Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dead End in Norvelt

Yes, it's winter break for many of us teachers. What does that mean? Well, I just finished reading another novel . . . in three days (and had a good day writing today, too, thank you very much). The novel I read? Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. One of my seventh-grade students was reading it before break, and that got me interested. It's a fantastic read--funny, quirky, peopled by very real, lovable, flawed characters. Gantos' narrator (also named Jack Gantos) reminds me of Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird and certainly of her brother Jem, too. Jack's twelve years old and isn't afraid to think for himself. He befriends one of the most interesting characters I've come across in literature, Miss Volker who serves many roles in Norvelt including writing the town's obituaries, which become sprawling stories celebrating the deceased's lives and connecting those lives to events recent and long past. The book's full of interesting history. Most of the history is real; some of it is made up; and Gantos lets us readers figure out for ourselves what's what.

By the way: Did you know there were towns in Pennsylvania funded by the U.S. government during the great depression intended to be, in some ways, ideal communities? They gifted to families homes and land so that even when jobs couldn't be found, these families could grow on their own property what they needed to survive. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was such a supporter of these towns that some of them are named after her, such as Eleanor, West Virginia, and Norvelt, Pennsylvania (EleaNOR RooseVELT). Until I read Gantos' book, I'd never heard of these towns.

Anyway, if you love a great story, give it a read.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Monument Road

One of the joys of doing book events is meeting authors. At the St. Paul and Summit School Book Fest in November, I met an author named Charlie Quimby. I got to hear him read from his debut novel, Monument Road, and I knew I would buy and read my own copy. I just finished the book, and I can report that it's wonderful: the story of an aging rancher who found the love of his life against all odds and is now, after her premature death from cancer, struggling to say goodbye. It's also a story about how doing right by people does more good that we even know, and about how acts inspired by presumption and/or revenge do greater damage than we plan. Beautiful writing about memorable characters. Thanks, Charlie.

Click on the book cover below to learn more.


Monument Road_HR

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Thanks to the West Broadway Coalition for allowing me to take part in their first-annual Holiday Pop-up Boutique event. I met talented, creative people and talked with a couple other writers, not to mention friendly customers.


Cheers!
Andy

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday Morning: When Writing Happens

As a teacher, I have busy work weeks--busy days working with students and colleagues, busy evenings reading what the students wrote during the day. And of course I have a spectacular wife to spend time with in the evenings, as well. And there are all the responsibilities of being an adult citizen and home owner. And on and on and on.

So while I write every day for my teaching job, and while I try to write a little bit every day for my book-writing job, most days during the school year I don't add much to any novel-in-progress.

But then there's Saturday morning. Blessed Saturday morning. My wife's a later sleeper than I am, and so the house is quiet. The dining room table invites my laptop as its honored guest. I sit down and go to work.

This morning began with walk. My dog and I took turns tugging each other down leaf-strewn sidewalks.

When I got home, I turned on my laptop and got to work. This morning, my task was to begin writing a new version of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." Another teacher and I are running an activity with kids in which each of us (two teachers and eight students, grades 6-8) writes a fairy tale (or in some cases, such as mine, a fable) from a different character's point of view. Something along the lines of John Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. We all hope the end product, tentatively titled Fairy Fails, can be a collection of these stories that perhaps even has some connective tissue between each chapter/story. Stay tuned.

And anyway, on this blessed Saturday morning, my fingers were a-clickin'. I like my start to the story. 

-AH

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Today: A Haiku/written just for you and you . . ./thank you for reading

Just read a good book
recommended by my wife:
The Storyteller.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Is There Anything Better?

I realize just now that I'm an "Is there anything better?" guy.

I often ask the people around me if there's anything better than . . . whatever I'm doing or eating or watching at the time.

On this blog, I've asked if there's anything better than a Chipotle burrito, for instance.
I know I've asked friends if there's anything better than a peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwich.
I've asked if there's anything better than taking a nap with a dog squeezed between your side and the sofa's armrest.

Tonight, I ask if there's anything better than riding one's bike through a fall night to a local restaurant, eating a terrific sandwich (chicken, guacamole, beans) washed down by a good beer, and reading a novel. Is there anything better than returning home to plan what feels like a great English class for tomorrow? And is there anything better than watching playoff baseball?

I suppose the answer to any of these Is There Anything Betters is this: The only thing better would be having my wife (who's travelling for work) here with me.

