All About Peni's Books

and other writer-type stuff,

by Peni R. Griffin

The only thing I ever wanted to be was a famous author, emphasis on the "author" part. If I were in a hurry to be famous, I wouldn't be writing books for children and teen-agers, the most under-rated, demanding, rewarding audience in America. Still, if I keep plodding along and doing my best, people will start to recognize my name. A few people already do.

For more up-to-date Stuff, please visit my blog, the Idea Garage Sale.

Current Projects

October, 2007 was the first month of the rest of my life. I will never hold another day job. Ever. In pursuit of that intention, in addition to trying to sell books to publishers I'm looking for an agent. It's time to pay somebody else 15% to do the parts of this business I'm bad at - tracking the game of musical editors, negotiating my way out of unacceptable boilerplate (Random House UK has a morality clause now - geez!) - even if children's markets weren't moving to the "won't accept unagented submissions" side of the Force. If you look at my publication credits and think "With her history it should be easy to get an agent," think again! It's as hard to get an agent as it is to get a publisher, and people sometimes have to try out two or three before they get the right match. Agents, so I've been told, don't care to see shopworn manuscripts, so during the early part of 2009 I wrote a new middle-grade book, with the working title The Astral Palace, for circulation to agents only. As of late 2009, I'm researching a YA western which will also be launched on the agent search, and then - well, then will be time enough to worry about then.

So while I go through that search, I keep circulating the books I have ready to publish. During the dark days of 2005-2007, I had to let my career slide in order to keep my husband alive, but now five neglected books are polished up and ready to go. Their working titles are Abnormal Street (aka the "happy family serial killer story" - yes, it's a better title but it's too long!), Sullivan, That Summer, Squirrel Ellie, The Ideal Guy, and Disenchanter. My short story "The Restroom Murders" was in the August 2008 issue of Realms of Fantasy Magazine, but it's hard to keep old short stories out there. I've already run through most of the markets.

And then there's the Pleistocene. I've lost hope for getting the go-ahead for a sequel to 11,000 Years Lost, but the Pleistocene was a big place. Sometimes I think I could spend the rest of my life writing about nothing else. Exciting work is being done right here along the Balcones Escarpment, at the Gault Site, and I get to help! Though not as often as I'd intended, partly because of health stuff and partly because it's a long drive and hard to synch up with the rest of my schedule. It is not a good thing to poke around archeological sites unsupervised, even if you yourself are trustworthy as the day is long. It sets a bad example and makes policing the relic collectors harder. Besides, you don't learn as much if you can't eavesdrop on the pros. I'm thinking of joining the Southwest Texas Archeological Society, or something, so I at least don't miss things like Texas Archaeology Month.

Most Recent Books

11,000 Years Lost

Esther Aragones is 11 years old and 11,000 years lost, in a world that is, and is not, the one she was born in. Adopted by hunter-gatherers, she has to learn a new language and a new way of living while trying to find a way home. At times it seems her mere presence triggers conflict in a group that must cooperate to survive. If she can't pull her own weight, will she be left behind? How can she make herself useful when she doesn't even know what food looks like? What magic brought her here, and how can she make it take her back? Will she die before she's ever born?

Even all t his while later, I'm so excited about this book I can hardly stand it. We sent it around to other people who love the Pleistocene, and they all loved it - archaeologists and novelists alike. The Bulletin for the Center for the Study of Children's Books wrote the best review of it I ever saw in my life ("A unique, superior contribution to speculative adventure fiction" - and that wasn't even the sentence I like best!). I am so going to write more books set in the Ice Age.

I've been thinking, reading, and writing about the Ice Age for so long, I can't seem to stop. Also, when you're writing a story, the research you leave out is as important as the research you leave in. I couldn't slow down the story of Esther's adventure to speculate about how people came to the Americas, what killed the megafauna, or go on and on and on about Ice Age ecology. So I've bled some of that off onto my Pleistocene Expansion Page, and I hope a few people will see fit to read it and look deeper into the subjects covered, just for fun.

The Music Thief

Alma's life basically stinks right now. Her beloved Abuela is dead. Her favorite singer was killed in a drive-by shooting. Her brother is a gangster wannabe. Her mother works two jobs. Her big sister, her brother-in-law, and her baby niece are all living at home while her brother-in-law goes to school. Home is always noisy and nothing ever goes well. Next door, though, Mrs. B has the world's best sound system, musical instruments and books about learning to use them, and friendly cats who show Alma how she can get in while Mrs. B's away without breaking anything. It's not wrong to go over there if she doesn't take anything - is it?

This book is from Henry E. Holt . The Music Thief basically forced me to write it. Some books are part of your contractual obligation to the universe, and this is mine.

