Friday, August 29, 2008

Review: My So-Called Family by Courtney Sheinmel

Recently, I had a chance to read an ARC of Courtney Sheinmel's debut novel--My So-Called Family. Unfortunately, I had a problem...I had to stop working because I couldn't put it down!

The book follows thirteen-year-old Leah Hoffman-Ross--a smart, artistic and identifiable girl. Leah's family moves to New York City and Leah thinks she'll be able to have a fresh start. She desperately wants one after being teased for something she tried to keep secret--she has a donor, not a father.

But Leah soon realizes that moving doesn't solve her problems. Something--or someone--is missing in her life. Leah embarks on a journey to meet the other children of her donor and Leah's choices teach her more about the word family than she ever imagined.

Author Courtney Sheinmel writes with honesty and clarity about Leah's feelings. My So-Called Family has a tight plot, strong voice and memorable characters. The book makes me think about my definition of "family." The diverse cast of characters sticks with me and each character's voice is clear and defined. I sincerely hope Sheinmel considers a sequel as there are many threads of the book that I would love to revisit. This is a stunning, moving debut and I will be purchasing any future books by Sheinmel.

My So-Called Family comes out on October 21 (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), but it's available NOW for pre-order on Amazon. It's a must read for anyone who wants to discover the true meaning of family.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My NaNoWriMo True-Life Tale

My NaNoWriMo True-Life Tale just went live! Hope you guys check it out! :) Yay!

Or, here:

Thank you, Chris!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So not chillin'

lolcats funny cat pictures

Um, no. I'm not chillin' with that cat! Things are wicked swamped right now. I've been:

* ordering the coolest TAKE THE REINS postcards (woo hoo!)
* querying a few mags
* devouring MY SO-CALLED FAMILY by Courtney Sheinmel
* prepping for an upcoming radio interview (thanks, Rose and Celeste!)
* starting to prep my Power Point for my Missouri Writers' Guild speeches
* planning a trip
* giving evil eyes to the new hurricane and threatening it to stay away
* and working on various book projects

I've also been glued to the DNC and am loving every minute of coverage. (Michelle Obama, you have awesome hair!)

Back to work...

Monday, August 25, 2008


We're drying out today. We had...drumroll...20 (that's 2-0) inches of rain and just when you thought it was over--nope! We had another thunderstorm this morning and it knocked out power from 6:30-10am. Bleh. I'm sooo over hurricane season!! C'mon fall!

I just read that the "Dancing With the Stars" cast was announced on GMA this morning. According to Yahoo!, we've got:

Susan Lucci (When did Erica get out of jail?!)
Toni Braxton
Lance Bass (Bet he'll learn the choreography easily with his NSYNC past!)
Cloris Leachman
Kim Kardashian
Ted McGinley (Was I the ONLY one who watched "Hope and Faith"??)
Brooke Burke
Warren Sapp (??)
Misty May-Treanor (YAY!! I loved her in the Olympics!)
Maurice Green
Rocco DiSpirito (The producers won't need a food cart anymore...)
Cody Linley

Interesting cast. I'll definitely be watching. Anyone else with me?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Interview over at 3 Questions...and Answers

I've got an interview up with Amy over at 3 Questions...and Answers. Thank you, Amy!!

Tropical Storm Fay Update:

We've had 6 inches of rain, 50 mph wind gusts and my backyard could double as a pond. It's STILL pouring and if I can get a good pic of the yard, I'll post it here.

It's dark and gloomy so I'm reading a grown up book (OMG--something that's not YA or MG!) and watching Little League.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay is coming

Well, we're getting ready for Tropical Storm Fay. Ugh. It's sitting over open water now and is expected to swing back, hit my town and dump up to 12 inches of rain over 48 hours. Eeek. My city floods--big time.

Plus, we seem to lose power easily even though we're in a big-ish city. When Hurricane Charley (I think...) hit in 2005, we lost power for ten days. TEN. Not fun. Not at all.

So, I'm just hoping the winds aren't too bad and that the power stays on. Things will heat up tomorrow and kick in on Sat.

Fingers crossed!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Missouri Writers' Guild 2009 Conference

So...I've got big news for everyone!

On April 3-5, 2009, I'll be speaking at the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference!

I've been graciously invited to speak twice and participate on a panel. My sessions will be "Freelancing to Fiction" and "Do's and Don'ts of Tween Fiction."

Plus...I'll be doing a special panel with details to be revealed a bit later.

The conference will be in Cape Girardeau and you do NOT, I repeat, NOT have to be a member of the MWG to attend.

More info will be popping up here over the next few months and there will be a special guest blogger who will give more fantastic details about the conference.

Yay!! :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cheryl Klein's speech at Harry Potter conference

Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine books (Scholastic), recently posted this. It's "A Few Things Writers Can Learn from Harry Potter" and it was her keynote speech at a Chicago Harry Potter conference.

First, how cool of Cheryl to share it with everyone. (She went from fangirl to editor--how awesome is that?!) Second, wow. If I wasn't already inspired by JK Rowling and Harry Potter, I'm that much more impressed now. (Now I have to reread the books...again)

Check out Cheryl's speech to read how she referenced character, plot, theme and show vs. tell. This is a speech to print and read.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

TWILIGHT movie now releasing November 21

Well, yesterday I blogged about how annoyed I was with the Harry Potter movie delay. Now, we've got something to fill its place! Summit Entertainment made the announcement that Twilight will now open on November 21, 2008. Woo hoo!!

I'm sooo excited! :)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince release date

OMG!! Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's film release is now DELAYED from November to July 2009!!!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

I heart the olympics

Okay, I've been getting veerry little done because...I've been watching non-stop Olympic coverage! Swimming! Beach volleyball! Gymnastics! Rowing! :)

Okay, everything. I watch the morning coverage while I work and then I'm watching from eight to midnight to catch the primetime coverage.

I'm cheering on Michael Phelps as he continues to rack up wins. The dude is a force of nature. Seriously.

I was sad that our female gymnasts got second to China, but China's team did SO well. It seemed that after Alicia Sacramone fell off the beam--the team just fell apart. Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin both stepped out of bounds on the floor exercise. That gave China enough room to squeak by for the gold. At least there's still a chance for individual medals later in the week.

I'm waiting for the equestrian events, since I haven't seen any of those yet.

When I'm not watching, I'm reading. I picked up Savvy by Ingrid Law and Family Affairs (Secrets of My Hollywood Life) by Jen Calonita. I've also got A Horse of Her Own by Class of 2k8 member Annie Wedekind. Can't wait to read them!

Anyone else watching the Olympics?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Giveaway results and what's up with our female Olympic gymnasts?

The winner of the Nancy Viau giveaway is...BREANNA! Congrats! I've sent you an email, so please email me back and we'll get you the awesome prize. :) Thanks so much to Nancy and keep checking the sidebar for more author interviews and giveaways.

So, I just wandered over to MySpace and my Breaking Dawn review vlog has 1090 hits. Wow. Nice! Thanks to everyone who rated and commented over there. We've got quite a discussion going.

I'm off to get coffee. I stayed up late watching the Olympics last night. They were great, but man, did our female gymnasts have TROUBLE last night! So glad it was only the qualifying round. I've NEVER seen Nastia Liukin fall on her back as she did during bars. Insane. Plus, the look her dad gave her was super-scary! The dude's intimidating! Shawn Johnson, as always, was near-perfect. Hopefully, it'll be gold and silver for them. Can't wait for Tuesday night!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Author Visit: Nancy Viau

Please welcome author Nancy Viau!

It's the lovely Nancy Viau!

Short Summary:

Sam is a ten-year-old mad scientist, but she doesn't blow up stuff or change kids into cats that bark. She just has a little trouble keeping a lid on her temper, and she “ab-so-lutely” loves science (especially rocks). But science isn’t all that helpful when it comes to the big questions like, why does she get into trouble, why is her sister so annoying, and why won’t anyone talk about her dad. When Sam’s mom announces a trip to the Grand Canyon, it’s a dream-come-true. But if Sam can’t get a grip on her emotions, she’s going to miss seeing her favorite rocks, and miss finding out the answers to some of her questions.

Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head is a hilarious and touching debut that introduces middle graders to an exuberant new character who joyfully studies the
world around her, and her own heart.

Why this story? What about Sam made you write a book about her?

Well, Samantha Hansen didn’t start out as a character in a middle-grade novel; she was a chapter book character. I was doing research on chapter books and easy readers, thinking I’d like to try my hand at writing one. I noticed that most of these characters, although spunky and charming, seemed pretty dated (and rather well-behaved). I wanted a character who was contemporary and true-to-life—one that talked back to her mom, fought with her older sister, didn’t always excel in school, and many times acted on things before she thought them through. My agent felt that this was a lot to handle for a chapter book and encouraged me to expand it.

What’s your favorite non-writing hobby?

I asked my daughter what she thought my hobby was because I think of a hobby as a relaxing, quiet activity, and I’m not fond of relaxing, and rarely am quiet. She said I should say “reading” because I do love to read, but I think that’s a “given” for writers. So, I’ll say travel is my favorite hobby. You can throw a dart on a map, and tell me I’m going to that place, and I’ll be packed in five minutes. I love to explore small towns, national parks, unpopulated areas, and cities (to a lesser extent). I’m not in a hurry to leave the good ‘ole USA, and I still have a few states to see before I can say I’ve been to them all. (If my long-time writer-friend who just moved to Alaska is listening in…I’m waiting for my official invitation to come see you!)

How do you celebrate when you finish a draft?

I’m always thinking ahead to the next thing I need to take care of (revision, marketing, my kids!), so the lines blur between draft and complete project. That being said, I celebrate every morning in a pretty weird way. I wake up and say to myself, “I’m still here! Hooray!” My dad, who suffered so much in the last months of his life, met each day with a dimpled smile, a sense of humor, and relentless optimism. I try to do the same.

