Sunday, December 31, 2006

Award News

As a writer, I’m pretty much a ball of neuroses at every stage: Does this idea bite? Does this first sentence bite? Does this whole manuscript bite? Will my editor finally discover that I’m a no-talent hack who somehow managed to fake her way through the last book without being found out?

When Airball: My Life in Briefs was published, my biggest fear was: What if my book goes out into the world. . . and nobody notices? And while it’s true that Airball hasn’t changed the literary world as we know it, it’s gotten enough recognition here and there that I know that at least a few people have noticed—and read—my book.

My two latest bits of recognition are very exciting. I’ve recently found out that Airball has been chosen for two more state award lists: Kansas’s 2007–2008 William Allen White Award Master List for grades 6–8 and the 2007–2008 Texas Lone Star Reading List, also for grades 6–8. Airball was previously named to the Maine Student Book Award list for the current school year, 2006–2007. Throughout the school year, students from these states read books on their lists then vote for their favorite in the spring. The book that garners the most votes wins (duh).

I’m thrilled that Airball has been included on these lists. The William Allen White Award is especially close to my heart because that’s the award I voted on when I was growing up. I remember getting bookmarks printed with the master list each fall and thinking that all the books on it must be magical and special to have been named to such a list. I tried to read as many of them as I could so that I could be an informed voter when the time came. I’m delighted that students across the country, at least from Maine to Kansas to Texas, will be reading my book over the next two years.

Whether I win any of these state awards or not, that’s the real award for me: knowing that middle-graders are reading (and, I hope, enjoying) Airball.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Birthday to Ashley!

Today is my daughter’s birthday. My oldest baby is turning 23. It hardly seems possible. I mean, am I not still 23?

But she’s a wonderful daughter and I’m lucky she’s mine. Tonight one of her activity groups is having a New Year’s get-together, and instead of taking cake and ice cream to celebrate her birthday, as we had originally planned, we’re firing up our new chocolate fountain (again with the chocolate fountain!) and setting out strawberries, bananas, Rice Krispie treats (yes, Rice Krispie treats dipped in chocolate—this is what they eat in heaven), pretzels and assorted other goodies for dipping. Ashley’s favorite dipping item is marshmallows.

Happy Birthday, Ash!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Updates & Tidbits

This fall I was very lucky to be invited to many writer events. On September 29, I motored down to Wichita to sign books at the first-ever Kansas Book Festival. It was a rollicking success, with busloads of students from all over the state rolling into Lawrence-Dumont Stadium to listen to storytellers, authors, musicians, and historians. Plans are underway for next year’s festival.

That evening I was honored, along with the fourteen other Kansas Notable Books authors, at a ball at Exploration Place, Wichita’s science museum. We received very cool medals, so big and heavy I felt like I’d won gold at the Olympics. Actually, we were all treated like we’d won the Olympics. After the ceremony, we listened to jazz, enjoyed an incredible spread of food (I was seated next to the chocolate fountains—yes, they had two: one for white chocolate, and one for dark) and yumptious wine from Wyldewood Cellars, and toured the museum exhibits, including the flight simulators and the traveling Sue the T-Rex exhibit.

Kansas Notable Books authors at the ball. I’m standing between the wonderful Jane Kurtz and David Parks, who was accepting for his father, the late Gordon Parks.

On November 2, I visited Piper Middle School, where I spoke to the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, conducted a writers’ workshop for students who are particularly interested in writing, and afterward signed books. It was a fun day. The students were very attentive and asked great questions, and the school building itself is very impressive. Their stage is at one end of the commons area and has auditorium-like seating so that it was very easy for the kids to see me, for me to see the kids, and for all of us to talk back and forth.

<—During one of the assemblies at Piper Middle School.

<—Writers’ workshop at Piper Middle School.

On November 3, I drove out to Manhattan (Kansas, not New York, which would have been fun, too, but a much longer drive) to the Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave, one of my favorite, favorite conferences. I met Harley Jane Kozak, whom I’ve loved since she played Annabelle on Guiding Light, attended Nancy Pickard’s editing workshop and lots of panels (including my own on writing for children and on the Kansas Center for the Book), and hung out all weekend with book-loving pals old and new.

On November 14, I attended the fall book fair at Prairie Elementary School in Prairie Village, Kansas. Mrs. Renft, the book fair committee, and the students all made me feel so welcome. They saved a parking spot for me right by the front door with a sign that said “Reserved for Author L.D. Harkrader.” The kids were excited about reading Airball and jostled each other in line to be the first to get their book signed. Mrs. Renft did a great job organizing the fair, and Reading Reptile provided the books.

On December 2, I gave a little talk and signed books at Book Barn in Leavenworth as part of their Holiday Open House. Book Barn owners Bob and Barb Spear are wonderful hosts. Barb made chili and other tantalizing food, and Bob and a friend played music on different stringed instruments. Book Barn is a very homey, welcoming store, and many of its loyal customers go there just to hang out with the Spears and talk books, history, politics, music, or whatever subject comes up.

Wow. I’ve done a lot in the last few months. I think I need a nap.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blog Spam—Who Knew?

I probably shouldn’t have mentioned the word “flatulence” on my blog because ever since, I’ve been getting posts in the comments section advertising Viagra and remedies for all kinds of embarrassing physical ailments. (And now that I’ve mentioned the word “Viagra,” I’ve probably just invited more of these comments—sigh.)

I deleted those posts and—sadly—had to change my settings so that now I must approve all comments before they can be posted. Since the Viagra comments are obviously automated, I could avoid the problem altogether by making everybody type in the misshapen letters and numbers they see in those fuzzy boxes, but that’s so annoying, and I don’t want to discourage real-live, sincere comments. (And, I’m embarrased to admit, I can’t always decipher those misshapen letters. I’m always afraid I’m typing in the wrong thing. I can’t be the only one. Can I?)

I guess nothing on the Internet should surprise me, but I really wasn’t expecting anybody to spam my blog.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Governor’s Inaugural Family Festival

Okay, now that I have the flatulence problem under control and a handle on the holidays (only one left—Happy New Year!), I can finally devote myself to my blog again.

Speaking of a happy new year, 2007 is starting with a bang. I’ve been invited, along with the other Kansas Notable Books authors, to participate in Governor Kathleen Sebelius’s Inaugural Family Festival. The festival’s theme is “Main Street, Kansas,” and it will feature the best of Kansas’s authors, artists, craftspersons, and musicians, as well as food, culture, and history. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m thrilled to be included.

The festival is free and open to the public, and I hope to see you there.