NerdCampNJ 2019


Apologies for the crazy late post. I had the best of intentions of writing this up a week ago but it’s currently the hundred-yard dash to the last day of school in my house, with finishing up final projects, locating missing homework that somehow mysteriously disappeared in the blackhole of my son’s book bag, and last, but not least, cramming for final exams.

So back to the topic at hand, NerdCampNJ. What is NerdCamp? Glad you asked. NerdCamp is a “literacy focused ‘unconference’ ” for teachers, school administrators, librarians, students, and authors with the goal of inspiring students to become lifelong readers and writers.

Each NerdCamp has its own way of creating its nerdgenda (don’t you love the nerdlingo?), with fluid workshops, which can take the form of conversations, interactive presentations/panels, hands-on learning, etc. Nerds are encouraged to participate, sit back, listen, and share their knowledge.

This was my second NerdCampNJ and it was NERD-A-RI-FIC! The morning started off with five amazing keynote speakers:

  • Tricia Ebarvia
  • Emma Otheguy
  • Jarrett Lerner
  • Andrea J. Loney
  • Laurie Halse Anderson

Subsequently, everyone went to workshops. Selene Castrovilla, Gryffyn Jade Phoenix, and I led an interactive workshop on helping students break through writer’s block. Afterwords I attended two wonderful workshops: one by educator, Nesrin Amabile, on teaching students how to create storyboards, and another by third-grade teacher, Jaclyn Flanagin, on classroom: book-a-day, the program inspired by Donalyn Miller.

Here are a few photographic highlights from my AWESOME nerdy day:

I would like to shout out a SUPER HUGE THANK YOU to the incredible Oona Abrams, Juli-Anne Benjamin, Sarah Mulhern Gross, Julia Guthrie, Nicole Mancini, ​Emily S. Meixner, Denise Weintraut, Larry Zuares, and to all the volunteers for a NERD-TAS-TIC day.

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


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


Detectives Wilcox & Griswold, me, and Marissa Moss


Nancy Churnin


Marcia Goldman and Princess Lola


Laurie Wallmark and Sue Conolly


Marissa Moss and Kathryn Otoshi


Carol Weston


Monica Edinger and Donalyn Miller


Tracey Baptiste


Me and Emma Otheguy


The AWESOME Mr. Schu!


Laurie Wallmark, Mr. Schu, and me



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.


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.




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?


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: