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On My Mind: April 9, 2014

Book things. Only book things.

“Words! Words! Words!” —Eliza Doolittle (and me)
I am working on a new book, with a need to get a readable draft finished rather quickly.

Due to the aforementioned book, the Pomodoro Method has become my friend. Basically, this method dictates you work on a task for 25 minutes (or one pomodoro) then take a five minute break. After four pomodoros you take a longer break, 15-20 minutes. It has really helped to keep me from straying over to twitter when I can’t think of a word I want to use.

Any timer would work, but I use an app on my mac. I like because it puts a little countdown clock in the corner of whatever window I have open. See:

Screenshot 2014-04-09 11.00.45

I’m finding it much easier to stay on task when I can see that I have a break coming up. I live for those breaks.

On days where I need extra help focusing, I also use the Freedom app. It locks me out of the internet for whatever predetermined time I have set. And there is no way to turn it off. You just have to wait it out. It’s a dream (and a nightmare)!

What tricks do you use to keep from getting distracted?

There is no three, only Zuul.

Last month I got to take part in my first ever public reading of Hook’s Revenge as part of a local 2014 Kidlit Debuts panel. I had a great time with Robin Herrera, author of Hope is a Ferris WheelChris Struyk-Bonn, author of Whisper; and Mary Elizabeth Summer, author of Trust me, I’m Lying at A Children’s Place Bookstore in Portland.

Want to see some pictures? OKAY.






I’m not a giant. It’s the angle, I promise.

Hook’s Revenge has been available for pre-order in hardcover for some time. Some of you have asked when the e-version would be available for pre-order. The answer is now:
Hardcover buying options are linked to on my books page. Both paper and electronic versions release September 16.

Gosh, I love you.

I’m working on planning a couple of International Talk Like a Pirate Day Weekend/Book Launch parties, one in Portland and one in Salem. Locals, mark your calendars for September 19th and 20th and watch this space.

Please note: There will be costumes.

What’s on your mind?




In the Middle with Jen Swann Downey

Hey, hey, hey! Today we are In the Middle with the hilarious Jen Swann Downey, debut author of The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand. Take a look:


When Dorrie and her brother Marcus chase Moe – an unusually foul-tempered mongoose–into the janitor’s closet of their local library, they make an astonishing discovery: the headquarters of a secret society of ninja librarians. Their mission: protect those whose words get them itno trouble, anywhere in the world and at any time in history. Petrarch’s Library is an amazing, jumbled time-traveling base that can dock anywhere there’s trouble — in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition, Socrates’ Greece, or…Passaic, New Jersey. Dorrie would love nothing more than to join the society, fighting injustice with a real sword! But when a traitor surfaces, she and Marcus are prime suspects. Can they clear their names before the only passage back to the twenty-first century closes forever?

Available at Indiebound, B&N, Amazon, and bookstores near you.

Q&A with Jen

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

I feel like I’m at least 71% MADE of middle grade fiction. That, toffee, hyperactivity, and water. I read so much of it as a kid. In fact, I never really stopped reading it. I didn’t set it aside for YA even during my teenage years. Honestly, I think I actively avoided so-called YA books, especially problem novels and contemporaries. I added adult books in along the way, but I never left Middle Grade behind. Perhaps because I think the best ones speak to kids and the kids in adults. And of course, the very best ones speak fluently to the adults in adults as well.

So there’s that appreciation for and familiarity with MG, but beyond that, I heartily agree with Madeline L’Engle’s well known advice, that “…if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” I think lots of kids care deeply about bigger things, and take in quite a bit from the news and adult conversations about what is going on in the world, in the broad strokes, if not the details. I remember as a kid feeling as though most adults were quite unaware of how much we kids were noticing and thinking about. I love talking to those kids.

If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell him/her?

Oh, gosh. Well I could go back and tell 11 year old Jen that she really could start taking the school bus again because after a week, young Beth Pasquilichio has most definitely forgotten about her promise to give young Jen a black eye, but I’m not going to since it’s because of the many more months to come of NOT taking the school in order to continue avoiding Beth Pesquillichio that young Jen developed her lifelong love of walking, and got in the habit of making up stories in her head while she walked even if she never wrote them down until, um, recently.

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

Who does your hair? My pillow, the wind, and my six year old. Not necessarily in that order.

I could use a six year old to come do mine. Does your child take walk-ins? Thanks for being here today, Jen, and congrats on your debut!

Jen Swann Downey’s non-fiction pieces have appeared in New York Magazine, the Washington Post, Women’s Day, and other publications. Her debut novel, The Ninja Librarians, will leap onto bookstore shelves in Spring 2014. Jen has never visited a library in which she didn’t want to spend the night. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband and three children and feels very lucky they have not yet fired her.

Connect with Jen at, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Where is Heidi?

There hasn’t been a whole lot of original content around here lately but that’s only because I have been working oh so hard on writing other things*.

writer heidi

*Including, but not limited to:

These interviews

All the Write Notes 10 Questions with Author Heidi Schulz

Alice in Readerland Interview: Heidi Schulz (Debut Author of Hook’s Revenge)

(If you are interested in reading more, all of my interviews and guest posts are archived on my press page.)

And something else I hope to tell you more about soon.

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be at my desk.

Send caffeine. And maybe a hairbrush or lint-roller or something.



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