The Ghost Sitter

is the story of two ten-year-old girls -- one of whom has been ten for fifty years. Susie only knows that she can't leave, and that everyone but animals and small children ignore her. Charlotte, the newest girl to move into Susie's old room without asking, feels sorry for her -- but how do you befriend a ghost? Even if she is a big help with the babysitting?

The Ghost Sitter, published by Dutton Children's Books, a division of PutnamPenguin, is both a ghost story and a mystery, and has been well-received by mystery readers, receiving nominations for both the Edgar and the Anthony awards in the appropriate categories. I didn't win either, but hey, only one person could, and there'll be other years. Meanwhile, it won the 2004 William Allen White Award! Since this award is voted on by the children of Kansas, it means more than any award given by adults ever could.

Older Books

My older books were published in hardback by Margaret K. McElderry, with Simon & Schuster. The paperbacks were mostly put out by Puffin Books, Penguin USA, with one from Bullseye and another in a Junior Library Guild edition. Many of these are out of print, out of stock indefinitely, or otherwise hard to find, but your friendly local library may have them and some of them I'll sell you directly. I'm sure you're just dying to know what they are!

Margo's House(122 pages, $16.00, ISBN: 0-689-80944-1. 1996.) Something mysterious is going on with the dolls and dollhouse Margo's father made for her before his heart attack. Margo sends her soul into a doll's body to learn the truth, and help him if she can.

Vikki Vanishes (160 pages, $15.00 ISBN: 0-689-80028-2) came out in 1995. Vikki, the good girl whom everyone loves, disappears. Nikki, her little sister, knows what happened to her -- but everyone knows Nikki is a liar, so how can she persuade them to look in the right place?

For those of you who've been wondering, the "Kerry" of the dedication is not the original of Vikki, but of Old Baldy. This one's for slightly older readers, due to subject matter, as the jacket copy indicates:

"In alternating chapters, from each girl's point of view, we learn how Vikki, physically abused by her father, though she fights him off, tries to find her way home and how Nikki finally convinces her mother that she knows how to find her sister. Tautly told, this exciting contemporary story is another convincing and gripping book from Peni Griffin."

The Maze (128 pages, $13.95, ISBN: 0-689-50624-4) also came out in 1994. Caroline and her new brother Hector get sucked into a magic picture, populated by vicious mermaids, clever sphinxes, the improbable Thigama Bob, and other deadly monsters, whom they must outwit in order to get home.

The Brick House Burglars(144 pages, $14.95, ISBN: 0-689-50579-5)came out in 1994. Four girls adopt the empty "Brick House" as their secret headquarters; but someone is trying to burn it down.
This book is out of stock indefinitely at the publisher, but I still have copies. I am selling these for a flat $12.00 apiece, which includes shipping, tax where applicable, and personal autographing. If you want one, just tell me.

The Switching Well (224 pages, $16.00 ISBN: 0-689-50581-7)came out in hardcover in 1993 and was a finalist for Best Western Juvenile Fiction, the Golden Spur Awards. The paperback came out in 1994, and the Italian translation, from Arnoldo Mondadori Editore's Gaia Junior imprint, in 1996 (Il pozzo dei desideri. Cool!) Ada Bauer, a 13-year old in 1891, wishes she could go forward a hundred years, to a time when women can vote and all humanity's problems have been solved. Amber Burak, a 13-year-old in 1991, wishes she could go back a hundred years, to a time when parents never get divorced and humanity's problems haven't been invented yet. And they both just happen to find a magic well...

The Treasure Bird (144 pages, $14.00 ISBN: 0-689-50554-X) came out in hardcover in 1992, was nominated for an Edgar Award for best juvenile mystery in 1993, and came out in paperback in 1994. Jessy and her stepbrother Matt think they can find long-lost treasure with the help of Great-Uncle Matthew's parrot Goldie.

Hobkin (208 pages, $14.95, ISBN: 0-689-50539-6) was published in hardcover in 1992 and in paperback in 1993. Two girls run away and set up housekeeping in an abandoned house in West Texas -- but something already lives there...
The hardcover edition is no longer available from the publisher, but for awhile I will have some, which I will be happy to sign for you. I am selling these for a flat $12.00 apiece, which includes shipping, tax where applicable, and personal autographing. If you want one, just tell me. Many thanks to those of my friends who bought these books at full price, to enable me to buy up as many as I did during a financial crunch time.

A Dig in Time (208 pages, $14.95, ISBN: 0-689-50525-6) came out in hardback in 1991, and in paperback in 1992. Nan and Tim discover a method of traveling back in time, which enables them to attend their own parents' wedding, and to rescue their infant grandmother from drowning.

Otto from Otherwhere (192 pages, $14.95, ISBN: 0-689-50500-0) came out in 1990. A boy gets lost in a fog and wanders into a new and alien world -- San Antonio.

