Monday, November 21, 2011

Copyedits Colored Pencil Comparison - Updated!

Copyedits! They're here!

I've been so excited about their pending arrival that I've had my colored pencils for weeks. I bought the erasable kind -- thinking I was soooo brilliant.

Until I tried to write with them.

Must. Press. Down. So. Very. Hard. And they kinda skip. It was like trying to be precise while writing with a crayon.

I handed one to St.Matt and without my prompting he said: "They're like writing with crayons."

"New colored pencils!" I demanded. Actually, it was less of demand and more of an exclamation. Perhaps a proclamation: "Let us buy ALL the colored pencils!"

And then I whined to Emily Hainsworth** that all my planning was for naught. She seconded my demand/exclamation/proclamation and suggested a comparison -- so all the credit for this brilliant idea goes to her.

I limited myself to five brands, because, let's be serious -- I've now got sixty-two colored pencils and I plan to use... ONE.

And, in a further show of self-restraint, I wouldn't let myself buy the Staedtler brand (even though they make my very most favorite revision pens EVER) because I didn't need a fancy pack for one pencil.**

To make this all scientific-ish, I sharpened each colored pencil with the same plastic sharpener. Wrote the brand, shaded, and signed my name with each.*** I used the same eraser to attempt to erase each -- and swiped it the same number of swipes (7 swipes).

Here are the results:

To be fair, these were more "erasable" when you used the attached eraser. They're also the hardest to write with & the least precise. Erasability is not worth it.

A little more precise than the erasable version... and just slightly less erasable.

The most erasable of the bunch. Decent precision. Tricky to sharpen -- the tip kept crumbling

This was my second favorite.

Least erasable but most precise -- go figure.
At the end of the day, excepting the Erasables, they're all fairly similar. I ended up deciding to use the Prismacolor because the local Michael's sells them as singles. St.Matt pointed out that if**** I happen to lose or break it, I can then go buy just another pencil, instead of a whole 'nother set.

I feel a sudden urge to write a lab report. Or do another experiment. I wonder if we have vinegar and baking soda.

Or Coke and Mentos!

No worries, we DO have safety goggles.

But I also have copyedits! Mayhaps I will put my scientific urges on pause until all my editing and STETing is complete.

UPDATE - The brilliant & talented Nova Ren Suma***** just told me: Copy editors use Ticonderoga or Col-Erase colored pencils... Others are too soft.

Oh. *looks at the half pencil left after one night of sharpening & resharpening to maintain a tip* This makes A LOT of sense.  I've already ordered a pack -- they should be here tomorrow and then I'll add their photo to the collection.

Thanks, Nova!

UPDATE The Second - They're here ---

The precision! The erasability! Dream come true. I got so excited I cut off the last letter of my last name. 

Which office supply should I test next?!******

* Actually, my brilliance should probably always be attributed to Miss Emily. I love her dearly. Maybe I'll send her 61 colored pencils for Christmas.  

**Though if anyone has used Staedtler colored pencils and thinks they're awesome, let me know and I'll be all about getting them when it's time for book two. 

***My signature is normally MUCH neater. I'm having a bad handwriting day -- possibly caused by post-birthday-party-too-much-sugar jitters.

****He actually said WHEN I lose or break it, I edited his statement to give myself the benefit of the doubt

***** Seriously, if you haven't read Imaginary Girls go add it to your Christmas list NOW. And then start behaving so Santa complies. 

****** I mean, Sorry, I've got to go do my copyedits.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Why is it that sincere thank you notes are so much harder than ones you're indifferent about?

Today I sat down to write the most grateful thank you note I've ever written, probably ever will write, and the words just would not come.

The note was for the NICU staff at the hospital where the twins were born. A year ago St.Matt was on the first floor watching football and I was upstairs bedresting and reading --- and my water broke.

The Schmidtlets were two months early. They were tiny. I wasn't ready and they weren't either. Nothing in my years of babysitting or in our baby care classes had prepared me for incubators and feeding tubes and picc lines and lungs that kept collapsing and collapsing. Tubes and tubes and tubes taped all over my babies. Babies I wasn't allowed to hold. The Wild Imp – who wasn't wild, he was medicated and sedated into oblivion — I wasn't even allowed to touch because he was in so much pain.
 And the NICU staff somehow held me together, gave me strength, taught me about gavage feeding, and breast-feeding, pneumothorax, and infant CPR. What every bell, alarm, and squiggly line on their monitors meant — how to tell a false alarm from an apnea or bradycardiac event. How to touch a preemie so that he wasn't over-stimulated and didn't hurt. 

They were there to clap when St. Matt changed his first diaper. And to laugh when Asher managed to pee out the porthole on his incubator. They cheered with us when the boys began to self-regulate their body temps and we could finally dress them. Clothing, snaps, laundry!– this seemed like such a major victory at the time – and we all looked at the too-big size-preemie outfit and said "he'll grow into it."

And they've grown so big.  They're so healthy. They're so happy and giggly. They're so mischievous and chatterboxy –-- no clue where they get that from.

I'm so blessed.

So appreciative of all the help, support and love the NICU staff lavished on us during our month-long stay.

I thought, way back a year ago, that I couldn’t possibly love anyone more than I did those palm-size babies.

How wrong I was.

Happy 1st birthday, Schmidtlets

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Musically Minded

For someone who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket with a lid, and can't clap to a beat for more than two consecutive claps, I've spent a lot of my life focusing on music lately.

First, the Schmidtlets and I joined a baby music class. They love it. The Wild Imp crawls all over the place, singing each new song with a  new mom. (Thank you, other moms, for allowing him in your laps and hearts).  The Pip Squeak, on the other hand, starts every class by clutching my shirt in both his chubby little fits.  A few songs in, he'll pat my arm or leg along with the beat. A few more songs and he's clapping.  By the end of last class he even crawled half the distance between me and our lovely teacher… but then he looked over his shoulder, panicked, and scrambled back into my lap.

Second, my lyric permissions for SEND ME A SIGN seem to be (finally) falling into place. I sent my signed contract for one song back this morning and am just waiting on the final copyright wording for the other. What songs are they? I'm not telling yet. Maybe soon, but not yet – I don't want to jinx anything!

Third, SEND ME A SIGN copyedits are coming any day now. And I know of no better way to get back into Mia's head than to listen to the SEND ME A SIGN playlists.

Here's a playlist peek for YOU:

— it's from wayyy back in my college years, anyone recognize it? I love the lyrics. Be VERY glad you're not here with me right now, because then you'd have to hear me sing along. (Sorry, Schmidtlets!)

Here, you can be anything. And I think that scares you...

Monday, October 31, 2011


Happy Halloweenie from some twins who are Teeny

Yes, they ARE dressed up like Winston & Churchill...

Hoping your Halloween is full of sugar and nothing too spooky. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SLOWED to a crawl? How inaccurate.

I'm trying to decide if I should dust the cobwebs off my blog or allow them to stay as festive Halloween decorations.

Probably dust them… I don't do scary.

Last time I wrote that the twins were starting to crawl. At that point it was *wobble, wobble, move a few inches, beam at me.*

Now it's ZOOOOOM, CLIMB, STAND, FALL, WAIL – in the same amount of time.

Plus, The Wild Imp is stubbornly convinced that he can stand unassisted.  He SO can't. He also believes it's a brilliant idea to hang from the top of the babygate and then fling himself backward.

I spend much of my day diving across the room trying to prevent traumatic head injuries. As a result I wear the bruises instead of him. Many, many bruises.

But, there's bedtime and naptime and my writing stays alive in these snatches of time. SEND ME A SIGN's revisions were approved and it's been moved on to copyedits (HOORAY!) and I just finished revisions on my second book as well. (Lots of Revision Skittles were consumed in the past two months. LOTS).

And my work in progress is a thing of love. I adore it. Everything about it. Even its writing playlist, which I have to stop myself from listening to when I'm not working on it.

The song I play most often is this one:

And while I won't tell you what it's about just yet, a HUGE hint is that this band's name would be a fabulous title for the book.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Author Interview -- Scott Tracey

Interview with Scott Tracey

I'm pleased as pleased can be to have Scott Tracey, author of WITCH EYES, answering questions on my blog today.

Okay, so that's a lie. Scott is REALLY answering questions on the Apocalypsie blog today. On this blog, I'm answering the questions for him.

I keep telling Scott he should hire me to do all his speaking and blogging engagements for him -- If he did, this is a just a taste of the awesome he could expect.

For those of you looking for TRUTH -- head over to The Apocalypsies and find out what's really going on inside the head of Mr. Tracey. Warning: it's a very, very strange place.

1)   Describe your writing routine?

Step 1) Put coffee in the coffeemaker
Step 2) Play a game of Bejeweled
Step 3) Check-in with Twitter – read a tweet about coffee – this reminds me to go turn the coffeemaker ON.
Step 4) Open word document
Step 5) Go bother Leah
Step 6) Fiddle with my writing playlist
Step 7) Pour coffee
Step 8) See if Twitter misses me yet.
Step 9) Create some words and sentences
Step 10) Rinse & repeat

2) Which character in Witch Eyes is the most similar to YOU?

Peyton the Princess. (page 70 for those of you with the book in front of you) I may look cute and adorable, but if you so much a blink at me the wrong way, I'll push you in front of a bus.

Just kidding.


3) You describe Witch Eyes as a modern day Romeo and Juliet with witches -- does this mean you're going to kill off all the best characters?

God, you don't pull any punches do you? What if I said yes and named names, Tiffany? Wouldn't you feel horrible about ruining the ending for all of your blog readers? Hmmm?

No, actually, it doesn't mean that at all. Book three, aka Princess Eyes ends with all of the characters being given a puppy and a cupcake. There are double rainbows, too.

4) If I suspect someone has witch eyes, what should I do?

Treat the situation the same way you would if there were a rogue bear or alligator on the loose. If you're close to the person, poke them in the nose and run away in a z-shaped pattern.

Otherwise: make no sudden movements. Avoid wearing yellow. Back away slowly. Maybe climb a tree and hide.  If you happen to be carrying sunglasses, try tossing them to the Witch Eyed – if you're lucky, they may take the bait and leave you alone.

5) Who would you cast as Braden & Trey in a Witch Eyes movie?

Mark-Paul Gosselaar – aka Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell

Joshua Jackson - aka Pacey from Dawson's Creek

6) What are you going to do on release day?

Didn't you hear? Witch Eyes was released a few weeks early by Amazon. All of a sudden people were emailing me to let me know their copies shipped – I guess it was too much awesome for Amazon to contain within their warehouses.

On my actual release date – September 8th – I plan to eat lots of pancakes. And perhaps, if it is not raining, go to the local park and do some interpretive Witch Eyes dances.

Or, you know, maybe I'm celebrating by working on the sequel…

7) What is your good luck charm?

My WWE Champion Belt. It's shiny and it spins. When I'm having a rough day, I put it on.  Did I mention it spins?

Clearly these are the answers Scott Tracey wishes he'd given...

You can find out more about Scott Tracey at his blog, or on Twitter. WITCH EYES officially releases this Thursday, September 8th. If you haven't already pre-ordered a copy, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Let's Make A Deal

Bargaining with babies is hard. I thought the Schmidtlets and I had a deal: no learning to crawl until after I turned in my revision.

The Wild Imp had other ideas. And he is fast.

Baby A isn't yet crawling, but he's still mobile: rolling around like a top, scooting backward across the room, and calling: "Mama. MAMA. MAAAAAAMMAAAAA," if I dare to leave his sight. Better yet, the little wombat would like me to constantly be within reach of his chubby little paws.

Chasing and clutching aren't the best revision-companions. But that's what PEI was for. That's what the hours between bedtime and sunrise are for.

And I finished last Thursday.

Pressed *Send* on the e-mail to my editor – and then, before I could even gulp a panicked breath or sigh in relief:




Have I mentioned that one of the major threads in my book is superstition?

My first thought was one very like my main character, Mia, would have had: That was a very bad sign.

Later, after the twins had been soothed, the power restored, and my confidence petted by some Twitter support, I revised my thinking: That was a very good sign – if the power had gone out even a minute sooner, I would've been prevented from sending.

And we all know how little I like to wait.

Apparently the Schmidtlets have inherited that trait from me: The Imp is extremely IMPatient, and Baby A is currently calling my name.  

Maybe we'll strike a new bargain: Ten more minutes of naptime in exchange for peaches at every meal.

*goes to buy peaches in bulk*

Friday, August 19, 2011

Prince Edward Island - A Photo Perspective

Growing up, I summered in the land of Anne of Green Gables and Gilbert *heart-a-flutter* Blythe.

As a grown up, I don't get up there nearly as often as I'd like. For one thing, I now live six hours farther from the island. That's six hours on top of the TWELVE hour drive from my parents' house in Massachusetts -- where I'm sitting right now typing this post-vacation.

Our last trip was two years ago -- and what a difference those years have made:

Beach naps:

 Hammock Time


Beach Walks


Packing the car 2009

Actually, I don't have a picture of the car all packed this year. Probably because I was too busy holding two babies and checking off All The Important Items on our many, many travel lists while St.Matt scrambled around like a packing genius and got All The Important Items to fit. 

Just picture mounds of stuff strategically packed. And me sitting in the backseat between two carseats singing songs, waving toys, and being generally entertaining while St.Matt chauffeurs and navigates. For. Twelve. Hours.

Is it next summer yet? I can't wait to go back...

Sunday, August 7, 2011


These are too fun to be the product of Stress-Baking.  

Rice Krispie Cake Batter Treats - recipe found HERE
Maybe they're Procrastination Treats? We leave for two weeks of vacation tomorrow –- a working vacation for me, since my revision is due at the end of the month – and I'm not packed. I haven't packed for the boys yet either.

Every time I look around our house, I can't help but feel like they twins need All The Things. And then I look at our car and panic.

Did I mention we'll be spending about 20 hours in that car over the next few days?


And my head is totally in the Revision Cave and doesn't want to stop and think about whether or not we've packed the boys' sound machine or laundry detergent.

It's such a good thing I'm married to a saint. He not only remembers these things, but also that I have library books due before we get back, the boys' vitamin prescriptions needs to be refilled, and the memory card on the camera needs to be emptied.

AND, he went and photocopied my line edits last night. Because, let's face it, it's me – things just happen, and a backup copy never hurt.

So, nope, I'm changing my mind again. They're not Stress-Baking, or Procrastination Treats, they're Gratitude Goodies. I am so grateful his head's on straight when mine isn't.

***Also, I'm noticing a decidedly sugar-y theme to my posts lately – I swear I eat vegetables, too. Pinky promise***

Monday, August 1, 2011

A SWEET Winner

The wonderful thing about being at a writing retreat set in a hunting lodge in the middle of the woods is… well, almost everything. There's great company, time and space to write, conversations that fuel creativity, discussion that challenge and stretch, and beaucoup laughter.

The downside of being at a writing retreat set at a hunting lodge in the middle of the woods was missing the Schmidlets. And, that every time someone entered my SWEET Giveaway, I had a new candy craving and no way to satisfy it.

·      Whoppers & Bottle Caps! I hadn't thought about them in years.
·      Twix! I used to try and convince my mother those weren't candy, but a form of granola bar.
·      Milk Duds! Delicious and a handy way to tear out fillings.
·      Licorice! I always bite the ends off Twizzlers & use them as a straw. Tasty & functional.
·      M&M's are clearly the chocolate version of Revision Skittles – Wasabi peas are the healthy version.
·      Peanut Butter Cups! I recently heard that these can be used to make S'mores – have any of you tried this? I need to ASAP.
·      Kit Kat, Almond Joy and Heath lovers – I challenge you to try S'mores with your candies of choice too – make sure to report back to me with your results.
·      And gummy-lovers (both sour and not), you people are my tribe. Let's all get together and ruin our teeth with chewy deliciousness.

Initially I had big fancy-pants plans about how I would choose a winner – writing all the numbers on gumballs and then filming the winning one coming out of the gumball machine.

But we don't have a gumball machine, I'm still in my pajamas, and am quite busy making up four days of Schmidtlet-snuggles. So, I defaulted to a random number generator.

Without further ado – the winner is: Loralie! 

Rock your Revision Skittle Boombox with pride – I highly encourage recreations of the scene from Say Anything.

Thanks, everyone, for entering and stay sweet!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A SWEET Giveaway

There are a few awesome things on my desk right now.

1)   My Edit Letter! I think this makes it official. Well, MORE official. It also makes my head spin in the very best of ways.

2)   A bag of Revision Skittles  – No, I'm not sharing. I NEED these.

3)   This fabulous Revision Skittle boombox
      And this could be yours. Well, not this one, it's mine.  But there's another one downstairs still in its box that could have your name on it.

Music plays a large part in Send Me A Sign, and Revision Skittles played a large part in my writing of it – it seems only fitting that I should pair the two and give one of these away.

The boombox is made by Terracycle  – and this is their description:

"Groove greener with this portable boombox made with up to 80% recycled materials. With its 3.5mm universal plug for you can play music from your iPod, iPhone, MP3 player, laptop, or computer. Batteries not required."

To enter – leave a comment below where you list YOUR favorite candy.

I leave tomorrow at early o'clock for the Goldblatt Agency retreat – aka Camp Barry – and let's just say that I'm having some major separation-from-Schmidtlet anxiety. Cheer me up by entering.

I'll leave the contest open until I get back and will draw a winner on Monday.

Good luck and stay sweet!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Author Interview -- Victoria Schwab

Yup, those are bags of books.
Today I'm so excited to share my interview with Victoria Schwab. Not only is V a talented writer, I'm also lucky enough to call her my friend. *cues the chorus of "awwwww"*

Her book, THE NEAR WITCH, will finally be in bookstores in 10 short days. Read her answers below, and then go pre-order a copy for yourself -- better yet, just camp out at a bookstore. I'm sure they won't mind if you arrive now and don't leave until August 2nd...

1) You just spent a few months abroad, how did a change in scenery and routine affect your writing habits?

--It changed everything! I have always been an evening writer, haunting coffee shops, and suddenly I found myself in the suburbs of Liverpool, where the last café closed at 6pm, and the buses stopped running into the city center. I had to stay at home, and home was a house with eight other people! I had to become a morning writer, an afternoon writing, an anytime-I-can-focus writer.

2) I love the character names in NEAR WITCH. How did you come up with Wren, Cole and Lexi and the others?

--Names are, for me, foundational. I can't start seriously writing until I know a character's name, and once they have a name, I hate having to change it. Some names just kind of...come with the character, but others take days, weeks, to get right. Lexi came that way, as did Wren, I simply heard them having a conversation, and knew what they would call each other. But Cole was trickier. His a plot-based name, as people will see when reading. In fact, it's not even his real name.

3) If the local sub/hoagie/whatever-they-call-them in Nashville shop were to create a Nearwich what would be on it?

--Hahahahahah. Best question ever. A Nearwich would be made with a dense, hearty bread, the kind Lexi's mother makes, chicken, some moor berry jam, garnished with greens from Wren's little garden by the house. It might be held together by a single crow feather instead of a pick, and each sandwich would come, happy-meal-style, with a token from Magda and Dreska, a little pouch of herbs or a sticks-and-stone bird.

4) What has been the most fulfilling part of your author journey?

--The best part has been when someone reads, and not only enjoys the book (that's always heart-warming), but GETS it, gets exactly what I'm doing, connects with characters and reads the style for what it is. The setting is a player, the secondaries are sketched out, the feel is fairy tale vague, and it's all intentional. So when someone reads and GETS that, and loves it, it makes every other harder part of this journey worth it.

5) The scariest?

--Scary and thrilling go hand in hand some times, like when I learn someone has gotten the ARC, or that they're reading (especially when it's a friend or another author). And scary and stressful go hand in hand, like when I get a bad review, and am temporarily convinced that everyone will read it and think "Thank god I didn't pick that one up" (which they can't yet, because it's not out, but they can pull it from their to-read list). But I try to remember that reviews, the good and bad, are all part of the game I want to play. You can't be a published author without being published, and available, and when you put work out there, you're putting it out there to be enjoyed, and judged.

6) What are you going to do on release day? (I hope this answer involves lots of cupcakes and confetti.)

--Oh man, I honestly have NO idea. Probably pack! The Asheville to Nashville Tour starts the day after release, and I leave for NC at 8AM on the 3rd, so the 2nd will be equal parts FLAIL, SQUEEE, CUPCAKE, and DO I HAVE EVERYTHING?

7) What is your good luck charm?

--My good luck charm is actually a locket given to me by friend and fabulous author Leah Clifford (A TOUCH MORTAL). I flew up to visit her in Ohio last fall, and she was wearing this necklace, the locket of which was gorgeous, and looked like something straight out of a fairy tale. It had a tree, and a crow, and a small gem. And I told her it was lovely, and so "Near." She looked down at it and then back at me, and said, "You're right," and took it off and gave it to me. It turned out she'd ordered a different necklace, and been sent that one by mistake, and she'd been wearing it for awhile, waiting for the right person to give it to.

Have you pre-ordered yet? Or packed your bag for that bookstore camp-out?  WHAT are you waiting for?!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

10 Minutes, 8 Tips -- Advice for Writers

Today I had the opportunity to participate in the Panel of Possibility for my local group of National Writing Project fellows.

It was only three years ago that I was sitting in their seats, squirming in the overly air-conditioned room. And squirming because I always squirm when I have to sit still for too long.

They've spent six weeks together, writing, laughing, getting scolded for whispering and passing notes (or was that just me?) and learning how to be better writing instructors for their students.

"Live like a writer" was something that we bandied about when I was a member of the Writer's Institute, but what does that even mean? Being open to inspiration? Taking time to write each day? Being willing to forgo sleep, laundry, bathing to get the words on the page just-right?

My job today was to talk about my path to publication and the opportunities that are available to them post-Institute.

In. Ten. Minutes.


Clearly this wasn't going to be comprehensive. Or even more than puddle-deep coverage. And I had some extra incentives to keep it concise: I brought the twins with me and knew at any moment they could morph from adorable angels to adorable imps.  

Even in a snack-sized serving, I wanted to make sure my talk was helpful.  So I brought a handout. I love a good handout, don't you?  I love a bad handout, too, because then if the speaker is boring, he or she has provided me with the prefect space for doodling or writing notes—which will hopefully keep me from getting scolded for whispering.

In ten minutes – or 8 steps, here are my suggestions for pushing your writing further:

1)    Write. Make it a habit. Do it daily. Don't make excuses or allowances for anything that comes between you and putting words on the page. If you're not doing this, the rest doesn't matter.

2)    Critique Groups  – Writing isn't finished when you type the end.  Give yourself a pat on the back, take a break, bathe, then revise. When you've finished revising, revise again. Repeat. When the idea of reading your own words one more time makes you want to vomit, it's time to borrow someone else's eyes and judgment. Joining a critique group or finding a critique partner is invaluable. Take your time to find the right fit – not everyone's opinion, writing or critiquing style will be a match for your own.

3)    SCBWI – (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) consider joining a professional organization. They do a great job of hosting local and national conferences. Their newsletters and website are full of great information.

4)    Conferences – SCBWI mentioned above, but there are many others. Look around online to find one that meets your needs.

5)    Online support – A virtual cheering squad, a place to find answers, and to learn from others' journeys. A few to get you started: Verla Kay Blue Boards, Absolute Write Water Cooler, Query Tracker

6)    Educate yourself – if you decide to take the next step and pursue publication, take the time to do your research. Nothing burns bridges with potential agents or editors faster than committing a faux pas that could've been prevented with a quick google. I recommend following a variety of industry blogs.

7)    Get involved with the literary community – go to author signings and book events. Reach book festivals in the closest towns and cities. Get on the local school's visiting author committee and look for other ways to bring authors into your classroom or community (check out: )

8)    Read. Often. Widely. Prolifically. "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write." – Stephen King. 

Which step resonates the most with you? What other advice would you give writers who are considering commencing a path to publication?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thanks For The Memories

Once upon a time I opened a book and read the words Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much and fell in love.

Maybe not with the opening line, and certainly not with those wretched Dursleys, but it was still the moment that marked one of my great book romances. I, like so many, many other readers, fell head over heels, why-can't-this-be-real, I-want-a-wand, where-is-my-acceptance-letter-to-Hogwarts in love with the world that J.K. Rowling created on her pages.

It's a world that's far too big to be contained between those book covers – and as the curtain opens on the last of the movies, I find myself (like so many other Potterphiles) reminiscing about what the books have meant to me.

* After years of bedtime stories and me passing books down to him, these were the first books my baby brother shared up with me. He passed away five years ago and a few of my copies are even more beloved because they were his first.

* These were the first books I shared with St. Matt – truthfully, I demanded he read the first one. He required no coercion for the rest of the series. They were also the first books that I made him take away and hide after Just one more chapter, A few more pages, and I'm going to set a timer and I'll stop reading when it goes off all failed to get me out of the book and onto my homework.

* When the first movie came out during my sophomore year in college I sweet-talked the local grocery store into giving us their Harry Potter / Coke display. The thing was amazing: the windows in Hogwarts lit up, Hedwig's wings flapped. It was also massive – at least five feet tall and four feet across. Despite living in a shoebox of a dorm room, I kept it all year.

* The photo above is from the party I had before the first movie – I forced a group of friends -- half who hadn't read the book-- to play Harry Potter Clue and trivia. I awarded prizes. We had cake -- which was supposed to have a Hogwarts decal, but ended up reading "Happy Birthday, Harry Potter" instead. It was still delicious.

* Senior year in college St. Matt, my best friend, and I absconded to London for a long weekend around Halloween. St.Matt was thrilled by the James Bond display at Harrods. J-bean loved the theater. The highlight of the trip for me was standing in Leicester Square in the freezing cold for hours watching the actors arrive for the world premiere of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

* On one of the boys' first nights home, as we rocked and read them picture books, St. Matt looked over Baby B's head and asked, "So, how much older do they have to be before we can read then Harry Potter?"

I'm already ticklish with anticipation of exploring these stories all over again – getting to see them as new through their eyes.

What are some of YOUR Harry Potter memories?