The Weekly Peek

Hello, friends, and Happy Monday. How are you? I hope autumn has been a lovely, pumpkin-spice-flavored dream for you so far.

As to how I’m doing…well. My pneumonia-like symptoms went away a couple of weeks ago, so I declined to seek medical attention at the very point when I probably should have. Because last week, it came back big time — if it were a movie, it would be called COUGH 2: NEVER STOP COUGHING (ALSO, HOPE YOU LIKE PHLEGM). In addition, I started experiencing seasonal migraines, which left me wanting to pull out my own eyeballs to relieve the pressure, and only went away yesterday. And not to be tmi, but my hormones have been a nightmare, and my cramps are OFF THE CHAIN. I’m having a chest xray tomorrow to confirm a pneumonia diagnosis; looking forward to being prescribed some aggressive antibiotics so I can shut down this phlegm party once and for all.

In spite of all of this, I do have a few updates for you. As follows:

Somehow, I managed to hand in my final revision of the next Bland Sisters story. More about this experience on Wednesday…as long as I can get some antibiotics before then.

Last week, we received a review of The Jolly Regina in Kirkus, and (relatively speaking) it is pretty darn enthusiastic! The final line says it all: “‘Shanghai’ and ‘charming’ don’t usually go together, but here they do.”

Good news: I finally got a spot at renowned children’s books retreat Kindling Words East! Bad news: unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend. We just took our (remaining) cat to the vet this weekend, and I ended up having to spring for quite a few tests and was told that some expensive kitty dental procedures are on the horizon, all of which pretty much sapped my discretionary fund. Oh, well…there’s always next year. And I have quite a few friends on the KWE waitlist, so I will be happy knowing that my misfortune has led to someone else getting good news.

So, *coughcough* how’s YOUR *coughcoughcough* week looking *cough*?



The Weekly Peek

Hello, friends, and Happy Monday. I’d love to give you a full update on everything that’s happened over the past week, but I am actually SICK SICK SICK. While my family and I were in Maine, we all came down with terrible chest colds, and it seems as if mine has morphed into another bout of pneumonia. I’m hoping to receive some delicious antibiotics  so I can be on the mend and back in the blogging saddle soon.

Be well, and enjoy the last few days of summer!

Five for Friday

Hello, friends, and Happy Friday. So, I’ll be taking a little break from blogging in the coming week, because I will be 1. Celebrating my birthday on Sunday (yay!) and 2. On vacation (double yay!)!

Of course, I’m not about to leave you high and dry, so here are a few fun Friday links. Enjoy!

  1. I didn’t realize this guy and I had such close birthdays — all this time, we could have been drinking Champagne together! And did you know his first name was Aloysius?
  2. This looks phenomenal.
  3. I can’t stop looking at these.
  4. Are you an educator or librarian, and need some ideas re: how to fund author visits? Look no further.
  5. You’re welcome.

Have a great weekend — and week!

Travels with Shame and Inadequacy

Last fall, as I was drafting the second book in the Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters trilogy, I read BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Go get yourself a copy RIGHT NOW. I’ll wait.)

BIG MAGIC is tremendously inspiring and comforting, as it looks at the creative process from an almost spiritual point of view. On at least one occasion, Elizabeth Gilbert name-checks Brené Brown, so when I finished the book, I decided to check her out. Boy, am I glad I did.

Brené Brown is a researcher, educator, and public speaker who specializes in topics of shame and inadequacy. Those two have been my jam (and by “jam” I mean “bane of my existence”) for as long as I can remember, so Brené has become like my brilliant, golden, straight-talkin’ angel.

In particular, I’ve read I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), The Gifts of Imperfection, and Daring Greatly. Though the first deals primarily with shame, the second with imperfection and inadequacy, and the third with vulnerability and courage (i.e. how shame and our fears of inadequacy and imperfection hamper our ability to be emotionally vulnerable/courageous), all of these issues are so intertwined that it helps to read all three back-to-back. They are The Lord of the Rings of emotional healing.

I’ve also watched both of Brené Brown’s TED talks on the power of vulnerability and listening to shame, which are among the most popular talks TED has produced. And they’re not specifically for artists, so even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, please watch them. Because, unfortunately, shame and inadequacy are equal-opportunity tormentors.

Of course, I still struggle, and I probably always will. When you’ve been conditioned to feel that what other people think of you is more important than what you think about yourself, that failing or being imperfect (or even just making choices that don’t meet someone else’s standards) makes you a bad/unlovable/inadequate/shameful person, and that vulnerability is weakness, life (and especially a creative life) can seem joyless, if not completely impossible. I’m grateful I’ve been able to refresh my perspective, whether as a byproduct of trauma (losing my job, being diagnosed with cancer, losing loved ones) or in more benign ways (surrounding myself with supportive friends, seeking therapy, and discovering wise teachers like Elizabeth Gilbert and Brené Brown). But those negative emotions will always be a part of me. I can only do what Elizabeth Gilbert advises, regarding fear — the feelings of shame and inadequacy might always be in the car with me, but I can’t allow them to drive.

I do have a lot more to say about the emotional side of writing, and the topics of shame and inadequacy and emotional vulnerability/courage in particular; how I deal with them, and how, sometimes, I can’t. In some ways, it’s seemed a bit off-topic (the self-imposed topic being “craft”), but it really is an intrinsic part of my creative process, as much as research and drafting and revision might be. So, do you want to hear more? If so, I am happy to oblige.


The Weekly Peek

Hello, friends, and Happy Monday! How was everyone’s weekend? I returned from my agent’s annual creative retreat (only barely, due to some travel glitches) and spent yesterday running errands, unpacking, and settling back in to home life.

The retreat was amazing, as ever. I reunited with old friends, made quite a few new ones, talked shop, drank a LOT of bubbly (of course), and started a new project. Yep, you heard me right. I just turned in my Bland Sisters 2 revision two weeks ago, and I’m already on to something else. And so it goes. It’s something I’ve never tried before, so it’s in that exciting and fun and hopeful phase. Fingers crossed that it lasts, and that I can make some headway before vacation.

Yes, I am going on vacation! We are going to Camden, Maine, my son’s namesake. If you’ll be in the area, and you’re free on Sunday, I’ll be doing a reading and signing of THE INFAMOUS RATSOS at 1pm at Sherman’s with Ratsos illustrator Matt Myers and brilliant author-illustrator (and Camden native) Chris Van Dusen!

A few things happening here this week…

I just found out that THE INFAMOUS RATSOS was named Rhode Island’s submission for The National Book Festival in Washington, DC! Huzzah!

Recently, I finished DARING GREATLY by Brené Brown, and boy oh boy did it resonate. This is the third BB book I’ve read and loved, so this Wednesday, I think I might write a bit about my response to her work. (Next on the docket: I am finishing a book I started and loved a while ago, but set aside for unknown reasons: The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones (aka the editor who discovered Julia Child, among many other culinary luminaries).

Now that the Bland Sisters 2 revision (and the all-consuming mania a revision brings to my life) is off my plate, I’m trying to get back to a more balanced routine: getting up each morning to work out, taking regular showers (which I’m sure everyone around me will appreciate), eating more healthily (instead of whatever takes the least amount of time to prepare/can reach my mouth easily and still allow me to type), and going to bed at a decent hour. We’ll see how long it lasts…

How’s your week shaping up?



Five for Friday

Hello, friends, and Happy Friday. I’m currently in Burlington, VT at my agent’s annual creative retreat (aka Camp Barry), and I’ve been writing up a storm. Nothing gets me going like a nice hotel, an unfettered schedule, and a gathering of inspiring, brilliant, funny, supportive writers.

Of course, I haven’t forgotten you, so here are a few fun links to get you through your Friday:

  1. Because one can never have enough Tig in one’s life.
  2. Please, please, please let this be good.
  3. I need this.
  4. Yes, please. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t lip sync to Pat Benatar in the mirror when I was in junior high. (Possibly with the hairbrush I also used to feather my hair.)
  5. I love magazines (or anything with pages, really). A beautiful magazine about books — and children’s books, specifically? Deal me IN.

Have a great weekend!

P.S. If you’re in the area, I’ll be reading and signing THE INFAMOUS RATSOS tomorrow (8/13) at 10am at The Flying Pig in Shelburne, VT. Hope to see you there! 

Host Your Own INFAMOUS RATSOS Party!

Hello, friends. So, after I posted about last Saturday’s INFAMOUS RATSOS launch party, with the photos of all the goodies I made, I wondered, would anyone be interested in the recipes and instructions?

And then I thought, maybe classrooms and book clubs might want to host their own Infamous parties, where they could talk about the book together, enjoy yummy treats, and make some Kindness Cards for those who might be in need of a pick-me-up — a senior center, for instance, or a children’s hospital. Wouldn’t that be the best thing EVER?

Well, whatever your interest might be, here are all the recipes, and all the instructions for creating all of the activities. Let me know if you have any questions — and of course, if you DO have a party based on my stuff, take some photos and send them to me! Even better — post them online with the hashtag #theinfamousratsos!

