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Monday, November 19, 2012

Big News!

I am THRILLED to announce some major news today!

NEWS ITEM #1: Book deal!
Viking/Penguin will publish my next two books!

Both are YA, both are mysteries, both involve globetrotting teens!

Here's the official announcement as it appeared in Publisher's Marketplace. (Please substitute "Ecuador" for "El Salvador"; that's an error).

Diana Renn's LATITUDE ZERO, about a children's TV show host and avid bicyclist who travels to El Salvador to unravel the mysterious death of a fellow young cyclist, and BLUE VOYAGE, about a teen girl spending the summer in Turkey who gets entangled with an international gang of antiquities smugglers, to Leila Sales at Viking Children's, for publication in 2014 and 2015, by Kirby Kim at William Morris Endeavor.

If you liked the blend of mystery, action, and international intrigue in TOKYO HEIST, you'll find more of that in the next two books, though with very different sleuths, settings, and storylines.

I'm beyond thrilled that I'll get to keep working with my talented editor, Leila Sales, and the wonderful people at Viking/Penguin! I thought publishing one novel was a dream come true, so I'm now officially in the territory of "beyond wildest dream." I'm deeply grateful to my whole publishing team, including my agent, for making this possible and for believing in my work.

I'm particularly grateful to readers who've enjoyed my first book, bloggers who've gotten behind it and helped spread the word, people who've come out to my bookstore/library/school events these past few months, and anyone who's bought or borrowed TOKYO HEIST and taken a chance on a debut writer. I remember when I first decided to risk leaving teaching and dialing down my freelance work in educational publishing, and just focus on finishing and selling the book. It felt like flinging myself on a trapeze, with no safety net below. But there is a net, I've discovered. It's readers. THANK YOU!

Thank you, amazing steadfast writing group and critique partners -- you know who you are -- for helping me make sense of my ideas and find the right stories to tell. 

And, while I'm gushing, I have to say, I'm feeling especially grateful to my husband and family for being the most integral part of my net, and so supportive of my career. Getting books written and out into the world is a team effort, and I'm blessed on the home front.

OK - ready for the next thing?

NEWS ITEM #2: A movie deal!!

I've been sitting on this incredible news for awhile, but today I am signing papers, so can finally share that the production company Anonymous Content has purchased the movie option for Tokyo Heist!

I'll have more info to share on this later, so stay tuned!

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Blue Bunny Books: A Great Kids Bookstore!

Babar and Friend, tampering with the crime scene
Last Thursday I had a wonderful time talking to teens, parents, teachers, and book lovers at a gem of a children's bookstore: Blue Bunny Books & Toys in Dedham, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston). I presented with Erin Dionne, a fellow Penguin author, who wrote Notes from an Accidental Band Geek, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, and others (which you should totally read! She's a great writer and very, very funny!)

The Blue Bunny -- which is named after a trademark image associated with antique Dedham pottery -- has a strong sense of community and an amazing creative vibe. Maybe because it's co-owned by the well-known children's book author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. The store sells books for infants up through teens, runs creativity workshops, publishes a biannual literary arts magazines (by and for grade school kids) called Hutch, houses a teen/young adult book club called Blue2, and hosts author events.

First Erin and I talked about our roads to the writer's life and publication, and discovered we may actually be the same person. We developed our love of writing early (age five or six) and shared a love of Harriet the Spy (elementary school). In high school she was a band geek (her words); I was a choir and drama geek. And now we're both Penguin authors. How cool! Her forthcoming novel is an art mystery surrounding the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Which is weird because I wrote an art mystery (Tokyo Heist) and did a lot of my research around that same museum in order to understand art heists and criminal networks.

Dun dun DUN . . .

Cupcakes w/ our book covers, made by Janet Reynolds!
Anyway. The thing that blew me away was how many people came to this bookstore event, despite some pretty stiff competition -- we had Halloween and Hurricane Sandy in the same week. But that store filled up. There were actual teenagers there too! Folks, this does not always happen at bookstore events. I see teens at library events, and schools (of course) but not in great numbers at stores. So this made my day. The kids asked excellent questions (okay, adults did too) and we met several young writers -- including one who was headed right home after our event to pound out words on her NaNoWriMo project.

So what brought people out on a cold fall night to hear about our books and talk about reading and writing in general? Was it the store's fantastic promotional efforts? The super smart and friendly staff? The cupcakes with our book covers? (Cute, aren't they? Pumpkins illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds look on . . . )

Maybe there's just a wonderful strong sense of community at this store. This is precisely what we don't get from Amazon. The bookstore as a cozy community living room.Thanks, Blue Bunny! Keep it up!
Erin (& her daughter) and I, about to eat a ton of cupcakes!

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kidlit Auctions for Sandy Victims

In my Boston suburb, we weathered Hurricane Sandy well. The massive old tree in front of our house did not capsize, though trees were downed on neighboring streets. Our back fence panels crashed into the neighbors' yard, but that was almost to be expected; the fence was old and rotting. Our power flickered but remained on -- to the disappointment of my son, who was standing by with every flashlight in the house. And as a happy circumstance, the hurricane blew my sister into town; she escaped Baltimore just in time, where she was attending a conference, and got to delay her flight home to San Francisco by a day.

My son missed only a day of school. We read endless books, played games, built with Legos, and watched Lady and the Tramp several times.

The evening after the storm, I thought it had all blown over. I set off for my taiko drumming class, and encountered a freak thunderstorm. Despite no driving visibility and waves of water on the road, I managed to make it to a Hess station, where I waited it out. I browsed tabloid magazines and contemplated buying a blue Slurpee, something I haven't tasted in years. When I set off for home, having given up on the class, things took a darker turn, and I realized this was no longer a funny story about evening plans gone awry. I encountered a puddle that had grown to the size of a lake. There was no way around it. Cars ahead of me -- SUVs -- were plowing through it. I pulled over, unsure if I'd make it. A kind police officer coached me through it, and promised he'd ride right behind me. I made it through, grateful for his boost of confidence and my trusty Subaru Outback; it was truly scary. And it still took me an hour to get home (instead of the fifteen minutes it would normally have taken) because the town I had to get through had many roads closed from Sandy's destruction, more standing water, and downed trees.

I arrived home, somewhat shaken, and found my sister and husband watching CNN footage of lower Manhattan and New Jersey. The damage I'd seen in my neighborhood, and the flood I'd just experienced, was NOTHING compared to this. I immediately send money to the Red Cross.

My heart goes out to those who are still without power, or unable to access their homes or get to work, or who have experienced colossal damage as a result of this storm.

I'm grateful for my good fortune but also for the chance to do something, however small, to help. The amazing kidlit community is rallying, and there are several online auctions going on right now to raise money to help victims of Sandy. Writers, agents, and editors are donating books and services (manuscript/query critiques, phone consults, Skype visits, and more).

I've donated a signed copy of Tokyo Heist and a manuscript critique to Jennifer Malone's auction. Here's a link to my item if you want to bid!

Here's a link to Jennifer's auction if you want general information. Scroll through November and October posts to see all the items. Check back -- new items are being added all the time!

Here's a link to another great kidlit community auction going on right now -- KidLit Cares, organized by Kate Messner. All proceeds go to Red Cross relief efforts.

If you know of other auctions or opportunities for writers to help, let me know and I'll add them here!

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