Book Launch!

HI Friends!

Phew! LOTS has been going on since the last time I popped in over here. The first being that EDGE OF EXTINCTION- CODE NAME FLOOD has been released! (Cue the happy dance, confetti, champagne corks, and glitter.)

I no longer feel the need to apologize for the cliffhanger ending of book one, because now you can finally find out WHAT IS IN LAKE MICHIGAN! Hint-It’s pretty awesome, and the illustration of said thing in Lake Michigan by the one and only Eric Deschamps is even better.

I’ve learned quite a lot in this first year of authoring (post to come on some of those lessons), and the launch of this book was quite a bit different than the launch of book one. For one thing, there actually WAS a launch! Two launches if we are being accurate.

I remember the night before my book came out last year. I had the same feeling I used to have the night before Christmas. I was that excited. And then the day of…not much happened. I did my normal mom routine, and I had friends and family send me pictures of their newly arrived books, and I felt my excitement turn into something more like the pre-race jitters I used to feel before running my leg of the 4×800 in high school-a combination of nerves and the desire to vomit or hide, or do both simultaneously.

Sigh, the joys of running long distance track. Gosh, I miss it.

Anyways.

That night my mom came over and my husband and I went out to eat, a rare thing with a two year old and a two month old at home. Of course, being only two weeks post-baby NOTHING I owned fit right, so I made due with a maxi skirt, which, let’s be honest people, is just a fancy way to wear yoga pants, and we hit up the local Barnes and Noble where I took a picture with my book on the shelf.

And that was it! Book launched! I sat at dinner that night and had a hard time talking with my husband, and it wasn’t just because we were out of practice carrying on full conversations without two small children flailing about in our midst…it was because I’d finally seen my book on the shelf, amongst ALL these other beautiful books, and it was terrifying. How was I going to convince people to spend their hard earned money on a book about dinosaurs of all things? How?

Fast forward to this book’s launch. Totally different ballgame. I had an event scheduled the day the book came out at my local library, and another signing scheduled for that night. I was actually LAUNCHING my book…crazy right?

The first event was at my local library, and it was AMAZING. If I had ten librarians on my side like this girl right here, I’d be on the best sellers list tomorrow.

And I’m not even joking about that.

The entire event was dinosaur themed (of course), and there was everything from a fossil expert with specimens the kids could touch and examine, to exploding dinosaur egg experiments, chiseling dinosaurs out of rock, guessing out much dinosaur poop was in a jar, and a survival hike.

The amazing 4Kids bookstore was on hand to sell books. (PS. If you’d like a SIGNED copy of CODE NAME FLOOD just contact 4Kids! They can ship you a signed and personalized copy!)

I did a short presentation for the kids while they had their “Desert with the Dinos” about some of the behind the scenes stuff that went into creating the covers for book one and two.

Afterwards I had a pretty impressive lineup of kids waiting to get their books signed.

It was AMAZING. And I got exactly ZERO photos of it. #authorfail. Oh well.

The second event was at the Barnes and Noble in Carmel, Indiana, and it was scheduled for six o’clock. I left with plenty of time to get there, and made the snap decision to go five minutes out of my way so I could restock on my go-to dinosaur gummies.

World Market is the ONLY place I’ve found that sells them (unless you want to spend 3x’s the normal amount on Amazon), and I use them for promotional purposes etc. (You can see some of the fun giveaways I put together for the library event  below. I had some EDGE OF EXTINCTION T-shirts bundled with the dummies and some dinosaur ring pops!)

Bad choice. I got stuck in a MAJOR traffic jam. I still managed to run  (literally run) in and grab every dinosaur gummy they had in stock and made it to Barnes and Noble ten minutes early. I’m usually a half hour early to signings, so I FELT late, even though I truly wasn’t. I was met at the door by one of my favorite store managers and escorted to the kid’s section at the back of the store, where a LINE OF PEOPLE WAS WAITING.

WAITING.

TEN MINUTES EARLY.

