Free 30-Minute Skype if You Tell Me What You Need from an Author Visit

May 26, 2015

What do your students need to know about (2)Now that the publication of my debut picture book is less than a year away, I’m starting to think about school visits. I love talking to kids about writing. I’ve talked about this before, but when I was a kid, I thought all my favorite authors lived in mansions with butlers, but were now dead. If I had known authors were living, ordinary people, I think I would have pursued writing seriously as a career twenty years sooner. Author visits are important.

I am working this summer on developing a program/presentation for school visits, and I have been thinking a lot about this great Nerdy Book Club post by Polly Holyoke: Teachers, Librarians, and Authors: Let’s Work Together to Make More Author Visits Happen. So, not to steal this concept too directly from Polly Holyoke, but: tell me what you need. I would love to come to your school and talk to your students, but I’d love it even more if I knew that the program I was presenting was helping you too.

If you are a teacher or school librarian, would you consider filling out this four-question survey for me? It’ll help me develop an author visit program that fits in best with school needs. To show my thanks, if you fill out the survey by July 31, 2015, I will do a 30-minute Skype with your class sometime during the 2015-2016 school year.

So far, teachers I’ve talked to seem to want real examples of how writing and revising work for a grown-up author. I could talk about this all day, so if that’s what most of you want, then that’s awesome. But I also want to know if there’s a specific curriculum need (especially in Maine, where I live) that you think I could help with. Do students need to be able to write plots? Vivid characters? Stories about bunnies? I can help.


CATEGORIES: class visits

Snappsy: Things are Happening!

May 23, 2015
Ramona enjoying the color illustrations in Snappsy.

Ramona enjoying the color illustrations in Snappsy.

Writing and publishing a book is a strange test on your perception of time. I spent 2013 working with my editor to make Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) the best it could be. I spent 2014 working on my bunny book with her, and not doing much on Snappsy. And now! Suddenly! All at once! Lots of Snappsy things are happening. It will be published February 2, 2016, which sounds far away, but at this point, to me, seems like it’s tomorrow.

Last week I saw all the illustrations in color for the first time. I’ve been loving the black-and-white sketches I’ve seen, but OH WOW seeing it in color was amazing. Tim Miller is a genius illustrator.

And now, if you’re so inclined, you can add Snappsy  to your Goodreads to-be-read list, and even pre-order it on Amazon. It’s not on Indiebound yet, and I’ll let you know when it is. And you can walk in to your local independent bookstore, ask about it, and buy a few more books while you’re there (I recommend I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty and illustrated by Mike Boldt, Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea, Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, In Mary’s Garden by Tina and Carson Kugler, Faraway Friends by Russ Cox, Goodnight Already! by Jory John and illustrated by Benji Davies, Tricky Vic and Templeton Gets His Wish by Greg Pizzoli, and Home by Carson Ellis.)




World Read Aloud Day with Mrs. Lussier

April 20, 2015

Cosmo likes to Skype too.Way back in March, when snow was still on the ground, I Skyped with a few classes for World Read Aloud Day. It was so fun. Anyone who thinks you can’t make a connection with students over Skype is just wrong. I love reading to students over Skype and answering all their questions.

I had a particularly great time reading to 1st and 2nd graders in Connecticut. I met their librarian, Mrs. Lussier, at nErDcampNNE in January. Those students are lucky to have such a passionate reader leading them — and go read her post to see the HUGE number of Skypes she did for World Read Aloud Day! I’m seriously impressed.

Reading I Don't Want to Be a Frog to Mrs. Lussier's libraryAnd I’m grateful that she said “Julie is enthusiastic, kind, passionate and clearly loves kids and children’s literature” and “Julie is terrific at reading aloud!” and “If you get a chance to have a school visit or skype with Ms. Falatko, you will enjoy every moment!” I swear I didn’t pay her even a little bit of money to say those things. But you should probably listen to her. She’s super smart.


CATEGORIES: books, class visits

Best Books Ever (so far in 2015) on the Let’s Get Busy podcast

April 12, 2015

Best Books Ever #LGBpodcastHi everyone! I’m excited to be part of a new segment on Busy Librarian Matthew Winner’s Let’s Get Busy podcast, where my best pal Carter Higgins and I talk about what books we love that came out in the last three months. We had so much fun talking about books, and as soon as we hung up, I thought of about twelve books I forgot to mention, so we’ll definitely have to do this again.

If you’re not already listening to the Let’s Get Busy podcast, you should be! Well, only if you’re interested in hearing children’s book authors and illustrators talk about their books. Matthew is a terrific interviewer, and I always, always, come away amazed, inspired, and impressed.

You can listen to me and Carter talk books here, or see the giant book list here (you should print it out and bring it to your library!).

(On a side note: I had only had one cup of coffee and was coming down with the flu when we recorded this, so if you listen and think, “I thought Julie would sound more awake and also be able to put nouns and verbs together more succinctly,” that’s why.)




Ellen Conford

March 23, 2015

When I was a kid, I didn’t realize authors were real people. I read all the time, but the books were my friends, not the authors. The characters in the books were so real to me, it didn’t make sense that anyone actually made them up.

My Holy Trifecta of Authors when I was in fifth grade was Paula Danziger, Norma Klein, and Ellen Conford. They wrote stories where the things that happened to the main characters were things that might happen to me. The girls in the books were a lot like I was. Maybe their parents split up, or they liked food a lot, or they only knew how to face life’s chaos with humor and exasperated shrugs.

Ellen Conford’s books especially resonated with me. Her characters seemed like teased-out versions of me and my friends, threads of similarity pulled out and woven together into a book. And I learned things too. I learned about shaving my legs in Hail, Hail, Camp Timberwood. Me and the Terrible Two made me appreciate being an only child who lived on a corner with no other kids around. The Luck of Pokey Bloom sent me scheming with various moneymaking adventures (none of which made a cent). And To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie, which was the closest thing to a horror novel I read as a kid, mostly put a healthy fear of strange men in me, and made me very, very glad for my normal suburban life.

But most of all there was The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations. This book! Not only did the main character and her friends seem so much like mine, but her name was actually Julie. Julie and her friends were hilarious, their life at school was ridiculous and real, and — probably in no small part because of our shared name — it seemed like Julie’s reactions to situations were exactly what mine would be. It was like reading about myself in an alternate reality.

As I got older, I understood in a vague way that children’s book authors were the ones who wrote the books, but a huge part of me still couldn’t grasp that the characters in the books weren’t real. Because they were. I see that now, that when an author creates someone well, that character is real to them, and becomes real to the reader. It’s magic though, trickery, wonder, and a very difficult concept for a 10-year-old in 1981. Or a 30-year-old in 2001.

When my oldest, Henry, was 4, we enrolled him in preschool. At Cottage Road Neighborhood School they studied music and cooking, put on plays every other week, and had a reading room piled with pillows. Henry loved it. I was in library school and reading huge piles of children’s books (for school! so fun). The couple that ran the school, Gloria and Michael, got pregnant, and their doctor told them that maybe Gloria shouldn’t shlep huge bags of books from the library to the preschoolers every week, so I volunteered to get the books for the rest of the year. Why not? I was in the library all the time anyway, and it’d be good librarian practice.

I was on the phone with Gloria talking about this, talking about the books I’d gotten on my initial runs, talking about how much I love children’s books. Gloria said, “Actually, Michael’s mother is…” and the name on the caller ID suddenly flashed in my memory. CONFORD. Michael’s mother is…Ellen Conford.

I burst into tears.

It was so weird. Ellen Conford was a real person? Not only was Ellen Conford a real person, but she had a son, and he was teaching musical theory to my 4-year-old?

Michael told me his mom had based a lot of the characters on him and his friends and I almost had to breathe into a paper bag.

Something shifted in me. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always loved children’s books. But it wasn’t until that moment that I really realized who children’s book authors were. They were real people. They were alive, and had families, and played Scrabble.

I could do it.

I never met Ellen Conford. I don’t know what I would have done. Fainted or thrown up on her shoes, most likely.

Ellen Conford died on Friday, March 20.

Thank you, Ellen Conford, for writing about real children. And thank you for being a real, human writer, so I could become a real, human writer too.




Excited to announce more books!

