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By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsSuspense or Manipulation?
by Claudia Mills
from Smack Dab in the Middle. Peek: "Vary chapter endings so that some can offer, e.g., satisfying closure on a scene, or a humorous or serious reflection."Synopsizing Your Way to Success
by Vaughn Roycroft
from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "What I mean is, the words came pouring out, in a way they hadn’t in weeks. Much more so than they would be if I’d plunged in cold, or if I’d started a scene chart."Smarter Not to Rhyme My Picture Book?
by Deborah Halverson
from Dear Editor. Peek: "That’ll give you the read-aloud quality you’re probably aiming for, but without the challenges inherent in trying to tell a story while maneuvering the rules of rhyme."Finding Your Way Into a Story
by April Bradley
from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Character is a writer’s lodestone, and we enter our stories in various ways through them: what they want, what they’re doing, how they look, what they think, how they feel."What's Your Character's Hook? Does Your Hero or Heroine Have A Special Skill or Talent?
by Angela Ackerman
from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "What you choose for your character doesn’t have to be mainstream–in fact, sometimes unusual talents add originality (like knowing how to hot wire a car…especially if the character happens to be a high school principal!)"Interview: Mark Gottlieb, Literary Agent at Trident Media,
by Darcy Pattison
from Fiction Notes. Peek: "So it really depends but I try my best to leave creative decision matters ultimately up to the author and/or editor in order to avoid stepping on any toes." See also Top Children's Literary Agents, 2016-2017 (YA, MG, PB)
. Note: based on reported, not total, sales.On Writing the American Familia
by Meg Medina
from The Horn Book. Peek: "That’s an experience familiar to fifty-four million people — seventeen percent of our population — who identify as Latino in the U.S. today. So it’s fair to say that I’m writing about the American family."Got a ‘reluctant reader’? Try poetry, says author Kwame Alexander
by Julie Hakim Azzam from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Peek: "Sports, he said, 'is a great metaphor for life,' and a lure to talk about other things such as family and friendships." See also Teen Read Week
by Sylvia Vardell from Poetry for Children.Revise or Give Up?
by Mary Kole
from Kidlit.com. Peek: "If there are weaknesses to your manuscript that you or someone else has identified, or if it’s in a very crowded category (zombies, for example) and you just don’t know if you can make a dent, I would really dig in to the area that needs work."How Your Hero's Past Pain Will Determine His Character Flaws
by Angela Ackerman
from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "In real life, who we are now is a direct result of our own past, and so in fiction, we need to look at who our story’s cast were before they stepped onto the doorstep of our novel."Thoughts on Stereotypes
by Allie Jane Bruce
from Reading While White. Peek: "The fact that (most) people don’t believe that any one of these stereotypes applies to the entire population of Black women doesn’t mean that they’re not stereotypes."Things Boys Have Asked Me
by Joe Jiménez
from Latinix in Kidlit. Peek: "Sometimes we might even forget they are there. Other times, we let these questions stick to us, like splinters, buried in our hands and feet." Managing Crowds of Characters
from Elizabeth Spann Craig. Peek: "...my tricks this time didn’t seem to work that well, at least for this particular regular reader. As well, I didn’t use as many of my reminder tags/dialogue clues."Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Stopping an Event from Happening
by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "(Inner Motivation): safety and security."Writing a Series: How Much Do We Need to Plan Ahead?
from Jami Gold. Peek: "...for those who write by the seat of their pants or for those who like experimenting with ideas even as plotters, the story of their current book might be a mystery, much less the stories of future releases."Do Your Settings Contain Emotional Value?
by Angela Ackerman
from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "...even though time has passed, an echo of that old hurt and rejection will affect him while in this restaurant."Windows & Mirrors: Promoting Diverse Books for the Holidays & Beyond
by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Last fall children’s booksellers in the Northern California Children’s Booksellers Alliance and the New England Children’s Booksellers Advisory Council challenged each other to see which region could sell the most diverse books in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This year that challenge is back."Character Rules
by Yamile S. Méndez
from Project Middle Grade Mayhem. Peek: "I've compiled a list of ways in which I can explore my characters' traits to understand their desires, goals, and motivations from which all my stories enfold."Cynsational Giveaways This Week at Cynsations More Personally
Wow! I'm honored that my picture book Jingle Dancer
) is highlighted on the Native American Children's Literature Recommended Reading List and Discussion Guide
from the First Nations Development Institute in Celebration of Native American Heritage Month.
Peek: "First Nations partnered with Debbie Reese, Ph.D. (Nambé Pueblo)
... The idea is to encourage a 'national read' and discussion about these important Native narratives." See also Ten Ways You Can Make a Difference
What else? In the wake of the recent presidential debates, I've been thinking about gender-power dynamics with regard to joint public speaking events.
Male authors frequently interrupt or punctuate female authors' answers with their own opinions. The one male author on a panel will likely say more than his three female co-panelists put together, never mind their efforts to graciously participate or the fact that they don't interrupt him. Moderators too often serve only to reinforce these predispositions.
This is so common
that women children's-YA writers frequently joke about the symbolism of the microphone. It's humor that comes from pain, plus truth, plus a determination to prosper anyway. It's a coping device that shouldn't be necessary.
At this moment in the national dialogue, let's clean our own house and do better in the future.
Are you on Instagram? Find me @cynthialeitichsmith
. See also Instagram for Authors
by Stephanie Scott from Adventures in YA Publishing.
Welcome to the 2016 Cybils Speculative Reader! As a first run reader for the Cybils, I'll be briefly introducing you to the books on the list, giving you a mostly unbiased look at some of the plot.Enjoy! Synopsis: In a series of flashbacks, the... Read the rest of this post
By: Cynthia Leitich Smith
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By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsThe second of a four-installment dialogue with Ambelin and Cynthia. Our focus is on the creative life and process, speculative fiction, diversity, privilege, indigenous literature, and books for young readers.Yesterday, Ambelin spoke on ethics, the writing process and own voices. We have children’s-YA literature and the law in common. That’s actually a pretty common combination here in the states. Why do you think there are so many people involved in both?
Well, I’ve had some of my law students suggest the law is so horribly dry that it drives people to being creative in order to escape its clutches (these are generally the students who are studying law because their parents thought it was a good idea).
But for me at least, I think the reason I studied law and the reason I write are the same. In both realms, I am seeking justice – and justice, in Aboriginal societies, generally equates to balance, not just between human beings but between all forms of life (and everything lives).
I write speculative fiction because I want to write about the possibility of defeating injustice; to write about the terrible things that were (and are) while imagining what could be.
The oppressive law I wrote about in the Tribe series divides people into three categories: those without an ability (Citizens); those with an ability (Illegals); and those whose ability is considered benign (Exempts).
This is not an invented law. It is based on the Western Australian Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act 1944, a piece of legislation that purported to offer Aboriginal people ‘citizenship’ by exempting us from racially-based restrictions that only applied to my ancestors in the first place because they were Aboriginal.
In the Tribe series, this law is ultimately defeated by an alliance of the marginalised and the privileged, and by a heroine whose power is to identify and sustain the connections between all life.
And in writing of connections, I am writing of something that is central to the law in Aboriginal legal systems where (at its broadest) law is the processes of living in the world that sustain the world. You clearly articulate the impact of white privilege on writing and writers, noting the negative impact on the work of Native voices and POC voices. What would you say to those Native and POC writers who may find themselves angry, frustrated, hurt or discouraged by these dynamics?
First: it’s not you. Exclusion is not something you are inventing in your head and you are neither unlucky nor unworthy.
It helps in this context to form connections with other Indigenous writers as well as with writers of colour, LGBTI writers, and writers with a disability.
You are likely to hear stories of authors getting similar comments across different contexts (e.g: you’re not writing to the Indigenous experience … this story is too Asian … gay books don’t sell … we’ve already published a ‘disability book’ this year).
It matters to have a network of people with whom to share both the good and bad experiences; and perhaps most importantly, to understand that you are not alone.
Second, never forget how to laugh. Some of the comments I’ve listed above have been part of the experience of other writers that they’ve laughed about with me – not because these comments are not discriminatory and hurtful, but because laughter has always been one of the ways in which marginalised peoples have dealt with pain.
Third, define success in your own terms. We all know what ‘success’ is supposed to be in literary industry terms: book sales and/or critical acclaim (preferably both). I’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to that. But I also think that if marginalised writers define our success solely in the terms set by an industry that consistently privileges white, straight, cis-gendered people who don’t have a disability, we are also buying into an underlying lie.
The lie is that if we can just prove we are good enough we will be treated equally. But once equality has to be earned, it is no longer equality.
So I think it’s important that each of us define success according to what matters to us – and for me, it’s being a person that my ancestors would be proud of.
Book sales wouldn’t overly interest them. But honouring who they were, and who I am; treating cultural knowledge with respect; helping other Indigenous writers whenever and wherever I can – these are the kinds of things they’d be concerned about.
Fourth: be hopeful. I am. I locate my hope in people, and there are many, many people working towards a world in which all voices have an equal opportunity to speak and all stories are equally heard.
I think change will come, and in the meantime, I’m proud to be a part of a global community of voices, marginalised and privilege alike, that are speaking out for justice. While you don’t feel it’s appropriate for non-Indigenous writers to reflect your community in first person or deep third, you are open to them writing secondary characters. Why does your opinion differ depending on how centered the character’s perspective is in the story?
I don’t think it’s appropriate for non-Indigenous people to speak as if they are Indigenous, especially given the operation of privilege which means that non-Indigenous voices will be heard in a way that Indigenous voices are not.
For me, writing from an ‘outsider’ perspective (so not in first or deep third) is to respect boundaries; to accept there are limits on what we can know of others and how we should represent others in our own work.
When I write of experiences of marginalisation not my own, I do it from an outsider perspective – reflecting that this is much as I can understand and that understanding may of course be wrong; I am not suggesting that I know what it is to see the world from an ‘insider’ view of a group to which I don’t belong. I think the spaces must be created for everyone to speak to their own worlds, and I want to be part of making those spaces a reality. What advice do you have for non-Indigenous writers in crafting those secondary characters?
I think something you’ve said is the best place to start – you’ve spoken of the need for writers to read 100 books by Indigenous people before writing about us.
I agree. No one should be writing an Indigenous character without being familiar with Indigenous stories (not the ones told about us but the ones told by us).
It’s also important to ensure that any stories people are reading are ethically published because there is a vast body of Indigenous stories that were taken by anthropologists and others and are now in the public domain without the informed consent (or sometimes even the knowledge) of the Indigenous peoples concerned.
The easiest way to check that a story is appropriately published is to see who holds the copyright; where Indigenous peoples hold copyright in their own stories it is at least some indication that they control the text.
In addition to reading stories, I’d say, become familiar with representation issues. Engage with the online dialogue happening around representation and children’s literature as it relates to Indigenous peoples. There are no shortage of voices speaking in this space.
And finally: words spoken about marginalised peoples have a weight and a cost. But if you are not a member of that group, then it’s a weight that you don’t carry and a cost that you don’t pay.
So don’t measure the impact of your words by how they will be read by people like you. Measure them by how they’ll be read by the people you’re writing about. How did you learn your craft as a writer and illustrator?
By doing! I have no formal training in writing or illustration. But nor do a lot of Australian Indigenous writers and illustrators, and we have been storytellers for thousands of years.
So to learn craft I look to the work of Indigenous writers and artists, both within Australia and elsewhere, as well as to the ancient teachings of my people. What inspired you to direct your talents toward creating stories for young readers?
In my YA series, I was writing about a superhero, so it had to be about a teenager. I don’t believe grown ups have it in us to save the world, because we are spectacularly failing to do so.
But in the young I see all the hope for the future – they are more interconnected, quick to embrace new ideas, and passionate about fighting anything they perceive as an injustice.
They’re also more honest, especially the children for whom I write picture books. When they like a book, they write me lovely letters telling me how they sleep with the book under their pillow and begging me to write more. When they don’t like it they’re equally forthright.
People ask sometimes whether its difficult as an author to deal with bad reviews, to which I say: try writing for six-year-olds. Every once in a while, children send me letters about one or the other of my picture books that begin something like this: “My teacher made me read your book. I didn’t like it.”
I’ve had a few of these letters that went on for ten pages or more, and since that length is like War and Peace from a six-year-old, it means I’ve had kids hate my work enough to send me the child equivalent of Tolstoy.
Adverse reviews from grown-ups are nothing in comparison.
What was your initial inspiration for The Tribe series?
My brother Blaze. He came up to me one day and said, “I’ve got an awesome title for a book. It’s called The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf.”
I said, “That’s a pretty good title – what’s the story?’
To which Blaze replied, “Oh, there’s no story. Just the name, and I can’t be bothered writing it so I’m giving to you.”
Having bestowed the title of the novel upon me, he wandered off, leaving me to start thinking about the story. (And for anyone who’s read any of the Tribe series, the character of Jaz is very like my brother Blaze). What were the challenges—literary, research, psychological and logistical—of bringing the stories to life?
I think the primary challenge is this: in so many ways, I wasn’t writing fiction. A post-apocalyptic world is not a fantasy for Indigenous peoples; the colonial apocalypse has already happened and much of The Tribe series is drawn from Australian colonial history.
Much of it too is drawn from the experiences of my ancestors and that is why hope runs so strongly through the narrative. They held on to hope through hard, cruel times when all their choices were taken away from them.
Indigenous peoples are so often spoken of as victims and I certainly don’t wish to minimise the suffering and the multi-generational trauma inflicted upon us by the colonial project. But the very fact that the Indigenous peoples of the world survived determined efforts to destroy us demonstrates our great strength.
I think the ability to hold onto hope is part of that strength and its something I try to honour. You’ve created several picture books with Sally Morgan. Could you tell us about your work together?
|Ambelin with her creative family|
So, Sally is my mum. I’ve also done books with my two brothers, Blaze and Zeke, and the four of us have written together as a family. We’re all authors and artists, and we always give each other an honest opinion – sometimes this results in one of us storming off (usually me or Zeke, we’re both excellent stormers).
Generally, once we’ve had a chance to think about the criticism we come creeping sheepishly back and agree that yes, actually, that particular portion of the narrative (which we were previously so proud of) does indeed need more work.
I think from the outside our working process probably looks chaotic; we all talk at the same time and over each other; generally, the person with the best story gets to hold the floor until they get boring and someone else interrupts. If you want a place in the conversation in my family, you have to be prepared to earn it. What can your readers look forward to next?
I’m working on three YA novels right now, but the one I’ll finish first is a book I’m writing with my brother Zeke.
It’s a mystery with fantasy elements that’s told from the perspective of three Indigenous female protagonists. It’s been a difficult book to write in places because terrible things happen in it, but its ultimately a story about the power of young Indigenous women and how they find their way home.
By: Heather Saunders,
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Many people watching UK television drama National Treasure will have made their minds up about the guilt or innocence of the protagonist well before the end of the series. In episode one we learn that this aging celebrity has ‘slept around’ throughout his long marriage but when an allegation of non-recent sexual assault is made he strenuously denies it.
The post What if they are innocent? Justice for people accused of sexual and child abuse appeared first on OUPblog.
It’s time for Halloween poetry! Here are some of my elementary students’ favorites poems about the holiday:
MR. MACKLIN'S JACK O’LANTERN
by David McCord
Mr. Macklin takes his knife
And carves the yellow pumpkin face:
Three holes bring eyes and nose to life,
The mouth has thirteen teeth in place.
Then Mr. Macklin just for fun
Transfers the corn-cob pipe from his
Wry mouth to Jack’s, and everyone
Click here to read the rest of the poem.
(From ONE AT A TIME—Little, Brown, 1974)
by Aileen Fisher
We mask our faces
and wear strange hats
and moan like witches
and screech like cats
and jump like goblins
and thump like elves
and almost manage
to scare ourselves.
( From OUT IN THE DARK AND DAYLIGHT—Harper & Row, 1980)
LOOK AT THAT!
by Lilian Moore
Look at that!
Ghosts lined up
at the laundromat,
all around the
Each one seems to
to take a spin
(From SEE MY LOVELY POISON IVY—Atheneum, 1975)
THE WITCHES’ RIDE
by Karla Kuskin
Over the hills
Where the edge of the light
Deepens and darkens
To ebony night,
Narrow hats high
Above yellow bead eyes,
The tatter-haired witches
Ride through the skies.
