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The blog and virtual classroom meeting rug of Jacqui Robbins, author, teacher, parent, and book-lover . Come on in. I'm glad you could join us.
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1. An Open Letter

Dear driver of the cheap version of a Vespa,
part of which is now sitting on my living room ottoman like a trophy,

I want to thank you
for smashing your bike into my recycling bin
at 5:45 Tuesday morning.

I am unsure if you were:

1. too drunk to notice it
(this despite the fact that it is four feet tall, and full of cans, bottles,
and reams of my scribble),

or, 2. deliberately ramming your moped into stuff,
at 5:45 on a Tuesday morning,
unencumbered by such details as a helmet or pants
(this theory being supported by the fact that upon leaving my driveway,
you crashed into three of my neighbors' waste receptacles also).

It doesn't matter. Either way you made me smile
(and not only because I now own a large chunk of silvery plastic covered in dents and scratches, with "TORPEDO" emblazoned on it in purple).

You see, after I ran down the stairs, and down the driveway,
to make sure you weren't roadkill,
and after you yelled something totally unintelligible back to me,
when I kindly suggested you have a rest before getting back onto your moped,
and then not so kindly suggested you help unscatter my reams of scribble,

after you rode off, weaving, to hit more bins,
I picked up my recycling (and the large chunk of your bike), and went to bed.
But I could not sleep. So, of course, I was cursing you.

BUT, while I was cursing you, for some reason,
I thought of my current work-in-progress,
And I had a complete and total revelation about it,
which I never would have had, had I been asleep,
at 5:45 on a Tuesday morning,
like usual.

So, thank you. I hope you made it home, safely,
and without losing too much of your leg skin in the mo of your ped
(given that I have the entire protective cover on my ottoman).
And I hope you found your pants.

As for me, I am heading into my basement hole to write.

Sincerely,

Jacqui

3 Comments on An Open Letter, last added: 5/6/2011
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2. Zombie Ants

Remember when I used to do Thursday News of the Absurd Will Someone Please Write This Book Inspirational Moments (TNoftheAWSWTBIM)? Oh, the fun we could have with ZOMBIE ANTS...

1 Comments on Zombie Ants, last added: 3/4/2011
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3. Books I Guess I Won't Write, Part #354:

Aging Aegeans: An Anthology of Poems About the Greeks Getting Ancient

Calypso broke her hip, so
Ulysses got pissy.
Medea's urea was high.
Helen started smellin'
Ariadne got a bad knee.
Medusa got gray snakes and died.

Cassandra alone
Never did moan
Even though her predictions got hazy.
The moral of the story:
Aging is gory
and it helps if you're already crazy.

5 Comments on Books I Guess I Won't Write, Part #354:, last added: 3/3/2011
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4. Where I Have Been

I have not forgotten you. And I have not fallen off the face of the Earth into oblivion or run away to Buenos Aires with only a box full of books and some dancin' shoes (yet). AND I have been writing.

But, crazy wonderful things are afoot in the real world Jacqui's Room.

See, I used to be a director of plays. I loved it. But honestly, growing up to be a director is even harder than growing up to be a writer, and plus I had other things I loved, so it's been a while. And then, like a gift from thin air, a friend came to me and asked if I was interested in directing again.

And so now I am using most of the time I used to spend blogging, doing, well, here's a video. Go ahead, watch it. You can see me get carted off to prison and even catch a glimpse of Tink. Also, I am not asking you for money -- this campaign ended in January. And no, none of those lovely singing voices is mine. Sigh.



But I will be back. Honestly, I can't stay away :)

2 Comments on Where I Have Been, last added: 2/10/2011
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5. People Who...

1 ... are definitely going to hell: Anyone who uses Google Earth to find churches with lead roofs and then steals them.

2 ... you gotta love: Wendy, the librarian at my temple. She not only bought David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy for the library, but also, when I reviewed it for her and called it a "charming gay teen love story," she said, "Good. That's why I bought it. We need more diversity." Yup, a religious institution that want kids to read all kinds of books. Awesome.

3 ... have illustrated gorgeous books: Greg Foley. We took Willoughby & the Moon out of the library today. It's full of beautiful black and white and silver artwork; some of it looks like extreme close-ups of photographs, while some of it is pen and ink. Upon finishing, Destructo announced, "That was cool. The pictures were super cool. I want to read it again."

