Tags: the red umbrella


Books, Soccer, and the Cookie that Almost Burned Down Atlanta

Yes, those words sum up my Labor Day weekend and believe it or not, they all converged into one climactic moment at the Holiday Inn in Decatur, Georgia.  First some background information. 

Many months ago I was invited to speak at the Decatur Book Festival (the largest independent book festival in the Southeast) and I jumped at the chance because I’d been there a few years ago and it was such a lovely festival.  PLUS, my two sons were going with their respective soccer teams to  Atlanta to compete in the Atlanta Cup Soccer tournament and Decatur was only 20 minutes outside of Atlanta --- the timing seemed perfect!    

This is what I forgot… 30 kids travelling out of state can get awfully noisy at a hotel full of authors and other book lovers.  So when I met amazing authors/bloggers at a breakfast organized by the fabulous Vania, I’d ask if they were staying at my hotel and then promptly apologize for all the kids.  Carrie Ryan (author of The Forest of Hands & Feet) just laughed and asked if I meant the soccer team which she found fun & cute (except for the fact that someone had ding-dong ditched her door the day before).  Still it was all going well…so far.


(l-r Nancy Werlin, Jackson Pearce, me, Carrie Ryan,                     (Vania & me)
Jennifer Lovelidge Jabaley, Marianne Mancussi Beach)  

Then I walked around the festival before spending the afternoon on the soccer fields watching some intense soccer games.  In the evening, I switched hats and went from Soccer Mom to Author again, just in time for the Author Reception.  It was fantastic to meet such great writers and publishing experts.  It was all very casual and I was lucky enough to hang out with these amazing people and talk books, upcoming projects and share a few laughs.  I was even asked by Cinda to join her and some other authors for dinner afterwards…tons of fun and I got to meet two new 2011 debut authors - Myra McEntire and Victoria Schwab (can’t wait for their books to come out) and hang out with fellow Tenner Rachel Hawkins and the uber-cool Josh Lewis.

(l-r Vicky Alvear Shecter, Marie Rutkowski, me, Cinda Williams Chima, David Levithan, Jim McCoy)

SO, you might be asking, where is the flaming cookie and how do your worlds collide in a fiery mess?  I’m getting to that. 

The next day, I don my role as Super Soccer Mom in the morning (unfortunately my sons’ teams lose) and rush back to Decatur to give my own book presentation at the Old Courthouse (an amazing venue).  Here I meet the amazingly talented Noni Carter (author of Good Fortune).  This young woman knocked me off my feet with her talent and intellect.  She is a classical pianist, started writing her amazing debut novel at 13 and is now, at 19, a freshman at Harvard! Plus, she has an incredibly supportive family who were beaming with pride.  Anyway, our presentation to a packed room went really well--- so well that Noni and I are thinking of doing more things together in the future! Afterwards, I signed lots of books and met a bunch of great readers and fans. 

 (Not the best picture, but my camera was acting a little wonky).


The Cookie Incident

Then it was time to head back to the hotel to unwind.  I was pretty proud of myself for so efficiently multi-tasking the whole weekend and decided to confirm that night’s soccer dinner at the hotel.  When I got to the front desk, who pops up behind me asking for a cab… Lev Grossman.  Now, I’m a big fan of Lev Grossman for his book The Magicians and for his writing in Time magazine.
     At the Author’s Reception I hadn’t approached him because so many people were coming up to talk to him, but now it was just the two of us.  I turned around and introduced myself and he was actually polite enough to say he recognized ME!  I quickly explained that it was probably just from the reception the night before, but still we had a chance to talk about his book and he was interested in talking about my book.  We were bonding when the fire alarm goes off! Uh-oh.  I mean…UH! OH!

I glance up to the second floor and see about seven pre-teen boys looking down at me and think Oh, no.  Someone pulled the fire alarm. Please don't let it be one of my kids.  But the chorus of heads from up above are all shaking their heads mouthing “not me” and then I see smoke coming from the indoor pool room/ business center.  A real fire, you ask?  No, just lots of smoke (maybe a really, really tiny fire).  From what was later revealed it seems that “someone” (one of our soccer players) had “inadvertently” (whether this incident was a re-creation of something from Mythbusters is still up for debate) put a cookie in the microwave and set it for fifty minutes.  Obviously, the cookie got scorched.

SO, there we are, Lev (I’m on a first name basis now) and me, watching the commotion of the fire department coming in, hearing the deafening hotel alarm and smelling the all-too-familiar odor of burned cookies.  At that point, my role as soccer mom and author collided.  I smiled weakly at Lev, told him that I’d be following him on Twitter (I’ve been a fan for a while) and that it was nice meeting him but soccer duty called (plus the soccer coach had already interrupted us to tell me that an emergency team meeting was being called).   As I made my way upstairs to where fifteen pre-teen boys looked like deer caught in the headlights, I reminded myself that this might one day make it into one of my books, so I smiled and inhaled the lovely smell of charred chocolate chips that had now filtered throughout the hotel. 

And, as a sure sign of either being a nice guy or curious as to whether charges will ever be brought against the team, Lev Grossman now follows me on Twitter.  :-)



So, this is what I'm doing on my summer vacation...a book tour! I'm so excited!  

If you are near any of these cities, I hope you come out to say hi... I'd love to see my friends in real life! (Sorry I couldn't make the invite bigger, but if you click on it you'll see it in a separate window).

What are your summer plans? Are you doing a staycation or do you have BIG plans?

Washington, DC       Philadelphia                New York City             Hamptons          
June 26 at 2pm        June 28 at 4pm           June 30 at 5pm         July 2 at 3pm     
Hooray for Books      Harleysville Books     Books of Wonder      Books & Books  
1555 King Street       674 Main St.                18 West 18 St.           130 Main St.         
Alexandria, VA            Lansdale, PA              New York, NY             Westhampton Beach, NY   

 Boston                                     Los Angeles Area
July 3 at 2pm             July 31 at 6:30pm           Aug. 1 at 2pm
Borders                      Vroman’s Bookstore       Borders
340 Legacy Pl.          695 E. Colorado Blvd      100 S. Brand Blvd
Dedham, MA              Pasadena, CA                  Glendale, CA



Wazzup with me, you ask?

So it’s been almost a month since The Red Umbrella was released into the world and I wanted to give you an update on what I’ve been doing.  After my launch party (which was crazy huge – read my earlier post about it here) I had my first tv appearances on NBC 6 and WLRN.

The WLRN spot was the public access channel that aired the Miami- Dade School Board meeting where I was the superintendent's invited guest.  During my speech I mentioned the importance of teachers and gave a shout out to one of my former high school English teachers.  Well, someone in the audience heard me mention Mr. Wycoff (who I haven't seen since graduation... many, many moons ago), they got a hold of him and after all these years (not going to say how many) he showed up at one of my signings. Look at us here.

How cool is that? He even said he was giving my book an A+.


Speaking of signings, they’ve been going really well and here are several pictures from the Books & Books in Coral Gables, B&N in Kendall, Inkwood in Tampa and B&N in Orlando.


Besides signings, I’ve also been busy visiting a few schools (and I’ve done signings there too).  Here are a few pictures... I LOVE speaking to kids!


I’ve also had a chance to attend an SCBWI conference and I critiqued several manuscripts from some talented writers.  It was a bit strange sitting on the other side of the critique table, but I hope the feedback I gave helps these writers achieve their dreams of getting published.  Here I am with some fellow conference attendees.


So, what’s in store for the next couple of months?  Lots of summertime fun with my family…sprinkled with more book signings.  Luckily my family is using my book tour as our summer vacation guide. 


Here’s my current schedule (as of today).  Let me know if you are in any of the cities I’ll be visiting...I'd love to see you!


June 12 – Barnes & Noble – Jensen Beach, FL

June 16 – Books & Books – Bal Harbor, FL

June 19 – Barnes & Noble – Ft. Myers, FL

June 26-  Hooray For Books - Alexandria, VA (DC area)
June 28 – Harleysville Books - Harleysville, PA (Philly area)

June 30 – Books of Wonder – New York, NY (with Heidi Kling & Angie Frazier)

July 2 – Books & Books – Westhampton, NY

July 3 – Borders – Boston, MA (with Danielle Joseph & Erin Dionne)

July 30 – SCBWI Annual Conference – Los Angeles, CA

July 31 – Vroman’s Books – Pasadena, CA

August 1 – Borders - Glendale (with Heidi Kling & Jennifer Cervantes)  




This past Saturday was my Mega Book Launch Party (four days before the official release) and it was AMAZING!  It's estimated that over 400 people came to the launch/signing at Books & Books and over 300 books were sold that night.  It was CRAZY! Seriously.  They had to have people listen to my presentation from an overflow room because the main room was filled to capacity.  Then when it came to signing the books, the line was two hours long.  Thank goodness there was food, drinks and music outside and, although I didn't get a chance to enjoy that part of the party, I was told everyone had a great time. So, since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is the night in pics...

One of several stacks of books      The crowd begins to arrive                                    It becomes standing room only

J Guarch introduces me              Here I am speaking to the most amazing crowd of people

Afterwards the line for me to sign the book was incredible         People's Court Judge Marilyn Milian got a book

Here I am signing for Books & Books' own Lorena      Outside people glanced through my book...

Had something to eat...                                          something to drink at the bar...         listened to some great music

And these are my peeps who hung out with me until the last book was signed...I love my family!

A Fabulous Review from Kirkus!

Yes, I said Kirkus! For those who don't know, Kirkus Reviews is considered by many authors as "the Simon" (as in Simon from American Idol) of the book review world.  Their reviews have been known to bring authors to tears (and I'm not talking joyful tears either). So you can imagine how nervous I was when I heard that Kirkus had chosen to review my book. My poor nails paid the price because I spent all day chewing on them until my wonderful editor told me the good news...Kirkus liked the book.  In fact they called it an "exceptional historical novel".  YAY!  So, while I go try to fix my nails, you can read the review.

KIRKUS REVIEWS, April 15, 2010

Gonzalez, Christina Diaz - THE RED UMBRELLA

This is the story of Lucía, a Cuban girl who, at the age of 14, leaves her hometown of Puerto Mijares and flies to the United States from Havana with her little brother, Frankie, but without their parents. After arriving at a temporary shelter, they are soon transferred to the Baxters’ home in Nebraska. Through Lucía’s captivating voice, readers travel in time to the year 1961, when members of the Cuban bourgeoisie witnessed the drastic transformation of their society into a communist system. While Lucía’s best friend, Ivette, and her secret sweetheart, Manuel, embrace the revolution and become, with their parents’ support, “brigadistas,” Lucía’s parents, a banker and a housewife, refuse to accept the changes imposed by the new government and make the heartbreaking and, for the times, shocking decision to send their daughter and son to a foreign country, without knowing if they would be able to see them again. Gonzalez enters the literary scene with this exceptional historical novel that portrays the beginning of the Cuban exodus. (Historical fiction. 10 & up) 




Somehow, I feel like I should be doing the tum, tee, tum, tum sound since I'm interupting your day with more release date info. 

This time, it's to say that The Red Umbrella is going to be on-sale on its original date...May 11th.  The early release is a no-go. Seems there were some issue with sales/marketing and things that had already been planned for my book.  Oh well! No harm, no foul!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program...


BREAKING NEWS! The Red Umbrella has a new on-sale date!

April 13.  That's the new date when you can all get a copy of The Red Umbrella. 

Yesterday, my fabulous editor called to say that the school & library marketing department at Random House wanted to make my book available earlier, so my release date was being moved up by a month to April 13th.  People, that's like two months away!  Two. Dos. Zwei. Due. Deux.  Accck! I am freakin' out!  Everyone will be able to read it in 68 days (yes, I adjusted my countdown clock already). Okay, deep breaths...I'm better now, thanks.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled progamming.   



Thanks to everyone who participated in my first giveaway contest!  I had over 100 entries and so many of you blogged, tweeted, posted my widget and book trailer...all to help me get the word out about the book.  Okay, so I bribed you all with extra entries if you did that, but I'm still appreciative! So here goes...

Drumroll please… here I go to the random number generator website to pick the winners. This is so exciting.


The GRAND PRIZE winner of an advance reader’s copy of THE RED UMBRELLA is… Stacey Canova!  Woo-hoo! Here's a picture of the book I'll be sending your way...



I’m also giving away some swag since there was such a huge response to the contest, so the winner will receive all this stuff
(The Red Umbrella coffee mug, The Red Umbrella umbrella and signed bookmarks). 

Going back to the random number generator...and th
e lucky entrant is… Kathy Burnette!


Congrats to both winners!  I’ll be contacting you by email to get your mailing addresses and then I’ll send out your prizes!


For everyone else who entered…stay tuned because there will be a different contest every month until my book is released on May 11th. 

Next giveaway begins on February 11th !



ARC CONTEST! FREE STUFF! Come 'n get it!

This is it, people! My first ever foray into the world of promotional contests!

Over at my website
www.christinagonzalez.com you can enter to win an advance reader's copy of THE RED UMBRELLA by just sending me a message (just make sure you put CONTEST in the subject heading). 

You get extra entries for tweeting/blogging about the contest or for putting up my countdown widget on your website.  The only thing you have to do is tell me about it so I can make sure to give you credit!

The contest will run through Jan. 24th and if I get more than 50 entries I'll give another winner some swag (signed bookmarks, exclusive The Red Umbrella umbrella).

Now, why are you still reading?  Go try to win some FREE stuff!


Time to Party

This past Saturday was the Operation Pedro Pan Annual Dinner/Dance and I got to party it up with many of the people who lived through what my book, The Red Umbrella, is all about. Here I am with the President of the Operation Pedro Pan Group, Jorge Finlay, and member of the Board of Directors, Carmen Romanach.

At the party, I witnessed some tears as many remembered the home, friends and family they’d been forced to leave behind 49 years ago, but mostly I heard laughter. Men and women, hugging each other and reminiscing about their teen years. Many who hadn’t seen each other in almost 50 years laughed at some of the expanding waistlines and receding hairlines, but you could tell that, in their mind's eye, they were still the same teenagers that were thrust together back in the early 1960's.

This all reminded me that no matter how old you are, your teen years are always a special time and you really don’t lose those feelings (although sometimes so-called maturity buries it a bit). Maybe that’s why YA books appeal to so many, and yes, THAT is why I write.