I about choked. This was a first. I was so flustered I didn’t even take the time to pull out my dinosaurs. I just sat down and started signing. SO COOL.

And again, ZERO pictures of said line. But I promise it was there.

So the book is launched, and to be honest, I wasn’t even really mentally prepared for it.

Because….drum roll please…..HarperCollins just signed me for two more books in 2018 and 2019. Go find that confetti and glitter again! No big deal if you can’t find it, I’ll happy dance and throw glitter for the both of us.

I can’t offer many details yet, but I can say that the next two books AREN’T more Edge of Extinction books. (Right now that series stands at just the two books. Never say never though…I’d love to write a few more books about Sky, Shawn and Todd!) Never fear though, if you liked EDGE, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this one too!

In order to make 2018 happen my amazing editor and I have been hustling to get edits done and off to copy editing before May 30, which you may recall was also the launch date for book two. Things have been busy in the best possible way.

Meanwhile my episode of The Read Aloud Revival went live! (You should just keep that glitter at hand come to think of it…)

Listening to it was equal parts exciting and terrifying. I’m still pinching myself that I had such an amazing opportunity, and I grin like an idiot every time I have my cup of coffee out of one of their amazing mugs.

If you’d like to listen to me talk about how to engage reluctant readers you can check it out here.

I was also featured in my town’s weekly newspaper. I got the cover! And… I look like a goober.

 

This is how my life usually works. Ha! I had an awesome time taking pictures for the story, and the very last shot the photographer took was the one that made the cover. She said, “Hey, pretend the dinosaur is kissing you!” So, because I follow directions to a fault, I did. When I got home I mentioned it to my husband, who said, “You did what?!” I shrugged, and reassured him that she took tons of other pictures, and I doubted that she’d use that one. Well, I was wrong.

When I mentioned the general dorkiness of the picture to a friend she said, and I quote. “It’s fine! Authors are supposed to be quirky.” Well, I nailed it then!

I was also featured in a pretty awesome interview and  book review by the one and only Middle Grade Ninja.

You may remember that I wrote a guest post for the blog last year. Well, I am now lucky enough to be in a writing critique group with the GRAND NINJA HIMSELF!

Life is funny that way. It turns out that he lives not far from me, and had I known that all those years I stalked his blog for agent interviews…well, let’s just say I would have found a way to introduce myself.

And last but not least, I was also interviewed over at Brock Eastman’s website. His questions are always some of my favorites, and he has been a HUGE supporter of the EDGE series from almost day one! (Have you read his books yet?! SO good.)

Sick of listening to me talk about books yet? I don’t blame you. I’m kind of sick of listening to me. But before I sign off, I wanted to thank ALL of you who have supported me on this author adventure. The last year has been a whirlwind of wonderful, and it wouldn’t have been possible without you guys. Thank you for reading my books, for talking about them to your friends, for reviewing them on Amazon and Goodreads, for showing up to book signings and for letting your child buy my book when I visited their school. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Signing off for now.

Laura

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Bucket Listing

Bucket Lists

Hi guys! I know I haven’t popped over to this little corner of the Internet for a while, but that’s because some serious writing has been happening! Hallelujah Amen! Part of that is due to the awesome writing group that I managed to score. They call themselves the YA Cannibals, but they let a humble middle-grade writer like myself join in the fun. There are a few published authors in the group, and a few who are still on the road to publishing, but I’ve really loved getting my work torn to shreds by them.

One of the main pieces of advice I tell young writers is to find a group of people who will read their work and be HONEST not just NICE. Nice people are great- don’t get me wrong. Hang out with lots of them, be friends with them, but don’t hand them your book because they will inevitably be nice and tell you it’s wonderful even if it’s not. SO! After my first session with the cannibals, I scraped together the pieces of my manuscript that they’d torn to shreds, and got to wrok piecing it back together into something even better. It’s a new project that I’m pretty excited about, and I can’t wait for you to read it someday!

