Category Archives: literary festival
Taped Reading from Over My Head
Here’s a video of me reading an excerpt from my YA novel Over My Head during Lucas Mangum’s Awesome Reading Fest in 3-D at the Doylestown Bookshop… Thanks, Lucas for setting this event up! It most definitely was awesome.
On the Radio!
When I was a teen I’d dreamed of this moment. The moment I’d be on the radio with people actually listening…
Well, okay, the dream was a bit different, and it went like this: I was just some ordinary kid hidden away in some ordinary suburban basement belting out songs I was listening to on my record player (yes, vinyl records…). But wait! Someone walking by hears me. Thinks, yes, this is the unusual voice everyone’s been looking for. That someone, of course, is a famous producer, and I, of course, am discovered.
Dream come true?
Well, maybe not. But I WAS on the radio last night, and, lucky for you, I wasn’t singing. And I was contacted by a producer. That happened on Tuesday. See? My Magic 8 Ball was right all along.
Here’s what happened. Over at the Liars Club blog I had done a post about the Collingswood Book Festival in NJ (which is tomorrow, and is free…come visit!), and NPR radio station WHYY was interested in talking about the fest and the panel my group the Liars Club was doing there on the revolutionary changes in today’s publishing.
So, presto! By Wednesday I was on a train into Philly to do the interview. Then sitting at the WHYY studios across from the very kind Newsworks Tonight host Dave Heller, who did not make me feel in the least bit nervous. And, I’m happy to report, I did not knock over that overly full styrofoam cup of water they’d set out in front of me. (I’m convinced they put it there as a test of some sort. I immediately slid the cup far far away from me, averting certain radio disaster, short-circuited wires, shooting flames, things like that.)
We talked about what it’s like to get published these days, about the growth of independent publishing, about the Liars Club, about how I write and why I do what I do. I also chatted a little about my books, including a bit about my newest upcoming novel DRAWN.
It was such a fun experience, and last night the show aired, and THAT’S when I got nervous. Seriously nervous. What if I’d misspoke? What if I sounded like a tool? Well, you can judge for yourself, and let me know what you think.
*To listen to the interview, just click here.
Thanks for having me, Newsworks Tonight. And thanks (from everyone) for not asking me to sing.
Great Day for Books at Collingswood Fest
Last Saturday, after several days of biblical deluge, the sun burst out and the crisp fall weather created the perfect setting for a book fair. I was fortunate to be a guest at the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ, signing copies of WHAT I MEANT… and chatting with passersby. Sold lots of books, which is always a thrill, and met lots of great authors and readers.
I also did a panel talk to a full house with fellow Liars Club authors Gregory Frost (Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet, Del Rey) and Jonathan Maberry (Rot and Ruin, Simon and Schuster). Our main subject was YA books. We talked about what makes a YA book different from an adult novel (the age of the protagonist, but the level of sophistication is the same or higher), what are some of the trends (sci fi is in, zombies are hot, vampires never die (!), but great and powerful stories are forever), and if it’s easier to sell YA than other fiction (ho boy, define EASY!).
While we were there, I was thrilled to meet Secrets of Droon series author Tony Abbott. His series was really huge in my house when the kids were smaller.
And I was also delighted to finally meet author Heidi Durrow face to face. Heidi lives on the opposite coast, and we first became friendly a few years back when she invited me to be a guest on her podcast Mixed Chicks Chat. The main protagonist in WHAT I MEANT… is biracial, so we had a lot to talk about. She still runs the podcast with actress/producer Fanshen Cox, and it’s the only live weekly show that covers the mixed-race experience. These
days, Heidi also is a published author. Her novel The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Algonquin) also features a protagonist who is biracial. I’m reading her novel now, and it’s phenomenal.
Kudos to the organizers of the Collingswood Book Festival! Everything there was just right.
Collingswood Book Festival Coming!
On Saturday, Oct. 2nd, the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ will be packed with authors of all genres. It’s free, it’s fun, and you gotta be there. Especially if you are interested in young adult fiction.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. you’ll also find the following YA authors there, hanging out and signing: Marie Lamba, yeah, that’s me (WHAT I MEANT…) , Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars series), Jonathan Maberry (who just released his first YA, Rot and Ruin), and Gregory Frost (Lord Tophet).
Plus we will be doing a special Young Adult Lit Panel Discussion at 1:30 p.m… Sara will share what it’s like to have your books translated into a major TV series…Jonathan will talk about shifting from adult to young adult novels… Gregory and I will share the challenges that YA authors face in the market today. Plus we will answer audience questions!
