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Change is in the air with SLP. More people are getting outside the box and re-examining the worn-out paradigms of how we engage kids in the summer. These posts look at aspects of SLP and ask us to think bigger, deeper and wider - and share experiences along the continuum for change. Our guest today is Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, a colleague at LPL who joined our team last August. Kelsey is a thoughtful, let's-work-on-this-together visionary who is active on the Friends of the CCBC board and in library work. Before she joined us here she worked in a library in a small community (pop. 5000) in WI. In this post she shares thoughts about the path to change in your SLP based on a workshop she did for librarians in our system.
What comes to your mind when you think about SLP? Yes, it’s fun and exciting, but it’s also a busy time of year, and sometimes stressful – for you, for other library staff, and sometimes even for patrons. While SLP maybe never be a smooth, stress-free zone, we can do a lot to make it easier on ourselves and everyone around us.
Let’s start by considering what we’re really trying to achieve - what YOU are really trying to achieve at your library. Promoting reading during the summer, of course. But what do you aspire to when it comes to your own SLP? Spreading the word about the importance of early literacy, and getting parents with babies to participate? Showing middle-grade readers that books can be funny and interesting? Just getting more people in the door? Being thoughtful about what YOU want to do with YOUR SLP will give you purpose, common staff goals, and direction. The Harwood Institute, currently partnering with ALA on the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, has a great worksheeton thinking about aspirations. Though the worksheet has a broader community focus, it can easily be adjusted to focus on SLP.
Another important step is to simplify. Do we really need so many sheets and rules and procedures when it comes to participation? Do we really need so many prizes and incentives to get kids to read? Or can we come up with ways to keep SLP fun and fresh and literacy-focused without jumping through so many hoops? Last summer, at my previous library, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to make SLP work better for patrons and more sustainable for ourselves. We simplified procedures, reduced unnecessary elements, and cut way back on incentives. The results were that kids continued their enthusiastic participation, parents were happy to have less plastic junk, and staff had a much easier time registering participants, explaining the program, and answering questions. Streamlining made everyone happy. Making things less complicated doesn’t mean we’re taking it easy or letting our patrons down. It means we’re being realistic about what we can accomplish, and being thoughtful about sustainable practices.
Finally, let’s talk about prizes. Lots of libraries use them, and that’s okay. There is no prize-shaming here. But are there better ways for us to use incentives when it comes to SLP? I’ve recently noticed several libraries changing the way they incentivize SLP, with fantastic results. Some are thinking about ways they can incorporate altruism, with the “prize” being a Friends-funded donation to a community organization of the child’s choice. Some are giving away books as an incentive. Some are doing away with prizes altogether, focusing on recognition and activity. This past summer in La Crosse, kids could add a sticker to help cover a paper robot on the wall. Research shows that extrinsic motivation, which is the drive to do something because of an external reward, is far less effective than intrinsic motivation, which drives us to do something because we love it. Prizes tap into extrinsic motivation, and while that’s not bad, I believe we can find more effective ways to get kids engaged in literacy. Ways that remind them reading is a fantastic experience in itself.
With the macro, we talked about the foundations of the story. Or of a house, in our analogy. (Which is going to get pretty wonky, since I’ve never built a house. You’ll just have to roll with it.) So we’ve got the character and motivation, the worldbuilding, and the major conflicts, goals, and stakes.
For me, everything is interconnected. Characters and their choices drive the plot, the world affects how they behave — that sort of thing. So while I’m talking about everything separately, it’s important to remember that adjusting one aspect of the story will likely impact several others.
And what kind of things am I looking at on this level?
a) Characters and their motivations.
I know we did this one in the last post, but since the characters are the driving force of my stories, I check this in every step until there’s no question that my characters are behaving as they should. I take a closer look at individual scenes to make sure the character development is natural and progressing at a reasonable pace. Or regression, as the case may be. I also go through to make sure that they’re never the same person they were at the start of the scene or chapter.
What’s that mean? I mean the characters need to be active. They need to make decisions. Their situation need to change, even if it’s subtly. They can learn something that changes the way they view a problem. They can take action and be faced with the consequences — either good or bad. Action can be taken upon them, and they’ll be forced to react. Or it can be as subtle as an interaction with another character, and maybe the way they view that character is a little different now.
And that needs to happen in every scene.
b) Plot and conflict.
Speaking of scenes, let’s make sure they’re all useful. A long time ago, I was on the receiving end of some advice. Every scene needs to do two things: plot, character development, worldbuilding, or theme, and one of those things always needs to be plot. If plot is not happening, it either needs to be shoved into that scene, or that scene needs to be removed from the story. Every scene has to earn its place, after all.
Furthermore, does the plot make sense? If at any time there’s an easy solution that my characters aren’t taking, it needs to be really clear why. Someone’s breaking into their house, but they’re not calling the police — WHY? Maybe the characters are hiding a dead body in the basement and it would be a shame for the police to find it. Or whatever. But it needs to make sense why they don’t take the obvious actions.
In general, people will look for the simplest solution possible. Plots that could be solved within a few pages, if only the characters took the natural action, don’t make for good books. It’s not believable.
That said, simple, natural solutions can cause further problems. Going back to the stranger breaking into the house with the people who call the cops (because they don’t have a body in the basement after all), what if the cops come and make things worse? What if they’re on the robber’s side? Or the intruder leaves and the police don’t believe that someone broke into the house? What do the characters do from there? We have all kinds of opportunities to make things worse for the characters and find a plot that both makes sense and will fill an entire book.
c) Balance and movement.
Sometimes, I find my drafts have too many discovery scenes in a row. Or too many action scenes in a row. Or whatever. Too much of one thing at a time gets boring. (Yes, even if it’s action.) When you ride a roller coaster, it’s the steady drag upward that makes the steep drop even more thrilling. And if all you did was roll down the hill . . . even that would get boring. Stories need motion. Up and down. Side to side. They need change.
I like to go through my manuscripts to make sure I don’t have too many talky scenes in a row — or if I have several, make sure they all mean different things to the character, or are about different plots. They need to build tension.
Same for action scenes. (Which doesn’t have to mean sword fights, necessarily. They can be sword fights, of course, but they can also be car chases, kissing scenes, or characters putting their plans in motion.) Constant action, without highs and lows and change is pretty boring. A ten-page sword fight is only interesting if the reader cares about the outcome, and the situation changes rapidly. Maybe people are coming to watch. Maybe there’s money riding on the outcome. Then, an airplane is on a collision course with the fighters. And a meteor! And then someone’s delivering a baby! And more things that escalate the tension.
You get the idea. Things change. There’s movement. And there aren’t a lot of back to back talky scenes, or back to back action scenes without some kind of relief.
d) Structure: Beginning, middle, and end.
For this, I can mostly link to other blog posts about beginnings, middles, and ends. But this is another thing I take a look at when I’m revising. Do I have a solid beginning? A solid middle? A solid end? Have I resolved everything that needs to be resolved?
And that’s all I have room for this time. More next month!
The Stories Julian Tells is the first book in an ongoing series about brothers Julian and Hughie, and their neighbor Gloria. This is an early chapter book for readers who have acquired some fluency but aren’t ready to tackle longer books yet. The chapters are fairly short, there’s lots of conversation, the plot is easy to follow, and there is a clear central character.
What do you think of Ann Cameron’s writing? Is the story engaging enough for children who are still struggling a bit with reading?
How do you feel about a white author writing a book in which all the characters are African American?
Is it unreasonable to expect intra-agency referrals when one agent rejects a query or passes on a partial or full MS but thinks an associate may be interested? I believe that the rejecting agent would not be burdened with much extra time, and could possibly earn valuable extra credit points for a comfy (rumored) afterlife existence.
Yes. It's not reasonable to expect anything other than a reply to a query. Anything else is a bonus.
Very rarely will I reply to a query with "Agent X here at FPLM might be a better fit." When I do, it's NOT a referral, it's a redirection. Agent X handles dinosaur porn, I do not. I have not read your pages of dinosuar porn, and even if I had, I have no way to judge their merit.
And what you think is not "extra much time" isn't. Inevitably there is a back and forth with Agent X so s/he can know how much I've read, and if there are any special circumstances ie it's my mom querying the dinosaur porn so X has to be polite etc.
And I'm not depending on earning afterlife points in my query queue. I earn those when I negotiate contracts.
Title: A Penguin Named Patience, A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story Written by: Suzanne Lewis Illustrated by: Lisa Anchin Published by: Sleeping Bear Press, 2015 Themes/Topics: Hurricane Katrina, penguins, rescuing, patience Suitable for ages: 3-7 Opening: Patience knew something was terribly wrong. It was dark and steamy … Continue reading →
Loves' Conqueror is a long awaited book for my romance novel fans. For years I have been focusing on my children's books. which have been very successful. But my fans keep asking me when I am going to write another romance. Well, my dear fans, it has finally arrived. Loves' Conqueror will be released on May 1st, 2015. If you would like to read and review it in advance you can go onto Net Galley and request it at http://www.netgalley.com/catalog/show/id/62284
Please post reviews on Amazon. I'm excited to read what people think. about this new adventure with some amazing characters. I will also be posting some of those reviews on my website http://www.reneeahand.com Thank you everyone for your support. It's greatly appreciated. Enjoy!
