A School Visit and a Walk Down Memory Lane

Middle schoolers are their own unique breed. I’m convinced. But after teaching them for over six years, I have to admit that they are far and away my favorite people to talk to and teach.  I can talk to a huge group of seventh graders and keep them quiet and engaged without a problem.   Give me the same room full of adults, and I get a little twitchy.

So when it came time to start actively promoting my book, school visits seem like the best fit for who I am and what I’m good at. Unfortunately, Edge of Extinction came out at the very END of the school year when everyone is scrambling to wrap up grades, finish standardized testing, and generally keep things in some kind of order until summer. Not the best time to contact people about visiting their school. BUT I did manage to visit my old grade school/middle school this week, and it was awesome.

I left the babies behind with my parents and cruised down I65 listening to my audiobook for the very first time.

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It was surreal. It was amazing. I got chills.

Emma Galvin did SUCH a fabulous job bringing Sky to life, and before I knew it I was pulling into the parking lot where so many of my middle school memories were made.

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To start with, I was greeted by signs like these as I entered the building. Nothing makes you feel like a minor celebrity like a poster board with your name on it. Am I right?

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Unless it’s a whole stinking bulletin board. In which case, you beg someone to take a picture of you with it and pose shamelessly.

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I got the opportunity to talk to the entire junior high as well as the 4th and 5th grade.

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The coolest part of the day though was sitting down with the creative writing class and discussing how to turn an idea into something more.

I started off by reading this brilliant book.

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I just adore it. I think it should be a staple in EVERY creative writing teacher’s arsenal of teaching tools. Kids are NEVER too old to enjoy and get something out of a picture book. Especially a picture book as phenomenal as this one.

But back to the school visit. It was such an odd feeling to be back in the halls that I used to walk when I was a middle schooler myself. In some ways, it was exactly the same, but in others it was so changed. For one thing, I remember everything being a lot bigger!

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I wandered the halls after my presentation and found my old class picture. Ahhhh memories.

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I drove home after the visit with a grin on my face and a halls cough drop in my mouth. (While my teacher’s voice still works great, it’s not used to talking for that long anymore! I’m officially a wuss!)  Despite my sore throat, it was so nice to slip out of my “mom” shoes and back into my teacher shoes. Even if it was only for a little while.

Also, the fact that these guys are part of my job now is pretty darn cool as well. Who else gets to tote a bag full of dinosaurs around and call it work?

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I’m so blessed that I get to do this. Thank you Highland Christian for the opportunity and the memories.

Laura

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Acknowledgements…

Today is the day!

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Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan is officially on shelves! If you pre-ordered, it lands on your doorstep TODAY.

I woke up multiple times last night from pure excitement (think kid before Christmas anticipation) and had to force myself to go back to sleep. It wasn’t easy.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for YEARS.

But.

For those of you holding this bright and shiny (and dare I say drop dead gorgeous) book in your hands, you may notice that something is missing.

Although, honestly, you might not. Not everyone looks for an author’s acknowledgements, but friends and family usually do. And mine unfortunately aren’t there. My amazing team over at HarperCollins was working with me to add things to the book at the eleventh hour: from an author’s note on my dinosaur research to an awesome download that you can find over at HarperCollins website. So in the middle of all this, my acknowledgments got lost in the shuffle and didn’t make it into the first print run. Which, is hopefully the first of many print runs. (Fingers crossed!) But, it will be in the next print run!

If this was my tenth book, I probably would have shrugged and moved on. But since this was my first book, and it took SO MANY PEOPLE to make this dream a reality, I was looking forward to having a platform to publicly thank them.

So I decided to do the next best thing, which was to post my acknowledgements here.  So without further delay…here are the acknowledgements for Edge of Extinction- The Ark Plan. 

Acknowledgments

How do you begin to thank the people who helped make the most passionate dream of your heart a reality? Somehow, a paragraph in this book doesn’t seem to cut it. But until I win the lottery and can fly everyone somewhere exotic and warm, this will have to do.

First, I have to thank my parents, Jim and Joyce Van Weelden, who gave me a magical childhood, supported me in my every endeavor, and prayed for me. For my dad, who taught me the importance of a strong work ethic and a good left-handed lay-up. For my mom, who read too many versions of my book to count and worked tirelessly to help make my dream a reality. Without her this book never would have happened. I am who I am, what I am, and where I am because of my amazing parents. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart.

