Whoa.

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So. I had a bit of a day yesterday. Actually, it all started two nights ago, when I got a certain phone call…from the Geisel Committee.

That’s right. If you haven’t already heard, THE INFAMOUS RATSOS was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book. (More about the award here.)

Of course, it was my fondest hope/dream/wish that this would happen, but I never, ever really thought it would. I’m actually waiting to wake up right now and realize this has all been a dream. The past couple of weeks have been such a roller coaster, with very high highs (seeing my first novel, The Jolly Regina, finally published; joining millions this past Saturday in the Women’s March) and very low lows (a certain inauguration). But this high is stratospheric.

It’s not just the award itself, which is literally and figuratively an Honor to receive. It’s the outpouring of love and support I’ve received since the big announcement yesterday. Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who voiced their congratulations. It means everything. It keeps me going. It keeps me writing.

Big thanks to the brilliant Matt Myers for bringing the Ratsos to life with such humor and flair; to my wonderful editor, Sarah Ketchersid, and publisher (and alma mater!), Candlewick Press; and to my amazing agent, Barry Goldblatt. And a big CONGRATULATIONS to the other winners announced yesterday — and to the amazing authors and artists and books that weren’t announced yesterday. I bow to you all. Thank you for putting your hearts into your work, and putting your work out into the world.

The world can seem like a cruel and uncertain place these days. I’m just thrilled that my little story about kindness might bring some light and hope to young (and not-so-young) readers.

A few things:

  • Speaking of kindness, it just happens to be Kindness Week! (Though, really, shouldn’t it be Kindness Week 52 weeks a year?) In any case, if you’d like to spread some around, feel free to download and print some of these Kindness Cards. They’re fun to color and decorate, and they’re a great way to show someone you care.
  • If you’re sharing the book with your kiddos, you might find this discussion guide helpful.
  • If you’d like to read some behind-the-scenes stories about THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, here are a few from my archives (NOTE: The contest/giveaway mentioned has already ended)…

The story behind two of the Ratsos’ neighbors, Mrs. Porcupini and Mr. O’Hare.

The story behind one of the Ratsos’ teachers, Miss Beavers.

The story behind the Ratsos’ friends: Tiny, Chad, and Fluffy.

The story behind the Ratsos’ dad, Big Lou.

The story behind The Infamous Ratsos, Louie and Ralphie.

Happy reading!

A Mid-Week Peek

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Hello, friends, and Happy Wednesday! The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for me, with the long-awaited (at least, to me!) publication of The Jolly Regina, the first in my middle-grade trilogy, The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters. Many thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement.

Also, I’ve been working on the second Bland Sisters story AND the second book in THE INFAMOUS RATSOS series, I have a few new projects out on submission (fingers crossed!) and I’m now drafting the third and final (?) Bland Sisters adventure.

And then there was this amazing news:

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In short: Life is very, very good right now, but also a bit exhausting (in the best possible way).

A few more fun things to point out:

Enjoy the rest of your week…

The BOOTY-ful Winners!!

Hello, friends! Thanks so much to all those who participated in my Jolly Regina contest. I was so thrilled to hear from each and every one of you, and delighted (and a little intimidated!) by your pirate names (I hope you were, too). I think we’ve got a right good crew here!

Without further ado, the five grand prize winners of the giveaway are…

Janet Welz-Kavanagh, aka Jolly Wendy

Catherine Petter, aka Cutthroat Polly

Jennifer Kraar, aka Jolly Mad Dog Kate

Jennifer Gervais, aka Jolly Gertie

Tim Hebda, aka Toothless Hazel

Congrats to these winners, who will receive a signed copy of the book, a pack of Jolly Regina postcards, and an official Jolly Regina eyepatch! Huzzah!

BUT WAIT — THERE’S MORE!

Everyone else who entered will get some special loot, too. Specifically, a pack of Jolly Regina postcards and a Jolly Regina/Infamous Ratsos bookmark! The runners-up are:

Claire Bobrow, aka Cutthroat Bonnie

runthistowndotnet, aka Mad Dog Hazel

Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, aka Deadeye Gertie Mad Dog

mona861, aka Mad Dog Polly

Nancy Volkers, aka Nasty Ever-Lovin’ Vera

Lynn Alpert, aka Low Tide Annie

Cathy Bonnell, aka Cutthroat Bonnie

Laura D, aka Low Tide Doris

Emily Wayne, aka Ever-Lovin’ Wendy

brightcrested, aka Ever-Lovin’ Gertie

jpetroroy, aka Jolly Polly

Linda Mitchell, aka Low Tide Marge

connieonnie, aka Cutthroat Hazel

Amy Keyes, aka Abalone Kate

Rebecca Wright, aka Rusty Wendy

Pam Basler, aka Peg Leg Bonnie

Please email me ASAP with your full name and mailing address, so I can get these goodies out to you.