Miranda Mayne, the daughter of a notorious pirate, spent most of her life in the hustle and bustle of London society, though her true love was always the sea. Promising her father she will stay away from the life that killed her mother, Miranda accepts the marriage proposal of a man she thinks she can trust--only to discover that his true intentions are to secretly capture her father. Trapped between loyalty and deceit, Miranda's heart falls prey for her true match only to find that he is out of her reach. Will she lose everything she holds dear or can she save her father, find true love, and most of all...find herself before reality prevails?
This week in addition to our three chapter books, we are reading two articles.
The first is Robin Smith’s piece about her road to becoming a second grade teacher who loves LOVES books, and how she shares them with her classes: “Teaching New Readers to Love Books” from the September/October 2003 Horn Book Magazine.
The second is an interview with Jack Gantos that sheds some light on how he came to write the Joey Pigza books: “An Interview with Jack Gantos” from Embracing the Child website.
Jack Gantos in 2013
(If you would like to read more by Robin Smith or about Jack Gantos, there’s is plenty on the Horn Book website. Just follow these links.)
Tell us what you think of these articles in the comments below.
We’re also reading two articles to go along with these books. One is Robin Smith’s “Teaching New Readers to Love Books,” where, among other things, she describes reading The Birchbark House aloud to her second graders every year. The other article is an interview with Jack Gantos from the Embracing the Child website. I find that teachers tend to have a lot of questions about Gantos’s credentials for writing about ADHD, and he addresses them especially well here.
I hope you will join our discussions of these readings in the comments to the individual posts linked above.
Narrative non-fiction is generally the only type of non-fiction we review here at Wonderland, 'cause we're all about the story. This novel isn't non-fiction, despite the jacket copy calling it an authentic immigrant story. Those writing historical... Read the rest of this post
Have you ever imagined traveling the world ? Not only have we imagined it, we’ve done it. Can you imagine how happy we were to discover this wonderful book series Travels with Gannon & Wyatt by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet about twin brothers Gannon and Wyatt who tour the world with their flight attendant mom and their international businessman father.
In Great Bear Rainforest we go in search of the mythical spirit bear. Surviving in the unforgiving wilderness of British Columbia Canada can prove more challenging than both Gannon and Wyatt could ever have imagined. When members of the expedition go missing, the brother bravely set out on a search and rescue mission. Soon the find themselves lost in a forest teeming with grizzly bears, wolves, and mysterious gunmen. Guided by a very wise and smart Native American teen, Gannon and Wyatt uncover a sinister plot and must risk everything to save those who are missing and restore balance to the Great Bear Rainforest.
This book is well written and gave us insights to a region of the world we don’t know at all. The storyline was exciting and captivating. I greatly appreciate the layout of the book as it lends well to young advanced readers such as 8 year-olds with a middle school reading level.
The story also deals with real life conservation issues being done to preserve bears, salmon and the whole region from oil pipelines going thru this pristine and vast wilderness.
Written in the tradition and style of historic journals kept by explorers such as Lewis and Clark, Dr. David Livingstone, and Captain James Cook, Travels with Gannon & Wyatt holds great moments of adventure as well as beautiful photographs, maps, and nuances to keep it interesting. Other books in the series are Egypt, Greenland, Iceland, Tanzania, Ireland, The American West and Botswana. Filled with fun and adventure we love this series and are so glad to have discovered it.
Something To Do
This adventure planted seeds of inspiration to discover more about the Great Bear Rainforest. Let’s go exploring and see what we can discover.
Where is the Great Bear Rainforest?
The Great Bear Rainforest is a remote region of temperate rain forest in Canada, on the British Columbia Coast between Vancouver Island and Southeast Alaska.The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world.
The Great Bear Rainforest is home to some very impressive wildlife both on land and in the sea.The area is home to species such as cougars, wolves, salmon, grizzly bears, and the Kermode (“spirit”) bear, a unique subspecies of the black bear, in which one in ten cubs displays a recessive white colored coat.
Kermode or The Spirit Bear
Spirit bears are rare black bears with white or creamy fur, brown eyes, dark nose pads, and nearly white claws. They are not polar bears or albinos. Less than a thousand exist.
Legend of the Spirit Bear
“For many years, the Spirit Bear was considered a legend of the Gitg’at and Kitasoo Native Peoples. Their legends told of a time when the glaciers finally receded, and it was Raven who made everything green. Raven also decided to make one in ten black bears white, to remind him of the time when the world was white with snow and ice. Raven decided to set aside a special area of the world for these bears – now known as the Great Bear Rainforest. It was a remote paradise where the bears were to live in peace forever.” David Burrell
More facts about the Kermode Bear:
Average litter size is 2, although 1 to 3 cubs is possible. Newborn cubs weigh up to a pound.
Lifespan: 20 to 25 years in the wild.
Weight: about 250 to 300 pounds for males. Females weigh about 125 to 175 pounds. Length is approximately 5 to 6 feet.
The population of the Kermode bear is estimated to be under 1300.
Due to the remote and unspoiled territories that these bears live in, they are neither accustomed nor fearful of man.
The major threat to this species is loss of pristine habitat from ongoing logging operations. Global warming is a long term threat that alters their balanced ecosystem. Reduction of salmon supplies by man made activities (e.g.: over fishing, pollution, etc.) also threaten the Kermode spirit bear.
More about the Gitga’att Tribe
In Travels with Gannon and Wyatt Great Bear Rainforest, we are introduced to the Native American Gitga’tt Tribe. A teenage girl named Alu helps the boys on their long journey to find their parents.
History: The ancestors of the present Gitga’at people lived at their ancestral home Laxgal’tsap (Old Town) in Kitkiata Inlet, on the northwest side of the Douglas Channel.
Society: The Gitga’at are members of the Tsimshian cultural group which is a matrilineal society. Clans affiliation, crests, names, and resource gathering areas are inherited from the mother’s side of the family.
Resource Use: Each House Group had specific territories for harvesting resources. As well, they share communal gathering places such as salmon rivers at Lax Galtsap (Old Town) and seaweed sources near Kiel, the spring camp. Language: The Gitga’at originally spoke Sguuks or Sguumxs (Southern Tsimshian), but adopted the more widely spoken Sm’algyax (Coast Tsimshian). Governance: Gitga’at society is sophisticated and complex, with intricate rules and norms that guide social relations, governance and economic activity.
Let’s Learn A Little Gitga’tt
Gannon and Wyatt share a little Giga’tt in their book Great Bear Rainforest. Why don’t you give it a try ?
Here are some common phrases from Great Bear Rainforest.
How are you ? Nada will wall ?
I am Fine. Aam wila waalu.
What is your name? Nay di wan?
My name is… di away…
Where are you from ? Nadir di will waiting?
Thank you, sir/madam Tooyxsut nuun
I’m hungry Kwdiinu
I’m thirsty Luguungwaga’nu
I like Anoogi
I don’t like Akadi anoint/anoogu
I want Hasagu
I do not want Akadi hasagu
Let’s Meet Gannon & Wyatt
I’ve saved the best for last. Let’s actually meet Gannon & Wyatt in the Great Bear Rainforest. They share their actual adventures from their book in their own voices. Plus we get to meet singing whales, spirit bears, eagles and many more wonderful special moments. It’s really fun and the views are simply stunning.
Happy Reading and I hope you enjoyed our adventure today.
If you are in the mood for another and inactive story, check out the enhanced digital eBook for kids, The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory!
The Ultimate Guide To Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is a step by step roadmap to this magical world. Just some of the fun includes:
A story filled with beautiful graphic illustrations including tantalizing Treasure Maps and vibrant tutorials.
Over 20 Crafts and activities that not only entertain, but educate.
You get to jump inside the book and enjoy creating the adventures yourself (Templates, maps, and more are included.)
Ever wonder where chocolate comes from? Or how gum is made? Wonder no more. Now you get to make your own.
Conduct activities in the areas of crafting, cooking, and game-playing as well as exploring many facets of candy production.
The option to take Charlie’s journey over the course of several days or take shorter journeys if you wish.
The creation of a new ritual of reading time with your family and the opportunity to experience the reading of this imaginative tale as a group activity, not a solitary event.
Go HERE to learn more and grab your copy from iBooks!
It all began with a jokey conversation on Twitter.
Polly (who has her début collection of stories, Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, out this September, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy) shared a picture of an igloo built of books and from there, things pretty quickly spiralled out of control.
I just knew I had to build something out of books. It was one of those moments where you are vaguely aware that the idea is slightly bonkers but you know the thought won’t leave you alone until you succumb to it.
And so it was I set about planning to build a book den out of books, using the opportunity to raise some funds for a charity I’ve a long-standing relationship with, Book Aid International.
First I did my research and scoured the web for other buildings made from books.
Then I started stockpiling books from all over my home in one place.
It was rather disconcerting to see my shelves gradually empty.
The kitchen table was dismantled to create enough space for the den; I knew I wanted it to be large enough to comfortably sit inside and read.
Then building began in earnest. I used encyclopedias and other large non-fiction books to create foundations. The big Dorling Kindersley books were excellent for providing stability!
