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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Welcome To My Salon

And by salon, I mean DESK.

I've noticed that many author websites feature tours of the magic places where writers create their works. Roald Dahl famously worked in a garden shed where he kept odd items including a jar of his own arthritic hip bones and gigantic ball made of chocolate bar wrappers.

Me, I keep small animals.

Not actual live ones, mind you, of the NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY or CHICKEN BEDTIME IS REALLY EARLY variety. Rather, little totems of sorts. Made of plastic, wool, china - you name it.

For example, take my "SURPRISE BOX" which I got at a tag sale long after my kids were of the appropriate age (although, interestingly, they both borrow it periodically because snapping the lids open is soooooo satisfying... I do it too when I'm experiencing a creative roadblock). In addition to the boy and cat pictured, you also have the option of popping up an extremely homely girl, a psychotic looking dog and a lion.

My computer wallpaper, which you can't really see in this picture, is a hamster in a reclining pose (courtesy of my dear pal Kenna Kay). See how many chickens you can count on my desk. There's also a sheep, a cat, a dog, a snail, a pygmy hippo...

And a stapler.

That concludes this brief tour of this children's book writer's desk. I mean, SALON.

Au revoir pour maintenant! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Pint Sized PR Machine

Occasionally, I joke that my publicity machine is run by a mouse on a treadmill (no offense to my excellent publicist at Abrams, Jason Wells, and his assistant, Valerie, both of whom work very hard and neither of whom resemble rodents).

Usually, I am that mouse - harrassing my friends, family and, of course, complete strangers to read my books, buy my books and tell the world about my books. I mean, what choice do I have? It is a Dog Eat Go-Dog-Go World.

But lately, I have had to do a whole lot less shilling. Why? Because kids - and not even my own kids - have taken up my cause for me!

Allow me to demonstrate. Here's Cora, who attended my reading in Columbia, Maryland with her mom, two small brothers (and sibling-in-utero!) Cora, who is almost six, loved my books, especially NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY. She also loved my flamingo puppet, which I bring to most of my events.

Cora informed me that my books should be packaged (okay, that's my word) with toys. Specifically, flamingo puppets. She went on to tell me that I should tell the people who make my book to do this because kids like her would be extra excited to get the book if it came with a stuffed flamingo. I see her point - book and toy sets seem to sell briskly - so I have reported it to the powers that be. Keep your fingers crossed, Cora. I know I will.

Meanwhile, those kooky cut-ups at Janney Elementary are such big fans of NINETY-THREE that they stake out the book area and fight over who gets to read it each morning. The above I-swear-it's-candid photo was taken in Ms. Streibel's first grade classroom as the lucky winner of that day's race-to-grab-the-classroon-copy kindly read aloud to the kids who came in second and third. I've also heard kids reciting the book by heart (which warms mine) to all who will listen. Loudly.

Keep up the good work, kids. Milk and cookies for all! Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 08, 2006

Slate's Best Books of 2006!

Three cheers for Slate!

And particularly for my pal, Emily Bazelon, Slate Senior Editor, who boldly nominated NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY to Slate's Best Books of 2006 list. And thanks also to her sons, Eli and Simon, whose snorts of laughter apparently prompted this choice.

On Slate's list, my twenty-seven owls, pygmy hippo, and carsick gerbil finally get their chance to happily cavort with the somewhat-less-furry-and-less-happy-go-lucky characters of books by Alice Munro, Claire Messud, Richard Ford (and other, you know, serious writers of serious books). I mean, those other books are all well and good, I guess, if you don't want to know what life would be like with several armadillos and a penguin under one roof. And if you don't want to learn how to count stuff, and group stuff and add stuff up.

So thank you, Slate, for endorsing serious books AND one seriously silly book.

Friday, December 01, 2006


And I don't know about you guys, but when it comes to holiday book recommendations I avoid those posers at PW and the New York Times and trust only the BEST.

Namely, the experts at Washington Parent!

I mean, yes, it is partly because they chose NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY as a great holiday book. But it is also because, in so doing, they demonstrated their impressive ability to think outside of the box (since none of the important holiday buzz words - "Christmas," "Santa," "Hannukah," or "Kwaanza" - appear in the book's title).

Good eye, Washington Parent! Because what are the holidays about, if not family?

Many thanks to Mary Quattlebaum for this excellent review.

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