4 ... wrote a poem that I love: Joseph Stroud, whose "Manna" was on Writers Almanac this week. Go read it, and then go stand in the snow.

5 ... I hope have a good week: you.

1 Comments on People Who..., last added: 12/10/2010
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6. (sound of screeching brakes, then crickets)

If you're lucky, there is the initial writing frenzy, the I'm so in love with this book it's going to be the BEST BOOK EVAAAAH time when you can't stop writing and you can't stop talking about the book* and you call your kids by your characters' names. And then, if you ride that wave, there is the hard work time, when it starts to feel difficult, but the words are still coming and it's still exciting and yeah, you can admit it's not going to be Satanic Verses, but it's going to still be a good, solid book, and now is not the time to think about the problems in chapter 8 - that's for the revision.

And then something happens. Or not. Whatever the reason, the writing grinds to a halt. And you can sometimes tell it's coming, like the words are sands in an hour glass that's running out. You keep writing, but you know when you get to a certain point you have no clue what's going to happen and no idea how to even start. And let's face it, you've left a lot of other things undone during the frenzy and isn't it time someone feeds the cats/bathes the kids/cleans the kitchen before someone else calls the ASPCA/child services/a wrecking crew? And those things call you, and the book is so hard, and besides, chapter 8 is simply not working maybe a break would help.

And so you put the pen down. And the last word-sand hits bottom. There are. no. words. You pick up the pen. And put it down. You pace. You stare at the last line you wrote. How did something so horrible spew from that innocent looking pen? Because let's face it, chapter 8 is a gaping hole of suck and chapters 2-7 aren't much better.

And then instead of being your secret friend, your doing this awesome thing companion, your book is this weight on your back, around your neck, in your gut. And you wonder things like, "Does the world really NEED another stupid book?!" and "Wouldn't this be a good week to paint the kitchen/dispose of expired medicines/take up knitting?" And people say, "What ever happened to that awesome-sounding book you were working on?" and you smile and say, "It's going," when what you want to do is say, "SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! I ALREADY KNOW I SUCK!"**

This is when it's good to have a blog. Because in addition to whining in a public forum, in addition to having somewhere to just...write...something so you don't forget English all together, you can go back, and read what you wrote last time this happened. It doesn't make you feel any better, and it certainly doesn't rescue chapter 8 from the dung pile. But it does give you a new mantra to chant to yourself night and day until the words come back:

"This too shall pass."

I hope.

* If you are the kind of person who talks about his books; otherwise, this is the travel the world with a secret smile time.
** And even the unintentional rhyme of this rant doesn't cheer you up.

7 Comments on (sound of screeching brakes, then crickets), last added: 12/6/2010
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7. Kidlit Critterpalooza!

In which Critter tries to rescue Jacqui and then tells you about a cool contest.

Hello, Critter here. Remember me?

I tried to rescue Jacqui. I went to the library where she was working, but she was bound and tied to her laptop in the third floor quiet room and the strange looking couple guarding the door wouldn't let me in.

And then I remembered! Critterpalooza! kicks off today! Want to win some SWEET prizes, including a signed copy of Two of a Kind and a live chat with Jacqui and some other cool authors? Go to the Bookshelf Muse today. Want to know more about the contest and me? Read on.

First, artist Ian Sands made me. He hid 500 of us all over the city as part of an interactive art project. The amazing Christy Evers found me. And then she sent me to see the world!

I have visited PJ Hoover (and the Texas Sweethearts!) in Texas, Beth Revis in North Carolina, Christina Farley in Korea, New England with Nandini Bajpai, Illinois with Kelly Polark, MG Higgins in California, Rena Jones in Montana, Cynthia Leitich Smith in Texas, Bish Denham in the Virgin Islands, Tina Ferraro in California, Cynthia Chapman Willis in New Jersey, Jill S. Alexander in Texas, Ellen Oh in Virginia and finally, Alberta Canada with Angela Ackerman. Oh, and along the way, I caused chaos in Jacqui's Room.