Describe Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head in ONE word. :)


What was the process like for you from draft, to agent, to publication?

Like I mentioned above, this book started out as a ten-chapter, chapter book. I sent that book to Dan Lazar at Writers House, and he loved it. Dan subbed it to a few editors who confirmed his thinking that it should be expanded to middle-grade. This made me freak-out at first because I never considered myself a novelist. But once I got “permission” to add 20,000 words, it took on a life of its own. After a few months (with editorial guidance from Dan), we sent it out again. This time Abrams/Amulet signed the book for their Fall 2008 list, calling it “their Ramona.”

What’s one book by another author that you wish you’d written?
Ooh, tough question. It would have to be a book that ignited my passion for reading early on. Maybe Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White or The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Give some advice to teens and young adults who strive for publication.

If you have the opportunity to take a class in creative writing, that’s a perfect place to start. If not (and this piece of advice is for everyone, but it’s sometimes easier for teens/young adults), absorb any info about writing you can find on the Internet. Join a forum, network, blog, enter writing contests, be part of an online critique group, and sign up for conferences. Finally (and this is the hard part for all of us), carve out time in your busy schedules to write. Practice, practice, practice!

What are you reading right now?

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale

This is so different from anything I’ve read, but I like it!


Nancy Viau has worked as an elementary school teacher, a counselor in an after-school program, an instructor for reluctant readers, and a freelance writer. She now specializes in writing for children, and along with her debut middle-grade novel, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head, her stories, poems, and activities appear in: Highlights for Children, Highlights High Five, Babybug, Ladybug, and many other magazines for children and adults.

Web site:

Class of 2k8 Web site page:


Amazon Link:

And now, for the giveaway straight from Nancy!

"I’ll give away a beach pail and shovel (because that’s what Sam uses when she collects rocks) filled with yummy rock candy, favorite rocks, and a Samantha Hansen notepad (for making lists just like she does)."

Okay, guys! Leave a comment on Blogger or LiveJournal or BOTH spots to enter. You have until 11:59PM on Sunday, August 10. I'll announce the winner on Monday morning. If you're the lucky winner, you'll have until Wednesday morning to e-mail me (jessica [at] jessicaburkhart [dot] com) your name and address so I can pass them onto Nancy.

Good luck!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tomorrow's guest: Nancy Viau

Tomorrow, I've got 2k8 author Nancy Viau here with a Q&A and a giveaway! :) Check back then for a chance to win the great prizes listed on the sidebar.

Anyone else going to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics tomorrow? I'm super-excited!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Guest blog at Megan's

Today, I guest blogged at "From the Corner of Megan's Mind." Find it there and say hi. :) Thank you, Megan!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Take the Reins bag

Looky, looky! :) Isn't it pretty? On the back, it has my Website, title and phone number. Verrrry nice. Friends, you'll be getting these as gifts, LOL. :)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Breaking Dawn vlog review

I just couldn't wait, so here's my vlog Breaking Dawn review! I can't wait to hear what everyone else thinks. Be warned! There are spoilers in the vlog and will be spoilers in the comments. Read and watch at your own risk. :)

Breaking Dawn vlog review coming soon!

A vlog review of Breaking Dawn is coming soon. Probably tomorrow. :)

(I disabled comments for today. Sorry!)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A truly lucky find at Books a Million

I had totally planned on going to a Breaking Dawn party last night, but after storms and a power outage, I couldn't make it. So, I finally got out the door around 1pm today and hurried over to Books a Million. The beautiful BD display rack was...empty. Yeah. Not one copy anywhere. People were asking the sales girls and guys, "Where is BD? Do you have one in the back room?" Of course, the answer was no. Behind the counter, was a stack of probably twenty glorious copies with a big sign for VOUCHERS ONLY. Curses!!

I whined, moped and stomped around the store. I moodily browsed the YA section and was temporarily happy when I saw so many books of friends. Yay, guys! Okay, in all honesty, I was browsing the aisle just in case BD had been shelved. But yeah, you know the answer to that question.

I was about to leave and go home to sulk when I decided to go where Take the Reins will be shelved next year. On the shelf where the books for authors with the last name starting with "D," I saw something that made me gasp. A shiny, beautiful copy of BREAKING DAWN! OMG!

I grabbed it before anyone else could find it and wrapped my arms around it! The check out girl was almost as excited as I was since she told me after last night's party and people lined up all night, there were supposed to be no copies anywhere in the store. She made her I had BD stickers and an awesome BD pin before practically ushering me out of the store.

I'm glad I wasn't driving home because the "Don't read and drive" warning might not have been enough. :)

So, I'm on page 300 or so and am going to read all weekend. I am a happy girl.

If you post here, please, no spoilers! Thank you! :)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Breaking Dawn is Coming!!


Enough said!!! :) Anyone standing in line tonight?

I will *not* be reading blogs until I finish the book just in case spoilers are posted without warning. It's the whole "if the ending gets ruined, I'll have to beat up the blogger" sort of thing. :) You understand.

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