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Friday, July 3, 2015

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day


Welcome to July’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, David Arnold and his novel, Mosquitoland. After being uprooted from her home and mom in Cleveland, Ohio, Mary Iris Malone (Mim) is not okay. She hates living in Jackson, Mississippi with her father and stepmother. And now that all communication has been cut off with her mom, Mim is on the run to save her mom.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

DaveHome is hard. Harder than reasons. It’s more than a storage unit for your life and its collections. It’s more than an address, or even the house you grew up in. People say home is where the heart is, but I think maybe home is the heart. Not a place or a time, but an organ, pumping life into my life.

Marcy –  Mim remembers when her mom would give a homeless man money. She’d purposely go the long way to soccer practice so she could give the man three dollars. One day Mim’s dad was with them. He started complaining about how the lazy bum could get a job, when Mim’s mom rolled down the window and handed Reggie three dollars.

Later, just before bed, I asked her if Dad was mad that she gave three bucks to Reggie. She said no, but I knew better. I asked if Dad was right, if Reggie was nothing but a lazy drunk. Mom said some homeless folk were like that, but she didn’t think Reggie was one of them. She said if he were, she would give him three bucks. She said it wasn’t her job to pick which ones were genuinely starving and which ones were faking it.

“Help is help to anyone, Mary. Even if they don’t know they’re asking for it.”

I said that made a whole lot of sense, because it did.

And it still does.

Here’s the thing, Iz: my mom needs help right now. And I know it, even if she doesn’t.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - I jog up to cement stairs, unable to hold back a smile of my young adult life. This detour has already paid for itself.

MarcyThis paragraph speaks for itself.

I am tired of being alone.

“You need help?” Walt’s quiet voice brings me back to the now, the real, the detour.

I, Mary Iris Malone, smile at the bright new moon. Wiping away my tears, I wonder if things are finally changing, “Yeah, Walt, I might.”

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – I chose Mom as my favorite secondary character. She has so many lines that made her seem to me, so carefree, so down-to-Earth. Mim, the main character, is worried her mother is going to be mad after she got into a fight in school defending a friend.

“There are worse fates than being slow-witted,” she says. “You broke that other kids nose, right? The one who made fun of Ricky?” I say, “yes ma’am, I did.” “Good,” she says, taking another bite.

Marcy –  This novel has an amazing lineup of characters. I would choose Walt for his innocence and love of life. He has down’s syndrome and has been abandoned by his father but has an amazing outlook on life.

“Ready to swim?”

Walt looks up at me with wide-eyed enthusiasm. He’s shirtless now, holding a flashlight and sporting a pair of cutoff daisy dukes. The Cubs hat and the green Chucks he’s still wearing as well as that infectious smile that sets my heart aflame. It’s the same smile my dad and I used when we made waffles, only Walt’s is magnified somehow, like I-don’t-know-what…the Belgian waffle version or something.

“Here,” he says, offering a wad of denim. “My backup pair.”

Hopping down from the boulder, I take the shorts and hold them out in front of me. They’re a little wide in the waist, and far shorter than any shorts I’ve ever worn.

Walt throws his finger in the air, spins on his heels, “This way to my pool!”

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Dave – As often happens, Marcy and I choose similar favorite lines. She has chosen one below that I had picked, so I will choose another. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory why I chose this, as it paints a pretty vivid picture.

ED’S PLACE: CHICKEN-N-GAS The image in my brain is unsettling to say the least: Ed, a disgruntled Vietnam vet, stands over a stove with two ashy cigarillos hanging from either side of his mouth; he’s stirring a giant pot of his famous chicken-petroleum soup.

Marcy –  Mim gets wiser as she gets closer to seeing her mom.

