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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's here!

The doorbell just rang. It was the wonderful UPS lady with a wonderful surprise: my first copy of my new book, KISS ME AGAIN!

My only copy so far!

Do you want me to give it to you?

'tis the season after all.

Enter below -- all you have to do is type the words KISS ME AGAIN and you're in. The winner will be chosen at random TONIGHT so I can send it out tomorrow, signed to the person of your choice. (After I show it to my guys tonight.)

Love and kisses,

PS I am doing a separate drawing for the character crush people below -- you can have 2 chances to win a book! Because my editor promises more will arrive on my doorstep any day now...

PPS my first but not only character crush was Phineas from A Separate Peace. 

PPPS ALSO -- if you are pre-ordering KISS ME AGAIN and want a signed bookplate, let me know. I will absolutely send that to you ASAP, so you'll have that to give as a promise of what is to come if you're giving gifts this coming week -- and can then stick it inside when the book arrives!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Free Book! Signed, sealed and delivered!


For a chance to win a signed copy of KISS ME AGAIN (which has a thing or two to do with impossible crushes), just post below -- what fictional character do you (or did you ever) have a crush on?

(KISS ME AGAIN isn't even out yet but I will send the winner my FIRST copy as soon as I get it.)

It was chosen by Amazon as one of the 4 best teen books of December! 

So -- which fictional character sets your heart aflutter? I'll post mine tomorrow...

Rachel Vail

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Going in

I wrote in July about how I hurt my back.

The update: it got better, then it got worse. This has not been such a fun couple of weeks.

I watched the election standing up -- I actually can't sit down for more than about 3 minutes at a time these days, because I get this lightning bolt of pain down my leg. There's a disc where it shouldn't be and 2 small fractures and... blurgh.

Anyway, this morning I am going in to get some medical stuff done. I am no fan of such things. But I hope to get through it quickly, smoothly, with terrific style and finesse or at least no troubles -- and be back at work before Thanksgiving. Okay, maybe right after.

It's been such a crazy-busy season, with both my boys applying to their next level of schools along with everything else going on (elections, family celebrations, storms, wars, climate change, sex scandals) and more books of mine being published than in any other year so far -- and more books due, as well (and I don't just mean to the library, though, whoops, there is ALWAYS that as well.) I am ambitious to get back to it all.

So -- until soon. Wish me luck, and I'll wish you some right back. We're all on rough roads sometimes; let's keep an eye out for one another and also the lovely surprises we might miss if we're not determined to witness them.


Rachel Vail

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Charlie's Most Embarrassing Kisses

Today is your last day to enter (here, on my facebook page, or on twitter, with #kissmeagain) your 6-word memoir of your Most Embarrassing Kiss!

I have been reading the hilarious and pithy entries, and it got me thinking: how would Charlie, the main character and narrator of both IF WE KISS and the about-to-be-published KISS ME AGAIN, answer this challenge?

She has so many embarrassing kisses to chose from.

So here are SIX 6-word Most Embarrassing Kiss memoirs of Charlie Collins:
(note: these do NOT appear in the books! They are subtext, though...)

From IF WE KISS time:

Spit out gum; busted by Vice-Principal

Outside, shivering; came inside -- still shivering

Denied it happened until too late

From KISS ME AGAIN: (trying not to include any spoilers!)

Didn't realize that's what was happening!

Said "no" but meant "not yet"

So awesome... until we were caught

And one bonus one, not really embarrassing in the kissing -- but excruciatingly embarrassing to be feeling this, for Charlie, during KISS ME AGAIN:

Kiss me like never again, again.

Now it's your turn!!!

Rachel Vail

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Enter to win KISS ME AGAIN!

Post here or tweet a 6-word memoir of your most awkward kissing moment for a chance to win an ARC of KISS ME AGAIN! 

@harperteen says: use #kissmeagain

share this post (and tag me) to be entered a second time!

Monday, October 22, 2012

My little boy

We had my younger son's Bar Mitzvah last weekend. It was wonderful. My sweet yummy boy blew us all away. 

He amazes us every day – with his wit, intelligence, compassion, courage -- and his panache. I am so explodingly proud of him – of all that he has accomplished, and the fine young man he is becoming in front of my eyes.

When he was a little guy, he was, as he remains, a very intense person. "Formidable" is how I described him in my journal when he was only 6 weeks old. Hadn't known the kid 2 full months but already I could tell -- I knew from the first moments he breathed air and looked into my eyes -- it was inescapably clear that this was a lot of person I'd be contending with. This is a kid who can smell the electric stove warming a tea kettle from across a house and up a flight of stairs (and yells to see if the house is on fire); he could hear the math in a Mozart piece when I took him to a Carnegie Hall concert at age 5 -- and was frustrated with me that I didn't know what he meant when he said "that one had so much math in it! You know what I mean, Mommy! Come on! Stop kidding." But I wasn't.

When he was four, I went into his room to kiss him goodnight one night. He was lying there grinning. What, I asked him. His eyes twinkling, he said, "I wish I could be pizza dough, so you would knead me. Get it Mommy? Knead, need? I want you to need me, both ways! It can mean two things! You know what I mean?" That time I did know.

But he was also the one nursery school kid who could not let go of his mommy’s leg. The one kindergartner who could not stand up in front of the multi-purpose room at school to sing jingle bells at the Winter Concert – he was turning blue, shaking, beyond my reassurances that he didn’t have to do it. Because he felt that he did have to do it. I watched him as he mustered his courage, his little fists balled up – and willed himself toward the front of that room for the final song, which he sang with grim serious determination: This little light of mine, he promised, frowning – I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

And holey moley – what a light it is. A glorious light. He stood up there on the bimah last weekend chanting Torah, singing songs, giving a thought-provoking sermon -- and he ROCKED. He danced, he smiled, he brought the blazing light of his intelligence and the glittering dazzle of his ebullient personality to shine over all of us.

As always, this boy kept his word because wow -- he did and does let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

And hallelujah for that.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I am in the busiest stretch of my life so far, so you won't be hearing from me much -- we've got a Bar Mitzvah for one son and applications due for both, and birthdays, homework, life stuff, and, also, I'm writing a book.

So much I want to write about life and moments of transition and some hilarious stuff and some intense stuff... but I will have to wait for a free hour to reflect before I can. Writing requires that, for me -- a block of time to think. I am one who likes FINISHING, so when I have a 2 page double-spaced TO DO TODAY list, I can't allow my mind the time and looseness that writing requires.

That's why I am taking a short break, to focus on family and on crossing things off lists.

Back to JUSTIN and my other imaginaries in 10 days.

Meanwhile, I just got this nice review on TEEN INK of my book YOU, MAYBE. You, Maybe has always generated a fair amount of controversy because (avoiding spoilers but) the narrator, Josie, makes some choices many readers (justifiably) find really bad. I think this reviewer feels that way, too, but seems to have been able to engage fully with the book because of those choices and her own reactions and thoughts to them. I'd be interested in your take, too, if you've read Y, M or another book where the protagonist makes choices you think are wrong... were you able to understand her and connect with her anyway, or was your pleasure in the reading dashed? Did your anger at the character ever make you think about your own life-choices in a different way? Did you ever reread a book (or rewatch a movie and, even knowing what will happen, root for the character to make a different choice this time?

I LOVE when that happens. You?

Okay, thanks for the break. Back to my lists go I...

Til soon,
Rachel Vail

Sunday, September 23, 2012

First review of my KISS ME AGAIN

Just got the first review of my new book -- and it's from Kirkus:

Author: Vail, Rachel

Review Issue Date: October 15, 2012
Online Publish Date: September 26, 2012
Pages: 256
Price ( Hardcover ): $17.99
Price ( e-book ): $9.99
Publication Date: December 26, 2012
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-06-194717-9
ISBN ( e-book ): 978-0-06-220288-8
Category: Fiction

Middle-class girls in early adolescence will love this book—as will their mothers.
Ninth-grader Charlie Collins has lived with her mother, a divorced Harvard professor, for many years. Now Mom’s new husband, Joe, has moved into the spacious house, along with his sweet 9-year-old daughter, Samantha, and his notoriously flirtatious ninth-grade son, Kevin. From the first page, readers are sucked into a story both angst-y and funny, as Charlie copes with a mutual crush on Kevin; an increasingly tenuous relationship with her best friend, Tess; her first paying job; and other trials and triumphs of growing up. The theme of adjustment to stepfamilies is integrated into every facet of the story, including homework: “There was no way I could settle down enough to read about Hamlet’s scheming stepfather and how awkward it was for Hamlet to deal with a blended family. Uh, no.” Charlie tells her story in the past tense, but the vivid, awkward conversations and Charlie’s constant editorializing—both wittily humorous and earnestly serious—make it clear that the events are in the recent past and that Charlie’s tale will continue to unfold. Vail shows emotional development in the characters introduced in If We Kiss (2005) and liberally sprinkles their lives with such contemporary activities as texting, while sheltering them in a world where French-kissing and finger-lacing are their limits of sexual intimacy.
An enjoyable romance that eschews smutty for sweet. (Fiction. 12-16)

Friday, September 21, 2012

They Rise

Sometimes, like just now, when I've got banana muffins in the toaster oven, I catch sight of them right at the moment they are starting to rise. You can actually witness their dome rising, if you happen to be pouring yourself a cup of tea at the exact perfect second, and you can linger, witness to the change. They bloom right there in front of you.

Maybe I'm not the most confident or experienced baker; maybe I am either an optimist or a pessimist; but I do find myself thinking, whenever I catch that moment -- wow! They're doing it! How do they know -- not just HOW to rise, but that they SHOULD RISE?

(A joke my older son told me: Two muffins are placed in the oven together. One says, "It's starting to get kind of hot in here. Maybe we should get out." The second muffin replies, "ACK! A talking muffin!!!!")

I'm not ascribing intelligence to my muffins, though they are some pretty smart looking muffins.

(Muffins is such an excellent word.)

I know that they rise not because of any decision to rise but because of what they are made of, the interaction of the ingredients, after the stirring and mixing and measuring I did just a few minutes ago. They have no choice, those muffins. Even still, catching them in the act feels like witnessing something magic.

Same with catching a glimpse of my kids, some days lately:

If I stay still and keep watching, they are growing right there in front of me.

And, of course, I must remind myself -- they have no choice; I have no choice -- it is what they're made of. There's a natural chemical thing going on, but there's also a lot of stirring that went into it...

And it does, oh it does feel like witnessing something magic.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New CONTEST/ Book Giveaway!

We gotta have another giveaway.

This time I will give copies of JUSTIN CASE -- there are two, so if you already have one I will send you the other. Tell me which you have, if either, or if you have both and would like a copy of one of them sent to a kid you love, tell me that.


tell me your six-word memoir of this past summer.

Good luck! And congratulations to the winners of the KISS ME AGAIN give-away (your books are on their way to you right now!) but also to all you awesome 6-word memoirists. It is so inspiring to read how powerful, meaningful, funny, and surprising six little words can link up to be...

Winners will be chosen (at random) one week from today, Sept 27. Link to this or post it on your blog or twitter or facebook page (and let me know you've done so!) -- because every time you repost, you're entered again into the contest.
ALSO: I will make a one dollar donation  to FIRST BOOK for every six-word-memoir of last summer posted for this contest. Let's raise some bank for a really worthy cause, while we're at it!

Here's mine: 
July:  laid flat; August: popped up!

Rachel Vail

Friday, September 14, 2012

How's it going?

How's the writing going, a friend asked me earlier today.


I'mma let me finish, but Tom Stoppard (in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) had one of the best answers of all time -- to the question of how my writing is going today:

Rosencrantz: Incidents! All we get is incidents! Dear God, is it too much to expect a little sustained action?
    And on the word, the PIRATES attack.

How's your day going?

Rachel Vail

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book Burning

This is awesome.

Thanks to Neil Gaiman for posting it.

Books + irony + politics = can't lose.

(well, that and clear eye/full hearts, of course.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 11

Two pieces I want to share today, before we go back tomorrow to books and contests and kissing stuff:

This one horrifies me because maybe the attacks could have been stopped before they started, and so many lives could have been spared. Though I have never been a fan of GWB, I can honestly say that I am shocked. I am sitting here on my couch 11 years later feeling kind of mugged with the shocking details of the failure of our government to protect us. It was not just sometimes bad things happen, and not even a great leader or team can prevent all bad events. No. That is what I have believed, all this time. Say what you will about many of GWB's policies -- still, I thought, he was just a guy doing what he thought was best; a determined, focused bad guy can sometimes land a punch against anyone, even someone vigilant and wise. Blaming GBW for 9/11, I thought, was unfair and an overly partisan interpretation of events.

But in truth, it turns out, the Bush administration had been briefed extensively. There were career Intelligence officers ready to resign their jobs in protest that the neocons in the administration were stonewalling -- ignoring the facts the intelligence officers were presenting in hair-on-fire style levels of alarm. And these guys, we all know from movies, are not hair-on-fire guys. They are Houston we have a problem calm cool and collected guys, even under duress. They have short neat hair and deep quiet voices. Nothing causes them to lose their shit. When these guys jump up and down yelling YOU MUST LISTEN TO THIS IT IS AS SERIOUS A THREAT AS CAN EXIST you really do have to pay attention.

But the Bush administration did not. Why?

Because the facts those Intelligence guys were presenting clashed with the administration's preconceived narrative that the real threat was Saddam Hussein, and that therefore Osama Bin Laden was either in cahoots with Hussein or a distraction but in either case not a major threat himself/as a leader of al Qaeda.

Our leaders willfully ignored thoroughly vetted facts and warnings. It wasn't an Intelligence failure that doomed the lives of my friends and neighbors on that amazingly blue day 11 years ago. Or at least it wasn't a failure of the Intelligence Community to gather information. As scary as that possibility is -- that there may be unforeseen threats out there that even the best and most extensive Intelligence Community cannot pick up -- this is worse, and my mind reels.

The failure was a failure to accept facts and Intelligence because reality wasn't fitting neatly into a stubbornly held world view.

That's different -- and worse. It's not an Intelligence failure but a failure of intelligence.

And it was willful.

It is scary to think that people in charge would be stubborn enough to choose to ignore truth and facts in favor of belief. Understandable, maybe, but really scary. I have often thought that it's easier to change your hair color than your mind. It's a huge challenge to be able to say to yourself hmm, this new information means that the way I have been thinking about everything might be seriously off. It's really fun in a movie or book, like in Star Wars or Fight Club or The Sixth Sense or Gone Girl or Atonement, when you hit that point like 3/4 of the way in, where suddenly your mind goes wait -- what?! and you have to rethink all your assumptions. But in real life, it's not fun. It's actually about as hard as it gets. The friend you insisted was really on your side, or the relationship you knew would work even though people you love seem so weirdly freaked out by it... and then the moment comes that you think, uh-oh. Maybe I missed some now obvious hints. Maybe I have to change course.

It take massive moral and psychological courage to change your mind, or your mind-set, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence. Most of us fail at that test many times. But that moral courage is exactly what we require -- what we should and must require -- of our leaders.

Our leaders failed us.

The results of that failure are still playing out, still devastating us. Big stakes, the biggest there are. Which is why science, the scientific method, facts, reality -- must form the basis of our political discussions and compromises. Not just what I believe vs. what you believe -- but what IS, what is demonstrably so, what works and what doesn't -- what is actually going on, not just what we wish or believe or what I think God may have told us vs. what you think God said. There's no place for that in discussions of governance because there is no way to test or prove it. Religion and belief and stubborn adherence to a prefab set of ideals may have their place, maybe a very important place. That place just isn't in a laboratory and it isn't where geopolitical decisions are made.

And if our understanding of something changes -- whether it's about Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within USA or about quarks or epigenetics or the value of early childhood education or the role of fiscal policy in a recession -- we ought to have the courage to change what we do about it.

My husband is a doctor and two of the most important lessons he learned in Med School he has shared with me and our kids and I share with you here:

1. If things don't make sense, if something about a patient's labs or exam or story doesn't fit with other facts you are seeing -- stop. You are missing something. Keep looking at all the available information, keep searching for answers and insights, until you understand what is going on. Don't try to make the lab results fit your preconceived diagnosis. Stay open to the possibilities that every bit of new information adds to your understanding.


2. Don't just do something; stand there. In other words -- don't rush to act; first think about what is going on, what needs to be done, and what the possible ramifications of that action will be. Aim before you shoot -- and make sure you are shooting at the right target.

When our government chooses to ignore what is going on because it doesn't fit their world view, it endangers us. It fails us. They failed us. I am heartsick about it. Whenever I think of what happened on September 11, 2001, I always think about the phenomenal courage and community so many heroes showed. They deserved to have that courage matched by those we trusted to lead us.

The second piece I want to share with you is about that day, about courage and resilience and community. It's from my wise and hilarious and always awesome friend Meg Cabot. Here it is.
You should make time today if you can to watch the video she embedded. It's powerful and beautiful. It recalls so vividly communion we all felt that day when the terror was colossal -- but way overmatched by the goodness, the all-in-it-togetherness, and the courage. 

I was already crying but when the boat captain said, "everybody helped everybody," I started full-out weeping. The way I explained what was going on that week to my then-six-year-old was that there were some bad guys who attacked us, but that there are so many more good guys than bad guys in the world, and that the good guys will work together to catch the bad guys and more generally to keep us safe. I was telling him the truth. People like these boat captains and others Meg discussed in her piece and thousands of New Yorkers and people across the country and across the world who opened up their hearts and arms and wallets in the weeks that followed -- first responders who rushed into burning buildings and military people who rushed to serve and teachers who protected their students that day and beyond, and doctors and nurses and just strangers on the street -- so many, so many brave and generous people. So many more good guys than bad guys.



Looking out my window tonight, I saw the two columns of light shining up into the clear night sky. I love New York so much, especially September in New York, especially days like today when the air is perfect, the sky is blue, my kids are psyched, and their notebooks are full of clean white paper and everything is possible. 2001 seems simultaneously minutes and lifetimes ago.

Sending love and wishing comfort tonight for all who mourn, and all who need it.

Hoping for courage and resilience, for all of us.

Much love,
Rachel Vail

And the winners are:

I could not possibly pick based on the merit of your 6-word memoirs. They were too awesome.

So, two things:

First -- the randomly chosen winners are:

Nicole Hackett
Camilla Corcoran
Jennifer (Jenrenae)
Fausto Umanzor
Hannah Monaco

To the winners: Please tell me (by email or facebook private message) your address and to whom you would like the book signed. I will go to the post office with your books as soon as I get all the responses.


I have to do another contest. This was too much fun.

This time I will give copies of JUSTIN CASE -- there are two, so if you already have one I will send you the other. Tell me which you have, if either, or if you have both and would like a copy of one of them sent to a kid you love, tell me that.


tell me your six-word memoir of this past summer.

Good luck! And congratulations to the winners but also to all you awesome 6-word memoirists!

Rachel Vail


Sometimes cleaning -- and running contests to give away ARCs (of KISS ME AGAIN) -- are just what must be done before writing begins for the day, or the week.

It is not procrastinating, not really.

It is more like, well, it's ...

Okay, it's kind of proccrastinating. But not as much as making a plum torte might be, later today, if I can't figure out the next step in the story...

Contest winners to be announced TODAY. (So there is still that.) I promised myself one solid hour of work, first.

Rachel Vail

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sir. Please.

Just read this nugget on Huffington Post:

Girl's got some spunk.
Newly minted Democratic star Sandra Fluke shared a moment with former President Bill Clinton backstage at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night.
According to the Washington Post, Clinton requested to meet Fluke after she finished her prime-time speech.
He reportedly praised her for doing a great job and then confided that he was nervous about his own speech. Fluke's response? "Sir. Please."
Clinton went on to give a 48-minute speech, in which he offered a full-throated defense of President Barack Obama's record.
No signs of nervousness from the former president were evident.

I love that. Love Sandra Fluke even more now -- cool under pressure, honest, forthright, right. Excellent. That is gonna be my new go-to phrase. Sir. Please.

Rachel Vail

I am WORKING. Seriously. I just got distracted for a minute. By the INTERNET. Does that happen to other people?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Free ARC giveaway -- KISS ME AGAIN!

Look what I just got! ARCs of KISS ME AGAIN.
Gotta give some away. To enter: tell me your six-word memoir of your first kiss.

Here's mine:

 Onstage. Curtain call. Dad filming. Ugh.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


My friend Deborah Heiligman just asked: at what age did it occur to you that grown-ups weren't perfect. Here's my answer -- what's yours?

Me: I remember watching Nixon resign, in my (shag-carpeted, wood paneled) den. I had just turned 7. I said to my parents "He looks like he is lying." They nodded. My mind reeled. I wondered for the first time what it meant that even powerful grown-ups could LIE, and then, further, how far up the corruption of the adults went -- if the president could lie, perhaps even Mr. David Johnson, the principal of my elementary school, could lie. But each time I had that horrible thought I pushed it away. No way. Not Mr. Johnson. No. It couldn't go that far.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


The real first day of school is tomorrow around here. Today's just orientation. 
 Heading out to eighth grade...

And senior year of high school.

The last first day they'll have together.

Ugh, can't start with "lasts" already or this year will pummel me senseless.
Anyway, there's too much to do around here to stop and sigh, for more than a moment.

Though that moment, it needs the stopping and maybe one quick sigh...

One time, as my then-toddler younger son and I were dashing from one thing to another, running late, hurrying, he tugged on my hand, slowing me down. "What?" I asked impatiently.
"Mommy?" he asked. "Do we have time to stop and smell these flowers?"

We didn't have time.
Of course we had time.
Was he teasing me? Was he making a weirdly astute and sagacious observation about priorities and pace and values? Or was he just sincerely interested in smelling the flowers? How many cliches could he possible have heard? He was still such a newcomer to the planet.

"Sure," I answered, warily, and didn't tap my foot or check my watch while he bent his face over the flowers and sucked in a big sniff. Then another. And another.

"Smell them, Mommy."

I bent down, a knee on the dirty sidewalk, to the raggedy flowers in the tiny patch of dirt fenced in near a scraggly tree. They didn't really smell like anything.

I turned to my son, his face now level with mine, his red lips wet and smiling. "Nice, huh?" he asked me, and threw his arms around me, planting soggy kisses on  cheek. He, unlike the flowers, smelled wonderful.

I scooped him up. "Really nice," I said.

He grinned.

Then we rushed off to our next thing, and the next, and ten minutes later, it seems, here we are. His last year before high school. His older brother's last year at home. Holy crap. Let me stop and breath this in for one honking second. Do we have time to stop and smell these flowers?

Seeing my boys smile, still -- getting those kisses even now that they are teenagers and I don't have to kneel down to be face-to-face (quite the opposite in fact), watching their strong straight backs as they walk away from me toward their next adventures... sometimes my heart is too exploding for my body. I have so much going on right now, so much to do, no time to stop -- and yet the stopping is up there near the top of my list of to do to day, too. Catch my breath, and my breath catches: look at where we are. Wow. Oh, my babies. Oh.

Last weekend, my mother-in-law described pulling up recently to a wonderful fancy birthday party for a friend of theirs, not sure they'd arrived at the correct entrance -- but then saying to my father-in-law, "Look at all these decrepit, fashrunken, fakrimpt people: we must be in the right place!"

Even in the stress of firsts, lasts, fashrukens,  and rushes, it is good to feel like we're in the right place.

Are you?

I hope you are, or heading there. (And on your way, don't forget to, you know, stop and...)

Rachel Vail

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Flabbersmashed review!

Just received this lovely review from the July 2012 Booklist, about my newest book!

Flabbermashed about You.
Vail, Rachel (Author) , Heo, Yumi (Illustrator)
Jul 2012. 32 p. Feiwel and Friends, hardcover, $16.99. (9780312613457).
Vail and Heo first introduced Katie Honors in Sometimes I’m Bomabaloo (2004) and Jibberwillies at Night
(2008), both of which deal with common childhood issues, and now they’re back to tackle another: What
happens when your best friend makes a new best friend? Hurt doesn’t even begin to describe the emotion,
nor does angry or frustrated. Flabbersmashed. That’s what Katie feels when BFF Jennifer suddenly
forgoes cooking “imaginary broccoli-blueberry soup” with her in favor of playing warriors (the game is
“killing the bad guys”) with Roy. What’s different about this depiction of friendship is that, as sometimes
happens in life, there’s no reconciliation to be had. Katie needs to find the strength to move forward and to
realize that somebody other than Jennifer might also make a pretty great friend. The writing here is
evocative—“My whole self felt like a bruise”—and Heo’s mixed-media compositions play with
perspective and size, particularly as they capture Katie’s sorrow and loneliness. Change is hard, but if
Katie can do it, maybe other kids can, too.
— Ann Kelley

Here's some art from the book, starting with the cover:

I think Yumi Heo really outdid herself with this book. If you loved Katie and took her into your hearts and homes with Sometimes I'm Bombaloo and Jibberwillies at Night  -- thank you! I love hearing from families and teachers who have found creative, inspiring ways to discuss Katie's struggles and triumphs with their own kids. I'm so excited to have a new Katie Honors book now to share with you.

Much love,
Rachel Vail

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Birthday meditation

 I woke up yesterday morning, on my birthday, thinking, hmmm:

I am 36.

I don't particularly FEEL 36, but then I've never particularly felt any age. Like when I was a kid and turned 7, or 8, or 9, and people asked how it felt to be a 7 (or 8- or 9-)year-old and I honestly didn't feel any different so I didn't know how to answer. "It feels fine," I'd usually say, and adults would laugh. I had learned by about age 5 that saying something like "it feels fine" with a raised eyebrow led most adults to laugh and think I was smart and ironic instead of just baffled.

36, I mused, my eyes still closed, yesterday morning. Well, that's not so old. I'm cool with being 36. I'm 36, I repeated in my mind, trying it on for size. Thirty-six. Wait a second. 36? How can I be 36? My kids are about to turn 13 and 18. I had them when I was 28 and 33. I'm no math scholar but I can not be 36.

Hold on.

I'm 46.


My eyes opened.


I am 46. Wow. Forty-frigging-six???

Well, okay. 46. And how does that feel?

It feels fine.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kisses -- and a poem

Here's a poem I just came across on facebook that I really like: Monet Refuses the Operation

And here, for a different kind of fun, is a link to Storycrush where I am the guest-blogger today -- about the All-Time Great Kisses Ever. WITH LINKS. Warning: lots of kisses. LOTS.

Come and comment -- add, debate, argue, agree. Of all the stuff being debated these days, won't it be good to argue about which kisses are actually even more wonderful than which other kisses?

Love and kisses,
Rachel Vail

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Writing Lying Down

Here's what happened:

On July 1st, my husband and I were planting two new small trees, given to us for our birthdays by my parents. Crepe Myrtles. We each dug a hole. I was faster than my husband, and proud of how perfect my hole looked. In fact, while he went to get the bag of fertilizer stuff to put in the bottoms of the holes before the trees were placed inside, I decided I was such a primo hole-digger, I'd held him out with his hole, show him how it's done.

Second shovel in, I hit rock. My foot slipped off the shovel and into the hole. And something in my back went pop.

Hubris. Gave me a big oh, yeah? You think you are so awesome, do ya? As hubris always frigging does.

I will not go into the horrible details, mostly because I am sitting up, here on July 17, a thing I can only do for very short stretches, still, before I have to go lie flat again. Suffice it to say that when my husband carried me into the house it would have been wayyyyy more romantic an event if he had been a linebacker, I had been a ballerina, and mostly if I hadn't been screaming my head off in pain.

Much better now. Can actually walk around a bit. Though when I walked out to the drug store yesterday, a block away, it took about half an hour and I almost had to stop to cry on the way back.

And I LOVE SUMMER. I love running in the heat and boating and biking and kyaking and way planning to (re)learn to waterski this summer. Also I have BOOKS to write. And friends to meet at outdoor cafes where we should be drinking cool white wine and laughing! Also, picnics! Yoga classes! And jumping on the trampoline with my little guy. And just wandering around in cute platform sandals.

And sitting up when I type for an HOUR at a time. Or even standing!

Hubris, you really suck.

Still, that hole I dug was sweet.


I am SOOO going to get in great shape when I can. My core muscles will be SOLID, so my back won't be tempted to go all zig-zaggy ever again. Meanwhile I spent some time compiling my list of best kisses in books, movies, plays, etc. -- for a great blog called STORYCRUSH. I'll link to it as soon as it's up. And speaking of kisses... there are some fun contests going on where you can win a free ARC of my upcoming sequel to IF WE KISS. It's called KISS ME AGAIN and it's coming out this winter. Here's the link!

And in all the excitement, I have not yet gotten to celebrate the publication of my newest picture book! It's a sequel to my book SOMETIMES I'M BOMBALOO -- this one is called FLABBERSMASHED ABOUT YOU and it's about your old pal Katie Honors on the day her best friend chooses somebody else, not Katie, to play with. Which makes Katie feel quite flabbersmashed. See it, and reviews, here.

As soon as I am up and about, I promise to run some kind of giveaway for FLABBERSMASHED -- but if you go out and get a copy before then, will you let me know? Send photos and I'll post them! Same with if you get a JUSTIN CASE book (starred reviews of the first and second JUSTIN CASE books, and a Q & A about writing JUSTIN here) -- I've gotten some really adorable shots of kids reading the JUSTIN books and have some ideas for putting something cute together... send more!

Okay, though -- back to the floor for more of my rug imitation, for now. Send me lovely pictures of your glorious summer...

Rachel Vail

Monday, June 18, 2012

Help with the writing process

Today I went to #Teach21c and spoke with a room full of teachers about writing, rewriting, technology, kids, reading, and listening. It was lots of fun.

What I didn't mention is who REALLY writes my books.

I'm coming clean; here's how it really happens:

Thursday, June 7, 2012


My big guy is at the prom.

I'm gonna leave the piles of laundry and editing and dishes where they are and take the little one out for an ice cream, quick while I can.

Tempus so fugits.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

4 PM

Sometimes the day just gets away from me.

I think I've got it well in my grasp and then, wham. How the heck is it 4PM already? And June? And my kids are all big and stuff?

I was just sitting there making stuff up for a bit, and when I got up to refill my tea cup, I realized the world had gotten way spinnier.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Trying that whole giveaway thing again...

So here's what happened:

The day JUSTIN CASE: Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom came out, my sweet husband brought home roses and cava, to celebrate. My older son had his laptop on the counter, and was choosing good music to play. A fantastic celebration was starting, just the four of us, laughing, dancing around the apartment, catching our breath in the midst of the busiest year of our lives to CELEBRATE -- and that's when we knocked over a glass of cava right onto my son's keyboard.

The thing clicked off instantly. BAD SIGN.

I will not bore you or torture myself with the details of what happened after that, for the next 3 weeks of phone calls and trips around Manhattan and stress. Suffice it to say that my son, who handled the situation with so much more grace than I would have mustered had the situation been reversed, is in 11th grade. May of 11th grade. He had papers he'd written on that computer -- and half-written. Applications that were due for stuff at school next year. Plays he'd written and was revising. Hundreds of songs. Thousands of photos. Some backed up; most not.

Plus -- no computer on which to communicate with all his friends and co-workers on multiple projects; no way to write all his papers and other stuff except to borrow mine -- less than ideal.

It was, as a cousin of mine says, Not Good.

So I suspended the book give-away contest that was supposed to happen mid-celebration, since the celebration was abruptly halted. 

Until today. Because:

The good news: everything from my son's cava-soaked hard drive has been rescued!
The bad news: the computer itself is in the trash. 
The necessity: New computer has been purchased.
The upshot: a sad goodbye to so many dollars.
The celebration: the book giveaway is back on track! 

So here it is!

The JUSTIN CASE contest:

Win a free copy of JUSTIN CASE: Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom!
All you have to do is type JUSTIN CASE in the comments below. Share this link to be entered 5 times -- and have a donation made in your honor to First Book!
Winners chosen at random Sunday night sometime... so enter asap.

You can go here to get more info on the book, and buy it from Amazon here or Bank Street Bookstore here.

But whatever else you do today, take these two pieces of advice:
1. back up your stuff.
2. keep your cava away from your (and your kids') computer

okay, and,

3. enter to win a free book!

Rachel Vail

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Sometimes, like today, I think, Holy Crap! Is it hailing in here?

But it's not.

It's just that I have so many balls in the air and I forgot for a second to juggle them. So the balls all fall down on my head.

It's not a terrible thing, especially because the balls are metaphorical, and not as embarrassing as that time last month when I was wandering around lost in New Haven in my pajamas (don't even ask), but it does make me feel a bit discombobulated.

This stage of a book is always a bit odd, for me. Does this happen to you?

At least I didn't slam my own head in a bathroom stall door this time. That really sucks.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pub Day Give-Away!

It's Pub Day today for JUSTIN CASE: Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom!

My case of books came yesterday -- so that means that today I will give some away!


All you have to do is write JUSTIN CASE in the comments section here on my blog or on facebook to be entered into the contest. I will give away one book for every 20 people who enter the contest so your odds stay good no matter what! 

If you retweet, reblog, or repost this, I will also donate a dollar in your honor to First Book, a terrific charity that gets books to kids who need them desperately. 

The contest starts now. Winners will be chosen tonight at 8:30 PM. So enter now!

And if you are a kid and you want to make a book trailer about JUSTIN CASE, send me a link. The trailer should be 30-60 seconds long, be original and creative, include non-copyrighted music, and capture what you like about Justin. The winners of the trailer contest will win signed copies and maybe also gummy worms. I'll chose winners of the trailer contest in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for celebrating with me today! 

Rachel Vail

PS Do you want a preview? You can get more info, read reviews, even read an excerpt right here!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy birthday

It's my mom's birthday today.

She's probably the kindest person I know. I love how willing she is to have her mind changed about most things, how non-defensively open she is to new ideas, how positively she chooses to look at everything - and everybody. My husband calls her the Master of Unconditional Positive Regard -- and when my kids imitate her (they are dead-on mimics, not always the most welcome of skills I have to admit) they say "Oh! That's wonderful! You are so terrific!"

She is also, like her fictional grandson Justin Case, quite the worrier. Until last summer, she had never been on a trampoline and certainly never planned to be on one. She hates jiggling movements, gets extraordinarily anxious when she doesn't have stable ground under her feet, and is not a fan, to say the least, of jumping. But her grandsons said, "Come on, Grandma!" So she came on. She squealed and screamed and gripped her hands tight in fists -- but she even, eventually, jumped. Hanging on to her grandsons. And her courage. And her endless enthusiasm.

Happy birthday, Mom.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Justin is coming back!

JUSTIN CASE 2 is coming in a week.

May 8.

Can you believe it's May already? It looks very March out my window, honestly.

But no -- seriously, it is MAY.

As in, when my kids were little and making an effort at being polite, they used to say May you please STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!?!?!?!?!!!!!

May is such a polite, or perhaps just tentative, sounding month-name. Like it should be followed by Should. Or Must. Or even Shall.

But no. It's followed by the lovely June, which sounds as just as oooo as it always feels.

May. Full of possibilities. May rain, may not. May hold surprises in store. May.

In celebration of May Day, here is a link that (in the middle of the page) includes an excerpt from JUSTIN CASE: Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom.

JUST CLICK HERE! and you will go to the MacKids page about the book.

