After his mother's death at the end of World War II, Jack Baker is suddenly uprooted from his home in Kansas and placed in a boys' boarding school in Maine.
Feeling lost and adrift, Jack can't help being drawn to Early, who refuses to believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the great Appalachian bear, timber rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as the Fish, who was lost in the war.
When Jack and Early find themselves alone at school, they set out for the Appalachian Trail on a quest for the great black bear. Along the way they meet some truly strange characters, several of them dangerous, all lost in some way, and each a part of the pi story Early continues to reveal. Jack's ability to be a steadfast friend to Early will be tested as the boys discover things they never knew about themselves and others.
Navigating Early is a story that will challenge and astound readers as they navigate mysterious and uncharted lands.
(From the book jacket)
January 10, 2012
One year ago today...
I received amazing news. It's not the only time I've received wonderful and life changing news. Other times:
18 years ago, the doctor said, "It's a boy!"
16 years ago, "It's another boy!"
14 years ago, "It's a girl!"
11 years ago, "It's another girl!"
9 years ago, "It's a dog!"
7 years ago... well, that must have been a slow year in the world
of amazing news, but you get the gist.
Still, January 10th, 2011 will forever be a day I will remember and celebrate. A day that will give me lots of opportunities to say to my kids, "See, amazing things happen... and they can happen to you!"
This past year has been filled with many wonderful experiences. Of course, one of the most special was the ALA conference in New Orleans where I received the Newbery Award. My family came out in full force, i.e. my husband and four kids, my sister, her husband and their four kids, and my mom and dad. I joked that we were like the Clampitt's riding into New Orleans. No, we did not strap Grandma to the top of the 15 passenger van, but we certainly felt like we had struck it rich and really enjoyed the cement pond at the hotel.
I've met many wonderful people, spoken at lots of schools and conferences, gotten some great fan mail. One of my favorites was from a 4th grader who told me he was glad that Kansas was now known for something other than basketball and weather! That's big noise, especially since Kansas is pretty much the birthplace of basketball.
So 2011 was a wonderful year but not only because of a special award. Other big events: Lucy got her braces off. Paul got his braces on. Luke crammed 80 high school kids in our garage for a dance and everyone survived. Grace's singing has not broken any windows... yet. (Lucy made me put that.)
And I finished my next book! It is called Navigating Early and will come out next spring. More on that soon.
So, life goes on and life is good.
Okay. I’ve procrastinated long enough. Actually, I wouldn’t call it procrastination. I just haven’t wrapped my brain around the fact that people I’m not related to are actually reading my website.
I had a fun time creating this website last summer in preparation for the book coming out and part of that was because I approached it as if I was just talking to my sister, my kids, or my friend across the street.
Then January 10th rolled around and the Newbery seal went on my book, and all of the sudden people were e-mailing me, telling me something they had read on my website. I think that’s when I froze up a bit and I gave myself the excuse of not updating it because I had to write my Newbery acceptance speech. Or I needed to prepare for upcoming speaking engagements. And those were valid excuses. But then, they became a little less valid – like I need to fold some laundry. Or I need to let the dogs out. Or I really need to change out that roll of toilet paper.
That’s when I realized I had a bit of writer’s block regarding my website. So I decided to go to go back to what worked the first time. I’m just going to write as if I’m talking to my sister, my kids, or my neighbor across the street - and just tell you what’s been going on in my world lately.
In a nutshell, life has been wonderful, crazy, and very busy. I’ve had many invitations to speak at schools, conferences, book festivals. What a thrill to get to talk to so many people who are very excited about my book!
In fact, I would have to say that one of the most unexpected and most wonderful results of winning the Newbery has been the way my local community in Wichita and people across Kansas have embraced the book and celebrated this wonderful honor with me. It’s like there’s this big Newbery train and everyone feels free to jump on. And I love that!
I also love the fact that I’ve had some great help. While I was in New York immediately following the Newbery announcement, my sister and our good friend CY (C.Y. not sigh) came up with a To-Do list to help me in those busy days. Things like #4 – Make new business cards. #7 - Start a scrapbook. And my favorite one, #13 – get pre-loaded credit cards for CY and Annmarie.
We set up weekly meetings to help keep me organized. They consist of Annmarie and CY showing up at my house asking, “Is the coffee on?” Or “Can I fix myself an egg?” Then Annmarie’s kids eat their breakfast at the counter and CY’s son tells us how the Wichita State Shockers are doing. As soon as everyone’s fed, the kids go off to play or watch a show and I clean up the kitchen. Then we start to discuss something, like updating my website, and then Annmarie’s littlest one has to go to the bathroom. Then we start to talk about up upcoming event just in time for CY’s phone to ring. Then I start to pull out my calendar to go over a few odds and ends as CY packs up to take Jake to school and Annmarie gathers up her kids. Then I go in the family room to pick up the monopoly game that has been “played with” and is now on the floor.
I get a lot done at those meetings.
But my daughter Grace did start a wonderful scrapbook full of Moon Over Manifest pictures and memorabilia, Annmarie did design some great new business cards, along with some for herself and CY giving them each the job title of “Assistant to the Assistant.” They are still waiting for their fully loaded credit cards but I do make sure they get coffee and an egg once a week.
We’re all chipping in and we’re all having a great time.
Hopefully, I’ll get another update in before long. I need to go change a roll of toilet paper.
A Word of Gratitude:
I am stunned, incredibly honored, humbled, and grateful beyond words. I received a phone call from the Newbery Committee on Monday morning telling me that Moon Over Manifest had been awarded the 2011 John Newbery Medal. The tears started flowing and, for once in my life, I could not find the words.
The following minutes and hours were filled with sharing the news - telling my parents, family, and friends - going to school to tell the kids - receiving many phone calls and e-mails from people I know and people I don't know. What a wonderful day!
I hope to respond to the many words of congratulations but for now, let me say I am overwhelmed by and so grateful for all the kind words and well wishes and I look forward to sharing this wonderful experience with you.
As I said at the book launch in October, it's no fun to jump up and down and say 'My book's getting published!' if there's no one there to hear it and no one there to jump up and down with me. The great joy of all of this is sharing it with family and friends.
Thank you and let the jumping begin!