Friday, April 7, 2017

Found in the Back Pages of Google

I Know, I know, I shouldn't Google myself, but occasionally I am trapped under a cat and I'll grab my smart phone and see what's happening in Laura Moe World.

Last night I made a couple of wonderful discoveries.

This blog is maintained by a public librarian who specializes in Young Adult literature. In her podcasts she gives insightful analysis of the books she reads, and mine just happened to appear on her list of favorites for 2016.

The other gem I discovered is sort of a mean tweet about my cover.

This site is monitored by a twenty-something librarian named Christina Megan who reviews fiction and also posts snarky comments about book covers. Here's what she says about mine: "And to think this could have been a picture of bacon."

I'm lucky she hasn't reviewed my books.

Okay back to working on my rejection...I mean query letters
Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Feeling The Love

170,000 of my closest friends took a walk in downtown Seattle yesterday. I have an aversion to crowds, and a couple weeks ago when my friend Karla asked me to join her on the Womxn's March (the x is intentional, to signify it's not just for women,) my immediate thought was hell no. Yet I had made it sort of a resolution this year to do things out of my comfort zone. So there I am in the photo above, headed downtown to march.

Karla's cousin Pat was also going, and since she lived closer to downtown, we convened at her house to catch a 9 am bus into town for the 10 am rally at Judkins Park, SE of downtown. We boarded and luckily found three seats together. at every stop the bus grew more full with pink-hatted people carrying signs, and the last few stops before downtown it drove by crowded bus stops; there was no more room to take on more people.

Normally on crowded buses people get grumpy, but the atmosphere was fun, as if we were heading to a game or a concert. strangers were polite. The day before I had stopped at the dollar store to buy pink hats for Karla and Pat. I already owned a pink knit hat, and when I turned it inside out, the crown popped up like cat ears. I drew a cat face on it.

News networks in Seattle last week announced was out of pink all over the city, so I bought a few extras, and passed them out on the bus. I had also bought some pink scarves with hearts on them.

We got off at Seneca and Third and planned to transfer from University Station to a another bus close to the park. Two filled buses passed us by before we decided to get an uber or a cab. We walked a few blocks and found a hotel where the bellman flagged a cab for us. while the cab moved slowly through the mounting traffic, it was a relief to sit for bit as we had already walked quite a bit trying to find bus stops. and Seattle IS uphill both ways.

At 11 am, a half a mile from Judkins park, the three of us noticed marchers on the move already. "We'd better get out here," Pat said. we paid the cabbie ($12 plus a three dollar tip) and shuffled our way into the crowd.

It took an hour for the pack to move from Jackson Street and 23rd to 20th because of the thousands of marchers feeding in from side streets. The final stop was Seattle Center, near the famed Space Needle. We had a long way to go.

At one point the crowd let out a collective gasp as we noticed a pair of bald eagles swooping above us.

Several of my friends were marching, and the odds of running into any of them were 170,000:1, yet Karla's friend Dana spotted her in the crowd. But Karla is tall, and Pat and I used her as a beacon to help keep us together every time the crowd moved.

By 1:30, we made it to 3rd Avenue, and started to look for a place to eat and use the bathroom. Because it was Saturday, many places were closed, and the few that were open had lines out the door. Our bodies were tired and our bladders full, and Karla suggested we take the bus back to Pat's and find somewhere to eat at Northgate.

Buses weren't running on schedule due to congestion, so it after 2:00 when we boarded the bus north. This was, too, was overloaded with pink hat marchers. The woman seated next to pat said she couldn't march due to a health issue, but she showed her support by riding to and from the march to meet and greet marchers on the bus.

This sentiment was prevalent throughout the day. The crowds in the sidelines raised fists and signs to show their support, and motorists yelled greetings. Some stranded by traffic may have uttered profanities under their breath, but I didn't hear any negative shouts. At no time did I feel unsafe. Onlookers occasionally urged us to raise our signs and cheer, as if we were at a Seahawks rally, times 100.

Signs ran the gamut of Dump Trump, Love Trumps Hate, Keep your Tiny Hands off My Health Care, Make America Think Again,  a few were in foreign languages, and others reflected support for Clinton. One marcher held a giant photo of Bernie with "I voted for her" written on it. There are so many issues with the new regime I don't agree with that I didn't know what single issue I'd put on a sign. At the dollar store I bought a small plastic For Sale sign and added "My country is NOT" (for sale) on one side, and wrote 'Not My President" on the other.

Normally the trip from downtown to Pat's would take 30 minutes, but the driver had to alternate his route through roadblocks and marchers so we didn't make it back to Pat's house until 3:30. By the time we ate lunch it was after 4:30.

Ever since the election I've felt a sense of malaise. It's not a partisan thing; I was a Republican may years ago, but that party has transitioned into a narrow minded, anti-intellectual agenda. The new agenda wants to set the clock back to the 1950s where times were great for Christian, white America. Much has changed in the last 60 years. Our country's citizens comprise people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds, and we all share equal rights under the law.

Maybe all of us have rested on our laurels and comfortable lifestyles too long, and we dismissed George Orwell and Ray Bradbury's warnings in 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 because their books are fiction. Schools stopped teaching Civics, and Social Studies is not one of the critical subjects measured in standardized tests. The cost of this is apathy is we have a TV realty show blowhard as president. 

In a march on the UW campus on election day, someone was shot. This took place after an Alt-right speaker had spoken on campus, and perhaps crowds were riled on both sides. Few details are available, and the suspect has yet to be caught.

But Saturday's much larger march incited no violence. After this march, my faith in my country has energized. I am not alone. All across the country, and parts of the world, millions marched peacefully.  My grandmother marched in Washington to ensure my right to vote, so this is a tip of my pink hat to her. Good job, Seattle

Sunday, January 15, 2017

On Watching My Father Move Out of the Apartment Next Door in the Rain

It's been a dozen years since my father died, yet his belongings were strewn in the parking lot the other day. They weren't my actual father's possessions, but those of the old man next door who passed away three years ago.

I never met my deceased neighbor, since I've only lived here a year and a half, yet from the clothing spewing from the top of a box I know he was slim and not particularly tall. He liked to stay in shape as evidenced from his bicycle, golf shoes, and golf clubs. He owned the same model canister vacuum cleaner as my father, and much of his scratched up furniture he'd been using since the late 60's like my dad, the kind of furnishings for a man who lived many years alone. The crew clearing out his condo split the man's favorite chair in two- a mustard yellow, crushed velvet recliner with headrest-  and dumped it in the back of a pickup. They also snapped the legs off the man's desk and hurled that in back.

The house cleaners may have pinched the portable TV set and VCR.

Dad had a dot matrix printer like the old man's, along with a brown Samsonite from the days before suitcase companies added collapsible handles and wheels to their luggage. One of my neighbors culled the set of 1955 encyclopedias lying on the ground. My dad still owned his 1958 World Book set when he died.

I almost ran down the steps to ask if I could have the aluminum lawn chair. It was one of those with nylon straps woven in a cross-hatch pattern. After my mother died and we moved across the country, my brother, father and I used a couple of those as living room furniture until our storage arrived. Years later, dad used those lawn chairs as additional seating when he held parties.

Was there no family left to take any of these things? Or had they already grabbed the good stuff? The property manager told me the old man had a daughter, but she was either unable or unwilling to pay her late father's HOA. The property is now owned by someone who flips houses.

I'm going to miss my dead neighbor. He was quiet. And I miss my father every day.

I hope you'll turn in to my next podcast.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

On having My Name Replaced with a Tracking Number


Who doesn’t love getting a package in the mail? Especially a few weeks after Christmas when all the hoo haa is over and the drear of winter has planted its feet for the next few months. So yesterday when I opened my mail box my heart gave a little silent cheer when I found a key to one of the package lock boxes. Books, perhaps? I was expecting books from a couple of the authors I’ll be interviewing in upcoming broadcasts.

I opened the box and pulled out the square package that rattled when I shook it and clearly wasn’t a book. It also didn’t have my name on it. I checked the address; it was somewhere on 208th street. About 60 blocks from where I live. I scanned the return address. Not familiar. Clearly, this package was not mine. I often get other people’s mail, and my neighbors get mine. How in the hell did I get some else’s package, someone who doesn't live in my condo complex? Someone on 208th is probably waiting for this box. It may important. A set of puzzle pieces missing from a gift, a replacement charger for a phone, or a collection of rare coins.

I circled the address on the package with a note saying “nowhere near here,” and slid the box back inside its portal. I tried to pull out the key and lock it back inside my own mail slot but it wouldn’t budge. I hoped one of the notorious Seattle area package thieves wouldn't steal this person’s shipment, and walked away, dejected, as I got no other mail.

It’s well known among my friends I over think everything and this whole incident wouldn't let go of me. The address on the package was on the same street as the post office. I had been expecting a package from Express Scripts, something I needed. I checked my email, and it said the package was delivered. Well holy crap. That was my package. Why was the post office address on it but not mine?

It’s cold outside again today, and the last thing I wanted to do was venture outdoors, but the post office wasn’t answering the phone. I had no choice but to drive to the PO, stand in line and explain my faux pas to a human.

The woman behind the counter patiently listened to my tale, and took down the tracking number. There was no trace of the box’s location. It hadn’t been sent back, nor was it inside the PO. She surmised the package was probably still locked inside the box until the postal carrier figured out what to do with it. She admitted they had problems keeping regular carriers on our route when I mentioned continuous screw ups on mail deliveries.

“But why wasn’t my name or address on the package?” I asked. She replied the carriers use tracking numbers. “But how am I supposed to know the package is for me? I don't know myself by my tracking number.” She laughed, and said there should have been something on the box reflecting it was mine.

So now I’ll need to wait until Monday to find out the fate of my medical supplies in the mysterious package. Meanwhile, you can start calling me 1Yx2z56678888xxb….

Happy Writing.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Authors on the Air

I've begun a new enhancement to my writing career. I'm still writing, but I'm now also talking to other writers on the Young Adult Cafe through Blog Talk Radio

While there is a learning curve to understand the studio, research a the writer, match up time zones between the author being interviewed and me, and advertise the LIVE broadcast on social media, it's also been great fun. Writers tend to be solitary people, yet put two writers together and have them talk about writing the dialogue flows freely.

The focus of my show is authors of Young Adult, yet I also have plans for upcoming episodes where high school students discuss what they like to see in YA, the view from an editor in YA, and a panel of writers on their process.

The link above is for my show upcoming LIVE this Monday with Patty Blount at noon EST. Here are links to a few recent shows. Enjoy!

January 2, 2017 C C Hunter

December 26, 2016 Beth Fehlbaum

December 19,2016 Rebekah Dodson

Happy Listening


Monday, December 5, 2016

Accolades and Aching Feet

There’s good news and bad news. I’ll begin with the bad; the publisher still doesn’t want the revision of my sequel to BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA.

But hope is not lost. The other night my feet hurt, my ego was blown from yet another of my daily catastrophes on the job (I’m not very good at my temporary part-time holiday job), and all I wanted was to take a shower to wash off the day, don pajamas and my new fuzzy robe, and let the cat purr in my lap. I poured myself a glass of cheap red wine and checked my email.

Holy crap! The same day I received the latest rejection, my editor and the public relations director both emailed me to let me know my YA novel, BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA, is listed as one New York Public Library’s 50 Best novels for teens 2016.  

It's been several days since I received the news and I’m still in a surreal state of suspension. Friends and family have all offered accolades but they have to because they love me. Strangers liked my book, strangers who read a lot of books.

Thank you, young adult librarians at the New York Public Library. You’ve made this former high school teacher/librarian’s feet ache just a little less.

Happy Reading.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Coming Soon to a Headset Near You

I've been quiet on the blog front lately and here's the reason; I'm being trained for my upcoming radio show called Laura Moe Presents the YA Cafe. It will be a live call-in show part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. The weekly show will comprise of me interviewing YA authors of multiple genres, readers of YA, librarians, editors, agents, and writers in general about the process. And of course audience members are free to call in with comments and questions. Some guests in my lineup include Charlaine Harris, Cat Skoor, Elizabeth Christy and Valerie Stein. It should prove to be a fun 30-40 minute podcast which will be live at 3 PM EST on Mondays beginning.....SOON. Meanwhile, if you click on the Authors on the Air link above, you can hear my editor Jacquelyn Mitchard interviewing me.

Happy Listening.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How to use BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA in the Classroom

I will be part of a panel this weekend for the Washington Library Media Association (WLMA) where we authors present ideas on how our books can be used in the classroom. THE WEATHER IS NOT WILLING TO COOPERATE, SO I AM UNABLE TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE. HOWEVER, I WILL OFFER A DRAWING FOR A FREE COPY OF MY BOOK . WLMA MEMBERS PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON MY TWITTER, Use the hashtag #WLMABWN . AT THE END OF THIS WEEK I WILL ANNOUNCE A LUCKY WINNER

Here is one idea.

Steps to Writing an Ode/Laura Moe

Select a person, place, or thing you like a lot or care about.  Brainstorm by following these steps: (Remind kids to keep it PG.)
In my example of a thing I use coffee.

Write 5 phrases describing how your item makes you feel, and why you feel this way.
            I like coffee because it gives me energy, coffee smells good, coffee is warm, etc.

Write 5 phrases describing the unique qualities of your subject

Coffee is strong, dark, liquid, portable, etc.

Why is your subject important to you? Why do you adore or admire it so much?
            Coffee is important because it wakes me up, makes my mornings better, helps me face the day

Now Revise by:

-Crossing out lines or phrases where words are repeated or are too similar

-Joining some of your phrases to create lines
-Adding more feeling to meaningless or figurative language to flat lines
-Picking a good opening line
-Ordering the lines into the best sequence
-Choosing an ending line that sums up your feelings for the object. Here is MY poem:

Ode to Coffee

It swims
dark as coal
warm as summer
in my cup.
The aroma beckons,
wakens me
on black, icy dawns
as it takes the chill
from my soul
and melts the edge
off my morning meanness.
Coffee is like a gentle symphony
whose crescendo rises slowly
as if pushing up the sun with one hand.
Laura Moe, 2009

Time: 40-45 minutes.
Students may choose to revise poems as homework or in class the next day.
Standards met: Personification, Language development skills. Teacher note: Introduce this lesson by using some odes by Pablo Neruda. “Ode to a Tomato,” Ode to Laziness,””Ode to Summer,” and “Ode to a watermelon,” are favorites with MS and grades 9-10. Point out how Neruda uses simple diction yet juxtaposes and arranges the lines to engage readers. Kids who read will like “Ode to a Book.” If kids are stumped, suggest write an ode to a favorite food, pet(s), car, bedroom, phone, computer, TV show, movie, friend(s), or store.

Peden, Margaret Sayers, tr., Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 1990.

Tarn, Nathaniel, ed., Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems. Houghton Mifflin, New York: 1970.Happy Writing.

Students who enjoyed John Green's Looking For Alaska or Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell will also enjoy this book.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Crimes of Syntax

photo Alice K. Boatwright

I don’t know everything; in fact, sometimes I know nothing. Over the weekend I presented at the Write on the Sound Conference, a three day writer’s conference housed in a venue with a spectacular view of Puget Sound. My session was titled “Crimes of Syntax and How to Fix Them.” In my talk I used examples of my own wretched early-draft sentences for my YA novel-in-progress to demonstrate how revision strengthens the work. I gave the audience a brief background of my narrator, 19 year-old Michael, and his 18 year-old girlfriend Shelly. The participants agreed my revised syntax improved in each example. Then I showed them the following gem:


I think of Theo and Shelly alone in his apartment tonight. Those two have a history. She chose me, but she also said “this is where the heroine sets the hero free.” Does she want to be free of me? Are we just wandering atoms that attached, and will now disengage? Will she wait faithfully like Penelope, as I, Odysseus, drift alone at sea for the next five weeks?

I remarked the sentences in this are overwrought and melodramatic, and shared my revision:

My despair deepens when I imagine Theo and Shelly alone together for the next two days. Will they revisit their history? She had told me “this is where the heroine sets the hero free.” Does she want to be free of me? Are we like a rocket vaulting into space only to later split into separate components?

I clicked on a side by side comparison of the two, believing I had vastly improved my sentences. One woman raised her hand, and said, “If you were writing through an adult voice, this would be true, but your character is a teenage boy; his thinking at this critical juncture would be overwrought and melodramatic.”

I drew a quick breath and grabbed my chin. Holy crap, she was right. Why had that not occurred to me? Others chimed in, saying the melodrama added a touch of humor. One young man said the rocket image didn’t work nearly as well as the atoms, and they all agreed Michael would likely think of Odysseus given that he’s literary. Another woman suggested what may have bothered me about the original passage was the paragraph length and she suggested a spot where I could make a paragraph break.

As much as I wanted them to now rewrite my entire novel, it was ten minutes before lunch and I still had twenty more slides to show, so we had to move on. But my audience reminded me of a few things:

Years of writing, even having critical success, doesn't mean your next book is going to come more easily. In fact, it may be more difficult because you are competing with your best self.

Sometimes we grow too close to our stories to make critical judgments; we need a community of trusted early writer-readers who will provide objective criticism.

At a writer’s conference one’s audience consists of writers with varying skill levels. Even though I have more degrees than a thermometer, I always learn something new, or relearn something I already knew when I attend workshops, and often I learn these things from other participants rather than instructors. Students inadvertently teach if the teacher is willing to listen.

Which version do you prefer? My original, the revision, or something in between?

Happy Writing.