Here. There. And Everywhere.

Hello everyone!

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This post is long long looooong over due, so please forgive me for too many pictures and lots of random things all jammed into one post. That’s just how I roll these days.

I’ve been all over the place recently promoting Edge of Extinction and loving every minute of it. There have been school visits, book fairs, conferences, and author signings. It’s been a whirlwind. Recently one of my contacts at Barnes and Noble who has been facilitating some of my school pre-orders said they now just referred to me as “The Hardest Working Author.” I took a screen shot of the email and sent it to my parents. Because, no matter how old you are, you still need to show your good grades to mom and dad. Apparently.

 

I don’t know if I’m the hardest working author, but I do know that I am willing to do everything in my power to make my book a success. Plus, I find all of this author stuff to be incredibly fun and exciting (and only a little terrifying.)

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I’ve been to several school’s recently, and I decided that author visits are a lot like grandparent visits. I get to come in, get everyone pumped and excited about reading and writing, and then I get to leave and not do any of the heavy lifting.

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And while this has been fun, it has also been a little sad because I miss teaching in a heart-aching, think about it all the time, kind of way.

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An especially bittersweet author visit happened when I visited the middle school where I taught for six years. I got so many hugs from my old friends, and the halls were so familiar, but I was no longer an integral part of the school. That was hard. But it was also wonderful to be back, even if it was only for a day.

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I’ve learned a lot already about what goes into a successful visit, and a lot of it depends on the prep work that happens before I even step in the building. If the media specialist and staff has worked to pump the kids up about the author visit, pushed book preorders, discussed Edge of Extinction, or better yet, used it as a read aloud the visit ROCKS. If they haven’t done any of those things, the visit is still good, but it doesn’t make the same impact on the kids.   It’s like seeing an Elvis concert without knowing anything about Elvis. The concert is still fun, but the impact isn’t there. (I’m not just using that analogy because in that scenario I get to be Elvis…although, if you have a choice, always be Elvis.)

Case in Point. Sunnyside Intermediate School in Lafayette Indiana hosted me recently, and the media specialists there went ABOVE and BEYOND.img_8713

They made me a tree from The Oaks.

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MADE IT. Tree house and everything.

They had dinosaur pumpkins.

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Bulletin boards.

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Dinosaur Bookmarks for sale. (I bought two!)

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And a whole shelf dedicated to JUST dinosaur books.

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They even hosted a lunch for a few of the students which included homemade dinosaur cookies, Edge of Extinction trail mix, and Jurassic Park coloring books.

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Like I said. Above and beyond.

But one of the coolest things I saw there wasn’t even dinosaur related. The school principal, get this, MOVED his office into the middle of the hallway. When you walk into his school, the first thing you see is the principal’s desk. Right out in the open. EVERY principal should do this. It is brilliant. So brilliant I asked to take his picture. And he let me.

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I also broke up those school visits by attending my first ever Books By the Banks. The author’s reception was on Friday night and the actual event was on Saturday in Cincinnati.   I decided to make the drive from Indianapolis both days rather than get a hotel for a few reasons, the primary one being that those hours in the car sounded like a mini vacation. Just me. My coffee. And a handful of good audiobooks. Heaven I tell you.

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The entire event was great. Friday nights author’s reception was held in this BEAUTIFUL old library in downtown Cincinnati.

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It was nearly impossible to find, and even though I gave myself an HOUR of wiggle room time, I was still  a half hour late. AND I only made it because some very kind parking garage owners allowed me to play my Damsel in Distress card and park in a closed lot. Bless them. In my defense. The distressed part was very very real. Ugh.  It was all worth it though because I got to meet the one and only  Chris Grabenstein. He is a fabulous author, and he graciously allowed me to pick his brain on all things middle grade.

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I also got to chat with Greg Leitich Smith, and if you are looking for another great dinosaur book to read after you finish Edge of Extinction, you should check out his books!

The next day, I walked into the conference center for the actual event and saw all the tables set up for authors.

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I’d never seen so many authors in one place before. I tried to play it cool. I’m positive I didn’t succeed.

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I decided right then and there that someday, I wanted to do this event again, but I wanted to be one of the authors with a gigantic banner.

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Aren’t they neat! #authorgoals.

I was seated next to Janet S. Johnson.

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Her book The Last Great Adventure of the PB& J Society just came out a little before mine did, and I really enjoyed chatting with her all day. I bought a copyto put on the shelf for my kiddos some day. They will have so many signed books as a by product of this author adventure. Lucky kids.

Anyways.

Besides Books By The Banks, I also talked to the Indiana State Reading Association.

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And spoke to a group of teachers a the CEA convention.  (Christian Educators Association)

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(This simultaneously wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because I saw a lot of my old teachers at the event, and terrifying because it was my first time talking to other teachers.) It went well though, and I got great feedback.

1. Laura is a great presenter. She gives good ideas to teachers with her hand out. If she had more time we’d have more ideas for writing.
2. Being a third grade teacher, I wasn’t sure how useful this session would be, but I learned a lot. Great resources and ideas.
3. This session gave me the motivation to spend more time getting the kids to think and write outside the box.
4. I learned that great writing comes from students who listen, not just read.
5. She offered great ideas, very usable tips.
6. Inspirational
7. Laura has so many great ideas about writing! I love that our speaker was a teacher and is now an author. I will use the “point of view” activity in my classroom and add more listening to stories with my current read aloud.
8. I enjoyed learning how to think about both reading in a new way, and how it can be more beneficial to students.
9. This session made me think about teaching writing in a new way. She had many great ideas and insights.

I also got to go to a store completely dedicated to chocolate. Winning!

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And I signed books and talked at the Indiana Library Federation’s Conference where I got to meet Mike Mullin. This was a big hairy deal since I LOVE his books, and I’ve been spending lots of time recently combing through his blog archive which is FULL of awesome author advice.

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I also had to put Halloween costumes together for my little tribe of people. In past years, I copped out and just bought costumes. But I decided that this year was the year that I MADE costumes. Don’t ask me why. Maybe I feel like it is some kind of Mom right of passage thing because my mom used to make my costumes, but whatever it is. I was doing it. Darn it.

Picture me in my basement with the sewing machine I kind of know how to use, attempting to cobble together outfits. There may haven been some tears and unsavory language involved. Also. Netflix. But everything turned out all right, even if things were a bit dodgy there in the middle.

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Pictured you will see Wendy, Tinkerbelle, and Peter Pan. Oh, and Peter Pan’s shadow. That’s my darling husband, and the only picture that will probably ever surface of him here on the blog. He prefers to be mysterious like that. He’s really cute though. Scouts honor.

On top of all that that, November is also DINOVEMBER. Have you heard of it? It’s like Elf on the Shelf meets dinosaurs. The people who started it all now have a children’s book out called What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night. 

So naturally, my favorite author props decided to get in on the action.

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Didn’t you know that lunch tastes better when dinosaurs packs it? Fact.

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Also- on a side note. I don’t recommend your dinosaurs get into the dog toys. There may have been some dinosaur casualties during this dinovember. I may or may not have run after my bulldogs yelling things like GIVE BACK MY T.REX. Because that’s normal.

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My kids are going to have this interesting childhood peppered with dinosaurs thanks to this book.

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Nothing to see here.

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Just a girl. Holding her T. Rex. Asking him to love her. (Quick-name that movie reference!)

In the middle of all the dinovember, halloween costume, author visits, conference craziness…I also received the galley pages for Edge of Extinction- Code Name Flood. It’s now available for pre-order!!!!!

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I quickly got these edited and sent back to HarperCollins, and the advanced reading copies landed on my doorstep a few days ago. I’m working on a post with the cover reveal. Hopefully later this week! Whoop Whoop!

To cap off this whirlwind of visits, I’m also talking at the Zionsville Public Library tonight to celebrate dinovember! So if you are local, come check it out! Free pizza!

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I know this post is random and jumbled, but that’s how life has been recently so it’s fitting. Here’s hoping you all have a lovely November. Or Dinovember if you happen to being taking part in the fun.

 

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A Book Baby Shower…

So…books are kind of my thing. Just in case you’re new around here.

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But it occurred to me recently that it might be fun to share some of the details from my book themed baby shower from back in the day. Let me repeat, back in the day. I’m not pregnant again. Everyone clear on that? I’m looking at you mom.

Moving on.

This shower was thrown for me almost three years ago by my fabulous best friend and her mom.dscn0058

Although, I feel like we might need a new category for people like Penny and Allison. They are family. In every possible way that it matters. But in many ways, they are better than family. Because we CHOSE each other.

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There was never an obligation to spend holidays with them, but we did it every year.  (By the way…my talented best friend just started a food blog…and it’s GOOD! Check it out here!)

My daughter London and Allison’s daughter Mackenzie are third generation best friends. dsc01257And yes, they are only toddlers…but they WILL BE BEST FRIENDS. Whether they like it or not darn it.

Anyways.

The theme for my shower was a surprise. I had no idea what they were cooking up, but I knew it was going to be good. My mom calls Penny her “Martha Stewart Friend” and she means that in the best possible non-jail time way.

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The shower was hosted at my parent’s lake house (the same house where we had my book launch.) This house, this lake, is where my heart is happy, so it makes sense that the BIG moments of my life have been celebrated here. I wanted to get married here but was talked out of it. A little part of me is still sad I allowed myself to be persuaded.

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The theme of the shower…was books…and it was above and beyond any shower I’ve ever attended.

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Everything was themed with a book.

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They even made a Giving Tree for me to sit under to open gifts. That’s commitment to a theme people.

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Chocolate chip cookie mix in mason jars were the party favor and, of course, they went along with If you Give a Mouse a Cookie.

dscn0036The Very Hungry Caterpillar presided over the food table, and made an appearance on the desert table as well.

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Meatball Appetizers- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Candy on the Desert Table- Bernstein Bears and Too Much Junkfood

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Chicken Salad- Chicken Little

We even had Green Eggs and Ham!

You name it-they had a book that went along with it.

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It was like children’s book heaven.

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We ate in the dining room where tiny book garlands floated above us and the tables were decorated with baby pictures of my husband and I.

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Guests signed their name and wrote messages in a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go.

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And of course, everyone was asked to bring a book to give to baby Martin.

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It was fun to look back at these pictures for a few reasons. The first being…I was so clueless. I was about eight months pregnant here, and I had NO IDEA WHAT WAS COMING. You cannot prepare for being a parent, not really.

I read gobs of books about babies, I’d nannied for multiple summers, I taught kids every day…but I had NO idea how exhausting, time-consuming, all encompassing, and wonderful kids would be. Clue. Less.

The second reason is that these books, the ones decorating the tables and piled around me in pictures are now committed to my memory. My daughter, and now my son, and I have read them hundreds of times. The words in those books have been etched onto our hearts.

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Books make the BEST gifts. Period.

My daughter received so many wonderful things that day, but most of them have already been outgrown and now live in  large plastic bins in my basement. It’s sad really. But what isn’t sad are the books that we read Every. Single. Day.

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The books I will save and not let my kids take with them when they grow up and move out so that I have something to  read to my grandkids.

My mom did this.

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She has a cabinet of books she saved from my childhood. I’m not allowed to steal them. I’ve tried.

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But opening those books from my childhood is like opening a memory. I remember who I was when I had those books read to me, and now I get to see my daughter discover the stories that shaped me into the person I am today. I’m not lying when I say that books are magic.

So there you go, feel free to share on Pinterest in case someone else is hunting for the perfect baby shower theme for a book-loving friend. I even got all snazzy and made a graphic for it…because my over-achiever gene made me.

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And on a final note about baby showers, and this goes for bridal showers too. While the gifts (especially books) are wonderful and appreciated and generous…for me…that’s not what made my bridal and baby showers SO special.

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And I always try to tell this to any bride or mom-to-be when they are gearing up for their own shower. THIS, I tell them, THIS is one of the only times when ALL your people will gather around you.

dscn0153Your tribe will come together for a shower… relatives and high school friends and college friends and work friends, and neighborhood friends.dscn0146 This will never happen again. (Well, it will…but it’s called your funeral, and odds are you won’t be able to enjoy it overly much.)

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This is where your aunts will share the stories of their own weddings and babies, and gasp over the new generation’s stories because “MY HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED!” Where traditions are explained and handed down, where family secrets might get shared over too many glasses of wine.

dscn0168THIS is the special time. The wedding is great too, but in many ways, the shower is better. And for this reason, I am so sad that my time of showers has come to an end. Because while I still get to see my tribe…they are scattered. They will never congregate in the same place again. At least not while I’m alive to see it.

