#PitchWars Middle Grade Mentor, 2017!

I'm delighted to announce that I was one of the 54 from over 300 applicants to be chosen as a mentor in the 2017 #PitchWars. For more information see the website of the co-founder, Brenda Drake.

This is my chance to help a middle grade writer looking for an agent or editor to revise their manuscript and pitch their book. I'm honored to be part of this contest that has helped so many people on their road to publication.

Rockin' Jump Authors Day

A few pictures from the Rockin' Jump authors' day, including evidence of MG and YA authors, Jennifer Gennari and L. B. Schulman, trampolining before opening time. If the writing in your personalized book looks a bit shaky, this is probably why. Thank you Shells Legoullon of Rockin' Jump, Vacaville, an SCBWI member, for inviting us to such a rockin' day. And a big thank you to Rita's Italian Ice for the  free samples! The mango ice was delicious!

California School Librarians Association Conference: Rohnert Park, 2017

My fellow MG writers Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Guardian Herd Series, Jill Diamond, Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery and I were warmly welcomed on Saturday by a room of school librarians passionate that their students should not skip middle grade books for YA: the topic of our talk. That was followed by an enjoyable author mix and mingle and an evening with award winning author Kristin Cashore. Wow, what a day celebrating the people who strive to get great books into the hands of great kids!

The Lost Celt Mentioned in Dispatches, the Magazine of the Military Writers Society of America

Pun intended, The Lost Celt appears in Dispatches, the MWSA magazine, alongside award winners in all the literature categories. Very grateful for the recognition and good company.

Busy Weekend at California Library Association and California Reading Association

Sweet Sixteen debut authors: K. C. Held,     A. E. Conran, Janet Sumner Johnson, Jill Diamond, Amy Allegher, Parker Peevyhouse and Laura Shovan.

Sweet Sixteen debut authors: K. C. Held,     A. E. Conran, Janet Sumner Johnson, Jill Diamond, Amy Allegher, Parker Peevyhouse and Laura Shovan.

From Sacramento to Visalia, I was thrilled to meet some inspiring authors, librarians and reading specialists at both the California Library Association conference in Sacramento and the California Reading Association conference in Visalia. Highlights were meeting six other debut authors from the Sweet Sixteens; sharing my signing table with friend and YA writer extraordinaire, Kim Culbertson, and sharing my love of middle grade in a presentation to educators wanting empathetic and challenging mg books for their students.

The Lost Celt reviewed on Mom-Spot.com

Very happy with this positive review from the website Mom-Spot.com. I love to think that girls and boys can't put The Lost Celt down. To visit the Mom-Spot.com review click here.

"Why We Like this Book:

  • Page turner that keeps your interest from cover to cover
  • Lots of twists and turns
  • Story draws you in so deeply that you simply cannot put the book down
  • Book will appeal to both boys and girls."

"Write a Book in a Week" Camp: Book Passage, July 18-23

Four brave 12-year olds met with me for five three-hour sessions to think-up, plot, write and edit a book in a week. It was a blast with ideas flowing thick and fast and furious days of writing fuelled by Italian sodas.

Day 1: We brainstormed all the things we wanted in our book: flying leopards, red and black bugs, jungle adventures, eyes floating the dark and chocolate. We then wrote character studies, setting studies and our backstory. 

Day 2: We plotted the entire book using Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat" Beat Sheet. I then wrote a chapter summary for every chapter.

Days 3 and 4: We allocated the chapters and had to write a chapter an hour. Where necessary we all brainstormed the chapter to make sure that we were working in scene and to ensure we were evoking all the senses and emotions we needed. 

Day 5: We edited, revised, illustrated the front cover, printed and bound our novel, Leona Bloom and the Drexonia Plants of Imaginus. It was completed literally on the dot of 12pm on Friday ready for our presentation and reading in the Book Passage Event Room. I'm very proud of my fearless fellow authors, Kate, Megan, Petra and Pilar.

A. E. Conran on faculty of the Book Passage YA and MG Writers' Conference: July 16 and 17

Organized by Tiffany Jimenez at Book Passage, this conference was packed full of amazing presentations from the Keynote with Newbery Honor author Gennifer Choldenko, to Ying Compostine's no-holds-barred presentation on writing award-winning novels. I had a fantastic time presenting on Bravery in Middle Grade Fiction, (character and authorial) and sharing some of my experiences promoting a book published by a small press on an author panel with Esther Erhlich, Nest, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Guardian Herd series, and Ying Compostine, Revolution is not a Dinner Party.  Thank you Tiffany for a fabulous conference!

Visiting Ross School and Sterne School

Thank you  to Tracy Reid and the 4th and 5th graders, at Ross School in Marin, and Ellie Jones and Allie Becker and their classes at Sterne School, in San Francisco, for welcoming me so warmly. I had a blast sharing  my love of Roman and Celtic history and talking about the inspiration for The Lost Celt. 

Author Reception at Northern California Independent Booksellers' Association Spring Gathering, April 10.

Photo taken by my first visitor, Carolyn, from A Great Good Place for Books, Montclair.

Photo taken by my first visitor, Carolyn, from A Great Good Place for Books, Montclair.

For the first time, and hopefully not the last, I was on the other side of the table signing books as part of the author reception at the NCIBA Spring Gathering on Sunday. So much fun to share my love of story and history with fellow booksellers. Only in a group of booksellers (and historians) would you get two people walk up consecutively, point to my necklace and say, "Oh isn't that Cernunnos from the Gundestrup Cauldron?"

Setting up

Setting up

My necklace of the horned god taken from the Gundestrup cauldron

My necklace of the horned god taken from the Gundestrup cauldron

Visiting Wade Thomas Elementary, San Anselmo, Old Mill School, Mill Valley and Bel Aire Elementary, Tiburon

Reading to 4th and 5th graders in Old Mill School library, Mill Valley.

Reading to 4th and 5th graders in Old Mill School library, Mill Valley.

Talking to 4th and 5th graders in Old Mill School library, Mill Valley

Talking to 4th and 5th graders in Old Mill School library, Mill Valley

So fortunate to have had a wonderful week talking about The Lost Celt to some of the most attentive and enthusistic kids in Marin County.  

Favourite moments include: lines of kids waiting to try on my reproduction of the Snettisham torc…it's only brass, but it's still really heavy; kids sharing their love of Romans, Celts and ancient myths and having a young girl come up to me saying, "I'm just like you." She loves books about soldiers and yet she still likes "girl" things like ballet and fluffy animals. She seemed hugely relieved to share this, so I think I touched a chord. It worries me that in this "selfie, social media" age, girls might be forced into stereotypes and emphasizing looks more than ever.

One of two assemblies to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at Bel Aire School, Tiburon.

One of two assemblies to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at Bel Aire School, Tiburon.