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By: Angela Muse,
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The Bee Bully
, anti bullying
, book reviews
, Children and Young People
, Children's literature
, Dr. Suess
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Today I had the privilege of being a reader at a local elementary school. I got to read one of my favorite books, The Bee Bully, and talk to the kids about being an author. The energetic kindergartners made me feel very welcome and I really enjoyed spending some time with them. We talked a little bit about what it means to be a bully and how important reading is.
Three reasons why reading is important to young children:
1). Reading exercises our brains. That’s right, our brains need a workout too. Reading strengthens brain connections and can even create new ones so pick up a book and help your brain exercise.
2). Reading improves concentration. Kids have to focus when they read which can sometimes be a difficult task. The more you read the longer you can extend that concentration time which will continue to improve.
3). Reading helps develop imagination. When you read your brain translates what is read to pictures. Did you know you can create a movie in your head while you read? We become engrossed in the story and we can connect with the characters. We can sympathize with how a character feels and reflect on how we would feel in that same situation.
Now go grab a book and BEE A READER!
Today on the blog we have Louisa Clarkson of Indicated to give the 101 on author branding, an important step in marketing your words. Without any further ado here is Louisa!
No doubt you’re familiar with brands, their advertising slogans and logos (unless you’re a troll living under a rock bridge). Like McDonalds for example, is highly recognizable with the golden arches, the red and yellow and their branding statement “I’m Lovin’ it”.
From a marketing perspective, the colors and branding statements helps customers recognize it and influence them to buy the products. Red means passion and love, it stands out, and is used to stimulate people to make quick decisions. Yellow is bright and sunny, grabs attention and evokes feelings of happiness and joy. “I’m Lovin’ it” implies you will enjoy the food. Branding is a brilliant and important tool for authors too. Our writing style, book themes/genre, covers, our author website(s), branding statements, and even our personalities, all shape our brand. Let’s look at these things in more detail, and start building a brand that knocks Stephanie Meyer from her perch! Your writing voice, writing style, tone and even choice of words, is what a reader bonds and fall in love. No one else writes the way you do. These component make your author style unique, and helps your readers recognizes your writing. Two examples of very distinct writing styles are Doreen Virtue, author of Healing With the Angels, who has a very motivating and inspiring style and tone, which compliments her self-help and spiritual brand. While Eion Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl children’s series, has a very tongue in cheek voice that tickles a child’s funny bone. The genre(s) and themes that you write about is what readers will associate with you, and what they’ll expect from you in future. For example, Stephen King is synonymous for horror, supernatural themes, and a few drama novels. Readers would never associate Stephen with comedy. That would be like McDonalds selling pizza! For those of you published in multiple genres, or if you’re planning to write in more than one genre, it’s recommended to use pen names to separate the brands, unless your books have a common element such as magic or fantasy that filter through them. Start small with one genre and build a fanbase, like Stephen did, then expand into other genres. A book cover, its artwork, font and colors should reflect the tone, style and genre of the book(s). For example, on Suzanne Collins Hunger Gamesseries, every book features a Mockingjay, which is a distinct symbol for these books, and is even used for the film posters. Each book also uses the same square font for the book title and author name, and a different color to reflect the tone. Book 1 has a black cover representing a bleak society, hopelessness and oppression, typical of the dystopian genre. Book 2 is red which is symbolic of war and fighting back. Blue features on blue to show hope and freedom. These elements need to be kept consistent when publishing a series to help the reader identify your books and brand. If you self publish, try to use the same cover designer to maintain the style. The function of the author website is the same as the book covers. It should convey to any visitors the style and tone of your books, reflect aspects of your personality, hobbies or interests, and it can feature a logo to represent your brand. Here’s a cool website by paranormal romance author TF Walsh, which reflects the romantic and supernatural elements of her books, and her love of everything fantasy. The black gives a creepy and dark tone, while red highlights the romance and passion. A branding statement defines who you are as an author, the types of books you publish, aspects of your personality, who your target audience is, and helps readers to find you. For example, mine is “crafting whimsical, inspiring fantasy adventures that keeps tweens reading for days.” I could have used John Grisham’s Number 1 Bestselling Author, but it’s boring (zzzzz) and doesn’t tell me anything about his books. Personality and Perception Part of an author’s job is to build a public image that reflects their personality and brand. Aussie author Morris Gleitzman has a cheeky, fun brand, which supports his humorous children’s books. This is what draws readers to him and keeps them loyal. But if he were to go and post rude or adult’s only jokes on his social media accounts, there’d be public outrage. Always remember who your target market is and who might be reading. Branding is such a huge topic, and this is but a small, but important part of it. I’d love to know what your branding efforts you’ve made. Do you have separate brands for your books? Have you created any distinct features on your covers or logos? C’mon. Share you branding statements, so I don’t feel like such a dork! If you don’t have fun, then make one up. Promise I won’t laugh. Louisa Clarkson is the author of The Silver Strand, the first in the Mastermind Academy tween fantasy series for 9-12 year olds. Creative endeavors called, and she left her Environmental Engineering career to study a Masters in Creative Writing and pursue her writing dreams. In the months she spent researching how to promote her novel, she found bits of information here and there, but no complete author resource. As such Indicated was born. Indicatedfeatures book promotion guides and a comprehensive database of where to find book promotional opportunities like book review bloggers, free and paid advertising opportunities, guest posts, authors interviews and so much more.
By: Angela Muse,
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, The Christmas Owl
, Amazon Kindle
, children's book
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Get ready to load up those new kindles with some fantastic ebooks that will be specially priced at $.99 from December 26th through December 29th. Loads of authors in various genres are joining in on this holiday sale. Click the logo above to check out the main page for this sale and start downloading today.
Our children’s holiday story, The Christmas Owl, will be reduced to $.99 during this sale. An Amazon best selling children’s story, The Christmas Owl , is sure to become a holiday classic. A Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word. This colorful tale told in verse is vividly illustrated to capture the attention of children aged eight and under.
SittieCates has been writing for more than ten years. She has covered topics about health, travel, recipes, writing, family, children and many more. The author of Sleepyhead? NOT!, 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry and Prose and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You, she is currently working as a freelance writer.
Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Cates.
SittieCates: SittieCates is my virtual pseudonym. My real name is Jacqueline, which I mostly prefer my family, old friends and relatives to use. Most of my friends call me Cates. Online, a lot of people call me Sittie. I prefer having my pseudonym, “SittieCates”, written without a space to denote oneness or balance.
I have worked for traditional publishing firms as a Writer and Editor. I also taught English to Filipinos at a local school. I’ve handled students from Grades 3 up to 4th year High School. I was the Guidance Counselor and the Head of the English Department. Aside from those jobs I had at that school, I was also the adviser for the school publication and was in charge of the Theatre Guild.
After a few years, I became an ESL teacher for Koreans. Then, I had an offer at another publishing firm so I went back to writing and editing.
In between those full-time jobs, I tried to squeeze in time to engage in writing the stories that I love; not the articles that I usually spin at work. I’ve managed to publish a poem, a few short stories for kids and some articles in other local magazines published by other publishing firms. While my aim was to write about topics I really love in snippets of time available, I have to admit that there were lots of times when I was too tired to engage in that because of my hectic work schedules. You see, whenever I came home, all I wanted to do was collapse on my bed and pray that I would have a restful sleep so I could function well the next day.
When did the writing bug bite?
SittieCates: I’ve always wanted to write. My parents and siblings would scold me because I would write everywhere. They particularly hated it when I would write on the walls. It looked really messy, but all those scribbles were, in a way, special, because they held dozens of stories only I could understand.
I wrote my very first “nearly legible and more understandable” story when I was in kindergarten. It was part of an assignment. There was a blank page for that in the book, and we were tasked to write a story. We were encouraged to draw the characters, too.
So, I peppered the page with stick figures, the only drawings I could muster. J And I wrote a very, very short story about three girls who always wanted to sing. And when I say short, I really mean short because I only used a few sentences. The title was written as one word; it included all three names of the little girls in the story.
What particular genre/s do you prefer?
SittieCates: For the genre, I seem to gravitate more towards children’s stories. I published two ebooks for kids. One is Sleepyhead? NOT! and the other is Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You. I have a third one that’s already with my illustrator. It’s about learning colors. It’s perfect for kids aged 3 to 5, but younger and older ones up to 8 would also love it.
I also love poetry. I’ve compiled a few of my poems and published them together with some essays in my ebook, 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry & Prose. The ebook is inspirational and autobiographical. If you read it, you’ll get to know a few things about me. I’ve created an ebook trailer for this at: http://youtu.be/31TfRehsfSU. One of my favorite poetry lines that I’ve written in the ebook includes this one: “In the evenings when the wind speaks softly in my ear… When the stars give out a shine so enchantingly clear… When the soft beams of moonlight leave a trail of shadows in sight… I listen to the sweet, melodious sound of your voice at night.”
What other genre/s are you interested in venturing in?
SittieCates: I have a novel. Currently, I’m polishing that one. It’s my first novel and it’s a romance story, but there’s a little bit of twist there. J I’ll just announce that when it’s ready.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
SittieCates: That’s a good question, Shelagh. When I started writing, just like most authors, I wanted to share my works with a lot of readers. I wanted my works to be read and, hopefully, bring something helpful, amusing or inspiring to the readers – whether the story is for kids or for grown-ups. I truly wanted to give my readers that experience. Even though they may not always have a smile on their faces after reading what I’ve written, I wanted them to feel satisfied or complete, with nary a nagging and confusing thought bothering them afterwards when they close the book.
Could you tell us more about your current book bundle promo for kids?
SittieCates: I’d love to, Shelagh!
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I have published two ebooks for kids that are up at Amazon (at http://amzn.to/1dTolwE) and other retailers, priced and sold individually. These two are included in a book bundle at http://flipreads.com/sittie-bundle. The bundle, Sittie CASE, is offered at a very, very low price until January 31, 2014 only.
To give interested readers an idea of the children’s stories included in the bundle, here are the descriptions for both:
Mabel Robbins is a bright, sweet and cheerful kid who likes to play make-believe. She faces no trouble during the day. But when nighttime comes, her problem begins. She couldn’t sleep easily like the rest of her family.
Thinking that she is different, she seeks help to correct her sleeping problem.
But nothing seems to go right!
Will Mabel Robbins be able to find the “right” way to sleep easily? Find out now at Sleepyhead? NOT!
Sleepyhead? NOT! children’s ebook trailer can be seen at YouTube.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You
When Kaitlyn Zamorra learned to write letters to God from her parents, she started telling Him everything: the things that she likes and what she considers to be “no fun” at all. She also told God about a precious gift that was lots of fun.
But then, something happened. Her source of happiness seemed like it was going to be taken away from her.
Will she be able to save something that gave her lots of happiness? Or will Kaitlyn soon realize what’s truly “lots of fun”?
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You Children’s ebook trailer is at YouTube.
While the denomination there is in Philippine Pesos, interested buyers can avail of it in dollars by choosing Paypal as a mode of payment. I would suggest that readers check the FAQ at the site to know more about the file reading formats before they purchase and download the bundle.
Since it’s my first time to have a book bundle, I thought of celebrating it while the promo was running. So, I created a worldwide event on Google Plus. But not everyone could join. So, I transferred the event to Facebook, invited some friends and encouraged them to invite others. The Facebook party, which I named, ♥ The Sittie CASE Book Bundle Party ♥ has already started, and would end by January 31. Others can still join the event if they like, provided that they do so before the last day of January.
How do you develop characters?
SittieCates: I’m a people watcher. I observe people of different ages, professions, etc. I’ve been doing that since I was like 6 or 7 years old. It was just like a game before.
People may think I’m naturally talkative. But I’m only like that online. In person, I’m often what you may refer to as “unusually quiet”, especially when there are so many people around. It’s not that I’m a snob, but I merely prefer to observe people and things around me. That is if my nose isn’t buried in a book.
Often, I listen to how people talk. I take note of how they carry themselves, what clothes they prefer to wear, their mannerisms and other things. I also try to feel the underlying messages that their statements try not to reveal because, as I’ve observed, there are some who would tell you one thing but mean another thing, and I could somehow feel and notice that even if they try really hard to keep that to themselves.
It’s amusing to observe people because I feel that by doing this, I would be able to create the possible lead characters and antagonists of the story, sort of like getting inside their heads and seeing how they think. In real life, I try to capture all that. I try to incorporate these things in my stories so it would adopt a “real” atmosphere, especially in my upcoming novel. (Other character sketches I’ve had are kept in a notebook and I’ll be using those next time.)
What about the setting?
SittieCates: When I created the story setting for my upcoming romance novel, Bookworm, I had to struggle for awhile. I was trying to decide if a serious mood would be best or not. With regards to where and what time the story would take place, I chose what I knew, what I was familiar with, and injected that in the novel. Hopefully, the readers would love it.
Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
SittieCates: For most of the articles I’ve written, I would say that I’d go for the first-person POV.
But with stories, I try to experiment. I used both the first-person and third-person POV for my stories for kids. Sleepyhead? Not! was written using the third-person POV while Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You used the first person.
However, for my upcoming novel, things are totally different. It’s not going to use any of the POVs normally used in writing novels. I wanted to try something else. So, I decided to use a different approach, which you’ll all see when my novel will be published. And I sincerely hope you would all wait for that.
How does your environment or immediate circle of friends, family and colleagues color your writing?
SittieCates: I find that a part of me seems to come out – regardless of whatever I create (poems, songs, articles, stories, etc.). It may be about the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had or the experiences that I knew someone had.
Sometimes, I find that helpful. Other times, no, because when I’m faced with a certain character, and I see that character as someone I know, it wouldn’t help the tale at all, especially if something happens in the story. What I mean is that being the real person that that character is, when he or she is faced with a dilemma, obviously, he or she would do the same thing that his or her character’s “real” counterpart would do. When that happens, all creative juices would be blocked, and that wouldn’t contribute well to the story because I wouldn’t know what else to write. As you can see, for me, when that story character thinks, feels and behaves like the real-life counterpart, that’s the end of the story. You can’t move past that because you would say that the real person wouldn’t behave, feel or think as such. So, there’s no more ideas coming in. You’re blocked! I’ve encountered that when I was writing the first few drafts of Bookworm. It was really hard to move beyond that. So, I changed the story a bit, and tried to see a story character as not being totally similar to a real-life counterpart.
Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve had.
SittieCates: Delighted to do so, Shelagh! Some of the links for the book reviews I’ve received for 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry & Prose” and “Sleepyhead? NOT! are at the tab marked as “Book Reviews Written by Others for My Works” at my two blogs.
I also loved this one that was posted on a retail site. It was for one of my ebooks for kids, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You. It reads:
“A wonderful and delightful story, adorably illustrated, about a little girl’s faith and innocence as she starts understanding about change and learning to love her baby brother. Well done! Five stars all the way (the stars seem to be missing on this review). My child loved it, too!” ~ Patrick Heffernan, Author of Greywalker, a novel
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
SittieCates: People can follow me in a number of ways:
My Blogs: http://www.myownwritersnook.blogspot.com and http://www.sittiecateslovestories.blogspot.com
Facebook Pages: https://www.facebook.com/TheMusingsofaHopefulPecuniousWordsmith and https://www.facebook.com/SittieCatesLovesStories
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/114470887211929135419
Thank you for joining us today, Cates.
SittieCates: Thank you so much, Shelagh! I really enjoyed the interview. All the best to you and your site! And happy holidays to everyone! J
This Fun Friday The Society of YA Storyteller authors are all interviewing fellow authors! I’m the lucky one who hosts KC Blake today. Interested in stories that will keep you up long into the night? Just read one of KC’s books and you’ll see why you’ll want to read them all. When you get to the end of the interview and want to read more, there’s links to all the author interviews. Stop by each of the blogs and read about one of your favorite or future favorite authors. Click here to check out the The YA Society of Storytellers website and check out the game zone, online book club, trailers and giveaways too.
Any works in process that you are passionate about? I am working on Warrior right now. It is the third in the Order of the Spirit Realm Series, and I’m having a blast because I know these characters so well. It will be hard when I finish and have to say goodbye.
Werewolf or Vampire? Vampire or Zombie? Aliens or Mole People? Werewolf (pasty white boys don’t do it for me). Vampire (easier to kill). Aliens (the other is too weird).
Which of your characters is most like you? Bay-Lee Van Helsing from Bait. I don’t give up no matter what (I’m just stubborn that way), and I keep going no matter what life throws at me. I’m also driven (to write, not to kill werewolves).
Which of your characters is least like you? Lily from Witch Hunt. The girl never knows when to shut her mouth. She is constantly talking about stupid things and doesn’t notice when her friends want to slap her.
Which of your characters would you like to be friends with? Kristen from Crushed because she is a witch with crazy powers, but she isn’t irresponsible so I don’t have to worry about her turning me into anything weird. She would use her magic to help me out.
Which of your characters do you like writing about most? Nick Gallos from Bait because he was an undercover rock star slash vampire slayer. He’s angry and bitter, until he falls for Bay-Lee. Definitely my favorite.
Tell us about your favorite Christmas tradition. On Christmas Eve we drink hot cocoa and open up one present. We also watch a Christmas movie. Then on Christmas morning we eat breakfast before opening presents. The rest of the day is spent visiting family, maybe watching another Christmas movie, and playing in the snow if we are lucky enough to have some.
Paperback or eBook? Depends. I love my Kindle, but I want my books in print if they are keepers.