I swear, the older I get, the more I value bad examples over good ones. It’s a good thing, too, because most people are egotistical, neurotic, self-absorbed peons, insistent on wearing near-sighted glasses in a far-sighted world. And it’s the exact sort of myopic ignorance that has led to my groundbreaking new theory. I call it Mim’s Theorem of Monkey See Monkey Don’t, and what it boils down to is this: it is my belief that there are some people whose sole purpose of existence is to show the rest of us how not to act.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave – This line of dialogue from Walt, a homeless, mentally disabled young man, made me laugh when I read it. It easily cinched my favorite when I read the end of the novel.

“Yes,” says Walt, going back to his butterfly. “I’ll remember the rendezvouski.”

Marcy –  Words of wisdom from Mim’s mom:

My mother was the greatest alarm clock of all time. Every morning, without fail, she threw back the curtains to let the sun in, and always, she said the same thing.

“Have a vision, Mary, unclouded by fear.”

Congratulations to David for the praise he’s received on this wonderful novel!

 Kids' Indie Next List "Top Ten" Pick (Spring 2015)
 ABA Indies Introduce Debut Authors and New Voices title
 A Junior Library Guild selection
 Publishers Weekly Spring 2015 Flying Start

To read more about David Arnold and his debut novel, Mosquitoland, please go to:

Monday, June 8, 2015

Surviving Bear Island

by Paul Greci

This past Friday, June 5, 2015, Marcy and I posted our answers to Paul’s debut novel Surviving Bear Island. Today, you get to read Paul’s favorite's.

Great answers, Paul! We can’t wait for our readers to read the novel. And hopefully to give us a few of their favorites, too.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Part of me wanted to go back and just stay. It would be easier that what I was doing now. But I knew that choosing the easy path meant choosing death. And I wanted to live. P. 90.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Chapter One: I scanned the water. No sign of the sea lions. And the waves seemed to be calming down. Little did I know I would be upside down in the water in less than an hour—fighting for my life.

3} Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Surviving Bear Island has one primary character. I’d say my favorite secondary character is Tom’s father because even though he isn’t present for most of the story, Tom’s relationship to him continues to develop.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Sometime toward morning the heavy rain and wind died, replaced by a fine mist, like the ground had taken as much moisture as it could and was spewing it back as fog. P. 163

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Tom’s father: “When you’re alone in the wilderness, everything is magnified.” P. 43

Living in Alaska for 25 years, Paul has seen bears fishing for salmon, a pair of bald eagles building a nest, polar bears gnawing on a whale carcass, 10,000 walruses hauled out together on the Bering Sea coast, and 120,000 caribou gathered on the Arctic Coastal Plain. And when he’s not teaching school or exploring the Alaskan wilderness, Paul Greci is thinking up ways to keep hungry moose out of his garden. His debut novel, Surviving Bear Island is a 2015 Junior Library Guild Selection.


Having completed the first draft of this novel 10 years ago, and then countless drafts since then, I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a home for this book. Six years into the revision process Surviving Bear Island morphed from a third-person young adult novel into a first-person middle grade novel. The main roadblock I ran into when writing Surviving Bear Island was how to write a story with primarily one character and have it have authentic emotional depth and complexity. Early drafts of my story were very plot heavy and episodic. As the years went by and I wrote other stories where characters were interacting with each other, I developed my skills for exploring emotional depth, and also for writing in first person. I think those other manuscripts I wrote gave me the tools I needed to transform a single-character third-person narrative into a single-character first-person narrative that was much more character-driven and emotionally authentic. As my agent was trying to sell a different manuscript, we started working on getting Surviving Bear Island ready for submission and then started subbing it simultaneously with the other manuscript, and it found its home at Move Books.

Congratulations to Paul on his debut novel, Surviving Bear Island and for the novel being chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection. Way to go, Paul!

To read more about Paul Greci’s debut novel, Surviving Bear Island, please go to:

Kirkus Review: “Bear Island is a challenging environment to survive but a terrific thrill on the page. (Adventure. 9-14)”   https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/paul-greci/surviving-bear-island/
Junior Library Guild Selection: Surviving Bear Island is a Junior Library Guild Selection in the High Interest Middle Category.

Friday, June 5, 2015

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier


Welcome to June’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut novelist, Paul Greci and his novel, Surviving Bear Island. Tom is stranded on Bear Island in the Alaskan wilderness during a kayaking trip with his father. When his kayak is overturned, Tom finds himself alone, but quickly finds out that living a solitary life on a remote and deserted island is the least of his fears.

Marcy and I can’t wait for you to join this incredible journey on the island with us.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – Tom has been struggling for days to survive on the island. His time alone has given him plenty of time to think of the problems plaguing him, one of which was trying to come to grips with the fact he believes he was responsible for his mother’s death. I like how he learns to accept what he has or has not done. I believe this passage portrays those feelings well.

I knew I had to take care of myself. That no one was going to do anything for me. And when it comes right down to it, you have to rely on yourself. You’ve got to live with yourself and the choices you make.

MarcyThroughout the novel, Tom has a lot of time to reflect on his home life and his problems. This paragraph is poignant and reflects that early on in the novel, the main character has the instinct to survive in bad times both at home and on Bear Island.

After he found out Mom died, he stood in the kitchen and dropped plates, one by one, on the floor until he’d broken them all. Then he took the bowls and did the same thing. I remember telling him to stop, but he acted like I wasn’t even there. I went into my room and cried and cried, and he never came in. When I came out hours later, he was sitting on the couch, and in the kitchen there wasn’t a speck of glass on the floor. I sat down next to him, and he put his arm around me. “We’ll get through this,” he said. But then he didn’t say anything much for months and months.

“I’ll get through this,” I said. “I’ll keep searching for Dad until I find him.” Another shiver ripped through my body.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - As Marcy mentions below, there were many fantastic cliffhangers, but I chose this one from earlier in the novel while Tom is trying to escape from a bear.

The bear twisted away from me and I jumped backwards. My feet scrambled for grip as my arms reached out for the steep slope. I grabbed a berry bush by the base and it gave way. I fell backwards, like I’d been dumped out of an airplane, and landed on my back with my legs flat, pointing down slope. A sea of green flew over me as I bumped down the slope and gained speed with no sign of stopping.

I let out a scream.

Then my heels hit something that sent a jolt through my hips and all the way to the base of my head. I flopped forward, and all of a sudden I was flying through the air. Everything slowed down, like an instant replay of someone doing a ski jump.

I knew I was moving, was airborne, but felt no pressure-no resistance. Then I slammed into the ground. Face first. Mouth first.

Marcy – There were many intense cliffhangers in the novel. This chapter ending was more about survival and perseverance.

Choices. Life was full of choices. Don’t look back, I told myself. It does no good. I swallowed the last of my jerky and started down the slope in search of a place to camp.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – It’s difficult for me to pick a secondary character, as Tom is alone for most of the novel. However, through flashbacks, I got to meet his dad. Tom has vivid recollections of the advice his dad has given, and to Tom’s great fortune, it always comes at a time when he needs it the most, as if his dad is right beside him. Following, is an example.

When you’re wet, the only way to stay warm without a fire or a change of clothes is to keep moving.


The spark’s got to hit some very small, dry flammable material-like dried grass or wood shavings or tiny scraps of birchbark. And then, you’ve got to blow on it and feed it.

Marcy – My favorite character is Mom. Even though Tom’s mom is no longer with him, her spirit is still alive inside of him and the memory of her guides him through his survival on Bear Island. Her easygoing personality and love of life and music shines through in her son.

I know my mom could’ve come up with something better, but she’d be happy that I was making a song. A song with her in mind. “Let the music flow through you,” she’d say. “Play with it. You don’t make mistakes when you make music. You make discoveries.”

There had to be a salmon stream farther back in the bay. Had to be, or else I’d have to cut off some fingers and roast them. Maybe I could work that in.

So the whole thing would go like this:

Wormy blue berries will help.
But alone will only make me yelp.
Like a dog I need more than a treat.
Salmon for the Sentinels can’t be beat.
If I don’t find any, then fingers I’ll eat.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Dave – This section comes from later in the novel while Tom is trying to use his flint to spark a flame, something he has never done, but needs to do, because he has no other resources to start a fire. I can see what he is doing. I can feel it, feel exactly what he is going through. Can’t you?

Come on, I thought. Just this one time. All I need is one flame. I closed my eyes and just kept running the knife up and down the flint. In my mind I saw sparks, or maybe I was seeing images of the real things through my eyelids. Part of me didn’t believe the flint would work, and part of me felt like I was a failure because I had this fire-starting tool and couldn’t get it to work. And all the time I just kept running the knife on the flint, keeping my eyes closed. I could feel the wood shavings brushing my knuckles as my hand moved.

“Fire, fire, fire,” I started singing.

Marcy – This paragraph shows a great deal about how Tom not only blames himself for his mom’s death, but also how he believes his dad blames him as well.

And for that whole first year I thought if Mom was gone I may as well be gone, too. Like I was part of a package deal and now the deal was off. And I thought Dad blamed me for Mom’s death too. I mean, he never told me he did, but he never told me he didn’t. Never. And he was right there when she asked me if I wanted to go on the ride and I chose to practice with my bow instead. The last thing she’d said was: If you’re not going, I’m gonna bike the whole loop.” And later that month my dad burned my bow and target.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave - For me, this line was easy. It’s short, as are most of the things his dad has said, but it tells you everything you need to know about what it will be like for Tom while alone on the island.

“When you are alone in the wilderness, everything is magnified.”

Marcy – Tom often talks to himself since he doesn’t have anyone else. These few lines are so very visual and true.

“Just me now,” I said. “Me and the wild. I’m wild. Part of the wild.”

To read more about Paul Greci’s debut novel, Surviving Bear Island, please go to:

Kirkus Review: “Bear Island is a challenging environment to survive but a terrific thrill on the page. (Adventure. 9-14)”   https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/paul-greci/surviving-bear-island/
Junior Library Guild Selection: Surviving Bear Island is a Junior Library Guild Selection in the High Interest Middle Category. https://www.juniorlibraryguild.com/books/view.dT/9780985481094

Friday, May 29, 2015

Keeping Teens and Tweens Safe Online

by Marcy Collier

Ipads and Iphones and tablets oh my!

If you're the parent of a teen, tween and even younger, they have probably
used an electronic device of some kind. Heck, in my son's middle school,
all of the students are issued Chromebooks in the beginning of the school year.
All of their books and most homework is done online. They collaborate with
teachers and other students via email and Google Docs.

My boys are computer savvy, but as a parent I worry. You can't watch them
24/7 and monitor every single document, video and text. I pay attention.
I've had the talk about online predators at least a zillion times. I've even
had my best friend who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigations in
the division of online Crimes Against Children have several talks with
my older son on her experiences and advice on how to be careful online.

New apps are popping up every day. My advice is to be aware, ask questions
and do surprise checks on all devices. If your children know you'll be checking up
on them, they'll be less likely to post and comment inappropriately online. I always
tell them never to post anything they wouldn't want the world to see.

Here's a link to a great article on protecting your teen!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The "Wimpy Kid" Opens a Bookstore in Plainville, Massachusetts

I have copied an article reprinted in this past Sunday's New York Times about children's author Jeff Kinney opening a bookstore in his hometown of Plainville, Massachusetts, set to open on May 30.  

Andrea Perry

The Bookstore Built by Jeff Kinney, the ‘Wimpy Kid’

If anyone knows how to sell books, it’s Jeff Kinney.
Over the last eight years, Mr. Kinney has built one of the most popular and lucrative franchises in publishing. His middle-grade series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” the fictional illustrated diary of a middle-school misfit, has more than 150 million copies in print, in 45 languages. The series has spawned three feature films that have earned more than $225 million worldwide at the box office.
His fans still want more. Mr. Kinney is finishing the screenplay for a fourth film, working on two animated TV specials for Fox and furiously writing jokes for the 10th book.
But lately, Mr. Kinney’s attention has wandered elsewhere.
“If my whole life were ‘Wimpy Kid,’ it wouldn’t be very fulfilling,” he said during a recent interview. “I don’t want to be designing ‘Wimpy Kid’ pillow cases for the rest of my life.”
Now, in a risky and ambitious next act, Mr. Kinney will start selling other people’s books. He’s opening a bookstore, called An Unlikely Story, in his adopted hometown, Plainville, Mass., about 40 miles south of Boston. And while he doesn’t want the store to resemble a “Wimpy Kid” theme park, he’s willing to use the popularity of the series to draw in customers. Mr. Kinney will work at the cash register and in the cafe on occasion, and he plans to teach a cartooning workshop at the store.


Jeff Kinney's soon-to-open bookstore, An Unlikely Story, in Plainville, Mass., his adopted hometown. Credit Charlie Mahoney for The New York Times

He’ll keep a studio on the third floor, where visitors can catch a glimpse of him at work, drawing on the 23-inch tablet that he uses to create his cartoons.
“We’re hoping my notoriety as a children’s author will be a draw for people,” he said. At the same time, Mr. Kinney says he’s wary of leaning too heavily on his brand and wants the store to outlast him. “This is not going to work if it’s just a shrine to my books,” he said.
Mr. Kinney, who made more than $20 million last year, might have become a patron rather than a practitioner of the trade, like the novelist James Patterson, who donated more than a million dollars to 178 bookstores around the country last year. But he wanted to leave a physical mark on Plainville, a former manufacturing town that is home to about 8,200 people.
“I wanted to add a bookstore to the landscape,” he said. With this foray into retailing, Mr. Kinney is joining a handful of authors who are injecting cash and a dose of literary celebrity into what seemed a dying trade. The novelist Ann Patchett came to the rescue of the Nashville literary community when she opened an independent bookstore there in 2011. Other authors who moonlight as booksellers include Larry McMurtry, Louise Erdrich, Garrison Keillor and the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Many small bookstores nationwide, surprisingly, are holding steady and even thriving. After years of decline, booksellers have rebounded lately as print sales have stabilized, and their ranks are swelling. Last year, the American Booksellers Association counted nearly 2,100 member stores, compared with about 1,650 in 2009.
Ms. Patchett, the co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, said she had expected her store to be a financial drain. Instead, Parnassus has flourished, so much so that the store is expanding with a mobile book van. Ms. Patchett has used her clout as an author to persuade prominent writers like Elizabeth Gilbert, Donna Tartt, David Sedaris and Michael Chabon to give readings at the store.
When Mr. Kinney visited Nashville last year for a “Wimpy Kid” event held by Parnassus Books, he grilled Ms. Patchett about her business.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Just between us, how much money did you lose the first year?’ ” Ms. Patchett recalled. “And I said, ‘Jeff, I made money.’ ”


Jeff Kinney has built one of the most popular and lucrative franchises in publishing. His “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” the fictional illustrated diary of a middle-school misfit, has more than 150 million copies in print. Credit Charlie Mahoney for The New York Times

Mr. Kinney says he doesn’t expect to recover the millions of dollars he sank into the construction of the store, but he wants to create a sustainable business, one that could have a ripple effect and help revitalize the town. “Hopefully, we’ll break even,” he said, adding optimistically, “or even make a profit.”
Plainville, Pop. 8,200
Mr. Kinney, who was born on an Air Force base in Maryland and grew up in a suburb of Washington, has lived in Plainville for the last 12 years, with his wife, Julie, and their two sons, ages 9 and 12. He’s easy to spot riding around town on his red scooter. A tall, energetic, boyish-looking 44-year-old, Mr. Kinney coaches soccer and still works at his day job as the creative director of Poptropica, a story-based gaming website he created in 2007.
The Kinneys settled in Plainville because it was the one place that met all their criteria. They were looking for a town near her parents in Worcester and close to Boston, the headquarters of Funbrain, a company where Mr. Kinney worked. They drew a Venn diagram on a map of New England, and Plainville was in the middle. They took to the town immediately. They considered moving to a bigger city when the first “Wimpy Kid” book became a breakout best seller in 2007 but decided against it.
“We like the size of it,” he said. Instead of leaving, they moved into a bigger house.
With the bookstore, Mr. Kinney is extending his roots in Plainville.
“Obviously, the man could live anywhere in the world, and he chose to live in Plainville,” said Joseph Fernandes, the town administrator. “The real fortune for Plainville is that Jeff doesn’t have to rely on how much money he makes running a bookstore to feed his family. Without Jeff Kinney, I don’t know how well a bookstore would do at that location.”
The store’s playful name is meant to evoke tall tales, but it is fitting in other ways. The arrival of a bookstore is an unlikely turn for Plainville, a town incorporated in 1905 that was once home to manufacturers of jewelry, eyeglasses and plastic parts. The new store is an anomaly next to venerable institutions like Gerry’s Barber Shop and Don’s Diner (“Family Owned Since 1936”).


A scene from the 2010 film version of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." The title character, played by Zachary Gordon, is third from right. Credit Rob McEwan/20th Century Fox

In 2012, Mr. Kinney surprised residents when he bought a crumbling building in the town’s historic center for $300,000. Over the decades, the building, which dated to the 1850s, was a barbershop, a drugstore, a tearoom and a general store. Then, for 17 years, it sat vacant, a depressing blight on the town. Like everyone else in Plainville, Mr. Kinney grew tired of looking at it.
Mr. Kinney was not sure what to do with his new purchase at first. At one point, he sought advice from his core audience, a group of local fifth graders, whose suggestions included a roller coaster, a swimming pool filled with M&Ms and a bookstore.
The bookstore idea stuck, especially since a nearby Borders had closed. “What’s the thing that everybody loves and treasures the most?” Mr. Kinney said. “It’s a bookstore.”
The project had a rocky start. An inspection revealed that the building could not be salvaged, and it had to be demolished rather than restored. “That was a tough day for a lot of people,” Mr. Kinney said. “You felt history being erased.”
In its place, Mr. Kinney commissioned a three-story building with architectural echoes of the old general store. The building is made from reclaimed wood and other recycled materials, and the interior features hand-painted replicas of old signs that hung on the building over the decades. Mr. Kinney designed the store’s logo and sign himself: a bug-eyed cartoon elephant holding a book with its trunk, under the words “An Unlikely Story.”
The story of Mr. Kinney’s rapid rise to fame is itself pretty unlikely. He studied computer science and criminal justice at the University of Maryland, and he intended to become an agent with what is now called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Instead, he ended up as a programmer at a medical software company and then a game designer at Funbrain, an educational gaming website.
On the side, he created comic strips, which he had loved since his childhood. But his work was rejected by newspaper syndicates. In 1998, he came up with the idea for “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” the illustrated diary of an acerbic and devious middle-school boy named Greg Heffley. The stories were semi-autobiographical, loosely based on Mr. Kinney’s childhood and “put through the fiction blender.”
He had been working on the series for six years when his boss at Funbrain suggested he post it on the company’s website. It attracted millions of readers. Two years later, he sold it to Abrams, an art and illustrated-book publisher.


“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever” is the sixth book in the series. Credit Jeff Kinney

When Mr. Kinney started writing “Wimpy Kid,” he had adult readers in mind. His editor persuaded him to publish it as a children’s book instead. The Abrams children’s imprint, Amulet Books, had measured expectations and printed 15,000 copies of the first book in 2007. It was an overnight success that has grown exponentially with each book. Last year, demand was so high that Amulet printed 5.5 million copies of the ninth book in the series. This fall, the 10th book will be published simultaneously in more than 90 countries.
Mr. Kinney’s empire has grown so large that Abrams measures “Wimpy Kid” sales separately from the rest of its children’s and adult imprints. A “Wimpy Kid” team made up of about half a dozen people meets weekly to manage the brand.
“When you’re buying enough paper for five and a half million books, the stakes are high,” said Michael Jacobs, president and chief executive of Abrams.

Bringing a Store to Life
One morning, a few weeks before the May 30 opening day, Mr. Kinney was a bit groggy as he surveyed the store’s progress. He had had just three hours of sleep the previous two nights. He spotted a patch of ceiling in the basement that needed to be painted, and he questioned the placement of a big bookcase in the cafe. The shelves, with enough space for 3,500 books, were still bare, but the leather armchairs and display tables for new releases had arrived.
The space was coming to life, with fanciful touches like flying books hanging from the ceiling with their pages spread like wings. A few chalkboards were scattered through the section, hidden at toddler level behind secret panels, so children could write messages or discover one of Mr. Kinney’s doodles.
The store will have a prominent “Wimpy Kid” section, with a roughly 500-pound bronze statue of Greg Heffley by the sculptor Allyson Vought, along with “Wimpy Kid” books, stationery and T-shirts.
The nearly 16,000-square-foot building will double as an event space for local theater performances, yoga classes, ballroom dancing, karaoke nights and occasional screenwriting and cartooning workshops, which Mr. Kinney will teach. It will also serve as the new headquarters for Wimpy Kid Inc., which Mr. Kinney and his two full-time employees now run out of a small house next to his home.
Over the years, Mr. Kinney has visited hundreds of independent bookstores. When he decided to open his own, he needed to learn how to run one. He sought advice from the owner of one of his favorites, the Northshire Bookstore in Vermont, and took a few of his staff members there for a retreat last summer.
“We talked about the nitty-gritty of running a bookstore, everything from numbers to relationships with publishers and the aesthetics of a store,” said Chris Morrow, co-owner of the Northshire Bookstore.
Early on, Mr. Kinney hired Paz & Associates, an organization that trains and counsels independent bookstore owners, which studied the town’s population size and traffic patterns and advised him on a variety of things, including the store’s layout and inventory and how many employees and parking spaces it would need. They told him that a bookstore in Plainville would have been impractical for the average owner, but a world-famous author had a better shot at succeeding at making it a destination.
“I’m sure they were thinking we were crazy to open a bookstore in a town of 8,000,” Mr. Kinney said. “Maybe they still do.”

Friday, May 22, 2015

Protecting Freedom & Creativity - Happy Memorial Day!

by Marcy Collier
(I'm reposting this blog from July, 2011 in honor of the men and women who serve our country)

When I think of the freedom we share, I immediately think of all of the soldiers who have fought to protect our freedom. If it weren’t for these brave men and women, the article I’m posting right now might be prohibited by law. But thankfully, my speech is protected. I think we take for granted what those who came before us sacrificed.

My grandfather, Robert Mulligan gave his life to protect ours. I never knew my Grandfather. My mother only met him once. He died in World War II when my mother was only three months old. My mother saw him a second time at his funeral four years later. That’s how long it took for the government to ship his body back home.

My grandmother was left to raise her daughter as a single mother, which was rare in the 1940s and 1950s. Even rarer, my grandmother started college at the age of 16 and finished at 20. Her schooling helped her secure a stable government position with the Bureau of Mines.

I look back at my grandmother’s books from college, her contributions to The Westminster newspaper and signed books from friends and know I am a writer because of her. It’s in my blood.

I have never known much about my grandfather’s side of the family. Last year one of my favorite cousins met up with a classmate (a cousin I’ve never met) who gave her a pendant of the Virgin Mary that my grandfather purchased oversees for his mother and mailed home a few months before he died. She passed this beautiful pendant on to me. After 67 years, I have a piece of my grandfather from so very long ago.  

As I look at these objects from the past, I’m fascinated to hear stories and ponder new ones. Items from the past tell a rich, unique story. Whether it’s about fighting and dying for our country or the struggle to bring up your little girl as a single mother, each item is filled with a rich history.

I’m putting out a challenge to our readers to express their creativity and freedom of speech. Find an object from your past. Take a picture of it and write a story. Send the photo and story (200 words or less) to Route19Writers(at)Gmail.com. The deadline for entries is September 1st. We will judge each entry. A winner will be announced and published on our blog by October 1st. I’ll mail the winner a $10.00 gift card to Panera Bread. You must sign up as a follower of the blog to submit. Best of luck!

Have a safe and fun Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Weeding the Garden, Weeding the Story

Rich Soil, Rich Plot

Kitty Griffin

Bee Balm and Coneflowers

Okay, so yesterday was my day to blog and I was worn out from gardening. I have gardens everywhere. There’s a huge vegetable garden out by the driveway, a smaller vegetable garden next to the house, one large flowerbed, and beds encircling the house.

As I worked yesterday I began to think about how gardening is like writing.

What does a good garden need?

Rich soil on a plot of earth.

What does a good story need?

A rich plot on firm earth.

You won't get a harvest if you don't pull the weeds, pick off the pests, enrich the soil, and make sure it's watered. You won't get a story if you don't clean the clogs, get rid of extra verbiage, don't nourish your characters and make certain it's edited.

No, a harvest of any kind requires due diligence. 

Waiting to be put up

As you tend the garden, sometimes there are weeds that need to be pulled. As you nurture your story, sometimes there are characters that need to be yanked out.

When your soil gets depleted you can enrich it with good compost, good rotted material.

Sometimes a story drags and you can renew it using ideas from stories that you’ve set aside.

Sometimes there are surprises in the garden, at first you may think it’s bad, but when you realize this is beneficial, you leave it alone.

in the zucchini

Sometimes in your writing a plot twist will shock you. “I didn’t think that would happen.” But as you back away you find that it’s just what the story needed.

All sorts of pests will be attracted to your garden. Some of them are bad for the flowers and some of them can be dangerous to you.

Sometimes a pest appears in your story. A character who is so interesting it causes you to lose sight of your main character. It will take courage to dispose of the bad actor.

Wheel bug on a zinnia, they BITE!

If you’ve done your work, you’ve chosen a good variety of plant, you’ve made certain to keep it nourished and watered, you will enjoy a harvest bounty. If you've done well, you'll attract beneficial bugs and your flowers will glow with color.

If you’ve done your writing, you have a strong character with an interesting problem and a good supporting cast, you will have a sound story.  If you've done well you'll have a story people want to read!

Big fat bee on a marigold

Here is a playhouse for children that I’ve always wanted to try. You need Mammoth Sunflower seeds and Morning Glory seeds (or any other good climber).
Make a shape for the outline of your house with the giant sunflower seeds, setting the seeds so that the plants will be close, but leave a child-sized strip that will be the doorway. Between the sunflower seeds, drop in the Morning Glory seeds, so that as they grow, the Morning Glory will surround the sunflower stalks. By summer’s end you’ll have a secret hideaway for your little ones.

Mammoth Sunflower

An abundance of Zucchini? Here's a recipe.

If you find yourself with an overlarge zucchini don’t worry. Now, if it’s baseball bat size, no, give that one to the compost heap.

In a frying pan heat some olive oil and a chopped onion and some garlic if you like. Grate the zucchini and swish it into the sautéed onions. Cook until just a bit tender. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, or Italian mix cheese.

If you want to have beautiful cut flowers, grow Zinnias. They are fast. They are east. Nothing bothers them and they are lovely in arrangements.

Zinnia, oh Zinnia!

Now…let me think about that wheel bug. If I were a naughty little boy who somehow got turned into one of these….what do you think might happen?