Monday, April 22, 2013

April Showers from The Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels


April is one of our favorite times of the year! April Showers, bluebonnets popping up all over the place, and the annual Texas Library Association Conference. We have so much great news to share with you guys, but first, we want to offer a sincere thank you for reading! You all put the sweet into sweetheart!

The Texas Library Association Conference is one of our most favorite events all year. The Sweethearts and Scoundrels are looking forward to seeing you there! Please take a moment to check out schedule and see if you can come by and say hi. Oh, and we love hearing that you read our newsletter!

1:00-1:50 pm - PJ Hoover will be on the Other Worlds: Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens Panel with Ilsa Bick, Joelle Charbonneau, Marissa Meyer, Kristen Simmons

2:00-3:00 pm - Don Tate will sign Hope's Gift, written by Kelly Starlling Lyons (Penguin, 2012) in the Author Signing Area, Aisle #11 

3:00-4:00 pm - Jessica Lee Anderson and P. J. Hoover will be signing at Booth 1601    

10:00-12:00 pm - Don Tate will be signing at Booth 1601 

12:00-1:50 pm - P. J. Hoover
will be a participating author at the YART Texas Tea

3:00-4:00 pm - P. J. Hoover will be signing ARCs of SOLSTICE in the author area
3:30-4:00 pm - Don Tate will be signing at Booth 1601
4:00-5:00 pm - Jeanette Larson will be signing at Booth 1601  

5:00-8:00 pm - P. J. Hoover will be a participating author in the TT4L Event 

8:30-9:20 am - Jeanette Larson will be moderating a panel: Freedom and Libraries: The Fate of a Library, about Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt's Treasured Books 

Watch out, Fort Worth, here we come!
The Sweethearts & Scoundrels had a wonderful time presenting at the recent Region 13 Hill Country Library and Literacy Summit. We shared photos that help us inspire the love of reading and writing to kids.

From L to R: Don Tate, Jessica Lee Anderson, P. J. Hoover, Jeanette Larson, Kari Holt, and Jo Whittemore

Coming up on May 11 is the first annual YAB Fest at Round Rock High School in Round Rock, Texas. Both Jessica and P. J. will be participating authors, and a keynote will be given by David Levithan and Andrea Cremer.  Check here for more information.

Jo Whittemore is thrilled to announce she has sold another book to Simon & Schuster! Here is the official announcement:
Jo Whittemore's HOW TO MAKE A MILLION, about a zany mother and her sensible daughter who have the opportunity to claim a relative's fortune, but find there are just a few pesky strings attached, again to Alyson Heller at Aladdin, for publication in Spring 2015, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (World English).
Yay, Jo!


P. J. Hoover recently took part in celebrating the release of POISON by Bridget Zinn at BookPeople. Bridget passed away before the release of her debut novel, so Austin author gathered together to show their support. In attendance were Bridget's husband, Barrett, along with members of her family. P. J. read a passage from the book along with Austin authors Nikki Loftin and Cory Putman Oakes. In support of Bridget, please consider ordering POISON for your library. The book is appropriate for elementary, middle school, and high school. 

From L to R: P. J. Hoover, Barrett Dowell (Bridget's husband), Nikki Loftin (author), Cory Putman Oakes (author), and Mary Zuniga Johnson (Bridget's cousin)

P. J. also enjoyed participating in a recent panel at BookPeople sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas. Along with P. J., the panel featured author Rhiannon Frater and publicist Stephanie Barko, and was moderated by author Jennifer Ziegler.
P. J. had a wonderful time presenting to 6th and 7th graders at the recent St. Stephen's Literary Festival.
P. J. looks forward to a busy month ahead with school visits including Lee Elementary, Andrews Elementary, and Kealing Middle School in Austin, and Live Oak Elementary and Sommer Elementary in Round Rock.
P. J. is also looking forward to presenting at DFWCon on May 4th in Hurst, TX.


Kari is excited to be visiting schools in Spring ISD and Austin ISD in the next few weeks, and was recently thrilled to find out that her book, MIKE STELLAR: NERVES OF STEEL, has gone into its second printing.


Jessica Lee Anderson can't wait for the Pflugerville ISD Write Stuff Event on April 27th, 2013!


April has been a busy month for 'the Scoundrel' of the bunch. Earlier this month, Don gave away nearly 600 books to children in the Rio Grande Valley as a part of the Texas Book Festivals Reading Rock Stars program. Since then he's visited several schools. One highlight was at Groveton Elementary School in Groveton, Texas, where the students collected spare change as a way to help cover the author honorarium. Students raised nearly half the full-day fee. Yay! Don loves the ingenuity of the Texas Librarian. Last week, Don was honored at the Ezra Jack Keats Awards during the Kay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Read more about it on his blog. From Mississippi, Don traveled back to Texas to participate in the Texas Book Festivals first San Antonio edition.

Don Tate with librarian Julie Lake at Web Primary. What a cool welcoming banner.
Groveton students raised money to bring an author to their school  

Don also had a busy weekend at IRA signing books and speaking on a panel: Making a Difference: Texas Authors, Texas Teachers and Texas Literacy Organizations Focus on Critical Reading and Thinking Around Nonfiction Texts
Many thanks to the talented Emma Virj√°n for her beautiful graphic designs!  Don't miss the opportunity to check out her newest illustrations:
Milly Crocodilly Finds True Love

You can read about our latest Featured Sweethearts who are making a different in their communities! This month we featured
Debbie Carroll VanZandt (read her interview here) 

Jessica Lee Anderson with Debbie
Danny & Julie Woodfill (read their interview here) 
Julie and Danny sporting their Book Spot t-shirts!
Lesa Boutin (read her interview here) 
A book, a snake, and a tortoise, oh my!
Please stop by the blog and read about the amazing things they have to say about the world of kidlit!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Hi, P. J. here, and today we're featuring librarian and author, Lesa Boutin! Lesa, thank you so much for being here with us today!


Hi, Lesa!

TxSandS: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do, and who or what inspires you?

LesaB: The short answer – I multitask. The extended version – I work part time at a public library where I am fortunate to be immersed in the world of books and people who love them. I also work part time for a nonprofit organization in Houston called Writers in the Schools (WITS). Their mission is to inspire and enhance creative writing by placing professional writers in writing residencies within public schools. Throughout my writing career, I’ve found inspiration in lots of places, but by far working with WITS has outshined them all. Being with children, writing with them, witnessing those aha! moments when they realize they’ve written something amazing, well, it just doesn’t get more inspiring than that.

Outdoor classroom!

TxSandS: What were your goals when you first started working with kids and books, and how has that vision changed now that some time has gone by?

LesaB: In the beginning, I think I simply wanted to express my own creativity, and I had a strong desire to connect with others’ imaginations. After years of working in the classroom, I’ve grown more and more concerned about our creativity. Imagination is an invaluable commodity, and far too often, I see it turned off the minute a student walks through the classroom door. I don’t want to get into the politics of public schools and standardized testing, but I can’t help what I see. No matter what’s causing it, it’s very sad.

School visit!

TxSandS: What has been the biggest surprise since you've entered the world of books for kids and teens?

LesaB: The greatest surprise I’ve encountered since writing for children would have to be the explosion of growth in that sector of the industry. When I started out, some viewed it as a “lesser” form of writing. It was as if you weren’t good enough to write for adults. It didn’t take me long to realize how ridiculous that was. Writing for children and teens is much more difficult. It can be downright hard. I still haven’t mastered a picture book! I believe the growth in children’s and YA books is testament to how badly we needed to fill that void.

Critique partners!

TxSandS: How do you see reading changing for teens in the next couple years? What challenges do you see? And what can we do to help?

LesaB: Certainly, the electronic age has set reading and publishing on its head, so there’s still much to come as far as teens and how their reading habits will evolve. Working in a library, I see more kids wanting to listen to a book. Sometimes they check out the CD along with the hard copy because they like doing both listening and reading at the same time. With the increase of easy access to audiobook downloads, I think we’ll be seeing more of this kind of reading in the future.

Reading with Joe

TxSandS: Would you consider yourself a Sweetheart or a Scoundrel?

LesaB: I have enormously eclectic taste in reading. For instance, I’m reading Mark Lawrence’s fantasy series The Broken Empire that has a bloodthirsty scoundrel as its main character. Yet I’m reading the Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout with a hunky, alien sweetheart as its hero. Still, I love Hank Zipzer, the Count of Monte Cristo, and Ally Carter’s Heist Society series. So I suppose I’d have to say I am one sweet scoundrel!

School visit!

TxSandS: Thank you again, Lesa, for being here and for all you do!



As a writer, I was passionate about YA story telling before it was called YA. Unfortunately, my cowardice kept me in the closet for a while. During those dark, cloistered years, I developed my craft by attending various workshops and conferences, notably the Highlights Foundation's Chautauqua and Founders Workshops. Then, after working for years in a middle school library and my students asking to read my work, I started Boot in the Door Publications and self-published YA novels AMANDA NOBLE, ZOOKEEPER EXTRAORDINIARE and AMANDA NOBLE, SPECIAL AGENT. Currently, I have another YA and a middle grade novel in the works.


If you know of someone who would make a great Featured Sweetheart, please let us know! The best part? If you nominate someone, we'll send you a $5 Starbucks gift card :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FEATURED SWEETHEARTS: Danny and Julie Woodfill

Howdy!  It is Jessica Lee Anderson here, and I can speak for all of us Sweethearts and Scoundrels that we’re thrilled to feature our dear friends Danny and Julie Woodfill, owners of the independent book store in Round Rock, THE BOOK SPOT!

Julie and Danny
Danny and Julie have been so supportive of The Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels, and we've done many fun events at The Book Spot, including our recent holiday book signing.

They've also gone above and beyond at other signings and events like Austin ComicCon!


TxS&S:  Can you tell us about THE BOOK SPOT and how you got started? 
D&J:  The Book Spot is a full service book store with a wide range of products.  We actually started by selling Julie's old teaching books on Craigslist.  From there we decided that we should open a store front and offer the best selection and have the best customer service that we could.  The end result is The Book Spot.
located in Round Rock, TX

TxS&S:  Any surprises since becoming independent book sellers?  What can folks do to support independent book stores?

D&J:  Being an independent book seller is hard work. It takes incredible determination and long hours.  The biggest thing people can do, besides shop here a lot, is to tell people.  Local stores don’t have huge amounts of marketing dollars, so they need help!

TxS&S:  What marketing tips can you offer authors to help foster a positive relationship with book sellers?

D&J:  Stop by and get to know your local booksellers.  When you know and support them, they know and support you, too

TxS&S:  We're beyond excited about the YABFest!  How did the idea for this festival get started and what do young adult book enthusiasts have to look forward to?  

SAVE THE DATE:  MAY 11TH at Round Rock High School!!!
D&J:  The Young Adult Book Festival really came together through a series of events.  Our teachers, kids, and parents love supporting author events, so that lead us to think, why don’t we have an event to bring authors closer to where the kids are?  We had to start YABFest!
In our first year, we have a wonderful line up of authors for middle and high school readers.  We will also have several authors that will appeal to kids and parents alike.  This will provide a great opportunity for readers to connect with authors without having to make a long drive and deal with parking nightmares.  And it will only get better from here.  Visit for details.

TxS&S:  Would you consider yourselves Sweethearts or Scoundrels? 

 D&J:  Julie is definitely a sweetheart, but Danny's surely more of a scoundrel.

TxS&S:  We think you’re both Sweethearts and we’re lucky to call you our friends! Thanks for joining us!



Danny and Julie grew up in the peaceful college town of College Station, TX. They both graduated in the same year, from the same school, but never spoke to each other until years later in Round Rock.  Julie got her teaching degree from SFA while Danny was getting his Bachelors of Science at Texas A&M. Prior to opening The Book Spot, Julie taught elementary school for 10 years. Danny used to make money selling large communication systems to hospitals, casinos, and colleges.  They both live happily with their 2 dogs and 1 kid in Pflugerville.


If you know of someone who would make a great Featured Sweetheart, please let us know! The best part? If you nominate someone, we'll send you a $5 Starbucks gift card :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

FEATURED SWEETHEART: Debbie Carroll VanZandt

Hi!  It's Jessica Lee Anderson and I'm giddy to announce that our newest Featured Sweetheart is Debbie Carroll VanZandt!  As soon as I met Debbie at a conference, I knew that I found a kindred spirit.  

Picture of me and Debbie at the Austin Teen Book Festival in 2012

Thanks for joining us, Debbie!
TxS&S: Can you share with us what you do and what or who keeps you inspired?
Debbie:  I am the librarian and Academic Decathlon coach at Tuloso-Midway High School in Corpus Christi. Apart from all of the book-related stuff (checking-in/-out, ordering, processing, repairing, etc.), I teach research skills and internet safety and am a first-line technology troubleshooter.

I get inspiration from so many people. I am blessed to be a part of a loving and supportive family. My parents have always supported me in everything, and I hope that I am passing that on to my girls. My husband is the one who pushed me to go to library school online through Texas Woman’s University in Denton (where I had a class taught by Jeanette Larson!). He knew that it had always been a dream of mine, but I hesitated. I’m so happy that I let him talk me into it! Wanting to be a good example for my girls is also something that drives me.

I am inspired by the students with whom I work. The students at my school are some of the greatest anywhere. I have always enjoyed working with high school-aged kids, and these are the best I’ve ever seen. The staff at my school is fantastic as well. I can honestly say that I enjoy going to work every morning and being surrounded by these people. I consider myself very lucky!

Debbie with her family, Heath, Heather, Amanda, at Central Park in New York in 2010

TxS&S: What were your goals when you first started working with kids and books, and how has that vision changed over time?
Debbie:  When I first started working with teens and books, I just wanted to be the librarian who turned teens on to books. Over the years, I still have that goal (and I LOVE it when it happens!), but now it is so much more than that. I do still want to be that librarian, but I also want to be the one with the cool stuff that draws kids, both readers and non-readers into the library during the day. In addition to that, I want my students to know that when you need information, you can get it from the library. I’ve fielded questions from “Where can I find this book?” to “How can I attach a file to my email.” I believe that as librarians, we should never stop with an answer of “I don’t know.” The answer should be “I don’t know right now, but let’s find out.”

 Kids reading in Debbie's library

TxS&S: What are some things in the world of books for kids and teens you're excited about?
Debbie:  One of the things I’m most excited about right now is planning for a Teen Book Festival to happen in Corpus Christi. I took students to the Austin Teen Book Festival in October, and got really inspired. I’ve talked to other school and public librarians in our area, and I think we have the group in place to make it happen! Teen Book Fest by the Bay is something I’ve been dreaming about for a couple of years, but it’s looking more and more like a reality. Who knows where it might go! I know that I am excited and so are my students.

Students who went with Debbie to the Austin Teen Book Festival

TxS&S: If you could make a wish for teens and reading in the future, what would it be?
Debbie: Hhhmmmmm. My wish for teens and reading would, of course, be that more teens would find their reading niche and READ! My favorite times in the library happen when a student says, “Hey, I didn’t know there were books about (insert topic here). Are there any more?” I am a firm believer in the idea that there is at least one book for everyone and probably many. I consider it a personal quest to find THAT book for THAT student.

Debbie's students couldn’t wait to start reading their books!
TxS&S: Do you consider yourself a Sweetheart or Scoundrel? 
Debbie: Is there a category for Scoundheart or Sweetdrel?? I think I am mostly a Sweetheart, but I’m pretty sure that I DO have a Scoundrel buried inside (just ask my family…).
TxS&S: We think you're a total sweetheart, Debbie!  Thank you again for joining us and for making such a difference!



I am married to my high school sweetheart, Heath, and we have two daughters, Heather, a college student, and Amanda, a senior in high school. We have two spoiled dogs, a mutt named Lily and a Sheltie named Robin Hood. I love to read almost anything and am a member of two book clubs. We like to travel, and we have recently begun geocaching as a family. We enjoy spending time together on these mini treasure hunts, and all of us have found at least one.

After teaching high school English for 3 years in Alice, I became a stay-at-home mom when our older daughter was born. For most of the next 16 years, I was a PTA mom and professional volunteer. I started working on my Masters in Library Science. In 2007, I was lucky enough to land a library job at Tuloso-Midway High School in Corpus Christi, where I still am. I co-coach the Academic Decathlon team and serve on the Site-Based Decision Making team at my school. For TLA, I am a member of the Spirit of Texas High School program until April when I will move to the Maverick Reading List committee. I also teach a Sunday School class at Calallen Baptist Church.


If you know of someone who would make a great Featured Sweetheart, please let us know! The best part? If you nominate someone, we'll send you a $5 Starbucks gift card :)