When the Whistle Blows

I've Got an I-Graine OR Why I am "Fasting" From the Internet

Lately I’ve been feeling like a hamster on a little spinning wheel. Why? The Internet. The emails come without pause, like the tide. I answer one and three more pop up. As of four days ago I had almost 800 unanswered emails in my Inbox. And that doesn’t even count all of the others that I’ve squirreled away in other files, so I won’t see them constantly piling up. What began as a great way to stay connected has lately become nothing but a headache. A very big one. That’s right, I have an I-graine.

Recently, I took a deep breath and realized that there was no end in sight to this constant barrage of emails. I’m an author. The publishing industry communicates via email. It’s how I talk to my editor. It’s how I talk to my agent. It’s how teachers and librarians contact me to invite me to do school and Skype visits. It’s how I relate to other authors and find out about all the events that go on in my world – from writing conferences to book festivals. It’s all on the web.

And because it’s all there, I’ve found it’s where I spend the vast majority of my day. I turn it on as soon as I wake up, I check it before and after breakfast, during my daily tasks, before and after lunch, before and after dinner and often late into the night – not because I am addicted – but because if I do not constantly stem that tide of emails it becomes absolutely unmanageable. I receive over 100 a day. If I get behind, I never catch up. Thus, the 800 emails languishing in my Inbox.

Perhaps you can feel my pain: I am constantly running – mentally, emotionally and physically – to keep up with all these electronic tugs for my attention. I am constantly being called upon to respond, respond, respond. And I haven’t even mentioned the time and energy it takes to keep up with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog and the many other writing sites that I frequent. It’s like I have a computer screen glued between my eyes. I swear I think it’s on the verge of becoming part of my anatomy.

Realizing all this last week, I began to despair. I longed for a break, but saw nothing remotely resembling one in my future. The treadmill just keeps on turning. So I have decided to jump off. Not forever. Just for a while. As part of my Lenten observance this year, starting tomorrow and going all the way until Easter – I am “fasting” from the Internet. Including email.

That’s right. I am unplugging completely. It has taken quite a bit of preparation. In the past four days I have scrambled to take care of all of those 800 emails. And I actually have done it. So beginning tomorrow and going all the way until April 4th, if you email me, you will be greeted with a polite note saying that your email will be deleted, destroyed, pounded into submission, made magically invisible and caused to disappear!

I will be free!

Oh, don’t feel so bad. It’s not that I don’t want to be in contact with you. I do want contact. Really! I just don’t want the contact to be electronic anymore. At least for a while. My intent is not to cut off communication with my friends, family and colleagues. Actually, I am hoping that this little experiment of mine will enhance my relationships in all those spheres. So along with my note saying that your email will be deleted, I’ll also be giving out my contact information so that anyone who wants to can reach me.

Honestly, I have no idea how this whole thing will go. Maybe I’ll lose book sales and get fewer school visits as a result. Maybe I’ll become a has-been, forgotten in the dusty recesses of cyber space. On the other hand, maybe I'm on my way to becoming a mystic, a prophet, or just a little more relaxed. In any case, it will be an adventure. And as I go along I’ll be journaling about my experiences – whether I have withdrawal symptoms, what I miss, what I lose, what I gain. I am hoping that I’ll have more free time; more down time; more time to actually write (being a writer and all). Who knows, maybe I’ll even write a “How To” book about taking a break from the Internet.

Note to Publishers: if you are interested in a book proposal about my experiences over the next 40 days I’d love to hear from you! But be sure to CALL me. Because your email is going to be deleted. ☺
When the Whistle Blows

Children's Writers: Want to Go to a Free Children's Book Writing Conference?


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The Mid-Atlantic Region of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the Virginia Festival of the Book are presenting a fabulous lineup of authors this year. The Virginia Festival of the Book is a five-day annual event held in Charlottesville, Virginia, in conjunction with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The panels aimed at children's authors and children's book lovers are clustered on Saturday, March 20, 2010, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. The event is free to the public.

