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1. Childrens Books by David Chuka in 2015

I’ve been staring into my crystal ball and trying to foresee what 2015 holds. I keep staring and staring but I can’t seem to see anything. A good clean job might do the job…ehm…nothing. I don’t think this is working.

Why????????????????

If you know me, then you know the above scenario and a crystal ball would be the last thing I’d be staring at. I think sometimes, we want people to predict our future and lay it on a plate for us. The sad reality is that (like the saying goes) if it’s to be, then it’s up to me. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of what I want to achieve in the coming year, especially with regards to my role as a children’s book author. I would like to write four books next year. Below are the David Chuka titles hopefully coming to your book shelf sometime in 2015.

Kojo the Sea Dragon Meets a Stranger – After the overwhelming success of Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost, I just knew I had to write more stories with Kojo and his friends from the Zakari River.Sea Life Books Below is a review from a reader:

Such a vivid and colorful tale for such a simple, yet important lesson; listen to your parents. The illustrations are vibrant and imaginative as are the characters. Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost is a very fun read!

In this episode, Kojo and his friends plus everyone in the Zakari River is looking forward to the BOOM BOOM festival. It’s a time of fun, dancing, singing with lots of food. Everyone in the Zakari River gathers in the town center and there are performances by different groups. Kojo is looking forward to doing a special dance with his friends. The day finally arrives and Kojo is having so much fun with his friends and is enjoying the sights and sounds. Then something happens with some yummy cake and an evil eel that makes Kojo learn something new about his world and talking to strangers. This will most likely be the first book I publish in the coming year, so watch this space.

Non-Fiction Book on Writing and Publishing Children’s Books – I get asked a lot of questions by people looking to write and publish children’s books and I think it’s time I crystallise all my experience into a book that get that can help other aspiring and established children’s book authors. Some of the topics I’ll be touching in this book will include working with an illustrator, doing research, getting reviews, social media, marketing etc. I’m excited about the challenge of writing this book and currently putting ideas together.

Billy and Monster Meet the President – Like my most recent book – Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas – I had finished writing this book in 2013 but due to challenges in finding the right illustrator, its release was delayed. I am quietly confident that I’ll be able to get this published in May and just in time for the Independence Day celebrations.

A Book about Thanksgiving – I’m not really sure what the story or characters will be but I do know that it’ll something based around Thanksgiving.David Chuka Banner I could either place Billy or Kojo in a situation where they learn something valuable about Thanksgiving. On the other hand, I could create new characters and tell the Thanksgiving story through them. Will provide more details later.

I’ll be visiting more schools in 2015 and looking to share my stories with more of my target audience. Thanks for all your support and do have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2015.

2 Comments on Childrens Books by David Chuka in 2015, last added: 12/16/2014
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2. Interview with Nancy Viau and The Kid Lit Authors Club!

I first met Nancy Viau at a workshop she presented for the NJ chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in 2011.  Her middle grade book SAMANTHA HANSEN HAS ROCKS IN HER HEAD (Amulet 2008) had been published.  She, along with some fellow authors, were talking about their books and the group they’d formed called the Kid Lit Authors Club. Here’s Nancy:

First give me some of your own background and how you came to be a children’s book author.
I started writing down ideas and creating silly rhymes when my youngest was about three. I wasn’t sure what to do with the picture books (I use that term loosely because they weren’t even close to being picture books!) that rolled out of my head onto paper, so I joined SCBWI and sat in many, many sessions where I soaked up info on how to write, what to write, and where to send manuscripts. Early on I had success with Highlights, Highlights High Five, Babybug, Ladybug, etc. but no picture book acceptances. A friend encouraged me to write for an older audience so for a while I wrote Op-Ed articles for the Philly Inquirer, popular anthologies, and a mish-mash of parenting magazines. An idea for an older character lead to my middle-grade novel, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head, and even after that was published, I never let go of the dream to be a picture book author.

Where and when did the idea for KIDLIT AUTHORS CLUB originate? What’s the philosophy/premise behind the group?
A year after my middle-grade novel came out (2009), I came to the realization that it’s not easy to promote a book and get author gigs. Publishers do not do a lot (*sigh), especially if your book is not a best-seller. Another author, Keri Mikulski, and I thought it might be a good idea to band together with a diverse group of picture book, middle-grade, and young adult authors to help spread the word about our titles. We wanted a book-signing or a general visit to be fun and interactive, an event the entire family could enjoy, and that we could enjoy, too. We wanted to make an irresistible buzz for our books, and never again find ourselves sitting alone at a book signing.           KidLit-logo jpeg

How many members and from what genres?
Membership fluctuates every year, but we try to keep a balance between PB, MG, and YA. Some years we have 20; sometimes we have as many as 26. We try not to go over 25 or 26 because what happens then is that people step back and let a select few do the work. We all work to find opportunities for signings and presentations by reaching out to librarians, booksellers, teachers, conference directors, festival organizers, and others.

How has being a member of the group changed the way you present and promote your books? What are the advantages of such a group?
I feel like I have a marketing team behind me. Whereas I am one individual who may find a way to promote my books, with the KidLit Authors Club behind me, I have 20+ others who are also promoting my books. Sure, I still do events by myself, but at those events I talk up members’ books, and hand out the club’s bookmarks and marketing materials. We share the love. Big time. A picture book author may come across an event suitable for YA authors and will pass it along. A middle-grade author may find an opportunity to appear on a panel, but picture book authors are needed as well. Voila, we’ve got that! We provide a multi-author resource for bookstore owners and conference or festival organizers looking to fill program spots.

Nancy Viau and Alison Formento, members of the Kid Lit Authors Club

Nancy Viau and Alison Formento, members of the Kid Lit Authors Club

What advice would you give other writers looking to collaborate and form a similar club?
Find others who enjoy getting the word out about their own books, but would be open to helping others do the same. Get together and hash out a plan of action. A marketing group made up of authors can take many forms. Look at groups such as the Liars Club or the “Class of” groups that started with the Class of 2k7 and continued on with the Tenners, Elevensies, and so on. I saw how successful my class was–the Class of 2k8, but felt that limiting a group to authors of novels was not in our best interest. Members of our club all benefit when seasoned authors mentor debut authors, older titles are mentioned in the same breath as current ones, and new titles are celebrated and given a presence.

Any final thoughts?
Working with a group of wonderful people who have the same passion and vision as you is priceless. (I sound like a MasterCard commercial…) It’s really hard being an author—harder than most people think, but it’s much more enjoyable when you don’t have to go it alone.

http://www.kidlitauthorsclub.com
Making every event a celebration of children’s books!     

Some Kid Lit Club Authors

Some Kid Lit Club Authors

Nancy Viau
Nancy Viau is the author of City Street Beat, Storm Song, and Look What I Can Do! (nominated for the 2014-2015 Keystone to Reading Book Award). Her middle-grade title, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head, was published in 2008. Viau enjoys presenting assembly programs and writing workshops, and along with the young writers she meets, she finds inspiration in nature, travel, and her job as a librarian assistant.
Website: http://www.NancyViau.com

Facebook: Nancy Viau
Twitter: @NancyViau1


3 Comments on Interview with Nancy Viau and The Kid Lit Authors Club!, last added: 12/5/2014
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3. Terry Nicholetti ~ Author of Noralee’s Adventures on the Planet Ifwee

Terry Nicholetti, Founder and Chief Encourager of Speak Out, Girlfriend!, is a former teaching nun and professional actor/playwright and author, with nearly 30 years experience in sales and marketing. A speaker, consultant and member of National Speakers Association, Terry helps clients, especially artist/entrepreneurs, find their voice and tell their stories.

For the past five years, Terry has been studying Mindfulness Meditation, and loves to share a simple yet profound process for becoming more “mindful or “present” at difficult moments, for example, when one is nervous right before a presentation. A member of Unity Worldwide Ministries congregations for more than a decade, Terry has built her Speak Out, Girlfriend! 9 Steps to Get from Fearful to Fabulous in part on Unity principles, especially that the spirit of God/Source/Universe lives in each of us, and that we create our life’s experiences through our thoughts.

Inspired by missing her own grandchildren after a move, Terry created and produced the GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit ™, including the delightfully illustrated NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee, to help children and their grandparents get closer together, one story at a time.
Links to your site/blog/FB and Twitter:

http://goldstarmagic.com

https://www.facebook.com/SpeakOutGirlfriend

@terrynicholetti

0 Comments on Terry Nicholetti ~ Author of Noralee’s Adventures on the Planet Ifwee as of 12/1/2014 11:54:00 AM
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4. My Euphoria at Discovering Anaphora: Part 2 by Beth Ferry

Last month we had the pleasure of discovering some amazing literary devices found in the humble PICTURE BOOK thanks to PB writer Beth Ferry.  Beth is back this month with more techniques you can use to enhance your writing and raise it above the mundane. Here’s Beth:

Asyndeton. This involves leaving out conjunctions, such as Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. It is a great way to lower your word count. In the same vein, Polysyndeton is the use of many conjunctions close to one another – “He ran and laughed and jumped with joy.” I use the latter much more than the former. I really like conjunctions.

Internal rhyme. A rhymer at heart, I love all rhyme, but this type of rhyme is my favorite and I try to pepper some internal rhyme even in my non–rhyming stories. It is also known as middle rhyme because a word in the middle of the line usually rhymes with the last word of the line.

Homophones. I love to use these to add depth to my writing. It is easy to confuse homonyms and homophones, so just to clarify: All homonyms are homophones, but not all homophones are homonyms. Homonyms look the same and sound the same, but have different meanings such as bear and rose. Often one version is a noun and the other is a verb. Homophones, on the other hand, SOUND alike, but have different spellings and different meanings. These will seem the most familiar to you (to, too, two). My favorite use of a homonym is this one: “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” –Groucho Marx.

Euphony. This is basically just the loveliness of sound and the opposite of cacophony, which, I must say, is an amazing word to say out loud. Euphony is created by the use of some of the aforementioned literary devices, especially alliteration, assonance, consonance and rhyme. And just a little tidbit: “Cellar door” is supposed to be the most pleasing sound in the English language. Something to consider and possibly say out loud a few times.

Lastly, there is one literary device picture book writers should absolutely, completely avoid: Periphrasis, which is the use of excessive language and surplus words to convey a meaning that could otherwise be conveyed in fewer words and in a more direct manner. Stay away from this one. Stay far away.

So, picture book writers, pull out your works-in-progress and see if you can identify any of these literary devices in your writing. Then experiment with some new ones. Add a little assonance. Sprinkle in some polysyndeton. Pop in a homophone. It may make a fun and beautiful difference in your writing.       Beth_Ferry_photo

 

Beth Ferry lives and writes near the beach. Her debut book, Stick and Stone, will be released on April 7, 2015 by HMH. Land Shark (Chronicle) will be released in Fall 2015 and Pirate’s Perfect Pet (Candlewick) follows in Fall 2016.

 


1 Comments on My Euphoria at Discovering Anaphora: Part 2 by Beth Ferry, last added: 12/1/2014
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5. My Euphoria at Discovering Anaphora: by Beth Ferry

The Use of Literary Devices in Picture Books: Part 1        Beth_Ferry_photo
by Beth Ferry

As parents, we are constantly teaching our children about the world: rules, facts and essential life truths such as: Be kind. Be patient. Bees sting. Eat your vegetables. Don’t eat the sand. Say please and thank you. Don’t step on that ant. As they grow older, teaching can morph into school related lessons: spelling tools, vocabulary words, and math tricks such as Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. As they grow even older, teaching becomes somehow more life affirming: Don’t drive and text. Be kind. Be true to yourself. Do your best. Hold your head up high. High school only lasts for four years.

In return, our children teach us how to be patient and forgiving. How to be creative and inventive. How to be happy. Watching them grow and learn has taught me a lot about myself, and I am a better person because I am a parent. But it is a rare event that I learn something academically new from my children. There are plenty of instances where I’ll encounter something I absolutely once knew, but have lost on the journey to adulthood, like, you know, the sum of interior alternate angles or how to balance a chemical equation. My college major was English after all. So imagine my surprise when, while reading aloud my new work-in-progress, my teenage son says “That’s anaphora.”

Stop the merry-go-round. What is he saying? Is it Latin? Text-talk? A new girl in his class? He explains it is a literary device he is learning about in AP English concerning rhetoric. What? He shows me his list of literary terms and I suddenly morph into a kid in a candy shop, marveling over this plethora of devices that I am unconsciously using and about which I have heard nary a whisper. I scurry off to devour this list, to taste each device and explore my own skill in using such lofty literary language without even knowing it.

There are reasons that these literary devices exist. It is because they work. The use of these devices makes writing stronger, more lyrical, more beautiful. Without even knowing it, I bet you will find your work peppered with polysyndeton, anadiplosis and euphony. Here are some of my favorites:

Alliteration. This one you will know as it is very common in picture books. I love alliteration and I’m sure you are familiar with the repetition of similar sounds in the beginning of successive words. I use them a lot in titles such as Stick and Stone or Pirate’s Perfect Pet.

Anadiplosis. This is the repetition of the last word of the preceding clause in the beginning of the next sentence. So it is almost like a word-segue between sentences. It’s hard to do, but very effective. The most recent and perfect example I can think of comes from the lyrics to the song “Glad You Came” by The Wanted:
Turn the lights out now
Now I’ll take you by the hand
Hand you another drink
Drink it if you can

Anaphora. This device is like alliteration but involving words instead of sounds. It is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of every clause or sentence. The opening of A Tale of Two Cities is the perfect example: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. . . It was the epitome of anaphora.

Anastrophe. Using this device allows the order of the noun and adjective to be reversed – think Yoda. It is also knows as hyperbaton, from the Greek meaning ‘transposition’. Poe uses this device to great effect, “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing.”

Assonance. Like alliteration, assonance repeats sounds, but the sounds produced by the vowels only, such as “purple curtain”. In the same vein, consonance is the repetitive use of the consonant sounds, usually at the end – stuck, streak, luck. You probably use both of these without even knowing it.

Beth will return with MORE LITERARY DEVICES next month.  Rest assured…there are LOTS more!

Beth Ferry lives and writes near the beach. Her debut book, Stick and Stone, will be released on April 7, 2015 by HMH. Land Shark (Chronicle) will be released in Fall 2015 and Pirate’s Perfect Pet (Candlewick) follows in Fall 2016.  stick and stone cover


3 Comments on My Euphoria at Discovering Anaphora: by Beth Ferry, last added: 11/18/2014
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6. Creativity begets Creativity

I am learning to crochet things like hats, scarves and amigurumi. Yes, amigurumi. This is a Japanese word for crocheted or knitted stuffed toy. They are sooo adorable! I am not fluent in that type of crocheting yet, but I do want to be one day. I think those little boogers are adorable! Here are…

8 Comments on Creativity begets Creativity, last added: 11/14/2014
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7. Where’s The Book?: Find it and Win!

It’s been six weeks since the launch of my MG historical book WHEELS OF CHANGE.  WoCCover01Many wonderful friends and acquaintances have asked me how things are going and where the book can be found. I suppose things are going well…how does a writer really know?  As far as where the book can be found…I have no clue.  Except for the Barnes&Noble bookstore at ROWAN UNIVERSITY where the launch took place, I have yet to spot it in local libraries or stores. Which brings me to this:

For the MONTH OF NOVEMBER, I am hosting a challenge to all my viewers and supporters out there. If you send me a photo and brief description of where you spot the book, I’ll send you one of my handmade cosmetic/toiletry bags as a thank you. I’ll give away SIX…one for each week the book has been out in the world.  (They make great gifts if you don’t need one yourself).    It’s been said that it “Takes a village” to bring a book out into the world.  As an author of children’s books, it’s been one of my dreams to have my book in libraries.  If it’s in YOUR “VILLAGE” LOCAL LIBRARY, please let me know!  

bags

So, WHERE IN THE WORLD IS WHEELS OF CHANGE?     I can’t wait to find out!


9 Comments on Where’s The Book?: Find it and Win!, last added: 11/9/2014
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8. Dante’s Inferno and the Non-Fiction Writer: by Terry Jennings

I am pleased to bring you a post from a writer friend TERRY JENNINGS, whose specialty is CHILDREN’S NON FICTION.  here’s Terry:

If Dante had been a non-fiction writer, in the Divine Comedy he would have put a circle in hell for writers whose overriding vice is Pride of Research. I never read the Divine Comedy but I did read Dan Brown’s Inferno and I know Dante liked those little circles where you would burn for eternity to expiate your sins. So if at any time there is a writer’s confessional, I would have to own up to that vicious sin—researching so much and having such pride in my cool factoids and data that sometimes I forget that the research should play a supporting role, not be all consuming like the fires of hell. And the part that makes this whole thing vicious is that along with pride can come a bit of arrogance and infallibility. I’ve done all this research and I know all there is to know, right? Recently, during the editing of my fact-based picture book, Sounds of the Savana (Arbordale, 2015), fate (or my sweet editor, whichever you choose) knocked me off my high horse.

Normally, my problem is not to include every tidbit and morsel in a manuscript. That is a sin I have worked hard to overcome. I figure I have slaved to get those lovely little gems and I have to put them somewhere. They have to be of use. I try dropping them into cocktail conversation. For instance, “Did you know that vervet monkeys have different kinds of vocalizations for different predators?” Or “Did you know spiny mice slough off their skin if a predator catches them? All that nasty owl will get is a piece of skin—and the mouse’s skin regrows by the next day. Imagine that!” I eat up that kind of stuff, but it makes people around me fall asleep.

Since I can’t use them socially, I want to include all my new knowledge in my manuscript. After many rejections, however, I have learned to listen to the wise and include only what works organically in the story, what drives the story forward. I have had to, sadly, leave a lot of wonderful information behind, condemning it to that nether world of unused facts. At first it was hard, but working with Arbordale has eased the pain. They have back matter in each book. A place where I can display many of my beloved nuggets. And if there’s not enough room in the back matter, they have a website with lots more information and activities. And when I remembered my own website could be a third bucket into which I could drop the remaining morsels, I danced a jig.

Now that I have the perfect place for all my darlings, the stories flow more easily. They can be even more engaging. I don’t have to explain that sound waves are deflected by temperature differences in Sounds. All I have to do is have a lioness roar on one side of the lake and the wildebeest hear her as if she were right next to them. Then . . . in the back matter or the website, I can put all sorts of amazing stuff about how the layer of cool temperature over a warm lake can deflect the sound wave so that it travels farther than when the temperature is uniform. I can let them know that in a 60 mile circle around Mount St. Helens, no one heard the eruption. They saw it like a silent movie—all because of the temperature difference between the roiling volcano and the layer of cool 8:32-in-the-morning atmosphere above it.

Pride of Research can also lead to avoidance.  There is many a time when I’m almost ready to let the book go but I talk myself into just a bit more research so I don’t have to let my baby out into the world so everyone will say it’s ugly. Or the writing’s going bad and I dive headlong into a new strand of investigation so I don’t have to face my shortcomings.
With Pride of Research also comes a certain arrogance. Admit it. I know you’re out there. Just like me. We check and triple check every fact and have three page bibliographies for an 800 word piece. It doesn’t have to be overt self-importance. It can just be that cozy warm feeling that we’ve done your job well. We always try to do our job well. Carolyn Yoder (editor at Calkins Creek, an imprint for historical children’s books) would be proud.

IMG_7974

That, however, is exactly how my pride of research came tumbling down around me.
“So, the illustrator wants to know what kind of owl would eat a spiny mouse?”
My sweet editor at Arbordale sent shivers of shame down my spine. In Sounds of the Savanna, “sound” shows up through predator and prey interactions. Since predators silently sneak, swoop, snatch, and stalk and prey squeak, squeal, heeaw, kerchew—actually make sound—when caught or almost caught, I foolishly concentrated on the prey. Every stalked critter, big and small was thoroughly researched. Its demeanor, its diet, its vocalizations, how it takes care of its offspring and of course, which animals preyed on it were minutely scrutinized. And it goes without saying I already knew they lived on the Savanna because that was my first criterion for choosing the species. But the predators? I had given them nary a thought. The research on the spiny mouse said owls eat them and that was good enough for me. Without much thought I could write that the owl swoops on silent wings with deadly talons—beautiful, although generic, tags—and that was sufficient. Was it arrogance or just plain forgetfulness? I know better. When I wrote my book about the recovery after Mount St. Helens’ eruption, I had tons of lists of the trees and animals that lived on the mountain and approximately when the species returned. I can’t believe I didn’t check on the spiny mouse’s predator. Turns out the Verreaux or Milky Eagle Owl loves spiny mice. And it didn’t take me too long to find it. Phew!

If that had been all, I might have come out with my dignity bruised, but still extant. But not long after the owl came the question about the vervet monkeys and their predator. Vervet monkeys have a vocalization for snakes. What snakes? All I could find was boas. My idea of a boa is huge. Vervet monkeys, not so big. I suggested they avoid the conundrum altogether by having the snake hidden in the grass. But by now I was absolutely distraught. Really? Two unidentified predator species? How could I? I checked to make sure there were no more hanging in the breeze and it turns out there weren’t. The other predators were well known dudes like leopards and lions, animals an illustrator can draw without getting down to differentiating between species.

I have been chastened, however. I promise to never let my pride of research make me blind to the shortcomings of my manuscript ever again. I will continue to do my job well, even better than I have because as non-fiction or fact-based fiction writers for children we are passing that information on to kids, and perhaps some day some one will take our book and use it as fodder to his or her pride of research.

Bio:

Terry Jennings began writing in 1999. Her first piece “Moving Over to the Passenger’s Side,” about teaching her fifteen-year-old to drive was published by The Washington Post. She has written a few other articles for them and Long Island News Day, as well as Ranger Rick, and a family humor column in my local newspaper, The Reston Connection.

She also writes educational text for the Smithsonian Science Education Center and other educational outlets. Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story (Sylvan Dell, 2012) was named Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers’ Association and the Children’s Book Council. Her other book, The Women’s Liberation Movement: 1960-1990 (Mason Crest, 2013) was named to the Amelia Bloomer Project’s recommended feminist literature for women birth to 18. Sounds of the Savanna, a book about sound as told through predator/prey interactions in the African savanna is on its way with Arbordale Publishers. It’s due out fall of 2015. Terry is currently working on a historical novel about the Cuban Revolution (1959-1961) loosely based on my childhood along with a couple of other picture books–one on Magnetism and one on Erosion.   IMG_0003

Contact her at:

website: Terrycjennings.com
science blog for kids: kcswildfacts.com


1 Comments on Dante’s Inferno and the Non-Fiction Writer: by Terry Jennings, last added: 10/20/2014
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9. Grief

Death. Grief. Sorrow. Those aren’t words that any of us like, especially when they involve those closest to us. I don’t pretend to understand sorrow, though I have experienced it many times. I experienced it when my grandparents died. I experienced it when my own father was in a car accident, and again when my…

10 Comments on Grief, last added: 9/29/2014
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10. Interview With YA Author Janet Fox.

I “met” Janet after reading her fabulous YA historical novels and letting her know how much I enjoyed them.  She was kind enough to read  WHEELS OF CHANGE before it was published and wrote a wonderful blurb that appears in the book. We’ve had an e-mail friendship ever since. I couldn’t wait to talk to Janet about her YA novels and her new venture: a debut MG. Janet was also kind enough to feature me on her blog today.  You can check out that post at: http://www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com

1. SIRENS takes place in the “Roaring Twenties”. What attracted you to writing about that era?                   Sirens front cover.indd
SIRENS is set in New York City in 1925. When seventeen-year-old Josephine Winter’s father ships her off to live with her rich cousins on the glittering island of Manhattan, he says it’s to find a husband. But Jo knows better–there’s trouble brewing, and in 1925, all that glitters is not gold. Caught up in a swirl of her cousin’s bobbed-hair set–and the men that court them–Jo soon realizes that this world of jazz and gangsters and their molls hides a nest of lies. But when she befriends the girlfriend of one of the most powerful and dangerous gangsters in town, Jo begins to uncover secrets–secrets that threaten an empire and could destroy everyone she loves. Jo is faced with a choice: hang on to her soul, or lose herself in the decade of decadence.

My first two YA historical novels were contracted for together, and I linked them by tying in  characters, although the second is not strictly a sequel. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on FORGIVEN my publisher contacted my agent and asked if I would be interested in trying my hand at a novel set in the 1920s. I said yes, and wrote a proposal, and they accepted it.

I don’t always say yes to suggestions like this. But I’ve always been fascinated by the twenties – it was a time of such rapid social change as to be explosive. Plus there are nuances like the fascination with the supernatural and the subtle political rumblings that led straight toward World War II. I had a lot of fun researching and writing SIRENS.

2. You wrote two other wonderful YA Historical Fiction books: FAITHFUL and FORGIVEN. How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

Thank you! It was a total accident. I don’t consider myself to be an historical fiction author, and in fact most of my current projects are anything but. FAITHFUL, my first novel, was really written as a way for me to deal with the sudden death of my mother. When I went to craft Maggie’s story about her search for her mother, I picked Yellowstone as a setting, and 1904 as the year only because I was interested in that period of history and it’s a fantastic period within the Park.                Faithful high res

FORGIVEN carries on from FAITHFUL but I set it in San Francisco because as a former geologist I wanted to write about the 1906 earthquake.    Forgiven with award

3. As someone who also writes historical fiction, I’m interested in how you conduct your research. Tell us about your process.

I almost never research ahead. It’s important to me to know my character first, so I often write quite a bit before I feel the need to dig into research. Once I know my character, then I try to craft a story that will delve into the rich human experience. And then I often research on the fly – hunting for material that I need to know.

For example, with SIRENS, I knew Jo and I knew she was going to befriend Lou, and I knew the two girls would get mixed up somehow with a gangster and bootlegging. But it wasn’t until I heard a radio interview one winter night with the author of a book about the 1920’s magician Howard Thurston that I realized that the twenties’ obsession with spiritualism would be central to my theme. It fit my character, it fit the story, and it was an interesting aspect of the twenties that doesn’t get much attention.

That said, at some point I do the following: read newspaper ads and articles of the period; read something written in the period; read the society columns of the time; find vocabulary lists or terms popular at the time; find clothing catalogs of the time; look for popular pastimes. These all comprise my socio-economic understanding, the atmosphere that surrounds my character.

4. You recently sold your first middle grade historical titled CHATELAINE: THE THIRTEENTH CHARM. Can you tell us about that and how it was writing your first MG novel?

Actually CHATELAINE is much more fantasy than historical. Yes, it’s set in 1940 and the children are escaping the blitz; yes, there is a German spy and an enigma machine. But after that, it’s very much a story about ghosts, a steampunk witch, an immortal wizard, children who are disappearing, artifacts with magical powers, peculiar teachers, a creepy castle, the rainy Scottish Highlands…in short, a slightly scary run-for-your-life mystery.
I loved writing this novel. It came out of nowhere – actually it was inspired by a piece of jewelry I saw on the internet – but as I was writing I was remembering all those days as a preteen when I was holed up in the corner on a rainy afternoon with one of the Narnia books or an Agatha Christie novel. Kat is such a great character and I had so much fun writing her story and then embellishing it with wild and crazy twists and turns…I hope readers will love it, too.

It sounds amazing Janet. I will definitely be adding that one to my reading list!

5. Of all your memorable characters, which one is your favorite and why?

Wow. That’s like loving one of your children more than the others!

I guess if I had to be pinned to the wall, I would say Maggie, because she’s my first. But then there’s Kula, feisty Kula, who begged to have her story told. And Jo – she’s such a determined, strong-willed girl – and Lou, who comes from nothing and has street-smarts. Now Kat, she’s the pragmatic girl who has to develop her imagination…and then there’s Rima, from my next novel…obviously, this is the impossible choice!

Thanks so much, Darlene!                                    janet fox

Janet Fox writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. She became a children’s author in the mid-90s, when her son’s learning differences led her to develop her non-fiction book for Free Spirit Publishing, GET ORGANIZED WITHOUT LOSING IT (2006). Other work for children includes short fiction (Spider Magazine) and science non-fiction (Highlights for Children). Her young adult debut novel, FAITHFUL (Speak/Penguin Group, 2010) was an Amelia Bloomer List pick, and was followed by a companion novel, FORGIVEN (Penguin, 2011), a Junior Library Guild selection and WILLA Literary Award Finalist, and a YA historical set in the 1920s, SIRENS (Penguin, 2012).
Her debut middle grade novel CHATELAINE: THE THIRTEENTH CHARM is an historical fantasy (Viking, 2016). She is a 2010 graduate of the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, a former Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and a former high school English teacher. Janet lives in Bozeman, Montana, where Janet and her husband enjoy the mountain vistas.

You can also find her at http://www.janetsfox.com and at http://www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com


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11. Joy And Celebration: The Launch of WHEELS OF CHANGE!