ARRRRGH, me hearties! Big congratulations to ye all, and many thanks fer playin’ — and fer supportin’ me and me book!

A BOOTY-ful Giveaway!

Happy Monday, friends!

Believe it or not, my very first (!!!) novel, The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina pubs TOMORROW, January 10th. In honor of this very special occasion, I’m holding a very special giveaway. Five lucky winners will receive:

  1. A signed copy of the book
  2. A package of eight Jolly Regina postcards (designed by moi)
  3. An official Jolly Regina eyepatch

So…are you ready to grab some booty? Wait. That came out wrong.

Are you…ready to land some loot? Great! Let’s do this!

All you need to do is change your name.

 

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Use the above chart to determine what your Jolly Regina name will be. Post your new name in the comments here today through the end of the day tomorrow, January 10th. I’ll choose five entries at random, and I’ll announce the winners on January 11th. Got it?

Good luck — and be sure to spread the word to any and all interested mateys!

Yours in all things piratical,

Krabby Lois

 

Five Things About the Jolly Regina: The Jokes

Aye, mateys! I’ve taken the past few days to give you a little behind-the-scenes of the process of writing my upcoming (and very first!) novel, The Jolly Regina, the first in a middle-grade trilogy called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters. Today’s (final!) entry concerns some of the jokes and references in the story.

I love a good joke (obviously), but I also love using literary and cultural references to enhance my humor. Sometimes, my references are meant for kids, and other times, they can be a bit more sophisticated and adult. This is because I hope that kids of all ages will enjoy The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, so I’ve included all kinds of humor, for maximum entertainment. Also, I think the best stories are the ones you can come back to again and again, and discover something new and different each time. I especially love going back to stories I loved as a kid and discovering whole new meanings with my (semi-)adult sensibility. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving.

FUN FACTS:

  1. I read a lot of Herman Melville in school, so there are quite a few Melville references in the story. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Princess Kwee-Kweg is based on Queequeg from Moby Dick. Also, Millie Mudd is based on Billy Budd, Sailor (I even gave Millie a slight stutter as an homage). And the Bland Sisters’ beleaguered mail carrier, Mr. Bartleby, is based on the infamous “Bartleby the Scrivener.” You might even say that Delilah’s obsessive hunt for The Booty Myth has parallels to Captain Ahab’s search for a certain white whale.
  2. As research for The Jolly Regina, I also read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (highly recommended if pirates are your jam). Jaundice and Kale hide in a dinghy during the big swashbuckling scene at the end much like Jim hides in an apple barrel aboard the Hispaniola.
  3. Gilly Guns Island is a reference to “Gilligan’s Island”, which was one of my favorite television shows when I was Jaundice and Kale’s age. (Back then, I aspired to be Mary Ann, but I think I’ve turned out more like the Professor.)
  4. Confession: I pirated two funny moments from two of my favorite movies. When Jaundice and Kale puzzle over the ladder in Chapter Eleven, their exchange (“Of course we know where it goes….It goes up”) mirrors one from Ghostbusters, which I saw in the theater when I was eleven (and promptly fell in love with Bill Murray and his deadpan humor). And when Jaundice and Kale discover the conch at the end of the story, the line “But this shell had no earthly business being among a pile of clams” is based on a similar line from another of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these little behind-the-scenes stories — and, ideally, that they’ve made you want to read The Jolly Regina! Happy reading, me hearties!

TOMORROW’S POST: A contest!

Five Things About the Jolly Regina: The Chanteys, and the Cook

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Art from The Jolly Regina, illustrated by the brilliant Jen Hill.

Aye, mateys! As I mentioned earlier this week, I thought I might take the next few days to give you a little behind-the-scenes of the process of writing my upcoming (and very first!) novel, The Jolly Regina, the first in a middle-grade trilogy called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters. Today’s entry concerns one of my favorite characters: Fatima, the sea chantey-singing cook.

I just loved writing the character of Fatima; her scenes delighted me like no other. I love that she’s so well-rounded, literally and figuratively — she’s a tough cookie (or, more aptly, a hardtack biscuit) but she has a heart of gold. She’s a cook and she’s a chanteuse. And she manages to endear herself to the Bland Sisters, and vice versa. I was really sorry to say goodbye to her when I finished the book…though who knows? She may just pop up again at some point.

