EngiNerds at the Mini Maker Faire

Have you ever wanted to spend a whole weekend tucked away in a cozy bookstore? Well, that’s basically how I spent this past weekend, as I participated in BOTH days of Barnes & Noble’s 3rd Annual Mini Maker Faire.

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I was lucky enough to be at the Framingham, MA location, which is one of the bookstores I frequented as a kid, making this weekend especially special for me. Saturday was spent being part of the Author Scavenger Hunt and signing books alongside Susan Tan, author of the remarkably excellent Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire.

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Sunday I took part in the STEMlit panel alongside a handful of Middle Grade lit’s absolute finest: Kim Harrington, Katie Slivensky, Monica Tesler, and Rob Vlock.

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We did demonstrations, answered questions, signed books — and left behind a bunch of additional autographed copies.

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So get to the Framingham Barnes & Noble and get YOUR signed copies of these great books while you still can!

Thank you Barnes & Noble and my fellow MG authors for a fantastic weekend! I hope to see you all next year at the Faire!

The EngiNerds Invade the Empire State!

What a week!

The EngiNerds and I invaded the Empire State! First for a bookstore event with four of the best MG authors around . . .

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Event at Book Culture bookstore in NYC. (Left to right: me, Melissa Roske, Karina Yan Glaser, Alyson Gerber, and Jodi Kendall)

. . . then some classroom visits with a whole bunch of incredibly creative and inspiringly awesome kids . . .

. . . followed up by a fantastic day of learning and book-loving at #nErDCampLI!

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Panel on humor in Middle Grade literature. (Left to right: Barbara Dee, Tommy Greenwald, Denis Markell, Booki Vivat, me, Kara LaReau, and Lauren Magaziner)
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Signing books at the meet-the-author portion of nErDCampLI.

Thanks, New York! I’ll be back soon!

Belmont Books Grand Opening

Yesterday I had the honor and pleasure of being a part of Belmont Books’s Grand Opening Celebration!

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It was a great day, and a wonderful way to celebrate an excellent new independent bookstore. I ate some cake, bought some books, and signed a whole bunch of copies of EngiNerds. I also slipped some bookmarks and stickers into each of the books. When I left the store, there were still a handful left, but I’ve already gotten pictures from fans letting me know that they went and snatched copies up!

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This is eleven-year-old Lena. Her mother assures me it was the busy day — and NOT my book — that put her to sleep.

Hurry to Belmont Books and get your signed, sticker-filled copy of EngiNerds while you still can!

You can also find signed copies of books by the other local authors who made appearances at the store yesterday — including kid lit superstars Josh Funk and Victoria Coe!

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Happy Grand Opening once again to Belmont Books — an independent bookstore I feel very fortunate to have in my community.

Secret Signing… Part 2!

Today I stopped by a couple more local independent bookstores to sign and slip stickers into their copies of ENGINERDS.

First was An Unlikely Story in Plainville, MA

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And after that, Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, MA

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If you live near either bookstore, hurry in to get your signed, sticker-filled copy of ENGINERDS while you still can!

Psst… Secret Signing

I spent today skulking around the Greater Boston area signing and slipping stickers into copies of ENGINERDS at some of my favorite bookstores.

Here’s where I went:

Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA

The Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, MA

Belmont Books in Belmont, MA

 Wellesley Books in Wellesley, MA


If you live nearby, hurry out to these great independent bookstores and get your signed, sticker-filled copies of ENGINERDS before it’s too late!

ENGINERDS is HERE!!!

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It’s here! It’s here! ENGINERDS is here!

If you pre-ordered the book online, it should be arriving on your doorstep soon. If you waited until today so you could buy it in your favorite bookstore, then GO. NOW. HURRY UP. WHAT ARE YOU DOING STILL READING THIS?! YOU SHOULD BE GONE ALREADY. GET. TO. THE. STORE.

You can also, of course, check ENGINERDS out from your local library. It ought to be there. And if it’s not, you ought to politely-yet-aggressively interrogate your librarian as to WHY it’s not there. Are they trying to limit or even entirely prevent the full expression of your nerdiness? Do they have something against farting robots? What did a farting robot ever do to them? (Actually, I can guess what it might’ve done to them. And on second thought, maybe it’s best not to ask your librarian that last question. You wouldn’t want to bring up a touchy subject . . . )

If you’re out and about in the greater Boston area, keep your eyes peeled — I’ll be going around town during the next few days, planting some very special ENGINERDS-themed stickers in randomly selected copies of the book.

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As always, feel free to drop me a line using the form on my Contact page should you have a question or comment for me, whether it’s about ENGINERDS or anything else. Like what I’m working on now. Or what I’m reading. Or where I’ll be making my next appearance. Or what my favorite color is. Or what I are for breakfast this morning. ANYTHING.

