I had an e-mail from a reader yesterday saying there is a typo in Escaping the Giant Wave.  This book was published in 2004 and nobody had noticed this error before, or at least they didn’t tell me about it.  When I opened the book to page 24, I found that my young reader was correct: there is a mistake.  I can’t even call it a typo because this is clearly a math error! 

Before a book is printed, it gets read several times by me, by my editor, by copy editors and line editors – and not one of us noticed that BeeBee says five times $125 equals $725, when it actually equals $625.

This is not the first time I’ve made a mistake that has slipped by the watchful eyes of editors and made it into print. There was an error in my first novel, Deadly Stranger, that came about because I changed the letters on a license plate in one spot in the book but forgot to change it in an earlier place. That time, the mistake was discovered by my daughter as soon as the book was published.  The hardcover publisher went bankrupt so I couldn’t correct future hardcover editions, but Troll had purchased paperback rights, so I wrote to them and requested a correction in the paperback edition. They agreed to make the change, but didn’t.  After Troll’s contract ran out, I sold paperback rights to Pocket Books and again asked for the correction. Again, I was told it would be fixed but it wasn’t.  The book finally went out of print twenty years after the error was discovered without ever being corrected.

I’ve made other mistakes over the years, as well, and I’m always dismayed when a reader spots one.

Sometimes I’m accused of errors that I didn’t make! One reader wrote to tell me that in The Hideout it’s wrong to have the train blow its whistle in town. He said his dad works for the railroad and train whistles are no longer blown in town.  Well, maybe not where he lives, but where I live, the trains whistle loud and long in town all the time. (You can hear them in the background if you watch a Seattle Mariner’s baseball game.)

There is a mistake on the cover of my newest Pete the Cat book, Trapped.  This time it wasn’t my fault!  The artist depicted Pete with a white tail when Pete actually has a dark brown tail.  His tail doesn’t show on the covers of The Stranger Next Door or Spy Cat so this never came up before.  I’ve requested a correction for the paperback edition – but I’m not holding my breath!

Creative people

Last Sat. I spoke at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference in Portland, Oregon. I always enjoy a chance to see my fellow writers and to “talk shop” with them. I find it energizing to be around creative people who work hard to fulfill their dreams.

On Sun. I attended a production of “Godspell” in Bellevue, WA, because my grandson, Eric, played drums in the show. It was a fantastic production and thrilled me to see Eric using his talents.  Whether it’s writing, music, or any other artistic endeavor, creative projects feed the spirit.

I am ready to begin a new book and I couldn’t have better preparation than to attend an SCBWI conference and a fantastic musical production.

Good readers

    I spent yesterday afternoon in Burien WA with some amazing students from the Highline School District. The event was Book Quest, called Battle of the Books in some areas. Twelve teams of four students competed by answering ten questions about ten books. Six teams went on to the final round, where they each answered another ten questions about the same books.

     My book, Abduction!, was one of the ten so I was present to hand out prizes, say a few words about how I came to write Abduction!  and autograph books.

    I had read most of the other books on the list but I would not have made it to the finals if I had been a team member.  These kids were fantastic.  It was clear they had read the books carefully, and understood them fully. I was impressed by their knowledge, their enthusiasm, and their respect for each other.

     It was a privilege for me to participate in Book Quest and the afternoon reinforced why I love to write for kids.

Not enough time

I am often asked by a young reader if I will be his or her pen pal. I feel so honored by these requests but I have to say no to all of them.  Most weeks I get about 100 letters and, while I try to respond to all of them, I can not answer any one person more than once.

 The same problem arises when I’m asked to read what someone else, student or adult, has written.  I want to encourage new writers but I simply don’t have time to read unpublished manuscripts.

 Today was Mother’s Day and I had a good one. One of my grandsons, Eric, came down yesterday and spent the night with me. He repaired my bird feeders (yes, Papa Bear came back and wrecked them again) and helped me stack a big pile of firewood.  We met my daughter and son-in-law, Anne and Kevin, and my granddaughter, Brett, for lunch at my favorite Italian restaurant and then strolled through a local rhododendron garden.  My son, Bob, called to wish me Happy Mother’s Day, too, so I felt special and spoiled today! 

Papa Bear Returns

My dog, Lucy, woke me at 2:30 a.m. Monday night. She ran to the living room, barking, so I got up, flipped on the yard lights, and saw a big black bear on my back porch! He had  tipped over the large wooden bin where I store birdseed and was trying to get the lid off.

   When I rapped on the window, the bear turned and looked in at me. I rapped again, and he ambled down the porch steps. Next he removed both my bird feeders from their posts, yanked them open, and ate the seed. He also tipped over the bird bath. Then he went to the front side of the house where he tipped over the other bird bath and removed that bird feeder!

   While he was in front, I went out to the back porch and brought my birdseed bin indoors. There are teeth marks on the lid. I watched Papa Bear for an hour before he finally plodded away into the woods.

    My son-in-law, Kevin, came the next day and repaired all the bird feeders and reinstalled them. Papa Bear did not return last night.  It was exciting to see him so close and it was fun to watch him work at getting the seed, but I am not eager to have him up on my porch again.

    I’ve already written about bears in The Hideout but I still made some notes about this experience and put them in my Ideas Box.

    I had a check this week for photocopies of my work made in other countries. For this accounting period, my writing was photocopied in Spain, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Quebec, and some places listed merely as “overseas.” 



May 7 

   I live in a remote area near Mt. Rainier, in Washington State. My ten acre property is a certified wildlife sanctuary and I often see deer, elk and rabbits. Once I saw a porcupine. I have used my woods and the area around my home as the setting for several books, including Spy Cat, The Ghost’s Grave, The Hideout, and Trapped.

    Today I had a new visitor – a black bear!  I didn’t see him or her, but I saw the wet paw prints on my front porch early this morning. I feed Mr. Stray, a feral cat, on the porch and the bear must have smelled the cat food bowl.  The bear had also removed one of my bird feeders from its post; the feeder was broken open and lying on the ground.

    I compared the paw prints to pictures in a book of animal tracks and there is no doubt that this was a black bear. I researched black bears on the Internet today and learned that they are not aggressive and they eat mostly seeds, nuts and berries.  So I hope Mr. Stray is safe!

I love sharing my property with the wild animals.

New book finished

May 4:  Yesterday I met with a police detective who had read my new book, STOLEN CHILDREN, for me. I asked him to make sure I had depicted the police investigation accurately.  He suggested only two minor changes, which I made, and today I put the book in the mail. 

I always have mixed feelings when I finish a new book. I’m glad to have it on its way but also sad not to have it here to work on. Revision is my favorite part of the writing process. My least favorite part is starting a new story, which is what I will need to do now.

In my early years as a writer, mailing a manuscript launched me into weeks of anxiety as I waited to hear whether my work would be accepted or returned. I am fortunate that I don’t have to wonder if this book will be accepted. It was sold several months ago to Dutton Children’s Books, on the basis of a proposal. Even so, I will be a little nervous until I hear from my agent (to whom I sent it) and then from my editor, telling me that they like it.