So now, I just live vicariously through other people’s showers, and I post about mine on this little corner of the internet. I hope you enjoyed it.

So Let’s Talk About Reading…Shall We?

I’m passionate about reading.

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I get fired up when I talk about books.

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This is my thing.

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And I’ve embraced it with my whole heart.

 

img_6973This deep-seated love of books was given to me for a reason.

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This I firmly believe.img_6939

I also firmly believe that I make the WEIRDEST faces when I talk. Do I just look ridiculous all the time?

For a long time I thought this passion was given to me so that I could teach from a very real place about reading. As an English teacher I had my students embark an a forty book reading quest at the beginning of each year thanks to the fabulous book by Donalyn Miller called The Book Whisperer.

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The program was fabulous, and it worked not because Donalyn Miller gave fabulous instructions for how to implement it (although she did). It worked because I BELIEVED in it. My kids knew that I LOVED books, that the books I recommended to them, I’d read myself. I was a believer in the transformative power of books, and it gave them permission to be one too.

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Some kids thought I was nuts. Some parents thought I was nuttier, but gosh guys, my kids READ and some of them, not all, but some, became readers the year that they spent in my classroom.

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And that was big stuff guys! Because kids who read…who enjoy reading…are going to be more successful than the kid who doesn’t. And that was the key to the way I taught. I wanted my kids, (and yes, I called them my kids, because for that hour every day they WERE mine) to read because they enjoyed it. NOT because they could successfully trace the plot on some chart or tell me what a character’s motivation was.

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And I hope to return to the classroom someday soon, but until then, I’ve been able to put that passion into writing books and recently, talking about books in front of kids again.

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School visits are HUGE for middle grade authors like myself. Our readers aren’t on social media, they aren’t reading book blogs or following people on instagram that post beautiful pictures of books. They are at school, and I have loved being able to talk to and work with kids again. I think being an author is a lot like being a grandparent. I think all the kids are fabulous, they can do no wrong in my book. I get to talk to them, interact with them, get them excited, and then I leave and don’t have to grade any homework. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Another beautiful thing has begun landing in my inbox, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. These two came just this week…

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I read both of these, grinned from ear to ear, turned to my husband and said “My people are finding me!”

Which is incredibly cheesy, but so true. As a seventh grade teacher, my biggest challenge was getting kids who had incorrectly labeled themselves as someone who DIDN’T read to give books a chance. I am a firm believer that you just have to get the RIGHT book in a kids hand to turn them around. That’s all it takes, just one book. And to hear that MY BOOK was that book…well it doesn’t get much better than that. At least not in my world.

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Instilling a love of reading is so so important, a lesson I’ve taken to heart in my own home. One of my favorite things about being a parent as been introducing my daughter to books.

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Books are magical, and I am the gatekeeper of the magic right now.

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When my son takes a nap, we hurry into my husband’s big leather arm chair, grab a stack of books and a blanket, and read until he wakes up. I have a cup of coffee, she gets a sucker, and we “get all cozy” as she describes it. It’s my favorite time of the day.

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She will grow up associating reading with being cozy and loved. And this is a gift she will cherish for a lifetime. I know this, because my mom did it for me, and I will forever be grateful for it.

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I am who I am, because I was a reader first. Reading changes people at a core level, makes them into someone they wouldn’t have been without books. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t been a reader, but I certainly wouldn’t be doing this…

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Which is something that I absolutely love.

So go get “all cozy” and read with your kids today. Even if they are “too old” to be read to. Because, really, they aren’t.

That Missing Something…

The last six months have been a blur. I’m not sure if I should blame sleep deprivation for that or not, but I think I blinked and my tiny newborn turned into a hefty, almost-crawling 20 pounder. I’m truly stumped about how that happened so fast.IMG_5615

But in this blur of motherhood, which is equal parts wonderful, exhausting and magical, I felt like I was missing something. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

At first I thought it might have to do with books and reading. I used to consume around 7-10 books a WEEK pre-kids. Now I’m lucky to get through one or two, most of which is done via audiobooks. (God bless audiobooks. Amen.)

So I increased my efforts to read more, assuming that it was this part of my identity that made me feel like a puzzle missing a  key piece.

It didn’t help.

Books weren’t the missing puzzle piece.

For a little while I wondered if it was just a part of life, that when I assumed this role of “mom” I had to give up a little of what used to be “Laura” in order to squish everything in.

But this too, was false.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon podcasts that I finally realized what that missing puzzle piece was.

Learning.

I became a teacher in part because I LOVE learning things. School was one of my favorite places to be as a kid because I enjoyed listening to my teachers explain this complex and wonderful world we live in.

When I was a teacher myself, I often learned right along side my students as we forayed into different topics. Learning was as natural and daily as breathing.

However, ever since having kids I have essentially stopped learning.  Instead of studying and generating lesson plans, I recite the ABC’s and count to ten over and over again until my eyes cross.

Enter

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Seriously, where have these been all my life? They are like the perfect blend of audiobook and lessons all packed into bite size chunks that stream directly to my phone. And they make me so happy.

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I can listen to them while I fold laundry, clean up the kitchen at night after the kids are in bed, shower…you name it. And I am LEARNING again. I have things to talk about with my husband and friends besides what Elmo recently did on Sesame Street or how many blocks I helped make into a tower that day.

I guess in some ways it gave a little bit of “adult” life back to me.

So the first podcast I got brave enough to check out was this one.

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John and Sherry  had a blog called Young House Love that I followed devotedly for years. And then, just like that, they stopped blogging. And it almost felt like losing a friend. So when they started a podcast,  I ventured into unknown territory.

To be honest, podcasts had always kind of confused me. What were they exactly? Some kind of talk-radio hybrid? Where did one find a podcast? Google? (Twitter still confuses me in this way.)

Thankfully John and Sherry put up a step-by-step idiot-proof guide for how to get started. Bless them.

I then ventured over to my cousin Kristen Sanders’ podcast, This Inspired Life. Something I’d been meaning to do FOREVER. Again loved it.

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She suggested that I check out The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast…and guys…I fell in love. Hard.

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I’d had this experience a few other times in my life, both in my teaching career. And that was when I discovered the work of Nancy Atwell.

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And Donolyn Miller.

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Both of these ladies were TEACHING HOW I HAD ALWAYS WANTED TO TEACH. HOW I KNEW I SHOULD BE TEACHING! I bought every book they’d ever written, read them multiple times and applied it all right into my own classroom.

That’s how this felt. I’ve been binge listening to this podcast ever since. I’ve texted multiple friends and family members letting them know that YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO THIS. I’m like the best unpaid advertising there ever was when I find something I like.

I went directly to Itunes and wrote a review. I made my mom listen to it on the way to a bridal shower this weekend. I filled my Amazon cart FULL of books they talked about, and I even sent Sarah Mackenzie (the mastermind behind this little chunk of brilliance) a copy of Edge of Extinction in case, my some minor miracle, she’s looking for an author for the podcast. (Fingers crossed!)

Go listen to it. Right now.

My favorite episodes so far are…

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But that’s only because I haven’t had a chance to listen to them all yet and have been jumping around picking and choosing topics at random.

So if you haven’t checked out podcasts yet. Do it. I’ve learned so so much, and that piece of my life, the learning piece, is no longer missing. I feel a bit more like myself again, and it’s a relief.

Because while I am enjoying being “mom”, I also really like just being Laura sometimes. IMG_6030

 

 

How cool is this?

Have you heard of the website Imagination Soup yet?

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It’s fabulous. Whether you’re a teacher or a parent, Melissa Taylor has her hand on the pulse of everything from book suggestions to the latest educational study or tip.  So imagine my excitement when a few weeks back I stumbled across this post on the best Adventure/Mystery books for kids and saw MY BOOK front and center. I could have probably died happy right there.

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Instead, I wrote Melissa an email thanking her for featuring my book so prominently. As a new (relatively unknown) author, this kind of publicity is HUGE.

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I mentioned in the email that I’d love to collaborate with her if she was ever interested.

And she was!

The following guest post was born!  Head on over to check it out!

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Another REALLY exiting thing happened recently as well. The AMAZING Brock Eastman contacted me.

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I’ll pause here to explain why this was such a big hairy deal.

Brock is not only a fellow author, but he is also affiliated with Focus on the Family, a institution I grew up with and still follow and admire, and get this…he helped produce the Adventures In Odyssey series once upon a time.

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If you haven’t discovered Adventures in Odyssey…you are missing out. Odyssey was a BIG part of my childhood, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Mr. Whittaker.

Okay…nostalgic gush over…moving on.

Brock has his own series of middle grade books out, so it was REALLY amazing that he contacted me full of praise for mine.

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I re-read his kind email a few times before it all sunk in. He wanted to know if I would be interested in being interviewed for his website.

Yes.

Yes I would.

(Insert absurd little happy dance here.)

If you want to check it out, the interview can be found HERE.  I share a few never before revealed tidbits about Sky, Shawn, and Todd, but there are also some fun off the cuff questions about writing.

I didn’t think this could get much better.

I was wrong.

Brock also pulled some strings and Edge of Extinction is going to be featured in the September issue of Family Fiction Edge.

EDGE_AUG16-125x188(Many happy dances were danced when I heard this. The two year old joined in, as did the bulldogs…it was epic.)

So check back in soon, and I’ll link up to that as well!

Middle Grade Ninja…and a little presentation advice.

Hi Everyone!

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If you’re new around here (welcome) you might not know that I spent my pre-author years as a seventh grade language arts teacher.

I LOVED it.

Seriously.

I worked with some of the best people and middle school kids are some of my favorites. When I transitioned from teacher to author, I brought some of my teaching savey with me, and I shared some of that wisdom today over on Robert Kent’s AMAZING blog Middle Grade Ninja. 

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I used to stalk this blog religiously when I was in the querying trenches, and his agent interviews are priceless. (Also-fun fact. When I was stalking his blog I ACTUALLY LIVED IN THE SAME TOWN WITH HIM! I HAD NO IDEA!  MIND. BLOWN. )

Anyways, if you haven’t stumbled upon him yet on your own, you’re welcome.

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Having taught my fair share of middle school kids, I like to think I know a thing or two about what to do…or more importantly…what NOT to do when presenting.  So pop on over to Middle Grade Ninja and check it out!  Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.23.26 PM

 

Book Launch!

There are three things you need to know before reading this post.

  1. My mom throws fabulous parties. She stresses about them for months before hand, gives pinterest a workout, and ultimately ends up with a show-stopping event that she will immediately credit to other people. She is wonderful.
  2. I asked my mom to throw this party. However, I asked her six years ago. I was nowhere NEAR having a book published. It was still a dream at that point, but I remember being on the phone whining and griping (in the way one only can to one’s mother) about a recent rejection, and I said. “Mom. If I ever do get a book published. I want to throw a party. A big one.” She remembered. And six years later. She and my dad threw me one heck of a book launch.
  3. This post has about a million pictures. You’ve been warned.

Now that that’s out of the way, back to the Book Launch Party!

How to Throw a fabulousbook launch

The theme was obviously going to be dinosaurs, but there is a fine line between dinosaur book launch and little boy’s dinosaur birthday party. I think we hit the nail on the head though!

We held the launch at my parent’s house, and it was the perfect backdrop for Edge’s launch! (I think Ivan would have felt at home here? Don’t you?)

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As our visitors arrived they were greeted by this sign…

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Some strategically place dinosaur bones…

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And this toothy wreath!

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The fun didn’t stop on the front porch though! Inside guests was met by this handsome girl!

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Everyone thought we rented an animatronic dinosaur for the event, but this was actually a toy my cousin Jenna had stored in her garage. WHAT?! I know! Who has dinosaurs stored in their garage?! My family apparently!

She was even cooler in person, moving her head and horns around, opening her mouth, making dinosaur noises.

I tried to buy it off my cousin.

She said no.

I don’t blame her.

But could you imagine the look on peoples’ faces if I hauled a three foot dinosaur into bookstores for book signings? #priceless

Moving on. We had a table set up with my recent reviews as well as the blown up cover of my book.

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I’m biased. But I think the cover is even prettier three feet tall. Eric Deschamps really outdid himself on this one!

Inside we had an author’s table set up for me to sign books.

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My mom also bought a TON of books in case our visitors decided they wanted to buy any extras as gifts for friends, neighbors, the mailman, the mailman’s cousin…you get the idea. She was prepared!

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The good news is that we sold them all! Yippee!!!

And then there was the food. OH the food.

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We may have gone a little overboard.

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I’ve seen weddings with less food. My cousin Jeff’s restaurant catered the big stuff for us, and if anyone went home hungry they just weren’t trying hard enough…

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I was so busy signing and talking and hugging all the wonderful people who came that I never really got to eat much of it!  Which was okay, because I got to take home the leftovers!

My Aunt Cathy carved up the watermelon T-Rex. Amazing.

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And the desert table was enough to make any kid flip.

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There were dinosaurs decorating Every. Single. Surface.

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Beware the Megapnosaurus guarding the fruit tray!

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Do you recognize the handsome guy in the middle from my cover?

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Mmmmmm Dino Droppings…..

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I also have to mention the dirt cups because they don’t show up very well on the desert table. But they were one of my favorite things there.

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Well, actually, that’s a lie. My favorite thing at the party was the people who drove HOURS and HOURS to be there to celebrate the realization of a life long dream. Friends and family came and bought stacks of books. I got hugged and congratulated and hugged some more.

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DSC01314(Did you spot the Edge of Extinction T-shirts?  My dad also made mugs! He was all for putting the cover on everything from a golf shirt to coasters, but we had to reign him in. I mean, my husband loves me, but I don’t think even he would wear a huge book cover on his back while golfing!)

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Some of my old colleagues from Clay Middle School even made the drive up to see me…wearing…get this…pins with my face on them. My mom promptly stole one and wore it for the rest of the night.

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Fun fact…the only guy in the picture is the ORIGINAL Todd. I totally stole his name while working on the book with every intention of changing it later on…but then I got attached and it stuck. I waited until the book was two days from being published to mention it to him though. Whoops!

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Speaking of teachers…if you read the acknowledgements page I posted on here recently, you may have noticed that I mentioned my high school English teacher. Well he and his wife made the hike to come to the party! It just goes to show the impact one phenomenal teacher can make. I was blessed to be taught by an entire fleet of phenomenal teachers...a fact I am incredibly thankful for.

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The other surprise of the night was when my girlfriends from high school all showed up! Each of them had told me they weren’t going to be able to make it…and I believed them! They all have kids and the general chaos that comes from this season of life. But they made it happen, and on top of that, they spent the night so I was able to laugh and talk to them until it was WAY past our bedtimes. Seriously the best.

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My best –known me since third grade and likes me anyways– friend Allison tried the same trick- telling me she couldn’t make it when she really planned on coming- but I knew her too well and she wasn’t able to pull it off. That didn’t change the fact that I was SO grateful that she flew all the way from Colorado with her two kids to be here for the party. You caught that part about flying by herself with two kids right? Because that makes her either a rockstar or insane. I’m going to go with rockstar.

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Speaking of rockstars…

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These beautiful ladies were my mom’s partners in crime when it came to getting this party set up. They moved picture frames, adjusted dinosaurs, carved watermelons, and generally helped my mom in the way I used to be able to before I had two children and became more of a hindrance than a help.

This whole thing wouldn’t have happened though without these two amazing people.

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Let me introduce you to my parents. They are just the best and I can’t even begin to thank them for everything they’ve been and done for me. I attempted to do it in my acknowledgements, but I don’t think I did them justice. And even though my mom was the brain child and the hustle behind this party, my dad did MORE than his fair share of the work getting the house into shape, running errands, and even picking up the dinosaur eggs (donuts) the morning of the event, and surprising a certain two year old with her very own blueberry donut. Ever since we started reading If You Give A Dog A Donut at bedtime, the girl has been obsessed.

On a side note, a party goer also sent me this picture after the party was over. When did my dad become a pushover about sweets?

My husband also wrangled BOTH kids all afternoon, and they did not make it easy on him. He deserved an award when it was all over. (No pictures of that dapper dude though. He prefers to remain mysterious on the blog front!)

If all of this party hoopla wasn’t enough, people even brought me gifts! Can you believe it!????

Insane.

They would hand me things in baggies and boxes and say something like, “We didn’t know what to get someone for a book launch!” My answer was “YOU GET THEM NOTHING!” The gift was that you BOUGHT MY BOOK and you CAME! THAT is the gift. Still, everyone’s generosity amazed, overwhelmed, and touched me deeply.

I am so blessed to be so well loved by so many amazing people.

So there you have it. A book launch like no other! Now I’m off to my kitchen. Those left overs aren’t going to eat themselves!

Plus a certain two year old also already tucked the T-Rex in for the night…so my job here is done!

How to Throw a fabulousbook launch-2

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

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.