Future plans? After I finish up the Order of the Spirit Realm series, I am going to finish my vampire series. Then I would like to move on to a series about other worlds and dragons.
Check out the other YA Storyteller interviews:
By: Susanne Gervay
Blog: Susanne Gervay's Blog
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, Alison Lester illustrator
, author Laurine Croasdale
, author libby Gleeson
, Author Meredith Costain
, Brian Cook literary agent
, Dr Maria Hill President of SWW
, Fearless by Sarah Davis
, Ford Street Publishing
, Heather Curdie penguin
, Linda Jaivin author
, Maureen Johnson
, Paul Collins fantasy author
, Society of Women Writers
, Tracey Hawkins author
, Zoe Walton publisher Random House
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Alison Lester Children’s Laureate and Sarah Davies award winning illustrator and friend were the keynotes at the Children’s Book Council Christmas dinner. Heaps of authors and illustrators celebrated with the community of book lovers.
Society of Women Writers (SWW) in the Mitchell Library – with its heritage sandstone columns and magnificent rooms – addressed by Professor Yerbury – introduced by historian and author Maria Hill, who’s the President of the Society of Women Writers.
Unleased Festival with festival convenor Jodie Wells Slowgrove – who organised a weekend festival of authors and publishers. it was a buzz! Linda Jaivin gave insight into her travels and life in China – she was so entertaining. Read her books!
Tim ferguson comedian author who manages his MS with style and humour. Publishers including Paul Collins Ford Street Publishing, Zoe Walton RandomHouse, Heather Curdie Penguin.
But BEST fun was being won by Maureen Johnson (author of Boofheads and many other books) to give her a mini mentorship. Love doing it and watch out for her new series!
The post The start of the festive season with Children’s laureate Alison Lester! appeared first on Susanne Gervay's Blog.
By: Angela Muse,
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The Christmas Owl
, Barnes & Noble
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We are thrilled to announce the release of our latest children’s book, The Christmas Owl. This ebook is available at a special discounted price of $.99 through November 14th on Amazon. We have also released this book on Barnes & Noble. A Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word.
I've been a very bad blogger this year, mainly because of this, of course. But G's treatments are now done, and we're working toward getting our life back to our "new normal." But first, we're moving apartments this week and packing is exhausting!
As always happens, while packing I've been finding forgotten things, like this letter Grace had sent me back when we were both seniors in high school. I had brought this with me from my parents' house in California a while back because I wanted to quote some of the letter in a talk I was giving, I think.
In it, we talked about boys, of course. I had asked her to send me a boyfriend, so she sent me this guy:
Cute, huh? She named him Roger.
And here are a few snippets from the letter:
"I'm going to illustrate children's books, y'know. That would be so cool. One day when we're all grown up, you'll see in a book store: Illustrated by Grace P. Lin. That would be excellent."
"I wish I could show you my portfolio. Then you could tell me if you think I'm talented. Or then you could lie to me and tell me you think I'm the bestest artist in the world and of course I will make it into RISD."
I wonder if Grace has the letter I wrote back to her. But I'm sure I said something like:
I think you're talented, Grace! You are the bestest artist in the world, you will make it into RISD, and you will become a famous children's book author and illustrator.
See, I can predict the future!
By: Angela Muse,
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The Christmas Owl
, Associated Press
, Barred Owl
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Well, we’ve attempted our first book trailer for our latest creation, The Christmas Owl. Click the cover to view our trailer.
This story follows a Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word.
COMING NOVEMBER 2013 to Amazon.
By: Kathy Temean,
Blog: Writing and Illustrating
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, How to
, Marketing a book
, Young Adult Novel
, Book Discussion Guide
, Getting school visits
, Lauren Oliver
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I am posting this because I think all of us should be thinking past having a website, blog, and a facebook page and start thinking about selling our books. This is an excellent discussion guide for Lauren Oliver’s fabulous book, PANDEMONIUM. With this one piece she is showing that she is a true professional, generating interest in reading her book, and providing content for teachers to encourage them to invite her in to their school. Are you putting out something this high end? Next week I will share an excellent middle grade discussion guide and a picture book discussion guide. I hope these will get you thinking about doing more than just putting up a website and hoping someone calls.
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Tagged: Book Discussion Guide
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By: Tonia Allen Gould
Blog: Tonia Allen Gould's Blog
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This is Chapter 3 of the new novel I’m working on. This book is a piece of Young Adult Fiction. Young readers should be particularly advised that this chapter is harsh, and if this were a movie, it would be given a PG-13 rating. Chapters 1 and 2 are published here also at www.toniaalengould.com. I’m uncertain how many chapters I will publish here on this blog. Your feedback is welcomed and appreciated, and please kindly note that this is only fairly edited to this point.
Meet My Daddy
Last night, when the house was quiet and nothing was keeping the room lit but for the dime store digital alarm clock Mama got me and Bartlett for Christmas last year; my sister broke the night’s calm by shifting her weight and turning over in her bed to face me in mine. “Barley, you awake?” she whispered. Not waiting for me to answer she continued, “It’s real late and daddy ain’t home yet. When he gets in, I don’t want you to make one single, solitary sound in here, no matter what happens. You hear me?” Bartlett pleaded. I shivered and pulled the covers tighter over my body and used the top of them to wipe the tears that already began to roll as big as dimes down my cheek and said, “Uh huh, I hear you,” I said, knowing she was right and that the shit was about to hit the fan. I tried to muster a voice inside me big and loud, but what came out of my mouth squeaked like one of those kangaroo mice that we occasionally caught meekly poking their heads out of our paneled wood walls, disappearing as quickly as they came, here and gone again, just like my tears now. My whole body began to tremble and shake and my feet were so cold, it felt like I had popsicles for toes.
Bartlett rose up out of her bed looking like a ghost or something, looming over me like that in her cotton white nightgown; her face was nothing but a shadow in the darkness, and for a second, I thought I was dreaming or having a nightmare or something. I pinched myself sharply and only when I felt the pain was I certain she was real and not a figment of my imagination. Finally, she sat down on the edge of my bed. “Sit up for a second,” she said, as she pulled back the covers and tugged at my arms, effortlessly bringing me up next to her. I couldn’t make out her face in the darkness, although her white cotton nightgown seemed to illuminate the whole bedroom. She stroked my long, dark hair and whispered in my ear. I know she could feel me trembling beside her, and even though sometimes I hated her, I was so grateful for my sister’s warmth tonight. “Shhh,” she said. “Maybe it won’t be so bad this time. Give me a hug and try to go on back to sleep now and remember that no matter what happens, you stay in this here bed and don’t get outta it for anything, until Kingdom come if you have to, or at least until I say so” she said, as she pulled me tighter in next to her body. I hugged her limply, like something had sucked the bones out of me and I was nothing but a gob of dangling, cold skin, but it weren’t for but a second, before she got up and paced across the room to check on Graham, who was sleeping soundly in his own bed. I knew Bartlett would be by his side stifling him, muzzling his mouth if she had to, if things got really ugly. So I just laid there—cold and limp, a lifeless, waiting, trembling, hoping and praying mass-of-a-child. If you’ve never had the experience, waiting for something bad to happen feels like all the oxygen has been snatched-up outta the air, your throat and lips feel awfully dry, you can’t hardly swallow your own spit for the lump in your throat won’t let it go down, and it’s as if the Earth collapsed and shattered to giants chunks of rubble around you, pinning you in and leaving you breathless. Yes. Waiting feels like something big and looming and enormous like that.
Another hour or so must’ve passed as we laid there in silence before the headlights from daddy’s ’59 Impala finally ricocheted off the walls and reflected from the mirror that sat on top of our dresser. The light was so bright, it was blinding, and it felt like Lord Jesus had come to take us home. I could hear the tires spitting-up gravel from the driveway and the pistons rumble and fade away into the darkness once Daddy turned off the ignition. Moments pass and he finally gets out of the car, slamming the door forcibly as he exits. Then the thud, thud, thud of his feet comin’ up the porch steps, tromping the whole way. Suddenly, I became consumed by each and every sound my father was making, each noise was a siren, a warning call that rang loud and true and into the stillness of the night. It was almost more than I could bear, waitin’ for my Daddy to find his keys and enter the trailer. I wasn’t breathing, but I wasn’t holding my breath neither, it’s like I had my foot stomped on and was punched in the belly all at the same time. Rattle, Rattle, rattle; he fumbled with the doorknob, turned it, and then finally fell into the kitchen which was right outside our bedroom. He was struggling to find the light switch; I could hear him grasping at the walls, groping the wood paneling, and scraping the dinette chairs across the floor as he clumsily made his way to the light switch across the small kitchen.
