Book Events Galore!

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend two big-deal literary events here in Austin.  Both took place in one of my favorite spots in town, if not the whole planet: Book People, independent bookstore extraordinaire.


At 2 p.m. on Sunday I attended the triple-threat book release event for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s charming new picture book Holler Loudly, Bethany Hegedus’s sweet, moving middle grade novel Truth With a Capital T, and Brian Yansky’s hilarious young adult adventure Alien Invasion & Other Inconveniences. 


As you can see, the place was packed.


Cyn read her entire book and had us all laughing and shouting.  Her call of “soooouuuuieeee!” is still ringing in my ears, in fact.


Bethany gave us the witty and quite touching tale of how her book came to be, followed by a reading.  And Brian gave a glimpse into his research, which included a showing of the hilarious (and real) movie trailer for Teenagers from Outer Space.

Along with the fabulous and fun presentation, we were treated to awesome chili (made by Bethany) and Anne Bustard’s famous frosted cookies.  It’s a good life here.


While there I visited with the wonderful staff – the amazing Mandy, Meghan, Madeline, Alison.  Lots of local book reps and authors were there.  Here’s a photo of Sara Bird, Alison Amend, and Margo Rabb, and another of Alison with her beautiful eyes open.




Those few of you in the web-verse who are unaware of Book People, it is a world famous independent bookstore, whose author events and literary theme camps are legendary.  When I was but a wee lass growing up in nearby Round Rock, I loved coming in to Austin and visiting a quaint book store called Grok’s Books, located in a renovated old house near campus.  Patrons could help themselves to hot tea as they perused the stock, dropping into one of the many comfy armchairs if they felt like it. 


At some point the store moved south and renamed itself Book People. Because I was young and without my own transportation, it might have well moved out of state.  I missed my visits there and my chats with the book loving staff.  And when I heard it was moving to a downtown location on 6th Street, I was overjoyed.


Years later I was even more thrilled when my first novel debuted and I threw a launch party at Book People.  It was such a success I repeated it when my second book came out.  Since then, the store has been the site of other significant and stellar launch parties (like the one described at the start of this post), as well as SCBWI meetings, café socializing, perusing, gift shopping, I-deserve-this shopping, and fun with animal puppets (this means you, Smudge).



So Happy Anniversary, Book People.  Thank you for all that you do for our community.  You really grok us.


And big congratulatory hugs to Cyn, Bethany, and Brian!  Thank you, too, for all that you do for the community, and for sharing your wonderful stories with the world.



Texas Book Festival 2010

It has been quite a festive October in Austin so far, and Halloween is yet to come.  Two weekends ago I attended the Austin City Limits Music Festival and this past weekend was the Texas Book Festival.  Both brought beautiful weather, record attendance and the opportunity to hobnob with people I love and/or admire.

Austin has really been showing off this month and I can’t help but think that such events are the reason why my fair city has been growing so darn fast.  I do believe people come to visit … and then never want to leave.


Not that I can blame them.


The Texas Book Fest started off with a bang.  My good friend Gillian Redfearn, sales rep extraordinaire, and I picked up the lovely Kate Runde of Random House and the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson and escorted them to the Children’s Authors’ Party.  I wish I had pictures of them both.  Kate is an absolute doll.  I thought I’d be intimidated by Laurie, whom I admire so very much, but she is a joy – so down-to-earth and easy to talk to.


At the party I also chatted with such literary luminaries as Ingrid Law, Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Carol Dawson, Marina Budhos, and Sara Pennypacker.  My awesome Austin author pals were also out in full force, looking gorgeous in their fine clothes.


I wish I was better about pulling out the camera at such events.  Justine kindly took this shot of me with Matt de la Peña.  By the way, if you haven’t read Matt’s new book, I Will Save You, run right now to your nearest store, shove people out of your way, break the piggy bank – do whatever you need to do to get it.  It’s an extraordinary read.

The next day, I started the book festival off with a goals-discussion breakfast with my critique group – a tradition we began last year.  We had so much fun it ran long, and I ended up not being able to get in to Laurie Halse Anderson’s presentation.  (Sad face.)  But I did catch the charming and hilarious Peter Brown reading his book Children Make Terrible Pets.  I got to hang out with Peter for a while and he is just as much fun as you would imagine.  He didn’t even mind the Beatles jokes I made regarding his name.

Here’s a shot of Peter:

Later I caught my good pal Joe McDermott working his musical magic:

Also on Saturday I got to see the “True Grit: Kids with Chutzpah” featuring Carolyn Cohagan, Lisa Railsback, and Sara Pennypacker – moderated by the amazing Bethany Hegedus.  And I caught half of the Texas Bluebonnet Master List.  Here’s a shot of Dr. Cuthbert Soup and Michael Buckley announcing the nominated titles.

Lastly that day, I saw the incomparable Meg Cabot speak in a packed church sanctuary.  She is so cute and kooky.  Later on, fellow dame Margo Rabb and I cornered Meg at the author cocktail party.  We mainly talked about shoes.  It was very girly. 

The cocktail party took place at the top floor of the Four Seasons Residences building which had a beautiful 360-degree view of the city.  There I was able to catch up with Sarah Bird, one of my favorite authors and favorite humans, and writer/musician Jesse Sublett.  Years ago Jesse’s band The Skunks was one of the things that lured me into the creative culture of Austin.  The party also reunited me with my Way Out West Book Fest pals DJ Stout and Lana McGilvray.  If you haven’t seen DJ’s latest book, you must.  It is beautiful, and it’s one of those historical tales that is so interesting, it almost seems made up.  I won’t be surprised if Hollywood comes calling.  It would make a great film — a Friday Night Lights of yesteryear.

Saturday night ended with the Zombies vs. Unicorns event that benefited the Austin Bat Cave.  What could be more fun than 17 sassy YA authors squaring off in front of a lively audience?

Speaking of “versus,” the first thing I caught the next day was local author Chris Barton reading his bestselling picture book Shark vs. Train to a tent full of awestruck children.


Next I socialized with more writer pals and lunched in the Author Tent as I waited for my esteemed panelists, Varian Johnson, April Lurie, and Matt de la Pena, to arrive.  Once assembled we were led into the bowels of the capitol building for our talk "Is the World Ready for My Book?" 

It was such an honor moderating this panel.  Each of these brilliantly crafted novels delves into a difficult yet timely topic.  The books are quite serious and touching and, yes, sad, but the discussion was often lively and fun.  The high points for me included hearing April talk about her upbringing, having Matt recount meeting a troubled teen who was also a budding writer, and listening to Varian explain his research on a … touchy subject … that might or might not be included in his next book.  (Trust me — it was hilarious.  You just had to be there.)

After the panel and the book signings, April, Matt, Varian and I, along with local writer Amy Rose Capetta, headed to the Roaring Fork for drinks and munchies.  We were soon joined by Greg and Cynthia Leitich Smith and M.T. Anderson.  It was great fun.  By the time I returned home, my sides hurt from laughing and my cheeks were still blushing.

It was a magical weekend.  The kind that makes me ever so proud and grateful that I live where I live and do what I do for a living.

Big kudos to Clay Smith, TBF’s superhuman organizer, and his brilliant assistant Kimberly Whitmer.

I hope to see everyone there next year!




Austen Meets Austin

With all the excitement recently over my second born, HOW NOT TO BE POPULAR, I’ve neglected to blog about other pending news.  There will soon be a new addition (edition?) to my book family.




By Jennifer Ziegler

Due date:  July 12, 2011

Delivered by: Delacorte Press/Random House

Length:  350 or so pages

Weight:  Dude, it’ll be heavy, heavy, heavy…


As you might have guessed, SASS pays tribute to my favorite Jane Austen story, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.  It isn’t a retelling, per se, but it is inspired by her work.  I purposely avoided rereading her while working on the book.  It was not my intention to simply do an updated version, but to take the themes and emotions that I carried away from her novel and explore them in a modern, small-town Texas setting.  Some parallels are obvious.  There are two sisters with very different views on love.  There is a single mom and money problems.  There are the respective love adventures.  But the main relationship in the book is that of the sisters – their growing understanding and acceptance of one another.


I love this story the way I love all my books, and I can’t wait to officially welcome it into the world.



And That’s the Way It Was

To help celebrate my recent birthday, my husband took me to the LBJ Library & Museum here in Austin to see an exhibit on one of my heroes, broadcast journalist and anchorman Walter Cronkite.

When I was a journalism student at The University of Texas at Austin, I once had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cronkite (who graduated from UT).  The encounter was brief yet serendipitous.  Basically I ran into him in an elevator.  But he was, as you might imagine, very kind.  Shaking his hand filled me with such a sense of awe, I forgot to get off on my floor and had to ride it back down again.

The library’s exhibit is a lovely, touching, and very thorough tribute.  A mixture of displayed mementos, newspaper clippings, audio tapes, video clips – very appropriate considering his background in print, radio, and television journalism.

His microphone:

A clip of him announcing the death of President Kennedy:

One of his many Emmy Awards.  This particular one, for his in-depth report on Watergate, was the one he was most proud of.

Uncle Walter was quite quotable, too.  My favorite is the one about "doing something" …


The edited script for his editorial report on the Vietnam War:

And so much more.  The exhibit will be on display through January 3, 2011.  The permanent exhibit at the library is also quite fascinating, detailing Lyndon Baines Johnson’s life and presidency, as well as many other historic moments of the 1960’s. 

Those of you who are coming to Austin for the Texas Book Festival might want to arrive a day or two early or stay through Monday in order to take in the LBJ Library & Museum.  Book and film fanatics would also enjoy the Harry Ransom Center, located just across campus from the library.



Yes!  It could happen!


I am thrilled to announce that the movie rights for my book, HOW NOT TO BE POPULAR, have been sold to film producer Amy Green of Toronto-based company One Eye Open!


Huge shout-outs go to my wonder editor Erin Murphy of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency and Luke Sandler of the Gotham Group for brokering the deal.  Also, a very sincere and verklempt thank-you to Amy – for her vision and persistence, and for “getting” my story.  It’s a wonderful feeling to think that something I wrote has inspired someone else to create.


I shall post updates as they happen.  From what I understand these things take time and hard work and perhaps an eensy bit of luck.  In the meantime, I would love to hear ideas from readers on casting, costumes, music, setting … anything.  It’d be fun!  Feel free to comment here or via my Facebook or Twitter, or email me directly at  


Crossing fingers that things continue to develop.  Thanks again to everyone who has read my book, enjoyed it, perhaps embraced it, and believed …

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