It's been a while since I've posted a Flashback Friday, but the other day I started writing a blog post about why I chose to set The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler in the 1970s (post coming soon!) I'm sure it's a question that's baffled my children. The 1970s? But you didn't even have cell phones or the internet or Netflix or TikTok. It's true... which brings me to today's Flashback Friday and sort of an intro to my coming-soon-post about why I chose to write a story set in 1978:
My Kids Are Missing Out
Originally posted November 5, 2011
A while back, I was telling my kids again to pick up their wet towels (another post for another day), when I found myself saying, “I sound like a broken record!” It occurred to me at that moment that my kids don’t actually know what a “broken record” sounds like.... or any record actually.
I then started thinking about all the other things from my past my kids really have no idea about. Never mind the fact that they look at me like I have three heads when I tell them I didn’t have internet as a kid (or a computer for that matter.)
Anyway, at the risk of aging myself... here are some of the things my kids have missed out on:
The typewriter... It’s true kids – I had to type all my papers out on a typewriter – and not just any typewriter, I had to use a manual typewriter. For my high school graduation, my parents gave me an electric typewriter. Not only did it come with correction tape, but it beeped when I misspelled a word. Talk about high tech!
The rotary telephone... We dialed numbers – and they had funny loud rings. At some point, push button phones were all the rage. I don’t think we had one until I was in junior high (or maybe later). When the phone rang, we didn’t have caller ID. You found out who was calling when you answered (which made prank calling as kid a serious form of entertainment.) We also heard busy signals when we called someone and they were already on the phone. Call waiting? It was more like Call Back!
The aerial... There was no such thing as cable tv until I was in high school and even then, we didn’t have it (pay for television – are you crazy?) We had an aerial. What is an aerial you ask? Well – it was this dial thing that we turned, and it rotated the antenna on our roof in a particular direction so it would pick up (semi-clearly) one of the seven channels that we received. There were no remote controls either. In our house, we had to get up to change the channel (and turn the aerial.)
As long as we are talking about tv’s – how about:
The black and white tv... I had one in my room. It was only 9 inches and it wasn’t hooked up to the aerial, so I only could watch two channels. But it was all mine!
I also had a stereo in my room that had an 8-track player along with a turntable for those broken records. I suppose we can add turntable needles to the list, and 45’s, and the little plastic inserts you had to put in the 45’s to make them fit on your turntable.
Oh and let’s not forget about the cassette player/recorder and cassette tapes... lots and lots of cassette tapes.
Since we’re talking about cassette tapes, how about -
The Walkman... I’ll never forget when those first came out. I saved all my money just to get one! That may have been my favorite thing ever.
I know there are plenty more, but I’m old and I tire easily, so I think I’ll take a nap now.... feel free to keep the list going in the comments!
I'm happy to report that a year or so after that post, my daughter asked for a turntable and started collecting record albums, so she does now in fact know what a broken record sounds like, but she and my other two children are still amazed (horrified) that I grew up with out cell phones and the internet.
P.S. All those cassettes? I still have them, safe and sound in my office in the same brown fake wood 70s/80s cabinets I kept them in as a kid.
Can you believe it’s already May? I feel like I’ve been waiting for May to arrive for forever, and now that it's finally here, I’m excited to announce that my newest middle grade novel, THE BACKYARD SECRETS OF DANNY WEXLER (recommended for ages 8-13), is officially available for pre-order wherever books are sold (shipping and delivery November 2021.)
Also exciting— you can pre-order signed copies and enter to win some fun Danny Wexler swag!!
1. Pre-order through my local independent bookstore, Open Book Bookstore, and specify at checkout how you’d like your book personalized. You also automatically receive an entry to win a Danny Wexler swag bag consisting of stickers, bookmarks, and your very own super-secret spy notebook. Pre-order now through October 31st at:
2. Pre-order through the vendor of your choice and upload a copy of your pre-order receipt HERE to receive a signed bookplate for your book.
As always, thanks so much for your support!
Can you believe it's almost May? While last year felt like the year that never ended, this year feels to be flying by. Perhaps it's because I've been so busy writing new stories and preparing for the release of my latest one this fall.
But one thing I've been sure to carve out time for is reading, and before this year flies any further, I want to share some of the books I've enjoyed. Some are old, some are new, some are for young readers, and some are for adults. And while I love to write stories, I'm not the best at writing book reviews, so know that I've loved all these books.
Also, if you're interested in purchasing any of these books, our small, local independent bookstores could certainly use our support … especially now. Indiebound.Org and Bookshop.Org are two great places to find local bookstores and shop indie.
(All summaries below provided by publishers)
MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS:
From The Desk Of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks:
Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime? A crime he says he never committed. Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.
Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein
Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he's forced to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease. At first, the boys don't get along, but then RJ shares his bucket list with Will. Among the things he wants to do: ride a roller coaster; go to a school dance; swim in the ocean. To Will, happiness is hanging out in his room, alone, preferably with the turtles he collects. But as RJ's disease worsens, Will realizes he needs to tackle the bucket list on his new friend's behalf before it's too late. It seems like an impossible mission, way outside Will's comfort zone. But as he completes each task with RJ's guidance, Will learns that life is too short to live in a shell.
Where The Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin
In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
Cat’s Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman—but above all she must seek release form her haunting memories.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
A recent transplant to Paris, humorist David Sedaris, bestselling author of "Naked", presents a collection of his strongest work yet, including the title story about his hilarious attempt to learn French.
Black Boy Out Of Time by Hari Ziyad
One of nineteen children in a blended family, Hari Ziyad was raised by a Hindu Hare Kṛṣṇa mother and a Muslim father. Through reframing their own coming-of-age story, Ziyad takes readers on a powerful journey of growing up queer and Black in Cleveland, Ohio, and of navigating the equally complex path toward finding their true self in New York City. Exploring childhood, gender, race, and the trust that is built, broken, and repaired through generations, Ziyad investigates what it means to live beyond the limited narratives Black children are given and challenges the irreconcilable binaries that restrict them.
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
Mitza Maric has always been a little different from other girls. Most twenty-year-olds are wives by now, not studying physics at an elite Zurich university with only male students trying to outdo her clever calculations. But Mitza is smart enough to know that, for her, math is an easier path than marriage. Then fellow student Albert Einstein takes an interest in her, and the world turns sideways. Theirs becomes a partnership of the mind and of the heart, but there might not be room for more than one genius in a marriage.
The Secret Stealers by Jane Healey
Anna Cavanaugh is a restless young widow and brilliant French teacher at a private school in Washington, DC. Everything changes when she’s recruited into the Office of Strategic Services by family friend and legendary WWI hero Major General William Donovan. Then comes the opportunity: go undercover as a spy in the French Resistance to help steal critical intelligence that could ultimately turn the tide of the war. Dispatched behind enemy lines and in constant danger, Anna is filled with adrenaline, passion, and fear. She’s driven to make a difference―for her country and for herself.
I'm currently reading Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro - stay tuned for more in Part 2 as well as others from my growing TBR pile.
What are you reading?
Hello Friends and Fellow Book Lovers!
I hope you are all safe and well.
As you all probably know by now, I have a new children’s book coming out this year -finally!! THE BACKYARD SECRETS OF DANNY WEXLER releases on November 1st, but for those who wish to pre-order, purchase links will be available starting May 15th. I’m excited to do some cool giveaways and promotions for it, including some Nate Rocks and Millie giveaways!
But I’m getting ahead of myself … To start, I’ve got a fun new cover, designed by the very talented artist, Zhen Liu.
While I was planning to wait until pre-orders started to show it off, Amazon beat me to it. The good news is, that means I get to show it off to you early!!
Do want to see it?
Are you sure?
I hope you love it as much as I do! If you’d like to help show it off too, feel free to spread the word! I'd be so grateful!
Also, in place of the cover reveal I'd originally planned in May, I'll be doing a pre-order kick off. If you're interested in participating, either on your blog or on social media, I’d be so happy to have you join in! Just sign up using this google form -> HERE <- I’ll send you everything you need! I’d love to have your help! (Really, really, please and thank you!!)
I’m so appreciative of your continued support!
Yesterday, I received the nicest surprise – a Halloween care package from my aunt and uncle. They've sent packages to us for Halloween in years past, but this one was filled with treats specifically for me: black cat kitchen towels, a cute decoration for my front entrance, and my favorite cocoa covered almonds from their neighborhood in Brooklyn. Okay fine, I'll share those with the kids.
I immediately texted to thank them. That's when my aunt replied about the spiders.
The spiders!! I'd forgotten all about them! It seems I have a thing for spiders, and I have no idea why. In case I haven't mentioned it, I have a book coming out next fall. What's that? I've mentioned it ten million times already? Well, just in case you need a reminder, it's called THE BACKYARD SECRETS OF DANNY WEXLER, and I'm mentioning it again because here is the opening paragraph:
My older sister, Alice, told me my new piano teacher, Mr. Schneider, was part tarantula. At first, I didn’t believe her, but lately, I wasn’t so sure. Even his name rhymed with spider.
You'll have to wait to read the rest, but do you see where I'm going with this? Spiders.
Since my aunt brought up my beloved (and forgotten) growing Halloween spiders, I had to dig out my old blog post about them. I can't believe it's been ten years since I grew my spider friends...
November 2, 2010
I was hoping to have this blog post coincide with Halloween – but you know how spiders can be. In the midst of putting together Halloween costumes, working on novel #2, a sick child, and planning a Bar Mitzvah, the number one thing on my mind these days has been spiders..it's true!
Now I admit, I am not normally a huge fan of spiders, although I have gotten better. After all, they do keep other bugs from getting into the house. But generally speaking, the thought of spiders does not excite me.
So when I opened the annual Halloween package from my Aunt and Uncle to find three rubber spiders, my first response was “yuk”.
Upon further examination, I learned that these were no ordinary spiders. These were “growing” spiders – double yuk. Nevertheless, as any good mom would do, I decided to follow the directions and put the three spiders in a bowl of water where they would allegedly grow four times their size within seventy-two hours.
At this point, a strange transformation occurred. I actually became interested in these spiders – one may even say my interest bordered on obsession. While my children took a peek every morning when they woke up to check on the spider’s growth progress, I checked on the spiders every few hours. I made sure they had enough water, I turned them regularly so that the water touched them on all sides evenly as they grew, I took pictures, and I even moved them to a larger pan of water once they outgrew their original bowl.
Sure enough, after 72 hours of TLC, they reached their peak size. I was such a proud mama. But my job wasn’t done yet. According to the directions, once you remove the spiders, they are supposed to shrink back down to their original size.
Let me just interject that we are now five days into this little experiment, and my children have completely lost interest…but that doesn’t stop me. I lay out some paper towel on my counter and remove the spiders. The paper towel immediately becomes saturated, and I realize that these spiders would do much better on one of my plush towels. They sit nice and comfy for the next three days as they start to deflate. But then, I begin to think: Am I doing all I can do for them? Of course not! They need somewhere warm and cozy, where the water inside of them can properly evaporate. So I moved them to the best seat in the house:
And now, I continue to wait to see what my little big spiders will do next.
I'm sad to say I have absolutely no idea what's become of my spiders over the past ten years. Sorry little big spider friends!
I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween!