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1. Coming Soon!

Summer Reading is imminent, librarians. We all have a ton on our plates and very little time to think about anything but programming, performers, reading logs, and summer fun.

Here are just a few books coming out in the next couple of months. Something to put on your radar when you get a minute, in between programs, when you’re trying to put together book orders.  Your kids will like these, and you will, too.

Source: Goodreads

Maria lives in the Bronx with her mom, who works two jobs to keep them afloat. Then her mom gets a job on a seaside estate on Martha’s Vineyard, and Maria’s life for the summer is radically different. Maria spends her summer juggling new friends, her Lebanese family, and an old map that she’s sure will lead to pirate treasure.

Source: Goodreads

Mafi’s long-awaited first middle grade novel has been called “rich and lush” by Kirkus. Alice lives in a land of magic and color, and she has neither. But she’s determined to find her beloved Father in magical Furthermore anyway. She has only one companion: someone she’s not sure she can trust. Can she use her wits to find her dad?

Source: Goodreads

The second in Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel series about the mysteries and magic of coding, this one will basically fly off your shelves completely by itself. There’s something lurking in an underground classroom of Stately Academy: Hooper, Eni, and Josh are determined to find out what!

Source: Goodreads

Jenni Holm’s latest novel is about Beans, a kid growing up during the Great Depression on Key West. Beans knows that grown-ups lie to him. But he doesn’t really let it bother him. He’s got plans of his own. Beans is the cousin of the titular Turtle in Holm’s Newbery Honor-Winning Turtle in Paradise and returning to her beautiful novels is always worth it.

Good luck with summer reading! These books will be waiting for you on the other side.

*
Ally Watkins (@aswatki1) is a library consultant at the Mississippi Library Commission.

The post Coming Soon! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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2. Deepen The Protagonist to Readers By Challenging His or Her Moral Beliefs

When we sit down to brainstorm a character, we think about possible qualities, flaws, quirks, habits, likes and dislikes that they might have. Then to dig deeper, we assemble their backstory, plotting out who influenced them, what experiences shaped them (both good and bad) and which emotional wounds pulse beneath the surface. All of these things help us gain a clearer sense of who our characters are, what motivates them, and ultimately, how they will behave in the story.

soulBut how often do we think about our protagonist’s morality? It’s easy to just make the assumption that he or she is “good” and leave it at that.

And, for the most part, the protagonist is good–that’s why he or she is the star of the show. The protagonist’s moral code dictates which positive traits are the most prominent (attributes like loyalty, kindness, tolerance, being honorable or honest, to name a few) and how these will in turn influence every action and decision.

In real life, most people want to believe they know right from wrong, and that when push comes to shove, they’ll make the correct (moral) choice. People are generally good, and unless you’re a sociopath, no one wants to go through life hurting people. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but most try to add, not take away, from their interactions and relationships.

To feel fully fleshed, our characters should mimic real life, meaning they too have strong beliefs, and like us, think their moral code is unshakable. But while it might seem it, morality is not black and white. It exists in the mists of grey.

prisonersIn the movie Prisoners, Hugh Jackman’s plays Keller, a law-abiding, respectful man and loving father. But when his daughter is abducted and police are ineffective at questioning the person he believes to be responsible, he is forced into a moral struggle.

Keller needs answers, but to obtain them, he must be willing to do things he never believed himself capable of. Finally, to gain his daughter’s freedom, he kidnaps the suspect and tortures him repeatedly.

In each session, Keller battles with his own humanity, but his belief that this man knows where his daughter is outweighs his disgust for what he must do. It is not only Keller’s actions that makes the movie compelling, it is the constant moral war within the grey that glues us to the screen.

Extreme circumstances can cause morals to shift. What would it take for your “moral” protagonist to make an immoral choice?

Is your character deeply honest? What might push her to lie about something important?

Is your character honorable? What would force him to act dishonorably?

Is your character kind? How could life break her so that she does something maliciously hurtful?

When your protagonist is forced to enter a grey area that causes them to question what is right and wrong…this is where compelling conflict blooms!

YOUR TURN: Have you built in situations that force the hero to evaluate his morality? If not, what can you do within the scope of your story to push him into the grey where he must wrestle with his beliefs? What event might send him to the edge of himself, of who he is, and possibly force him to step across the line dividing right and wrong?

Tools to help you understand your character better:

The Reverse Backstory Tool: Hit all the highlights on your hero’s backstory reel, including his Emotional Wound & The Lie He Believes About Himself

The Character Target Tool: Set the path of your hero’s positive traits, spiraling out from Moral based attributes

The Character Pyramid Tool: Plot your character’s flaws that stem from a Wounding Event &visualize how these flaws present as behaviors & thoughts

(& even more tools HERE)

Originally posted at IWSG
Image #1 Brenkee @ Pixabay

The post Deepen The Protagonist to Readers By Challenging His or Her Moral Beliefs appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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3. Gender Politics and Construction Equipment: The Eyelashening

File this one under the category: Stuff Parents Notice But Don’t Discuss

You have a child.  The child is quite young, let’s say two years of age. The child loves books about tools, ladders, and banjos (and you would be shocked just how many books for kids contain at east one of those three items).  What the child loves most in this great big, wide, wonderful world, though, is construction equipment.  Excavators and backhoes (don’t call them diggers).  Cement mixers and forklifts.  And so you, good dutiful parent that you are, go off and attempt to find as many construction equipment books as possible so as to feed this insatiable need.

Time passes.  The child is very fond of the books you have chosen.  So fond, in fact, that they’ve taken to having you read them over and over and over again in succession.  And the adult brain, while capable of doing this, begins to realize that the information coming in is the exact same information that came in five and ten and fifteen minutes ago.  So the brain begins to search for meanings in the books.  Connections.  Something, anything really, to keep it occupied.  And that’s when you notice it.  Right there.  Clear as crystal.

The genders of various pieces of construction equipment.

Because, you see, you cannot check out endless books on crane trucks and steam rollers before you notice how these books choose to gender their anthropomorphized mechanicals.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, we pick apart precisely why one book or another chooses to make a wrecking ball a boy or a grader a girl.  Bear with me here.  I’ve read a LOT of these books.  I need to do something with this information or I may burst.

But first, some history!

History Time

Go to your shelves and pick yourselves up a copy of Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever.  A staple of the toddler set, and a fixture on living room bookshelves since the year of its publication, 1963.

Now if you’ll take out your copy of Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature and turn to page 69 you will find a remarkably well-written passage (*puffs self up*) regarding Mr. Scarry and gender in his books.  It reads, “By the 1970s, author/illustrator Richard Scarry was the object of much feminist criticism for his repeated portrayal of female characters in passive domestic roles in his many picture books showing community workers.  But Scarry eventually heeded the cries of sexism aimed at him.”  He updated the characters in his book.  Back in 2013 I wrote a piece called “Are there any girl bears?”: Gender and the 21st Century Picture Book featuring this fun bit of side-by-side comparison between the original Word Book and its revised edition:

Scarry

Of course, once you know about the update, the changes are shockingly obvious. Scarry didn’t really bother to match the linework when he redid his art.  Or maybe it’s just that the printing technology of the day made for a stark difference in the original and updated characters.  Here are two good examples of what I mean:

Scarry1

Scarry2

As you can see, the original images are using these deeper watercolor shades while the new images are much lighter and simpler.  I do, however, have to give the man credit for the taxi driver in pearls.

And you know what?  I don’t care if the female characters do look Photoshopped in.  I’m grateful, dammit, that there are some women doing labor above and beyond secretarial work.  Scarry even occasionally put men in roles traditionally considered to be the women’s territory.  Mr. Bunny makes breakfast for the family, for example.

Which brings us, naturally, to the present day.  In the 1970s there was a big push for diverse books and titles with gender equal characters.  Time passed and this pressing need became just a bit less pressing.  So let’s take a group of construction equipment titles as an example and see how the ladies fare.  After all, if Scarry updated this bear to look like this:

Scarry3

Note that he just put a bow on a bear in this particular case.

then how hard can it be for books today?

I’ll separate these books into two categories.  The first are anthropomorphized vehicles.  The second, construction workers.  This is by no means a complete listing.  It’s just what I’ve observed in my own life.

Gendered Construction Equipment

Digger, Dozer, Dumper by Hope Vestergaard, ill. David Slonim

DiggerDozer

MAN, I love this book.  I recently got a copy for my son to see, having remembered it a little late.  The edition I received from the library was sparkling and pristine.  You know why?  Because it’s shelved in the poetry section of the library and few folks think to look there for their construction books.  Now I love the way Vestergaard never cheats on a rhyme, that’s true.  But really and truly what I adore about the book is the variety of genders she grants her unusually animate objects.  The skid-steer loader, excavator, ambulance, steamroller, and forklift all identify as female.

DiggerDozer2

Slonim does give big long eyelashes to all the female vehicles, which seems a bit excessive.  You don’t need eyelashes on a Skid-Steer Loader, after all.  But as it happens, eyelashes are the preferred method of gender identification on trucks.  You can see this as well in:

Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper

GO-GO-GO-STOP-Cover-copy

In this book there’s only one female piece of equipment and it’s the dump truck.

GoGoGo2

Not quite as extensive as Vestergaard’s book, but it’s still good to have her there.  Again, Harper goes in for eyelashes.  Scarry used bows.  It’s all relative.

Mighty Dads by Joan Holub, ill. James Dean

MightyDads

An interesting case.  Dean doesn’t go in for eyelashes and Holub seemingly gives some of the little construction vehicles female names (“Mitzy” is one of them).  It’s not 100% clear, but you can read into it what you like.  I think it counts.

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherry Duskey Rinker, ill. Tom Lichtenheld

GoodnightGoodnight

Ah.  Alas.  My son adores this book.  He recently got a stuffed version of the excavator for his birthday and he simply could not be more pleased.  But while the pieces of equipment do have genders, they’re all male.

Bulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming, ill. Eric Rohmann

BulldozerBigDay

All boy, all the time too.

Gender of Construction Workers

I’ll be the first to tell you that of all the construction workers who have been helping to build the duplex next door to my house, not one of them has been female.  Still and all, there is a benefit to young readers seeing girls build in some way.  So with that in mind . . .

Dig, Dogs, Dig: A Construction Tail by James Horvath (and subsequent sequels like Build, Dogs, Build and Work, Dogs, Work)

DigDogsDig

I’m writing this at a bit of a disadvantage.  I’ve seeing Dig and Build but I haven’t seen Work quite yet.  Still, on the basis of the first two books in the series, I have one comment: Roxie needs to do some real work.  You see, in the book there’s this pink dog named Roxie who joins the apparently all-male crew on their digs (yes, she has eyelashes).  The problem is that Roxie doesn’t have much to do. For example, on the back of Build, Dogs, Build you can see her welding:

Roxie

But inside they changed it so that the dog doing the welding wasn’t her.  All Roxie got to really do in this book was install a doorbell.  Dig, Dogs, Dig wasn’t much better.  There she just handed down hammers.  I’ll be looking at Work, Dogs, Work soon.  Hopefully they put that gal through her paces.  She needs to earn her keep!

Construction by Sally Sutton

Construction

Very nicely done.  It’s not overt but the construction workers do include female crew members.

Whose Trucks? by Toni Buzzeo, ill. Jim Datz

WhoseTruck

These board books are fantastic.  Men and women work together everywhere.  Also, the kids playing with the trucks at the end of the book are a boy and a girl.  If you haven’t seen this, as well as its companion piece Whose Tools? then you are missing out, my friend.

Diggers Go by Steve Light

       DiggersGo

My son doesn’t have many words but one word he does have is “man”.  “Man?  Man?” he asks as he points to the construction equipment in this book.  He’s not wrong.  You might argue that since the faces are in silhouette there’s no way to really tell if the drivers are men or women, and you’d be right.  Still and all they look like dudes.  When Light puts women in these positions, they tend to have ponytails.  The sole ding in what is otherwise a magnificent series.

 

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4. Five Ways to Help Your Favorite Authors

So, as you may have heard, Angela and I are in the process of publishing the next books in our thesaurus series: we’re so excited that The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus will be available for purchase June 13th!

The Setting Thesaurus Duo

Though we’ve been through this process twice already, it’s been almost 3 years since our last books were released, and it’s surprising how much has changed in that time. In some ways, we’ve had to start from scratch and re-educate ourselves about how the whole thing works. As we’ve looked into giveaways, marketing opportunities at Amazon, how to enhance author bios and profiles at various distributors, etc., we’ve discovered so many ways to maximize our marketing efforts. But we’ve also learned about some new things that we, as readers, can do to support our favorite authors. And because we’re all about helping authors, we wanted to share those with you.

 1. Follow your favorite authors on Amazon. The majority of authors have an author page at Amazon containing a bio, information about their books, author-posted videos and blog posts, and more. All of that is readily viewable by clicking on the author’s name under the listing for one of his or her books.

Screen Shot 1

But if you also follow that person on Amazon, you’ll receive an email notification when he or she releases a new book.

Screen Shot 2

This is great for you, so you can stay up to date on new books that you’ll want to know about, but it’s also helpful for the author because it’s a way for them to get the word out about about their newest publications.

2. Follow your favorite authors at Goodreads. Following an author at Goodreads reaps the same benefits as following one at Amazon: you’re able to access personal information about that author, read posts imported from the author’s blog, see all the books written by the author, and be informed of new releases when they’re published. To follow an author, type his or her name in the Search bar, click on the name anywhere it appears in the results, then click the yellow Follow button under his or her picture.

If you want to receive notifications about new releases by your favorite authors, you just need to turn that option on. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Hover over your profile image on the top right of the screen.
  2. Click Account Settings.
  3. On the right-hand side of the page, click the little Edit My User Profile link.
  4. Click on Emails.
  5. Scroll down to the Newsletters and Other Mail section. Tick the box that says E

Screen Shot 5

3. Add upcoming releases to your Goodreads To Read list. This one is potentially awesome because many authors choose to host a giveaway of their new books leading up to their publications. So let’s say Stephen King is releasing a new book. If you’ve followed him, when he adds his new release to Goodreads, you’ll receive a notification. You will, of course, rush to add his book to your To Read list. Then, let’s say the King decides to host a giveaway of that book. If you have the correct notification turned on, you’ll receive a message about that giveaway. This is a great opportunity for both readers and authors; readers will get a chance to win a free copy of one of their favorite author’s new books while giving that author an opportunity to tell fans about new releases.

To turn on that notification, just follow the directions in the second bullet point above. But in step 5, go to the Comments and Action Notifications section and turn on the option to receive notifications when someone Lists a Giveaway with a book I added as To-Read.

Screen Shot 3

4. Ask for favorite books to be stocked at your library. Love affairs are born between readers and books at the local library. This is where I first encountered Robin McKinley, Shannon Hale, Garth Nix, and Anne McCaffrey, and I went on to buy most of their books. Visibility is difficult for today’s authors—especially for new authors, and libraries tend to stock books that are popular or highly marketed. So if you have a favorite author, get online and see if your local library carries a copy. If it doesn’t, swing by the reference desk the next time you’re there and ask the media specialist if they can order a copy.

5. Write Reviews. This one has been said so many times, but as a reader, I know how easy it is to forget to review a good book, so I think it bears repeating. With so many books on the market today, it’s hard for people to know which ones are worth buying. More and more, readers are turning to reviews to help them narrow the field. So when you write a heartfelt review at Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, or anywhere people are likely to see it, you lend credibility to that book and encourage people to take a chance on it. In a market where visibility is hard to come by, this is incredibly helpful for authors.

One thing that Angela and I love about the writing community is its eagerness to band together and support others. I hope these ideas help you help writers. If you have other ideas for how to support a favorite author, please add them in the comments section.

Also, I’m speaking at Elizabeth Spann Craig’s incredible blog today about using the setting to add conflict to your scene. Stop by and say hello!

Also, also, we’re currently testing out the Amazon Giveaway feature, ’cause we’re daredevils that way. Just click the links to enter to win one of 3 kindle copies of The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus.

The post Five Ways to Help Your Favorite Authors appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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5. How Tech Focused is Your Summer Reading Program?

The summer months are almost upon us and with graduations, orchestra concerts, and field day happenings the end of the school year is at hand. The ALSC Summer Reading Lists have also just been released and children’s librarians across the country are making final preparations before June.

The start of our Summer Reading this year coincides with the launch of our library’s new website. Since so much focus is being placed on content for the website, last fall the children’s department decided to go old school and keep all the reading logs in the library. We are borrowing from Pop Sugar’s Reading Challenge and asking kids to read a total of 20 thematic books.

This decision has led us to think about other ways of incorporating technology into Summer Reading, after years of having patrons log books, minutes, and reviews online. Many libraries use services like Evanced Solutions (this year it’s the Wandoo Reader) and newer products like Beanstack. Beyond tracking and prize distribution online, what can we do to engage young audiences using technology this summer?

  • Michael Santangelo wrote a compelling piece on downloadable audio. Kids and teens are on the go all summer long and for some travel increases. Are we pushing our digital collections and encouraging this format in our communities?
  • For years we have incorporated Learning Quests into Summer Reading as one method of participating. Each week kids submit answers to trivia questions, email images of themselves in costume, and upload videos of their take on our creative challenges. Perhaps there are additional challenges that can be encouraged in a virtual space, while hosting a more traditional Summer Reading model.
  • It’s hard to avoid video clips from Tasty and Buzzfeed DIY on your newsfeed. Why not use this medium to share library program activities or invite kids to make their own DIY videos in a similar style?

Share some of the methods you are using to incorporate technology into your Summer Reading activities!

Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is also Head of Children and Teen Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. You can reach Claire at cmoore@darienlibrary.org.

Visit the Digital Media Resources page to find out more about navigating your way through the evolving digital landscape.

The post How Tech Focused is Your Summer Reading Program? appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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6. Big Lift Little Libraries in San Mateo County

I have worked for the San Mateo County Libraries in various positions for the last twelve years and have had a chance to be a part of some really wonderful and inspiring projects. My favorite project I’ve ever been a part of is working with the Big Lift Little Libraries.

You may have seen Little Free Libraries out in your neighborhood or around town near community gathering places. Big Lift Little Libraries operate on the same principle of taking a book and leaving a book, but they are filled specifically with books for children and families.

Over the last two years, we have placed 104 Big Lift Little Libraries around San Mateo County. The libraries reside in medical clinics, elementary schools, churches, parks, beaches, and in front of residential homes. One young girl contacted us about hosting a Big Lift Little Library in her local post office!

I have had a chance to spot a few of the libraries out in the community, which is always a fun treat for me. I also love when people share photos of their new Big Lift Little Libraries once they have it up and running. More information about this project and photos of the Big Lift Little Libraries out in the wild can be found here!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stephanie Saba is a Senior Librarian at the San Mateo County Libraries in California and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. She is also a member of the California Library Association and is currently serving on the California Young Reader Medal Committee.

The post Big Lift Little Libraries in San Mateo County appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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7. Weekend Links: Booklists that Share the Power of Diverse Reading

Welcome to Weekend Links! This is my chance every weekend to share the best-of-the-best in the way of wonderful booklists and links that I have discovered during my Internet travels. This week I have found some amazing books that will help guide and grow our young readers and share some booklists that share the Power of Diverse Reading.

Since the creation of Multicultural Children’s Book Day; a non profit that works to get diverse children’s books into the hands of young readers, the importance of books that allow children’s to “see” themselves within the pages has truly been on my radar. This week I am sharing a great list of multicultural books for you to enjoy and add ot your family’s reading list. Enjoy!

The Power of Diverse Books by Mia Wenjen (guest post from the Nerdy Book Club)

TheJoyLuckClub-204x300
Here’s an excellent multicultural booklist from the Styling Librarian

frida

Multicultural Adoption Books for Kids

multicultural books about adoption
14 Kids books about Refugees at HumanEducation.org

Your child loves animals?? They’ll love learning about Singapore’s wildlife, and reserves at Discovering the World Through my Son’s Eyes.

Singapore
Books for Raising Global Kids: I See the Sun with FREE Printable at Educators Spin on It

I2Bsee2Bthe2BSun

Great Picture Books about Ramadan and Muslim Culture at the Logonauts

Books about Ramadan

Happy reading!

But, before you go….
My newest book, Dragons are Real will be available and the excitement is almost blowing the roof off at Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press headquarters!

Dragons are real

SO…what if I told you that all of the fairy tales, myths and legends that have been told about dragons over the years are WRONG. What if I told you that Dragons are indeed Real and that they are different than you’ve ever imagined?
This fairly true story is based on the author’s childhood friendship with a REAL live Dragon; a very special Dragon that she and her brother spent two magical summers with.

As readers turn the pages and learn the truth about Dragons, they will see that the fiercest beasts in known history can actually be the best of friends. It’s a lesson in finding companionship in the most unusual of places. Dragons are Real is a magical book filled with stunning illustrations and hints that dragon are indeed all around us :)

Dragons are Real is now available for purchase on both Amazon and Gumroad! We are also offering a special free bonus gift of a Dragons Are Real Inspiration Activity Guide when you purchase your copy of this enchanting picture book.

The post Weekend Links: Booklists that Share the Power of Diverse Reading appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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8. Emotional Wound Thesaurus Entry: Failing at School

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

IMG_1891Examples: Struggling throughout one’s school career due to 

  • a learning disorder (dyslexia, dysgraphia, processing disorders, etc.)
  • a behavioral or mental disorder (anxiety, ADHD, panic attacks, depression, bipolar)
  • medical problems that caused one to miss a lot of school
  • taking medication that interferes with one’s ability to focus or learn
  • having a low IQ
  • getting no support at home
  • external pressures that make school a low priority (working multiple jobs to provide for one’s family, suffering from malnutrition, being homeless, etc.)

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound: 

  • I’m stupid.
  • I can’t learn.
  • I’m going to fail no matter how hard I try.
  • I’m no good at school/math/reading/etc.
  • There’s something wrong with me.
  • I’m worthless.
  • My parents won’t love me if I don’t do well in school.

Positive Attributes That May Result: charming, creative, disciplined, industrious, patient, persistent, private, proactive, resourceful

Negative Traits That May Result: apathetic, callous, childish, controlling, cynical, disrespectful, hostile, humorless, inhibited, insecure, irresponsible, jealous, lazy, mischievous, needy, nervous, perfectionist, pessimistic, rebellious, resentful, rowdy, self-destructive, temperamental, timid, uncommunicative, uncooperative, volatile, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of others finding out one is stupid.
  • Fear of tests.
  • Fear of having to work with others.
  • Fear of being called on in class.
  • Fear of overreaching one’s capabilities.
  • Fear of disappointing one’s parents or caregivers

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Underachieving; setting low goals to avoid failing at larger ones
  • Giving up; no longer trying
  • Taking frequent trips to the bathroom or nurse
  • Skipping school
  • Being “sick” on test days
  • Not applying oneself so when one fails one can blame the lack of preparation
  • Pursuing interests where one excels outside of academics (sports, the arts, hobbies, etc.)
  • Becoming the class clown
  • Acting out in class
  • Charming one’s teachers to get out of trouble
  • Cheating on tests and homework
  • Working twice as hard as everyone else to achieve a measure of success
  • Withdrawing from teachers and other students
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as drinking, taking drugs, or promiscuity
  • Believing one will fail, and doing so (establishing the self-fulfilling prophecy)
  • Negative self talk
  • Bullying others (getting on the offensive)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Positive & Negative Thesaurus BooksAlso, we’ve currently got a giveaway going at Amazon. If you’d like to score one of 3 kindles copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus or The Positive Trait Thesaurus, just click the links to win!

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9. Self-Censorship: A Reflection

Coffee resting on tableAs the children’s librarian at my branch I interact with hundreds of kids.  I’ve had parents tell me they appreciate the impact I have on their kids, both as people and as readers. I feel that in some way, it is my job to show them all the ideas and viewpoints out there, so they can be better citizens of the world.

A few weeks ago, a colleague and I were getting ready to head to a school visit.  We had been prepping for this for a while now. Each of us picked books that we thought would resonate with the tweens in our Boston neighborhood.  A few days before, my colleague approached me and told me she wasn’t going to be utilizing one of the graphic novels she originally picked because throughout the book, there were numerous images of the main character smoking.   She didn’t want the tweens receiving the message that smoking at their age was okay.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about censorship.  Not the censorship we hear about in the news, but the everyday censorship that may happen at our libraries.  For the longest time, there has been a pile of anime DVDs on my desk.  A majority of my system’s anime is classified as Teen, but for whatever reason, a few are not.  The DVDs on my desk have been placed there by kids, parents, and even myself, because some of the cover images are suggestive in nature.  More times than I can count, I have been told “these are not okay for the Children’s Room.”  But why?  I mean yes, I understand the suggestive nature of the images, but does that mean it needs to be removed from the shelf?  If I remove it from the shelf, then what happens when a parent comes to me and complains about Sex is a Funny Word?  Or even something like Harry Potter?  Doesn’t my removal of these DVDs from the shelf create a slippery slope?  Where do we draw the line?  Who determines what is okay and appropriate?

