on their agency website and on #MSWL which stands for Manuscript Wish List.

Once you find the agents who you believe would be a great advocate for your project, you begin by writing that agent a query letter. Remember, it's crucial that your research was precise and you learned about the agent prior to submitting. If your project is a cookbook, you shouldn't send a query letter asking for representation to an agent who is looking for YA dystopian material. If you are pitching a picture book, you shouldn't write to agents who only want to represent memoirs. All your research should be complete prior to writing that query. 

Your query letter is the first impression you'll make, and agents want to deal with smart and informed people. They want to know that you’ve selected them for a specific reason vs. throwing darts. You can be sure that if your query reads like you’ve queried them and every agent on the planet, they won't waste their time with a further look.

Do:  Craft your winning query letter by telling the agent:
1. Why you chose to query them (a simple one-line sentence);
2. The logline, working title, genre, and word count of your manuscript;
3. What your manuscript is about in one interesting paragraph;
4. What's in bookstores now that is similar to your manuscript (so they can decide if it's a money maker) OR what books your book would be shelved next to (and please don’t say it’s the next Harry Potter);
5. If you've been previously published;
6. Your education, affiliations (i.e. SCBWI), or special credentials as it might pertain to this manuscript;
7. A courteous closing and how to contact you.

It's ideal to break your query letter down into three paragraphs: the hook, the book, and the cook.


Here are a few things not to do—no matter how tempted you are—if you want to stay professional:
Don’t tell the agent that your mom, sister, classroom, and priest LOVED your book.
Don’t call your manuscript a fiction novel (that’s like calling it a story story or a book story).
Don’t submit to multiple agents WITHIN the same agency.
Don’t pack an envelope and mail a query to a "green" office IF that agent only accepts email submissions.
Don’t add attachments 
UNLESS the agent says they prefer submissions that way.
Don’t have your email filtered to their trash by adding attachments, submitting to multiple addressees, or by adding special stationary and do-dads to your email…these gadgets often land your masterpiece in a SPAM folder, and the agent never has the opportunity to see your brilliant work.
Don’t address your letter "Dear Agent." Remember, address to their name and spell it correctly. The agent needs to know you’ve selected them.
Don’t add glitter and rainbows to your submission; be professional and let your writing do the talking.

For a peek at  How to Write a Query Letter

For more information on writing query letters, I think 
Nathan Bransford's award winning blog is excellent (by the way, he just left Curtis Brown, so don't query him).

p.s. Make sure you check out 
predators and editors to avoid disreputable agents.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What to Take When You Must Evacuate

Two times in two months, I was almost evacuated from my home due fires that threatened my neighborhood.  On one of the occasions, my family and I were actually hosting another family that had been evacuated; if we had to leave, it would have been round two for them.

As the fire edged closer and we waited for word from the rangers, we watched two CH54 helicopters and another smaller helicopter gather water from the lake across the street.  The two CH54s dipped their huge tube in the lake, sucked up water, and flew off to douse the fire.  It would take eight minutes for them to return.  The smaller helicopter dunked a dangling bucket as it's water gathering method.  

The helicopters were my cue that this was serious business and I needed to kick into gear.  With help from my already-evacuated friends, we made a pile of the important things to take in case we needed to abandon our home. 

Here's our list of things to put into your car if you have been given a warning (and time) that an evacuation is pending.  All the rules change if danger is eminent...if there's a fire in your home, forget all and get the heck out!

Irreplaceable pictures
pets stuff (food, cages, liter boxes, leashes, pet bed, medications)
Financial Paperwork
Insurance Policies
social security cards
birth certificates
Jewelry (especially personal pieces)
a suitcase of clothes

what am I forgetting?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nathan Bransford

Wow! I can't believe he's leaving the industry! Today is Nathan Bransford's last day as a literary agent for Curtis Brown.  He is also the creator of one of THE best blogs regarding the do's and don't's in publishing (i.e. good query advice, etc.) Fortunately, his blog will still be active at http://blog.nathanbransford.com/.  I just hope it's still packed with publishing tidbits and not tech-y stuff.