Although my hands got very dry handling all the books, and there were dust fairies flying everywhere, it was a sheer delight to go through my books, remembering when and where I’d read them, who had given them to me, who I’d given copies to. It was a little like watching my life on a screen before me, going through so many memories of people, places and times.
Much as I adore picture books, I soon learned that paperback picture books are not the best thing to build with; you need about a zillion to gain any height, and they tend to be rather slippy. Topsy and Tim books and Beatrix Potter books worked excellently for chinking, but the books I really loved building with were great tomes like SF Said’s Phoenix, or Marcus Alexander’s Charlie Keeper books; these are not only immensely satisfying to read, they give you a real sense of achievement and reliable strength when building!
My biggest worry in all the building was the roof. I really wanted to build using the fabulous technique seen in Maes Howe and other chambered cairns I’ve visited in Orkney, a technique known as corbelling (here’s a good example, and one I’m hoping to revisit this summer), but I felt that for safety’s sake I had to go for something more lightweight.
Thanks to inspiration from my engineer Dad I decided to give magazine and comic tiling a go instead. And I’m very pleased I did so! (Thanks, Dad!)
All in all, once the books were stockpiled, it took me about five hours to build. It’s only up for 24 hours, but we’ve made excellent use of it in this time.
We’ve eaten in it, read in it, simply relaxed in it, giggled in it and generally had a VERY good time!
Late last night I was going to treat myself to a glass of wine and a little bit of piece and quiet in it, but when I went into the kitchen I found my eldest has snuck out of bed to read in it!
I left her to it and took my wine elsewhere
And now it is the morning after the night before and shortly I’ll begin dismantling my dear book den. But what did I learn in the process? What are my top tips for building with books?
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Stockpile your books by approximate size for easy, level building.
2. Remove book covers. Dust jackets make books slippery when building.
3. Keep small or thin books in a separate pile – they are excellent for filling in little gaps and levelling things up.
4. Keep some moisturiser near by – as any librarian will probably tell you, handling lots of books, especially dusty books, can leave your hands very dry.
5. Give yourself time to stroke all your books. You’ll find books you’ve not looked at in years and you’ll want to sit down and re-live them.
6. Allow yourself more books than you think you will need; I had to raid some extra shelves as I was beginning to run out of books towards the end. I reckon I used about 1500 books and 40 odd magazines/comics to build this den (which easily accommodates two, with blankets, cushions and a small table).
NOW. Before you click on to your next blog or read your next email, here comes the serious bit.
I did all of this to raise funds for Book Aid International, and it’s not too late to add a small donation (you can donate from anywhere in the world, in several local currencies):
If you’ve ever enjoyed my blog or my banter on Twitter, please consider donating a small amount today. Book Aid International works in partnership with libraries in Africa, including in Zambia where I was born (hence my support of this charity), providing books, resources and training to support an environment in which reading for pleasure, study and lifelong learning can flourish.
I want to say an enormous THANK YOU to everyone who has already donated, including Daisy, Katherine, Anamaria, Elli, Zehra, Damyanti, Catherine, Polly, Jonathan, Ann, Helen, Anabel, Melanie, Abi, Book Island, my parents, my sister, Emma, Clare, Colin, Anne-Marie, Lizz, Natalie, Maxine, Sara, Kate, Bea, Tasha, Sam, Susie, Sandra, SF, Christine, James, Anne, Dan, @storyvilled, Alex, Nicky, @OlivaceousD and all the anonymous donors. YOU are the real stars in all of this.
Written by: Alinka Rutkowska Illustrated by: Konrad Checinski Publisher: Capraro Press (February 6, 2015) Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. ASIN: B00S5AB1J6
Alinka Rutkowska creates a splendid twist to the original Cinderella by going into the future of Cinderella. Cinderella’s Secret Slipper reunites Cinderella, her prince, fairy godmother, and a new character who adds modern day mischief to Cinderella’s latest dilemma. The quirky illustrations by Konrad Checinski will have the reader chuckling out loud throughout Cinderella’s Secret Slipper. A new classic has been born!
Learn more about Ms. Rutkowska’s career at…
READERS Go to http://alinkarutkowska.com and get one of her children's books for free!
AUTHORS: Go to http://alinkarutkowska.com/authors-home/ and get her ebook "200 Book Marketing Tips" for free!
A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist
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I love meaty craft posts, don't you? Especially when the author takes the time to deeply explain a technique that I am struggling with in my own writing. As awareness is rising among many authors for the need to write characters that represent the diversity of reality, I'm sure that I am not alone. Author Christine Kohler joins us today with her fabulous analysis of when and how to incorporate dialect and foreign words into our stories. Thank you, Christine!