I have been to college, rock concerts, national landmarks, a palace, attended my first SCBWI conference, walked among giant redwoods, and met the world famous artist, Robert Bateman. Now my journey is coming to a close. It's time to celebrate, over at The Bookshelf Muse. M

2 Comments on Kidlit Critterpalooza!, last added: 11/18/2010
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8. ATTENTION PEOPLE OF JACQUI'S ROOM

We have your "Jacqui." We have been tracking her for several weeks but she refuses to write our chapters. Sure, she wrote character sketches for us and has written thousands, THOUSANDS of words for this book, but WE do not yet appear. Nobody even knows who WE are. Jacqui knows, but she ain't talking. Or writing. How can we perpetrate our evil, dastardly, very lucrative, somewhat ridiculous plans if we don't yet EXIST???

So we took her. She made a valiant effort at escape this weekend -- even hopped a train to Chicago and ran 26.2 miles. This was clearly to avoid us (why else would anyone run that far?!), but it was misguided since she ran it in a big circle. We let her stop to take this photo for proof. But then we got her.

Now you may not have her back until we have finished with her. Oh, we'll give her the essentials, like food and water and access to Facebook. But other than that, she writes only for us until OUR book is written to OUR satisfaction so the world can know of our greatness.

Yes, World! YOU SHALL KNOW OUR NAMES. You know, once we have names.

Sincerely,

The Bad Guys in Jacqui's New Book

7 Comments on ATTENTION PEOPLE OF JACQUI'S ROOM, last added: 10/13/2010
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9. I, robot

We did it! Or, rather, you did it and I suffered the consequences (explanation here).

YOU donated almost $1,000 to help kids learn to write at 826michigan. I ran the Big House Big Heart 5K dressed like this:

Yes, faithful readers, those ARE dryer vents on my arms. They are surprisingly warm and inflexible. And yes, that button does say "Disco" and yes, I did disco whenever someone pressed it. Fortunately, only Tink thought to press it. Unfortunately, she did so about a million times.

And yes, I did appear in front of a gabillion people, up on the Jumbotron, but no, I could not take a picture because race officials would not let me stop in the race chute. But I gave a little dance anyway, because I am a woman of my word.

NOW, some of you are kicking yourselves because you forgot to click HERE and then on my name and donate. Good news! You can still do it. PLUS, someone has donated a free massage to the fundraiser who raises the most money and I have a chance of winning. But there is stiff competition, so get there by the final count Friday at noon! Donate now! I WANT MY MASSAGE, people.

But most of all, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you, from me and 826michigan and a ton of happily writing children. Thank you.

4 Comments on I, robot, last added: 10/7/2010
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10. My son loves pink, a rant

Warning: extended, only remotely related to Banned Books Week rant below. Please find a more indicative sample of our regularly scheduled light-hearted silliness here.

Dear World,

Yes, my son loves pink. He loves his glittery “do you believe in fairies?” shirt and his Hello Kitty water bottle and most of all his hot pink prairie skirt that twirls and that is, along with some boxer briefs, really the perfect summer play outfit.

Yes, I know he is wearing a skirt. And I know it is pink. No need to keep pointing that out, stating the facts as though you aren’t making a judgment in your head. Stop laughing; stop shaking your head. Stop congratulating yourself on your open-mindedness by saying, “That’s so great you let him wear it,” as though maybe I shouldn’t. In fact, please stop bringing it up in front of him at all because every time you do, you teach him that as much as he loves it, there’s something wrong or at least remarkable about that. And who wants to hear that it might not be okay to love something you love? Over and over, at the mall, on the street, at school, at your own family’s house?

While we’re at it, stop “reassuring” me that “it doesn’t mean anything.” What does that even mean?! Are you trying to say that his love for pink at age 3 doesn’t prove my son is gay? Thanks for the insight. Here’s a clue: the idea of him being gay doesn’t worry me. Here’s what worries me: it’s 2010 and my pink-loving son still has to defend his right to like a freaking COLOR. It’s 2010 and there are still people out there so incredibly homophobic that they CANNOT STAND the sight of a three-year-old boy in a SKIRT. It’s 2010 and my son wore his pink shirt to school the first day and there was MASS GENDER CONFUSION on the playground because some kids already, by age 3, are so gender-indoctrinated that they REFUSED TO BELIEVE he was a boy.