Yeah, okay--groan. That's sappy. But I did write a book about her already, so what do you expect?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Great Writing Morning

Those close to me know I do my writing in the morning. In the morning, I don't feel the demands of being an adult (from work, from family and friends, from other commitments) so acutely. In the morning, I can find the kind of quiet that allows me to fall into the work of making sentences and stories.

Anyway, this morning was a great writing morning. They're not always (or usually) that way, so it's nice to take a moment to share this success. I've been plugging away at my current project, which will be a YA novel (if I ever finish it), for over a year--sometimes seven days a week, sometimes one, depending on what my brain is ready to give to this particular story. I just finished a chapter I like a lot.

So, uh, cheers to me? I realize at the end of this post that it is very self-congratulatory. Sorry.

-Andy

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tennis: My Luv and Hate of the Sport

So I have a bone to pick with the sport I played in college.

Before I get there, though, some context.

I began playing tennis as a kid. It's the perfect sport for a guy with a twin brother; I always had someone to play a set against. By the time we were maybe eight years old, we were riding our bikes to local courts. There's something beautiful about the sport's simplicity: If I get the ball over that net and into that box one more time than you do, I win the point.

By the time I was in ninth grade, tennis had become the sport I was best at and, therefore, to which I gave most of my time. In college, tennis gave me some of my best friends. It gave me a chance to play against the best from other small colleges in the Midwest and even, on spring-break trips, from across the country. I loved every minute of it.

And it's not just as a player. I grew up with Breakfast at Wimbledon. With Pete Sampras and his voice immodulation. With Andre Agassi's several careers and superhuman ball striking. With Jim Courier and his predictable-in-hindsight short-lived career (as no one with that goofy little swing can last for long, right?). With raucous US Open night matches. In college, I would set my alarm and wake up in the middle of the night to watch the Australian Open matches between Federer, Roddick, Agassi (shinily bald now), and scrappy Lleyton Hewitt (a personal favorite despite his reputation for being a real jerk).

In other words, the sport has been good to me as a player and as a fan.

I say that knowing I missed tennis in its heyday, the late 70s and early 80s. When people ask me, though, why the sport doesn't capture America's interest in the way that others (football, baseball, basketball, hockey, even . . . ugh . . . golf) have, I never have any trouble answering.

Tennis has absolutely no clue what to do with tradition.

Tradition, here, means lots of different things. Let me give you an example.

Minutes ago, I was watching a dazzling slugfest between Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka. They were in minute twelve or so of a nearly fifteen-minute game, the third game in a fifth set. There had been many game and break points when Wawrinka miss-hit a ball, removing its pace so that it landed short to Djokovic's backhand. The Djoker lunged and hit his backhand into the net. And then he threw his arms up and screamed in complaint. You might guess he was mad at himself. You would be wrong. Well, then, with whom?

He was mad at a fan.

Really? Yep.

Did someone throw something at him? you might ask. Did someone take out a large mirror and reflect sun into his eyes? No and no. What did they do? They yelled something. Not anything obscene or particularly coherent. Just something loud enough that he could hear them. That's right: The fan had dared to make noise as Djokovic was about to strike the ball.

The announcers (including one of my favorite players, at least from old highlights: John McEnroe) agreed there was nothing that could be done about it now, but that it was unfortunate the fan had yelled.

I have no idea why tennis cares if a fan yelled. I really don't. At baseball games, fans stand and cheer and boo at any time they darn well please. At basketball games fans stand near baskets and raise giant signs, giant cardboard heads, and anything else they want while screaming their heads off as an opposing player shoots free throws. I could go on and on, right? We all know this.

I remember being in college, playing a tennis match (in front of probably fifteen people--why so few? you might ask) that went to a super tiebreaker. That happens when both players have won a set so, instead of playing out the third set, they play a game to ten points instead. I've lost my share of these in life--this one, however, I won. I couldn't help noticing that those few people watching were much quieter the last half of the match. Afterward, I learned that my opponent's mother had lectured my friends (who had shown up when no one else does to small-college tennis matches) about when it was appropriate to cheer and when it wasn't.

I have no idea why tennis cares when people cheer.

Have you ever met a teenager (or person in their early twenties or, heck, early sixties) who has played almost exclusively tennis in his/her life in place of team sports? Too many of them, from my experience, have a hint of spoiled brat in them. The fanciest equipment is important to these people. They sneer at opponents who don't look right to them, whose forehand or backhand don't have the same smooth balance as those taught to players by club professionals. Such opponents are especially hated when they beat club-taught players. The more unorthodox players are called, disparagingly, "pushes". Meaning they get the ball back in the court one more time than the well-groomed player does, therefore winning the point (which is the goal, right?), but they don't do it the right way. A great way to invite new participants, let alone an audience, isn't it? My brother has such unorthodox strokes and, therefore, has been labeled a "push" all his tennis life. I'm a small guy like he is, and I play similar game (without a lot of pace but with precision and hustle), but I have smooth, conventional strokes, so I haven't had to deal with this foolishness. By the way, my brother won a few more tennis matches in his career than I did in mine.

