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Activity with students: Students select words and phrases from a primary text and use those words to create their own unique poems.
As “Primary Sources + Found Poetry = Celebrate Poetry Month” suggests, the Library of Congress proposes an innovative way to combine poetry and nonfiction. Teaching With The Library of Congress recently re-posted the Found Poetry Primary Source Set that “supports students in honing their reading and historical comprehension skills by creating poetry based upon informational text and images.” Students will study primary source documents, pull words and phrases that show the central idea, and then use those pieces to create their own poems.
This project not only enables teachers to identify whether a student grasps a central idea of a text, but also encourages students to interact with primary sources in much the same way as Etched In Clay’sAndrea Cheng. When researching Dave’s life and drawing inspiration for her verses, Andrea Cheng integrated the small pieces of evidence of Dave’s life, including poems on his pots and the bills of sale.
Activity with students: Students write haiku using sensory language and drawing inspiration from body movement, music, and art to create their own haiku.
Check out the classroom-tested, standards-aligned lesson plan Experiencing Haiku Through Mindfulness, Movement & Music by Rashna Wadia with Cool Melons— Turn to Frogs! provided by ReadWriteThink.org, a website developed by the International Literacy Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.
Activity with students: Students choose a building to describe in a poem and shape the poem to look like the building.
In Reading is Fundamental’s educator activity guide for, Dreaming Up, encourage students to try the writing activity “Shape It Up:” Let students pick a type of building and write a poem describing that building (how it looks, its purpose, etc). Students should write their poems on white paper in the shape of the building and decorate the background. (RIF)
Activity with students: Students compare narrative and lyric poetry and write their own narrative poem based on real or imagined experiences or events.
Check out the research-based novel study unit for Chess Rumble created by the staff at the award-winning, non-profit ReadWorks.org. Students will compare the story elements of Chess Rumble to Where the Sidewalk Ends and Keeping the Night Watch.
What are your favorite poems to enjoy in the classroom? Share with us!
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
My new contemporary YA, Silence (Shadow Mountain, 2015), is a story about a fifteen year old girl who has an accident that changes her life forever. The only person she can relate to is a boy who has his own tragic past. Out of tragedy comes true love.
I spent years writing Silence, and the experience taught me several important lessons about being an author. It took me draft after draft (and many working titles) to find a way to tell the story. I think my agent has lost count of the number of drafts of Silence she read. I even set the manuscript aside and wrote novels in between. But I kept coming back because the characters stayed with me.
The lesson I learned from this is to tell the story in my heart. So now if a manuscript of mine isn’t working, I try approaching it from another direction, turning it sideways or upside down, telling it in reverse order or through a secondary character’s point of view. But no matter what, I know the key is to trust my inner voice.
Silence is my second published book, but not my second novel. I wrote several novels before my first book was published and several novels before Silence was published.
When each one of those other novels didn’t sell, I was really discouraged. I think anyone who has ever gone through the submission and rejection process can relate.
But I learned to turn the sting of rejection into a spark of inspiration through perspective. In focusing on writing rather than selling a manuscript, I recaptured writing simply for the love of writing.
When I wrote my first published book Jane In Bloom, I didn’t know if anyone would publish a book about a forgotten sister, but I needed to tell her story.
With Silence, I once again found myself writing a book I wasn’t sure anyone would publish. But I wrote it anyway. That focus helped me lose myself in the story and simply write.
Finally, writing Silence taught me to stay true to myself.
I had a vision of what kind of story I wanted to tell—a romance with clean content so my own daughters could read it. The characters would attend church, and they would volunteer to help others in need.
I knew there was a chance no one would want to publish a young adult book like this. But I also knew that I needed to be authentic and true to my vision. So I wrote the book the way I needed to write it. I didn’t hold back details because I thought someone might not like them.
Instead, I poured my whole self into the book. And my story did find a home after all, with Shadow Mountain.
So whatever you want to write, make sure it stays true to you. Don’t worry about editors and reviewers. Don’t hold back from storylines or characters because they might cause your book to be passed on by editors or because the book might be controversial when it is published. Just write the best book you can write because only you can write it.
I know that book will find a home.
Enter to win a signed copy of Silence by Deborah Lytton (Shadow Mountain, 2015). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America. From the promotional copy:
Stella is a vivacious teen with a deep yearning to become an accomplished Broadway musical star. Her dreams are shattered when a freak accident renders her deaf.
Struggling mightily to communicate in a world of total silence, she meets Hayden who has such a pronounced stutter she can easily read his lips because he speaks so slowly.
Communication leads to connection and an unexpected romance as they learn from each other and discover their own ways to overcome setbacks, find renewed purpose and recognize their true voice.
One of the aspects of doing art festivals that I used to enjoy is the interaction that I had with customers in my booth. People would come in and smile and admire my paintings and try to visualize where they would put one of my works in their home. Unfortunatley, I didn't always get the sale, because one of the barriers to purchase was the customer's issue with where they would hang it.
How to hang art Salon Style
I often suggested hanging salon style like I do in my own home, which creates a kind of artwork in itself with a collection of paintings. Another suggestion that I had was to swap the artwork out, relegating some paintings to a closet or different room for a period of time, thus creating a personal rotating art show.
A percieved lack of space is no reason to stop buying art. We all walk around in the same body all of our lives but we don't stop buying clothes to put on it. (I know, different animal, but you get the point :0)
I was reading about Jeff Kinney's new bookstore recently and it made me think I have to go there and then it made me think about all of the things I would want in my dream bookstore. Which, to be honest, aren't too far removed from what are going to be in Jeff Kinney's bookstore.
A coffee bar of course, but a real coffee place with lots of comfortable, I'm going to hang here all day seating.
A bar. Because I would love to have a glass of wine sometimes and, let's admit it, as the store owner drunk shoppers could really help the bottom line.
An active place for kids. I mean really cool, book related, fantasy, place to play and explore and learn.
A great big comfy place for events. Not just book signings, but full on events. Workshops for writers, workshop space for authors to teach people crafts, finances, cooking demonstrations, etc.
Knowledgeable and friendly staff. People who love books and want others to love them as much as they do.
Lots of recommendations and not just spaces bought by publishers, but lots of sections that really give readers ideas for new books to explore.
Shopper involvement. Recommendations from some of the most avid readers in the community, not just store staff.
I would love bookstores to become old fashioned community centers where readers come to buy books, to hang out, to meet with friends and to just be.
What about you? In a fantasy world where would you love to shop or, even better, what are some of your favorite bookstores?
- Cindy Tran is feeling energetic for THE WIDE-AWAKE PRINCESS. Click HERE to welcome her to the group.
- Sally's Bookshelf is interviewing author Gail Jarrow--with a GIVEAWAY. ClickHEREfor all the fun.
- Natalie Aguirre has a quest post from author Caroline Starr Rose, and a GIVEAWAY of BLUEBIRDS. Click HERE for details.
- RCubed is SAVING LUCAS BRIGGS. Click HERE to see why.
- Susan Olson is featuring time travel books about Alexander Graham Bell. Click HERE to see why.
- Andrea Mack is showing everyone HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED. Click HERE to find her review.
- Jenni Enzor is highlighting ALVIN HO: ALLERGIC TO THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA, THE FORBIDDEN PALACE, AND OTHER TOURIST ATTRACTIONS. Click HERE to read her thoughts.
- Katie Fitzgerald has another double-feature this week, with the first two books in the Sylvie Scruggs series. Learn about bothHERE.
- Jess at the Reading Nook shares her opinions on THE ARCTIC CODE. Click HERE for her thoughts.
- Suzanne Warr is spotlighting THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND. Click HERE to see why.
- Greg Pattridge is raving about STORY THIEVES . Click HERE to read his feature.
- The Bookworm Blog is wondering at WONDERSTRUCK. Click HERE to see why.
- Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing--and GIVING AWAY--LIKE A RIVER: A CIVIL WAR STORY. Click HERE for details.
- Rachel at What Rachel Wrote is featuring CRISPIN: THE CROSS OF LEAD. Click HERE to see why.
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time!
- The Mundie Moms are always huge supporters of middle grade. Click HERE for their Mundie Kids site.
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com.(Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!)
If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.
Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!
*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.
Absolutely Almostby Lisa Graff (for ages 8 to 12, Philomel, June 2014) Source: my local library Synopsis (from Indiebound): Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself. Why I recommend it: Kudos to Lisa Graff for being brave enough to create a character who is ordinary. This is a quiet, thought-provoking novel (if you're looking for fast-paced action, you'll need to look elsewhere). But if you like the idea of reading about an "almost" kid, who's not the best at anything (in other words, maybe you or someone you know), this book will warm your heart. Because even though Albie isn't good at anything like math or reading or art, he's kind and compassionate. And that's good enough, right? I've lived in New York City and the city setting is perfect for this book. I also loved Albie's math club teacher, Mr. Clifton, who starts each class with a really bad math joke. Bonus: Short chapters and smooth writing make this a winner for reluctant readers. My favorite quote: "Then won't you be glad you found something you love?" (This comes after Calista tells Albie to find something he wants to keep doing, and maybe if he practices enough, one day he'll discover he doesn't stink at it. Albie responds that he might still stink at it.) Lisa Graff's website Follow Lisa on Twitter
The Powers That Be have pronounced Realistic YA (a la John Green or Rainbow Rowell) to be the Next Big Thing in teen lit. This past weekend, @aboredauthor started a hashtag topic on Twitter, which turned into a sensation.
What if we all wrote Very Realistic YA?
The rest is history. I was totally smitten (spent precious copy-editing minutes snickering at the computer.) If you’re on Twitter, check out #VeryRealisticYA . Here are my attempts:
·Orphan farm boy hatches dragon's egg; dragon eats farm boy and sets fire to farm. #VeryRealisticYA
·Girl discovers parents have hidden their past lives in a secretive organization. Turns out they were scientologists. #VeryRealisticYA
·Small town boy stays in small town, marries small town girl. Gets job at the plant. #VeryRealisticYA
·High school boy stops heart medication, becomes incredibly strong and muscular. Med was interfering with his steroids. #VeryRealisticYA
·Girl tries to hide strange markings on her skin. Mother spots them and grounds her for getting tattoos. #VeryRealisticYA
·Two teens with cancer meet, and decide they spend MORE than enough time thinking about cancer. They avoid each other. #VeryRealisticYA
·Two misfits meet and find out that they have absolutely nothing in common. They never speak again. #VeryRealisticYA
·Teens are trapped in giant maze and cannot find their way out. They give up and play video games. #VeryRealisticYA
·Girl finds mysterious jeweled dagger in a lockbox under the bed. Sells it on eBay and takes friends to Belize. #VeryRealisticYA
Delmonico’s in New York opened in the 1830s and is often thought of as the first restaurant in the United States. A restaurant differs from other forms of dining out such as inns or taverns and while there have always been take-out establishments and food vendors in cities, a restaurant is a place to sit down to a meal.
My memoir was published in 2012, both as an ebook and in print (POD), by a small independent publisher. It's done quite well on Amazon, and also through my independent sales (via book signings, speaking appearances, etc.) I have many reviews on Amazon, most at 4-5 stars, in addition to very favorable editorial reviews.
Most of my readers have come from a niche market, which I have worked hard to cultivate and have a sizable following, but I believe that there are more readers in the general public who would appreciate and learn from my memoir. I've been unable to break into major bookstores because the book is POD.
My publisher is leaving the business and I retain all rights. Do you think it would make sense to pitch it to agents or larger publishers? As a second edition, for foreign, audio book or even movie rights? And how should I present it?
I think it makes a lot of sense to pitch it to agents or a larger press.
What they'll want to know is who you have NOT been able to reach. The first thing you can mention is the library market. You've also missed most bookstores that won't order books on a one at a time basis from small presses.
Bookstores like to order their inventory from reliable suppliers and a small press they've never heard of us doesn't really qualify as that. I don't know what sales terms your old publisher offered but just the fact bookstores could only order that one book from them made it a less desirable item to stock.
When you query, you need to give your sales stats, and talk about the target audience you haven't reached. (I did a previous blog post on that topic) Your Amazon reviews aren't going to be as helpful here as you think. Sales numbers are what will get you in the door. (That's the subject of a previous blog post)
It's also not going to be helpful to say "my book was POD" because print on demand is a technology not a method of sale. The information that the editor/agent will need is whether the publisher sold on a returns allowed basis; what the discount was; what the catalog or retail price was; whether there was distribution of any kind. You may not know this information. If you can, find out. The bookstores where you sold books will know if you can't get the information from your publisher.
Lots of large publishers use print on demand technology to fulfill small orders so they don't have to carry inventory. You'd never know it from just buying the book.
Don't mention foreign rights, audio or film rights in the query. You need a book deal before you get subsidiary rights (and for all you clever exceptionistas out there, yes there are exceptions to this, but you don't plan to be the exception in your query letter, now do you?)
In 1979, one of the most prominent Russian classical scholars of the later part of the twentienth century, Mikhail Gasparov, stated: "Vergil did not have much luck in Russia: they neither knew nor loved him." Gasparov mostly blamed this lack of interest on the absence of canonical Russian translations of Vergil, especially when it came to the Aeneid.
Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!
Since February, I've been reading up a storm! Earlier this month I gathered with the rest of my colleagues on the Maine Student Book Award Committee to create the Maine Student Book Award List for 2015-2016! This meeting, where we take a serious look at over a hundred books that made our "short" list, is the most thrilling meeting of the year! Eight librarians and four teachers discuss and laugh and agree and disagree on what we think are the best books for readers in grades 4-8. There is certainly a range of opinions to this end, which is what makes the list so diverse and special. And of course, it's for the kids!
Night Sky Dragons by Mal Peet & Elspeth Graham, illustrated by Patrick Benson
Candlewick Press, 2014
Recommended for grades 2+
Set in a han* on the Silk Road, young Yazul is at odds with his industrious father, who thinks Yazul should spend less time playing with his grandfather and more time being useful. But when bandits threaten the safety of the han, it is Yazul and his grandfather that save the han.
*a han was a place of safety on the Silk Road
Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Recommended for grades 6+
I loved this survival story, even though I typically despise reading stories set in winter settings-I'm in Maine, winter can feel never-ending...
What to expect:
-Strong female protagonist
-Loss of a parent
Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
Recommended for grades 4-8
This book burrowed deeply inside my heart. Jaden is a young boy from Romania, adopted by American parents when he was four. Jaden had plenty of time to grown without a bonded family, and the effects are lasting. When Jaden's parents are ready to adopt another child, Jaden has a mix of emotions that he can't put a finger on.
The family travels to Kazakhstan to adopt a baby. But "their" baby was given to another couple. The new baby they are urged to bond with seems vacant and not quite well. Jaden doesn't want to bond with the new baby, but he does befriend a four-year-old boy with some developmental disabilities. Does Jaden see himself in this young boy? Whether he does or not, Jaden bonds with the boy and begs for his parents to adopt this boy instead.
As a mother, this book hurt at times. I wonder how kids will experience it.
I am loving the variety of books I am reading to complete this challenge, and today’s story comes under #5 bullying and #3 in as far as this little boy is questioning and non-conforming! Title: Morris Micklethwaite and the Tangerine Dress … Continue reading →
The Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults has a new call for papers for a special issue highlight research-based best practices. Check out the full CFP below.
CALL FOR PAPERS:
Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults
Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults (JRLYA), the official research journal of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), is currently accepting submissions for a special themed issue. Researchers, librarians, graduate students, and others who conduct research related to young adults (ages 12 – 18) and libraries are invited to submit manuscripts. Papers describing both scholarly research and action research are welcome and will be submitted for peer review and consideration for publication. Submissions are due June 30, 2015.
The special issue will highlight research-based best practices for serving young adults in libraries. It will include: 1) papers that report research studies about specific library practices; 2) papers that report original research and suggest how it can best be used in library practice; and 3) reports of how research was used to guide the design, implementation, evaluation, etc., of specific library services. For example, papers could present studies or analyses of: digital literacy research and library services for adolescents; research-based best practices for serving adolescents in specific settings, such as rural or urban libraries; serving adolescents through teacher and librarian collaboration; serving adolescents through collaboration with other agencies and institutions; LGBTQ issues and YA library services; or using adolescent information behavior research as a basis for library services. Papers that report library programs but lack an original research component or some type of scholarly analysis and connection to the broader field of YA librarianship will not be considered for peer review.
Writer’s guidelines are located at http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/author-guidelines/. Email manuscripts and related queries by June 30, 2015, to editor Dr. Denise Agosto at: email@example.com.
JRLYA is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal located at: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya. Its purpose is to enhance the development of theory, research, and practice to support young adult library services. JRLYA presents original research concerning: 1) the informational and developmental needs of adolescents; 2) the management, implementation, and evaluation of young adult library services; and 3) other critical issues relevant to librarians who work with this population.
Publication Date:February 18, 2015| Age Level:6-12
The rings of Saturn go round and round, Disappeared one day and could not be found. To put them back, just take a chance, And join me in the Saturn Dance! Meet Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo- 9-year-old girl Super Surgeon on the Go.
Born with supernatural powers from electrical energy, she jets around the Universe fixing problems with her gifted hands. Dr. Dee Dee’s, and cousin Lukas’s, visit to the Island of Positivity Planetarium is interrupted when Gordon the Gullible Globe sounds the alarm that Saturn’s rings have disappeared. Dr. Dee Dee is skeptical but mobilizes her team of assistants and instruments for a mission to Saturn. Oh boy! Is she SURPRISED when she arrives at Saturn!
About the Author
Dr. Oneeka Williams grew up in the Caribbean with her mother, a science teacher, and her father, a journalist. Her love for the sciences and for writing developed at an early age, as did her desire to become a doctor. When she first entered the operating room while attending Harvard Medical School, it was love at first sight. Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo embodies all of these elements and encourages kids to live a life without limits. This is Dr. Williams third book. Dr. Dee Dee Dynamos Mission to Pluto and Dr. Dee Dee Dynamos Meteorite Mission were the first two. She is a practicing surgeon and lives in Massachusetts with husband, Charles and son, Mark.
Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo's Saturn Surprise is a delightful story filled with great information about the planet Saturn.
Dr. Dee Dee has supernatural powers which allows her to fly around in space and help the planets. In this story she helps Saturn fix it's rings because they have gone crazy. While reading the story children will learn about what a ring plane crossing is, as well about the Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft, Saturn's moons, and the names of Saturn's rings. There is a lot of alliteration in the story which will help readers remember the characters names. Readers will enjoy the nonfictional information included in the story. It is very informative and will help readers for reports and such.
A few quibbles. At times the illustrations are confusing. When looking at the illustrations for ring plane crossings, the boxed pictures help the reader understand what is going. The other illustration is confusing to the reader since all the Saturn's virtually look the same. Dr. Dee Dee has supernatural powers but Kyle ad Lukas don't so technically they shouldn't leave Freeda, which is why she comes along on the ride, and yet those characters, at times, are outside in space. Kyle is also very negative and weighs down the story. Dr. Dee Dee sends positive messages to kids like don't give up, use your voice, be confident and assertive, yet here's a character who is whiny and negative. The last illustration on page 32 shows Dr. Dee Dee applauding, yet the story says that Saturn and the rings applauded. Given the fact that neither Saturn or it's rings have any hands in the illustration makes this part impossible, though they could shout with glee. These are small things but are none the less noticeable. Otherwise, the story is well developed with a great message for kids. Amazon says that this book is for 5-6 year olds but it is really meant for older children. Some of the vocabulary is for older children, younger won't get it. Though the author did add in a vocab section in the back of the book as well as a glossary of info talked about, questions and a resource guide.
Overall, this series is informative, well written with great educational story lines, and has great messages for kids who are 6-12 years of age.
I’ve written before about generic words that don’t add much in the way of specific emotions. Now I’m on to generic descriptions that don’t add anything to scene. For example:
The teenagers congregated at the store, listening to music on their devices. They wore various outfits, featuring the most popular brands.
I’d imagine this is the type of sentence that would appear in a textbook for an alien about humans. They’d have a lot of knowledge about us, but because they’re outsiders, they’d speak more in generalities than specifics…getting close to an accurate depiction, but without any of the detail that makes the knowledge realistic or engrossing.
The issue with this type of generic description is that the reader will already have a vague imagine their minds. As soon as you say “shopping mall,” the reader paints a place-holder picture that’s very much like my example sentences.
Your job as a writer, then, is to take that vague image and embellish it with detail that’s specific to your world, your characters, and your story. The purpose of description is to take the generic and sharpen the image. So a reasonable replacement for the example would be:
They headed to the shoe store so Nikki could get another hot pink pair of kicks to match her screaming neon yellow yoga pants. Josh cranked his Shuffle. Whatever song came next would be better than the Taylor Swift blaring from the speakers.
Now, I’ve written about specific references in a manuscript (like the Taylor Swift line), but I decided to do that here just because I’m targeting vagueness. I hope that you can see how painting a more specific scene, with some emotional overtones, clarifies the scene more than simply inserting arbitrary-seeming narration.
There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages ofNineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…
Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element. Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices.
An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults. I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too.So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one. Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance
Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person,New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.
Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.
Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.
Quote fromGeorgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not. Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."
There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.
I have long followed and respected the work of author Cynthia DeFelice, who over the past 25 years has put together an expansive and impressive body of work. No bells, no whistles, no fancy pyrotechnics. Just one well-crafted book after another. There’s not an ounce of phony in Cynthia; she’s the genuine article, the real magilla. Last November, I was pleased to run into Cynthia at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. Pressed for time, we chatted easily about this and that, then parted ways. But I wanted more. Thus, this conversation . . . I’m sure you’ll like Cynthia almost as much as her dog does.
Greetings, Cynthia. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this conversation. I feel like we have so much to talk about. We first met sometime in the early 90s, back when Frank Hodge, a bookseller in Albany, was putting on his elaborate, gushing children’s book conferences.
It’s nice to be in touch with you again. I’ll always remember those conferences with Frank Hodge. He made me feel validated as a fledgling writer. He left me a voice mail telling me how much he loved the book Weasel. I played it over and over and over! In 1992, the Hodge-Podge Society gave the first ever Hodge-Podge Award to Weasel. It meant the world to me. Those were great times for authors, teachers, kids, and for literature.
Frank forced me to read your book — and I loved it. So I’ll always be grateful to Frank for that; it’s important to have those people in your world, the sharers, the ones who press books into your hands and say, “You must read this!”
Well, good for Frank! He is definitely one of those people you’re talking about. His enthusiasm is infectious.
We’ve seen many changes over the past 25 years. For example, a year or two ago I participated in a New York State reading conference in Albany for educators. The building was abuzz with programs about “Common Core” strategies & applications & assessments & implementation techniques and ZZZZZzzzzz. (Sorry, dozed off for a minute!) Anyway, educators were under tremendous pressure to roll this thing out — even when many sensed disaster. Meanwhile, almost out of habit, organizers invited authors to attend, but they placed us in a darkened corridor in the back. Not next to the Dumpster, but close. At one point I was with Susan Beth Pfeffer, who writes these incredible books, and nobody was paying attention to her. This great writer was sitting there virtually ignored.
To your point about finding fabulous authors being ignored at conferences, I hear you. It can be a very humbling experience. I find that teachers aren’t nearly as knowledgeable about books and authors as they were 10-25 years ago, and not as interested. They aren’t encouraged in that direction, and they don’t feel they have the time for what is considered to be non-essential to the goal of making sure their kids pass the tests. Thankfully, there are exceptions! You and I both still hear from kids and teachers for whom books are vital, important, and exhilarating.
But, yes, I agree with you completely that literature is being shoved to the side. Teachers tell me they have to sneak in reading aloud when no one is watching or listening.
When I was invited to speak at a dinner, along with Adam Gidwitz and the great Joe Bruchac, I felt compelled to put in a good word for . . . story. You know, remind everybody that books matter. In today’s misguided rush for “informational units of text,” I worry that test-driven education is pushing literature to the side. The powers that be can’t easily measure the value of a book — it’s impossible to reduce to bubble tests — so their solution is to ignore fiction completely. Sorry for the rant, but I’m so frustrated with the direction of education today.
Well, it’s hard not to rant. It’s disconcerting to think how we’ve swung so far from those heady days of “Whole Language” to today’s “Common Core” curriculum — about as far apart as two approaches can be. I think the best approach lies somewhere in the vast middle ground between the two, and teachers need to be trusted to use methods as varied as the kids they work with every day.
On a recent school visit in Connecticut, I met a second-year librarian — excuse me, media specialist — who was instructed by her supervisor to never read aloud to the students. It wasn’t perceived as a worthwhile use of her time.
Well, that is sad and just plain ridiculous. I was a school librarian for 8 ½ years. I felt the most important part of my job was reading aloud to kids
I didn’t realize you were a librarian.
Yes, I began as a school librarian. But, really, my life as a writer began when I was a child listening to my mother read aloud. And every crazy job I had before I became a librarian (and there were a lot) helped to form and inform me as a writer. This is true of us all. I had an actual epiphany one day while I was a librarian. I looked up from a book I was reading aloud and saw the faces of a class of kids who were riveted to every word… I saw their wide eyes, their mouths hanging open, their bodies taut and poised with anticipation – I was seeing full body participation in the story that was unfolding. I thought: I want to be the person who makes kids look and feel like THAT.
And that’s exactly who you became. Which is incredible. This can be a tough and discouraging business; I truly hope you realize how much you’ve accomplished.
Thanks, and back at you on that. I think we have to constantly remind ourselves that what we do is important. I think we’ve all had the experience of being scorned because we write for children. The common perception is that we write about fuzzy bunnies who learn to share and to be happy with who they are.
I loved your recent blog post about the importance of books that disturb us. I’m still amazed when I hear from a teacher or parent –- and occasionally even a young reader –- saying they didn’t like a book or a scene from a book because of something upsetting that happened in it. Conflict is the essence of fiction! No conflict, no story (or, worse, a boring, useless one). I love my characters, and I hate to make them go through some of the experiences they have, but it’s got to be done! Did I want Stewpot to die in Nowhere to Call Home? Did I want Weasel to have cut out Ezra’s tongue and killed his wife and unborn baby? Did I want Erik to have to give up the dog Quill at the end of Wild Life? These things hurt, and yet we see our characters emerge from the dark forests we give them to walk through, coming out stronger and wiser. We all need to hear about such experiences, over and over again, in order to have hope in the face of our own trials.
I admire all aspects of your writing, but in particular your sense of pace; your stories click along briskly. They don’t feel rushed, there’s real depth, but there’s always a strong forward push to the narrative. How important is that to you?
I love beautiful writing, I love imagery and metaphor, and evocative language. But all that must be in service to story, or I am impatient with it. I don’t like show-offy writing.
The ego getting in the way.
Yes. Even the best writers need an editor to keep that ego in check! I seek clarity — what good is writing that obscures and obfuscates? The purpose is to communicate, to say what you mean. That goes for all kinds of writing, not just writing for kids. Kids want to get to the point. So do I.
Can you name any books or authors that were important to your development as a writer? Or is that an impossible question to answer?
Impossible. Because there are too many, and if I made a list I would inevitably leave out a person or book I adore. Safer to say that every book I’ve read -– the good, the bad, and the ugly –- all are in there somewhere, having an effect on my own writing.
You are what you eat. Also, your love of nature — the great outdoors! — infuses everything you write.
Nature and the great outdoors, yes. My love of these things will always be a big part of my writing. I find that after a lifetime of experience and reading and exploring, I know a lot about the natural world, and it’s fun to include that knowledge in my writing. Sometimes I worry that kids are being cut off from the real world. But I do know lots of kids who love animals and trees and flowers and bugs, love to hunt and fish, to mess around in ponds and streams, build forts, paddle canoes, collect fossils — you name it. They give me hope for the future.
Where do you live?
On and sometimes in (during the floods of 1972 and 1993) Seneca Lake in beautiful upstate New York.
Is that where you’re from?
Nope. I grew up in the suburbs of northeast Philly. I came up here to go to college and never left.
Your books often feature boy characters. Why do you think that’s so?
You’re right: more than half of my main characters are boys. I’m not sure why. And I don’t know why I feel so perfectly comfortable writing in the voice of a 10-11-12 year old boy. Maybe because my brothers and I were close and we did a lot together? Maybe because my husband still has a lot of boyish enthusiasm? At any rate, I am crazy about pre-adolescent boys, their goofiness and earnestness and heedlessness. My new book (coming out in May) is called Fort. It features two boys, Wyatt and Augie (age 11) who build a fort together during summer vacation. I had so much fun writing it. (I have to admit, I love when I crack myself up, and these guys just make me laugh.)
While writing, are you conscious about the gender gap in reading? This truism that “boys don’t read.”
I am. Sometimes I am purposely writing for that reluctant reader, who is so often a boy. I love nothing so much as hearing that one of my books was THE ONE that turned a kid around, that made him a reader.
I just read Signal, so that book is on my mind today. I had to smile when Owen gets into the woods and his phone doesn’t work. No wi-fi. It’s funny to me because in my “Scary Tales” series I always have to do the same thing. If we want to instill an element of danger, there has to be a sense of isolation that doesn’t seem possible in today’s hyper-connected world. “What? Zombie hordes coming over the rise? I’ll call Mom to pick us up in her SUV!” So we always need to get the parents out of the way and somehow disable the wi-fi. You didn’t have that problem back when you wrote Weasel.
Thanks for reading Signal. And, yeah, it’s really annoying that in order to be plausible in this day and age, you have to have a reason why your character isn’t on the phone with Mommy every time something goes wrong. (Another good reason to write historical fiction!) In Fort, Augie lives with his grandmother and doesn’t have money for a cell phone, and Wyatt’s with his father for the summer. His parents are divorced, and (unlike Mom) Dad doesn’t believe in kids being constantly connected to an electronic nanny. So — halleluiah! Wyatt and Augie are free to do all the fun, dumb, and glorious things they feel like doing!
My friends and I built a fort in the woods when we were in high school. Good times, great memories, just hanging out unfettered and free. I included a fort in my book, Along Came Spider. For Trey and Spider, the book’s main characters, the fort represented a refuge. It was also a haven for their friendship away from the social pressures and cliques of school. A place in nature where they could be themselves. So, yes, I love that you wrote a book titled Fort. I’ll add it to my list! (You are becoming an expensive friend.)
Well, now that I’ve discovered your books, I can say the same. Money well spent, I’d say.
Where did the idea for Signal originate?
The inspiration for Signal came one morning as I was running on a trail through the woods with Josie, my dog at the time. She proudly brought me a white napkin with red stuff smeared on it. I thought, Whoa, is that blood?No, whew. Ketchup. But what if it had been blood? And what if a kid was running with his dog and she brought him pieces of cloth with blood stains? Eww. That would be creepy! And scary, and exciting, and mysterious — and I started writing Signal.
You’ve always been extremely well-reviewed. Readers love your books. And yet in this day of series and website-supported titles, where everything seems to be high-concept, it feels like the stand-alone middle grade novel is an endangered species.
I have been lucky with reviews. But, sadly, I think traditional review sources are becoming increasingly irrelevant, as blogs and websites and personal media platforms take over. That’s not good news for me because I am simply not interested in self-promotion. Can’t do it. Don’t want to do it. I just want to write the best books I can and let them speak for themselves. I know it’s old-school, but there it is. You said that a stand-alone middle grade novel is becoming an endangered species amid all the series and “high concept” books out there, and I think you’re right. But when that stand-alone book somehow finds its niche audience, when kids and teachers somehow discover it and embrace it as theirs . . . , well, it’s a beautiful damn thing, and it’s enough to keep me writing, for now.
Well, my husband is 9 years older than I am and recently retired, and there are a lot of things we still need to do!
We have a farm property we are improving by digging a pond, and by planting trees and foliage to benefit wildlife. We stocked it with fish, and enjoy watching it attract turtles, frogs, toads, dragonflies, birds and animals of all sorts. So we like to spend a lot of time there, camping out. We love to travel, and are headed next on a self-driving tour of Iceland. We also have four terrific grandchildren we like to spend time with. I could go on and on with the bucket list…
By the way, I agree about the blogs. I think we are seeing a lot more opinion — more reaction — but less deep critical thought. It’s fine and useful for a neighbor to tell you they hated or loved a movie, but it’s not the same as a professional film critic providing an informed, and hopefully insightful, critique. Yet somehow today it’s all conflated.
Well, there is a similar phenomenon with self-published books. I’m not a total snob about it, and there are plenty of good books that didn’t go through the process of being accepted by and edited by a professional at an established publishing house. But I’ll repeat that everyone needs an editor. And I’m often amazed at the brazenness of people spouting off in various social media platforms, often without being fully grounded in the subject they are pontificating about. But, hey, maybe I’m just getting to be an old fart.
Yeah, I don’t Tweet either. We’re being left in the dust! My observation is that the “kidlitosphere” is comprised 90% of women. Of course, many of those bloggers are passionate, smart, generous women who genuinely want to see boys reading. But I always think of a favorite line written by one of my heroes, Charlotte Zolotow, where a boy imagines his father telling his mother, “You never were a boy. You don’t know.”
I don’t think it’s an ideal thing that the blogging world — which has become such an important source of information about books — is overwhelmingly female. Of course, the situation is not at all their fault.
That’s why it’s so great that there are writers out there like you, Bruce Coville, Tedd Arnold, Jon Scieska, Neil Gaiman, Jack Gantos –- who not only write books boys like, but are out there in schools demonstrating that REAL MEN read and write! I don’t know what we can do about the gender gap other than to be aware of it and to write the best books we can, books that both boys and girls will devour.
Tell me about Wild Life. Once again, you are mining the world of adventure — a boy, a dog, and a gun.
I never got as much mail from kids, teachers, grandparents and other caregivers as I did after that book came out. In our hyper-politically correct world, GUNS = EVIL. You can’t talk about them in school. So where does that leave a kid who spends his or her weekend hunting, who studies nature in order to be part of it, who hunts respectfully, with care, who is enmeshed in family history and tradition, who through hunting feels part of the full complexity of life?
I had to keep silencing the censors in my head telling me I couldn’t put a gun in an 11 year old kid’s hands, unless it was a matter of survival in a book set back in “the olden days.”
I was amazed and immensely gratified to learn that a lot of kids found themselves and their interests represented in Erik’s story. I didn’t write it with an agenda in mind. I simply wrote it based on the experiences I’ve had when my husband and I take our bird dog on her yearly Dream Vacation to North Dakota to hunt pheasants.
Ha! I love that your dog has a Dream Vacation.
I get so much joy from watching her do what she was born and bred to do. I cherish our days out on those wide open prairies, and have learned to see the subtle and varied beauty of the landscape. I was just hoping to write a rip-roaring good story that incorporated all that wonderful stuff. Our hunting experiences have nothing whatsoever to do with “gun violence” of the sort you hear about on TV. It’s been interesting to hear from kids who really get that.
Yeah, I enjoy meeting those kids, often out in the western end of New York State. One of my readers from the North Country sent me this photo. Isn’t she great?
Oh, man, I love that! We can’t forget those kids are out there.
What’s next, Cynthia? Any new books on the horizon?
Possibly, just possibly, a sequel to Fort. But that’s all I will say, even if you use enhanced interrogation techniques.
We do not waterboard here at Jamespreller dot com, and I resent the implication! Those are merely bath toys that happen to be . . . nevermind!
According to the rules of the interwebs, I see that we’ve gone way beyond the approved length of standard posts. Likely there’s no one left reading. It’s just us. So I’ll end here with a big thank you, Cynthia, for putting up with me. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. I hope I’ll see you again in Rochester at the 19th Annual Children’s Book Festival.
Yes! I look forward to seeing you there. It’s an incredible event, and gets bigger and better every year.
I’m welcoming my first guest blogger on the topic of failure today, writer and teaching artist Donna Trump. Is it easier to let yourself fail than your children?
Twenty-plus years ago, my children had an excellent elementary school teacher who was a proponent of parents allowing their children to fail. I dismissed her, of course: What child doesn’t have ample opportunity to fail?
A closer look at my own parenting at the time revealed I was doing exactly what this teacher preached against: I was trying, very hard, to prevent my kids’ failure. From the arguably innocuous retrieval of lunches and assignments when they were left behind; to the poorly disguised control-freak aspect of perennially volunteering in my kids’ classrooms; to the absolutely cringe-worthy hyper-maternal defense mode I went into when one was called out on perfectionism (ya think?) and the other on punching a kid in the face; to the ethically bankrupt decision (after a particularly trying mix of personalities the year before) to hand-pick their Odyssey of the Mind team, which I was coaching—I had to admit, I was guilty as charged.
I did these things to shield my kids from various types and degrees of failure: bad grades, bad learning environments, bad reputations, bad relationships with friends and peers. I did not want them to fail. No one wants their kids to fail. We want to be our children’s champions. We need to be our children’s champions, their advocates, their biggest fans. It hurts, terribly, to watch them suffer—as they will, certainly, when we stop rescuing them from themselves. But having things turn out less than perfectly teaches them something, too.
Studies show that kids who have a chance to fail (and, notably, to recover) tend to develop personality characteristics like tenacity and grit. Occasional crappy outcomes teach them they’ll survive, even when the world’s not a perfect place.
As my kids got older, mouthier, more confident it occurred to me: What if I didn’t replace that mysteriously crushed iPod? What if I declined decorating the gym for a dance when the child whose dance it was somehow managed to weasel out of the assignment? And what if I even called said child out, publicly, on errors in judgment about both me and that touchy issue of work ethic?
I wasn’t always strong enough to follow through. To understand that I wasn’t competing for popularity. I should have more often doled out a few key phrases: “You’ll live.” “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries.” “Try again.”
I’m sorry about that. I failed my children and myself. Nonetheless I stuck with it. This parenting thing (repeated failure and all) has brought out the tenacious in me. Opportunities for growth have abounded. Failure does that. And now I am more likely than ever to let failure happen.
Unless you want to rescue your children for the rest of time, from a failed job interview, or a failed relationship, or a failed dream, however heartbreaking, I suggest you practice these phrases: You’ll live. Life isn’t a bowl of cherries. Try again. Because if not now, then surely at some point you will no longer be able to rescue your kids in any meaningful way, and they will have only their own resources to draw on.
Disappointing and even devastating things will befall our children, at times as a result of their own doing. I wish this weren’t true, but experience tells me otherwise. One of our most important jobs as parents is to prepare our kids for these practically inevitable failures. Prepare them. Let them practice (while we’re still close by) with bad grades, bad behavior, bad decisions of all kinds. Teach them how to redeem themselves and then let them fail again, while the stakes are still relatively low and while they still come home, in victory and defeat, to us.
And if you happen to be a writer as well as a parent, be heartened: practice with failure—who knew?—appears to cross genres. Take it from me: opportunities for growth, as they say, abound.
Donna Trump writes about failure, success, doubt, faith, Vincent Van Gogh and heart transplants in her fiction and in her blog (www.donnatrump.org). Follow her on Twitter @trumpdonna1.