October 29, 2014

I am so, so excited to tell you all that I got two more picture book deals! Here is the official announcement:


Joanna Cardenas is the same editor I’ve been working with on Snappsy, and I am beyond thrilled to be working with her again. She is a genius editor, and we have similar taste in books and in words, which makes the whole revision process a total joy. I like revising anyway, but when there’s someone who suggests a new direction that cracks open a great new road for your story to go down, it’s magic.

Being a writer is so weird. It is still strange to me that these wacky stories are going to be out there in the world. But I’m super duper excited about it, too.


CATEGORIES: Uncategorized

Snappsy Updates

July 1, 2014

Work on Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) continues to move forward. I am so excited at every step of the way! I just really feel so super lucky that I’m in this spot. My story about a normal alligator and a meddling narrator will someday be a real book that you can all read (and buy! you should buy it.).

Tim Miller is doing amazing things with the illustrations, and believe it or not we’re nearing a point where Things will start to happen. Things like cover reveals and the ability to pre-order (when I say “nearing a point” I mean “within the next nine months” but that is amazing to me — so close! really!). I’ve seen some of Tim’s illustrations and every one of them makes me scream, “I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!” I’m hoping I stop having this spontaneous reaction by the time the book comes out, or reading it aloud to classrooms and bookstores is going to be weird and time-consuming.  Fall of 2015 is getting closer every day!


CATEGORIES: books, Julie, News

I have an illustrator!

April 8, 2014

If you’re not involved at all in the publishing world, it might be surprising how much waiting you do when making a book. If you are in the publishing world, it’s still kind of surprising. It’s a lot of waiting: waiting for people to read your words, to fix your words, to find someone to draw your words.

But it’s good. This is a book, with your name on it, so you want it to be a lovely thing. It’s not something to rush. Remember last July, when I announced that Viking would be publishing my debut picture book? Maybe you were wondering about updates. Well, my amazing editor, Joanna Cardenas, and I worked together to refine the text. The text was finalized in October, and then I held my breath and waited. Who would draw my words?

And now, finally, I can tell you: TIM MILLER. I am so happy I could cry. I did, actually. First, go to his website and look at his amazing art. Then go to his Instagram account and see! for the very first time! an initial sketch of Snappsy. (While you’re at it, why not follow him on Twitter too, if you do the Twitter thing.)

Tim, I’m thrilled, and so, so excited that we’re making our debut together. YAY!

CATEGORIES: books, Julie

Eli Turns 8 (with accompanying soundtrack)

February 12, 2014

This guy is 8 now. He likes to say he’s part Bigfoot. Which he might be. Since his feet are bigger than mine.

It’s been a few years since we’ve done a birthday mix, but Eli had enough songs he’s obsessed with right now to fill an hour. Need a snapshot into the brain of my kid? Here you go. I’ve included links to the music and “Monty Python skits” by my own kids.

I’ll leave you to figure out which songs Eli heard on his own, and which songs he heard in our house from his mother who treats every day like it’s her college radio show.

1. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson. Yeah, ok, this song is super catchy and now I love it too. Fine.

2. Dynamite by Taio Cruz. Thank you, last year’s 4th grade talent show, for this one.

3. Something Completely Different by Henry. A Monty-Python-inspired thought piece.

4. Mickey by Toni Basil. Yeah, sorry about that.

5. Tania by Camper Van Beethoven. Good song to inspire Eli, learning fiddle.

6. Ramona’s Mustache Song by Ramona. She sang this after the boys sang their mustache song, which is number 27.

7. Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard by Paul Simon.

8. Don’t Carry It All by The Decemberists. I just blew Eli’s mind when I told him that the people singing this song also wrote Wildwood. It was a mistake on my part. Now he’ll never think I’m cool. Also, Ramona thinks this song is about cleaning up your toys. Like: don’t carry it ALL, just carry whatever you can, bird by bird, to the toy box, until it’s clean, or until you throw a tantrum and get put down for a nap or whatever.

9. Britches Full of Stitches by Eli. I share this link, telling you that Eli hasn’t been playing fiddle for that long. I love these clips for what they’ll be later, when he’s better.

10. Rudie Can’t Fail by The Clash. Eli says, “I thought this song was total nonsense and gibberish until I listened to it more.”

