JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans. Join now (it's free).
Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.
Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1547 Blogs, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 2,000
How to use this Page
You are viewing the most recent posts from the 1547 blogs currently in the JacketFlap Blog Reader. These posts are sorted by date, with the most recent posts at the top of the page. There are hundreds of new posts here every day on a variety of topics related to children's publishing. We have provided a variety of ways for you to navigate through the blog posts. Click the dates in the calendar on the left to view blog posts from a particular date. Scroll down through the list of Recent Posts in the left column and click on a post title that sounds interesting. Click a tag in the right column to view posts about that topic. You can view all posts from a specific blog by clicking the Blog name in the right column, or you can click a "More Posts from this Blog" link in any individual post.
“Would it be a surprise that you grew up to be a fine painter Who painted red rooms …”
Over at BookPage, I had the pleasure of reviewing Patricia MacLachlan’s newest picture book, The Iridescence of Birds (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, October 2014), illustrated by Hadley Hooper, pictured left. I fell hard for this book, you all. It’s probably my favorite from this year. It’s simply exquisite in every way. I won’t go on. If you want to know what the book is about and why I love it so, that BookPage review is here.
I’m happy that Hadley obliged when I asked if she’d like to visit 7-Imp for a cyber-breakfast and talk more about her illustration work, this book, and what’s next for her. Best of all, she sent lots of art. This is her second picture book (her first being Shana Corey’sHere Come the Girl Scouts!, published in 2012), though she’s hardly new to illustration. She’s spent years as an editorial illustrator for magazines and newspapers.
When I ask her about breakfast, Hadley says, “well, I’m in Denver where we have A LOT of choices for morning coffee, perhaps because the night before we had A LOT of choices for craft beers. So, there are many opportunities to frustrate a barista with orders like a triple dry cappuccino or shots of espresso over ice. We’ll wait to eat until later if that’s okay!” I’m good for an espresso, though I’ll take mine hot. Let’s get right to it so that we can see more of Hadley’s art.
I thank her for visiting.
* * * * * * *
Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?
Hadley: I’m an illustrator/painter. I’d love to write a book one day.
Hadley: In the ’90′s when I started as an editorial illustrator, I was still working in oils. Early on I Fed-Exed a piece of final art that was still tacky but well packed to Ray Gun magazine. I waited until the magazine came out to find the art director had published it with the packing tissue stuck to the image. It actually looked okay, but after that I switched to water-based paints.
For most illustrations, I’ll cut and/or emboss foam and cardboard to make relief prints. I use different transfer techniques and old carbon paper to get interesting line qualities. I’ll scan all the parts in and assemble in Photoshop.
Hadley: “This is a photo of the relief print parts. (Some of my Photoshop files had over 100 layers.)” (Click to enlarge)
Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?
Hadley: I live with Hugh and Maddie the dog in a now trendy part of Denver called Highland. My studio is ten minutes away in a now trendy part of north Denver called RiNo.
(Click to enlarge)
Jules: Can you tell me about your road to publication?
Hadley: I got out of art school with degrees in both illustration and painting and messed up my first assignment and got a kill fee. I put my portfolio away forever and started working odds jobs — as a scenic painter for theatre, painting murals in homes, painting traditional cells for an animation studio (that was GRRReat!), and waiting many, many tables. In the meantime, I did my own work, joined a co-op to exhibit, and after a time I felt I had something of my own, so I made cards of my paintings and sent them to art directors at magazines. I figured I might as well fail at the top, so I sent samples to the New Yorker and Harper’s and Rolling Stone and got jobs right away. After a year, I quit my waitressing job. My road into children’s books was through the editorial work.
Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?
Hadley: I have three books on the boards right now with three wonderful publishers, including another for Neal Porter. (My agent of 12 years has great folks, like Serge Bloch, and is responsible for me meeting Neal.)
Illustrations for a workbook from Chronicle, called Back to Us (Click each to enlarge)
Okay, I’ve got more espresso, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with six questions over breakfast. I thank Hadley again for visiting 7-Imp.
1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?
: I love to do research. I will still go to the library, since there’s nothing like having real books sitting open around the studio. I like Pinterest for finding references online. Since the Matisse book is fresh in my mind, it’s easy to talk about in this context.
I looked at every painting of his I could find. What a great luxury! I tried to find fabrics that he may have seen in his hometown, which was a textile town. I looked at the era’s fashion, architecture, even thought about the music he might have listened to. I used Google Maps to knit together the street he grew up on, which really hadn’t changed much, architecturally.
Rough of the opening spread of The Iridescence of Birds
Final art: “If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray …” (Click to enlarge)
Final art: “And the days were cold And you wanted color and light / And sun …” (Click to enlarge)
I didn’t leave myself much time for the finals on Matisse, because four completed spreads in, I decided to start over. It was the right thing to do for sure, but it was sort of painful. I had been feeling uncertain about my direction but sent a spread to Neal and Jennifer Brown (the art director) for a look anyway and waited. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t hear back from them right away. That silence, intended or not, was the best art direction ever; it felt like they were letting me come to my own conclusion that it wasn’t quite working. In the next days, I did a totally new “market” spread, the scene of Matisse and his mom, and knew right away it was the way to go. I sent that one back, got approval, and was off and running.
“And let you arrange the fruit and flowers She brought from the market …” (Click to enlarge)
I do lots of drawings to get the characters to where I understand what they look like from different angles and poses. I use grease pencil on butcher paper, so I can’t get too detailed or too attached to my first drawings.
I typically like to have more time on roughs, so I’ll design each spread and decide what the color story will be for each. This way when I go to finals, I’ve got a good road map. But I always try to allow the final art to have its own say about where it’s going. I try and pay attention and not kill the energy. It’s a real challenge.
