Monday, October 31, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - A Ghost Story that's not just for Halloween! AND pics of Richard Peck visit AND a giveaway!

Whew!  That's a lot to pack into a blog post.  But I'll try to do it all as briefly as possible so you can get on with your day.  Oh, and Happy Halloween.  Feels more like December here in the Northeast US!  Hope y'all didn't lose power.

First, the MMGM feature:  LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver, illustrated by Kei Acedera (9780062014511, HarperCollins, October 2011, for ages 8 to 12).

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.  

Why I liked it:  The writing is gorgeous (which one would expect from Lauren Oliver); the language is luminous and lovely.  And the story is moving.  It reads like a fable or an original fairy tale (the plot hinges on several amazing coincidences). And despite the gloominess of the subject, there is quite a bit of humor. This is a very unusual ghost story because it's more about loss and grief and finding unexpected friendships than about scaring the reader.  In fact, Po is my favorite character.  It's nearly impossible to say much more about this book without spoiling the plot.  Just go read it!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger (and if you haven't congratulated her yet on her amazing book deal, hop on over there). Other regulars include (but are not limited to):

Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming (and go congratulate her on her agent!)
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now 
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Barbara Watson at her blog
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso
Pam Torres at So I'm Fifty
Ms. Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads
Danika Dinsmore at The Accidental Novelist
Jennifer Rumberger at her blog 


 ...for part two of this post.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I'm a bookseller as well as a writer, and last Monday evening Richard Peck visited the store to sign his new novel Secrets at Sea. He was charming and personable and a true gentleman. His speech was funny and entertaining.

And yes he did talk quite a bit about writing.  He didn't start writing until he was 37 (which made writer Kim Wheedleton very happy).  He writes a book a year and has written 40 of them.  And believe it or not, he still writes all his books on an electric typewriter.  Richard said, "It has to look like a book" right from the beginning.  He writes each page six times, then when he thinks it's just right, "I take out another 20 words," because you can always take out 20 words.

The cure for writers' block, according to Richard Peck, is to just "stay at the desk."  He used to think he needed to go for a run, but that didn't solve it.   He also said writers should read the newspaper, because that's where a lot of his ideas come from. In fact, he spoke at length about Three Quarters Dead, his most recent YA novel (which creeped me out) and he said he got the idea from a news story about five teenagers who died in a car accident because the driver was texting.  You can imagine what he thinks about technology!  He also admitted he couldn't write it at night because it was too scary!

There aren't many quotes here because I didn't have a chance to take notes. When I'm in charge of a signing, I'm in full bookseller mode.  I'm there to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that the author and the audience are comfortable and happy.  (And if you're a writer and you're reading this post, I'll be that way when YOU get a book published and come to the store!)

He took the time to answer audience questions and then signed as many books as people wanted signed (some had heavy bags full!).  Here are a few pics (and thanks to Michael Gettel-Gilmartin for reminding me to take a camera).

After I introduced him, Mr. Peck started out behind the mic:

But then he quickly decided he didn't care for that, because he wanted to get close to his audience (which was a nice mix of excited kids and adult writers and teachers).

 Afterward, he signed tons of books and posed for photos:

And when all the customers had left, he gladly posed with me:

So, as a reward for reading this far and looking at my (*cough*) awesome pics, you get to enter a giveaway!  I have one SIGNED hardcover copy of Secrets at Sea (here's my review) to give away!

That means for the first time I will have two giveaways going on at once: this one for MG fans, and one for YA fans (see this post from Friday about A.S. King and Everybody Sees the Ants).

If you'd like to enter to win the signed copy of Secrets at Sea, simply be a follower and leave a comment. All ages may enter.  International entries welcome.  This giveaway will close at 11:59 pm EST Wednesday November 9, 2011.

Good luck!


  1. Wow - what a great experience! Secrets at Sea sounds great...I'm going to have to look for some of his other books.

  2. Cool giveaway. I have Secrets at Sea on hold at the library, but I would love to win a signed copy! Thanks, Joanne

  3. Secrets at Sea sounds awesome. I'd love to win.

    And I can't wait to read Liesl & Po. I just got it from the library.

  4. Yay for starting to write late in life (I was 40)!! And ohhhh, I love hearing writers discuss their process because each one is so unique (which tells me there is no RIGHT way). Other than the rewriting just have to do it again and again and again.....

    I'd love to win this signed copy of SECRETS AT SEA. Thank you for the opportunity!

    LIESL AND PO sounds cool--nice choice for Halloween.

  5. Oh my...GOSH! You lucky. Thanks for sharing his thoughts on writing and all those great pics. Keeping fingers crossed on a win for Secrets of the Sea!

  6. Thanks, everyone.

    Believe me, Andrea. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

    Thanks for entering, Jennifer.

    Hi Natalie. Good luck!

    Good for you, Barbara! It's never too late to start writing. And you're absolutely right -- each writer's process is different. You just need to figure out what works for you.

    I do feel lucky, Deb! Thanks.

  7. lol, I can't believe I walked past LIESL AND PO this week-end at the bookstore. It's going on my list so I know to pick it up when I get the chance.

    PS: Talking about SCUMBLE, I let other reviews discourage me from reading it, because I fell so in love with SAVVY.

    Ok, and can you please enter me for the contest? I will get on networked blogs to follow you.

  8. Richard Peck is awesome and a real gentleman. Good pics Joanne!

  9. Wow, wow, wow!!! And...WOW! Meeting Richard Peck is truly epic, Joanne! He is such an amazing author--LOVE him! And I would love to be entered to win Secrets at Sea. It's on my wish list!! :-)

  10. Liesl and Po has been on my list but hasn't landed on my desk yet. I'm looking forward to it b/c it sounds like a lovely character driven MG spec fic novel. Yay.

    OK - embarrassing confession - I had never read a book by Peck (yeah, I know!), so I grabbed the first one I saw at the library the other day (Here Lies the Librarian) and will review that later. But he's such a gentleman. And a great speaker. And he made me want to go out and read all his books when I met him at SCBWI.

  11. What a rich post. I loved it. (And thanks for remembering the camera! I just love to see the smiles on the faces of young readers when they pose with a favorite author.)

  12. Nice post! Would love to win the book, my brother would totally adore it!

    aliasgirl at libero dot it

  13. Glad you had the chance to meet Richard Peck. He spoke at a SCBWI-MI conference years ago, but I didn't remember that he only started writing at age 37.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  14. He's such a great writer. Thanks for the giveaway!

    I've had Liesl and Po on hold since before it came out, but I don't think our library system has any copies yet. Thanks for the great review!

  15. I think Blogger ate my comment from last night! I thought I'd already replied to those last comments...

    Akoss, certainly! Consider yourself entered. And don't give up on Scumble. It's not Savvy but it's still worth reading.

    Hi Jeannine! Thanks.

    Hope your wishes come true, Shannon!

    Danika, glad you finally picked up a Richard Peck book. Enjoy!

    Thanks, Michael!

    Welcome, Reading Mind and Kristin.

    Hi Myrna! Good luck.

  16. I love author visits! :) Thanks for the giveaway.

    And I just got Liesl and Po. Cannot wait to read it!

    themgowl at gmail dot com

  17. Hi Jill! Thanks for entering. Hope you enjoy Liesl & Po!

  18. Sorry, I'm late to has been a crazy week. I think it is soo cool you get to meet all these authors. Great advice too. Secrets at Sea is on my want list.

  19. Hi Brooke! You're not too late.

    Yes, working in a bookstore has its advantages. :)

  20. Wow, thanks for the great giveaway! I've been visiting your blog for a while now, but just now signed up to be an official follower!

  21. Thanks for following, Charlotte! Now you're officially entered.