Friday, July 31, 2009

Born to Fly Book Launch

I know it was kind of backwards, but due to the fact I was in NY when my book came out, my book launch party wasn't scheduled 'til two weeks later. Then the bookseller for the party asked to have a signing at the store and so I ended up having a signing first, and the launch party 2nd.

Anyway, it all went well. My mom with the help of my wife, organized the whole shindig and my godfather my uncle mikey was kind enough to host it at party room in the development where he lives.

Mom and my wife Pattie got the food, flowers, decorated the tables with a WWII aviation theme and it was just great. Thanks to my cousins Lisa and Christine and their families helping set up everything, we started on time.

I had matching Born to Fly shirts printed up for my family which I thought were gonna be corny but turned out pretty cool. I used the defunct original book cover art since I didn't have a textless artwork file of the new cover and I wanted to put the title on the back of the shirt.

The bookseller from Barnes and Noble arrived and what do you know but she turns out to be my high school librarian from years ago. The world grows, but as you age it just keeps getting smaller.

A number of old friends showed up and I was hoping to talk with them, but I ended up signing books, pretty much straight through for 3 hours. Barnes and Noble said we sold 83 books which they said was good. What do I know?

Next week it's off to Indiana for another book party and book signing in Carmel/Westfield.

Great new review from

I've been waylaid all week and meaning to put up some pictures from our book launch party, but I had to post this review first because it was such a shot in the arm:

FROM 7/31/09

I knew BORN TO FLY was going to be special right from the first sentence. The heart of the story centers on a sixth grader who has a fiery spirit and a unique spark for life. She struggles to be true to herself when society dictates a different path. Michael Ferrari tackles some difficult themes in his debut novel, including tolerance, bigotry, courage and honor, and does so with honesty and sincerity, allowing the reader to share Bird’s challenges right alongside her. He also has a gift for words that carries his audience through the pages with excitement, adventure and even a bit of guidance.

“…Only I’d let him down. Betrayed him. All because I was scared. Of what? Something bad happening? It already had. Fear was always getting in the way, always stopping you from doing the really great stuff, the real important stuff. I was sick of it. What was it Dad had told me? The only one I needed to believe in me was me…”

This is an amazing, heart-touching story, and readers will look forward to more books from this talented newcomer.

--- Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman, author of FINDING MY LIGHT, THE BLACK POND and GHOSTS OF THE UPPER PENINSULA

Here's the whole review at:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The pleasures of living in a small(er) town

Because my book happened to come out while I was away from home, I wasn't able to do much local promotion, but my local paper The Avon Lake Press did manage to do a phone interview with me and write a nice article (on very short advance notice).

As a result of the article, last week I got this letter from the mayor saying my town was "proud of me."

Now, when I was younger and dying to get out of my hometown, I probably would have considered this kind of corny. But today, I have to admit I rather enjoyed it. I couldn't imagine getting one of these from the mayor of Los Angeles (had the book come out while I lived out there). I guess that's one of niceties of living in a small(er) town.

Friday, July 24, 2009

1st Booksigning

I had my first booksigning at my local Barnes and Noble.  It was a kick to see the sign with my name on it when you enter the vestibule to the store.  

A number of writers from my critique group, Westside Kidwriters, were there to show support.  

My son was there, and after he watched me signing, he got a little address book from my mom and started writing in it, mimicking me, "daddy I'm writing, too."  Made my day.  

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Arrivederci Chautauqua

I've been thinking about why it's taken me a week to write this final post about the Highlights workshop, and I'm wondering if maybe it's not some unconscious defense mechanism to prevent it from ending, to avoid acknowledging it's over out of fear that admitting it's done might bring an end to the wonderful inspiration and excitement about writing/the fellowship of children's writers that we felt all week?

Anyway, the last day of the workshop, effectively was Friday the 17th. I sat in on Patti Gauch's session on the fantasy genre, Alvina Ling spoke about what an editor's day is like, and Larry Pringle discussed interviewing techniques. After that, myself and several others were asked to give "parting shots", share some of what we learned or was most memorable for the week. I hate speaking in front of crowds and was quite nervous. But I got through it, thanking several of the people I'd met who had been so supportive and friendly and sharing a small part of my wonderful conversation with Clay Winters on Tuesday night.

Friday night was the closing banquet. (here's I am with my fellow ladywriters of Vera house). At the banquet I got to share a table with the ever gracious Jerry and Eileen Spinelli. Jerry shared some of the Hollywood trials and tribulations of trying to get Stargirl made into a movie (with Paul Feig hopefully directing and adapting the script). I had a wonderful conversation with the Spinelli's guests, Miles and Elmore Demott from Montgomery Alabama. They had so many great ideas on how to market my book, I could have talked with them for hours.

Since this was the workshop's 25th anniversary, there was a special tribute to the founder, Kent Brown, which was very touching. At the end they presented him with a big check raised from friends.

Saturday I packed my bags and had one last, great farewell breakfast with another group of writers I'd not met yet (I think out of the 106 attendees, I met and spoke with about 65). Afterward, I guess my car didn't want it to end either. When I got to the parking lot, it wouldn't start. I had to get a jump from security and then I was on my way.

I arrived in Ohio just in time to meet my wife and daughter at the urgent care center for a replay of Faces of Death part 6, as in, my younger daughter had gotten whacked by the wheelchair swing at the playground and had to get 6 stitches in her ankle.
And with that I was forced to say, Arrivederci Chautauqua! Hello real world.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good Enough is Good Enough (or even better)

My greatest cheerleader (after my wife and mom) has been by amazingly multi-talented friend Paula Yoo (novelist, screenwriter, picture book writer, rock violinist -- I know, it's sickening, she makes us all look like slackers).  Anyway, I have been horribly remiss in not mentioning the fact that her hilarious and moving debut novel GOOD ENOUGH recently won an Honorable Mention Award in the Youth Literature category for the fourth annual Asian Pacific American Librarians Association at the ALA convention.  And she has a gorgeous brand new non-fiction picture book Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story about the first Chinese American movie star, Anna May Wong and her underdog struggle and triumph.  

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sunrise, day 6 in Chautauqua. My 6 books all were sold from the bookstore. I even wrote my first two autographs in my books to fellow attendees (Donna Jo Napoli gave me a quick lesson in how and where to autograph the correct way!)

After dinner we had a fundraising auction. Original artwork, signed books, hand made wool shawls and stuff were donated by writers and then auctioned off. The top moneymaker? Writer Candy Fleming gave out a picture book consultation where she promised to work with the writer until it's ready to submit to her editor, Anne Schwartz. That was bought for...$3,800! Two people were bidding on it and no one could believe it got that high.

Here I am with my faculty advisor, editor Alvina Ling of Little, Brown after the auction.

Great New review from School Library Journal

FERRARI, Michael. Born to Fly. 224p. Delacorte. 2009. Tr $15.99. 

Gr 4-7Bird McGill regards her dad as her best friend. He takes her up in the planes he repairs and lets her take the controls, and he encourages her dream of becoming a pilot. But a special bulletin disrupts her 11th-birthday afternoon: Japan has attacked the military base in Pearl Harbor , and Bird’s world is turned upside down. During the next few months, the local airstrip is turned into a military flight school, and her dad is shipped overseas. When a Japanese-American boy joins Bird’s class that spring, he is met with distrust. Although his uncle, with whom he is staying, is a longtime resident of Bird’s Rhode Island town, they are both thought to be spies, or at least loyal to Japan . Circumstances compel Kenji and Bird to join forces one day to escape Farley, a class bully, and in the process they stumble on evidence of an enemy submarine in the area. When they attempt to report what they have seen, nobody believes them. Their problems are compounded when Farley’s shiftless father is murdered and the local engine factory is sabotaged: Kenji’s uncle is blamed. Only Bird can clear Uncle Tomo, but the murderer has threatened to kill her family if she speaks up. Well-developed characters make this story of friendship amid hostilities shine. While the coincidences surrounding the murderer can stretch credulity at times, this action-packed first novel is full of engaging twists and turns, and readers learn about the injustices done to many Japanese Americans during World War II. First-rate historical fiction.Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools , VA

Books or no books?

So I go into the bookstore and don't see my book anywhere.  But this time I talk to the manager, Earl. He says the computer says 6 copies came in.  And one has already been sold.  He says he thinks they put them out front on the table with all the Highlights Foundation faculty books.  I look around the table.  Nothing.

But wait!  one of the shoppers had placed her picture books on top of my book.  There it is.  
Ta da!  Five copies in a real store.  

I asked a fellow writer, Linda Tomblin to take the picture of me.  (I forgot to take off my glasses and it's a little blurry, but it documented the moment).

Later I wrote up 20 questions for a goofy interview of fellow first time Delacorte publish alum Marilyn Taylor McDowell, writer of the well-reviewed novel Carolina Harmony that just came out in March.  We met the day before and she is the most genuine person, and gave me some great tips and advice.  I'll post the interview as a podcast (if I can figure out how to do it).  
Here I am with Marilyn.

At dinner I got to talk quite a bit with Eileen Spinelli which was quite a thrill.  She recommended I see Man on Wire at the local theatre.  After dinner, Cirque du Soleil was in the amphitheater.  I watched a little of that but had seen it several times over the years, so I took Eileen's advice and went to see MAN ON WIRE which was exhilerating and bittersweet.

An unforgettable day


Was up very late last night, fighting with a very weak wifi connection trying to send out email blasts to my friends and family.  Got up early, took a walk.  Then, couldn’t help myself but ended up at the bookstore (opens at 7) and strolled through, to the kids section under “F”.  Nothing.  

I looked at the table out front where they have a number of the faculty’s books (which I thought would have been presumptious to look there first).  Nothing there either.  I’m too self conscious to ask for the manager while I'm in the store, so I go back to my room and email him(Coward!  Yeah I know.  I save the hero stuff for my books).  He responds shortly that he ordered it 7 days ago and should arrive today.  


I get a barrage of wonderful emails from all my friends and former colleagues.  I even get a job offer to teach a film course at the college where I taught screenwriting last year.  Everyone at the Highlights conference is so excited for me.  Peter Jacobi comes up and congratulates me,  One after another, people come up to congratulate me and wish me well and ask if the book is in the store yet. 

 I check back in the afternoon… but no.  I end the day still waiting to see my book on a bookstore shelf, but that's okay because...

Dinner is a 30 minute busride across the lake to a museum for Roger Tory Peterson who created the field guides for nature study.  The food is good, but the best part is I get to sit at a table with Clay Winters, president of Boyds Mills Press, Highlights publishing company.  He’s a funny, charming man and raconteur who instantly treats you like you’ve been friends with him for years.  A real prince.  He tells a great story of how he met Kent Brown, the head of Highlights Magazine and how the two of them started Boyds Mill Press 20 years ago.  I share a seat with Clay on the busride back and he shares more wonderful anecdotes about sailing on a yacht with Dr. Seuss, getting a million dollar check tossed back in his face by an arrogant bestselling author, and being brought to tears when his grandson read Go Dog Go aloud for the first time during an elementary school visit.  By far this is the highlight of the week.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fly, Oh Thought, on Golden Wings!

Took a walk out to the bell tower Monday morning and this is what I saw.


Professor/writer Peter Jacobi spoke on the topic of “The Art of Visual Flight, the science of what to aim for”

It was a one hour speech but the massive volume of info and examples he supported it with could have filled a weeks worth of college classes.  He began by playing a recording of a Verdi opera about Nebudchanezzar which he said became for the Italian people their “Battle Hymn of the Republic” or their emotional “Dixie”.  "When Verdi died people took to the streets, 300,000 gathered for his funeral."  It was a soaring piece of music that began slow and rose to great heights.  Peter translated the chorus:“Fly oh thought, on golden wings” and this was something he repeated throughout his talk.  "As creators (writers/illustrators) we become fliers.  There is no license needed… but urgency, desire IS needed.  Let your thoughts fly on golden wings!"  (I will devote a whole post about Peter's talk at a later date).

Had a great lunch where I got to chat with author Andy Gutelle.  

He joked how Highlights will take full credit for BORN TO FLY getting published.  It'll be their quickest success story ever.  "He came on Saturday and by Tuesday he was published."