It is 2010 and every single time he wears his favorite color, my son’s feelings get hurt. Every single day, he gets told it’s not okay to be who is he is. I’m not worried about him liking pink or what it “means.” I’m worried that someday people are going to make him feel so bad about himself that he wants to jump off the GW bridge.

It’s 2010. It’s time to stop hurting people’s feelings with closed, terrified minds. It’s time to stop trying to prescribe other people’s lifestyles and families and reading material. It’s time to admit that reality is complicated and surprising and full of questions to which you don’t have answers. And it’s time to let my kids – and everyone's kids -- fully participate in that deliciously diverse reality without having to worry about the whispers.

It’s 2010, World. My son loves pink. Get over it.


Love,

Jacqui


P.S. Thanks for the chocolate donuts, though, World. Those things are awesome.

11. From the Jacqui's Room Office for Outer Space Affairs

My Thursday News of the Absurd Will Someone Please Write This Book Inspirational Moment (TNoftheAWSPWTBIM) news this week turned out to be a hoax!

I was disappointed to hear that, contrary to many media sources (all of whom should be really embarrassed for repeating it without doing any fact-checking), the U.N. did not actually appoint someone Earth's official "first contact" with alien life forms. Apparently, there is not someone in an office in Malaysia whose job is to wait for aliens to contact us.

This is very disappointing because one of you was going to write me a hilarious picture book about the bored bureaucrat sitting filing her nails, cracking gum and fielding the alien phone calls. ("Hello, Department of Earth's First ExtraTerrestrial Contact. How may I direct your call?") The official first contact was Malaysian, but I was picturing her from Jersey. And of course she was unfazable, regardless of what crazy aliens came in. "I'm sorry sir. There are no further openings for attempted invasion and take over of New York City this month. Please fill out Form P-2987 and submit it with November's application fee. Next."

Mostly, I'm disappointed nobody has to answer me this: it's all fine and well for US to know who the first contact is. But who's going to explain it to the aliens?

Oh well. At least U.N.O.O.S.A.* really exists. That's enough to feed the imagination for a while.

* the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

3 Comments on From the Jacqui's Room Office for Outer Space Affairs, last added: 9/30/2010
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12. Tink, on Roald Dahl

This week, Tink is reading George's Marvelous Medicine. It, like many Roald Dahl books, has been challenged from time to time by concerned parents. So I sat Tink down for a Jacqui Reads her Children Books That Are SURE to RUIN Them FOREVER discussion.

ME: Tink?
TINK: (reads)
ME: Tink?
TINK: (reads)
ME: TINK?
TINK: (reads)
ME: TINK!
TINK: WHAT?!
ME: I notice you're reading George's Marvelous Medicine.
TINK: It's my Accelerated Reader book. (reads)
ME: Well, you know about Banned Books Week --
TINK: (deep sigh) And this is one of them.
ME: Well, sort of. What do you think?
TINK: (reads)
ME: Tink!
TINK: (blows bangs off face by spewing air with lower lip stuck out) Here's what I think: Yes, it's maybe not so appropriate in some places. But people! It's Roald Dahl. What did you expect? (returns to reading, turning back on me)
ME: (ponders several things, including how else to celebrate Banned Books Week)

1 Comments on Tink, on Roald Dahl, last added: 9/29/2010
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13. Jacqui Reads Her Children Books That Are SURE To RUIN Them FOREVER


It's Banned Books Week!

Two years ago, I celebrated with Jacqui Reads Her Children Books That Other People Think Are Bad For Them. Last year I read them Even More Books That Other People Think Are Bad For Them. We've read a ton of terrible, child-harming evil, and yet, miraculously, my children's moral fiber remains frustratingly intact. So THIS year, I decided to condense the exposure AND to hit them with the biggies. I present to you:

Jacqui Reads Her Children Books That Are SURE to RUIN Them FOREVER

We started this weekend with these:

Heather Has Two Mommies
by Lesléa Newman, illus. Diana Souza



Daddy's Roommate
by Michael Willhoite

Nothing subtle there, eh? My kids were sure to be doomed.

We ran into trouble immediately. Destructo couldn't have cared less how many mommies Heather had. He was mainly worried that on the cover of her book, it looks like Heather is about to be EATEN BY A WOLF.*

Heather's story is very straightforward. Two is her favorite number; she has two hands, two eyes, and two mommies, both of whom she loves best. When Heather starts a playgroup, though, the kids talk about their daddies. Heather doesn't have a daddy and gets sad until the other kids in the class talk about how all their families are different and the teacher delivers a speech on love.

This is an important book, and a very lovey and reassuring book. It is not subtle though, and not particularly informative for modern kids with 21st century mindsets. BUT it becomes VERY interesting, terrifying even, if you think Heather's pet dog is a CHILD-EATING WOLF.

Punchy, but undeterred, we moved on to Daddy's Roommate. In the book, a little boy's parents are divorced and his dad has moved in with another man. The book is all about the fun the boy has with Daddy and his roommate.

First, check out that fantastic mustache! Thor had total facial hair envy.

Second, regardless of your politi

2 Comments on Jacqui Reads Her Children Books That Are SURE To RUIN Them FOREVER, last added: 9/28/2010
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14. Who is the author?

Today's Thursday inspiration comes from Tink, who had this idea:

"What if you didn't know who the author of the book was and the book was like a mystery where you had to find out?"

I am fascinated by this. You could write it as a scavenger hunt through the internet or even, gasp, the real world, where you had to figure out what historical figure was supposedly the author.

But I want fiction. A middle grade mystery with changing points of view, one of whom has written the book but doesn't admit it. In the story, a certain book has powers of some sort. Something important* hinges on who the author is, but nobody knows. After a few chapters, we realize the book in question is the one we're holding and WE have to figure out who wrote it. I want it sort of terrifying, like if we don't figure it out before the book is over something dreadful might happen to us in REAL LIFE.

I want a smart mystery with a brand-new structure and definite chills. Who will write me this book?


* No, I don't know what powers or what hinges. And this is why YOU are going to write the book.

5 Comments on Who is the author?, last added: 9/24/2010
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15. Vacansopapurosophobia

Which means fear of the blank paper.*

I don't have a fear of the blank page. I love a good blank page, a whole blank journal even. It's so full of potential. Imagine all the fantastic, beautiful, hilarious things that could end up on there!

No, I have a fear of a half-filled page of bad writing. Call it vacansocrapurosophobia. The flip side of that blank page full of potential is a scribbled-on piece of garbage that I'm embarrassed to recycle without shredding it first. That's what haunts me.

I have a new book idea. It might be my favorite book idea ever. It's so pretty right now, so hilarious and yet touching, so unique and yet universal. And so completely unwritten, and therefore so fraught with the looming specter of total, heart-breaking failure to carry it off in a way that is at all close to my beloved vision for it.

This is the writer's dilemma: I have to be madly in love with an idea in order to even consider starting, given the amount of time and sweat (well, mental sweat) and energy I know it's going to take. But if I'm too in love with it, I'm terrified of blowing it.

This summer, though, I got a wonderful piece of advice: Redefine failure. As in, whenever you find yourself not trying something for fear you'll fail, redefine what "failure" will mean in that situation. For me, for any writer but in particular for those of you who have "always wanted to, but...", maybe failure shouldn't mean "unpublished" or "not as perfect as I hoped." Maybe failure should mean "never tried." And there's one obvious way to make sure that doesn't happen.

Excuse me, I have a book to go start.

* Also the title of an 826michigan student publication of just the kind you'd be supporting if you'd already signed on to force me to dress up like a robot and dance on the Jumbotron.

4 Comments on Vacansopapurosophobia, last added: 9/23/2010
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16. Help kids, humiliate Jacqui*

Things Jacqui Has Been Doing Instead of Blogging, part 1

Here are two things I love:
writing
teaching

And here is 826michigan, one of my favorite non-profits, which is dedicated entirely to teaching kids to write. You will not find another organization making writing as fun, as creative, as appealing to all kids (even reluctant writers), or as cool as 826 makes writing. We have a ROBOT STORE, for goodness sake.

You can learn more about all the 826 outfits here. This is something I believe in whole-heartedly. I'm on the board. I work in the robot store. Last year I spent all day every Friday volunteering during writing workshops at an elementary school in Ypsilanti. And sometimes, I humiliate myself. For example, this picture of me dressed as Brutus killing Robot Julius Caesar.