For the Facebook invite, click here. If you RSVP to the invite, you can then go ahead and invite your own friends through that page, and spread the word to anyone you know who might also be interested.
We hope to see you there!
Come Party at Fab Indie Trappe Book Center
Independent bookstores are taking a huge hit around the country, many of them closing down because they have been forsaken by patrons in favor of online retailers or chain bookstores. But if you love books, you have to love independent bookstores. That means you have to support them so you’ll always have that cool store where you can hang out and browse titles you won’t find on chain store shelves. So you’ll always have a place where the seller knows EVERYTHING about books, and can steer you in the right direction when you are looking for a certain type of read.
That’s why me and my buds at the Philly Liars Club have been on our “Truth Tour” throwing a series of parties to celebrate our fav indie bookstores. Next is our “Liars Tell the Truth about the Trappe Book Center” bash, which will be held at the store, located on 130 W. Main Street in Collegeville, PA on Saturday, April 17th from 1-3 p.m. This event, which is free and open to the public, features free goodies, eight authors, and chances to win prizes that include book bags and signed books. There will even be a story time for kids, featuring an original picture book manuscript read by author Keith Strunk.
The Philly Liar’s Club is a group of professional writers who basically lie for a living. Visitors to the April 17th celebration will get to play Truth or Lie games for prizes, and will enjoy hanging out with the following Liars: Stoker and Nebula nominated fantasy author Gregory Frost (titles include Shadowbridge, and Lord Tophet, Del Rey/Random House); author of dynamic forensics thrillers Jon McGoran, who writes as D.H. Dublin (titles include Freezer Burn, Berkley); women’s contemporary fiction author Kelly Simmons (Standing Still, Washington Square Press/Simon and Schuster); celebrated crime writer Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, St. Martin’s); social media guru and magazine feature writer Don Lafferty; popular author of young adult novels Marie Lamba (What I Meant…, Random House); best selling mystery novelist Merry Jones (titles include The Borrowed and Blue Murders, Minotaur Books); and actor, playwright and historian Keith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton, Arcadia Publishing Images of America Series).
“We’ll be there partying to highlight all that is wonderful about Trappe Book Center,” says author Merry Jones. “Independent bookstores are special places, each with their own personality. We want everyone to think of the indies first when it comes to purchasing a book. They offer everything the competition does, and then some.”
At Trappe Book Center, for example, visitors can browse through the store’s extensive stock, which highlights a unique collection of books that you won’t find at any megastore. “We have excellent customer service, and really know our titles,” says Kit Little, Trappe’s marketing manager. “But if you don’t see what you want here, we have access to over four million titles – virtually any book in print. Just let us know, and we’ll get that book to you usually within two days.” Orders can be placed in person, over the phone, or by visiting www.trappebookcenter.com.
“The best part is that when you buy from an indie like Trappe Book Center, you are keeping your dollars local, and benefiting your own community,” says author Jon McGoran.
Locally owned and operated, Trappe Book Center serves as a hub of cultural activity for the area. They offer book clubs for adults and kids, free literary events, and they often work with organizations to help them fundraise for important local causes. The store has conducted a Battle of the Books to celebrate literacy, and has run an Angel Tree over the holidays to provide books for local children in need. “We are always seeking new ways to be involved in our community,” says Little, who points out that the store also works with over 200 local schools to help with events, fundraising and special programs.
“I can’t imagine what life would be like without wonderful independent bookstores like this,” says author Kelly Simmons. “Come out to this party, and show this store you value indies everywhere. It’s going to be a blast. Hey, would I lie?”
For more information, or to reserve a copy of an author’s book before the event, call the Trappe Book Center at 610-454-0640.
Book Review: Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine
Right after her wonderful novel Ella Enchanted came out, my daughters and I were lucky enough to meet the author, Gail Carson Levine, at the New York is Book Country Festival. My girls got their book signed, posed for a picture with the author, and truly felt as if they had met a star. I felt that way too, because Carson Levine is obviously a very kind, as well as talented person.
Now, a few years later, I’m the author of my own YA novel, and I was asked by the fab independent bookstore Aaron’s Books in Lititz to teach a writing workshop to teens during the bookstore’s exciting Kid Lit Festival, which they just held last weekend. Of course I went to the library to do a little preliminary research. Imagine my delight when I found on the shelves Carson Levine’s Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly (Collins, 2006). This is a wonderful book for kids who are interested in learning how to write fiction. Carson Levine’s warm and witty voice comes through on every page, gently guiding young writers to explore different aspects of writing, and ending each chapter with the positive message: “Save what you wrote” because everything that you do write has value.
Short chapters cover things like voice, getting started, getting unstuck, creating tension, humor. And each chapter has a bunch of enjoyable exercises that will send young writers off creating over and over again. The use of examples from her own literary struggles, and a good sprinkling of magical elements inspired by her own fiction, lighten the tone and make the reader feel as if she is sitting at the workshop table with the author, having some inspiring fun.
I think that this would make the perfect gift for the young writers in your life, whether they are in elementary school or high school. And for us slightly older kids, well, the energy in these pages feels infectious, reconnecting you with the joy and wonder of creating. Definitely check this one out. Magic!
Womrath’s: Celebrating 60 years of Indie Bookselling
***You are invited to come celebrate with us on Saturday, November 7th, noon-3 p.m., when we throw a huge 60th Anniversary Bash for Womrath’s Bookstore in Tenafly, NJ. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Sgt. Harry Fund, helping disabled veterans achieve a better life…So you can start your holiday shopping, support a great indie bookstore, and help wounded vets! ***
On the final day of World War II, Sgt. Harry Kutik was shot 13 times and left on the battlefield. But this wasn’t the end of his life, it was the beginning of new challenges, and of his remarkable independent bookstore: Womrath’s. Sixty years later, Kutik’s family has a proud legacy of quality bookselling and service, all because one courageous man never let anything hold him back. And now, everyone is invited to celebrate when The Philly Liars Club throws its special 60th Anniversary Bash for Womrath’s Bookstore on Saturday, November 7th from noon-3 p.m. at the store located at 12 Washington Street in Tenafly. The free party includes munchies, trivia games, a host of authors, and prizes and giveaways including signed books and book bags.
As some of you may already know, the Philly Liars Club, of which I’m a member, is a group of professional writers who basically lie for a living. The Womrath’s bash is part of our “Truth Tour,” a series of parties celebrating independent bookstores. At the Womrath’s party, you can hang out with Bram Stoker award-winner Jonathan Maberry (Patient Zero, St. Martin’s), fantasy author Gregory Frost (Shadowbridge, and Lord Tophet, Del Rey/Random House), young adult novelist Marie Lamba…that’s me… (What I Meant…, Random House), crime author Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, St. Martin’s), mystery writer Jon McGoran who writes as D.H. Dublin (Freezer Burn, Berkley), historical author Keith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton, Arcadia Publishing Images of America Series), novelist Kelly Simmons (Standing Still, Washington Square Press/Simon and Schuster), mystery author Merry Jones (The Borrowed and Blue Murders, Minotaur Books), renowned Poe scholar Ed Pettit, and social media marketing consultant, writer and lecturer Don Lafferty.
“There’s an alarming trend of independent bookstores being squeezed out by chains and online retailers,” says author Merry Jones. “This is something we can reverse. If we love an indie, we have to show our support by going to them first when we want a gift card, or a holiday present, or visiting their online site when we want to order books that way.”
I completely agree. In a world that is increasingly generic, where chain bookstores are the same everywhere, and where nobody knows your name, independent bookstores are a haven for any book lover. They are filled with handpicked books, with a staff that knows their titles, and, above all, with personality. This is especially true at Womrath’s Bookstore, where the indomitable spirit of Sgt. Harry Kutik lives on.
Even though Sgt. Kutik’s war wounds kept him in the hospital for years, and his injuries left him a paraplegic, his will was strong, and his will to help even stronger. “My father was outgoing and optimistic,” says Bob Kutik, who, along with his wife Sheila, now owns the store. “He wouldn’t let anything stop him, and there wasn’t a mean bone in his body. Plus he would never say no to someone in need. He was quite an inspiration.”
Shortly after the war, Sgt. Kutik’s cheerful and independent spirit caught the attention of a disabled veterans group called the 52 Week Club. They selected him for a pilot program aimed at finding businesses that disabled vets could run themselves, a fairly revolutionary idea in the 1940’s. The group approached Womrath’s, which at the time was a franchise with more than 37 branches. The company agreed to open a branch with Kutik at the helm. The store was designed with aisles wide enough for Harry’s wheelchair, and shelves low enough for him to reach.
For many years, Sgt. Kutik operated successfully, guided by his philosophy of exceeding a customer’s expectations. Twelve years ago, Sgt. Kutik passed away. The business, originally in Hackensack, relocated to Tenafly in 2001, but Sgt. Kutik’s legacy lives on, and to this day, Womrath’s continuously strives to exceed a customer’s expectations.
“Womrath’s Bookstore offers everything the competition does, plus more,” says author Gregory Frost. He points out that by stopping in, calling the store or visiting http://www.womraths.com, you can order any title quickly, whether the store stocks it or not. They even will ship orders. For unsure gift-givers, the store sells gift certificates. And repeat customers can enjoy a preferred readers club, earning points toward a $10 coupon. “Best of all, by ordering through Womrath’s you are benefiting a local business. One that offers a unique shopping experience, and that showcases titles you won’t find in any of those megastores.”
“I went into the business because, like my father, I wanted to help people the best way I knew how,” says Kutik. “The right book can change a life, and I can put that book in someone’s hand.” Every title on their shelves is hand-selected by the staff, based on the tastes of its customers. In addition to general titles, the store has also carries plenty of local interest books, and greeting cards depicting local scenes by area artists and photographers. And for shoppers who aren’t sure which book to buy next, the knowledgeable staff has over 50 years of bookselling experience, plus they read over 300 books a year, meaning that they can personally recommend a vast array of books to their customers.
After years of high quality service, this bookstore truly has a lot to celebrate. Imagining what Sgt. Kutik would think of Womrath’s 60th anniversary celebration, Bob Kutik says, “I think that my father would have a big smile on his face. He’d be so proud that the work he started has lived on, and that we tried to continue it his way, serving the community in a friendly and helpful manner. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”
“You can see that independent bookstores are so much more than shops,” says author Jon McGoran. “They are the heart and soul of a community. We members of the Philly Liars Club hope everyone feels the same and joins us at this bash to show how strongly we all support this local gem. It’s going to be a great party – no lie.”
For more information, or to reserve a copy of an author’s book before the event, call Womrath’s Bookstore at 201-568-8857.
New Book Fest at Chestnut Hill!
Chestnut Hill, PA is on the outskirts of Philly…close enough to have an urban feel, with hip shops, restaurants, and a vibe of culture…far enough that it has massive leafy trees and truly incredible homes. Seriously, they are stone castles. The people of Chestnut Hill are also urban hip. So when this town decides to throw its first book fair, you know it’s going to smoke!
The first ever Chestnut Hill Book Fair will kick off on Friday, July 10, and continue through Saturday and Sunday, July 11 and 12. There will be panel discussions, activities, readings and book signings. For the kiddies there are plenty of picture book authors doing their stuff, along with performances, and a green eggs and ham brunch! I’m so proud to be a part of it. I’ll be there on Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, July 11, from 2-4 p.m., visitors can catch me at the lovely Robertson’s Flowers, 8501 Germantown Ave in Chestnut Hill. I’ll be hanging out, doing a reading, and happy to chat about writing, my novel, life in general. And I’ll be signing copies of my young adult novel What I Meant… Since part of my novel takes place in Philly, and in Doylestown, a suburb not too far away, I’m sure I’ll feel right at home. P.S.: It’s free!
On Sunday the 12th, from 2:30-4 p.m., I’ll be in the Bombay Room at the Chestnut Hill Hotel (8229 Germantown Ave, Chestnut Hill) on a panel talking about “Tips for Marketing Your Book.” Among the other panelists who will be there is fellow Philly Liar’s Club author Kelly Simmons (who wrote the wonderful novel StandingStill). We’ll share how you can get your book noticed, revealing some unorthodox but completely doable ideas of our own. The panel is one of several aspiring writer workshops being sponsored throughout the weekend by Philadelphia Stories, a magazine that publishes great fiction, poetry and art from folks in the region. Each workshop costs $10.
A bit more about the Philly Liar’s Club: we are 13 professional writers who basically lie for a living. This is one talented as well as warm bunch of authors, and I am so proud to be their newest member. Speaking of Liars, you can also catch some of my other Liar buds throughout the festival. On Friday evening from 8:30-10 p.m. (Magarity Ford Site, 8200 Germantown Ave), there is a 100% Liars mystery panel featuring Ed Pettit (renowned Poe scholar), Jon McGoran (aka D.H. Dublin, Freezer Burn), Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief), Kelly Simmons (Standing Still), and Merry Jones (The Borrowed and Blue Murders). I wish I’d written a mystery so I could sit in on that one. Kelly Simmons will also be signing at the Borders, 8705 Germantown Ave at noon. And another warm and wonderful Liar, paranormal novelist L.A. Banks (author of the 12 book series on Minion: A Vampire Huntress Legend) will be signing on Saturday, 11:30 a.m., at the Magarity Showroom, 8200 Germantown.
Liars aside, there are also SO many wonderful authors coming. Authors that I adore as both writers and as friends. Here’s a sampling: Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars), Nancy Viau (Samantha Hansen has Rocks in her Head), Linda Wisniewski (Off Kilter), and Elizabeth Mosier (My Life as a Girl). There is so much going on, you’ll just have to check out the book fair’s site to get it all in.
Truly, this is going to be one rocking event.
Clinton Book Shop is one Cool Independent
The really great part about this is that I get to interview bookstore staff and hear all this cool stuff about the shops and what they’re doing. For example, our next stop is at Clinton Book Shop in Clinton, NJ, June 20th from 1-3 p.m. The store is located at 33 Main Street in Clinton, NJ, and it is way cool. For starters, it is the only dog-friendly bookstore in the state! So anyone can bring in their pooch and browse. They even have dog treats at the counter. My evil poodle would love that. Too bad she gets car sick…
At our free event, “Liars Tell the Truth about Clinton Book Shop,” anyone (including dogs) can come in, nibble on free goodies (there will be stuff for humans, I promise), hang out with the authors, and play Truth or Lie trivia games for tons of prizes including book bags and signed books. There will even be a story time for kids, featuring an original picture book manuscript read by author Keith Strunk.
So who will you get to meet? There’s me, (signing my young adult novel What I Meant…, Random House), Bram Stoker award-winner Jonathan Maberry (Patient Zero, St. Martin’s), debut crime novelist Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, St. Martin’s), mystery author Jon McGoran who writes as D.H. Dublin (Freezer Burn, Berkley), historical authorKeith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton, Arcadia Publishing Images of America Series), and social media guru Donald Lafferty.
One thing I learned about Clinton Book Shop is that even though it is small and cozy, purchases there aren’t limited to its excellent collection on its shelves. You can get any book from them by stopping in, calling the store or going to www.clintonbookshop.com. Special orders usually arrive within two days. Best of all, by ordering through them you are benefiting a local business, one that offers a unique shopping experience, and that showcases titles you won’t find in any of those megastores.
Clinton Book Shop manager Rob Dougherty agrees. “We understand that we’re a part of a small town and community. We understand the people that come here and we work hard to meet their needs.” That translates into carrying titles of special interest to patrons. Also, the staff prides itself on knowing its stock inside and out, and that’s why they are especially skilled at recommending books to customers looking for their next read. “I’ve never seen a single customer come back to complain that they didn’t enjoy a book that our staff had hand sold them,” Dougherty says. “That is saying something.”
Other ways the staff caters to its customers includes a loyalty shopper’s discount card, hosting book clubs including “The Politically Incorrect Book Club,” and an array of exciting literary events, including the upcoming nationwide book launch of author Maryann McFadden’s newest novel So Happy Together (Hyperion) on July 7th.
The bookstore is so connected to the community because for owner Harvey Finkel, Clinton is home. Finkel, a long-time area resident, has served as a board member of Habitat for Humanity, and, through the store, he has supported local and private schools and contributed to regional non-profits. He is also a founding member of “Hunterdon First,” a newly formed non-profit supporting independently owned and operated businesses throughout the county. His own store’s entire philosophy is focused on benefiting his community. “That’s why it is so important to buy books from a local independent bookstore,” says Donald Lafferty, a social media guru who specializes in networking. “It’s like one big network. You spend your dollars at the Clinton Book Shop, and your money stays in this community. It’s all connected, and it truly makes a difference right where you live.”
Clinton Book Shop customers are understandably loyal – something that Dougherty especially appreciates. “It’s so cool when customers know what kind of coffee you drink and they bring it for you. And support from our customers during these tough economic times has been great. It means a lot.”
“This town’s unique architecture and independently owned stores are what give Clinton its authentic small-town charm,” says historic author Keith Strunk. “I can’t imagine a place like this filled with chain stores. We hope everyone feels the same and comes to our Liar’s Club party to show the Clinton Book Shop how strongly they support this local gem. It’s going to be a really fun celebration – honest!”
For more information, or to reserve a copy of an author’s book before the June 20th event, call the Clinton Book Shop at 908-735-8811. I hope to see you there. And if you don’t live in the area, you can still show your support by buying your next book from your local independent bookstore. Go ahead. Do it now!