Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oak Park, ARCs, and Nobody Owens

Last week I visited yet another school in Stillwater--Oak Park Heights Elementary. It was the last day of school before break, and the school's 1st- through 5th-graders were kind enough to listen as I read from Dizzy Fantastic. Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

I have exciting news to share with you readers (if, indeed, I have any readers). My wonderful publisher, Cedar Fort, recently sent the ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth to the printers. They'll begin finding reviewers in the next couple weeks. Cedar Fort also sent me the PDF for this ARC, and I have to tell you that I've never been more excited about anything in my writing life. Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle is my first published book, it's inspired by my wife, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Skipping Stones, though, is the book I've been working on for six years. I hope you all find it to be as funny, thrilling, and dark as I want it to be.

Speaking of funny, thrilling, dark books: I just finished Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. The first chapter is a revelation--scarier and perhaps more engaging than any other book opening I've read. And the rest of the book is darn compelling, too. Gaiman seems to believe the same principle I do: always trust readers. Readers can handle frightening moments and difficult vocabulary as long as they know the writer's goal goal is to tell the story as clearly and engagingly as possible. Thanks for a great book, Mr. Gaiman.

Hope you're all safe and home for this holiday season.

Andy

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stranger than Fiction

Minnesotans woke up this morning and the world was one giant Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake. Two feet of smooth snow covered everything: sidewalks, cars, even some house windows. I read just now that the Teflon roof of our beloved Metrodome collapsed under the weight of too much snow. I heard one man describe the stadium as "a big bowl with sugar in it."

A wonderful neighbor cleared our sidewalk with his snowblower. I still spent three full hours outside moving snow off our walkways and driveway. There's so much snow, though, that it wasn't always easy to figure out where to put it.

What a morning in Minnesota.

Andy

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dizzy Flies to the East Coast

All,

I knew when I signed my publishing contract that Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle would be sold in bookstores across the country, but it still floors me when someone lets me know they found the book somewhere far from here.

Here's a picture of my brother and my sister (the sister) with Dizzy in Baltimore.


Monday, November 29, 2010

A Return Home and Some BIG News

All,

I had the privilege last week of returning to my alma mater last week, which also holds the distinction as The Best School in the History of the Universe: Stonebridge Elementary in Stillwater, MN. Okay--so the school I teach at now, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, is spectaculary awesome, too, but the Stonebridge I remember offered held an annual sleepover every year for 5th and 6th graders. That sounds like an eternally long night to a teacher, of course, but to a kid it was the best. Though it was called a sleepover, we certainly didn't sleep. We played ping pong and knee hockey, scarfed pizza, swizzled Mountain Dew, and STAYED UP ALL NIGHT! Stonebridge Elementary also boasted the world's best place to read--Cube City, an apartment structure for kids outside the library. You could drag a bean bag up to a compartment and get lost in a book. I did this daily, as my teacher watched me fall behind on all my other work.

And on Wednesday, I read Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle to Stonebridge students in the very same gym that hosted so many of my favorite childhood memories. They treated me like royalty, too. They gave me gifts: a storybook just like the one I filled out when I was 5 and 6 years old, a coffee tumbler, and this year's student-designed t-shirt. In the back of the gym sat three of my teachers (all retired now). Two teachers still around introduced me. And of course the students were as smart and curious as Stonebridge students always are. Thank you, Stonebridge. How very special the morning was.

After visiting Stonebridge, I headed over to Lily Lake Elementary School, also in Stillwater. I have friends who went there, and I know it to be a terrific place. The students were wonderful. They asked questions for twenty minutes and had more to ask when we ran out of time. Thank you, too, Lily Lake.

What could be as exciting as two great school visits in my hometown? News from my publisher! I learned today that Cedar Fort (yes, my publisher) will publish and disseminate an Advance Reading Copy (usually referred to as an acronym: ARC) of Skipping Stones at the Center of The Earth. ARCs tend to be black, unedited, and often unillustrated versions of novels created ahead of time for reviewers. Skipping Stones is the novel I've been working on for 6 years, and I'm awfully excited to share it with the world. The real deal should hit bookstore shelves in July or August. More on that later.

