Writing in dark and light

I am so deep in writing these days that sometimes I hardly look up for hours. But light is precious this time of year, so to keep myself from living in the dark, most days I go for a walk at dawn, when I see the sun rise. It was so foggy this morning that I thought I would miss it. But then there it was, more spectacular that ever.

Writing is a lot like this, I find. Things get foggy, and I start to think I’ve missed my moment. But if I just keep going, then eventually the sun comes up. Maybe not when or where I expected it to, but it’s there, and it transforms the whole landscape.


Traveling an old road, talking about cochineal

Sixteen years ago I traveled down to southern Mexico to do research for A Perfect Red. It was a miraculous trip in many ways, not least because I met up with Eric Mindling, a local guide with a powerful love of the people, cultures, and art of Oaxaca. Exploring cochineal byways with him was one of the best adventures of my life.

Last month, Eric talked me into a reunion of sorts, an internet conversation that had me traveling over those old roads again with him. He taped it, so if you’d like to travel along with us, you can listen in here. We talk about cochineal, history, and what it’s like to research and write a story that traverses more than 500 years of history.

As Eric says, bear in mind that the conversation took place across 6,000 terrestrial miles (and who knows how many more in cyberspace). The sound quality isn’t all we would wish it to be, but we’re happy to have you along for the ride.

I’ll just finish by saying that Eric is an artist himself, and I’ve been delighted to see his own work take off.  You can see his stunning photos here, where you’ll also find links to his books. His TED talk — Sagebrush, Tumbleweed, and Very Slow Fashion — is a masterpiece. If you’ve ever thought of traveling to southern Mexico, I highly recommend checking out the tours he runs through Traditions Mexico.


Making the leap

True story: After I wrote and revised RA THE MIGHTY, I sat on it for six months before I sent it to my agent. Why?

Because I worried that if a publisher bought it, they’d want a sequel. And I was afraid I couldn’t be funny twice.

As I explained a while ago, I never saw humor as my strong point, at least not in writing. I was as surprised as could be when Ra and Khepri showed up on the page and started making me laugh. And that’s really how I thought of it – they they were the ones who made things funny. Not me.

Luckily, a good friend pushed me to send the book out.  She’d read the manuscript, and she knew it was ready. Her prompting made me realize two things:

  • I wasn’t going to get over my fear anytime soon.
  • I was just going to have to take the leap anyway.

At least, I had to leap if I wanted RA THE MIGHTY to find a home, and if I wanted to grow as a writer. And I did.It turned out Ra found a home fast. (Yay!) And yes, they wanted a sequel. (Cue a big attack of nerves!)

To ward off anxiety, I’d already scribbled down some ideas for more Ra mysteries, and it helped to know those were in my back pocket. But ideas are a long way from a book. And they don’t have much to do with voice, which was the wellspring for the humor in RA THE MIGHTY. In the end, I just had to make another leap—and hope that Ra and Khepri showed up again.

Thankfully, they did. And they made me laugh even harder this time, as they tackled THE GREAT TOMB ROBBERY.

I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan for everything (and a back-up plan, and a back-up back-up plan). But I’ve finally realized that what I love about humor is that it doesn’t lend itself to planning. It requires me to leap. And even for an over-planner like me, it’s the very act of leaping that makes it so much fun.


The variety show – and a RA giveaway!

Variety is definitely the spice of this writer’s life. Today I’m digging into crocodile copyedits and researching a 1949 codebreaking crisis … and that’s not all! I’ve also been printing out documents, rehearsing a speech, pondering a research trip, sending out a couple tweets, replying to emails from my publisher, reading a book in my field, and renewing my SCBWI membership. And yes, I’ll be doing a little writing, too. 

My favorite days are the ones where I get to write and write and write. Next best are the days when I dive deep into research and discover something new, or when I get to talk to people about books and reading and the subjects I love best. But I’ve had to accept that writers have to do other things, too — including plenty of paperwork and email. I tell myself it’s a variety show.

On a completely different note, I have some fun news about a Ra giveaway. My lovely publisher and TeachingNet are offering a chance to win one of 10 packs of both Ra the Mighty books — SIGNED copies of RA #1 and ARCs of RA #2. The offer is open till October 31 to US residents and you can enter here.

Please enter if you’d like to win — and good luck! And if you know of anyone — especially a teacher or librarian or youth club — that could use some funny books for readers in 2nd through 5th grades, please pass the link on!