After a day of attending these fantastic free panels, definitely make plans to attend the Festival’s Author Reception at 6:00pm at the Paramount Theatre, which, like the Omni, is located on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. It is a great opportunity to wind down, get something to eat, and have a drink with your favorite author. The author reception costs $35.00 and it is recommended that you purchase your ticket(s) online in advance at:
http://authorsreception2010.eventbrite.com/. If you and your group do not wish to attend the author reception, there are many delicious restaurants within walking distance of the Festival venue on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall.

For more information about other Festival programs (there are many!), directions, and logistics, please check the Festival website at

Mid-Atlantic SCBWI is hosting the following three panels at the VFB:

Terrific Kids’ Novels Adults Will Love Too (10 a.m.)
Moderated by SCBWI member and author Barbara Kanninen
If you are writing for middle graders, this is the panel for you! Operation Yes is a finalist for the Cybil Award; When the Whistle Blows and The Last Newspaper Boy in America were in numerous Mock Newbery programs around the country; and Mockingbird and Leaving Gee’s Bend are getting great buzz prior to their upcoming releases. Come listen to these authors read from their works, discuss publication, and talk about all things middle grade writers need to know!

Fran Cannon Slayton (WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS)
Kathy Erskine (MOCKINGBIRD)
Sara Lewis Holmes (OPERATION YES!)

Getting Published: Picture Books to Young Adult (12 p.m.)
Moderated by SCBWI member and author Fran Cannon Slayton (yours truly!)
Want to get published in the children’s market? This is the panel for you! Deborah Heiligman was a 2009 National Book Award finalist and the winner of the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, Laura Rennert is both an author and a children’s book agent, and Bonnie Doerr, Emily Ecton, and Ruth Spiro have got the young adult, middle grade and picture book markets covered. Be ready with your questions!

Deborah Heiligman (CHARLES AND EMMA - Nonfiction)
Bonnie Doerr (ISLAND STING - YA)

Hot Young Adult & Teen Fiction (4 p.m.)
Moderated by SCBWI member and author Anne Marie Pace
Do you write YA? Come hear some of the hottest young adult authors around. Be prepared for a lesson in voice when you hear them read from their works, and definitely bring your questions about what works and what doesn’t in YA literature.

David Macinnis Gill (SOUL ENCHILADA)
Jennifer Hubbard (THE SECRET YEAR)
Amy Brecount White (FORGET HER NOTS)

Other panels you may be interested in that include SCBWI member/authors are:

Land Ho! Creating New Worlds in Any Genre (2 p.m.)
Moderated by SCBWI member and author Sara Lewis Holmes
Whether you’re writing fantasy, historical or contemporary fiction, world-building is part of your craft. Come listen to five authors discuss how to build believable, memorable worlds that readers will love falling into.

Suzanne Morgan Williams (BULL RIDER)
Keri Mikulski (SCREWBALL)
Stacy Nyikos (DRAGON WISHES)
Barrie Summy (I SO DON’T DO SPOOKY)

Dancing with the Manuscripts: Hooking an Editor on the First Page (2 p.m.)
This is a first page critique: email your first page to moseleys2010@gmail.com from February 1-March 12th; or submit it at the door. 250 word limit.

Fran Cannon Slayton (WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS)
Jennifer Elvgren (JOSIAS HOLD THE BOOK)

I hope you can come!

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Facebook users can RSVP to the event here, if you'd like: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=320443791214
When the Whistle Blows

Join me at BOOKS OF WONDER for my first book signing in NYC!

I want to invite you all to join me at my first book signing in New York City!  Here are the details:


Books of Wonder, Manhattan  



Ellen Hopkins - Tricks, Identical, Crank (Simon and Schuster) (YA) http://www.ellenhopkins.com/
J.T. Dutton - Freaked, Stranded (Harper Teen) (YA) http://www.jtdutton.com/home.html
Lisa Greenwald - My Life in Pink and Green (Amulet Books) (MG) http://www.lisagreenwald.com/books.html
Sydney Salter - My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, Jungle Crossing http://www.sydneysalter.com/
Ann Haywood Leal - Also Known as Harper (Henry Holt) (MG) http://www.annhaywoodleal.com/Ann_Haywood_Leal/Welcome.html
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows (Philomel/Penguin) (MG) http://www.francannonslayton.com
Albert Borris - Crash Into Me (YA)  http://www.albertborris.com/

I am hoping some of you might be in NYC for the SCBWI Conference and will be able to join us - it's going to be great fun - a panel discussion about our books and writing!

