I’m at my favorite hotel, trying to organize a novel that’s been haunting me for a couple of years, and I just heard the news that my second picture book, Mitchell Goes Bowling, is an ALA Notable Book. Some tears came out when I heard that because sometimes you just need a signal from the universe to keep going. Cause sometimes the going is hard. For me the bowling book’s about being seen, being met where you are, being understood by your parents. But it’s all disguised in a very funny story, with even funnier illustrations, featuring a steamin’ hot potato dance, with salsa, plus a lot of STRIKES! I am so grateful that the ALA Notable Committee, the very people who put books into the hands of our kids, found my collaboration with Tony Fucile worthy of their list. Having three kids myself, and knowing what it took (just as parents) to help our kids get hooked on reading, librarians are like religious leaders to me. There isn’t much that makes me happier than seeing my 8 year old son lying on his bed with Big Nate, or Tintin, or Farmer Boy (yes, Farmer Boy rocks!). The ALA Notable Honor is a first for me.
And as it goes, right now I’m at the very same hotel where I wrote Mitchell Goes Bowling. I remember being here two years ago, wondering how I could find tension in the bowling story, long after the thrill of getting to write a bowling book had worn off. What could I do to make readers want to turn the pages? I had no idea! And I was cranky about that. I went to sleep in this good-luck hotel with the problem in my brain, hoping that I would wake up with an answer (cause I didn’t have that many days at the hotel for one thing). I’d heard on NPR that your brain works on your problems while you sleep and I was hoping that was true. And if you can believe it, I did wake up with an answer, Mitchell would try to beat his dad. It seems so simple now, but it was an elusive solution.
I hope to finish the book I’ve started here sometime this fall. This one’s longer, and no matter what happens, I have to get the words out. One of my close friends told me not to quit. She said, “you might only be an exit from the Emerald City.” That’s kept me going—that, and the knowledge that I have to let the words move through me and out into the world. That’s what it’s really all about.