Susan’s Books

The Poetry Friday Anthology

First my confession. It’s been a long time goal of mine to be in a poetry anthology. And now, at last, I am! I have a poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology.

This beautiful book is the brainchild of poetry champions Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong with a nod to Kelly Herold who started the internet sensation of Poetry Friday years ago.

Teachers who want to bring more poetry into the class AND tie it to the curriculum standards will love this book.

From the announcement flyer:

“The Poetry Friday Anthology brings the Poetry Friday concept into the classroom or library and makes it easy to take five minutes every Friday (or any day) to share a poem.

Explore a poem, connect it with children’s lives and capitalize on a teachable moment. Pausing to share a poem – and reinforce a language skill – on Poetry Friday is a simple and effective way to infuse poetry into your own current teaching practice or routine.”

This anthology is available in both print and e versions. Go to and type “Poetry Friday Anthology” into the search box and check it out!

Friday, August 17, 2012|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: |18 Comments

Ripples from a book

Yesterday the ALA Youth Media awards were announced. It’s a big, big day in the world of children’s literature. Lives are changed by the experience of winning a major award. Careers take a flying leap forward. It seems like everyone in the industry knows the name of the winners, the names of the winning books.

Five years ago, after another ALA Youth Media awards day, I was pumped up with some excitement of my own. No, I didn’t win any big award but I did learn that my middle grade novel, Hugging the Rock, was named an ALA Notable. And it got a lovely, shiny  sticker on the cover.

Let me tell you, that pretty much rocked my world.That was when the book was in hardback. Then it came out in paperback. Then it sold to the UK. Then, well, then Tricycle was sold, the new publisher decided not to reprint the hardback version, and then, well, we got the news that Tricycle was going to be shut down for good. It was hard to remember that happy, shining moment five years ago when my book was new and people were giving it a lot of love. Hey, that’s the way it is in this crazy, wonderful business.But this past week has been filled with some other happy, shining moments with this book. I’m getting those requests from students for book report information (which is all on my website, if you just go to the “about me” page.) And some of those requests were prefaced with the student feedback that showedme they had actually read the book. One student told me that she wasn’t Rachel, the main character, but that she was Sara, and her best friend’s mom was just like Rachel’s mom in the book. She said reading Hugging the Rock helped her understand her friend a little better. Right to my heart with that one.

Then, this week, I received an email from a gentlemen who is going to facilitate a library discussion on Hugging the Rock with a group of students. He wrote to share his story with me and asked me some questions about the book. He was doing some heavy duty research on the story before he talked to the students because he knows, this is a tough topic and not one a lot of people want to deal with. So he spent some time reading my website and then my blog and it led him to this entry where I shared a college paper written by a young woman who identified very strongly with Hugging the Rock.

And then I got it. Some books make a huge splash all at once and get a lot of attention. And that is great and wonderful. (I’m all for anything that gets kids excited about books.)

But some books make ripples instead of splashes. If you’re someone who had a book come out this year and you’re wishing you had a great big splash, I say, don’t worry. There are still ripples to be made. Some books take time to find their audiences. Some books, like Hugging the Rock, need time for the adults to read them and then, to put them into the hands of the children who need to hear the stories.

Sure, who wouldn’t want to make a big splash now and then. But hey, a ripple can go on and on and on every time someone shares a book they love with someone they know needs to hear the story.

So if you can’t make a splash, make a ripple.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , |18 Comments

Happy book birthday to me!

After several long years (this book sold the same month Hugging the Rock did) I am proud to announce that the true story of Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo is out from Lerner Publishing. The illustrator, Jeni Reeves, did a marvelous job on the illustrations.

This book is based on the true story of young Enrique Esparza who took shelter at the Alamo with his family when Mexican General Santa Anna and his army came to battle the Texans in San Antonio. The book is out in both hardback and paperback at the same time which I think is very smart of the publishers. And what fun for teachers, there’s a Reader’s Theater all ready for you in the back of the book!

Now if I could just figure out how to get it into the gift shop AT the Alamo, wouldn’t that be sweet? 🙂

Wednesday, July 14, 2010|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , |28 Comments

Winner of the Hugging the Rock Book Trailer Contest!

Congratulations to FreshBrain user caitlin1591 who is the winner of the $1,000 “FreshBrain Video Book Trailer Scholarship” based on my book, Hugging the Rock. There were so many really talented teens who entered the contest and I want to thank all of them for the time and effort they put into their trailers. Many of them really went for the heartstrings, just like my book.

Thank you, Cailin!

Monday, January 18, 2010|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , |6 Comments

Hugging the Rock on TV

How exciting is it to see a copy of your book on TV?

Very. Very very exciting.

A huge thank you to author Katie Davis for showcasing my book, Hugging the Rock, on TV(in Connecticut) for Father’s Day round-up.

Sunday, June 21, 2009|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |9 Comments

Listen to Me Read – Doctor Dan From Hugging the Rock

In addition to my native garden inspired Haiku for every day in April I am also happy to be able to share permission to do a few audio recordings of some poems from Hugging the Rock to help celebrate National Poetry Month.

CREDIT LINE: Posted with permission from Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown. Copyright © 2006 by Susan Taylor Brown, Tricycle Press, Berkeley, CA.

The Poetry Friday roundup today is at Becky’s Book Reviews.

Today’s poem is Doctor Dan.

Who's Hugging the Rock?

