Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One way to launch a book

Why spend an hour on what can be done in three minutes, give or take? My niece’s husband, the Reverend Canon Dr.
Stephen Cherry, found a great way to launch his third book, as you can see here: (Ecclesiastical note: the gentleman in purple is the Bishop of Durham, who will shortly become the new Archbishop of Canterbury.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Heading for Walnut Creek

I’ll be speaking about Mousenet on a “debut author panel” sponsored by the Contra Costa and Alameda wing of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Writers). It’s at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1924 Trinity Avenue, Walnut Creek, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 1st. As a bonus, there'll be holiday cookies: people are invited to bring a dozen to share. So if you like cookies, or if you want to know how writers get published (spoiler alert: it takes a while) come on by. Register at, if you’re a member. If not, just turn up.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I am just back from Myanmar. There probably aren't too many readers of 'Mousenet' there but I did find out one fact that is gratifying to a writer of mouse books. I was born with a natural affinity for rodents.

The Burmese people follow astrological signs that depend on the day of the week you were born, and my sign (for a Thursday birth) is the rat. We visited several ceramic rats, including one at the massive Shwedagon pagoda complex in Yangon. This rat is being watered by a Thursday person who is giving him one cup of water for each year of her life (apparently–as with the candles on birthday cakes–people over a certain age are allowed to cheat, with one cup per decade, but I still didn’t indulge. The rat looked water-logged enough.)

Talking of rats, I recently made a guest appearance on a blog called ‘Ginny’s Friends.’ Ginny Rorby writes splendid Young Adult novels with a deep concern for animals, and I related the tale of Fido, the rat I rescued from a grocery store for my son Charlie. See the post at

Fido turned out to be one of the most successful pets we ever had.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Minnie gets busted

Let’s hear it for Minnie Mouse, who chained herself to the railings outside Disney Headquarters. Actually she’s an activist for the Rainforest Action Network in a rather cunning disguise. 

Minnie was protesting the fact that Disney–my publisher– had been using paper from endangered rainforests in Indonesia for its books, possibly including ‘Mousenet.’ And the protest worked!! Disney hadn’t realized where its suppliers were getting their paper until Minnie told them, and from now on they’ll insist that it be from sustainable sources. So ‘Mousemobile’ (due out next fall) will be environmentally respectable.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Headquarters of the Mouse Nation?

I’ve been busy copy-editing Book Two, otherwise known as 'Mousemobile–When a Nation Hits the Road,' due out next fall. 

The head office of the Mouse Nation is not the only organization behind the Great America theme park that has to hit the road, because look what’s coming there–the new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers. 

(Actually the mice have a different reason for leaving, as you'll find out when you BUY THE BOOK. That's an order.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

The mouse in politics

It was good to hear from Obama's acceptance speech that climate change can finally come out of the closet, politically. No, mice don't have the vote, but if they did. . . (OK, one can't be sure that mice would be democrats. Democmice, maybe?)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Little League and Mice

I’ve been hooked on the Little League World Series, which ends this weekend. It may seem an odd taste for a British-born woman of a certain age, but I tell myself it’s research. My character Joey becomes a Little League star in ‘Mousemobile’–the sequel to ‘Mousenet’ that should be out in a little over a year.

Besides, a local team has a chance of winning. Go Petaluma!!!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My path to publishing

Had a great time at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. My talk on the ‘Paths to Publishing’ panel went down well, if you count success by giggles. You can read my speech here, but really, I’m told, you had to be there. (We also had some time to inspect the actual Mendocino Coast, which on one afternoon at least was clear of fog.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Solution to Climate Change. . .Mouse Version

I wrote the current version of Mousenet in 2007. ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ had just swept the country, and when a friend asked how my mice would benefit the planet once they all had computers, the answer was obvious: They’d stop climate change (to find out how, you need to read the book).

Fast forward to 2011 when Mousenet finally appeared and behold–the subject of climate change had more or less fallen off the radar. I don’t think that children reading the book are affected by that fact–mice present a good enough rationale for concern about the climate. But I’ve had a few sideways looks from adults. Climate change? Really? When the subject is so 2007?

Fast forward again to this year with its many extremes, from massive floods worldwide to the coldest and wettest spring in British history and a slew of heat records in America. And thanks perhaps to financial losses as the corn crop cooks in the fields, some serious discussion of climate change is back.

So maybe it’s time for Washington to ask the Mouse Nation how to fix it. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mice in Mendocino

Next week I head north to the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, which takes place every year at the College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg. It’s a boutique conference that has been going for over twenty years and limits itself to 100 participants, who sign up for three mornings of intensive workshop, then choose from a number of discussions in the afternoons.

I’ll be on a panel at one o’clock on Friday July 27th talking about ‘Paths to Publishing.’ And unlike the rest of the conference, this will be free and open to the public. So y’all come.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Feedback on Mousenet

It’s always wonderful to hear from readers, and I’m delighted to have gathered up some more “likes” recently on Mousenet’s Facebook page. And it’s great when good reviews trickle in on Amazon. One otherwise very favorable review that arrived recently from Texas failed, however, to give the book a perfect score. As the reviewer wrote, “I took off one star because there were a few sections of the book that pushed climate change pretty hard, and I strongly dislike political messages being pushed so overtly in children's books.”

Climate change? Political?

In my view, and that of both the National Academyof Science and the BigCheese, leader of the Mouse Nation, climate change as a result of human activity is a matter of scientific fact. If the subject is ‘political,’ it’s only because certain politicians have chosen to make it so, for whatever reason.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Back to work

Mousemobile went off to the publisher in late April (due now to come out Fall 2013 at the earliest–sorry to those who were hoping for it in summer next year). And I took off for a few weeks away from all things mouse. Specifically, I was on vacation in Britain and then Turkey, which is a relatively mouse-free zone because of the hordes of feral cats that patrol the city streets.

For a few more photos, see “Travels with Feet” on my website at   

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Company of Authors

Here I am on my panel at “A Company of Authors,” which attracted an audience of about a hundred at Stanford to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday last Saturday. Not only was mine the only children’s book, but I was one of the few non-academics. The professor who chaired my panel had actually not known that. He assumed at first that my title must be French, pronounced “Moose-un-AY” – a treatise, perhaps, on an obscure medieval French poet.  But the audience seemed more than happy with a bit of light relief, and bought several books. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mousenet at Stanford

I'll be one of eighteen Stanford authors at an annual literary event called  "A Company of Authors," on Saturday April 21st. Mousenet will be the only children's book. Probably the only mouse book. There'll be panels running from 1 pm to 5 pm - my turn is at 3.50. And the Stanford Bookstore will be selling everyone's books at a discount.

It all takes place at the Humanities Center– click here to see all the distinguished non-mouse authors who'll be in attendance. (Scroll down for logistics.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Thumbtop lives!

The key to mouse success is the Thumbtop, the tiny computer that they use behind the walls while they spy on senators, spook radio talk show hosts and otherwise do what it takes to stop climate change (see the end of Mousenet and the beginning of the sequel, Mousemobile, due out next year).

And guess what: the Thumbtop has actually been invented. By humans. Who think it's for humans. See here. And check the date of this column.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Where do you read Mousenet?

Here's one suggestion!

The boy beneath the suds is Callum, aged 11, and his bathtub is in Edinburgh. Mousenet isn't yet on the best-seller list in Scotland but (full disclosure) we're related: specifically, Callum is my second-youngest nephew's oldest child. That somehow sounds better than great-nephew, even though he's a great kid. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's for the Birds

The environmentalists (eeeek-ologists?) of the Mouse Nation would be proud of us. Consider:
  • Solar panels 
  • A Prius with a bike rack 
  • Drip irrigation 
  • A compost pile 
  • And we’ve managed to dry our laundry in the Calfornia sun all winter (or at least make it less wet–it does need to be finished off in a sunny spare bedroom).

So why am I only using half the rack today?

See the shadow of the cherry tree, on the wall? Half our drying space is right under that tree, which is the launching pad and recovery suite for the scores of birds who have discovered that our pyracantha berries have reached that delicious point of fermented over-ripeness that can give you a quick buzz. So far, only two or three birds have crashed into the kitchen window, but others look as if they might fall off their bar stools at any moment–or park on the nearest cherry tree until they feel fit to fly home.

Not great for any recently washed clothes that might be hung out to dry right below them.

Monday, February 20, 2012

That late blooming thing

I just gave a talk to a group of seniors in Silicon Valley. People of a certain age are an excellent target audience because of course they make up the grandparent demographic, likely to pop for gifts at any time of year (and yes, a third of them did so pop).

There was no doubt that I was invited more for my length of tooth rather than the beauty of my prose. They were inspired (they said) that anyone of a certain age could learn a new skill, and persevere through years of rejection.

