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It is crucial we find age-appropriate ways to share about the terrible persecution of Japanese Americans during World War II in the United States. And yet, how do you introduce this topic to children, especially kids in elementary school? A Place Where Sunflowers Grow is a wonderful picture book by Amy Lee Tai, whose grandmother was sent to the Topaz internment camp during the war.
Drawing upon her grandmother's story of internment at Topaz during World War II, Amy Lei-Tai finds a small piece of sunshine in young Mari’s story. Like thousands of other innocent American citizens, Mari and her family have been forced to leave their home simply because of their Japanese heritage. Mari loves art, but it's so difficult to find anything to draw in a place so hot and desolate.
“Flowers don’t grow easily in the desert,” laments young Mari during her first week at Topaz. “It will take time, patience, and care,” her mother replies.
Eventually, with the encouragement of her family and her teacher Mrs. Hanamoto, Mari finds comfort in her weekly art class as she paints pictures that remind her of home.
I was really struck by how Lee-Tai’s delicate story brings this difficult time to a young audience. The story is written in both English and Japanese, and the lovely audiobook is also produced with both languages narrated a page at a time.
Pair this picture book with novels for middle grade students, giving them a way into the story. Picture books can introduce the setting and historical time, providing a visual grounding for students. Here are a few other books on the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II that I recommend for elementary students:
I'm busy researching my next book about animals set during WW1 and working out locations and timelines. But back in June I was asked by the Guardian to list my Top 10 animal war heroes, not just from WW1, as part of the promotion for my story set during 1914 about a cat and a dog who get sent to the front called 'A Soldier's Friend'. Of course animals don't choose to go to war or be heroes but their stories are none the less inspiring and poignant and show us how to be heroes. Researching them was so fascinating and their stories so moving and needing to be told that I share it here:
Top 10 Animal War Heroes by Megan Rix
There are so many animals that deserve a mention that it’s impossible to list them all here but I’ve tried to shout out for as many as I can. No animal chooses to go to war but their selfless acts of unconscious heroism show us how to be true heroes:
l. The dogs:
Sergeant Stubby was just one of 20,000 dogs serving Britain and her allies in WW1. Messenger dogs, mercy dogs, guard dogs and mascots did their bit for King and Country. Stubby even warned of impending gas attacks. Dogs were the first domesticated animal and have been used in battle throughout history.The Roman Army had whole companies of dogs wearing spiked collars around their neck and ankles.
2. The Pigeons:
Pigeons have been used as message carriers for over 5,000 years. Their vital messages saved the lives of thousands in WWI and WW2. Cher Ami was given the Croix de Guerre for her heroic message delivery that saved many soldiers’ lives, despite being shot at and terribly injured.
3. The Horses:
Humans began to domesticate horses in Central Asia around 4000 BC and they've been used in warfare for most of recorded history. They are prey animals and so their first reaction to threat is to startleand flee. Despite this, against their natural instincts, they’ve raced into countless battles, carrying their riders. Over 8 million died in WW1.
4. The Donkeys:
From Simpson and his donkey at Gallipoli to Jimmy ‘The Sergeant’, born at The Battle of the Somme, donkeys have saved soldiers lives and given their own. More suited to green fields than battlefields, donkeys have been to War for as long as horses have.
5. The Camels:
1915 saw the formation of the Camel Brigade, but camels have been used in battle sincethe Roman Empire. A bonus was that the smell of the camels spooked the enemies’ horses.
6. The Elephants:
Hannibal wasone of the first to use them in battle and they've been used ever since.
WWI saw Lizzie the elephant helping out at Tommy Ward's factory and beinga star goalkeeper in a match against a neighbouring team.Some elephants were sent to the battlefields but more took up the heavy lifting slack in towns and in the countryside when the horses were shipped to the Front.
Morale boosters and rat catchers. Trench life was a little more bearable thanks to the moggies at the Front.
The tortoises that were brought back from Gallipoli, like Ali Pasha and Blake, will be commemorated next year. But tortoises were used as mascots before WW1. Timothy, who turned out to be a female, served as ship's mascot in the Crimean War and Jonathan, a giant tortoise, is pictured with prisoners in the Boer War.
Military trained dolphins are able to find underwater mines and rescue lost naval swimmers. Their training is similar to how military dogs are trained, and for a dog or a dolphin mine detection is simply a game rather than a matter of life and death.
Jackie the baboon was the mascot of the 3rd SA Infantry in WW1. The baboon drew rations, marched and drilled, and went to the nightmare of Delville Wood and Passchendaele. He was injured whilst desperately trying to build a wall of stones around himself as protection from the flying shrapnel. Jackie’s leg was amputated but he got to go home at the end of the War. Millions of humans and other animals didn’t.
***** While I was doing my research I came across the sad fact that poor Anne the circus elephant rescued from cruelty in a circus a few years ago and moved to Longleat is now expected to live out her days alone there as it's been decided it would be better for her to be a solitary elephant despite elephants being one of the most social family orientated species. It makes me feel sick especially when you see the wonderful reunion of elephants that have been rescued, most of them old and having suffered abuse like Anne, at the Tennesse sanctuary on You Tube
Once upon a time, before the Internet, I was turning in episodes of Brainpan Fallout on a floppy disc (remember them?) in a Mexican restaurant. I was careful not to get salsa on them. “This is like one of your stories,” someone said.
As a science fiction writer, I don’t try to predict the future. I just have a feeling for changes I see happening and wonder What If, and If This Goes On. When I first started projecting Aztec and other preColumbian cultures into the future, it was seen as far-out and esoteric. Cortez on Jupiter, High Aztech, and Smoking Mirror Blues weren’t considered to be very bloody likely.
Now, in Silgo XXI, people keep telling me that the news seems like my stories, especially when things preColumbian manifest.
Officials in Mexico City's governing body estimate that a decade ago there were about 50 Aztec revivalist groups in the capital. Today there are closer to 300, all part of a movement calling itself La Mexhicanidad, one of the fastest-growing urban subcultures around.
Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard wants all city employees, from hospital workers to bus drivers, to learn the Aztec language Nahuatl in an effort to revive the ancient tongue, the city government said.
And more recently, in a piece that compared the Aztecs to the Nazis, and criticized multiculturalism:
Imagine an alternative history where the Aztecs sail across the Atlantic Ocean to set up their pyramids of sacrifice in Paris.
And there are those who have given the Aztecs a New Age makeover, convinced that they were all really peaceful vegetarians, and all that talk about war and human sacrifice is just racist propaganda. You can see them climbing Teotihuacán and Mayan pyramids to recharge their energy on the Equinox.
More akin to my NeoAztecs and Aztecans is the Mexica Movement. Mexica being what the Aztecs called themselves.
Their website is interesting, going beyond the Chicano Movement’s visions of Aztlán. All the native peoples of the Américas including the mestizos (a word they don’t like) are one people, the Nican Tlaca, and their nation is Anahuac.
The United States of Anahuac . . . hmm . . .
Other words they reject are Hispanic and Latino, which they consider racist nods to European cultures.
I’d quote from them, but their homepage warns, in bigger letter than these:
ALL MATERIALS COPYRIGHTED DO NOT STEAL
They also have a page to help those who want adopt Nahuatl names.
I remember how thirty years ago, I was excited at meeting girls named Xochitl. These days I run into a lot of Nahuatl and Mayan names on Twitter and Facebook. Welcome to my world.
Meanwhile, our culture here in Anahuac is going Aztecan. Young people are being sacrificed, by each other, and by militarized law enforcement agencies. I wonder what gods they are being sacrificed to.
Ernest Hogan is addicted to getting published and to committing acts of creative blasphemy. He’s found people who think it's amusing, and who help him. He has made sacrifices over the years, and now there’s no stopping him.
When she was young, Raina was so excited to become a big sister. She couldn’t wait to have a sibling to play with! She hoped it would be like having a built-in friend who would never have to go home before dinnertime. But when Amara was born, Raina found having a sibling wasn’t quite what she expected. She was a cute baby, but she cried a lot.
Now that Raina is starting middle school, she can hardly get a minute of privacy at home, especially because she’s crammed into one bedroom with her younger sister and her younger brother Will. To keep the peace between Raina and Amara, Mom and Dad decide to do some room rearranging. Raina will get her own room, and Will and Amara will share the big bedroom. Mom and Dad will move to a sofa bed in the living room.
Will these two sisters finally figure out how to get along?
Sheena Dempsy's new book, Bruno & Titch: A Tale of a Boy and His Guinea Pig, is a wonderful story about bringing home a first pet (and the interesting ideas kids sometimes have about how to best care for that pet) and also a fantastic book featuring the (somewhat) underrepresented guinea pig! Be sure not to miss a short list of other picture and chapter books featuring this furry pet at the
I was driving around England on sulphate. Everyone was doing it. Housewives, carpenters, people who worked in the London Zoo and the parks. Everyone I knew. Everyone was into it. My other major concern was the horses. Yes, I was hooked on the ponies. One Scottish woman made a pointed remark about her friend, “the bookie’s boy” when she obliquely criticized my obvious weakness for gambling on the races. To me there was nothing like going down to Ladbroke’s on Saturday mornings and placing a few small wagers on combinations and parlays then walking home to eat breakfast while watching the races on tv. Leisurely gratification. Not many winners but many hangovers were nursed that way. I know it happened in England and Scotland and I suspect it’s still the same in Ireland and Wales as well. To be able to afford the life I was living on my two weeks onshore and in preparation for the upcoming two weeks offshore on a drilling rig, I started sleeping in the white Ford van I bought. Not a big van, a small one. An Escort I think. With Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in a Dangerous Time on my tape deck, I drove around to different races. The sound of horse’s hooves on cobblestones as I parked and the sight of the sleek hind end of a thoroughbred disappearing around a corner as I ducked into a pub in Newbury or Cheltenham stuck in my memory. It didn’t help much with the feelings of disappointment as I tore up the last of my losing bets at the end of another day, but as I followed the stoic bookies into the parking lot while they carried their signs and platforms and bulging briefcases. I realized that I was certainly doing something different. If I was at home I wouldn’t be doing this. Sulphate was called “the poor man’s coke”. It had a energetic buzz and, like coke, it enabled you to drink all night without getting sleepy. It was probably crushed up speed of some kind. It came in aluminum paper and everyone was doing it. Two guys in Aberdeen, a Dutchman and a South African, quit their roustabout jobs on a drilling rig because they could make much more money selling sulphate to the welders who worked long shifts for big money on pipe laying barges. They had a connection in Amsterdam and captive customers. For North Americans in England learning how to drive on the opposite side of the road than the side you’re used to is easy once you’ve negotiated the first stop sign and then the first stoplight then the first roundabout. After that it’s easy. Once you begin to drive in England or Scotland, you are convinced that Monty Python is alive and well and exists every day, all around you and it is like a weight lifted off your shoulders. There is less pressure to be perfect. It was probably a race which drew me to the south of England but it could have been an escape from the urge to spend uncontrollably when I got to London from Aberdeen and the North Sea. Robert, a Swedish derrickman I had worked with, lived somewhere in the south. He wasn’t home when I called so I gave the tip I had for him to the woman I talked to and he later got a job out of it. I was savvy enough by this time to find a campground near the Newton Abbott track and set up my one man tent before I found the nearest pub. I had entered Scrumpyland. That part of the country was known for its Scrumpy Cider and I vaguely remember one pub which had seatbelts on the barstools for the customers’ safety. Naturally I overindulged in the Scrumpy and when I was too drunk to care, asked a few of the shadier looking characters if they knew where I could score some sulphate even though I still had some. I was lucky: everyone ignored me. I later heard the saying “Beer on cider makes a good rider but cider on beer will make you feel queer’. It’s true. Queer meaning ill. Somehow I drove to the campsite when the pub closed and prepared to read Aleister Crowley’s Moonchild by the light of several candles in my pup tent. I woke up with a headache and burped up the smell of Scrumpy cider. It had defeated the sulphate in my system and knocked me out. When I opened my eyes I was looking at the sky. Then the bent aluminum tent pole appeared. I looked upward down by my feet. Another tent pole arching over me. The skeleton of my tent. I sat up when I realized that only charred pieces of fabric hung from the poles. The candles were pools of wax. Somehow the candles had lighted the tent around me, burnt it up and died out as I slept. There was not even a burn on my sleeping bag. I staggered to the Escort and drove away silently in the dawn. I drove North, glad of a hangover for a change. If I didn’t see it for myself, I wouldn’t believe it. This wasn’t what camping in England was supposed to be like. Forget the races. I knew a sign when I saw one. The image of the tent skeleton and the perfect pile of ashes circling the spot where my sleeping bag had lain kept recurring as Dancing in the Dark and If I Had A Rocket Launcher played on my tape deck and I headed for Scotland.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vikram Chandra's Geek Sublime, due out shortly in the US from Graywolf (after being published in the UK and India earlier this year).
This was published under the same title by Faber in the UK, but the Indian edition was titled: Mirrored Mind.
More bizarrely, each edition has a different subtitle:
Please give special guest Dixie Lee Brown a warm welcome to the virtual offices!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.
[Dixie Lee Brown] Independent; persistent; reliable; animal lover
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your book?
[Dixie Lee Brown] WHATEVER IT TAKES is the fourth book in the Trust No One series. Nate Sanders is a detective for the Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau. His deceased uncle has left some serious trouble behind and now it’s found Nate.
Who should save his bacon but the beautiful and mysterious Alex Morgan, the woman he hasn’t stopped thinking about since she wrecked his classic car in book #3? Alex’s past haunts her day and night. She has a smart mouth, a chip on her shoulder, a dagger on her belt, and knows how to use them all.
Nate sees through her bluster and signs on to help her rescue a kidnapped boy, but his own trouble just might get her killed—or is it the other way around?
[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Dixie Lee Brown] Nate and Alex both appeared in the third book in the series, IF YOU ONLY KNEW. Their character descriptions and backstory were already set, as well as the setting for the beginning of the story at Nate’s house. Combine that with two minor unanswered questions that suddenly become very important and a “crazy” heroine, and I had my concept.
[Manga Maniac Café] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
[Dixie Lee Brown] I love the relationships in this book. Alex and Nate are right for each other. Most of Joe’s team from the first three books put in appearances, plus Alex’s best friend from book #1. I love having the whole team show up. Also, being a romantic suspense, there’s a lot of action in this book. Action is just plain fun to write!
[Manga Maniac Café] What gave you the most trouble with this story?
[Dixie Lee Brown] It’s the same problem I have with every book. I’ll write two chapters leading up to a specific event and then handle the event and its aftermath in a paragraph! Lol! My editor calls me on it every time!
[Manga Maniac Café] If you had a theme song, what would it be?
[Dixie Lee Brown] Being the hopeless romantic I am, it would be “I Won’t Let Go” by Rascal Flatts
[Manga Maniac Café] Name one thing you won’t leave home without.
[Dixie Lee Brown] My Kindle – of course.
[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things on your desk right now.
[Dixie Lee Brown] Laptop, notepaper, and a jump drive
[Manga Maniac Café] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?
[Dixie Lee Brown] Assuming something would also make me magically capable of doing her job, I’d want to trade places with my wonderful Avon editor, Chelsey Emmelhainz, cuz she’s terrific!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?
[Dixie Lee Brown] The Golden Key Chronicles by AJ Nuest
Asking For Trouble by Jannine Gallant
The Dysfunctional Test by Kelly Moran
Hard As You Can by Laura Kaye
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Dixie Lee Brown] You probably hear this all the time, but if I have spare time—I read!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
Assassin Alex Morgan will do anything to save an innocent life – especially if it means rescuing a child from a hell like the one she endured. But going undercover as husband and wife, with none other than the disarmingly sexy Detective Nate Sanders, may be a little more togetherness than she can handle. She’s used to working alone, and no man is going to change that – not even a man who makes her heart pound and her defenses crumble with just a touch Nate has dodged more than a few bullets over the years, but fighting his attraction for Alex may be the bullet that does him in. Still, Nate’s determined to help her find the missing kid. There’s no doubt in his mind that they’re walking straight into danger, but Nate’s willing to face anything if it means protecting Alex. She might have been on her own once, but Nate has one more mission: to stay by her side – forever.
DIXIE LEE BROWN lives and writes in Central Oregon, inspired by what she believes is the most gorgeous scenery anywhere. She resides with two dogs and a cat, who make sure she never takes herself too seriously. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, movies, and trips to the beach.
Written by Irene Latham
Illustrated by Anna Wadham
Millbrook Press 8/01/2014
Age 4 to 8 32 pages x x
x x x
x “Welcome wildebeest and beetle, oxpecker and lion. This water hole is yours. It offers you oasis beside its shrinking shores.
“Spend a day at a water hole in the African grasslands. From dawn to nightfall, animals come and go. Giraffes gulp, wildebeest graze, impalas leap, vultures squabble, and elephants wallow. Irene Latham’s gorgeous poems are accompanied by additional facts that provide further details about the animals and their environment. Imaginative illustrations from Wadham complete this delightful collection.”
Dear Wandering Wildebeest, is composed of 15 poems about wild African animals, a glossary of possibly unusual words, and a section of advanced reading, enhanced by beautiful illustrations of the animals and the African land in which they live.
If you like giraffes, monkeys, lions, and elephants, you are in luck. There are also rhinoceros, small nightjars, vultures, marabou storks, oxpeckers, and, of course, wildebeest. Don’t worry, there are many more animals than that in this wonderful book. The pages look like the African Plains have jump onto the paper, leaving nothing bare. The beautiful skies change with the day, sometimes the dark blue of midnight or the rosy shade of dusk.
Some of the poems rhyme and some do not, but all are easy to read aloud. Impala Explosion swiftly jumps off the reader’s tongue.
Kids will love the poems. They will understand them all, and any word that is foreign to them is most likely sitting in the glossary waiting to spread some understanding. If you like the aforementioned giraffes, Ms. Latham wrote a triptych in its honor. What is a triptych, you ask? I have no idea, but the glossary knows. Let’s check.
“triptych: a work of art divided into three sections”
That would be correct. The giraffe’s poem is divided into three sections:
Feeling parched, the giraffe craves a drink. Giraffe’s must be cautious, as it has no idea what other animals will be at the water hole. It could be dangerous. To quench its thirst, the giraffe must be courageous and confident because other animals will pounce on a weak animal. Giraffes are cool creatures. If the poem does not convince you of this, read the information box in the lower left side of the spread.
Each spread has an information box containing interesting things about the animal or animals illustrated. I really like the information the author/poet adds to the spread, much of it new information that I found fascinating. For instance, did you know the impala could jump as high as eight feet? Eight feet! That is high enough to clear the privacy fence in your backyard, if you have one, and have two feet between the top of the fence and the impala’s belly. How about this, in one year, the wildebeest travels—looking for food—more than 800 miles across the Serengeti. This is equivalent to you traveling across the state of Kansas, east to west (or west to east) twice, or the state of Rhode Island from north to south (or south to north) a whopping 20 times! The extra information is very interesting.
The illustrations are simply gorgeous. The African animals depicted in detail and the landscapes of various colors are easily as beautiful as the animals—except maybe snakes. I do not like snakes. If you do, they are covered and you will think they are beautiful. Check out each animal’s eyes. There is always something going on that draws their attention. (I think that darn snake is looking at me!) There is so much to see on each spread.
Dear Wandering Wildebeest is one of those picture books that will delight nearly 99% of those most who read its poems and view its lovely art. Kids, you will love the animals, the sometimes-quirky poems, the illustrations, and all the interesting side information about life at an Africa watering hole for the wild creatures that need it for survival. If you love poetry and animals, Dear Wandering Wildebeest is a book is for you. It is really that simple. With school right around the corner, Dear Wandering Wildebeest is perfect book for show and tell or light research for a book report on an African watering hole and the animals that depend upon it.
Last week I wrote a post titled How To Plan A Minilesson From Scratch, and I outlined a very simple way to plan minilessons, based on the work of my wonderful colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Now, I am going to backtrack a bit and revisit just a teensy weensy bit of what I said. I wrote, "Every minilesson can pretty much go the same way." And this is absolutely true, most of the time. Except for those times when it's not true.
“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Mary Weber, author of STORM SIREN. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk specifics.
GIVEAWAY: Mary is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).
Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. Her YA fantasy STORM SIREN released August 19, 2014. Jay Asher, New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why said of the book, “There are few things more exciting to discover than a debut novel packed with powerful storytelling and beautiful language. STORM SIREN is one of those rarities.” Find Mary on Facebook (MaryWeber, Author), or Twitter (@mchristineweber).
I Needed A Writing Community
Six years ago I showed my mother the beginnings of my earliest book (about vampires, because I may have just read and adored Twilight, ahem). She complimented me. “Here’s a list of all the things I like!” she said (because that’s what mothers are supposed to say). And then promptly handed me five (yes, FIVE) books on writing. “Here, dear. I think these will help you.”
That is my mother. An encourager. An author in her own right. And a mentor.
A few months later she connected me with a freelance editor friend and the three of us added another member and formed a critique group.
Three years went by. The vampire story was replaced by an urban fantasy, and in the course of those years I wrote my busy heart out, critiqued with my group, and researched everything I could on agents and publishing. Basically, I STALKED Chuck’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog. The writers on here were all so encouraging. “Keep going. Keep learning. Keep writing,” they cheered.
The replies started out as silence or “Not for me.” If an agent happened to mercifully slip in an extra snippet of feedback on the note, I would edit and adjust accordingly. Until eventually a few of the rejections became more personalized – emails of “Not interested in this project but feel free to send me another.” Or a couple times requests for rewrites on the urban fantasy story. Followed by rejections of those rewrites. (Holy kracken those ones stung the worst.)
But by the end of that process three things had happened:
1. I’d racked up a sweet total of eighty-seven rejections (and cried more times than I can count).
2. I discovered that, while the urban fantasy really wasn’t going to sell, somehow, amid all the studying and rewriting, I’d actually learned to carve a decent story.
3. A friend paid my way to a writers’ conference with the belief that they are the best way to personally connect with editors and agents.
She Was Right – I Also Needed Connections
You know those manuscript pre-submissions a writer can send in ahead of time to the conference editors and agents? I mailed in my urban fantasy as a sort of last ditch effort. Despite my submission being on brown-inked pages (because my printer broke), two days into the conference I received an invite to chat with the publisher of Thomas Nelson, HarperCollins. “We can’t use this story,” he said, sitting across from me, holding my pages. “But have you ever considered writing YA?”
“UM NO, BUT YES.”
Six weeks later, he connected me with one of TN’s editors who invited me to meet up at another conference later in the year. I came up with ideas and early chapters for two young adult stories, the first of which she rejected. The second I pitched to her at the conference over a cup of tea.
I also pitched it to a number of agents while there, but it was one gentleman by the name of Lee Hough whom a mutual friend introduced me to, that I knew right away I wanted to work with. (I later discovered he was the agent for such NYT bestsellers as Same Kind of Differentas Me and Heaven Is For Real.) Unfortunately, Lee wasn’t available (or even necessarily interested) to take on a YA author at the time.
But…we began talking. Which led to more talking over the next few months as he was kind enough to give me career guidance.
Four months later (probably upon finally realizing my annoying self wasn’t going away), Lee called and signed me. Shortly after, Thomas Nelson made an offer on Storm Siren.
I’m grieved to say that seven months after I signed with Lee he passed away from cancer. However, those months of his agent-guidance and kindness made (and continues to make) a heck of a difference on my publishing journey. My agent now is Andrea Heinecke from the same agency (Alive Communications), and I’m so grateful for her incredible guidance as well.
So here I am, thinking it’s a crazy honor to write this post for Guide to Literary Agents. Especially after spending three years pouring over the pages of this blog. Thank you to the authors who said: Keep reading, keep stalking (in a non-creeper way), and keep writing.
And to you, dear writers reading this…I wish you the very best of luck as well. Keep going. Keep stalking. Keep writing. And may your journey rock.
GIVEAWAY: Mary is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).
This guest column is a supplement to the “Breaking In” (debut authors) feature of this author in Writer’s Digest magazine. Are you a subscriber yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
A couple of years ago I reviewed Cat Tale, Michael Hall's third picture book, and took the opportunity to talk about his first two amazing picture books as well. My Heart is Like a Zoo and Perfect Square (my favorite) are both books that rely heavily on the geometric illustrations to tell the stories in brilliant ways. With Cat Tale Hall used homophones to tell a silly story that is sure
BRANDED (Sinners #1) Abi Ketner and Missy KalicickiPublisher: Month9Books Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Goodreads
Fifty years ago The Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society.
To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a
The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest runs four times during the year, each awarding a first-prize of $1,000 to a promising or experienced author of sci-fi, fantasy, or dark fantasy. Second-place winners receive $750, and third-place winners receive $500. At the end of the year the judges award a grand prize of $5,000 to the best overall author.
This contest is open to original, unpublished stories and novelettes, up to 17K words. Authors must not have had a novel, novelette, or more than three short stories commercially published in any medium.
Enter the Illustrator Contest
L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future Contest is an opportunity for new science fiction and fantasy artists worldwide. No entry fee is required. Entrants retain all publication rights. All judging by professional artists only. $1,500 in prizes each quarter. Quarterly winners compete for $5,000 additional annual prize! If you have not read the contest rules, please click here before submitting.
In light of the news that He Who Must Be Obeid by Kate McClymont and Linton Besser has been withdrawn from sale and recalled by the publisher due to legal reasons we though we would list our top 5 publishing mistakes. Let us know ones we have missed! 5. Goodbye Jerusalem by Bob Ellis Bob Ellis […]
Charlotte's been dropping programming peeks down on the Bookshelf lately, so I felt I had to throw down with another mini-poster, now that I know that Stephanie Kuehn is going to be at the Con on Friday! Knowing how socially limited I am, I'm just... Read the rest of this post
We shouldn’t be surprised or amazed when our writing suddenly starts to click. After all, this is what we’ve been practicing, perfecting, mastering and perhaps even MFA’ing, right? So it makes sense that as we grow as writers we will become more proficient. We will find our centers and words will flow.
But as all writers also know, the magic word faucet can suddenly and inexplicably develop a clog. So for those times – and regular times, too – I asked some of my successful writer friends to share their methods.
My friends publish a LOT of books and I’m predicting this blog will be relevant for some years to come, so I’m not listing their recent sales next to their names. Instead, I’m including a link to their websites where you will find the most up-to-date info on their publishing successes. Please do yourself a favor and check them out.
Kelly Barson, and Melanie Fishbane, don’t worry about word count per se but both of them try to get through a complete scene in one sitting. Then if they feel like they can go further, they do. I call this PACING YOURSELF.
The prolific Kekla Magoon, admits to not being very scheduled or orderly, but she writes up against DEADLINES so she sets daily goals for herself depending on chapters, pages and scenes. She also swears by Scrivener, saying it has enhanced her productivity. Kekla’s method seems to be GUN-TO-THE-HEAD + PROPER TOOLS= WORDS ON THE PAGE.
Carrie Jones, sets ridiculously low word count goals for drafting, then celebrates when she goes beyond that goal. She also points out that failure to meet her goals would result in starvation, so there is that. I’m calling Carrie’s method SURVIVAL asMOTIVATION.