I’m still thinking about these questions. One thing I know is that I get to decide what stays on my shelf and what doesn’t, and so in the mean time, the DVDs stay.  Not because I think the images are appropriate, but because it’s not my job to tell someone else what is and isn’t appropriate.  All I can do, is provide them with the tools and ideas to help them be the best people than can be.

Alyson Feldman-Piltch is a children’s librarian for the Boston Public Library.  She likes dogs, ice cream, and baseball.  She can be contacted at afeldmanpiltch@bpl.org

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10. How To Turn Your Setting Into An Obstacle Course

As you can imagine, with only a month between us and release day for the Setting Thesaurus books, Becca and I are practically twitching with excitement. More than anything, we can’t wait to show how this versatile element of storytelling is no mere wallflower. No, the setting is a powerful tool, one with the ability to deepen characters, make a story more meaningful and compelling, and of course, juice every scene with emotion and conflict.

(And that’s just to start!)

chasmBecca and I are big believers in making the setting work hard in EVERY scene. A terrific way to do this is to turn a setting into a magnet for conflict. After all, the hero or heroine’s path to their goal should never be a leisurely stroll. Instead, we want bumps and upsets, a route paved with inconvenience and obstacles. A sunny walk through the park should have the storytelling equivalent of hot lava to navigate, a swath of man-eating grass, and heck, maybe even a zombie toddler or two stumbling around looking for their next man-sized happy meal.

Conflict keeps readers reading. It transforms lumpy gobs of description into a vivid landscape of activity. It creates tension–that tingly, uncomfortable pressure that builds in a reader’s chest as they worry about the outcome. (And as writers, we LOVE making them feel that!)

Not only do obstacles create tension and conflict, they also force our protagonist into a corner, providing the perfect opportunity for us to test their mettle.

CREATE A GAUNTLET OF CHALLENGES

There are many different ways to use the setting to stress the hero or heroine, triggering a response that shows, not tells, who they really are. Here are a few to sink your teeth into.

Inherent Dangers

danger close upAny setting has the potential to cause trouble for the protagonist. Whether it is Lego strewn across the family room carpet as your character breaks into a house to steal important documents, a river that runs deeper than it appears, or a driver texting rather than watching the crosswalk your heroine is on, danger is everywhere. Look to the natural environment your character is in and ask yourself, what could go wrong here? Then, if it makes sense for the story, set your character on a crash course with danger. Not only will this cause the reader’s pulse to race, how your character responds will show readers what they are made of.

Misfortune

flat tireOn the other side of the danger coin is plain old bad luck. Sometimes unforeseen events land in our character’s lap at the worst time, and guess what makes that happen? That’s right, the setting. From bad weather that makes travel difficult, to a car breakdown, to being in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessing a murder,  misfortune creates mayhem. How does your character react–fight, or flight? Do they wallow, retreat, throw in the towel? Or do they shake off disappointment and regroup with a new plan?

Remember with misfortune, a little goes a long way. If you use it, ensure your event is logical for the setting and the circumstances so it never comes off as a plot device.

Physical Roadblocks

flood roadIn every scene, your character has a goal. Physical obstacles can be a great way to derail the protagonist’s progress or cause painful delays.

Whether the hero or heroine is stopped short by a locked door, missing car keys, a washed out bridge, or a forest fire caused by a lightning strike, roadblocks force detours. This challenge can showcase their creative problem solving and adaptability, as well as test their resolve.

People and Obligations

SecurityAh, people. There they are, all around your character–family, friends, strangers, enemies. Running into one at a bad time is no fun in real life, and can cause big problems in the fictional world. Did that nosy neighbor see something she shouldn’t have? Do the parents of your hero show up for a surprise visit just as his swingers’ party is getting underway? Does your heroine stumble upon a backwoods meth camp while out looking for her lost horse? People can be natural disruptors, messing up plans and creating complications.

This goes double for the people your character is obligated to. Real world problems stemming from relationships add realism while creating a quagmire of problems to navigate. Take the hero’s sister dumping her kids at his apartment because she needs to check herself into rehab. Caring for children when he wasn’t expecting to will create some stress, sure…but if he also happens to have his own demons to contend with, the situation can become dangerous. Imagine becoming suddenly responsible for two young children while he’s actively trying to dodge loan shark tough guys looking to collect an overdue payment. Now, the repercussions of his obligation is no longer a mere inconvenience. It could lead to a child being hurt.

The Little Things

spillIf every challenge and obstacle was some catastrophic event, we’d be tangoing with melodrama in no time. Luckily, little obstacles can be just as effective and remind readers of the real world. After all, who hasn’t spilled coffee on their slacks right before an interview, taken the wrong bus on route to an important doctor’s appointment, or discovered a broken tent pole only after completing a four hour hike into the mountains?  The little things are like midges biting at the skin, and how gracefully (or not) your protagonist bears the pain as things pile up will humanize him to readers and teach him resilience, something he’ll need if he’s in it for the long haul.

If you find your scene is flagging, try planting an obstacle or two in your character’s path.  Besides, whatever it is your protagonist wants most is something they need to fight for. Winning becomes so much more of a rush for readers when the protagonist has really worked for it.

How do you challenge your characters? What are some of the obstacles you’ve thrown in their path? Let us know in the comments!

Positive & Negative Thesaurus BooksOh and before I forget, Becca and I have 2 week-long giveaways going on at Amazon to get us all revved up for release day. If you’d like to snag a copy of The Positive Trait  Thesaurus or The Negative Trait Thesaurus (or both!), just follow the links to enter. Good luck!

And if you might be willing to help out with our launch week festivities, let us know. We’d love your help. :)

 

Image #2: heysalzmanngmailcom
Image #3: Stux @ Pixabay
Image #4: Sandid @ Pixabay
Image #5: Founry @Pixabay
Image #6: StevePB @ Pixabay

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11. Spotted at BEA: Upcoming Goodies

A light smattering of things that caught my eye at BEA.

Here’s the thing about Book Expo America.  As conferences go it yields less love amongst librarians than our own, beloved American Library Association conferences.  And that just makes sense.  BEA is about the business side of books. Booksellers are the primary focus and they’re swell folks.

This year the move to Chicago meant that a lot of the local booksellers were a bit worried about turnout.  At an author dinner I attended they mentioned their fears that a smaller conference might convince organizers that Chicago wouldn’t be worth visiting in the future.  Now as it happened, attendance was down by about 20%.  However, the organizers went on record saying that this had been expected, and that the people who did attend were folks who would normally not go to the NYC version.

The advantage of BEA is that the books you see there often are the same books you’ll see at ALA Annual.  So you can cut down on the titles you’ll need to ship by simply getting them early.

For my own part, I spent a good chunk of the event attending and moderating and participating on panels.  It was Friday before I could give the conference floor and the books on display the proper attention they deserved.  So please bear in mind that what I’m listing here today is just a small smattering of what was on display.  This is, if nothing else, a very random assortment.

First up, this:

Preg

I think I’ve found the profile pic I’ll put up every Mother’s Day from now until eternity.

Feast thine eyes.  Oh yes.  You know you want that picture book biography.  The fact that it’s about a South American real-life heroine?  Or that it’s part of a kind of anti-princess series?  Icing on the cake.

What you’re looking at is this:

Azurduy

And the company behind it is Books Del Sur.  Here’s their own description:

Books del Sur  was established by two long time friends, Heather Robertson and Ignacio Muñoz. After Heather became tired of the lack of quality Spanish literature available in her bilingual programs.  She contacted Ignacio in Chile and he used his business experience and knowledge of Chilean media to access books for Heather’s students. Their mission is to bring books from South America into the classrooms of Spanish-speaking students in the United States. Books del Sur is based in the Northern Chicago Suburbs and on the world wide web.

So basically these books are all in Spanish.  If there are plans for future English translations, I’ve yet to hear of it.  Fortunately, on their website you can sign up to hear if English versions will ever become available.  And in the meantime, these Spanish versions are magnificent.  Here are some of the other women in this series.  See if you can guess them by just these shortened cover images:

Frida

Violeta-Parra-2-200x300

Really, BEA was all about the international literature.  So I became familiar with Books Del Sur on the one hand, as well as Candied Plums on the other.

Candied Plums is a company dedicated to bringing Chinese imported children’s books to the States.  They’ve a frontlist of lovely books coming soon, but my favorite by far was this:

Haws

Apparently “candy haws” are a bit of a Chinese staple.  It was difficult to figure out exactly what they are, but they were described to me as candied crabapples.  If that sound gross, don’t worry. Some research indicates that “haws” are a fruit not found in the States.  So they may only have some mild similarities to our crabapples.  This story is a sweet tale about an old candy haws seller who finds he can’t locate anyone to buy his wares.  When he feeds some stray cats on his rounds, his generosity is returned in spades.  I’ll be reporting more on Candied Plums in the future, no worries.  They’ve given me a lot to think about.

On the nonfiction side of things, this was my favorite surprise find:

Esquivel

Don’t recognize him?  Well, basically he was the inventor of lounge music.  It gets better.  The author is part of a lounge music cover band for him.  Love love lovedy love.

MaryGlam

Here we have a rare Vanessa Newton-Bradley spotting.  Since the George Washington Birthday Cake debacle I was afraid that we’d lose sight of her for a while.  Nice to see she’s back in business.

In other news, coloring books are out and this is in:

Dots

I kid. Coloring books aren’t out.  And as to whether or not this is, or ever will be in, I leave it to you.

On one panel I decried the lack of diverse books in the vein of Wimpy Kid.  Someone later showed me this:

Frazzled

Looking forward to grabbing my own soon.

I know you have hundreds of early chapter book mystery books starring Muslim girls, but add just one more to the pile.

Museum

Oh.  What’s that?  You haven’t ANY Muslim girl early chapter book mysteries?  Well aren’t you the lucky one today.  It’s been out since January.  Time we stood up and took notice.

And really, though I saw quite a bit more than this, these are the ones I took pictures of, so that’s all she wrote folks!

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12. Critiques 4 U

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000046_00072]

Check us out at Goodreads!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000046_00067]

Check us out at Goodreads!

PEOPLE! Both volumes of The Setting Thesaurus are being uploaded to Createspace AS WE SPEAK! These books have been in the works for almost two years and we’re so excited to be able to offer them to you this June. If you want to stay up-to-date on these publications and the ensuing launch awesomeness, feel free to sign up here.

In the meantime, now’s a good time to do some critiques, before the final weeks of craziness kick in. If you’re working on a first page and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment that includes: 

1) your email address. Some of you have expressed concern about making your email address public; if you’re sure that the email address associated with your WordPress account is correct, you don’t have to include it here. But if you do win and I’m unable to contact you through that email address, I’ll have to choose an alternate winner.

2) your story’s genre (no erotica, please)

ONLY ENTRIES THAT FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS WILL BE CONSIDERED

Three commenters’ names will be randomly drawn and posted tomorrow. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. Best of luck!

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13. Day of Dialog 2016 Recap: Chicago Edition!

Photo credit Laini Taylor

Photo credit Laini Taylor

I feel like it’s been a long time since I “reported” on anything. It isn’t just the move to the Chicago area. It’s more that subtly over the years I’ve pulled back from the rote typing that I used to engage in so often. Blame Twitter. Blame aging. Blame my left pinkie finger which, even as I write this, is slowly growing numb.

But when you are at School Library Journal’s Day of Dialog (held in Chicago this time around) and Richard Peck steps up to the podium to give the keynote speech then out comes the laptop, the fingers stretch and crack, and my wordplay becomes a bit more loquacious thanks in large part to the sheer osmosis of Mr. Peck’s presence.

His words don’t hurt either.

Before we go much further I would like to note that today’s reporting is going to have all the care and content of a sugar rush.  At first I did very well indeed.  Then, as the day goes on, the sleeplessness I encountered thanks to my small children took its toll and . . . well, let’s get back to Mr. Peck.  You’ll see for yourself anyway.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 11.25.28 PMHe steps up to the podium wearing an immaculate yellow pocket square, which sets off his blue tie. I should note that when I met him earlier in the day he not only remembered me (no easy manner) but said, “You reviewed my pocket handkerchief”, so now I almost feel obligated to continue.  It was a nice yellow, certainly, but of more interest is the fact that much much later in the day I would see Mr. Peck again.  Day of Dialog closed with all the authors of the panels signing their own books.  There I noted that Mr. Peck had changed both handkerchief and shirt. The man is meticulous in his presentation, no doubt about it.

Today we, the audience members, watched as he stepped up and addressed what he called “the people of the story.”  Part of any good speech comes in knowing your audience. And Peck, a native born Illinois boy, was in his element. He began by placing Chicago, its history and literature, in context. He got particular claps when he suggested that the Cubs will go to the World Series (which is apparently true, though I’ve heard conflicting reports recently). Honestly, what it really did was make me feel particularly good about moving here. “May all the sons and daughters of Chicago know these, their authors. And wait, one more, mine.” Then he holds up his latest title The Best Man.

Mr. Peck is the kind of fellow that can sound like he’s speechifying even in moments of casual conversation. So when he starts to read, it gives you a second or two to catch up. In today’s case, he performed the switcheroo so seamlessly that it honestly took me a moment to realize that he himself did not place rats under his Aunt Sally’s bed. “And the rats were doing what they could to keep the dull times off her.”

Eventually it becomes clear that all a writer like myself really wants to do is just quote him without cease. I mean, how can I resist? The man is practically built of one-liners. For example:

– “I marched into Kindergarten the day that Hitler marched into Poland . . . but I was better prepared. Because I had a mother who read to me.”

– Holds up a poster of Fair Weather. “This is my idea of a PowerPoint.”

– Twain influenced him heavily. “The same tobacco fueled turn of speech.”

– “Boys don’t want to make imaginative leaps. Boys want to make clear connections.”

– “All the best role models are dead. And all the worst role models are a year ahead of you in school.”

– “Boys in Decatur were not asked how we wished to express ourselves.”

– “My Jr. High students made a writer out of me. They kicked the autobiography out of me… but they taught me how to write. And here’s how . . .”

– “You take 6 drafts to erase yourself out of the manuscript.”

– “All fiction is historical fiction before the ink is dry.”

– “The only way you can write is by the light of the burning bridges behind you.”

Yeah. That last one got a lot of retweeting on the Twitter.

Of course he had to talk about his latest is book. The Best Man is about a boy. One of his role models wants to marry another one of his role models. Both are men. Peck wrote it to make a point that “they may not get in school.” Though, as he is quick to point out, kids today have watched far more episodes of Modern Family than he will ever watch. And when he read a little bit from his latest, and I was personally taken with this line:

“I’m 34. I’m too old to wear shorts in public.”

Said Mr. Peck, the right of whom to marry is a right we should all share. This point transitioned seamlessly into his particular bugaboos. Textbooks, mindlessness of worksheets, and standardized testing come to mind.

Peck touched on his discomfort with texting. “The young find new ways to limit their world . . . 250 texts a day, and not a semicolon among them.” And later, “… they are texting deep into the night, long after failed parents are fast asleep.” Burn.

He received a standing ovation. As Alison Morris next to me pointed out, there is no one more eloquent than he. But, naturally, that leads to jokes about how we should go about making him The Official Elocutioner of Children’s Literature . . . which sounds bad, right? Like you should give him a hood or something. “The Elocutioner of the Revolution is here!” So maybe not.

You can see some of his talk here, thanks to Colleen Seisser:

Next up, the panels! And it took me a little while, but eventually it became clear that panel #1 was a nonfiction picture book panel.

9:45–10:30 am | Panel I: Some Nonfiction! Dynamic informational books for young readers Room DEF

Panelists:
Candace Fleming & Eric Rohmann, Giant Squid (Roaring Brook Press)
Julia Kuo, The Sound of Silence (Little, Brown)
Mara Rockliff, Around America To Win the Vote (Candlewick)
Jane Sutcliffe, Will’s Words (Charlesbridge)
Melissa Sweet, Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White (HMH)

It was hosted by Deborah Stevenson and it was mentioned briefly at the beginning that the largest collection of children’s books outside of the Library of Congress is found at the Center of Children’s Books at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Really? Who knew? Someday I’m going to write The Hardest Children’s Literature Quiz in the World and this fact is going into it.

Once we got into the gist of things it was discovered that Giant Squid is Eric Rohmann’s first piece of nonfiction, and Candy’s first science related nonfiction. The book is, as you might imagine, about giant squids but it was Eric who initially had the idea for it and handed some pictures to Candy he’d storyboarded, saying, “Here are the pictures. I need some words.” But not so many they’d clutter up the pictures. Naturally.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 11.25.47 PMAnother panelist was Jane Sutcliffe who wrote Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk about how Shakespeare’s language has permeated the world. It reminded me a lot of that Greek words book that Gareth Hinds illustrated a while ago, written by Lisa Lunge-Larsen, called Gifts from the Gods: Ancient Words and Wisdom from Greek and Roman Mythology. There before us was Melissa Sweet and her new bio Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White, a book that Alison Morris informs me is worth reading. Panelist Julia Kuo illustrated The Sound of Silence, which may be the first philosophical picture book I was able to successfully read to my daughter. That kid really and truly found it interesting, that rare combination of cute images with sophisticated content.  And the panel was rounded out with Mara Rockliff and her recent title Around America to Win the Vote. I’m a big time fan of another 2016 release of hers, Anything But Ordinary: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic.

If there was a topic to discuss this day it was “truth”. There must be something in the air (possibly the upcoming presidential election, if I don’t miss my guess). In any case, both this panel and the following one on middle grade fiction (moderated by yours truly) thought long and hard about truth and how it relates to children’s literature. In the case of children’s nonfiction, it’s often my go-to topic for Literary Salons. In today’s panel, Melissa Sweet tackled the notion of the word “true” as it related to her art in her E.B. White biography. For instance, she really wanted to draw his home so she collaged it with a photograph of the actual house itself. The end result is part photo / part drawing. And as Sweet says, there’s a lot of interpretation in the art of what happened when you’re drawing images of the past.

Are there clear boundaries between fiction and nonfiction? Candy actually spoke eloquently to this topic at my Lit Salon (and now I’ve a really lovely recorded version here):

In this case, Deborah pointed out how lyrical and lovely the language of Rockliff’s book is, while still staying true to its subject. Rockliff then quoted Deborah Heiligman and the horse poop quote (which I always use as well!). It’s such a good line. Basically, it’s from when Deborah was writing her Natinal Book Award winning Darwin title Charles and Emma. During its creation it was pointed out to Deborah that when writing about true events in the past, if you want to say someone stepped over horse poop in the road, that’s okay because everyone would have done that. But if you wanted to say someone leaned against a lamppost, you can’t actually say that. In an interesting twist it was pointed out that historical picture books can never meet those nonfiction standards because artists still need to make up what you see. It’s something we have to remember. Though, as Mara said, “I don’t worry too much about the lamppost in the yard.”

All this brought to mind the old discussion of why writers are held to such strict standards while illustrators almost have carte blanche in nonfiction picture books.

Rohmann agrees, by the way. He says he can’t really call what he’s doing nonfiction. “The picture being worth a thousand words works against you in this case.” That’s a good line. Why does he feel like this? Well, when he asked two scientists for the color of the giant squid, one expert said that giant squids are red and other said that they’re silver. So, being the guy that he is, he just made them red AND silver in the art. Kuo understood what Rohmann was saying and built upon it. Turns out, The Sound of Silence is actually based on a true story the author heard from her dad. After she wrote it, she asked her dad to tell her the story about the koto player, who starts off the book. But her dad didn’t remember the guy. So what you end up with is a story that’s based on another person’s memory but has blurred and blurred. There’s always something that’s interpreted about any illustration, after all. Because Kuo had to draw Tokyo she used Google street view to aid her. The Tokyo featured in this story, she pointed out, is different from her author’s, particularly since she included her own favorite stores.

Facts suggest a way to tell a story. But in the Shakespeare story Will’s Words there are two sets of facts. Facts about the Globe and Shakespeare’s world and the facts about his words and literature. Sutcliffe said that though facts come first, kids deserve to know where the line is drawn and where fact and fiction lie. Her view is that fact and fiction are “friendly neighbors that borrow from one another.” But people need to be honest with children and always say what is fact and what is fiction. If only in an Author’s Note.

In terms of the Giant Squid book, Deborah said, “We have so few books that talk about what we don’t know.” Good line. Another good line was quoted from the book itself – “It is dangerous to be bite-sized.” Interestingly there’s no early title page in this book declaring “Giant Squid” loud and proud. This was a conscious choice on Candace’s part. She pretty much figured that it would ruin the book. If you start with the word right at the beginning, it destroys the mystery. Instead, you’ll find the title page buried, so to speak, on page 10. Likewise, you don’t see the whole squid until the very end, before it escapes. It was a great panel but I was particularly taken with the random little facts I picked up along the way. Like the fact that apparently giant squids are plentiful, but the only reason we know this is because so many of their beaks show up in the bellies of sperm whales.

Since these are picture books we’re talking about, there was a nice section on the use of color in stories about history. Mara put in a word for it. As she said, picture books have an amazing advantage when it comes to sucking children into the past. Adults think of the past as grey. Kids now are facing loads and loads of historical picture books ablaze in bring colors. That’s gotta make a difference, right?

Deborah turned the conversation to the art in Will’s Words and design. Jane Sutcliffe mentioned at this time how her artist “sacrificed” some birds in his illustrations for the inclusion of the story’s text boxes. Deborah then recounted a Trina Schart Hyman story about the time someone commented to her what a pity these text boxes were when it came to covering up parts of her art. Her tart reply: “That’s why the art was made, you know.”  Eric pointed out that as a children’s book illustrator, “you’re not making art to hang over the couch”. A good illustrator finds a way to do more than the text is able to say. “Our audience doesn’t look at a picture. They inhabit a picture.”

We ended with a little discussion of backmatter. Mara Rockliff, a self-described “Research Junkie” brought up an interesting point about it that I’d never heard before. In her Adelaide book Mara didn’t have room to include the explanation of how the bullet catching trick worked. So, instead, she put it on her website. Now that it’s getting hits and she’s getting a real sense of how many people actually read the backmatter of a nonfiction title.

By the way, during the course of this panel Alison and I noticed that Eric has a very nice voice. Very radio friendly. So, and this is bad, we started talking about what we’d call Eric’s radioshow. You may want to cover your eyes for this one. You ready? Okay. It would be called . . . Friends, Rohmann, Lend Him Your Ears.

Oh, it could work.

Not long after this panel came my own:

11:15 am–12:00 pm | Panel II: Truth Be Told: Big questions in middle grade fiction and what adults keep from children Room DEF

Panelists:
Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Workman)
Adam Gidwitz, The Inquisitor’s Tale (Dutton)
Jennifer Holm, Full of Beans (Random)
Jason Reynolds, As Brave As You (Simon & Schuster)
Raina Telgemeier, Ghosts (Scholastic)

Moderator: Betsy Bird, Collection Development Manager at the Evanston Public Library

Looked something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 11.24.26 PM

They were a good group, as you might imagine.  However, moderating cuts down significantly on my reporting skills.  To hear what was said you’d have to lean heavily on another reporter.  Or find the video that may or may not have been recorded at the event.  *stares longingly at the SLJ logo on the top of this page*

Our lunchtime speaker was Laini Taylor.  Good old, Laini.  I like that gal.

Now comes the tricky part.  A YA panel was up, and I did make an effort to record what I saw, to some extent.  It was:

2:15–3:00 pm | Panel III: Mind-bending Women of YA Room DEF

Panelists:
Sharon Cameron, The Forgetting (Scholastic)
Roshani Chokshi, The Star-Touched Queen (St. Martin’s Griffin)
S. J. Kincaid, The Diabolic (Simon & Schuster)
Laura Ruby, Bone Gap (HarperCollins)
Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer (Little, Brown)

Moderator: Janice Del Negro, Associate Professor and Follett Chair at Dominican University

I should warn you that at this point my note taking began to take a turn for the sleepy.  So what you’re going to see here are thoughts that might not be quite as connected as they should be.  You have been warned.

The whole kerschmozzle started off with a bit of a small bang.  “We conferred prior to this panel and decided I wouldn’t ask the sex question first.” Now THAT is moderation, people!

What I liked about the panel in particular were discussions of how women are portrayed in YA novels.  For example, Laini Taylor pointed out that for many people Katniss is the norm and that any girl or woman without the physical ability to protect themselves in a YA novel is considered a bad role model. Yet we need these books for the girls who don’t have their dad’s samurai sword in the closet and they need to find ways to protect themselves in different ways. Laini’s characters in her new novel don’t fight. She didn’t want people to be able to defend themselves all the time. There are other ways to be strong than to be able to fight.

Cameron concurred. There’s something in her that backs off from writing to an agenda, even if she agrees with that agenda. “I want to write human characters that are the way the world is.” The quiet rebel.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 11.26.29 PMLaura Ruby mentioned, “I would like to retire the word strong. ‘Strong female characters’. No one talks about ‘strong male characters’.” This ties in pretty directly to Bone Gap, where Ruby wrote about a trapped female character and gave her agency.   When she mentioned that maybe she hasn’t been given crap about not having a “strong female character” because she splits her narrative between a male and female character, and one of the female character is aggressive. “But she tends bees!”

Chokshi talks about the degree to which female characters garner criticism. She spoke to the Twitterverse to a certain extent about how we view female writers as well.

Janice mentioned that she wouldn’t mind retiring the word “feisty”. I think it’s ironic now, so I’m unwilling to retire it.

The sex talk came next. Laini mentioned that romance novel type sex in YA novels makes her super uncomfortable. Chokshi said she honestly would have written more sexy scenes but she was living at home with her parents. She’d be sitting at the table typing and her dad would say, “Hey, you want to watch John Oliver?” But she moves out in June so maybe that’ll change. Kincaid discussed her comfort level as a writer. It’s important to be true to the characters’ experience. Laura discussed her “hazy magical bee sex”. She also said that you can get away with a lot more in fantasy than in realistic books.

Of course, the true advantage of YA is time.  Kincaid pointed out that unlike a TV show where characters declare their love and immediately have sex, YA novels are allowed to be a bit more thoughtful, to take time, and to speak to their emotional development.

After this, Janice Del Negro spoke to the “These are boy books / These are girl books” divide that occurs in a lot of places (even library programming!). Kincaid called it an “artificial divide.” Cameron said she’s seen some amazing changes in this over the last few years. We’re moving away from the girl in the dress covers. We’re seeing a lot more graphic covers (ala Hunger Games). When she first started writing, people told her her character should be female because they were the ones who were reading and they don’t want to read from a boy’s perspective. She’s seen that notion dissipate over time. Chokshi then said, “reading books doesn’t emasculate you, it strengthens you.” Ruby said she likes tweeting the picture of LeBron James reading Hunger Games when this comes up. Laini likes her newest cover because it could speak to anyone. She likes frilly dress covers too but if it can speak to both genders then let it (I’m paraphrasing here).

So that was that.  And the way I figure it, if you’re running an all day even and the plan is to end the day with a panel, make it an interesting panel. Make it a BIG panel. Make it a panel that will make folks want to stick around. It’s 4 p.m. The attendees are tired. They need a little jolt of something

3:45–4:45 pm | Panel IV: What Comes First, the Idea or the Image? Creativity at Play in Today’s Picture Books Room DEF

Panelists:
Kate Beaton, King Baby (Scholastic)
Michelle Cuevas & Erin Stead, Uncorker of Ocean Bottles (Dial)
Richard Jackson & Jerry Pinkney, In Plain Sight (Roaring Brook Press)
Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston, A Child of Books (Candlewick)
Brendan Wenzel, They All Saw a Cat (Chronicle)

Moderator: Elisa Gall, Librarian and Department Co-chair at the Latin School of Chicago

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 11.26.08 PM

At this point the fingers went out entirely.  Sorry about that.  Particularly because Elisa just killed it as a moderator.  If I taught a class on How to Moderate Panels, I’d find a tape of what she did with that ginormous panel and just show it.  Honestly, it was a work of art.  When I moderated that day I asked a single solitary question and my panel ran with it.  I never asked another.  She, however, not only asked a ton of questions but she was so skilled at drawing out some folks to speak more and others to elaborate on points.  Marvelous stuff.

Many thanks to SLJ for asking me to be there.  And thanks too to everyone who participated.

 

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14. Emotional Wounds: Losing a Loved One To A Random Act of Violence

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

griefCharacters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect.

Losing a Loved One To A Random Act of Violence

Examples:

  • killed by errant bullets in a drive by shooting
  • a bystander gunned down during a gang dispute (in a restaurant, on the street, etc.)
  • a robbery where the criminals leave no witnesses
  • dying in a fire that was deliberately set
  • a child or spouse who is killed in a school shooting
  • a loved one who is jumped by addicts who are delusional or hallucinating
  • being killed in a terrorist attack (a bombing, bio-terrorism, etc.)
  • a love one who steps in to break up a fight and is stabbed or shot
  • being fatally wounded after a mugging
  • becoming a target because of mistaken identity
  • being run over as criminals flee a scene or during a police chase
  • dying in the line of duty (police officers, swat, bomb squad, etc.)
  • being grabbed and used as a human shield
  • being killed as a message to others (hostages, etc.)

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, love and belonging

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • evil always wins
  • happiness is temporary; it is only a matter of time before what you love is taken from you
  • I should have been able to prevent it–I am weak
  • I am a terrible (spouse, parent, etc.) for not protecting (the victim) when it was my duty to
  • it is better to not love anything than love and have it stolen from you
  • the system is broken, there is no protection or justice for people like (the victim)

Positive Attributes That May Result: appreciative, decisive, empathetic, generous, hospitable, introverted, just, kind, loyal, merciful, nurturing, observant, passionate, pensive, perceptive, persistent, private, protective, responsible, sensible, socially aware, spiritual, supportive, wise

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, antisocial, confrontational, cynical, hostile, humorless, impulsive, indecisive, inflexible, insecure, irrational, needy, nervous, obsessive, paranoid, pessimistic, prejudiced, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, stubborn, superstitious, suspicious, timid, vindictive, violent, volatile, withdrawn, worrywart

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of being alone
  • fear of darkness
  • fear of letting a loved one out of one’s sight
  • fear of not being in control
  • fear of specific situations (that tie into the circumstances of the loved one’s end, e. g.: being afraid to drive if one’s loved one was carjacked)
  • fear of a specific race, gender, or person type/features (people with facial scars, people with a similar weight and build, etc.) as the attacker
  • fear of trusting people
  • fear of certain areas that remind one of the location one’s loved one died
  • fear of strangers and crowded areas

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • obsessively locking and checking one’s door and window locks
  • repeatedly checking in with loved ones when out of sight (texts, phone calls, checking on children throughout the night, etc.)
  • carrying a weapon
  • having a cell phone always fully charged and handy
  • refusing to go out, making excuses to avoid crowded areas or strange people
  • adhering to a specific routine that one deems as “safe”
  • forcing one’s remaining family to adhere to safety protocols (calling for a ride not walking, calling if one is going to be late, coming home at a specific curfew, etc.)
  • difficulty trusting new people, remaining aloof
  • visiting the grave site or area where one’s loved one died often (and possibly becoming obsessive about creating and maintaining a memorial)
  • drinking or self-medicating more (or developing a habit)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: Aitoff @ Pixabay

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15. Encouraging young listeners with downloadable and streaming audiobooks

Downloadable and streaming audiobooks have been on my mind again.  Recently, some articles came out about the benefits of audiobooks for literacy; a revelation that probably surprised few of us in children’s and school library services.  We did not create the Odyssey awards for nothing.  ALA Editions published a wonderful book about it by Sharon Grover and Lizette D. Hannegan “back” in 2012.  Last year, Rachel Wood from Arlington Public Library wrote an ALSC Blog post that stands as a primer for building an e-audio collection.  But it always feels like a topic needs to come around a few times before the greater profession and the greater public latches on.

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Perhaps it is not always content that is the way to hook a reluctant reader but format too.  Dan Cohen from the DPLA wrote an article for The Atlantic talking about the powerful role that smartphones play in the lives of today’s teens and how this may be a way to bridge the digital divide.  One of my own young relatives revealed to me that because she has difficulty reading, she uses audiobooks to keep up with her English class assignments.  She finds and streams audiobook editions of assigned books on her smartphone.  Recognizing that most parents and caregivers have smartphones, many libraries, like Spokane County Library District, are emphasizing their media mentor skills to recommend downloadable and streaming audiobooks and related apps for them to use with their children.

In the past, a former children’s librarian could feel alone in the greater e-content world.  Too often children were not considered during e-content discussions.   (Besides my fellow children’s librarians, who else at a meeting would excitedly prattle on about an audiobook of Winnie the Pooh in which Judy Dench gives voice to Kanga.) Now, we live in a world of Bookflix, Tumblebooks, and Overdrive Read-alongs.  When children’s e-material did not circulate well during the early years of e-content platforms, I still believed it was worth building a collection.  I knew at some point, this part of the market would grow.  And, with the growth in downloadable audiobook circulation and sales, the time is upon us.

Let’s admit.  Unlike a book, a physical audiobook can be clumsy (yes I know, for some downloading from the library can be clumsy as well).  I tried the entire carry ten discs onto the subway thing when I had longer commutes, and yes, I did miss a few stops because of a wonderful narrator.  As well, technology has changed so rapidly as concerns personal electronics.  A few months ago, a member of an audiobook award committee told me she had a hard time finding a store near her that still sold Discmans (she wanted one so she could listen for her committee while she went on her walks).  In the age of tablets, smartphones, and smartwatches, I think more focus needs to be on downloadable and streaming e-content.

To paraphrase Ranganathan: every young listener, their downloadable audiobook, and every downloadable audiobook, its young listener.

Michael Santangelo is the Electronic Resources Coordinator for BookOps, the shared technical services department for the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library, and the current chair of ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee.

 

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16. Program in a Post: Glow Stick Party!

Glow wheelsWith this post and $25 you can create an awesome glow-stick-party for kids and families at your library!

Supplies:

  • Glow bracelets (you can get 12 for $1 in the dollar bins) we used 18 containers for 90 people
  • A couple bags of large marshmallows
  • Music

Set glowstickracersup: Turn a few tables into ramps, put out some glow sticks and marshmallows, and make some sample wheels. Turn the lights (mostly) out and put on some groovy music.

For our glow stick party we had 90 kids and grown-ups dancing to the music, going crazy with glow sticks, and making wheels and sending them down the ramp. It was glow-tastic!

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17. Six Rules that Keep Critique Partnerships Golden

A long time ago, two enthusiastic yet green writers met on an online critiquing site called The Critique Circle. They wrote stories riddled with hollow characters and cliched plots, but that didn’t stop them from becoming fast friends. Through practice, critiquing literally thousands of submissions, and spending untold hours reading and responding to forum conversations on writing, these two eventually learned a thing or three about the craft. Eventually, they even penned a few books with the word “thesaurus” in the title. Who knows, maybe you’ve seen one hanging out on a writer’s desk somewhere.

Here’s one of the BIG lessons these two scruff-and-tumble writers learned: having a critique partner can really shorten your learning curve. The eyes, knowledge and experience of another writerly human being can give the insight and distance an author lacks. Of course, it’s all about finding the right critique partners who are a perfect fit, and understanding how to best work together. Becca and I still are going strong well over 10 years after we first met, and there’s no one I’d rather hand my work over to than her. So please help me welcome author Dee Romito who has a few “rules” to make sure our critique partner relationships stay healthy and function as they should.

Six Rules that Keep Critique Partnerships Golden

Dee RomitoGood critique partners (affectionately known as CPs) are invaluable on your publishing journey.  They will be your go-to sources for questions, support along the way, and much-needed feedback.

I checked in with a few of my most trusted writing friends to get their thoughts on what makes a great critique partner. Here are six things you can do to be a helpful critiquer and what you might be looking for in a critique partner.

  1. Offer suggestions. Blunt comments are not the same thing as constructive feedback.

There’s a line between being honest and being helpful. Try to explain why you think a change should be made or make a suggestion as to how to improve it.

“Something I make sure I don’t do (or at least try not to) is to simply say I don’t like something. That is never helpful information. If there is something that I think is off, I try to explain why I think that. For example, ‘This sentence felt repetitive because you gave the same information above.’” – Janet Sumner Johnson, author of THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY

“I once had a reader who crossed out whole pages of my manuscript and rewrote sections and, knowing how that made me feel, I will never change anything in anyone else’s document. I won’t even add a comma or correct spelling in the ms itself- I drop a note in the ‘insert comments’ instead.” – Jen Malone, author of MG and YA novels, including THE SLEEPOVER and YOU’RE INVITED

  1. Ask questions

If there’s something you don’t understand or you feel like something’s missing or unclear, ask about it. Writers are sometimes too close to their own work to see it.

“I really love receiving critiques where the CP has asked questions instead of making comments (example: ‘Do you think she’d be feeling this right here?’ instead of ‘I don’t like the way she’s feeling sad here- she should be mad!’)” – Jen Malone

“I like critique partners who ask a lot of questions. This always helps me think about different paths I can take a manuscript.” – Jen Maschari, author of THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE

  1. Point out what works, as well as what doesn’t work

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you need to make a conscious effort to point out both the weaknesses and the strengths of a piece.

 “My go-to critique partners aren’t afraid to tell me what I need to fix . . . even when they know I won’t be happy to hear it, but at the same time, they are nice. They point out the things they liked, too, and somehow this makes the hard stuff much, much, much easier to swallow.” – Janet

“I always try to point out things I love or that made me laugh, in addition to the things I didn’t connect with quite as much- I have one CP who highlights lines or sections she loves in green highlighter. For me, it definitely keeps my spirits up amid digesting all the things I need to address in revisions.” – Jen Malone

“Many times, writing can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill, so those hearts or ‘I love this’ comments or even a smiley face can go a long way to cheering me on as I tackle the bigger stuff.” – Jen Maschari

  1. Know what the author is looking for. Overall, line edits, voice, consistency, something specific.

At various points in the process, writers need different kinds of critiques. Know what the goal is.

“I make sure I know what the person is looking for. Did they want a big picture critique? Did they want me to fix grammar mistakes? That can make a big difference in how I read.” – Janet

“I always make sure I get a sense of what my critique partner wants first. What big questions do they have? Do they want me to look at the larger picture or do they want a sentence level look?” – Jen Maschari

  1. Offer to clarify, answer more questions, talk it through, brainstorm.

A CP is meant to be a sounding board and someone who can help you work through the sticking points.

“Now that I’ve worked on some co-writing projects and realized how much more quickly a plot/outline comes together with joint brainstorming sessions, I’ve recently begun asking my CPs if they would be up for helping at the earliest stages of something new.” – Jen Malone

“Sometimes I’ll send a few scenes out to get a first reaction or a sense of what’s working and what’s not early on.” – Jen Maschari

  1. CPs will go to you for your strengths. Know what they are.

Okay, so you might not know them yet. But you will. Do you notice every punctuation mistake? Do you find inconsistencies in manuscripts? Are you a plotting wizard?

 “I definitely choose my beta readers based on what type of critique I’m looking for. For example, when I send a second draft out (I never send a 1st draft, just fyi), I look for someone who is good at plotting and seeing holes and how to improve that. When I’m further in the process and need someone who is good at making smooth prose or catching detail errors, I choose someone who is good at that. I have found that they each have their strengths. And it always makes sense to play to someone’s strengths.” – Janet

“I have a CP whose strengths are my weaknesses- I tend to focus on dialogue and plot more than the interior character arc and she’s always making notes that say “But what is she feeeeeeeling here?”– I really need that push!” – Jen Malone

Final Thoughts

These ladies have definitely helped me along the way and were essential in fine-tuning my middle grade debut, THE BFF BUCKET LIST. I trust their feedback and value their opinions. Without a doubt, having critique partners has been one of the most important pieces in my path to becoming a published author.

Whether you’re just starting out and are in the midst of searching for critique partners or you’re a seasoned veteran, these simple reminders help make critique partner relationships ones that will last through many manuscripts, all the ups and downs, and hopefully, lots of publishing deals.

BFF Bucket ListDee has a new book out, a terrific middle grade called the BFF Bucket List, and a killer blurb:

Two best friends. Twelve challenges.

Can the BFF Bucket List save their friendship or will that get crossed off too?

(Love it? I do!)

If you like, follow this link for a closer look, or add it to your Goodreads list!

And do hook up with Dee online–visit her blog or website, hang out on Facebook or throw tweets her way on Twitter. She’s super friendly, is always around chatting it up, and would love to hear from you.

Do you have a great critique partner? What rules would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

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18. Can Adult Authors Be Taught?: Considering the Alternative Celebrity Children’s Book

The title of the New York Times piece is Masters of Prose Warm Up to Children’s Picture Books.  Innocuous enough.  Inside, the article looks at the current spate of authors who normally write for an adult audience but have recently switched their focus to our youngest readers. Jane Smiley, Sherman Alexie, and Calvin Trillin are spotlighted in particular, though they are hardly the first of their kind.  As the writer Alexandra Alter rightly points out, it is far more common for (for lack of a better term) adult authors to write middle grade or YA books for kids.  Picture books take, in many ways, a different set of muscles and only recently have they become quite so popular with writers for adults.

Part of what I liked so much about Ms. Alter’s piece was the fact that it mentions historical precedents. “Writing children’s literature has always appealed to a subset of serious novelists. James Joyce, who wrote some of the most famously impenetrable passages in English literature, wrote two children’s fables about cats for his grandson. James Baldwin, John Updike and Kurt Vonnegut all published illustrated books for young readers.”  To say nothing of poets like Sylvia Plath or Ted Hughes.  And so on.  And such.

So why are so few children’s books by adult writers truly memorable?

That’s a rather broad brush to paint with, so I’ll endeavor to explain.  Think about the adult authors you really admire.  Now think about their children’s books, if indeed they’ve written any.  Were they good?  Or merely mediocre?  Chances are, they’re in the latter category.

This is not to say, of course, that an author of adult stories and texts can’t also win big in the children’s book realm.  Look at one of the Newbery winners.  Neil Gaiman is probably the most prominent example of someone who has truly succeeded in the children’s book realm, conquering not just middle grade novels but also early chapter books and picture books too.  But for every Gaiman there’s a Michael Chabon or Alice Walker or Donald Barthelme (I’m looking at YOU, Slightly Irregular Fire Engine).  You love their adult work.  You’re kinda meh on what they do for kids.

A lot of these authors have children of their own, or even grandchildren.  Many create stories for those kids and turn those stories into books.  Jules Feiffer, for example, wrote Bark, George after telling that tale to this daughter at bedtime.  But pleasing your own children vs. pleasing other people’s children?  They don’t always go hand-in-hand.

Here then, is a list of adult authors that I think really and truly got it right.  A hat tip to the books that could have been published, even if the authors had been completely and utterly obscure first-time writers:

The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

Wolves in the Walls

Granted, it wasn’t his first picture book, but I’d maintain it remains his best.  It taps into fears, feeding and allaying them simultaneously.  I suppose he’s always lucked out in his illustrators.  A lovely musical was constructed out of it years ago too.

Thunder Boy, Jr. by Sherman Alexie

 ThunderBoy

The NY Times article is right.  It really is quite good (though he also lucked out on his illustrator).  Little wonder it’s done well since apparently he went through 70 drafts.

Old Possums’ Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot

oldpossumgorey_back

I still haven’t heard a good reason for why Eliot wrote this.  Before Andrew Lloyd Webber was even a gleam in his grandma’s eye, Eliot penned this lovely, rolicking, quite silly collection.  The later illustrations by Edward Gorey are just icing on the cake.

The Bed Book by Sylvia Plath

Bed Book

I know parents who swear by this book.  Their children won’t go to sleep without it.

13 Words by Lemony Snicket, ill. Maira Kalman

 13 Words

Because technically he was an adult author first, even before A Series of Unfortunate Events.  This is kind of a twofer, since Kalman works primarily in the adult art world as well.  But all I really care about is that they created this great book trailer.

Who’s Got Game: The Ant or the Grasshopper? by Toni Morrison with Slade Morrison

 Who's Got Game

The whole “Who’s Got Game?” series was an original way of reinterpreting the Aesop fables.  I liked Morrison’s style.  Her picture books haven’t always hit it out of the park, but I thought this series had a lot going for it.

And now . . . a list of adult authors I’d really and truly love to see children’s books by, if only because I’m having a hard time imagining how those books would go.

  • Zadie Smith
  • Salman Rushdie (a picture book – his Haroun books were nice enough but I’d like to see the man go younger for a change . . . and not just in his dates. Goodnight, everyone!  Try the fish!)
  • Allie Brosh
  • Stephen King (that pop-up book The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon doesn’t count – not really)
  • Louise Erdrich (again, younger than her middle grade novels – a picture book would fulfill all my hopes and dreams)
  • Gary Soto (because I know exactly what I’m saying)

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19. Emotional Wound Entry: Growing Up In Foster Care

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

homelessCharacters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

GROWING UP IN FOSTER CARE

Examples:

  • Parents who passed away (and having no relatives in the picture)
  • Parents who were incapable of care because they were drug addicts
  • Parents who were incarcerated for a crime and their child became a ward of the state
  • Being surrendered to the state by one’s parents because they wanted their freedom
  • Parents who left the character at a young age and never returned
  • Losing one’s parents and having relatives but them being unwilling to take one in
  • Being found abandoned at a young age with no ID
  • Being taken away from one’s parents because of abuse or neglect
  • Being given up for adoption but never being adopted
  • Parents who give up their rights because their child is difficult or requires round-the-clock care

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I am defective
  • People are inherently cruel
  • I am unworthy of love
  • This world only cares about people who are whole (if one has a disability, condition, or physical defect/challenge)
  • Blood is always thicker than water
  • I don’t know who I am
  • I don’t belong anywhere in this world
  • I will never have a family or home

Positive Attributes That May Result: adaptable, alert, analytical, cautious, courageous, disciplined, idealistic, imaginative, independent, introverted, just, loyal, mature, nurturing, observant, perceptive, persuasive, private, proactive, protective, resourceful, sentimental, thrifty, wise

Negative Traits That May Result: abrasive, addictive, antisocial, apathetic, confrontational, cruel, cynical, devious, dishonest, evasive, hostile, inhibited, insecure, jealous, judgemental, manipulative, needy, paranoid, pessimistic, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, stubborn, temperamental, uncommunicative, violent, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of loving and losing
  • fear of rejection
  • fear of poverty
  • fear of pain
  • fear of the dark or enclosed spaces
  • fear of a specific trigger (if abused, tortured, punished, etc.)
  • fear of trusting and being betrayed
  • fear of hope
  • fear of getting attached to a person or place

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • keeping secrets
  • lying or making up untruths even when it isn’t important
  • telling people what they want to hear
  • being highly private
  • being highly protective of one’s possessions or close relationships
  • avoiding locations, activities and groups that have a strong family-focus
  • keeping a bug-out bag or secret stash of items in case one has to pick up and leave
  • steering conversations so they never get too personal
  • pushing people away as a defense mechanism
  • difficulty sharing certain things (which may act as triggers)
  • becoming fiercely loyal to the few one allows to get close
  • strong empathy; wanting to save others who are at risk (people or animals) and going to great lengths to do so
  • craving routine yet being unable to adapt to it easily
  • looking for exits, being watchful for danger or threats in a way others aren’t
  • a tendency to hoard certain things (money, food or items that act as symbols for what one was denied growing up, etc.)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: TaniaVbD @ Pixabay

The post Emotional Wound Entry: Growing Up In Foster Care appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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20. How to Use Family Diversity and Family Structures to Teach Empathy

Guest BloggerIn this interview with The Open Book, guest blogger Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Director of Not in Our School, shares the organization’s latest video release about families and family structures. Not in Our School is part of the larger organization of Not in Our Town and focuses on empowering students to create safe, inclusive, and empathetic communities. 

We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” from “Human Family” by Maya Angelou (listen to Maya Angelou read the poem here)NIOT 2

At Not In Our Town, we are extremely pleased to be sharing our film, “Our Family,” with the Lee & Low Open Book Blog community. Our hope is for our film to become part of the growing collection of resources that educators are using to create identity safe classrooms where children of all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging. These classrooms should not be colorblind spaces, where differences are ignored or where students must leave their identities, stories, and experiences at the door. It is our belief that belonging is created through drawing on the diversity in every classroom as a resource for learning. And quickly, we learn that, as Maya Angelou so aptly pointed out, we are more alike than different.

LEE & LOW: What inspired you and your team to create this video focusing on family configuration and family diversity? Put another way: Why create a film about family configuration and diversity from an organization that fights prejudice, bullying, and discrimination?

Part of fostering a sense of belonging for children is creating an environment where they feel fully accepted for who they are. Even from a young age, children are aware of and have many aspects that make up their social identities. That includes: how they look, the language(s) they speak and the way they express themselves, as well as their culture, religion, race, and gender identity. Their families, a huge part of their lives, form a crucial part of their identities.

Children need to see themselves reflected in the curriculum, on the walls, and throughout their school life. They need to see others like them and they need to learn to appreciate those who are not like them. That does not always happen. My daughter announced at age four that she wanted a sex change operation to become a boy. At that time, we had no idea where she heard about this (she is now 33) because nobody was talking about transgender issues and back then. She did get strange reactions at preschool when she told people she was a boy. I remember she loved doing Mexican dancing, but when they insisted she wear the girl’s outfit, that was the end of her preschool dancing career. As she grew up we did not counter her feelings or ideas. However, now, married and openly a lesbian, she says she does not feel that way anymore, but that she always knew she was different in some way.

Some children grow up and never see a family like theirs celebrated in any way. They may be teased for being adopted, for having two moms or two dads, or for having a mixed-race family. A child whose mother has different color skin than he or she does may experience rude comments or stares. I raised my oldest daughter, who was from my husband’s first marriage. She had dark skin and we got many stares and she heard some rude remarks as people looked from her dark skin to my light skin and asked, “Is that your mother?”

We are approaching Mother’s Day. I wonder about all the children who don’t have mothers. How do they feel when their classrooms are making gifts for their mothers? (At Not In Our Town, we suggest that you celebrate Caregiver’s Day and children can honor those who care for them.)

We made this film for elementary students to see themselves reflected and hear the voices of children like themselves, and to see validation of those who might be different. They also can see how all these families can join together and be friends, and have fun. We kept the film short so teachers can show the film and then open a discussion with the students. We also have our Lesson Guide with activities for students at different grade levels to celebrate their families.

Our organization features communities of all backgrounds who come together to stand up to bullying, hate, prejudice and intolerance. We have always been proactive in seeking to create safety, acceptance, and inclusion. For this film, we partnered with a wonderful organization, Our Family Coalition, which focuses on supporting schools and communities to create acceptance for LGBTQ families. Our shared goal with the film is to support children from all kinds of families.

The best way to address hate and prejudice is by creating identity safety, and preventing hate and prejudice before they rear their ugly heads. Researchers have known for a long time that getting to know people who are different from you will reduce prejudice. New research has shown that it also will reduce implicit biases—the unconscious attitudes we all pick up from living in a society that has much underlying racial bias. According to the article, “Long-term Reduction in Implicit Race Bias,” fostering empathy is another way to reduce prejudice and implicit bias. Children can learn to be empathetic, but it will only stick if they also see empathy and acceptance expressed and modeled by all the adults in their world on a regular basis.

LEE & LOW: How can schools encourage children to appreciate their own family’s configuration and diversity?

The best way to celebrate families is to open the doors of the school and invite all the families in. Other activities include times where students invite their caregivers to volunteer or share expertise in one area or another. Also, students can write about their families, read books (like the excellent collection from Lee & Low), and use family diversity lesson plans and materials from the organizations Welcoming Schools and Teaching Tolerance. In our Lesson Guide we suggest having a Family Diversity Extravaganza where students organize an event and everyone gets involved and has fun together. When students experience acceptance of all kinds of families, they feel pride in their own families and their awareness is built for others.

Not in Our Town blog postLEE & LOW: What is at stake if parents, educators, and administrators do not purposely model tolerance and inclusion for children?

We are at a frightening moment in our nation’s history. While many gains have been made to promote equity in our country, our current climate and electoral process is rife with hate rhetoric. In a recent online survey by Teaching Tolerance, educators shared that many of their students—especially immigrants and Muslims—have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election. Educators also reported they have witnessed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment in their schools.

Additionally, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, youth ages 15-24 commit half of all hate crimes in the United States. In The New York Times op-ed, “White, Bigoted and Young: The Data of Hate,” economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz explored the demographics of Stormfront, the most popular U.S. white supremacist website. His findings revealed that the most common age of Stormfront members is 19. He also found that the most venomous hate was displayed against African Americans and Jews, often with tremendous ignorance about those targeted groups.

Much is at stake for all of us if we do not make it a priority to teach empathy, and model positive attitudes towards those who are different from ourselves. We need to openly discuss and work together to find ways to address all forms of intolerance. We made our film freely accessible on Youtube in hopes that it goes viral and the voices of children are shared. PLEASE SHARE WIDELY! I close with the wise words of young Nathan, a student in our film:

“It is important to have diverse children, to have diverse families in a school so you know how to include everyone… you don’t just go to the people who are like you, you reach out and embrace everyone.” —Nathan, student, Peralta Elementary School, Oakland, CA in “Our Family


 

DSC_0427Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is the co-author, with Dorothy Steele of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn published by Corwin Press. Currently as director of Not In Our School, she designs curriculum, coaches schools and produces films on models for creating safe and inclusive schools, free of bullying and intolerance at the national non-profit, the Working Group. She presents internationally at conferences and provides professional development in schools and districts. Dr. Cohn-Vargas began her 35-year career in early childhood education at the Multicultural Center in Sonoma County, California. She did community service in the Guatemalan Highlands and produced educational films for the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education. She returned to California and worked as a teacher and principal in Oakland, a Curriculum Director in Palo Alto, and as Superintendent in San Jose. In each setting, she focuses on educational equity and effective strategies for diverse populations. Dr. Cohn-Vargas and her husband live in El Sobrante, California and have three adult children. With her husband, she is developing an environmental research center on their private reserve in the Nicaraguan rain forest.  

Family Diversity Book Collection from LEE & LOW BOOKS

Further reading and learning from Not in Our School:

Additional resources on family diversity and family structures:

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21. The Setting Thesaurus Books Are Releasing Soon…Will You Help Us?

It’s a great day here at Writers Helping Writers, because Becca and I can finally write the words that we’ve been wanting to type out for over two years now: The Setting Thesaurus books are coming. In fact, they are almost here, and we couldn’t be happier. The sights, smells, tastes, sounds and textures for two hundred and twenty-five settings…and that’s just the start. Take a gander at these back jacket blurbs:

Setting RuralThe Rural Setting Thesaurus:

Making the Story World Rich, Layered, and Unforgettable

Within the pages of a book exists a world drawn from a writer’s deepest imaginings, one that has the ability to pull readers in on a visceral level. But the audience’s fascination will only last if the writer can describe this vibrant realm and its inhabitants well. The setting achieves this by offering readers a unique sensory experience. So much more than stage dressing, the setting can build mood, convey meaning through symbolism, drive the plot by creating challenges that force the hero to fight for what he wants, and trigger his emotions to reveal his most intimate feelings, fears, and desires.

USE DESCRIPTION TO PLACE READERS AT THE HEART OF EVERY SCENE

Within this volume you will find:

  • A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 100 settings revolving around school, home, and nature
  • Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
  • Advice on the many effective ways to build mood, helping you steer both the character’s and readers’ emotions in every scene
  • Information on how the setting directly influences the plot by acting as a tuning fork for what a character needs most and by testing his dedication to his goals
  • A tutorial on figurative language and how different descriptive techniques can bring settings alive for readers while conveying a symbolic message or deeper meaning
  • A review of the challenges that arise when writing description, as well as special considerations that apply specifically to rural and personal settings

The Rural Setting Thesaurus takes “show-don’t-tell” to new heights. It offers writers a roadmap to creating fresh setting imagery that impacts the story on multiple levels and keeps readers engaged from the first page to the last.

Setting UrbanThe Urban Setting Thesaurus:

Drawing Readers in Through Emotion-Driven Imagery and Realism

Making readers care and feel like they’re part of the story should be the number one goal of all writers. Ironically, many storytellers fail to maximize one of fiction’s most powerful elements to achieve this: the setting. Rather than being a simple backdrop against which events unfold, every location has the potential to become a conduit for conveying emotion, characterizing the cast, providing opportunities for deep point of view, and revealing significant backstory.

MAKE YOUR DESCRIPTION WORK HARDER FOR YOUR STORY

  • A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 120 urban settings
  • Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
  • Advice on how to make every piece of description count so you can maintain the right pace and keep readers engaged
  • Tips on utilizing the five senses to encourage readers to more fully experience each moment by triggering their own emotional memories
  • Information on how to use the setting to characterize a story’s cast through personalization and emotional values while using emotional triggers to steer their decisions
  • A review of specific challenges that arise when choosing an urban location, along with common descriptive pitfalls that should be avoided

The Urban Setting Thesaurus helps you tailor each setting to your characters while creating a realistic, textured world your readers will long to return to, even after the book closes.

The Big Question: WHEN?

June 2016! We are shooting for the second week. We would like to give you a very specific launch date, but unfortunately our longtime formatter and designer has been struggling with health issues that have caused unavoidable delays, and while everyone is doing all they can to keep things on track, Becca and I can’t provide an exact date just yet.

Regardless, we do need to move forward with the planning of our launch event, and we sure could use some help. Becca and I have come up with something very fun this time around, an event we hope all our writer friends will greatly enjoy participating in.

Writers Helping Writers Collection_6

Dear Readers, Will You Help Us During Launch Week?

To pull off this epic thesaurus celebration, we will need some supportive blogger friends who would be willing to donate a post to the visibility cause. This post can be scheduled in advance, go up any time during launch week that works for you, and as always, I am happy to create it!  Even if you don’t blog, it’s always nice to have people willing to share our posts online, too.  :)

In the past, we’ve hosted some pretty creative events, and this particular one I have had in the idea bank for years, waiting for the right time. So, if you are interested in possibly joining the Thesaurus Club to help with our SUPER SECRET LAUNCH EVENT, just fill out this FORM and I will email you about it. (This one is easy and fun, guaranteed!)

Becca and I are so pleased to bring you this set of books. The sensory detail within required a lot of travel, investigation, and time to collect. We hope these two volumes help you level up your sensory description to better pull readers into each moment, making your story and characters both compelling and memorable.

Want to sneak-a-peek at one of our entries? Just go here to see “Police Car.”

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22. Default: White

Alternate Title: The Call Is Coming From Inside the House

So yesterday at lunchtime I trotted out my neat little stack of periodicals to read while I munched a ham sandwich.  I picked up the latest Kirkus (1 May 2016) and there I saw the Vicky Smith article: “Unmaking the White Default”.  As many of you may have noticed recently, Kirkus made a significant shift in the way that they review.  Normally, a children’s or YA book review will eschew mentioning the ethnicity of a human character unless that character isn’t white.  The implicit message to this is that white is the default and anything that isn’t white is the exception rather than the rule.  To combat this problem, Kirkus has taken to mentioning the ethnicity of all human characters, or at least making note of their skin tones.  In this article, Vicky discussed the change.

When this switch was initially made, the responses were mixed.  I’ve listened to the Horn Book Podcast that discussed the decision, noted the mistake in the Kirkus review of The Night Gardener (the 2016 picture book, not the Jonathan Auxier gothic middle grade), and taken an interest in the SLJ reviewers’ online course on diversity & cultural literacy (so far they have 125+ registered).

Imagine me reading all this while twiddling my thumbs.  Dum de dum.  Toodle-oo.  Hum hum hum.  Not really thinking too hard.  I review for Kirkus so, like all reviewers there, I’ve been adjusting my reviews as I write them.  There’s an art to it, really.  Some folks have been concerned that this sort of thing just reinforces how obsessed we are over skin color.  I see that, absolutely.  And I look forward to the day a Kirkus editor writes an article rescinding this reviewing method because we’ve come so far as a nation that we don’t need it anymore.  At the same time, I’m pretty sure the publishing industry isn’t quite there yet.  Or, for that matter, the nation.

I suppose it’s because I review for Kirkus that it took me this long to come to a very personal realization.  First off, do I agree with what Kirkus is doing?  Actually, I do.  The white default is more annoying than the old italicize-all-foreign-languages trope and hardly less bothersome than the describe-darker-skin-tones-entirely-in-terms-of-food method.

As Vicky Smith mentioned, it’s hardly a change everyone likes.  I saw that one commenter on the Horn Book podcast site wrote, “Why stop at hair color, eye color, skin color, DNA? Perhaps in the digital book future, we will move toward even greater specificity. A child could be placed at the center of each book she reads, the details customized to be about herself, the most interesting subject in all the world.”  A comment placing the whole debate in the context of how personalized electronic information leads to narcissistic youth sort of misses the point.  There may be kids out there that only want to read books about kids of their own races, but Kirkus isn’t doing this for them.  Would you find fault in a review mentioning a character’s chosen gender?  As a librarian, I need to know precisely what each book I read or need to read contains.  Characters are more than their ethnic backgrounds, but at the same time your race informs your life.  Not everyone has the luxury of ignoring it.

So.  We come to it.  If I agree with Kirkus, would I apply their method of mentioning all skin tones to the reviews I write on this blog?

Huh.

Hadn’t really occurred to me before.

I mean, the reviews that I write for this blog are my brand.  If this blog dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow, it would be the reviews I’d really miss writing.  And in the time that I’ve been writing them I’ve settled into a nice comfortable little format.  Opening paragraph, description of the book, mentions of writing, mentions of art (if applicable), concerns, closing paragraph.  Easy peasy.  And in my time reviewing I don’t think I’ve made an active change to the format at all.

Is white the default when I review?  Yes indeed.

Could I change this?  Yes indeed.

Now let me be clear about a couple things right off the bat.  When Kirkus first started applying this method to their reviews, it was awkward.  They got the details wrong on some books and shoehorned the mentions into some of the reviews.  I have a theory, and I could be completely off, that there’s been a learning curve since then.  There is an elegance to how you describe a character in any review.  Done correctly and with careful consideration and the mention feels natural.  Done wrong and it feels almost didactic.

In the end, and when you boil it all down, this is an easy switch to make.  I’m going to give it a try and see how it goes.  Plus, I have a distinct advantage over Kirkus.  While they must bring up racial skin tones within a scant 225 words, I have all the time in the world in my own reviews to make the mentions.  In a way, bloggers are in a better position to try out this change than professional review journals.

Die, default.  Die.

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23. Default: White

Alternate Title: The Call Is Coming From Inside the House

So yesterday at lunchtime I trotted out my neat little stack of periodicals to read while I munched a ham sandwich.  I picked up the latest Kirkus (1 May 2016) and there I saw the Vicky Smith article: “Unmaking the White Default”.  As many of you may have noticed recently, Kirkus made a significant shift in the way that they review.  Normally, a children’s or YA book review will eschew mentioning the ethnicity of a human character unless that character isn’t white.  The implicit message to this is that white is the default and anything that isn’t white is the exception rather than the rule.  To combat this problem, Kirkus has taken to mentioning the ethnicity of all human characters, or at least making note of their skin tones.  In this article, Vicky discussed the change.

When this switch was initially made, the responses were mixed.  I’ve listened to the Horn Book Podcast that discussed the decision, noted the mistake in the Kirkus review of The Night Gardener (the 2016 picture book, not the Jonathan Auxier gothic middle grade), and taken an interest in the SLJ reviewers’ online course on diversity & cultural literacy (so far they have 125+ registered).

Imagine me reading all this while twiddling my thumbs.  Dum de dum.  Toodle-oo.  Hum hum hum.  Not really thinking too hard.  I review for Kirkus so, like all reviewers there, I’ve been adjusting my reviews as I write them.  There’s an art to it, really.  Some folks have been concerned that this sort of thing just reinforces how obsessed we are over skin color.  I see that, absolutely.  And I look forward to the day a Kirkus editor writes an article rescinding this reviewing method because we’ve come so far as a nation that we don’t need it anymore.  At the same time, I’m pretty sure the publishing industry isn’t quite there yet.  Or, for that matter, the nation.

I suppose it’s because I review for Kirkus that it took me this long to come to a very personal realization.  First off, do I agree with what Kirkus is doing?  Actually, I do.  The white default is more annoying than the old italicize-all-foreign-languages trope and hardly less bothersome than the describe-darker-skin-tones-entirely-in-terms-of-food method.

As Vicky Smith mentioned, it’s hardly a change everyone likes.  I saw that one commenter on the Horn Book podcast site wrote, “Why stop at hair color, eye color, skin color, DNA? Perhaps in the digital book future, we will move toward even greater specificity. A child could be placed at the center of each book she reads, the details customized to be about herself, the most interesting subject in all the world.”  A comment placing the whole debate in the context of how personalized electronic information leads to narcissistic youth sort of misses the point.  There may be kids out there that only want to read books about kids of their own races, but Kirkus isn’t doing this for them.  Would you find fault in a review mentioning a character’s chosen gender?  As a librarian, I need to know precisely what each book I read or need to read contains.  Characters are more than their ethnic backgrounds, but at the same time your race informs your life.  Not everyone has the luxury of ignoring it.

So.  We come to it.  If I agree with Kirkus, would I apply their method of mentioning all skin tones to the reviews I write on this blog?

Huh.

Hadn’t really occurred to me before.

I mean, the reviews that I write for this blog are my brand.  If this blog dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow, it would be the reviews I’d really miss writing.  And in the time that I’ve been writing them I’ve settled into a nice comfortable little format.  Opening paragraph, description of the book, mentions of writing, mentions of art (if applicable), concerns, closing paragraph.  Easy peasy.  And in my time reviewing I don’t think I’ve made an active change to the format at all.

Is white the default when I review?  Yes indeed.

Could I change this?  Yes indeed.

Now let me be clear about a couple things right off the bat.  When Kirkus first started applying this method to their reviews, it was awkward.  They got the details wrong on some books and shoehorned the mentions into some of the reviews.  I have a theory, and I could be completely off, that there’s been a learning curve since then.  There is an elegance to how you describe a character in any review.  Done correctly and with careful consideration and the mention feels natural.  Done wrong and it feels almost didactic.

In the end, and when you boil it all down, this is an easy switch to make.  I’m going to give it a try and see how it goes.  Plus, I have a distinct advantage over Kirkus.  While they must bring up racial skin tones within a scant 225 words, I have all the time in the world in my own reviews to make the mentions.  In a way, bloggers are in a better position to try out this change than professional review journals.

Die, default.  Die.

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24. Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: Growing Up in a Cult

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

518700076_9c1b9128e8_b

courtesy: Todd Huffman @ Creative Commons

Definition of a cult: a small, fringe organization (often but not always defined by a religious belief system) that espouses idealogies and practices believed by others to be dangerous or extreme. For the purposes of this entry, I’ve chosen to focus on people who were once ensconced in a cult but at some point escaped or turned their back on it.

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I am weak-minded.
  • I’m an easy target.
  • My judgment can’t be trusted.
  • I’ll never be able to fully free myself from the ideas that were put into my mind by the cult.
  • All religions are out to brainwash and control people.
  • You can never really trust an organization’s stated motivation.
  • I’m a disloyal or selfish person (for leaving the cult and one’s family and friends).

Positive Attributes That May Result: analytical, appreciative, cautious, independent, industrious, persistent, persuasive, protective

Negative Traits That May Result: antisocial, callous, controlling, cynical, defensive, evasive, inflexible, inhibited, insecure, judgmental, nervous, paranoid, possessive, rebellious, resentful, self-destructive, subservient, timid, uncooperative, volatile, weak-willed, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of someone sucking one’s children into a cult
  • Fear of organized religion in general
  • Fear of being manipulated or controlled by anyone
  • Fear of being on one’s own
  • Fear of having to make decisions for oneself
  • Fear of not being able to trust one’s own mind (due to the cult’s brainwashing)

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Avoiding or despising religious groups and organizations
  • Becoming controlling (in an effort to avoid being controlled again)
  • Becoming studious so one can make informed decisions and not be easily led by others
  • Avoiding organized groups (even those that aren’t religious in nature)
  • Difficulty making decisions for oneself
  • Difficulty recognizing truth from fiction
  • Withdrawing from others out of a fear of not being able to trust their motives
  • Being overly protective of one’s children
  • Being paranoid that one is being pursued by members of the cult
  • Suspecting others of dishonesty and deceit; being cynical
  • Worrying over the fate of loved ones still in the cult
  • Being overly cautious; avoiding risk
  • Distrusting certain aspects of the “outside world” that one was taught were bad in some way

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

The post Emotional Wounds Thesaurus: Growing Up in a Cult appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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25. Default: White

Alternate Title: The Call Is Coming From Inside the House

So yesterday at lunchtime I trotted out my neat little stack of periodicals to read while I munched a ham sandwich.  I picked up the latest Kirkus (1 May 2016) and there I saw the Vicky Smith article: “Unmaking the White Default”.  As many of you may have noticed recently, Kirkus made a significant shift in the way that they review.  Normally, a children’s or YA book review will eschew mentioning the ethnicity of a human character unless that character isn’t white.  The implicit message to this is that white is the default and anything that isn’t white is the exception rather than the rule.  To combat this problem, Kirkus has taken to mentioning the ethnicity of all human characters, or at least making note of their skin tones.  In this article, Vicky discussed the change.

When this switch was initially made, the responses were mixed.  I’ve listened to the Horn Book Podcast that discussed the decision, noted the mistake in the Kirkus review of The Night Gardener (the 2016 picture book, not the Jonathan Auxier gothic middle grade), and taken an interest in the SLJ reviewers’ online course on diversity & cultural literacy (so far they have 125+ registered).

Imagine me reading all this while twiddling my thumbs.  Dum de dum.  Toodle-oo.  Hum hum hum.  Not really thinking too hard.  I review for Kirkus so, like all reviewers there, I’ve been adjusting my reviews as I write them.  There’s an art to it, really.  Some folks have been concerned that this sort of thing just reinforces how obsessed we are over skin color.  I see that, absolutely.  And I look forward to the day a Kirkus editor writes an article rescinding this reviewing method because we’ve come so far as a nation that we don’t need it anymore.  At the same time, I’m pretty sure the publishing industry isn’t quite there yet.  Or, for that matter, the nation.

I suppose it’s because I review for Kirkus that it took me this long to come to a very personal realization.  First off, do I agree with what Kirkus is doing?  Actually, I do.  The white default is more annoying than the old italicize-all-foreign-languages trope and hardly less bothersome than the describe-darker-skin-tones-entirely-in-terms-of-food method.

As Vicky Smith mentioned, it’s hardly a change everyone likes.  I saw that one commenter on the Horn Book podcast site wrote, “Why stop at hair color, eye color, skin color, DNA? Perhaps in the digital book future, we will move toward even greater specificity. A child could be placed at the center of each book she reads, the details customized to be about herself, the most interesting subject in all the world.”  A comment placing the whole debate in the context of how personalized electronic information leads to narcissistic youth sort of misses the point.  There may be kids out there that only want to read books about kids of their own races, but Kirkus isn’t doing this for them.  Would you find fault in a review mentioning a character’s chosen gender?  As a librarian, I need to know precisely what each book I read or need to read contains.  Characters are more than their ethnic backgrounds, but at the same time your race informs your life.  Not everyone has the luxury of ignoring it.

So.  We come to it.  If I agree with Kirkus, would I apply their method of mentioning all skin tones to the reviews I write on this blog?

Huh.

Hadn’t really occurred to me before.

I mean, the reviews that I write for this blog are my brand.  If this blog dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow, it would be the reviews I’d really miss writing.  And in the time that I’ve been writing them I’ve settled into a nice comfortable little format.  Opening paragraph, description of the book, mentions of writing, mentions of art (if applicable), concerns, closing paragraph.  Easy peasy.  And in my time reviewing I don’t think I’ve made an active change to the format at all.

Is white the default when I review?  Yes indeed.

Could I change this?  Yes indeed.

Now let me be clear about a couple things right off the bat.  When Kirkus first started applying this method to their reviews, it was awkward.  They got the details wrong on some books and shoehorned the mentions into some of the reviews.  I have a theory, and I could be completely off, that there’s been a learning curve since then.  There is an elegance to how you describe a character in any review.  Done correctly and with careful consideration and the mention feels natural.  Done wrong and it feels almost didactic.

In the end, and when you boil it all down, this is an easy switch to make.  I’m going to give it a try and see how it goes.  Plus, I have a distinct advantage over Kirkus.  While they must bring up racial skin tones within a scant 225 words, I have all the time in the world in my own reviews to make the mentions.  In a way, bloggers are in a better position to try out this change than professional review journals.

Die, default.  Die.

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