Over the seas
Where the flat fishes sleep
Wrapped in the slap of the slippery deep,
Over the peaks
Where the black trees are bare,
Where bony birds quiver
They glide through the air.
A horrible tune,
They sweep through the stillness
To sit on the moon.
(From DOGS & DRAGONS, TREES & DREAMS—Harper & Row, 1980)
by Valerie Worth
After its lid
is cut, the slick
Seeds and stuck
Dry and white,
Face carved, candle
Fixed and lit,
into the thick
That dead orange
Warm skin, making
A live head
To hold its
Sharp gold grin.
(From ALL THE SMALL POEMS—Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1987)
A Family Is a Family Is a Family is going into second printing and I am so joy-filled I could be a drawing by Qin Leng!
While I'm here, could I ask a favour? We've been very lucky with reviews (stars from Kirkus
, School Library Journal
, and Publishers Weekly
) but it would be nice to have a few more reader reviews up here
if anyone has the time or inclination. Thanks!
By: Carolyn Napolitano,
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Peter Gilliver has been an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary since 1987, and is now one of the Dictionary's most experienced lexicographers; he has also contributed to several other dictionaries published by OUP. In addition to his lexicographical work, he has been writing and speaking about the history of the OED for over fifteen years. In this two part Q&A, we learn more about how his passion for lexicography inspired him.
The post Learning about lexicography: A Q&A with Peter Gilliver part 1 appeared first on OUPblog.
The list poem was used by the Greeks and in many books of the Bible. But two of the most popular American poems, Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” are list poems. So what is a list poem?
Basically, a list poem (also known as a catalog poem) is a poem that lists things, whether names, places, actions, thoughts, images, etc. It’s a very flexible and fun form to work with.
What is it about list poems that makes them so accessible? Perhaps it's because the list is so ubiquitous in our lives. Everyone makes lists, so finding them in poetry is not unexpected and makes them seem familiar.
The list poem or catalog poem consists of a list or inventory of things. Poets started writing list poems thousands of years ago. They appear in lists of family lineage in the Bible and in the lists of heroes in the Trojan War in Homer's Iliad.
Characteristics Of A List Poem
- A list poem can be a list or inventory of items, people, places, or ideas.
- It often involves repetition.
- It can include rhyme or not.
- The list poem is usually not a random list. It is well thought out.
- The last entry in the list is usually a strong, funny, or important item or event.
Your challenge for this week is to write a list poem about fall, or Halloween, or something October-y. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.
This Is Sadie
is shortlisted for the Quebec Writers Federation Prize for Children’s/YA Literature.
Here's the complete list:
- Bonnie Farmer; Marie Lafrance, ill.‚ Oscar Lives Next Door(Owlkids Books)
- Sara O’Leary; Julie Morstad, ill.‚ This Is Sadie (Tundra Books)
- Mélanie Watt‚ Bug in a Vacuum (Tundra)
By: Barbara Fisher,
A Guest Post by Author and Artist Natasha Murray
I really enjoyed creating and illustrating these books and hope that children 5+ will enjoy Milly and Patch’s adventures.
Milly’s quilt is made up from fabric that once belonged to some colourful characters with stories to tell. Some of the patches are from her baby blanket. One night, Patch her pet rabbit appears on her bed and Milly discovers that if she holds her hand on one of the squares they are both transported to a magical land.
As a child, I enjoyed the TV cartoon series ‘Mr Ben’ and loved seeing where the changing room at the fancy dress shop would take him. This was really what inspired me to write these books.
There have always been rabbits in my life and one named Napoleon, I loved dearly. She was a blue grey colour and we thought she was a boy until she had babies. Napoleon got sick once and I crept out in the dark and sat in a sleeping bag on a step near to her hutch with her in my arms and stayed there all night. I am glad to say that she recovered. If I had been allowed, then I would have had Napoleon live in my bedroom with me. It’s always fun to look at drawings and work that you did when you were a child and some of my stories were strange and I wonder what was going through my head at the time. The idea for ‘Humbert the Lonely Giant’ came from a story I remembered writing when I was at secondary school. I have always loved reading and thought the library was an exciting place to be. I enjoyed fairy tales and especially loved Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair and The Faraway Tree in the Enchanted Wood.
I grew up in North London and lived near to a playing field surrounded by trees. My friends and I would make camps, hideout and live out magical adventures there. Make believe was always an important part of our lives. We also loved riding our bikes around the block at breakneck speed.
I now live by the sea and spend a lot of time writing, designing, daydreaming and thinking up new and exciting tales for all ages. To view all Natasha's books please click here
Thank you very much Natasha it was fun to read about your childhood and the inspiration behind your stories. Barbara
Natasha's mention of secondary school reminded me of a very long, convoluted tale I wrote when I was at school. In my story, the action took place in a series of ‘lost' tunnels and ghostly lighthouses, based almost entirely on books written by Enid Blyton. After I married and left home, my mum had the very good sense to consign it to the dustbin. Had she not I might well be in trouble for plagiarism!
Did you write stories when you were a child? Have you continued to write or is it just something you did at school?
I’ve grown a bit fond of the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe lately. Coming to it a bit late (I believe we’re on season 4 now, yes?) it took a Pop Culture Happy Hour episode to explain to me why the series was as groundbreaking and important as it was. This is advantage of having a five-year-old. When something like this comes up you can pretend you’re watching a new series for them when, in fact, you’re just curious for yourself. If you’re unfamiliar with Steven Universe I’ll try to sum it up quickly: In this world there are superhero female characters called “Gems”. Steven, our hero, is half-Gem, half-human, which is unique. The show then proceeds to upset stereotypical notions of gender and love.
If you pay any attention to the New York Times bestseller list, you might have noticed this book on the Children’s Chapter Books list a week or two ago:
It’s a Steven Universe book. There are a couple of them out there, written for kids to wildly varying degrees of competency. This one I intend to read soon. It got me to thinking, when I discovered it. After all, children’s literature and Steven Universe fuel one another in a more direct manner. The world of SU has television shows, movies, and bands that are unique and often very funny. They also have their own literature. For example, a common romance/scifi novel might look like this:
And children’s books are particularly interesting. When Steven is banned from television for 1,000 years he finds that he really likes reading. Two series in particular catch his attention: The No Home Boys and The Spirit Morph Saga. I just want to take a look at these books because I’m always interested in how children’s books are portrayed in works of pop culture.
The No Home Boys series is written by Dustylegs Jefferson. The original series apparently came out in the 1930s and was about two boys on the run, solving mysteries along the way. Sounds a bit like The Boxcar Children meets Hardy Boys. You might throw The Black Stallion in there as well, though, since there was also apparently a “disastrous graphic novel adaptation” of the book as well. One of the characters on the show writes this review of it:
“Some fans turned up their noses at the new adventures of the No Home Boys. The old series was a down to earth travelogue – a gritty portrayal of growing up during the Great Depression. The new series was full of magic demons, talking animals and ninjas. Sure it didn’t have the same campfire charm, but the expanded “Hoboverse” had much more character development and backstory for readers to sink their teeth into.”
To me this sounds like what happened with more recent Black Stallion books, though the graphic novel adaptation throws it squarely into the Hardy Boys camp as well. Whatever the case, I love the thought put into the series.
The Spirit Morph Saga is a bit different. It’s a multi-book series about a girl who discovers that she is a witch, gains a familiar (a talking falcon named Archimicarus), and attempts to rescue her father, who was kidnapped by a one-eyed man. Though some folks online compare the book to His Dark Materials, it bears far more similarities to Harry Potter and, in a strange way, Twilight. An entire episode of Steven Universe is based on the fact that at the end of the series the falcon turns into a man and marries Lisa in a big multi-chapter sequence. Connie, Steven’s best friend, is incensed by this. It’s rather delightful to watch.
Alas, Steven was granted his television rights again (though the set seems to be destroyed on a regular basis) so no new book series beyond these two have come up recently. There was, however, a trip to the local library. It was pretty standard stuff. A librarian was shushing the kids all the time. Computers were minimal. It looks like nothing so much as a library that has failed to get additional funding (which, considering the economy of Beach City, is not unbelievable). Ah well.
Here’s hoping for more faux children’s books series in the future. In the end, they say more about perceptions of children’s literature than anything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
By: Cynthia Leitich Smith
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By Ambelin Kwaymullina
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's CynsationsThe first of a four-installment dialogue with Ambelin and Cynthia. Our focus is on the creative life and process, speculative fiction, diversity, privilege, indigenous literature, and books for young readers.
I am an Aboriginal author, illustrator and law academic who comes from the Palyku people of Australia.
And I am an Own Voices
advocate, by which I mean, I promote the stories told by marginalised peoples about our own experiences rather than stories told by outsiders.
I’ve written before that I don’t believe the absence of diversity from kids lit to be a ‘diversity problem.'
I believe it to be a privilege problem that is caused by structures, behaviours and attitudes that consistently privilege one set of voices over another.
Moreover, the same embedded patterns that (for example) consistently privilege White voices over those of Indigenous peoples and Peoples of Colour will also work to privilege outsider voices over insider ones, at least to some degree.
The insider voices, of those fully aware of the great complexities and contradictions of insider existence, will always be more difficult to read and less likely to conform to outsider expectations as to the lives and stories of ‘Others’.
Insider stories can therefore be read as less ‘true’ or trap an insider author in a familiar double-bind – if we write of some of the bleaker aspect of our existence we’re told we’re writing ‘issues’ books; if we don’t we’re accused of inauthenticity.
I would like to think that as an Indigenous woman, I have some insight into marginalisation not my own. I have always thought that any experience of injustice should always increase our empathy and push us towards a greater understanding of injustice in other contexts.
But that does not mean my experiences equate to that of other peoples.
In an Australian context, I have said that I do not believe non-Indigenous authors should be writing Indigenous characters from first person perspective or deep third, because I don’t think a privilege problem can be solved by writers of privilege speaking in the voices of the marginalised.
And I apply the same limitation to myself in relation to experiences and identities not my own. Ibi Zoboi
recently wrote powerfully to the perils of the desire to ‘help’, noting that White-Man’s-Burdenism is not limited to White people
. I run writing workshops for peoples who come from many different backgrounds of marginalisation, and as a storyteller, it is tempting to enact that instinct to ‘help’ into a narrative, to highlight the struggles of workshop participants in one of my own stories.
But between the thought and the action must come the process by which I determine if I am really helping at all.
So I ask myself, is the story mine to tell? The answer is no, of course; their stories are their own and their pain is not my source material.
The only way in which I would write from someone else’s perspective is in equitable partnership with someone from that group (where copyright, royalties and credit are shared).
This would not necessarily mean we each wrote half a novel. The other person may not write a word; their contribution could be in opening a window onto insider existence and correcting the mistakes an outsider inevitably makes.
I’ve had people tell me that this is the job of a sensitivity reader. But I am cautious about the boundaries of that relationship
because I think there are cases where the input of an insider advisor infuses the narrative to such a degree that they are really a co-author and should be treated as such.
