Springtime Snow Won’t Get Me Down: High Tea, Abe Lincoln, and a New Book!

So I woke up this morning, completely startled by the dusting of snow on the ground. (This happens when you neglect to watch the news on a regular basis. Note to self: get head out of tukas.) It has coated the tree buds I’ve been watching and celebrating, the new spring grass in my yard, and the small green shoots in the garden. But it doesn’t bother me all that much, to tell the truth. Spring is still here. She’s just messing with us a little.

One reason it don’t make no nevermind to me, (to quote somebody’s random Gramma in South Carolina), is because I’m in too good of a mood for a little cold, wet, white weather to dampen my spirits. Especially since the sun just came out, and is starting to melt it all away, even as we speak.

But there are other reasons for my good mood…first, that I had a GREAT visit to the old statehouse in Springfield, Illinois (where Abe Lincoln made his “house divided” speech!) last month for the “Illinois Reads” kickoff, where I got to meet other authors, get interviewed for radio, and sign copies of my book, which was being honored as part of this fabulous state-wide reading project. Then, soon after I got home, I had two school visits that were a blast! At Boston Latin Academy, their book club made me high tea—I’m talking fancy tablecloths, silverware, scones, and pie! (Hey, it was PI DAY!) Then I went to Rockville HS in Connecticut, where I was warmly welcomed, fed pizza (yum!) and got to hobnob with some really fun kids who had read my book. How lucky am I, that I can call this my JOB?

And here is something else that I am EXTREMELY HAPPY to report…I have finished writing another novel! It has taken me roughly two years from the day I got the idea, to the day (one week ago) that I pressed “send” on my computer. It was a moment something like giving birth, but without the doctors and screaming and whatnot. (Don’t worry, I won’t get more graphic than “whatnot.”) The working title of my new book is LIFESHARDS: A GLIMPSE OF ROSES. It’s about a girl named Rose who is able to see alternate paths of her life. That’s all I’ll say at the moment, other than the fact that I loved writing this book. It’s a fantasy/ contemporary/ romantic/ mystery story that also has a whole lot of heart. I missed the characters so much after finishing the book, that I sat right back down this week and started writing a sequel. Three chapters in three days—what?? I guess it’s just my way of refusing to let go of this world and these characters. Anyway, that’s all I have to report so far on the status of LIFESHARDS…I promise to keep you posted if/when there are any new developments. Take nothing for granted, is my motto…especially when it comes to publishing and the weather. Even so, I must say HAPPY SPRING… warmer days are coming!

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Heading Back to the Land of Lincoln!

IllinoisReadsWell, it’s starting to feel real now, this trip to Springfield, Illinois next week. About time it sank in, since I’m scheduled to fly on Tuesday morning. Why, you ask, am I traveling half-way across the country, from Boston MA to Springfield, IL? It is for a very exciting reason…and the best way to explain is to pull a quote from an email I received last month:

“Congratulations! Your book, Being Henry David, has been chosen as one of the books for the annual ILLINOIS READS program. Under the auspices of the Illinois Reading Council, ILLINOIS READS is an annual statewide project to promote reading for all Illinois citizens. The thirty-six titles chosen, from birth to adult, will be introduced into classrooms, public health facilities, public and school libraries, and bookstores. The website, http://www.illinoisreads.org, will allow adults and students (above age 13) to post book reviews, book trailers, artwork, and discussions about the books. We will be printing bookmarks, posters, public service announcements, television interviews, and more to promote the program… The program will be formally launched on March 12, 2014 at the Illinois Reading Council Conference in Springfield, Illinois. We hope that you can join us for the ceremony at the Old State Capitol, along with a host of state and local officials.”

Seriously…how cool is this?? Not only is my book one of six young adult books chosen to be promoted across the entire state of Illinois, but I get to hobnob with state and local officials next week. A host of them! Of course, I’m curious about who those folks will be. The governor, maybe? The mayor of Springfield? I’m excited to find out.

I wish to extend a public THANK YOU to Becky Anderson, of Anderson’s Bookshop http://www.andersonsbookshop.com in Naperville, Illinois, who has been a proponent of my book even before it was officially released, and no doubt brought it to the Illinois Reading Council. I also want to extend a public thank you to the city of Naperville…it was a wonderful place to live, and we were heartbroken to move away, back in 2000. It is still a place that is dear to my heart (as are the Naperville friends we so treasure!) No wonder the town found its way into my book, and the Illinois ties continue to enrich my life.