Now, here are two things I hate:
humiliation
asking for money

So I figured, why not combine them?

The Big House Big Heart is a 5K race that runs through downtown Ann Arbor, into the University of Michigan stadium, down the middle of the field and across the 50 yard line, where finishers are videotaped stumbling along and projected, giant-sized, onto the field's Jumbotron, for all to see.

And on October 3, with your help, it is possible I will run the Big House Big Heart Race and breakdance robot-style across the finish line while being projected giant-sized onto the Jumbotron. All while dressed in a full body robot costume.

Total humiliation. How can you make this happen? Help me raise $826 for 826michigan.

Yup. For a meager $826, I am going to line up with 10,000 other people, in broad daylight, with dryer vent tubes on my arms and a sign that says, "I get my fix at Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair."** And I am going to post pictures of the whole thing. Online, for all to see and mock.

Here's how you can contribute to the Help Kids, Humiliate Jacqui plan:

1. Click HERE to be directed to my 826michigan PayPal page.

2. Mail a check or cash to 826michigan, 115 E. Liberty Street, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109. Put "I want Jacqui red-faced on the Jumbotron" or something similarly evil in the memo.

3. Toss cash at me as I run past you in the race. This is, of course, less effective.

And then either sit back and pat yourself on the back for doing good and helping kids learn to write, or sit back and giggle maniacally at how embarrassed I am going to be out there. You know who you are.

* a blog title that shows the importance of carefully placed punctuation.
** or something else equally mortifying

5 Comments on Help kids, humiliate Jacqui*, last added: 9/20/2010
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17. School has started...

... and there is not a person in my house who isn't thrilled about it.

Everyone started new schools and everyone is in love with the new places. Though yesterday Destructo was upset because:

"We were learning to wash our hands and I saw a giant X marks the spot on the floor and it could be real pirate treasure and NONE of my teachers would GET ME A SHOVEL!"

It is also possible he insisted to his Sunday School teachers that his name is "Buzz."

Methinks it could be a long year...

Tink's new school uses the Accelerated Reader program: "MOM! Can you believe my HOMEWORK is to READ A BOOK?! Like I get extra credit for reading a book! Reading! For HOMEWORK. Like it's hard" (shakes head, chuckles to self, and disappears into armchair for hours).

As for me, in the last two weeks I had Tink's birthday (complete with Black and White themed almost sleepover), the first day of new schools for both Tink and Destructo, Rosh Hashanah, my birthday, Thor's 40th birthday (for which I planned a surprise weekend away with 10 friends), minor household crises (everyone is fine), an unintentionally thawed refrigerator, a barfing cat, minimal child care, house guests, a total of nearly 80 miles run, mysterious lights on in the car,

And yet, as part of my new "no excuses" policy, I will be sending everything my agent wanted by Thursday to her. Today. Yup, two days early. And yup, I am crowing about it.

So lemme just finish formatting this one thing. And then I will be back in Jacqui's Room to tell you all about it.

3 Comments on School has started..., last added: 9/16/2010
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18. How do they do it?

You've seen the bios:

"So and so is a stay-at-home mom to three adorable children under the age of five, two dogs, a cat, and a bearded dragon named Louie. When not writing, she enjoys building houses for Habitat for Humanity, hand-making all her family's clothes, and acting as mayor of Dubuque. She recently finished her thirteenth solo ascent of Everest. This is her sixth novel in the past year; her first collection of self-illustrated poetry will be out in July."

Who ARE these people? WHERE did they buy their time-turners? And, while I'm asking questions with all caps, WHO THE HECK STUCK THIS EXTRA WEEK OF NO SCHOOL IN BETWEEN AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER???

I try. I do. I know people send their kids to play and shut the door and go write masterpieces. But I have to assume those people's children don't think up games like "Carry the Cat By Her Tail," "What Happens When Dry Erase Markers Get Really, Really Wet?" and the classic "Sit on Your Brother's Head Til He Screams." The only time my kids are silent enough for me to write without leaving one ear and some brain space available to monitor them is when they're up to something really naughty.

So today I planned myself some writing time with a playdate. That fell through. Child care? Nobody available. I planned a pool trip; at least I could jot down ideas while they played, right? We lotioned, got dressed, and biked down there. Immediately upon our arrival, someone else's kid vomited vast and chunky all over the shallow end. Pool closed indefinitely.

"Go play," I ordered when we got home. They went upstairs to play Harry Potter School. I opened Word. And it's broken. Won't start at all. I spent five minutes re-starting and swearing at it before the door to Tink's room opened.

TINK: Mom?
JACQUI: What?
TINK: Mom?!
JACQUI What?!
TINK: MOOOOOOOM!
JACQUI: WHAT?!
TINK: We need you to come be the werewolf!
JACQUI: No. I'm busy.
TINK: Please?
JACQUI: No.
TINK: (runs down stairs) PLEEEEEEEASE? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE? (dances circles around living room)
DESTRUCTO: (bounces down stairs) Pyeez pyeez pyeez. (spins in nauseating circles, narrowly avoiding every pointed edge in room)
JACQUI: Stop. No. Go away. Shoo! (holds laptop like shield)
TINK & DESTRUCTO: PLEEEEEESE! PYEEZ! TWO MINUTES! PLEEEEEEEEE -- (continues until blue in the face) -- SE!
JACQUI: (Deep breathes. Closes laptop. Weeps)

9 Comments on How do they do it?, last added: 9/1/2010
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19. Coming soon...

And then, at the end of July, Jacqui promised to blog more regularly --

Crap. It's August, isn't it? Well, no matter. Big things are coming soon to the corners of Jacqui's Room. BIG THINGS, I tell you! August holds robots and critters and a contest and everything you should have learned at SCBWI-LA. It's gonna be madness. Stick around.

5 Comments on Coming soon..., last added: 8/11/2010
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20. Living with your inner critic

You know that voice inside you? The one that says, "This is no good. You're never going to get it right. You may as well give up." Mine is strong and mean and persistent. It beats me up, and it also uses logic ("Does the world really NEED another book? You know who needs you? Your kids!"). And it doesn't just bug me while I write. As I've been training for this marathon, it's started in while I'm running. "You're never going to make it. You may as well stop. You're probably about to injure yourself. C'mon, slow down."

I hate it. I used to try to ignore it, or to get rid of it. But lately I've stopped.

I went for a run in LA with the amazing Sara Lewis Holmes, and we got to talking about the voice, both in running and in writing. Here's what we realized: it never goes away. You can win 15 National Book Awards and a Pulitzer, you can run 95 ultramarathons, you can be the most accomplished anything in the world. But the voice will still be there. Every time it gets hard, it will be there, feeding on your insecurity and trying to convince you to quit.

And then Sara said the wisest thing. She said maybe you have to learn to live with it, to say, "Oh, hello. I recognize you," and then to go on.

Earlier this week, I went running with Tink. She rides her bike alongside me and it's usually great. But this run, she was cranky. She started whining at the farthest away point and she screamed and kvetched at me for two miles. She was making me CRAZY. But the more I talked calmly back and kept running, the more ridiculous she got ("I am going to DIIIIIIIE!"). I could laugh at her. And of course, we made it. Now, when I am running and the voice starts in, I just pretend it's Tink kvetching. And I go on.

I am about to start a new book, and I know soon thereafter the voice will start. But I'm not going to ignore it. I'm going to say, "Oh, hello. I recognize you." Because I am less nice than Sara, I will probably add "You stupid voice."

And then I will go back to writing.

13 Comments on Living with your inner critic, last added: 8/14/2010
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21. Why my children have no hope of being normal...

Part 357: the omen

...because I promised Tink we could do "Harry Potter camp," just she and I, this week. Today is Potions. I printed up a simple baking soda and water recipe in a fancy font and labeled it "Revealo Totalum." I told Tink we were going to learn a simple potion that you paint on a plain piece of paper to reveal secret messages, or the future.

Then last night, I snuck downstairs, took the "plain piece of paper" and, in vinegar, wrote "THE DARK LORD RISES! BEWARE! BE NICE TO YOUR MOTHER!"

Heh heh heh.

9 Comments on Why my children have no hope of being normal..., last added: 8/12/2010
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22. This week, we are obsessed with...

(books you should read)

1. Once Upon a Time, The End (Asleep in 60 Seconds)
by Geoffrey Kloske, illus. Barry Blitt

For any parent whose kid ever insisted on "One more story!" ten million times until you were left exhausted and skipping entire pages and telling stories like, "Once upon a time a kid wouldn't stop asking for stories and his mother went INSANE. The end."