Editor and author and ball of fire Patti Lee Gauch's call to arms was "use all your marbles!" (tricks, toys, tools at your disposal).   Light your scenes.  You are the director/set designer/art director of your story.  Everything you do should complement wha the scen is about, or what is happening.  Is it scary?  Quiet?  Soft? Harsh?  Blue?  Purple?  Yellow?  Grey?

Here I am between Patti on the left and the wonderful and funny Ecuadorean children's author Edna Iturralde on the right.


Donna Jo Napoli talked on creating characters, and I figured out she really has this-Sally Field-Places in the Heart-thing going on.  From her soft, and measured cadence of her voice down to her curly hair and apple cheek smile.  At first, you think you're getting the quiet Singing Nun but then she spouts some hilarious, frank bit of fearless wisdom and out comes Norma Rae (or Edna Spaulding if you know Places in the Heart).  

Some good stuff she said: Give your characters injuries and scars.  "Injuries and scars have stories behind them-- ones we want to tell and ones we don't."  Introduce their weakness with an incident so we see how it affects them.  Finally, as a stay at home dad (sometimes part time professor) it was great to hear her address the question: As a parent who raised her children and wrote, how did you do all the things you needed to to?  Her answer?  "Badly.  If the woman across the street makes a beautiful Halloween costume for her kid, good for her.  Your kid can wear the sheet again.  You don't have to do everything well."  Hilarious.  

We had a great group of writers at our table for dinner.  Here's a photo: L-R: Debbi Antebi, Jackie Hesse, Holly Anderson, Harold Underdown, Tracy Cretelle, Charles Trevino, Melissa Long, and me.


And we took a group shot of all the attendees from Ohio (along with Christine the editor in chief of Highlights).  L-R: Me, Vickie Williams, Christine French Clark, Greg Orosz, Rinda Beach (from Neil Armstrong's hometown of Wapakoneta!), and Yolanda Szuch.
  (Tomorrow is publishing day!)

(note: this post was written Monday July 13, but took forever to upload pix and post)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Great new review from Publishers Weekly

BORN TO FLY just got a wonderful review from Publisher's Weekly today

Ferrari's novel, which won the Delacorte Yearling Prize for debut middle-grade authors, takes readers on a high-flying, nail-biting historical adventure that is uplifting and just good fun. Set during WWII in a sleepy Rhode Island town, Ferrari's story is narrated by an imaginative preteen girl whose nothing-can-stop-me attitude will appeal to readers of both sexes. Sixth-grader Bird McGill loves flying airplanes with her dad. But when he joins the war effort, Bird feels like she's lost her only ally. Then Kenji, a guarded Japanese boy, shows up in her class. As he becomes an even bigger outcast and bully-target than her (“Why don't you go home to Japland,” sneers a classmate), Bird reluctantly befriends him. Together, Bird and Kenji stumble upon suspicious activity in their hometown and vow to unravel the mystery. Ferrari weaves in period details, but wisely keeps the focus on the duo's antics and fragile, budding friendship. As danger grows, so does their trust in and reliance on each other. Readers will be anxious to learn the fate of these two daring kids and the spy they are determined to derail. Ages 8–12. (July)

One more day to publication!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday BBQ

Woke up 5 AM this morning for some reason, so I did some reading then took a look-see around Chautauqua to test drive the new digital camera.

Met more friendly fellow writers over brunch and after an hour and a half fighting my intermittent wifi connection/trying to post, I gave up and caught the bus to the BBQ out at Highlights chairman Kent Brown's brother Garry's house.

At the BBQ, husband and wife authors Eileen and Jerry Spinelli interviewed each other. Some highlights: Jerry:Write about what you care about. Readers respond to what touches them. If it doesn't touch you, it won't touch them.
Write down 10 things you care about. You'll get 10 ideas for books.
Your memory is like an orange. You just squeeze it to get the juice.
Ideas are like mosquitoes. They bite you.
Eileen: I grew up years ago, before they'd heard of this thing called "self-esteem".
Her 2nd grade teacher Miss Campbell assigned a "food story", Eileen was convinced the teacher would love her story of a prince and princess eating her favorite foods like mac and cheese, etc. The teacher announces she's gonna read two; the best and worst stories...Miss Campell announces Eileen's as the worst.

"I've been writing ever since... bring on the rejection. I can take it" (spoken just like the fearless character "Stargirl", who Jerry modeled after her)

Finally, The best part of writing? Jerry: Getting a check is good, but...
getting a letter from a teacher in Georgia, who was reading your story to her class before lunch, and had to stop, but the kids protested to the point they skipped lunch to let her finish -- that's better than the check.

Here I am with Mr. Spinelli.

And we end the day with a gorgeous sunset sky over Chautauqua.

On the Road (to Chautauqua)

After some minor fiascos trying to get a suitable digital camera to post pictures on this blog while I'm at the Highlights workshop (1st camera wasn't Mac compatible though the guy said it would be, 2nd one had rechargable battery that needed 5 hours to charge before use)

I finally arrived in a rainstorm yesterday (Sat.) afternoon.

Judy Burke managing editor for Highlights magazine gave me a quick orientation, then I unpacked at my quaint boarding house, The Vera.

Next door is the stately Athenaeum Hotel where we had our opening night banquet.

It was pretty hot and humid in the Athenaeum dining room but the food was delicious: shrimp and crab appetizers, raspberry vinagrete salad, roast beef and salmon over rice, and cheesecake.

I was fortunate to sit at a table with the guest speaker, Donna Jo Napoli and her charming husband Barry, a law professor who doubles as Donna Jo's agent. (FYI Donna Jo is much prettier in person than this photo from the internet).

Ms. Napoli's speech was inspiring and entertaining. Her soft-spoken manner fooled you into thinking she was a softee. Until she broke-up the crowd with an anecdote about how she would drop on the floor and cry whenever she received one of her countless rejection letters (during the 14 years she was trying to get published) only to be encouraged by her young son who patted her and said, "Those ***holes." Donna Jo says, "Go ahead and cry, BUT you must get up and come back for more."

She began with a great quote from Richard Peck (who wrote the wonderful A Long Way From Chicago) who said: "We write by the light of every story we ever read"

Then Ms. Napoli advised, "You must have have big ears and thick skin." Listen to all your readers (even if it's something you don't want to hear). The reader is never wrong. He is sometimes stupid, but if the reader thinks your hero is 14 and he's actually 10, you need to figure out what made the reader think that and fix it. She reminded everyone that no one is going to publish you because "they want to be nice to you". It's a business. They want to make money.

Finally she stressed the point that Art is hard work. It doesn't flow out of anyone without incredible effort and discipline and craft. Nothing of value -- art, a house, etc. -- is created without hard work.

(Countdown: Only two days until my book hits bookstores!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Countdown: One week to go

It's Tuesday, one week until my first book, BORN TO FLY is published by Delacorte Yearling on July 14th, 2009.

I'm filled with a lethal mix of excitement and trepidation. Will the book actually arrive in stores? Will my publisher go out of business at the last minute, a victim of bad real estate investments and the internet? Will they tell me there's no money to pay their air conditioning bills and they had to burn my books for fuel?

It didn't help that I got a call last week from the local Barnes & Noble (where I'm having my first --and so far, only-- booksigning) and they asked ME whether the books will arrive on time for the publish date. "Geez, I hope so," I told them. But I haven't a clue. I've never done this before (why are they asking me? I was hoping one of us had some experience with this kind of thing).

Anyway, I'm too busy trying to get the kids to swim meets, and packed off to Grandma's for a week in Indiana before I have the amazing privilege of attending the Highlights Foundation Children's Writers Workshop in beautiful Chautauqua, NY. I've even convinced myself it's a good thing I'm not home for the publish date. Since my book comes out while I'm at the workshop, I won't get the thrill of seeing it on shelves on the publish date, but I also won't have to worry about whether it makes it there on time either. Que sera, sera.

Actually, I should be working on a new chapter for my next book, but instead, at the urging of a more experienced writer friend, I decided to take a crack at this blogging thing. Hopefully I'll have enough of a rudimentary understanding that I'll be able to post from the workshop. (must remember to get a new digital camera by Friday).