Without further ado, let’s get this party started!


Mr. Porcupini’s Prickly Pickle Dip


Illustration from THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.


1 tablespoon of fresh dill

1/3c diced dill pickle

5 tablespoons dill pickle juice

2 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened

1 bag of pretzel sticks


Put the dill, pickle, pickle juice, and cream cheese in a bowl. Mix until fully blended. Refrigerate for a few hours, to allow the flavors to mingle.

When ready to serve, garnish bowl with pretzel sticks to resemble a porcupine!


Mr. O’Hare’s Mini Carrot Cake Cheesecake Cupcakes


Illustration from THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.

makes 48


1 box of carrot cake mix, prepared accordingly

2 8oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature

2 eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Prepare carrot cake mix.

In a separate bowl, blend all other ingredients together.

Using a teaspoon, fill each mini cupcake tin halfway with carrot cake mix (I used mini cupcake liners; if preferred, you can go without and spray the tins, but I can’t promise they’ll pop out easily!). Finish with a dollop (teaspoon full) of cheesecake mixture.

Bake for 20-20 minutes (check oven regularly) until the cheesecake topping just starts to brown on the edges.



Tiny Crawley’s Tiny Chocolate Chippers


Illustration from THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.

Makes 50 cookies


1 box of chocolate chip cookie mix (I swear by Ghirardelli’s), prepared according to box


Using a teaspoon (teaspoon should be half-full of cookie dough each time), drop onto cookie sheets (I line with parchment paper), then roll each into a ball.

Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes (ovens may vary).


Fluffy Rabbitski’s Carrots in a Blanket

ratsos.happy fluffy

Illustration from THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.



2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed according to instructions

24 baby carrots

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon of olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Toss carrots in olive oil, dill, salt, and pepper. Spread out on baking sheet, and bake for 20-30 minutes until roasted and a bit soft.
  3. Open up pastry, cut each sheet into 12 pieces. (Make sure each piece is long enough to roll up the carrot, but narrow enough that a little bit of carrot pokes out at each end.)
  4. Roll up one carrot in each pastry strip. Dab a bit of water on the end of the pastry strip to seal. Place each wrapped carrot seam-side down on baking sheet (line sheet with parchment paper).
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes, until crisp and golden.
  6. Serve with honey mustard, your favorite dressing, or on their own!


Big Lou’s Big Ole Fruit Platter and Louie and Ralphie’s Easy Cheeses


Illustration from THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.

Each serves 15


Fruit (whatever you prefer, but be sure to include strawberries and grapes), cut into bite-sized pieces

3-4 different blocks of cheese (varieties up to you), cubed

An assortment of crackers


Arrange separately or together on one platter, as one big happy family! Garnish with strawberries and grapes.




Be creative! As an example, you can see how I set everything up below. Download, print, cut out, and fold these party food labels to let your guests know just what treats you’re serving!IMG_1263


Photo Booth Fun

In the interest of time, I ended up buying all my props from Amazon, but if you’re feeling particularly creative, you can make your own!

You’ll need:

Masks (I bought 2 of these and 2 of these)

Signs (I used 12 of these chalkboard signs, and wrote on them with these chalkboard paint markers)

A backdrop (the bookstore provided one for me, but you can make your own with a white sheet or large piece of posterboard, decorated any way you like)



Time to pose! Make sure everyone tags their photos with #theinfamousratsos before posting!


My friends and I, playing with the photo booth props. Say CHEESE!


Match Game

A fun little activity for younger guests, using this downloadable sheet. Make a copy for each of your guests, then provide  markers or crayons so you can all color them in and draw lines between the Ratsos’ pranks and their (ultimately-grateful!) victims.

Kindness Card

A lovely project to decorate and give to someone (a parent? a sibling? a neighbor? a teacher? a friend?) who might need a little extra kindness. These cards can be used on their own as sweet tokens, of course, but they’re also great to give along with baked goods, little gifts, or other kind gestures (snow shoveling, yard work, chores around the house, etc). You could even choose a worthy cause before your INFAMOUS RATSOS party (such as a senior center or children’s hospital) and have everyone make the cards while they eat the treats you’ve prepared.

You can download the cards here, then just cut each sheet in half and fold each like a card. Provide some crayons, markers, stickers, glitter, etc etc, and your guests can decorate however they like. Don’t forget to address and sign them! Use your imagination and Be Kind!

Whew! That’s it. Hope this was helpful. FYI, I’ll put all of this up on a designated INFAMOUS RATSOS Pinterest board next week when I have some more time, so it’s easy to access.