Cheers,
Andy

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dizzy Visits Ascension

Thanks to Ascension Catholic School for inviting me to their Book Festival. Tonight I read the first chapter of Dizzy to some terrific young readers (including my first fan ever, Nia, as well as her younger sister). They listened respectfully (didn't even throw anything at me) and asked great questions.

Responses to my being there ran the gamut. One sixth-grade girl was so nervous to be with a "real, published author" she couldn't talk. I assured her my seventh-grade students know the truth: that I'm as far from a big deal as people come. So that was one end. On the other end, a student who won during the raffle chose a biography of Justin Bieber over Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle. Hey, I can't compete with those bangs.

Thanks, y'all.

Andy

Saturday, November 13, 2010

S-P-A All . . . the . . . way!

I'm lucky enough to teach at an incredible school--a place full of supportive, dedicated colleagues and enthusiastic students. I'm reminded of this every day as I plan and execute seventh- and ninth-grade English lesson plans (and one for the geography class I teach, too).


This week, my teaching and writing lives collided in an awfully special way.


I was one of the featured authors at the Lower School's Book Festival. This means I read the first chapter of Dizzy during Monday's assembly and then returned on Tuesday and Wednesday to present to and work with third, fourth, and fifth graders. I did my best to explain where ideas for my stories come from and how we all write most authentically and engagingly when writing about what we know. On Thursday evening, I was on hand to sign books.


The volunteers who organized this year's Book Festival worked awfully hard and put together a great event. Teachers at the Lower School--some of the supportive, dedicated colleagues I referred to earlier--welcomed me into their classrooms. And the kids, predictably, were marvelous. They asked awfully smart questions, and many began writing what will be terrific stories.


Thanks to all of you. You sure made me feel special.


Here's a picture of my wife standing next to the spectacular, bigger-than-life Dizzy Fantastic the kids constructed this fall to hang in the school's living room (yep--that's The Flash in Dizzy's pocket!):




Sunday, October 17, 2010

My New Favorite Reviewer

I just received a wonderful review (in the form of a book report) from third-grade reader Freddy.






Thanks, Freddy, for your thoughtful reading of my story.

Andy

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Twin Cities Book Tour


Thank you to The Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, Barnes and Noble in Roseville (Har Mar), and The Bookcase of Wayzata. The past three weekends, I've been at your stores talking with readers, reading from Dizzy, and signing books.

I'd love to show you pictures from all three events, but I can't find the ones my mom (yes, my mom!) took at Valley Bookseller and Barnes and Noble. My smart, pretty, ever-talented wife (with me, above) is infinitely more organized than I am, and she probably put the CDs in a completely logical place, but she's out of town until tonight. Oh, well. I'll get them up soon. The pics in this post, though, come from The Bookcase of Wayzata. Yes--that's my book next to Jonathan Franzen's. Hint, hint Oprah. Hint, hint.




Cheers,
Andy
P.S. I've not been posting pictures with young readers in them because I've never asked them to sign any kind of release. If you'd like to see pictures of you, e-mail me (thunderstrikebike@yahoo.com) and let me know.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sunday Event!

All,

I know I still owe you pictures from the Valley Bookseller and Barnes and Noble events. I apologize. It's been a week. (A good one here at work--but busier than a jostled beehive.)

I do have another event this weekend. Join me at The Bookcase of Wayzata on Sunday at 2:00. It's a charming place, and I know they pull out all the stops for author events.

Cheers!
Andy

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tomorrow!

Thanks to all who came out to Stillwater and said hi to me at the Valley Bookseller. I'll post pictures soon.

I have another event . . . tomorrow! That's Saturday, September 11th. I'll be signing at the Barnes & Noble HarMar, in Roseville, beginning at 2:00 pm. It's the big, beautiful bookstore on Snelling before you get to 36 (if you're heading north). I hope to see you there.

