Saturday, December 4, 2010

Guest Interview: Hallie Claire Waltezko

November was National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. This year, my 14 year old niece, Hallie Claire Waletzko participated. She started on November 1, 2010 and on November 29, 2010, she completed a novel, 1 day early, writing a total of 50,289 words!

If you've ever written a novel, you can appreciate what it takes to get 50,000 words down on the page. But in a month? So far, with my new novel, it has taken me 2 years and 3 months to complete that much! If you've never written a novel, try to picture yourself doing it. It's remarkable, right?

I'm so impressed by Hallie, that I asked her to let me interview her about her NaNoWriMo experience. Read on and be inspired!

Here's what she had to say:

KB: What was your process like--ie what did you do to be able to get 50,000 plus words written in the month of November?

HCW: Going into it, I didn't actualy expect to hit the 50,000 word goal. But the NaNoWriMo website sets daily goals for you, and I would always be really determined to meet those goals. As well as word count goals, I would set time goals, like "Okay, I'll write without stopping for the next 15 minutes." Or I would set plot goals, where I would write until something happened in the story so I wouldn't lose the thought.

KB: Did you ever want to quit?

HCW: I wouldn't say I ever really wanted to quit altogether. There would be days when I got home from school really late, and would stop before I got to my goal of the day. There were times when I had computer issues, and get really frustrated, but overall, I just kept going.

KB: Did anything surprise you while doing NaNoWriMo?

HCW: Yes, everything surprised me! By the first few days, I realized that my characters were making their own decisions! At the end of October, the NaNoWriMo website sends you an outline of what should be happening every few days. By Day 3, they say, "Realize this isn't the novel you were intending to write, and that's okay." And that's totally true.

KB: Any advice for novelists?

HCW: I guess my only advice is to just write. Don't worry about whether or not what you're writing is any good, that comes later. But getting the words out of you is really important, and a program like NaNo is really helpful with that.

KB: Thanks so much, Hallie!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Young Authors Conference 2010

I'm happy to say I'll be presenting 2 writing workshops to middle grade students this Saturday, October 23, 2010!

The Annual District 97 Young Authors Conference is from 9-11:00 at Lincoln School, 1111 S. Grove, in Oak Park.

I'll be talking about my young adult novel, Shattered. I'll also provide a writing prompt and will facilitate a critique group, so that students will get the chance to explore 2 tools writers often use. A free journal will be given to each participant.

A book sale will be held in the gym from 11:00-11:30, with books provided by the Magic Tree Bookstore. All participating authors will be on hand to sign.

This special event is one of the reasons I love living in Oak Park!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Going to college

We found out that my son, Dan, is assigned to move into his dorm at DePaul U. on Sunday, August 29th. Seeing this date on the page makes it so real that he's going. And turns these last days of summer ultra precious. I want to take each chance--a minute or long hours--to enjoy his presence in our house. Until he goes, I want to make sure I don't waste any time while he still lives with us. There's still time to savor his childhood. To be a family under one roof.

I love being surrounded by his teen-aged life--having his friends drop in, eating our food. Hanging out in ballparks, watching him play baseball. Watching baseball games on TV together. Him sleeping until 1:00 PM. Him texting, buying video games, going out to play putt-putt. I even want to appreciate his messy room. And how he forgets to do his chores; and how I nag him.

It's been a grand run, these last 18 years. I'm proud of him. Excited he's going to college. That he gets to go on this incredible journey.

It will be so quiet when he goes. So for now, I want to enjoy his noise.

Friday, June 18, 2010

SouthEast Wisconsin Festival of Books

Saturday, June 19, 2010, 4:00-4:50
"That's Tough - Teen Characters Who Deal with Hard Stuff"

This presentation will feature young adult author Pat Schmatz (MOUSETRAPS) and Kathi Baron (SHATTERED). Each will discuss their main character's challenges, followed by a brief reading. A panel discussion, moderated by Kim Suhr, Director of RedBird-RedOak Writing Program, will focus on the complexities in writing about teens with complicated lives. A signing will follow.

For more information, go to

Friday, June 4, 2010


I'll be reading from my young adult novel,
at Borders
(1144 Lake Street)
in Oak Park
on Saturday, June 5th
at 2 PM.
A signing will follow.
Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 28, 2010

On Abundance

It's hard to believe it's almost the very end of May. I've had a busy month. A happy month. So I'd like to mention all of the positive things that have happened.

My son, Dan, made his decision to go to DePaul University in the fall. Colleges all around the country were expecting to hear from students about their college plans by May 1st. DePaul is a 45 minute El ride from our house. I'm happy that Dan will get to start a new phase of life in such a beautiful area of the city...and happy that he'll be in town.

On May 5th, I spent the day with the students of Kennedy Junior High. They have the biggest school library I have ever seen. I gave 4 presentations about my young adult novel, Shattered, and even got to have lunch with the Screaming Pens Writing Club. Many students asked questions, giving me a chance to remember how much fun it was to write my book. One student shared about a novel she's writing. I was inspired by how creative she was.

On May 7th, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Alison Cuddy for the 848 show on WBEZ. You can hear the interview on Wednesday, June 2nd, at 91.5 FM, 9:00-10:00 AM or 8:00-9:00 PM. It will also be available at the link: 848.aspx

I celebrated my birthday on Sunday, May 23rd. I woke up with our cat, Leo, snuggled up to me. What a great way to wake up! I enjoyed going out to lunch with my husband and son.

On May 24th, writer Carol Grannick posted an interview she did with me. You can read it at It made me happy to read the comments writers left. It's nice that our conversation lead to an interesting dialogue about the importance of positivity and resilience in writing.

And finally, on May 25th, we went to the Oak Park and River Forest High School Junior and Senior Honors Convocation Ceremony. My son, Dan was awarded the Robert Gauger Memorial Scholarship for merit in science and technology. He made his parents very proud!

I wish you an abundance of positive things!

Friday, April 16, 2010

At Trinity Lutheran

I liked this school! On Wednesday, April 14th, I visited Trinity Lutheran School in Tinley Park, IL.

Ms. Heins' classroom looks out onto a courtyard. It was an especially fine spring day: birds flying in and out, grass so green, sun lending light. Though lovely, that was not as inpiring a sight as was this: after I gave a writing prompt, 18 seventh and eighth graders immediately went into writing mode. It was kind of like waiting for a my husband to finish cooking the new recipe he found on the Food Network. I couldn't wait to taste their work.

We heard from Matt, who courageously offered to share his poem. Then we made a pretend critique group and gave him feedback. He had some fresh (as in just baked bread) lines in there. I wanted him to develop it more, not because it couldn't stand alone, but because his poem was about music, about it being endless, and I wanted it to go on and on.

Mrs. Septoski--Sydney's mom--took our picture together. It was a brief moment but my heart felt glad to get to be with the students. And who knows, maybe I was standing with some future authors.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Visiting OHS: Full Circle

On March 26th, I visited my high school: Orrville High School. Home of the awesome Red Riders.

I was looking so forward to this because this is the place where I started writing--poems in Mr. McDaniel's creative writing class. But more than that, this is where I spent so many good days when I was a teen. I went through the front doors and it was like my mind opened to mini movies. There was talking and laughter in the halls but I was hearing the sounds of my friends, remembering how I couldn't wait to see them each day.

I began the visit in the office. Mrs. Andrea Dodds--who I've known since first grade at St. Agnes-- greeted me with a big hug. It was very much a homecoming.

This was an extra special day because the boys basketball team had won their semi-final game at state the day before and were leaving early to return to play for the championship. There were posters everywhere. My favorite was: "Our fans are better than yours." People were dressed in red, white and black, including me and my "Book Tour Alex" doll. Three guys showed up wearing retro basketball uniforms from the '70's. I think they're my friend Beth Scott Landers' nephews. I had forgotton just how short the shorts were back then!

Ms. Denise Rehm hosted me in the lovely LRC space--she and I grew up in the same neighborhood. Ms. Pat Warner introduced me to each class that arrived and she told me when any players were in the class. I spoke about my young adult book, Shattered during periods 1 through 5. In the middle of 5th period, we all went out in the hall to cheer on the basketball team. The pep band was leading a parade, playing "The Horse"--a song I used to love to twirl baton to--and the team and cheerleaders followed behind. Then the team got on the bus and headed to Columbus.

I went to lunch with my friend and classmate, Mrs. Barb Bupp. We ate in the chemistry lab with other teachers. It made me laugh because I barely passed chemistry back in the day.

After that, I returned to the LRC and held a writing workshop. We explored a writing prompt and then I walked them through how writers use a critique group to improve their work. Throughout the day, students asked good questions. The best part was when a student stopped in to tell me my book had made her cry. I told her I was sorry she cried, but honestly, that's the best compliment an author can get, because I know she and I connected through this book.

I met neices, nephews and children of my classmates. Students were very polite to me. I was struck with how attentive everyone was--which must've been hard since they were all looking forward to the game the next day. The teachers were really into the students and proud of the writing that students are doing. It made me think that it's still a magical place.

It was such a long time ago that I was a student there--more than 35 years ago--but I felt so at home. This is a place that is small enough to feel like you matter and big enough to do your dreams.

The next day, I watched the basketball game on TV. It didn't turn out as any of us had hoped. But I am so proud of this team. I saw grit, heart and smarts out on that court. I saw a bunch of guys never give up. In story terms, they are all heroes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Seeing Baseball

Everywhere I go, people are saying the same thing: "I'm tired of winter." As I write this, it's a cloudy gray day. It was snowing earlier. More of the same. But I saw the best thing over the weekend. ESPN is covering spring training. I was sick and bored and flipping channels. What a beautiful sight it was to see Red Sox players standing on green green grass wearing shades. They were just throwing but it gave me a jolt of hope.

That was a shot of pitchers and catchers only. Today, the whole team reports. It's a fantasy of mine to become one of those fans that heads to Florida to watch spring training. Travel all over the Grapefruit League, watching teams get ready for the season. I can just about remember what sun feels like when I daydream that!

The new MLB season is just about 6 weeks off. I guess I should get back to that unfinished novel of mine or do those house projects, because once the season begins, I confess, I'm not all that productive. I do feel a bit more energetic after seeing video of some great pitchers. We can make it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writer's Workshop: On Yearning

Save the date!

Thursday, February 11, 2010, I'll be presenting a workshop on the concept of yearning, as described in Robert Olen Butler's book, From Where You Dream. I will do a brief reading from my new young adult novel, Shattered. A discussion will follow about how Butler's ideas focused me on my protagonist's yearning and specifically, how the book helped me to create the draft that finally sold to WestSide Books. Also, I'll give a writing prompt to assist participants to begin to use the concept of yearning in their own work.

The workshop is offered by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Oak Park/Near West Suburbs. It will be held at Dole Branch Library, 255 August Blvd., in Oak Park, from 6-8 pm. It is not required to to be a member of SCBWI to attend the workshop.

I'll be happy to sign copies of Shattered afterward.

For more information on SCBWI, visit

Hope to see you on February 11th!