BUT, a post has been swimming around in my mind for a while now, and I thought I’d get it written down so it could stop taking up brain space that needs to be devoted to other things!

So, here is my Author’s Bucket list of all the things I want to accomplish during this one wonderful crazy life that I’ve been blessed with. Although, I should really call it a Life List, since the characters in one of the books I’m currently working on think that Bucket Lists are down right depressing. But, I won’t tell them if you don’t! So here it goes.

  1. Get a starred review on Kirkus.

For those of you not in the publishing world, there are a few key places that review new books. These are the little blurbs you usually see posted on Amazon. The main ones are School Library Journal, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, ALA Booklist, and Kirkus. If these reviewing sources were people, the first three would be bouncy bright eyed cheerleaders waving their pom poms wildly, or over-caffeinated soccer moms on the sidelines wearing their MY KID is #1 t-shirt. And Kirkus? Well, he’d be the cool guy wearing aviators sulking on the sidelines and sneering at how dumb the players shoes happen to be. You get the picture. So when they review your book, you grit your teeth and hope for the best. BUT, every now and then they give a book a starred review. And dang it, I want one of those stars. I want it bad. So watch out Kirkus…I’m coming for you.

  1. Big Obnoxious Banner

I’ve attended a few of the BIG “Lets get a ton of authors in one place and sell lots of books” events, and I’ve really enjoyed them. But I have to tell you, someday, I want my table set up in front of a gigantic banner with my face on it ala Chris Grabenstein at the Books by the Banks event I attended. Not so much for the face part, because honestly that would be a little creepy to have staring at you all day, but because I want my table COVERED in books I’ve written. (Not that I don’t love just having Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan on my table, but I feel it’s getting lonely.) Lucky the second book in the series Edge of Extinction-Code Name Flood is coming out on May 30!

  1. Meet my Editor and Literary Agent in Person.

I have been incredibly blessed to work with two amazing women in my career thus far. The first is my literary agent Jodi Reamer. Guys, I still pinch myself when I tell people that she’s my agent. She was my dream agent, and I never in a million years thought I’d get to work with her. We’ve talked on the phone and emailed a ton, but I’ve never gotten to meet her in person, and I’d love to buy this girl a coffee or 500 coffees as a thank you for all she’s done for me.

The second person I’d love to meet would be my amazing editor at HarperCollins, and I’m not just saying that because she lives in Hawaii. (I know…lucky girl.) But like Jodi, we’ve emailed and talked quite a bit, but I’d love to sit down over a coffee with her someday. Without her my books wouldn’t even be a 10th of what they are today.

  1. YHBA Award

If you’re scratching your head over what YHBA is, then you are clearly not from Indiana. YHBA stands for the Young Hoosier Book Award, and it is a big hairy deal. As a teacher I tried to read all the YHBA selections every year, and my students would vote on which they thought should be the winner. Every time I’d take my troop of seventh graders into the media center for library time, I’d stare at that huge YHBA display and promise myself that one of my books would be on there someday.

  1. Be on the Read Aloud Revival Podcast

Okay guys, I’ve talked about the Read Aloud Revival before here, but I am SO excited to announce that I can CROSS THIS ONE OFF THE LIST! Sarah Mackenzie, the mastermind behind the Revival contacted me a while back, and I about fainted from excitement. I’d sent her a copy of my book last May when it first came out with a letter professing my love for her podcast, but never thought I’d hear from her. You see she interviews REAL authors. Like, tons of books to their name, accomplished 1-4 on my list years ago authors. Not début authors with one measly book to their name! But guys, my podcast with her airs on May 9! You can find all her amazing podcasts here.

  1. Travel to the U.K. for a book event.

As I’ve mentioned before the Edge of Extinction series is also published in the UK, with very different covers.

I’ve been contacted a few different times by schools or award coordinators from across the pond because my book is under consideration for something or other, but I’ve never been able to visit or attend any of the events. I’m in a season of life where dropping everything and flying that far away just isn’t feasible on either the kid front or the affordability front. BUT someday…I’m going to go for a fun book event and then be a tourist to my hearts content.

  1. Best Seller (Sorry. Cliché, I know.)

Oh come on, you had to see this one coming! I think it’s an automatic addition on EVERY author’s bucket list, and I’m no different. I would love for one of my books to really take off Rick Riordan and The Lightening Thief style, so that crates of my book are dropped off at Costco someday. (He had an instragram post about this a while back…and I just can’t get over it. A CRATE of books.) Moving on…

  1. A Sighting in the Wild

I’ve met a lot of people by this point who have read my book, which is always equal parts thrilling and terrifying. But I’ve never happened to spot someone reading my book when I was out and about, in a waiting room, or at the library etc. My cousin called me the first week EDGE came out and described how she’d spotted a boy reading it at the dentist office, and I was more jealous than if she’d gotten to share an Uber with Brad Pitt. I have no idea what I will DO when I actually do spot someone. Probably freak out and frighten them, but I can’t wait.

  1. Meet John Green

He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Indianapolis. I’ve read all of his books and professed my love for them more times than I can count. Fate will make this happen, I’m pretty positive. Also-rumor has it that he writes at a Starbucks some where on Meridian….and there are only so many of those. (Rubs hands together like evil villain.)

  1. Have my kids read my books

I think it will be fun someday to sit down with them and read the words that I’ve written. I’ll be able to tell them how they were only one or two when this one came out and show them their name in the acknowledgements section. And who knows, they may hate everything I’ve ever written. And I’ll probably be okay with that, because every reader has to find the books that speak to them. But I will protect my warm fuzzy image of them curled up with a copy of one of my books, and begging me to tell them what happens next. And, of course, I wont.

Let Your Adventure Style Pick Your Next Read!

Hi Everyone!

My fabulous editor recently sent me this little promotional gem that will be going out to a library near you, and I thought it was too cool not to share! It reminds me a lot of the Choose Your Own Adventure books that I used to read as a kid. (If you want to scale the mountain…turn to page ten. If you go back down the trail…turn to page fifty. Ahhhh the good old days.)

Also- if you are ever wondering how to make an author love you to pieces…check if your library has their book, and if they don’t…request it. It won’t cost you a penny, and said author might just give you a hug. Or two. Happy Reading!

Want to see it bigger? Click this link:

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UK Cover Reveal!

I’ve mentioned before that the UK cover for Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan looks different than the US version. Right?

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Well, in case you forgot, the US version is on the left and the UK is on the right.

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Big difference right!?  In the UK it is actually marketed more towards the Young Adult crowd, but here in the states we market it as Middle Grade. Please don’t ask me why. The powers that be are MUCH smarter than I am about this kind of thing, and I’m smart enough to leave it in their capable hands.

I did a reveal of the new Edge of Extinction-Code Name Flood cover a few posts back, but I wanted to show you the new UK cover for Edge of Extinction- Code Name Flood! Warning…it’s scary!

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What do you think?  I love that it captures the feeling of the original JAWS movie poster, and I think it’s neat that my book gets to wear a few different looks.

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So which one do you like better? I’m curious?

Have you pre-ordered Edge of Extinction-Code Name Flood yet? Here’s the link! 

Sunshine Maker

Sometimes I find it hard to write something on this little corner of the Internet. Not because I have nothing to say, in fact, quite the opposite. I have too many things to say. I write blog posts in my head all day long. Posts about the picture books I adore, posts about how to hook your kids on reading early, posts on writing, about parenting, about life in general. Sometimes I even think about writing about politics, at which point I give myself a little shake, and decide I really need to get more sleep and drink less coffee.

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The point is, that all day, while I’m writing those blog posts in my head, I’m also chasing these little tiny humans around who take up every spare minute of the day and have somehow wormed their way into the very fabric of who I am. I am mom. I am the kisser of boo boos and the one who holds their foreheads and, by some bizarre magic known only to mothers, knows if they have a fever or not.

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I read someone describe mothers once as the Sunshine Makers of their homes, and even though I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it, the words have become etched onto my heart.

I am the mother.

I am the Sunshine Maker.

If I start our day off with singing, and giggles, and funny dances, and extra kisses….it will be a good day. Even if there are toddler tantrums and spilled juice and play dough crumbs spread far and wide across my freshly vacuumed floor. It will be a good day.

Because I am the Sunshine Maker.

The moods of the two tiny people in my house, the general tone of their day, is on my shoulders. At least during the weekdays. During the weekend the Sunshine Maker role falls onto my husband’s shoulders as well, and I love sharing that with him.

A more commonplace way of putting it would be this. If mama ain’t happy…ain’t nobody happy. Truth.

But gosh. Being a Sunshine Maker…it’s not so easy some days. Especially when you were up all night with a sick kid, or darn it, you’d just like to fold the laundry by yourself for two minutes!

But. Regardless of the lack of sleep, or how I feel, or what kind of stress I have at the moment…I am the Sunshine Maker.

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Someday my kids will be older, and I won’t have the power to control every aspect of their day. I won’t get to dictate where we play or if we leave the house or not, or what they eat for every single meal. And, knowing me, that relinquishing of power is going to be hard. Because even though this Sunshine Maker stuff is tough at times. It’s also the stuff that makes my heart pull a Grinch and swell a few sizes to large.

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Being a parent can do that to you. These little tiny humans, learning to be functioning members of society, largely by trial and error, are the best things in the world.

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So all those blog posts that swirl in my head all day while I make lunches, and wipe noses, and pretend that I’m Kwazi the Octonaut…they never get written. I collapse at the end of the day, all sun shined out. Because making sunshine is bloody hard work. And sometimes I’m not as good at it as I would like to be. But luckily my two little people love me anyways. So friends, someday, when my kids are in school, or even when they are all grown up and forgetting to call me, I’ll have time to write those posts.

I’ll have time to tell you that my favorite picture book is this one, and that I will be giving it to everyone I know forever. I’ll have time to tell you that cuddling your babies, while they are still babies, and reading them book after book after book is one of the best things ever. That it will make them a reader. I’ll have time to tell you about this casserole that I make in bulk and freeze, and how it tastes like heaven in a bite mainly because it can be pulled out of the freezer and thrown directly into the oven without passing Go or Collecting 200 dollars. (Side note- I use Trader Joe’s brown rice in the casserole, and I add black beans and corn. Perfection.)

I’ll have time to write about my writing process, and how I don’t really have one. About how stories kind of churn around in my head and then I let them loose on paper. How writing still feels like a hobby, like something I should only be allowed to do once all my other chores are done, and how I don’t think that feeling will ever go away. And that I’m not sure I want it to.

I will tell you all that. And it will be witty, and charming, and funny, and loaded with pictures that weren’t taken on my Iphone. I’ll blog about how I finally took that sewing class I always wanted to take, or that trip, or about how my house is finally getting organized, and that all those projects I always wanted to do are now done. And then I’ll hit publish and send those blog posts into the great wide world, and I’ll look around my empty house. And I’ll probably cry a little. Because being a Sunshine Maker will have been the best thing I ever did with my life- even if I have shelves of books with the name Laura Martin on the binding.

Because I’ll let you in on a little secret. I don’t want to be remembered as an author. At least not by the two precious souls that call me mom. I want to be remembered as a Sunshine Maker. I want them to remember a mom with a smile on her face, who laughed, and made messes, and wasn’t perfect, but tried her best to be anyways. So. Good night friends. Go love on your little people for me. They don’t stay little long.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Are you busy making New Years Resolutions? Imagining a bright shiny new year where you will accomplish things, improve things, maintain things? I am. But then again, I’m a goals girl. A resolution maker. To be honest, I live for this stuff.

Every year I type out our family’s resolutions and post them on our peg board. (My husband participates because he loves me.) It’s always fun at the end of the year to pull that list down and see how things went.

One of the reasons that I do this every year is that I know the power of goal making. Case in point right here, this quote.

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It’s the reason I finally got my butt in gear about getting a book published. I decided that if I was going to get one published, I wanted to get it done before I turned 30/had kids. I added GET A BOOK PUBLISHED onto my New Years Resolutions list back on New Years 2009. And because my dream suddenly had a deadline, I started taking tangible steps towards making it a reality.

But, I will admit, that GET A BOOK PUBLISHED, got put on my resolutions list for MANY years, before I had the satisfaction of crossing it off my list in 2014. Some resolutions just take longer than a year, but remember….

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So this year, I thought I’d post my resolutions, at least my book related ones, here to keep me honest.

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Laura Martin’s Author Resolutions

  • Write a NEW book (Something fresh…brand new…probably without dinosaurs!)
  • Post to the Blog more regularly (I’m erratic at best…down right sketchy at worst about posting to this thing.)
  • Branch outside of Indiana with book promotion efforts (I’ve visited primarily Indiana schools and participated in Indiana events, but this year it’s time to visit some new places! Anyone have any suggestions where to start?)
  • Get a New Book Deal (With Edge of Extinction-Code Name Flood coming out in May 2017, the Edge of Extinction series is wrapped up…for now at least. But my goal is to get another book in the publishing pipeline this year. Cross your fingers, say a prayer, and wish me luck.)
  • Keep my office organized (Ha. This may be the most difficult. I am messy, and unorganized, and I bought a desk with NO STORAGE. It is essentially a glorified table. It looks nice, but where is a girl supposed to store her dinosaurs?!)
  • Dedicate a ½ hour every day to JUST writing…not book promotion, not blogging, not returning emails, just back to my roots writing. (This is one I’m looking forward to the most. My ‘writing time’ these days is usually more –‘book maintenance’ time. I need to start turning off my phone, disconnecting the internet, and opening up the imagination floodgates to see what happens.)
  • -Less Social Media/Internet distractions. I think social media is wonderful, but I also think that I pick up my phone to check the time and put it down a half hour later not sure where that time just went… It needs to stop.)

So there is my list. Sent out into the great wide web, and I think it will help keep me honest. I’ll post back at the end of 2017 to let you all know how I did.

On a more serious note, I wanted to take a quick moment to THANK all of you. This year was a big year for me. It was the year my very first book landed on bookshelves, and I am beyond thankful for every single person who read it.

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A story is not a story until it finds a reader, and I am not lying when I say that I have the very best readers.

You guys wrote reviews on Amazon and Good Reads, you showed up at book signings, you invited me to your schools, you instagramed, facebooked, and requested that your library buy my book. I just wanted to stay a huge thank you for all of that.

It was noticed.
It was appreciated.
And it means more to me than you will ever know.

As a writer, you pour so much of yourself into your book. I don’t want to be dramatic and say it’s like having another child, but it’s close. The words are chipped bit by bit from that something inside of you that makes you, you, and then you send those fragile little words out into the great big world and hope for the best. Thank you for being kind to my words. For diving whole-heartedly into the world of dinosaurs with Sky and her friends.

Thank you.

Really.

I hope all of you have a wonderful 2017 where all your resolutions and goals are met, and where you live big and dream bigger.

Happy New Years everyone!

Code Name Flood-Cover Reveal

So.

First an apology. I’ve been sitting on this cover reveal for, you know, forever. Or at least it seems like that. I was given the go-ahead to reveal away a few weeks ago, and then it sat on my to-do list getting stagnant. Not as stagnant as the leftovers in the back of my fridge I keep giving the stink eye, but close. And then Amazon beat me to it and took all the wind out of my sails. Which, as I already explained, I completely deserved. Oh well. Let’s pretend that didn’t happen and do the reveal here anyways. Shall we?

SO! Book TWO! The questions will be answered, and you will finally find out WHAT IS IN LAKE MICHIGAN!

Sorry for the cliff hanger ending on book one guys, really and truly. In my defense, when my book was sold to HarperCollins, it was sold as a two book deal, which meant I took my original manuscript and cut it in half to make two books. Well, not really in half. More like 70/30.  Either way. I had to make the middle of a book FEEL like an ending, or at least a little bit like an ending so there would be enough excitement left over for book two. It was hard. I’m not sure I did such a great job of it. BUT. Guys. Bear with me, because book two is good. Really good.

However.

I’m biased.

So clearly my judgement can’t be trusted. I’ll let you decide. Deal?

I detailed how the cover for book one evolved here. And I thought it would be nice to do something similar for book two.

Once again the amazing Eric Deschamps was tapped to do the cover design as well as the interior illustrations. (Spoiler-The interior illustrations are gooooooood.)

Similar to book one, I was told by the brilliant Powers-That-Be what scene they’d like to see on the cover. I whole heartedly agreed with their choice, but as soon as they mentioned the scene, I knew how I wanted the cover to look.

I wanted it to look like this.

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Image from here. 

(Those of you who know me well will know how hilarious this is since I’ve refused to watch the movie the entire way through. Every time it’s on TV I watch until the shark shows up. Then I peace out. Because-I’m a big chicken. The End.)

There is something wonderfully terrifying about this image isn’t there? I love the fact that you get to see what is below the water and above the water.

So the first sketch we got back from Eric looked like this.

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It was GREAT. But, just like with the cover for book one, I had a few things I wanted tweaked. Thankfully, Eric is a patient man.

The first was the Kronosauraus in the foreground. You’ll meet him in book two. So will Sky and her friends. That’s all I’m saying. BUT the problem was that his profile looked a little too similar to the Spinosaurus profile from the cover of book one. Totally my fault. I apparently have a thing for toothy, crocodile-like dinosaurs. (Although, if we’re being accurate the Kronosaurus is NOT a dinosaur. It’s a pre-historic marine reptile. But if you want to call it a swimming dinosaur, we can still be friends.)

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This was an easy tweak, and Eric just rotated the big guy so his fins were clearly visible. The other issue was our long-necked friend the Elasmosaurus. I was worried that in the original sketch his neck was a bit to bendy ala LochNess Monster.

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Image found here. 

Research has shown that while the Elasmosaurus was a fierce predator thanks to that neck, he couldn’t bend it like a swan.

Here was our next sketch.

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MUCH BETTER! My only remaining issue was with Sky. I don’t know why, but it didn’t look like her. So I made poor Eric mess around with her body placement. Arm up. Arm down.  Poor girl was doing the hokey pokey there for a bit. (I mentioned Eric was awesome right? And so very very patient. Bless him.)

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Then I asked him to work on her face. Don’t ask me why, but it just didn’t look like Sky, something about the eyebrows? Her hair? I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Thankfully Eric send me lots of options and I was able to pick one that felt a bit more like Sky.

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SO. Drumroll please!  Here is the FINAL Cover for Book two.

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If you had told me ten years ago that I would think a book with sea monsters on the cover was beautiful, I would have told you that you were crazy. But, remember this friends, when we achieve a life-long dream, it might not look the way we thought it would. Life is surprising that way.

I think they look nice together. Don’t you?

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I have huge prints of them hung over the desk in my office. And someday, when I clean all the paperwork, dog collars, random kid toys, pens, expired coupons, and clutter off my desk…I’ll post a picture to show you. But, since I’m kind of an atrocious housekeeper (I wasn’t kidding about the moldering leftovers in the back of the fridge)…I wouldn’t hold your breath on it.

Here is the fun part. I have a few ARC copies of Edge of Extinction-Code Name Flood sitting here, and I’d love to give one away! Want to win it? Here’s how you enter.

Post something about this giveaway OR about Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan on social media. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram…I’m not picky, but I love creativity! Copy and Paste the link to your post in the comments either here or on my Facebook account. BOOM you are entered! I’ll announce the winner next week Friday!  Good Luck!

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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.

 

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

Pasta-Strega Nona

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.