Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bad, Bad Blogger Part 2, Long-lost Relatives, and Chili

Yes, I’ve again slipped into my Bad, Bad Blogger personality. Sometimes I’m Jekyll, the Good Blogger, who faithfully posts regular updates on her life and writing (whether anyone wants them or not). And sometimes I’m Hyde, who slips out of the blog habit for so long that it becomes a sore spot and she begins scowling and growling out of guilt and humiliation. I’ve been Hyde since June, which is way too long, especially since my cousin, who lives half the country away from me and I almost never see, and my neice, who lives only a few counties away but I also hardly ever see, posted comments on my last blog post and probably think I’m snubbing them.

I’m not snubbing you, Jonni and DD. I’m just a bad, bad blogger.

I’ve been doing a lot of things since June, not the least of which was traveling down to Emporia, Kansas, for the William Allen White ceremony in October. Wow. What a celebration. I’ll post more about it soon, I promise. (And I’m Jekyll now, so you can believe me.) For now let me just say that my fervent wish for every children’s writer is for each of you to win the WAW and be treated like royalty for a weekend.

My project right now (besides writing) is helping my son’s 4-H club put together a chili supper and auction to raise money for one of our members, a sophomore at my son’s high school, who is having a kidney transplant. I’m putting together a basket of signed books as one of the auction items, so if any writers would like to donate a book for the basket, email me at and I’ll send you a mailing address.

The image above is the flyer I designed for the fundraiser.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father’s Day

Buying gifts for my dad has never been easy. He hates for people he cares about to spend their money on him. He’d much rather we spend a frugal amount—wisely—on the things we need, then save the rest. Every time a gift-giving holiday rolls around, we end up having the same conversation:

Me: Hey, Dad, what do you want for Christmas?
Dad: Socks.

Me: Hey, Dad, what do you want for your birthday?
Dad: Socks.

Me: Hey, Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?
Dad: Well, I could use some socks.

Once in a while he’ll mix things up and ask for underwear, but usually it’s socks, and we’re not talking fun-to-buy, fun-to-give, fun-to-wear socks. We’re not going for anything flashy or trendy, not even a tasteful argyle. When it comes to socks, my dad likes exactly one kind: white cotton crew socks from J.C. Penney.

I’ve never been the most obedient child, so I ditched the whole idea of sock giving when I was about eight. And I have to say that although Shopping for Dad will never be an exact science, my sister and I have managed to raise it to an art form. We usually manage to think of something Dad will really like and really use (which is redundant because, in my dad’s world, if he can’t use it, he isn’t going to like it). But even if he loves the gift (like the plug-in refrigerator he now uses in his van when he travels), he can never open it without grumbling. This is the unvarying scene:

Dad (knotting his eyebrows together and giving the wrapped package a stern and suspicious look): You know you didn’t have to get me anything.

My sister and me (rolling our eyes): We know. Open it.

Dad (while taking an infuriatingly long time to peel back the tape, carefully lift the box from the paper, then fold the paper into a neat square before giving the gift a stern and suspicious look): I would’ve been happy with socks.

Us (rolling our eyes): We know. But what do you think? Isn’t it cool?

Dad (knotting his eyebrows together and giving my sister and me a stern and suspicious look): Oh, yeah, it’s cool all right. How much did it cost?

Us: Hardly anything. It was on clearance. That’s why we can’t take it back.

Dad (rolling his eyes): Right.

This year, Dad’s lady friend, Cissy, gave us the perfect idea for a Father’s Day gift. Dad and Cissy spend their winters in Texas at a retirement community, where Dad golfs two or three times a week. Dad has used the same set of golf clubs for at least twenty years, and I use the term “set” loosely here—he’s cobbled it together from clubs my brother didn’t want any more, supplemented by an iron or wood here and there that he picked up from garage sales.

The guys in the retirement community are constantly telling Dad to buy new clubs, telling Cissy to make him buy new clubs, threatening to ban him from Texas if he doesn’t come back with new clubs, and for good reason—his old clubs are falling apart. The heads have been known to fly farther than his ball when he takes a swing, and he’s using the same covers that were on them when he bought them at the garage sale—some are fuzzy black, some are home-made brown knit with pom-poms on top and holes where the yarn has unraveled. He looks like a homeless person carrying around his wordly possessions in a mid-80s powder blue golf bag.

Cissy wanted to buy Dad new golf clubs, but she thought he’d take it better if we all went in on them together. So Friday, Cissy, my sister, and I went shopping. We got a great set, all graphite handles, with a driver bigger than my head. It came with a rain cover, matching golf club covers, and a snazzy new bag. We were so excited that we couldn’t wait till Father’s Day. We gave them to him that night.

And of course he knotted his eyebrows and grumbled about the money we spent (we told him we got them on sale at a store called Almost Free) and complained that his old clubs still had a lot of use in them.

But then he compared his shiny new eight iron with his old one and said, “Huh. No wonder I can’t ever get any lift with my eight. Look how much more slant this new one has.”

And he compared his new seven iron with the old one (the head of which is lying at the bottom of a water hazard in Texas) and said, “I guess I did need a new seven.”

Then we made him go out in the yard and take a couple swings with his new Volkswagen-sized driver. “Ball goes pretty straight,” he admitted, reluctantly.

By the time we left, he was still grumbling about how much money we’d spent, but his eyebrows had relaxed, and once we caught him actually smiling. I’m hoping that by the time we go over for dinner tonight, he will have forgiven us for not buying socks.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

William Allen White Award!

I had a great time at the Young Writers’ Conference in Emporia last week, and I’ll post more about it soon. . .

. . . but speaking of Emporia, I found out that Airball: My Life in Briefs won this year’s William Allen White Award (which is named after famed Emporia newspaper editor William Allen White and is headquartered at Emporia State University). Hooray!

I’ll certainly post more about the award soon, too. This has been a crazy-busy week. Tomorrow I’m heading down to Andale Elementary (outside Wichita) to do a school visit for their William Allen White celebration.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Young Writers’ Conference

Saturday I’ll be talking to students in fifth through twelfth grades at the Young Writers Conference in Emporia, Kansas, and as the time draws nearer, I’m getting more and more excited (nervous, too, but mostly excited). This conference is a very big deal. In the last two days I’ve been interviewed by an Emporia newspaper and an Emporia radio station. Everyone down that way is really gearing up for a great time.

When I do presentations, I tell kids they can do whatever they set their minds to do. I’m usually referring to their pursuit of talents and dreams such as writing, dance, sports, music, acting, or other difficult and unconventional careers. But it applies to public speaking, too. Who among us is not terrified of speaking in front of an audience? Everyone. It’s universal. When I began writing, I never knew that a writer’s career would entail so much public speaking—school visits, conferences, workshops, book fairs, awards banquets, panel discussions. At first, I was terrified. And I still am to a certain extent. I don’t think the fear of public speaking ever completely goes away. But the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. And now I find speaking in public (dare I say it?). . . fun. Really.

So for kids out there whose knees knock together when they have to stand in front of their classmates and give an oral book report, or for writers whose knees knock together when they have to stand in front of other writers to speak at a conference, or for anyone whose knees knock together at the very thought of standing in front of an audience for any reason, I say: Do it anyway. It gets easier with practice, you’re probably a better speaker than you think you are, and if you do it enough, you might find you like it!

Go, Mize Elementary!

Wow. What a great visit I had at Mize Elementary last Friday. I talked with the third, fourth, and fifth grades, and the kids were great. They listened and asked terrific questions, and their teachers told me afterward that the presentation inspired them to come up with new writing projects of their own. I owe a big thank you to fifth grade teacher Suann Foster for inviting me.

Go, Mize!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mize Elementary

Tomorrow, Friday, April 11, I will be visiting Mize Elementary in Shawnee, Kansas. I love talking to kids about writing. Heck, I love talking to anybody who’ll listen about writing. But I especially like talking to kids because I hope that if a budding young writer—or musician or actor or athlete or any kid who would like to take an unconventional career path—is sitting in the audience, he or she will see that it can be done. It’s not easy, but if you work and study and learn and keep at it, writing can be your career.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Anyone who knows me—or has read Airball: My Life in Briefs—knows I am a hard-core Jayhawk basketball fan. I graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988, the year the Jayhawks last won the national championship, and they’ve been breaking my heart every basketball season since.

Until now. Last night, in San Antonio, Texas, my beloved Jayhawks did it again. In an incredible, heart-stopping nail-biter, they came from behind to win 75–68 in overtime against a fabulous Memphis team.

So indulge me just a little, because at the risk of offending everyone in Memphis, North Carolina, and Missouri, I have to say:

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk! Go, KU!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Appreciating Educators

As I said before, on Saturday, April 5, 2008, I’ll be part of a children’s book panel (that also includes my friend Jenny Whitehead, whom I haven’s seen in way too long) at the Borders on 119th and Metcalf in Overland Park, Kansas. Afterward, I’ll present a writing workshop in the cafĂ©. The store is going all out to celebrate educators. Jenny at Borders sent me this flyer:

Educator Savings Week April 2nd-8th
Educators save 25% on purchases!

Friday April 4
Special Reception
4:00—8:00 PM
Food, fun and prizes!

Book Signing
4:00—6:00 PM
Dr. John Laurie, author of Managing the Game

Saturday April 5
10:00—11:00 AM
Mary Anne Demeritt, author of The Twilight Ride of the Pink Fairy

Children’s Author Panel Event
12:00—2:00 PM
Local authors on hand to discuss their books or answer questions about getting published!
• Leigh Legere: Do Antelope Eat Cantaloupe
• Mary Anne Demeritt: The Twilight Ride of the Pink Fairy
• Jenny Whitehead: Holiday Stew and Lunch Box Mail
• Sandra Jacob: Smiling Faces
• Mary Martin: Miss Lilly and the Hollyhock Garden
• Jancy Morgan and Tom Dunn: If This Old Tree Could Talk To Me
• Lisa Harkrader: Airball: My Life in Briefs
Join us for crafts, food, games, contests and lots of fun!

Kansas City Writers Meetup Group
2:00 PM
Lisa Harkrader: “Tips and Tricks for Writing Effective Dialogue.”

Acoustic Guitar
4:00—6:00 PM
Singer-songwriter Bayley Kate will perform folk/indie rock.

Sunday April 6
Educator Escape!
2:00—4:00 PM
Take some time out for yourself and enjoy:
• The Yoga Studio of Johnson County
• Mary Kay
• 24hr Fitness
• Massage demonstrations
• Coffee and Tea Tasting

Wow! If you live in the area, drop by. This is some weekend they have planned.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kansas SCBWI Workshop

I had a wonderful day yesterday at the Kansas SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) workshop, “Taking Care of Business: Marketing and Promoting.”

In the morning, I gave a presentation called “Promotion 101.” Which is ironic, considering that I don’t have a single sales gene in my entire body. When Airball: My Life in Briefs first came out, if you’d told me I’d soon be giving other writers tips on promotion, I would have first laughed and then passed out in terror at the mere thought of doing promotion.

I’ll never be an in-your-face promoter, but I have picked up a few things. My guiding principles for marketing are:
  1. Don’t do things you hate. Try new things that may seem scary at first (like school visits—a terrific way to connect with readers, librarians, and teachers), but if you absolutely hate some kind of event or promotional effort, don’t do it. Life’s too short.
  2. Don’t spend a fortune. Plenty of free or low-cost opportunities (like sending out press releases or speaking at regional library conferences) exist.
  3. Focus on your own piece of the world. You can’t cover the whole country anyway, and the people who live in your region are probably going to be the ones who are most excited about your book.
In the afternoon I attended Sue Uhlig Ford and Kate Barsotti’s presentation, “Websites and Blogs 101.” They gave great tips on what your goals should be for a blog and/or website and how to set them up. One of the best tips I picked up is probably one of the simplest (and also was one of those moments where I thumped myself upside the head and said, “Duh”): Make sure the URL of the About Me or About the Author page on your site is titled with your name. Search engines looking for your name will not connect About Me with you.

So I immediately came home and updated my site. Now instead of saying “About the Author,” the tabs on my web pages say “About L.D. Harkrader.” And the page they link to is LDHarkrader, rather than Author.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Young Writers’ Conference

On April 19, 2008, I’ll be one of the speakers at the 2008 Young Writers’ Conference in Emporia. Here’s a link to the great article the Emporia Gazette ran about the conference.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Full Day at Borders

My friend Suzanne Lieurance is simply tireless. She does so many things in a day—writes, coaches writers, interviews writers for her daily blog talk radio show Book Bites for Kids, reviews books, runs probably 37 different writing-related websites (37 may be an exaggeration, but not by much), owns and operates a gourmet baking mix company—that I am convinced she has finally mastered cloning technology and now has ten or twelve Suzannes to do her bidding.

A couple years ago she started the KC Writers Meetup, a group for Kansas City area writers, and it’s not only still going strong, it’s getting bigger and better all the time. The group holds a monthly meeting at the espresso bar at a local Borders, and each month they invite a speaker. For their April 5 meeting, Suzanne has invited me to conduct a workshop on writing dialogue.

Which in itself is pretty cool. But it just gets even cooler because when she contacted Borders, they invited me to be on a children’s writer panel in celebration of Educator Appreciation Week, scheduled that same day.

Here are the details:

Children’s Writer Panel
Noon–2 p.m.

KC Writers Meetup Workshop
Tips & Tricks for Writing Effective Dialogue
2–3 p.m.

April 5, 2008
Borders Books
119th & Metcalf
Overland Park, Kansas

Sunday, March 02, 2008

What a Glorious Day

Some days I wake up inexplicably. . . happy. Today is one of those days.

Part of it—a huge part, I’m sure—is the weather. This is the third day in a row of beautiful sunshine and warm weather. It’s been windy as heck, but that’s okay. This is Kansas, after all, so we’re used to wind, and (in one of those instances where nature is wiser than we mere mortals) it turns out that wind has a real plus side: It’s drying up all that nasty mud we’ve been fighting out here in rural America as weeks of snow and ice have finally melted and turned our driveways and gravel roads into pudding.

Another huge part of my happiness is yesterday’s panel and booksigning at the Topeka Barnes & Noble. I’m always sure nobody will show up, but we had a nice little group who were almost all writers, and I think our discussion was well-received. And hanging out in a bookstore with writers, talking about writing and drinking frou-frou coffee drinks laced with cinnamon and whipped cream, is always a fun time. My thirteen year old wanted to come with me, and I think later, as extreme boredom nearly sent him into a coma, he regretted it, but I always enjoy his company and was glad for his help schlepping my stuff to and from the car.

Another big part of the happiness is that I think my writing is going well. In all the angst we writers have about getting published and sweating the reviews and hoping our books sell well enough that we can publish the next one, the rock-bottom truth is, it’s all about the writing. When I’m working, creating, giving life to my characters and their stories, I’m happy, and I have a real sense that everything else will follow (eventually).

It’s supposed to snow and sleet tonight, and I think my daughter is coming down with the nasty flu bug my son and I had a couple weeks ago, so I’m going to enjoy my happiness while I can.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I’m Available in Softcover

Hooray! The paperback version of Airball: My Life in Briefs will be released Tuesday, March 4—four days from now. It’s published by Square Fish, my publisher’s paperback imprint, and I love the new cover:

P.S. Happy Leap Day. I keep thinking I need to commemorate this day, which only rolls around every four years, by leaping into something new and exciting and slightly scary, something I’ve been wanting to do but have been too busy or too afraid. . . but I can’t think what that something would be. So maybe I’ll just leap into some drawings for my middle-grade WIP (comic book panels that my superhero-wannabe main character is creating as his own story goes along) and do so without fear or self-doubt.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I’m Updated!

Well, not me personally (ask my son—he’ll be happy to tell you how quickly I’m sinking into old fogeydom), but my website is updated, at least partially. I’ve added some upcoming events to the calendar page:

Panel Discussion and Booksigning
Topeka Barnes & Noble
Saturday, March 1, 2008
(see below)

Kansas SCBWI Workshop
KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park
Saturday, March 15, 2008

Young Writers Conference
Emporia High School
Saturday, April 19, 2008

Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave
Manhattan, Kansas
October 31–November 2, 2008

I’ll be adding some school visits and other events in the very near future.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Panel Discussion and Signing

I love Esther Luttrell. She was a script advisor, script consultant, and screenwriter in Hollywood for many, many years, and she is a wonderful and generous screenwriting teacher. I took a class from her a few years back at UMKC (University of Missouri–Kansas City—I keep forgetting that not everybody knows all the local acronyms). Now she lives in Topeka, and she’s writing mysteries. Her novel Murder at the Movies, which draws on her Hollywood background, has just been released.

Esther has arranged a panel discussion and booksigning at the Topeka Barnes & Noble, and she has invited me and Mark Bouton to join her on the panel. Mark is a terrific mystery writer and retired FBI agent whom I’ve met at several GMMCs (Great Manhattan Mystery Conclaves). He was one of the agents who investigated the Oklahoma City bombing and tracked down and arrested Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

I am so looking forward to the panel. The Topeka Barnes & Noble has been very good to me and to Airball. Here are the particulars:

Demystifying the Mystery of Writing Mysteries
Panel Discussion and Booksigning with Esther Luttrell, Mark Bouton, and Lisa Harkrader
2 to 4 p.m.
March 1, 2008
Barnes & Noble
6130 SW 17th Street
(17th and Wanamaker)
Topeka, KS 66615

I’m so impressed with everything Esther has done to arrange this event, and tickled to death that she invited me to join her.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What I’ve Been Up To. . .

. . . besides writing, writing, writing (and actually—no kidding—getting a lot written that doesn’t completely stink):

Yesterday I did a school visit at Jeff West (Jefferson County West Unified School District, for those of you who don’t live in northeast Kansas :-) ), and I had a great time. I talked to the 4th and 5th graders at the Intermediate School in Ozawkie and the 6th and 7th graders at the Middle School in Meriden, and they were all just terrific. Their teachers and librarians prepared them well, reading Airball out loud in class, talking up the visit, making Airball bulletin boards, and all those wonderful things teachers and librarians do every day that get taken for granted.

I’ve actually done several school visits lately. Last month I was in Linwood, talking to the 7th and 8th grades at Basehor-Linwood Middle School. Before Christmas I talked to kids in Overbrook and Stanton. And I always have a great time.

Which, knowing my personality the way I do and for as many years as I have, surprises me. People laugh when I tell them this, but I’m a very shy person. And the first few times I did school visits, I was so panic-stricken (I agreed to do WHAT? In front of HOW MANY KIDS? Did I have a head injury? What was I THINKING?) before the visits that I honestly and truly thought I would pass out in the car on the way. And then I sort of hoped I would because running my car into the ditch seemed infinitely preferable to speaking to an auditorium full of middle graders.

But, to my surprise, I find that I enjoy speaking to auditoriums (auditoria?) full of middle graders. And, even more surprising, they seem to enjoy it, too.

I’m still a shy person. But I find that as a writer, I need to have two personalities: Lisa the Hermit and Lisa Who is Allowed Out in Public. It’s sometimes hard to shift between the two. The Hermit likes being hunkered down at the computer with fictional characters, not having to fix her hair or talk to anyone real. But once I let my Public personality out, she ends up on such an adrenaline high after school visits that she really hates to be put back into the cave.

Other stuff my Public personality has been doing includes a really fun day before Christmas, when I spent the morning at the Barnes and Noble in Topeka at the Auburn-Washburn Book Fair talking to kids and teachers and parents, listening to the elementary school early morning choirs, and signing books with Beverley Olson Buller, author of From Emporia: The Story of William Allen White, a terrific biography that includes incredible photos, many from the morgue of the Kansas City Star and not widely published before now.

I wished I could have stayed there all day, but I left just after noon to motor over to The Book Barn (which, as I’ve said before, is a wonderful, wonderful independent bookstore in historic downtown Leavenworth). Owners Bob and Barb Spear were hosting their annual holiday open house, and they invited me to be their guest, along with Ally Carter, author of the wildly popular Gallagher Girls books, a YA series about a spy boarding school for girls. I had a great time there, too, talking to readers, answering questions, signing books.

I’m very lucky my Public personality gets invited to so many events. And I’m lucky that the Hermit allows her to go.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

M.T. Anderson in Kansas City

For anyone in the Kansas City area interested in children’s books, M.T. Anderson, author of Feed, Thirsty and many other middle-grade and young adult novels, will be speaking about his book, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing:

Monday, January 28th
7 p.m.
Plaza Branch
Kansas City Library
4801 Main Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64112

Octavian Nothing, set during the Revolutionary War, won the 2006 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Reading Reptile, cosponsor of the event, will be selling Mr. Anderson’s books. The author will sign books purchased during the event.

This is event is free, but you must reserve a seat at

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sara Paretsky in Lawrence

In the spirit of being a recovering bad blogger, I’m posting twice today. Here’s an upcoming event for fans of mysteries, Kansas stories, or just plain good books:

Sara Paretsky
Talk and Book Signing
Tuesday, January 22
7:30 pm
Lawrence Arts Center
940 New Hampshire
Lawrence, Kansas

Lawrence native Sara Paretsky, creator of fictional Chicago private eye V. I. Warshawski, will talk about her writing career in this program, “Why I Write the Books I Do,” co-sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities, the Lawrence Public Library and The Raven Bookstore. The first 100 attendees will receive a free copy of Paretsky’s new book, Bleeding Kansas, a stand-alone mystery set in Douglas County. Paretsky will sign books following the talk. The event will be held at the Lawrence Arts Center, and is free and open to the public.

A Bad, Bad Blogger

I’m a bad, bad blogger. I haven’t posted anything to my blog since November. November! That was last year. I’m not sure anyone noticed, since I’m not entirely convinced anyone reads my blog anyway, but just in case, here is a list of my excuses:

  1. I was busy doing writer events. (Which coud be a really good excuse, except that one of the reasons my blog exists in the first place is so that I can talk about my writer events.)
  2. We had an ice storm and our power was out for almost a week. (This one is actually a good excuse, for anyone, really, but especially for me. Sadly, my life comes to a standstill without electricity. I’m a girl who likes her modern conveniences.)
  3. Christmas blindsided me again. (I always swear it won’t happen this year, but it always does.)
  4. After we slogged our way through the power outage and the holidays, I somehow got on a roll with my writing, and it’s going so well that I hate to stop and do anything else. (Believe it or not, this is true.)

Anyway, I’m getting my act together. I’ll post about my writer events from the past two months and also about events coming up in the near future. I can’t stand the guilt that comes from ignoring my blog.