“And the iridescence of birds …”
Jacket art from The Iridescence of Birds (Click to enlarge)
2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.
: On a typical day, I’ll put Maddie in the car and drive about ten minutes to my studio. Ironton sits on three quarters of an acre and has 20 studios, including a couple wood shops, a metal fabricator, a one-man bronze foundry, painters, and a gallery. All these different people with their diverse approaches to making art and objects are really fun to be around. Plus, there’s a new artist and show in the gallery every six weeks! I’ve got a studio that looks out onto the garden which I care for. It’s a big room and often a chaotic one. As of this writing (mid September 2014), I’m painting for a gallery show in early November and, yes, the paintings will be wet. The room reflects the different hats I wear, as the gallery coordinator, the gardener, illustrator, and painter.
A photo of the view of the Ironton garden from Hadley’s studio (Click to enlarge)
Studio photos (Click each to enlarge)
3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?
Weirdly, the most visually memorable thing as a little kid was my favorite sheet set. It had a farm scene on it, and I would spend lots of time daydreaming, looking at all those drawings of hens and animals and a girl with a pail, sort of Roger Duvoisin-like in style.
4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)
Their have been some fabulous new print arrivals at Mini Boden this Autumn. I love this colourful woodland scene (above & below) but there are so many colourful flower and bird prints this season I couldn't stop posting all the lovely images. Scroll down to see what is obviously going to be a bright Autumn Winter for Boden and go online to see full details here.
The longer I watched this 'duet' the more I liked it. Marc Martel has a great voice, and does a surprisingly good impression of Freddy Mercury (he is the lead singer of Queen Extravaganza, a Queen tribute band - endorsed by the original members of Queen). It's pretty great:
Review: Denise Chávez. The King and Queen of Comezón. Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8061-4483-2
October to October, it’s been one of the most productive years in Chicana Literature. Last October, Alma Luz Villanueva's scintillating erotic opus Song of the Golden Scorpion, kicked off this golden year. Spring brings Ana Castillo's sensational erotic novel Give It To Me. Denise Chávez rounds out this spectacular year with a family-safe portrait of a small town where people live up its name, Comezón.
The King and Queen of Comezón marks a crowning achievement in the writer's career, a long-awaited next novel after 2001’s Loving Pedro Infante. The novel chronicles six months in the lives of this small New Mexico town. The author challenges herself to keep multiple stories careening against each other in complicated sets of connections between richly drawn characters.
Covering the months between the pueblo’s Cinco de Mayo festival and el Diez y Seis de Septiembre, Chávez captures the reader’s interest not only in the number and complexity of interpersonal connections but in her way of keeping interest high through her storyteller's voice, hyperbole, and intersecting views of the same events.
The novel’s structure is a metaphor for a yearning, an itch, a comezón. The author lays out landscapes, facts, and characters. Events in a chapter approach a key nexus only to have the chapter end, the expectation unsatisfied, satisfaction delayed as Chávez switches gears, starts something else then reintroduces an ongoing situation in a different light, stringing the reader along wanting more. The entire book is a delightful self-inducing comezón.
In fact, the delayed gratification of finding out what happened is so delighting, I stopped reading two thirds through, just for a day. The storytelling grows so delicious I want to savor the anticipation of seeing how the author resolves all these matters, some bizarre, others lethal. Although related with a comedic voice, there are dark notes, leading one to wonder will consequences become what the characters or readers deserve?
Complexity abounds in the tiny community, revolving around three key characters, Arnulfo Olivares and his family, a corrupted priest, and a bar owner. A rich cast of supporting characters populate the periphery of the central interactions.
Arnulfo treats his family like crap and his wife takes it. The transplanted Spaniard priest lusts after la coja Juliana. Juliana lusts after el padrecito, but her disabled body makes her housebound and unschooled. Isá lives a slave in the household with love hate relations with the two daughters, doña Emilia, and Arnulfo. Rey, a decent man, doesn’t know the hatred Don Clo harbors against decency.
Chávez describes Rey up as the one likeable man in the world. A redeemed alcoholic and retired migra officer, Rey keeps notebooks of the people he helped deport. One woman particularly moves him. As Comezón spins out of control, Rey stands as the sole source of stability. Rey’s comezón can get him killed, but first Don Clo will enjoy tormenting a suffering Rey.
It's a key storyline. Chávez draws it out, like the other threads, presenting some in direct narrative, other in passing detail woven into one of the other stories. For instance, the reader sees Doña Emilia fall ill and has a stroke as her chapter concludes. Later, we learn almost in passing that the stroke hospitalized her.
Chavez holds anxiety to a low pitch but frequently reminds readers that Arnulfo has cancer, that Doña Emilia appears to accept her husband's absent heart, that el Padre sinks deeper deeper deeper. And, with the devil, Don Clo, heading to Rey's bar, the anxiety from knowing danger lurks around the next page but doesn't come yet is the author’s gift of a comezón to the reader. Turn the page to scratch that itch of wanting to know what happens.
Ultimately, The King and Queen of Comezón is a novel not of longing but of redemption. Sadly, rather than allowing the plots to speak for themselves, Chávez goes out of her way to spell it out in the novel’s final paragraphs. I wonder if the author lost confidence in her own clarity after three hundred pages?
There is, for me, a serious lacking in the novel. The author displays a lack of confidence in her reader through heavy-handed translation. Irritatingly often, when the text says something in Spanish, the writer supplies an apposition translating into English. Chávez does it well, here and there. But mostly the code-switch translation distracts from the prose, sounds unnatural in many instances, and avoidance should be an element of style for writers of Chicana Chicano Literature. The weakness is not Chávez’ alone, this lack of confidence in the readership is endemic to U.S. literature.
Chávez illustrates how unnecessary translation has become--especially in the age of search engine machine translation and given her likely readership--in the novel’s final pages with a burst of untranslated language wondering how the hanged man in the church had been killed. Hopefully he’d been shot first and then hanged and burned. If not, hijole, se chingó. It was true that Luisito had been a chingadaquedito, but really and truly alguien lo chingó un chingo a la puta chingada madre, and there you had it.¡Chingao!
Persistently unnecessary translating aside, Denise Chávez’ masterwork The King and Queen of Comezón has ample opportunities for joy in the fabric of the novel. For instance, there’s a wonderful roll call of old-timer Spanish names signaling the generations and presence of raza on the land for countless generations.
The first time I spotted Chávez’ use of triplets for emphasis I noted it as clever emphasis in the instance. Then the triplet repetition began cropping up every few chapters and I smiled at them considering the technique stylistic grace notes the author whips out to add ornament to needful passages, to reassert the narrator’s presence over the story.
Chávez then rewards the attentive reader with the queen of all triplets. This time instead of tagging the repetition to the end of a phrase, she leads with the technique. “No good, no good, no good things could come of this” the narrator relates. Later, in case you were paying attention, Chávez pastes in a naturally-occurring cognate of the technique in quoting song lyrics to the expatriot Mexican national anthem, “Volver, volver, volver.”
Indeed, The King and Queen of Comezón is Chávez’ crowning achievement. Future term paper writers will find it a rich lode to mine for essays on literary voice, views on religion, women’s roles, male worthlessness, storytelling, local color, love, code-switching, and comezónes. Coincidentally, there's a beautiful symmetry to this most productive year, in that Ana Castillo is this year's Anaya lecturer. Denise Chávez delivered the 2011 Anaya lecture.
Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture Honor Awarded to Ana Castillo
La Bloga friend Teresa Marquez sends news the Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya lecturer for 2014 is legendary Chicana writer Ana Castillo. Castillo is enjoying an Anaya year. She was the featured guest speaker at this year's CSULA Anaya Conference, where her talk included a reading from her sensational novel, Give It To Me. Below read the press release Teresa forwards.
Ana Castillo is this year's guest speaker at the 5th Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Southwest Literature Lecture Series.
UNM Department of English hosts Ana Castillo for fifth annual Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest
On Thursday, October 23, the UNM Department of English will host the distinguished writer Ana Castillo as the featured speaker for the fifth annual Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest. Castillo will speak at 7:00 p.m. in Room 101 of George Pearl Hall (the School of Architecture and Planning), with a reception to follow. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Ana Castillo is one of the leading figures in Chicana and contemporary literature. A celebrated poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, editor, playwright, translator and independent scholar, Castillo is the author of the novels So Far From God and Sapogonia, both New York Times Notable Books of the Year, as well as The Guardians, Peel My Love like an Onion, and many other books of fiction, poetry, and essays. Her most recent novel is Give it to Me, and the 20th-anniversary, updated edition of her groundbreaking book The Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma will be published this October by the University of New Mexico Press.
Dividing her time between Chicago and Southern New Mexico, Ana Castillo is a celebrated writer deeply committed to higher education as well as contemporary literary culture. Castillo holds an M.A from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Bremen in Germany. She is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Colby College. Along with her own work as an author, she edits La Tolteca, an arts and literary zine dedicated to the advancement of a world without borders and censorship, and she serves on the advisory board of the American Writers Museum in Washington, D.C. Among other teaching positions, Castillo was the first Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Endowed Chair at DePaul University, the Martin Luther King, Jr Distinguished Visiting Scholar at M.I.T., the Poet-in-Residence at Westminster College in Utah, and, most recently, the Lund-Gil Endowed Chair at Dominican University in Illinois. She has received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for her first novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters, and her other awards include a Carl Sandburg Award, a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in fiction and poetry, and the Sor Juana Achievement Award from the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago. In 2013, Castillo was awarded the Gloria Anzaldúa Prize by the American Studies Association.
The UNM English Department established the annual lecture series on the literature of the Southwest in 2010 through a gift from the renowned fiction writer Rudolfo Anaya and his late wife Patricia Anaya. "The English Department cherishes the fact that Emeritus Professor Rudy Anaya was on our faculty for so many years. A founder of our distinguished Creative Writing Program, he still inspires us with his joyous approach to life, sense of humor, and eloquent articulation of Hispanic culture and the beauties of the Southwest. He has long been an internationally known man of letters, but we take pride in the fact that he began his career in our department," says Professor Gail Houston. "We feel privileged to have received his generous donation, and there is no better venue for celebrating Southwest literature than the University of New Mexico English Department. We look forward to sharing this free event with everyone at UNM and in the community."
The annual Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest features foundational figures such as Acoma Pueblo poet Simon Ortiz (2010), Las Cruces writer and playwright Denise Chávez (2011), Taos writer John Nichols (2012), and Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday (2013). For further information, visit the Anaya Lecture Series website at http://english.unm.edu/anaya-lecture-series/, contact the Anaya Lecture Committee at email@example.com, or contact the UNM English
News 'n Notes San Antonio • Oct 1-5 • Veteran, Writer, Playwright Barrios Joins Troupe
Visit the theatre's webpage for details on this performance piece giving Veterans the stage to tell audiences about military experience, from enlisting to basic training, overseas movement there and back again.
Veterans hope to help non-veterans understand living in uniform and what happens after they resume civilian life. The monologist read their own words, for a number of them, like Barrios, decades afterwards.
Telling: San Antonio begins its run this week through Sunday in San Antonio's Tobin Center for Performing Arts at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater.
La Voz de Esperanza is a monthly news journal our of San Antonio, featuring stories, news, poetry and artwork submitted by the community. The editors issue the following:
Squeeze a song of love or mockery out of your heart, get it to dance in traditional 4-line stanzas of (about) 8 beats per line, or 3 lines of 5/7/5 syllables (17 syllables total) haiku formation, y viola!
Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Deadly D/Dylan and Justice about your Deadly D and Justice Jones books (Magabala Books). Kids who like rugby league and sport are going to love these books. Questions for Dylan/Deadly D and Justice - What are your favourite football teams and players? Dylan: Growing up in Mount Isa and being a North Queensland […]
I'm really looking forward to Fall. It's not here yet, weather wise, but I'm ready. I can't wait for pumpkins, colorful leaves, crisp air, and what I hope will be a very wet winter in this dried out state of mine.
I was excited to recently see the fascinating-sounding variation-on-Camus by Kamel Daoud, Meursault, contre-enquête, make the first cuts of both the Goncourt and the Renaudot -- the two leading French literary prizes.
Warming up for those, the book has now picked up two prizes in quick succession: the Prix François Mauriac (not to be confused with ... the Prix François Mauriac (seriously, guys ? I mean ... seriously ?)) and the Prix des 5 continents (see also, for example, Algerian writer wins world French literature prize).
If a US/UK publisher hasn't pre-empted this yet ... more fools you be -- this property is hot, and the price is only going up.
The concept alone should be enough to sell it, but apparently it's actually good, too.
And now: prize-winning, too.
Don’t be afraid of the difference between literary and commercial fiction like these Scaredy Scouts illustrated by B.L. Bachmann below.B.L. is a writer and illustrator living in Los Angeles. Her mission is to make people smile, and even giggle :) See more at http://www.blbachmann.com
I spent last week running two writer’s retreats in Avalon, NJ. The agents at the first retreat were Sarah LaPolla from Bradford Literary and Carly Watters from P.S. Literary. The agents at the second retreat were Ammi-Joan Paguette from Erin Murphy Agency and Heather Alexander from Pippin Properties.
It was a gorgeous week. Everyone received a full manuscript critique with an agent and a full manuscript critique from everyone in their group. I have to say, I think both of the sessions were the best retreats I have put together. The agents were top notched and each writer in each group took extreme care with their critiques, so we walked away with lots of ideas for revisions and with many doors open with the agents. On top of that, everyone meshed well and we had a tons of fun. Can’t think of anything that was missing.
During the week the question came up about the difference between Literary Fiction and Commercial Fiction. Lucky for us, Sarah LaPolla had written an explanation on her blog and gave me permission to post it on Writing and Illustrating.
Here is Sarah:
I don’t think writers should get too hung up on labels, but it’s important to know what genre you’re writing. You’re expected to give an agent an immediate sense of where they can sell your book, but even more than that you should be able to know who you’ll be next to on a bookshelf so that you can read your comparison titles accordingly.
Figuring out thriller vs. mystery vs. suspense or paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy vs. supernatural horror can be difficult, I know. In these cases, it’s best to just choose the closest and let a professional decide the best way they can sell it. But the line between literary and commercial isn’t as vague. You shouldn’t claim your book is literary fiction if it isn’t. For one, it’s rare you’ll find an agent who looks for literary fiction and genre fiction with the same fervor, if they take on both at all. You don’t want to get a rejection based on a mislabel. Secondly, literary fiction is quite different than genre fiction, and not learning the difference can reflect a lack of research on your part.
The common argument, however, is that all books are technically literary. Right? Well, yes and no. Saying all books are literary is like saying all Young Adult novels are about characters under 25. The genre labels can be misleading, which is why it’s important to know what they mean.
If you’re unsure about which you’ve written, here’s a quick definition of each:
Literary fiction: The focus is on character arc, themes (often existential), and the use of language. I like to compare literary fiction authors to runway designers. The general public isn’t mean to wear the clothes models display on the runway. They exist to impress the other designers and show the fashion industry what they can do. Literary writing is a lot like that, but on a more accessible level. Many dismiss literary fiction as “too artsy” and “books without a plot,” but this isn’t true. At least not most of the time. The plot is there; it’s just incidental. Literary fiction is meant to make the reader reflect, and the author will almost always prefer a clever turn of phrase over plot development.
Commercial fiction: For the purposes of this blog post, I’ve been using this interchangeably with genre fiction. Basically, all genre fiction is commercial, but not all commercial fiction is genre. There is also “upmarket” commercial fiction, which I’ll get to later. Unlike literary fiction, genre fiction is written with a wide audience in mind (aka “commercial”) and always focuses on plot. There is still character development in genre fiction, but it is not as necessary. Characters get idiosyncratic quirks, clever dialogue, and often learn something new about life or themselves by the end. The difference is that their traits are only skin deep. The reader stays with them in the present. Rarely do we see a character’s past unless there is something pertinent to the plot back there. Genre fiction has a Point A and a Point B, and very little stands in the way of telling that story.
Keep in mind that an agent or editor will rarelyprefer you to play with these formats, especially if you’re a debut author trying to find (and build) your audience. If you’re writing a plot-driven genre novel that adheres to a sci-fi, romance, or thriller structure, don’t try to load it with literary devices and huge character back-stories that aren’t relevant to the plot. It won’t impress an agent if you have a super literary genre novel. It will more likely confuse us and make your book harder to sell.
“Upmarket” fiction is where things get tricky. Books like The Help, Water for Elephants, Eat, Pray, Love, and authors like Nick Hornby, Ann Patchet, and Tom Perrotta are considered “upmarket.” Their concept and use of language appeal to a wider audience, but they have a slightly more sophisticated style than genre fiction and touch on themes and emotions that go deeper than the plot.
