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Recently, I’ve taken to browsing through the book sections of my favorite thrift and consignment stores. Quite often, I find copies of bestsellers in both paperback and hardcover that I wouldn’t mind purchasing for my home library, but those aren’t exactly what I’m looking for. In the past year, I’ve revisited a love of writing and reading children’s literature, and part of that rediscovery includes searching for copies of the books I read and loved as a teenager.
My journey started when my daughter started reading more advanced middle-grade books, and it hit me that I could probably write one of my own with a little research. I began scanning the juvenile fiction shelves at the library, where I picked up the vaguely familiar Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. After spending a tear-filled afternoon reading it, I was hooked. I whooped with joy when I found a used copy of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? by Judy Blume at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. (I hid that one away for now, as my 9-year-old daughter is not quite ready for the subject matter yet!) It even had the same cover I remember from reading it as a child. I posted a photo of my find on Facebook and it sparked many comments from girlfriends, who all had a personal connection with the book. The first e-book I bought on my new Kindle a few weeks ago was Daughters of Eve, written by one of my all-time favorite authors, Lois Duncan. Daughters of Eve was one of the only books of Duncan’s I had never read, and I was surprised to find out that it had been updated to have a more modern feel, as have many books in her catalogue of titles.
When I was a teenager, I had stacks of paperback books by both Duncan and Christopher Pike, my two favorite suspense YA authors, along with a weathered complete collection of the Trixie Belden mystery series that my grandmother discovered in storage and gave to me. I carried them all with me for years, but somewhere along my many moves they were lost. It makes me sad to think that I probably donated them, not knowing how much I would want them back one day as I pursued my dream to become a published novelist.
I’m not sure why I’ve been feeling such a sense of nostalgia regarding these lost books lately. It might be because I first dreamed of becoming a writer while reading those treasured books, and after their loss, I spent many years thinking that becoming published wasn’t in the cards for me. Now that I’m finding success as a writer, the memory of all those stories continues to provide me with hope and inspiration, so I’ll keep looking for my old favorites in secondhand bookstores every chance I get.
Who were some of your favorite young adult authors?
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee's Pages.
Before we begin I would like to have a few words with the publishers on behalf of catalogers nationwide.
Hi, guys. How’s it going? Heckuva weird weather we’ve had lately, right? Yeah . . . so . . . here’s the thing. You know how you’ve been rereleasing a couple classic children’s books recently like Slake’s Limbo and all the Ramona Quimby books? That is just awesome of you. Seriously, new covers were desperately needed. But, you’re kind of doing this weird thing that’s messing everything up. See, for some reason you’re changing the covers but you’re keeping the old ISBNs. And we wouldn’t really mind if it was just the jackets you were changing, but in the case of the Ramona books you have new interior illustrations. This is a HUGE disservice, not only to libraries, but to your new illustrator, Ms. Jacqueline Rogers. If you keep the same ISBN then in records across the country previous illustrators will be listed in the system. Not Ms. Rogers. So, I know we’re supposedly going to go through some crazy crisis where we run out of all the ISBNs, but do a gal a favor and change the ISBNs on rereleases if you have new interior art (or, also in the case of Ramona, new pagination). It just makes good clean sense.
Okay! Moving on.
If I say that Travis Jonker fellow at 100 Scope Notes is a nice guy I’m not exactly telling you anything you don’t already know. But how nice is he? Well, in his awesome 10 to Note: Spring Preview 2013 do you know what book he led with? MINE!! I’m thrilled and flabbergasted all at once. Ye gods! I hit the big time, folks! Now I just need to get my hands on that cool looking Lauren Myracle early chapter book and that new Charise Mericle Harper graphic novel. Woot!
You know you’re cool when the National Coalition Against Censorship collects cool birthday wishes for you. You’re even cooler if those birthday wishes come from folks like Jon Scieszka, Lois Lowry, and the aforementioned Lauren Myracle. And if you happen to be Judy Blume? Icing on the cake, baby.
On the one hand, it’s awfully interesting to hear folks speculating on what really made Mary Ingalls blind. On the other hand . . . . NBC News linked to me, linked to me, linked to me me me!
In case you happened to missed it, I hosted a helluva Literary Salon the other day. Yup. Jeanne Birdsall, Adam Gidwitz, N.D. Wilson, and Rebecca Stead all gave up their precious time to stop by old NYPL for a Children’s Literary Salon where they debated why pop culture at large tries to label middle grade fiction as YA. The whole conversation was, for the very first time, recorded for posterity. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the audio feed is lousy. Not sure what I did but it’s a bit mucked up. Clear enough that you could make a transcript from it (casts meaningful looks into the nethersphere) but not so clear that you could actually enjoy listening to it. A little later in the podcast some folks stop speaking into mics. That actually helps. Rear in Gear reports on how it went from the frontlines. By the way, the title “Why YA” is a good one. I might shorten it to Y.YA, then proclaim that to be the newest bestest trend without explanation. Cause that’s how I roll.
Speaking of my Children’s Literary Salons, I’ve one in early March on the topic of Diversity and the State of the Children’s Book that will prove to be most fascinating (and better recorded, I hope). Much along the same lines is a truly fascinating post over at Ms. Yingling Reads. The post concerns those book jackets that do not reflect the ethnicity of the characters within, but brings up a very interesting p.o.v. from that of the smaller publisher reliant on stock images. This post is your required reading of the day. Many many thanks to Carl in Charlotte for the heads up.
The post on 10 Fictional Libraries I’d Love to Visit is a lot of fun, but I would add the library featured in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books most certainly. That would be the library that contains every book conceived of but never published by the world’s greatest writers. The in-jokes alone are worth it. Who doesn’t love Psmith and Jeeves?
Nerd that I am, I cannot help but be thrilled that the Bologna Book Fair has just established a new prize for the Best Children’s Publisher of the Year. What a fantastic idea, and why has no one else come up with it before? Now THAT is something I can get behind. Boy, yeah.
Flavorwire’s Conspiracy Theories About Classic Literary Characters doesn’t tell you a lot you haven’t already heard about your classic books (Nick Carraway = gay, Holden Caulfield = gay, yadda yadda yadda) but there are some fun exceptions on the children’s literature side. I think I’ve heard the Winnie-the-Pooh theory before, and I certainly heard the Harry Potter one (Rowling herself even addressed it) but the Wizard of Oz one is actually entirely a new one on me. Huh! Thanks to Annie Cardi for the link.
I like it when authors reveal the covers of their upcoming books. I especially like it when those authors are folks I’ve heard of before and have enjoyed thoroughly. I met Matthew Kirby (The Clockwork Three, Icefall) at a SCBWI event recently and now I find out that he has revealed his latest title The Lost Kingdom. Yep. I’ll be reading that one.
The other day I spoke on a panel for some young publishers about the library’s role in the pursuit of Common Core. I was on that panel with Scottie Bowditch of Penguin and John Mason of Scholastic. After the fact I learned that Scholastic has been working to get their hands on all this Common Core schtuf by creating the site Common Sense for the Common Core. It was created to help parents through this tricky time, but no doubt we librarians would benefit a tad as well. FYI!
You may have heard that tornadoes recently ripped through Mississippi on Sunday causing untold devastation in their wake. They hit in a number of places, including Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Why do I mention this? Well, are you aware what resides in Hattiesburg? That would be the University of Southern Mississippi. And what is the University of Southern Mississippi home to? If you answered that it was the de Grummond Collection “one of North America’s leading research centers in the field of children’s literature” you would also be correct. So did the collection survive the storms? We are happy to report that they did. And on the de Grummond’s Twitter feed they assured everyone that they were safe and sound. Whew!
Look me in the eye. Right here! Right in my beady little eye and tell me that this is not the smartest use of The Pigeon you’ve seen in a long long time. The crazy thing? I thought they melded together a bunch of different Pigeon books. Not true! Instead, all these panels come from The Pigeon Wants a Puppy.
Remember when NPR started that program they called NPR’s Backseat Book Club? They said they would pick a new book for kids every month and discuss them. Well, the whole “every month” part of that plan has been spotty and the selections have been even spottier. Seems to me NPR isn’t taking full advantage of the field. I mean, Black Beauty and Wimpy Kid? Is that the best you can do? Fortunately it looks like they’ll crank things up a notch when they discuss Gary Schmidt’s Okay for Now. In fact, kids are encouraged to submit some questions to the author ahead of time. Got yourself some kids? Then go to it!
Speaking of kids submitting stuff, you may have heard that YA author Ned Vizzini is getting into the middle grade fiction arena. He isn’t doing it alone, though. Director Chris Columbus is penning House of Secrets with him. Aside from the fact that the book has an honest-to-god blurb from J.K. Rowling on it (no blurb whore she) kids can get a copy by tweeting Ned their “secrets”. You can see some examples here. Love the kid who used to eat chocolate dog biscuits. That one I believe.
Would you like $1000? Sure. We all would. But to be a bit more specific, would you like $1000 for your program that uses, “children’s literature as a way to promote international understanding”? Well then are you in luck! USBBY would sure like to give you some cash. Say they, “Schools, libraries, scout troops, clubs and bookstores are all eligible for this award. Does your school or library program or do you know of another organization that “promotes reading as a way to expand a child’s world”? To learn more about the award, view information about past winners and award criteria and access the downloadable application form, please link to: http://www.usbby.org/list_b2u.html“
Done and done.I wasn’t particularly aggrieved by the Anne of Green Gables brou-de-haha going on about that random cover someone created. In fact, a commenter at ShelfTalker with my name (not me, alas) basically summarized my thoughts on the matter brilliantly when she said, “Folks, you are getting all upset because you MISUNDERSTAND the situation. This is NOT a ‘PUBLISHER’ with a marketing dept. This is a public domain book that some RANDOM PERSON is selling. You could do the same thing. PUBLIC DOMAIN – it means anyone can do anything with it. Here is a list of public domain books: http://www.feedbooks.com/publicdomain. If you want, you yourself could publish, say, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo with a photo on the cover of Governor Chris Christie eating a donut. (If you had the rights to the donut picture of course.)” Which was all well and good . . . but I truly have to tip my hat to Donytop5 who simply replied, “Here Betsy, I found it! http://wolverinesss.tumblr.com/image/42556986881“ That made my day, right there.
Apparently there’s a competitor to Goodreads out there and it’s calling itself Bookish. It’s not really the same thing as Goodreads, mind you, since it’s publisher driven through and through. Says Media Decoder, “Instead of relying essentially on the taste of other customers with similar preferences, as most recommendation engines do, Bookish’s tool takes into account critical reviews and awards.” Curious, I decided to see what they had in the realm of children’s literature. It’s interesting. Not a ton of content yet, but their recommendations aren’t shabby. Worth eyeing warily for a while.
Someday I will be very rich and I will create a children’s library of my very own. When I do, I will allow one or two walls to be like this:
Fortunately if that looks cool to you, you don’t have to wait. Just head on over to the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art and have your fun. Thanks to Swiss Miss for the link!
You folks have been awfully good about my recent shoddy blogging, so I tip my hat in your general direction. Jules of 7-Imp and I are putting the final touches on our book for Candlewick editing-wise and, as you might imagine, it eats up large swaths of time like an irate and hungry badger. There is no situation in which a badger cannot be used as an example. True fact.
