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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Ellen Booraem, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Texting the Underworld??

Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booraem.  

When I found myself tearing up this morning just thinking about this book - something the intended readers will most likely NOT do - I realized it deserved 5 stars. (Grades 5 through 8)

  It's not like Conor doesn't have problems already.  He's short - so short that his nickname is Pixie.  He's scared of - oh, just about everything, but especially spiders. His father wants him to be a hockey player and go to BU; Conor, not so much .  His younger sister is a pain.  And now a 1600 year-old redheaded female banshee, who died when she was around 12, has moved into his game closet.

Conor knows a lot about banshees, thanks to his Grump who lives next door.  Grump is an expert on Irish mythology and obsessed with banshees.  So Conor knows that each family has a banshee and this girl is in his room waiting for someone in his family to die.

This is a complex book with details that make the characters fully realized.  The cause of Grump's obsession with banshees made me tear up this morning.  And that cause explains Conor's painful choice at the end of the book.  Problems with friends, the banshee's irrepressible personality, the mixture of world mythologies with present day technology - so many things add up to make this an enjoyable read.

Older readers may be touched by the impossible things Conor is forced to do - younger readers, too, perhaps.  But we can all be grateful that he has a cell phone and knows when to use it!!!

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2. Overweight and Invisible

Since I don’t do much with YA on a regular basis I don’t read the blog of The Book Smugglers as often as I would like, even though they’re some of the best in the biz.  Love their reviews.  Really top notch stuff.

Anyway, they recently reviewed a book called The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson and they got to talking about plus sized folks on covers.  The initial galley for Carson’s book featured a waiflike slip of a white girl when the character is supposed to be plus sized and dark-skinned.  Necessary changes were made to the final cover, but you still wouldn’t be able to tell the girth of the heroine from either of them.  The Book Smugglers end their review with, “Something we haven’t talked much about, however, is this concept of slenderizing a plus-sized character for a cover. We’ve seen it before in books like Everything Beautiful. Have you noticed any of this in your reading?”  Elizabeth Fama recommended a great Stacked piece on the subject from 2009 which I remember seeing some years ago that discussed this very thing.

I’ve been wondering about portrayals of overweight children in books for kids myself.  With obesity rates the highest they have ever been amongst our nation’s youth, ours is a country that doesn’t know how to deal with its large children.  Their portrayal in literature, therefore, is something to think about.  Usually, if you’re a kid and fat in a book then you’re a villain of sorts.  A Dudley Dursley or Augustus Gloop.  If, by some miracle, you’re the hero of the book that’s fine, but you’d better be prepared to disappear from your own cover.

So I tried to find representation of fat children on middle grade book covers.  Alas, these are the only books I was able to come up with, and as you can see they’re hardly ideal.  Let’s look at what book jackets tend to do to large kids.  As far as I can tell, these fall into three distinct categories: Inanimate Objects, Taking Advantage of Momentary Slimming, or Part of the Body.

Inanimate Objects

By far the most popular solution.  On the YA end of things it’s almost de rigueur.  On the children’s side it’s less common but not entirely unheard of.

Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall

Here we had a book about a confident, well-adjusted girl who was also fat.  And here we have a book cover of a dress, with no girl in sight.  Yes, it refers to the plot, but still . . .

Slob by Ellen Potter

Owen, the hero of this book, is a big guy but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the cover of the book.

11 Comments on Overweight and Invisible, last added: 9/30/2011
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3. Interview with Ellen Booraem Part 2


Got another two chapters done today. Goal achieved! Tomorrow, chapter 23 and 24.

Also, thanks fo Layne and Jennie who posted story starters for the community story I’ll be starting in the new year. There’s still time to post one. I still haven’t even done one myself. Click here and post in the comments. After the holidays, we’ll vote on the best one and start our community story.

Finally, here’s part 2 of the Day By Day Writer interview with Ellen Booraem, author of The Unnameables. I posted part one yesterday. Thanks again to Ellen for giving us all this great info.