From where I was laying, I could see the dark outline of his body through the crack in our bedroom door. I screeched a bit when he finally turned on the light, it surprised me so much, since I had become particularly fixated on all the sounds he was making and due to the suspense of it all. Bartlett shushed me again, but fortunately Daddy hadn’t heard me. Bartlett was right, it was best to pretend I was asleep, but I couldn’t help but watch through that small opening in our bedroom door.
I wanted to roll over in my bed and face Bartlett, but it was too darn late, I had to lay still, or I might’ve caught Daddy’s attention, so I watched as he tried to navigate around the kitchen. Daddy has knocked over a chair, and I watch as he stumbled and fell forward, trying to pick it up. When he finally brought the chair upright, he heaved his body into and lit himself up a Marlboro, and thankfully the whole trailer fell quiet again. We can hear Mama as she slowly eased herself up out of her bed through the paper thin walls leading to the bedroom next to ours. The rickety old box springs from the cast iron bed Mama and Daddy got from a flea market, is the only thing to break the silence. “No Mama,” I prayed. “Please don’t get up. Let him be. Don’t go in there,” I prayed. But I knew God wasn’t listening to Barley Sullivan tonight, because I watched as Mama drowsily entered the kitchen, wiping the sleep out of her reddened eyes. I could see that mom had been crying, and guessed probably she had cried the whole night long. The stench of the alcohol on Daddy’s breath, and what smells like a somewhat familiar perfume now permeates the air throughout the entire trailer. Mama is ten shades of mad because Daddy has been out so late. She glances around the kitchen in disbelief. “Earl, it looks like a God-damned circus ran through here,” she says as she stoops to pick up an errant chair up off the floor. Mama’s right. It was a circus in there and unbeknownst to her; she just stepped into the lion’s lair. Like I’ve said before, Mama didn’t have too much common sense.
“You think ya can just saunter on in here, any old time ya God-damned want, drunker than a skunk and smellin’ like June’s cheap-ass perfume all the time? I’m getting pretty fuckin’ sick and tired of it, Earl!” she yells. “If my brother John gets a hold of you, he’s gonna kill you for runnin’ around with her like that. What? You think I don’t know? I’m not fuckin’ stupid,” my Mama laughs. The argument ensues, both of them screaming back and forth at one another, but some of what they are talking about makes absolutely no sense to me—like what does Aunt June have to do with any of this, anyway? It’s all over my head, and Daddy is so belligerent, I can’t make sense of what he is saying at all. Their voices rise another octave, and the neighbor’s dog, George, begins to bark and that beckons other dogs in the trailer park to wake and come alive with their unrelenting barking. Daddy’s voice suddenly shifts to a dangerous tone, and I can feel it in my gut. It’s too late, there’s no undoing what’s Mama’s done. She has incensed my father.
Despite Bartlett’s admonishment, I sit up on the side of my bed, my legs dangling, holding on tightly to the stuffed monkey I got from that time I got put in the hospital when my appendix almost burst. Doctor Cooper gave him to me. I loved that stuffed monkey because he reminded me of a special time. For two weeks, while I was in the hospital, I got to eat all the ice cream I ever wanted, there weren’t any televisions on blaring loudly twenty-four-hours a day, and Daddy and Mama weren’t there fighting about things I just didn’t understand, like they were doing tonight. Hell, Mama and Daddy barely even came to see me when I was in the hospital back when I was only just nine-years-old, and oddly enough, I was okay with that. Those two weeks were the first time in my life I had ever experienced what silence was. I could think there in the hospital. I wasn’t all wound-up and scared all the time. In fact, it felt like I had boarded a plane, and landed in some faraway perfect place. For a kid like me, growing up in a trailer park, staying in a hospital feels something like staying at one of those fine resorts I read about in one of those magazines Jeannie Bell had down in her parlor shop in town. Bartlett breaks me away from my reverie and whispered loudly again, “Lie back down and pretend that you’re asleep! If Daddy sees you, he’ll up and come on in here and whoop us both. Do it now!”
But I don’t listen to Bartlett. My body feels possessed by someone bigger and braver than me. Instead, I continue to rock myself gently back and forth, trying to will away the feuding coming from the other room. Daddy is cursing something fierce, and then I hear him push a chair out of his way as he crosses over to Mama where I can’t see them anymore. I knew better, and despite all of Bartlett’s warnings, I got up and tip-toed myself across the floor to the door and stepped quietly over to the other side of it to peer through the crack to see where my Mama and Daddy are standing on the other side of the kitchen. Daddy’s already got her pressed right up against the wall, his arm pinned across her throat and he is yelling directly into her face. He’s so mad, I can see little droplets of spittle flying into the air as he screams at her. And then, before I can digest what I am seeing, I watch in outright horror as Daddy leans over and picks up one of those fallen chairs and busts it right across my Mama’s head. She falters and falls hard to the ground, moaning in anguish, her body is now a lifeless heap strewn clear across the floor in a pink, cotton-candy-colored, terry-cloth robe. With a grumble underneath his breath, my Daddy steps over her body, like she’s nothing more than the day’s trash, and stumbles into their bedroom. I watch him hoist his fully-clothed body onto that old bed, the sheer weight of him causes those box springs to creak and whine again, and almost immediately, the sound of his snoring breaks the dead quiet silence of daybreak. The morning light is already filtering in through the windows, casting morning sun on my poor mother, splayed out on the floor in her pink robe.
Mama was lying perfectly still on the floor, and I was almost certain she was dead. A thin, red trickle of blood oozed from a wide, deep gash on her forehead. I was crying, but my sobs were coming from some subterranean part of myself. Even if I wanted to, I could not project any noise; I had learned so early on in life to stifle my emotions and to filter my own pain. My stomach was heaving in and out while a steady train of new tears rolled down my face. It took every ounce of my courage to walk over to Mama to see if she was breathing or dead. Just as I crossed over the kitchen and came to her side, my mother looked up at me, surprised to see me and immediately placed her right index finger next to her lips and mouthed the word “Shhhhh!” I leaned over her and gave her my hand, which she gratefully took, and I helped her up off the cold, hard linoleum tiles. Without saying a word, she led me back to my room where Bartlett stood crying at the door, holding Graham in her arms; he was almost too big for her carry. He was buried deep in her bosom and I knew Bartlett hadn’t let him see anything that went on in the kitchen. “Go on back in there now, you three. Ain’t nothin’ more to see out here tonight,” Mama said as she motioned us back into our bedroom. “I’m ok,” she said, “It’s just nothin’ but a little bump on the head. Y’all go back to sleep, and stay good and quiet in here, you hear me?” she whispered. Mama led me back into our room, where she tucked me into bed, checked on Graham who rolled over immediately and went back to sleep, and then looked thankfully towards Bartlett. Then with some degree of dignity, she straightened her back and walked out of our room and back into the kitchen.
The door to our room was left cracked open again and I watched as she lit herself a cigarette, inhaling the smoke deeply into her lungs where she savored it a moment until she finally exhaled, and then she sat down at the dinette table, drew her feet up onto the chair and rested her head on her knees, her body trembling from head-to-toe as she silently watered her lap with her tears. I wanted to go to her again, but I knew if I did, she would retaliate on me just to prove she was still strong and in charge, like she had done so many times before after a beating from Daddy, so I just laid there and saw her arms heave up and down as she cried, watching as the early morning light cleansed and clarified the kitchen, hoping for a new and brighter day.
By: Kathy Temean,
Blog: Writing and Illustrating
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Dianne Ochiltree has been writing stories and poems since she was a child growing up in a small Midwestern town. Today, she is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her picture book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE has been a selection for the Dollywood Fourndation’s national literacy program, and her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter received the Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012. Her earlier books have been translated into foreign language and Braille editions as well as audio versions. For more information about Dianne and her books, go to http://www.ochiltreebooks.com. Dianne lives in sunny Sarasota, Florida with her husband, Jim, and the family pets.
Her books have appeared on several recommended reading lists nationwide, including the Bank Street College Children’s Book Committee ‘year’s best’, and the Dollywood Foundation’s national childhood literacy program, ‘imagination library’.
IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT is illustrated by Betsy Snyder who was featured last December on Illustrator Saturday. If you would like to see that post, here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/illustrator-saturday-betsy-snyder/
Dianne has agreed to give everyone a chance to win one of three signed copies of IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT. All you have to do is leaves a comment to get their name in the hat one time. If you would like to collect more entries in the hat, you can increase your chances by do the following:
1 entry everything you tweet this link (One a day).
1 entry for putting this link on facebook
1 entry for putting up this post on your blog.
2 entries if you reblog this post.
5 entries if you talk about the book on your facebook page or blog.
Please come back and leave an update on what you did by Friday October 5th in the comment section, so I know how many times to put your name in the hat for the drawing. I will announce the winner on Sunday October 7th.
Here is the interview I had with Dianne.
I know you have been writing since you were a little kid, but how did you hone your writing skills as a serious writer?
Great question! First, I made the commitment to write something very day. Depending on the particular day, some days it was 20 pages and other days it was only notes on a future project. The important thing was to make the writing a daily priority. Second, I made a list of what I didn’t know about writing for young readers and the children’s publishing industry. (Initially, a very long list!) Then I set off on a crash course to gain the knowledge I needed to write effectively for this market. I read books, magazine articles, and blogs on the topics. I took a couple of in-person and online classes. Most important, I joined SCBWI. The first year in the business, I attended eight regional and national conferences, where the workshops and presenters shared valuable tips on the craft and business of writing for children. I networked with fellow beginning writers. I found experienced writers who generously offered me guidance from time to time. I joined two critique groups where I could not only bring my own writing skills up to speed, but also learn from evaluating other writers’ work. Oh yes, it ‘takes a village’ to raise a children’s writer!
Were the first things you wrote, poems?
Yes, little poems about pets and flowers and that sort of thing. Also scripts for puppet shows. I made hand puppets from paper lunch bags and construction paper. My third grade teacher let me do puppet shows for my book reports because I was so shy! Before learning to actually read or write, I drew little ‘picture books’ using recycled paper sheets , bound with punch holes and yarn.
Did you start out knowing that you wanted to writer for children?
Not at all. I just wrote things without thought about intended readership or publication at first. It was just for fun.
Have you done any other type of writing?
My first job was as an advertising copywriter. My first writing career, as staff writer and freelancer, was in marketing/advertising/public relations. I have written poems and personal essays for adult readers, too.
When did you get your first picture book published?
My first book for children, CATS ADD UP!, was published in 1998 as a title in the ‘Hello, Reader!’ series from Scholastic. This was especially exciting to be published by Scholastic, because when I was a kid, most of my reading material came from those monthly book club offerings.
How did that happen?
I’d applied for the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference with a writing sample, an early draft of that first published book, and was accepted. My mentor that day was Paula Danziger. Not only did she give me priceless writing advice…she introduced me to an editor at Scholastic who agreed to look at my manuscript once I’d made revisions based on her input.
Are all your picture books in rhyme?
No. All three of my ‘Hello Reader!” series titles are in prose, as is my 2012 Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter.
Do you have an agent? If not, would like to find one?
No, I do not currently have an agent. And YES, of course, I’d love to have representation. It’s not just the negotiation for the initial contract in which a literary agent makes a key difference—it’s the on-going interface with the publisher on issues such as subsidiary rights in which having an agent on your side can make a big impact.
Not counting your latest book, which book are you most proud of?
Now you’re asking me to name the equivalent of my favorite child—tough question! So, while I love all my books, I am proud of LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2006) for being on the Dollywood Foundation’s ‘Imagination Library’ list for many years running. Because of this, thousands of families with infants have received a free copy of the book in the mail for their own little ones. These are parents who could not otherwise afford books for their kids. Also proud that the ‘Molly’ book won the 2012 Florida Book Awards bronze medal in the children’s literature category.
Do you have a regular writing schedule?
The only regular thing about my writing schedule is that I write something each day: a journal entry, a blog post, or chunks of a manuscript. It’s all good.
I see you do yoga. Do you feel that helps you write better?
Yes, I’m a Yoga Alliance 200-hour RYT instructor and devoted lifelong learner. And yes, it helps tremendously. As an instructor or student, my observational skills need to be engaged at a high level. This also helps make writing shine, taking notice of all the details. There is a meditative state that practicing yoga and writing share. By connecting with your true self, or your creative self, your work on the mat and at the keyboard will exceed your expectations. There is also an element of non-judgment of effort and non-attachment to results that frees up a yoga practice and writing efforts alike. I believe so strongly in the corollary processes that I teach a ‘zen and the pen’ workshop from time to time.
Can you tell us the story and journey behind your new book, It’s a Firefly Night?
It’s been a long and happy journey with that manuscript. I think my first draft of the story dates to 2003. It was prompted by my memory of sharing ‘firefly nights’ with my own father. From him, I learned an appreciation of—and a respect for—the natural world. That’s a lesson as valuable today as it was in the 60’s. Catching fireflies on a summer night was one of the rare times I had one-on-one time with my father. My father passed away when I was 18 years old, so of course working creatively with any ‘daddy memory’ is a special pleasure for me. It has also been a joy to connect with that childlike sense of wonder while crafting this manuscript. My goal was to share the feeling of magical, barefoot, starry summer nights of long-ago with today’s kids. I also hope that the book inspires today’s parents to get out there and share some nature outings with their children.
What number of books does this book bring you up to now?
I think it’s 11.
Have any of your books been put out as an e-book?
Yes, some of my Scholastic books are now offered as an e-book. Both original Scholastic publications and picture books that were subsequently sold to Scholastic for paperback and other rights.
Do you have any thoughts on why some writer’s get published and others do not?
Some writers do the homework and some do not. Some writers can receive editorial input and utilize it effectively, some cannot. Some writers can handle rejection, others cannot. Some writers give up, others do not. The biggest difference? Published writers are not quitters.
Do you have any suggestions on how to market yourself to editors and publishers?
Simply, be professional. Know what they do or do not publish. Ask informed questions. Use appropriate communication channels for your queries and pitches. Only present your most polished work.
What are you working on now?
A book proposal for a juvenile biography, plus a narrative nonfiction picture book manuscript.
Do you have any words of wisdom for unpublished writers?
I’m not really qualified to give anything as profound as words of wisdom…but I will mention that it’s important to find out what makes your writing stand out from other authors, which is another way of saying what makes you unique, then go for it! Let your writing express your viewpoint on life, as well as your personality. You were called to be a writer because there is something you really need to say to young readers. Make that connection with every word on the page.
Thank you Dianne for sharing your time to answer todays, interview questions. I have your book and it is a great addition to my picture book collection and thank you for your generous offer to let three people win signed copies of your book.
Filed under: Author
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Tagged: book give-a-way
, Children's Book Author
, dianne Ochiltree
, It's a Firefly Night
The Writer's Life with Author, Dorit Sasson
Today, I’m pleased to be hosting Day 2 of a 5-day virtual book tour, sponsored by the Working Writer's Club, for Dorit Sasson’s two new books:
Speaking and Writing for English Language Learners: Collaborative Teaching for Greater Success with K-6
Reading and Listening for English Language Learners: Collaborative Teaching for Greater Success for K-
So many people have been commenting about how eager they are to read Jumped In that I thought an interview with author Patrick Flores-Scott might be a good thing. Jumped In is his first novel.
Sam has the rules of slackerhood down: Don’t be late to class. Don’t ever look the teacher in the eye. Develop your blank stare. Since his mom left, he has become an expert in the art of slacking, especially since no one at his new school gets his intense passion for the music of the Pacific Northwest—Nirvana, Hole, Sleater-Kinney. Then his English teacher begins a slam poetry unit and Sam gets paired up with the daunting, scarred, clearly-a-gang-member Luis, who happens to sit next to him in every one of his classes. Slacking is no longer an option—Luis will destroy him. Told in Sam’s raw voice and interspersed with vivid poems, Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott is a stunning debut novel about differences, friendship, loss, and the power of words.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a very small town called North Bend, in the Snoqualmie Valley, just east of Seattle Washington. It’s where the show “Twin Peaks” was shot.
Do you have any pets?
Not yet. My wife and I have two little boys and they have a bunch of stuffed animals. I’m quite certain there will be a dog in our not too distant future.
What do you enjoy watching on television?
My wife and I are seriously amped for the next installment of Sherlock. It’s too long of a wait. We got sucked into the soap opera that is Homeland and we watch Modern Family regularly. It feels like it’s time for something new, so if your readers have suggestions (any genre), we’re all ears.
Meat or vegetables?
I have to say meat. Both of my grandfathers were meat farmers (sheep and cattle). I was destined to be a meat eater. However, I love grilled and roasted veggies.
Are there any books that stand out in your memory from your childhood?
I struggled to finish books as a kid. I could read, but I had some massive concentration issues. However, I loved reading the Sports section and reading sports biographies. I read one about Jim Thorpe and one about Pele that come to mind. I was fascinated by those guys. I had another book that had one or two page biographies of a bunch of American sports legends. I saved up for that one and bought it myself at B. Dalton. I kept it by my bed for a long time.
What book(s) are you in the middle of reading right now?
I’m totally into How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz, and Blasphemy, Sherman Alexie’s short story collection. I just got through a John Green marathon. I hadn’t read any of his books. Too popular, or something. I finally had to give in and see what the fuss was all about. I read The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, and Looking for Alaska. I loved all three and they have me fully inspired heading into the re-write of my second novel.
Would I be correct to assume you’re a big Nirvana fan? Their music played such a huge role in Jumped In.
I love Nirvana. But I didn’t really get into them until I was in my late thirties. I was actually in Seattle attending the University of Washington just as Nirvana was becoming big. I remember one of my best friends going to a show at the student union building dubbed “Four Bands for Four Bucks” and the next day telling me about this incredible band called Nirvana. I thought they sounded like amazing performers, but I just wasn’t into punk or loud music so I didn’t give them a chance. Years later a co-worker gave me Incesticide and that album got me going. I got Bleach after that and was hooked.
Sam became a Nirvana fan pretty late in the process of writing Jumped In. A lot of editors were passing on the book, saying that they couldn’t connect to Sam. He was just too glum to like. So many kids these days love Nirvana the way kids were into The Ramones and Sex Pistols when I was in high school, so I kept the glum but gave Sam this passion that turned him into a character that folks seem to want to root for. After that re-write, the book sold pretty quickly.
Were you able to share any of parts of the book with your students? If so, what were their reactions?
In the beginning, I was teaching in the middle school that inspired the book. I almost exclusively shared Luis’ poems. I was a theatre major, so I’m a pretty enthusiastic reader of my own writing. I was never sure whether kids were engaged because of the writing or if they were just bemused by a whacky teacher getting all dramatic.
After the book sold, I worked with elementary kids and did some lessons on accepting feedback. I showed kids my rejection letters and showed them how I took feedback from editors to improve my writing. Kids seemed pretty excited about the whole deal.
I eventually got the opportunity to read portions of the book to older students again, as well. They had a lot of feedback on details I could add to make Sam more real. It’s neat to read to kids when they know things are still in play and that maybe their feedback might make it into the book.
If you were to write another book about Sam how would his life change? Would his mom come back? Would he have deeper friendships or perhaps be composing music?
I spent some time feeling bad about what I did to Luis, and I thought that maybe I’d get the opportunity to write a version of the the story in which (SPOILER ALERT) Luis makes it to the poetry slam and he and Sam are able to go on as friends.
I never really thought it through any more than that.
If I did write a sequel, yeah, I would love to see Sam go through the ups and downs of longer-term friendships with Julisa and maybe even Carlos. It’d be interesting to have him in a band with Rupe and Dave (maybe Julisa would be the lead singer?) and to have them go through the difficult process of rekindling these idealized boyhood friendships after having been apart for so long. There’s a lot to go on there. And I’d love to have song lyrics play a similar role (in this new awesome book you’ve encouraged me to write) as Luis’ poems in Jumped In. And you’re right, mom would have to come back. It’s too messy to not explore that relationship.
So glad I could encourage you in that way! It is sounding so interesting!I
Is there a real life Ginny and Bill, or are they completely fictitious? As grandparents left to take care of their grandson, they seemed to be giving Sam just about everything he needed.
My sisters and I were raised by loving, present parents. We also had a grandmother who lived close by who was almost like a third parent. I think there’s a bit of her in Ginny and Bill. I wanted it to be difficult for Ginny and Bill to talk to Sam in a deep, emotionally honest way about his issues. At the same time, they are truly there for him. That felt true to my upbringing. I think Ginny and Bill were even more inspired by so many loving grandparents, I see as a teacher, who are raising their grandkids. The generation gap makes communication rough, but so many of them seem to make it work. Not what I envision for my retirement years. Ginny and Bill are thrust into a role that they didn’t choose, but they handle the role with a grace that I guess I would hope to have if I find myself in that position someday. Ginny and Bill, Cassidy, Carter, Luis’ mom, Graves… I admit, they’re all fairly idealized; they’re the kind of grownups I hope I could be someday.
I couldn’ t help but look at the young man on the cover of Jumped In in that hoodie and think of Treyvon Martin in his hoodie. I think that hoodie is becoming a symbol for young men who we really don’t know, perhaps a generation we’re losing. Do you know how the hoodie got chosen for the cover?
When writing Jumped In, I wasn’t thinking of the hoodie as a symbol, but as a practical means for Sam to hide in school. After the fact, I can see it as the symbol the way you describe it, sure. I don’t know if the artist was thinking of Treyvon Martin, but I know that when I made sketches of the cover, years ago (it was looooong process from first draft to publication), it was always Sam and Luis standing there in their hoodies, their faces obscured. No one had heard of Treyvon at that point. I don’t want to hide from the fact that that connection is going to exist in people’s minds. I’m just pretty certain that the cover was based on the description of Sam in the book.
Luis was there, but not there. Giving him a voice through the poetry really foreshadowed some of the ending. How difficult was it to create this character?
The book I set out to create was going to be a collection of poems written by a kid who has passed away, Luis. In the world of the book, everyone had thought/assumed Luis was a gangbanger and definitely not a poet. Sam was just going to be the kid who found a box of Luis’ poems and his narration was just going to be, like, “I found this box of poems. They were written by Luis. I was moved by his poetry and the story it tells, and I wanted to share it with the world so you could get to know the real Luis, as opposed to the kid we’ve made all these assumptions about.” I had never written any sort of prose before, so I thought that that would be about all I could handle. Well, I started writing Sam and it turned out I liked writing prose as much as I liked writing the poems and pretty soon, it became clear that I was writing my first novel. At one point after it had become a novel, there was a poem or two after every single chapter. Then the poems were judiciously trimmed and Luis became this stronger character, somehow. Luis is there but not there, but I still feel like this is his story, as much as it is Sam’s. He sees where his future is headed, and he makes this decision to bust out of the role he’s been playing and the role the community sees him in, and he makes Sam the sidekick that enables him to share his true identity to with the world.
Luis, as a character, as a voice, came out of a bunch of kids who don’t want to be in gangs, but who don’t have/can’t see a better alternative. Being a teacher, I get the opportunity to see these kids as real, normal people with real, normal hopes and fears. And in the school where I was working, I got to see kids, including wannabe gangbangers and posers, read poetry in Ms. Cassidy and Ms. Christenson’s class poetry slams.
Thanks, Patrick, for such a nice interview! Good luck with Jumped In!
Filed under: Interview
, patrick flores-scott
Might have taken this project simply to play with the "Mississippi" type. But had a great time working Twain's handwritten manuscripts into the image
Easily one of the things I love most about working with theaters is the chance to offer my interpretation of my favorite stories. I've done many of the classic public domain stories, but I love being able to have a go at more contemporary books. I love, love(!) Betsy Lewin's illustrations for Click Clack Moo, but still had a blast giving Doreen Cronin's story my own take. Here are the rough sketches for the theater poster.
In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm (Part 2):
Planning and Promoting a Book Launch and Signing
Guest Post by Karen Spafford-Fitz
In part 1 of “In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm,” Karen Spafford-Fitz described the planning and promotion that contributed to the success of her launches for Vanish. In part 2, Karen reflects on which steps were most effective.
In my previous post, I mentioned that several steps seemed highly effective while others did not appear to have a particular impact. But I am glad I undertook all of them. Each represents part of my personal learning curve in preparing for a book launch and signing.
And when planning my launches, my objectives further extended to promoting my book beyond the book launch. I wanted to place Vanish solidly in people’s minds such that they would remember it in the months ahead when book shopping for themselves and for the young readers in their lives. As a result, the steps that seemed only slightly effective in generating a strong turnout at my launches might have long-term benefits.
In the meantime, I suggest that authors connect with others whenever possible—at the dog park, at zumba classes, at block parties, at their children’s taekwondo classes and hockey games. And whenever possible, share the fact that you write children’s fiction. There is a good chance that you are the first children’s author they have met. They will probably want to know more. Tell them. I realize this is easier if you are extroverted; but hopefully it is not impossible even if you are more introverted.
As for me, I have put this challenge to myself: to broaden my reach personally and professionally by participating in more school visits and arts activities in the months ahead. I also plan to expand my social media practices in a manner that feels as genuine as possible. This combination of building trust face-to-face, along with further embracing the broad reach of social media, feels like a solid course of action. And while it may not create the absolute perfect storm when I am planning and promoting my next book launch, I am optimistic that it will be another positive step in that direction.
To learn more about Vanish and Dog Walker, Karen’s first book published by Orca, visit www.orcabook.com.
Visit Karen’s profile on Goodreads for author info and reader reviews.
In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm (Part 1):
Planning and Promoting a Book Launch and Signing
Guest Post by Karen Spafford-Fitz
I was thrilled when Orca released Vanish, my second middle-grade novel, in March 2013. As with my first book, I planned to hold a book launch and signing in Edmonton, where I have lived for 20 years. Upon realizing that many friends and family members living in eastern Ontario also wanted to help celebrate the release of my new book, we decided to launch Vanish in my hometown of Kingston as well.
In both instances, I was pleased with the strong turnout and the enjoyable launch days—especially when it can be challenge to pack a bookstore. I thought other authors might be interested in how I planned my book launches and signings
This “warts and all” account includes not just the steps that I found effective, but also those that possibly amounted to time-wasters. I offer them all in the hope that these strategies—or variations on them—might work beautifully for other authors.
To that end, here are some ideas for how to plan and execute a successful book launch:
Seek Out the Best Venue (three to four months before launch)
- I prefer working with independent bookstores as they are so supportive of local authors and are experts in connecting the right books to their ideal readers. I was delighted that Audreys Books in Edmonton and Novel Idea Bookstore in Kingston agreed to host my launches.
- As the launches approached, I updated the bookstores as best I could about the approximate number of guests. They then estimated the number of books we would require for the launch days.
- Since Vanish would likely spark renewed interest in my previous title, both stores brought in copies of Dog Walker, which also sold well.
- The bookstore owners were pleased with the number of people who visited their bookstores. They continue to take a personal interest in hand-selling my book.
Results: Highly effective
Choose a Strategic Launch Date (three to four months before launch)
- Mid-April was my preferred date for the Edmonton launch and I began inquiring before Christmas. Audreys especially has ongoing commitments with book clubs, Stroll of Poets, etc and I was glad we pulled out our calendars early.
- I chose Sunday afternoons for both launches as families sometimes have more downtime then. Timing the launch for the weekend was especially important for my Kingston launch as guests were travelling in from the Ottawa and Toronto areas—something they couldn’t have readily done on a weeknight.
- I was careful to avoid long weekends but realized belatedly that my Edmonton launch fell on the final day of the Masters’ Golf Tournament. I know of one person who did not attend for that reason. (Thankfully it was not my husband.)
Resluts: Highly effective
Prepare a Guest List and Send Invitations (six weeks before launch)
- I sought the advice of the marketing manager at Orca to determine which types of promotional materials would best support the launches. Orca created an e-vite that could be sent by email and a poster that could be printed and distributed.
- This was not the time to grow shy about whether to invite this person or that person! I widely emailed the e-vite that Orca prepared. I included out-of-town people whom I thought might order a book even if they couldn’t attend.
- I reached many people by email and replied personally as they responded with acceptances or declines. I did not use snail mail at all.
Results: Highly effective
Spread the Word via Social Media (four or five weeks before launch)
- I relied extensively on Facebook, posting the e-vite plus creating a Facebook event for both launches. I responded personally as people replied with acceptances or declines.
- Every week or 10 days, I reminded people about my launch. And because I wanted to avoid repetitions of “Please come to my book launch,” I looked for creative ways to do this. For example, I tied the reminders to food updates for my launch days or to wacky wardrobe choices I was presumably considering.
- I also posted the invitation in the various writing associations to which I belong. In some instances, you can to post with other writing groups and associations that you have “liked.”
Results: Highly effective
Gear the Book Talk Toward Connecting Guests to the Characters and Story
- I provided guests with some back-story on Vanish so the characters and storyline would hopefully resonate on a personal level with them.
- I chose readings that I hoped would encourage guests to want to hear more. My first reading was the opening chapter, which introduces my central characters and the basic situation (thereby avoiding the need for lengthy explanations to set the stage). My second reading was from a high-action scene where my protagonist realizes that a crisis is unfolding.
- I wanted my book talk to last approximately 20 minutes (it was slightly longer)—long enough to make the event feel worthwhile for guests, but not so long they grew tired of listening. In that time, I acknowledged the bookstore, Orca, my immediate family, and the guests in general; shared some back-story; and did two readings, which were approximately eight minutes in total.
Results: Highly effective
Distribute Posters to Schools, Libraries and Small Businesses
- Orca made posters to advertise the launches and I took them to schools, libraries, and various small businesses (eg. vet clinic, bakeries, small, local supermarkets).
- I received particularly warm responses at the schools, whose responses included posting my invitation in visible places (parent drop-off spots, in libraries, by the front office), sharing it at staff meetings or morning announcements, and scanning it to the school’s website.
- I drew in some people this way, especially at schools where teachers and students knew me personally from school visits.
Results: Moderately effective
Prepare Promotional Emails for Area Schools
- Because Vanish is written for 10- to 14-year-old readers, I targeted both elementary and junior high schools within Edmonton Public School Board.
- My email included a book synopsis and link to Vanish on Orca’s website, along with the e-vite to my launch. I also mentioned my past work within EPSB in the hopes that this might recall some previous teaching connections.
- The only schools that replied back to me were those where someone in the front office or the principal knew me. Did the others simply hit the ‘delete’ key? Perhaps.
Results: Minimally effective
Submit Invitations to Online Community Postings
- I relied on this step for my “away” launch in Kingston, posting the e-vite on an online guide in nearby Napanee. Because I am a Queen’s University graduate, I was also permitted to post on Queen’s Community Events page.
Results: Somewhat effective
Engage with your Audience:
This leads me to the final factor, which I feel was most significant in creating a successful book launch and signing. (Warning: This last factor is not splashy or sexy and can take years to accomplish. But the good news is that many people can put it into practice immediately.)
Talk to students. Engage with others. Tell people what you do.
- In large part, the people who supported me at my launches are those whom I have come to know personally and professionally over the years.
- My guests were primarily from the following groups: friends from my current and former communities; my daughters’ friends; my writing colleagues; my husband’s colleagues; friends from the dog park; students from my writing workshops plus friends they brought with them; family members; my grade 13 English teacher; my grade ten history teacher; and my high-school friends who gathered from the surrounding areas and treated my launch as a mini high-school reunion. I am grateful to all of them.
Results: HIGHEST EFFECTIVENESS
So did I create the ideal conditions for a successful book launch and signing? Did I find that “perfect storm” that I referenced in the title?
Yes and no….
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of Karen’s blog post, “In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm.” Tomorrow, Karen will reflect on the success of her launches and what she’ll focus on next time.
Our guest blogger today is author Pat Mora, whose book “Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!”, from Lee & Low Books, is part of First Book’s Stories For All Project.
“Once upon a time . . .” A magic phrase that can change our breathing. As far as we know, humans are the world’s story-telling creatures. Let’s think about the unique period in the lives of children when they begin to savor that phrase, when in fresh ways little ones are experiencing their surroundings and deciding where they fit. For many youngsters, media is their main source of information and entertainment. Children lucky enough to become readers discover that they can read those once-upon-a-time words to themselves—and others. They discover the pleasure and power of words. Since words and books are powerful, how can we doubt that the images of children, families, and cultures in their books have a subtle and significant impact on young readers and their families? Who merits having their stories shared and who doesn’t? How does it feel not to see people like you between the covers of beautiful books? Are all our books created and valued equally?
0 Comments on The Stories for All Project: Latina Author Pat Mora on the Connection Children Make with Books that Include their Culture and Language as of 5/1/2013 11:53:00 AM
I’d like to thank Anna Olswanger from Liza Dawson Associates for sharing her time and expertise with us this month. Your first page is the first thing anyone sees of your story, so the more we can hone the beginning, the better off we will be in writing a successful book. I know we can all learn from these sessions. Even if it is not your first page, you can make note of the thoughts of an editor or agent after they have critiqued the page.
Here are the four first pages picked this month and Anna’s thoughts:
Hope Grietzer The Carousel Keeper Middle Grade Novel
A parade of green swells rose and sank in the murky water beneath the boat. The deck of the ferry dipped again, and for a moment Sadie felt weightless.
“Just ten more minutes,” she thought, gripping the rail as the ferry climbed the crest of the next swell. A gusty wind tugged at her baseball cap like a passing pickpocket, and Sadie’s hand flew up to protect her cap. She squeezed her eyes shut.
“Bit choppy today,” a voice said.
The steward approached, the ends of his white jacket flapping in the breeze like seagull
wings. Red hair hugged his head, and his ears stuck out like pot handles.
“Anything I can do for you, Miss?”
“Can you send me back to Ohio?” Sadie forced a small grin.
“I would, except I promised your uncle I’d deliver you to the island safe and sound.” He
glanced around the crowded ferry. “Follow me.”
Sadie eased away from the rail. The mischievous deck sank before her sneaker could reach it, and then rose so that her foot smacked it hard.
“Feels like I’m walking on the moon,” she thought, hobbling after the steward.
The man paused and gestured toward a vacant seat. “The ride should be smoother here.”
A mother with a squirmy toddler shifted to make room as Sadie sank onto the bench. Across the aisle, a wiry man in a brown suit coat gave Sadie and the child a nervous glance and tugged his briefcase closer. Sadie gave him her best smile but he scowled back, his thick eyebrows drawing together like a blackbird’s wings.
Sadie wished her brother Jamie was here. He had a knack for making friends. But Sadie
traveled alone, sailing toward Summer Island while her parents flew to Brazil. They broke the
news to her last week.
The Carousel Keeper
I would keep reading beyond the first page to find out what life will be like for Sadie on Summer Island. (Will she find a friend? Will she see the steward again? What is her uncle like?)
