Saturday, May 18, 2013



In a Canadian mine, scientists have found a source of flowing water deep within the Earth that's been untouched for at least a billion years. Some estimates say this water has been isolated for closer to three billion years.

Holy cow. I mean, HOLY COW. Do you know what this means?

This means this water could host life that's been isolated for millions of years, if not hundreds of millions. It could host entire ancient ecosystems! It could host microbes that have evolved in separation from the rest of the world for eons!


Excuse the key-smash, but this is freaking awesome.

...Ahem. Right. Now for a bit of slightly calmer explanation:

The water is bubbling out of the deep Earth into a mine in Ontario. The water has been dated by examining the isotopes of the noble gases in the bubbles, and work is still being done to narrow down the date range.

No one has actually identified life in these samples just yet, but with the presence of hydrogen and methane, it's certainly possible for microbial life to exist in isolation in these conditions. It's actually a perfect experiment to learn more about the possibility of life on other planets. If life could've existed in these rocky traps with no connection to the atmosphere for millions of years, life in a place like Mars--that has these same ingredients--isn't a stretch of the imagination at all.

This is really exciting stuff, guys. Like, really really. In fact, rather than an entire weekly roundup, I felt this bit of news deserved a post all of its own. It's just that cool. Take a moment to appreciate this awesomeness. Seriously.

Okay, now you may go ahead and proceed with your Saturday.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

When Fiction and Reality Collide: Astronaut Abby

For the past year, I've been working on a novel that stars a young girl training to be the first astronaut to go to Mars. Little did I know, this girl already existed.

I was thrilled to stumble across this website:, where 15 year-old Abigail Harrison is making her dream a reality. She's teamed up with Italian astronaut Luco Parmitano to educate the world about space exploration. She's going to be his Earth-bound correspondent while he's aboard the ISS this month. She's an advocate for STEM education and runs a website reminding us all how to dream big. She is, in a word, awesome.

And everyone should go support her mission right now: Astronaut Abby's Soyez Adventure. There's only 9 days left before the campaign runs out, so donate if you can!

Abby gives me hope that there are kids out there ready to tackle the big scientific challenges of our lifetime. I've spent a year writing this 13 year-old character who has similar aspirations, and to see her brought to life this way is just incredible. To top it off, I've learned that Abby decided to be an astronaut after reading science fiction books as a kid. If that's not inspiration for me to keep writing, I don't know what is.

Abby is a fantastic role model for people of all ages, anywhere and everywhere. I can't wait to see her achieve great things. You've got my vote for first astronaut on Mars, Abby. Make it happen!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Post-Conference: NESCBWI 2013

Another NESCBWI, come and gone! And, in what is now tradition, I'm here to give my thoughts on the conference two days after returning from Springfield.

Before I dive into what I learned about my fiction writing, I need to discuss two major realizations that hit me on Sunday:

A travel mug I clearly need.
1. I've been so scared of dabbling in nonfiction, but thanks to Catherine Reef's nonfiction intensive Sunday, I now understand that I've been "writing" children's science nonfiction for years. I've just been doing it verbally. Several times a week, I go into schools and spend fifty minutes introducing a science topic to kids, experimenting with it, and giving them takeaway conclusions/inspiration. Oh, and I'm AWESOME at it.

2. Speaking of what I do for a living, after Kellie Celia's intensive on school and library outreach, I've come to understand that I possess an incredible knowledge bank and skill set that few authors have.  I am a professional outreach educator. I shine in front of audiences of all ages and sizes, and can entertain and teach even the dreaded "middle schoolers". This session showed me how little the average author knows about speaking to kids at schools--something I just take for granted as common knowledge, because of the nature of my job. NESCBWI 2013 taught me that I really should find a way to help other authors learn the ins and outs of outreach and presenting to children. (2014 session anyone?)

So yes. Two surprising revelations that taught me that I'm cooler than I thought I was. But what about my Work In Progress manuscript? Did I learn anything about that?

Of course! I challenge anyone to go to an NESCBWI conference and not leave armed with some great ideas.

First, I've confirmed that I need to make my manuscript 20% shorter. I knew it deep down, but it was helpful to have that told to my face.

Second, Kate Messner's great revision workshop helped me identify the true heart of my manuscript, which will make cutting 20% of it much, much easier. (Thank you again, Kate.)

Finally, and this is going to sound cliché, but I learned that the world really does need my book. I won't go into details, but I have more conviction than ever that a science-driven novel (with a female lead) needs to get out there in the hands of kids.

So thank you, NESCBWI 2013. It was another fantastic conference, and I got a chance to help spread the word about my critique partner's debut novel, GOLDEN BOY by Tara Sullivan, coming out June 27th!

Yes, we were the group with the shirts!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pre-Conference: NESCBWI 2013

Going to NESCBWI is a lot like attending high school. At least, if high school was a heck of a lot friendlier.

I came to this odd realization a couple days ago, as I thought back on how I've progressed and matured as a writer through the past three years. Let me explain.

My Freshman year of NESCBWI (2011) I was innocent, excited, and had zero idea of what I was actually in for. I knew a few people from my critique group...sort of. I didn't know much about agents or editors or the publishing process. I just knew I wanted to experience it all. I was overwhelmed that year, but nevertheless learned a ton and became much closer with my fellow writers.

My Sophomore year (2012) I knew what to expect. I took it up a notch. I attended sessions aimed at authors further along in their careers, and I hung with my critique group "clique" most of the weekend. We even initiated a new member that Sunday. However, I was still finding my way in some regards during that conference. I didn't know it, but I still had a bit of "frosh-writer" innocence left.

...That innocence got crushed after the conference, as I spent the rest of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 querying a manuscript that received little interest. But you live, you learn, and I'm coming in hot this year with something newer, stronger, and shinier.

2013 will be my Junior year. I may not be agented yet, but many in my critique group now are. People with agents and book deals are like the Big Men On Campus at NESCBWI...they're basically demi-gods to the rest of us. And if you've got a book published already? You're in a whole 'nother tier. You're like a COLLEGE student. Whoa, man.

Anyway, this year I'm a Junior with Senior friends, and that gives me a bit of extra pride heading into the conference. I'm not at Senior level yet, but I'm the next best thing, and I'm not going to lie--I'm a little cocky about it. They're all so talented and badass, I feel awesome just by association. You'll understand after you read the works of my agented friends (debuts coming out over the next couple years, including Tara Sullivan's June 27th, 2013 debut: GOLDEN BOY).

I'm hoping the trend continues. With any luck, next year I'll be a Senior. But for now, just like I did last year, I'm going to set out some more humble goals for this coming conference:

1. Learn techniques to continue to improve my writing. This should go without saying, but I am particularly excited to embrace this year's "Art of Craft" theme.

2. Continue to explore the mysterious waters of nonfiction. I love writing fiction, but with my science background, I really shouldn't shun the idea of writing nonfiction just because it scares me.

3. Increase my professionalism. Make new connections and learn from everyone I meet.

4. Get useful feedback on my query letter and first 10 pages of my new manuscript. If I'm going to put it out there later this year, professional advice now will be of tremendous help.

5. Enjoy bonding time with my awesome writer friends. :)

So, what high-school year do you see yourself as? And what are your goals for the conference? Answer or link to your own NESCBWI 2013 blog post in the comments! Looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend!