Setting Goals

I set goals a lot. I set them for exercise, for writing, for reading, for cleaning the house–really, for anything I can. The trick I’ve found with goals is that they need to be enough to mount up, but not too much to discourage the goal-setter. If I feel successful, I’m more likely to continue with whatever the goal is.

In December, when I was discouraged with how long it was taking me to read through my current pile of books, I set a goal of reading 50 pages a day. More on that in a minute.

When I was teaching, we had a Readathon every year between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break. For those three or four weeks, every class (or most classes at least) began with ten minutes of silent reading. When we started the activity, the principal was impressed with how much it calmed down the entire school. But way bigger than that was the fact that students were reading for an extra hour a day. I had my students keep track. They wrote down the page number they started on in the morning and at checkpoints during the day.

Reading 30 or 40 or 50 pages during the day was a new experience for many students. They were completing large chunks of books in a day. Students who had never read books at home were now invested in what they were reading and read at home as well. They began to finish books. And they began to enjoy them.

It’s been three years since I’ve been at that school, but I was happy to see they are still having the readathon. I know how valuable it is.

The same thing happened to me when I made my December goal. Because I was reading more, I wanted to read even more. In the 31 days of December, I read every day. There were only 4 days in the month that I didn’t make my goal of 50 pages. The total # of pages I read was 2596 with an average of 84/day. The highest # of pages was 239 one day followed the very next day by the lowest # of pages: 3. (There might be a message in that.)

And I wonder whether other people keep track of pages read or books read or anything to do with reading.

I’ve continued to keep track in January–and continued to read more. It’s a very good thing. With the ALA awards announced this morning, I have a lot more books to read!

Too Many Books

I can’t find enough time to read.

I read before bed every night. I read on the treadmill every morning. I read while I’m waiting for appointments or on the school playground waiting to pick up my nephew. I always have a book with me.

But I still can’t find enough time to read. There’s writing to be done, my job to do, dinner to cook, friends to talk to.

Sometimes I think I read more while I was teaching. At least then, I read with each class–usually at least an hour a day, plus before bed and at meals (when no one else was around. I’m not that rude. Usually.)

Here’s the pile of books that I want to read (note, this does not count the bookshelf next to my computer that is loaded with books I have wanted to read at one time or another. Or the pile on the bedside table. Or the shelf of adult books people have given me. This is the pile of books I want to read right now.):
Most of these I have from the ALAN workshop in November where participants receive a huge box of books when they arrive. Some I bought in the exhibit hall. A few I bought at my local independent bookstore and at an indie near a friend. And I go to the library at least once a week.

Here’s the pile of books I read since the conference (all books I highly recommend!), missing six that I’ve already given to other people (The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, Counting by 7’s, Master of Deceit, Boxers, Almost Home, Impossible Knife of Memory):

I have a small notebook filled with lists of books I want to read. SLJ’s Battle of the Books titles, upcoming titles by favorite authors, titles that have shown up on Mock Newbery lists in the last couple months.

Next Monday, I’ll tune in to the awards ceremony. I’ll add titles and titles of books that win awards and honors: Newbery, Printz, Sibert, Morris, etc. I’ll read the next issue of VOYA and add titles to my little notebook. There’s no end to what I want to read.

If I stopped reading reviews and blogs about books, stopped talking to anyone about titles, stopped visiting the bookstore and library so often, I’d have enough reading material to keep me reading for a long, long time.

I’m not going to do that.

I’ll have to find more time.

Books Read 2013

Plus 6 manuscripts that will be books to bring my total to 72 for the year. Of these, 3 were non-fiction, 5 were adult, and 5 were graphic novels. Also, I read 12 Newbery winners in order this year 1971-1982.