How did you find your agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, and could you tell us about the partnership you have with her and had with your Unnameables editor?

My query letter never did work. Fortunately, I live in a part of Maine that sees a lot of creative people from New York in the summer. After I’d written the new version of Medford and the Goatman, I showed it to Bill Henderson, founding publisher of the Pushcart Press, and his wife, novelist Genie Chipps Henderson. Bill and Genie sent the manuscript to Kate, who at that time was working alongside Bill’s agent at Janklow & Nesbitt.. And, fortunately, she liked it!

I love working with Kate and with Kathy Dawson, who’s my editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They’re patient with my ignorance and utterly committed to making my books as good as they possibly can be. Neither has ever suggested a change “because that’s what the market wants.”

Since I’m up in the boonies of Maine, Kathy’s in New York, and Kate now has started her own agency in Colorado, both relationships are heavy on email. I’ve met Kathy, but have never been in the same room with Kate—I think I’ve heard her voice on the phone about three times in as many years. And yet we feel we know each other pretty well.

You’re a member of Class 2k8. Please tell us about this group and how you got involved with it.

The Class of 2k8 is a group of 27 debut authors of middle-grade and young-adult fiction. We banded together as a group marketing effort, which has included a group web site and blog, an email publicity push, a brochure mailing to libraries and bookstores, and a few group appearances in various parts of the country. I found out about the concept from YA author Carrie Jones, who lives here in Maine. Her first book, Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, came out in 2007 and she was in the Class of 2k7, which inaugurated the group marketing idea for newbie kidlit writers. Now the Class of 2k9 is about to start its year, and a Class of 2k10 is forming.

2k8 has been a fantastic experience. We have a Yahoo email loop, which was set up for group planning and notices. But half the time we use it just to crow or commiserate, and to share experiences and expertise. I would have been lost this year without my 2k8 classmates.

What did you do to promote The Unnameables and did you find anything that surprised you in that process? What were the easiest and most difficult parts?

I joined the Class of 2k8 because I knew publishers weren’t able to give books as much promotion as they used to. Frankly, the surprise to me was the amount of promotion I did get from Harcourt. I worked with publicists Sarah Shealy and Barbara Fisch (who, sadly, were victims of the early December “Black Wednesday” layoffs that swept the publishing industry). They were an endless font of wisdom, and got my book “out there” far more than I expected.

My own efforts consist of a web site and a blog. I contacted some bookstores and newspapers in Maine, did some local signings and talks, and joined fellow 2k8ers on a panel discussion in several Barnes & Noble stores in Massachusetts. Also I visited Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota to talk about writing and related stuff. The blog continues to be difficult for me, because I’ve never kept a journal, don’t enjoy writing personal essays, and can’t persuade myself that anyone out there wants to know what my life is like.

I’ve read that you’re now revising your second novel. Could you tell us anything about it?

My editor has the first revision, and is about to send me her comments. I’m sure I have at least one more revision in my future. The working title is The Filioli. It’s about a relentlessly practical 13-year-old whose family inherits an inn that becomes infested by fairies. The fairies are addicted to luxurious illusions and are debating a change of magic that will eliminate such illusions. The family gets swept into the politics.

That sounds so much fun. I look forward to reading it. Is there something you’ve learned that you wish someone had told you when you started writing?

Get to know your characters as well as you possibly can before you get too far into the plot.

Any other tips you’d like to tell aspiring writers?

Develop as many contacts as you can, and use them at every stage of your process. Whether you use a real-life or on-line critique group while writing and revising will depend on your personality. But once you’re shopping and marketing the book you need every contact you’ve got.

Thanks so much for your time. Good luck for the continued success for The Unnameables and your future books. We look forward to reading them.

Write On!

      

3 Comments on Interview with Ellen Booraem Part 2, last added: 12/20/2008
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4. Librarians are so not scary!

"You see, I don't believe libraries should be drab places where people sit in silence, and that's been the main reason for our policy of employing wild animals as librarians." ~~Monty Python

We thank Colette Eason, Librarian, Marsalis Elementary School, Dallas, Texas for the above quotation. It's beyond excellent!

Classmate Ellen Booraem, debut middle grade author of THE UNNAMEABLES, has a story about librarians who really know how to woo skittish library patrons.


My partner, Rob, was a childhood victim of one of the Old School of librarians, the ones with real-life “shushing action.” He and his peers called the guy Snagglepuss. Giggling in the stacks was strictly forbidden, and books were sent home with a long list of handling instructions. Heaven help you if brought one back late.

We moved to Brooklin, Maine, which has the world's warmest and loveliest library, with matching librarians. Rob, an avid reader, refused to pass the library’s doors. The then-librarian, Gretchen Volenik, met him frequently at the post office and general store, and did her best to persuade him that he could giggle in the stacks all he wanted. But he persisted in hunting for reading material at yard sales rather than borrowing it from the Evil Place. He wouldn’t even read library books I brought home for him, fearing that he would mistreat them in some way.

Then he became addicted to books on tape, which he played all day long as he painted (he’s an artist). The yard sales soon ran out of fodder. Gretchen saw her chance, and started sending me home with audiobooks she knew would interest him. Sometimes, she would send him donated tapes that hadn’t even been catalogued yet, with no scary due date at all.

Today, Rob’s in the library at least once a week, checking out audiobooks and faithfully returning them on time. A month or so ago, the current librarian, Stephanie Atwater, entrusted him with a box full of uncatalogued tapes and CDs, carrying on the tradition. Take that, Snagglepuss.

The lovely Stephanie Atwater, Librarian, Friend Memorial Public Library in Brooklin, Maine.



And now for some great quotations sent to us from librarians across the country.







From DaShannon Lovin, Library Media Specialist, Blanchester High School, Blanchester, Ohio:


"I really didn't realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. They are subversive. You think they're just there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They're like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn't mess with them. "~~Michael Moore

And from Angela Sanders, Librarian, Augusta Elementary School, Augusta, Arkansas:

"My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter." ~~Thomas Helm

"Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book." ~ ~Author Unknown

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." ~~Paul Sweeney

2 Comments on Librarians are so not scary!, last added: 11/26/2008
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5. Day 12


Another late post. Busy day today. But it was a good writing morning for day 12 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month.

It didn’t start out so well. I got up, planted myself in front of the computer, wrote a sentence, and thought, “I have no idea where I’m going with this scene.” I’m still in that squishy middle that I’ve been trying to clean up and streamline, and I’m working on a new scene that will bring together the first half of the novel with the second half. (I messed up a bit in the first draft, so skipped ahead and wrote to the end figuring I’d fix it in the revision, i.e. now.)

What to do when you don’t know what to do? Well, after proscrastinating with the Internet for about 30 minutes (I know, I know), I started thinking about the problem and realized that, writing for an hour or two every morning — a very early, mind-numbing hour or two — I’m not able to clearly get the big picture of my whole story in my head. Without seeing the two parts that have to be joined clearly, it’s difficult to see how to weave scenes that will join them.

So, I thought of what The Unnameables author Ellen Booraem said in her comment on this blog the other day, and picked up a notebook and a pen. I wasn’t looking for stream-of-conscience kind of inspiration, but something more structured. So, I modified what Ellen had suggested and wrote out a kind of timeline between the last major plot point to the current scene.

Bingo! Even though six chapters had passed, I realized it was only a couple days in the time of the story, and not enough time for what needed to happen. Plus, I was better able to see location placement, which also helped with the flow of the story. The next scenes popped into my head clear as day, the end of the last one nicely blending with the second half of the story. That’s it! I’ve got it. I now know what to do. All I have to do now is write it… but that’ll have to wait for another day.

Sunday, to be exact. That’s right. No writing for me tomorrow, at least not this kind. But I have an excellent excuse: I’ll be attending the Brazos Valley SCBWI 2008 Conference: Connections & Craft, Writing for Children and Young Adults. Up around 5am to drive there for the day-long conference. I’ll also be getting my first critique at a conference, and I’m very excited.

I’ve written about conferences and other writing events before, but once again, I can’t stress enough how useful they are. Even if you hear advice you’ve heard before (and chances are you’ll gain at least one, but probably more nuggets you haven’t heard before), conferences a) reaffirm that advice and b) give you time with fellow writers, hearing their stories and getting plenty of opportunities to get fired up and inspired.

I won’t be blogging tomorrow, but Sunday, I’ll let you know how it went. And hopefully, I’ll also get that next scene done.

How’s your writing coming?

Write On!

      

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6. Day 10


These days seem to be flying by. I can’t believe it’s already day 10 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month.

Another late night (they’re going to be the death of me — or my writing; no, not my writing), but I still got up at the usual time and sleepily wrote. It was a little slow going (through eyes that really just wanted to shut again), but the momentum I picked up yesterday in my problem scene carried through to today. I actually realized that yesterday I had left out one important part of the scene, so I fixed that and started to move forward until I realized that I’m at the point where I have to write some completely new scenes to fix the plotting problems I had run into during my first draft. I knew this day would come. I feel kind of like I’m doing a puzzle, fitting together all these story elements so they flow in the most exciting and entertaining way, while also keeping the story clear for young readers. I’ll need a good working brain for that one, but I did figure out some of it this morning. How do you work out if your story is flowing ok? Charts? Storyboards? Or just a really good memory?

Outside of my writing, I wanted to make note of two comments my blog received yesterday. First, congratulations to Tricia, who is participating in NaNoWriMo and has already reached 31,000 words, more than half of her 50,000 goal. Great news! Well done and keep it up.

Second, thanks to Ellen Booraem, author of the great new book The Unnameables, who posted a comment giving me a great writer’s block tip that she uses. You can find it here, but basically, she said that when she’s struggling, she opens a new document and writes stream-of-conscience style in the viewpoint of her character. She says she always finds out some new character points or plot points. Thanks for sharing, Ellen.

Anyone else got tips to share?

Write On!

      

2 Comments on Day 10, last added: 11/16/2008
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7. Channeling MLK in the Democratic Primaries

David Domke is Professor of Communication and Head of Journalism at the University of Washington. Kevin Coe is a doctoral candidate in Speech Communication at the University of Illinois. They are authors of the The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America. To learn more about the book check out their handy website here, to read more posts by them click here. Below Domke and Coe look at the effects of MLK’s legacy on the Democratic primaries.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has now come and gone, but King’s presence is still being felt in the Democratic primary. (more…)

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8. BEA Up Close & Personal





Who signed in the autograph area?







Forget the TV/movie stars like Brooke Shields, Cheech Marin, and Barbara Walters. The real stars were our debut authors! Signing in the autograph area were:








That's Donna!




What Class of 2k8 books were spotted?




The Unnameables by Ellen Booraem, The Lucky Place by Zu Vincent, & Swimming With The Sharks by Debbie Reed Fischer

Thousands of terrific books were up for grabs for anyone brave enough to weave through the crowd, stand in line, or fight for floor space. What a great day!



Stay tuned tomorrow we have more from the floor of BEA!



3 Comments on BEA Up Close & Personal, last added: 6/11/2008
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9. Introducing the Electrifying Ellen Booraem

This month we're thrilled to have three debut authors. Our first celebration is for Ellen Booraem and her MG fantasy, The Unnameables.

“The Unnameables” is a whimsical fantasy set on an island where everyone is named for what he or she does. The hero is a 13-year-old foundling boy named Medford Runyuin, whose meaningless name underscores his status as an outsider in a rigid, orderly society. Medford has a dangerous secret that just keeps getting worse as he gets older. A smelly, chaotic goatman shows up to expose the secret, kicking off a chain of events that changes Medford’s life—and his island—forever.