Weaving Foreign Words Seamlessly into English Language Text by Christine Kohler
Imagine you open a book and one character's dialogue is in a foreign language that you do not read. What would you do with the book? Probably close it and not read the story. I know I would, because it would frustrate me not to understand one side of the conversation.
Now imagine you open a book and one character's dialogue is peppered with foreign words that you don't understand. You sort of pick up the gist. But you're still not real sure what the character is saying. At best, you're turning to the glossary in the back of the book. At worst, you're looking up the foreign words online. Depending on how heavy the foreign words are, or how confused you get about what the character is saying and what is going on in the story plot, it is very likely you still might give up and put the book down.
Best case scenario, imagine you start reading a book and one character's dialogue is peppered with foreign words that you don't know; however, the foreign words are in context of actions and thoughts (interior monologue) and narrative that give clues and even rephrase the words in English. The story moves you through the foreign words in a way that you understand without having to look them up in an outside source or glossary. That's what I'm going to show writers how to do in this article.
Writing Resources: First, though, it is difficult to discuss writing foreign words without talking about voice and dialect. I recommend you read on my blog Read Like a Writer the article "11 Tips on Writing Authentic Dialect."
Writing foreign language dialogue for a character is more than just using foreign words. In Developing a Written Voice (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1993), Dona Hickey, a professor at University of Richmond, names five stylistic features that transfer voice from the air to the page: (Hickey, P. 23)
Dialect based on POV: Dialect in narrative voice should be very light. It can be heavier in dialogue. In general, the older the character the heavier the dialect and foreign language. This is because the older character is more likely to be a first-generation immigrant to the United States, and may have less education in a US school.
My novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is written in two different dialect point-of-views--a 15-year-old Chamorro, Kiko, and a Japanese soldier, Seto, who has been hiding in the jungle for 28 years after WWII ended. The story takes place on Guam in 1972, during the Vietnam War. The Chamorros and Guamanians speak Pidgin English. The Japanese soldier speaks Japanese and very little English.
I made a stylistic decision to put all of Seto's first-person dialogue and interior monologue in italics since he is speaking and thinking in the Japanese language. The narrative in Seto's chapters is in third person and not italicized.
Terms of Endearment: One thing I believe writers should do when writing about a specific culture is to use the proper terms of address, especially for family members. I had a little problem in that in Chamorro the word "Nana" means mother, whereas, in the United States mainland "Nana" means grandmother. I got the idea to include a page before the prologue with "Chamorro terms of address" from Linda Sue Park's Korean WWII novel WHEN MY NAME WAS KEOKO. Neither of our historical novels include glossaries in the back of the book, which shows the actual foreign words are not abundant. However, many books do have foreign word glossaries in the back.
Example: Words in Context: Let's return to that best case scenario where foreign words are in context of actions and thoughts (interior monologue) and narrative that give clues and even rephrase the words in English.
… Besides, if things did not go well in battle, Seto knew what his superiors required of him. To die honorably, and go the way of the cherry blossoms. He looked at the bayonet on the end of his rifle and swallowed hard against what felt like a peach pit stuck in his throat. He had pledged to die in battle for Emperor Hiro Hito. But could he commit hara-kiri like a true samurai?
Notice in the paragraph above that I never added a separate sentence or clause that defines hara-kiri. It's not necessary to even use the word suicide, or to describe in gruesome detail how samurai committed seppuku, disembowelment. It's enough for the reader to know that hara-kiri will lead to Seto's death.
Also take note in that paragraph the saying, "To die honorably, and go the way of the cherry blossoms." I use this wording "go the way of the cherry blossoms" quite a few times throughout the story. I made a stylistic decision to make Seto's language poetic more than adhering to how a Japanese speaker might sound. As many Asian languages do not have articles like in the English language, I tried to leave articles out where it enhanced the poetic dialect.
Example: Words Requiring Direct Translation: Some foreign words require a direct translation for the reader to understand. Here are two different passages in NO SURRENDER SOLDIER where I handled the translations in different ways. The first passage (P. 13) in Chapter 1 is Kiko's mother waiting on two Japanese tourists. Grandfather (Tatan) had just offended them:
Nana scurried toward the counter and apologized to the Japanese girls, while bowing her head and shoulders repeatedly. “I am so sorry. Dozo. My apologies. Dozo.” She gave the girl change.
In the passage above it is clear that the Japanese word "dozo" means "sorry" and "my apologies." This passage also reveals that Nana speaks Japanese (at least a little; later the reader learns students were taught the language in school during WWII), and that she knows Japanese customs such as bowing. Earlier in this chapter Nana would not bow, even though it would have been a polite courtesy to her Japanese customers vacationing on Guam.
The reason all of these parts are so important as a whole is because creating a character of a different culture and language is deeper and wider than just giving the character an ethnic or foreign name and throwing in a few foreign words.
Example: Direct Translation Set Off by Em Dashes: This next passage (p. 20) in Chapter 2 is from Seto's point of view. I rarely use this technique of a direct translation set off by em dashes, but in this case I did not want to lose the continuity and flow of the action, or the internal monologue showing his emotions and reactions. At the same time, I felt that many readers would not know what kamikaze means. I would caution against using this em dash technique except in a pinch when it fits. (Like a pinch of pepper! Or, pepper in a pinch.)
Deception and trap, indeed, Seto had thought at the time. Ha! Japan could not lose with its kamikaze—divine wind—Buddha’s blessings, and the divine Emperor himself ordering the war. Time dragged on. Shellfire ceased. Bullet sniping silenced. Seto became disheartened; Japan must have lost the war.
Read Widely From Well-Written Novels: As for how heavy or light to make the Pidgin English dialect, Newbery-winning Richard Peck advised me to read Graham Salisbury, who also writes Pacific Islander literature. Peck said, read well-written books in the place and era you are writing and model the masters. I would add, read how dialect is written in books within the past five years. In particular, I found Blue Skin of the Sea by Salisbury helpful. I've also critiqued with a Hispanic writer and so studied Pam Munoz Ryan's novels.
Besides reading other children's lit books with foreign language peppered within English language text, I recommend reading literature from authors in the language of your characters. For example, to create the tone and cadence of Seto’s voice in NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, I read gothic poetry from Akinari, an 18th century Japanese poet.
Finally -- Don't Confuse Your Reader!: In conclusion, I leave you with these reminders: Story first. Clarity is imperative. If the reader stumbles over words repeatedly he will throw the book down unfinished. It is better to include no foreign words in your story at all than to frustrate English-only readers.
However, if you can pepper foreign words in skillfully, and make the general meaning understandable within context, then foreign words are one more tool in a writer's arsenal to capture authenticity in voice, dialect, and culture.
About the Author:
Christine Kohler is a graduate of the University of Hawaii, then lived in Japan and Guam, the setting for her debut novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, Merit Press (Adams Media/ F+W Media), 2014. She worked as a foreign correspondent for the Pacific Daily News and Gannett Wire Service, covering the West Pacific. She later worked as an editor and copy editor for the San Antonio Express-News, a Hearst daily. Besides being a journalist, Kohler worked as a media specialist in PR and marketing, middle and high school teacher, and writing instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature (ICL). She has 17 children's books published. Kohler now lives in Texas.
The American Library Association nominated NO SURRENDER SOLDIER as a Quick Pick for reluctant readers. NO SURRENDER SOLDIER was also awarded a bronze medal by the Military Writers Society of America.
A young man, an old soldier , and a terrible injustice. Should the punishment be death?
Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: He’s never kissed a girl, and he thinks it’s possible he never will. The popular guys get all the attention, but the worst part is that Kiko has serious problems at home. His older brother is missing in Vietnam; his grandfather is losing it to dementia; he just learned that his mother was raped in World War II by a Japanese soldier.
It all comes together when he discovers an old man, a Japanese soldier, hiding in the jungle behind his house. It’s not the same man who raped his mother, but, in his rage, Kiko cares only about protecting his family and avenging his mom – no matter what it takes. And so, a shy, peaceable boy begins to plan a murder. But how far will Kiko go to prove to himself that he’s a man?
Based on a historical incident, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a boy grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood before he can move on.
Taking a close look at Favorites, three information science specialists conducted a survey of 606 participants to determine the reasons behind Twitter Favorites.
The study consisted of two questions:
1. The first questions wanted to know why the user Favorited a Tweet.
2. The second question asked for “a specific explanation for the last tweet the user had favorited.”
Based on the results,
I first ran this series five months after May B. hit the shelves. With Blue Birds releasing next week (!), it feels like the right time for me to revisit my Writer’s Manifesto — a list of things I’d like to focus on in my public, private, and writing life.
This is not in any way meant to be preachy or condemning (please notice I’m directing all of this to myself). I have yet to figure everything out and am in many ways a pro at doing the exact opposite of what I know is best. Yet these are ideas I’ve circled back to again and again, things I know will ultimately benefit my career, my friendships, my writing and my life. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
In my writing life I will…
Write the stories that speak to me:I will continue to write what nourishes and interests me first and worry about the market second.
Seek guidance, support, and direction when needed:I will ask questions of my agent and editor when I’m unsure or need help. I will go to other writers in the same life phase or those older and wiser when I need assistance.