11. Pressure Drop by The Specials.

12. Little Red Caboose by Zuzu. I think she’s supposed to be singing? It’s more of a monotone rap, really.

13. Bad Coffee by Ed’s Redeeming Qualities.

14. I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow.

15. It’s the End of the World As We Know It and I Feel Fine by R.E.M. I already said this somewhere, but I felt like I could check of some little parenting box when I taught Eli the importance of yelling, “Leonard Bernstein!” during this song.

16. Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper.

17. Finale from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Eli considers this scene in Bedknobs and Broomsticks to be the finest scene in the history of movies.

18. Bonnie Tammie Scolla by Eli. Another fiddle song. Henry sings on this one.

19. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins.

20. The ABCs by Ramona. It’s like she’s learning nothing in preschool.

21. Who Shot the Bartender? by Eli and Henry. This is audio evidence of our failure as parents. Our kids think British accents, bartenders, and guns are funny. I’m sorry. (I do super love Henry’s British Lady accent, though.) (And the part where he yells, “Avocado!”) (Ok, fine, I also maybe think this is audio evidence of our parental success. It’s hard to know.)

22. Vieux Amis by Victoria Williams. Another good fiddley song.

23. Friday I’m in Love by The Cure.

24. If I Should Fall from Grace with God by The Pogues.

25. The Lovecats by The Cure.

26. Little Red Caboose by Ramona. Her version of this, 12 seconds after hearing Zuzu’s version.

27. The Mustache Song by Eli and Henry. They’re justifiably proud of making this one up.



Boxing Day

December 26, 2013

This just in: I have decided that Boxing Day is my favorite holiday. Not because I give gifts to the servants. I…have no servants. Not like the rest of you.

And it’s also not my favorite holiday because of the great Elvis Costello song, which goes through my head every time I spell my last name out loud, since Falatko ends with T-K-O!

No, it’s my favorite holiday because all the work and stress and heightened expectations of Christmas are over, and the fridge is full of leftovers, and all the gifts are already open and we can just sit back and play with them and read them and wear them.

This December, Eli was asking me some very pointed questions about Santa, and we had a long, long, torturous talk in which I ultimately told him nothing, because it was clear he didn’t want to know, as evidenced by this re-enactment:

Eli: One part of me is saying, ‘Ask her!’ and the other part is saying, ‘You don’t want to know! There will be consequences!’
Julie: What kind of consequences?
Eli: Like I’d get hit by a bus.

So besides the fact that we need to work on Eli’s potential runaway imagination issues, I figured this was a year when I really had to ramp things up, magic-wise. We left Santa pralines, carrots, and hot cocoa with marshmallows. Eli wrote this note:

So the kids went to bed and Dave and I arranged the presents, and then he went to bed as I adjusted the stockings just so, and then, like some kind of parental amateur, I decided to open up the fireplace and sprinkle some soot on the hearth. For verity. Sure. Seemed like a fine idea.

Except then I was upstairs brushing my teeth and I looked down and saw SOOT, soot there on the bathroom floor, with the distinctive footprint, not of Santa’s boot, but of Julie’s sneaker. So then I was scurrying through the house, with a wad of paper towel, in my glasses and pajamas, frantically wiping up all of my sneakery sootprints, which led tellingly up the stairs and to my toothbrush.

And then I finally got into bed and there was a tickling itch in my throat, and I tried not to cough too loudly, because Dave was already asleep and snoring, but it was really irritating, and I kept having to get up to drink water, and I realized that I must have inhaled some soot and had now given myself Santa Lung and I just kept hoping that this was a curable condition and also that I would eventually be able to get to sleep and that the kids would think my frequent stomping out of bed for another glass of water was the merry tinkling of hoofbeats on the roof, instead of their polluted mother.

But all was fine, I guess, and the tots were excited in the morning to find that Santa wrote them a thank you letter on his own stationery (which I think he got from here) (hush now, it’s truly a letter from Santa).

So Christmas was lovely, really, and everyone was very joyful and excited, and OH BOY was it nice to wake up this morning and start putting away greenery while everyone contentedly kept themselves busy.

For instance, here’s Zuzu, wearing all the sparkly clothing she got, washing a window with her window washing kit, which she whisperingly told Dave, “Was all I really wanted.”

So Merry Merry Boxing Day to you! And me!


CATEGORIES: holidays
1 2 3 64