Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Toy Trains and a Farm

Here's a video of the toy farm that my mom (who is 87) set up at her place in New Hampshire.  The trains belonged to my mom's dad.  Many of the farm figures did too--although over the decades she added to it.  Every year when I was growing up, we set this up around the tree. Some years were more elaborate than others. One year we had train tracks that went around the entire house. You had to step over them every time you went into a new room. The Christmas tree in the center of the farm is one of my favorite things. It was made during the Great Depression from old scrap metal from a World War I fighter plane.You'll see a thanks at the end of this to my brother and his friend. They're the ones who set up the train board so my mom could arrange her farm. The video was made by my niece.  Enjoy!

Hope whatever holiday you're celebrating is special! Good health and happiness in the new year! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Yes. I Was Nervous at The Brooklyn Book Festival

I was a panel moderator at the Brooklyn Book Festival. It was called "A Great Big Beautiful World" and was filled with star-studded authors.
In the picture on the left is Sonia Manzano, actress, author of 2013 Pura Belpre Honor Book The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano  and Sesame Street icon. Sonia was the first Maria on Sesame Street and she wrote for that program too.
Next to her is the award-winning and Emmy-nominated screenwriter (of films like Daddy Day Care and The Shaggy Dog) Geoff Rodkey. Geoff is the author of the extremely funny adventure series, The Chronicles of Egg.  
On the far right is Katherine Applegate, the 2013 winner of the John Newbery Medal for the years most distinguished contribution to children's literature. Katherine won for her beloved book, The One and Only Ivan
I'm the one in the crazy-colored scarf. The picture was taken moments before the discussion started.
Here's what I was thinking when the picture was being taken:
The average person runs at about 8 miles per hour (random fact that I know because besides being a writer, I'm also a librarian-and librarians are fountains of odd trivia and random facts)
The location of the Brooklyn Book Festival is about 120 miles from where I live in South Jersey (Google Maps)
Subtract three miles from the average running time because I'm an out-of-shape, middle-aged person. (I'm being generous about my running abilities but let's go with it)
Add in a few hours because I'm not familiar with the borough of Brooklyn and at some point I'd get lost.
Add in a few more hours because even though I've lived in Jersey for seven years, I'd get lost there too.
Estimate that due to adrenaline I could keep running until I got home
And the answer is:
38 hours
That's how long it would have taken for me to be sitting in my living room if I started running for the hills (or in this case the Pinelands of New Jersey).
38 hours is not long at all.
To say I was a awe-struck and nervous about being in the company of such amazing authors, who are creative and talented in so many ways, was an understatement. 
There was no need for nerves.
It turned out to be great fun.
Sonia Manzano gave thoughtful insightful answers.
Goeff Rodkey made the audience laugh.
Katherine Applegate was witty and charming.
Middle graders, who were in the audience, asked most of the questions.
And I'm glad I stayed.

The picture was taken by my editor Nancy Mercado, who is the one who got me the panel moderating gig  (thanks Nancy!) 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Book Tour at Albert Music Hall

If you want to hear music in the Pinelands of New Jersey, go to Albert Music Hall.

There's nothing like it anywhere. Every Saturday night, musicians gather to perform oldies, folk music, country, bluegrass and songs that celebrate the Pinelands' unique culture. It's not only locals who enjoy the music. People from all over visit Albert Hall. Folk music legend Pete Seeger performed there twice.
The musical tradition started way back in the 1950s when two brothers, Joe and George, held gatherings at their deer farm. Joe played a washtub bass and George played the violin. The gatherings got so popular, they moved to a building in Waretown.  When that building burned down, the music continued in a parking lot. Since the 1990's Albert Hall has been located right next to the Frederic Priff Elementary school.
In Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace, the musically-gifted boy, Elvis Ruby and his musically-challenged friend, Cecilia find their way to Albert Hall.
Since this is one of the places that the book characters go, I thought the book should take a tour too.
Last night, Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace visited  Albert Music Hall.

Below are some pics:

Here's the book hanging out in the parking lot outside of the Hall.  The violin is borrowed from one of the performers.

When you first go into Albert Hall, you're greeted by the volunteers at the gift stand (everyone who works there is a volunteer. The place is filled with people who care about music and about preserving the folklore and culture of the Pinelands.  You can feel their dedication as soon as you step inside)

On the other side is the snack bar. One of the characters in Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace raves about their pies (featured in the picture below).  There are cakes, coffee, and hot dogs too. You can sit in the back of the auditorium, listen to the performers on stage and enjoy some great food.

Forgive the quality of the picture below. But this is the stage and auditorium at Albert Music Hall.

One of the most unique features of Albert Music Hall is the Pickin' Shed. This is a separate building where anyone can bring in their instruments and play.
Normally this place is packed with people. Last night, the music was great.

 Here's the outside of the Pickin' Shed. On summer nights they open up the doors and the music spills out.

For more info about Albert Music Hall, check out their webpage.  By the way, if you ever do decide to visit, admission for adults is only five dollars.
Thank you to all the volunteers last night who were kind enough to pose with my book.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Crazy Jake

People with giant hearts do crazy things.
Take my friend, Ashley.  She's one of the most kind-hearted people I know. A huge animal lover. The type of person who spends her spare time walking dogs at the local shelter.
One day in January Ashley (I call her Ash) was on Facebook and saw a picture of a 6 yr old mastiff/boxer/bull dog mix named Eeyore who was living in a high kill animal shelter. The dog was going to be euthanized the next day. He had hours to live.
Ash contacted the rescue organization and saved him.
Now here's the thing.
The dog was in Miami. 
Ash lives in New Jersey.
A little crazy, right?
It turned out that Eeyore had a lot of health problems. They were the type of things that were typical of a dog who had been on his own for a long time. Heart worm. An ear infection that was so bad that he needed an operation.  Scratches on his face. If they were treated, they were not life-threatening. But treating them was expensive.
Ash is a full-time college student who works part time at the library. She lost her home in Superstorm Sandy so she is not exactly in the financial position to pay for all of this. 
And now she was responsible for a dog in Miami who has thousands of dollars in vet bills.
It all seemed unsurmountable.
Ashley turned to internet. A whole bunch of people with giant hearts donated money for Eeyore, a dog they'd never met.
Down in Florida, he was fostered and cared for and nursed back to health by more kindhearted people. It took months.
To be honest, I wasn't paying all that much attention to Eeyore and his story. Oh sure, I asked about him and I donated some money to his cause, but  I was too preoccupied with things that were happening in my own life.
I didn't even know that Eeyore was ready for his trip to New Jersey and that Ash was frantically trying to find him a place to stay until another animal-loving co-worker mentioned it to me at the library.
It wasn't like we weren't looking for a dog. Our beloved German Shepard mix, Chi, had passed away in December. During the months that Eeyore was in Florida convalescing, I'd go with Ashley to the local animal shelter. I knew exactly what I wanted: a golden-haired large breed Chi. There were some great dogs at the shelter but the ones that I liked either were about to be adopted by someone else or they were way too high energy for us.
Since we didn't have a dog, and Eeyore didn't have a home, it seemed like a natural fit. After a short conversation, my husband and I decided to foster Eeyore.
We met him on Easter morning.
By Easter evening, it felt like he had been here forever.
We renamed him Jake.
And he was no longer a foster dog.
There is nothing dainty about Jake. He is a bulldozer of a dog, who will jump on your lap if you let him.
His favorite game is when one person stands on one end of the yard and the other stands at the other end. Jake runs back and forth to get pet.
Mostly, he likes to chill with his people. Every so often he runs around like a crazy dog, excited, happy and ready to play. He tends to be a goof ball.
But that is not why I call him Crazy Jake.
You'd think that a dog who had been abandoned and mistreated, a dog who ended up on death row at an animal shelter would be wary of humans. You'd think he'd keep his heart to himself.
But Jake is all about love.  He rolls over on his back. He gives kisses. He presses against people, waiting to be pet.
He charms everyone he meets. He has a whole group of people who helped with his rescue and every time Ashley posts pictures on Facebook, they cheer him on.
I've never seen anyone (dog or human) so determined to make a relationship work.  From the moment he got here he seemed to love and accept us, and the only thing he wants is to be loved back.
When you think about it, that's a little crazy.
A dog who has been abandoned and mistreated being so trusting and so willing to love again.
But obviously Jake is a dog with a giant heart.
And dogs with giant hearts do crazy things...

Jake in his new home.
Friday morning deep thoughts. 

