Thursday, July 30, 2009


Shh. I am not here. I am revising and dealing with paperwork and doing PR for Two of a Kind and paying my 2008 taxes (long story) and dragging boxes of books to the library (even longer story) and researching the veins in the ankle (don't even ask).

But it's Thursday! And I love this.

Apparently, researchers in Laos have discovered a new species of bird: the bald bare-faced bulbul bird.

The bald bare-faced bulbul bird. For the love of Dr. Seuss, who made up that name?! And they had to know what they were saying when they described its call as "bubbling." Who will write me a silly picture book involving bubbling bald bare-faced bulbul bird babies? Having breakfast among the branches, perhaps. No need for illustrations; I mean, look at it. It already looks Seussian. Poor beastly baby bald bare-faced bulbul bird.

In other news: I'm famous. Well, let's just say I am like a small-to-middling sized fish in a teeny tiny pond. The Saline Reporter sent a Saline reporter to my book signing and printed this lovely article all about your truly. AND there's a decent picture, which is nice.

Long time visitors to Jacqui's Room may remember last July when I had this little freak-out. Tomorrow is August and it is FINALLY summer weather in Michigan. I am going to throw my kids and myself in the pool and not let anyone out until Labor Day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Apologies and a winner!

1. There is no inspiration today. This is mainly because I am full of overwhelmedness and not inspiration. It is also because I decided that while you could write me an awesome YA about this, the Google searchers it would bring would not be Two of a Kind customers. Much like those who come here daily searching for "scurvid curs."

2. My personal state of unmotivated couchpotatoness aside, the judges have read and conferred and have decided the winner of the Worst First Line of a Picture Book Ever contest. It was hard, but in the end, we had to go with one that was:
a. clearly from a picture book and nothing longer,
b. both inappropriate for children and hard for them to read,
& c. made Thor snork.

Thus, our winner is the fabulous and hilarious Ruth McNally Barshaw, whose terrible picture book will begin thusly:

If you ever fought with your sister, lied about something, picked your nose or wet your pants, you will eventually discover the ugly truth: Parents divorce mostly because of their kids.

Ruth is the author of the lovely Ellie McDoodle books, which you should check out. She also has a great sketch journal of kidlit authors and illustrators over at her site, which is much fun. I once gave a talk with Ruth and spent the whole time the third person was talking watching Ruth sketch and wondering what she'd make of me. Also, she gave a drawing workshop for kids here in Ann Arbor last summer and now Tinkerbell loves her too. So, all in all, a good woman.

Ruth will have her choice from amongst several prizes, including a "Books! I need more books!" pin, a pocket reading journal, and the aforementioned autographed copy of Magic Johnson's autobiography. Ruth, email me to discuss. And thank you all for coming to Jacqui's Room.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back to the drawing board...

I wrote a new picture book yesterday. It rocks. Or so I thought, until...

JACQUI: I want to read you this story.
TINK: Did you write it?
JACQUI: Yeah, but pretend I didn't, okay?
TINK: Okay.
JACQUI: (reads story)...The End
JACQUI: Hello?
JACQUI: What do you think? Is it good?
TINK: Sure (plays with stuffed raccoon).
JACQUI: Honest opinion. What did you like or not like?
TINK: It needs more action.
JACQUI: Okay. I can do that. What did you like?
JACQUI: Were there any funny parts?

And there you have it. Not funny AND dull, all at once.

Back to the drawing board.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How I Will Spend Today

Three important things happened this weekend:

1. I got my first stranger fan mail for Two of a Kind (from someone who I don't know in real life or online. Or my mom.). Let's just say the words "beautifully written" and "so true to children" were involved. I heart fan mail. Did you go buy yours yet?

2. I talked to my agent. She loves The Tale of Ant. Yippee! She also had great, great suggestions for making it even better. Which I now have to, like, do.

3. Remember when I wiped out sledding and sprained my wrist and the doctor told me it would heal completely if only I gave up writing, typing, cooking, lifting children, and driving? Remember how I laughed?

Now, I will spend all day today like this:

"Ready to revise. Revved up and ready. Here we go! Okay. Hmm. Um, er. Huh." Type type type (lefty). Delete delete delete (also lefty). "Okay. Um. Hmm. Aha! Nah. Um."

Is it lunch time yet? Maybe I'll go read that fan mail again.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mermaids in Manhattan

In this week's Thursday News of the Absurd Will Someone Please Write Me This Book Inspirational Moment (TNoftheAWSPWTBIM), I ask you to channel your inner merfolk.

I found this at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Wild, Wacky and Weird Picture Gallery* (yup, digging deep for you loyal Thursday readers this week):

Yup. Those are mermaids. Kissing. On the subway. Apparently they were on their way home from the 2009 Mermaid parade on Coney Island. First, you gotta love New York because the other woman in the picture is utterly unphased by commuting with sea creatures.

Secondly, I want a picture book. I want the merpeople getting lost and ending up in the Hudson River, being charmed by the lights on the buildings at night, and walking up out of the water onto Riverside Drive. I don't want ditzy Splash mermaids; I want fun-loving, don't care if we're stared at, willing to take the subway but baffled by the turnstiles merfolk. And I want them to stink like fish.

Part of me wants the book wordless, in the vein of Quentin Blake's Clown, with multi-frame pages showing the mermaids in Central Park, shopping Fifth Avenue, gasping at Fulton Fish Market. But I might like it even more if you wrote it with very few words, very matter-of-fact, the simple telling of where they went and what they saw standing in contrast to wild and crazy detail in the pictures. So it says, "They visited the Plaza," but the pictures show them entering to fascinated stares, dripping seaweed at someone's wedding, and being ushered out by snotty guards leaving a trail of nose-holding guests behind them.

And never you worry, our team of esteemed judges (Thor and Monkey Girl and I) are hard at work reviewing the entries to last week's contest and will make our announcements soon.

In the meantime, who will write me this book?

* Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This week's library haul

In which I reveal what really goes on around here.

I am inventing a new occasional feature here in Jacqui's Room. Let me know if you:
1. love it
2. really love it
3. are always going to skip it
4. came here because you accidentally googled "hidden sheep"*

In the meantime, welcome to THIS WEEK'S LIBRARY HAUL.

Captain Destructo is obsessed with our local library. And rightly so. So we go every week and he is allowed to take out whatever picture books he likes. I grab some books (picture and otherwise) for Tink, or she requests them, and we come home laden. VoilĂ . Instant reviewing material. And the real life peanut gallery has been clamoring for more reviews, particularly from Tink and Destructo. So I thought I'd share...


1. Duck Rabbit
Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. Tom Lichtenheld
Laura read this at story time and Destructo was smitten. We brought it home to read to Tink and she loves it too. The book is simple: is the animal you can see on the cover a duck or a rabbit? Two voices argue. Giggling ensues. We get extra giggling in our house because Destructo, being only two, does not have the cognitive ability to see it both ways and so he thinks the point of the book is that some poor dope thinks that bunny's a duck. **

2. There's a Dragon Downstairs

by Hilary McKay, illus. Amanda Harvey
We only picked this up because I read the title aloud as I scanned the shelves and Destructo started begging to "go downstairs see dragon!" It's adorable. I like the voice (very childlike) and the surprise ending and we all giggled a lot at the illustrations.

Plus, it won an award from these folks, whom we already know have exquisite taste.

3. 500 different Bailey School Kids books (demanded by Tink)
These are so all the same that when I asked, "Is she really a vampire?" Tink said, "Mo-om! They're ALWAYS really what the kids think they are!" But she loves them and they're funny and quick reads and I find them not so bad to read aloud. Plus, I think they're gender neutral, which is rare.

4. I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles
This is one of those "can you find the..." activity books. I have no opinion on it other than this: if you have been trapped in your house alone for 12 hours with two sick kids and no electricity and no doughnuts and no caffeine and you've finally decided that swine flu transmission be darned you have got to have some coffee or you are going to kill someone, this will keep a 2 1/2 year old and a six year old entertained long enough for you to order and take at least five slurps which is more alone time than you've had in five days and god I love this book but I think I burned my tongue.

5. Meet Diego: a Dora Adventure
Someone kill me. Please.

* Now, apparently, the number one way, other than, you know, actually trying to find me, that people get to Jacqui's Room
** OMG. I just wrote that and then The Mighty Thor, who apparently isn't much further developed cognitively than his son, looked over and said, "I like Duck Rabbit. Though it's clearly a rabbit. Duh."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday bits, and why writers are like puppy dogs

Happy Monday, oh mighty and numerous visitors to Jacqui's Room. Did you have a good weekend? Were you stuck in your house alone for 16 hours with two kids who probably had swine flu* and no electricity and no doughnuts? Not pretty, people.

Here are my thoughts:

1. Remember when I raved about Nicola's Books, my favorite local bookstore? Well, Nicola herself wrote me on Goodreads to tell me how much she likes Two of a Kind, so I am floating.

2. Many, many of you have given Two of a Kind wonderful shout-outs on your own blogs and I am much, much grateful. I was going to link to them all, but the aforementioned 16 hours with no electricity have also apparently ruined my AT&T U-Verse service and I have exactly nine minutes left before I lose it again.** Soon...

3. I am not a huge dog person. But you have to admire their short term memory. My sister has a dog and he's cute, but, like I said, I am not a dog person. Yet every single time that dog sees me, he comes running up like this, THIS might be the time that I shout "FOZ!" and wrastle him to the ground and let him lick me all over.

I'm starting a new book today -- a picture book. And here I am, all in love with it, leaping to the blank page, drooling and panting and thinking this, THIS will be the book that lives up to its image in my head, that never makes me pound my head on the keyboard or Google things like "WHY DO I EVEN TRY?"

Woof woof.

* symptoms: fever, cough, unending snot drip, extreme crankiness, inability to follow simplest of directions without protest...
** Remember my ex-boyfriend SteveFromAT&T and his new girl, Munchie? So Thor calls AT&T last night and gets Mr. Helpful who is kind and smart and tries hard to figure out the problem and they're sending someone over ASAP. What the heck?!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday bits

1. Say, have you gotten your copy of TWO OF A KIND yet? Why not?! Go find it at your local bookstore. Now.

2. Diane tells me that Cheryl Klein is also hosting a worst first line of a children's book contest. But what about MY contest?! Thievery! Who is this "Cheryl Klein" person? What has she ever done for children's literature?

Actually, I have met Cheryl on several occasions and she is downright lovely. We talked at length at SCBWI-NY drink night this year about the revision process Francisco X. Stork went through on Marcelo in the Real World (possibly still my favorite book read in 2009, though that's unoffical) and it was fascinating and inspiring to me. You should go enter her contest also, because she seems to be "organized" and offering "actual prizes." Though I am sure Cheryl cannot offer you your pick of treasures such as a first edition of Grease: the Book and a signed copy of Magic Johnson's autobiography.

3. Speaking of contests, first place in the "best response to a parental order" contest goes to Tinkerbell, who, upon being sent to her room by The Mighty Thor, stormed up the steps shouting, "I shall have my revenge!"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The best reviews...

...come from kids.

She told me she was six years old and she came to my launch party because her mom read about it in the newspaper. But she was waiting to buy a book or put on a tattoo until she heard me read the story.

When I was done, she came over with TWO OF A KIND clutched to her chest.

"I like your book," she said. Then she leaned close and whispered, very serious, "You know, that really happens. That has happened to me."

And then I melted into a puddle of goo.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Say cheese!

A photographic bonanza in which I reveal that I look nothing like my official author photo and am stymied in my quest for a new one.

First, I got my first photographic evidence that Two of a Kind has been released into the wild. Here it is on the shelf at Nicola's Books, here in Ann Arbor (oh, Nicola's, how I adore thee).

Note that I am facing out (yippee!) and right next to Thunder Boomer, which is by the fabulous Shutta Crum, whom I am lucky to call friend and critique buddy, and who gave Two of a Kind a sweet shout-out on her own impossibly chock-full-of-goodies website. Y'all should read Thunder Boomer, or "Funda Boom!" as Destructo calls it. Thanks to my sister for the photo, and for holding back from buying more than one book last night when it looked like we'd sell out (which we did -- cue awkward running man dance).

Secondly, if you look to the left, you'll see my current official author photo, which the lovely Sonya Sones took at last year's SCBWI-LA conference. It is fine, but it doesn't look that much like me, by which I mean I love it because you can't tell at all what I look like from it and also it looks like I glow and have never seen a wrinkle upon me. This is not Sonya's fault; it was one million degrees of sunny when she took the picture.

In any case, it has been suggested that I have a new photo taken. I am a cheapskate kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of gal, so I thought, "Aha! I will have someone take picture of me at the launch party when I already have lipstick and that other stuff on anyway lord knows I don't do THAT very often so I might as well take a photo."

What you are about to see is in no way the fault of the lovely Amy at 826michigan whom I roped into taking said photos after I totally spaced my camera. It's just that it turns out that:
1. I never shut up am sort of talkative, and
2. While I talk, I apparently gesture and make faces like a demented circus clown am somewhat expressive.

Therefore, my choices for Jacqui's new author photo are limited to:

1. "Jacqui shows her bottom teeth"

2. "Jacqui sneers at children"

Or, 3. "Look what color Jacqui's hair really is."

Sigh. Look at the books, focus on the pretty books...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Launch party recap

Total books sold: all of them.
Total cupcakes eaten: all of them.

The completely sucked into the story, "what's she going to do?!" "keep reading!" looks on the faces of the kids in the audience?


Today's the day!

Here is your to do list for today:

1. Go to your local independent bookstore. Find one here, if you're not sure.
2. Tell them you want to buy TWO OF A KIND, by Jacqui Robbins, authorial genius.
3. Follow the store representative to the shelf to look, raving about how great TWO OF A KIND is.
4. If the book is on the shelf, shout, "Oh! Thank goodness!" and buy it immediately.
5. If the book is not on the shelf, strongly suggest that they stock it. Point out that Kirkus Reviews said children "will nod with recognition and empathy when Anna is torn in two directions and will breathe a sigh of relief when she makes the right decision." Then order the book.
6. Here's the tricky part: take a picture of the front of the store where you got the book and email it to me at jacqui at jacquirobbins dot com, and I will send you a free, autographed book plate to put it the front of your book so that every time you open it you will remember that you know me and you can brag to all your friends.
7. If all that's too much for you, order online from Barnes & Noble or Amazon and get it within a few days. I will probably send you a signed book plate anyway :)
8. Enjoy!
9. Come back tomorrow for news on online celebrations this week and next...

As for me, I have temporary tattoos to print, cupcakes to pick up, sparkling apple cider to chill, and many doughnuts to eat. The launch party has grown far, far bigger than I'd ever imagined. We got featured in Ann Arbor Parent and in the Detroit Free Press. AND my sister called last night to tell me she heard her fav rock station announce the launch party on their "cool things to do this week" list. I hope we can all squeeze into 826michigan!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

Jacqui's To Do List for Monday, July 6
Print temporary tattoos
Buy black markers and coffee filters for rainbow project
Frame Lizzie Smuggles in chapter 8

I love my job.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jacqui's Worst First Line Ever Contest

This week's Thursday inspirational moment (TNoftheAWSPWTBIM) AND A CHALLENGE FOR YOU are brought to you by San Jose State University's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which asks participants to submit the worst opening sentences possible to a fictional novel.*

Here's my favorite, from Eric Rice of Wisconsin, winner in the detective category:

She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida the pink ones, not the white ones except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn't wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren't.

This got me thinking. What would be the worst possible opening sentence for a picture book?

Fuzzy the Bunny lived with his Mama Bunny, Papa Bunny, and his sister, Roadkill, in a hutch at the base of a tall oak tree.

When Marky Sanford was a little boy, there was only one thing he wanted more than to be governor of South Carolina.

A is for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. B is for Brain tumor. (from A Child's Alphabet of Things That Can Kill Your Parents)

These are bad. But we can do worse.


I challenge you: write me the worst possible first sentence of a picture book.

This is worthy of a font color change. Welcome to JACQUI'S WORST FIRST LINE EVER CONTEST.

1. No fair lifting the actual first lines of Rainbow Fish.
2. Entries should be posted in the comments here.
3. Entries must be received by July 15.
4. Winners will receive prizes. Good ones. Like books and toys and possibly some other stuff, depending on what I find around here. Details to follow.
5. Judges panel will consist of me, The Mighty Thor, and my sister, Monkey Girl. Please feel free to offer opinions as to your favorites as well.

Do. Your. Worst. And spread the news.

* See all winners here.