I also love the friendship between Fatima and Peg, who are brought together by a certain, er, serendipity (you’ll have to read the book to find out more — I won’t spoil it). The crew of The Jolly Regina is a rough one, as any pirate crew would be, so it’s nice to see two friends find each other and stick together amidst such rough seas, and ultimately come out on top.

Of course, it’s NOT nice to see Fatima bullied by Smoky and Princess. I imagine that amongst any group of people traveling for long stretches in close quarters, there’s bound to be conflict and drama. It’s a bit like middle school or high school, in a way. (Actually, the girls who bullied me in middle school were much surlier, and wore way more eyeliner.) I’ve written a lot about bullying in my other books, as I’ve experienced the issue from both sides of the fence — so it’s no surprise that there’s a bully or two (or more) in The Jolly Regina, too.

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Art from The Jolly Regina by the brilliant Jen Hill.

Bullies are really sad creatures at heart; as Kale says to Fatima, “From what little I’ve seen, some people make themselves feel better by being mean to others.” Thankfully, the Bland Sisters remind Fatima that she’s strong, and that she has some real talent as a chantey singer and writer; this pep talk gives Fatima all the confidence she needs to stand up to her tormentors and fight for her happy ending.

One of my all-time-favorite things to write in this book were the sea chanties. I have a little bit of a musical background, so I really enjoyed singing the songs to myself as I wrote them, to make sure they sounded just right. I hope you enjoy them, too!

FUN FACTS:

  1. I had comedic actress Melissa McCarthy in my head as I wrote Fatima, as well as my mom, who is very strong and has a heart of gold and loves to sing…but maaaaaaybe isn’t the best cook. (Sorry, Mom.)
  2. Stew (the first of Fatima’s meals that the Bland Sisters eat on The Jolly Regina) is something my mom would make (served with a slice of Wonder Bread spread with margarine) when I was a kid. I did not like it. AT ALL. In fact, I used my memory of eating that stew in my description of Fatima’s stew in the book: “Chunks of potatoes and unidentifiable meat floating in a greasy, beefy broth.”
  3. This is the second time rats make an appearance (in this case, however subtle) in my books. They are the stars of my chapter book series, THE INFAMOUS RATSOS.
  4. The chanteys have melodies to go along with the lyrics, which I am happy to sing for you, if you ask nicely.
  5. Like Peg, I once made my own ginger ale. It was delicious, but time-consuming.

TOMORROW’S POST: A look at some literary and cultural references in the story…

 

Five Things About The Jolly Regina: The Crew

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Art from The Jolly Regina, by the brilliant Jen Hill.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I thought I might take the next few days to give you a little behind-the-scenes of the process of writing my upcoming (and very first!) novel, The Jolly Regina, the first in a middle-grade trilogy called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters. Today’s entry concerns the lady pirates who make up the crew of the titular ship, The Jolly Regina.

I’m a huge fan of comedic actresses, so when I began writing about these lady pirates, I had particular funny ladies in my head, delivering the lines: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kate McKinnon, Ellie Kemper,  Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Julie Louis-Dreyfuss, and Melissa McCarthy. (Take note, Hollywood!) Having particular real people in mind with zany comedic sensibilities really helped me to shape the humor of the story — of course, I didn’t include anything that didn’t make me laugh out loud. I hope it makes you laugh, too.

Fun facts:

  1. When the crew of The Jolly Regina encounters the crew of the Testostero, I named one of the male pirates Barry, as a shout-out to my agent.
  2. I included an evil monkey (aptly named Scurvy) as an homage to a failed picture book series I wrote a while back about sock monkeys, which I mentioned in my post on Tuesday. As Jaundice says (and Kale agrees) in Chapter 9, “Monkeys are the worst.”
  3. The ivory mermaid pipe used by Smoky is based on a real pipe, owned by my father. The mermaid on his pipe was naked and fairly obscene, and I never saw him smoke it; he kept it in his desk, for some reason.
  4. Captain Ann Tennille’s ship, The Booty Myth, is a reference to Naomi Wolf’s feminist classic, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women.
  5. Captain Ann’s name is a play on this beloved 70s duo. (If you’re still taking notes, Hollywood, I hope you include that song on the movie soundtrack.)
  6. Princess Kwee-Kweg is based on Queequeg, the similarly-tattooed character in Moby Dick by Herman Melville. More on other literary (and cultural) references in a few days…

IN TOMORROW’S POST: All about sea chanteys (and not-very-nice pirates)!