Being chill

Sunday, May 5, 2013

April was Amazing!

There are days that you will always remember and for me, April 16th was on the top of the list.

That was the day of the Hiding Out At The Pancake Palace book launch held at the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library. (by the way, Hiding out at the Pancake Palace takes place in an imaginary town in Ocean County and I happen to be a librarian there).

First over one hundred 4th, 5th and 6th graders whose schools were destroyed from Superstorm Sandy came to the library to celebrate the launch! We talked about writing, reading, and dreams.
There are tons of pictures at the Ocean County Library's flickr page

Each child received a book (donated by my publisher Roaring Brook Press, the Ocean County Library and me). They played games. There was a pancake toss (with beanbags that looked like pancakes). And check out that "hiding out" poster where on the flickr page where each child got to pose for a picture  taken by the paparazzi. 

My editor drove all the way from New York to come to party. My colleagues who work in other OC library branches came too.  At lunchtime, there was cake made by Jennicakes and incredible food, including pancakes (made by the Branch Manager). I spent the day surrounded by people from the Ocean County Library and they are some of the most creative, enthusiastic and talented people I've ever met.

It was a day filled with surprises: 
* One of the fourth grade classes who attended the morning party came dressed as characters from Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle...  They carried posters and spoke in character too. It was amazing.
* There were presents from friends: flowers, balloons, candy  and Brussels Sprouts (this is a great gift but it doesn't make sense until you've read the book)
* I received an Ocean County Library Commission Resolution read by Commissioner James Mullins before my evening talk. It's a official document filled where every paragraph starts with the word WHEREAS. It starts like this "WHEREAS the OC Library Commission has been informed of the publication of Nan Marino's book ... " and then it moves to "WHEREAS the book ....mentions Ocean County landmarks such as Albert Hall and the Pinelands.."  When it got to "WHEREAS Nan Marino is a dreamer and when she conducts school visits she reminds kids to dream to..."  I started to cry.

I guess it's true that I am a dreamer, and I dreamed about getting published for a long time. Before you get that call, there are certain things that you think about: Holding your first (and your second) book in your hand. Seeing it on the shelf of a library. Having a child tell you that what you wrote mattered.
But in my wildest craziest dreams I could never have imagined a more perfect book launch or a more perfect day. Thanks to my friends and colleagues at the Ocean County Library, the day was magical.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Launch Bash for Kids Still Affected By Sandy

The stage is set at the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library.

Here's what's happening today to celebrate the launch of Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace.

First, in the morning there's a book launch party for school children who are still displaced by Superstorm Sandy.

Hosted by the Ocean County Library in Toms River NJ, about a hundred fourth, fifth and sixth graders will be treated to fun, crafts and activities. We'll chat a little about writing and reading and they'll get a taste of the first chapter of Hiding Out at The Pancake Palace (which takes place in an imaginary town in Ocean County).

The people at the library wanted a happy feel good event. It's been a tough six months here. We're still working on restoring and rebuilding. Most of the children invited are from the barrier islands, which were pummeled  by Sandy. They're still waiting for their schools to be rebuilt (and most likely their homes too).

As soon as my publisher Roaring Brook Press found out what the Ocean County Library had planned, they generously offered to donate copies of the book. The Ocean County Library donated some too, and of course, I happily joined in. Now every child who attends this party will leave with an autographed copy of the book. There will be some other giveaways. The people at the Ocean County Library know how to throw a party and they've worked so hard to make this day special.

Hiding Out At The Pancake Palace is about a superstar boy who freezes on stage in a televised talent show. To escape the paparazzi, he hides in the Pinelands of New Jersey.  There's lots of local folklore in the story and the famous blueberries, cranberries, sugar sand and music of the Pinelands make their appearance in the book too. I wrote this book way before Sandy, but after seeing how tough and resilient the people of my adopted state have been, I am so proud this story takes place in New Jersey.

I wish you all could see way the stage is decorated and there's this really cool spinning wheel (like the ones they have at carnivals) that's filled with pancakes and all sorts of references from the book. Oh and there's a amazing cut out poster where kids can put their face in the opening so it looks like they are "hiding out" with the book.

In the evening there will be a book talk/author event open to the public. So if you happen to be in Toms River New Jersey at 7:00 on April 16th, stop by  the library.