It’s always hard for me (and perhaps for many authors) to talk about myself and my books. Sometimes I fear people will think I am putting more credence in my words (or self) than I should. Other times I perhaps don’t value myself or my words enough. Sometimes it’s just hard to toot your own horn. Which means it is especially nice when someone comes along who understands where a story might have sprung from or who looks at a story I have written in a completely different way and makes me wonder if that was what I meant all along.

I’ll tell you right now that this is a long post but one I think is worth the time it will take you to read it.

Over the period of writing Hugging the Rock I was asked (and asked myself) what this story was really all about. I started off thinking it was about my daughter and her father. I ended thinking it was about me and never knowing my father. But now, several years after the book has been out, Erica Harrington makes me wonder more about the mother in the story.

I have never met Erica but she won my heart by the kindness that she shows to my son Ryan. They both volunteer at the Loma Vista Life Skills class for adults with disabilities. When Erica told Ryan she was working on a children’s book project for school he put her in touch with me so I could offer whatever helpful tips I might have to share. It was fun to see her excitement as her own book took shape. Toward the end of the school year Erica sent me a paper she had written. A paper she had written on MY BOOK.

This was a first for me and I confess, I was a little bit nervous about opening it the first time. What would I say if it I didn’t like it? Luckily, that was not a problem. Instead I was blown away by her thoughts on the book. I also wanted to give her a hug of my own.

Today is Erica’s birthday, so it seemed like the perfect time to share this. Happy birthday, Erica! May you continue to touch the lives of many with your kind heart.

With Erica’s permission, her is her entire paper on my middle grade verse novel, Hugging the Rock.

                                               Who’s Hugging the Rock

                                                       by Erica HarringtonIn Hugging the Rock, Susan Taylor Brown tells the poignant story of a young girl abandoned by her bipolar mother, her painful attempts to adapt to life without her, and her eventual bonding with her father as they create a new life for themselves. Written in achingly touching free verse in the daughter’s voice, the story will undoubtedly lead most readers to identify with the abandoned daughter, Rachel, and to feel sympathetic toward her clueless but well-meaning father as he tries to make it up to her. Having survived an abusive childhood, I very often identify with the child victim because of the many injustices she must endure at the hands of an unstable parent.  However, Susan Taylor Brown so brilliantly sheds light on the frightening truths of being bipolar, un-medicated, and in the throes of uncontrolled episodes of manic depression that I cannot help but see the unfairness and cruelty of this gripping story through the eyes of the absent mother. While no one would deny the innocent young girl’s suffering in this horrendous situation not of her own making, I would argue that the first victim here is Rachel’s mother.

Rachel’s anguish is evident throughout the story. From the first it is obvious that Rachel is confused and distraught that her mother is packing to leave “with all the things that matter most” (2)—not Rachel: “…By the time she’s done / there’s no room left for anything else. / No room left for Dad. / And no room left for me” (3). It’s clear that Rachel knows her mother’s leaving makes no sense, but that doesn’t lessen the pain, and neither does her father’s explanation: “The hurt / settles in my heart / like one of those giant rocks you tie to something / when you want it to sink / and I feel like I am drowning / in the truth / of his words” (132). Her father’s pain, guilt, and bumbling attempts to bond with her are also apparent. In telling her the whole truth about her mom, Rachel’s father admits, “I felt like a failure” (131), and goes on to say, “…when I couldn’t give you the mom you deserved / I just stopped trying” (131). Their relationship begins to mend and rebuild when she lets him squeeze her hand and tell her lovingly, “…I wanted you then / and I want you now” (132). Both Rachel and her father are sympathetic victims in this situation. But what about the mother?

It’s easy to blame any mother who would abandon her child—she must be selfish or irresponsible or weak—because there is a far greater level of expectation than for fathers, a demand to be perfectly and instinctively maternal. The prototypical fairytale mother is either all-knowing and kind, or completely unfeeling and villainous. But what if your instincts are all wrong, not suited to this responsibility? What if you cannot do what society expects? It is Rachel’s mother who is truly a victim: of her disease, of society’s expectations of women, of society’s ignorance about mental illness, and of her husband’s selfish desire for a child, thinking that he could fix her by tying her down to what for her is a monstrous, impossible responsibility.

Rachel’s father admits his wife did not want a baby. She knew herself well enough to know she couldn’t handle it, but he pressured her anyway, knowing her history of serious instability. Rachel’s dad tells her “…how Mom said she wasn’t cut out to be a mother / and how he said she could learn / and how they fought about it until Mom gave in” (130). Some victory.

There is ample proof Rachel’s mother was unable to handle the responsibility of raising a child because of her unmedicated and uncontrolled manic episodes, both before and after Rachel’s birth.  The risks she took while Rachel was in her care are frightening: “My mom liked to drive fast / especially around corners / where she could jerk the steering wheel so hard / …and she’d take one hand off the steering wheel / …laughing so loud that I had to laugh too” (86). When in a manic state, there is a feeling of invincibility that a person experiences, and this euphoria can be dangerous because of the risks a manic person is willing to take without regard for those around them. Surely Rachel’s father knew this.Who is the real villain here, if there is one? If Rachel’s father knew his wife was “all mixed up inside” (129), to put it mildly, how could he knowingly pressure her into becoming a mother when she was so dependent on him to be her rock? He took advantage of this for his own selfish needs, admitting to Rachel, “…I needed to be needed” (129), and yet he didn’t support her the way she needed him to. He prevailed on her to have a baby, making a promise he had no right to make—”he tells me / how he promised her / that she could leave whenever she wanted…” (130)—putting her in an untenable situation and using guilt and Rachel as a pawn in his attempt to keep her from leaving. How is this fair to Rachel, to know that her mother could not be what she was expected to be, and that her father had brought her into this unstable life to fill his own personal void? Did he even consider the impact it would have on Rachel’s mother, let alone the impact it would have on Rachel herself?

Hugging the Rock
brings out my deepest, most personal fears of becoming a mother and living my life the way Rachel’s mother does—a frightening, never-ending, manic swing of instability, inconsistency and absentminded, uncaring parenting. I feel as though bringing a child into the world when one cannot manage herself is the most irresponsible a person can be when diagnosed with a mental illness. Rachel’s mother did not want to take on that responsibility, she was pressured into it. I would argue, therefore, that it was the healthiest thing for Rachel’s mother to do to leave her daughter with her father because it shows, on some level, that she realizes she cannot fulfill the role of wife and mother forced on her by her husband, on whom she was dependent. The way Rachel’s mother behaves and the way her absence affects Rachel is my greatest fear as a woman with Bipolar Disorder—I do not want to have children for fear of allowing my life and personal relationships to fall in shambles. Susan Taylor Brown’s story of an abandoned girl is an anthem to the power of a father-daughter relationship, yet speaks just as loudly, if not more so, to the tragedy of an abandoned woman, forced to battle her mental illness on her own.

Thank you, Erica.

Thank you for reading my book with such an open heart and mind. Thank you for responding to my story with a full heart. And thank you for letting me share your paper with the rest of the world.

Monday, June 16, 2008|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |26 Comments

Feast or famine, a writer's life

For months I have been busy not writing. For over a year I have been busy not writing. I have been doing an awful lot of NOT writing. Not even thinking about writing except how, once upon a time I used to be a writer.

Then I decided to wade back into it all. I was ready. I could go slowly. I had nothing pending that needed my immediate attention so I could play with a few ideas and see where they took me. My only writing goal for 2008 was to write three proposals. A hopeful goal would be to turn one into a really rough draft of a complete book. No problem. I had three ideas that interested me: the flying book I’ve been trying to write for over 20 years, the plant book, and Max.

First I worked on the flying book. You may remember my huge index cards project. By the time I was done I was hyped up and ready to go to work. Then came Christmas, family melt-downs and illness. I lost my way.  

Because I didn’t know what to do next, I borrowed an idea from 

 and started writing letters to the main characters in the three books I wanted to work on.  


The way I saw it, even if I wasn’t actually WRITING a book, I was THINKING about writing again. I know that thinking about writing and actually writing aren’t the same things but I was okay with inching my way slowly back to words. I figured a few letters to Flyboy would be all I’d need to take off writing about him. Across the last couple of weeks I’ve written about 20 new pages for Flyboy, in longhand. It’s not a lot, especially if you look at the word meters so many writers post in the blogs, but for me it was progress and that was all that matters.

Now here’s what’s been going through my writer’s brain. When I wrote the new pages on Flyboy I thought they were horrible, stilted, boring and had absolutely nothing to recommend them. They were garbage, the crappy first draft I had to get through before I could find the story. But writing such horrible junk stifled me. How would I ever be able to turn it into a book that someone would want to read? I tossed that notebook aside and went back to the character letters of the Plant kid and the story of Max. One day I saw the plant kid in the yard and I grabbed a notebook and jotted down what he was doing. And then I shivered, those good shivers which tell me there’s something there, maybe even that elusive voice. Yet I tossed that notebook aside too because I was supposed to be working on Flyboy’s book first. It was the one I had promised myself to finally right or admit that I would never write.

But I couldn’t make myself go back to that crummy draft and reread those stilted words. I couldn’t make myself ADD to those stilted words. So last night I looked at the letters I had written about the story of Max and wondered about him a bit more and I wrote the opening scene. And it was all there, his friend, the gypsy lady, the setup, and of course, Max. In one short scene. And I shivered again.

Before bed last night I told my husband that was it, Flyboy was grounded because it was absolute crap and had no magic and it was obvious I was supposed to work on the plant book and Max. So so obvious. Absolutely not interested in working on that flying book at all.

Each night I give myself a dream suggestion to do with my writing. I wasn’t sure what my question was going to be so I picked up the notebook on my nightstand (you can totally see where this is going, right?) and I figured I’d just flip through it, read a few pages, give myself a dream suggestion and call it a night. I saw Flyboy’s pages and thought there was no harm in reading them because I had already decided they were crap and I wasn’t going to work on that book.

And the Universe giggled.

Sure, the words were still rough and there were lots of missing pieces and bits of notes to myself like (describe this and what is that gauge called again and why doesn’t this character have a name) but I got sucked into the scene, the story, and I wanted to know the answers to the questions I had posed in those pages. And most importantly, again, I felt the shiver.

What does this mean? Well besides the fact that it appears I am currently roughing out 3 books at the same time, (which means it’s going to get really crowded in my head and my poor husband will be once again bucking for Sainthood) it means the magic is back. Because I think that’s what those shivers were – the reminder of how wonderfully magical it is to have these stories to tell and the ability to tell them. I woke up excited at the thought of diving deep into fiction.

The Universe has a wicked sense of humor though. Way back in October of 2006 I sold a book called Enrique Esparza, Boy at the Alamo. A true story. A non-fiction book filled with facts and history and things I researched almost 2 years ago. After over a year of complete silence, of not even having an editor assigned to the book, suddenly the edits are coming my way tomorrow.  As in the day after today.

And she would really like them back in a week so we can keep on schedule for the fall 2009 publication. Sigh.

Fiction may have to wait a bit longer but that’s okay. I have the shivers to help me find my way back.

Sticker shock!

Oooh – isn’t it pretty? That’s an ALA notable sticker on my book.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007|Categories: Random, Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |52 Comments

VOYA – this is fun!

This month’s VOYA magazine is out and HUGGING THE ROCK is on their list of Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers for 2006. Between this and making the ALA notables list, I’m thinking I like 2007 a lot.

Sunday, February 4, 2007|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , |24 Comments

2007 Notable Children's Books

I’m tooting my own horn here as I am very thrilled to have found out that Hugging the Rock was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book.   Here’s the complete list.  Congrats to all the wonderful books who made the list.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , , |100 Comments

some very nice news!

I had a lovely email from my publicist at Tricycle who shared this very nice news with me:

Hugging the Rock has won a place on VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) Magazine¹s Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers. It will be announced and published in their February issue.

I am doing a big WOOHOO here at work and scaring all the engineers.

Thursday, December 14, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |52 Comments

Celebrate with me

Do you recognize the new user pic?

That would be the Alamo. As in Texas history.  As in the location of the story for the book I just sold to Lerner/Millbrook.

It’s called Enrique Esparza, Boy at the Alamo and is part of the “On My Own History” series (as is my book Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom.)

Woohoo for me!

Sunday, October 22, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |75 Comments

thank you to Don Tate and Camille at Book Moot

Thanks to Don Tate for his recent comments about Hugging the Rock on his blog. I haven’t heard from a lot of fathers of daughters yet so I had been waiting anxiously for his feedback. Also a big thanks to Camille at Book Moot for her review of Hugging the Rock with a prod and links for librarians to place orders for their own copy. Camille also posted her review on Amazon which I greatly appreciate.

Monday, October 16, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

Book launch party – the details

Yes, I am remiss in getting these detail of the book launch party posted in a timely manner. But there’s a good reason for that. A very good reason. The launch, pre and post, have been a cause for much self-reflection on my part. Which means that this is a very very long post. I didn’t have time to make it shorter.

Here’s the thing. The party was all about me. That’s a hard thing for an INFP, for an EXTREME INFP, and one that generally has issues with low self-esteem. In the weeks building up to it all, Hayley, my wonderfully energetic publicist, kept saying, “Are you getting excited about it? It’s going to be so much fun.” and I would say “sure” and hang up the phone and begin to worry that maybe I wouldn’t get excited and maybe it wouldn’t be fun and maybe the whole thing would be a flop and the only people who would come would be my devoted husband and in-laws and then my publisher would see that spending all this money on me and the book and the ARCs and everything was this big mistake because obviously I was not going to be able to pull off this competent writer thing. I think I did have one melt-down on the phone with Hayley when we were trying to decide what type of a launch to have and I was all for hanging it on some other community fund-raising event because people might come out to support a non-profit but I simply couldn’t imagine them coming to see me.

Reasons for me thinking that?

#1- I live in San Jose. Population, a million people give or take. Local news is not interested in a writer like me because I have no name (yet?) so coverage in the local paper (except for the online calendar which I don’t think anyone reads) is nada.#2 – I live in San Jose but I grew up in Concord which is about an hour away. But the thing is, I’m not in touch with anyone I grew up with so it was really a moot point. I don’t have a large circle of friends to draw from. My critique group is online and spread out coast-to-coast. I work with a bunch of mostly male engineers who indulge me my writing for children but, you know… So mostly thinking about the guest list was depressing. I felt like a social failure.

#3 – I may work in San Jose but I’m not active in anything. When I my kids were young and I lived out in Oakley we had baseball and soccer and gymnastics and 4H and horse shows and karate and PTO and so many events with so many people that the guest list would have been HUGE. I have only done 2 school visits since moving back to California so I didn’t even have those contacts to draw upon. (I hadn’t been doing visits because until fall of 2005 – the PB in print was spiritual and not appropriate for most schools.) The fact that I wasn’t active in my town was brought home to me when working on a recent grant application and community contributions counting for a large percentage of the “grade.” After reading that, I doubt I’ll finish the application.

So if you are an extreme INFP like me, perhaps you can understand my difficulty with the idea of the event. I wanted to do it. I wanted to be excited about it. But it really seemed like an uphill battle. Then I got a case of the gotta wannas. The gotta wannas are what you get when you want something badly enough to work your rear off to make it work even when the odds seem stacked against you. Publishing is a gotta wanna. This event turned out to be another. Thing is, I started off wanting it to be a hit for everyone else who wanted it to be a hit for me. I didn’t want to let down Nicole, my editor and publisher and a real rock to me or the energetic marketing team of Laura and Hayley who continually work like crazy to make me feel like a superstar or my husband EG who puts up with so much so I can write or my in-laws who are the best support system I could ever hope to have or Karen, my former agent who drove all the way up San Luis Obispo to be there or my current agent Jodi who finds time for me in the midst of the 1001 other things she has to do for people who are way more well known than I can ever imagine being and so on and so on and so on.

Leading up to the party I had a lot of time to think about two very important things. What to wear and what to read. The week before the event (I am good at leaving things to the last minute) I raced into Nordstroms and informed the salesgirl that I wasn’t leaving until I had one great outfit. It took close to 3 hours but we managed to find one. Another hour in the shoe department (alas, no red boots in sight ala thatgirlygirl but I did find some fabulous red shoes with the requisite pointy toe.) Deciding what to read took longer and right up until the moment I opened the book and started to read I was still changing my mind about that. It was helpful to have gone to Patty McCormick’s reading a few weeks before and see how she skipped through the book but still gave a nice representation of the story. I had many Post-it notes on pages of one book and then worried about losing the book before the reading. Things I also worried about: wondering where I would keep my purse while I was speaking, whether to pull all my hair away from my face (my mother’s voice in my head) or let it just hang down in front like usual, when to refreshen my lipstick so it would last the longest, when to go to the bathroom for the last time before things started, if I would mispronounce the word marmoset in the last poem I planned to read and what the chances were that I would either tip over on my 1″ heel or spill water down the front of my new and expensive clothes. Actually the chances were high on both of those things but luckily, neither happened.

The day of the event I went to work like any other day. My publicist called mid-day to go over a few things and said, “You’re at work?” My former agent called me from the road and said, “You’re at work?” I had lunch in the cafeteria with my friend MM and he said, “Aren’t you excited? I’m excited. Come on, get excited.” About then I started to worry that I WOULDN’T get excited and that I would mess the whole thing up. But about 2pm the adrenalin kicked in and I was like “OMIGOSH” it’s almost time for the party!

I went home early to be sure that I had plenty of time to get ready but of course I had several mini panic moments that almost made me late, the last of which was punching holes in the straps of my new shoes so they didn’t slip off my feet while I was walking. I could trip just fine without any help, thank you very much. I got to the store in plenty of time and lo and behold there was a parking place right in front of the store. This was a good thing except for the fact that it required parallel parking. Here’s hoping that none of the guests were in those cars I blocked while making a 10 point turn parallel parking exhibition.

The gracious Sandy (store events coordinator) was there to greet me with the words, “Oh you’re so early” which immediately made me feel like I had done something wrong until I remembered that I had told my former agent I’d be there early so we could chat. I went to the bathroom and pulled my hair back with combs, took them out then put them back in again. Put on more lip gloss and went out to wait for the food to arrive while they set up the tables and chairs.

Right about HERE is where the picture of the poster advertising my party and the book in the glass case outside of Books Inc would go had I remembered to take a picture. Use your imagination. Got it? It was better than that. And HERE is where the picture of the huge display of Hugging the Rock would go had I remembered to take a picture of it. They also had a few copies of Oliver’s Must-do List and Can I Pray With My Eyes Open? on display as well. Sigh. Next time perhaps I will remember.

Karen, (former agent) was the first to arrive with her dog Zoe.  Zoe had a stroke a few weeks ago but pulled out of it and the store let her come in and stay for the event. (Books Inc, at least in Mountain View, is a very dog friendly store) In case it seems weird for my former agent to be there you should know that Karen was the person who first showed Hugging the Rock to Nicole at Tricycle. There’s another whole long story about what happened after that and how Karen stopped agenting and I got the wonderful Jodi as my new agent but I won’t go into all that here.

All at once it seemed like people showing up right and left.

Food arrived and had to be arranged. Husband arrived and my first question to him was did I need more lip gloss. He said no. I asked if my lips were sparkly shiny and he said yes. But even so I went back to the bathroom and put on more lip gloss. (I know what you’re thinking. Stop laughing please.) He took the camera and promised to shoot lots of pictures. I don’t think we had time to chat again until we were both home.

I lost track of who came in when but each time the door opened and I saw a familiar face it was like being at a wedding and realizing that everyone was there to see you (or me, as the case might be.) People from my work showed up. Hugs ensued. People my husband worked with walked in. More hugs. People I used to work with but who had been laid off arrived and everyone was catching up with everyone else. Some old friends from SCBWI were there and some new faces for me, new writers just starting out joined in the fun. Walter the Giant and Jack from my acting class and I am sure I am forgetting people and I apologize. My in-laws arrived bringing friends with them. Nicole, my publisher and her husband and her father and step mom were there. Summer, another Tricycle editor and Laura and Hayley in marketing and publicity arrived and even Dr. Melody, the surgeon who set my broken finger, managed to stay for most of the event before being called to the ER. Around 60 people were there all told. People I work with made a lot of comments about how fabulous I looked which leads me to believe I should consider dressing a bit better for my day job.

People were nibbling on food and mingling and I was trying to make sure that some people met one another but it was tough. Then suddenly it seemed like everyone was seated and it was time to get started.

Sandy did a wonderful job of introducing me.  She went to my website and learned all about me and shared quite a bit during the intro. She read the book (yes, sometimes people introduce you that haven’t read your book.) She managed to get several plugs for people to go check out my website. And then she handed me the microphone.

I was ready. I had the book. I had the pages marked.  But wait, I still had my glasses on.

This meant I could see the people in the audience great but I wasn’t sure if I could read. If I had had more experience with microphones (this was my first time with one) I might have had the presence of mind to stop and put it on the stand and adjust it low but instead, I just took it from Sandy and started to talk, thanking people for coming and then going right into the first poem. Luckily I guess I had read that one enough that I could manage it slightly blurry but as soon as I came to the end I took off my glasses. This of course meant that I could read just fine but the people in the audience were a bit blurry. This might have been a good thing after all. I could see the outline of the Tricycle Press people standing in the back of the room. (Did I mention that there were so many people there that it was standing room only?)

Laura (marketing manager) kept gesturing to me to practically eat the microphone. The only hiccup in everything was that the mic had a short and it kept cutting in and out. Since I had no idea what to do I just kept moving the microphone around but didn’t pause in my speaking. Later I had many people tell me that I handle the mic problems like a pro but really I think I was on auto pilot and wanted to finish the speaking part. I’m grateful for whatever instincts carried me through.  I did not cry during the reading but I was afraid I might at either THE ROCK or MADISON. The last poem I read was THE TRUTH ABOUT FATHERS and I did not mispronounce marmoset. Whew! When I was done there was much clapping from the audience and much relief from me that I survived. Tricycle gave away a couple of copies of the book in a drawing and I sat down to sign them. When I looked up there was this tremendous line of people with more books for me to sign. I was, to say the least, a bit blown away.

The bookstore sold a lot of books and was very happy. My publisher and the rest of the Tricycle family kept telling me how proud they were of me. People came to give me more hugs, a few gifts, some flowers, and say goodbye. Then it was time for the part of the night I had been looking forward to most of all. Giving gifts to a few special people. I knew I could do flowers or chocolate but I really wanted something that would have staying power. The Tricycle Press crew is a new family for me and they have set the bar for my ideal publisher/editor/writer relationship.

So I had something special made for them. Rocks. Carved rocks. . There’s some writing on the back of each one too. It was great fun to hand them out and see their reaction. Michael at Let’s Rock did a fabulous job on them. They are even more spectacular in person.

I kept all my emotions under control until late in the evening when I was trying to tell the Tricycle team how much they meant to me and Laura said to me, “You get back what you give.” and I about lost it. In the several days post launch as I have been reliving it I find I am growing more, not less, emotional about it all. I think I finally have to let go of the image of the person I thought I was, the person I didn’t like so I couldn’t imagine anyone else liking either. I have to let go of the guilt of not being some imagined “perfect person” and realize that people like and accept me as I am right now. And if they all think I am a person of value then maybe I better start to believe in it too.

So that was my night of feeling like a super star. I wish you all could have been there to celebrate with me.

Saturday, September 30, 2006|Categories: Events, Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , , |85 Comments

bookplates for Hugging the Rock

If you want a bookplate for Hugging the Rock (or one of my other books) just send me an email with your mailing address (tell me what book and who to sign it to) and I will gladly put one in the mail.

If you bought Hugging the Rock, could you please tell me where? (Name of bookstore, city and state/online) I’m plotting a map of Hugging the Rock sightings. Yes, I know I’m a bit weird but thanks for indulging me.

Saturday, September 30, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: |9 Comments

Book Launch is tonight & thank yous

A final reminder to everyone that the book launch party for Hugging the Rock is tonight, 7pm, at Books Inc in Mountain View. (301 Castro Street) I wish all my LJ journal friends could be there.

Maybe life will return to my semblance of order after tonight. I hope. I really hope.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006|Categories: Events, Susan's Books|Tags: |20 Comments

Teacher's guide for Hugging the Rock

I can’t remember if I posted this yet or not but I did, some of you could probably do with a reminder, right? 🙂

Thanks to traciezimmer I have a fabulous teaching guide for Hugging the Rock. Go ahead and download the PDF. (You know you want to.) If you are a teacher or librarian and you use Hugging the Rock with your class, I would love to know what you did and how it went. 

Sunday, September 17, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , |3 Comments

The Rock

Some time ago I posted here about the evolution of the first poem in my new book, Hugging the Rock. Since the book is officially out now, I thought I would share another poem from the book. This one is called, THE ROCK, and appears at the beginning of the book on the very day that the main character’s mom runs away from home. People ask me who the “rock” is based on and like many characters in books, he is a mix of several people with healthy dashes of my imagination. I never knew my dad (but I do know that he was NOT a rock) but for the first ten years of my life I had a grandfather that I followed everywhere. He was a quiet man who never said the words “I love you” even though he showed it in many ways.


Madison waits for an invitation
to jump into her usual spot
on the front seat of Mom’s car.
Mom pushes her away
but Madison doesn’t understand
and starts to bark.

Mom tells me again
my place is with Dad.
She tells me
someday I’ll understand.

I look at Dad
who is trying hard not to look at Mom
as she gets ready to drive away.
He hugs his arms close to his chest
sucks his bottom lip in over his teeth.
He wears what Mom calls his disappearing face
because when he wears it
all his feelings just disappear
and no one can tell what he’s thinking.

I go stand next to him.
I want to hold his hand and have him hold mine
but that’s not the way things work
with me and Dad.

I lean on him just a little
too much
and he steps away.
I wobble
back and forth
before I catch my balance.

Mom says he’s a rock,
the good kind you can always count on
to do the right thing.

It’s hard for me to think of a rock
as something good.
Some rocks are heavy
and make you sink.
Some rocks are too big to move.
And some rocks are sharp
and cut you
if you try to hold them in your hand.

Susan Taylor Brown
from the book Hugging the Rock
Tricycle Press, September 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday, Susan's Books, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |13 Comments

Hugging the Rock reviews

Thank yous are in order, some long overdue:

Thanks to  Kelly over at Big A little a and Jen Robinson at Jen Robinson’s Book Page  for putting Hugging the Rock on their lists of top books for 2006. I’m honored to be listed with so many other wonderful books.

I don’t know if I posted a recent interview over at I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Little Willow over at Slayground and more recently, this interview with Vision Magazine

Some recent reviews for Hugging the Rock by loopiesnood and booksbynight . Oh and Bookshelves of Doom reviewed it here:

Thanks to kidlit_kim for posting this review to YA Books Central  and in the September issue, this review from School Library Journal:

Gr 5-8-Presented in brief, free-verse poems, this is a poignant character study of a dysfunctional family. In the opening sequence, Rachel watches her mother get ready to “run away from home,” packing up the car with everything that is important to her, except her daughter. When Mom is gone, neither Rachel nor her father can cope. Rachel shuts down and ignores schoolwork and friends, questioning why her mother left and blaming herself. Dad does not initially provide much comfort, closing himself off, too. As in Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick, 2000), father and daughter gradually grow closer together out of necessity and begin to pull together as a family. Rachel must accept the painful truth that her mother, who suffers from bipolar disorder, never really wanted to settle down or have children. Her father, who in the past had left most of the parenting to her mother, begins to play an active role in Rachel’s life and reveals his softer side, ultimately becoming more involved and affectionate. Written in straightforward language, the text clearly reveals Rachel’s emotions, describing moments both painful and reassuring. This novel will be therapeutic to children dealing with the loss of a parent or a mental illness.-Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Thank you to everyone who is supporting Hugging the Rock. It’s a real warm, fuzzy feeling when people read your book and then like it enough to tell someone else about. Blog posts, reviews, bookslists – they all add up. So if you have read Hugging the Rock and liked it enough to reccomend it to even just one person, you have made a difference and I’m grateful.

Thursday, September 14, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |6 Comments

It's a real book and remember that blurb I mentioned???

Today is my book’s secret birthday! That special day when authors receive their very first copy of their new book. I knew what it was as soon as I saw the envelope. I could feel the hard cover inside the padding as soon as I picked it up. I carried it around the house and debated where to sit when I opened it and, for a moment, whether to wait until my husband got home late tonight from his week long business trip. No. There would be no waiting. It had been a rough week. (I haven’t even told y’all the story of my broken glass all over the kitchen.) So I plopped down on the couch and pulled the tab on the back of the envelope. I pulled hard. Too hard. Gobs of gray glitter came flying out. Wait. No, it wasn’t glitter. It was just the packing material from the envelope. Sigh.

It was shrinkwrapped. Whew! No gray gunk to stick to the cover. I’ve never had a book come to me shrinkwrapped before. I stroked the plastic front and back before using my fingernail along the top edge to slice through the plastic and slip it out the book. I held it up to my nose and sniffed. Chelsie (my dog) thought I had food so she demanded to sniff it too. I flipped the pages. Sniffed some more. Showed the insides to Chelsie then pulled it away before she started to drool on it.

It’s a book. A real book. It’s not my first book but it feels so different. It’s a NOVEL, not a picture book, not an easy reader, not an educational anything. It’s a verse novel. It’s poetry. Omigosh…it POETRY. (That still sort of freaks me out.)

It’s beautiful. I have seen all the elements that went into the book, the design, the font, the cover, the flap copy and the author info but this, seeing it in its altogether, well it is just the sweetest thing. (Cue up some U2, will you please?)

And when I turned it over there was that blurb, that wonderfully almost unbelievable blurb from a poet whom I admire tremendously. (Someone remind me later to post about how my editor actually first told me about the blurb.)

Yes, Lee Bennett Hopkins blurbed my book!!! Now you know my blurb-secret I’ve been keeping.

In case the image doesn’t come through, here’s the text of the blurb that my editor said I could now share.

“Brown creates a poignant work dealing with a topic rare in children’s literature. In spare, poetic prose, the pain and angst of a young girl whose bipolar mother leaves, never to return, is detailed. The heart of the story is the growing relationship between Rachel and her father – a rock with soft spots – and how they must learn to live, love, cope – go on with their lives – together. Readers will hug this book. I did.”

Let me tell you, Lee writing a blurb really rocked (pun intended) my world!

Official pub date is September 1st!  You have called your local independent bookstore and asked them to order you a copy, haven’t you? No? Well go ahead and do that right now. I can wait. I’ll just be flipping through the pages, rereading my book, while you’re gone.

PS to someone, I can’t remember whose blog it was (sorry) who asked for a jacket photo of poet who was smiling. This is me raising my hand. I’m smiling in the pic on the jacket flap for Hugging the Rock.

Friday, June 30, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |58 Comments

Thank you, Fuse #8 Production

Thank you to Fuse #8 Production for the lovely (and first!) review of Hugging the Rock.

My favorite lines?

“Hugging” is a particularly enjoyable read. Dealing with issues as difficult as those found in any Karen Hesse or Sharon Creech book, Brown gives us the story of those who run away and those that stay.

Hell, it’s downright gutsy to go and create a mother character that seriously does not love her daughter.

It’s really gratifying to hear that someone “gets” the book the way you had hoped they would.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |7 Comments

The artist

Argh – how could I forget to mention that the artist is the amazingly talented Michael Morgenstern who did the striking cover of SPEAK.

How lucky am I?


Monday, March 20, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: |0 Comments


Those were the words from my Marketing & Publicity Manager when she got her first look at the galleys for Hugging the Rock today. And the publisher said the galleys rock and were absolutely gorgeous. Oh it’s going to be hard to wait until they get to me. (You HAVE entered the contest, haven’t you? Deadline is midnight.) And they are going to hand out galleys at the following conferences: PLA, TLA, IRA, BEA, ALA.

Translations for those acronyms are:
* Public Library Association
* Texas Library Association
* International Reading Association
* Book Expo
* American Library Association

Oh me. Oh my. I just wish I could figure out how to get my local paper to review me but it seems to be nigh on impossible. Time for me to go over my list of other reviewers and work on some good pr campaigns.


Friday, March 17, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |30 Comments

Galleys and blurbs and many things

So when Cynthia Lord knew her galleys were coming for book Rules she got the bright idea to hold a little contest to see when they would arrive and offered to send a copy of the galleys to the winner. I’ve been racking my brain  trying to think of a unique contest of my own for the galleys but no such luck. I decided that if you’re going to copy, why not copy from the best? With credit to cynthialord I hereby launch the official Hugging the Rock “When Will They Get Here” galleys contest. My publicist said they have been ordered and will be at the publisher on Friday. This Friday. Then mine will be shipped to me. Note: Both my publisher and I are on the same coast.

By my reckoning I should have them by the end of March so here are the ten arrival date options:
3/19, 3/20, 3/21, 3/22, 3/23, 3/27, 3/28, 3/29, 3/30, 3/31  Pick one and win!

And another plug for you to sign up for my newsletter (just in case you forget to read my blog.) The first issue will go out shortly and, if you’re a subscriber, there will be another contest in the newsletter to win a copy of the published book.

Getting early attention for your book is really important but I think it’s also hard for many writers to do because so many of us, (like ME) are introverts. I have a hard time jumping up and down and asking people to look at my book, read my book, review my book. But I truly believe that Hugging the Rock is the best thing I have written yet and if it takes me going out on the limb to the uncomfy zone to talk about it, I will. So that brings me to the topic of blurbs. My publisher mentioned it was time to start thinking about blurbs. Blurbs are endorsements, bits of praise, the appear on the cover (back or sometimes front). Actually they’re used in all sorts of promotional efforts.

Usually they’re by someone famous but my publisher said they use blurbs from regular readers, reviewers, librarians, etc for all sorts of things. But asking people to read for the purpose of blurbing is hard. First off, just because you like a person doesn’t mean you will (or have to) like their book. But some people don’t understand that. Some people think that if you hate their book you hate them. And some people are afraid to be asked to blurb for one person because then they’ll feel like they are fair game for everyone else to ask. So it’s a decidely awkward place to be. I’ll just say this, if you read a copy of the book, in galley or final form, and you want to comment on it, good, bad, or whatever, you can send to me, but you can also send to any comments to Laura at the email above.

Hugging the Rock is a journey of the heart that does make many people cry, but it is a hopeful journey that portrays a relationship not often seen in children’s books, a positive relationship between a girl and her father. In writing this book I gave myself the father I’ve never known.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , , , , |18 Comments

Pa-pa-pa Pages – I have pages

I’ve spent the last few days going over the pages for Hugging the Rock. What a difference it is to see it in actual design form. I LOVE the interior font they chose for the titles. It’s perfect. It’s a little scary being at this stage of the game, going over each line knowing you can’t really rewrite something unless there is a very VERY good reason for it but still needed to make sure the book is as strong as you possibly can make it. I still love the book, though, and that’s important. A few of the poems still made me teary eyed which I consider a good thing when you think of how many times I’ve gone over the book in the last oh, 3 years.

And the cover. I can’t show it to you yet but can I just say that the cover is amazing. It “speaks” volumes and that’s a bit of a clue for you mystery buffs.

Okay, back to work. Pages need to be back to my editor by Thursday and then I have a book proposal on another project due by the end of this month before I take off for our SCBWI Asilomar conference.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , |5 Comments

D for Done, done, done

Whew! I finished going over the copy edits of Hugging the Rock. My editor finished going over what I did and the book is now on it’s way to design. Thanks to my critique group and my verse novel group for all their help with my rapid requests for input.

I won’t see the book again until it is in “pages” or “galleys” which is the same thing. Evidently the term pages is rising to the top to mean the same thing as galleys. It was hard going through the book, yet again, wondering, worrying that anything else we did might “ruin” the book. All I can say is thank goodness for my wonderful hand-holding editor who assured me that she wouldn’t let me ruin it. It’s just a different part of the brain when you reach this stage. I did end up writing a new poem for the book, well several but we only used one new one, but for the most part it consisting of tightening things, wondering if there were stronger words that could be used in some places, agonizing over my line breaks. I think the part that amazed me most of all, it always does, what a difference a single word can make to a sentence. Gosh I love that part of the writing.

We’re waiting for sketches still on the cover and I’m anxious to see them. I’m VERY excited about the person who is doing the cover but I can’t say anything yet. Oh boy, though. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

Thanks to all who have read the excerpt of Hugging the Rock and sent me kind words. I really appreciate the support. For those still looking to read, you can find the excerpt on my website.

Now off to get caught up on a week’s worth of everyone else’s blogs.


Friday, January 27, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , |19 Comments

Take one savvy editor

add one sharp copy editor, let them work their magic on my manuscript and wow!

I’ve read through the changes after copy editing, the suggestions, and the questions and I have to say that there is again very little that I don’t agree with. A few lines in one poem that I will fight for. Some poems need new titles, stronger titles. The hardest part is that there are a few places that need more material, new stuff. I’m doing research but I’m finding it the hardest to get back into the voice of my character, especially since this character is a young girl and the character in the next book, the one I’ve been anxious to jump into, is teenage boy.

But I’ll get there. Word after word.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Word after word

It came back today.

Hugging the Rock. My middle grade verse novel.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , , |31 Comments

Everybody does it differently, revision that is

What did you think I meant? 😉 For me I knew I wanted to immerse myself in nothing but my book during the process, hence, my abscene from blogging for a while.

When the manuscript for Hugging the Rock came back to me with all my editor’s comments, the first thing I did (of course) was to read every single comment she’d made then let out a big WHEW in relief because nothing seemed impossible. The second thing I did was print it out (we’re doing this all by email) so I could scribble on the pages because I like to revise by hand. The third thing I did was freak out because, well, that’s just what I do, when something I want to do well is close at hand and I don’t want to screw it up.

Friday, October 21, 2005|Categories: Susan's Books, Writing Process|Tags: , , , , |9 Comments