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We End This Post, Eating My Way Through NYC

You know how you’ve known about a deadline for a while? And you go about your business knowing it’s out there? And suddenly it’s not out there, but here? Sort of the same thing happened with my vacation. I needed a few days before the plane was scheduled for departure. But it’s amazing how the world around me coped, nonetheless.

First stop, Rochester, NY. It may not be the vacation-spot-of-choice for the masses, but it was a family thing. Plus another great reason to go there is to hang out for an afternoon with Deena Lipomi (deenaml  and author2author ) and Lisa Tiffin (who just won the Highlights contest!!!). Sometimes cliches are penned for a reason. Suddenly two and a half hours had flown.

And when you drive from there through the Finger Lakes Region, near the Catskills, then through the Poconos, time flies again even though it’s nearly six hours to Midtown Manhattan.

Apologies to my friends in NYC for breezing in without letting you know, but I wouldn’t have had time to see you ... or more precisely, until I was sitting on a couple decent blocks of time, I didn’t know they would exist.

The quick travelogue, Part I.

FOOD
*Delicious homecooked meal at a cousins’ home, finally meeting the utterly adorable Maia, a two year old who’s all over books.
*And I love popping into random NYC diners. This time, Georgio’s and The Red Flame.
*Pick an Italian restaurant, any Italian restaurant. Random again, family-owned Villa Mosconi in The Village. Very different lasagna, at least for me ... layered noodles, meat, cheese as usual, but with half the plate covered in a great red sauce and the other half covered with a wonderfully rich and meaty ragu.
*Lunch at Fig and Olive where the food (though very good) was secondary to the conversation. (More about that later.)
*Pre-theatre dinner at chef Daniel Boulud’s reasonably priced DL Bistro Moderne. I didn’t order this, but did witness the eating of a three-inch-tall burger stuffed with shortribs, foie gras and black truffles.
*Finally made a trip to the Lower East Side to eat this ...


... here ...


... which was two tables away from this ...

And if anyone has better corned beef than Katz’s Deli, let me at it.

*And finally ... Some experiences are a little more costly than others. And this was one of them. If you’ve ever see Top Chef contestants go gaga over chef Eric Ripert, you might know why I wanted to take a chunk of change and spend it at Le Bernardin ... except, I don’t normally eat three of the courses that make up the four-course, prix fixe, seafood-only menu. I prefer my proteins cooked through. The first course, Simply Raw. The second, Barely Touched (and that means by heat). The third, Lightly Cooked. But I entered the restaurant like I enter DisneyWorld/Land, knowing if I’m there, I’m riding that terrifying roller coaster. And I came out craving and pledging to go back again some day. (For the record, I ordered the scallops, the escolar, the skate, and for dessert the pistachio.)

And for now, I’ll end here, trying to relive every savory bite.
First, full disclosure. I didn’t choose my review book this month by sheer happenstance. Author Eric Luper and I were both at a conference in Vermont this winter and managed to spend three days never seeing each other. That, plus our passing online acquaintance, had something to do with it, and I’d go into details, but this is already in danger of getting too boring.

Bottom line: while I may know-ish Eric, I would not have chosen to review a book I didn’t like. A lot. And so I present my take of Eric’s first middle grade novel, Jeremy Bender vs. The Cupcake Cadets.

The guts of our story begins when Jeremy and his best friend Slater, in the midst of trying to do a good thing (and of course, benefit from that), manage to severely damage Jeremy’s dad’s prized antique Chris-Craft motorboat. The good news: it’s winter and his dad won’t know a thing if they can earn $470 to professionally fix the boat. The better news: winning the Windjammer Whirl, a model sailboat contest, would earn them $500. All they have to do is dress like girls, pass themselves off as members of the Cupcake Cadets, sell cupcakes, earn badges, and design and sail a winning boat. Their only competition? A bunch of girls. Easy, right?

And thus begins a full-length, hysterical romp through the world and minds of two middle school boys. When I wasn’t smiling, I was laughing. And when I wasn’t laughing, I was fully worrying about these boys and the corners they continued to paint themselves into ... until they made me laugh again.

And if you’re a girl, don’t let the boy name on the cover fool you. You may laugh even harder than your male friends ... just don’t tell the guys.

WIN!

Oh ... and while I’m not offering a $500 prize, I am giving you a chance to win a copy of Jeremy Bender vs. The Cupcake Cadets. There will be 2 winners (and how I managed to own two copies is another boring story which I won’t bother to tell).

There’s a number of ways to enter:
1.Comment below.
2. Comment at the Smack Dab in the Middle blog where there’s also a Non-Standard, Eleven-Question (including speed round) interview with Eric Luper.
3. Comment on my Facebook page.
4. Shoot me a tweet (@jodyfeldman).

And to make things more complicated, you’ll receive ...
One (1) entry for a simple, “Hey there, put my name in the hat.”
Two (2) entries if you relate an embarrassing middle school story
Three (3) entries if you can tell that story in Tweet fashion – 140 characters or less

Winners will be chosen by 7/20/2011. Any anonymous entries will count, but if I can’t easily find you, your copy will be donated to a worthy library or school.


This review is part of Barrie Summy’s major-league first-Wednesday-of-each-month review extravaganza which recently received a shout-out on the School Library Journal site.

Click icon for more book review blogs @Barrie Summy
-- www.barriesummy.com</div>


When I first get an idea for a book, a buzz of excitement travels through and hovers around me as I start to visualize the big picture. But when I’m ready to capture them in black and white, the fleeting, vibrant scenes I initially imagined become less-than once they’re on the computer screen. At some point, though, I’ll string together something substantial, verging on the exciting, or at least approaching my initial big-picture brilliance.

That’s pretty much what’s happening at my house right now.


Raise high the chimney, bricklayers!                    Real steps (but they protected them
(with apologies to J.D. Salinger)                            before I got the shot).


Piecing together the hardwood.
First hint of plumbing (outside the roughed-in pipes).


My new favorite room.

Yes, We're Still Building

Yes, I’ve been very negligent in posting about the progress on my house. Yikes. It’s been almost two months. Then again, my attention necessarily zeroed in on family and finishing the latest draft of The Deep Downstairs, finally with my agent.

Now though, I’m taking two or three weeks to deal with peripheral business, leisurely for a change. And in an attempt to streamline stuff for at least a few days, I’ll refrain from going into greater details on anything and post some pictures.



Yay! We have a crane!

And a second story!

And a second story requires ...

And now that you've seen these, everything looks different since then. More sooner than later. At least that's the plan.

My Mom


The memories of my mom reading to me start when I was five or six, but I guarantee she held me in her lap and read the words and pointed out details in the pictures when I was more interested in bottles and sleeping. The evidence comes from her love of reading, from copyright dates of some of my first books, and from seeing her read to all six grandkids from the time they were infants.

When I think of my mom reading to us, I remember Curious George, Pantaloon, Happy Birthday to Me, On Beyond Zebra, Yertle the Turtle, and The Big Ball of String. The latter still makes me groan. My brother insisted she read it every night. While I’m sure I rolled my eyes and moved around impatient for her to get to the end so she could read my choice, she never complained.  She read the book with as much enthusiasm as she did the first time.

Starting at about age 11 or 12, I would occasionally crawl into bed next to her on a Saturday afternoon. With a movie playing in the background – we loved Charlie Chan for the mystery, tolerating the political incorrectness – I’d watch her work crossword puzzles, occasionally knowing an answer before she did.

She enjoyed her crosswords until the past couple months when the lung cancer metastasized to her brain, making it harder for her to concentrate and write. She still loved all the mystery-type shows on PBS and the old movies on cable. She even turned one on the night before she passed away last Thursday.

When I started writing for kids, my mom told me she’d always had an idea for a picture book. “You should write it,” I said. She never did, but she told me the story. It was a good one. Maybe someday, I’ll write it for her.

A little experiment today, boys and girls. Let’s observe how productive a writer can be while revising in a room that’s about 55 degrees. As long as we’re at it, let’s throw in several other variables:

*Four workers ripping apart about 2/3 of the roof just past the plastic partition.
*Two carpenters sawing and hammering.
*A classic rock station blaring so all can hear above the prying, hammering and sawing.
*The knowledge there are no bathroom facilities because I simply refuse to use their port-a-potty.
*Oh. And the scene I need to revise today? Crucial. Sets up everything that happens in the book.

And for your visual pleasure ...



Above ...

and below ...

This section of roof is next ...

... but even lower ...

We're all framed in down here.

Revision, Two Ways

If I could have gone through a house renovation years ago, maybe the concrete example, right before my eyes, would have awakened my brain as to what needs to happen in revision. That patching and prettying aren’t enough. Real revision requires tearing down and breaking apart and reconfiguring what was already there. Even if most of the bones are sound, some of them probably still need to be reset.

I am happy, right now, to be in the touch-up phase of The Deep Downstairs, but as I revised the first few times, it felt more like this ...


Lady, there's a bathroom in your bedroom.


Goodbye, pink bathroom. Yellow bathroom, you're next.


And underneath all that rubble ... a subfloor. And underneath that subfloor ... look out below!

I have more (next installment ... looking up) ... but the writing calls.

Enter My Crazy Life

I usually stick to writing stuff on this blog, but who knows how much writing stuff I'll have to talk about for a while. The reason ... for many years, I’ve wanted to add some space to the bedroom/bathroom area of our house. Be careful what you wish for. In the scheme of things, 4-5 months is not that long a time, and my life should settle into a new productive routine. (Someone, please, repeat this ‘til I’m brainwashed.)