Do I still dream of visiting Wimbledon--of watching the world's best players play in the game's most storied venue? Of spending evenings in New York watching players slug away under the lights? Of course I do. I just wish tennis would get its priorities straight.

It's a game, people. It's supposed to be watched and enjoyed. It's supposed to bring out passion, rivalries, and all the fun that sport can cultivate. That means fans need, you know, to cheer.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Release Party Today

I hope to see you today--yes, this very afternoon, at 2:00!--for a book-release party. We'll celebrate my YA novel and essay-writing guide How I Got Rich Writing C Papers as well as my sort-of memoir Sidewalk Chalk Hopscotch.

It occurs to me that a book-release party feels kind of self-indulgent. Like, "Hey--look at me! I wrote some books!" Then again, if writing and sharing a book isn't worth celebrating, what is?

Anyway: I hope you make it out. Say hi and eat a scoop of frozen custard, huh?

3019 Minnehaha Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55406


-Andy

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Perfect Meal

Have you ever noticed how most of the best meals are pretty simple? Don't get me wrong: I like to try new things, and I love reading descriptions at restaurants of exactly how a meal has been cooked and spiced. That said, the split lunch I had today--one sandwich at around noon, the other at around 3:30--was, well, perfect. And simple.

At noon, I cut two slices of challah from a loaf I bought at Lunds. Between those two slices, I inserted deli meat (barbecue chicken) and fresh avocado. So it was a chicken and avocado sandwich on good bread--that's it. Oh, and I ate a peach, too.

At 3:30, I cut another two slices of challah (knowing that I have about a day before it gets too dry to eat without toasting it first), spread peanut butter with honey on the bottom slice, plopped a banana sliced vertically on top of the peanut butter, and voila!: a peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwich, the perfect second half to a perfect meal.

Now the real question: Why did I write this? I don't know. If nothing else, maybe I whet your appetite, huh? For more on my (lack of) food wisdom, see my Chipotle Burrito Test.

Oh, and don't forget to attend my book-release party (also a back-to-school celebration) on Sunday, August 25th. Details below, in the previous post.

Cheers,
Andy

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Release Party

Please read about an exciting event (my book-release party!) below:

A Back to School Book Release Party

On Sunday, August 25th, from 2-4 p.m., make your way to the Mozaic CafĂ© for a celebration of Longfellow author Andy Hueller’s two newest books—the young adult novel and essay writing guide How I Got Rich Writing C Papers and the sort-of memoir Sidewalk Chalk Hopscotch.

Get your books signed by Andy and then enjoy the afternoon on the Mozaic’s beautiful patio. The address: 3019 Minnehaha Avenue South, Minneapolis 55406.



We’ll also celebrate the upcoming school year—with bookmarks and writing instruction! Come with a writing sample and any questions you have about writing: grammar, punctuation, process, it’s all fair game. Andy and his twin brother Patrick, also an author, will answer your questions.



Monday, July 15, 2013

And the Winner Is . . .

Actually, I should say, "And the winners are" because there are two:

Dorothy Teel, you have won a copy of Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth.
Rhonda P., you have won a copy of Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle.

D & R: Please send me e-mails (thunderstrikebike@yahoo.com) with your mailing addresses so I can send you your prizes.

Thank you to all participants. You all wrote persuasive notes, but I'm always especially thrilled when my children's novels get into the hands of the young readers for whom they were intended.

Thanks, again, and cheers,
Andy

Monday, July 8, 2013

Blog Hop Contest!




Welcome to the Great Summer Reads Hop hosted by Author Cindy C Bennett, featuring books that make for a great summer read!

Enter my giveaway and then click on any link in the linky list at the bottom of this post to hop over to the other blogs participating to win more great prizes.

In order to enter this particular giveaway, write one sentence explaining which book of mine you'd like to read and why. Publish that sentence as a comment in response to this post. (To learn more about my books, visit the "Books" page on this blog.) The contestant with the most compelling reason wins the book he or she wrote to me about!


Friday, June 28, 2013

New Book!

That's right, folks: I just published what I'm calling a "sort-of memoir." For a while now, I've wanted to try self-publishing. It's something my teaching colleagues and I are looking into for our students, and it felt important that I try the process out first. Seeing Joss Whedon's do-it-himself Much Ado About Nothing last weekend gave me the nudge I needed.

So I began digging through electronic folders and finding much of the creative writing I've done during the past five school years. (On breaks, I was busy writing Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle, Skipping Stones and the Center of the Earth, and How I Got Rich Writing C Papers, of course.) I saw a theme in these works, and so I organized them into a book that provides a glimpse of how I see the world and where my writing comes from. After tacking a new lead-in essay onto the front of the book, begging my publisher for permission to publish with someone else, and then wrestling a bit with Lulu's technology, oila--I have another book. Take a look.


What does this all mean? It's time for a contest. The first five people to write a full review of any of my books (including the two newest ones, How I Got Rich Writing C Papers and Sidewalk Chalk Hopscotch: A Sort of Memoir by a Teacher Who Writes) will receive a free copy of Sidewalk Chalk Hopscotch! Post these reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or your Facebook page. Just make sure to let me know by sending me an e-mail with a link. Send to thunderstrikebike@yahoo.com. 

The first 10 people to Like my post on Facebook (on my Andy Hueller author page--the post says the exact same thing as you'll find above) AND write a one-sentence review of one of my books in response to that post will receive a piece of How I Got Rich swag.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Reading

As a reader for the summer, first goal is simply to read a lot--and to read whatever suits my fancy. Last summer, I read 17 books (a lot for me, not a lot for some of you, I'm sure), and they ranged from long works of fiction to episodic works of comedy to books on writing. See a list of these books by clicking on the "My Bedside Table" page link above. After the first 17, the rest are books I read during the school year, some on breaks, some along with my students, some more slowly (before I fell asleep at night).

To encourage students to do the same thing--read and keep track of what they read--my colleagues and I have kept our students' summer assignment simple. I've included it below. Enjoy.

Please keep track of the books you read this summer in the log below. Happy Reading!
Your Name: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________
                                                                                               

Title of Book

Author
Genre (e.g., Action, Mystery)

Number of pages
Rating (1=too easy; 3=just right; 5=too hard)














































































OVER for additional reading log space


Title of Book

Author
Genre (e.g., Action, Mystery)

Number of pages
Rating (1=too easy; 3=just right; 5=too hard)





















































































Saturday, June 1, 2013

Contest!

Check out the contest on my Facebook page for a chance to win spectacular How I Got Rich Writing C Papers swag!

-Andy

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book Review! and Promotional Price!

For any of you wondering how the world feels about How I Got Rich Writing C Papers, check out Britanny Wilkerson's review for the Uintah Basin Standard newspaper.

And this is a great time to read the book for yourself. Who are the writers in your life who could benefit from an essays-writing lesson? Who likes a good laugh? Who's up for some mystery and adventure? Until the end of this month, purchase the book from Cedar Fort directly for the remarkably low price of $4.99. As I mentioned on Facebook, that means you can learn valuable lessons, get to know a real character, and enjoy a story for less than it costs you to buy lunch at Subway. 

In the words of one of my seventh-grade students--"That's how I roll."

Best,
Andy

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Event Today!

I hope to see you at Barnes & Noble Har Mar (Roseville) today--Sunday, March 24th--from 2-4 pm. I'll be there signing books and giving out prizes such as candy and free stories.

-Andy

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Launch Party

Yes, I know. How I Got Rich Writing C Papers, my novel for teenagers that doubles as a text that teaches readers how to write essays, came out in January. As a teacher, though, this has been a busy time of year. So we're just now getting to the launch party.

Join me at Barnes & Noble HarMar (Roseville) on Sunday, March 24th, beginning at 2 p.m. My books will be there, and I'll sign them. I hear whispers of free cake, as well . . .

-Andy

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fiction Focus Interview

Hi, all.

The fine folks at Cedar Fort chose my new book, How I Got Rich Writing C papers, to feature in their Fiction Focus series. Here's the interview we did: Q&A.

-Andy

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It's Out!

Today marks the official release of my latest novel, How I Got Rich Writing C Papers. I really don't think anything like it exists anywhere else--a YA novel that teaches essay writing! In my humble opinion (a phrase that always introduces a boast . . .), I've invented a new genre, and that's something I'm awfully proud of. So, if you want to know more about writing essays or just want to read what I hope is a thrilling story about a Nerf war and unrequited love, go here, here, here, or here.

Happy Reading!

-Andy