Yesterday was a monumental and long awaited day for me: The Official Launch of my debut novel WHEELS OF CHANGE. I held the festivities at the local BARNES & NOBLE on the campus of Rowan University, in Glassboro NJ. It was a thrill to see so many people from all phases of my life turn out to show their support and help me celebrate.  Here are some photos of the day:   photo 2

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The "Arrival Survival" Team from B&N set everything up for a successful day.

The “Arrival Survival” Team from B&N set everything up for a successful day.

Friends make everything better...

Friends make everything better…

 

 

Having my daughter and husband at the event made it extra special.

Having my daughter and husband at the event made it extra special.

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Teachers LOVE books...thank goodness! I LOVE teachers!

Teachers LOVE books…thank goodness! I LOVE teachers!

bs8bs29bs 23bs 15Many smiles brightened the day, many hugs were given and taken, many books were happily signed, many words of congratulations were heard.  It was a wonderful way to send my book out into the world.  Thanks to everyone who made the event possible.  You are ALL wonderful and I will be eternally grateful for your generosity, enthusiasm and love.

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bs4 bs13bs25bs6bs14It Was truly a “most Excellent Adventure” and a Five Star Day!      bs24bs21bs26bs37bs45bs38bs20

The first stack of books...came and went.

The first stack of books…came and went.


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12. This is one of those posts with a numbered list…

I read a great article today about youth pastors and how important it is for congregations to support them and their efforts to bless and teach our children. As the parent of a teen and two preteens – I am in 100% agreement! I’ve added a few things below from my own perspective. 1. You…

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13. Wow! What a woman! Wow! What a GOD!

I am one of the teachers for our 6-8th grade Sunday School class. I love those kiddos and all the questions they ask. They make me think. Today, we discussed the fact that Abram was told by God to leave his country, and to leave his father’s family. God said He would lead Abram to…

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14. This is happening now…

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/07/16/business/lake-jibo-robot/ And there is a story there. I’m certain! Here’s another link to “JIBO” if you’re interested in seeing more, or being creeped out of your own skin. Either way, here you go: http://www.myjibo.com/Filed under: writing for children Tagged: family robots, indiegogo, JIBO, MIT, robots

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15. for the kid in me

Inspired by Kenn Nesbitt’s, “My Brother’s not a Werewolf”. Hope you enjoy.   Tale of the WeirdoWolfBy Donna Earnhardt He transformed in the daytimeavoiding moonlit nightsHe cringed at his own shadow,fear brought him no delight He was a vegetarian.He loved to draw and paint.And when he howled,No one was cowed*,Except for him… He’d faint.  …

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16. Interview With YA Author Josh Bellin.

Today I am thrilled to bring you my guest and fellow author (who happens to share the same fabulous Agent Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency) Josh Bellin.  Josh’s debut YA SURVIVAL COLONY 9 will be released this month with Margaret K. McElderry Books.  And, you can check out the post I did for Josh today on his website: http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com

Synopsis:    Querry Genn is in trouble.

He can’t remember anything before the last six months. And Querry needs to remember. Otherwise he’s dead weight to the other members of Survival Colony 9, one of the groups formed after a brutal war ravaged the earth. And now the Skaldi have come to scavenge what is left of humanity. No one knows what the Skaldi are, or why they’re here, just that they can impersonate humans, taking their form before shedding the corpse like a skin.

Desperate to prove himself after the accident that stole his memory, Querry is both protected and tormented by the colony’s authoritarian commander, his father. The only person he can talk to is the beautiful Korah, but even with her, he can’t shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong. And that his missing memories are at the very center of it.

Tag line: Forget the past. Fight to stay alive.

PRAISE, Critical Acclaim, BUZZ for:                       SC9 Cover medium
SURVIVAL COLONY 9
Joshua David Bellin

2014 YA Nominee – The Nevils, Noted Cli Fi Novels of the Year

Margaret Peterson Haddix, New York Times bestselling author of the Missing Series:
“Set in a gritty post-apocalyptic world, SURVIVAL COLONY 9 is both an adventure and an exploration of what it means to be human. This debut novel made me feel almost as desperate to find out the secret behind Querry Genn’s existence as he felt. And what a surprise when everything was revealed!”

Kirkus Reviews:
“Querry’s memory loss allows for exposition to smoothly unfold. With each description, the Skaldi menace becomes more vivid and horrifying….The ending doesn’t explain everything, but it is action-packed and completes Querry’s emotional arc. Readers won’t want to face the terrifying Skaldi, but they’ll enjoy reading about them.”

Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and V-Wars:
“Joshua David Bellin brings serious game in a post-apocalyptic thriller that collides breathless action with devious world building and genuine heart. A terrific novel!”

Booklist:
“…thanks to its deliberate pacing and Querry’s garrulous first-person narrative, debut author Bellin’s novel is strongest in what it does not reveal. Tantalizing mysteries abound among the human and inhuman inhabitants of the bleak landscape, and the postapocalyptic plot is satisfyingly full of twists.”

School Library Journal:
“Survival Colony 9 will appeal to sci-fi fans who will anxiously await the planned sequel.”

Publishers Weekly:
“Debut author Bellin weaves a bleak postapocalyptic tale of survival against overwhelming odds…”

Feathered Quill Book Reviews:
“…this debut novel by Joshua Bellin is most certainly an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. The action never stops, and Querry is definitely a character you will root for!”

Heather Anastasiu, author of the Glitch series:
“Gripping and action packed. Just when I thought I knew what was coming, another twist would shock me. Superb!”

http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)

ISBN: 9781481403542      Release date: September 23, 2014

Biography: Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, but the sequel’s already in the works! Josh is represented by the fabulous Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency. http://www.lizaroyce.com

Josh loves to read (mostly YA fantasy and science fiction), watch movies (again, mostly fantasy and sci-fi), and spend time in Nature (mostly catching frogs and toads). He is the self-proclaimed world’s worst singer, but plays a pretty mean air guitar.

Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.             Joshua Bellin PR 3

Website: http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com
Blog: http://theyaguy.blogspot.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheYAGuy
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joshuadavidbellin
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7393959.Joshua_David_Bellin
Survival Colony 9: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18457362-survival-colony-nine
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Colony-Joshua-David-Bellin/dp/1481403540/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393982949&sr=1-1&keywords=survival+colony+9


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17. Tough Stuff in Children’s Books

The Guardian recently published an article stating that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Pioneer Girl will be released soon. In the book, Wilder wrote about her childhood growing up in the 1800s on the frontier. Pioneer Girl was rejected by publishers, so Wilder rewrote it and sold the resulting stories as the now-famous Little House on the Prairie books. Publishers had deemed parts of Pioneer Girl unfit for children, such as the story of a drunken man who accidentally killed himself when trying to light a cigar and having the liquor on his breath catch fire and the story of a shopkeeper who dragged his wife around by the hair and set their bedroom on fire.

I’m sure Wilder really witnessed these horrific events and felt compelled to include them in Pioneer Girl when trying to accurately relate her life on the frontier. The reality is that children around the world face tough stuff like this. Those who make it to adulthood completely untouched by violence or other ugly behaviors must be few and far between. We can’t completely protect children, but should writers for children include such tough stuff in their stories?

I’m torn on this. For children who are living in tough situations, maybe it helps to read about other children in similar situations. They might be able to identify with characters more and feel more inclined to read about children who are struggling about bigger issues than finding a lost bike or securing a date for prom.

On the other hand, maybe a child in a tough situation would give anything to get away from that, even if it’s just the temporary escape of a light read.

I’ve written about both the tough stuff and the light and found the light stuff (especially humor) easier to sell. I think publishers are more receptive of the tough stuff (often even welcome it) in young adult books but are less receptive of it in books for younger children. A big part of the decision has to be about how the writer handles the topic and why. What is the point in exposing a child to ugliness or violence? I think a writer who chooses to tackle tough stuff in children’s books should offer hope to the reader or some possibility of resolution in the end.


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18. Poetry Challenge

Joy Acey (of Poetry for Kids fame) has issued a challenge to write your own riddle-poem. You can see the challenge here: http://poetryforkidsjoy.blogspot.com/2014/09/riddle-poem.html#comment-form I wrote several food-riddle poems a few years ago, but I’m going to post a fresh one below.   It’sNotDessert You can wrap me in bacon, or roll me in sugar… But…

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19. If You Want a Picture Book Deal, Write Picture Books, Not for Magazines

Is your goal to get a picture book published?

Yes? Awesome!

So I’m here to tell you, write a picture book.

Ha! That seems like DUH advice, doesn’t it?

taraduh

But I don’t want you to waste your time, like I did, writing for magazines, trying to build publishing credits, if magazine writing isn’t your ultimate goal. Magazine writing is a completely different skill, and while credits are nice, they are not going to make or break you. Magazine credits prove you’re a professional and that you’ve been through the editing process, but they won’t convince anyone to buy your manuscript if it’s a sub-par story. You need to hone your picture book skills, and that only comes with writing dozens of picture books.

Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette takes clients based on their submission, first and foremost. “For me, the number one focus is on the writing: the voice, the story, the way the language sparkles and draws me in. If you’ve got that, I’ll follow you just about anywhere. All the writing credits, awards, and fancy degrees in the world—on their own—won’t make me take on an author. It’s about the writing, pure and simple.”

I received some misguided (but well-intended) advice when I began writing for children. I was told to place fiction in magazines in order to build my writing resume. So I gave it a shot. Then I found out how difficult it was to place stories. Not any less difficult than getting a book published! (I don’t know why I thought it would be.)

Your story must fit the theme of the magazine issue, which means you’re better off reviewing editorial calendars first, then writing to fill that need. Instead, I wrote what I wanted to write and then found it was only appropriate for a single issue, to be published in three years’ time! Magazines are often booked far in advance. Back in 2008, if I were to place that story, it would have been  printed in 2011. Yikes!

magazines

Now that’s probably an extreme example, but it’s an important lesson I learned. I was veering off my intended path to publication.

A magazine story has to be more descriptive than the language in a picture book because there are far fewer illustrations to accompany the text. You’re often writing for a single spread with no page turns, and page turns are crucial to picture book pacing, humor and reader anticipation. So I was writing for a wildly different format and not for the goal I desired: to get a picture book published.

Some will argue that writing for credits is necessary prior to getting a book deal, but I say that is incorrect. As long as you have a professional-looking, easily found web presence and membership in a professional writing organization like SCBWI, that’s all you need in your bio to prove that you’re “serious”. The thing you need most of all? You know—a winning manuscript! I had zero children’s publishing credits prior to getting my agent and a book deal. I’m definitely not alone in this.

Children’s magazines are wonderful, but if they’re not your goal, don’t use your precious writing time in this manner. Want a picture book deal? Write picture books! (I say books, plural, because if an agent is interested in your manuscript, that agent will ask for more of your work.)

And I hope that’s not DUH advice!

Do you agree or disagree? Share your opinion in the comments!


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20. Interview With YA Author Yvonne Ventresca.

Today’s post comes from my writer friend Yvonne Ventresca whose debut YA novel PANDEMIC, hit bookstores in May.

BOOKLIST has this to say about Pandemic: 

Ventresca gives Lilianna a compulsive need to prep for disaster (a coping skill after her assault) and a father who works for a journal called Infectious Diseases. This ups the believability factor and helps the reader focus on the action and characters. As is to be expected in an apocalyptic novel, there is no shortage of tension or death and a few gruesomely dead bodies, but teen disaster fans will likely appreciate that the high schoolers are portrayed as good, helpful people, but certainly not perfect. This fast read will appeal to fans of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It  (2006), even though the type of apocalypse is different.”
After reading this engaging and suspenseful novel, I can certainly agree that it is, indeed, hard to put down.  Ventresca did a wonderful job of making me feel like I was part of the “going’s -on” and even checked my own pantry to see what kind of provisions I had on hand.  Here’s Yvonne:

Five Historical Facts I Learned While Researching a Contemporary Pandemic
By Yvonne Ventresca

My debut young adult novel, Pandemic, is a contemporary story about a teenager struggling to survive a deadly flu pandemic. Although it is set in present-day New Jersey (what would it be like if a pandemic hit suburbia tomorrow?), I spent a lot of time researching the Spanish Flu of 1918 while writing the book. Parts of my fictional disease are based on the historical influenza, and I was interested in finding out as much about it as possible.     ventresca pic 1

Here are five things I learned while researching Pandemic:

1.  The influenza pandemic of 1918 is commonly called the Spanish Flu, but it didn’t originate in Spain. In March of that year, known cases occurred among soldiers in Kansas. But in June, Spain informed the world of a new disease in Madrid, and the Spanish Flu was belatedly named as it spread worldwide.

2.  The Spanish flu had a different mortality pattern than previous flu outbreaks, with the highest death rates occurring in adults between the ages of twenty and fifty. The reasons for that pattern are still not entirely understood, but according to the US website Flu.gov, the 1918 virus “evolved directly from a bird flu into a human flu.”

3.  In a time before technology, colored ribbons were placed on doorways to indicate a death in the household. The color of the ribbon indicated the age range of the dead. White, for example, was used for children.       Pandemic cover

4.  In 1918, sanitation measures included wearing face masks, blow-torching water fountains, hosing down streets, and locking public phone booths. Despite these measures, the Spanish flu killed more Americans than all of World War I.

5.  Katherine Anne Porter’s short novel, Pale Horse, Pale Rider is set during the 1918 Influenza. It’s a work of fiction (published in 1939), but was no doubt influenced by Porter’s memories of the pandemic and her own illness. The tragic story provides a sense of the war, the disease, and the desperation of that time.

For resources about preparing for an emergency, visit yvonneventresca.com/resources.html.

For more information about the Spanish flu, refer to:

Emerging Epidemics: The Menace of New Infections by Madeline Drexler http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7444179-emerging-epidemics
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29036.The_Great_Influenza
Influenza 1918: The Worst Epidemic in American History by Lynette Iezzoni http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/625882.Influenza_1918
“Pandemic Flu History” http://www.flu.gov/pandemic/history/index.html

Before becoming a children’s writer, Yvonne Ventresca wrote computer programs and taught others how to use technology. Now she happily spends her days writing stories instead of code and sharing technology tips with other writers. Yvonne’s the author of the young adult novel Pandemic, which was published in May from Sky Pony Press. She blogs for teen writers every Tuesday and for writers of all ages each Friday at http://www.yvonneventresca.com/blog.html.       Yvonne Ventresca Author Photo

To connect with Yvonne:
Website: http://www.yvonneventresca.com
Facebook Author http://www.facebook.com/yvonneventrescaauthor
Twitter twitter.com/YvonneVentresca
Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/317481.Yvonne_Ventresca
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/yvonneventresca


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21. Interview With Award Winning Author Joanne Rocklin.

I first “met” Joanne Rocklin when she graciously read my manuscript for WHEELS OF CHANGE and provided a lovely blurb. As soon as I read one of her stories, I was hooked.  I couldn’t get enough of her heart-warming and delightful books. Her titles, THE FIVE LIVES OF OUR CAT ZOOK, and ONE DAY AND ONE AMAZING MORNING ON ORANGE STREET, capture the joys and sorrows of childhood with wonderful, unique characters and prose that wedges itself into your heart and takes hold. Her new book – FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY – (FLF) debuts this month, so I thought it would be great to feature her on this blog. First, here’s a description of FLF:

A story about a special girl, an inspiring book, and a brilliant (though unintentionally funny) flea.

From the publisher: This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness.
Release Date: August, 2014
Amulet Books/Abrams ISBN 978-1-4197-1068-1    fleabrain cover

 
FIVE THINGS LEARNED WHILE WRITING MY MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY
My novel takes place in the 1950’s in Pittsburgh, during the worst polio epidemics of that era. Franny, my main character contracts the disease and can no longer walk. During her hospital stay she is introduced to the recently published Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and falls in love with the book, and, especially, the spider, Charlotte. She longs for a Charlotte of her own. Her wish is granted in the form of the brilliant Fleabrain, her dog’s flea.

1.
Much of what I learned while writing FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY were writing concepts I had to learn yet again, concepts that are integral to my own personal writing process. I usually begin with a phrase which arrives out of the blue. The phrase feels promising but doesn’t reveal much about the book I’m going to write. The phrase for this book was “you can stop seeking messages in spider webs.” This was Fleabrain’s first message to Franny, although I didn’t know it yet. I had to remember to just go with the phrase and wildly thrash about while I figure out what it means. I had to learn yet again, that for me, the rough draft is messy and chaotic but eventually leads to the story.

2.
Fleabrain provided Franny a necessary escape while she healed, as well as exciting adventures, affection, companionship and joy. He also taught her when it was time to face the real world. Fleabrain taught me, yet again, that humor will always be present in my books, no matter the seriousness of the subject matter, and that’s a good thing.

3.
Research is an ongoing process. I began reading about this particular era and began to get ideas about my character and her dilemma. I realized I had to set it in Pittsburgh because that’s where Dr. Jonas Salk did his important research on the polio vaccine, and I wanted to include a scientist in the story. But I was already deep into my story when I realized I would have to visit Pittsburgh and interview Pittsburghers who remembered that time. My research kept giving me ideas for scenes and themes for subsequent drafts.

4.
A surprising thing I learned while researching and writing this book was that many, many people knew very little about the polio epidemics. Some had never heard of an iron lung, or any of the treatment methods and medical advances associated with polio. Many were surprised to learn about the isolation and prejudice experienced by those stricken, and that most of the young people were required to attend special schools for “crippled” children. In addition, I myself learned that polio survivors were at the very forefront of the disability movement, agitating for many of the things we take for granted today (curb cuts, handicapped-accessible public places, etc.).

5.
And so, I learned yet again that the theme of my story will only become clear to me during the writing of the book itself, not before, and sometimes at the very end of the process. One of the important things that Franny learned is that it is not she who needs to be repaired by learning to walk again, but society itself, in accepting her.New picture book:

Joanne’s picture book:  I SAY SHEHECHYANU  will be out in January, 2015

Visit Joanne at: http://www.joannerocklin.com

 


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22. Blog Tour For WHEELS OF CHANGE

Tomorrow I begin the blog tour to help promote the release of my first book, a MG historical titled WHEELS OF CHANGE. I’m excited to be sharing the journey with all of you and hope you will visit some of the stops on the tour to learn about how the book came to be.  Here’s the schedule, and please send me your comments about your favorite post; I’d love to hear from you.  There will also be two opportunities to win a free autographed copy of WHEELS OF CHANGE at two stops on the tour.

8-19- Marriah Nissen:  http://www.divinesecretsofthewritingsisterhood.blogspot.com   and   http://www.therandombookreview.blogspot.com    Interview and Book review.

8-22- Yvonne Ventresca:  http://www.YvonneVentresca.com/blog.html    5 Things about the cover.

8-26- Roseanne Kurstedt   http://www.rlkurstedt.wordpress.com    How teachers might use the book.

8-29-  Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen  http://www.nerdychicksrule.com    Character and author Interview

9-2-  Gail Terp   http://www.gailterp.com      Q & A regarding literacy

9-8- Kathy Temean   http://www.writingandillustratingforchildren.wordpress.com  Fun facts about author and main character + book give-away.

9-9- Tricia Springstub  http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com   Book give-away

9-12-  Deb Marshall   http://www.readwritetell.com      Setting in historical fiction.

9-16-  Robin Newman   http://www.robinnewmanbooks.com     Author Interview

9-19-  Tara Lazar    http://www.taralazar.com   Popular toys and candies of the era.

9-22-  Tamera Wissinger   http://www.tamerawillwissinger.com    Essay post on authenticity in historical fiction.  (This is my actual Launch Party Day!)

9-23-  Holly Schindler    http://www.hollyschindler.blogspot.com    Sneak peek excerpt

9-26-  Natalie Zaman   http://www.nataliezaman.blogspot.com     WOC Acrostic poem

9-29-  Charlotte Bennardo    http://www.charlotteebennardo.blogspot.com/http://kidlitresiurces.wordpress.com/

10-3-  Jennifer Bardsley     http://www.teachingmybabytoread.com     Interview

10-6-  Irene Latham    http://www.irenelatham.blogspot.com   The delicious, the difficult, the unexpected.

10-7-  Kim McDougall     http://blog.castlelane.com      Character Interview

10-12-  Theresa Wallace-Pregent   http://www.booksalmagundi.wordpress.com     Questions

10-13-  Tamera Wissinger    http://smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com   Interview

10-17-  Bianca Schultz    http://www.thechildrensbookreview.com  Featured in My Writing and Reading Life Monthly Column

10-26-  Theresa Wallace Pregent   http://www.tmwallace.com     Interview post.   Final stop on the tour.

Hope you enjoy the tour!

 

 

 


6 Comments on Blog Tour For WHEELS OF CHANGE, last added: 8/21/2014
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23. Interview With Kerry O’Malley Cerra: MG Author

I am so pleased to be doing a post with Kerry O’Malley Cerra, the author of the middle grade book, JUST A DROP OF WATER.  What better way to honor Labor Day than to have Kerry talk about the book and freedom. Here’s Kerry:

1. Tell us about your personal connection to 911.
Pretty quickly after the attacks, it was discovered that Mohamed Atta—the lead hijacker of the plane that flew into the north tower in New York City—lived in our town. Fear was already heightened throughout America, but this information almost paralyzed me. I had three small kids and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d seen Atta at the grocery store, a restaurant, the park, the bank. At the same time these scenarios were running though my head, I discovered that a close college friend—who is Muslim—was having a difficult time and that his parents, who lived in the town where the terrorists took flight lessons, were being questioned. I wish I could say I believed their innocence in that moment, but it would be a lie. I’ve never really forgiven myself for that.                           Just a Drop of Water Cover

2. What motivated you to write JUST A DROP OF WATER?
As I mentioned above, I didn’t like myself for doubting my friend and his family. Once my head cleared and the fear subsided a little, I knew—with all that is in me—that they were innocent. I started to wonder why I doubted them in the first place. And, I wondered if my kids, at their young ages, would have ever doubted their friends. At what age do we go from trusting and innocent, to fearful and jaded? I wanted to explore that, and Just a Drop of Water is the result.

3. What’s the message you want readers to take away from the story?

I sincerely hope that the theme of peace comes though. While the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 were tragic, I hope we can learn from them. Acceptance is the key to peace, and that begins with children. I don’t mean acceptance of terrorism, but acceptance of religious, cultural, racial, and all other differences to eventually create a world where we can live side by side, peacefully. When I see and hear stories about children in the Middle East being brainwashed and trained to hate at such young ages, it breaks my heart. Why can’t we be doing the same thing but with the opposite message? I hope that Just a Drop of Water is a step in that direction.

4. Our theme this month is FREEDOM. How does that idea resonate with your book and all that took place during the events of 911 and the writing of your story?

I’ve always loved the word freedom. It’s a strong word that evokes much emotion for me. Though freedom equates to rights, those rights come with much responsibility. That’s a hard concept for kids to grasp. In the story, Bobby is free to be whom he wants and he chooses to be a bully. Jake has the freedom to defend Sam. But, both of these roles come with responsibility and both, ultimately, have consequences. This is the part that Jake struggles with the most. If Bobby hits Sam, Bobby deserves to be hit in return, but all this does is get Jake in more trouble. He can’t see the fine line between standing up for what he believes in, yet finding a way to do that peacefully—finding a way to do it that won’t get him in trouble. How does this relate to war? If terrorists attack our country, is it okay to attack them back? When does defense cross the line? Is it better to find another way to solve the problem? These are all questions the book raises, and questions to be considered when freedom is discussed. I hope teachers, parents, and/or librarians will talk about this with kids as they read the book.              Kerry Offiicial Author Photo copy

You can reach Kerry at:
Twitter @KerryOCerra Website is: http://www.kerryomalleycerra.com

Just a Drop of Water:   Kirkus calls the book:
“A perceptive exploration of an event its audience already sees as history.”
“…the supplemental material middle-grade history teachers are looking for…”

Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart—and outrun—the rival cross country team, Palmetto Ridge. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens. It’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.
According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. But the final blow comes when his grandpa’s real past is revealed to Jake. Suddenly, everything he ever knew to be true feels like one big lie. In the end, he must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.
A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.
You can now pre-order my book from these locations:
Amazon / IndieBound / Barnes & Nobel / Book A Million / Powell’s Books

 


4 Comments on Interview With Kerry O’Malley Cerra: MG Author, last added: 9/3/2014
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24. Three Acting Tips for Writing with Emotion by Marcie Colleen

headshotby Marcie Colleen

“Show, don’t tell.”

We hear this all of the time. Yet, many writers struggle with this very idea.

Writers like to research. We travel to faraway places, we talk with people who live there. We look through old files and photographs. We mine our memories for tidbits and call upon our imagination to fill in the rest.

We stay cerebral.

But this is where we fail ourselves. This is where we fail our readers.

We all want to write books that make people feel, but in order to do that—we must feel first. We must cry. We must get angry. We must laugh. We must fall in love. We must face fear.

But to achieve true emotion with our words, we need to get out of our heads and tune into our guts.

To do this, I like to call upon the actor’s craft.

Here are 3 tips to get out of your writer’s head and write from the gut.

diary

  1. Keep an Emotion Diary.
    An actor knows that whatever happens to them in life is fodder for their craft. Even at a moment of extreme heartbreak, an actor knows, “I can use this.” Observe yourself on a daily basis. How are you feeling? Don’t detail the situations that are happening to you, but write down what an emotion feels like physically. Tune into your hands, your chest, your legs, and your jaw. These are places we hold emotion.
  2. Be emotional.
    An actor practices playing with emotion. They take the time to experiment in order to better know how to portray it when the time comes. Much like a yogi will hold a pose to build strength, actors practice holding emotion in their bodies to gain emotional fluency. Refer back to your Emotion Diary to remember how a certain emotion manifests in your body. Soak in it. Go about some daily tasks while in this emotional state. (Although keep these tasks solo. You are working on craft here, not ruining relationships and getting a reputation. Hint: scrubbing the tub while angry is amazing!) Observe how the emotion affects your movement and your actions. Of course, when play time is done, find ways to unwind…we don’t want you to end up a basket case.
  3. Embrace the First Person.
    An actor walks in the shoes of others to learn to live in their moments. They speak directly from the mouth, the heart, the gut of the very person they are performing. Spend some time pretending to be your character. You can go through the same emotional practice you did in the previous step, but this time with your character’s situation in mind.

Take your character to the most heightened moment in this emotion. How do they react? Write a letter or a diary entry as your character while holding this emotion. Or create audio or video as your character. Abandon flowery metaphor and other authorly devices for the time being and speak raw, from your character’s gut. You might be surprised what you learn.

It is so easy to fall into summarizing a scene instead of delving in and living each moment. Maybe as writers we prefer to play God and observe the tough situations from afar. It’s more pleasant to be omnipresent than personally absorbed.

But when we learn to write from the gut, our hands may tremble with each keystroke, a lump might form in our throat, tears might well. It’s not always comfortable. Yet it is essential that we learn to breathe life into each moment, so that the very DNA of our story can breathe on the page and fill the lungs of every reader it touches. This is the essence of “show, don’t tell.” In fact, it takes the idea one step further.

“Be, don’t show.”

marcieBefore Marcie Colleen was a picture book writer, she was a former actress, director and theatre educator. In her 15 year career, Marcie worked within the classroom, as well as on Regional, Off-Broadway and Broadway stages. Formerly the Director of Education for TADA! Youth Theater, she also worked for Syracuse Stage, Camp Broadway, the Metropolitan School for the Arts, and Tony Randall’s National Actors Theater. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and Theater from Oswego State University and a Masters degree in Educational Theater from NYU. She has taught theater workshops in the UK and throughout the US, including Alaska.

Marcie’s From the Gut: An Acting for Writers Workshop (being held on September 14th at NJ-SCBWI) helps writers get out of their heads. Her up-on-your-feet techniques feature acting and writing exercises to tap into raw emotion. Through guided practice, writers learn to breathe life into the voice of every character. Time is spent exploring, playing and simply “being” emotion while learning how to transfer the discoveries onto the page in a way that creates immediacy and authenticity for the reader. Participants are given tools to deepen their writing through voice and movement even when alone in their writing caves.

Visit Marcie at www.thisismarciecolleen.com.


12 Comments on Three Acting Tips for Writing with Emotion by Marcie Colleen, last added: 9/5/2014
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25. Poetry Challenge

Joy Acey (of Poetry for Kids fame) has issued a challenge to write your own riddle-poem. You can see the challenge here: http://poetryforkidsjoy.blogspot.com/2014/09/riddle-poem.html#comment-form I wrote several food-riddle poems a few years ago, but I’m going to post a fresh one below.   It’sNotDessert You can wrap me in bacon, or roll me in sugar… But…

4 Comments on Poetry Challenge, last added: 9/6/2014
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