Today, the blog reads:

Nathan Bransford

San Francisco, CA

United States

Nathan Bransford is the author of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space, break the universe, and have to find their way back home, which will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011. He was a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. from 2002 to 2010, but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Alison Presley.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Personality Test by Kim Tomsic

As the bookshelf detective, I love anything with the title SNOOP.  Dr. Sam Gosling, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, has a new book Snoop:  What Your Stuff Says About You.  He says that we express our self (deliberately as well as accidentally) by our things, so what you have in your desk, on your wall, on your counter all speak about your personality.  I wonder what my tin Wrigley's gum container, snow tubing photo, pink retro mouse pad, harmonica, and Vic's espresso frequent punch card (all sitting on my desk)say. Snoop is a fascinating read on its own merits.  I think it could also serve as a great tool for writers who want to develop believable characters.  Whatever your purpose, have fun snooping.

Guide to Literary Agents

Guide to Literary Agents

Guest column by Dan Lazar on writing a great query letter.

Contest! Entry deadline today!

Are you writing a YA Novel?  Here is your chance to enter a free contest and possibly win a critique of your first ten pages. 


Tamar Rydzinski, a literary agent
at the Laura Dail Literary Agency in NYC.
Clients include:  Inara Scott , DelCroix Academy THE CANDIDATES and Jen Calonita SLEEPAWAY GIRLS

THE CONTEST (click this link)
Guide to Literary Agents seventh (and free!) "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest is posted on the GLA blog. This is a recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here's the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. So if you're writing a young adult novel, this seventh contest is for you!

E-mail entries to seventhagentcontest@gmail.com. Please paste everything. No attachments.


The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of young adult fiction. You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with your entry.

Please note: To be eligible to submit, I ask that you do one of two things: 1) Mention and link to this contest twice through your social media—blogs, Twitter, Facebook; or 2) just mention this contest once and also add Guide to Literary Agents Blog (www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog) to your blogroll. Please provide link(s) so the judge and I can verify eligibility. Some previous entrants could not be considered because they skipped this step!


1. This contest will be live for approximately fourteen days—from Oct. 21 through the end of Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010, EST. Winners notified by e-mail within three weeks of end of contest. Winners announced on the blog thereafter.

2. To enter, submit the first 150-200 words of your book. Shorter or longer entries will not be considered. Keep it within word count range please.

3. This contest is solely for completed book-length works of young adult fiction.

4. You can submit as many times as you wish. You can submit even if you submitted to other contests in the past, but please note that past winners cannot win again.

5. The contest is open to everyone of all ages, save those employees, officers and directors of GLA's publisher, F+W Media.

6. By e-mailing your entry, you are submitting an entry for consideration in this contest and thereby agreeing to the terms written here as well as any terms possibly added by me in the "Comments" section of this blog post. (If you have questions or concerns, write me personally at literaryagent@fwmedia.com. The Gmail account above is for submissions, not questions.)


Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Can't Wait to Get Ditched!

Yes! It's true...I can't wait to get Ditched! Ditched is Robin Mellom's debut YA novel being published by Disney Hyperion (editor Christian Trimmer) with a release date set in 2012. It's about a high school girl who wakes up in a ditch the morning after her prom. She can't remember the past 12 hours, what happened to her prom date, and how she ended up with a tattoo (of a punk Tinkerbell!). If I can base the future of a book on the tone of a blog and a crazy premise, Ditched promises to be energetic, funny, and wildly entertaining. Great job Robin!

p.s. Publisher's Marketplace calls it THE HANGOVER for teens

Ghost Story!

The Ghost Over Boulder Creek has been unleashed. Elain Pease's newest middle grade novel is now available at your favorite bookstore. Book signings are also happening this weekend, October 30, 2010 from 12:00pm to 2:00pm at Barnes &Noble in Boulder (2999 Pearl Street, Boulder 303-444-0349) and again on Sunday, October 31at Borders at the 29th Street Mall in Boulder.

After surviving the Washita River Massacre, Run Through Fire, a half-Cheyenne, half-white boy uses the ploy that he's a captured white and humbly follows Buffalo Bill across the plains in search of Run Through Fire's father. Run Through Fire hopes his father can help free the imprisoned survivors of his tribe. His mother is among them. When Run Through Fire arrives in Boulder, the ghost-like images that have haunted him during his journey prove to be more than warnings. Encourages discussions about prejudice, the westward movement and Manifest Destiny.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Read (and rock out!) with Taylor Swift!

Read (and rock out!) with Taylor Swift!