When I get my copies, maybe we should do a contest? A give-away? Send suggestions for fun ways to give away some free copies! May be you'll win?!!!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Writing Advice from an Unlikely Source

My little tortoise, Lightning, has been working on getting through the space between the chair and the speaker for the past ten minutes.

No whining, no cursing. Just working on a problem he came up with for himself, utterly unnecessary in the larger scheme of things to solve, but clearly vital to him in the moment.

I relate.

That's how the writing is going these days for me. That's the stage of book I'm at: stuck, in a tight space of my own creation, plodding away with no discernible progress.

But then, as I was writing this, thinking well, this is kind of a depressing little note, isn't it? Lightning turned himself around and went the other direction. No self-criticism at least as far as I can tell, just a decision to try a different route.

For somebody with a brain the size of a pignoli nut and no published work to his name, he has some pretty sharp insights to share about the writing process. Okay, Lightning. I get it. Fine. I'll try that.

OTOH, if he is so brilliant, why is he now trying to get through the wall behind my desk?

Friday, April 27, 2012

learning lessons

Feeling stuck yesterday, I tried doing the lessons I taught other writers, this past weekend in Seattle.

Happily, THEY WORKED. So now I am not only flying (or at least plodding) forward in my current book -- I also don't feel like a fraudulent jerk, trying to pass off loser time-waters on unsuspecting innocents.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Catching Up

I've hardly been home at all these past few weeks -- some book travels, some college visits, and just returned from SCBWI in Seattle (I adore the SCBWI Western Washington crew!!!)

Got to travel a bit with each of my sons, which was honestly really fun. They are such great guys, and they keep me laughing way too much. I keep expecting to freak out a bit about Baby Z looking at colleges, moving on, moving away... but I keep not, so far anyway. Maybe I am just having too much fun with him, or maybe he has been so independent and yet connected for so long that I'm not worried about whether our bonds will fray when he spreads his wings and takes to the sky? Or maybe it's denial? I know I will miss him terribly when I don't see him every day. I do like hanging with that guy.

Tomorrow is my first full day back at the desk, and I am looking forward to the writing. Hope I remember how to do it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quick! Easter is coming!

love this new review

Piggy Bunny By Rachel Vail April 4, 2012

Filed under: Picture Books — sommerreading @ 12:28 pm
Not too late for the Easter Basket on Sunday….Piggy Bunny by Rachel Vail is sweet and funny and really cute. This story has been told before, but don’t let that stop you from adding it to your Easter read-aloud list. Liam, who is a piglet, wants to be an Easter Bunny. He tries to get all of the Easter Bunny-like characteristics down. “He tried to practice hopping. He tried to enjoy salad. And he tried to deliver eggs.” Liam is an all-round awesome little guy – piglet or bunny!
After some well-meaning, but discouraging, words from his family and friends, Liam is sad. In the book’s most heart-wrenching scene, Liam says “This is the the kind of problem that is called heartbreaking.”  But…Liam gets some help from his grandma who, like any good 21st century grandparent, knows how to find an Easter bunny suit online. You can guess how the books ends – happily of course.
I love Piggy Bunny. The message of being true to yourself is always a good one to hear and this book takes a fresh and fun approach. It would be even sweeter if you read it while enjoying a chocolate bunny!

Get Ready for Easter Fun with Piggy Bunny by Rachel Vail!

Vail, Rachel. Piggy Bunny. Illustrations by Jeremy Tankard. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2012. Ages 2 and up.

Just in time for Easter comes Rachel Vail's funny and whimsical Piggy Bunny!

I have to admit it: In my pre-reading, I found the premise of this book a little silly. Liam the piglet didn't want to be a pig when he grew up. Instead, he wanted to be the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny?! But what an adult will find silly and hard to believe, a preschooler will find raucously funny, as evidenced in my five year-old, who started to bounce and laugh uncontrollably. Liam is one of those characters that we readers of picture books adore: he's a little out-of-sorts. He wants to do his own thing in a world where everybody pressures him to conform. He's the one who marches to the tune of his own music. And that is something with which some children not only resonate, but need to hear more about. 
Liam wants to be the Easter Bunny so bad that he practices hopping, enjoying salad (not easy for a pig!), and delivering eggs. He falls down, finds salad unappealing, and drops his eggs. To their credit,Liam's parents say the right things: "You are perfect just exactly the way you are," but their actions tell him: be just like everybody else. Pigs can't be Easter Bunnies. When Liam, heartbroken, wonders: what if they were right?" and begins to lose faith, his parents step in and order a bunny suit off the internet. (That last detail was rather shocking. Sure, we live in a world where we order costumes ready-made, but I suppose in the world of picture books, one still expects a kindly granny to sew one up in a jiffy.) Once the costume arrives, Liam puts it on, and looks in the mirror: "looking back at him, was Liam, the Easter Bunny."

I have to say that the illustrations where Liam imagines himself to be the Easter Bunny are the funniest. Not only that, they show us the power of a young person's imagination to believe fully that they can be anything. By the end of the book, Liam is a happy Easter Bunny, and "everybody believed in him." It's a great message to send to parents and children about just being yourself. When children have parents and adults to believe, they really can do anything. 

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