The Parable of the Couch, or What Are You Worth? #KidlitWomen

It’s Women’s History Month and the children’s literature community is celebrating with 31 days of posts seeking to address gender and social inequalities in our industry. Join the conversation at KidlitWomen on Facebook and by searching #KidlitWomen on Twitter.

If you have known me for any length of time, you have probably heard me tell a little story—a true story, first told to me by my dad—that I like to call The Parable of the Couch.

Many, many years ago, my parents’ had a neighbor who bought a new couch. He dragged his old one to his curb and placed a small cardboard sign upon it, marked FREE.


Photo Credit: Jason Matthews, used under a creative commons license

The couch sat outside, without so much as a single inquiry, for an entire week. The neighbor, not wanting to haul it away himself, developed a different strategy: He removed the FREE sign and replaced it with a new one—this one marked: $10.00.

Friends, someone stole his couch that very night.

Here’s a truth: When you value something, other people value it as well.

Publishing doesn’t like to talk about money—at least not out in the open—so I can link to no studies showing the gender wage disparity when it comes to school visits and speaking fees. But anecdotally, I have heard account after account of men, at similar, or even lower, career levels to their female  counterparts, being paid more—often when speaking at the very same event. Could part of the problem lie with women not asking for enough?

At the time of this posting the following tweet has been shared more than 30,000 times, and liked nearly 170,000. Though its subject is design work, the principle is the same:

[Generalization Alert] Men, I love  your confidence. I love that you can ask top dollar—demand top dollar—without worrying too much whether you deserve it or not. That is truly a skill, and one that doesn’t come easy to many women.

Women, stop undervaluing yourselves.

Stop feeling guilty for wanting to be paid well.

Stop standing at the curb with a FREE sign around your neck, hoping to be noticed.

You have worked extremely hard to get to where you are. You are an expert in your field. Throw your shoulders back and act like it.



Approach every negotiation with the confidence of this kid.

How much more? That depends on a lot of factors, but consider saying something like the following at the negotiating stage. You may be surprised where it leads you:

Women/Non-Binary People: “My speaking fee is negotiable, but I must be paid as much as the man you had speak last year.”

While we are on the subject, male allies can lend support by saying this:

Male Allies: “I would ask that any women speaking are paid the same amount as I am.”

And since we cannot rightly look at issues of gender equality without considering intersectionality, white people, let’s all go one better:

White Allies of Any Gender: “I would ask that any people of color speaking are paid the same amount as I am.”

Let’s each place a high value on the work that we, and our industry peers, do. Let’s work together, and use what privilege we have, to raise each other up.

We are worth it.

End note: Though this essay focused mainly on women, the disparities mentioned also apply, and often to an even greater degree, to people who identify outside the gender binary. My apologies if anyone felt excluded. 

BEA and Kids Author Carnival

Last week, I was in New York for two really amazing events: BEA (Book Expo America) and the Kids Author Carnival.

BEA is a giant publishing trade show. This year, it was even better than ever before (at least for me) because the Disney*Hyperion booth was giving out advance copies of Hook’s Revenge!

This, right here, was the best part of the entire show:

I also had a great time connecting with friends, my wonderful agent, my amazing editor, and other Disney team members. But I took photos of almost none of it. (I really need to get better at that.)

On Saturday, I saw the culmination of the last few months of hard work. My dear friend Claire Legrand invited the lovely Lauren Magaziner (please do yourself a favor and read their amazing books) and me to help her plan the Kids Author Carnival. This event was modeled on the popular Teen Author Carnival, but focusing on middle-grade books.

The stunningly beautiful Jefferson Market Library (it looks like Hogwarts!) hosted the event. After the library closed to the public, the doors opened for the carnival.

Claire, Lauren, and I had high hopes, but even we couldn’t have predicted what a wild success it would be. We had 37 fabulous middle grade authors playing charades and Pictionary, leading writing exercises, and sitting on Q&A sessions in front of a crowd of about 200 readers, mostly kids.

I got to sit on and moderate a panel with Bruce Coville, Danette Vigilante, Josh Burk, Kate Milford, and Dan Poblocki. Secrets were shared, such as the number of notebooks in Kate’s bag that evening (nine) and how one of Bruce’s books actually saved a pair of children from a carjacker.

Authors, parents, kids, librarians, teachers, and the booksellers at the event have all expressed to us what a special experience it was. The night was truly magical. I can’t wait for next year!


On My Mind: April 9, 2014

Book things. Only book things.

“Words! Words! Words!” —Eliza Doolittle (and me)
I am working on a new book, with a need to get a readable draft finished rather quickly.

Due to the aforementioned book, the Pomodoro Method has become my friend. Basically, this method dictates you work on a task for 25 minutes (or one pomodoro) then take a five minute break. After four pomodoros you take a longer break, 15-20 minutes. It has really helped to keep me from straying over to twitter when I can’t think of a word I want to use.

Any timer would work, but I use an app on my mac. I like because it puts a little countdown clock in the corner of whatever window I have open. See:

Screenshot 2014-04-09 11.00.45

I’m finding it much easier to stay on task when I can see that I have a break coming up. I live for those breaks.

On days where I need extra help focusing, I also use the Freedom app. It locks me out of the internet for whatever predetermined time I have set. And there is no way to turn it off. You just have to wait it out. It’s a dream (and a nightmare)!

What tricks do you use to keep from getting distracted?

There is no three, only Zuul.

Last month I got to take part in my first ever public reading of Hook’s Revenge as part of a local 2014 Kidlit Debuts panel. I had a great time with Robin Herrera, author of Hope is a Ferris WheelChris Struyk-Bonn, author of Whisper; and Mary Elizabeth Summer, author of Trust me, I’m Lying at A Children’s Place Bookstore in Portland.

Want to see some pictures? OKAY.






I’m not a giant. It’s the angle, I promise.

Hook’s Revenge has been available for pre-order in hardcover for some time. Some of you have asked when the e-version would be available for pre-order. The answer is now:
Hardcover buying options are linked to on my books page. Both paper and electronic versions release September 16.

Gosh, I love you.

I’m working on planning a couple of International Talk Like a Pirate Day Weekend/Book Launch parties, one in Portland and one in Salem. Locals, mark your calendars for September 19th and 20th and watch this space.

Please note: There will be costumes.

What’s on your mind?




Homemade by Heidi: Valentines to Print and Use

It has become a bit of a tradition around here for me to create and share valentines for you to use. In 2012, they were the vastly popular Doctor Who themed valentines. Last year, I made conversation hearts.

I’ve continued the conversation hearts this year (because they are easy I care), with—not just one— but two themes.

First up, for those who have been in a relationship for a long time and want a special way to express exactly how you feel:

marital valentines

Marital Valentines Free PDF Download

I’ll be giving the Let Me Put My Cold Feet On You one to Walt. I can’t help it. I’m a romantic.

Up next, for the fellow writers among my readers, I’ve designed some cards for you to give your loved ones. I know they will appreciate them.

writer valentines

Writer Valentines Free PDF Download

I hope your loved ones enjoy receiving them as much as I enjoyed making them, however unlikely that may be. Happy Valentine’s Day!


Announcing: Giraffes Ruin Everything!

I got this out-of-the-blue note in the mail yesterday.


How could I forget? This is a color copy of a photograph showing the actual giraffe that bit the head off my doll. This was taken post-bite. Look how disgusted my mom looks. I had no idea this photo existed, but I am so glad it does.

Speaking of giraffes, I feel a little funny about posting more news so soon–like I am being greedy or something, but…

Giraffes Annoucement

Once again, so many thanks to my agent, Brooks Sherman. I had not planned to write a picture book, but he encouraged me to try it. I did, and when the story was ready, he found a wonderful publisher for it. [Writers: Listen to your agents. They are usually pretty smart–I know mine is.]

I am thrilled to be working with Mary Kate at Bloomsbury Kids. I was able to meet both her and Rotem, my editor for Hook’s Revenge, when I was in New York a few months ago. They are amazing. I know I am going to learn a lot from each one.

I’m very lucky.

I’m very grateful.

I’m very…confused.

You know how I feel about giraffes, right? So. I wrote one that ruins absolutely everything, but at the end of the day, he’s pretty likable.* I don’t quite know what happened. I suppose it’s true what they say: Writing is therapy.

To celebrate, I bought myself a t-shirt of this image. I think it perfectly sums up the happy beginnings of my writing career.

Imgurian pirate giraffe riding a shark

Want your own? Get it here. (I am not affiliated with this company in any way. I just like to share the awesome.)

So, that’s it. All Most of my secrets have been revealed. All the big ones anyway. My hair can deflate and things can get back to normal. Or, you know, normal for me. Whatever that means.

hair secrets

At least until next week, when I announce the sale of my new YA. (Kidding!) (Probably.)


*Don’t think for a second that I have let my guard down. Just because I happened to write one that I rather like doesn’t mean I have forgotten the truth: Giraffes are dangerous creatures. Hide your wife. Hide your kids.

Update: If you are interested, Giraffes Ruin Everything is now up on Goodreads.

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