I do think some minor details are distracting: the image of red hair hugging the steward’s head, for example. What is the point of that detail, or of the detail of his ears sticking out? It feels as though the author may be trying to fill up space. The deck being “mischievous” feels like overwriting, and what is it like to walk on the moon? The reader has been experiencing the choppiness of the ride, so would walking on the moon be “choppy?”
Is there a significance to the bird imagery? The stewards’s white jacket flaps like seagull wings. The man in the brown suit has eyebrows that draw together like a blackbird’s wings. Make it clear if an image is part of a theme. Otherwise, the details seem arbitrary.
The hint of Jamie at the end is nice.
Annina Luck Wildermuth
Ned Bunting, Ghost Spotter & the Ghost with the Hooded Cloak Middle Grade (ages 8 – 12)
Ned was two hours into his watch, crouched behind the old elm at Walnut Hollow graveyard, when he spotted his first ghost of the night. Of course, he’d seen all kinds of ghosts the week before when he was still in training with his older brother Tom, but this was different. He was alone now.
As his luck would have it though, he could already see that this one was a poor excuse for a ghost. All its potentially distinguishing marks were obscured by a voluminous hooded cloak.
The horse it rode was equally undistinguished, poking its way among the graves, slow as molasses.
How am I supposed to identify this ghost? wondered Ned, starting to worry. As Walnut Hollow’s new ghost spotter, he was supposed to identify and log in all the ghosts who came through the town and make sure that they were obeying the local haunting laws.
He fumbled now to produce Ghosts of the Thirteen Colonies & Their Classification from inside his vest. Satisfied that the horse and rider were making slow progress at best, he thumbed the book’s worn pages, his lantern flickering beside him. Ghosts were portrayed in great detail with identifiable characteristics. There was General Whitelsby, the angry, old red-coat in his unmistakable British uniform and Abigail, the Quaker in her fancy white neck ruff. The mad horseman from Sleepy Hollow always carried his head under his arm. Ned’s eyes darted to the graveyard, and he groaned inwardly. Nothing.
And then the wind whipped up, blowing through the tree’s branches and whistling its way between the gravestones. It twirled around the ghost and lifted its cloak into the air to reveal a small, cross girl in the frilliest dress Ned had ever seen. She looked straight at him and wailed: “How am I ever going to accomplish my mission, now that I’ve been so rudely unmasked?”
Ned Bunting, Ghost Spotter
This first page ends on a nice note of suspense, so I would want to read further, but the first sentence is too long and clunky. Try to clean it up, since that is an editor’s first impression of your manuscript.
It’s not clear why you have the detail that this ghost was a poor excuse. Tom is logging in ghosts and making sure they obey the local haunting laws, so his luck is not that this ghost is a poor excuse, but that it has no distinguishing marks.
The use of a book implies that this is a contemporary story. Is that what you intend, or is the story set in the past? If it’s set in the past, then shouldn’t the book be manuscript pages with handwritten notes?
When Ned’s eyes dart to the graveyard, he groans. If he’s groaning because he still can’t identity this ghost, then make it clear that he is looking at the ghost, not at the graveyard (in general) to eliminate any confusion.
The last paragraph is perfect.
Liliana Erasmus - Song Of The Sentinel - paranormal middle-grade.
What is father doing here? I told him to stay out of it. This isn’t his battle to fight. His glorious days of vigilance are over. Gone. It’s my turn now. Why doesn’t he get it? He is dead. I am not. And he knows I’m here, I can feel his light shifting closer. His presence. My lantern blows out.
“Go. Away,” I urge him in silence.
I don’t even turn around to look into his empty eyes, or at that ridiculous horse that carries him around, for what? To attract all the hungry creatures in the neighborhood and make my life more miserable than it already is? I have to keep position and here he comes, shimmering behind me like a lighthouse signaling, Look here! You see ‘m? Now suck his life out!
They’re coming. I’m not sure how many this time. Three? Four?
“Father, for God’s sake, leave! Let it be.”
Once again, he backs off, his light dimming and I know he’s further away, but never for long, never too far from danger… from me.
The September wind has fallen, the trees stand breathless, moonlit tombs lie in repose and I still get that paralyzing chill down my spine. The buzzing in my ears is getting louder, it’s growing until it becomes a constant whistle in my head, ticking me off. If I jump now, they’ll know what to do with me. I’m on my own. They are with one, five… eleven, damn! I have to wait for them to stick their tongues into the earth before making any sound. One of them is not sniffing the graves. It’s holding back for some reason, tilting its snout in the air, tail high and stiff, while that foul smell of decay reaches my nose, making me gag. I swallow the sourness without blinking. The furry carcass is staring right at me.
Song of the Sentinel
I would probably keep reading this manuscript, but this page is confusing. Here are my concerns:
The narrator speaks in both vernacular and formal language: “stay out of it” and “doesn’t he get it” don’t work with “His glorious days of vigilance are over.”
It also doesn’t make sense for the narrator to say, “he knows I’m here” when it’s the narrator who can feel the father’s presence.
The phrase “my life more miserable than it already is” is vague. The reader needs a hint of what has been going on. Miserable in what way?
Who says “Look here! You see ‘m? Now suck his life out!’ The reader can’t tell.
Who says “They’re coming. I’m not sure how many this time. Three? Four?” Again, the reader can’t tell who is speaking.
What does it mean for tombs to “lie in repose?” It sounds as though the author is trying too hard here to be literary.
What does it mean that the narrator “still” gets that paralyzing chill down his or her spine? Has this happened in the past?
“Ticking me off” sounds too slangy, and too trite.
What does it means to swallow the sourness “without blinking?” What does sight have to do with taste in this instance?
I like the images in the last paragraph, and I especially like the suspenseful last sentence. I would continue reading, but the author should clear up all the confusion on this first page so that an editor will feel that the author is in control of her craft.
Meg Eastman Thompson, THE TRUTH ABOUT JUSTICE. MG/YA novel
Restless as a yellow-jacket at a barbecue, I bounded down the sidewalk to fetch the bread and milk for supper as Mother had ordered, heading for the Piggly Wiggly. I was lonely, missing Effie more than ever. Wondering where she and her family had hidden. Not wanting to believe they’d never come back.
When Missy and I had promised Effie we’d stand by each other no matter what, we’d taken our vows seriously. It hadn’t mattered back then that Effie was colored. We three were true friends. As I passed Liberty High and turned left toward the grocery store, there was not a friend in sight. Most everybody had been sent away, what with the coloreds asking to come to our school.
My next-door neighbor and sometime friend, Missy Pridemoor, and nearly everyone else, was having fun at church camp. I had begged to go, but Daddy insisted I was too old to be a camper. When I’d protested, he made it clear that, three years away from college, I was too young to make my own decisions. As usual Mother stuck by him.
When I was little, she’d always say, “Amelia Justice Queen, your Daddy knows what’s best for you.” But it was 1963 now and I was changing, along with everything else in our country. Even Mother was starting to speak up. When she told Daddy that camp was nothing but a non-stop revival meeting, it got me thinking. I didn’t need to be saved. Nor did I want to waste the end of my summer vacation listening to some preacher baying like an auctioneer. I stopped complaining. At fifteen, going on sixteen, I was smart enough to pick my battles.
Besides, I wanted to enjoy my last days of freedom. I skipped along. Released from their impossible overprotectiveness, which had only grown worse since stopping integration was once again on the school board agenda, I was determined to make the best of my trip to the store.
The Piggly Wiggly’s deep freeze was heavenly. I lingered by the ice cream treats.
The Truth About Justice
Although I think this manuscript has potential because of the voice and content, I found the first page so full of exposition (and some of it confusing), that I don’t think I’d continue reading. Look at the first sentence and how long it is—the first page feels a bit like this (stuffed with information).
I don’t understand who the narrator is and what she wants: In the first paragraph, she is lonely for Effie; in the second paragraph, she seems to be missing her friends in general; in the third paragraph, she wants to go to camp; in the fourth paragraph, she decides she doesn’t want to go camp; and in the fifth paragraph, she seems just to want to enjoy her freedom. All of these motivations feel like too much for one page. The narrator has to have one overriding motivation that will take her (and the reader) through that first page—and on through the book.
It’s also confusing that in the third paragraph, the mother sticks by the father, but in the next paragraph she tells the father that the camp is nothing but a non-stop revival meeting.
And, finally, a fifteen-year-old protagonist is a bit too old for a novel that has the feel, at least in this opening page, of a middle grade novel (the narrator skips). If the author could lower the age and focus the narrator’s motivation, she should have a first page that an agent or editor would want to keep reading.
Thank you everyone for participating. Happy revising.
Filed under: Advice
Tagged: Anna Olswanger
, First Page Critique
, Free Fall Friday
, Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency