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By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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, Adrianne Chalepah
, Akilah Hughes
, Alison DeCamp
, Amy Ignatow
, Carmen Agra Deedy
, Cece Bell
, Charise Mericle Harper
, Christine Mari Inzer
, Deborah Underwood
, Delaney Yeager
, Funny Girl
, Jenni Holm
, Kelly DiPucchio
, Leila Sales
, Lenore Look
, Libba Bray
, Lisa Brown
, Lisa Graff
, Mackenzie Yeager
, Meghan McCarthy
, Mitali Perkins
, Raina Telgemeier
, Rita Williams-Garcia
, Shannon Hale
, Sophie Blackall
, Ursula Vernon
, Write Girl
, Add a tag
Ladies and gentlemen . . . the moment I’ve been waiting for.
Wait! Wait! Background information first!
So for years I worked as a children’s librarian and I’d get girl after girl after girl coming up to my desk asking for funny books. I credit some of this to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The boys and the girls loved that series and wanted more of the same. Sometimes they wanted it in a notebook novel format, like Kinney’s book. Sometimes they just wanted something hilarious, and they seriously didn’t care who wrote it. So I’d grab books for them and then it slowly began to dawn on me. Huh. For all that I could find some pretty fantastic and hilarious books out there for kids, where were the funny story collections written by women? Turns out, there weren’t any.
I would like you to join me in applauding the following authors and author/illustrators . . . .
- Cece Bell
- Sophie Blackall
- Libba Bray
- Lisa Brown
- Adrianne Chalepah
- Alison DeCamp
- Carmen Agra Deedy
- Kelly DiPucchio
- Lisa Graff
- Shannon Hale
- Charise Mericle Harper
- Jenni Holm
- Akilah Hughes
- Amy Ignatow
- Christine Mari Inzer
- Lenore Look
- Meghan McCarthy
- Mitali Perkins
- Leila Sales
- Raina Telgemeier
- Deborah Underwood
- Ursula Vernon
- Rita Williams-Garcia
- Delaney Yeager
- and Mackenzie Yeager
Each one of these women has contributed to my new book Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. EVER.
Behold! The cover by the aforementioned Charise Mericle Harper:
And here’s the full jacket in its entirety:
A portion of the proceeds of this book go to Write Girl, a Los Angeles-based creative writing and mentoring organization that matches girls with women writers who mentor them in creative writing.
When’s it out? May 9th, 2017! Feel free to pre-order it.
Oh! And while I’m thinking of it, there’s this other really fun thing that just started that I have to let you know about. As I may have mentioned before, my husband’s first book The Secrets of Story just came out recently and I could be prouder. He’s already put up a couple great videos alongside it (the latest is here and is about those little moments of humanity that make you like a character). But fun upon fun upon fun, he’s created a podcast with YA author and 90-Second Newbery Film Festival creator James Kennedy and it may well be my favorite thing of all time. I love it when James and Matt get together because they agree on NOTHING! And now they’ve a podcast together where they can extol the beauty of that nothing together. It’s huge fun for me, and it ends with a little feature where they mention a story idea they had that they decided wouldn’t work and give it away (as it were) to the masses for use. So if you like the process of writing or you just like banter, I’ve your new favorite podcast. The Secrets of Storytelling podcast is available through iTunes. Subscribe today!
By Mary Atkinson
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
Recently, I received an email from Abby, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
. She was working on a research project about Lollipop Power, a small press established in Chapel Hill in 1970.
She wanted to know if I was the author of one of their books, María Teresa. She’d found correspondence between the author and the press archived in the university library.
“Looking at your website,” she wrote, “I see you are a great educator! I am teaching in Texas after I graduate so I always love stumbling upon other teachers and seeing their wisdom.”
Of course I got right back to her! Now in my 60s, I am full of wisdom and I’m always happy to share!
I had written María Teresa when I was living in Cincinnati, Ohio in the late 1970s. I taught Spanish then to first and second graders at Silverton Elementary School in a magnet program to attract white students to the predominantly black school. Because I only had high school certification, I needed to get my elementary certificate to keep my job. I enrolled in the necessary courses at Xavier University
I signed up for History of Children’s Literature, a course that ultimately guided me to my life’s passion—writing for children. One day, we had a guest speaker: Lucille Clifton
What she said had a profound impact on me. She said that all children deserve to see themselves in children’s books. In 1977!
As a teacher in a school where most of my students were black, Clifton’s comment resonated with me. I’d already looked in my local library for picture books where both the students I taught and the children who spoke the language I taught were represented. I’d found very few.
One assignment in the children’s literature course was to write and illustrate a children’s book. Another life defining moment!
Thus, María Teresa was born. María Teresa tells the story of a young Mexican American girl who finds her voice in her Anglo classroom through her puppet, Monteja la Oveja.
I decided to try to get María Teresa published. I combed through the thick volume of the Writer’s Market at the Cincinnati Public Library. Why did I pick Lollipop Power Press among all the others listed?
Because I loved the Lollipop mission.
The Lollipop Power Press was a non-sexist and non-racist children’s book publishing collective, a feminist press concerned with issues of class, race, and gender equality.
It published books such as Martin’s Father by Margrit Eichler about a boy and his black single-parent father; Jesse’s Dream Skirt
by Bruce Mack about a boy who sews his own skirt and wears it to school; and In Christina’s Toolbox by Dianne Homan about a girl who loves to build things just like her mom.
I was thrilled when Lollipop accepted my manuscript for publication. That was easy, I thought! I’m going to be a children’s author! I’ll write stories, send them to publishers and they’ll become books. (Little did I know…)
Abby, the college student, and I spoke on the phone. Her curiosity about and enthusiasm for María Teresa touched me deeply. It took me back to a time when a book about a girl and her toolbox, a boy who wears a skirt, and a boy with a single black dad were unusual, and in many places, controversial.
“Were you a radical?” she asked me when I told her about how Lollipop Power’s vision back then was so new.
Well, I joked, if believing in equality and access to children’s literature for all children was radical, I guess I was.
And still am. It all goes back to my ah-ha moment when listening to Lucille Clifton. Every child deserves to see themselves in the books they read.
As I think back on it, two things are notable. One, that as a WASP New Englander, it had never occurred to me back then to even think about how there were children who couldn’t find themselves in books. And two, that as soon as she said it, it touched a deep well inside me.
I understood what she was saying. I understood how important it was. And I wanted to be a children’s author who wrote stories for and about all kinds of children.
Forty years later, the vision of We Need Diverse Books
is “A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.”
Am I a radical to ask, “Why is this taking so long?” Cynsational NotesMary Atkinson
has taught Spanish to students of all ages, been a third grade teacher, and hosted a Spanish radio show. Her poetry for children has appeared in magazines and anthologies, and her fiction and non-fiction have been published widely in educational markets. She is the author of Owl Girl
(Maine Authors Publishing, 2015).
Synopsis: Yes, look, I'm participating in a Thing, and that thing is Middle Grade Monday! When am I ever organized enough to do that? Today, evidently. Anyway, I recently read Newbery Award winner Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, who was one... Read the rest of this post
Today I am celebrating 10 years in the blogosphere, and more specifically, the Kidlitosphere
. It's been an amazing ride. I've found a community here that humbles, inspires, educates, and supports me in ways I never would have imagined when I started this journey.
To celebrate the big day, I've decided to share some of my favorite posts, memories, and personal experiences that have grown out the real, live human connections I've made in this digital world. So, here we go!
When I started this blog, my son had just started kindergarten. He's now a sophomore in high school.
I'll admit to being a bit embarrassed about my early posts. I'm not really sure what I wanted to blog to be. I knew I wanted it to be about teaching and books and math and science and .... probably too many things in the beginning. What's interesting about reading those early posts is that some of the ideas and issues that I grappled with then, I continue to grapple with. For example, in an early post I wrote this after my first parent-teacher conference sitting on the parent side of the desk.
My biggest concern was in fact, his teacher's concern. I have a kid who hates to make mistakes, puts too much pressure on himself to get everything right, and just wants to be downright perfect.
I was thrilled with the fantastic report I received from William's teacher, but found myself wondering on the drive home, how do I fix this? How do I teach him it's okay to make mistakes, that everyone does, and that this is really what learning is all about? I'm not sure, but when I find out, I'll let you know.
Fast forward ten years. This week in class we focused on math talks and the "productive struggle" that's so important in math. And we talked about mistakes ... how we need to value them and how we can't fear them as kids do the hard work of learning something new.
In those first few posts I wrote about teaching, planning, historical fiction, "busy" children's books, and more. What led me down the rabbit hole, and opened up a new world on the blog was my post on January 1, 2007 highlighting the Cybils shortlist. That year, 482 books were nominated to produce a list of 45 finalists. This one post led me to the kidlitosphere, and it ultimately helped me find my tribe. My "tribe" consists of authors, teachers, librarians, poets, and a whole host of folks I never would have met were it not for this blog. My blogroll would be hundreds of links today if I actually listed every one on this blog. Now I can follow many of these folks on Twitter.
If I'd been thinking ahead, or much more creative, I would have turned this into a lengthy celebration and started weeks in advance, sharing some of the more interesting bits and bobs along the way. Ten years is a long time to do one thing. Heck, people today often don't hold a job that long! The blog has definitely morphed a bit, but it's still a place I love to hang out. Here are some of the highlights from my first year of blogging.
*****January 7, 2007
I entered Lisa Yee's
Bodacious Book Title Contest. The rules were:
1. Think of a title from a children's/middle grade/young adult book.
2. Change the FIRST LETTER of ONE of the words to make it into a whole new title.
3. Then add a sentence describing the new book.
Here's one of my entries. It seems appropriate to share so close to election day.Original Title:
Duck for PresidentNew Title:
Puck for PresidentSummary:
Upon escaping from the pages of A Midsummer Night's Dream
, Puck finds himself in a land ruled by a ridiculous republican leader and, convinced he can do better, decides to run for President.January 26, 2007
I participated in Poetry Friday for the first time! I didn't know to link up with others at that point, but I was finding a place to share and slowly finding my way into a community that I still participate in.January 29, 2007
I posted my first thematic book list and Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of Reading
stopped by to recommend a book. I'm so glad she did, and I'm so glad we're still talking about books and poetry together.March 5, 2007
I wrote my first fib and walked through my writing/revising process. And Greg Pincus of GottaBook
stopped by! (You're shocked, right?)April 9, 2007
I wrote my first book review and was thrilled to find the author stopped by. This has happened a lot over the years, and it still makes me giddy. And that book I reviewed then is still in my teaching library and gets regular use.May 15 - June 4, 2007
I traveled to Taiwan, China, and Tibet with a group of faculty members and blogged about my adventures. Here's a link to my summary post
about what I learned.July 16, 2007
I wrote about the book Ten Little Rabbits
and the difficulty in evaluating books about other cultures. Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children's Literature
stopped by and my education began. I still read her blog and am inspired by her tireless work.
August 6, 2007
I posted my very first poetry stretch. The form was the bouts-rímes. It's called the Monday Poetry Stretch now. I don't republish the poems in a new post, just hope folks will drop into the comments to read the great things people share.September 28, 2007
John Green came to campus as part of a lecture series. (This was just one year after An Abundance of Katherines
was published.) I'd been following the Vlog Brothers since he was awarded a Printz honor in January, so meeting him was great fun.October 6, 2007
I attended the very first Kidlit conference in Chicago and met all these amazing people.October 15, 2007
The kidlit community came together in an event called Blogging for a Cure, spearheaded by Jules and Eisha of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
. More than 60 bloggers worked to highlight an amazing group of illustrators who created snowflakes in support of Robert's Snow 2007. I may have even purchased a few ...
And that, my friends, is just a recap of one year of blogging! I've written numerous thematic lists since then, continue to host poetry stretches, participate in Poetry Friday, still speculate on the nature of diversity in children's books, write about poetry in many varied forms, and post original poetry supported by my amazing poetry sisters. I've experienced the highest highs and some of the lowest lows with this community. I'm so very grateful to have you. Thank you for reading, commenting, and stopping in to share my little corner of the internet. I love seeing you here.
Though, to be perfectly honest, Saturday’s post sort of covered all the bases there. Still and all, I wanted to do something in honor of the day. It’s tricky. I could do a post of links, like 100 Years of Women in Congress—12 Political Pioneers to Introduce to Kids or Vote Here: Books for Tweens About Elections or If Boys Could Vote. Or I could whip up a list of recent picture books about elections in all their myriad forms. But none of that seems special enough.
So I sat down with my husband and James Kennedy last night over ice cream to hash out the problem. James mentioned off-handedly the picture book Duck for President, which is a notable title partly because it’s so old it contained outdated Bill-Clinton-playing-the-saxophone references. I mentioned I liked that book and we got to talking about whether or not all these books for small children about elections are new or not. Are there older ones out there? Classic ones? Books like . . .
Wait. That’s not a book. That’s a music score. But surely SURELY there are older election titles out there. Books that weren’t published in the last 10 years or so.
Well, I found a couple. Actually I found a lot, but not that many with book jacket images online. In respect of the day, then, enjoy this smattering of older children’s books on the topic of elections:
Let’s Go to Vote by Agnes McCarthy (1962)
A red book from the 60s on voting by someone named McCarthy? Will wonders never cease? Also . . . is that policeman encouraging that girl to vote? Oh dearie dear.
Right On, Dellums! My Dad Goes to Congress by Bob and Lynn Fitch (1971)
There is nothing I don’t love about this boy. His hat. The fact he’s supposedly saying “right on”. The power salute. I know his dad’s the one running, but I’d vote for that kid any day of the week. The dad, by the way, was Ron Dellums, and the salute was sort of his thing. Google him and you’ll see him doing it quite a bit. The description of the book reads, “After a long campaign, eight-year-old Brandy Dellums’ father is elected as the first black Congressman from Berkeley, California, and the family moves to Washington, D.C.”
Maggie Marmelstein for President by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, ill. Ben Shecter (1975)
Alas, poor Maggie. She had quite the series in the 70s, with all sorts of editions. Too much time has passed, however, and though I’ve no doubt that there are libraries all over the country that still carry her books, for the most part they’re forgotten. I sort of love the vitriol in this description too: “Maggie Marmelstein thought that her friend Thad would be a good class president. But when he refuses her offer to manage his campaign, she decides to run against him with a vengeance.” Rowr! VENGEANCE SHALL BE MAGGIE’S!
It’s a Free Country! A Young Person’s Guide to Politics & Elections by Cynthia K. Samuels (1988)
Are they singing? Clearly they’re singing. But what, I ask of you, would they have been singing in 1988?
Electing J.J. by James VanOosting (1990)
Best I could do in terms of finding an image. The plot reads, “In Framburg, a small farming community, lots of families face the loss of their farms. Three boys, one of them politically aware J.J. Ellison, decide to organize a campaign against the corrupt mayor of Framburg who is profiting from everyone’s misfortune.”
NEATE to the Rescue by Deborah Chocolate (1992)
I found this one through the Chicago Public Library. Apparently it was a Chicago-based series in the 90s and this is the first one Ms. Chocolate wrote. The plot is about a, “campaign for the reelection of Naimah’s mother to the city council. It’s a bitter struggle between the respected woman and her white male opponent, an unabashed racist who advocates the re-zoning of community districts to quash African American voting power.” Yep. A whole book for kids on re-zoning. Um . . . can we get this republished with a new cover, please? On second thought, I love this cover. Can we make it historical fiction then?
Those are the best I could find. I didn’t want to go much further than The Boy Who Ran for President, due to its recent popularity and all. Instead, let’s finish with a bang. I give you . . .
Duck for President!
Terza rima is a tumbling, interlocking rhyme scheme that was invented by the thirteenth-century Italian poet Dante for the creation of his long poem, The Divine Comedy.
Terza rima (an Italian phrase meaning "third rhyme") consists of a series of three-line stanzas (tercets) with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded and so on. It can go on as long as the poet wishes. At the end of the poem an extra line is often added to complete the structure: yzy z.
You can read more on this form at Poets.org
So, with a form to guide us, we decided to write about something uplifting or hopeful. I'm not sure I managed to meet the theme head on this time, but rather think I've struck a close tangent. It's been hard to feel hope during this protracted election cycle, but I'm trying mightily to stay positive.
Here's the first draft which I wrote last night. Yes, at this point in the semester I'm working on everything at the last minute (much like my students, I imagine). It shows, but I'm glad to be here with my sisters once again.Untitled Terza Rima
(With apologies to Langston Hughes)
Our world feels broken, bruised beyond repair
the noise, the news, the chaos worse each day
but hope must be our choice and not despair
As clouds around us swell in black and gray
one look reminds us things could be much worse
so we must persevere, must not delay
to treasure all we have, this earth diverse
to fill the hearts we meet with love and trust
to turn this global meltdown in reverse
to show more kindness, fight for what is just
to raise up those who've long been trod upon
to douse hate's sparks before we all combust
Acknowledge this will be a marathon
that change requires strength that’s undeterred
that only faith and hope will move us on
to realize at last our dreams deferred
Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2016. All rights reserved.
You can read the poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below. Sending hugs to Andi who's not sharing a poem today, but always with us in spirit.
I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by one of my poetry sisters, Laura Purdie Salas
. Happy poetry Friday friends!
P.S. - I'm celebrating a BIG blogiversary on Sunday, so I hope you'll stop by to join me for some virtual cake and a few fond memories.
By: Barbara Fisher,
It took a while but finally the page views on my blog have surpassed the one million mark. I wondered if the counter would return to zero once it reached a million, but it is still clicking up …phew! I know some blogs get a million page views or more a day, but I didn’t expect to get any so it means the world to me. I also know page views are not the same as unique views, but I don’t care! Thank you lovely blog readers you are the best!
My wish is a long time in coming to you ...
But the longer I waited the bigger it grew - and ...
THANK YOU! Just like this little elephant I will never forget.
* Colour printed birthday card part of my collection. Published by Satchwell Smiths, London, c1950s. One sheet of paper folded to create a card that ‘grows’. I’ve added quite a few vintage Christmas cards to my collection this year and will be sharing some of them in a future post.
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In celebrating my blogiversary
yesterday (10 years!), I went back and looked at all the poetry stretches we've done since I started posting them in August of 2007. It's been more than two years we wrote poems in the form of macaronic verse, so it seems like a good time to revisit the form. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines macaronic verse in this fashion.
Macaronic verse is a peculiar, rare and often comic form of poetry that sometimes borders on nonsense. It is a mixture of two (or more) languages in a poem, in which the poet usually subjects one language to the grammatical laws of another to make people laugh.
The definition is a poem in a mixture of two languages, one of them preferably Latin. Usually the mixture of languages is a bit absurd. The word of one language may be terminated with common endings in the other.
So, your challenge for this week is to write a poem that uses more than one language. I hope you will join me this week in writing macaronic verse. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.
By Ann Angel
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
's CynsationsLuis Alberto Urrea
, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter
(Little, Brown, 2006), perceives drafting as something far more glamorous than me, and so I’m inspired by his words:
“Writing rules. Everything else sucks. Writing is a big sandbox and it’s full of Tonka Trucks and plastic Godzillas.”
Have you experienced that creative space? It’s when your writing feels most fluid and free.
You become so emotionally attached to the imaginative world that, at the end of the day, you struggle to return to reality. You might look up and realize starving people are in your kitchen. And you might think, who are these hungry people?
They’re not the characters you’ve played with all day.
I’ve been there with my four kids and husband who have all wondered, more than once, how writing can be so engrossing that I melted a pan of food to the burner of my stove.
But there are other times when writing is a total suck pond. You’ve probably experienced that too. It’s when you can’t decide if you want to slap the smile off a smarmy character or toss her from a moving car – I chose a moving truck myself. From there, you admit it isn’t just the characters. The plot is unwieldy. The rising action lacks motivation and falls flat. The tone is all wrong. You stop writing.
I’ve been there, too. About a year ago, I was so mired in muck that I feared I’d never finish another novel. The first draft can be, as Cynthia Leitich Smith
reminds me, “Drafty.”
Those drafty drafts bring out the worst fear in all of us. Although I made myself sit down to write, it was a tortuous experience. Then I realized this is not
writing fear I suffer, it’s the fear that I’ve lost it; I’m no longer good enough.
This is thick as mud fear arrives every time I start something new or go back to revise a work that’s in that drafty stage.
The only cure is to sit down to write every day—or almost every day. But I’m here to tell you that, after spending too much time in the suck pond, the creative sandbox doesn’t always fill easily.
The sandbox is especially evasive when I’m writing about oppression and other soul-wrenching issues which are typical of YA literature. Rising out of the suck pond becomes a serious struggle.
That’s when we need consciously seek inspiration.
I’ve been working on a novel about suffocating hate and xenophobia, and so I can speak from the bottom of the suck pond. Writing comes so slowly because I really don’t like what some of my characters are doing. It’s seriously depressing being inside some of their heads.
Every day that I work on this novel I have to trick myself into beginning. I have gathered an arsenal to make this happen.Elizabeth Gilbert
, the newly christened guru of creativity, is no slouch with ideas for creative life in her book Big Magic
(Riverhead, 2015). She cautions, “Don’t abandon your creativity the moment things stop being easy or rewarding—because that’s the moment when interesting begins.” Julia Cameron
’s The Artist’s Way
(Tarcherperigee, 2002) has always been a mainstay. I recently picked up It’s Never too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond
As always, Julia recommends long walks and writers’ dates—both good reminders that we can’t find creative inspiration if we’re always staring at a blank screen.
These are good ways to clear my head before and after a day of writing about the wicked side of the world. I’ve been rewarding myself for writing with artist dates.
Julia’s artist dates are permission to visit museums, beaches, art galleries, the zoo—where I recently witnessed giraffes wrapping their necks around one another to flirt.
Julia also advises, “Keep writing. If you keep writing, you will have a breakthrough.”
Through Julia’s suggestions, writers are more likely to create details that come from the observed world. In turn, the details layer and enrich characters, making it possible to write of human goodness even in the lowest moments.Mary Karr
’s, The Art of Memoir
(Harper, 2015), helps writers look back into the history of our own crazy lives which are a great source of specific detail. In my life, parents warned the girls I attended Catholic school with not to hang with those wild Bonness girls (my maiden name), said as one word by mothers who must have believed the very mention of our names would taint their daughters. Karr gets that our lives are the stuff that makes stories come alive. I’ve developed some greatly cool friendship scenes around the close wildness of growing up one of seven sisters.
My cache of magic writing has been pulled together from my experience of consistently sinking into the suck pond. I had an editor once tell me my writing had serious potential. So I made a poster that says, “Serious potential happening here.” Of course I colored outside the lines when I filled in the letters to hang it above my computer.
Sometimes I play with poetry while I write. Different forms help resolve a variety of issues. A sestina is a great tool to learn more about developing characters, often providing an “a-ha!” moment in which a character takes charge of a sudden turn. Sonnets help me figure out what my character loves and hates. Found poetry and erasure poetry help uncover the details of a character’s private world. So I play with poetry a lot when I’m writing. It can trick me into that place of fluid writing.
A good resource to begin practicing poetry is The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms
by Ron Padgett (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2002).
No matter where we turn for creative inspiration, it’s good to remember that serious potential is happening every time we excavate the world of our craft. So dig into that suck pond. If you stay at it long enough, you’ll find that sandbox overflowing with imagination.
We had a fantastic workshop with Yvette de Beer. The pictures tell the story.
The workshop was held in Yvette's lovely home on Witbank Dam where she has a beautiful work room flooded with natural light.
We began by painting backing board. Then we were asked to draw characters based on random pieces of driftwood and other natural items.
We were asked to juxtapose two characters. We placed these
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Are You an Echo?
, Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award
, Eddie and Ozzie Award
, John Parra
, Lois Lowry
, Make Way for Ducklings
, Marjorie Ingall
, Me stuff
, New York Times Best Illustrated
, Robert McCloskey
, World Science Fiction Society
, Add a tag
Remember the moment at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when he funds Fred and George’s joke shop? What is it he says to them? Ah yes. “I could do with a few laughs. We could all do with a few laughs. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to need them more than usual before long.” I feel like, once again, Rowling put her finger on the pulse of what we need to hear. Today’s post is in honor of that spirit.
Here’s a little happy news for you to kick it all off. The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS), coordinator of the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) has given first approval to a new Young Adult Science / Fantasy Award. The problem? It needs a name! That’s where you come in. There’s a name-the-award-survey out there, but the deadline is November 15th. Now, could we talk about doing something similar for ALA’s YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults? Perhaps rename it and stat?
In other news, the nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for 2017 were announced. If you’re unfamiliar with that particular award, it’s the one with the biggest monetary prize attached to it. The prize can go to any author, illustrator, storyteller or “reading promoter”. American nominees on this year’s list include:
Anderson, Laurie Halse
Children’s Literature New England (CLNE) & The Examined Life (EXL) Organisation
Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL) Organisation
Room to Read
Shihab Nye, Naomi
On Saturday I offered you the chance to win some original Sophie Blackall art. Today, I’m offering you the chance to bid on some original John Parra art. In 2017 his book Frida and Her Animalitos, written by Monica Brown, will hit shelves everywhere. Now you have a chance to bid on this painting, inspired by the book by its illustrator:
Gorgeous, no? Best of all is the cause. SCBWI-IL is auctioning it during the week following Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s Day 2016 to raise funds for SCBWI-Illinois’ Diversity Initiatives. Better hurry, though. Bidding ends Saturday, November 12th. More info here.
I’ve very much been enjoying the multiple articles out there about Are You an Echo?, that remarkable picture book biography/poetry collection about Misuzu Kaneko. First there was this 7-Imp interview with David Jacobson, the writer/translator of the book. Then there was this great piece over at Playing By the Book that gives additional background information about its illustrator Toshikado Hajiri. Love it. Be sure to check out the interior art at 7-Imp here as well.
It occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve ever had a chance to examine Robert McCloskey’s artwork and sketches up close before. If I were in Boston I could remedy the situation with the upcoming Make Way for Ducklings: The Art of Robert McCloskey, held at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Good to know about in any case.
It’s not uncommon for me to be the last to know when a picture book has struck a nerve. Such was the case with Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf, though if I’d taken even two seconds to think about it I probably could have seen it coming. Marjorie Ingall slices and dices the book, clarifying precisely why what it does doesn’t work. There’s also a truly lovely shout out in there for Dear Santa, Love Rachel Rosenstein which I gave too little attention to when it came out. Well played, Marjorie.
By the way, I feel I should also mention her stellar post How to Explain the Refugee Crisis to Kids as well. If you read nothing else today, read this.
Oh. I won a thing but I don’t think I mentioned it before. Remember when I said in an earlier post that A Fuse #8 Production was nominated for a 2016 FOLIO: Eddie and Ozzie Award? Well, it won! Yep! Neat!
Conspiracy theories and children’s books: Two great tastes that taste great together. Nowhere more true than in the recent 100 Scope Notes piece We Found a (Man in the Yellow) Hat? It ties an old picture book to a new one in an original way. No small task.
Boy, if it weren’t for the Cubs winning the World Series, I’d swear the universe had it out for me. Now I hear that the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia lost a significant chunk of its case against the Sendak Estate? Doggone it. That’s it. I’m moving to Australia.
Hey! Did you know that there’s a Chicago Book Expo? News to me. Better still, there’s a neat event going on there called Our Voices Initiative: Encouraging Diversity in Publishing. Here’s the program description:
The demand for diverse, quality books is great. Independent publishers have responded with an explosion of books by and about diverse people. Join members of the American Library Association Our Voices advisory council, who represent professionals from across the book ecosystem, to discuss the issue of diversity in publishing and the work they are doing to promote and support diverse content. Come and add your voice to the discussion.
Panelists will include Curt Matthews, Founder and Chairman of the Board for the Chicago Review Press and Independent Publisher’s Group; Jeff Deutsch, Director of the Seminary Co-op Bookstores, which includes 57th Street Books; Felicia Shakespeare, best-selling author and library media specialist; and Joy Triche, Founder and Publisher of Tiger Stripe Publishing. Donna Seaman, Editor, Adult Books at Booklist, will moderate the discussion.
You can see more information at this Facebook link too.
The New York Times Best Illustrated list of 2016 children’s books was released earlier this month. Some good choices. Some choices that cause me to grind my teeth in a counter-clockwise direction. In other words, a pretty standard year.
Fun Fact: Were you aware that Lois Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik books were never meant to be a series? Do you know what Ms. Lowry thinks about censorship? Do you know what her next projects are (and that they’re completely out of her genre)? Good news then. Over at the Cotsen Children’s Library the podcast The Bibliofiles has an interview with Lowry about all these things. And more.
I’m fine. I’m all fine here now, thank you. How are you?
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: Amani Al'Hiza is sixteen, and... Read the rest of this post
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsThe Children's Literature Community Responds to the 2016 Election
by Travis Jonker from 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal. Peek: "If you’re not up for a (mostly) Kumbaya sort of post (and I respect that), don’t read this post." See also Children's-YA Author Peni Griffin on The Morning After the Election
.Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with Poetry
by Sylvia Vardell from Poetry for Children. Peek: "'Making Bread,' describes a beautiful family and Pueblo tradition complete with Tewa words (and a helpful pronunciation guide)."Guadalupe García McCall Receives Center's Inagural Artist-in-Residence Fellowship
from Arne Nixon Center. Peek: "McCall will spend one week on the Fresno State campus in spring 2017 working with students in English, education and additional courses. During McCall's stay, she will offer instruction on writing, provide presentations to education students on how to use fiction in the classroom and she'll visit two local high schools to talk about her work. An opening public reception will be hosted by the Arne Nixon Center Advocates and a culminating program will showcase the students' achievements." A Picture Book is a Machine or This Machine Tells Stories
by Susan Rich from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: "The ingredients of a picture book—the text, the art, the design, and production—all come to physical life in a published book, and then come to mechanical life in the reading."The Present Need for Historical Fiction
by Anne Nesbet from Project Mayhem. Peek: "What I didn't realize at the time was how the difference between "school history" and "Mom history" was itself playing out a meta-historical story. My mother--a history major and a schoolteacher, herself--had been swept up in the shift in historical studies from old-fashioned lists of the reigns of kings to a fascination with all the little details of 'everyday life.'" See also An Example of Serious World Building in Historical Fiction
by Gail Gauthier
from Original Content.Diversity Within Diversity: Intersections
by Margarita Engle
from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: "Even the Spanish language is not uniform, with indigenous and West African words varying from region to region, and in certain countries, a mixture of Chinese words as well. Chinese? Yes, specifically Cantonese." Starts with Us
: "We publish books and content that empowers youth to make a positive impact by pursuing their talents and interests."Interview: Donna Janell Bowman on The Amazing William 'Doc' and Jim Key
from Lee & Low. Peek: "Incorporating the theme into the story was a matter of focusing on Doc’s actions, his relationship with Jim, how people responded, and how humane societies flourished, thanks to proceeds from Doc and Jim’s performances. Doc and Jim’s example truly caused a ripple effect."This Week at CynsationsMore Personally
A shorter roundup than usual, I know. The kidlitosphere is deep in post-election stress disorder. But we are strong, and we will persevere. Our work is more important with each passing day and with every young reader born into the world.
Breathe. Center yourself. Continue the journey.
Meanwhile, busy times! Texas Book Festival
was last weekend.
My montage of memories includes...
- Nikki Loftin's terrific reading (and the BBQ) at the Texas State Library and Archives on Thursday night,
- meeting A.S. King at the kick-off party at Antone's on Friday,
- Janet Fox's sparkling insights on the "Supernatural Storytellers" panel I moderated on Saturday,
- signing copies of Jingle Dancer and Indian Shoes (both HarperCollins) as part of the diversity program at the Writers' League of Texas Booth that same time,
- watching a young girl listen oh-so attentively to Kekla Magoon's thoughts on all the different ways that girls can be strong on "Let's Hear it for the Underdogs" on Sunday,
- and relaxing that night with VCFA WCYA family at a get-together at Guerro's.
I look forward to a wonderful weekend at McAllen (Texas) Book Festival
! Come heart me talk about writing supernatural stories and the Feral trilogy
Reminder! Tweeps! Join me Thurs., from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. central Nov. 17 for "Indigenous Voices in Middle Grade Novels," a #mglitchat on Twitter, featuring Lee Francis
, Debbie Reese
, Traci Sorell
, and Tim Tingle
Unless you missed it, recently the New York Times Best Illustrated list was released. And amongst the ten books listed was a very lovely title illustrated by Ms. Sophie Blackall and called A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785. Written by Matthew Olshan it has it all. Jealousy. Foul play. Public urination. The works!
To celebrate the book’s inclusion on the list, we’re doing a bit of a giveaway. A giveaway where you can actually win a piece of Sophie Blackall art of your very own. THIS art:
What do you need to do? It’s easy! Sophie had an idea to get out the vote in a small way of her own. Just share here in the comment section of this post your preferred mode of transportation you will use to get to the polls on Tuesday. By air, by land, by sea, you name it. The sillier, the better
Submit your suggestions by the end of Tuesday. You’ll be getting out the vote and potentially winning gorgeous art. It’s win-win!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsKatie Kennedy
is the first-time author of Learning to Swear in America
(Bloomsbury, 2016). From the promotional copy:An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Maybe not kill-all-the-dinosaurs bad, but at least kill-everyone-in-California-and-wipe-out-Japan-with-a-tsunami bad. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been recruited to aid NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster.
The good news is Yuri knows how to stop the asteroid--his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But the trouble is, even though NASA asked for his help, no one there will listen to him. He's seventeen, and they've been studying physics longer than he's been alive.
Then he meets (pretty, wild, unpredictable) Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and live a life worth saving.
Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with the questions of the universe.How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?
Research was a huge part of writing Learning to Swear in America.
The book is about an incoming asteroid, and the main character, Yuri, is a physics genius. I’m not.
I knew I didn’t want the book to be science-free. I mean, how could it be? It would be like a biography of a poet that doesn’t talk about the poetry—it would be missing a crucial element.
A physician friend told me about a Morbidity & Mortality meeting he attended as a young doctor. The physician in charge strode out onto the stage and wrote on the marker board:
- I didn’t know enough.
- Bad stuff happens.
- I was lazy.
The man turned to the assembled doctors and said, “The first two will happen. You will have patients die for both those reasons.”
Then he slammed the side of his fist against the board and roared, “But by God it better never be because you were too lazy to Do. Your. Job.”
That’s how I felt about approaching research for Learning to Swear. I didn’t know enough. I would make mistakes. But it wouldn’t be for lack of trying.
I read Neil deGrasse Tyson
, Brian Greene
, Michio Kaku
, and articles written by astrophysicists—for astrophysicists. You can find science simplified for the average educated reader—the basics on asteroids, for example. But if you want simplified information on spectral analysis? Forget it.
NASA’s website has all sorts of tables about asteroids, and it was a go-to source—until I discovered that the government shutdown also shuttered NASA. It was inconvenient not to be able to access information on which I was used to relying. It was chilling to realize that the people who usually stand sentry for Earth had been pulled in.
I should mention that a physicist who’s involved in security issues read for me—this is Dr. Robert August—and did me a world of good. Not only did he help me get the equipment right, but he corrected me on little cultural things. For example, he said that the computer programmers would have the name of their favorite pizza place written on their marker board. I included that.
Almost everything in the scenes with the programmers came from information Bob shared. He’s been in these kind of meetings, so that was incredibly helpful.
My biggest problem—outside of lack of background knowledge—was that I had envisioned exacerbating the problem mid-book by having the asteroid’s speed increase, so that it would arrive sooner than they expected.
Then I discovered this would violate the laws of nature. Stupid
laws of nature. By this point I had half the book written, and knew I had to find another way to make it harder for Yuri to stop the asteroid.
So I ate a lot of mint chocolate chip ice cream and did more reading—and somewhere in the tiny print I found my answer.
I did a little happy dance, and my husband asked why. “I found a way for an asteroid to smash the Earth, and we couldn’t do anything to stop it!”
He gave me a very strange look. As a teacher-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about being a teacher has been a blessing to your writing?
Learning to Swear in America is based on an Immanuel Kant
"Do what is right, though the world should perish."
I teach college history, and we talk about Kant as part of the Enlightenment. That quote is one that hooked my imagination—I remember walking across the college parking lot thinking, Yeah, but what if the world really would perish? What then?
This book is the outgrowth of my conversation with Kant about that.
So I think being an instructor is helpful in several ways. First, history is narrative--essentially I tell stories to my students. Some of them are pretty good!
|Charlemagne and Pope Adrian I.|
I look at the names in my lectures—the Gracchi
, George Washington
—and I’m so grateful that I get to share their stories with my students. What a privilege!
Also—what good practice in storytelling. I get to see immediately when the students’ attention flags.
Second, I come in contact with interesting material all the time, through reading in support of my day job, and even through my own lectures—like the Kant quote.
In fact, the main character of my next book was inspired by an historical figure—but I’m not saying who it is.
I received a question yesterday from a librarian who wants to create a display of books for Native American Heritage Month. This post is my thoughts on one option for doing that kind of display.
Create one of a student or patron asking a question. Create one of those speech bubbles that has the question in it: "Native American?" Or "American Indian? Which one should I use?" You could replace the figure below with a photo of yourself to show that it is a question you, yourself, had, too.
Put Mission In Space
by John Herrington in the display. If you have two copies (and you should!), use both. Show the cover, and, have the second copy open to this page (below). Beside it, on a poster board, call attention to the text in the book about his identity. Here's how that could look:
And here's how that same idea could look, using Cynthia Leitich Smith's Jingle Dancer
Then you could have another poster that says something like:
"I think these writers are telling us to use the names of specific tribal nations!"
I'd like to hear from librarians, and others, about this idea. Your thoughts?
A reader wrote to ask if I've seen Nathan Hale's Alamo All-Stars. New in 2016 from Amulet, it is book six in Hale's "Hazardous Tales" series of graphic novels. Here's the synopsis:
In the early 1800s, Texas was a wild and dangerous land fought over by the Mexican government, Native Americans, and settlers from the United States. Beginning with the expeditions of the so-called “Land Pirates,” through the doomed stand at the Alamo, and ending with the victory over Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, the entire Texas saga is on display. Leading the charge to settle this new frontier is Stephen F. Austin, with a cast of dangerous and colorful characters, including Jim Bowie, William Travis, David Crockett, and others.
I didn't know about this series, but it is quite popular. I'll see if I can get a copy at the library.
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! Many readers know author Corinne Duyvis from... Read the rest of this post
For those of you in the Chicago area, here’s a bit of happiness. This Saturday I’ll have the pleasure of hosting artist Rebecca Dudley of the incomparable Hank Finds an Egg in my Literary Salon. Here’s the long and short of it:
Saturday, November 12th, 1:30 – 2:30, Community Meeting Room, 1st Floor
Artist Rebecca Dudley wowed the publishing world when she adapted her remarkable tiny world into the picture books HANK FINDS AN EGG and HANK HAS A DREAM. Join this fantastic illustrator for an explanation of her process and a peek into the remarkable worlds she creates. No registration required.
And for fun, check out this awesome diagram she created on her process. I just love this thing:
See you then!
November is Native American Heritage Month. In recognition of that, I am sharing one of my favorite poems by Sherman Alexie. I also have an excerpt from an article titled The Human Right to Water at Standing Rock.
The Powwow at the End of the World
by Sherman Alexie
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon
waiting in the Pacific.
to read the rest of the poem.
As thousands of Indigenous people from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, other Native American tribes, and their allies continue their protest against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), corporate media have continued to focus almost exclusively on the presidential election. Most media ignored last week's vicious attack on the Water Protectors, as they call themselves.
The construction of the pipeline would violate the human right to peace, the right of Indigenous peoples to practice their cultural traditions, and several federal statutes.
On October 27, more than 100 police from seven different states and the North Dakota National Guard, clad in riot gear and carrying automatic rifles, arrived in MRAPs [Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicles], Humvees and an armored police truck. They defended Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the pipeline, and arrested 142 Water Protectors. That brings the total arrested since August to over 400. More than 40 people have been injured, and some have broken bones and welts from rubber bullets fired by officers.
Ret. Army Col. Ann Wright, who spent four days at Standing Rock, reported: "Police used mace, pepper spray, tear gas and flash-bang grenades and bean-bag rounds against Native Americans who lined up on the highway."
The 1,170-mile, $3.7 billion oil pipeline is scheduled to traverse North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois and Iowa. Slated to transport over 570,000 barrels of fracked oil daily, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, just a half-mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's drinking water source. It could affect 28 tribes and millions of people.
An inevitable oil spill from the pipeline, releasing diesel fuel and toxic levels of contaminants into the river, would be culturally and economically catastrophic to the tribe, polluting its source of water and critical farmlands...
Those arrested were held at the Morton County Correctional Center in 10-by-14 foot cages, some in dog kennels. They reported being forced to wait for access to food, water, bathrooms and medical attention. Some charged with misdemeanors were strip-searched. Women were left naked in their cells and male guards harassed them. Some people were zip-tied in stress positions for hours.
Click here to read the rest of the article.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, A Series of Unfortunate Events
, Amanda Palmer
, Bank Street College of Education
, book trailers
, Charlie Brown
, Erica Perl
, Lemony Snicket
, Mary Downing Hahn
, Matthew Reinhart
, Stranger Things
, Wait Till Helen Comes
, Add a tag
Stranger Things, I credit you with this finally happening.
Let’s think about doing a Girl With the Silver Eyes film next! Thanks to Liz Burns for the link.
Now when I heard that Nieman Marcus was offering 36 Caldecott Award winning picture books for $10,000 . . . *checks notes* I’m sorry. I typed the wrong number there. I’ll begin again.
When I heard that Nieman Marcus was offering 36 Caldecott Award winning picture books for $100,000 (that’s better) I was a bit baffled. Perhaps these would be books that were all signed by their authors and illustrators? Well, they are first printings, or early editions, yes. But one can assume that you could purchase 36 such similar titles for far less money. This is part of Nieman Marcus’s “Fantasy Gifts” collection, and the idea is that they’ll donate $10,000 to their own charity if you buy this collection.
Now the collection of 36 has been curated by Johnnycake Books and E.M. Maurice Books. Here is the video that accompanies it. See if you see what I saw. Click on the image below:
Did you notice the books chosen to appear on this list? I am a librarian, so my take on curation is going to be different from that of a bookseller. That said, I have to wonder how many booksellers today would hand a child a stack of Caldecott books that included problematic titles like They Were Strong and Good. This is not to say that I think the book should be removed from library or bookstore shelves or anything like that. But if you’re looking for books that speak to kids today, then for the love of all that is good and holy switch that book out for something with some contemporary gravitas like Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion and the Mouse. My two cents. Thanks to Sharyn November for the link.
Oo! This is neat. Matthew Reinhart goes in-depth on pop-up books.
Interesting that he cites Transformers toys as being so influential on him. Sorry, Autobots. Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.
This is neat. Kidlit TV created a livestream of the Bank Street Bookfest this year, and now the full series of events is available in full. Would that the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Award ceremonies were done in the same way. I dare to dream!
I know some of you out there harbor unkind thoughts about Amanda Palmer. That’s fine. But she apparently has an album out with her dad, Jack Palmer, who has a pleasant Leonard Cohenish quality to his voice, and one of their songs was turned into an animated video akin to the Brothers Quay. I just like the song:
And if you prefer, you could watch this one with the world’s GREATEST sleeping baby. Seriously. He wakes up ONCE in the course of this film (if you don’t count the end). I don’t think that’s a trick. Plus it was filmed with the cast of Welcome to Night Vale. So. Right there.
In terms of this latest Series of Unfortunate Events trailer, my thoughts are that they get two points for including Klaus’s glasses (thereby already improving upon the film) but one point is deducted for Violet’s hair ribbons, or lack thereof. Interesting that they made her SO much older. Not that I wanted a 12-year-old mock-married to Olaf. Ugh.
Zut! I wish I’d seen this next book trailer before Halloween! It would have tied in so beautifully. I tell you, it is hard to come up with an original trailer for picture books in this day and age. Perl knocks it out of the park.
As for our off-topic review of the day, this one’s a no-brainer. There really isn’t a connection to children’s books here, and I should probably save it for Christmas but . . . aw, I just can’t. For the Stranger Things fans out there:
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! Tera Lynn Childs' previous novels dealt with... Read the rest of this post
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsJohn Herrington's Mission to Space (Chickasaw Press)
: a recommendation by Debbie Reese
from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "Herrington is an astronaut. He was on space shuttle Endeavor, in 2002. Mission to Space begins with his childhood, playing with rockets, and ends with Endeavor's safe return to Earth."Power Your Fiction: Using Weather to Create Mood, Not Cliches
by Angela Ackerman
from Writers in the Storm. Peek: "...weather is important to us as people. We interact with it each day. It affects us in many subtle ways."Getting Around First-Person Point of View Limitations
by Mary Kole
from Kidlit.com. Peek: "The biggest plot-related problem with first person POV is that your protagonist has to be around for everything. Dagnabit!" Note: Use eavesdropping with caution as it's an easy way to earn information and, thus, diminishes its value.Understanding Inner Conflict
by Michael Hauge
from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "... you give them compelling desires that will force them to let go of their protective identities. Then, as they pursue those goals, they will come to realize the truth of who they are underneath their masks."A New Direction for BookExpo America
by Jim Milliot from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "...the focus will be on drawing more book buyers, including booksellers, librarians, and buyers from a range of specialty retailers. Through a more rigorous application process, Reed will limit the numbers of bloggers, independent authors, and consultants."Once Upon a Time With Liz Garton Scanlon
from American Lifestyle. Peek: "...her inspiration for writing children’s books, the process for creating her award-winning book All the World, and why gratitude and hope are central themes for her."We Need Diverse Books Announces Partnership with Madcap Retreats to Run Diversity-Themed Author Retreats
from WNDB. Peek: "The partnership will present two affordable, workshop-based retreats for 2017. Writing Cross-Culturally will focus on how one can diversify their writing and learn to write cross-culturally responsibly, while the Diverse Aspiring Authors retreat will give authors from marginalized backgrounds craft workshops, industry 101 information, and ways to navigate the roadblocks of the current publishing climate." See also On "Who Can Tell My Story"
by Martha Parravano from The Horn Book.When Your Agent Says "No"
by Hilary Wagnor from Project Mayhem. Peek: "...a great agent is going to tell you when your work isn't up to par and should not be sent off to editors. If your agent truly respects you, they're going to tell you the truth no matter what."For Whom The Book Is Written: Addressing Intended Audience in YA Novels about Mental Illness
by Katherine Locke from School Library Journal. Peek: "Weight and numbers are a way for outsiders/non-sufferers to understand the severity of the disease and they’re more tangible than the incongruous and seemingly irrational thoughts of an anorexic person." This Week at CynsationsMore Personally
Great news! Author Marth Brockenbrough
joins the VCFA WCYA faculty at this upcoming winter residency in Montpelier. Huzzah! In more terrific news, faculty chair Alan Cumyn has won the the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People
. Peek: "In awarding the prize, the jury said Cumyn’s work “brilliantly exceeding the standards of fiction for the young, Cumyn’s novels for teenagers and children alike show a sure-handed mix of humour, poetry and melancholy, and an abiding commitment to a young person’s viewpoint."
It's Texas Book Festival
week! Please join me (the moderator) and "Supernatural Storytellers" Robert Beatty
, Janet Fox
& D.J. MacHale
12:30 11/5 E1.026 Capitol Extension in Austin.
See that nifty "Hey Texans" banner? I'll be part of the Texas author diversity signing event
with Chris Barton
and Natalie Sylvester, sponsored by The Writers' League of Texas and Austin SCBWI, at the Writers' League Booth. Note: Book giveaway while supplies last! See an interview with all three of us
. Peek from me:
"I love that when it came to connecting books to readers through community, the Texas Book Festival was the ground breaker. The leader. I feel about it the way a lot of Texans felt when—in a journey spanning from the dawn of time to humanity’s trek in the stars—the first word spoken from outer space was 'Houston'."
Tweeps! Join me Thurs., from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. central Nov. 17 for "Indigenous Voices in Middle Grade Novels," a #mglitchat on Twitter, featuring Lee Francis
, Debbie Reese
, Traci Sorell
, and Tim Tingle
Check out the We Need Diverse Books Auction
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsHappy Election Day! Go vote! We welcome author Debbie Levy to talk about her new picture book biography. From the promotional copy of I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley (Simon & Schuster, 2016): Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent her lifetime disagreeing . . . with creaky old ideas. With unfairness. With inequality. She has disagreed. She has disapproved. She has objected and resisted. She has dissented!
Disagreeable? No. Determined? Yes! Ruth Bader Ginsburg has changed her life, and ours, by voicing her disagreements and standing up for what’s right. This picture book about the first female Jewish justice of the U.S. Supreme Court shows that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable and that important change can happen one disagreement at a time.
See also the Glorious RBG Blog
(click to view 11 entries). Welcome to Cynsations, Debbie! We're both graduates of The University of Michigan Law School. Did you practice law or go straight to writing for young readers like I did (or rather like I did after clerking)?
I did practice law for several years after law school. But writing books for children is the only job I’ve held for more than six years. Lawyer at a big Washington, D.C. law firm: six years. Newspaper editor: six years. Then I took a class at the Writer’s Center
in Bethesda, Maryland, with the excellent Mary Quattlebaum
. (Check out her books
, and her reviewing work!)
Writing for children: This was a vocation with long-term potential.
Hey, I have a newspaper background, too--so much in common! You write fiction and nonfiction across formats and age levels. Often I hear from new writers that they feel pressured to pick one focus. What has your range of pursuits done for you in terms of craft and career?
|Michigan Law School Reading Room|
I think the writers you’re hearing from are telling a truth: There can be pressure to pick one focus or, to put it otherwise, to establish a “brand.”
I think I must have subconsciously scoffed at the notion that I could ever be a brand—ha, a Debbie Levy brand!—so, for better or worse, I’ve mostly followed my interests and allowed serendipity a role in choosing projects.
Also, one solution for writers who do want to be multi-focal is to have more than publisher. I realize that doesn’t solve a beginning writer’s problem, who may be looking for Publisher #1. But it is an option once you start getting published. Congratulations on the release of I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley (Simon & Schuster, 2016)! What about Ruth Bader Ginsburg called to you as a writer?
Thank you! Like many people, I knew that the Glorious RBG was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States and the first Jewish woman on the Court.
I knew that, before that, she was a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., and, before that, one of leading lawyers in the field of equal rights for women and girls.
What I didn’t know, until I started researching more deeply about her, is that she has been disagreeing with unfairness and with things that are just plain wrong from the time she was a little girl.
I mean, she objected to being excluded from shop class in grade school, and being required to take cooking and sewing instead! When on a car trip with her parents, she disagreed with she saw a sign outside a hotel that read “No Dogs or Jews Allowed.” Later, of course, she went on to disagree, resist, object, and dissent her way into big things.
And she’s been doing this for years with a voice that is not loud (people lean in to hear her words), in a manner that is not obnoxious (more benefit of the doubt than bashing, more insight than invective), and in service of justice.
So, I realized, the story of her life offers this inspiring lesson: Disagreeing does not make you disagreeable, and important change happens one disagreement at a time. Is it any wonder, then, that I thought she was a great person to introduce to young people in a picture book? Agreed! Many of my favorite people disagree strongly with injustice. What were the challenges (research, psychological, logistical) in bringing the story to life?
I feel lucky to live in the Washington, D.C. area, because although Justice Ginsburg didnot find time for an interview with me last summer when I was working on this book, she did grant me access to her papers on deposit in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress
(practically next door to the Supreme Court!).
I’ve gone through at least one Manuscript Division collection before, but none like this. So tidy! Meticulous! Her speeches typed on 4 x 6 cards: impeccable! Her handwritten notes on yellow legal sheets discussing and advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment that never got adopted!
Although I didn’t absolutely need to read piles of drafts of legal briefs and memoranda, I dived into this stuff with gusto; you do get a sense of a person from their papers.
Oh, wait. You asked for challenges. It is a challenge to write about someone, a living, active person, without having an interview. But there were many, many print and video interviews of RBG for me to consult. Many scholarly articles, by and about her.
And she did review the manuscript last October. She sent a nice little note, and wrote in some handwritten notes in the margins of my typescript. I took all her edits!
Since you’ve specifically mentioned “psychological challenges”—I lost my mother three years ago.
|Debbie's mother kayaking on the Wye River|
She was a vibrant, ever-curious, outgoing woman, someone always interested in another person’s story, someone who as a girl dreamed of being a journalist (she ended up in the wholesale costume jewelry business instead), and she would have been over the moon to know that I was writing a book about RBG, to know that I was elbow-deep in RBG materials at the Library of Congress, to know that RBG looked over my manuscript pre-publication.
I’m answering your questions, Cyn, the morning after the book launch for I Disssent
, which we held at D.C.’s great Politics & Prose Bookstore
. Many friends who had known my mother attended.
I said there, “I cannot help but think that had my mother still been alive, she would have figured out a way to get me into RBG’s chambers for an interview—and she along with me!”
The room was filled with knowing smiles and laughter. Someone even called out my mother’s signature phrase: “Let me ask you a question”—her way of getting people to open up to her.
That helped with the pain of not having Mom there. (And, really, she would have snagged me an interview.) Talk to us about disagreeing. It sounds like a negative focus for a children's book. Is it? In either case, why do you think it's important in the conversation of youth literature?
Yes, let’s talk about disagreeing! The theme of disagreeing is really what sold my editor at Simon & Schuster on this book.
From the very beginning, we were really excited about creating a book that said to all kids, and to girls in particular, that disagreeing does not make a person disagreeable, and that you can accomplish big things for yourself and for the world through dissent and by finding another way when the world says “no” to you.
It’s a positive message, but it’s also a message that says you don’t have to be positive—that is, you don’t have to sound or look positive, you don’t have to just say yes and smile and go along with things that you believe are wrong—to be a good person.
At the same time, simply disagreeing without more isn’t really enough if you want to change your life or anyone else’s. On the back of the book, we’ve put this RBG quote: “Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Seems simple, right? But it’s that second sentence that is so hard to pull off. Many authors discover reoccurring themes in their work? Is this true of you? If so, could you tell us about it and how I Dissent fits in?
I seem to return to the theme of Outsiderness. My mother, protagonist of the nonfiction-in-verse The Year of Goodbyes
(Hyperion, 2010), being an outsider as a girl in Nazi Germany in 1938. Danielle, protagonist of my young adult novel Imperfect Spiral
(Bloomsbury, 2013), who finds an unexpected antidote to her feelings of being the outsider in an unlikely friendship with the six-year-old boy she babysits one summer.
The African American individuals and communities, outsiders in their own country, in my nonfiction picture book We Shall Overcome: The Story of A Song
(Disney-Jump at the Sun, 2013).
Today we may look at RBG and see the ultimate insider—she’s a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, for heaven’s sake! But she overcame the outsiderness of being a Jew in a sometimes hostile Gentile world, of being a young woman in the (then) overwhelmingly male-dominated world of law school, of being a female lawyer in a (then) man’s profession, and of being an advocate for legal and social changes that went against the grain of society’s traditional norms. There’s my theme. What do you love about your writing life?
Other writers. What good communities and friendships I’ve found! What do you do when you're not writing or out-and-about in your author hat?
Walk in the woods or along the nearby Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Kayak in the Chesapeake Bay area. Fish in the Chesapeake Bay area. Read.
Think about whoever my next dog will be.
Apologize to my cat for thinking about my next dog.
You know, the usual. What can your readers look forward to next?
In February 2017, Soldier Song, A True Story of the Civil War
(Disney-Hyperon). An 80-page picture book for older children about a remarkable event that occurred after the Battle of Fredericksburg. Illustrated by the excellent, creative Gilbert Ford
, with lots of room for excerpts from soldier’s letters and diaries. I’m excited about this!
By: Barbara Fisher,
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The excitement of Guy Fawkes Night is fast approaching, and once again I have mixed feelings. As a child, I loved bonfires and fireworks, but now I worry about the distress caused to wildlife and pets and the possible consequences for the environment. Naturally, none of that bothered me when I was little because I was busy having fun.
Back then there was ample space to build fires and plenty of things to burn. Tree branches, old fertiliser sacks and worn-out tyres made for good fires, although the black acrid smoke had a way of leaving eyes stinging, and adult tempers frayed! Each year my brother, sister and I would begin with a small pile of rubbish and watch as the mound grew ever larger. Looking back I’m sure everyone in the village had a hand in it, although at the time I was convinced magic was afoot! Living on a farm, we built our fires in open fields making them readily available to anyone with rubbish to burn.
For me, the real excitement began with the arrival of the fireworks. We usually had a large selection box with at least a few extra rockets and several packets of sparklers. When the night finally arrived, we made sure Peggy our dog and Kosset the cat were inside. Then it was time to don wellies, hats, coats, scarves and gloves all the while feeling the excitement building. Much pushing and shoving ensued as we put left feet into right boots and gloves on backwards, eventually, we would sort ourselves out and make a dash for the back door. In my memory, it was always really cold on bonfire night just as it was hot and dry in the summer. Can that be or is it my memory playing tricks?
Once we were all warmly dressed it was time for the lighting of the bonfire, often helped by a can or two of petrol! Finally, the biscuit tins where the fireworks were kept would be opened, and dad would ‘light the blue touch paper and retire’. Now the waiting … would it be a Rocket, a Roman candle, a Falling Rain or a Jumping Jack? Do you remember Jumping Jacks? They always had us running for cover, no wonder they are now banned.
The Catherine Wheels were sometimes a bit of a disappointment, either they whizzed off the nails and spluttered out in the damp grass, or they refused to turn at all. Many were the times my dad or my brother approached a lit Catherine Wheel and tried to give it a push or even attempted to loosen the nail holding it to the fence. It’s a miracle they didn’t end up with burnt fingers or worse.
All too soon the fireworks were over, and it was time to hunt the potatoes languishing in the embers of the fire. We did this by prodding at the fire with sticks while at the same time trying to ‘hook’ the potatoes sideways away from the heat. By now, they would be burnt black on the outside, but soft and flavoursome inside. At the end of the evening Dad would be left on 'fire duty' while the rest of us went inside for warm drinks. Then it was off to bed and the comfort of hot-water bottles to thaw out frozen toes.
This coming bonfire night Terry and I will be at home reminiscing about times gone past. Whatever you do, enjoy it, stay safe and don’t burn your fingers on those hot potatoes!
When our son Steven was born, we once again built fires, watched Rockets and Falling Rain, held sparklers and ate baked potatoes. Only now the fires were smaller as befitting a housing estate and there was no petrol involved! Spent sparklers were plunged into water to make sure they were properly out and potatoes were pre-baked in the oven and wrapped in foil. A few years later, we were blessed with grandsons, and the rituals began again. The boys are grown up now, and our two small granddaughters live in Australia. Organised bonfires seem to be the order of the day. Some of our neighbours might have a few fireworks in their gardens, but I doubt any of them will light a bonfire.
In childhood the daylight always fails too soon—except when there are going to be fireworks; and then the sun dawdles intolerably on the threshold like a tedious guest.~Jan Struther
Do you have plans for November 5th, or memories of past Bonfire Nights? If you don’t celebrate Guy Fawkes Night are there any other occasions when you enjoy fireworks? Maybe you don’t like fireworks? I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment.
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Photograph Twitter (@metoffice) Don't forget to check for sleeping hedgehogs before lighting your bonfire this Bonfire Night.