In my writing life I will not…
Lose my love for story, kids, or words: Once you’re published, art becomes commodity. It’s not right or wrong, it just is. I want my motivation and passion to remain firmly in the place it always has been. While there are no guarantees of success in writing this way, their is much joy, and this, in the end, is more important to me.
Compare one book against another: I choose not to be paralyzed by comparing my titles to previous books I’ve written. Each deserves to stand alone and has its own merit. The rest of the publishing world has the freedom to compare if they choose. For me to do so is unfair to new stories beginning to form.
Despair: If you know me well, you know panic is a part of my writing when I’m drafting something new. I fret that I don’t know how to write or have nothing new to say. But I can’t let that panic lead to despair. Reminding myself that things always start this way keeps things in perspective. Allowing myself to play with language and ideas is much more doable than telling myself I’m writing an entire book. Choosing to nurture rather than berate gives me permission to try.
It’s my hope that holding to what I’ve processed these last few months will keep me grounded, help me grasp the deep satisfaction writing brings, and hold at bay the things that only lead to disappointment.
What about you? What things do you want to uphold in your public, private, and writing lives?
Louise Erdrich’s historical novel The Birchbark House is the first in a series, each book following a child from a different generation in an Ojibwa community.
Often, books for children contain a central character who is about the same age as the book’s readers. The Birchbark House would be a tough read for most children who are Omakayas’s age. There are beautiful descriptive passages that young readers tend to gloss over, and difficult vocabulary including some Ojibwe words. For these reasons, it works best when read aloud to those younger grades — as Robin Smith discusses in her article.
What did you think of this book? And what about reading aloud in school? For those of you who are teachers, do you? And what books have you found that work best?
Two actors from the Agent Carter TV series, Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy, took on First Book’s speed reading challenge. In the video embedded above, Atwell and D’Arcy read aloud from Arnold Lobel’sFrog and Toad All Year. Altogether, they managed to read 73 words in only 10 seconds. Click here to find out how Mo Willems fared when he took on this task.
The First Five Pages March Workshop will open for entries at noon, EST, tomorrow! We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Patricia Dunnas our guest author mentor, and Kimberly Brower as our guest agent mentor. So get those pages ready – clickhere to get the rules!
Patricia Dunn has appeared in Salon.com, The Christian Science Monitor, the Village Voice, the Nation, LA Weekly, and others. With an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, where she also teaches, this Bronx-raised rebel and former resident of Cairo settled in Connecticut, with her husband, teenage son, and toddler dog. Patricia loves visiting class rooms – for more information about virtual visits, click here
A fresh and authentic coming-of-age story set during the early days of the Arab Spring.
All Mariam wanted was a vacation. What she got was a revolution...
It’s tough fitting in, especially when you have super-traditional Muslim parents and are the only Egyptian at your high school. So when Mariam and her best friend and fellow outcast, Deanna, get arrested after an ill-fated night of partying, she knows that she is in big trouble.
Convinced they need more discipline, their parents pack Mariam and Deanna off to Cairo to stay with Mariam’s grandmother, her sittu. But Mariam’s strict sittu and the country of her heritage are nothing like she imagined, challenging everything Mariam used to believe.
When a girl named Asmaa calls on the people of Egypt to protest against their president, Mariam and Deanna find themselves in the middle of a revolution, running from teargas, dodging danger in the streets of Cairo, and falling in love for the first time. As Mariam struggles to reconcile her rich Egyptian heritage with her American identity, she finds that revolution is everywhere, including within herself.
We are thrilled to announce that Kimberly Brower, of the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency, will be our guest agent for March! Kimberly fell in love with reading when she picked up her first Babysitter’s Club book at the age of seven and hasn’t been able to get her nose out of a book since. Reading has always been her passion, even while pursuing her business degree at California State University, Northridge and law degree at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. By joining the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency in 2014, she has been able to merge her legal background with her love of books. Although she loves all things romance, she is also searching for books that are different and will surprise her, with empathetic characters and compelling stories. Kimberly is interested in both commercial and literary fiction, with an emphasis in women’s fiction, contemporary romance, mysteries/thrillers, new adult and young adult, as well as certain areas of non-fiction, including business, diet and fitness.
If you caught my last post you'd have heard I'm enrolled in fundamentals of character design at Schoolism. I always knew there was something missing in my approach to character design. Over the years I've managed now and then to intuitively fluke some of the principals I'm now learning with Stephen. However just 3 weeks in I already feel I have a better grasp of these principals. Now when I revisit my favourite artists' character designs I understand much better why I like them and I know my own process will never be the same again.
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