Includes such classics as The Two Little Pigs and (my favorite) The Princess and the Pea ("Is there a pea in your bed? No? Then what's your excuse? Go to sleep."). Hilarity.




2. Iggie's House, by Judy Blume

Winnie's best friend Iggie moved away, leaving Winnie miserable. When the Garber family moved in with three kids, Winnie was thrilled. But the Garbers were the first black family in the neighborhood and not everyone was as thrilled as Winnie to have them there.

From the publisher: Winnie, a welcoming committee of one, set out to make a good impression and be a good neighbor. That's why the trouble started. Glenn and Herbie and Tina didn't want a "good neighbor." They wanted a friend.

This book was first published in the 70s and re-released in 2002 with this new cover (which Tink & I both I hate, though we can't articulate why; I think it's because the kids look so happy, which they are definitely not in the book). It feels a little dated (I had to explain to Tink what "Negro" meant). But what is both amazing about Judy Blume (and terribly depressing about the world) is how not dated it is. The awkward way Winnie and the Garbers learn to make friends with each other as individuals and not representatives of their respective races, Winnie's ignorance, and the thinly-veiled excuses Winnie's neighbors give for not wanting the Garbers around could easily have been written this year.

3. Cool dates. As in, today is 8.9.10. We will definitely be having a dance party tonight at 6:07. Who's in?

5 Comments on This week, we are obsessed with..., last added: 8/11/2010
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23. Working is in progress again

Remember when I was writing so hard that I had to stop blogging and write a poem about how hard I was writing?

This week, I don't even have time for a poem. It's good news: my agent loved all my new ideas and wants to see them all ASAHOIPOS.* And my agent is wise and I always do what she says. Also, she is a black belt and can beat me up. So no blogging for me for a few days.

That said, we have a visitor at our house this week. And, oh, the adventures we have had. Already, there has been dress-up and candy and a robot vs. objet d'art brawl.

Have you met Critter? You will...









* As Soon As Humanly Or Inhumanly Possible Or Sooner

3 Comments on Working is in progress again, last added: 8/16/2010
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24. What is a Critter?!

Ian Sands seems like a very cool person. He makes public, interactive art in North Carolina. Like, his art is on the side of a bus. Or, you might be walking down near the water in and see this, that Ian made:

That would make me so happy. Someone did public art in the Huron River here in Ann Arbor, but it was all rusty wires and then it blew away in a tornado. Sad.

Anyway, Ian started a project called the Lost Critter project. He made a lot of Critters and then set them free...


Christy Evers is also a cool person. She writes books for kids. You may know her around Jacqui's Room as the eternally encouraging commenter C.R. Evers.

Now, somehow, Christy got a hold of a particularly cute Critter:

She is sending him all over the real world to visit children's writers. At the end of his travels, Christy is going to auction Critter off and donate the proceeds to charity (I told you she was nice).

And now, this week, Critter is in my house. I got him in a padded envelope along with the directions to "have fun" and a hint that Christy expected "mischief."


Mischief? Me? Stay tuned...

4 Comments on What is a Critter?!, last added: 8/21/2010
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25. The Taming of the Critter

Oh my. Tink and I had such big plans for Critter. Sunset walks on the beach, tickets to the symphony, late Sunday brunches with asparagus omelets...

But Critter? Critter was out of control. We tried to interest him in books, like some other bloggers did. We took him to our favorite places in Ann Arbor -- the downtown library...
















... and Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair.*
















But Critter just kept trying to sneak into Pangea Piercing.
















When they asked him for ID, he ran and hid behind one of Ann Arbor's many fairy doors.**




















Eventually, the fairies delivered him back to my house with a note that said, "Never again." Tink and I felt bad for Critter. Maybe he just needed some coddling. We cooked him a healthy farmer's market dinner. He ignored it. He said he wasn't hungry. Then, later, we found this:
















It was obvious to Tink and I: Critter needed finishing school. We got right to work. We set him up a strict behavior management system with Twizzler Bits as rewards.

We taught him to cook.

3 Comments on The Taming of the Critter, last added: 8/23/2010
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