I just handed in a draft of my new book, after about four months of crushingly intense work. So intense, I stopped noticing things like the dried glob of spilled shampoo on the bathroom floor that has been there since, oh, late February. You know how I knew the draft was ready to submit? Because I literally could not spend another minute on it. I practically punted that thing over to my editor.

It’ll come back in a few weeks, probably with an editorial letter long enough to be published as a book in its own right. But I’ll worry about that later. In the meantime, I’m enjoying that “just finished my last exam of the semester” feeling and yes, I finally took a butter knife to that glob. Although I think I might actually miss it.

Read Local Red HookI’m also getting the opportunity to go back out into the world for some cool events. This Saturday, I’m pleased to be part of the Read Local Red Hook literary festival in the achingly cute town of Red Hook, NY. I’ll be on a panel at 12 noon with authors Michael Northrop and Robin Palmer, discussing the theme of “Surviving Life’s Traumas and Dramas” in our Middle Grade and YA books. The festival is co-sponsored by Oblong Books and Music, which in my opinion is an example of an indie bookseller doing everything right: fostering community, creating a dialogue between authors and readers, and meeting the changing needs of the business.

Next Friday, April 20, I’ll be one-quarter of a smashdown event at The Voracious Reader, a fairly awesome children’s bookstore in Larchmont, NY (just a few train stops from Grand Central, really). I don’t know why I’m calling it a “smashdown”…there’s me, and there’s my good friend Kim Purcell (“Trafficked”), along with Amalie Howard (“Bloodspell”) and Kristi Cook (“Haven”). So I’m thinking that with two “contemporary” YA authors and two “paranormal” YA authors, something interesting is bound to happen. That’s at 6:30pm. Consider yourself warned.

Then on Monday, April 30, I’m doing the campus thing at SUNY New Paltz. They’ve invited me to speak about my experiences as a YA author in today’s publishing landscape, to dovetail with a couple of courses being taught this semester on the history of YA literature. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this, because it’s giving me a chance to process and share my travels so far and also talk to a bunch of industry people about why they love working in the kidlit biz. Nicole, who writes the smart and insightful Word for Teens blog, has been taking the YA lit course and posting about it. Fascinating stuff. Check it out.

The lecture is open to the public. 7pm on the SUNY New Paltz campus, Lecture Center Room 104. There will be fun visual aids and I’ll be reading the first chapter of my new book!

I’m looking forward to meeting more readers, talking writing, and generally getting perspective before I crawl back into revisions and all the things that have been consuming me during work on this book. Here’s one of them:

Like many authors, I slowly build a playlist of music that somehow inspires the work…a feeling, a scene, a character, whatever. There’s always one track that becomes kind of the “theme song” for the project, and I can’t stop listening to it. With “The Beginning of After,” that was a song by The Weepies called “The World Spins Madly On.” Now, with this new book (and dear God, I wish I had a title for it, I really do), it’s David Bowie’s classic “Heroes” — so much that I actually mention it in the narrative. The song itself has so many nuances but then I found the “official” video, and I’ve watched that about 50 times. DB may have been the first artist brave enough to just stand there totally still, singing by himself for an entire video. With white light streaming from between his legs, no less. Truly stunning. This one’s for Justine, Nate, Felix, Rory, and Keira, who you’ll all meet in Summer 2013. Enjoy.