In other news, there’s an author/illustrator out there that I happen to like very much. His name is Aaron Zenz and over the years he has startled me time and again with the relative brilliance of his creativity. If he wasn’t making multiple inspired pieces for the Re-Seussification Project then his kids were contributing to the stellar Boogie Woogie blog. Well, Aaron and Co. are some of my favorite folks so when I saw the Friends of Zenz page asking to help ‘em out in the midst of some pretty upsetting surgery, you can bet I jumped on board. If you’ve a minute, you can too. They’re swell folks.
So I got to meet J.K. Rowling the other day. Yup. The woman who basically set me on the path of children’s librarianship in the first place via her books and I up and met her. You see the good Dan Blank had tickets and one of those tickets happened to have my name on it. So I got to see her speak with Ann Patchett about this adult novel of hers The Casual Vacancy (a title I’m certain she stole from the notes of Lemony Snicket) and then I stood in a long line and got my copy signed. The conversation between us is as follows:
J.K. Rowling: Thanks for coming.
Betsy Bird: Guh.
Many thanks to Dan for the opportunity. He’s blogged about the experience here and just so you writer folks know, he’s doing another session of his author platform course starting Oct 31, with a free webinar. The course features Jane Friedman, Richard Nash, Colleen Lindsay, Kathleen Schmidt, Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins as guest speakers. Info on the session is here and the webinar is here.
“COMIC LEGEND: There was a Winnie the Pooh comic strip where the characters acted a lot more aggressively than most Winnie the Pooh fans are used to.
Thus we find the strangest and maybe most engaging link of the day. Apparently there was a Winnie-the-Pooh syndicated comic strip out there for a while that contained the Disneyfied Pooh and friends. And apparently it was written by some seriously odd souls. How else to explain some of these downright weird inclusions? Comic Book Legends Revealed explains more (you’ll have to scroll down a little but they’re worth finding). This one’s my favorite:
And speaking of bears . . . how do you get kids interested in the political process? Have ‘em vote for bears, of course! The West Linn Public Library had an inspired idea. They’re holding a bear election through election day on November 6 and, as they explained it to me:
“inviting kids (and adults) to vote for their favorite bear from children’s literature: Pooh, Paddington, Mama Berenstain, or Corduroy. We have also gotten staff involved by asking them to volunteer to be bear campaign managers. The response from staff and patrons has been tremendous! Our campaign managers have embraced their roles beyond my wildest dreams by designing posters, stickers, bookmarks, and games to support their bear.We are having so much fun that I thought I would share with other libraries. I have even created a campaign video for my candidate, Mama Bear—here is that link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=vb.153513568034372&type=2“ Love it! I suppose I’m a staunch Pooh supporter thanks to my job, but it’s tough. Paddington comes in at a close second in my heart.
Okay, let’s do the Me Stuff all in one fell swoop today. First off, I made a reading list for NYC’s New Victory Theater to accompany their upcoming shows. Check it out here. I never properly thanked Miss Kathleen at Mental Floss for including me in the 24 Library-Centric Sites We Love round-up, to say nothing of the compliments regarding my video with Travis Jonker. Thanks to Maureen Petry for the links! I’m speaking at a Joan Aiken event tonight so enjoy this piece written by Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, entitled Voices: The magical mysteries of children’s literature. I was interviewed at the blog The Children’s Book Review as part of their ongoing librarian series. And the Children’s Media Association blog gave me what could well be the most flattering spotlight I’ve received in my long internet life. Whew!
There was a Bibliography-Off between Judy Blume and one of my favorite comics Patton Oswalt not long ago. As Jezebel described it, “The only thing that could really be better than this (for a Sunday, anyway) is if Calvin and Hobbes were real and they spoke at a TED Talk about the vividness of a small child’s imagination.” I just wish S.E. Hinton had heeded Patton’s call to give him a hand. She’s on Twitter all the time, y’know. Thanks to Marjorie Ingall for the link!
All right. Enough with the books. Let’s look at some up-to-date movie news directly from Cynopsis Kids. First up:
“Nickelodeon begins production this month on its new original comedy/caper TV movie, Swindle, which will star a bevy of the network’s stars including Jennette McCurdy (iCarly), Noah Crawford (How to Rock, You Gotta See This), Noah Munck (iCarly), Ariana Grande (Victorious), Chris O’Neal (How to Rock, You Gotta See This) and Ciara Bravo (Big Time Rush). Based on the popular kids book of the same name by Gordon Korman, the movie will be shot in Vancouver Canada. The movie is set to begin airing in 2014 on Nickelodeon’s 40+ international channels across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia. The story begins when an evil collector cons Griffin (Crawford) out of a million dollar baseball card that could have saved his best friend’s (O’Neal) home, he teams a ragtag group of his classmates (Grande, McCurdy, Munck and Bravo) to take down the swindler. Directed by Jonathan Judge (Big Time Rush, Fred 3), Swindle is written by Bill Motz (Brandy & Mr. Whiskers) & Bob Roth (Lion King 2), Eric Freiser (Road to Ruin) and Adam Rifkin (Small Soliders, Mousehunt). Marjorie Cohn (Big Time Movie, Rags), Lauren Levine (Bridge to Terabithia, Best Player), Loris Lunsford, Karen Glass and Paul Barry serve as executive producers. Scott McAboy’s Pacific Bay Entertainment is producing.”
“Toronto-based Radical Sheep Productions (Stella and Sam, Yub Yubs, The Big Comfy Couch) acquires the rights to the graphic novel series Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian, by author/illustrator Michael Rex (Goodnight Goon, The Runaway Mummy). Under the deal Radical Sheep will develop a K6-11 aimed animated series based on Fangbone! The story revolves around Fangbone, a nine-year-old barbarian warrior from Skullbania who winds up in third grade at Eastwood Elementary in order to save his native land from the evildoer Venomous Drool. With the help of his new pal Bill, a lovable, average, goofy kid, Fangbone outwits his enemies while discovering the modern world.”
New Blog Alert: The election’s coming up and everyone’s getting ready. With that in mind, did you know that there’s a blog out there solely dedicated to talking about political children’s books? Kid Lit About Politics it’s called. One for the radar.
New Blog Alert II: For that matter did you know there was a mother-son blog out there (adult mother and son!) called crossreferencing: a hereditary blog? Yep. There you can find Sarah and Mark Flowers as they, “discuss YA Literature and Librarianship from our dual perspectives.” It’s pretty cool.
New Blog Alert III: Tis the season. This third new blog is actual that of The Junior Library Guild called Shelf Life. It’s currently doing a wonderful job of discussing current issues and hot books. Of particular note is the post Save [Books of Wonder] and Save Your Soul. Couldn’t have put it better myself.
Have you ever watched the movie Matilda and thought to yourself, Whatever happened to child actress Mara Wilson? Thank god for the internet, eh? Thanks to Brita for the link.
On a serious note there is a lovely memory of Peter Sieruta up at the blog Archives and Special Collections. It happens to include what may be the first picture of Peter to ever make it to the world wide web. God, I miss that guy.
The Onion’s A.V. Club has been a bit lazy in their looks at children’s and YA literature but this recent post on 2012 graphic novels is well worth reading. Many thanks to Eric Carpenter for the link!
Just knowing that Gabi Swiatkowska has a blog where she displays art like the pieces below is enough to make my life complete.
As many of you might know, our beloved Judy Blume was recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She says she feels she is going to be okay, but she is scheduled to get a mastectomy, followed by breast reconstruction. You can read more details on Judy’s blog. http://www.judyblume.com/blog.php.
I know everyone reading this blog will add Judy to their prayers. Judy, we love you and truely hope all of this will be resolved soon and you back on your feet in short order.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when reading a synopsis – Hint: Your answers should be YES.
Is there enough conflict to carry the story?
Are the main plot points included?
Was the ending reveal?
Were the character names capitalized when first introduced?
Does it avoid giving too much detail?
Are characters’ goals/motivations/conflicts clear?
Does the feel of the story (humorous, suspenseful, etc.) come through in the synopsis?
Did it get the above done in 1 single space page to 2 double space pages?
Tip from Chuck Sambuchino over at Writer’s Unboxed says, “Take more care and time if you’re writing genre fiction. Synopses are especially difficult to compose if you’re writing character-driven (i.e., literary) fiction, because they may not be a whole lot of plot in the book. Agents and editors understand this, and put little (or no) weight into a synopsis for literary or character-driven stories. However, if you’re writing genre fiction — specifically categories like romance, fantasy, thriller, mystery, horror or science fiction — agents will quickly want to look over your characters and plot points to make sure your book has a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as some unique aspects they haven’t seen before in a story. So if you’re getting ready to submit a genre story, don’t blow through your synopsis; it’s important.
I have to thank Dr. S, the radiologist who’s been doing my mammograms for 20 years. If she hadn’t decided I should have a sonogram because of dense breast tissue we still wouldn’t know. This didn’t show up in a mammo or in physical exams, and I’m checked by doctors four times a year. Even the breast surgeon couldn’t feel this one. If you have dense breast tissue ask your radiologist about having a sonogram … As I’ve told my friends who’ve also been treated for breast cancer, I’ve joined The Club – not one I wanted to join or even thought I would ever be joining – but here I am. I’m part of this Sisterhood of the Traveling Breast Cells (apologies to Ann Brashares). Medical diagnoses can leave you feeling alone and scared. When it comes to breast cancer you’re not alone, and scary though it is, there’s a network of amazing women to help you through it. (Via Carolyn Kellogg)
Wondering why you are so productive today? Twitter users (including this GalleyCat editor) have been reporting problems for the last half hour.
Twitter issued this statement: “Users may be experiencing issues accessing Twitter. Our engineers are currently working to resolve the issue.” To help our readers cope with the outage, we’ve collected some publishing news in 140-character briefs.
#35 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (1972)
Nobody can get the voice of kids quite like Judy Blume. Fudge and Peter are every kid and just as relevant today as they were in 1972. – Stacy Dillon
The synopsis from the publisher reads, “Living with his little brother, Fudge, makes Peter Hatcher feel like a fourth grade nothing. Whether Fudge is throwing a temper tantrum in a shoe store, smearing smashed potatoes on walls at Hamburger Heaven, or scribbling all over Peter’s homework, he’s never far from trouble. He’s a two-year-old terror who gets away with everything—and Peter’s had enough. When Fudge walks off with Dribble, Peter’s pet turtle, it’s the last straw. Peter has put up with Fudge too long. How can he get his parents to pay attention to him for a change?”
According to American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction, the book came about when, “A house helper who knew that Blume was writing books for children brought her a clipping one day about a boy who swallowed a turtle. ‘Willie Mae,’ to whom the book is dedicated, kept Blume informed of developments, and the story found its way into the enormously popular Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (1972), in which Peter Hatcher’s ‘problem’ is his two-year-old brother, Fudge . . . The original idea was for a picture book called ‘Peter, Fudge and Dribble.’ It was rejected as a picture book by Bradbury, but Ann Durrell, children’s editor of Dutton, suggested the form in which it was finally published.” And aren’t we glad she did?
Peter is a child everyman. The straight man to Fudge. Doomed to forever be overshadowed by his little brother (they don’t call this series the Peter Series, after all).
For a new perspective, I enjoyed this review of the book from the excelsior file. Sort of brings up a point I hadn’t considered before:
“Peter has never mentioned wanting a dog, never really wanted anything but to have his brother not mess up his life, and all we see time and again are a pair of loving parents who don’t freak out (which is good) but can’t seem to reign in the terror of tiny town. And for all Peter has to put up with he’s given a puppy for companionship. After all he’s endured throughout the book Peter is essentially told ‘we love you, but we’ve got our hands full with your maniacal brother so here’s a puppy to give your the companionship we can’t give you’.”
Twenty-two classrooms at Robert E. Clow Elementary School created cakes based on books. All I can hope is that this one won. There’s something delightfully twisted about it.
“This is an exciting day for me,” says Judy Blume. “I’m happy that my readers, many of whom have been patiently waiting, will now be able to choose which format works best for them to enjoy their favorite books.”
On March 21, 10 of Blume’s titles will be released as individual ebooks, including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Deenie; Blubber; and Tiger Eyes. Readers will also enjoy Iggie’s House; It’s Not the End of the World; Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t; Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson; and Just as Long as We’re Together. The three additional titles to be released at a later date, to be announced, are The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, Freckle Juice, and The Pain and the Great One, a picture book.
I am sharing my top 10 favorite Judy Blume covers.
Over the years, these covers have been remade to fit the current generation. Each reprint, I feel so much older and less hip. (Was I ever hip?) It is so cool to me that all Judy's books need are a cool new cover and a whole new generation of girls will devour them. That doesn't happen to every book. Judy has the Midas touch when it comes to books for middle grade girls! So, these are the exact book covers that I read- checked out from The Penn Elementary Library back in the day... circa 1984.
Do you recognize these covers? Which are your favorites?
Are You There God? It's Me Margaret was published 3 years before I was born.
I read this paperback copy in 1984. I remember it like it was yesterday
Fun Fact: Remember that Re-Seussification Project I posted? And how it happened to come out the day before the birthday of the good doctor himself? Total coincidence. I had no idea. At the same time The Lorax has come out in theaters. Know how I know? Because every other minute there’s an ad on my television featuring the Lorax. Seems he’ll sell anything these days. Chaps my hide. Chaps Stephen Colbert’s too, I’m happy to report.
Full credit to this next link. This compilation of Judy Blume pop culture references has earned my respect, partly because it included the two I already knew of (Sawyer reading her book on LOST and the Saturday Night Live skit). Very fun to watch.
Which, naturally, leads to this. And I suppose it isn’t workplace appropriate. But it is sweet.
That was recorded almost half a year ago. I assume they’ve met by now, yes? I mean, she is married to a Newbery winner.
I think this is applicable to our usual subject matter today. After all, I suspect that there are a few authors out there for kids that still use typewriters. I used one as recently as 2006 in conjunction with my job. Plus this is a great little piece.
I’ve shown the video of Christopher Walken reading The Three Little Pigs before. This one, though, is new to me. We never see him who I’m not wholly convinced it’s actually him. It’s a possibility, though. A distinct possibility.
Zynga is launching a stand-alone platform on Zynga.com (for fans that want to play its games outside of Facebook. The move isn’t a complete break from the social media giant, though — users will still buy in-game items using Facebook... Read the rest of this post
Looking Back on CWIM: The 1998 Edition In which I Interview Judy Blume and edit Richard Peck...
There were some intimidating moments as I worked on the 1998 CWIM. First Richard Peck agreed to write a feature for me Looking at YA Past & Present (which he composed on a typewriter just as he did his novels) and I went through revisions with him. It was my fifth edition of CWIM, I was still in my twenties, and I feeling a little like a baby editor.
But that was nothing compared to interviewing the woman who arguably had more influence on my childhood than anyone else: Judy Blume.
I met Judy at an SCBWI conference autograph party to which I arrived ridiculously early so I could be at the front of her line. As I said in my article intro, after she told me she was open to doing an interview, "I ran up to my hotel room and called my husband, my mom, my sister and a few of my girlfriends to tell them I talked to Judy Blume and somehow managed not to wet my pants." (After the book came out and Judy got her copy, she sent me a letter thanking me for the interview. It said "I'm so glad you didn't wet your pants," which she underlined in the purple pen she used to sign her name. I framed the letter and hung it next to my bookcase.)
Here is part of our conversation from the 1998 CWIM in which we talked about teen sex, birth control, my chubby childhood, and masturbation, among other things:
What's your advice for writer who are tackling [controversial subjects]?
For me the best thing is to not even know there's a problem, and to write from the place deep inside, where you're not thinking about anything but telling the best story you can tell. And if it becomes an issue, deal with it afterwards. One of the great fears, with this climate of censorship we have today, is that writers will censor themselves and the losers will be the kids.Writers are hungry. They want to be published. If they think they can't be published by writing about something, then maybe they won't write about it.
The '70s was a very writer- and kid-friendly time because there was less fear in the marketplace and more concern about publishing the best books and getting them to the kids, books kids could really relate to. All publishing has changed drastically in the last couple of years. The whole marketplace--everything has changed. That's a topic I'm probably not even qualified to talk about, but it's become much more like the movie business--it's driven by the bottom line. It's all economics, the way things are marketed now. So if you just look at children's publishing--has it changed? Yes. Is there more fear now in publishing? I don't know. There was, but maybe now people are sick of pandering to the censors.
If you would have begun writing in, say, 1995 instead of the late '60s, do you think it would have been more difficult for you to get your work published?
I write this post with some hesitation. First off, the question in the title is not my own. It’s a search term that someone used to click-through to this blog. But my hesitation doesn’t arise from a fear that the quesioner might be reading the blog now, because I didn’t provide the type of information he or she seeks. They saw that I deal in pure ridiculousness and vowed never to return. The reason I hesitate is because it makes me sad. Every time I think about it. Writing about it is worse. It causes me to imagine two scenarios:
1. A boy has just started dating his first girlfriend. He adores her. He stays up late, writing poetry about her. He even imagines marrying her some day. But he’s not quite ready for that. Kissing comes first. He meets her somewhere quiet – a park, maybe a trail behind the school that leads to creek. They hold hands. They sit on a rock and try to kiss. Their teeth strike into each other. They give it another go. It’s soft and sweet and not what either of them imagined. But it’s nice. They haven’t told anyone about their relationship yet. They like to imagine that their love is star-crossed, that their parents wouldn’t approve of something so intense and true. It’s all very Alex Chilton. The next day, the boy goes to school. He’s beaming. He’s not one to kiss and tell but he tries to steer conversations to his new girlfriend. He expects his pals to say things like, “she’s the greatest girl that ever lived,” or “she’s what rainbows are made of.” Instead they say, “That girl? She’s ugly. Even uglier than Penny Dobson.” It would be an understatement to say this deflates the boy’s sails. He wonders if he has to end it now before anyone finds out. But he’s not going to jump the gun. He’ll do his research first. He consults Google. He starts by searching “Are Any Girls Uglier Than Penny Dobson?” Not very helpful. So he goes general. “Are Some Girls Uglier Than Others?” The Indubitable Dweeb provides little help in this department, but other sites lead him down a rabbit hole to disillusionment and heartbreak.
2. A girl comes back from a family vacation to Florida. The women on the beaches were like nothing she’d ever seen in real life. Perfectly molded into their bikinis. Tan and TV-worthy. She’s grown past reading Judy Blume and now thumbs through her older sister’s copies of Cosmo. She doesn’t get it all, but that’s the appeal. In the cafeteria, she watches from behind her bagged lunch as the eighth grade girls come and go. She gauges their levels of development, imagines them in bikinis. Back at home, in the mirror, she takes a ruler and measures her nose, her ears, etc. She logs the measurements and wonders if there’s some computer program you can enter such things into. Does the data reveal incontrovertible facts? Still, she has a strong sense of what she really wants to know. It’s simple. It’s obvious. She feels almost stupid for writing it, because it’s something a kid would write. But in the back of her mind she thinks that maybe there’s a scientific study that proves conventional wisdom wrong, that exposes middle school cliques for what they are. She goes to Google. She does her search. She finds The Indubitable Dweeb. As she sighs and checks the other search results, her Mom
Hillary Clinton tells teens 'It Gets Better' (giving the anti-bullying social media campaign a nice dose of political legitimacy — I especially like that she tells LGBT youth who are struggling to "ask for help." Meanwhile, GLAAD urges... Read the rest of this post
As we head home for the weekend, we wanted to make sure you had plenty of publishing headlines to keep you busy. Email GalleyCat to get all our publishing stories, book deal news, videos, podcasts, interviews, and writing advice in a daily email newsletter.
You can now RSVP for our eBook Summit Book Pitch Party on November 3rd. Sign up to enjoy the party or submit your book proposal for a chance to win a free ticket to the summit.
Peter Jackson started work on his adaptation of The Hobbit as casting rumors flew. While you wait, watch the English translation of a Finnish Hobbit miniseries embedded above.
"Tell us your Judy Blume story or memory and enter to WIN an iPod Touch®, personalized message from Judy Blume, iTunes® gift card, and a collection of audiobooks! The five entries with the most votes will become finalists."
Contest is open to all legal residents of U.S. and Canada (excluding Québec) who are age 13 years or older as of January 3, 2011.
Contest will run from Jan. 3, 2011 - Feb. 18, 2011
A lot of people stop by this site because they’re curious to learn what it takes to not only write a children’s book, but to write a successful one. Some authors appear at workshops where they charge hundreds of dollars to dispense such insider tips. Not me. Today, I’m giving the good stuff out for free. I only ask that you thank me in your acknowledgements and cut me in on any foreign rights. It’s a fair trade for this invaluable wisdom. Let’s get down to it.
First off, the old advice is often the best advice. Write what you know. Do you know a puppy that’s a bit poky? How about some teenagers who hunt each other for sport? Connecting with children is about connecting with the world around you. A few monkeys don’t hurt either. That’s right. Forget wizards, vampires and zombies. Monkeys are what distinguish great children’s books. Try to imagine The Secret Garden without Jose Fuzzbuttons, the wisecracking capuchin whose indelible catchphrase “Aye-yaye-yaye, Mami, hands off the yucca!” is still bandied about schoolyards today? I don’t think you can.
Of course, the magic that is artistic inspiration must find its way in there. So how do you grab hold of it? Christopher Paolini swears by peyote-fueled pilgrimages to the Atacama Desert. I’m more of a traditionalist. A pint of gin and a round of Russian Roulette with Maurice Sendak always gets my creative juices flowing. Have fun. Experiment. Handguns and hallucinogens need not be involved. Though I see no reason to rule them out. Find what works for you.
Now, you’ll inevitably face a little writer’s block. There are two words that cure this problem and cure it quick. Public Domain. Dust off some literary dud and add spice to it. Kids dig this stuff. For instance, you could take some Edith Wharton and inject it with flatulence. The Age of Innocence and Farts. Done. Easy. Bestseller.
I give this last bit of advice with a caveat. Resist the temptation to write unauthorized sequels to beloved classics. I speak from experience. My manuscripts for You Heard What I Said Dog, Get Your Arse Outta Here! and God? Margaret Again…I’m Late have seen the bottom of more editors’ trash cans than I care to mention. Newbery bait? Sure. Immune to the unwritten rules of the biz? Hardly.
Okay, let’s jump forward. So now you’ve got your masterpiece, but how the heck are you going to sell the thing? Truth be told, you’re going to need an advanced degree first. As anyone will inform you, kid lit authors without PhDs or MFAs are rarely taken seriously. If you can’t work Derrida or Foucault into a pitch letter, then you certainly can’t survive a 30-minute writing workshop with Mrs. Sumner’s 5th period reading class. So invest 60-100K and 3-6 years of your life. Then let the bidding war begin.
In the off chance that your book isn’t going to sell for six figures, try blackmail. Sounds harsh, but the children’s book industry runs almost exclusively on hush money and broken kneecaps. I mean, Beverly Cleary doesn’t even own a car. So why is she always carrying a tire iron?
Money is now under the mattress and the editorial process begins. Don’t worry at all about this. Editors won’t even read your book. They’ll simply call in Quentin Blake for some illustrations and then run the whole thing through a binding machine they keep in the back of the o
Editor Phyllis Grann will retire from her position at Doubleday. In a letter written by editor-in-chief Sonny Mehta, he praised Grann “as a brilliant editor and savvy businesswoman.”
Grann has worked in publishing for four decades. Prior to Doubleday, she held editorial positions at William Morrow, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Group (USA). She has worked with several celebrated authors including Tom Clancy, Judy Blume, and Patricia Cornwell.
Grann explained: “Doubleday has allowed me to continue doing what I love. And as much as I have enjoyed the work, I now feel it is time to step back.” Following her last day on June 9th, she will be available as a consultant and freelance editor.
First things first! The winner of the DAMNED ARC is Margo! I'll be emailing you with details... Now, I've had several people ask me to give my thoughts about the conference. I know there is already so much out there about the phenomenal speakers and content. 40 years! Just look at that dessert above from the Golden Kite luncheon. It was truly an amazing time. The sheer number of icons had me absolutely dazzled and in awe. So I'm going to share a few of these people with you and what they mean to me.
Judy Blume. How can I even begin to describe what it was like to be so close to THE Judy Blume? The woman was so gracious, so kind, so intelligent, and so very REAL. The first novel I think I ever read was Are You There God? It's me, Margaret. I remember that special feeling of being entirely wrapped up in Margaret's world. I loved it. I loved it so much that I never stopped reading and seeking new worlds with new characters. Hearing about Judy's process and journey was inspiring beyond belief.
Norton Juster. The first fantasy book I ever read was The Phantom Tollbooth. It was also the first book I ever read more than once. I had the opportunity to tell Norton Juster that, to which he looked me dead in the face and replied, "Fantasy? That's my life." How can I not love him? How can I not love a book that's remained AMAZING after 50 years, and that my own son loves just as much as I did? I think I might have to go read it again...
Laurie Halse Anderson. Speak. She gave voice to difficult subject matter that may make some uncomfortable, but saves lives on a daily basis. At the conference, she taught me to embrace my creative need for self-expression, and to nurture the "seed" in my soul.
Donna Jo Napoli. Her speech was possibly my favorite. And that's really saying something as I gave more standing ovations than I have in my life. It was titled: How Writing About Terrible Things Makes Your Reader a Better Person. And she spoke to not just those who need to see others who've gone through similar things, but to the sheltered who benefit from exposure to truths beyond their own.
Libba Bray. I saved my favorite for last of course. My hero. Her speech was just as amazing as I hoped and so was she. Funny, intelligent, friendly, and talented. Libba - I would have voted you Prom Queen in high school. I'm just sayin'. She let us know that even the super stars go through rough times, and are plagued by self-doubt.
Okay, have I gushed enough? You asked and now you have received, my friends. My own personal highlights of the conference this year. I could have kept going too! I mean Richard Peck, Gary Paulsen...
The amazing JUDY BLUME was a surprise guest at the 40th anniversary SCBWI Conference this summer! What a treat! She sat down with SCBWI President Lin Oliver to talk shop, and all us attendees got a little insight into the brilliant Blume and her writing process.
Judy Blume’s Thoughts on Her Writing Process:
Typewriter vs. Computer:
Before computers she used to write through a first draft (start to finish). She’d get the draft done. But with a computer she doesn’t do that anymore. Now she can go back and keep revising. That’s bad in her opinion. It was better before when she’d go through a whole draft first.
When she wrote on a typewriter she would do five drafts and then send it to her editor.
On Writing First Drafts:
“I’m a terrible first draft writer! I’m a reviser!”
The first draft is about finding the pieces to the puzzle. The second draft is putting it together. And you go on from there.
She likes to print out and scribble all over her drafts with a pen.
It took her 23 drafts to write the book “Summer Sisters”. She didn’t feel like she knew what she was writing. It took her three years to write and it was so painful she said “I’m never doing this again.”
She says she’s never really understood the creative process, but she has enough faith (after 40 years) that it will come to her again.
“I’m so sucky at plot! It’s not how the story comes to me.”
Her son says she’s the least analytical person he knows.
How to Start a Book:
When she gets an idea she lets it percolate for a long long time before writing.
She says she knows she will start a book on the day something different happens. Sometimes she has to write pages and pages and pages before that moment and the real book starts.
When You Know It’s Working:
“I love it when I laugh out loud. I cry a lot. If I’m writing a sexy scene and I’m not turned on it’s not working!”
The stuff that’s gonna work is what’s coming from deep deep inside.
Judy Blume is one of the most widely read authors of juvenile and teen fiction. Her many books include: Tiger Eyes, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, Blubber, Forever, The Fudge Series, and Just as Long as We’re Together. Her novels have exceeded sales of 80 million and have been translated into 31 languages.
This week I’m doing a series that re-caps the insights of the amazing JUDY BLUME who was a surprise guest at the 40th anniversary SCBWI Conference this summer! The following notes were taken during a Q & A session with SCBWI president Lin Oliver:
What are the changes in contacting your audience today than in the past?
