Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Congratulations! You are a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee

The subject line of this post is the subject line of an e-mail I received yesterday. Here is the note that went with it:

Hi Jo,

Congratulations, your book has been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award! This is a tremendous achievement as the Goodreads Choice Awards are the only major book awards chosen by readers.

Fifteen books have been nominated in 20 categories, including Fiction, Nonfiction, Mystery, Memoir, Young Adult Fantasy, and many more. Voting is open to all 12 million Goodreads members, and winners will be announced in December.

Three Chances to Vote!
Opening Round: October 30 – November 11
Semifinal Round: November 12 – November 18
Final Round: November 19 – November 27

What You Can Do
• Use the "Goodreads Choice Award Nominee" badge on your Web site and blog, and link it to your category. The badge may also be used in advertising campaigns, both on Goodreads and elsewhere.
• In December, we will provide "Goodreads Choice Award Winner" badges for use on your Web sites and blogs and in advertising campaigns.
• You are welcome to use the Goodreads Choice Award nominee or winner badges on the next printing of the book. Young Adult winner Divergent and Romance finalist Fifty Shades of Grey both highlighted their success in the 2011 Choice Awards on subsequent paperback editions.
• Write a blog post thanking your fans and encouraging them to vote for your book.
• Make a short video to rally your fans to vote.
• Offer special content to thank fans for their support. Paranormal fantasy nominee Ilona Andrews even promised fans a short story upon making it to the 2011 finals.
• Encourage fans on Facebook and Twitter to vote. Hashtag: #GoodreadsChoice
• List a giveaway to fuel increased demand for the book.
• Add an excerpt for new readers visiting the book's Goodreads page.

About the Nominations
Instead of consulting publishing experts or a judging panel, we look to readers to find the best books of the year. We analyze statistics from the 170 million books added, rated, and reviewed on the site in 2012 and nominate based on a book's number of ratings and average rating. So a nomination is truly an honor because it comes straight from the readers!

Visit Nominees for Best Middle Grade & Children's to view all of your fellow 2012 nominees!

Good luck!
Jessica and the Goodreads Team


I am speechless and overwhelmed and thrilled and a bit lost. I am not a huge fan of asking people to vote for you for anything, unless you are running for public office. Books and reading and reader response are mostly such personal things. I don't want you to rate or review or vote for a book unless you really do love the book! :-)

So, I share this here to bring attention to the contest. I don't want to sound ungrateful. I'm psyched! It's amazing! Holy cow! It is INSANE. I can't believe it!!!!!!! I can't stop smiling!


I feel really uncomfortable asking for your vote, even though that's what authors are supposed to do in these cases.


I would also feel really uncomfortable not sharing the news here because it's a huge honor and Goodreads has asked the authors to help promote the awards (see letter above). And I AM incredibly grateful!!! I mean, seriously! Actually, I'm mostly still shocked.


What do I really want to do?

Say THANK YOU to all the people who I know and don't know who read See You At Harry's and took the time to go to Goodreads to rate and review it. I want to thank all the booksellers and teachers and librarians and friends and relatives and strangers who recommended it to their friends and kids and students and parents. It's because of you that quiet old Harry's is on the same list of books that Rick Riordan, Eoin Colfer, Jeff Kinney and Carl Hiaasen are on. How on earth is that even possible? And why are the children's bestsellers so often men? (Sorry. Totally off topic.)

As you can guess, I really am overwhelmed and thrilled and a bit lost. And very conflicted.

But mostly, just grateful. Really, really grateful, that See You At Harry's is a book at all. That still feels like a miracle itself. :-)

So, if you are a Goodreads user and would like to participate, please visit the page. And if you like to spread the word about such things, that would be lovely too. But please vote for your favorite book. And please keep reading and sharing your favorite books with others. That's what it's really all about.

Thank you!


Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday 5: Join me for these five fun events this summer!

Friday, June 15, 4:30pm: I'll be on a panel with Karsten Knight and Elaine Dimopoulos at the Children's Literature Association Conference at Simmons College. We're going to read a bit from our work and then answer all of your questions about writing.

Wednesday, July 11, all day: I am the guest author at Kate Messner's wonderful TEACHERS WRITE project. I'll be answering your questions throughout the day! Go here to take part. :) NOTE: Every Monday all summer I'll be posting warm-up exercises here specifically aimed at helping teachers taking part in Kate's project.

Saturday, July 14, 4:00pm: I'll be reading and sharing stories about the making of SEE YOU AT HARRY'S at Bartleby's Books in Wilmington, VT. Come with your questions! There will be GOOD prizes for those who ask one! :-)  

Thursday, July 19, 4:00pm: I'll be recommending summer books with amazing authors Kate Messner and Linda Urban at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, VT! Fun for all ages! Come share your recommendations too! Great event for parents and kids interested in starting up (or who already participate in) a reading group/book club!  

