Learning from Launches

Last week I celebrated the book birthday of THE BOY PROBLEM: NOTES AND PREDICTIONS OF TABITHA REDDY with a Virtual Launch Party. You can still check out the links which include an interview, a trailer, an essay written by me, and a podcast! Then the launch parties hit the road as I took those instant images I talked about in THIS POST to several SC bookstores. So today I thought I’d share a little of my travels with you and tell you how it went, and what I learned about book launch parties.


First, have a cupcake! My friend Lisa made these to go along with the cupcake theme in the book!

chocolate mustache cookiesSo, with the cupcake theme in place, the refreshment decision was easy! But still… I just couldn’t resist buying mustache shaped cookie cutters, so of course we had to stay up late the night before the first party making chocolate mustache cookies. ‘Cause who needs sleep the night before a book launch? (Hint:You!)

fortune telling statSince Tabbi, the main character of THE BOY PROBLEM tries to predict who the right guy for her will be, I had a great time stocking up on kid-friendly prediction objects for party attenders to play around with. Of course there were fortune cookies, those red fortune telling fish, and even fortune telling bacon!

Kids make their own paper fortune tellers and check out a variety of 8 balls Including the one from Glee that occasionally sings, "You cant t always get what you want."

Kids make their own paper fortune tellers and check out a variety of Magic 8 balls Including the one from Glee that occasionally sings, “You cant t always get what you want.”

My daughter sports her Johnny Cupcake shirt like the ones from the book.

My daughter sports her Johnny Cupcake shirt like the ones from the book.

The first party was at Artworks in Beaufort. It was great to see friends, meet people, and sign books! And I haven’t even gotten to the fake mustaches, finger mustache tattoos, and the book bling…. tattoos, bookmarks, and bracelets. But I was so exhausted after the happy event, and we had so much going on, that I decided to streamline the next event, a book signing party at Books on Broad in Camden SC: I decided not to make another batch of mustache cookies. Luckily, we didn’t need them. My first grade teacher made brownies and brought peanuts, a dear family friend, my sister-in-law and my mother made a fresh batch of cupcakes, and Books on Broad set up the cutest lemonade stand. Love the mustache cups!

Love the mustache cups and the cute table cloth.

Love the mustache cups and the cute table cloth.

If you ever want to visit a GORGEOUS independent bookstore, you need to check out Books on Broad.

If you ever want to visit a GORGEOUS independent bookstore, you need to check out Books on Broad.


signing lineThis event was made even more special when my friend of ten years, author Kathryn Erskine arrived about half-way through. When I planned the party, I didn’t know Kathy would be in town, but vacation brought her to SC, and I was so excited to be able to sign books with her! I put Kathy’s National Book Award winning skills to work, by making her haul all of that junk I’ve been talking about out to the car while I joked around taking pictures with the giant mustaches Books on Broad used to decorate.

Kathy Erskine and my mom make trips back and forth to the car with my book party junk.

Kathy Erskine and my mom make trips back and forth to the car with my book party junk.



Clearly there were better things to do than to pack up.

Clearly there were better things to do than to pack up.













Next stop, Hartsville SC and Burry Bookstore where Kathy and I signed books together for an hour and a half. I consolidated even more this time. Kathy appreciated having to make fewer trips to the car while I was setting up.

Signing at Burry Bookstore

Signing at Burry Bookstore

Last week was a whirlwind! But in the best ways. So what I learned about book launch parties…

1.It doesn’t matter how many great, creative, ideas you have to help celebrate the arrival of a new book… just act on a few. You only want to make so many trips back and forth hauling all those good ideas from the car. My next book launch party will be a little more simple, but just as much fun!

2. Friends and family make hosting the parties easier, and better in every way!

3. Independent bookstore owners are the best.

4. I loved signing every book. But the absolute best ones to sign were those of students who read my first book and were excited about getting the second one!


The best of the best. Signing for Megan who read The Boy Project.

The best of the best. Signing for Megan who read The Boy Project.

THE BOY PROBLEM is officially launched! Hooray!



What’s Your Theme Song?

Earlier this week, we posted about things to tell the tweens in your life. That post was very well received, and we got lots of messages from readers who told us what things resonated with them. One of the most common comments had to do with the theme song suggestion. Said one Facebook commenter, “I love the theme song thing! I need a theme song!”

In light of this, we thought it would be nice to look at the theme songs of some Nerdy Chicks. Maybe that will help you on your own theme song quest?

Sister Sledge We are FamilyKathy Erskine belts out Sister Sledge’s “We are Family.” Her favorite line:

“Here’s what we call our golden rule:  have faith in you and the things you do!”

I can totally see how that empowers Kathy.

Bon Jovi It's My LifeWhen Mary Zisk was 24 and a coworker died suddenly, she vowed to see and do everything she wanted and to never wait for “some day.” Her selection is Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life. She says the line

“I just want to live while I’m alive”

has been her attitude ever since, and is fueling her current drive to write. “Also,” says Mary, “the lyric ‘Like Frankie said I did it my way’ cracks me up — so Jersey!”

I’m a Jersey girl, too, and that line cracks me up as well!

Man in the Mirror Michael JacksonTameka Fryer Brown’s theme song is Michael Jackson’s “Man In the Mirror.” What a great song. Tameka is touched by these lyrics:

I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways”

“if you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make a change”

Great, great choice.

Fun Some NightsKami Kinard’s theme song is “Some Nights” by Fun. “I somehow feel empowered by all of their music,” she says, “because it makes me feel like we’re all in this together.”

Kami’s favorite lyric is:

“What do I stand for? What do I stand for? Most nights, I don’t know. Anymore.”

I love this song as well.

Saving Jane SupergirlIn my last post, I used Saving Jane’s Supergirl as an example of a theme song. And, yes, that has totally been a song that I have identified with many times in my life. But now I have to make a confession — I don’t just have one theme song. I have many, each one fitting a different aspect of my life. But the song that I sing to myself in the quiet moments of doubt that never fails at empowering me to go back to work at my goals is probably Pink’s “Perfect.” PinkThe whole song works for me. It was very hard just to choose a snippet of the lyrics. But in the end, here’s what I want to share with you:

“It’s enough, I’ve done all I could think of, chased down all my demons — I’d see you do the same”

Pink fans will notice that I’ve changed the last few words from “I’ve seen you do the same” to my own version, asking the other person to change as I have. That might seem like cheating, but, to me, that’s the beauty of music — that it is a deeply personal experience and we each take away what we need from it. Those lines from the song make me let go of my frustrations toward other people, toward the things in life that are out of my control. They remind me that I’ve done all I could, and that that is all we can do in this life.

What are your favorite songs? Share them in the comments below! And scroll down for links to the videos of these theme songs!

Five Authors Give Back-to-School Advice

As of today, almost every kid in the nation has gone back to school. In honor of this annual event, we thought it’d be fun to highlight some advice from some of the amazing authors we’ve interviewed in the past. We usually ask this question:

If you could give your high school or middle school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Here are their answers:

amy reevesAmy Carol Reeves:

Don’t worry about so much!  I was very Type A and so much of what I worried about didn’t really matter in the long run.  (Oh, and to my middle school self—puffed bangs were REALLY not cool! What were you thinking?)

katie davis

Katie Davis:

Do not, I repeat, do not get that short haircut and subsequent perm in ninth grade, in the year 197(mumbles something incoherent).



Shannon W

Shannon Wiersbitzky:

Ditch the long hair sooner! (grin)

Actually, I’d sit my younger self down and say, “Never doubt your abilities. EVER.” I’ve spoken to lots of women, of all ages, and it seems we all have this annoying voice in our heads that says, “Maybe you’re not ______ enough.” Just fill in the blank….smart, thin, talented, driven, creative, loud, beautiful. We’ve all heard it, no matter where we are in our life or our career. When we don’t quiet that voice, it can cause us to miss the most wonderful opportunities. I try to remind myself that all the time, and then I remind other women as well. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way.


Barbara Johansen Newman:

I could pretend my seventh grade self would listen if I told her not to worry about what her peers were thinking, but I am sure she would roll her eyes and let me go in one ear and out the other. I certainly could not tell her that none of the people around her would matter much in ten years because I ended up marrying one of those seventh graders in my own section and here we still are almost fifty years later  

Kathryn ErskineKathy Erskine:

Who cares what the other kids say — be yourself and be proud of it.  Hey, that sounds like the advice Kara would give in THE BOY PROJECT!  She is one smart, nerdy chick! (Thanks Kathy!)

I can’t help but notice that this advice falls mostly into two camps. Camp One: Don’t worry. Camp Two: You will live to regret (and even laugh about) that bad hair style. So pass the wisdom of these ladies on to a student you love, and assure them that they are not alone. We’ll highlight more back-to-school advice soon. In the meantime, just click on the author’s name to see their original interviews and to learn about their books. Have a great weekend!

Kathryn Erskine: Award Winner and Sword Dancer (Keep Reading)

I met Kathy Erskine in 2004 at the Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua and am thankful to have been friends with her ever since. She is the author of several award winning books including Quaking, and The Absolute Value of Mike. Her most famous work (to date) is Mockingbird, for which she not only won The National Book Award, but also recently claimed The Dolly Gray Award, and others. Kathy was born in the Netherlands, and has lived in Israel, South Africa, Scotland, and Canada. She now lives with her family in Virginia. You’ll see the influence of many cultures in her answers below!

Thanks for joining us Kathy! I was wondering if you ever gave nerdy traits to any of your characters.

Shannon, the main character in a teen road trip novel I’m currently writing, has a nerdy trait.  She’s a smart and somewhat sassy 15 year old who is interested in medicine, especially psychology and western approaches to medicine like acupuncture.  While others might think it’s a bit weird, she finds that it’s very helpful knowledge to have with an ailing grandfather and an enigmatic older brother whom she’d always assumed was just a jerk.

 Ooooooh. I love having a peek into your work in progress. Shannon sounds interesting! I remember when I learned what the word acupuncture meant. There was this joke about a doctor sticking you with a bill… Anyway, are there any well-known fictitious chicks you admire?

Hermione Granger.  She is a wonderfully nerdy chick.  I love that girl!  So smart, and she doesn’t waste time worrying about people who make fun of her nerdiness.  Do you see how many scrapes she gets herself and her friends out of?

Great answer! Who doesn’t love Hermione? What is one of your favorite ways to flaunt your brain power, Hermoine-style?

Speaking other languages–not that I speak much of any other language but it’s fun to be able to say and understand a few things when you go to another country or meet people from far away.  It’s also fun to throw a phrase or two into a paper or a speech.  I think it makes you look tres intelligent.  Muy inteligente.  Molto intelligente.  Sehr intelligent.  You get the picture!

I guess you picked up some of these languages while living abroad. As a nerdy chick, what was the best part about living in other countries?

I loved learning about a new culture, finding out how people in that country view Americans and the U.S. in general (often very eye-opening), and what the nuances in their language say about the culture, such as asking about one’s family before moving on to other topics.  It’s fascinating seeing the similarities in so many languages for words like mother, father and coffee (my favorite drink).  Linguistic differences fascinate me, too.  For example, in Zulu, there are different terms for “good bye” if you’re staying and saying goodbye to those who are leaving, or if you’re leaving and saying goodbye to those who are staying.  On the other hand, there’s one basic greeting used at any hour, rather than good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, like we have in English.  For a nerdy chick like me, that is cool stuff!

What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

Being the youngest person to pass the Foreign Service exam — written and oral parts.

If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Who cares what the other kids say — be yourself and be proud of it.  Hey, that sounds like the advice Kara would give in THE BOY PROJECT!  She is one smart, nerdy chick! Thanks Kathy!

In your opinion, what’s cool about being nerdy?

Knowledge is power.  You can own your world. 

I think Mike finds this out in The Absolute Value of Mike! He has to learn so much about so many different people and things in order to acomplish his goals.

 What’s something you like to do that might be considered a tad bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

Playing brainy games like SET or SWISH (spatial relations), Scrabble, Boggle, Trivial Pursuit, strategy games, and cards.  I even have quiz games and Sudoku on my iPhone.  Part of the fun of playing board games and card games, though, is the camaraderie and laughter of your friends and family, whether you’re winning or losing.

Kathy, Kathy, Kathy… I can’t believe you didn’t mention that brainy game that you and your family introduced us to… the game where nerdy chicks can conquer communities and dominate a civilization… the game I hear going on in the background even as I write this (“I’ll trade you two ores for a wood.”) … Settlers of Catan! Nerdy chicks you must check this game out!

Can you share a favorite song or quote that speaks to your inner nerdiness?

There are so many.  Here’s a quote and then I’ll tell you some songs that are, well, a little nerdy.

“Be calm, be steadfast, be courageous.”  — Mary McLeod Bethune,

As for songs…

–the Highland fling or sword dance music so I can perform those dances (preferably in private).

–Pata Pata and other African songs so I can sing (also in private) in a different language, including the click sounds in Xhosa!

–random national anthems and regional songs–O Canada, Scotland the Brave, and Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrica being my favorites.

I see that foreign influence again! Thanks Kathy for showing us your inner nerdiness! And if you’ll make a video of yourself dancing the Highland fling or sword dancing, I’d love to embed it here! To learn more about Kathy, and to view the trailer for Quaking, visit her website at www.kathrynerskine.com. You can also follow her blog, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.