Kidlit Open Mic on Barnes & Noble’s blog

September 23, 2016

julie10croppedThe Barnes & Noble blog has this fun newish feature called Kidlit Open Mic (maybe there’s an adult one too? I don’t know) where they ask authors to share personal stories. There isn’t any guidance on what the authors can talk about, just that it should be a personal story, and around 300 words.

I’m honored to have been asked to be part of the picture book group. Go check it out! Because we were allowed to write about whatever we wanted, there is a really interesting mix of stories. I wrote about the time my dad took me to my first Broadway show. I’m up there with Kell Andrews, Cece Meng, Jessica Walton, Liz Wong, Ruth Ohi, and Isabel Campoy.

And many thanks to my neighbor Brian Reeves, who fielded my urgent text saying, “I need a photo for a blog post in the next three minutes…can you meet me in the street?” with grace, patience, efficiency, and proper equipment. (Also be sure you click through to Brian’s website, which right now features an art installation by my daughters, who often take over Brian’s house and art projects, which he also greets with grace and patience. I mean, who lets some neighborhood kids crash art installations and move stuff around? Brian does. And then teaches them electric guitar afterwards.)



Instagram giveaway

September 22, 2016

instagramgiveawayAre you on Instagram? I am…now! I finally entered the current decade and got a smartphone, so now I can be on Instagram. You can follow me if you’re interested in seeing what so far is mainly photos of my dogs. To celebrate my newfound Instagrammatical status, I’m doing a giveaway: rare, limited edition proofs of the Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) case cover (hard cover of the book) and jacket. Suitable for framing! Also a copy of the book, which I’ll sign if you want me to, and as many bookmarks as you need (as long as you don’t need, like, 1000). Check out the giveaway post on Instagram for info on how to enter — I’ll draw the winner next Tuesday morning (Sept. 27th, 2016).




August 31, 2016

I was asked by the amazing Ounce of Prevention Fund to join the #ShareYourWords campaign. The Ounce of Prevention focuses on early childhood education and “gives children in poverty the best chance for success in school and in life by advocating for and providing the highest-quality care and education from birth to age five.”

Watch the video to see what my favorite word is, and then make your own video and let me know what your favorite word is!


CATEGORIES: books, Uncategorized

New book deal announcement: The Great Indoors

August 3, 2016

I am very pleased to announce another book deal!


Everyone make sure you go run out and get Ruth’s book Where’s the Party? if you haven’t already. It’s SO GREAT.

I’m really pleased with how this story came out, and I can’t wait to see what Ruth does with it. This is one I had the idea for a while ago, and the book kept simmering. I wrote it about six different ways before I figured out the voice (usually I go at manuscripts the other way: voice first, then figure out what the story is). I was doing most of my writing on the literal sidelines: on the bleachers while my kids learned to swim, in the hallway while Ramona took a tumbling class. Writing was turtley: slow and steady.

And then finally I understood who was telling The Great Indoors and how I could approach it, and I finished a draft in the right voice. I was excited. I told Eli how excited I was about it, and what it was about.

He said the scariest words anyone can say to someone who has a shiny new manuscript: “Oh, we just read that story in class last week!”

After about three hours of panic (most of it involving me saying, “But what was it called?” because he couldn’t remember the title of the book they’d read in class), I found the other book and read it and PHEW. It was totally different. The only similarity was “animals in a house.”

(Here’s where I note that it could have been the same. That happens all the time, and you just have to make your story more You so it’s very different from the first story. The fact is, there aren’t really that many different ideas out there.)

Mostly I’m telling you all this to remind you that writing takes time, and sometimes you’ll approach a story twelve different ways before you realize how it should be, and sometimes all that takes even more time if you can only write for 40-minute stints. But 40 minutes is better than nothing, because you write and write and eventually it’s a book.

I love this story, and am so excited to be working with Rotem, and Ruth, and Disney-Hyperion!



Interviews up on One Bad Mother and Dickinson College magazine

July 15, 2016

Hi everyone! Two new things up today!

First, I’m interviewed on one of my very favorite podcasts in the world, One Bad Mother, talking about how I wrote a book with four kids and about giving myself permission to follow my dreams. We also talk about a Snappsy cocktail, puppies, and I get called a magical unicorn, so that’s fun.

I was also interviewed for my college alumni magazine. Head on over to the Dickinson College page to read about my career path, and also see a bonus Q&A with Snappsy himself.


CATEGORIES: Julie, Parenting, Snappsy, writing

Snappsy is getting a sequel!

July 12, 2016

Exciting news! There will be a second Snappsy book heading your way in the fall of 2017! Read all about it over at the Nerdy Book Club today!



This week: puppy, videos, readings, and more!

July 11, 2016

Here’s the weekly news roundup! (Don’t you like how I’m saying that, like that’s a thing I’ve ever done before?)

We got a puppy! Her name is Marlo. She’s from Tennessee and is part black lab part horse? moose? Something big. So far she’s a total dream puppy and mostly likes to hang out getting kibble out of puzzle toys.



Tim made a great video for Brightly where he’s reading Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)If you’ve been waiting to hear it in its entirety, now’s your chance (plus Tim does a great job reading it!).

Tim also talked to Papercuts about why he procrastinates.

I did a reading at my local toy store, Treehouse Toys, which was awesome.



And I went to the International Literacy Association conference where this huge line of people (!!!) waited for me to sign their book.


Also I made an alligator dress for the occasion.


Finally, I’m at Kidlit Summer School today, talking about how to get your stories to be fun and surprising with a writing and revision technique I call “the expoding sandwich.”



VIDEO: Snappsy is the perfect book for every occasion!

June 24, 2016

Have you been wondering if my book Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) is the right book for you? Or for your horse-loving nephew? The neighbor kid who wants to be in the CIA? Your son who loves baseball? That 8-year-old you know who is planning on joining the circus? Your farmer uncle? Your aunt the accountant? The college professor you always see at the bus stop? That weird old guy on the corner who threw an apple at you once?

The answer to all of these is YES. Don’t believe me? Look here:

(Many many thanks to my children, Sherman’s Books in Portland, and Josh Christie for helping me with this silliness.)


CATEGORIES: books, Snappsy

Storytime at Blue Bunny Books

June 23, 2016

Thank you to Blue Bunny Books for hosting me for a storytime on Tuesday, June 21. What a great bookstore!

Here I am showing off the surprise under the book jacket.

Here I am showing off the surprise under the book jacket.


Showing what Snappsy looked like in very early versions.

What Snappsy looked like in very early versions.



Early sketches for Snappsy. (I made a new alligator skirt! I know you were all worried about my lack of alligator skirts.)


I also showed this early Snappsy sketch. In early 2015, Tim was playing around with the character, and drew Snappsy in swim trunks, in a giant fur hat, as a cowboy. Usually when I show audiences this sketch, I say, “Here he is as George Washington.” On Tuesday, I said, “He’s Alexander Hamilton” and everyone gasped (it says a lot about Hamilton: An American Musical that all you have to do is say the name “Alexander Hamilton” and people get excited). A day later Eli said, “My name is Alligator Hamilton,” and so now it’s clear we should just get someone to stage an entire Hamilton the Alligator mashup play.


I met author Victoria J. Coe! Have you read her book Fenway and Hattie? Go get it! It's a middle grade novel told entirely from the point of view of an adorable, squirrel-chasing, needs-to-be-trained dog.

I met author Victoria J. Coe! Have you read her book Fenway and Hattie? Go get it! It’s a middle grade novel told entirely from the point of view of an adorable, squirrel-chasing, needs-to-be-trained dog.



Look at the giant blue bunny outside of Blue Bunny!



Ms. Bixby’s Last Day blog tour (who was MY Ms. Bixby?)

June 13, 2016



Here I am, with the task on focusing on one of my teachers who was like Ms. Bixby in Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. A good teacher. A really good one. The kind who makes school worth going to, and who changes your life for the better.

The thing is – lucky me – I’ve had a lot of good teachers.

Mrs. Figatner, who was barely taller than we kindergartners were, and made school something to look forward to.

Ms. Welsek, who wore high heels every day (including high-heeled sneakers on field day), called us all “Bubbles,” and, on one very memorable occasion, explained that farting was normal and everyone does it.

Mr. Gold, who taught history with the timing of a stand-up comedian.

Mr. Collins and David Rowland, the amazing theater teachers who taught me the magical addiction of being on a stage.

Mr. Block, who treated us all like we had something important to say, and who rocket-charged my love of reading and writing.

I would be a different person without them.

But when I think about the teacher who really influenced me, who really made me who I am,  I think of my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Wilbur.

Mrs. Wilbur was the quintessential 1970s librarian. Gray hair and glasses, comfortably round, and about 100 years old (in retrospect, she was probably not 100). Whenever we gathered for one of her storytimes, always in the same corner of the picture book section, she’d light a candle. The flame meant shhhh. It meant listen. It meant be still, for just a little while, because here comes a story.

And we did. We sat still on the floor and watched Mrs. Wilbur in her rocking chair, the candle on a table next to her, and listened while she read us books. That cozy corner, her soft voice, and the candle flame wrapped us in a cocoon that let us travel more easily through the magical portal into the book’s world.

I don’t light a candle when I read anymore. I don’t have to. Mrs. Wilbur gave me the key, and I don’t need an open flame to remember how to create a sacred space around words (both the ones I take in and the ones I put out). Mrs. Wilbur knew the importance of teaching a bunch of wiggly little kids that reading is magic, libraries are sacred, stories are transportive, and that it’s good to have cozy rituals to remind you of all of these things.

MsBixbysLastDay_Ecard_5Ms. Bixby’s Last Day is a novel about a great teacher, and three of her students who conspire to give her the “last day” she deserves. They grow, they learn, become stronger, and break some rules along the way.

This book is so well done, so good, with hints of the full story dropped just so, so you have to keep reading. The characters are utterly real and believable. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Topher, Steve, and Brand, and, of course, with Ms. Bixby.

I know I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. This will be an important book for a lot of kids. It’s so full of heart and honest love and humor.

Find out more information about this great book here, or read an excerpt here. And be sure to stop by the other stops on the Ms. Bixby’s Last Day blog tour:


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