Ellen quit a job she loved—arts and special sections editor for the county newspaper—to take her third stab at writing a novel. This time, it worked! Before taking the plunge, she had been writing and editing for rural weeklies for nearly twenty years. Before that, she wrote and edited employee newsletters for corporations and college publications.

Ellen and her partner, artist Rob Shillady, moved to coastal Maine from southern New England in 1984. In the early 90s, they bought land in their tiny town (population: 800) and built a house with their own hands (mostly Rob’s, since one of his day jobs had been carpentry). They live there now with a dog named Calamity Jane and a cat named McGonagall, after the Harry Potter professor who can turn herself into a cat.

Ellen is a founding director of the Brooklin Youth Corps, a summertime work and self-esteem program for teens. She is a mentor and writing coach at the local school, and freelances for the newspaper where she used to work.

Here’s what Kirkus Reviews had to say about The Unnameables:

(Starred Review) On Island, “thou art thy name.” At age 14, residents receive their names and their vocations from the Council. A cook becomes Cook, a tanner becomes Tanner and everyone follows the rules set forth in Capability C. Craft’s Frugall Compendium of Home Arts and Farme Chores (1680). Thirteen-year-old foundling Medford Runyuin hopes to be designated Carver, like his foster father. He also hopes no one will discover the Unnameable objects he’s created and hidden under his bed: They could cause his exile to Mainland forever. The Council puts off naming him, however, and he must continue to work hard for acceptance. When someone nameless and possibly Unnameable enters his life, all his plans—and the islanders’ way of life—could be in for drastic changes…but after 300 years, is that necessarily a bad thing? Booraem’s debut is an ever-surprising, genre-defying page-turner. Realistic characters deal with philosophical problems in vivid, flowing prose that is evocative and often funny. A sort of combination of witch-trial-era Salem and The Giver, this book offers a treat with nearly every page turn.

5 Comments on Introducing the Electrifying Ellen Booraem, last added: 10/7/2008
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10. Day 4: What Ellen is Mainely Thankful For

Every author has an acknowledgement page where they give thanks to people who've helped them along their journey to publication, but few give kudos to an entire town....

The acknowledgements page in The Unnameables lists at least 25 people, mostly because I distributed the first draft far and wide to get critiques before I even thought about approaching an agent.

But the list also includes an entire town, which is another 900 people or so. Maybe this is a record for Most Populated Acknowledgments. I’ll have to check.

The town is Brooklin, Maine, where I’ve lived for 24 years as of October 11. Rob and I moved there from Providence, Rhode Island, looking for a place where we could afford to work part-time while he painted and I wrote. He’s the one who actually ended up doing what we intended. I got fascinated by the local weekly newspapers and ended up working more than full time as a reporter and editor—until the day came when I dropped everything to write this novel.

It’s gorgeous in coastal Maine, but that’s not the reason we’re still in Brooklin. In part, it’s the sense of being looked-out-for. No smoke coming from your chimney on a frigid day will win you a knock on the door to make sure you’re OK. (And, when you say you’re fine, the person goes away and leaves you to get on with it, unless you invite him in for coffee.)

When a bunch of teenagers committed vandalism a decade or so ago, the result was not the threat of joovie but a new town-sponsored summer program called The Brooklin Youth Corps. Voters fund it every year without a peep, even though the town already pays through the nose for its tiny elementary school. And for each of the 60 kids in that school, there’s at least one townsperson volunteering there.

Brooklin residents line up for a ballot vote at the annual town meeting, held in the school gym the first weekend in April.

This fall, the selectmen and other community groups have formed a fundraising task force to buy heat for those who need it this winter. An appeal letter’s gone out, and last Friday hundreds upon hundreds turned out for a fundraising supper.

We have our disagreements and moments of grumpiness, of course. The fight we had about town governance two or three years ago got regional, if not national, press coverage. But then it all settles down.

When I told people I’d quit a perfectly good job to write a children’s novel, with no evidence that any publisher would ever want it, nobody said, “Are you nuts?” Instead, they said, “Huh. Great idea. Can’t wait to read it.”

Who could leave a town like this?

Who, indeed! Come back tomorrow for Ellen's interview with her characters.

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11. Day 2: Interviewing Ellen

We're back today to better get to know Ellen. Please pull up a chair and join us for a little chat.

2k8: Welcome, Ellen. Please tell us where you do most of your writing?

Ellen: I have a room of my own! It’s tiny, and when we first built our house it doubled as a guest room. But that was OK because my main office was at whatever newspaper employed me at the time. Then we built an addition for my elderly mother, and after she was gone the addition became the guest room. So when I quit my job and started writing The Unnameables I took over the whole office for myself, along with hundreds of books.

Unlike most of the house, this room isn’t actually finished—it has no window trim or molding, and the floor is painted plywood. It’s always a mess, partly because I try to cram so much stuff into so little space. But it has a door that closes, and that’s the important thing.

2k8: That is important. Can you please tell us how the book came about? What got you started writing it?

Ellen: In 1984, I sat down to write a picture book for my partner, Rob, to illustrate. The two main characters were Rob’s alter-ego, Medford Runyuin, and his sidekick, the Goatman, both of whom Rob had been putting in recreational paintings since art school.

office mates

The story got away from me, and before I knew it I was writing a novel for older kids. I wrote a terrible first draft, then stuck it in a drawer and plunged into community journalism in the coastal Maine county to which we’d just moved. I thought I’d forgotten all about it, but some part of my brain kept working on it.

Fifteen years later, I started writing it again from scratch. Medford, who had been an adult, turned into a young teenager. The Goatman acquired hooves (he’d worn sandals in the first version) and the power to summon the wind, although not to control it. The setting changed from an isolated town to an isolated island.

There isn’t an illustration to be found, other than a couple of maps done by a stranger. Secretly, Rob is very relieved.

2k8: Wow! What an evolution. How did it find a publisher? Give us the scoop.

Ellen: The area where I live is rife with creative types, especially in the summer. Our town’s literary heritage includes Charlotte’s Web by longtime resident E.B.White. (Charlotte’s settings are based on our county fair and White’s own farm.)

The summer after I finished the new version of my book, I showed it to Bill Henderson, the founding editor and publisher of the Pushcart Prize and Pushcart Press. He lives in a neighboring town during the summer, and runs what he claims is the world’s smallest bookstore.

Bill and his wife, writer Genie Chipps Henderson, liked the book and sent it to Kate Schafer, then a colleague of Bill’s agent at Janklow & Nesbit. She took it on and submitted it to six publishers, all of whom rejected it. They gave me really good critiques, though, so I revised the manuscript before Kate showed it to Kathy Dawson at Harcourt Children’s Books (now part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Kathy bought it about a year after Kate and I had started working together.

Kate now has moved to Colorado and started her own agency, k.t. literary. I stayed with her, of course, because she’s amazing. Matching the book up with Kathy Dawson was a stroke of genius— Kathy immediately understood the characters and the point of the book, but also diagnosed its problems in a way no one else had done before. And now we’re working together on my next book, temporarily called The Filioli.

2k8: That's an incredible story. So, did anything surprise you or catch you off guard when you were writing The Unnameables?

I had tried twice before to quit my job and write fiction, and both times I lost interest after two or three months and sought gainful employment. Part of the problem was that I stopped having fun and didn’t have the wherewithal to force my way through the shady bits and back into the light on the other side.

This time, I was determined to stick with it. But when I hit my first “writer’s block” about a month in, I thought, “Uh-oh. Here we go.” I considered various folk charms and shamanistic rites. But then, to my great joy, I discovered that I could write my way out of the problem by choosing a character and brainstorming a journal entry or two in that character’s voice. Sometimes what I wrote never made it into the book, but the process always got the juices flowing again.

So far, the method is foolproof. (Knock on wood.)

2k8: That's a great technique. Thanks for sharing it. Now imagine you have an offer from your dream press to publish your dream book, no matter how insane or unmarketable it might be (though of course it might not be). What story would you want to write and why?