Kristen Kittscher is another author/friend who advocates SCRIVENER. “Scrivener helped me speed up immensely because I feel freer to jump around and write where the energy is,” she says. I call this creativity freed through proper tools. FORGET WILLIE… FREE YOUR CREATIVITY!
Heather Demetriios-Fehst just offered up two words – “Use SCRIVENER.” I’ll forgive her the brevity since she has already released TWO books this year. This is the third vote for Scrivener… It’s starting to have an impact on me.
Tammy Subia did something she never thought she would do. She wrote a complete first draft of a novel in four months and she was anxious to share her secrets.
Tammy has identified three things that really worked for her and they might work for you, too.
One: she set weekly word goals instead of daily ones, but she kept a daily chart of what she accomplished. She said just seeing the progress each day spurred her on the next day.
Two: She read her first chapter to a non-writer friend who really loved it and kept asking to hear more. Consequently, she wrote more to satisfy her friend.
Three: this might be her most important technique of all. Tammy described feeling like this book needed to be written. She wanted the story to be told so badly she couldn’t stop writing it! I’m going to call this DRIVE (and for the record I’m picturing Nick Cage behind the wheel of a muscle car when I say this.)
PICK YOUR TECHNIQUE:
Everyone seems to employ a different technique. Below is the full list. Feel free to be creative. Try on different ones. Pick and choose. Combine two or three. Experiment and see if you can’t UP your output. And if you do… write to us and let us know.
GET A RUNNING START
Hold something back for the next day
DEVELOP A ROUTINE
KNOWLEDGE + TIME + ENTHUSIASM
Know what you’re going to write, put in the time and be excited about your story.
One word after the other until you get to the end.
You can’t blow ‘em, so you get it done.
WRITE FOR FOOD
You can’t eat promises and I should’ves.
Find a story that demands to be written.
KEEP A WORD COUNT
Set word count goals, daily or weekly. It piles up.
Yay for sophisticated writer tools.
As for Scrivener – I’m going to buy it and use Scrivener for my revision process. I will report back in my next blog.
Here are some Scrivener tutorials that came up in a search on Youtube.com. I haven’t looked at any of them yet… but I plan to.
Be sure to read the first half of this amazing two-part series: How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)
Over the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.
This begins my venture into adding more performance-based designs to the line. You already love the cozy, uber-soft Ezzere shirts that are great at wicking moisture…these sleek new shirts kick it up a notch. These babies are meant to REALLY do work…get you all the way to race day, toeing the line looking fierce and strong, motivate you to dig to the finish…then in true #SweatsintheCity style rock them the whole day after.
Rebecca Solnit has gone on my list of authors whose work I’d like to own and read all of. It started off with her newest essay collection Men Explain Things To Me and was cemented by A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Field Guide was on my TBR list for years but I just never got around to it. Why did I take so long? I am a believer that every book has the right time and for whatever reason the right time wasn’t until now.
How to describe the book? Essays? Yes but not really because each one is connected. But it isn’t straight up nonfiction either because there is no real “plot” other than the theme of getting lost. Which makes it very much a long meditation. But yet there is a direction of sorts because four of the chapters/essays are called “The Blue of Distance” and these alternate with chapters called things like “Abandon” and “One-Story House.” The blue chapters all tend to be outward facing, about someone — the artist Yves Kline for instance — or about something — a certain color of blue or country western music. The other chapters tend to be more personally reflective and wide-ranging discussing things like leaving the door open for Elijah during Passover dinner, hiking in the wilderness, and family history. But even the distinction between the blue chapters and the named chapters blurs as Solnit will include personal reflection in the blue chapters and quotes Meno, Simone Weil, and a Tibetan sage in the personal chapters. I found all this intermingling to be satisfying and wanted the book to be longer than it is. A Good sign, right?
A Field Guide to Getting Lost is about many things, but at its core it is about stories:
A story can be a gift like Ariadne’s thread , or the labyrinth, or the labyrinth’s raving Minotaur; we navigate by stories, but sometimes we only escape by abandoning them.
Stories anchor us, tell us who we are or point to who we want to be. We can become lost in our stories. We can also be oppressed by our stories and only find out who we are by giving them up and losing ourselves. Trouble is, we think of being lost as a bad thing, but when we are lost we are more open to possibility than we are when we are sure of ourselves and our stories:
Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra icognita in between lies a life of discovery.
Even when we are sure of our stories, we still change over time and lose the person we used to be. When it happens so slowly we don’t even notice it we are not bothered by it until we are startled into awareness by an old photograph or letter, or a person we haven’t seen in many years. Sometimes, of course, loss happens very fast and unexpectedly and we are thrown for a loop. Not only do we write the story of our past but we write it well into the future and a sudden loss throws us into uncertainty, a place in which we do not feel comfortable spending time. And so we worry:
Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don’t — and it surprised me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown. Perhaps fantasy is what you fill up maps with rather than saying they too contain the unknown.
In the last chapter there is a beautiful piece of a lecture Solnit shares that she heard given at the Zen Center in San Francisco. Zen, you may know, is all about mindfulness, paying attention, living in the hear and now not dwelling on the past or projecting into the future. And this lecture coming as it does nearly at the end of the final chapter, serves to sum up much of the whole book. It is such a wonderful story it is hard to pick out an exact sort of summary quote, but this might give you and idea:
‘Maybe if I really paid attention I’d notice that I don’t know what’s going to happen this afternoon and I can’t be fully confident that I am competent to deal with it. Maybe we’re willing to let in that thought. It has some reasonableness to it, I can’t exactly know, but chances are, possibilities are, it’s not going to be much different than what I’ve usually experienced and I’ll do just fine, so we close up that unsettling possibility with a reasonable response. The practice of awareness takes us below the reasonableness that we’d like to think we live with and then we start to see something quite fascinating, which is the drama of our inner dialogue, of the stories that go through our minds and the feelings that go through our heart, and we start to see in this territory it isn’t so neat and orderly and, dare I say it, safe or reasonable.’
The story goes on to remind us that it is okay to not know; okay to be uncertain; okay to run into a barrier and ask for help. It is okay to be lost. Because we can only really find what we need if we are lost:
That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.
Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird speci
It is nearly impossible to adequately describe how breathtaking, moving, intoxicating, and rich in character and moments We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel by Matthew Thomas is, how effortless the read (Simon & Schuster, August 2014).
This book is a major literary achievement and a testament to the talent of this debut author.
We Are Not Ourselves tells the story of Eileen Leary, who, from the time she was nine years old and taking care of her alcoholic Irish immigrant parents in their tiny apartment in Woodside, Queens, has dreamed of rising above her station.
Joshua Ferris, bestselling author of Then We Came to End, calls it “A masterwork… an anatomy of the American middle class in the twentieth century. It’s all here: how we live, how we love, how we die, how we carry on… It’s heartening and humbling to read a book this good.”
We Are Not Ourselves is a great American novel—a novel about longing and loss and immigration and family and faith and love and the American Dream—and as such, has already been recognized as an Amazon Best of the Month, Apple iBookstore Best of the Month, IndieBound Indie Next List Selection, and a First Edition Club selection at a handful of passionate independent bookstores.
Publication date: 16 Sept 2014 by Roaring Brook Press
Category: Young Adult Science Fiction
Keywords: SciFi, Reality Show, Privacy, Dreaming
Format: Hardcover, ebook
Source: ARC from Publisher
For students at The Forge School, every day is more than just a popularity contest. It's the most prestigious arts school in the country, true, but it's also the set of The Forge Show, a reality television series. Students attending Forge give up all of their privacy, except for the half day that they sleep, in exchange for 3 years of first-class creative education and revenue from ad sales, which they can later use to fund college studies.
For Rosie Sinclair, it's the chance to escape a life of poverty and obscurity. Just one problem: she's not very popular, and just before half of the sophomore class gets cut, she skips her sleeping pill so she can watch the rain fall on the dorm at night. Might as well make some good memories before she has to go back to the disused railway car her family calls home.
Except she doesn't get "voted off the island". A series of circumstances results in her blip rank rising high enough to stay. She gets to know a few of the kids in her classes, as well as a kitchen worker, Linus Pitts. But she also discovers that at Forge, not all of what you see is what you get... and there are eyes watching everywhere.
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. The conclusion doesn't quite satisfy the outlandish premise, but I did find the journey there gripping and hard to put down. I liked Rosie, thought I felt frustration rising as she tried to unravel the mystery surrounding the school: with so much at stake, why jeopardize her position? And yet, I kept rooting for her through all of her obviously bad decisions, because somehow I felt that doing the wrong thing was really the right thing to do.
This novel raises some great discussion questions:
How far would you go to make money and improve your prospects for success?
How important is privacy to you? Are there instances in which you would give up your right to privacy? How is our privacy invaded on a daily basis, and what makes it ok/not ok?
What are dreams? How does the novel play with the different meanings of the word?
When Rosie makes decisions, is she influenced by their potential effect on her blip rank? If she is, is that wrong? Or is she just playing the game as it's supposed to be played?
What is the purpose of reality television? Think about this from several angles: as a subject on the show, as a producer, or as an audience member.
This book caused me at least one sleepless night. The secretiveness of the school's staff, the cinematic pace of the action, and the near-plausibility of the setup will tingle many a reader's spine.
I received this book for free from Macmillan for review purposes.