Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sam...and his great great Uncle Hugh.

Sam, standing in Memorial Hall

Sam with his great great uncle Hugh.  Hugh is giving Sam his Naval sword.  
When my oldest son, Sam, was a junior in high school, I took him to United States Naval Academy in Annapolis because he wanted to see the campus.  He wanted to know if it was right for him, if he could see himself attending this military academy.  We stayed with my great uncle Hugh and his wife, Dixie.  On the second day of our trip, we toured the campus and visited the admissions office.  And then we went to a football game.  We had my uncle’s fifty-yard line tickets.  My great uncle Hugh and his younger brother, Frank Robinson, both attended the academy.  Unfortunately, my grandfather, who is Frank Robinson, died in an airplane crash while in a training exercise.  My mother never got to meet her father.  Inside Memorial Hall at the Naval Academy, they have Frank Robinson’s name etched into stone.  He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  He is next to his mother and his father.
Memorial Hall, with Frank Robinson's  name etched in stone.

Frank Robinson's gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery

Frank and Hugh's parents at Arlington National Cemetery
But while we were at that football game, and each company was marching out onto the field, Sam turned to me and said, “Mom, I want to go to school here more than anything.  I’m going to do everything I can to get accepted.” 

And he did get accepted.  It was an eighteen month admission process, but he is there now and doing very well.  He was the first person to ever get accepted into the Naval Academy from his high school, Dana Hills High School.  Next year, he has to decide where he will serve.  There is no tuition when you attend a military academy.  Everything is free, however, the student pays back the cost of the education by serving in the Navy.  Sam has decided he wants to be a marine pilot.  That commitment is twelve years because the training is three years and then because the cost to train the pilots is so high, they expect at least nine years of flight service. 

I am very happy for Sam.  I know he will be a wonderful pilot and I know he will serve the United States of America, his country, very well.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Thank You Letters from McKinley Elementary School

This sign was waiting for me in the Library.

I am a member of the California Readers.  It's wonderful organization of educators, librarians, authors, artists, and booksellers, which is run by the California Readers Board Members.  I have been very fortunate in that all of my middle grade novels have been chosen to be included on the middle grade lists.

So when Bonnie O'Brian emailed me to let me know that McKinley Elementary School, had won the Ed Pert Award, and that they had chosen me as the author, I was thrilled.  The Ed Pert Award is fabulous because not only does the school receive every book on the list, which is one hundred, they also have the author at their school for the entire day.

I gave a presentation to the third, fourth, and fifth graders, in the library.  McKinley Elementary School is a Title One school, and is over one hundred years old.  The librarian, Marcia Melkonian, was so very nice to me.  By the end of the day, I felt as if we were very good friends.

My youngest son, Hugh, attended a Title One Middle School, Marco Forster, in San Juan Capistrano, because of the extra funding the school received, he got a better education than his older brother.  Title One schools are special because they must meet certain guidelines to receive this funding.  They are wonderful schools that help students to be everything they can imagine.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


An overview of the plot of THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY

Eleanor and her Great Grandmother
Tom and Luis
Officer Miguel and Eleanor's father

One of the members of my critique group is a sixth grade teacher in the Irvine School District.  His name is Jesper Widen.  He had a student who read THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY.  After she read the book, he had her fill out these complicated charts.  I thought she did an excellent job of plotting the book, and then she filled out the Archetypes sheets, which state each character’s part, so that by the end of the story, we know what everyone’s role was.  I think this was a great idea, because in filling out these sheets, as a reader, we’re better able to understand exactly why a main character learns what they need to in order to see the world differently by the end of the story.  That’s what has to happen.  Your main character has to have something happen to them so that they see things differently.  This is how they grow and change, and this is what happens to most people throughout their lives. 

Certain events happen to us that make us see things differently.  Sometimes they are wonderful things and sometimes they are painful things.  But either way, our lives go on, and we learn what we need to in order to get up each day and live in this world.   

Monday, May 5, 2014

A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS, by Catherine Linka, comes out on May 6.

Catherine Linka's new book!

Catherine Linka is celebrating her first young adult book release.   I am so thrilled for her and asked her a few questions, which you may read below.  

To purchase this book through an Indiebound dealer, please go to this link:

 Tell us how this story, A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS came to be.  How did you get this idea?

Some books you have to fight to get out, and some just tell you to shut up and type. This story began after I read a book that annoyed me so much, I walked around for three days muttering under my breath. I realized that the only way to stop thinking about it was to start writing, and A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS came out in a torrent. 

How long did it take you to write this novel?

The first draft was very fast--a matter of months, but even though I had Avie’s character and her world, I didn’t have the story. The second draft took a year. When my agent, Sarah Davies went to sell the book, editors commented that the first half wasn’t well connected to the second. Then Mollie Traver at St. Martin’s offered to work with me on a revision, but without a contract, so I agreed, and we spent eight months getting the story to flow. That was followed by a final revision after the contract. So from the first page to the published book: four and a half years. 