For my brother, Aric, who reminds me constantly not to take myself or this life so seriously. When I wrote the character of Todd, it was with your mischievous and big-hearted personality in mind. For Allison and Jenna and too many friends and family members to mention, who have always been in my corner no matter how awkward or uncoordinated I was.

For the countless teachers in my life who pushed me to be better, specifically the teachers of Illiana Christian High School and Butler University. For Jeff DeVries, for challenging me even when I didn’t want to be challenged, and Dan Barden for telling me to stop making excuses and just write a good book.

For the countless middle school students who walked through my classroom door every year at Clay Middle School. This book was inspired by and written for the quirky kids who made teaching the best job in the world.

For Alec Shane, who first pulled this book out of the slush pile and told me it would make a great middle grade novel. For Jodi Reamer, my rockstar agent, thank you for your excitement, feedback, and unwavering belief in this book.

For my team at HarperCollins: after years of dreaming of publishing a book, this experience has been better than I could have ever hoped. For Tara Weikum and Harriet Wilson, thank you for the brainstorming and insights that helped turn The Ark Plan into the novel it is today. You are both brilliant. Thank you to my cover artist, Eric Deschamps, and the entire art department for making my characters and vision for this book come to life.

For the most important person in my life, my husband, Josh. I cannot begin to thank you for being my rock, my supporter, and my best friend through this entire journey. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in this life. For my daughter, London, and son, Lincoln, you two are the inspiration that lights up my days and the push that makes me want to be better.

And last, to my creator, who makes all things possible, even the impossible dream of publishing a book. Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory.

My First Author Event!

First…a little back story for those of you who are new around here.

I taught seventh grade language arts in Carmel Indiana at Clay Middle School for six years. And loved it. I can honestly say that being a teacher was fabulous. We had great kids, tons of parent support, and fabulous facilities. Plus, I had the privilege of working with some of the best people in the business.

So. As you can imagine. Deciding to stay home with my kids was a hard call for me. I was all sorts of torn up about it. There were tears. There were lots of tears. But ultimately I decided to take a break from teaching to do the stay-at-home-mom thing and write.

I don’t regret it. But I do miss my time in the classroom. I miss sharing my love of reading and writing with large packs of squirmy seventh graders. I miss lunches with friends, even if those lunches were around fifteen minutes total and didn’t allow us to actually chew our food. I miss it. A lot.

So when I found out that Carmel High School was hosting an event called Writing Con (Think knock off Comic con?) I wanted in.

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There were two problems with this.

Problem One. I hadn’t been invited.

Problem Two. I didn’t actually have any books yet.

BUT! I wasn’t going to let those things stop me. After lots of emailing, I was told that I would be welcomed with open arms. (I mentioned the people at Carmel are fabulous right? Because they are.)

So. I went about tackling problem two. No books. As I’ve mentioned around a million times Edge of Extinction- The Ark Plan comes out May 10. The event was April 28 and 29. SO CLOSE!  So I begged to get the books to the Carmel Barnes & Noble a little early. And because the HarperCollins team is amazing, they made it happen!

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The two days were awesome. We got to work hands on with the kids at different writing “pods”, and I got a chance to talk to two different classes. Dusting off my old teaching hat was fun, and man, I miss it.

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IMG_2725Although, as a side note,high schoolers are so put together! I’m used to middle school students who get pumped and excited at the slightest provocation. High school kids are much less wiggly!

Another perk of the event was getting to meet other local authors. I added all their books to my “got to read this soon” list. Here are a few of their books!

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(And this isn’t even everyone! So many awesome people there!

I also picked the other authors’ brains mercilessly. I’m very new to this author game, and I loved hearing what they’ve done to get the word out about their books.

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The event capped off with a book signing at the Carmel Barnes & Noble. I got to sit next to Jeff Stone because we both had middle grade books while the other authors were primarily YA and adult fiction.

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This was a little surreal. Jeff Stone’s books were by far some of the most popular with the seventh grade boy crowd, and I really enjoyed talking to him about the publishing world!

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I would love to say that I played it cool, but I’m not so sure that I did. A lot of my friends stopped by to buy books and I jumped around and gushed at them about how much I appreciated it. A few old students stopped by to buy books as well, which really made my day.

On a side note. My little metal dinosaur got TONS off attention.

