The details are out regarding my next highly anticipated (by me) public appearance. Here in Austin on Friday, August 4, I’ll join Nathan Jensen, Janice and Tom Shefelman, and recent compadres Anne Bustard and Mark Mitchell on a children’s literature panel at the conference of the Texas Christian Schools Association.

At the same conference, another local author, Lindsey Lane, will be celebrated for Snuggle Mountain, the honor book for the 2006 Children’s Gallery Award.

In other developments, I’ve put the (possibly) finishing touches on Arbor, a middle-grade novel that I first “finished” in 2003. At my agent’s suggestion, I took another pass at it this spring and made some further tweaks this past week. I had forgotten how much I enjoy that story — I’ve got some really high hopes for it.

When I last wrote about Toast, I was still trying to catch VR for an interview. Well, we spoke two Fridays ago and had a great, warm conversation. My CB and VR interviews have made the story much richer than it was before. I’m now trying to get a new draft finished by Wednesday, in time for Don to read it at our next critique meeting. After that, I’ll have about a day and a half to make further changes in time for my agent’s monthly manuscript-reading week.

Meanwhile, there’s been some progress on the submissions front. Smith, James and Pioneers all went out to an editor this week. I’ve been told not to expect a reply right away, which was not the case when another manuscript — P.O., perhaps a picture book, potentially a graphic novel — went out this Tuesday. It came back the same day. But those were six suspenseful hours, let me tell you.

I’m taking a long weekend, so have a great, safe July 4th (and 1st, 2nd and 3rd), everybody.