Spooky fun

Hip, hip, MEOW! Today I’m celebrating the book birthday of THE GREAT TOMB ROBBERY, the second Ra the Mighty mystery, with cake and cheers and maybe even some dancing in the kitchen. And after I eat my cake, I’ll be watching this book trailer, which is 59 seconds of madcap, spooky fun:


Huge thanks to Sarah Horne for the fabulous art, and to my husband for bringing it so ingeniously to life!

I also send my thanks to you, dear readers and dear friends. I’m more grateful than I can say for all your warm and funny comments, letters, photos, videos, and drawings. I hope you enjoy reading Ra and Khepri’s second adventure as much as I enjoyed writing it!


Insect heroes

I’m over at the fabulous Middle Grade Book Village website today, with a short and quirky post about insect heroes.

A funny topic, you say? Yes, but also deadly serious. The survival of the world rests on insects, and yet they’re often seen as a nuisance – or worse. So I think it’s time our kids saw them getting some starring roles in their books.

Cats and dogs get a lot of love in middle-grade fiction. I say it’s time to cheer for insect heroes, too!  And Khepri would agree.

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When we were given a grape vine a few years ago, I wasn’t expecting much. Our cool and cloudy summers seemed a far cry from what grapes need. But what a great crop we’ve had this year! This is the last of our bumper harvest — sweet and tart by turns, and tasting of sunshine.


Another harvest came in last week, too — my copies of THE GREAT TOMB ROBBERY!

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The new book doesn’t come out until October 8th, but there’s a sneak preview on my website, where you can now read the first 2 chapters for free online!

If you like what you see, I’d be delighted if you pre-ordered the book, or asked your local library to get it.

I’m sorry I can’t share the grapes with you, too. When I’m eating them, it feels like summer is still here. Outside, however, I can see the first leaves turning, and the last apples are almost ready to pick. Fall is on its way.  Soon I’ll be wrapping up in capes to keep warm as I write.

For now, though, I’m just enjoying the turn of the season.

Ra in paperback!

Hurrah! RA THE MIGHTY has its paperback debut today!

Hardcovers are wonderful, but when I was a kid, I always bought paperbacks, because that’s what I could afford. I’d save up for months to buy one. So it makes me really happy to know that a Ra paperback will now be available for kids who are saving for a new book, just the way I did.

I’m also feeling enormously grateful to everyone who’s supported Ra in every form, from its first draft right on through to the hardback and now the paperback. Thanks for sending me your sweet notes and comments and drawings and photos! You’ve made my day a thousand times over.

To celebrate, I’m sharing the trailer once more, with my thanks to all of you! It’s pure fun and silliness, and I hope it makes you laugh.


A Ra the Mighty paperback giveaway

It’s back-to-school season, and Ra the Mighty leaps into paperback on Tuesday. To celebrate, I’m holding a giveaway for U.S. teachers, librarians, and school support staff.

The prize is a free copy of the new Ra the Mighty paperback, which includes a sneak peek at the first two chapters of Ra #2: The Great Tomb Robbery. I’ll gladly inscribe it for you or your classroom or school. And I’ll send you a Ra bookmark, too!

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment here. (Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you if you win!) Or you can follow me on Twitter (@ab_greenfield) and retweet one of my posts about the giveaway. The contest will stay open until September 7, 2019 at midnight (PDT).

Good luck — and thanks for all you do to support the kids in your schools, and to connect them with great books!

Giveaway terms:
*US & Canada only (with apologies to the rest!)
*Open to teachers, librarians, and school support workers
*Giveaway runs from August 29, 2019 to September 7, 2019 at midnight PDT.
*The winner will be chosen at random and must respond within 14 days, or another random winner will be chosen. The name and/or handle of the winner will be posted on Twitter and my blog.

ETA (9/9/19): Congratulations to @teacherfig, who won the giveaway — and thank you to everyone who entered!


The crocodile has left the building

After I’ve daydreamed, scribbled, researched, outlined, drafted, despaired, rebounded, revised, consulted, reworked, and tweaked…

…it’s time to press send.

<deep breath>

This will be my eighth book, but my insides still twist when I think about hitting that button and letting go.

But I’ve got a finished manuscript that’s the best I can make it. I’ve had wonderful readers to help me. (Thank you, Tracy, Kit, David, and T!)  And I’ve got an editor who’s eagerly awaiting some crocodiles in her in-box.

So it’s goodbye and good luck to RA #3, THE CROCODILE CAPER!

<hits the button and breaks out the celebratory chocolate>