Here is your "official" invitation:  please RSVP if you can make it!  (And please tweet, blog or facebook about it if you don't mind!  We are hoping lots of people will come!)


Hope to see you there!
When the Whistle Blows

An Author Christmas

Lookie what Santa brought me for my Christmas tree this year! What a good guy!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year. We are coming up on the New Year and I am starting to think about what my resolutions might be. I always look at New Years as a fresh start; a new beginning; a time to create new routines that energize me and help me make the best use of each day. In the next couple of days I'll be working on a plan that will take me through the first quarter of the year. I'll let you know what I come up with.

How about you - do you have any New Year's resolutions yet?
When the Whistle Blows

Audio Version of When the Whistle Blows!

I recently spent a wonderful, whirlwind day in New York City watching When the Whistle Blows be recorded as an audio book. It was a fantastic experience!

Tim Ditlow, who brought my book to Brilliance Audio was there and it was a pleasure to finally meet him face to face.

Tim and I met at Grand Central Station (which I was extremely proud to have gotten to, by myself, in one piece!), and we immediately went to the recording studio where we met the studio engineer (who was so technologically proficient it made my head spin so fast I've forgotten his name), Peter Berkrot, the actor from the movie Caddyshack who reads When the Whistle Blows in the recording, and May Wuthrich, the incredible director of the audio version of my book. Here is a picture of Peter, me and Tim, and one of me and May:

The whole day was exciting, as I got to hear Peter make my characters - especially Jimmy - come alive in sound. As an author, having someone else read my work is always exciting. But it is monumentally exciting when it is read out loud to me by a professional actor! Wow. I was in heaven watching and listening and taking the whole experience in.

I had the wonderful opportunity to sit right next to May to watch her direct the audiobook as Peter read. It was amazing to me how she could pick up on little things that went wrong - from the wrong emphasis on, or mispronunciation of, a word to the sound of spit in Peter's mouth - truly! And did you know there is a remedy for the sound of spit in the audio business? Yes, there is. Granny Smith apples - no lie! When the actor's "mouth noises" get in the way, he or she can chomp a bite or two of Granny Smith apple and voila! No more mouth noise. And actually, I had a couple of bites of Granny Smith apple myself that day because . . .

May invited me to step into the recording book myself to read the Dedication of the book and its Foreword!! Yes, my voice will actually be on the recorded version of the book! Talk about exciting!

The interesting thing - at least for me, and probably for other authors out there - is that May mentioned that she knew that I could read well because she'd gone on my website and saw my video trailer, in which I read a few excerpts from the book. So if you are on the fence about whether to do a video trailer for your book - I can tell you from experience that sometimes they come in handy. If May hadn't seen it, maybe I wouldn't have had that wonderful opportunity. I'm so glad and appreciative that she took the time to watch my video and let me try. It was one of those experiences I'll remember for my entire life.

The audio version of When the Whistle Blows will be released January 20th, 2010 - next month!
When the Whistle Blows

Linn Oliver

Lin Oliver of SCBWI has had recent surgery. For those of you who would like to send her a card, here is the information from SCBWI:

[Lin] suffered chest pains on Friday and had a double bypass & valve replacement operation. She's doing well but she'll have to take things easy for the next few months. If you wish to send a card (no
calls or visits, please), send it to the SCBWI office at:

Lin Oliver
8271 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Our prayers are with you, Lin!
When the Whistle Blows

Gall Bladder Surgery!

Well, the gall bladder surgery I had on November 19th went very well and I am recovering quite nicely. Thanks to all my Facebook friends for all the good wishes. I'm still sore, but that's to be expected, and actually makes for some required relaxation for the rest of the year - always a silver lining!

I had to share this get well card from my friend and fellow author Patricia Murphy. Patty and I met at The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL this past summer during my book tour when she graciously included me in the writing camp she was hosting at the store. Patty is very funny, and I almost burst out of my stitches when I read her card tonight:

When the Whistle Blows

Skype School Visit!

 I had the wonderful opportunity to visit DC Everest Middle School in Wisconsin today, and I was able to do it in the comfort of my own office!  That's right, I had my first Skype visit, and it could not have been easier (or more fun!)

Yes, I'd heard of Skpying before, but truth be known, I really didn't know anything about it.  It seems scary.  Technological.  Something I needed special equipment for.  Wow, was I wrong!  All it took was an easy one-step download and a one practice phone call and I was in business.  When Beth Martin called me from DC Everest I had my Skype application open and my computer rang.  I answered and clicked on the video icon and there was a live video stream of Beth Martin talking to me from her school auditorium in Wisconsin!  There was a small picture of me in the bottom left hand corner of the screen as well, which Beth projected onto a video screen in the auditorium so all 70+ students could see me as I answered their questions.

It was an absolute blast!  Fortunately, my Skype visit was picked up by the local news in a wonderful story about Beth's innovative program at DC Everest, and so you can just click on the link below to see how it worked in the auditorium.


Pretty amazing!  There are many wonderful things about authors Skyping with schools.  First, it is less expensive for the schools.  Second, it is less time intensive and draining for the author.  It literally only took one half hour of my time.  It was fun.  It was easy.  The kids were great.  And I STILL got to eat dinner at home with my own family.  It doesn't get much better than that!

Count me in 100% as a new Skype fan!  I'm ready for my next school visit anywhere in the country!

When the Whistle Blows

(no subject)

Today I'm happy to introduce my guest - Susan VanHecke.  Susan is a columnist for Authorlink.com and author of not one, but TWO, newly released books:  Rock 'N' Roll Soldier and An Apple Pie for Dinner.

Welcome, Susan!!  You have a picture book and a young adult novel that have just come out within a month of each other - congratulations!  Tell us a little about them and the road to their publication.

Thanks!  Rock 'N' Roll Soldier is a Vietnam War memoir for young adults that I co-wrote with veteran Dean Ellis Kohler.  Dean was a teen guitar prodigy in 1966 when he landed a record deal for his garage rock band, the Satellites.  His draft notice arrived the same week.  Instead of giving up his rock star dreams, Dean wangled some instruments and equipment, taught a few fellow soldiers to play, and formed his own touring rock band right there in the war zone.  Ultimately, music became a lifeline for Dean, the band, and the thousands of combat-weary GIs they played for in increasingly dangerous terrain.  You can check out Dean's film footage, audio, and photos from Vietnam at www.RockNRollSoldierAMemoir.com.  They really bring the book to life – it's not often you're able to see and hear the characters you're reading about!

I met Dean nearly 10 years ago when I was writing a newspaper article on '60s garage rock bands.  When he told me the story of his Vietnam band, I knew it would make a great book.  I put together a proposal and got an agent, who pitched it to publishers of books for grown-ups.  The verdict:  Almost all of the editors said the book was too "'boy-scoutish," not enough blood and guts.  I was deeply disappointed, but I put the proposal away and moved on.  When I started writing for children four years ago, I dusted off the proposal, recast it as a YA, started shopping it, and got some bites.  HarperCollins ended up purchasing it in a pre-empt.   So, lesson learned, always believe in your story!

My picture book An Apple Pie For Dinner actually emerged from a writing exercise.  One of the reasons I wanted to try my hand at children's literature is that I felt the writing in my books for adults was getting too dense, too wordy.  I had the urge to strip and pare, to try to say the most with the least.  So to practice, I rewrote some of my favorite folktales using the simplest, sparest language I could.  One of those retellings became the easy-reading An Apple Pie For Dinner, which I sold to Marshall Cavendish.