Ellen: This is that book, and Harcourt is that publisher. On its surface, The Unnameables is not a supremely marketable book. It doesn’t really fit a genre, and there isn’t a swash or a buckle to be found anywhere, nor a magic wand. I still can’t believe anyone was willing to take it on. And it’s ten times the book it was when Kathy Dawson got her hands on it.

2k8: Incredible! Won't you please tell us what question most people won't know to ask you? And what's your answer?

Ellen: Probably no one would ever think to ask me if I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

The answer is no, I’m not.

It was great chatting with you, Ellen. Thanks for visiting. Come back tomorrow when Ellen plays two truths and a lie.

11 Comments on Day 2: Interviewing Ellen, last added: 10/8/2008
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12. Day 3: Two Truths and a Lie

We're back to play two truths and a lie. And there's a prize involved! Which one is the fib? You decide.



The Goatman is an important character in The Unnameables. He provides most of the comic relief, and also kicks off the crisis that puts Medford at risk but eventually improves his life.

The Goatman has horns and hooves. He wears a purple robe, and walks with a staff. He eats the table linens. He can call down the wind, but he can’t control it.

Where did the ideas behind the Goatman come from? Three answers are below. Two are true and one is a lie. A signed copy of The Unnameables to the first poster to guess the lie.

1. My partner Rob Shillady invented Medford Runyuin as a cartoon character when he was just graduated from art school, and added the Goatman as a sidekick. The Goatman idea supposedly came from the Elizabethan narrative poem The Faerie Queene, even though I refuse to believe Rob read any part of it. In the poem, a group of goatmen (satyrs) rescue the heroine, and their leader helps her reach paradise. In Rob’s version, the Goatman and his people live in a fantasy world with a bunch of naked nymphs. I conducted a nymph-ectomy before stealing the character for my book.

2. My partner Rob Shillady spent part of his childhood in Washington, D.C., where there has been a persistent urban myth about the Maryland Goatman. This goatman supposedly lives in the woods of Prince George’s County and stalks lovers’ lanes. (At least one of his stories borrows from the urban legend about “The Hook”). Some tales identify him as just a crazy old man, but others insist he is part-human, part goat, the result of government genetic experiments. These tales resonated with Rob, and he cleaned them up to create an entertaining sidekick for Medford.

3. In college, I read Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, which says that Greek tragedy is the perfect art form because of the way it combines the Apollonian and the Dionysian. (Meaning, roughly, order and chaos, the Greek god Apollo being an orderly character compared to the fun-loving, wine-soaked Dionysius.) Many years later, my faulty recollection of Nietzsche pitted Medford and his society (the Apollonian) against the Goatman (the Dionysian).

This is an early version of the Goatman, out for a flight with the original (adult) Medford and the dog who accompanies the Goatman. (The dog—here and in the book—is based on the late, lamented Saffron, who was Rob’s roommate before I joined the household.)

7 Comments on Day 3: Two Truths and a Lie, last added: 10/11/2008
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13. Day 4: What Ellen is Mainely Thankful For

Every author has an acknowledgement page where they give thanks to people who've helped them along their journey to publication, but few give kudos to an entire town....

The acknowledgements page in The Unnameables lists at least 25 people, mostly because I distributed the first draft far and wide to get critiques before I even thought about approaching an agent.

But the list also includes an entire town, which is another 900 people or so. Maybe this is a record for Most Populated Acknowledgments. I’ll have to check.

The town is Brooklin, Maine, where I’ve lived for 24 years as of October 11. Rob and I moved there from Providence, Rhode Island, looking for a place where we could afford to work part-time while he painted and I wrote. He’s the one who actually ended up doing what we intended. I got fascinated by the local weekly newspapers and ended up working more than full time as a reporter and editor—until the day came when I dropped everything to write this novel.

The Friend Memorial Library, heartbeat of Brooklin. It was revolutionized decades ago by New Yorker editor Katherine Sargent White (wife of E.B. White) and has remained true to her standards ever since.

It’s gorgeous in coastal Maine, but that’s not the reason we’re still in Brooklin. In part, it’s the sense of being looked-out-for. No smoke coming from your chimney on a frigid day will win you a knock on the door to make sure you’re OK. (And, when you say you’re fine, the person goes away and leaves you to get on with it, unless you invite him in for coffee.)

When a bunch of teenagers committed vandalism a decade or so ago, the result was not the threat of joovie but a new town-sponsored summer program called The Brooklin Youth Corps. Voters fund it every year without a peep, even though the town already pays through the nose for its tiny elementary school. And for each of the 60 kids in that school, there’s at least one townsperson volunteering there.

Brooklin residents line up for a ballot vote at the annual town meeting, held in the school gym the first weekend in April.

This fall, the selectmen and other community groups have formed a fundraising task force to buy heat for those who need it this winter. An appeal letter’s gone out, and last Friday hundreds upon hundreds turned out for a fundraising supper.

We have our disagreements and moments of grumpiness, of course. The fight we had about town governance two or three years ago got regional, if not national, press coverage. But then it all settles down.

When I told people I’d quit a perfectly good job to write a children’s novel, with no evidence that any publisher would ever want it, nobody said, “Are you nuts?” Instead, they said, “Huh. Great idea. Can’t wait to read it.”

Who could leave a town like this?

Who, indeed! Come back tomorrow for Ellen's interview with her characters.

3 Comments on Day 4: What Ellen is Mainely Thankful For, last added: 10/10/2008
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14. Day 2: Now and Later

Today is day two of our now and later series when classmates share what their greatest accomplishments were from 2008 and what they hope to achieve by 2018.

LISA SCHROEDER

In 2008, my greatest accomplishments were:

1. Writing and finishing a mid-grade novel that is fun and marketable. I've always wanted to sell a MG - my agent thinks we're getting close!
2. Selling my second YA novel, FAR FROM YOU, to Simon Pulse. It comes out in just a couple of months.
3. Presenting at the Oregon conference in May, and at three different conferences this fall with members of the class of 2k8/2k9! So much fun!!
4. Watching I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME go into its fifth printing in eight months time.
5. Being a part of the amazing and successful class of 2k8!

By 2018 I hope to have:

1. more time to write as well as do fun things like travel
2. more money to do fun things like travel
3. more books on the shelf with my name on it
4. sold lots of those books with my name on it
5. a 10-year reunion somewhere fun with the class of 2k8

NANCY VIAU

In 2008, my greatest accomplishments were:

1. deciphering copyediting notes, and realizing how much I love revision
2. signing arcs at national conferences like BEA and ALA, while (hopefully) not making a fool of myself.
3. overcoming my fear of being a debut novelist
4. publication of Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head
5. personally "rehabing" a major shoulder injury that froze due to Butt-in-Chair-When-It-Should've-Been-At-The-Gym/Physical Therapist Syndrome

By 2018 I hope to have:

1. at least one more MG novel published
2. at least one picture book under contract
3. several chapters of a memoir completed4. gone to the high school or college graduation of each one of my kids, and I hope I'm thoroughly enjoying being an empty-nester
5. enough long term memory loss to forget how long (and hard) it was to get where I am today; enough long term memory to remember how fun it was

ELLEN BOOREAM

In 2008, my greatest accomplishments were:

1. Managing to sleep occasionally and maintain a portion of my stomach lining even though I have an actual book coming out with my name actually on the cover.
2. Writing a second book even though I have a book coming out with my name on the cover.
3. 2k8!
4. Creating a web site and a blog, which I never thought I'd do.
5. Getting ideas for third and fourth books, and maybe a fifth.

By 2018 I hope to have:

1. Figured out how to write better novels.
2. Made at least one reader shout at the page, "No! No! Don't do it!"
3. Heard from a kid that he/she read something of mine under the covers with a flashlight.
4. Figured out how to write a decent short story.
5. Published five-to-seven additional books with my name on the cover.
Are you reviewing where you've been and where you're going?

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