With debut authors, I think the main source of uncertainty tends to come from what they set out to write vs. what they actually write. Genre fiction is written with a clear purpose. The author has an idea and writes a story to accomplish their goal. Literary fiction can be more accidental. A writer may start with an idea, and then discover along the way that they don’t want to write about that anymore. They’ve fallen for their character’s personal tale or the images they want to evoke within the reader. If the writing ends up falling somewhere in the middle, then it might be considered “upmarket.” Or, it could mean it needs more focus one way or the other.
What’s important to remember is that none of these types of fiction is better than the other. It’s all about personal preference, based on what you like to read and how you write. If an agent doesn’t represent a certain genre, it doesn’t mean he or she think it’s bad. It just means you’re better off with someone else. Be aware that a genre label can influence an agent, but be honest about what your genre is. It wastes everyone’s time – most importantly, yours – if you try to guess what you think agents want. We want books we can fall in love with that fall under in genres and styles we represent, whether they’re young adult, adult genre fiction, or literary to a Proustian degree. That’s all.
You should drop by and take a look at Sarah’s blog: http://glasscasesblog.blogspot.com/ Sarah has agreed to be a Guest Blogger in the near future on a different subject, but another enjoyable post that will broaden your knowledge.
I don’t do all that many trendwatch posts on this site, if only because it’s impossible to keep track of them all. One minute you’re seeing tons of picture books involving whales. Another minute you’re noticing more than one book about encouraging your pet to become atheist (see this and this). If you do notice such things you are inclined to put your discovery into some sort of context. What do atheist children’s books say about the state of the world today? How do we equate whales with ourselves? That sort of thing.
First off, it was early in the year when I noticed two books with those coincidental similarities you sometimes find in our field. Every year there will be some titles that resemble one another by complete coincidence. At the beginning of this year they were Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin and Bird by Crystal Chan. The similarities weren’t overly obvious but they were there. They both slot into that “A stranger comes to town” plotline. Here’s a plot summary for Loftin’s book:
It doesn’t seem right that a twelve-year-old boy would carry around a guilt as deep and profound as Little John’s. But when you feel personally responsible for the death of your little sister, it’s hard to let go of those feelings. It doesn’t help matters any that John has to spend the summer helping his dad clear brush for the richest man in town, a guy so extravagant, the local residents just call him The Emperor. It’s on one of these jobs that John comes to meet and get to know The Emperor’s next door neighbor, Gayle. About the age of his own sister when she died, Gayle’s a foster kid who prefers sitting in trees in her own self-made nest to any other activity. But as the two become close friends, John notices odd things about the girl. When she sings it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before, and she even appears to possibly have the ability to heal people with her voice. It doesn’t take long before The Emperor becomes aware of the treasure in his midst. He wants Gayle’s one of a kind voice, and he’ll do anything to have it. The question is, what does John think is more important: His family’s livelihood or the full-throated song of one little girl?
And here’s the publisher plot summary for Chan’s:
Jewel never knew her brother Bird, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy of their family’s past; they say that Grandpa attracted a malevolent spirit—a duppy—into their home. Grandpa hasn’t spoken a word since. Now Jewel is twelve, and she lives in a house full of secrets and impenetrable silence. Jewel is sure that no one will ever love her like they loved Bird, until the night that she meets a mysterious boy in a tree. Grandpa is convinced that the boy is a duppy, but Jewel knows that he is something more. And that maybe—just maybe—the time has come to break through the stagnant silence of the past.
Both stories involve a dead sibling and a family’s ability (or inability) to cope after the fact. Bird wasn’t quite as reliant as magical realism as far as I could tell, but there was a distinct mystery about it. And, of course, the idea of children as birds, for good or for ill.
Later in the year more bird books started cropping up. When Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas appeared it has some striking similarities to Nightingale’s Nest as well. The plot summary reads:
Ten-year-old Nashville doesn’t feel like he belongs with his family, in his town, or even in this world. He was hatched from an egg his father found on the sidewalk and has grown into something not quite boy and not quite bird. Despite the support of his loving parents and his adoring sister, Junebug, Nashville wishes more than anything that he could join his fellow birds up in the sky. After all, what’s the point of being part bird if you can’t even touch the clouds?
Far more of a magical realism title, the book takes the idea of a bird-child to the next level. This one has actually hatched from an egg and has a beak.
And none of this even counts books like Nest by Esther Ehrlich which involves birdwatching in some capacity. It’s a very different kind of title, but it fits with this overall theme.
I suppose that in the end birds are perfect little metaphor receptacles. Whatever the case, they yield some pretty darn interesting books.
Earlier this month, my husband Matt London, experienced something as an author that I’ve experienced many times as an editor. He launched his middle grade debut novel, The 8th Continent. In my career I’ve witnessed many book launches and supported my authors through all that goes with the publishing process as their editor. With Matt and The 8th Continent, I finally experienced it as a family member.
Let’s rewind about a decade…
My husband and I both got our starts in the publishing world around the same time. In fact, if it weren’t for him, I might not even be an editor today. I had taken a semester off of college to do a national theatre tour and after I returned, I spent the majority of my time in his dorm room reading a book a day. One day, Matt said “You’re a freakishly fast reader. You really should find out how to be a reader for a publishing house or literary agent.” The next day, I applied for an internship at a lit agency, snagged the job, and started my long journey to becoming an editor.
Matt was always writing. Since college I’ve been his first reader on nearly everything he’s written. We dreamed of the day I would be an editor and he would be a published author and we’d be living in a big penthouse on Central Park West… The realities of publishing salaries and the life of a freelance author have made that last big a tad hard to fulfill, but as of this month, we have the first two boxes checked off.
As you can imagine, life in an apartment with one editor and one author can be tricky, so here’s how we have survived.
No Crossing the Streams: It was always important to us that we each support each other while keeping up boundaries. When Matt’s book went on submission, there was never a moment when we considered sending it to me or my imprint. In fact, when he received his offer from Razorbill, I was still working at Penguin, and the editor had no idea we were married until he went in for a meeting. Of course, over the years we’ve both made contacts from interactions we’ve had at various parties and book launch parties, but I never sent an email to anyone saying “Hey, my man has a book you should read.” That said, at non-publishing events we often get a side-eye when people ask us what we do. “I’m a children’s book author.” “I’m a children’s book editor.” Quickly followed by an “Uh-huh…”
Empathy: I have to say having lived with an author on submission, it does make me look at my long list of submissions with more empathy for the writers. They also have family members listening to them freak out over long submission times and why an agent or editor is tweeting about reading (or not reading) submissions. On the other hand, I’m able to say “Hey, editors are human and sometimes just want to spend some time playing video games (yes, we’re nerds) with their husband or watch some Scandal. Chill out.” We’ve both humanized the other side for each other.
Knowing When to Step Aside: Once Matt got his book deal, I told him that I was going to stand back and leave the editing up to his editor. These days I typically read a first draft before he sends it just to assure him it’s not terrible. I don’t read the book again until it’s finished. I know how it can be as an editor knowing that an author has a bevy of beta-readers and family members reading each draft and how those voices can occasionally muddy the editorial process, so I just don’t insert myself. That said, whenever he starts a new project, I’m always very excited to read his new work.
Perspective: After spending my entire publishing career living with me, Matt has had a leg up in what to expect as a debut author. He’s been to many events for my authors and has heard all of the behind-the-scenes information on every book I’ve edited, so he went into the publishing process understanding the reality of being a debut middle grade author and did always have me to fall back on if he had a question about part of the process.
So after nearly ten years of working toward our goal, Matt’s book came out this month and it has been amazing and crazy and I couldn’t be more proud of him. I know now firsthand how intense launch week is for an author and their family and want to send hugs to every author and family I’ve ever worked with.
Here’s to many more years of our crazy life in publishing.
Jordan Hamessley London is an Editor at Egmont USA, where she edits middle grade and YA. Her current titles include Isla J. Bick’s new series, The Dark Passages (#1 White Space), Bree DeSpain’s new series Into the Dark (#1 The Shadow Prince), and more. Prior to Egmont, Jordan worked at Grosset and Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers where she edited Adam-Troy Castro’s middle grade horror series Gustav Gloom, Ben H. Winters and Adam F. Watkin’s book of horror poetry Literally Disturbed, Michelle Schusterman’s I Heart Band series, Adam F. Watkins’s alphabet picture book R is for Robot and more. When not editing, Jordan can be found on twitter talking about books, scary movies, and musical theater.
Lots of battles! Too many, in my opinion. Never mind
1399: Henry IV, the subject of a lot of literature(Three plays by Shakespeare, if you count Richard II, plenty of novels) is proclaimed King of England.
1791: First performance of Mozart's gorgeous opera, The Magic Flute. There's also a Marion Zimmer Bradley novel inspired by it. Being MZB, of course, she had to be terribly serious about it. Can't recall the title.
1955: Death of young actor James Dean, at the start of a promising career. Jack Dann's novel, TheRebel, is an alternative universe tale in which he survived.
1913 Screenwriter Bill Walsh. Never heard of him? Well, if you saw Walt Disney movies in your childhood, you've probably seen at least one of his films. The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel, Son Of Flubber. Mary Poppins. The Love Bug. Bedknobs And Broomsticks. And more.
1924 Truman Capote. I bet you've heard of him, even if you've never read his work. I have just learned that he was not only a childhood friend of Harper Lee, he was the inspiration for the character of Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird and some of his experiences were written into the novel.
There are some writers, including a number of spec fic writers but I haven't heard of them, so I'll add one death, in 1987, Alfred Bester, a big name spec fic writer, who was honoured in Babylon 5, by having a villain named after him, the Psi-Cop Alfred Bester. The telepath situation in the series is similar to that in his fiction.
And today, never mind what the Blogger date says, is International Blasphemy Day, when you are encouraged to go and say something rude about religion! :-)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Open Letter's tribute-volume to Michael Henry Heim & A Life in Translation, The Man Between, edited by Esther Allen, Sean Cotter, and Russell Scott Valentino.
(It's a nice (and well-priced !) volume -- but I do note with some amusement that a misspelling of Stieg Larsson's name slipped through (yup, they called him 'Steig', p.276) -- something I'm encountering almost as frequently as misspellings of Edgar Allan Poe's middle name and the mistakenly apostrophized version of Joyce's Finnegans Wake -- a slip that feel almost Freudian coming from translators (who surely have a very uncomfortable relationship with the mega-success of that translation and its notorious history).)
Bindi Irwin as Nim, from Return to Nim's Island movie poster
I know that tying in a film to a book sequel sounds like the writer’s equivalent of a first world problem, but in fact we always need to be aware of how much we are, or want to be, swayed by other people’s comments and interpretations, from editors to illustrators, cover artists and even readers. I didn’t actually plan Nim as an eco-warrior, but the way that she and Jack live means that she’s interpreted as one. It seems so logical to me now that I have to remind myself it simply evolved naturally, as it probably would have if she were real.
My only physical description of Nim in any of the books is ‘her hair is wild and her eyes are bright.’ But of course I have my own vision of her: a wiry, dark haired, almost elfin girl, and I kept that through the first two books, even though I enjoyed imagining how Kerry Millard might illustrate something.
Kerry Millard's interpretation of Nim
Wendy Orr, Abigail Breslin, Kerry Millard
Then the films came, and there were real people, in flesh and blood, both the people I met off camera, and the way they were portrayed on screen and covers. By the time I started Rescue on Nim’s Island, I’d had 5 years of seeing Abigail Breslin being so completely Nim that it was difficult to return to my own vision.
Abigail Breslin as Nim
It was only when I’d seen Bindi Irwin on location, portraying Nim differently but equally convincingly, that I could free myself up and remember my mantra that characters are however you interpret them: if they could both be Nim, my own vision could be too.
Bindi Irwin, Wendy Orr
It took me a while to find my way with Rescue on Nim’s Island and that’s what I think is relevant to all of us. I had to really go back to basics instead of planning plots that I thought were terribly filmic, to which the film producer kept saying, ‘But that doesn’t really sound like you, or Nim.’
Geoff's Kelly interpretation of Nim
I had to slow down, dream around it, and gradually discover the story in the usual organic way that I work. I reread the first books and got into the rhythm. Nim is a year older in each book, and I felt that she was growing naturally. She’s still herself. She’s more quick-tempered than either Abbie or Bindi are in real life, though slightly less pugnacious than the Nim of the second film. She’s the girl that was obviously born of some part of me, when I started writing her in 1998. Or maybe further back, when I wrote the prototype when I was 9. So if there’s a moral, I think it’s simply, let your characters grow and develop, but always be true to who they are at core.
*This is an edited excerpt of a talk I gave at the SCBWI meeting at Flinders on 6 September, 2014.
On Mondays when I babysit, There's one thing that's a certain hit - A visit from the garbage truck (Unless the need for naptime's struck). We hear the truck as it draws near And Henry makes it very clear We'd better get ourselves outside. (Such passion cannot be denied.) We race out to the driveway's end To greet our Monday morning friend. The worker waves a friendly hi But Henry's serious and shy. He watches, though, with great intent And gazes at me, quite content. I understand, though he can't speak, That we're all set until next week.
In the current issue of The New Yorker Masha Gessen profiles Lyudmila Ulitskaya -- surely also one of the maybe two dozen authors in the serious running for the Nobel Prize.
As Gessen notes, Daniel Stein, Interpreter was a huge success in Russia(n) -- but: "the English translation flopped in the United States" and was "barely noticed" (I noticed, and, yeah, I was a disappointed).
Still, I am certainly looking forward to/curious about The Big Green Tent (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
The Maze Runner (Book 1)
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: The Maze Runner Series (Book 1)
Paperback: 375 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press; Reprint edition (August 24, 2010)
If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Nice to meet ya,
I have had the release date for The Farmer and the Clown on my calendar for months. This was a book I was excited about and one that I wanted to make sure to get right away. Well, I received a review copy of the book last week and loved it even more than I thought I would!
The book (by the amazing Marla Frazee) tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a farmer and a clown. And can I say that the clown is so adorable! Happy and fun on every page. I fell in love with this book on the first read and everyone I had it too squeals or "aw"s while reading. This week, we read it twice in the classroom. I purchased the kindle edition so that we could read it on the screen. I am so glad I did this because the details in the illustrations, some that I missed during my first few reads, are critical and would have been so hard for kids to see without the projection. This book is simple, but it leaves the reader with so much to think and talk about. And it leaves the reader with a feeling of joy.
I have said many times on this blog that I LOVE wordless books. This is pretty new for me as I've learned to love them in the last 5-6 years. This is by far, one of my favorites. I love the characters and I am amazed at how well they are each developed in this wordless book. I like the story and the characters and the art. I love Marla Frazee and have yet to read one of her books that I didn't fall in love with. This one is definitely one of my Caldecott hopefuls.
“Fascinating and insightful. With her usual skill, Katherine Howe navigates the winding path leading to Salem’s hysteria and beyond. A must-read for anyone who wants to know not only what happened but also how and why.”
—Brunonia Barry, New York Times-bestselling author of The Lace Reader
******** Enterherefor a chance to win a copy of this book until October 7.
USA and CANADA ONLY please
THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES
Edited by Katherine Howe
Publishing in time for Halloween, Penguin Classics is proud to present an original collection of chilling real-life accounts of accused witches, from medieval Europe through colonial America:
THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES (A Penguin Classics Original; On-sale September 30, 2014; $17.00; ISBN: 978-0-14-310618-0), edited and with an introduction by Katherine Howe, the New York Times-bestselling author of several novels about witches and a teacher in the American Studies program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends.
Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.
Ideal for fans of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, the Harry Potter series, and Half Bad by Sally Green, THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES is sure to thrill, fascinate, and perhaps even frighten readers of all kinds.
MORE PRAISE FOR THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES
“This comprehensive collection of carefully selected documents and published primary materials, coupled with judicious and informative introductions, will help modern readers understand the seemingly inexplicable and persistent popular phenomenon of belief in witchcraft from the seventeenth century into more modern times.”
—Mary Beth Norton, author of In the Devil’s Snare
“An informative and engaging series of texts that Katherine Howe introduces in a crisp and well-informed manner. The chronological breadth is unusual, but it allows us to grasp more fully the continuities that mark the history of witch-hunting on both sides of the Atlantic.”
—David D. Hall, Harvard Divinity School
About the Editor:
KATHERINE HOWE, the direct descendant of three accused Salem witches, is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, The House of Velvet andGlass, and the young-adult novel Conversion, a modern-day retelling of The Crucible set in a Massachusetts prep school. She teaches in the American Studies program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. You can visit her website at www.katherinehowe.com.
THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES
Katherine Howe ▪ A Penguin Classics Original ▪ $17.00
On-sale September 30, 2014 ▪ ISBN: 978-0-14-310618-0
You know Mac and Jon. You love Mac and Jon. Now meet Sam and Dave. You’ll love Sam and Dave.
Don’t rush into the pages just yet. This is one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long while. If we weren’t so aware that Jon Klassen (that insta-recognizable style!) is a contemporary illustrator, I would wholeheartedly presume that it was some vintage thing in a used bookstore. A find to gloat about, a find that makes you wonder just how you got so lucky.
The hole. The space left over. The words, stacked deeper and deeper. The apple tree whose tippy top is hidden. Two chaps, two caps, two shovels. One understanding dog.
Speaking of two chaps, two caps, and two shovels, check out the trailer.
(I’ll wait if you need to watch that about five more times.)
The start of their hole is shallow, and they are proud. But they have only just started. Sam asks Dave when they should stop, and this is Dave’s reply:
“We won’t stop digging until we find something spectacular.”
Dave’s voice of reason is so comforting to any young adventurer. It’s validating that your goal is something spectacular. (Do we forget this as grownups? To search for somthing spectacular? I think we do.)
Perhaps the pooch is the true voice of reason here, though he doesn’t ever let out a bark or a grumble. Those eyes, the scent, the hunt. He knows.
(click to enlarge)
And this is where Sam and Dave Dig a Hole treads the waters of picture book perfection. The treasure, this spectacular something, is just beyond the Sam and Dave’s reality. The reader gets the treat where Sam and Dave are stumped. Do you want to sit back and sigh about their unfortunate luck? Do you want to holler at them to just go this way or that way or pay attention to your brilliant dog? Do you root for them? Do you keep your secret?
The text placement on each page is sublime. If Sam and Dave plant themselves at the bottom of the page, so does the text. If the hole is deep and skinny, the text block mirrors its length. This design choice is a spectacular something. It’s subtle. It’s meaningful. It’s thoughtful and inevitable all at once.
(click to enlarge)
And then – then! Something spectacular. The text switches sides. The boys fall down. Through? Into? Under? Did the boys reach the other side? Are they where they started? Is this real life? Their homecoming is the same, but different. Where there was a this, now there is a that. Where there was a hmm, now there is an ahhh.
I like to think that the impossible journey here is a nod to Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak’s collaboration, A Hole is to Dig. That’s what holes are for. That’s what the dirt asks of you. It’s not something you do alone or without a plan or without hope. Sam and Dave operate in this truth. They need to dig. There’s not another choice.
The dragonmobile, at Pirniehall Primary in Edinburgh
But it’s not the strangest thing I’ve done as a children’s writer.
I've recce'd a castle, going in undercover as a tourist, to discover the best way to steal their most famous artefact.
I've interviewed a vet about how to heal a fairy’s dislocated wing, and a boat builder about how to fit a centaur on a rowing boat.
I've lost half a dozen journalists in a maze. (I guided them out again eventually. Most of them.)
I've told Celtic legends on an iron age hillfort, fairytales in an inner city woodland, and Viking myths in a cave.
And all of these things have been an integral part of my job as a children’s writer. Because writing is not just sitting at a keyboard and tapping out chapters.
The research (chatting to vets about fairy injuries and sneaking about castles) is often as much fun as the writing. And the promotion (dragon dressing and outdoor storytelling) is almost as important as the sitting at my desk imagining.
I suspect that as a children’s writer, you have to be just as imaginative in your research methods and your promotion ideas as you do in your cliffhangers and your characterisations.
But I can’t take credit for the dragon in the carpark. I did create a shiny friendly blue dragon, as one of the main characters in my Fabled Beast series. However, I had moved onto creating other characters in other stories, when my publishers decided to give the Fabled Beasts Chronicles new covers, and announced that they were going to promote the covers with a dragonflight tour.
Then the very talented marketing executive at Floris Books designed a dragon costume for her own car. And she’ll be spending most of the next fortnight driving me round beautiful bits of Scotland and the north of England (yesterday Edinburgh, today Perth, then Aberdeenshire and Penrith, as we get more confident and stretch our wings!) in a car which we dress up as a dragon in the carpark of various primary schools, then invite the children out to ooh and aah at our shiny blue dragon and her shimmering flames, before I go inside to chat with the pupils about cliff-hangers and quests.
So, this week, I’ve already learnt how to put a dragon’s jaws on at speed. And I’ve discovered that if the engine hasn’t cooled down yet, those flames coming down from the bonnet are actually warm!
Very brave Forthview Primary pupils sitting on dragon's flames!
So, yes, I do strange things. But I have fun! And I hope that my enjoyment comes across in my books, and in my author events.
I don’t think the adventures I create would be nearly as interesting without the odd conversations I have while I’m researching them, or the weird things I do to promote them.
So – what do you think? Should I just be sensible and stay indoors writing? Or is a little bit of weird now and then an effective way to make books, reading and writing more exciting for children?
Lari Don is the award-winning author of 22 books for all ages, including a teen thriller, fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and novellas for reluctant readers.
Although Canada-based, the folks behind the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature know a loonie is just a loonie and so offer their pay-out in real money: US dollars [I kid, I kid; please -- no e-mails/protests/boycotts] -- and, at 75,000 of them, they lay claim to the title of: "the most lucrative international award for a nonfiction book" -- well, according to the Toronto Star, where they announce this year's shortlist (which isn't yet available at the official site, sigh ...).
Six titles -- and one of them is actually one I've been making my way through (though haven't managed to review yet) -- a title in translation, no less: David Van Reybrouck's Congo (see the HarperCollins publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).