Thank you Chicago, ALA, and The American Writers Museum!

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Chicago was anything but the windy city this weekend. It was warm and welcoming as it greeted thousands of librarians, publishers, editors, writers, illustrators, and literary aficionados for ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference and Exhibition.

It’s hard not to feel like a kid in a candy store when attending ALA. And like a well-prepared kid ready to take home a treasure trove of loot, I came prepared with my empty bags. In my years of attending ALA, I have also learned that the extremely patient Fed Ex worker, who is silently laughing at my creatively wrapped packages, has become my new best friend. (At this time, I would like to shout out a very big thank you to my Grandpa Harry for teaching me how to defy the laws of physics with masking tape.)

Here are a few photographic highlights from #alaac17:

 

Creston Books

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Detectives Wilcox & Griswold, me, and Marissa Moss

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Nancy Churnin

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Marcia Goldman and Princess Lola

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Laurie Wallmark and Sue Conolly

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Marissa Moss and Kathryn Otoshi

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Carol Weston

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Monica Edinger and Donalyn Miller

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Tracey Baptiste

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Me and Emma Otheguy

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The AWESOME Mr. Schu!

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Laurie Wallmark, Mr. Schu, and me

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Panel discussion, “Women Aren’t Funny (And Other Essential Untruths for Middle Grade Readers) with Sharyn November, Erica Perl, Betsy Bird, Cece Bell, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Andrea Beaty

During this literary palooza of a weekend, I also had the privilege of being invited to do a reading at the The American Writers Museum. With the mission of “celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives[,]”[1] The American Writers Museum opened its doors on May 15, 2017.

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While walking around and gazing at the words and portraits of many of my writing superheroes, it was impossible not to reflect upon the impact each of these authors have had on all of us—how they’ve stirred our imagination; comforted us in times of grief; given us a serious case of the giggles; and put us to bed night after night.

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As a writer, I also couldn’t help but think about the number of rewrites each of these authors had to do. How many authors were on the brink of giving up when they finally got their lucky break? What’s the tally on the number of rejections vs. successes?

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Untitled Mural by Paul O. Zelinsky

Next time you’re in Chicago be sure to stop by this inspiring magical place. I promise. You won’t be disappointed.

[1] Source: http://americanwritersmuseum.org/history/

American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute #WI12 ROCKS!

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We’re all familiar with that “online bookseller who shall be nameless,” who’s been huffing and puffing and trying to gobble up the independent-bookstore market. Well, let me tell you a little secret. It’s not working. Indie bookstores are here to stay. And best of all, they are thriving!

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Lesley Stahl and Ann Patchett

I had the privilege of attending my second American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute. In a nutshell, it was AWESOME!

I attended some terrific sessions about:

  • Starting a children’s book festival (I have this fantasy that the North Fork of Long Island will some day have a children’s book festival of its own); and
  • Working with small and university presses.

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Left to right: Wendy Morton Hudson, Nantucket Book Partners (Nantucket, MA); Cathy Berner, Blue Willow Bookshop (Houston, TX); Todd Dickinson, Aaron’s Books (Lititz, PA); Tom Roberts, Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe (Warwick, NY).

I also sat in on two wonderful lunches. The first was an education lunch for authors conducting events at independent bookstores. Some takeaways from the lunch were:

  • It’s never too early to contact a bookstore. Contact the store 5-6 months before a book releases.
  • Be sure to be honest with the bookstore regarding the number of people you believe will be in attendance.
  • People expect to be entertained at a bookstore event.
  • Do not read the entire book at an event (unless it’s a picture book). If you read the entire book, there’s no incentive to purchase the book.
  • Some bookstores like PowerPoint presentations. Others, not so much.
  • Presentations for kids generally follow this formula: 15 minutes to read a story; 15 minutes of Q & A; and 20 minutes to sign.
  • Be sure to engage kids and their parents during a presentation.
  • Multiple author events need cohesion. E.g., An evening of alligator stories, etc.
  • And always be sure to work social media. Make sure you put links to the bookstore on your website.

The second was the small and university presses lunch. The highlight for me was listening to Marissa Moss, publisher and editor extraordinaire of Creston Books, present the spring titles.