Happy reading! And hope to see you soon!

The DTADS, or Dog Treat Airborne Delivery System (Catapult #2)

Ah, yes. The famous DTADS, or Dog Treat Airborne Delivery System. Famous in my house, at least.

I chose to build the DTADS as my second catapult for a fairly simple reason: my dog wanted a snack. Of course, I could’ve just tossed the pooch a few treats. I didn’t need to build a miniature siege engine and launch the things at him from across the house. But doing so was approximately 49 times more fun than feeding him the regular way, and if that’s not a good enough reason to do something, then I’m not sure what is.

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This is his hungry face.

Like my first catapult, The Cotton Ball Blaster, the DTADS can be made using only a few, relatively easy-to-find materials. I made mine with just three things, all of which I happened to have lying around the house.

First:

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These thin strips of wood are called laths. They’re often used to make lattices, which are then placed along the bottoms of decks in order to keep out critters or set up in gardens in order to get plants to grow in the direction you want them to. I had a bunch of leftover laths from an old project, and as soon as I remembered they were down in the basement, busily collecting dust, I knew just how I could put them to use.

If you don’t have any laths, don’t worry. They can be purchased for cheap at a hardware store. And if you go to one of the really big hardware stores, you can even get them for free! How? Well, most of these stores either offer to cut your lumber for you or leave out the equipment you need to do so yourself. Around these areas, you’ll always find plastic bins, and unless someone has recently emptied them, these bins will be filled with the unwanted, cut-off ends of once much longer pieces of wood. Ask an employee if you can look through and take a few of these scraps off their hands, and unless they’re in a seriously grumpy mood, they should let you.

I knew the pieces of wood I had would be perfect for the two larger parts of my catapult – the base and the arm. The base is the part of the catapult that sits on the ground, anchoring it, and the arm is the part that gets bent back and released, launching whatever it’s got on it. But you can’t just lay the arm on top of the base. You need to separate one from the other using a fulcrum.

What’s a fulcrum?

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In this situation, both of the definitions above apply. Because when it comes to the DTADS, the fulcrum is utterly essential. The fulcrum is the thing that turns a couple old pieces of wood into a machine capable of sending your dog’s treats soaring high up into the air, arcing across an entire room or hallway (that is, if it doesn’t slam into the ceiling before it gets there).

For my fulcrum, I decided to use this:

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It’s a bouncy ball (a very bouncy one, in fact). But wait – there’s no need to tear apart your house looking for the bouncy ball you got at the dentist’s office that one time he told you, “You won’t feel a thing,” and then proceeded to drill actual holes into your teeth and yeah, maybe you didn’t actually feel all that much, but still it was uncomfortable and scary and I mean a bouncy ball, does that shiny-teethed lunatic really think a cheap little toy is going to erase the nightmarish experience he just put you through?!

Excuse me. Sorry.

Ahem.

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to use a bouncy ball for your fulcrum. You can use almost anything. A rock. A stack of quarters. A wad of duct tape. Some pieces of cardboard. A hunk of old, hard cheese. Some fulcrums will work better than others, but the only thing a DTADS fulcrum must do is lift the arm up off the base, and do so at an angle that allows it to be bent back and released.

Now that I had a base, an arm, and a fulcrum, I knew I needed only one more thing: something to attach these three parts together. Ideally, it’d be something strong, yet flexible – strong enough to hold everything together, yet flexible enough to allow the parts to move around a bit (like when the arm is bent back). Maybe you’ve already figured out what I came up with:

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That’s right – a rubber band. A favorite material of the EngiNerds. You just never know when one of the things might come in handy.

And now all that’s left to do is assemble the DTADS, and that’s easy. You just have to place your fulcrum, and then bind everything together with your rubber band. But where, you might be asking, should the fulcrum go? The answer is anywhere. You’ll find, however, that certain positions allow for better launching. The ideal spot is somewhere between the middle and end of your base. You’ll have to do a little experimenting to find the perfect spot, as it’ll be different depending on the materials you use.

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Et voila! As you know from the Cotton Ball Blaster post, that phrase is French for, “Now let’s go launch some stuff!” But did you know that in Hungarian it means, “Feeding your dog his own body weight in bacon-flavored treats may or may not lead to said dog vomiting on your nice white carpet?” Unfortunately, I didn’t either . . .

Now go do some launching!

I will be! (Once this carpet’s clean.)

. . .

And now for the rundown:

Name: The DTADS, or Dog Treat Airborne Delivery System

Difficulty: if you can operate a rubber band, you’ve got this

Cost: minimal – you can surely find that rubber band and something to use as a fulcrum, and if you don’t have anything to use for a base and an arm, you can get those materials cheap (or for free!) at your local hardware store

Uses: feeding your dog from afar; feeding your cat from afar; making your carpets “bacon-flavored”