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This cracked me up as I threw him in my bag as an after thought. I purchased him years ago when I first started writing Edge of Extinction. He used to live on my desk when I was teaching as a daily reminder to keep working on my book and following my dream, and now he makes a nice little statement on my author’s table. It’s funny how life works.

A big thank you to Carmel High School and the Carmel Barnes & Noble for hosting the event and for letting me be a part of it. SO MUCH FUN!

Also, as this is my book launch eve (Is that a thing?  Oh well, is now.) I’m going to be posting a giveaway on Instagram tomorrow!  (If you don’t follow me over there, you totally should! I’m Lauramartinbooks) So check tomorrow for a chance to win!  Happy Book Launch Eve everyone!

Laura

Bits of this and that…

Hello!

As we cruise towards the official release day for Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan (we’re in single digits now people! This is big!), I wanted to pop in to post a few of the reviews that have rolled in lately. I’m VERY happy with them!

(On a side note, having your book reviewed is like allowing someone to publicly state how much they like your child. So… incredibly nerve wracking.)

Here is the first from the School Library Journal:
Gr 4-6-
Sky Mundy has heard all her life how the Noah saved the citizens of the United States from extinction during the Dinosauria Pandemic, getting them into the old nuclear bomb shelters that were safe from ferocious dinosaurs and the fatal virus they carry. But Sky sees the dark side of the Noah’s Marine enforcers. She is singled out because she is an orphan and thus a burden (though she refuses to acknowledge that her father, missing for five years, is dead), and her life is a litany of work details and isolation in the Guardian Wing of the North Compound. Sky desperately hopes for word from her absent father, and finally, on her 12th birthday, her best friend Shawn finds a clue hidden in the compass Sky’s father gave her just before he disappeared. With that information, Sky decides it’s time to go “topside” to look for her missing dad. Shawn helps her make a daring escape from the compound, and the two discover that the world outside is not as they were led to believe. There are certainly dinosaurs, and most of them are out to make Sky and Shawn dinner. But there are also people living topside, not to mention fresh food and fresh air. In this clever take on Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, the tale is reimagined on a worldwide scale. The characters are developed, and the postapocalyptic world is well imagined and replete with detail. The plot moves forward briskly, with a few good twists, and the ending sets up neatly for a sequel. Nonstop action, marauding dinosaurs, and kids on the run: What’s not to like? VERDICT This is a great buy for the sci-fi adventure-loving crowd.-Gretchen Crowley, Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

Here is the second from the  Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books:
R Gr. 4-7
In a future where bioengineered dinosaurs dominate the earth, twelve-year-old orphan Sky Mundy survives, along with the rest of the supposed last of the human race, in rigidly controlled underground compounds. A message from her presumed- dead father, though, soon sends her out into the dangerous upside with best friend Shawn in tow, but the pair quickly realizes they aren’t prepared to survive the great outdoors. Fortunately they are rescued from a T. rex attack by young Todd, who leads them back to his hidden village in the trees. After being attacked by marines from the compound, the three adventurers journey north, but their expedition may uncover more secrets than they expected, including clues to a dangerous truth compound leaders will kill to keep hidden. This gripping survival adventure offers readers a potent mix of creative setting, edge-of-your-seat plotting, and admirable heroes. The world building is particularly strong, balancing the campy, the ter- rifying, and the dystopian, with plenty of engaging details like dinosaur pets and a treehouse worthy of the Swiss Family Robinson. Sky and friends are equally appealing, bringing their own strengths and foibles to the mix. Perfect for readers who have carried their love of dinosaurs into middle school, the novel is also a strong fit for readers who want dystopias but aren’t quite ready for the bleakness of The Hunger Games. Unresolved mysteries and a few surprising last-minute reveals leave plenty for the adventurers to learn in expected sequels and will leave readers hungry for more. AM

Not bad right? Here’s hoping that everyone else agrees!

I also wanted to share an article recently done by Illiana Christian High School’s newspaper The Echo. I was interviewed by the talented Kassidy Weemhoff, Arts Editor extraordinaire and the following article was the result. (Click on the ARTS PAGE hyperlink to see it. For some reason the file isn’t playing nice with my computer!)

I will be back soon to post about the awesome event I participated in at Carmel High School called Writing Con last week.

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I got to meet so many amazing authors, and it was capped off with my first honest to goodness author event at Barnes & Noble! (Spoiler, it was surreal, and even though I tried to play it cool, I totally wasn’t.)