Cheers,
Andy

Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day Event at the Valley Bookseller

All who are available:

Please come out and say hi to me at Stillwater's Valley Bookseller, where I'll be signing on Monday (September 6th) beginning at 12:00 noon. I'd love to see you all there--and you can make a day out of it. Stroll along the St. Croix River, stuff your face at Nacho Mamas, and get a cone at Nelson's Ice Cream.

Stillwater's my home town, and it inspired the Dizzy Fantastic's Plaintown.

Hope to see you there!
Andy

Monday, August 23, 2010

Release Party Photos



Last week, I promised release party pictures. I'm a bit late, but here they be. Party-goers ate a Dizzy Fantastic cake, brought by my mother-in-law; played the Dizzy Fantastic Board Game; listened, attentively (or patiently?), as I read from Dizzy, fighting traffic and wind noise all the while; bought books, and had me sign them; and won prizesy. (See me and my pretty wife, Debbie, giving those prizes away? There were bookmarks, Angry Red Bees, and a signed copy of Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle.)

Below, see if you can spot my mom, a family full of some of my very favorite readers, and my twin brother Patrick, who's also a writer. You'll see Janet, too, my new favorite bookseller.
Thanks to every family member, friend, and reader who came out. And gargantuan thanks to Ben Smith and Glaciers Cafe, who hosted the event. I know all involved had wonderful time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hop on the Straddling Bus

People--children and adults--often ask writers where their story ideas come from. I certainly don't know the answer to this question. They come to me as I write, as I mow the lawn, as I drive my car, as I'm talking with some person I just met or have known all my life. They just pop into my head ready to be explored.


It's why I ask my English students to free write most class periods. It's why I urge (and yes, require) them to brainstorm on a topic before beginning a story, essay, or poem. A person never knows what she can remember, invent, or connect; it's a magical, unpredictable thing, human imagination.


I was reminded of how wonderfully innovative human beings are as I read about China's "straddling bus" idea. It will look something like this (courtesy of nydailynews.com):








The passengers ride above traffic and the train glides on tracks running parrallel to the highway. It's an eco-friendly (solar- and electricity-powered) mode of transportation that reduces traffic congestion. Looks like something out of Spielberg movie, right?


I have no clue if this straddling bus will work. People seem confident, though. I just think it's another example of humans using their imaginations. I know that the idea for this straddling bus came from the same place as Spielberg's science fiction and storywriters' plots. And if it came from there, maybe it can take me there, too. It's a bus, after all.

The cost of a ticket is time--allowing myself time to brainstorm.

It's thrilling, isn't it, living in a world full of such wondrous ideas? Next time you sit down to write, whether it's an essay, a story, or anything else, remember the straddling bus. Hop on that bus. Join me on a trip to that place called Imagination, where gosh-wow cool ideas reside.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Release Party

Thank you, friends, family, and all other readers who celebrated with me yesterday afternoon. I sure appreciate your support. Signing books makes me feel almost like a real author.

I'll post pictures later this week.

Thanks again,
Andy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reading Minnesota Blog

All,

Take a look at the Reading Minnesota blog (featuring Minnesota authors) this Friday. By 6:00 am, the blog will feature . . . me. (I suppose you expected this, as you're reading my site.)

The link: http://readingminnesota.blogspot.com/.

Along with divulging information about me that perhaps even I don't know, the Reading Minnesota blog will announce my latest exciting news: that, just last week, I signed a contract for Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth, my second novel. This one's probably for readers between the ages of 10 and 14. More on Skipping Stones in the coming months, as it hops toward publication.

Cheers,
Andy

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thanks, HPR!

I don't have much time to write now, after a fun-filled day at my favorite summer camp, but I do want to say thanks to everybody involved: directors, counselors, and of course campers. You all know how to make a guy feel special.

Keep reading.

Andy

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dizzy Day at HPR

Having a book published is an awfully humbling process. Friends and family from all offer their kudos and support. Here's one example.

Right out of high school, I worked for three summers as a day camp counselor at Hidden Pines Ranch Camp. I spent my days hanging out with funny, enthusiastic kids. Now HPR is doing something awfully special for me.

Friday, August 6th is Superhero Day at camp. And the whole day will be designed around Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle. Debbie Lyons, a director out there, sent me this schedule in an e-mail yesterday:

1) Flash hunt (like a treasure hunt ... there are pictures of flash around camp that they have to find)

2) "Steal the Cone" on the sportsfield. Campers are given different ice-cream flavors and when they are called they try to steal the cone in the middle of two lines of campers.

3) Parachute ... ?? 500 / Shark - lifeguard game / or ??? (Mainly to get the parachute in)

4) Dizzy Fantastic dress up relay ... with campers dressing with sunglasses / bike helmet / boots (from riding) / "cape" / backpack and they have to run around the circle

5) At archery we are able to set up individual targets ... Green Walnut throw. (I have the green walnuts.) Maybe doing the Joker / Wicked Witch of the West ...

6) Jenga .. I am hoping to get enough games rounded up. If not, we could play with decks of cards trying to stack them.

7) Reading/ Writing station.

In the afternoon, there will be a Dizzy Bike Race.

My gosh. Ever been to one of Macy's upstairs holiday book exhibits, where you get to walk through a beloved book? That's what this will feel like, only it will be interactive, too.

Thanks, HPR. I'll see you in a week.

Cheers,
Andy

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Release Party!

I just got off the phone with Ben Smith, owner of Glaciers Cafe in south Minneapolis. (He's also my wife's cousin.) He'll be hosting the release party for Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle.

I'll sign books, maybe read a bit, and give away prizes.

And of course Glaciers boasts the best custard in the area. Just think of it as Cone On In!'s ice cream.

The date: Sunday, August 15th. 2:00.

Come one, come all.


Andy

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pre-Orders Are In

My aunt called yesterday as I drove my wife home from work. She said she'd just recieved a package with copies of Dizzy. For anybody else who pre-ordered, two things you should know:

1. I'm very grateful you took a chance on my book.

2. I haven't even seen the finished product yet, so you're a step ahead of me.

Cheers, all.

Andy

Thursday, July 15, 2010

They're Printed!

The PR gal at Cedar Fort (my publisher) just let me know the first run of Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle has been printed. I'll have a few copies of my own soon. If anyone wants to see the finished product, let me know. They should be in stores and libraries in a couple weeks, too.

Hoorah!

Andy

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Basement Baseball Club

I woke up this morning thinking of perhaps my favorite book growing up, Jeffrey Kelly's The Basement Baseball Club. It's a children's novel--meant, most likely, for boys grades 5-7--about a tight-knit group of boys (and one girl, too) who play baseball on sandlots against boys from other streets in the neighborhood. It has everything I wanted as a boy: humor, BELIEVABLE SPORTS ACTION (which is so hard to find in fiction), and flawed but decent characters to root for. It was the first book my brother ever bought with his own money, and we each have read it maybe a dozen times.

In the past several months, as I sent Dizzy Fantastic around to potential reviewers, Jeffrey Kelly came to mind. How cool would it be, I thought, if the author of my favorite book reviewed my debut novel? While it's become increasingly easy to locate anyone online--to find some way of communicating with them--I couldn't find Mr. Kelly. He didn't write many books (my Amazon and Barnes and Noble searches told me), he has a common name, and his publisher wouldn't release his information.

Even The Basement Baseball Club, which I continue to believe is a tremendous book for boys who love sports, can't be found on bookstore shelves these days.

I guess this post has two purposes:
1. to find Jeffrey Kelly and
2. to promote his book to a new reading audience.

Anybody know anything about Jeffrey Kelly's whereabouts? It's too late for him to review Dizzy, of course; I just want to tell him thanks for writing a book I loved so.

Are you a reader who loves sports and humor? If you are, or you know someone who might be, buy a new or used copy of The Basement Baseball Club (originally published in 1987) at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com. Let's get this book into young readers' hands again!

More anon,
Andy

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Available in a Bookstore Near You!

I walked into the Highland Barnes & Noble today with an Advanced Reading Copy of Dizzy. I talked with the manager about making sure it's on the shelf when released in August. She looked it up on line, saw that it's available for preorder, and said that means the folks in New York are planning on selling it in stores nationwide.

Wow. As I wrote in my previous post, surreal is the word.

In other news, my wife's just the best. Nothing in particular reminded me of this; occasionally, though, I'm smart enough to realize it. Here's to you, Freckles.

Andy

Sunday, June 13, 2010

DF Available for Pre-Order!

Friends, Family, and Dizzy Fantastic Readers (including those who are all three):

I noticed today, as I explored this magical space called the Interweb, that Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle is available for pre-order. You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders. You'll find links on the right side of the screen.

Amazon and Borders say the release date is August 8th; Barnes and Noble says it's August 28th. We can all agree, at least, that August is the month.

If you type "Andy Hueller Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle" into a Google search, you'll see the book available in a bunch of other countries and currencies, too.

Even if you're planning to buy the book in a real bookstore or aren't planning to buy it at all, you may want to take a look. I think it's pretty darn cool, anyway. Honestly, now that I've finished my final proof, it all feels kinda surreal.

Cheers,
Andy

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mr. Hueller's Crash Course on the Paragraph

In formal writing, an idea is often fleshed out in a paragraph—a group of several sentences that begins with a topic sentence, becomes more detailed in its supporting sentences, and finishes with a concluding thought on the idea. The topic sentence is typically the most general sentence in the paragraph; it articulates the paragraph’s main point. I might write, in the topic sentence of a paragraph, that “Seventh-grade girls went gaga for Edward Cullen last year until they met Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo; that’s when they stopped writing love notes to a vampire and began waxing poetic about a whiny, blond-haired boy with bangs.” Supporting sentences provide the facts, details, and tidbits that make the paragraph engaging and worth reading. In that paragraph about seventh-grade girls and Leo’s Romeo, for instance, I might write a sentence about how many of the girls would talk loudly about him just to hear the boys around them groan. Perhaps I’d write another sentence about how I have to admit the guy can act. That’s a lovely movie, DiCaprio’s Romeo and Juliet. Finally, the concluding sentence would remain on topic but might add something for the reader to think about. In that sentence, I’d probably write about how the girls moved on to Taylor Lautner—a werewolf!—the next year and then Justin Bieber. I’d recognize a pattern here—last year’s seventh-grade girls seem to fall first for glamorized gothic creatures and, in the spring, for pop stars with bangs. All of this happens in a paragraph, which is a convenient way to organize and articulate what one knows.

Do you see that I modeled paragraph structure in my own paragraph above? I made bold my topic and concluding sentences, which sandwich supporting sentences. Here’s another paragraph (below) that gives you a second model.

Seventh-grade girls went gaga for Edward Cullen last year until they met Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo; that’s when they stopped writing love notes to a vampire and began waxing poetic about a whiny, blond-haired boy with bangs. For these girls, film clips of the passionately red-faced heartthrob spewing Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter with all his being were the highlights of our English class’s Romeo and Juliet unit. “Then I defy you stars!” young DiCaprio/Romeo shouts to the heavens, as seventh-grade viewers wish only that he was mourning them and not that annoying girl Juliet. The girls ooh and ahh. “He’s so dreamy,” they say. “He’s hot!” they exclaim. They do this in part so they can watch the boys in class groan. And yet, I have to give the young Mr. DiCaprio credit. The guy could act (and still can, as we see in his more recent films). It’s not all his fault, either. This year, as eighth-graders, the girls moved on to Jacob Black before discovering baby-faced Justin Bieber—in other words, they tend to fall for glamorized gothic creatures in the winter and pop stars with bangs in the spring.

Monday, April 5, 2010

An Ode to the Timed Essay: From a Seventh-Grade English Teacher

An Ode to the Timed Essay

The percussive punching of laptop keys.
The delicate surgery of longhand composition—
in each student’s hand, a pencil/scalpel.

Stares around the room—
concentrated, eyes narrowed;
distant, unseeing from exhaustion;
bug-eyed, eyebrows raised: that’s frustration.

Silent yawns become watery eyes.

Sneezes muffled in arm crooks.
Deep breaths sucked in
then forced out through sealed lips (bangs fluttering).

Legs kick beneath the table—
they want to be anywhere but here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Frank L. Cole and His Hashbrown World

If only every young or aspiring author had a Frank L. Cole in his or her life. Last summer, I had no idea what to do next in my writing life. I had a completed manuscript and others at various stages, and I’d hit a dead end. That’s when my wife Debbie and I took a trip to Salt Lake City. Debbie had a conference there, and I tagged along to keep her company. Debbie’s days would be tied up with seminars (though we had evenings, wonderful evenings, together for dinner and each other), and so I knew I’d be walking around the city—seeing the temple, attending a Bees game, finding cheap meals for lunch.

My first day out and about, I found a Deseret Book. I walked in and, as is my custom, made my way to the middle-grade (ages 7-11) reading section. Soon, a particular cover had grabbed my attention. A perhaps impish, certainly unfortunate boy with a winter cap on his head begged me with big, pleading eyes to read his story, The Adventures of Hashbrown Winters. I read the first chapter there in the store, and later returned to buy the book. It’s one entertaining story—narrated by a wildly imaginative fifth-grader who dreads his showdown with the school bully even as he dodges acorns the local squirrels throw at him. The author? One Frank L. Cole. When I saw, in the back of the book, that this was Frank’s debut novel, I sent him an e-mail, right there in my hotel room. I asked for any suggestions and any wisdom regarding the writing world. How do I get the right people to read my work? I wanted to know. I didn’t expect an e-mail back anytime soon. How wrong I was. Frank got back to me a couple hours later and offered both advice and encouragement. If it wasn’t for Frank, I wouldn’t be publishing a children’s novel of my own in August. I was that discouraged. He and I have maintained an e-mail dialogue, and he’s been nothing but helpful and supportive.

And now I’ve read his second book in the Hashbrown series: Hashbrown Winters and the Mashimoto Madness. It’s full of the same humor and storytelling glee as Cole’s debut. Which makes sense, given the humor and glee the author has brought to our conversations and to any discussion about writing (and entertaining kids!) for a living. Thank you, Frank, for your entertaining stories and your generosity.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

About This Website

The coolest place I’ve ever read in was Cube City, a wood structure third- and fourth-graders got to use at Stonebridge Elementary. You could read on the ground floor, on the next floor up, or all the way up on the third and top floor. The structure was divided into mini apartments, or cubes—hence the name Cube City—each probably four feet high and four feet across each side. You’d climb ladders of stained wood to get to the upper floors, right next to the ceiling, and you could drag a bean bag up there with you. It was a marvelous place—a chance to get out of school even when they were in school. It felt like another world. Occasionally, students fell off the top floor and got hurt. At that time, though, students, parents, and teachers were willing to take on the small risk of injury in favor of giving kids a special place to visit even as their books spirited them away with the characters they loved. In Cube City, as I read the Great Brain books, the Lemonade Trick series, and anything by the great Roald Dahl, I further fell in love with reading—with where it took me, what it taught me, and above all else how it entertained me. These were the only years of my life when I was often behind on my school work—and it wasn’t because I was goofing around, causing trouble, or rousing rabble; it was because once I entered Cube City and began reading, I just couldn’t go back to a few lousy math problems.

Now I’m months away from seeing my own novel (Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle, Cedar Fort, August 2010) on bookstore shelves. I hope readers enjoy living Dizzy’s adventures, even if their reading spots aren’t as dangerous as my Cube City.

Through this blog, you’ll learn a little about me, read some of my work, and keep up with my publication news.

Cheers,
Andy