I don’t think the question is who wrote what words, but whether the story could have been told at all but for the contribution of the insider.
Someone once told me that I was restricting myself as a storyteller. I don’t believe I am.
I am acknowledging boundaries, but boundaries do not necessarily limit or restrict. Boundaries can define a safe operating space, for myself and for others, and respect for individual and collective boundaries is part and parcel of acknowledging the inherent dignity of all human beings.
I have begun co-writing a speculative fiction YA novel that is told from the perspectives of two girls: one Chinese, and one Indigenous. I am writing the Indigenous girl, and Chinese-Australian author Rebecca Lim
is writing the Chinese girl.
The original idea for the story was Rebecca’s, but already it is changing as we each negotiate our own identities and experiences.
This is not a story that is restricted by boundaries; it is one that would not exist without them. In the writing of it, Rebecca and I are creating something that is greater than the sum of both of us – and in such stories, I see the future. a Rafflecopter giveaway
By: Celine Aenlle-Rocha,
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, Alexander Technique
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What was it like as one of the few female performers in the New York Philharmonic in the 1960s? We sat down with cellist and author Evangeline Benedetti to hear the answer to this and other questions about performance and teaching careers, favorite composers, and life behind the doors of Lincoln Center.
The post In conversation with cellist Evangeline Benedetti appeared first on OUPblog.
I do try to remain apolitical on Wild Rose Reader--but I have had it with the Republican nominee for president. So, I wrote a little verse about him. I hope he doesn't sue me!
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TRUMP: A Verse about the Worst EVER Presidential Nominee
With roadkill for hair and a pumpkin-colored face,
Could Donald Trump WIN the Presidential race?
He’s braggart, a blowhard, a rich old buffoon
Who lives a sheltered life in his Trump Tower cocoon.
He’s a bigot…a racist…a misogynist—
And let’s also add “big fat liar” to the list!
Does a grabber…a groper…a tongue-down-the-throater
Really appeal to the American voter?
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Today (October 23, 2016), via Twitter, I received a photo of a page from Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise by Suzy Kline, published in 1991 by Viking.
Here's the photo:
Mr. Cardini (the principal) asks Doug (one of the main characters) if he's finished with a get well card he's making for his teacher, Miss Mackle, who is in the hospital. Doug replies:
"I just need to color in my Indian's headband. I gave him 15 feathers."
"You're putting an Indian on Miss Mackle's get well card?"
"Well, sometimes the Indians didn't have a very good Christmas. It was cold and there wasn't always enough food. I just thought it would make Miss Mackle feel better if she knew the Indians had hard times, too."
"Good thinking, Doug. There's a saying for that--misery likes company."
I gather that Viking is part of Penguin Puffin. Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise
was apparently part of Scholastic's offerings, too. There's a lesson plan for using it at the Scholastic website. Not a word there, of course, about the problems in that passage. Horrible Harry is a series... I wonder what I'd find in the other 24?!
**Apologies, folks. I set the schedule as I always do for 12:01. Apparently, this time around I hit PM instead of AM. I'm here and ready to go!**
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (Anne of Green Gables, chapter 16).
Today I'm sharing Frost.
by Robert Frost
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Read the poem in its entirety.
I'm hosting Poetry Friday today, so please leave your links in the comments and I'll round you up old-school style. Happy Poetry Friday all!
Michelle Heidenrich Barnes of Today's Little Ditty reveals the cover of her new publication, The Best of Today's Little Ditty 2014-2015, and shares an interview with the illustrator.
Matt Forrest of Radio, Rhythm, & Rhyme shares an original poem entitled Clematis.
Buffy Silverman of Buffy's Blog is sharing two recently published poems.
Laura Purdie Salas shares the poem Ambush from Jane Yolen's new book, THE ALLIGATOR'S SMILE AND OTHER POEMS.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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, Arnold Lobel
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Good morning! I’d like to begin today by thanking the good people of Foundation 65 for allowing me to moderate a panel discussion last night with Duncan Tonatiuh, Grace Lin, Matt de la Pena, Janice Harrington, and Steve Sheinkin. Foundation 65 has created this cool program where these authors are visiting every single child in the Evanston, IL public school system this week. I helped kick it off, which was lovely. In this image you’ll see me in a rare moment of not lolling all over the podium (there was no seat high enough for me to sit on, and my heels were killing me).
Travis just offered a fascinating look at the recently released Follett statistics of what children around the country are checking out. It’s simultaneously unsurprising and disheartening. If you’re into that feeling, check the list out here.
Gotta hand it to Bookriot. When they came up with a list of 9 Kids Books That Should Be In Print, they did their due diligence. No mention of Hey, Pizza Man, but otherwise impeccable. I have a copy of Trouble for Trumpets of my very own, so I can attest to its awesomeness, and The Church Mouse should definitely find a new audience. Well written, Danika Ellis.
Two Harold and the Purple Crayon related posts appeared around the same time last week. The first was from The Ugly Volvo (a.k.a. my replacement for The Toast) called Harold’s Mother and the Purple Crayon. The other was Phil Nel’s piece How to Read Harold in which he reveals the possible subject of his next book. There are also some pretty keen links at the end. Go to it!
This one’s neat. Middle school teachers Julie Sternberg and Marcie Colleen have collected short audio clips in which storytellers share memories from their childhood. They write,
“For each memory, we propose writing prompts for students as well as questions for classroom discussion. Topics range from moments when storytellers have experienced bullying or been bullies themselves; to the first time they remember doing something they knew to be wrong; to difficulties in their home lives; to the effects of keeping secrets. We hope each story helps kids think through issues that can be difficult to address but impossible to avoid.”
The site is called Play Me a Memory and contributors include everyone from Sarah Weeks and Kat Yeh to Michael Buckley and Matthew Cordell. If you’re looking for writing prompts to share with kids, this site may prove inspirational.
This is neat:
It’s like fanart for a really recent picture book. Cool stuff, Migy.
I know Dana Sheridan says that artist Aliisa Lee’s illustrations of classic folktale characters are “manga characters”, but I think the adaptations go a bit further. These creations look particularly Pokemon-esque. I could see me capturing one in a public space. Couldn’t you?
Now for a double shot of espresso/adorableness:
Thanks to Marjorie Ingall for the link.
I outsource some of my knowledge of children’s literature to those better suited than I. For example, if you were to ask me what the best Christian books series out there might be, I’d probably hem and haw and then excuse myself to the ladies room where I would attempt to climb out the window. Author/illustrator Aaron Zenz, however, knows his stuff. Recently he said that the best series is Adam Raccoon and that the books are now officially back-in-print. FYI, Christian reader type folks!
Just the loveliest piece was written recently at the Horn Book by Sergio Ruzzier about his time looking at the work of Arnold Lobel and James Marshall at the Kerlan Collection. And though I might take issue with the idea that Marshall’s humans were less charming than his animals, the piece is an utterly fascinating look at the process of the two men.
And for our last image of the day, we turn once again to good old upcoming Halloween:
Reminds me of the time I went to the Dan Quayle Museum and saw the Fabergé Egg that showed him being sworn in as VP (<— all that I just said is true). Thanks to Marci for the link.
Naturally you know what tomorrow is.
You don’t? Doggone calendars. You’d think they’d have the wherewithal to remember that October 21st is Ivy & Bean Day. And now here’s the interesting part. You heard it here first, folks, but Ivy & Bean are going to have . . . AN ELEVENTH BOOK!!
Don’t believe me? Hear it from Ms. Annie Barrows herself:
When I finished Ivy and Bean Take the Case, the tenth book in the series, I figured it was time to take a break from my girls. Why? Because ten books are a lot. Ten books are bigger than my head. Ten books are really heavy. Ten books are enough. Besides, I was writing a novel for grownups. I was busy.
When my novel came out and I toured for it, I couldn’t help noticing that grownup audiences are incredibly well-behaved. No one falls out of her chair. No one pulls his neighbor’s hair. No one cries. No one has to go to the bathroom right now. No one asks me how old I am. But also: no one asks me what my favorite color is. No one wants to hear interesting facts about being eaten by squids. No one laughs so hard she has to go to the bathroom right now.
I missed kids.
One day when I was sick of the thing I was supposed to be working on, I wrote a scene about Ivy and Bean and one of those weird dolls that’s supposed to look like a real baby. I laughed and put it away. A little while later, I wrote another scene, about quicksand this time. I laughed some more. Eventually, it occurred to me that
(a) I was having fun
(b) I missed little kids
(c) A lot of readers wanted another Ivy and Bean book
(d) Why didn’t I just go ahead and write one?
So I did.
Sophie Blackall had her own two cents to add.
The number one question I get asked in school visits is, ‘WHEN will there be a new Ivy and Bean???’ For years, I have left behind a trail of frustrated second graders, shaking their collective fists. Finally I’ll be able to hold my head high and say, ‘Soon, my friends. SOON.’ You have no idea what a relief this will be. Plus I get to work with Annie and Victoria again. Which is so much fun it isn’t really work at all.
In the meantime, Ivy and Bean haven’t just been lying around eating candy. They are hard at work advocating for vaccination against measles and will be appearing in a hilarious (and informative) comic book, in association with The American Academy of Pediatrics and The Measles and Rubella Initiative. 375,000 copies of the books, Ivy and Bean vs. The Measles will be distributed to doctors’ offices across the country this Fall in English and Spanish language editions!
This is, insofar as I can tell, big news. I have never, ever seen a publisher with the guts to take on immunization. I mean, check out these posters:
So there you have it folks. A new Ivy & Bean on the horizon and a very worthy cause. Not too shabby for a Friday, eh?
By: Kim Behrens,
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The viking image has changed dramatically over the centuries, romanticized in the 18th and 19 century, they are now alternatively portrayed as savage and violent heathens or adventurous explorers. Stereotypes and clichés are rampant in popular culture and vikings and their influence appear to various extents, from Wagner's Ring Cycle to the comic Hägar the Horrible, and J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings to Marvel's Thor. But what is actually true? Eleanor Barraclough lifts the lid on ten common viking myths.
The post 10 myths about the vikings appeared first on OUPblog.
Welcome to the 2016 Cybils Speculative Reader! As a first run reader for the Cybils, I'll be briefly introducing you to the books on the list, giving you a mostly unbiased look at some of the plot.Enjoy! Synopsis: A year from today, Dylan will... Read the rest of this post
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, Very Short Introductions
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, War and Technology: A Very Short Introduction
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Few inventions have shaped history as powerfully as gunpowder. It significantly altered the human narrative in at least nine significant ways. The most important and enduring of those changes is the triumph of civilization over the “barbarians.” That last term rings discordant in the modern ear, but I use it in the original Greek sense to mean “not Greek” or “not civilized.” The irony, however, is not that gunpowder reduced violence.
The post The irony of gunpowder appeared first on OUPblog.
Oh, where to begin.
So the other day, I got to thinking that my kids have had an insufficient dosage of Tomi Ungerer in their daily diets. Ungerer, if you are unfamiliar with him, has always been the enfant terrible of children’s literature. Having dared to publish children’s books for kids at the same time as his wildly erotic adult art for (obviously) adults, he was run out on a rail from the States, though he continued to make his books. The only story of his I’d ever read the children is Crictor, and I was toying with the notion of showing them No Kiss for Mother (which I don’t think I’m emotionally cohesive enough to tackle at this time) or The Beast of Monsieur Racine. In the end I took the easy route out and borrowed The Three Robbers from the library (partially inspired by that Salon post about the kid who only like to read about “bad guys”).
Next thing I know, Phaidon is republishing eight of Tomi’s books in this new, gorgeous, collection called Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books.
But even better than that is what they’re planning for Tomi’s 85th birthday. On November 28th (and they’re announcing this widely so I guess it won’t be a surprise) Phaidon will hand to the man a virtual birthday tribute “filled with drawing and written messages from friends and fans. The birthday greetings will be displayed on a dedicated page on the Phaidon website — www.phaidon.com/CelebrateTomi — and then printed and presented to Tomi for his birthday.”
They’re accepting entries for this right now, librarians, artists, writers, and fans. Do you want to submit? Submit! [looking at you, Sergio Ruzzier] Definitely check out some of the submissions so far. I like the Eric Carle, the Milton Glaser, and the suggestive one from Sarah Illenberger, but the Jean Jullien is my favorite by far.
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The Cuban Missile Crisis was a six-day public confrontation in October 1962 between the United States and the Soviet Union over the presence of Soviet strategic nuclear missiles in Cuba. It ended when the Soviets agreed to remove the weapons in return for a US agreement not to invade Cuba and a secret assurance that American missiles in Turkey would be withdrawn. The confrontation stemmed from the ideological rivalries of the Cold War.
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This is one of the most gorgeous and effectivecovers I've seen. I love it.Synopsis: Clara and Hailey are twin sisters, and like a lot of sisters, they are closer than close one moment, but in the next, they get on each other's last nerve. Hailey is... Read the rest of this post
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By Traci Sorell
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
I had no idea how beneficial an agent could be when I attended my first SCBWI
conference in October 2013.
I quickly realized how much about the industry I did not know.
I began to network with other children's writers, especially fellow Native Americans, and when it came time to look for an agent, I utilized that network extensively.
I questioned fellow writers with representation, especially those from Native/people of color backgrounds, about their experience. I asked how agents had presented themselves at conferences or other events. I read agent online interviews and social media posts.
I wanted my agent to be a steadfast partner with a strong work ethic. It is a long-term relationship, so both people have to be dedicated to maintaining it. I required someone who was excited about my work and associated with a well-respected agency.
|Traci's Reading Chair|
Ideally, I wanted someone who had editorial experience that reflects what I write—fiction, nonfiction, and Native/POC subjects. To be honest, this makes for a small submission list, so I did expand beyond that.
When I communicated with agents via email and telephone, I tracked whether what they shared reflected my list.
My gut got an extreme workout when I received two offers of representation on the same day. I cannot stress enough the importance of developing and checking in with trusted mentors.
Ultimately, I accepted Emily Mitchell
's offer of representation with Wernick & Pratt Agency
. She met every single item on my list. Her clients contacted me quickly and gave their honest feedback about her representation.
Emily had vetted me with my editor at Charlesbridge, her former employer. We had both done our homework.
To me, it is kismet that Emily presented at that first conference I attended—and in my home state of Oklahoma too! That day, she shared her desired client attributes—voice, authority, pragmatism and flexibility. I'd like to think I resemble her list, too. Cynsational NotesTraci Sorell
writes fiction and nonfiction for children featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies. She has been an active member of SCBWI since August 2013.
In April 2016, Charlesbridge acquired her first nonfiction picture book, We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, from the slush pile.
The story features a panorama of modern-day Cherokee cultural practices and experiences, presented through the four seasons. It conveys a universal spirit of gratitude common in many cultures.
Traci is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She grew up in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located.
She is a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley
, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
She also has a Master's degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona
and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin
. Previously, she taught at the University of North Dakota School of Law
and the University of New Mexico
She also worked as an attorney assisting tribal courts nationwide, advocated for national Native American health care, and directed a national nonprofit serving American Indian and Alaska Native elders. She now lives in the Kansas City area.
See also Story to Contract: Traci Sorell’s Incredible Journey
by Suzanne Slade from Picture Book Builders. Peek: "Be grateful. Every day. If you approach your creativity and the process of writing from a place of gratitude, it opens you up. You will be more aware of story ideas, available to hear critiques that improve your craft, and connected to others around you in the kidlit world. Gratitude opens up receptivity."Emily Mitchell
began her career at Sheldon Fogelman Agency, handling submissions, subsidiary rights, and coffee. She spent eleven years at Charlesbridge Publishing as senior editor, contracts manager, and director of corporate strategy. After a brief post-MBA stint in the non-publishing world, Emily returned to children's books at Wernick & Pratt
Her clients include Geisel Honor winner April Pulley Sayre
, author/photographer of Best In Snow
(Beach Lane, 2016); Caron Levis
, author of Ida, Always
(Atheneum, 2016); and Frank W. Dormer
, author/illustrator of The Sword in the Stove
(Atheneum, 2016) and Click! (Viking, 2016).
Emily holds a bachelor's degree in English from Harvard University
, a master's in secondary English education from Syracuse University
, and an MBA from Babson College
. She lives outside Boston.