So it’s all going to be wonderful. And if you want to come along for the ride, feel free. I plan to chronicle the progress here, even if it’s just for me.

I don’t have pictures of my under-furnished living room to show you, but here’s what it’s like now.


And my bookcase ...

Before


After


(And guess who forgot to take out all the books.)

And now, to get in and out of my temporary office area ...

So wonderful what people can do with tape, plastic and zippers.


And just to stay a bit on topic ...
Monday, I blogged with the brand new wonderful group Smack Dab in the Middle. You can find my entry and here on the 11th of every month. Make sure you read some of the others. They're great!

SSR Superstars!




At the beginning of this school year, I received an email from Florida teacher Maria Smith who, it seems, contacted each author on this year’s Sunshine State Young Readers Award list. The letter started like this ...

As a teacher at a Title 1 school in Pasco County, Florida, I am thrilled to share with you that we have a school full of students awaiting the arrival of our order of SSR books. Last year I teamed up with another teacher to start an SSR Superstar Book Club and we literally created a reading frenzy ...

... We have now been in school for our second week and if I had a dollar for every time I was asked when our book clubs were starting I believe I have already collected my year's salary!


Maria asked if we might send words of encouragement to the students there. She also invited us to join their club and commit to reading all 15 books on the list. I signed on the dotted line. I so enjoyed picking up books I normally wouldn’t, I’ve decided to read the books on every state list, from here on out, that my books are associated with. The next school year so far: Tennessee, Connecticut and Iowa.

Meanwhile, at Maria’s school, my picture hangs on their Superstars wall. Says Maria, “Your star has gotten lots of attention as it piques everyone's curiosity as you are a new face at our school. I love it!” I love it, too.




Me = quiet.
Me = last stages of revision before story gets mauled by my critique group.
Me = back soon with report on one particular challenge and other details.

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Appearances

2010
February 18-21
Writing Retreat
San Antonio, TX

March 21
Midwest Booksellers Association
Spring Meeting
Left Bank Books

May 7
Branson Children's Literature Conference
Branson Intermediate School
Branson, MO

May 15
6:30 pm
Children's Book Week Event
Pudd'nHead Books
Webster Groves, MO

May 25
Skype Session
Children's Lit Students
University of Central Washington

June 1 - 4
8 Middle Schools, Sarasota School District
6th & 7th Grades,
One Book Starbooks Program

July 26
Skype Session
Children's Lit Students
University of Central Washington

2009

March 7, 2009
3:00 pm
BookSpring (formerly RIF) VIP program and signing
BookPeople
Austin, Texas

April 1, 2009
Beth Yeshurun Day School
Houston, Texas

April 2, 2009
2:00 pm signing, Author’s Area
Texas Library Association
Houston, Texas

April 16, 2009
Mid-Rivers Council IRA
Main Street Books
St. Charles, Missouri

April 23, 2009
West Clayton Elementary School
Clayton, North Carolina

May 30, 2009
11:00 am
10th Anniversary Celebration
St. Louis County Library, Headquarters

September 13, 2009
St. Louis Art Fair
12:45 pm
Reading with Ridley Pearson

October 3, 2009
Missouri Literary Festival
Springfield, Missouri

October 6, 2009
Southwest Middle School
Manchester, Missouri

October 7, 2009
3:15 pm speaking
4:30 pm signing
Missouri Library Association Conference
Columbia, Missouri

October 10, 2009
The Big Read
St. Louis, Missouri

October 13-23, 2009
15 Schools, Northeast Independent School District
San Antonio, Texas
October 13 – Redland Oaks Elementary
October 14 – East Terrell Hills and Camelot Elementaries
October 15 – Wilshire and Serna Elementaries
October 16 – West Avenue and Harmony Hills Elementaries
October 19 - Wilderness Oak Elementary
October 20 – Castle Hills and Dellview Elementaries
October 21 – El Dorado and Clear Spring Elementaries
October 22 – Fox Run and Regency Place Elementaries
October 23 – Colonial Hills Elementary

November 5, 2009
Mini-Skype Session
4th & 5th Grade Book Clubs
Patton School
Arlington Heights, Illinois

November 10, 2009
Skype Session
Children's Lit Students
University of Central Washington

November 16, 2009
Mason Ridge Book Club
St. Louis, Missouri

December 1-4
8 Elementary Schools
Frisco, TX
December 1 - Rogers and Fisher Elementaries
December 2 - Curtsinger and Robertson Elementaries
December 3 - Spears and Shawnee Trail Elementaries
December 4 - Bledsoe and Smith Elementaries

December 6, 2009
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm
MICDS Book Fair
Barnes & Noble
Ladue, Missouri
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