Elsewhere on the Net

Late in 2001, I was asked by the webmaster of an excellent UK children's literature site to contribute a monthly column. It wasn't a paying gig and I hardly ever gpt feedback, but hey, it was a chance to mouth off. I stopped doing it in early 2005, not because I wanted to, but because the aforementioned crisis made it essential that I trim back, and this was one of the few activities I could afford to stop doing. Go to Achuka to see what I said about reviewers, insomnia, the threat fantasy literature poses to society, etc. This link will take you to the most recent opinion column, but my stuff's linked in the sidebar. Oh, and you can find out breaking (British) child-lit news, get book recommendations, read author interviews, and stuff like that, too, from the other parts of the site. I still go there every day or so, to keep up with the scene in the UK.

I've finally written a sort of autobiography, for the benefit of the kids who occasionally write to me because they're doing a report. It's just this life, you know. Cyn Smith, mistress of the coolest, most comprehensive website in the business, did a couple of interviews with me anyway. The more recent one was done in 2006 and the older one in 1999. And while you're at it, check out what you've been missing on the rest of her site.

The only thing more fun than reading a book is writing one. Talking to kids about writing books can be fun, too. If you want me to visit your school, to talk about writing, researching, or how to get ideas, I'm game. You can contact me by putting a message in the mailslot here; or, you can get some general information on why you might want me to visit your kids from my School Visit Page

Based on my school visits, I have written a FAQ. The answers are specific to myself, but other writers who haven't had the school visit experience yet (it's a heck of an experience!) may want to meditate upon it. For those of you who are considering writing as a hobby or career, you can get my advice on a number of topics.

Other Web people You Might Like to Visit
There are so many creative people online, it's not even funny, and many of them are involved in the writing business. Some of the following people are my friends. Some of them just wrote to me and said they'd link mine if I'd link their's, which sounded fair to me.

Once in awhile you can find me mouthing off, as well as lots more about the international children's book scene at Achuka
Elaine Marie Alphin made me come to the Edgar Awards Banquet when we were both nominated in 2002. She is the author of Edgar-winner Counterfeit Son and numerous other books, including the only one I've ever read that accurately depicts my interior universe and that of creative people everywhere, Simon Says. Read it and cringe. You'll be glad you did.

Bruce Balan, author of the CyberKids series and other stuff, knows all about computers and fills his pages with blinking lights and other cool stuff, the show off!

Susan Taylor Brown is another of Damon's html-coding students, who has good advice for beginning writers (and a lot of other stuff!) on her pages.

Toni Buzzeo, Library Goddess of Buxton, Maine, is a writer and a librarian who knows all about how to make a school visit successful.

Katie Davis - She's a writer! No, she's an illustrator! No, Katie Davis is a writer and an illustrator - not to mention a funny, creative lady who does more with her days than most people do with their weeks. (But don't go there until you've bookmarked my pages, because her flash pages won't let you come back with the back button.)

Kathleen Duey is one of those rare people who makes a living entirely by writing. The mere thought of being her amazes me. She has written scads of books, but did you know about her twitter novel?

My paperback editor for some of the books, Sharyn November learned to create webpages from Damon and is now an old hand at it.

Dian Curtis Regan is funny, and nice, too. She writes about monsters, and princesses, and vampires who sing Thanksgiving songs, and - oh, well, you'll see.

Marilyn Singer has twice had the good taste to buy stories of mine for anthologies: "The Truth in the Case of Eliza Mary Muller, By Herself," in Stay True from Scholastic, 1998; and "Vision Quest," in Make Me Over from Dutton Children's Books, 2005.

Cynthia Leitich Smith, her husband Greg, and her Cat, Mercury have created an essential site for children's writers (and their feline bosses). If you're tired of all the middle-class white children's writers out there, particularly, Cyn's is the place to hang out.

Anastasia Suen writes about picture books and tracks writing news, so you don't have to.

Harold Underdown is an editor who kindly educates and keeps track of the juvenile publishing world for those of us who can't keep our finger on the pulse.

Nancy Werlin writes books you should only read when you have a free afternoon, because you won't be able to stop.

Jane Yolen doesn't really need me to plug her. You've read something by her. You haven't been able to help it. The woman's everywhere. Poetry, fantasy, picture books, writing education, and so on and so on...

And here are some useful resources:
Children's Literature - Publishers and Booksellers
The Children's Writer's Resource Page
WRITERS ON THE NET
U.S. Copyright Office Home Page
U.S. Postal Service--Don't forget that SASE!

As long as you're here, go see what else I'm interested in, on these other pages that I hardly ever update:

READING | DOLLS |
Go to "Peni and Damon's Wonderfulness on the Web"index page.