66) MASTER OF DECEIT by Marc Aronson
65) ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell
64) REALITY BOY by A. S. King
63) THE GREAT GREENE HEIST by Varian Johnson
62) ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME by Julie Berry
60) BOXERS by Gene Luen Yang
59) ALMOST HOME by Joan Bauer
58) THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY by Laurie Halse Anderson
57) UNITED WE SPY by Ally Carter
56) THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER by Kevin Henkes
54) THE WAKING DARK by Robin Wasserman
53) JACOB HAVE I LOVED by Katherine Paterson
52) SUBWAY LOVE by Nora Raleigh Baskin
49) THE NAME OF THE STAR by Maureen Johnson
48) A GATHERING OF DAYS by Joan W. Blos
47) TRANSATLANTIC by Collum McCann
46) THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskins
45) ELLEN FOSTER by Kaye Gibbons
44) BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson
43) ABOVE WORLD by Jenn Reese
42) THE WHOLE STUPID WAY WE ARE by Nicole Griffin
40) CHANTRESS by Amy Butler Greenfield
38) ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred Taylor
37) LINCOLN’S GRAVE ROBBERS by Steve Sheinkin
36) UNWHOLLY by Neal Shusterman
35) DOLL BONES by Holly Black
34) BABYMOUSE BEACH BABE by Jennifer Holm
33) THE LEMONADE TRICK by Scott Corbett
32) UNWIND by Neal Shusterman
31) TEMPLE GRANDIN by Sy Montgomery
30) WILL SPARROW’S ROAD by Karen Cushman
29) SUMMER OF THE GYPSY MOTHS by Sara Pennypacker
27) THE GREY KING by Susan Cooper
26) LITTLE DOG, LOST by Marion Dane Bauer
25) THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen
24) FOURMILE by Watt Key
23) THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage
22) ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
21) UNGIFTED by Gordon Korman
20) AFTER ELI by Rebecca Rupp
19) M.C. HIGGINS THE GREAT by Virginia Hamilton
18) THE GOOD NEIGHBORS by Holly Black
17) ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes
16) GHOULISH SONG by William Alexander
15) GHETTO COWBOY by Greg Neri
12) SLAVE DANCER by Paula Fox
11) TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt
10) JULIE OF THE WOLVES by Elizabeth George Speare
9) HOKEY POKEY by Jerry Spinelli
8) CORALINE by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel)
6) SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS by Laura Amy Schlitz
4) MERCURY by Hope Larson
2) P.S. BE ELEVEN by Rita Williams-Garcia
1) THE UNDERDOG by Marcus Zusack

Chocolate Kiss Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

5 dozen foil-wrapped chocolate kisses

1) Preheat oven to 375.
2) Beat butter and peanut butter until well blended. Add sugars. Beat until fluffy.
3) Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients.
4) Shape into 5 dozen balls. Roll in sugar.
5) Bake 8 minutes. Remove from oven. Press chocolate kiss in top of each cookie. Bake 2 minutes longer.


Chocolate Mint Filled Cookies

1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar

1) Melt chocolate chips.
2) Beat melted chocolate and all ingredients. Increase speed to medium and beat until well mixed. Wrap dough and refrigerate (at least 1 hour).
3) Shape dough into 96 balls. Roll in sugar.
4) Bake 12-15 minutes at 350 (I bake them about 10 min). Immediately remove from pan and place mint between 2 cookies. Let sit for a minute. Press together slightly.

ALAN Conference

My favorite conference of the year! It’s always great to be surrounded by librarians, teachers, and authors who love books. And to hear about and receive piles of books that make my TBR pile dangerously tall.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the conference (and, yes, I heard each of these authors speak and have each of their newest books):

Jack Gantos  (From Norwell to Nowhere)

I love the smell of books in the morning.

(there is) a pillar of books that you’ve read that raise you up…that have influenced you.

(when you’re very young and you’re reading and realize) you might be a book…the hungry caterpillar has a hole in it and you have a belly button.

Tamora Pierce (Battle Magic)

My father had three daughters. That meant I was the oldest boy.

Holly Black (Doll Bones)

Inspired by mom who said the house was haunted and told her, “Don’t astral project.”

big, elaborate story with friends growing up. Hard to give that up.

Nancy Werlin (Unthinkable)

Stories are not childish. They nourish us, give us courage, teach us how to empathize.

When you’re young, you don’t know you can repair yourself.

Chris Crutcher (Period 9)

You can tell who the good teachers are because they like the same stories/characters you do.

Education doesn’t happen unless you get into the imagination.

Joan Bauer (Almost Home)

What does hope really look like? Where was it lost? Where is it hiding in the story?

Meg Rosoff (Picture Me Gone)

Secretly I’m writing for middle-aged women. I don’t know why children like my books.