Monday, July 30, 6:30pm I'll be giving a FREE writing workshop at the Moultonborough, NH Public Library. This workshop will be appropriate for adults AND kids ages 10 and up. Bring a pen and paper and be ready to have lots of fun! I'll also be signing books.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Talking Truth with Teens

Today instead of blogging here, I have a post up over at called "Talking Truth with Teens." I talk about the dreaded question, "Did it happen to you?" and the degrees of truth in fiction. Hope you'll stop by! I'll be hosting the EngChat on Twitter (you can use the hashtag #engchat to find us) and talking more about the topics raised in my post next Monday, January 30 at 7pm. Please leave a comment or come join the chat! Thanks!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Today is the day I chose to set my self-imposed goal of "finishing" my WIP. (Meaning, getting it in good enough shape to share with my agent.) I have been having a lot of doubts lately. A lot of fears. I only have 3 chapters left to revise, and as I inch closer to the end, these doubts and fears grow. What if he hates it? What if my editor hates it? What if this was the dumbest idea ever?

What if what if what if...

Yesterday was a particularly hard day.

But then the mail came.

Did I mention we haven't had mail since last Saturday because the mail truck couldn't get here, thanks to Irene?

But yesterday, it came.

And inside, was this:

An advance copy of the brand new paperback of Jumping Off Swings, which will be available in October.

I am choosing to take this as a good sign, since my WIP is a companion piece to SWINGS. How could I not? The timing is just too odd and perfect.

Like a whisper, to keep going.

As I sit here working with the book beside me, I can sense my character inside those pages, waiting for me to finish his story at long last. Whispering, "Hurry up! Jump!"

So here I go.

And just for fun, here is a slideshow I made of all my friends and loved ones taking the jump, too:

Have a great weekend, everyone! I hope you all do a little jumping of your own.


Friday, August 26, 2011

When does it start to feel real?

When I'm working on early drafts, my project feels like my own little secret.

The story is like the kind of dream you have that is so private and personal you don't want to share it with anyone for fear that as soon as you talk about it, the magic of it will disappear. And besides, your dreams rarely make sense to anyone but you.

But as I get close to finishing a draft, I start to form the words that will define what the heart is. And I can say to a few close friends something vague, but true. "It's about family."

That's about as far as I can go, because it all still feels like a dream I'm still clinging to. Trying to make sense of.

Finally, I finish a draft and get the nerve to share the story with my trusted critique partners. And they help me to find the actual bones of the story. And now I can feel the dream becoming less translucent and wispy, and a little more clear. A little more solid. A little more real.

It seems like another whole year (or two) goes by and I keep rewriting the dream, over and over. I know it's not a dream anymore, not really. But it still feels like one. Like something I could still lose. I share it with my agent. Go back to the beginning. Share it with my editor. Go back to the beginning. I ask my wise and wonderful friend Jennifer Richard Jacobson's question over and over: "Is it true yet? Is it true yet?"

Then finally, at some point in all this, my editor finally says, "I'm sending the manuscript to copy editing."

And suddenly, it dawns on me that this story I've only dared to share with a small handful of people I love and trust is going to be read by strangers.

That's when it finally starts to feel real.

But while I wait, I wonder. I doubt. Because that's what I do.

Finally, the copy edits arrive. Inside, I find a note tucked in from the copy manager. It is private, and personal, and it makes me cry. Especially when I get to the end:

I'm left ruminating on the power of that truth telling, knowing it will mean so much to your readers, in so many ways. Somehow that telling--the telling of it just so--offers solace. So thank you for the book, and I look forward to seeing it take shape.

It's this letter that gives me the courage to go back in again. This time, reading the words as if they are finally, in her words, a book taking shape. Then I let them go again.

Yesterday, they came back to me. My words have been type-set in a new font. They don't look like mine any more. But they are. And now, seeing them as they'll look inside an actual book, they feel as real as they ever will.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kirkus Interview-The Deleted Scene :-)

When a writer from Kirkus Reviews contacted me about doing an interview for their YA Blog, I admit I was pretty shocked. I mean, they even trademarked their motto: "The world's toughest book critics"!

But this writer was very kind, and even told me that one of my answers made him cry. That doesn't sound so tough to me. :-)

The interview went up today, and you can read it HERE

I love their tagline: "Jo Knowles talks about the beauty of butter..." LOL!

This interview has been cut WAY down, so many of my answers have been condensed. But since one question and answer were completely eliminated, I thought I'd provide it here, since this has been an issue with all of my books so far, and I am still trying to figure it all out:

There’s a lot of heavy subject matter here in the span of a book that isn’t incredibly long, yet it progresses smoothly. What was your key to merging so much - death, secret lives, secret relationships, psychological scars, amorous developments - without being clunky?-Gordon West

You know, I’m always surprised when people point these things out to me. I consider PEARL to be my lightest book so far, so when I see it described as “heavy” I think, What do you mean?? But when you point out the elements the way you do in your question, I can see your point. As for keeping the story progressing smoothly, that is always my biggest challenge, so I’m glad you didn’t find it too clunky. In most cases, the answer is revising over and over and over until it works. But with this book, while there was tons of revising, I think there was a little more going on. The truth is, we all walk around with our own invisible luggage. Some people (and yes, I’m talking about myself in particular) are incredibly good at hiding the weight we carry. I’m not sure this is a healthy thing, but I do think it might somehow be tied to the first part of my answer, which is that I wasn’t quite aware of all those elements as “elements” in the first place. Maybe that’s why they don’t appear to overwhelm the story.

I think this is not a very good answer and probably why it didn't make the final interview. I am still working on this idea of recognizing the true weight of the things I carry quietly. I suppose my characters are, too. :-)

What is one of your struggles and how are you working to overcome it?