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Author Jason Reynolds’ books start the conversations about the difficult issues facing kids today. His experiences, as told through the characters in his stories, are very much like those of the children we serve – which is why we feel it’s so important for them to hear Jason’s voice.
We had the opportunity to talk with Jason about his experiences, his journey to becoming an author, and how he’s seen his books affect young readers.
Q. Were you an avid reader as a child?
A. Absolutely not. I actually didn’t read much at all, though I had books all around me. Most of them were classics. Canonical literature. But to a kid growing up in the midst of the hip-hop generation, a time where most young people of color were exposed to the hardships of drugs and violence, I gravitated more toward the storytelling of rap music, than I did the dense and seemingly disconnected narrative arc of books (during that time).
Q. What stories or poetry did you connect with as a young person? Did you have trouble connecting with stories as a child?
A. I had a really hard time connecting with stories as a child, especially within the confines of a book. But I was introduced to poetry by reading the lyrics of Queen Latifah, Tupac, Slick Rick, and lots of other rappers. From there, I started to make connections between their lyrics and the poetry of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. But eventually I began reading more traditional narratives, the first being Black Boy, by Richard Wright. It changed my life.
Q. Are there books you’ve read today that you wish you’d been exposed to as a child or young adult?
A. All of Walter Dean Myers’s work. Also, I wish there would’ve been as much focus on graphic novels back then, as there is now. That would’ve been extremely valuable to me.
Q. We first met you as a writer through your poetry in My Name is Jason. Why did you make the transition into writing novels? And how is your process for writing poetry different than writing novels?
A. I never wanted to write novels, so you can blame Christopher Myers for that. He’s the one who challenged me to give it a shot. My plan was to be only a poet. But there was something in Walter Dean Myers’s stories — a permission to be myself on the page I hadn’t felt before. So I let myself be myself, let my language live freely on the page without the pretense and pressure of the academy or some phantom scholarship. And turns out, it worked! Now, the poetry was a big help mainly because as a poet I valued the importance of beginning and ending, which has lent itself to my work tremendously.
Q. You toured extensively with Brendan Kiely for All American Boys. Can you recount a few of the most powerful moments you had with students and/or with adults while on tour?
There were so many. One thing that was interesting was, everywhere we went we would ask the students the same two questions:
1.) How many of you know about police brutality? They’d all raise their hands. And,
2.) How many of you have spoken to your friends about it? Ninety percent of the hands went down.
We realized that kids knew about it but weren’t discussing it, but we also deduced that it wasn’t because they didn’t want to talk about it, but instead was because they didn’t have the framework or the safe space to do so. By the end of our presentation, everyone always had questions and comments, ready for the hard conversation. Some other interesting moments . . . We met a man in Cincinnati, a white man raising two black boys. He came over to us and explained that All American Boys had helped him understand what his sons might be facing outside of his home, and that he needed to be as open as possible and as emotionally and mentally equipped so that he could serve as not only their father, but as their ally. He even said reading the book helped him feel more whole. I also had a student come to me, a young black girl in Philly, who wanted to know if I ever wished I could change the color of my skin, just because she was afraid of the fear other people have of it. She was in the seventh grade, and in that moment I got to pour into her. Tell her that she was perfect the way she was. I have tons of these stories. Mexican kids in Texas who wondered what their role is. Wealthy white boys in Baltimore forming cultural sensitivity groups in their schools. Even recently watching a group of students perform the theatrical version of All American Boys in Brooklyn. Young people are ready to talk. And they’re ready to act. We (adults) just have to arm them.
Q. Do you see your teenage self in any of your novels? If so, which one(s) and in what ways?
A. I’m in all of them. Each and every one of them. I like to pull from actual stories from my teenage years, like Ali and the MoMo party in, When I Was The Greatest, or Matt Miller and his mother’s cancer in, The Boy in The Black Suit. I’m always the protagonist, at least parts of me. Writing is cathartic for me, and a way to process parts of my life that I’ve either worked hard to hold on to, or have desperately tried to forget.
Q. How important was it to have a co-author for Quinn’s voice in All American Boys?
A. It was paramount. The truth is, I might’ve been able to write a decent book, based around Rashad’s narrative, but what Brendan brings to the story with Quinn is, to me, the most important part of the story. It’s the part we don’t hear about, and the part most necessary to sit with and dissect when it comes to making change. It’s something I’m not sure I could’ve written with the same authenticity as Brendan, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner on that project.
Q. Why do you feel it’s important for kids of varied backgrounds to read the stories you write?
A. You know, I think about this often, and I think ultimately what I hope is that they read my books and feel cared for. Feel less alone. There’s an impenetrable power to simple acknowledgement.
Q.Why is it important for kids, especially kids from low-income communities, to have access to brand-new books?