Below are a few photographic highlights:

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Marissa Moss, Editor and Publisher of Creston Books, discussing the spring releases. 

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Kate Warne, Pinkerton Detective by Marissa Moss and illustrated by April Chu (Creston Books 2017). 

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Rumors by Denys Cazet (Creston Books 2017).

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The Case of the Poached Egg, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery by Robin Newman and illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books 2017).

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Marissa Moss with her first adult novel, Last Things: A Graphic Memoir of Loss and Love (Conari Press 2017). 

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The Galley Room 

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Emma Donoghue signing, The Lotterys Plus One (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic 2017).

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William Joyce signing, Ollie’s Odyssey (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books 2017).

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Josh Funk with his latest book, The Case of the Stinky Stench (Sterling 2017), and me (naturally holding a carton of eggs to celebrate the upcoming release of The Case of the Poached Egg).

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Ann Patchett signing, Commonwealth (Harper 2016). 

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Detectives Wilcox and Griswold are in the house! 

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Thrilled to be signing the latest Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, The Case of the Poached Egg (Creston Books 2017). 

Please support your local independent bookstores. Not to preach (because I would never, ever do that) BUT . . . independent bookstores are anchors in our communities. They bring us together. They keep our kids off electronic devices and get them excited about the written word. Independent bookstores give us opportunities to know and understand worlds beyond our own. They support us in so many ways. Please be sure to support them.

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For comprehensive coverage of #WI12, be sure to check out these wonderful articles from Publishers Weekly.

 

 

 

 

 

International Literacy Association Conference & Exhibits #ILA16

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Gray skies couldn’t dampen the excitement at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts, where educators, librarians, writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers came out in droves to support and promote worldwide literacy.

Here are a few photographic highlights:

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Creston Book authors and illustrators are in the house! 

Me, JoAnn Adinolfi, and Darlene Beck-Jacobson

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JoAnn Adinolfi and Darlene Beck-Jacobson

Darlene Beck-Jacobson

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JoAnn Adinolfi, me, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, and John Schumacher, a/k/a the great Mr. Schu, Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic

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Josh Funk 

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Peter Reynolds 

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And a trip to Boston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Robert McCloskey’s wonderful ducklings at the Boston Public Garden.

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If you’re interested in getting involved with the fight to advance literacy, please visit ILA’s website by clicking here.

“The ability to read, write, and communicate connects people to one another and empowers them to achieve things they never thought possible. Communication and connection are the basis of who we are and how we live together and interact with the world.”

Source: ILA website

 

 

ABA’s Winter Institute 11

 

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It’s “ABA” week in my house. Ironically, as I return from the awesome American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute 11 in Denver, Colorado, my husband is off tomorrow to that other ABA, American Bar Association, in Los Angeles, California.

Not to judge (because I would NEVER, EVER do that), but I have a feeling my ABA conference is (oh, how shall I put this delicately?) way more fun than his. Let’s face it, Kwame Alexander, Newberry Medalist for The Crossover was the breakfast keynote speaker. I think that pretty much sums up my point.

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Booked by Kwame Alexander (releases April 5, 2016)

Alexander gave an inspirational speech to a standing ovation of booksellers.

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“I believe literature can empower young people . . . Children’s book authors, like teachers, have a responsibility to imagine a better and brighter world. It’s important for each of us to say yes to ideas and thinking out of the box. You all are the way we can continue this legacy of creating beautiful people.” (Quoted from Judith Rosen’s article, Winter Institute 11: Kwame Alexander Becomes the ‘Say Yes Guy’ at the Show, Publishers Weekly (Web.) Jan. 26, 2016.)

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Me and Kwame Alexander

For me, a highlight of the conference was attending the small and university presses luncheon where I had the chance to listen to Marissa Moss, editor and publisher extraordinaire, describe Creston Books’ spring list. And I have to say, I may have been a tad giddy (that’s probably the understatement of the year!) when Marissa started talking about Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep.

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It was incredible to finally share Hildie Bitterpickles with so many wonderful booksellers. For this very special occasion, I wore my witchiest Hildie pajamas.

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And of course, no witch outfit is complete without a hat.

Look What Arrived in the Mail!

 

BOOKS! SPELLBINDINGLY BEAUTIFUL BOOKS!

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I would like to shout out a very big THANK YOU to Marissa Moss, publisher and editor extraordinaire. THANK YOU for taking a chance on my quirky little witch; to my very special agents, Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris-Dontzin, whose magic touch heralded Hildie Bitterpickles to Creston Books; to Chris Ewald for making Hildie Bitterpickles more adorable than anything I could have ever imagined; to Simon Stahl, whose design magic never ceases to amaze me; and to my amazing critique group for helping me persevere during those really awful rough drafts. THANK YOU!!!

2016 ALA Midwinter Conference & Exhibits

 

I spent an incredible weekend at ALA’s Midwinter Conference and Exhibits in Boston. Where else in the world can you find this many people who eat, breathe and sleep books? In a nutshell, it was AWESOME!

I had a wonderful time meeting and catching up with so many dedicated librarians, teachers, editors, writers, and illustrators. One highlight for me was meeting Lisa Von Drasek, curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collections at the University of Minnesota. She included The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake on her “best children’s books to give this year” list and in her discussion on MPR. Here’s the link.

It was also a thrill to see so many of my friend’s books on display and to listen to everyone’s predictions on who might be getting some pretty stickers for their books. (HINT FOR UPCOMING BIRTHDAY PRESENT: Wilcox, Griswold, Hildie, and I LOVE stickers! 🙂 )

Here are a few photographic highlights:

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Creston Books

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Me and Laurie Wallmark at the Creston table 

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Mary Skiver, me, and Laura Simeon (Bryn Mawr Classmates, ’89 Anassa Kata!) 

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Laurie Wallmark and Andrea Beaty

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Andrea Beaty’s latest book

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Carolyn Yoder and Laurie Wallmark 

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Lisa Yoskowitz

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City Shapes by Diana Murray and illustrated Bryan Collier (In bookstores June 21, 2016)

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Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks by Coren Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez and illustrated by Dan Santat (In bookstores May 24, 2016)

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Normal Norman by Tara Lazar and illustrated by S. Britt a/k/a Stephan Britt (In bookstores March 1, 2016) 

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Just hanging with Norman

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Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel 

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Cori McCarthy signing You Were Here

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Be a Friend by Salina Yoon

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Laurie Wallmark and her new friend, Oscar

Congratulations to all the ALA Youth Medal Award winners! It’s been an incredible year for children’s literature. And it’s so exciting to be a small part of it. I’m looking forward to another amazing year of kid-lit. Happy reading, writing, and illustrating!

Starting the Year with a Bang! ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Boston

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Happy New Year! Can you believe ALA is THIS week? And Creston Books authors will be in the house!

Where: Booth 2130

When: Saturday, January 9, 2016

Robin Newman   10:00 am – 11:00 am

Laurie Wallmark 11:00 am – 12:00 pm 

Please come by to say hello to Wilcox, Griswold, and Hildie Bitterpickles. Have your mug shot taken with a silly hat and mustache, take home some super cool swag, and expect lots of fun. Hope to see you there!

Guest Post by Laurie Wallmark: Writing About Strong Women

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I am thrilled to have Laurie Wallmark as my guest blogger today. Laurie and I met many moons ago at one of the NJ SCBWI conferences. In the interest of full disclosure, we are both represented by same incredible agent, Liza Fleissig, and we also have the wonderful connection of being fellow Creston Book authors.

Laurie’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, illustrated by April Chu (Creston Books), releases on October 13, 2015, in conjunction with the celebration of Ada Lovelace Day. She was the world’s first computer programmer.

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Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is one of the most beautiful and inspiring books that I have read in a very long time. The illustrations will take your breath away. This is a book that will be cherished for generations to come.

Now, without further ado, here’s Laurie:

People often ask me why I choose to write biographies of strong women like Ada Byron Lovelace. Here are three events from my life that contributed to my interest in doing so.

  • In grade school, I played the snare drum in the school orchestra. When it was time to graduate to junior high, I wasn’t allowed to continue with this instrument in school. I was told it wasn’t ladylike to play drums. Instead, I had to switch to playing bass fiddle, because, as we all know, that’s a much more feminine instrument—not! Of course, when the orchestra needed an additional percussionist, they didn’t seem to mind I was a girl.
  • In seventh grade, boys and girls had no choice in the classes they took for electives. Boys took wood shop, auto mechanics, metal working, and mechanical drawing. Girls took sewing, cooking, and art. In eighth grade, since I was interested in architecture, I signed up for intermediate mechanical drawing. The administration wouldn’t let me, since I hadn’t taken mechanical drawing in seventh grade. Luckily for me, I had parents who fought for their children, even their daughters. Because of them, I was able to take mechanical and then, in ninth grade, architectural drawing. Of course, I was the only girl in either of these classes.
  • When I was about to enter high school, my mother asked the principal about the availability of higher-level math classes. He wanted to know if she had a son or daughter. When my mother answered a daughter, he told her the courses didn’t matter because a girl would never advance that far. By the way, he was wrong

Even though I went to school years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, many girls still experiences these types of prejudices in their schooling. This is one of the reasons that fewer than 15% of computer scientists are women. I want girls (and boys!) to read my books and realize they can follow their dreams, no matter where they lead.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, October 2015) is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review]

Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. All stops are listed at: http://lauriewallmark.com/blogtour.php.

ALA San Francisco Annual Conference & Exhibition #alaac15

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What an incredible week to be in San Francisco! ALA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition was a jubilant celebration of authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, and of course, books! Where else in the world are there this many people excited about books? Nowhere. And in a nutshell, it was AWESOME!  ala4

At this year’s conference, I had the opportunity to do a cooking demo, making Mollie Katzen’s super yummy carrot cake recipe from The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. I have to say when I first heard of this I wasn’t sure if it was a joke because (just between you and me) I don’t bake. In fact, over the years, I’ve had a very good relationship with my friends Betty Crocker, Nestlé® Toll House®, and the Pillsbury® Doughboy® and I go way back. The thought of baking,[1] even pretend baking, in front of an audience was terrifying. Fortunately for me, Mollie Katzen’s recipe is so easy that even a bumbling baking novice like myself could do it. And I had a blast! With the headpiece microphone, I felt like a cross between Julia Child and Madonna. So Food Network, if you’re looking for an author who writes about food, but who can’t actually make the food, I’m your gal. Call me. We’ll talk! 🙂 (I also happen to know two charismatic Missing Food Investigators who would love to host a kids cooking show.)

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ala3Detective Wilcox and Captain Griswold enjoying the spotlight on the What’s Cooking @ALA Stage 

Here are more photographic highlights:

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Mug Shot: Me, and librarian extraordinaire, Beth Decker

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Members of the Creston crew: Muon Van, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Julie Downing, April Chu, me

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Darlene Beck-Jacobson and Georgia Lyon

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Simon Stahl and me

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Dan Santat

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me and Lane Smith

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Marcia Goldman, Lola, and Marissa Moss 

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me and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

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Jon Scieszka and me

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Muon Van and April Chu

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me and Cece Bell 

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Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Jacqueline Woodson, and me 

It was a wonderful conference. And to all the superhero librarians who inspire fledgling readers and turn reluctant readers into avid readers from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!!! 

Wilcox, Griswold and I have already packed our bags for the next ALA conference. We can’t wait!

p.s. Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Marcia Goldman, Lola, and I also enjoyed a great visit to a wonderful bookstore, Book Passage.

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**Please remember to support your independent bookstores. Thank you!

[1] While practicing the recipe, I learned one thing: grating carrots on a hand grater is a serious workout. You can avoid expensive gym fees by simply buying a bag of carrots and a hand grater.

An Evening of Celebration at The Corner Bookstore for The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake

The old adage, “Good things come to those who wait,” is definitely true in my case. It took just about eight years for Wilcox and Griswold to make their first public appearance. A very big THANK YOU is due to everyone who helped Wilcox and Griswold on their journey, especially Creston Books, Marissa Moss, Deborah Zemke, Liza Fleissig, Ginger Harris-Dontzin, my critique group (Jill Davis, Jacki Morris, Joanne French, Ellen Grogan), and my family. Many thanks to The Corner Bookstore for making the celebration extra special!

Here are some photographic highlights:

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From the bottom of my heart, thank you!!! xoxo