Tell us a bit about your own writing routine.  When do you typically write and for how long?

I’m a morning person, so I get up, drink tea and eat a peanut butter sandwich while I read the news. I like to be in my writing chair by 7 or 7:30. If I can avoid all other grown-up responsibilities, I write until 11, then shower and go to work at the bookstore.  

 I understand you are working on another novel.  Can you give a just a little bit about what this one is about?  Or do you like to keep things a secret until they are published?  

OK, I’m not going to reveal any secrets, but I’m working on the sequel to A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS. I thought I’d finished the story, because I included a one-page epilogue. But the folks at St. Martin’s were convinced that Avie’s story was much more complex than I had hinted in the epilogue. 

You are also a bookseller.  How do you balance your writing career and working?

I’ve been very lucky to have two bosses, Lenora and Peter Wannier, who completely support my writing, and who from the very start accepted my need to work half time. Retail book buying is a job where you need a set couple of hours a day to call publishers on the east coast, but otherwise your hours can be flexible. I put in more when I have author or book events and less during slow periods. The kidlit reading I do every night, benefits both my writing and book buying. And going to industry events has taught me so much about how publishing works. 

  Tell us about your critique group.  I understand you have been together for a very long time.

I have two critique partners, Leda Siskind and Nina Kidd. We first met over ten years ago  in a workshop at an SCBWI retreat. We were at similar places in our writing, and ready to  make critiquing a regular part of our writing lives. The two of them have completely different approaches to critiquing a story, and I love that about them. When they both hate something, it goes. 

 What is your favorite thing to do?

Oh, I hate having to choose. But I must really, really love seeing animals in the wild, because I will get up before dawn in the rain, and puke my guts out on a fishing boat if you promise me I’ll get to see a puffin colony.

Thank you very much for allowing me to interview you.  I wish you every lovely success with your new publication!  

Friday, April 4, 2014

National Poetry Month, 2014

A poem written by Emily Dickinson

Love Poems, by Emily Dickinson

In celebration of National Poetry Month, I have chosen a poem by Emily Dickinson, which is out of her book entitled, Love Poems.  This treasure of a book was a gift given to me from Molly O'Neill.

The title of the poem is "The Letter", and it's about a (short/long) letter she has written to a friend of hers.  I don't know who the friend is, but it is clear that Ms. Dickinson may have certain feelings for this friend, who is a gentlemen.  She seems to be, in my opinion, slightly flustered, as evidenced on page 11, line 6, where she writes: "Tell him it wasn't a practised writer, you guessed from the way the sentence toiled."  And then also on page 11, line 16, where she writes: "Tell him night finished before we finished."

What, exactly, does that last sentence mean?

I wonder who this letter went to.

I wonder if she loved this person.

I wonder if she wanted this person to come visit her in her home, despite the fact that she hardly ever had visitors.

These are the things, as I read through the poem, that I wonder about.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The University of California/Berkeley

Hugh, standing on our favorite beach.

This past week, my youngest son, Hugh, received all of his college acceptances.  He has decided to attend the University of California at Berkeley,,_Berkeley, where he will major in Economics in the college of Letters and Science.  After two years, he will apply to the Haas School of Business.

Hugh is very happy to be going to Berkeley.  This year, they had over 90,000 applicants.  I ordered him a sweatshirt from the college bookstore because there is a tradition at Dana Hills High School where each student wears a sweatshirt from the college they will be attending next fall.

My mother informed me that my grandmother, Eleanor Robinson, also attended Berkeley.  I can see her there, strolling through the campus, and thinking up science fiction stories in her head.

When Hugh leaves, I will not have any more children at home.  But I will have my dog, Holly, which will almost be enough.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

WNBA Los Angeles Writers' Conference

I don't know who took this photo of me speaking, but whoever it was, thank you!

Yesterday, I attended the WNBA Los Angeles Writers' Conference.  The entire day was simply wonderful.  There were many panels, with several authors who gave information about how to find what each person needs in order to become the writer they dream of being.  Also, there was information about how to self-publish, which is becoming more popular these days.

I was introduced by Ruth Light, who is just so lovely.  And then I delivered my motivational keynote speech.  I had practiced it several times and had the entire speech printed out in front of me, (it was in font size 24, so I could see it!)  I discussed being in a critique group, finding a writing mentor, and how a good editor, like Ursula Nordstrom, can help even the most distinguished of authors.  I also talked about writing routines, and how to set one that works for each author.  I discussed how to get through a possible writer's block, and what to do if you get stuck and don't know where to turn.  But the best part, to me, was that I made it through without tearing up when it came to talking about my grandmother, Eleanor Robinson.
Catherine Linka's new book!
I ran into Catherine Linka, whose first YA book, A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS, comes out in May of this year.  She was very kind and gave me an Advanced Readers' Copy of her book.  Here, you see a photo of the front cover.  Already, after just reading the first two chapters, I can tell you it's a great book.