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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Poem (or Invention) by me and my son Z

What There Needs to Be

There should be a thing

Like Google

Where you could type in

What is that poem I was thinking of


Who is that actor who was in that thing with that guy I like who isn’t Michael Cera

And it would tell you.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Are you on vacation yet? Any plans? If you could go anywhere/do anything on your vacation this year, what would you do?

I would definitely go someplace warm and sandy where lovely people would bring me fattening drinks with little paper umbrellas in them.
Instead I am going someplace cold and snowy where lovely people will ask me to bring them
toast slices with peanut butter on them.

But there is something wonderful about that, too. (She reminds herself.)

Speaking of nonsequators, I got some good news today: JUSTIN CASE was selected as a Best Early Novel of 2010! Here's the link to that fantastic announcement:


AND... it's still in the running for a ReadKiddoRead Book of the Year Award -- but it's got some stiff competition... not mentioning any names but JUSTIN's worthy competition include some of the top bestsellers in kids' books and series... so stand tall, JUSTIN! You are the new kid on the block and still hanging in there.

If you vote for JUSTIN, at this link


I'll be so happy. As happy as if I had an umbrella drink? Maybe.

And that is pretty darn happy.

What would make you happy this season? Peace, love, health, and...???

Rachel Vail

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Something Else to Feel Thankful For

Even post-Thanksgiving, I think it's important to retain a feeling of gratitude.

Even when your little kid is crampy and STILL not feeling like himself after WAY too long, a person must find things to feel lucky about.

Even if a person's back is in a tight knot so she is tilted 40 degrees forward, walking like her old social studies teacher from high school, one must remember that life is good.

Even when the news is depressing and the weather is crappy, and and and... no matter what, it is important to find a way to look at the bright side.

Which is why it is lov
ely to have been shown this website by my big kid. It is a whole website of Kim Jong Il Looking at Things.

Why this makes me unspeakably happy I am not 100% sure, but wow, it so does. You?


Rachel Vail

PS I must go to sleep now. I will have to write about our own family Hanukah Miracle tomorrow or over the weekend. Meanwhile, for those who are celebrating, have a happy one...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for today?

My big things are of course my family and friends. My little guy, who's been sick for a while, is on the mend, so I am particularly thankful for that.

Little stuff I'm thankful for:

the pot of tea my husband just made
the good run we just took (despite the cccccold)
the stack of good books beside my bed
that I finally finished eating all the apple pie so there's no more for me to gobble up
that Bruce Springsteen has a new album out for me to get
good food and lots of it later today
the lovely letters and emails I've been getting lately
that nobody pressures me anymore to eat turkey even though it's Thanksgiving
cozy socks

and, here's a fun one:

JUSTIN CASE has been getting some really awesome reviews, including this one which is featured on Book Daily today!

... and is even up for a KIDDO Award. You can vote for it right here (please do!!!!)...


... and, as of this moment, JUSTIN is in the lead! Nobody would b more surprised by that than Justin. Vote Justin for the win! Vote every day! (And tell your friends...)

Finally, I'm thankful for today. It's the only one, ever. Pretty cool. Gonna live the heck out of it.

How about you?

Rachel Vail

PS Let me know if you vote for JUSTIN!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

How bad would it be if I steal just a bit of my kids' candy? Vote quick because I am craving chocolate...

Just saw this lovely review of JUSTIN CASE, now that I am in from trick-or-treating and my angel wings are lying, still hooked onto my black leather jacket, in the hall...


Did you do Halloween? Did you dress up? As what? Did it feel like less pressure this year than last, since it was Sunday night instead of Saturday? Or did the Halloween spirit pervade the entire weekend?

Tell me your stories...

Rachel Vail

Friday, October 22, 2010

Great Teachers

I'm about to head out to DC for the weekend, for a celebration of my college mentor, Doc Murphy. I'll be on a panel at Georgetown University on Saturday, along with a few other people who were influenced by this joyous and brilliant man. He has been a professor of Theater at Georgetown, and the President of the National Theater, for a very long time and now, having just turned 80, is planning his next adventures.

I'm really excited to talk about how Doc Murphy changed everything for me -- he made writing possible, and fun. He taught me the joy and necessity of rewriting, and that the writer's job is to ASTONISH the reader. And so much more. Every day I continue to learn from him, as his advice ricochets around my writing brain.

Did you ever have a teacher like that? One who believed in you and pushed you farther? One whose lessons continue to enlighten you long after you leave the classroom? Who was it? It feels so good to give great teachers a shout out. Let's let them know. I'll start, and will add more names of my great teachers this week.

For today: Thanks, Doc Murphy!

Your turn...


Rachel Vail

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If You Write Books for Kids or Teens (or want to)...

... you might not want to miss this.

It's open to the public but last I heard there are fewer than 20 spots still open.

The Authors Guild invites you to a children’s book panel discussion:

Trends in Children’s Book Publishing 2010
Sponsored by the Authors Guild Foundation

Moderator: Rachel Vail, Author
Meg Cabot, Author
Lisa Holton, Founder, CEO, Fourth Story Media
Neal Porter, Editor, Founder, Neal Porter Books
Rosemary Stimola, Literary Agent, President, Stimola Literary Studio

Tuesday, October 19, 6:00 p.m.
Scandinavia House, The Volvo Room
58 Park Avenue at 38th Street
New York City

Free! Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Space is limited.

Please RSVP here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Though I Am Trying Not To Blog...

I am finishing up the book I’m writing, which is a pretty all-consuming activity for me. At times like this I tend to set things on fire, slam my face or fingers in doors, and drop full canisters of flour on my own head/ the floor for no apparent reason other than the fact that my brain is used up.

So I am trying not to do anything overly dangerous such as cook, or parent, or blog.

I am not being completely successful at avoiding any of those things. Which is mostly fine (well, except for the cooking, possibly.)

But anyway I just had to interrupt my non-blogging to say a very brief thing about bullying and homophobia.

You might be attracted to boys, or to girls, or to both. You may think that somebody else being attracted to boys, or to girls, or to both, is incomprehensible, or yucky, or not your thing. But IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS who somebody is attracted to, or who anybody else loves. So if you ever feel tempted to shame somebody for his or her sexuality, stop. Just stop. It’s mean. It can be very hurtful. And it’s not your business.

It’s wrong and immature when third graders call one another nasty names. They need to be pulled aside and taught gently about empathy and the importance of being kind. For any of the rest of us who are past third grade: if you catch yourself calling somebody a nasty epithet or shaming somebody for who they are, sit yourself down in time-out until you can pull yourself together and behave like a grown person. Come on, now.

If somebody is teasing or tormenting you about your sexuality – or your looks, your opinions, your choices, your race or gender or height or any other baloney none-of-their-business nonsense, get away from them. Please seek out somebody kind and cool to talk with or hang out with. There are many of us around. Stay strong and keep looking for us.

We might be bleary-eyed and covered with flour, but we are here, and we’re rooting for you.


Rachel Vail

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Banning and Burning Books

Here's what I think:

If you don't want to read a book, don't. If it's too late and you've already read it and it was not your cup of tea, you don't have to ban or burn it -- just don't recommend it. There are definitely some books I disliked so much I even recommend that friends NOT read them. I don't like eating brisket, so I don't eat it. And I really don't recommend you eat brisket either. Yuck. But do I go around banning or burning brisket? NO! Well, okay, other than that piece of brisket this past Saturday. But that was an accident.

SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, on the other hand, I highly recommend.


What do you think?

Rachel Vail

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hooray for BRILLIANT!

A 5-Star review was just posted at

Here's the link:


It's been a crazy-busy week.

Last week I went, along with my husband and younger son -- and fantastic author Nick Bruel and a great crew from both Macmillan and Barnes & Noble -- to a Staten Island Yankees Game, hosted by the publisher of JUSTIN CASE, Macmillan. Here's how Publisher's Weekly covered the event:


, Crackerjacks, and Authors

Macmillan authors Nick

Bruel and Rachel Vail, seen here, were both in attendance at Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Staten Island last Thursday, as the Staten Island Yankees defeated the Connecticut Tigers 6-3. Vail signed copies of Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters (Feiwel and Friends, Apr.), illustrated by Matthew Cordell, and Bruel autographed Bad Kitty Gets a Bath (Roaring Brook/Porter, 2008); Bruel’s next Bad Kitty book, Bad Kitty vs Uncle Murray, comes out at the end of this month.

After the game, there were fireworks, and during the fireworks, JUSTIN CASE and BAD KITTY were shown on the big lit-up
screens. This is my pathetic shot of JUSTIN being shown. Oh, well. You'll have to take my word for it. It was pretty darn

Then my son and husband and I went to LA, to the SCBWI conference -- where I got to meet and talk to many published and aspiring writers. My head was buzzing all day long from the excitement, the inspiration, and the freezing cold air conditioning! It was a wonderful time. More info on that coming soon...

(This is a sculpture by Matisse at the Getty in LA, which we visited the day after the conference. I love it, particularly because it seems to me a fabulous and funny metaphor for how teen girls sometimes feel -- like they are really still little but lost somehow in a huger and huger womanly body...)

After that we went south, to Disneyland! Who knew I'd like roller coasters?! We walked our legs off and fell into bed exhausted each night.

(Here's my son, exhausted on Sunday morning, waiting to leave Disney to go to the airport. He was just glassy-eyed and Disney-fied, in front of the TV showing Disney cartoons in the hotel lobby...)

We flew back Sunday, and then yesterday I had a great day at Writing Camp. Yes, friends, Writing Camp, full of amazingly funny but serious kids ages 9 - 14 who love to WRITE. This would have been the camp of my dreams when I was a kid, in competition only with the 2 (count 'em, 2) Shakespeare Camps that are also, like Writing Camp, within walking distance of my apartment. Some days I just really and deeply love NYC.

Though, man, is it HOT. So I am happy, as much as I love the city, to leave it for a bit and listen to the birds chirping in my newly mulched garden.
Soon I will go with my husband and younger son down to the lake to dip our toes in -- and later this week we will head up to Maine to pick up the older boy...

But I was talking about writing camp. I've done a lot of teaching this past week -- yesterday with kids, earlier in the week at SCBWI with adults. And you know what? It's not that different.

If you want to write books for kids, I really, really recommend either. The only hitch is, for writing camp, you have be under 15.

When I went to camp there was a lot of macrame. Just saying. Also curling irons, used in getting ready for Socials. Not a heck of a lot of talk about finding layers in characters you create, and very little iambic pentameter. There was reading, but maybe that was mostly me. I had the rockin' nickname of Bookworm when I went to camp, which really intimidated tennis opponents, I bet.
Okay, gonna go sit looking at how pretty the garden has become, thanks to Garden Gurus John and Cathy.
It smells great, too, all fresh and cedar-y. Then down to the lake for an evening float.

One of my favorite things about summer is the barefootedness. How about you? What are your favorite parts of summer? Don't
even say macrame. Because, really... macrame?

Rachel Vail

Thursday, August 5, 2010

LUCKY, GORGEOUS, and BRILLIANT are given a shout-out in today's USA TODAY!


And then, ten minutes after I found out about that, I got the great news that BRILLIANT got a STARRED review in VOYA!

Just woke up here in chilly Los Angeles, and already it's a great day.

Now I am off to Disneyland so we'll see how that goes...

Rachel Vail

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I'll post more, including writing tips, soon -- though if you want my Form to Form a Character, please email me and I will send it when I return to NYC (next Monday)...

But for now, here is a terrific blog entry with detailed notes -- thanks so much, Sherrie!


Rachel Vail

Monday, August 2, 2010

If you want a book...

If you want a copy of JUSTIN CASE (or any of my other books) signed and personalized, especially if you are here with me at SCBWI and there aren't any left (sorry!) we can make that happen.

Click on this link:

When I get back to NYC next week, I will dash immediately across Broadway and sign your book, which will go out to you that very afternoon.

Rachel Vail

in LA, with my fellow bookies...

My head is buzzing and my heart is exploding here in Los Angeles at the SCBWI conference. But if I don't go get some food I am going to go all woozy and '40's movie-swoony so all the details will have to wait. For now, though: I spoke this morning to a room full of a thousand new friends, many of whom were incredibly generous in coming up afterwards to share thoughts, tears, and stories of their own. I have learned so much and been so inspired at this conference. If you write (or want to write) books for kids, I highly recommend attending an SCBWI conference. What a treat. I want to get to the afternoon sessions, though, so I MUST find some food. No more blueberry scones from Starbucks!

Rachel Vail

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hooray for Justin! And Independent Bookstores!!!

This just in:

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:


Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo (Minotaur, $24.99, 9780312374983/0312374984). "In this sequel to Sworn to Silence, Police Chief Kate Burkholder is faced with the slaughter of an Amish family of seven. Her search for the killer takes her on a dark journey of discovery and uncovers a disturbing realm of violence and brutality. As before, Castillo keeps the pace quick, the story compelling, and her manner towards the Amish reverent."--Katherine Osborne, Kennebooks, Kennebunk, Me.

Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth
by James M. Tabor (Random House, $26, 9781400067671/1400067677). "This thrilling true-life adventure involves two men, two caves, and enough terrifying hazards to capture any reader! Tabor takes that old adage that what goes up must come down and turns it over--what goes down does not necessarily always come back up. A mesmerizing and compelling read that is best taken on only in well lit and airy surroundings!"--Jerry DeLong, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lyndhurst, Ohio.


The News Where You Are: A Novel by Catherine O'Flynn (Holt, $15, 9780805091809/0805091807). "Old people, old buildings, old friends--Frank Allcroft seems to be losing all of them. He is a pun-cracking television news anchor on the brink of a mid-life crisis but lucky enough to have a young daughter, Mo, who puts his life in perspective. An honest, funny look at family, friends, career and the memories we choose to cherish or leave behind."--Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books and Hobbies, Oscoda, Mich.

For Ages 9 to 12

Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Feiwel & Friends, $16.99, 9780312532901/0312532903). "Poor Justin! He is a worrier. Robbers, tests, even earning Superstars in school are sources of stress. He tells his story in a series of short journal entries that follow his third grade school year from September through June. Readers will cheer--and laugh! Justin (Case) Krzeszewski is my new hero!"--Christopher Rose, Andover Bookstore, Andover, Mass.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bastille Day!

We're celebrating Bastille Day here chez moi -- because, well, why the heck not.

Sometimes, if we can't find a holiday and we are hard up for a party, we will celebrate Tuesday Afternoon.

However, today the book I am currently writing took a surprising, but very cool, turn. This is fantastic, of course, because it yanked me into a highly productive writing day (though as a result I am kind of scrunched up, with my shoulders ratcheted up to my earlobes). This is a good enough reason to party, in my opinion. (Or perhaps do some yoga?) But I do not need an excuse to celebrate today!

Bastille Day is an actual holiday, with a lovely (though historically questionable and of course horribly out-of-touch) command regarding food. My French may be a bit rusty, but I think I have got it -- so this is what I just made for dinner tonight.

Let them eat cupcakes! (But let them wait for frosting.)

Rachel Vail

Friday, July 9, 2010

Signed books!

Want a signed book?

You got it.

Click below to order one of the AVERY books -- or Sometimes I'm Bombaloo -- from my local bookstore, Bank Street Books. They'll let me know. I will dash over there that very day and sign the book just for you -- and they will mail it right out.


David Brooks is so annoying.

He wrote a column in today's New York Times that I should love, because it is all about how great books are, especially for kids. But I can't fully love it, because his attitude is so darn prissy and annoying -- exactly the attitude that turns so many kids off to books.

Here's the link to his column:


I love that researchers gave kids books -- and that the kids got to CHOOSE their 12 books, and that those kids showed real improvements in their test scores. Yay for them, and yay for books.

But contrary to what David Brooks seems to be saying, books aren't just good because they make you a better student. Or because they are somehow hierarchical. Or because a better mind than your own created them and you should just shut up and listen.

Books are interactive in most profound way: the reader's imagination completes the story created by the writer.

Books force us not to just shut up and listen but to imagine and wonder and question.

I get his point about the twitchy anarchy/lack of deep thought of the internet, and also the value in seeing oneself as someone who has books.

But books are also fun, even the classics, even the really hard and deep books. He makes them sound like drudgery to be endured if you want to climb some ladder. Ew.

Do you love books? Why?

Rachel Vail

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Independence!

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend.

I am. (This is the crazy plant in my garden in CT. Every year it gets bigger and crazier and more tropical. But no complaints from me; I love it.)

What a whirlwind! Saturday we went to the wedding of some very close friends in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This is the dress I tried to get. The one I actually wore was similar, but looser. Also, I smiled while wearing mine.
My sons walked the bride down the aisle; the service was completely in Polish;and the day was just perfect in every way. We had spent all morning transforming our apartment into a honeymoon suite for the lovely couple to stay in this weekend -- I hope it was terrific for them, and that the Hershey's kisses I scattered all over the bed didn't melt during the day...
Then yesterday we went to Shakespeare & Co in Lenox, MA, for a reading of the Declaration of Independence (my boys got to read a bit!) and hanging out listening to music, drinking tall cool drinks, and then, at night of course, the traditional viewing of the fireworks (not actual fireworks, though. Instead a production of Richard III. Which was great.)

Today we canoed around the lake here in CT. Mmmm, heaven.

And, my favorite soldier, Zack J, got promoted to Sergeant on Friday! Hu-ah!!!!

Gonna chill for now, but first, two BRILLIANT-related things:

AS PROMISED -- I took the Avery quiz, and here is my result: I am most like... Allison!

Have you taken it yet? I highly recommend it. I was SO surprised to come out most like her, even though in some ways I guess it makes sense... Tell me your results in the comments below! The link is right there in the post below this.

Also -- just got word of a new review for BRILLIANT, this one from Bookchic! I met the great and hugely dedicated guy behind this site at BEA. Here's the link:

And the review is below.
What are you doing to celebrate Independence Day?

Rachel Vail

Brilliant by Rachel Vail
"Everything is going to be fine . . . .

Quinn Avery can handle change. It's just paint, right? Bright, blinding white paint covering her once dazzling red bedroom walls. Quinn knows she shouldn't be angry at her mom—she's doing what she must to sell the house—but still, Quinn is beyond mad, and she doesn't know what to do about it.

Until now, Quinn was doing a pretty good job at pretending to be her old self—calm and brilliant Avery daughter, responsible big sister to Allison and Phoebe, piano virtuoso, girl who makes everyone proud—but without the sanctuary of her room, a new, wild Quinn is emerging. Lying, sneaking out, partying, Quinn is practically asking to get caught. When Quinn adds kissing the wrong boys—including her sister's boyfriend and her own piano teacher—to her list of crimes, has she gone too far to save herself?"- summary from Amazon

I love how Rachel Vail did this trilogy; you get the same situation with different events in each book as it's told from each sister. There's the same family situation told over several months, I think. The timeline was a bit confusing for me as I thought it was going to be the same period of time told through each sister's perspective.

But aside from that, it's interesting to see how each sister views the other two, then to read how the outer appearance is different from the inner. In this one, Quinn is seen as the perfect oldest sister but reading from her point of view, you see that she's way more than that and wants to break out of the mold. It sounds cliche, but Vail makes it more complex and realistic. To me, it's just fantastic how she crafts each character, especially the sisters.

The book flew by for me because it was so interesting. The prose was full of humor, romance, reflective moments, and heated arguments. This trilogy is wonderful for those who love realistic fiction, which can be a bit hard to find these days.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is your beach bag weirdly light? Are you reading cereal boxes?

Enter the HarperTeen Beach Bag Essentials for a chance to win 8 great summer reads! The Carrie Diaries, Forgive My Fins, Brusier, Lies, Brilliant -- and more!

Browse Inside
Gift Guide
Heading to the beach? Be sure to pack
your sunglasses, a towel, and this
season's best reads!

Harperteen is giving away books from some of our favorite authors like Candace Bushnell, Sara Shepard,
Michael Grant, Tera Lynn Childs, Jason Hendricks, Rachel Vail, Chris Lynch, and Neal Shusterman.

Check out the featured books and enter for a chance to win them all!

The Carrie Diaries

The Carrie Diaries

By: Candace

Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

By: Sara Shepard

Lies: A Gone Novel

Lies: A Gone Novel

By: Michael Grant

Forgive My Fins

Forgive My Fins

By: Candace

The Carrie Diaries

Alex Van Helsing:
Vampire Rising

By: Jason Henders

Lies: A Gone Novel


By: Chris Lynch

Forgive My Fins


By: Neal

Winners will be selected at random from entries received. Ten (10) winners will receive the following books: TheCarrie Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, Lies: A Gone Novel, Forgive My Fins, Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising, Brilliant, Hothouse, and Bruiser.


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