Okay, so I will wrap this up for now…I have to start preparing for this trip. Mental checklist: do laundry, pack, confirm travel and hotel reservations, and figure out what the heck is an appropriate outfit for meeting a host of state and local officials…

Illinois, here I come!

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“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.”

January 6, 2014

I’ll start my first blog of 2014 with a magnificent quote from one of my favorite writers:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
― Neil Gaiman

Isn’t that fantastic?? Happy happy New Year to you!

I’m sure you’ll be absolutely over-the-moon thrilled to hear that one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to do a better job of keeping up with this blog. After all, I have SO MANY incredibly interesting and important things to say. (Play along.)

But the most important thing I want to share right now concerns 2013. Yes, 2013 was a good year for me. Not only did I have my first book published, fulfilling a lifelong dream, but people actually bought it! And enjoyed it! (Yes, I avoid any and all bad reviews to protect my ridiculously fragile ego.)

In fact, there were several “Best Of 2013” wrap-up lists that specifically mentioned Being Henry David among their favorites. How cool is that??

I’ll share them with you here…

From Kirkus ~ (Hooray for the alphabetical advantage here—I’m listed first!)

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/lists/best-teen-books-2013-explore-identity/

From Buzzfeed ~ Ranked “in no particular order,” I’m #11

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/the-best-ya-books-of-2013

From Mashable ~ Listed # 5 of 11 here! (This post has been shared over 20,000 times! Probably half of them were by me…)

http://mashable.com/2013/12/18/11-ya-books-to-add-to-your-reading-list-in-2014/

Hopefully, this bodes well for the paperback version of my book, which will be released March 1, 2014—yippeeee!

Okay, enough of this blogging business…I must excuse myself to get back to writing the “real” stuff. Yes, wouldn’t you know, all this good feedback only encouraged me write another book. It’s a slower process than I would like, but some things refused to be rushed. Stay tuned….and thank you..and happy new year…

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BHD In The News!

Greetings, friends!  Well, I haven’t done the best job in the world keeping up with this blog, but here I am, with some fun updates to pass along and share.

First, I was interviewed by Jordan Rich on WBZ Radio a couple weeks ago.  This was incredibly fun, because not only is Jordan a well-known and well-respected radio personality in Boston, I’m happy to say he’s also a friend of mine.  We met years and years (we’re talking decades) ago when we were both youngsters working at a radio station in Lowell, MA.  He was the radio talk show guy, I was the copywriter/production/news chick.   We worked together for a few years before I moved out of the area and decided to focus more on writing for newspapers and magazines than for radio. When I moved back to the Boston area several years ago however, we got reacquainted.  Now I get to see him and his business partner Kenny Carberry almost weekly at their studio, Chart Productions, where I’ve gotten to be a regular, doing voice-overs for commercials and narrations.  I always have a blast with these guys—they’re fun and funny and total goofballs, like me.  I almost forget sometimes how impressive they both are, because they’re so down to earth.   Anyway, here’s the interview I had with the fabulous Jordan Rich—

Jordan Rich Interview with Author Cal Armistead

Another really exciting thing that happened recently is that The Boston Globe printed a review of my book!  I was especially excited to see that it was written by Meredith Goldstein, a Globe writer I have long admired. I actually had an opportunity to meet Meredith during a writer’s conference in Boston (Grub Street) last year where she participated in a panel discussion on how to market one’s debut novel.  I learned a lot during that discussion, and FYI, Meredith’s book The Singles, is excellent—I highly recommend it.  Here’s the review that Meredith wrote about Being Henry David, which ran in the Globe on Easter Sunday.

Boston Globe Book Review: Being Henry David by Cal Armistead and Unremembered by Jessica Brody

Okay, one more really good/exciting/fun/weird/out-of-the-blue thing my husband found online the other day.  Apparently, I’m big in Poughkeepsie, New York!    The Poughkeepsie Journal printed the top five teen picks at the local Barnes & Noble, and here are the results:

1.  The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

2.  The Kiss, by James Patterson

3.  Being Henry David, by Cal Armistead

4.  Inferno, by Sherrilyn Kenyon

5. Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare

I mean, WHAT??  How cool is that?  Here’s the link, just in case you don’t believe it.  (I didn’t, either.)   Thanks, Poughkeepsie!

Poughkeepsie Journal Teen Best-Sellers 4/27

I guess that brings us up to date.  Now let’s all get off our computers and go outside.  It’s spring, and the world is waking up!  Layla and I are going to go for a walk and watch the progress of the blossoming trees and returning birds and unfurling fiddlehead ferns.  (Gotta love alliteration.)  See ya next time…

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A Video is Worth a Bajillion Words

My amazing, fabulous, joyous Book Launch Party was on Sunday, March 3rd, and it was so amazing, fabulous and joyous, it pretty much left this author speechless.  (Which takes a lot.)  Luckily, there’s a video of my presentation/signing, and it sums the afternoon up better than I ever could.  The party afterwards at our house was a continuation of the celebration, and I’m so thankful for everyone who showed up.  As for incredibly Happy Days in My Lifetime, I have to say this one rated right up there with my wedding day.  I am one lucky woman, and I am reveling, appreciating, savoring.  Thank you so very much, to everyone who shared this happy day with with me, in person and in spirit.

And while I’m sharing videos, here’s Becky Anderson, interviewing me at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville a few weeks ago:

Authors Revealed with Becky Anderson

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Almost Famous

The other day, my father reminded me that when I was around four or five, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would announce without hesitation: “A famous writer and artist!” I was passionate about writing and drawing even as a little tyke at the kitchen table with my crayons, paints, paper, and those fat red pencils. I couldn’t imagine any other life for myself, and this has never changed.

No, I’m not famous. But two days ago, when I walked into the bookstore where I work and saw MY BOOK, Being Henry David, in a double face-out in the Young Adult section, near truly famous names like Laura Halse Anderson, Sherman Alexie, Meg Cabot and Libba Bray, I admit I felt like an almost-famous version of myself.

calatwillow

Except that I imagine the truly famous people are way cooler and more controlled than I am. I took one look at my book on the shelf, and burst into tears. Now I’m a crier in general (bursting into tears is my default go-to emotion), but I didn’t feel the tears coming on, didn’t expect to flail the way I did. But I couldn’t help it. That surreal, happy, floaty feeling grew and grew, and overflowed right out of my damn eyeballs. Dream-come-true tears. Yep, it’s been a long, long time since I was four years old, but if I could go back in time, I’d give that little girl at the kitchen table a big ol’ hug, hand her another stack of paper, and say, “keep it up, sweetie.”

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Apologies and Anxieties of an Almost-Published Author

Just now, my husband informed me that in 40 days, my young adult novel, Being Henry David will officially be released into the world.  He’s the math guy in the family, so he knows these things.  As for me, I’m the crazy, emotional, creative one.  The one who lives life with my heart on my sleeve.  Which conjures a really weird visual when you think about it too hard, so don’t.

But because I process everything through emotions first and intellect second, the experience of having one of my lifelong dreams come true is a mixed blessing.  I know, I think too much.  I feel too much.  I worry too much. So let me get things out of my fretful brain and on the page, and maybe I can exorcise my inner Woody Allen, at least for the moment.

First, I apologize to my friends.  Am I boring yet?  Do you scroll past my posts on Facebook and Twitter, while rolling your eyes?  I know, I know, I can’t help myself.  I’ve been celebrating all the big and little things that have happened on this journey, and I can’t control myself.  I have to share them.  And to be fair, you’ve been encouraging me.  You’ve “liked” and “shared” my posts about getting an official ISBN number, seeing my cover art for the first time, receiving positive pre-publication reviews (like the Kirkus starred review—woohoo!!), and feeling like a rock star at early author events.  You’ve posted wonderful, celebratory messages and promised you’d be at my launch party to get a signed copy of the book and tip a glass of champagne with me.  God, I love my friends.  If I’m annoying, if I’m boring, please bear with me.  This phase will be over soon.  I’ll only be a starry-eyed newbie debut author once in my life.

Okay.  Got that off my chest.  Back to checking on how many stars my book has on Goodreads, and figuring out how the heck to do a blog tour, ordering SWAG (fun giveaways connected to the book), preparing my school-visit presentation and practicing my autograph.  And reveling.  I hereby give myself permission to revel.  And by the way, thank you, so much, for reveling with me.

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Feeling Like a Rock Star

So much for blogging on a regular basis. Blogfail. But I have a good excuse:  I’ve been too busy living my life this past month to blog about it. To sum up, things are starting to happen in regard to Being Henry David.  People are reading advanced copies and reviews are being posted online. (Thankfully, most of them are good.)  I’ve been asked to speak at a book event in June. People are starting to pre-order my book.  And the most amazing thing happened earlier this month:  I met a group of middle school and high school students in the Chicago area who have already read my book!

I had no idea what a stroke of genius it was to have my book’s protagonist, Danny (a.k.a. Hank) hail originally from Naperville, Illinois.  I was just following the “write what you know” adage, because I used to live in Naperville and it’s one of my favorite places, featuring some of my favorite people on the planet. But yes, it turns out that I am brilliant.  Because coincidentally—and fortuitously—my publisher (Albert Whitman & Co.) is based in the Chicago area, and has a great relationship with Anderson Books in Naperville, which has been voted the best independent bookstore in the country.  (It was also my favorite bookstore when I lived there.)  Becky Anderson of Anderson Books often hosts pre-publication “Meet the Author” events, and because my book has scenes set in Naperville and I’m a former resident of the town, I was invited to appear at my own pre-pub event on Monday, December 3rd.

Well.  Let me just say, it was amazing.  Let me just say, these kids made me feel like a rock star.  More than fifty kids, along with a few teachers and librarians, came specifically to see me, and talk to me about my book—how incredible is that?  It started, as many things do when it comes to teenagers, with pizza.  The kids sat at several different tables chowing down, and I visited each table to chat with the kids and answer questions about the book.  It was so much fun to hear them talk about the characters I’d created like they were real people (obviously I feel that way about them too), to respond to their thoughtful questions, and to revel in their enthusiasm.  After pizza, I made a brief presentation for the group at large, fielded more questions, posed for photos in the warehouse area of the building with ALL the kids (see photos), and then, I signed their books.  Yes.  They wanted my autograph.  How weird is that?  How many of us remember practicing our autograph in school notebooks, just pretending that someday it would mean something to somebody?  And here I was, doing it for real.  Looking up into each kid’s face individually (they were all so beautiful!) to get his or her name, then signing my own.  It was…humbling, amazing, thrilling.  I kept saying to my daughter Nicolle, “Is this real?  Am I dreaming?  When I wake up tomorrow, will you be sure to tell me I didn’t imagine all this?”

autographsigning

It was real.  The pictures prove it.  And here are just a few of my favorite things the kids said:

“I’m definitely going to be one of the people who has read all the Cal Armistead books!”

“Who do you think should play Hank in the movie version of your book?”

(After a boy high-fives me–)  “I just high-fived an author!”

“Don’t you think I look a little like the kid on the cover?”

“This was my favorite book in a long time.”

And perhaps the highest praise from a teenager ever…

“You really get us.”

I know I can’t expect every author visit to be as good as this one…but wow, what a way to start things off.  Excuse me while I fasten my seatbelt for the ride ahead. Sure, I’m nervous, but I’m also excited.  Let the journey begin.

prepubgrouppic

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Doing the NaNoWriMo Thang

Well.

So much for my self-imposed goal of writing a blog on the first and fifteenth of every month. Not that anyone paused mid-sip during the first cup of morning coffee on those particular days, and suddenly thought, “Gosh, I thought Cal was going to have a new blog posted today.  That does it, my day is completely ruined.  I’m going back to bed.”

Even so.  This was the goal, and I do have high hopes that I can stick to that plan in the future.   But I want to note that one of the reasons I haven’t been keeping up is because I’m hard at work on a different goal:  writing a novel in a month.  You see, November is National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a NaNoWriMo; see http://www.nanowrimo.org), an organized on-line challenge in which participants strive to reach a word total of at least 50,000 over the course of the month.  There are no prizes at the end, no money is exchanged, but you do have the thrill of victory (or the agony of defeat, if you can’t keep up—and many find it difficult), bragging rights, and—most importantly—a first rough draft of a brand new fledgling novel.

I have a soft spot in my typing fingers for NaNoWriMo, because it just so happens that I wrote the first-ever draft of Being Henry David (my young adult book that’s coming out on March 1, 2013) during this challenge in 2009.  It had moments I was proud of, and moments that truly sucked and were deleted during the first post-Nano read, but it gave me a start, and that’s what’s critically important.

And so, forgive me for being blog-less in Boston (until now), although in truth, I’m not all that contrite.  I am thrilled to be working on my next young adult novel, Life Shards, even as we speak.  I’m slightly behind the curve for where I should be (I’m about 28,000 words in), but so far, the process is fun and chugging right along.  I’m writing to get the story out, losing myself in emotions and tangents and occasional in-story brainstorming, and have told my inner editor to take a mini-vacation to the Bahamas and leave me alone.  So far, so good.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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Get Yer YA-YA’s Out!

Get Yer YA-YA’s Out!

(and by YA-YA’s, I mean fiction of the Young Adult variety)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that nobody, and I mean nobody, emerges from teenager-hood unscathed.  From the nerd in the back of class to the captain of the cheerleading squad, adolescence is that rocky, pot-hole ridden bridge from childhood to adulthood that every human must travel. We don’t get a choice.  And not to be depressing or anything, but we carry the vestiges of those teenage years inside us for the rest of our lives, for good or for bad.  Inside every outwardly successful 30, 40, 50 or 80-year old lives a forever 15 year-old who is scrawny, chubby, pimply, too short, too tall, lost, confused, mortified, or just plain awkward.

This is why I believe so many adults today enjoy reading young adult fiction.  We remember the teenagers we were.  In ways, we still are that person.  Adults read YA literature because it speaks to that inner teenager.  We read it because it comfort us to hear about other peoples’ struggles, both those that are similar to what we’ve gone through, and those that are dramatically different.  (Which is the same reason teens read YA, of course.) We also read it because there are a whole lot of outstanding YA novels being published these days.  The genre has grown radically since the days of, say, Nancy Drew and The Babysitters Club.   Teenagers want the same things in their literature that adults do:  great stories, written well.  On that, we can all agree.

And so, in this particular blog, I thought I’d make a Top Ten Best-Of List of YA Books I Have Loved and Been Inspired By.  (Please ignore the awkwardness of that sentence, especially the dangling participle.) By “Best-Of,” I basically mean the best examples I can come up with in this very moment in time, now, today.  It’s not like I’ve done extensive research or read every book ever published.  No doubt your list would have different titles, and I invite you to email your opinions to me, or mention them in the comments after this blog.

But in the meantime, here goes nothing…my Top Ten Best-Of List of YA Books I Have Loved and By Which I Have Been Inspired. (See, it sounds goofy if I make it grammatically correct.)  Anyway.

My Top Five (Older Titles):

  1. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous.  (1971) This is probably the first real “teen” book I ever read, back when I was a teen.  It’s the actual diary of a girl who got addicted to drugs.  I remember being so moved by her writing because it sounded a whole lot like my own diary at the time (without the drugs, thankfully), and I could understand a lot of what she was feeling, both good and bad.  It’s a true teenager’s voice that still resonates.
  2. The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton.  Ditto the above.  I read this when I was a kid, and found it to be profoundly real and fascinating.  The life of Pony Boy in the city was very different from my safe suburban life, but still it resonated with me.  I cared about those characters, and trusted the voice of the author, who was herself a teen when she wrote it.  (It’s no accident that teenagers themselves guided YA literature to where it is today.)
  3. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. (1947) Need I say more?
  4. I Am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier. (1977) This is a fascinating book about a boy who thinks he’s on a long bike ride, who is actually suffering from severe emotional trauma.  He discovers he’s not who he seems to be—a creative twist on the whole search-for-identity theme.
  5. Little Women, by Lousia May Alcott. (1868) I read this book for the first time when I was about twelve, and absolutely loved it.  It had feisty girl characters including Jo, (a writer like me), and a loving family dynamic. I’ve always had family connections to Concord, MA, so I felt I could at least relate to the place if not the time.  A classic.

My Top Five (Newer Titles)

  1. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. (1999) This book is something of a modern classic.  It has a serious theme—a girl who was raped at a party who can’t find a way to talk about it, or speak much about anything—but somehow she maintains an inner hope and humor that make the book an excellent read.
  2. Keeping the Moon, by Sarah Dessen. (1999) This is just one of Dessen’s teen novels that I’ve enjoyed.  The voice is fresh and smart, about a teenage girl named Colie who struggles with being (formerly) overweight and missing her mom while spending the summer with an aunt.  Many of Dessen’s books resonate because her teen characters are so “real.”
  3. The Giver, by Lois Lowry. (1994) One of the first-ever dystopian YA books, it’s about a boy named Jonas who realizes that his world is far from the utopian ideal that was intended.  I’m not usually one who reads fantasy or dystopian-themed books (as you can probably tell by my selections above), but this one is not to be missed, not even by me.
  4. The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins.  (2008) Yes it’s true, I’m not a sci-fi, dystopian-book fan.  But this was different.  The Hunger Games was a fascinating, addictive read.  I think the reason I liked the trilogy so much is because Katniss has so much integrity, heart, compassion, and strength.  It’s nice to have a female character with these qualities.  As I’ve said, I like what’s “real,” and she definitely felt real to me.
  5. Being Henry David, by Cal Armistead. (2013) Oh, come on.  You had to know I’d include this one.  How could I not feel partial to a book so close to my heart?  (Humor me.)

So go ahead, give yourself permission.  If you’re an adult and you’re NOT reading YA, I think it’s time you seriously got your YA-YA’s out.  Frequently.

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