Tag Archives: Portland

Busy Week in Heck

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This past week, I had two wonderful appearances, firstly as part of the Bards and Brews reading series, and then leading the monthly Young Willamette Writers workshop!

1) Bards and Brews

I was late. Yes, late for my own reading. I do have an excellent excuse, however: I am always late. It’s something hardwired into my DNA. I can’t prove that, exactly, because I was late for my doctor’s appointment, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Luckily, I was to read with four other wonderful authors—Ripley Patton (GHOST HAND), Maggie Faire (CHAMELEON: THE AWAKENING), Mary Jane Nordgren (QUIET COURAGE), and Cat Winters (IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS)—so I was covered. This reading, at Primrose & Tumbleweeds in Hillsboro, Oregon, was different than my usual readings for three reasons. 1) It was at night. Usually, as a children’s author, your readings fall somewhere between nap time and dinner. 2) The audience was adults. Luckily, most of the jokes didn’t fly under their heads. 3) There was wine. Wine and signing books, I have found, is not a winning combination. So I sang, told a few jokes—or at least made several statement intended at producing mirth—and dragged two rather unwilling yet game audience members up to the podium to help me read the first chapter of Heck. I like doing this as this makes less work for me. And, in a few hundred blinks of an eye, my portion of the reading was over and I got to enjoy listening to other less socially awkward authors read their work! I even bought a book and had it signed. By the actual author, no less! After the event was over, I listened to music way to loud in the car since I never drive, which is great fun, not only because it’s a blast to scream while hurtling in a metal box along a freeway, but then—when my wife uses the car first thing in the morning—the radio immediately comes on, blaring, and scares the figurative crap out of her!

2) Young Willamette Writers Workshop

Next, it was off to Portland’s Old Church—which is an indeed a church that is very old—to give a workshop for a group of budding writers focused on building compelling characters with original voices, which is really hard, since—if you aren’t careful—all of your characters can begin to sound like you using a funny voices. One way of preventing this is to work in coffee shops so that, if you start using the funny voices, you will be publicly embarrassed by a hipster barista, which is pretty much the worse thing that can happen to a writer. I warmed up the crowd of a dozen young scribes with a song. The only problem was, when the Young Willamette Writers group holds their monthly meeting, there is a bigger meeting for the adults next door where they have a speaker read and what not. And, this being a church (an old one), my beautiful voice and exquisite guitar playing really carried, as if held aloft by angels, and filled the building with song. It was like at Thanksgiving dinner, where the adults are prattling away at the big table, and then suddenly the kids’ table erupts with laughter, and gets glared at. So doors were closed, and I continued, unashamed.

Usually I show up to my workshops with a multimedia presentation to help keep me on track and to be sure that all of the attendees can take part in the prompts and exercises. And, perhaps this being an old church, it also came equipped with old computer connectors, meaning, I couldn’t project my presentation. But, no matter: when life serves you lemons, you simply have the kids huddle around your computer to watch your Keynote presentation of lemons. There is nothing more satisfying than giving a workshop where all of the attendees really WANT to be there and get busy writing! Some great characters were created, including ghost teens and talking microwaves, and everything in between!

And, in two weeks, things get even more interesting as I fly out to St. Louis to take part in author Heather Brewer’s amazing anti-bully extravaganza, the Less Than Three conference!

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Nancy Druid and the Altered Altar!

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Chapter One: Rites and Wrongs

Nancy Druid peeled off her rabbit skin gloves as she ran up the steps of the temple to answer the shrieks of the oracle, Vortigern.

“Hello?” Nancy said as she stood in front of the trembling old woman.

“Hiya, Nancy!” the oracle replied, her eyes rolled back into her head, deep in possession as she relayed the caller’s message. “This is, like… Helen!”

Although Helen Troy was three years older than Nancy—18, with only 9 children—the two girls were close friends.

“Are you tied up on a case?” Helen asked through the oracle’s quivering lips.

“No. What’s up? A mystery!?”

“Yes! The human sacrifice for the upcoming Samhain ceremony has disappeared!”

Nancy sat down on the sheepskin pelt before the swaying oracle.

“Gosh! The terrified, pre-teen human sacrifice gone missing before their gruesome ritualistic public execution? How horrible! Tell me more!” the fifteen-year-old detective/sorceress begged excitedly.

“Pliny the Elder was in the Sacrificial Altar, preparing a ritual to blight the crops of the Roman marauders who have been kidnapping the Celts—“

“Those Romans have a lot of Gaul,” Nancy seethed.

“And, when he was in the Holy Chamber of Ages, Fenra the Virgin was gone! Many strange, mysterious things have been happening there recently. I told him how good you are at solving mysteries, and he’d like you to come out to Salisbury Hill and help him!”

“O blessed Odin, it certainly sounds intriguing!” Nancy replied, her eyes dancing. “I’ll meet you on the moor when the shadows of the oaks are long!”

Nancy dumped a bucket of cold water on Vortigern’s head, breaking the oracle’s connection. Nancy sat lost in thought for several minutes.

Since solving the Unhinged at Stonehenge mystery—now available wherever fine stone tablets are sold—Nancy had longed for another case. Here was her chance!

Attractive, blond-haired Nancy was brought out of her daydreaming by the sound of a goat bleating. At the same moment, the Druids’ servant, Onatah, came down the front stairs.

“I’ll deal with Pago, maiden Nancy,” the toothless peasant replied.

“No one gets my goat but me!” Nancy spat. “Back to your cupboard! I will deal with Pago!”

Nancy clambered out of the temple and summoned the goat.

“Aww…how’s my little Pago?” Nancy cooed sweetly. Suddenly, brandishing her dagger, Nancy swiftly slit open the goat, letting the steaming entrails empty upon the mossy ground. She began the Sacred Ritual of the Afore-telling.

In the eye of the Crone who guides me in wisdom, 

Through thy gift of nature, O Goddess,

Bestow upon us fullness in our need. 

As the Ageless Ones do in Gwynfyd;

Each shade and light,

Each day and night,

Each moment in kindness,

Grant us Thy Sight!

For hours Nancy danced around the goat carcass under the hot sun. Sweating and exhausted, Nancy fell to her knees, sorted through the entrails and assessed the telltale liver. Gripped by a fever trance, she raised herself up and uttered the prediction, her voice two octaves lower than her typical, girlish chirp.

Though this news is cold and bleak, 

Nennius Druid is the man you seek! 

His devotion, it will falter.

 Don’t believe me? Check the altar!

“Oh, my goddess no!” Nancy gasped as she came out of her trance. “Father is in great danger!”

Chapter Two: The Road to Rune…

The Oregon Writing Festival WROCKED!

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I wanted to give a belated to thank you to all of the people responsible for organizing last Saturday’s (May 4th’s) phenomenal Oregon Writing Festival. The festival, co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Education and the Oregon Council of Teachers of English, brought about a thousand 4-12th grade students and more than 150 teachers and professional writers from across Oregon to Portland State University for a day of celebration of the practice of writing. I had the great pleasure of giving a rousing presentation to about 400 or so middle schoolers (when there are more than 30 they all suddenly seem like 400 or so) before signing a small library’s worth of Heck books, then did a workshop on creative writing to 20 AWESOME young writers, before signing more books. I haven’t had so much fun in a long, long time, which is sad, but there you go. Anyway, kudos to EVERYONE who attended: you all rocked my world. I hope I get the honor of doing it again next year!

And I am now enjoying the work of a few students who slyly or not-so slyly slipped me some of their writing. Such diversity in tone and content! Insane in my old man brain! Also, a few teachers asked me about whether or not they could use some of my materials for school, and—by all means—you can. Nothing I do is ever too cool for school. So simply drop me a line here!

Tunes from Heck!

Longtime Heckler Jordan Knapp is a young musician from Georgia without what you would call “formal” training yet has an undeniable talent for composition…a Danny Elfboy, perhaps. Here is his latest composition, or “decomposition” actually since it’s for Heck, called “Enter Bea ‘Elsa’ Bubb.” Be sure to check it out!

FREE Heck Chapter Sampler!

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Enjoy this cool booklet that the swell people at Random House came up with to promote Snivel: The Fifth Circle of Heck! Print it out…share it…spread the word!

I Double- Dog Dare You to Get a Free Book!

KIDS! READ ANY 10 BOOKS – GET ONE FREE BOOK FROM BORDERS

Kids 12 and under can read any 10 books, complete this form, and Borders will give them a FREE book!

No purchase necessary. Challenge form must be completed and brought to any Borders, Borders Express, or Waldenbooks store 6/1/11 – 9/5/11 to redeem coupon. Offer valid in-store only.

The FREE book is for one of the selected titles listed below:

– The Cat in the Hat: Cooking with the Cat by Bonnie Worth
– Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
– B is for Books! by Annie Cobb
– Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
– Hungry, Hungry Sharks! by Joanna Cole
– Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan
– The Dragon in the Sock Drawer by Kate Klimo
– Judy Moody & Stink The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt by Megan McDonald
– Ballpark Mysteries: The Fenway Foul-Up by David A. Kelly
– Flush by Carl Hiaasen
– Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye
– Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary

Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck Nominated for Oregon Book Award!

Though speechless, I hope very much that I will be allowed to give a speech! Check it out: apparently, readers will be able to have their say too, so don’t be shy! This is way cool, practically uber cool. Here’s a little background on the awards:

“The Oregon Book Awards are presented annually for the finest accomplishments by Oregon writers who work in genres of poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, drama and young readers literature. All finalists are promoted in libraries and bookstores across the state, and invited to take part in the Oregon Book Awards Author Tour, which brings finalists to public libraries and independent bookstores in towns including North bend, Eugene, Newport and Astoria. Oregon Book Awards Special Awards honor some of the state’s most dedicated supporters and lovers of books.”