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1. ‘The News Sorority’ Tells the Story of Female TV News Anchors

In her new book, Shelia Weller tells the triumphant story of how leading female TV news reporters Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Christiane Amanpour achieved success.

The story reveals how these women climbed the ladder to success and uncovers rivalries in the newsroom. The Daily Beast has published some highlights from the book, which is not without its tawdry rumors.

For instance, this excerpt: “When Diane beat Katie on an interview with a 57-year-old woman who’d given birth to twins, Katie mused aloud, according to a person who heard the comment: ‘I wonder who she blew this time to get it.’”

 

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2. From the Heartland: Mari Evans

thMari Evans was born in Toledo in 1923. I first encountered her works while in college. I needed a poem and, there she was. Upon discovering that Evans shared my hometown, I tucked her in my memories. After all, who in the world is from Toledo??

Like me, most know Evans as a poet. Her poetry is accessible to almost grown to full grown.

 

Where Have You Gone by Mari Evans
Where have you gone
with your confident
 walk with 
your crooked smile
why did you leave 
me
when you took your 
laughter
and departed
are you aware that 
with you
 went the sun
all light
and what few stars 
there were?
where have you gone
with your confident 
walk
your 
crooked smile
the 
rent money 
in one pocket
and 
my heart 
in another . . .

And, her poetry is timeless

We have screamed
and we have filled our lungs
with revolutionary rhetoric
We sing
the sorrow songs and march
chest tight and elbows
locked
yes
We have learned to mourn
Our martyrs and our children
murdered by our Greater Love
and strewn
like waste before our pious disbelief
What tremors stay our heads?
The monster still contains us!
There is no better time no
Futuretime
      (from “The Time is Now”)

Evans often visited Indianapolis as a child and moved to the city in the late 1960s to serve as writer in residence at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). Shortly after her arrival, she became the writer, producer and director of the television show “The Black Experience”. Evans writes about her experiences in and with the city in her essay “Ethos and Creativity: The Impulse as Malleable” (1989).  She describes with vivid examples what it is to be Black in Indiana. She writes of an attitude I’ve heard people from outside Indiana try to explain.

“Many Black folk thought of Indianapolis as urban, “up South.” It was better than being “down South,” but it retained many of the negative propositions of the deep South, and was not yet as enlightened or “progressive” as its West or East Coast counterparts. Conservatism and racism were alive and compatible.

To our discredit there is, even today, an amazing retention of that early sensibility. It is expressed, however, with much more class, much more élan, and many Black folk are so enthralled by the smiles they do not read the eyes nor understand psychological “locking out.”

Not too enthralled though, to not be angry even then at police shootings of young black men and at economic racism.

As a prominent member of the Indianapolis Black arts community, her memories are of a thriving Indiana Avenue, then the heart of the city’s black community and she grieves the impact of the destruction of the surrounding area on the black community. Evans writes of few opportunities for black artists in the city and understands why many leave.

Evans also taught at Purdue, Washington University, Cornell and the State University of New York. Her poetry collections include Night Star, Where is the Music and I am a Black Woman. Her children’s books include Dear Corinne, Tell Somebody! Love, Annie, A Book About Secrets; Jim Flying High and J.D.+-+64527191_140

In 2006, Evans published her first YA novel, I’m Late: The Story of Lanesse and Moonlight and Alisha Who Didn’t Have Anyone of Her Own.

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 1.46.51 PM

 

They need something to believe in
the young
a joy exploding an
ecstatic peace to hide them in
a strengthening

They must leap miles into the stratosphere
clicking heels
and a half gainor backwards
free fall
We have taken the gods of Big
Bethel Mount Pilgrim and
Blessed assurance and walked
just part of the Way
with Damballa
Go on and do it Jim, we said
Boogalooing in the other direction

They need something to believe in
the young
That is only part of the truth
They need a map and a guide
to the interior

If we have the Word let us
say it
If we have the Word let us
Be it
If we have the Word let us
DO
They need something to believe in


Filed under: Authors, Uncategorized Tagged: african american, Indiana YA author, indianapolis, Mari Evans

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3. Sherman Alexie & Jess Walter to Host a Weekly Podcast

Two writers, Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter, plan to launch a podcast called “A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment.”

The premiere podcast was unleashed on August 25th and it contains two episodes. Followers can expect a new one to be released every other Wednesday. Every now and then, the writers will share readings from their work-in-progress manuscripts.

Here’s more from The L.A. Times: “The show comes from Infinite Guest, a new podcast network from American Public Media…Basketball and other sports will be discussed on the show — slightly unusual for a literary podcast. They’ll be interviewing literary figures and also people with lives that aren’t connected to books.”

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4. Mostly Ghostly R. L. Stine

R. L. Stine, Goosebumps authorMeet Goosebumps author R. L. StineGoosebumps

 series by R. L. Stine. The movie, out on Blu-ray and DVD on September 2nd, stars Bella Thorne (from Shake It Up), Calum Worthy (from Austin & Ally), Madison Pettis, Roshon Fegan, and Ryan Ochoa.  Ryan plays Max, a boy who’s finally gotten his crush Cammy (played by Bella) to go with him on a date. What could possibly go wrong? Well, when evil ghosts, ghouls, and other sinisters creatures get involved, a LOT does. It’s up to Max and his ghostly friends Tara (played by Madison) and Nicky (played by Roshon) to set things right in time for Max’s big date on Halloween!

Read what R. L. Stine has to say . . .

Q: Max loves magic. Did you like magic when you were a kid?Q: Did you believe in ghosts when you were a kid?Bella Thorn, Madison Pettis, and Roshon Fegan in Mostly Ghostly

Bella Thorn, Madison Pettis, and Roshon Fegan in Mostly Ghostly

Q: Did you discuss the movie with the cast? 

R. L. Stine: I read the script and gave the writers and producers some notes, but I never get very involved with the films and TV shows based on my books. I know that my job is to write books. I leave the movies and TV shows to the professionals. And it’s worked out pretty well.

Q: Do you have a favorite book that you wrote?

R. L. Stine: I am best known for books that are scary and funny. But what I really love most is the funny stuff. That’s why I love Mostly Ghostly: it has as many laughs as gasps. My favorite Goosebumps books are the ones with funny characters like Slappy the Dummy and Murder the Clown.

Q: What is your real-life favorite book?Q: What’s your advice to a kid who would like to become a writer?upcoming Goosebumps movie

! What do you think? Are you going to see Mostly Ghostly: Have You Met My Ghoulfriend? Are you a fan of the book series? Share your thoughts in the Comments below!

image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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5. New Neil Gaiman Short Story Collection to Be Released in 2015

Author Neil Gaiman has been working on an anthology called Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. William Morrow, a HarperCollins imprint, will release the book on February 03, 2015.

Gaiman revealed on his Tumblr page that he is “finishing the very last short story of the next collection RIGHT NOW. Everything else has been written: the stories, the introduction, all that…” What do you think?

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6. From the Heartland: Ashley Hope Perez

Some places come into your life, others for a season. These places give us different lessons and memories that come often come back to haunt us in one way or another. Will the ghosts of Indiana end up in any of Ashley Hope 2012AuthorPhoto-360x441Perez’s books? Who knows! Perhaps she was too busy during with school work during her time here that she didn’t get to experience Hoosier Hospitality to its fullest. Somehow, I doubt that. As you read through Ashley’s interview, you’ll realize that she engages with people, landscapes and histories. She wasn’t in Indiana very long, but long enough to claim her as an Indiana author. Her books bring the Latino experience to young adult literature. Her books include The Knife and the Butterfly (February 2012) and What Can’t Wait (2011), both from CarolRhoda Lab. Out of Darkess (CarolRhoda Lab) will be out in 2015.

Where did you grow up?

In Kilgore, Texas, which is about two hours east of Dallas and about an hour west of the Louisiana border. It’s an area known for friendly people, lots of churches, and miles and miles of pine trees. Also for its oil fields. My third novel, Out of Darkness, is the first I’ve ever set near where I grew up, and I suppose the seed for it came when I was a little kid. My dad would sometimes take my brother and me on veterinary calls, and I remember him pointing out the place in New London, Texas, where a school exploded killing almost two hundred children in 1937. That historical event is central to the story of Out of Darkness, although I made almost everything else up.

What were some of the first books you found as a child that turned you into a reader?

I was an early and eager reader, so I can’t really remember a time before I loved books. My older brother and I spent most of our summer mornings at the library near my dad’s clinic. Some of my childhood favorites include the original The Boxcar Children novel and Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family stories, which are about a large Jewish family with many daughters. Even after I “graduated” to longer books, I still enjoyed lingering over the beautiful illustrations in Ezra Jack Keats books, and I remember being fascinated and a little scared by Chris Van Allsburg’s books, many of which didn’t have any words at all. One of my favorite things about being a mom is rediscovering the world of picture books. My son’s favorite lately is The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez by René Colato Laínez. El Ratón Pérez is the mouse that collects teeth (like the tooth fairy) in Mexico and many other Latin American countries. Besides the obvious appeal of seeing his own last name on the cover and sharing a middle name (Miguel) with the boy in the book, my son loved the beautiful illustrations and humor of the story.

Meat or vegetables?

Both! I was mostly vegetarian until I was pregnant with my son, but something changed then. Now I have come to enjoy pulled pork, bacon, and carne asada on occasion. I’m still perfectly happy to eat vegetarian most of the time, though, and roasted kale and sweet potatoes are ridiculously close to chocolate on my comfort food list.

Which famous person would you most like to have write a review for your book?

Hmmm… there are some famous people I’d love to have read my books (hi, Oprah!), but I’ve never thought about picking a reviewer.

What three things would you like to add to a list of national treasures?

I’d start with oral histories from “ordinary” black and Latino Texans prior to the Civil Rights Era. I’d also want to preserve gospel and folk music. I got a little silly in the post office recently when I discovered a new postage stamp featuring Lydia Mendoza, a San Antonio music legend who was gaining popularity around the time when my main character in Out of Darkness moves with her twin brother and sister from San Antonio to East Texas.

What book(s) are you currently in the middle of reading?

I am one of those people who always has a few books going at any given time. I just started re-reading The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, which has long been a favorite of mine. I’m also reading Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian, and a collection of stories by David James Poissant.

How did your writing career begin?

+-+149293101_70I was fortunate to have several professors encourage me during my college years, but I became a writer because I found my audience. This happened when I started teaching English and ESL at Chávez High School in Houston. Besides meeting all the standards and getting my students ready to have a serious chance at completing college, I wanted them to discover the pleasure of reading, a notion that was pretty foreign to most of my students. As my kids told me about what did or didn’t engage them, I learned that many of them felt “their story” was missing from the library shelves. My first novel, What Can’t Wait, incorporates many of the stories they shared with me, and I finished the first draft just in time to give it to my last group of students (all seniors) for graduation. My students were my first readers, and their excitement still tops every success I’ve had since.  

How do you hope your writing engages young people?

I come at the idea of engagement from two main directions. First, I strive for authenticity, a goal that’s especially important when exploring experiences that have largely been relegated to the sidelines of +-+554058792_70literature. When describing immigrant family life or gang culture, for example, that means walking the none-too-clear line between realism and what might seem like stereotype. I want readers who recognize the world of one of my books to find that how I portray that world rings true. Second, I think about how I can invite all readers into the book, even (or especially) if their life is completely different. That’s been crucial to my efforts to write a novel set in the past. It matters to me that it be gripping to contemporary readers from all backgrounds.

Out of Darkness is due next year from Carolrhoda Lab. You wrote it while completing your PhD. Any tips on time management?

Be sure to sleep. It sounds obvious, but often when we’re overtaxed, we think that stealing hours from sleep will help us get more done. In the end, it only sabotages the next day’s productivity. Also, map out goals week by week and month by month. I also make a semester plan and a five-year plan. Although achieving a goal often takes longer than we expect, putting it down on paper brings us a smidge closer to making the daily choices that will turn the goal into a reality.

Why did you write Out of Darkness? What story did you want to tell?

I already mentioned the school explosion, which is central to the novel. But it’s about much more. At the heart of the novel are questions about who can love whom and how and where certain kinds of love are possible. Quite a bit has been written about interracial romances between white and black characters—Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez offers a fascinating and original take—but there is very little exploration of relationships between black and Latina/o characters during the Jim Crow era. That was one story I wanted to tell, and I also wanted to incorporate glimpses into the tripartite segregation system present in Texas, a system that separated children into white, “colored,” and “Mexican” schools. Hard things happened during these times, and some people would prefer for the sins of the past to remain hidden. It’s a protective impulse, but ultimately we have to face what our community has been if we are to have any hope of forging something better in the future. That said, I hope that my tenderness toward East Texas comes through in the novel.  

There are a few weeks of summer left. I hope you’re able to relax and enjoy them! Thanks!

 


Filed under: Authors, Interview Tagged: Ashley Hope Perez, Indiana YA author

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7. Fantasy Authors Take On the Ice Bucket Challenge

Coraline author Neil Gaiman was challenged by his wife, musician Amanda Palmer, to take on the #IceBucketChallenge. The video embedded above features Gaiman performing the act with assistance from a group of friends.

In addition to having a bucket of ocean water and ice thrown over his head, Gaiman names a new set of challengers that includes A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin. Gaiman calls Martin a “murderer of characters.”

(more…)

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8. David Sedaris Shares Photo of Hugh

Author David Sedaris has been writing about his partner Hugh Hamrick for years. In a recent column penned for The Guardian, Sedaris has published a photo of Hamrick, alongside a new story about his partner of 23 years.

In the story The One that Got Away, Sedaris decides to ask Hamrick for the first time, how many people he’d slept with before they became a couple.

Here is an excerpt from the piece:

Every man ticked off on his fingers was someone I’d been compared to at one point or another, not overtly – he’s anything but cruel – but surely it happened. Someone kissed better than me. Someone had more stamina, a more seductive voice. I’m confident enough to compete against a dozen of his exes, but he was moving on to the population of a small town.

 

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9. There is No Schedule

DSC_0660

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know my friend  J. Anderson Coats says a lot of things that resonate with me. She’s the one who gave me my favorite piece of writing advice and came up with that great cow-through-a-colander writing metaphor.

During a recent email exchange with my Class of 2k12 friends, Jillian shared this:

A writing career is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. You’re not on a schedule. There is no schedule.

That first part, I’ve probably heard it a thousand times. But the second part? It felt like a revelation. It’s true that when you’re on deadline you most certainly have a schedule, but otherwise, the writing life is wide open.

So you know what?

  • If there’s no schedule, someone else isn’t going to beat you to the punch. What you’re working on now will not somehow be replaced by someone else’s (faster) efforts.
  • The market isn’t in charge of your story. You are.
  • For you published folks, you will not be forgotten if you somehow don’t get to keep some “regular” publishing schedule. Yes, your readers might age out, as they say, but there are always new readers to take their place and earlier books to introduce readers to the new ones, whenever they happen to be published.
  • Unless you’re contractually committed, you can write whatever you want whenever you want.
  • And there’s what author/illustrator Ruth McNally Barshaw (my niece’s former Girl Scout leader!) posted on Facebook a few days ago:

Repeated themes I heard at the writer-illustrator conference in LA: Slow down. Take time to do your best work. When you think it’s done, set it aside to assess again later. Build on what you borrow. Be courageous — do work you find important, no matter what others say. LIVE so you’ll have a rich portfolio of experiences to draw and write from. What gets your next book published isn’t luck, desperation, a magic shortcut, or networking with stars; it’s your hard work, your being ready to jump at sudden opportunities, and your connections with friends. #SCBWI14

Here’s to approaching your writing with freedom in the days ahead!

 

 

 

The post There is No Schedule appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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10. David Gregory is Working on a Book

Journalist David Gregory may be out at Meet the Press, but he’s not out of work. According to reports, he is working on a book. Unlike many journalist memoirs, the book will not focus on Gregory’s career. Instead it will focus on his religious life.

TV Newser has more: “Gregory and publisher Simon & Schuster have reportedly been working on the book since 2011 that will focus on his ‘personal faith and the spiritual journey people take in their lives.’”

The book is slated for release in 2015.

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11. Anna Shinoda: ‘Time away from a manuscript always gives me a better perspective for editing.’

Anna Shinoda devoted several years to her debut young adult novel, Learning Not to Drown. The story was influenced by Shinoda’s personal experiences with having an incarcerated sibling. We spoke with Shinoda to learn her thoughts on research, crafting realistic characters, and more. Here are the highlights…

Q: How did you land your book deal?
A: During SCBWI’s annual summer conference, I had manuscripts nominated for their Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award in both 2004 and 2006. While those nominations did not directly get me a book deal, they did lead to a connection with Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary, who became my agent in 2006. In late 2008, after several rejections, Jennie called with the news that Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum was interested. I signed the contract and somewhere between my agent’s office and Caitlyn’s office, the contract got lost. Fortunately, when the mistake was caught a few months later, Caitlyn was still very much wanting to acquire the book.

(more…)

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12. Dan Santat Completes the Ice Bucket Challenge

Dan Santat, a children’s books author and illustrator, has completed the #IceBucketChallenge. The video embedded above features Santat performing the activity in support of the ALS Association.

Before dousing himself with the ice water, Santat requested two colleagues, Jarrett J. Krosoczka and Jenni Holm, and the Sesame Street character Elmo follow in his footsteps. Which writers would you nominate to pick up this challenge? (via Dan Santat’s Facebook page)

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13. Jarrett J. Krosoczka On Finding Inspiration in a School Cafeteria

Where do you find inspiration? For Jarrett J. Krosoczka, his imagination was sparked during a nostalgic trip back to his old school cafeteria and a chance meeting with his lunch lady Jeannie.

In a talk delivered at TED@NYC, Krosoczka shared the story of how he conceived the Lunch Lady graphic novel series and launched School Lunch Hero Day. We’ve embedded the full presentation in the video above.

Last year, Krosoczka gave a heartwarming talk at TEDx Hampshire College about how writing and art saved his life in grade school. According to the TED blog, Krosoczka prepared this particular talk in less than 4 hours.

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14. Classroom Connections: I HEART BAND by Michelle Schusterman + Giveaway

age range: middle grade
setting: middle school band
genre: contemporary fiction
Michelle Schusterman’s website

Fellow band geeks will be thrilled to see themselves in Holly and nonmusicians will appreciate the world of music. A sweet debut.
–School Library Journal

Please tell us about your book.

I HEART BAND is a middle grade series about a seventh grader named Holly who’s pretty obsessed with being first chair French horn in band. Unfortunately, she’s got a rival in new girl Natasha, who’s not only a talented horn player, but spent all summer at band camp bonding with Holly’s best friend, Julia. Band might be a competition, but friendship isn’t, and Holly needs to figure it out before she loses Julia for good.

What inspired you to write this story?

Actually, I was commissioned to write this series. My editor, Jordan Hamessley, is a self-proclaimed band geek from Texas, just like me. She came up with the idea for the series, I wrote the outlines, and we went from there!

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

I was in band from third grade through high school, got my bachelor’s degree in music education, and was a middle and high school band director in Texas for four years…pretty extensive “research” for this series! I had plenty of anecdotes and experiences to draw from when I wrote these books. And of course, my editor had lots of stories about her own time in band too. For each book, we started by meeting for lunch and brainstorming ideas. Because the series progresses throughout Holly’s seventh grade year, there were certain markers we knew we had to hit – all-region auditions, holiday concerts, solo and ensemble contest, the band trip…

After brainstorming, I’d write an outline, my editor would make changes or suggestions, then I’d write the first draft and we’d go from there.

What are some special challenges associated with writing middle grade?

I think one of the hardest things about writing humorous MG is that the humor has to be authentic or kids just won’t buy it. In other words, I can’t sound like a thirty-something year old trying to sound like a seventh grader. My teaching experience definitely came in handy here – lots of time spent listening to how kids talk and joke around. But I’ll definitely catch examples of “trying too hard to be funny” in my drafts during revisions.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

One comment I’ve been seeing a lot in reviews is how I HEART BAND emphasizes the importance of music education in schools. Throughout the series, Holly and her friends learn not just about music, but how to work together to achieve goals and how to handle winning and losing with grace. There’s also an emphasis on friendships, which often go through a lot of change and strain during adolescence.

Giveaway

Michelle is giving away signed copies of books 1 and 2 for one lucky winner. To enter, simply leave a comment below, sharing a memory from your middle school years. US residents only, please. Contest closes Saturday, August 23.

 

 

 

 

 

The post Classroom Connections: I HEART BAND by Michelle Schusterman + Giveaway appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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15. German Authors Unite Against Amazon

German-language writers have joined their English-language counterparts and organized a protest against Amazon.

More than 1,000 authors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have come together to challenge Amazon for hurting authors in its negotiations with the Bonnier Group. In a letter addressed to readers and Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, writers have accused Amazon of not carrying popular books as a result of dispute. In addition, they claim that Amazon has manipulated recommendation lists at the expense of their books.

“We authors are of the opinion that no book seller hinder or even customers should discourage the purchase of books selling books,” reads the letter (translated in Google). “Amazon has no right,  to take ‘into jail,’ a group of authors, which is not involved in the conflict. On top of that a book seller should not inform its own clients incorrectly or hinder their purchases by artificially extended delivery times.” (Via The New York Times).

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16. Lindsay Lohan Says Memoir Will Be a Trilogy

Actress Lindsay Lohan is working on her memoir and she expects the story to be delivered as a three-part volume.

The book will be based on her journals, which she has been keeping since she was a child actor. In the book, she’ll talk about her family issue and drug problems, as well as work she has done with girls in India.

“I would never write to violate someone else or objectify them, that’s not my intention,” The Mean Girls star told MailOnline. “I like to write because it’s like therapy for me. I want to put a lot of photos and cool stuff, it will probably be like a trilogy, like Harry Potter because there’s so many.”

Lohan did not reveal if she was working with a publisher on the project. Lohan herself is the subject of two books. The Lindsay Lohan Story by Ally Croft and Lindsay Lohan: Talented and Troubled by Meredith Miller.

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17. Lauren Oliver Launches the Ghostly Goodreads Challenge

Writer Lauren Oliver has launched the Ghostly Goodreads Challenge in honor of her forthcoming novel, Rooms.

Every time ten bibliophiles add Rooms to their Goodreads shelf, Oliver tweets out a new section of an original ghost story. She will continue writing this ghost story until Ecco releases Rooms on September 23, 2014.

Thus far, Oliver has unleashed more than twenty sections of her story. Readers can follow along with the hashtag #ghostlygoodreads.

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18. X-Files Star Gillian Anderson Has Written a Sci-Fi Novel

X-Files star Gillian Anderson has teamed up with author Jeff Rovin to write her first book.

A Vision of Fire is a sci-fi novel about single mom, child psychiatrist Caitlin O’Hara whose world is turned upside down when her teen client starts speaking in tongues. Simon & Schuster is releasing the title in October, but has made an excerpt available through the Simon451 Fall 2014 Preview Sampler.

Check it out: “It was an unseasonably warm October morning, better suited for a stroll than a stride, but Ganak Pawar and his daughter maintained their usual quick pace up the East Side of Manhattan.”

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19. Ursula Le Guin & Michael Cunningham Talk Genre in New Interview

There is an arbitrary division between “literature” and “genre,” according to legendary sci-fi author Ursula Le Guin.

In a new interview with Le Guin conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Cunningham, produced by Diversion Books and Electric Literature, Le Guin explores this idea.

“There are very real differences between science fiction and realistic fiction, between horror and fantasy, between romance and mystery,” she said. “Differences in writing them, in reading them, in criticizing them. Vive les différences! They’re what gives each genre its singular flavor and savor, its particular interest for the reader—and the writer.” You can read the entire interview at this link and take advantage of the half priced eBook edition of The Lathe of Heaven by Le Guin.

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20. Straight From the Source: Michele L. Hathaway on Writing Historical Fiction

Michele L. Hathaway has an M.A. in Social Anthropology and is a freelance editor and writer. Her stories are in various stages of emergence.

What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?

My stories vary tremendously, but at their core is a love of culture, past, present, and even mythical. The era and story idea come first, the characters emerge later to make the culture come alive. Sometimes the landscape is the starting point. This is the case for the Navajo stories I am writing. I spent quite a bit of time in the North American Southwest as a child and an adult, so it occupies a large swath of my inner landscape. I feel more alive here than anywhere else on the planet. Sometimes I am captivated by an entire era, such as the first 400 years A.D. of Mediterranean history, along with key historical figures from this period. Then again, I have a story idea that takes my characters around the modern day world, but the research involved with getting these cultures right is almost identical to historical research.

How do you conduct your research?

At the beginning of a project, especially one where I don’t have a large body of knowledge already in place, I’m like a child at a carnival. I careen from one amusement to another until I find myself breathless at the top of the Ferris wheel. From here I look down on the whole journey. When I get back to earth I filling in the blank spaces on a need-to-know basis.

If you are wondering what I’m talking about, here’s the general plan: I go to the library and load up on as many books as I can get my hands on. I scan these, usually finding I am attracted to some more than others. Resources that are most helpful I might buy so I can mark them up and keep them near for reference. I copy the bibliographies of the most helpful to see what inspired the author, where their research originated. I’ve found gems this way. From there I follow trails that branch further and further. If a source is mentioned by several authors, I look at that. I never stop researching, I always have a book or two going as I write. This keeps me in the story, inspires, guides, and corrects. One thing to be aware of is new research coming out. Since I began my Navajo stories, I’ve found a few new books that are gems. So check back with your library from time to time.

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Do you have a specific system for collecting data?

No unless you count the carnival method mentioned above, and the aftermath.

What kinds of sources do you use? 

I use any and all resources that apply. I use books, the Internet, travel, experts and interviews. Books may include academic, historical fiction, and picture books. Picture books should not be underestimated. They are great for researching folk tales and imprinting visual details. When I was researching for a forest fire scene, I needed the photos to help me with concrete details.

The Internet is also helpful for visual images as well as hunting down an obscure fact, like the name of the owner of the Thunderbird Trading Post in 1945—Leon Hugh “Cozy” McSparron, by the way. I couldn’t have thought up a better name. Sometimes you need to hear coyote song or the crackle of a forest fire, or see Mexicans harvesting vanilla beans, or Navajos playing string games.

If I find a book that does more than inform, but inspires, I contact the author. This has led to great help and a friendship or two. You’ll find that people who are passionate about their topic are happy to talk about it.

Finally, if I can, I travel and observe the setting of my novel first hand, be it Navajoland or Egypt—what a great excuse to travel, eh?

At what point do you feel comfortable beginning to draft? How does your research continue
once you begin writing?

An author, whose name escapes me, once said, “Write sooner than you think you can.” When I feel, not quite saturated, but too impatient to wait any longer, I begin. Usually my characters are coming alive within the history, the culture, the landscape, or the myth. I write until I find a hole in my knowledge. Then I stop and research until that hole is filled. I continue on as quickly as I can. When I find new information, I add that or rewrite if I need a course correction.
What is your favorite thing about research?

I love to learn new things, and I love to put these things into the framework of a story. Writing historical fiction allows me to be a perpetual graduate student without the exams—the book is my thesis. I haven’t graduated yet, but I can see the day, shimmering in the distance.

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What’s your least favorite thing about research?

I wonder if I have done enough, if I am missing something important. I don’t have time to read every book cover to cover, so I worry that I have missed something. Or missed the “right” book.

What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?

Studying history is time travel. I am transported to places and times I can’t go to any other way. It is one of the most thrilling rides of my life.

What are some obstacles writing historical fiction brings?

I believe the most difficult thing about writing historical fiction is getting the psychology of the period right. It is easy to fall into the trap of dressing a modern American in a toga and calling him a typical Roman. Critics will jump all over that. As they should. A 1940’s Navajo girl in boarding school will not talk back to her teacher, no matter how spunky she is. A Greek-Egyptian Boy from 345 AD is probably not going to see slavery as extreme injustice. Making your story true yet accessible to modern readers is tricky. Check out Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book for a good example of grasping the psychology of medieval England. (warning—this is a devastating book, a Hugo-Nebula Award Winning, wonderful, devastating book. I love it.)

Sometimes it is helpful to read a stratified selection for research. Read writers from as many decades or centuries as you can find to help off-set bias. This is complex and yet fascinating. The reality is there is no way to see history through a pure lens. We bring ourselves, our culture, our social bias to any historical interpretation. We have to do our best here. We have to work hard, work honestly, write the truest story we can.

What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?

Wow! It is hard to pick one and hard to think of one, because at some point the research goes internal and becomes a part of me, transforms me. I can think of one or two things that stand out though. One is the complexity and beauty of Navajo myth and legend. We hear so much about Greek and Roman myth, but have no idea how deep and interwoven Native American literature is with history, culture, creativity, beauty. I could go on and on. Part of why I write these stories is to share this body of wonderful literature.

Has your research ever affected the overall trust of your book? How so?

My research has shown me where I have gone off track, but most often where I need more depth. I find the feedback from “experts” most helpful. Research has not caused me to have to abandon the work, rather it provides course corrections and transforms it, always transforms it, so that I am following a truer path. Not a perfect path. Not a path everyone will agree with, but a truer path. And that is the best all of us can do.

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Because life isn’t always clear cut, the motives behind our actions don’t always make sense. But stories need to follow a logical path. What sorts of decisions have you had to make about “muddy” historical figures or events in order for your book to work?

When retelling myth, there are almost always different versions of the story because it is from oral tradition. At some point, the writer of fiction has to choose one version (or even blend versions, which does not change the truth of the story, but that is another topic). For example, in Navajo legend, the Hero Twins are sometimes born of one woman, or sometimes they were born of two women but are still twins. This does not present a problem for the Navajo, but the rest of the world can’t reconcile the dissonance. To avoid confusion, I have chosen to have them both born of one woman.

If a historical figure is famous enough, there will be problems. No question. One of mine is a saint. He is revered by millions. I cannot presume to write a biography; few are qualified to attempt it. Therefore, I am writing about him through the eyes of a young protagonist. This way the story is about the boy, but I can open a window on this amazing historical figure, allow for his flaws, but not presume to offer a complete biography.

Why is historical fiction important?

Historical fiction is not only important, it is fantastically important. It is obviously important for its historical content, but there is so much more. I believe, historical fiction is a safe environment to explore modern issues. For children this is critical. Because the story is set in another time, it is not so close that it generates anxiety, but it brings up situations and issues children may have to deal with now or in the future—a sick sibling, an absent father, or even the trauma of war. All of this can provide them with tools to help them cope with their situation, help them discover who they are and who they want to become.

One day I was on a bus driving along the waterfront in Alexandria, Egypt. Two women in head scarves were sitting on the sea wall talking while their toddlers played nearby. It struck me in that moment, in that one scene as the bus sped by, that I was more like them than I was different. They were two friends, with children, having a chat. I’ve been there. They are me and I am them. I’d like others to see the world that way. That we are more alike than we are different.

 

 

The post Straight From the Source: Michele L. Hathaway on Writing Historical Fiction appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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21. Authors Unite in Full Page NY Times Ad Against Amazon

More than 900 authors including Stephen King, Malcolm Gladwell and Suzanne Collins have signed a letter calling readers to email Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and ask him to end the company’s dispute with Hachette.

“We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without further hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers,” reads the letter published under the name Authors United.

The anti-Amazon letter ran as a full page ad in The New York Times yesterday. The ad campaign was spearheaded by thriller author Douglas Preston. Here is more from the letter: (more…)

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22. Naomi Klein’s New Book Trailer

Author Naomi Klein, best known for the 2000 book No Logo, has a new book out about the impact of climate change on our economy called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.

In the book, Klein argues that climate change is “an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways.”

Simon & Schuster has created a trailer for the book. We have embedded the video above for you to explore further.

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23. Surrounded by Sharks

Surrounded by Sharks

Top 5 things I learned while writing Surrounded by Sharks (for ages 12 and up)

By Michael Northrop

I’ve always been fascinated by sharks and have been a devoted viewer of Shark Week

since it first aired in 1987, but even I was surprised by some of the things I discovered when I waded into the research for my latest book.
  1. Sharks are nature’s true smelling machines. Unlike bloodhounds and the owners of the world’s other notable noses, sharks don’t breathe through their nostrils. They use them for only one thing: finding food (and, okay, the occasional mate).
  2. Sharks’ senses are all sharp, but the one they use up close is a sort of underwater spider-sense. They can detect even the tiniest electrical charges in the water, as small as five one-billionths of a volt. If a fish swims by, the shark can sense its bioelectric field, each flick of its tail and beat of its heart.
  3. In the book, Davey stays afloat with the help of a discarded water cooler bottle. About ten million tons of plastic make their way into the ocean each year. And, fictional flotation devices aside, they serve absolutely no purpose other than pollution.
  4. The cool stripes that give tiger sharks their name fade out as they reach adulthood. As with humans, it’s the young ones that have all the style!
  5. While sharks get all the attention, riptides are the real killers at the beach. Over the past ten years, rip currents have killed an estimated one hundred people annually in the US alone. That’s more than floods, tornadoes, lightning, or hurricanes. Sharks are responsible for about one fatality every two years, fewer than fireworks, roller coasters, or falling vending machines.

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24. From the Hearltand: Elsa Martson

Considering authors who write about African American, Latino, Arab or Muslim Americans, Native Americans in my state of Indiana has uncovered a true wealth of authors. It’s a bit funny to see such richness in this state when Indiana in YA is usually seen as the last place on earth. But, to those teens who live here, Indiana is the center of the universe. 

Elsa Martson is an Indiana writer who expands the universe of all young readers. She’s very active in the world of YA lit, whether she’s hosting a listserv chat, speaking at a local conference or writing another book that focuses on the people and cultures of the Middle East.Elsa has written over 20 children’s and young adult books including Santa The-Compassionate-Warrior-330Claus in Bahgdad And Other Stories About Teens In the Arab World and Figs and Fate: Stories About Growing Up In the Arab World Today.  Her most recent book, The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria won the following awards. 

  • Co-winner of the 2013 Middle East Book Award for best “Youth Nonfiction”
  • Finalist for 2013 Midwest Books Award in the categories “History” and “Young Adult Non-Fiction”
  • Finalist for 2013 Foreword Review “Book of the Year” Award in the category “Young Adult Nonfiction”
  • 2014 Eric Hoffer Award, First runner-up in the “Culture” category
Later this year, she’ll release The Olive Tree. 
A story for all ages, about how an old olive tree in Lebanon caused conflict–and inspired reconciliation. Based on the author’s award-winning and much reprinted short story. With illustrations by Claire Ewart.
Let’s meet Elsa!

 

Where did you grow up?

I’m a New Englander from way, way back;  I grew up in Newton Centre, Massachusetts; and then my parents moved to a small town on the Massachusetts Dscf0689bw_web-330coast, Duxbury, just north of Plymouth.  It’s a beautiful place, with beaches, marshes, pine woods, and fascinating houses from the 17th-19th centuries.  I still feel steeped in the culture and history of  New England.  One of my current works-in- progress is set on the coast of Maine at the start of the American Revolution.

How did you end up in Indiana?

So I’m not a Hoosier at heart.  But Bloomington has been a great place to live!   I came here with my husband, Iliya Harik, who was Lebanese (I met him when we were students at the American University of Beirut).  He taught Middle East government at Indiana University for his entire career, with occasional leaves overseas. That made it possible for our family to live in such places as Cairo, Beirut, and Tunisia . . . wonderful inspiration for my writing.  But it was always nice to come home to Indiana.  (I have three sons: Ramsay, a secondary-school teacher of religious studies in Austin, Texas—and my first-line reader!  Amahl, proprietor of a fitness-training studio in Providence;  and Raif, a computer guy in Austin.  And grandchildren Savannah, starting health-care studies, and Kahlil, a 2-year-old ball of sunshine.)

What were some of the first books you found as a child that turned you into a reader?

I grew up in a book-filled home—my dad was a professor of English at Northeastern University in Boston—so becoming a reader was as natural for me as loving to climb trees. From my very young childhood I remember Barbar the Elephant, and in grade school I loved the E. Nesbit books and Mary Poppins—delightful blendings of fantasy and realism.

What three things would you like to add to a list of world treasures?

Oh my,  I’ll probably have some brilliant ideas tomorrow—but here’s what I’m thinking today.

The coast of Northern California, for the sheer beauty of its long, wide beaches, golden grass-covered slopes, redwood forests…..

Two or three piano concertos by Mozart—although I dare say he’s already on the list.

The translucent alabaster sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I, every inch covered with tiny hieroglyphs painted  a heavenly blue—for the beauty and sheer amazingness of the thing. (It’s in the Soanes Museum in London.)

What book(s) are you currently reading?

One I read recently that made a big impression on me was Big Fat Disaster by Beth Fehlbaum (Merit Press, 2014).  It’s about a girl in Texas, a compulsive eater, whose dad—a rising politician—has just been hit by scandal;  he abandons the family and they have to move, virtually penniless, to another small town.  So Colby has a lot to feel bad about, and she handles it by gobbling sugar.  What I especially liked  is that Colby is not particularly likable: she’s irritable, irrational.  But we always care about her and hope that eventually she’ll find the strength to become the confident, sympathetic person that’s hiding inside all that baggage. 

When did you realize that you are a writer?

My dad was a writer and a storyteller, who made up bedtime stories for my sister and me.  I think that gave me the idea that I could tell stories, too.   At the age of eight or nine, I started to write two “novels,”  one of them set in ancient Egypt.  Naturally neither got beyond the second page, but I enjoyed them while they lasted.  And discovered, many years later, that my novel The Ugly Goddess, set in a  fascinating period of ancient Egyptian history, was the realization of that very early dream! It may take 40 or 50 years to realize your dreams—but it can happen! 

 

What stories do you most enjoy telling?

I like to tell stories about young people who face challenges or troubles and somehow manage to end up in a better place.  When I started writing, wanting to use the unusual places I’d had a chance to spend time in (Cairo, Carthage, Greek Islands), I wrote rather complicated mystery/adventure stories about young Americans in those settings.  But at a conference the well-known author Avi once told me:  “I think you should write stories that move people.”  I now feel  that the stories in my collection Santa Claus in Baghdad and Other Stories About Teens in the Arab World best express what I want to do and perhaps can do best.  They still have an “exotic” element, being set in a variety of contemporary Arab societies, but my main concern is to depict young people trying to deal with the lives they were given, and make the best of it.

How did you decide to write about the Middle East and North Africa for young adults?

Since early childhood I’ve been intrigued by “other times, other places,” so I always had an international bent.   A Rotary Foundation fellowship took me to the American University of Beirut, and my marriage to the young man I met there—and the combination of his work and my own lifelong interests—led naturally to specializing in that part of the world.

But there’s another reason.  The Arab world is badly misunderstood, rejected, and disparaged in this country—even though Arab-Americans have always been exemplary as an immigrant community.  Since the founding of Israel in the Arab country of Palestine, in 1948, this prejudice has been drastically hardened by political complications, which are harmful not only to Arabs but to the interests of the U.S. and ultimately, I believe, to Israel.  I feel a mission as a writer to counter some of the ignorance and  politically motivated prejudice by presenting the people of the Arab world in ways that Americans can comprehend and relate to sympathetically.

You’ve described the whole Arab/Muslim world as invisible through use of the term “people of of color” and through their lack of representation in children’s literature.  Could you mention a few of the significant events, authors or books in children’s lit relating to books by and featuring Arab/Muslim Americans of which we should be aware?

Until the mid 1990’s there were very, very few books for young people with a positive Arab viewpoint—largely, I firmly believe, because of the prejudice mentioned above.  The door started to open with the publication of two very successful books by an already successful writer, Naomi Shihab Nye:  the novel Habibi and picture book Sitti’s Secrets, both about Palestine.  This showed publishers and writers that it was possible to produce books that give a favorable view of Arabs—without a storm of criticism.  Two other picture books published at about this time, by Florence Parry Heidi and Judith Heidi Gilliland, The Day of Ahmed’s Secret (Egypt) and Sami and the Time of the Troubles (Lebanon), were also important “door openers.” 

Since then, we’ve seen a slow but pretty steady increase in accurate, fair, and sympathetic books about Arabs, by British, American, and Israeli authors.  But very few Arab or Arab-American writers!  Although there are many Arab novelists, poets, and essayists, the idea that literature for children is an important and worthy use of literary talent has been slow to catch on.  Books for kids have been published in Arabic for years in such countries as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Kuwait; but they very rarely attract attention for translation and publication in the U.S.  I keep hoping!

I keep a list of recommended books, mostly fiction, mostly about the Arab world,  which I think is as comprehensive a list as you could find, going back to the 1970s.  I’d be happy to send it electronically to anyone who gets in touch with me  (elsa.marston@gmail.com)   Besides the ones mentioned above, here are some that I especially recommend:

Ibtisam Barakat, Tasting the Sky:  A Palestinian Childhood

Anne Laurel Carter,  The Shepherd’s Granddaughter (Palestine)

Elizabeth Laird, A Little Piece of Ground   (Palestine)

Zeina Abirached, A Game for Swallows  (Lebanon)

Alalou, Elizabeth and Ali, The Butter Man  (Morocco)

Carolyn Marsden,  The White Zone  (Iraq)

Mary Matthews,  Magid Fasts for Ramadan (Egypt)

Jeanette Winter,  The Librarian of Basra  (Iraq)

Randa Abdel-Fattah, Ten Things I Hate About Me;   Does My Head Look Big in This? (Arab-Australians)

Claire Sidhom Matze, The Stars in My Geddoh’s Sky  (Egypt, Egyptian-Americans)

Cathryn Clinton, A Stone in My Hand  (Palestine)

Maha Addasi, The White Nights of Ramadan  (Gulf States)

What does diversity mean to you?

Talking about books, I take diversity to mean inclusion of good books about the Arab/Muslim world!  But of course I would include all cultures and countries—and encouragement of good writing and storytelling, that will hold up well in translation and publication in diverse societies.  I also welcome positive attention to all sorts of human conditions.  It’s wonderful to have books that broaden our understanding and appreciation of different experience—whether social, gender, religious, occupational, or virtually any other walk of life.   

 

 

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Filed under: Authors, Interview Tagged: Arab, Elsa Martson, Heartland, Indiana, interview, Middle Eastern YA Literature, Muslim

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25. Remembering Lauren Bacall Through Her Writing

Beyond being one of the greatest actresses of the 20th century, Lauren Bacall was also the author of three memoirs: By Myself; Now and By Myself and Then Some.

“Writing a book is the most complete experience I’ve ever had,” she told The Los Angeles Times. “I’m happily stunned with the results and astonished by the reaction.”

“When you have nothing but dreams, that’s all you think about, all that matters, all that takes you away from humdrummery – the fact that your mother was working too hard and didn’t have enough in her own life, that your grandmother, loving though she was, wanted you to get a decent job to help your mother, that you didn’t have enough money to do anything you wanted to do, even buy a lousy coat for $17.95,” she wrote in the 1978 By Myself. “Dreams were better – that was where my hope lay – I’d hang on them, never let go.”

 

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