Was the editing process difficult, given that the books came out so close together?  I'll bet you had your hands full!

It wasn't too hectic, since Pie had very few revisions, really just minor tweaks.  It was a blast to watch the book develop from words in my brain to the artist's sketches to layout to final artwork.  The illustrator, Carol Baicker-McKee, created the most amazing multi-media collages from bits of fabric and pipe cleaners and clay and odds and ends.  Makes you want to reach out and touch everything on the page.  You can take a look at www.AnApplePieForDinner.com.

Rock 'N' Roll Soldier, on the other hand, I had to rebuild from the ground up a couple of times, plus do some major cutting on top of that.  The trimming was the hardest part, deciding which of Dean's myriad wartime experiences – which ranged from the truly terrifying to the goofy and hilarious – to leave in, and then how to maintain continuity after all of the slicing and dicing.

Are An Apple Pie for Dinner and Rock 'N' Roll Soldier your first children's books?  Have you written other novels for the adult market?

Yes, these are my first two children's titles.  I've written and co-written several nonfiction books for adults, mostly music biography.  At this point, I'm most comfortable writing nonfiction and historical fiction, I need that framework of facts to feel safe!  I'm totally in awe of fiction writers who can dream up their own worlds and characters!  Maybe some day...

In addition to writing books you also write a monthly children's market column at Authorlink.com. Please tell us a little bit about your column.  Did you find it difficult to keep up with it while you were writing your books?
Authorlink.com is one of the oldest and largest online communities for the publishing industry.  I became their children's market columnist a few years ago, hoping I might learn more about the craft by interviewing kid-lit authors every month.  And that has so been the case.  I try to mix it up between writers of picture books, middle grade, and young adult, fiction and nonfiction, and I always get some terrific new insight from every interview.  Through the column and groups like SCBWI, I've found that children's authors are amazingly generous and supportive folks who truly care about their work, their audience, and their fellow writers.  I look forward to picking an author's brain every month!  When I was deep in the throes of Rock 'N' Roll Soldier revisions, the column was a welcome diversion, helped me recharge and get back at it.

What's next for you?

I'm currently wrapping up a middle grade nonfiction, Strike Up The Band: Amazing American Instrument Makers From Ragtime To Rock, for Boyds Mills Press.  It's a fun history of musical instrument companies Zildjian, Steinway, Martin, Conn, Ludwig, Hammond, Fender, and Moog that's loaded with wonderful pix and also touches on U.S. history and various musical genres and artists.  And I need to complete my middle grade historical fiction, The Girl In The Box, based on a true story of the Underground Railroad I ran across while researching my ancestors.  SCBWI kindly awarded me a WIP grant for it, so I don't want to let them down.  I need to finish up and make a sale!

Thanks for stopping by, Susan!  Congratulations on your new books!

When the Whistle Blows



SAVE SHRINKING VIOLET!  Help Tere keep her voice! 

My wonderful Class of 2k9 friend, Danielle Joseph, has a cool book that is about to go on back order and in order for more copies to be printed, more people have to place orders. 

Here's how you can help:  Please tell anyone that you think might be interested to place an order now before it's too late. Guys, girls, grandmas. grandpas, you're never too old to read humorous teen fiction!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/141659 6968 http://www.indiebound.org/book/97814165 96967 

Danielle is also running a contest on her blog for those that want to have some fun! There will be four winners, each receiving a $25 gift certificate to iTunes or the bookstore of their choice. So how can you win?

1. Post a review of Shrinking Violet on Amazon.com or B & N.com 2 points 

2. Blog, Tweet or Facebook about the Save Shrinking Violet Campaign 1 point for each mention 

3. Take a picture of yourself wearing a sweater and mimicking the book's cover (you must have the book in the photo too). 2 points 

Contest begins at 11pm on Thursday, September 24, 2009 and ends at 11pm on Thurday, October 15, 2009.

After you enter, you can either email Danielle at danielle(at)daniellejoseph(dot)com or leave a comment on her blog at