Taylor Swift and Nick Cannon Promote Reading

Scholastic's 90th anniversary literacy campaign featured a live interview with Nick Cannon and Taylor Swift who say, read every day and live a better life.  For information on seeing the video, visit Scholastic.  This is a tool teachers can use in the classroom to promote reading.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month.  What's that?  It's a thirty day challenge, beginning November 1st, to sit down and write a 50,000 word novel.  The rules are simple, write write write; write new material  (not something you're currently working on or something you're tweaking), and have fun.  Expectations:  a bunch of fluff will be written because there is no time to reread and edit every (any!) detail, but your creative juices will flow and you may surprise yourself.   Published novels have come out of this yearly challenge.  For more details, visit  http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/whatisnano.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Everything Elephants

I heard an NPR commentary by a clever scientist who said there is so much water in a cloud, he can only logically discuss the measure in elephant units.   Now, whenever it rains, I think of elephants.  And it's raining today, so naturally I feel compelled to offer elephant reading recommendations.

Here are my three favorite elephant books...I promise hours of fun reading!!
Modoc by Ralph Helfer
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Judy Moody Alert!

Judy Moody Fans...Did you know that one of the producers of Precious:  Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is currently filming a movie based on the Judy moody books by Megan McDonald?  Fun!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I can't wait for the release of Animal Tracks by Kelly Sheahan

From the SCBWI regarding the Sue Alexander Award:

2010 Winner

Kelly Sheahan or her manuscript Animal Tracks.

Here’s what our judges had to say:

"Animal Tracks is set in a vividly rendered Alaskan wilderness. It's filled with page-turning tension, peppered with humor, and peopled with delightfully quirky characters. This middle grade adventure novel features a timid young science nerd whose struggle to survive and make sense of his parents’ disappearance engages instant reader sympathy and promises a fun and intriguing journey."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A little about Gary Paulsen

from http://www.bookshelfdetective.org/ by Kim Tomsic
It was a cold Minnesota winter’s day that caused a very young Gary Paulsen to duck into a building and flee the harsh weather. The building happened to be a library. When the librarian offered him a book and a library card, magic ignited. Paulsen discovered his passion for reading, and books became his escape from a less than ideal home life.

It’s no wonder Paulsen fell in love with booksthey helped quench his need for adventure. When he was just a fourteen-year-old boy, he ran away from home and joined a traveling carnival. Later, he served as a soldier, and after that he raced the Iditarodtwice!  For those who are unfamiliar with the race, the Iditarod is not for the weak.  It's a sled race with 15 mushers and it spans over a 1000-mile course running from Anchorage to Nome. But you don't need to spend the $250,000 it cost to train for the event to know the thrill.  A fan can experience every drop of Paulsen’s blood, guts, and tears when they read his entertaining books on wilderness and adventure.

Perhaps when Paulsen writes, he feels compassion for the young man he wanted to be or for the kids who desperately need a break from their real world. He has dedicated countless hours writing for young people and has created more than 175 books. Gary Paulsen is considered one of the most important people in children’s literature. In addition to the numerous awards he has won, three of Paulsen’s novels were Newbery Honor Books — Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

National Book Award Finalists Announced

http://www.bookshelfdetective.org/ has the info on the National Book Award Finalists

Young People’s Literature:

Paolo Bacigalupi, "Ship Breaker"

Kathryn Erskine, "Mockingbird"

Laura McNeal, "Dark Water"

Walter Dean Myers, "Lockdown"

Rita Williams-Garcia, "One Crazy Summer"


Peter Carey, "Parrot and Olivier in America"

Jaimy Gordon,"Lord of Misrule"

Nicole Krauss, "Great House"

Lionel Shriver, "So Much for That"

Karen Tei Yamashita, "I Hotel"


Barbara Demick, "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea"

John W. Dower, "Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq"

Patti Smith, "Just Kids"

Justin Spring, "Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward"

Megan K. Stack, "Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War"


Kathleen Graber, "The Eternal City"

Terrance Hayes, "Lighthead"

James Richardson, "By the Numbers"

C.D. Wright, "One with Others"

Monica Youn, "Ignatz"

The National Book Awards will be announced at a ceremony in New York on Nov. 17. At the event, Tom Wolfe will receive the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service will be presented to Joan Ganz Cooney, a founding producer of "Sesame Street."

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