Judy Blume says she’s addicted to Twitter.
She gets letters electronically now rather than snail mail.
The intimacy is in the pencil (snail mail). She misses that. Kids really bear their soul to you when they write a real letter.
The electronics change but deep down people don’t change.
Why Do You Write For Kids? Why Write at All?
“Who do you identify with in life? I identify with kids. Though that doesn’t make you the best mother.”
Blume was sick all through her 20’s, and after she started to write all that sickness went away.
She says it’s determination as much as any kind of talent that is going to get you there.
What Advice Do You Have for Writers?
“I don’t like to give advice to writers.”
How is it that You Can Write Dialog So Well?
“Dialog is the only thing I like to write. I don’t like the other stuff. I’m not good at descriptive writing or metaphor. I like what the character’s are thinking versus what they’re saying. The subtext of it. It’s what makes it muscular.”
“Dialog comes naturally and spontaneously to me.”
How Do You Make Your Books Timeless?
“I never think about the timelessness.”
It’s not a good idea to put in a way kids talk today, per say (slang etc.). Not if you want to write fiction that lasts.
Why Did You Write “Forever”?
My daughter said to me “Can’t there be a book where two nice kids do it and nobody dies?”
That was her inspiration, though she would never advise anyone else to write a book based on something their kid said to them.
In regard to edgy material – if it’s there it should be important to the character or the story. If it’s not then take it out. Don’t listen to the censor when you are writing.
Other Tid Bits:
“I get bored easily, so I could never write a series.”
Writing not only changed my life, it saved my life!
Judy Blume is one of the most widely read authors of juvenile and teen fiction. Her many books include: Tiger Eyes, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, Blubber, Forever, The Fudge Series, and Just as Long as We’re Together. Her novels have exceeded sales of 80 million and have been translated into 31 languages.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of a children's book classic, A Wrinkle in Time. To celebrate this milestone Farrar, Straus and Giroux (who published the book 50 years ago) have released gorgeous commemorative editions with the original hardcover and paperback jackets and new extras that include an introduction by Katherine Paterson and an afterword by author Madeleine L'Engle's granddaughter.
A Wrinkle in Time is as relevant and captivating in 2012 as it was in 1962, and it's incredible to me that such an iconic story began with a random thought during a cross-country vacation, "...the names Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which popped into my grandmother’s head, and she told her three children—twelve, ten, and seven—that she would have to write a book about them..."--from the afterword [PDF].
Many prominent authors have been influenced by Madeleine L'Engle, including Judy Blume. Blume was interviewed for a book about L'Engle (titled Listening for Madeleine) coming out in the fall, and we have an exclusive excerpt, a sample of which is below. You can find the rest of the excerpt here (under More to Explore).
"Madeleine and I really bonded over the issue of book banning. Her books were being challenged all over the country. They were being challenged—and I love this and have used it in every speech about book banning that I’ve ever given—for teaching “New Ageism” to children. I always say that I can guarantee you that when Madeleine wrote her books she had never heard of New Ageism. The attacks on her books made her absolutely furious. She was beside herself, not just because her books were being attacked, but because any books were being targeted in that way. We would go out and do TV shows together in defense of banned books. An evening news show might have a segment on the censorship of children’s books. This was during the 1980s. She was so elegant and so down-to-earth, and some of her answers were so funny, as much as to say: Why are you guys so stupid? Why would you be asking questions like this? She never actually said those things, but it was absolutely clear what she meant. I just loved her."--Judy Blume in an excerpt from Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L’Engle in Many Voices.
A Wrinkle in Time has been read, loved, and shared, by countless readers over the last 50 years, and I'm certain that trend will continue. This anniversary inspired me to re-read the book for the first time in decades and I fell in love with the words and characters all over again. Those of you who adore this book as I do will understand when I say that I got a little bit giddy when I saw the photo posted below, and if A Wrinkle in Time is one of the unread classics on your list--treat yourself to an amazing read. --Seira
“I just finished a poem where St. Francis and St. Clare double-date with Thoreau and Evita and it just makes me very happy.” My mother was the winner of the 2011 Prairie Schooner Book Prize because she is as good as it gets. No brag. Just fact. Prairie Schooner recently interviewed her as well and I recommend looking at it, partly because this my mother we’re talking about and she makes me very proud and partly because it raises the old interview bar, so to speak. Clearly I need to put more work into my own.
Once in a great while my husband’s occupation and my own will intersect. He is a screenwriter and will alert me to interesting news items on the cinematic side of things. This week he pointed me to a ScriptShadow piece. If you are unfamiliar with the site it’s where a fellow going by the name of “Carson Reeves” reads and reviews the scripts that have recently sold in Hollywood and critiques them long before they are turned into films. Each Friday Carson has something he calls Amateur Friday where folks submit their own screenplays for his review. Last Friday someone handed in a script called Fifi, A Monkey’s Tale. Those of you familiar with the story behind Curious George will recognize this as the original title of that manuscript. The script essentially tells the tale of the Reys’ escape from the Nazis in WWII. Only to punch it up a bit the screenwriter (and I kinda love this) rewrote history so that Goebbels himself wants Mr. Rey destroyed. Something you have to see for yourself, I think.
Do you like awards? Do you like children’s books that come from countries other than America? Well then, folks, have I got great news from you. After her recent trip to Italy to judge the awards, Jules at 7-Imp let me know that the winners have been announced:
The 2012 Bologna Ragazzi Awards have just been announced! Here are links for interested folks:
I long for the day Save NYC Libraries can be shut down, but until that happy day occurs it’s a hugely useful and well-organized site for fighting mayoral cuts. Recently the mayor rolled out his old budget again and yep. You guessed it. We’re
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