Not that I think it particularly remarkable to crank out a first book fairly late in life. For one thing, there’s more spare time. And though the outside may show wear and tear, the inside seems to stay much the same. Certainly my inner ten year old is still intact.

I forgot to tell the group something that could be more significant on the late bloomometer: the fact that I didn’t start to ski seriously until seven years ago, and now I can actually do it. Pleasure now outweighs fear when I whizz down the intermediate slopes rather fast, as I did last week.

Until recently some of the California ski resorts made terrific concessions to seniors. Sugar Bowl cost only $5 for those over a certain age, and Squaw Valley was actually free. Then the resorts found their slopes cluttered up by wrinkly people who can ski just as well as everyone else, and the prices went up but you still see them in flocks, sometimes labeled as members of the Over 70 Club, or the Over The Hill Gang. And who knows? Maybe half of those seniors have just written their first book.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Writer's (and blogger's) block

I’m learning some things about myself in this first-book business.

Until the sequel to ‘Mousenet’ was accepted, I was badly blocked on Book Three. And yes, there is a third in the works, though with no guarantee it will be published. The blockage lasted for about four months between the time my agent sent in Book Two last September, and the happy day when Hyperion took it on. Every morning I would sit and scratch away at Book Three, but it absolutely wasn’t working. I even tried starting in the middle, because the opening kept falling apart, and that helped a bit, but I still couldn’t get excited and the story felt forced.

Then I got the news that ‘Mousemobile’ is indeed coming out next year and WHAM–Book Three took off. It now has an opening that works. I’ve thought of new ways to make the middle work. And I even have an idea of how the two will meet. 

Once I’m on a writing tear–even if it’s only for two or three hours a day–that’s it. My brain doesn’t feel like blogging, or anything else much except perhaps sucking up the Daily Show. Which explains (if anyone’s keeping track) why nothing much has happened on this site recently.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The sequel is coming!

Yay! I've just heard that Disney Hyperion will indeed publish the second book in the series, currently called "Mousemobile – When a Nation Hits the Road." 

Did you ever share an RV with 2,243 mice? That's part of it. Due out relatively soon - summer of 2013!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fan mail

All fan mail is good, but it's especially delicious when readers admit to a degree of addiction, like these:

“I’ve read it and love it. I couldn’t put it down.” (Katie, age 9)

“Mousenet was a great book! I couldn’t stop reading.” (Sarah, age 10)

“I started to read Mousenet with more of a sense of duty than anything else, but before long I was totally engaged.” Richard (age 72)

Full disclosure: Richard is my brother, which helps explain the sense of duty.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Rodents should know I’m on their side. I’ve been living with a brain full of them for years. Indeed, after so long in their company I am part rodent. So do they have to declare war on our new plantings?

Until we ripped out the lawn and put in less thirsty plants – a plan that surely satisfied the Mouse Nation’s environmental concerns – the rodents and I got along fine. I didn’t bother them–indeed, I kept many of them very well fed, with the vegetable scraps on the compost heap. And they had the grace to stay out of sight.

But in recent weeks the balance of nature has tipped. Someone, probably a rabbit, has been chewing certain plants down to the nub. And voles have built criss-crossing freeways just below the surface of our beds, sometimes charging straight through the roots of new plants with unfortunate results.

Someone suggested pepper spray, but all that did (apparently) was to improve the rabbits’ dinner, raising our Jacob's Ladder from fast-food to two stars in the bunny Michelin guide.  Chomp chomp.

So on Christmas Eve, with death in my heart, I cruised the local garden stores for poison.

Maybe it was the season that softened my heart. Maybe it was because none of the stores had appropriate poison. I decided to try a kinder, gentler approach, one that would simply urge the rodent population to go elsewhere, no questions asked. This involved a double-barreled strategy. You put crystals of fox urine around the tastier plants, implying they have a hidden bodyguard ready to pounce. And you sprinkle castor oil granules over all the rest.

I couldn’t help imagining the conversations. Rabbits maybe daring each other to dash in and have a bite. Voles looking at each other suspiciously, as evil smells waft through their burrow. (“Hector, did you do that?”) Maybe moving to another part of their vast condo, then another– pursued by evil odors–before deciding to pack up and leave.

Do they know that a neighbor two doors down is planning to devote her whole yard to vegetables? Maybe I should put up a sign. . .