The idea that we have to give kids hope is … I don’t have any to spare.

I hope I come up with another idea so my family doesn’t starve.

Laurie Halse Anderson (The Impossible Knife of Memory)

Good books build strong, resilient souls.

English class is where you learn the tools to survive.

family pain that is the scars, love story that is the muscle.



Next year’s conference is the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving in Washington, DC. Go!

More Summer Books

Chantress (Chantress, #1)Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield
When Lucy turns 15 on the island where she and her guardian were shipwrecked years before, she gives in to the temptation to sing to the music she hears in the air, even though she’s been warned never to sing. Her singing has strange consequences, whisking her back to London. She is a chantress–one who can sing spells–and she has landed in a place where the powerful ruler kills all chantresses. amygreenfield writes a beautiful book about living in a 1600’s London filled with magic and adventure.

The Whole Stupid Way We AreThe Whole Stupid Way We Are by N. Griffin
Dinah and Skint and their worries during a cold, Maine winter will fill your heart. Why won’t Skint wear a coat even though it’s freezing outside? What is the secret he keeps from even his best friend? How can anyone help someone else? N. Griffin leaves you with lots to think about.

Above World (Above World, #1)Above World by Jenn Reese
Aluna, belongs to a race of future humans that have adapted to living underwater, but the tech that allows that is failing. Because Aluna and her friend Hoku are young enough that they haven’t yet grown their tails, they decide they are the best ones to attempt to go on land and find a solution. With Aluna’s martial arts skills and Hoku’s intelligence, the two team up with others to help save the world. Lots of adventure and intrigue!


I always watch the birds on my feeder and try to figure out what they are. In the last couple years, I went on a couple actual birding trips and saw how much I hadn’t been seeing–how many birds there were out there that I didn’t know. I’m constantly surprised. These birds are in my backyard in Vermont–if I stop and look for them!

This is a Black-throated Green Warbler that was in the willows along my deck this weekend–a new bird to add to my life list.

And a little closer:
                            Black-throated Green Warbler2

Summer Books

As the summer winds down and a more regular schedule begins, I thought I’d mention a few of my favorite books from the summer.

Unwind (Unwind, #1)  UnWholly (Unwind, #2)I began the summer rereading Unwind  so I could read the sequel, Unwholly by Neal Shusterman. I loved reading Unwind for the second time. Great action, characters, and idea. Unwholly takes place immediately following the end of Unwind so I’m glad I read it again.

Doll BonesDoll Bones by Holly Black is just the right amount of spooky and just the right amount about growing up. What’s not to love about a spooky doll locked in a glass case?

Lincoln's Grave Robbers I loved Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb last year. I love that he always makes me understand a time in history better than I did before. He does it again with Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. I had no idea how popular grave robbing was or why it was done. I also didn’t know the impact of counterfeiters at the time of Lincoln and how counterfeiting and robbing Lincoln’s grave were connected.

Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society, #3)Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter is #3 in the Heist Society books, a series I look forward to. Kat is a teen from a criminal family and is very good at planning and carrying out involved heists. This latest installment is as much fun as the others, but read them in order!

Vampire BabyFinally, a picture book: Vampire Baby by my friend and classmate Kelly Bennett is about a young boy who believes his baby sister has become a vampire when she gets teeth and begins biting everything. He sets out to prove this to his parents. Funny and oh, so true. Youch!

Here’s a fun book trailer for Vampire Baby:;

Friday Five

1. Bagels–We made bagels for the first time using the King Arthur Flour recipe. They have a great site for recipes and a great blog showing you how to do the recipes. Here’s the link to the blog: We used Parmesan instead of Asiago cheese. Delicious!

2. Lists–I love the ALA and NCTE awards. I love lists like BFYA and Notables. I find lots of new books to read on these lists–and love seeing friends on them as well. Special congratulations to my friend and writing partner Jo Knowles for making both BFYA and Notables with her book See You at Harry’s. I love this book!

Product Details
3. Not a lot of variety of birds around in January. Here’s a frequent visitor to my feeder, a red-breasted nuthatch:

4. During January I read 34 picture books! I’ve found some fun ones in my random-pulling-off-shelves. A couple favorites: Little Bird by Germano Zullo, Henry and the Cannons by Don Brown, Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

5. And now it’s February! Better get those taxes done!