A. It’s important for kids from low-income communities to have brand-new anything. But if it could be a book, let alone a book that speaks directly to their experiences, then it’s a double-win.
Watch the video below for more insights from Jason:
Thanks to the support of Jason Reynolds’ publisher, Simon & Schuster, 20,000 of Reynolds’ young adult and middle grade titles will be distributed to children in need through First Book.
When I was young and learned my father served in the Naval Air Corps during WWII, I became a voracious reader of anything and everything about the war, including the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, Jackie Robinson, Rosie the Riveter, the WACs, and more. What I didn't find were stories about the Tuskegee Airmen. My young self would have been as thrilled as I am today with the release of an amazing poetry collection entitled You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford.
You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen is a collaboration between award-winning children’s book author Carole Boston Weatherford and her son, debut illustrator Jeffery Boston Weatherford. They have woven poems and scratchboard illustrations into a history in verse inspired as much by World War II newsreels as by modern day graphic novels. The project was nearly ten years in the making. With starred reviews in Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, the book for middle grades is off to a flying start.
Here the mother-son/author-illustrator team interview each other.
Carole:When did you first hear about the Tuskegee Airmen?
Jeffery: I first heard about them when I was a young boy. We took family trips to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington and to Tuskegee Institute, Alabama where we toured exhibits about the Tuskegee University’s founder Booker T. Washington, botanist George Washington Carver and the Tuskegee Airmen. I always had dreams of flight.
Jeffery: Why did you want to write this book? Carole: I first learned of the Tuskegee Airmen in a magazine article in the 1980s. I was so moved by their story that I saved the magazine. My literary mission is to mine the past for family stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles. The Airmen’s saga is historically and politically significant. As a children’s literature professor, I knew of at least one historical fiction picture book and of several informational books about the Tuskegee Airmen. I felt that the story would lend itself well to a poetic treatment.
Carole: Tell us about your family’s military ties?
Jeffery: My great great great grandfather Isaac Copper fought in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. He was one of 17 veterans who founded the town of Unionville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. My mother’s father Joseph Boston Jr. served in World War II. He was a technical sergeant in the Army Corps of Engineers in New Guinea and the Philippines. My grandmother still has his uniform and medals.
Jeffery: Which poem was most challenging to write?
Carole: “Operation Prove Them Wrong” was by far the toughest to write. It was like plotting scenes for a war movie. I had to boil down Operation Corkscrew and Operation Diadem to a few lines that captured the battles. It might have been easier if I were gamer like you or at least a World War II buff.
Carole: You were a serious gamer growing up. Did your background as a gamer influence how you illustrated the battle scenes?
Jeffery: Yes, absolutely. I had lots of residual visual references from battles across galaxies.
Jeffery: What is your favorite illustration from the book? Carole: I like the one opposite the poem “Routines.” It shows a dogfight in which one plane gets bombed and explodes. The explosion is quite animated, like something out of a comic book. I almost want to add an action bubble: Boom! Carole: Describe your creative process. Jeffery: For inspiration, I viewed documentary photographs from the Library of Congress and National Archives collections. While researching picture references, I had some dreams of meeting Tuskegee Airmen. I also watched the movie Red Tails. For each illustration, I drew a graphite study to layout the composition. Once that was completed and approved by the publisher, I refined the image and transferred it to scratchboard. I used various nibs for different effects.
Jeffery with Airman portrait
Jeffery: What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Carole: I want them to be inspired by the courage and determination of the Tuskegee Airmen. I want them to understand that the sky is no limit if they are willing to prepare themselves, practice and persevere. The book aims to lift the ceiling off of young people’s dreams.
P-51 Mustangs flying in formation over Ramitelli, Italy.
The poems in this volume are moving, vivid, and packed with information. The poem in the Epilogue describes the race barrier breaking moments that came after the Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for integration of the U.S. military. The backmatter includes an author's note, timeline, and extensive list of additional resources and primary sources.
Poems in the Atticis a collection of poetry that creates a tender intergenerational story that speaks to every child’s need to hold onto special memories of home, no matter where that place might be. We interviewed master poet Nikki Grimes on her process for writing poetry and if she has any tips to share.
In Poems in the Attic, the reader is introduced to free verse and tanka styles of poetry. Why were you drawn to the tanka form?
Poetry, for me, has always been about telling a story or painting a picture using as few words as possible. Haiku and tabla are forms that epitomize that. I’d previously played with an introduction to haiku in A Pocketful of Poems, and I have long since been intrigued with the idea of incorporating tanka in a story. Poems in the Attic provided such an opportunity, so I jumped on it.
Many readers are intimidated by poetry or think it is not for them. For people who find poetry difficult, where would you recommend they start?
Start with word play. I sometimes like to take a word and study it through the lens of my senses. Take the word “lemon”, for instance. What is its shape, its scent, its color? Does it make a sound? Does it have a taste? How would you describe that sound, that taste? Where is a lemon to be found? What does it do or what can you do with it? In answering such questions, in a line or two in response to each question, one ends up either with a poem or the makings of a poem.
Is there something people can do to be “good” at writing poetry? Where do you find inspiration when you get stuck?
There are a few answers to that question.
Read poetry voraciously. If you aspire to write good poetry, you must first know what that looks like.
Practice, practice, practice. Writing is a muscle that must be exercises, no matter the genre.
Play. Build your vocabulary. Experiment with a variety of forms. For too many trying poetry, rhyme is their default. But rhyme is bot synonymous with poetry. It is merely one element of it. Explore metaphor, simile, alliteration, assonance, and all the other elements of poetry. Think interns of telling a story and painting a picture with words. These practices will lead you somewhere wonderful.
We are just under a week away from the sixth annual Ontario Teen Book Fest! Today, I'm spotlighting young adult and middle grade author Elana K. Arnold. Make sure you read on for a Q&A as well as a giveaway for a signed poster.
Before we get to that, here's the important stuff to know about the festival so you can plan and find your way there.
When: Saturday March 12th, 9 am to 5 pm
Where: Colony High School 3850 E. Riverside Drive, Ontario, CA 91761
Side note, if you attend, you will be fed. Panera sandwiches and water/sodas are provided for attendees (since it's kind of hard to leave campus real quick to get some food--you might miss a panel!). I usually bring snacks anyway (and sandwiches are verboten on the anti-inflammatory diet I am currently on, so I do have to bring my own grub this time).
Books will be sold by Once Upon a Time. There will be t-shirts and posters as well.
At the end of the post, make sure you enter on the Rafflecopter for a poster signed by all of the authors!
Also, please share details about the fest on social media, and use the hashtag #OntarioTBF.
Last but not least, show the event bloggers some love by heading over to their websites, reading their posts, and leaving a comment! Not mandatory but it would be super nice of you. And you can see by the schedule who this year's authors are!
Elana K. Arnold is a Southern California native, and author of Sacred (RH/Delacorte, 2012), Splendor (RH/Delacorte, 2013), and Burning (RH/Delacorte, 2013). Her latest book about young adults, Infandous, was released by Carolrhoda Books in March 2015. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis.
"Once there was a mermaid who dared to love a wolf. Her love for him was so sudden and so fierce that it tore her tail into legs."
Sephora Golding lives in the shadow of her unbelievably beautiful mother. Even though they scrape by in the seedier part of Venice Beach, she's always felt lucky. As a child, she imagined she was a minor but beloved character in her mother's fairy tale. But now, at sixteen, the fairy tale is less Disney and more Grimm. And she wants the story to be her own. Then she meets Felix, and the fairy tale takes a turn she never imagined.
"Things don't really turn out the way they do in fairy tales. I'm telling you that right up front, so you're not disappointed later."
Sometimes, a story is just a way to hide the unspeakable in plain sight.
More books by Elana K. Arnold:
Q&A with Elana K. Arnold
Read Now Sleep Later: What was the seed that grew into your latest YA novel, Infandous?
Elana K. Arnold: When I began working on the book that grew into Infandous, the first thing that came to me was Sephora’s voice. She was the loudest, clearest character I had ever heard. And it was clear from her art and her obsession with the goriest, most awful fairy tales and myths that she had a secret. I, however, literally had no idea what that secret might be. So I wrote to find out. About fifty pages into the book’s first draft, I was fooling around online and came across a list of 26 real words that we don't use anymore; “I” was for “Infandous,” which, I learned, means “that which is too terrible to be spoken of aloud.” At once, like a sickening wave, I was overwhelmed by the truth of Sephora’s secret. In that moment, I had found a title and direction... and a terrible sense of dread.
RNSL: In Infandous, Sephora is seeing "beyond the veil" that some popular fairytales wear (i.e. Disneyfication). I assume you had a revelation about this at some point, since you wrote a character with this point of view. What did you think when you first came to realize that fairytales aren't the euphemistic, sanitized versions served up in the mainstream?
EKA: I was fortunate to have been raised in households full of books, with no restrictions prescribed because of our age. If we found it and picked it up, and if we were capable of decoding the information, the book belonged in our hands. We had both at home and at my grandparents’ house (where I spent a lot of time) collections of fairy tales, fables, and mythology—the original stuff. I actually met a lot of the characters that star in Disney movies first in their source material. When I later re-met them, sanitized for the screen, I was put off by their transformations.
RNSL: Why do you write for young people? Did you choose the audience, or did it choose you?
EKA: Adolescence for me was terrifying, often lonely, and overwhelming. But sometimes it was also ecstatically free and dangerously exciting. I don’t write books for teens, particularly; I’m firmly in the “about, not for” camp, more and more as my career progresses. It’s up for publishers to decide if my books are YA… and, honestly, with both Infandous and my forthcoming YA, What Girls Are Made Of, I was pleasantly surprised that they found homes as such.
RNSL: Were you a writer and/or a reader as a child? If not, when did your road to becoming an author begin? Do you have a particular author, relative, or teacher who helped you on this path?
EKA: I was a myopic, dreamy, constant reader. My dad was a huge reader, too, as is my paternal grandmother who has a “real” library in her home—a room dedicated entirely to books. I spent long swaths of time there, happily following the patch of sunlight on carpet, reading indiscriminately and eating bowls of fruit.
RNSL: In general, people think of fiction as made-up stories, tales about things that are not real--however, fiction often exposes greater truths. For you, does the truth come first and have the story grow into being around it, or does the story lead you there?
EKA: For me, truth and fiction are always tightly paired, sometimes in ways that, when I’ve gotten some distance, shock and embarrass me. It’s most often in unconscious ways that truth seeps into my fiction, forming the emotional landscape of the book. The events may be fictional, but the heart is real.
RNSL: Do you write on schedule, or do you find that you have to carve bits and pieces of time out to write in the midst of your day-to-day activities?
EKA: I tend to write in big chunks sometimes, and in bits and pieces other times, and also, sometimes, not at all. Growing up, well-meaning adults loved to tell me that “writers write,” and yes, sometimes this is true. But writing is only part of the craft of being a storyteller. Living, and loving, and failing and hurting and all the other mess of life counts, too. When I finally released myself from the “butt in the chair every day” prescription, the stories began to demand space and time. Different approaches work for different writers, but as someone who struggled with eating disorders, I find that an all-or-none dictum usually leaves me self-flagellating and miserable. Which leads me to your next question…
RNSL: Do you have a favorite piece of writing advice you've received from or given to someone else? What is it?
EKA: Be gentle with yourself. There is time.
Elana K. Arnold lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. Her latest middle grade novel, Far from Fair, will be out this week, and if you're lucky enough to be in Long Beach, California, check out Gatsby Books at 7 pm on Tuesday, March 8 for her launch party! Her next YA novel, What Girls Are Made Of, is due out in Spring 2017 from Carolrhoda Books. You can find more information about her and all of her books at elanakarnold.com/home.html and tweet her @elanakarnold
When there are no people to gawk at the animals living in the zoo, what happens? A basketball game, of course!
In Sherryn Craig’s new picture book Midnight Madness at the Zoo a nightly basketball game breaks out just as everyone is leaving for the night. Beginning with one polar bear, then a game of one-on-one a new player joins until the field builds to a game of ten. Readers learn counting skills and basketball jargon throughout the story.
Sherryn is no stranger to the game of basketball, and spends her free time cheering on her husband’s high school basketball team. Midnight Madness at the Zoo combines the many things that her family holds dear.
We went behind the book with Sherryn and here is a sample, to read the entire interview visit the book’s homepage.
What was your incentive to write this particular book?
My oldest son inspired me to write Midnight Madness at the Zoo. It’s what we imagined the animals do when everyone else goes home for the day. While several people cautioned me about writing a book in rhyme, my kids tend to enjoy those books the best. e rhythm and rhyme helps them to remember the story and they “read” the book out loud as I do. It was important to me that my boys enjoy the story, and they’re the audience that I know the best and that I love the most.
What is most rewarding about writing children’s books?
As a working mom, the most challenging thing I find about writing is actually sitting down and doing it. By the time I get my little ones in bed and finish the chores for the day, it’s late, I’m tired, and I want to go to bed, because the next day is only a few hours away. But to do something, and to do it really well, you have to do it a lot. To improve in writing, just like in sports, you have to practice.
Taking a risk and being prepared to fail is another important lesson – in writing, in sports,in life. You’re not going to win every game. So too, everyone is not going to like the story you write. There’s going to be disappointment, and you just have to fight through that, keep putting yourself out there, and try, try again. That’s all we can do. It’s tempting to get wrapped up in all the no’s, but equally important, perhaps even greater than that rejection, is the realization that it only takes one yes.
The greatest reward is certainly getting to tell a story and finding people, like Arbordale, that believe in that story – who, too, are willing to take a risk on someone and something unknown.
Enter to win your own copy of Midnight Madness at the Zoo on Goodreads!
What a delight to welcome Lisa Rose back to Frog on a Dime. She’s so honest, funny and genuine. She first visited in March 2014 to talk about her upcoming picture book. And now [cue the fan fare!] SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN has just released!
To celebrate, I’m letting Lisa take the wheel . . .
When my agent suggested I write Jewish books I wasn’t thrilled. True, I was Jewish. I suffered through Hebrew school. I had a Bat Mitzvah. I didn’t have a Christmas tree or even own a Christmas sweater. I used words like tush, schlep, and nosh. But I didn’t really want to write a Jewish book. At the time I was writing outside of my race. Inspired by the students I taught in Highland Park and Pontiac, Michigan, I believed their story needed to be told. I have been fighting for #blacklivesmatter long before it was a hashtag or even twitter was invented.
It wasn’t until I adopted my daughter that I thought about my culture. How would I make her feel part of the community? It was then I realized how little I knew about my own history. I knew much of it was slaughtered in the Europe’s concentration camps. And what was known was not discussed. The memories were too painful. There was just an attitude of “move on and live.” Simple and yet profound. We lived. We learned. We laughed.
So, I believe it isn’t accident that my first published Jewish picture book is both funny and empowering.
Thank you for sharing, Lisa. I’m very excited for you and for the children who will enjoy your book. (And hey, you’re a pretty good driver!)
SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN just released from Kar-Ben Publishing is about a painter who has to create a mural for Israeli Independence Day. He can’t decide what to paint and gets a little help from a very unexpected source—his dog!
And now, it’s time for True Confessions, Random Facts and Inside Info with Lisa Rose . . .
True confession: Rose is actually my middle name. I have two terrible last names. So I chose to go by Rose because it was easy to pronounce and also honored the grandmother I never knew. She, against all odds, escaped to Detroit. There, she lived, learned and laughed so that one day her granddaughter could tell the story.
Loves the color blue
Taught 1st grade and her students often lived in homeless shelters
Owned pet turtles named Broccoli and Peapod
Prefers frosting and ice cream to anything spicy or garlicy
Likes to wake up early–like before 5 a.m. early
Prefers Law & Order reruns to reality TV
Would you like to know even more about Lisa Rose, my crispy little waffle cones? What a silly question. But of course you would. More info about Lisa Rose, click here.
When you write, magic happens. Doors open. People smile and the world is a better place. ~ Alan Dapre
Yup. That’s her all right. The one I was telling you about.
Folding a fitted sheet.
These, my wee wombats, are all things we would rather not do. And yet, oft times we must (well, hopefully not too oft. Yeesh.) So is the case with today’s post. Do I want to pummel my dear friend and sublime author young adult Kelly Barson with question after needling question? Nay. And yet, pummel I must. It is for your own good, dear readers.
And so, steel yourselves, and let the unfliching query of Kelly Barson begin . . .
What is your favorite day of the week–-and yes, why? This isn’t popular, but I like Mondays. I like a week that’s full of possibilities, open for a fresh start.
Have you ever kissed a toad? No, but I have almost stepped on one. In my bare feet! I stepped, but before I shifted my weight to the point of no return, I felt the toad’s muscles ripple under my feet. I jumped and screamed. The toad jumped, too. We were both grateful he didn’t croak.
What is under your bed? Drawers full of treasure and an impressive collection of dust bunnies, many of them vintage.
Who makes you laugh the most? My husband Larry. Because we’re so different, he sees and navigates the world very differently from me. As a result, he often says the unexpected and that cracks me up.
If you were a cheese, what kind would you be? Pepper jack because no matter how hard I try to be smooth, I just can’t hide the fact that I’m kind of spicy.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Forgiveness.
What kind of music feels like torture to you? Country music. Not a fan. Not at all. Listening to it makes me really grumpy.
What was the last thing you ordered from an infommerical? This exercise contraption called The Bean. I loved it! It was super comfortable and perfect for lounging in front of the TV and eating chips. It didn’t help my abs at all though.
What is your inner adult/inner child ratio? I was much more of an adult when I was a child. Now that I’m older, the ratio is closer to 50/50. I’m guessing that when I’m old, I’ll be totally childlike.
If you could make a guest appearance on a sit com, which one would it be–and why?Life in Pieces. It’s one of my newest favs. I would want to be friends with Dianne Wiest, both in the show and in real life.
Describe your sock drawer in three words or less. Colorful and woolly.
If you hadn’t become a writer, what would you be? Sad and grumpy. Oh, you mean as a profession? A hermit who sells vintage dust bunnies on eBay.
What is your favorite punctuation mark? The em dash because I like to interrupt a thought–both in real life and in my writing–to insert random info.
What is your favorite food or drink while writing? Coffee before noon. I drink a lot of water, so I always have a glass with me. While writing, I like crunchy snacks like pretzels or garlic plantain chips. And candy. (However, while writing CHARLOTTE, I kind of OD’d on pretzels and garlic plantains, so I’m taking a break from them for a while. I’m currently seeking a new obsession and am open to suggestions.)
And your fantasy roadtrip destination? I’m kind of a homebody, so whenever I fantasize about a cross-country road trip, it usually morphs into an Upper Peninsula Michigan trip because Michigan is beautiful and close to home. I would like to see the Grand Canyon someday, though, but I probably won’t drive there.
Can you do any impersonations? If so, who? No, none, not one. All of my voices sound like me.
Dear insatiable readers, you want to know more now, don’t you? I knew it, you inquisitive little weasels, you. Well, click here and you’ll learn even more about Kelly and her amazing YA works published by Viking Books for Young Readers.
As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left? ~ David Bowie
In 2011, the year I began this blog, I took part in a month of bloggers/authors connecting with one another through a whole host of activities. As part of this, I chose to participate in the book launch for an … Continue reading →
Welcome, one and all, to our NIGHT STUDY blog tour post! Read on to find out more about the sequel to SHADOW STUDY, including an interview with author Maria V. Snyder, and a giveaway (open internationally)!
Ever since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana's life has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia is safe for her anymore. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear.
Valek is determined to protect Yelena, but he's quickly running out of options. The Commander suspects that his loyalties are divided, and he's been keeping secrets from Valek... secrets that put him, Yelena and all their friends in terrible danger. As they uncover the various layers of the Commander's mysterious plans, they realize it's far more sinister than they could have ever imagined.
When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia.
Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.
As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked.And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.
About the Author
Maria V. Snyder changed from being a meteorologist to a novelist in 1995, when she began writing to keep her sanity while raising two children. Since then, she has published numerous freelance articles in magazines and newspapers, and teaches fiction-writing classes at the local college and area libraries. The classes give her the wonderful opportunity to encourage fellow writers, and to keep improving her craft.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria always had a fascination with big storms. Dreaming of chasing tornados, Maria earned a bachelors of science degree in meteorology at Penn State University. But she discovered, much to her chagrin, that forecasting the weather wasn't one of her skills. In order to chase tornados you had to predict where they might form. Creating fantasy worlds where she has complete control of the weather was more agreeable to her.
Maria's research on food-tasting methods with an expert chocolate taster, her husband, turned out to be a delicious bonus while writing Poison Study.
Maria has a brown belt in Isshinryu Karate, and enjoys playing volleyball and the cello. Traveling in general and via cruise ship in particular are her biggest distractions from writing. Maria has traveled to Belize, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal.
Maria lives with her husband, son, daughter and yellow lab, Hazelnut, in Pennsylvania where she is at work on more LUNA novels. She also earned a master's degree in writing fiction from Seton Hill University.
RNSL: The world of the Study series is so deep and wide now, how do you keep the details (about characters, plot, etc.) straight?
MVS: I have a couple things I do to help me keep all the details organized. For each of my novels, I have an old fashioned notebook where I write down all those details for the book, including the story's timeline and all my research notes. I also have an Excel spreadsheet that has details for all my characters from the books. That spreadsheet is a wonderful resource. I can't take any credit for that as Natalie, one of my readers, put it together for me. She also did one for each of my other series as well! The last thing I do is just refer back to the book. I keep a copy of all my books next to my computer.
RNSL: Authors are so connected to social media now. How much do you let fan reactions affect the decisions you make when you write?
MVS: I really enjoy interacting with my readers, but I let the story develop without worrying about their reactions. However, I do think about them when I'm writing. I smile and think, “Oh, they're going to love this.” Or “I hope they don't kill me over this.” :) And I did write more Study books for them.
RNSL: From your first book to this one (your 14th novel!), has your writing style or method changed, and how?
MVS: I don't think my style has changed, but I have started writing from multiple POVs in my books and doing third person because I wanted a challenge and I really like showing what's going on with the other characters in the books. My method is about the same. I still use the notebooks. However, when my kids were little, I wrote when they were at school. Now, I write at night and love it.
RNSL: We love hearing about the things that inspire you from the real world that end up in your Ixia/Sitia stories. Has Night Study added any new hobbies or interests to your list?
MVS: I've learned quite a bit about plants, including cross breeding and grafting techniques for Night Study. It's doubtful the knowledge will help me as all my attempts to grow green things has resulted in failure.
RNSL: What's your preferred writing fuel right now?
MVS: Decaffeinated English Breakfast tea for when I'm writing and then, if I hit my word count for the evening, a glass of red wine to celebrate.
RNSL: You dropped the biggest bombshell at the end of Shadow Study! Do you think it accomplished what you set out to do?
MVS: I knew I wanted to reveal that bombshell near the end of the novel. I really didn't plan to make it the very last line, but when I reached that point in the story, it felt right. And I think it was fun for my readers since it's not quite a cliff-hanger—the main plot/story was resolved, but it gave them something they'd been hoping for and something to think about while waiting for Night Study.
RNSL: Will the next Study book be the last, and if so, how do you feel about the series ending/rolling along?
MVS: Dawn Study will be the last for Yelena and Valek. Yelena's journey was the focus of the first three books and these new ones are a bit more focused on Valek's journey. And that's a good thing—I think writing more about them I would have to raise the stakes so much it would be like “jumping the shark.” There are a few characters—Reema, Teegan, Fisk, Heli, and Quinn—that I would like to explore more and might write a few books about them—no plans yet as I usually like a break and a chance to do something new before I return to a world.
RNSL: The cover changes in tone from Shadow Study to Night Study--I like them both, but prefer the direction Night Study is going in. Can you discuss the changes?
MVS: Yes I can! The reason is I had more input into Night Study's cover! I expressed my concerns about Shadow Study's US cover to my new editor—I really wished they hadn't put a model on the cover—not that she wasn't beautiful, but her makeup was so over the top, it appeared as if she had a black eye! So when they were designing Night Study, I was able to give the art department more feedback.
RNSL: Were there any other book or series ideas percolating while you worked on Night Study? If you can't share details, can you discuss what it's like for you to have multiple ideas vying for attention?
MVS: I generally concentrate on one book or story at a time—I can't work on a short story in the afternoon and a novel at night. I have to stop one to work on another. However, I do get ideas and I write them down when they come to me. When I have time between projects, I explore those ideas. Right now I don't have any set plans for what's next, which is kind of scary! I have three different novel ideas and I'll see which one of those my publisher will be interested in (if any!).
6 Winners will receive a finished copy of NIGHT STUDY, US Only.
4 winners will receive a finished copy of NIGHT STUDY, International.
Atheism is the absence of belief that God, and other deities, exist. How much do you know about this belief system? Julian Baggini, author of Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, tells us the ten things we never knew about atheism.
Happy Holidays to all my followers! If you didn't get the chance to watch my first video author interview with the charming Adam Giles for Mirror World News, then here's your chance. During our interview, I talk about my time travel series, what's coming up next, and give some pointers to fellow writers. It was fun to do, and although I was a tad nervous, I think I pulled off my first face-to-face interview with style and finesse! At least I hope I did! Wink.
Wishing you all the best in 2016, and thank you for investing your time by tuning into my weekly blog! I really appreciate your support and kind comments. Cheers and please enjoy! Roll'em, Adam...
Australia is home to some exceptionally strange flora and fauna. The ubiquitous tropical heat of Far North Queensland seems to accentuate oddities and none typifies unique peculiarities more vividly than Australia’s heaviest flightless bird, the Cassowary. Beautiful yet deadly, the Cassowary is a natural magnet of mystery and misinterpretation so naturally is a prime candidate […]
Today, I’m very excited to welcome Lisa Williamson on the YA Shot tour!
YA Shot is an event that will take place in Uxbridge on 28 October, organised by Alexia Casale and many other people. Over 71 will be there, tickets are up-to £20, and there’s a full day of panels and booky –MG and YA- things happening!
Lisa Williamson is the author of The Art of Being Normal, which I reviewed here and really enjoyed. I got the chance to interview her, and I loved her answers, and couldn’t wait to share!
Do you think reading is important for teens today, and why?
I do! I'm convinced those who read fiction make for kinder, more sensitive and empathetic people. Having said that, not every teen is going to be reader and I think it's important we don't ever make anyone feel bad or inadequate about not reading for pleasure. What we should really be doing is finding a way of exposing reluctant readers to the range and breadth of books out there in such a way that doesn't feel enforced. I often meet young people who adore the Hunger Games films but would never think of reading the books. Changing that mindset without being preachy is hard! I often describe my personal experience of reading the Hunger Games for the first time and try to communicate just how intense that was, because instead of sitting in a cinema full of people watching Katniss fight to the death, I was actually there with her, in her head, just the two of us! For me growing up, books represented escape and relaxation. I loved how private and personal my relationship with a book felt, regardless of how many other people I knew had also read it. Reading also helped me figure out who I was, or rather who I wanted to be, and how to make sense of my place in the world.
Has reading ever done anything for you that you wouldn't mind sharing?
As I mentioned, as a teenager, reading was an escape. When I was thirteen, I was bullied for a short but intense period. Reading made me feel safe and a bit less lonely. I've grown up with the feeling that books are my friend.
Do you have any stories of people saying how TAOBN has helped them?
I do, and it's probably been the best part of being a published author. TOABN is told from the point of view of a young transgender person, and although I'd done masses of research and endeavoured to be as authentic and sensitive as possible, I was mindful of my responsibility as an author and, pre-publication, very fearful of 'getting it wrong'. Since the book has been out, I've been overwhelmed by the tweets and emails I've received. One young person said the book gave him the courage to come out to his parents. Another said she'd given it to her friends to help them understand what she's going through. Another said how happy she'd been to see the book displayed proudly in a high street bookshop and how it made her feel like she was no longer 'a freak'. All these messages have moved me deeply and demonstrate just how vital diverse books are!
Do you think books can help people in ways that other media can't?
Books are an amazing tool for sparking discussion. It can be daunting to have a conversation with your family about, for example, gender identity, but if you use a fictional story as a stimulus, it can be a much easier and safer way in. My boyfriend's mother died recently having suffered from Alzheimer's for a number of years. There is a lot of literature on the subject available online. However, I found the most useful material for helping me understand the disease were fictional titles (namely Still Alice, Elizabeth is Missing and Unbecoming). By inviting me to step into the shoes of a dementia sufferer, my perceptions and understanding were turned upside down and I feel I became more compassionate and patient as a result. Emotions are so powerful and I think stories that tap into this part of our brain have the power to change hearts and minds in a way I just don't think a pamphlet or online article can.
What's your favourite way of promoting books to teens?
Talking to them! I love talking to teenagers, not just about books but pretty much anything that excites them. I did an event recently where I ended up talking a lot about my personal experiences as a teenager. I was really open about being bullied and being in an emotionally abusive relationship and feeling scared about my future and afterwards several teens came forward and opened up to me in return. I think there's a real expectation that adults have their shit together and I wonder if we're doing teenagers a disservice by not being more open about our thoughts and feelings, even if they're in retrospect. I think it would have made a massive difference to me growing up.
I also love speaking at literary festivals. A whole festival devoted to books? What's not to love?
How important do you think compulsory reading eg for GCSEs is?
I think it's very important, even if those young people never go on to read a single book ever again. However, I definitely feel it's time to shake up the reading list. Teenagers are reading the same books I read at school twenty years ago and that's not right. For one, the teachers need to feel passionate about what they're teaching and how can they feel energised and motivated to teach a book when it's the tenth, twentieth, maybe even thirtieth time they've shared it with a class? The books I remember from school are often the ones I got the sense my teacher really got a kick out of teaching us.
I wonder if it's at all practical to introduce weekly or even daily 'story time' in schools? Every time I read aloud in a school, the kids seem to really chill out and actually listen. It made me think of how there's something really relaxing and uniting about listening to a story in a big group. Being read to at school would also mean young people who don't usually read off their own backs would be exposed to stories they would wouldn't be otherwise, and might, just might, be motivated enough by the experience to seek out a book of their own.
If you could give one book to every teenager, what would it be and why?
Yikes, that's tough! This is perhaps a more female-focussed title (although I think boys should most definitely seek it out too!) but 'Am I Normal Yet?' by Holly Bourne is an utter joy, celebrating female friendship in a way that's not often seen in YA fiction. It's also funny and moving and explores mental health in a way that's really accessible and real. I also recently read 'Goodbye Stranger' by Rebecca Stead. It's for slightly younger readers (the protagonist is twelve) and absolutely nails the nature of adolescent friendships in a very beautiful and understated way. I'm all about the friendship at the moment!
Reminder: you can find Lisa on Twitter here, TAOBN on Goodreads here, and you can buy it in hardback from Hiveor from David Fickling. If you’d like to wait for the paperback, it’ll be here on 7th January 2016.
Some writers always knew that they were destined to tell stories, others came to the craft a little later. That was the case with new author Sharon Chriscoe. Her first picture book The Sparrow and the Trees is a retelling of a native folktale that explains why some trees lose their leaves in winter while others do not.
Find out why Sharon chose to retell this story:
What was your incentive to write this particular book?
I love the Native American folklore, Why The Trees Lose Their Leaves, and it was exciting to base my own story on that wonderful folklore. It was the story I was meant to write. I was thrilled when Arbordale agreed and offered publication.
What is most rewarding and/or challenging about writing children’s books?
The most rewarding aspect of writing The Sparrow and The Trees for Arbordale is knowing that children all around the world are going to read and learn from my book. Arbordale is so fantastic with the amount of educational elements they include with each of their books, from online resources to worksheets to Creative Minds Information — there is something for everyone to learn. I learned a lot while researching this book!
Do you have any advice for parents of young readers and writers?
Read to your children every day. Make it a fun, memorable experience and they will become lifelong readers. One of my favorite quotes is “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” — Emilie Buchwald.
Get the full interview on the book’s home page, click here!
Don’t forget comment on this post to win a copy of The Sparrow and the Trees. And color to your hearts content with these fun pages.
Trying new things can be an exciting, daunting and ultimately rewarding experience. Just ask Sandy Fussell, author of the acclaimed Samurai Kids series. She is venturing into the fastidious and fascinating world of picture book writing and I have to say, has come up trumps. Together with illustrator, Tull Suwannakit, Fussell has brought to life […]