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By Melissa Buron
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I discovered A Book of Mermaids by Ruth Manning-Sanders.
During a long, hot summer, I read and re-read the stories until my mother and the public library insisted that I return the book.
I was distraught because no matter how many bookstores I searched, I never found the book again.
Forty years later, I did
find the book. This time, not in a library, but in a hot warehouse full of old, used books.
I reread the book and fell in love again with the witty, crafty and of course magical mermaids. And in-between work, family and laundry, I spread the word about this wonderful book.
After all, who doesn't love mermaids? Unfortunately, the book was out of print and a used copy (if you could locate one) averaged between $200 and $350.
With this enchanting and beloved book in mind, I started an independent publishing company, MAB Media
. To my joy and delight, A Book of Mermaids by Ruth Manning-Sanders
is MAB Media's very first release.
Ruth Manning-Sanders was a fascinating person, not just because of her writing ability, but also for her way of life. She was a feminist before "feminist" was even a word. She was prolific as few authors are (more than ninety books to her credit). Her fairy tales, both original and adapted, reflected a wide range of characters, both human and non-human, of all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.
In A Book of Mermaids, Manning-Sanders introduces the readers to sixteen stories of mermaids and their fantastical adventures.
Within my wide collection of fairy tales and folk tales, these are by far my favorites.Cynsational Giveaway
Do you love mermaids? Here's your chance to win one of five free copies of A Book of Mermaids by Ruth Manning-Sanders and some surprise mermaid swag!a Rafflecopter giveaway
4 Double Chocolate Chip Co
To be totally honest, I don't love this cover. But I know it appeals to young readers because when I display this book it gets checked out a lot.Why I Wanted to Read This:
This is one of those books I bought when it first came out because I knew I would want to read it myself (one of the biggest benefits of being a librarian). Then it got buried in my immense TBR pile. I have had quite a few students check out this and book #2 (The Mad Apprentice), but I still hadn't gotten around to reading it until I was contacted about book #3 and taking part in Penguin's blogging event around the release of book #3 (The Palace of Glass). I read The Forbidden Library and am hooked on this series! Here is the synopsis:
Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairyMy Thoughts:
When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.
It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.
This was such an inventive idea. There is a little of Inkheart, in that a person can read themselves into a book. But it's not like they go into the story, it's like they become the story, or a big part of the story. These people are called Readers. And they can't go into just any book, it has to be special books. Alice discovers she is Reader quite by accident. But, as you get to know Alice you realize, SHE CAN HANDLE IT. She is amazing, on the level of Hermione Granger. She is practical and smart and keeps her head about her. I LOVED Alice! She is a problem solver and that makes for the best kind of Reader.
The catch with this awesome ability is that the books that Readers can enter are basically prisons for all manner of creatures and the only way for a Reader to get out is for another Reader to get them out...or they can defeat the creatures. Along the way Alice meets Ashes, a talking cat, Isaac, another young reader and her "uncle" Geryon. There are several other characters as well, and you just know that nobody is telling Alice the whole truth and that everyone has different motives for using Alice and her powers. There is also a little of a "there can be only one" attitude by some of the older and more powerful Readers.
Alice has her own mystery to solve, that of what happened to her father. This world she is thrust into would me many a person curl up in a corner and wait for death, but no Alice. She takes it on and makes it her own.To Sum Up:
Great middle grade fantasy book with interesting characters and an awesome premise. I will be finishing this series soon!Penguin has offered up a copy of each of the books in The Forbidden Library series including the third book, The Palace of Glass, which was just published. Please enter below (US only). I will pick a winner on Saturday April 23.
Read the rest of this post
By Cynsations Readers
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
Over the past couple of weeks, children's-yA author Cynthia Leitich Smith put out a call for questions from readers on Cynsations and Twitter. Here are those she elected to tackle and her responses. A few questions were condensed for space and/or clarity.
See also a previous Cynsations reader-interview post from November 2010. Cyn Note: It's interesting how the question topics shifted, both with my career growth and changes in publishing. Back then, readers were most interested in the future of the picture book market and online author marketing.
What’s the one piece of advice you think would most benefit children’s-YA writers?
Read model books across age levels, genres, and formats. For example, a novelist who studies picture books will benefit in terms of innovation, economy and lyricism of language.
Writing across formats has its benefits, too. No, you won't be as narrowly branded. But you will have more options within age-defined markets that rise and fall with birth rates. You will acquire transferable skills, and, incidentally, you'll be a more marketable public speaker and writing teacher.
Are you in a critique group? Do you think they’re important?
Not right now, but I have been in the past.
These days, I carry a full formal teaching load. Each year I also tend to lead one additional manuscript-driven workshop and offer critiques at a couple of conferences. That leaves no time for regular group meetings or the preparation that goes into them—my loss.
For me, participation offered insights (by receiving and
giving feedback) as well as mutual support related both to craft and career.
From a more global perspective, considerations include: whether the group is hard-working, social or both; the range of experience and expertise; the compatibility of productivity levels; and the personality mix.
The right combination of those ingredients can enhance the writing life and fuel success. A wrong one can be a serious detriment. If you need to make a change, do it with kindness. But do it.What can an MFA in writing for kids do for me?
First, my perspective is rooted in my experience as a faculty member in the low-residency Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts
|With Kathi at the Illumine Gala|
You don’t need
an MFA to write well or to successfully publish books for young readers.
I don’t have an MFA. My education includes a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Kansas
and a J.D. from The University of Michigan Law School
. I also studied law abroad one summer in Paris.
Beyond that, I improved my children’s writing at various independent workshops, most notably those led by Kathi Appelt
That said, you will likely develop your craft more quickly and acquire a wider range of knowledge and transferable skills through formal study.
My own writing has benefited by working side-by-side with distinguished author-teachers. Only this week, I heard Tim Wynne-Jones
’s voice in my mind—the echo of a lecture that lit the way.
You’ll want to research which program is best suited to your needs.
Your questions may include:
- Do you want a full- or low-residency experience?
- What will be the tuition and travel/lodging costs?
- What financial aid is available?
- Are you an author-illustrator? (If so, Hollins may be a fit.)
- Are you looking for a well-established program or an intimate start-up?
- What is the faculty publication history?
- How extensive is the faculty's teaching experience?
- How diverse is the faculty and student body?
- How impressive is the alumni publication record?
- How many alumni go on to teach?
- How cohesive--active and supportive--is the alumni community?
Talk to students and alumni about the school’s culture, faculty-student relationships, creature comforts and hidden expenses.
Across the board, for children's-YA MFA programs, the most substantial negative factor is cost.
CareerIn terms of marketing, what's one thing authors could do better?
Provide the name of your publisher and, if applicable, the book's illustrator in all of your promotional materials, online and off. If you're published by, say, Lee & Low or FSG, that carries with it a certain reputation and credibility. Also, readers will know which publisher website to seek for more information and which marketing department to contact to request you for a sponsored event.
Granted, picture book authors usually post cover art, which includes their illustrators' names. But we're talking about the books' co-creators
, and they bring their own reader base with them. Include their bylines with yours and the synopsis of the book whenever possible. It's respectful, appreciative and smart business.What’s new with your writing?
I’ve sold two poems this year, one of which I wrote when I was 11. How cool is that?
I'm also working steadily on a massive update and relaunch of my official author site, hopefully to go live for the back-to-school season.What are you working on now?
I’m writing a contemporary realistic, upper young adult novel. It’s due out from Candlewick in fall 2017.
Like my tween debut, Rain Is Not My Indian Name
(HarperCollins, 2001), the upcoming book features a Muscogee (Creek)/Native American girl protagonist, is set in Kansas and Oklahoma, and is loosely inspired by my own adolescence.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to take a look at my recent contemporary realism, check out the chapter “All’s Well” from Violent Ends
, edited by Shaun David Hutchinson
(Simon Pulse, 2015).
What’s next for your Tantalize-Feral books?
For those unfamiliar with them, the Tantalize series
and Feral trilogy
are set in the same universe and share characters, settings and mythologies. These upper YA books are genre benders, blending adventure, fantasy, the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, suspense, romance and humor.
Feral Pride, the cap to the Feral trilogy, was released last spring. It unites characters from all nine books, including Tantalize protagonists.
A new short story set in the universe, “Cupid’s Beaux,” appears in Things I’ll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves
, edited by Ann Angel
I don't have immediate plans for more stories in the universe, but it's vast and multi-layered. While I'm focusing on realistic fiction now, I'll return to speculative in the future.DiversityHow do I make sure that no one will go public with a problem about my diverse book?
First, you can't (and neither can I).
Second, this has become a too-popular question.
To fully depict today's diverse world, we all have to stretch
--those who don't with regard to protagonists will still be writing secondary characters different from themselves.
Writers of color, Native writers and those who identify along economic-ability-size-health-cultural-orientation spectra are not exempt from the responsibilities that come with that.
I'm hearing a lot
of anxiety from a lot
folks concerned about being criticized or minimized for writing across identity elements. I'm also hearing a lot
of anxiety from a lot
of folks concerned with "getting it right."
For the health of my head space, the latter is the way to go. My philosophy: Focus on doing your homework and offering your most thoughtful, respectful writing.
Focus on advocating for quality children's-YA literature about a wide variety characters (and their metaphorical stand-ins) by a wide range of talented storytellers.
I make every effort to assume the best.
By that, I mean:
- Assume that when people in power say that they're committed to a more diverse industry and body of literature, they mean it and will act accordingly.
- Assume they'll eventually overcome those who resist.
- Assume that your colleagues writing or illustrating outside their immediate familiarity connect with their character(s) on other meaningful levels.
- Assume that you'll have to keep stretching and connecting, too.
- Assume that #ownvoices offer important insights inherent in their lived experiences.
- Assume that being exposed to identity elements and literary traditions outside your own is a opportunity for personal growth.
- Assume that a wider array of representations will invite in and nurture more young readers.
- Assume that your voice and vision can make a difference, not only as a writer but signal booster, advocate and ambassador.
If only in the short term, you risk being proven wrong. You risk being disappointed. At times, you probably will be. I've experienced both, but I'd rather go through all that again than to try to effect positive change in an industry, in a community, I don't believe in.
I've been a member of the children's-YA writing community for 18 years. Experience has taught me that I'm happier and more productive when I err on the side of optimism, hope and faith.Do you think that agents are reluctant to sign POC writing about POC after Scholastic pulling A Birthday Cake for George Washington?
No need to panic. As the diversity conversation has gained renewed momentum, many agents have publicly invited queries from POC as well as Native, disabled, LGBTQIA writers and others from underrepresented communities. For example, Lee Wind at I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? is hosting an interview series with agents on that very theme
I can't promise that every children's-YA literary agent prioritizes or, in their heart of hearts, considers themselves fully open to your query. But those who don't aren't a fit for you anyway.
When you’re identifying agents to query, consider whether they have indicated an openness to diverse submissions and/or take a look at who’s on their client rosters. This shouldn't be the only factor of course, but one of many that you weigh.On your blog, you feature a lot of trendy type books (gay) we didn’t have in the past.
Not a question, but let’s go for it. If I’m deciphering you as intended, I disagree with the premise. Books with gay characters aren’t merely a trend or, for that matter, new in YA literature.Nancy Garden
’s Annie on my Mind
was published in 1982. Marion Dane Bauer
’s anthology Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence
was published in 1994. Brent Hartinger
’s Geography Club
was published in 2003. One place to find recent ALA recommendations is the 2016 ALA Rainbow Book List
Cynsations coverage is inclusive of books with LGBTQIA characters. In addition, gay and lesbian secondary characters appear in my own writing.
The blog was launched in 2004. Over time, I've noticed fluctuations in social media whenever I post LGBTQIA related content. I lose some followers and gain others. Increasingly, I lose fewer and gain more. My most enthusiastic welcome to those new followers!
(Incidentally, I used to see the same thing with regard to books/posts about authors and titles featuring interracial families or multi-racial characters.)More Personally You sometimes tweet about TV shows. What do you watch?
In typical geeky fashion: “Agent Carter;” "Agents of Shield," “Arrow;” “Bones;” “Castle;” “The Flash;” “Grimm;” “iZombie;” “Legends of Tomorrow;” "The Librarians;" “Lucifer;” “Once Upon a Time;” “Supernatural.”
|Created by Rob Thomas, who has also written several YA novels.|
Comedy-wise: “Awkward;” “The Big Bang Theory;” “Blackish;” “Crazy Ex-girlfriend”
(I'm a sucker for a musical); “Fresh off the Boat;” “The Real O’Neals;” “Superstore.”
I’m trying “Community”
and still reeling from the "Sleepy Hollow"
I have mixed feelings about “Scream Queens,”
but I’m fan of Jamie Lee Curtis
and Lea Michele
, so I’ll keep watching it. Ditto “Big Bang” with regard to Mayim Bialik
and Melissa Rauch
"Lucifer" sneaked up on me. As someone who's written Lucifer
, I watched it out of curiosity as to the take. I keep watching it because it surprises me and because Scarlett Estevez
Typically, I watch television while lifting weights or using my stair-climber. I love my climber. I do morning email on it, too. It's largely replaced my treadmill desk.
While I write, I use the television to play YouTube videos, usually featuring aquariums, blooming flowers, butterflies or space nebulas, all set to soothing music.
Trivia: Probably I’ve logged the most small-screen time with David Boreanaz
due to “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,”
I know nothing about the actor beyond his performances (I’m not a “celebrity news” person), but I like to think he appreciates my loyalty. Cynsational Giveaways
Enter to win signed books by Cynthia Leitich Smith -- the young adult Feral trilogy (Candlewick) and/or three Native American children's titles (HarperCollins). Scroll to two entry forms, one for each set.a Rafflecopter giveawaya Rafflecopter giveaway
By Emma Dryden
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
's CynsationsAn Editor Tries on Her Writer Hat
I’ve been a children’s book editor for over thirty years. Editing’s in my blood. Little else brings me as much joy or satisfaction as coaxing, guiding, and encouraging authors and illustrators to dig deeply and express their truest passions and richest stories.
Over the course of my career, I’ve edited well over 1,000 books, which means I’ve played some small or large part in the creative process for well over 1,000 people.
Throughout the journey, I’ve been asked many times if I ever wanted to write. The long and short answer to that question is “Yes.” But that’s easier said than done.
Being a life-long editor for others comes with a significant downside: I have an aggressive, impatient editor living inside me. She’s tough.
So much so that when serendipitous events occurred and stars aligned for me to co-write a picture book last year, I had to have it out with my internal editor and it wasn’t pretty. I started out nicely, pleadingly, but soon began to rant and swear, begging her to shut up and leave me alone so I could just put down on the page whatever I wanted, without limitation, without question, without suggestion. It’s an understatement to say my internal editor had a hard time turning off. But finally, finally she did shut up and I could start to write.
Maybe it was the looming deadline and my co-author expecting to hear from me that boosted the confidence in the writer part of me to strap my internal editor into the time-out chair. Or maybe it was exhaustion and the writer part of me just didn’t care anymore what those first sentences looked or felt like, as long as there was something on the page. Or maybe it was my trust in the writing process (goodness knows I’ve told hundreds of writers over the years to trust the process!) that eventually forced my internal editor to just darn well wait her turn.
I suspect it was all of these combined that finally allowed me to write with creative adrenaline the words and phrases that would eventually become the score for What Does It Mean to Be An Entrepreneur?
(Little Pickle, 2016).
Most artists are not professional editors, but artists are always contending with some sort of internal editor—that nagging, probing questioner; that voice saying something isn’t good enough; that self-doubter.
Writing is a courageous, delicate, and precious act. Creating art of any kind is a courageous, delicate, and precious act.
Editing, eventually, is critical to the process, but not during those early moments of creativity, when the words and the sketches are barely formed and just emerging from the craftsperson’s imagination.
Through the experience of quieting down my internal editor to write What Does It Mean to Be An Entrepreneur?, I received two great gifts. One was that I was reminded of the obligation I have as an editor: To be patient, supportive, and empathetic to the myriad of feelings (euphoria and despair and everything in between!) an author or illustrator is going to be feeling during their creative process.
And the second gift I received is seeing my name in the byline of a book that springs from my own experiences starting a company and of which I couldn’t be more proud. I was in a position not only to co-write the book, but to edit it and assist in design and art direction—it was the best of all possible worlds for me creatively and professionally.
And now I know, when it comes time for me to write some more, exactly where my internal editor’s time-out chair is waiting! Cynsational Notes
Emma D. Dryden is the founder of drydenbks
, a premier children’s editorial and publishing consultancy firm which she established after twenty-five years as a highly regarded children’s book editor and publisher. She works with authors, illustrators, start-ups, publishers, and app developers.
Emma has edited over a thousand books for children and young readers and during her tenure with Atheneum and McElderry Books, many of her titles hit bestseller lists in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and other national publications, and have received numerous awards and medals, including the Newbery Medal, Newbery Honor, and Caldecott Honor. Emma’s on the Advisory Board of SCBWI
and speaks around the world on craft, the digital landscape, and reinvention.
Her blog “Our Stories, Ourselves” explores the intertwined themes of life and writing. She can be followed online at Twitter @drydenbks
, and Pinterest
Enter to win one of three signed copies of What Does It Mean to Be An Entrepreneur?
by Rana DiOrio
and Emma D. Dryden, and illustrated by Ken Min
(Little Pickle, 2016). Author sponsored. U.S. only.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Announcing the prize winners of the 9th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge
Join 10 YA authors from AW Teen on Wednesday, April 6th at 8 pm CST for a Twitter chat and giveaway! You can tweet your questions and follow along using the hashtag #AWTeen.
Anne Greenwood Brown
), Girl Last Seen
), Dig Too Deep
Prize: 5 participants will be randomly selected to receive an AW Teen book of their choice!
Hope to see you there!
Enter to win a prize for participating in the 9th annual SOLSC!
To get Bartography Express in your inbox each month — and to have a shot at the April giveaway of Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies, written by Carmen Oliver and illustrated by Jean Claude — you can sign up on my home page.
By: Vicky L. Lorencen,
Finny picked our winner!
Congratulations to Rajani LaRocca–
Rajani is the winner!
winner of the Frog on a Dime Spring Giveaway!
Many thanks to everyone who entered.
You shared so many reading suggestions and
words of encouragement. You made me feel like the winner.
Wishing you all a beautiful spring, time to read and reflect–and hopefully some chocolate bunny ears to nibble tomorrow!
Rajani, please send me your address via the Contact Me page and I’ll whisk your froggy goodie bucket off to you this week. Congrats and thanks again for entering!
Come come! Come out!
From bogs old frogs command the dark
and look…the stars. ~ Kikaku, Japanese haiku
Thank you, Highlights Foundation, for this generous prize. Your support of our writing community is so deeply appreciated by us and our readers.
By: Vicky L. Lorencen,
Oh, that William Shakespeare. He sure knew how to sling a syllable, didn’t he . . .
Photo by Vicky Lorencen
This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that a life was but a flower
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.
In that same silly spirit of spring-inspired giddiness, it’s time for a Frog on a Dime Spring Giveaway.
You can win a glorious froggy gift bucket filled with daily inspiration–Don’t Be Afraid to be Amazing by Andy Offutt Irwin, a packet of my favorite Uniball pens, a stuffy bookmark, treats, and of course, more treats.
To enter to win this bucket o’ goodies galore, simply tell me the title of the next book you plan to read or offer a word of encouragement. Just plop your comment after this post. (Facebook comments are cool, but they doesn’t count for this contest. My giveaway. My rules. You dig?)
The deadline for entering is Friday, March 25 at Noon. I will draw a name from all of the entries and then whisk the fun-filled prize off to the winner! Easy kneesy, lemon squeezy, huh?
Enter to win!
Okay, my little glitter jitter bugs, hop to it! Hey, and invite a friend to take a chance too. (Only one entry per, mm-kay?)
Wishing you a can’t-recall-a-lovelier-spring kind of spring!
Photo by Vicky Lorencen
First, I have a winner to announce from last week's giveaway of THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE. According to randomizer, the winner is
Congratulations, Jenni! And look for an email from me asking for your mailing address. For those who didn't win, remember the book is now available from Viking
or your local indie bookstore
Now on to today's feature:
Free Verse by Sarah Dooley (March 15, 2016, G.P. Putnam's sons, 352 pages, for ages 10 and up)
Synopsis (from the publisher):
When her older brother dies in a fire, Sasha Harless has no one left. Her father died in the mines and her mother ran off, so Sasha's brother was her only caretaker. They'd always dreamed of leaving Caboose, West Virginia together someday, but instead she's in foster care, feeling more stuck and broken than ever. But when Sasha discovers cousins she didn't know she had, she finally has something to hold onto, especially sweet little Mikey, who's just as broken as she is. Sasha even makes her first friend at school and is slowly learning to cope with her brother's death by writing poetry.
Then a tragedy strikes the mines where Mikey's father works, and Sasha fears the worst. She takes Mikey and runs away.Why I recommend it
: I know what you're thinking: oh, how sad! And yes, of course, it is sad. As sad as Homecoming
by Cynthia Voigt or One for the Murphys
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt or Walk Two Moons
by Sharon Creech. But what the synopsis doesn't tell you is how strong and likable Sasha is, and how powerfully and in what exquisite detail this novel brings to life a West Virginia coal-mining town. Yes, there is tragedy, but there is also a wonderful ending filled with hope. Best of all? It's about the power of poetry to heal.Bonus
: Poetry Month is coming up in April and this would be a great discussion starter. While not written in verse, one part of this four-part novel is Sasha's poetry notebook, with many different forms that Sasha learns: haiku, cinquain, tanka, found poetry, etc, as well as a section of free verse poems.Favorite lines:
I HAVE STOPPED
wild dogs.Now for the giveaway details:
The publisher has generously offered one hardcover copy for giveaway. To enter, you must be a follower of this blog and you must comment on this post. If you mention the giveaway on social media, please let me know and I'll give you extra chances to win. This giveaway is open to US mailing addresses only (sorry!) and will end at 10:00 pm EDT on Sunday March 27. The winner will be announced on Monday March 28. Good luck!
Writing is only one part of what makes this community strong. Our community would exist without the generosity of your writing AND comments.
For this, we want to reward you by offering an incredible opportunity! This weekend, we aim to demonstrate our appreciation of this community with our second Commenting Challenge.
To thank our loyal readers, we are giving away a Fire HD 8 tablet. Be sure to enter daily to maximize your chance of winning.
First, according to randomizer, the winner of last week's giveaway of a new paperback of THE ANCIENT ONE by T.A. Barron is:
Congratulations, Faith! And look for an email from me asking for your mailing address.
Now onto today's feature!
The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox (March 15, 2016, Viking Books for Young Readers, 400 pages, for ages 10 and up)
Synopsis (from the arc):
Twelve-year-old Katherine Bateson believes in a logical explanation for everything. But even she can't make sense of the strange goings-on at Rookskill Castle, the drafty old Scottish castle-turned-school where she and her siblings have been sent to escape the London Blitz. What's making those mechanical shrieks at night? Why do the castle's walls seem to have a mind of their own? And who are the silent children who seem to haunt Rookskill's grounds?
Kat believes Lady Eleanor, who rules the castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must face the truth about what the castle actually harbors--and what Lady Eleanor is--before it's too late.
Why I recommend it:
You can just tell from that dark, atmospheric cover that this will be a fantastic and chilling read! Yet it's not too
scary (for example, the children find sympathetic adults to help them). The Scottish setting is superb, the writing masterful. I had trouble tearing myself away from the book to cook dinner or even sleep. Kat is a strong and resourceful protagonist, and you'll be with her every step of the way as she puzzles out the mysteries of the castle, Lady Eleanor, and the Lady's mysterious chatelaine with one charm for each child.I'm honored to be the first stop on Janet Fox's blog tour! And now, for a special treat, a guest post from the author herself.
Please discuss your research process (particularly if it involved mysterious trips to Scotland!). Please also expand on how your research brought you to become interested in chatelaines.
Thanks for this great prompt! My entire process - writing and researching - is very organic.
Many of my best ideas come from a place I can only call "my magic zone". Lots of my ideas have come from dreams; I've often started writing a novel from a single image that pops into my head from out of the blue. In the case of THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, the inspiration was a picture. The chatelaine in the story was posted as a picture on the internet and the story grew from my reaction to that strange piece of jewelry.
Once I begin a project I research as I go. When I need to know more about something, like castles or the London Blitz, I'll look it up, study the details, read various accounts. I do both online research and traditional book research, and the only hard part is keeping track of where the information came from. (Note to scholars: keep a good record!)
That's not always the way it works, however. In the case of my YA novel SIRENS, I wanted to add something more - some layer, something deeper - but I didn't know what, until one night in winter while I was listening to a radio program. The interviewer was discussing a new book on Spiritualism in the 1920s and the magician Howard Thurston, and how he was a friend and rival of Harry Houdini. Thurston believed in life after death; Houdini did not. That was the layer I was looking for, and I bought and read the book on Thurston and incorporated magic and spiritualism into my story.
More recently, I've been working on another MG novel set in Scotland (a possible sequel to CHARMED CHILDREN). Again, I was trying to find some way to make a richer and more compelling story, so I went on line and began to research old clocks, and discovered that the unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, possessed something called a "death's head watch." If that novel comes to life, you'll find out just what a death's head watch is, and I can assure you it's pretty creepy.
As to trips to Scotland, I didn't take that trip on the spur of the moment! I've been to Scotland before, and my husband and I planned to go to the UK to visit friends, and when I sold CHARMED CHILDREN we adjusted our plans to make an excursion through Scotland. That way I could visit the castle I plucked out of photographs to become Rookskill - and it exceeded my expectations in its scary splendor.
In short, I tend to follow my instincts, and I've found that once I become interested in a certain aspect of what I'm writing, references pop up everywhere. It's as if the universe is affirming what I'm doing. Writing really is like magic - backed up by science (solid facts) - with an energy all its own.
Thanks so much for your guest post, Janet. Glad a trip to Scotland was involved somehow! And I'm thrilled to hear of a possible sequel!
And here's a fantastic trailer for the book.
Now for the giveaway details. The publisher has generously offered one hardcover copy to one lucky winner (US mailing addresses only. Sorry!). To enter, you must be a follower of this blog and you must comment on this post. If you mention the giveaway on social media, please let me know and I'll give you extra chances for each mention. This giveaway ends at 10:00 pm EDT on Sunday March 20 and the winner will be announced on Monday March 21. Good luck!
I'm excited to welcome fellow Asheville middle grade author, Cynthia Surrisi, who has stopped by to answer some questions about her terrific new middle grade novel: The Maypop Kidnapping, just published by Carolrhoda Books.
Don't you just love this cover?From the publisher: In the coastal village of Maiden Rock, Maine, Quinnie Boyd's teacher has disappeared. Quinnie thinks it's a kidnapping case, but her mom, the town sheriff, just thinks the teacher has left town. Still, Quinnie's going to follow her instincts that something's wrong.
AND.....you can win a signed copy!How?Just leave your name and email address in the comments.That's it!Go ahead.Do it! Winner will be drawn March 21.
But now....let's chat with Cynthia:
Why did you choose to write a mystery for your first book?I have been a mystery reader since childhood. I read every mystery that was available to me, which included all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series. I had a friend in 4th grade (I've blocked out her name and you'll see why) who owned all of them, but she would only loan them to me one at a time and only for one overnight each. Mean, huh? That meant I had to read them under the covers with a flashlight. In retrospect, it enhanced the spookiness of the stories and certainly kept my pulse racing. There was no question as to whether I would turn the next page. As a result, I was really tired a lot in 4th and 5th grade, but the rhythm of a mystery became central to my reading experience.
Do you find there is anything unique about writing a mystery?
Starting in 4th grade, I crafted my own series in spiral bound notebooks. It was called The Twins of Cherrystone Farm. Wow, were those two sisters meanies to each other, but they stuck together when it counted. They solved the mysteries of the stolen gym socks, scandalous unsigned notes, angry valentines, and tons of other middle grade drama of the time. They were filled with tons of spooky suspicions that never went anywhere. For good or ill, they are long lost.
Here's the budding author in kindergarten:
It wasn't until I got to my MFA program years later and had an advisor who was an experienced mystery writer that I learned that you don't write a mystery from the perspective of a reader. Meaning, you don't just start and lay down all kinds of fun and intriguing things with no clear idea of how you will tie them all together. It's too easy to plant then lose track of clues. Chekhov said it best: One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off. It's wrong to make promises you don't mean to keep.
So now, for me, mystery writing requires a very detailed plan. I have written four of them, and while I allow myself a lot of freedom in the actual story narrative, I plan out the mystery in a treatment. I write the backstory, then the opening, then the big reveal. This way I know where I'm going. And I keep track of the clues and red herrings in a chart.
The blurb on the cover of your book says: The only thing that would make this book better is if it came with a Gusty Burger and a side order of lobster fries. I've never flown through a book so fast to find out whodunit.
What exactly are Gusty Burgers and lobster fries, and is this a foodie book?
Protagonist Quinnie Boyd's father owns Gusty's cafe. And yes, the cafe is central to the setting. In the book, everybody's eating and arguing over what they like and don't like. A teeny off-season town needs a little commerce. In this case, it's the lobster pound, the cafe and the real estate office.
A Gusty Burger is a burger on a toasted English muffin with onion and mustard. And don't try and add anything else to it or you'll be run out of Maiden Rock. Once someone asked for ketchup and Gusty shook his head and said, "Mister, I won't serve it to you that way."
The really special and delish dish at Gusty's are the Lobster Fries. These are crispy French fries served with a side of a melted butter, lemon and saffron sauce to dip them in. I'm leaving out the super secret ingredient. The locals love them and the summer people go nuts for them. Aside from that, Gusty serves lobster roll on a buttered split top bun (secret recipe), clam chowda, garlicky cole slaw, blueberry pies with those little Maine blueberries, and whoopie pie sliders. Oh, and every table gets a beat up wooden bowl of Cheese Nips.
What's the story on Moxie?
Don't get me started on Moxie! Well, okay. It's the first bottled soda in America and draws its flavor from gentian root. Originally, it was marketed as a cure-all and called Moxie Nerve Food. Moxie bottle wagons dispensed it at fairs and amusement parks all over the nation, but it really only caught on in New England, specifically Maine.
The company's motto is "Live your life with Moxie." Who can't support that? I fall on the love-it side of the Moxie fence. Others, not so much.
In the book, Quinnie's mom and teacher strongly disagree on the tastiness of the local beverage.
|Moxie|If you want to learn more about the history of this very interesting carbonated soda, click HERE. Okay, it's time to talk about the nuns.Those two sisters in Maypop have been in the back of my mind for many years, waiting for their turn in a story. They spring from my early years in Catholic school and my six-year-old desperate plea to Santa for a nun doll. Here is the nun doll I located on Etsy to replace my long lost Sister Josephine doll. It's like she's never been gone. I can't explain my fascination with nuns. Perhaps it's because they were rol models. Perhaps it's because they were costumed. I don't know. All I know is that I have always wondered what they might be like as fun characters, and now they exist in the book. I never wanted to be a nun, but when I was six, I did pin a scarf on my head like a veil and march imaginary children around the house telling them to hold their buddies' hands and not dilly dally. Like I say, role models.
A craft question: Do you write what you know?Writers talk about this all the time, don't we? The question is what does know mean in this context? My work arises out of a grand mishmash of everything I have been exposed to and experienced. I create from whole cloth, often riffing off of memories of place, incidents and people. Nothing is documentary. Nothing is biographical, except to say that when I challenge a character to feel something, I draw from my personal emotional well of feelings. I go to my heart. My mom was nothing like Sheriff Boyd, but I've had mother-daughter conflicts. I know what that tension feels like, how it can ache and hot it can challenge a tender young soul. You moved to North Carolina recently from Hawaii. What have you found to be the biggest difference?I'm originally from Minnesota and I knew a lot of North Carolina, so I haven't experienced any surprises. Not so with our pets. Our two dogs and cat had never experienced squirrels, turkeys, deer, cold, or snow. Wathcing them come face to face with Western North Carolina nature has been pretty hilarious.This is a picture on day one. They're hyperventilating after seeing their first squirrel.
If this is your first time participating in the SOLSC, this challenge is for you!
The Ancient One by T.A. Barron (New paperback edition March 8, 2016, Puffin Books, 320 pages, for ages 10 and up)Synopsis
(from the author's website
): When Kate Gordon travels to Oregon for a quiet week at Aunt Melanie’s cottage, her plans are dashed by the discovery of a grove of giant redwood trees in nearby Lost Crater. Caught up in the struggle to help protect the redwood forest from loggers, Kate is thrown back in time five hundred years and finds herself facing the evil creature Gashra, who is bent on destroying the very same forest.
In this extraordinary quest, a girl discovers that all living things are connected in ways she never expected, and that true friendship can reach across cultures, and even across centuries.
Why I recommend it: Long before Katniss Everdeen, we had a strong female heroine by the name of Kate Gordon. I actually read this and the other two Kate Gordon adventures (the first is Heartlight and the third is The Merlin Effect) years ago, before I read all of T.A. Barron's Young Merlin saga. But never fear: each of the Kate Gordon books are stand-alones. In fact, I read this one first.
I love Kate. She's not only strong, she's loyal, caring, and sure of herself. A great role model for both girls and guys.
Bonus: With the theme that everything is connected, this would also be excellent for starting conversations about the environment. Remember Earth Day is coming up in April.
Through the generosity of the publisher I have one brand-new paperback to give away. To enter, you must be a follower of this blog and you must leave a comment on this post. Mention the giveaway on social media and I'll give you extra chances for each mention. Open to US mailing addresses only. This giveaway will end at 10:00 pm on Sunday March 13 and the winner will be announced Monday March 14.
By: Wendy Darling,
When Rosamund Hodge asked whether I’d be interested in revealing the cover for her new book Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, I did something I rarely do: I said yes immediately, sight unseen. Because: Her two previous books, Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound, have been among my favorite YA retellings Both of those covers were gorgeous, and captured the rapturous feeling of her darkly romantic fairy tales Rosamund has written so many fascinating guest posts before. I knew we’d have a treat for our readers, especially having read the synopsis, which says it was inspired by Romeo and Juliet…but with necromancers. (!!!) But oh my stars, I still wasn’t prepared for what she sent. Are you ready to set your eyes upon this vision? Are you sure? Just look at this beauty! The mood of this cover is utterly gorgeous–I love the somber colors contrasted with... Read more »
The post Bright Smoke, Cold Fire: Exclusive Cover Reveal + Giveaway appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
Happy Release Month!
Catch the sequel to Lakisha Spletzer's
debut space opera novel, Jewels.
They entered and Jewels smiled. The room looked like a dojo. Martial arts had been a required course for any going into Special Ops. Jewels had enjoyed the rigorous training and discipline the training had given her. She hadn't done as much of it in recent years as she would like, but, if that was what Dex had in mind, she was all for it.
"I sense your happiness, my Onugrass. Is this room to your liking?"
"I haven't sparred in a while. That is why we are here, right?"
"That is correct, Mate. My father reminded me that you are a warrior and probably missed training. Was he correct in his assumption?"
"Yes, he is. I didn't say anything because I only wanted to learn about your culture. But, after dealing with Nala yesterday, I realized that I can't neglect the skills that will keep me alive. I'm not so naive as to think that you don't have enemies. I need to be able to protect myself and you. So training is a must."
"I am glad you feel that way."
Jewels heard the strange tone to his words and she glanced at his face. It was unreadable as always. Just what was Dex planning?
The whooshing of the doors opening caught her attention and she frowned at the interruption. An Eirarjuss strolled in and Jewels felt a moment of confusion. Who was this Gatoan? The Eirarjuss wasn't one she had met before. Was the newcomer another female trying to use Dex to become Queen?
That thought bothered Jewels and she swiftly tried to push it away. Never make assumptions. That's what Jeremy had constantly drilled into her. She knew better than to jump the gun about anything. She would wait for Dex's explanation about the new arrival before drawing any conclusions.
"Jelin, thank you for coming." Dex walked over to the Eirarjuss who bowed before responding.
"It is my honor, your Highness, to assist you and your mate."
Jewels gently brushed against Dex's mind. Not enough to intrude, but to let him know she was confused. He didn't block her, but he also didn't answer her. Immediately, she strengthened her mental defenses. The familiar rush of anticipation filled her. Maybe Jelin was a challenge that she had to overcome. So be it. She was ready. She'd already proved that with Nala.
"Jelin, this is my mate, Jewels." Dex turned and gestured for Jewels to come closer.
Jewels joined them, taking a moment to assess the taller Gatoan. All the Gatoans were taller than Jewels. That wasn't a problem. It meant she'd have a better advantage in a fight. At least in theory she'd have one. Every fight was different so who knew what might happen.
"It is an honor to meet you, Jewels, mate of his Highness."
"Nice to meet you," Jewels kept her tone neutral. So far the Eirarjuss was the complete opposite of Nala's grating and whiny personality. That was a perk.
"Mate, Jelin comes highly recommended by Lord Bravenone. She is one of the few female warriors on the ship. I wanted you to meet Jelin today because she is your new adviser and bodyguard."
Jewels frowned. Had she misheard him? "Bodyguard?"
"Yes. My father feels that you should have protection. Though one guard might be considered an insult to other Gatoans, I know that you will be fine with this arrangement on the ship until we can get more at home on Felinia."
"Really?" Jewels clenched her hands. Did Dex think her so incompetent that she couldn't take care of herself? All she needed was a little training and she would be fine. This was what she hated most about the whole “males are stronger than females” crap. True, males had the size advantage and strength but that didn't mean they couldn't be defeated. And it wasn't like she didn't have her psionic skills to augment her physical and weaponry skills. "And when was I going to be consulted about the need for a bodyguard?"
Dex's surprised look almost made her calm down but his next words only fueled her pique. "You are precious to me. I do not wish you to be harmed."
"Dex, just what am I to you?" she demanded. "I mean, really. What am I to you?"
"You are my mate. You should be kept safe at all cost."
"Uh...huh. And that's why we are going to have a problem."
"I don't understand."
Jewels smiled; she knew it wasn't a friendly one. She really wanted to rip into him so badly she could taste it. She struggled to keep from lashing out, but it was hard. She was tired of all the over protectiveness of the male Gatoans.
In a mock happy tone, she explained to her bewildered husband, "I know you don't, Dex. It's infuriating. I am not a doll that will break if you touch it. I am a warrior in my own right. By assigning me a bodyguard, you are offending me. You are telling me, by your actions, that you don't think I'm capable of taking care of myself."
"Mate, that is not...,"
"Furthermore, the last adviser you gave me wasn't worth the air she breathed and tried to kill me. I'm not feeling very welcoming of your choices in that area."
Jewels felt Dex try to talk telepathically but she kept him out. He needed to learn that he couldn't treat her this way. She wasn't a bed toy. She was a woman and a fighter. He had to acknowledge that or else she'd be stuck in a life she hadn't wanted.
"If I may interrupt, your Highness, Lady Jewels."
Jelin's voice distracted Jewels from arguing further with Dex. What could the Eirarjuss possibly have to add?
"Your Highness, let me spar with Lady Jewels."
Jewels was shocked at the suggestion and, judging by the stiffening of Dex's body, so was he. That intrigued Jewels. Was the Eirarjuss really that good? The competitor in Jewels wanted to find out.
Dex's annoyed growl didn't faze Jewels. She moved away from him and walked up to Jelin.
"I'm ready. Are there any rules I need to be aware of?"
Jelin smiled, baring her fangs. "Do there need to be any? Let us spar as if I am an enemy intent on killing you. Use any means necessary to stop me."
Jewels grinned. "If I win, you can still be my adviser but not my bodyguard." She had no objections to the rules. She and Jeremy used to do the occasional fight the same way. It helped keep them both sharp in the field. Riding that edge of near death. That suited the mood she was in perfectly.
"And, if I win, I will become your bodyguard and adviser."
"Sounds good to me. And, Dex, don't interfere," Jewels warned her glowering mate. Let him stew. She had to concentrate. Her life and respect depended on this fight.
About the Book
Special Lt. Jewels Enbran took to the stars with her husband, Dex LoudRoar, Crown Prince of Felinia, to search for answers about Earth's new allies and their enemy, the Lupinious Empire. She didn't expect to have such a difficult time fitting in or dealing with the crushing animosity of the xenophobic Gatoans.
Amid the political turmoil and the ongoing war with the Lupines, Jewels struggles with her own understanding of the two species. She tries to keep it together, but that is hard to do with the recurring nightmares, frequent assassination attempts and her own inner demons. She wants to find happiness, but at what cost? Can the deepening love and trust she shares with Dex be enough to withstand the challenges of his people? Is the fate of three empires worth more than her own desires?
She thought she would find peace and security with Dex, but the trials and tribulations of her unexpected pairing to royalty are just beginning....
Make sure and grab ebook #1 in the Alien Encounters Saga: Jewels for only $0.99.
Special Lieutenant Jewels Enbran, a human telepath unable to shield her mind from thoughts, uses telepathic anchors who protect her vulnerable mind. Her current anchor, Colonel Jeremy Lingley, is nearing burnout. An alien race is seeking an alliance with Earth and the pair are assigned the mission of discovering the aliens’ secrets.
Crown Prince Dex LoudRoar is a Gatoan warrior and a royal with a terrible secret. His people wage a constant war against their enemy, the Lupinious empire. But the tide of battle is turning and his people seek help from a new source: the humans of Earth.
With an interstellar war looming, Jewels and Dex seek salvation for their planets and find their destinies changed forever.
About the Author
Where to start? I suppose with the basics.
I'm an indie cross-genre writer of science fiction/fantasy/paranormal romance/YA.
I started writing stories and poetry at the age of 8 and haven't stopped yet. I think I've always been a writer, but becoming a published one took a lot of work and dedication.
That didn't happen until after I left my home state of Virginia, and moved to Florida in 2004.
Finding time to write while being a full-time mother and wife, can be difficult but I've always liked a challenge.
I've learned to not let life's many road blocks and speed bumps throw me to the curb. I can't wait to dive in and continue to share the stories swirling around in my head.
To learn more about me as an author feel free to visit any of links below.
Terms and Conditions:
- Autographed Paperback Copy of Jewels 1 & 2 (US & Canada only)
- $15 gift card from Amazon or Barnes & Noble (Nook)
- Ebook pack: Jewels 1 & 2
Giveaway ends Feb 29, 2016. Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com or BN.com Gift Code. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Lakisha Spletzer, http://www.lakishaspletzer.com
. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.a Rafflecopter giveaway
By: Sara Burrier
Blog: warrior princess dream
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, fantasy art
, free art
, mermaid monday
, sara burrier
, valentines day
, Add a tag
Happy Valentine's Day! I know it was yesterday, but a holiday about Love should last so much longer than one day....how about every day? No? Well, we can start with a week. ;)
Valentine's Day is all about the love we share and feel towards those most important to us. Love is very important to me, to share with others....especially those that I don't know, because everyone needs it. A truth that is always good to share.
Today I want to share something with you, an original drawing...the first original drawing of my Mermaid Portrait series for my upcoming coloring book.
Here's what you need to do to be entered into the Giveaway:
♥︎ Go to my Pinterest page and Follow
♥︎ Pin something you like from my Pinterest page
♥︎ Share here or on my Facebook Page a link to the Pin you liked
The more you Pin, the more your name is entered!
This will be running through the entire week of Valentine's. Today February 15th through Sunday, February 21st. All entries AFTER midnight February 21st will not make it to the list.Winner will be announce Monday February 22nd!winner announced on facebook and here on the blog. winner will also be contacted via message/email
Happy Pinning! ♥︎
By: Cynthia Leitich Smith
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Debbie Gonzales
, Jill Santopolo
, Marietta B. Zacker
, Paige Britt
, Texas author
, Add a tag
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsPaige Britt
is the first-time author of The Lost Track of Time
, illustrated by Lee White (Scholastic, 2015). From the promotional copy:
A magical fantasy, an allegorical cautionary tale, a feast of language, a celebration of creativity--this dazzling debut novel is poised to become a story for the ages.
Penelope is running out of time.
She dreams of being a writer, but how can she pursue her passion when her mother schedules every minute of her life? And how will she ever prove that writing is worthwhile if her mother keeps telling her to "get busy " and "be more productive"?
Then one day, Penelope discovers a hole in her schedule--an entire day completely unplanned --and she mysteriously falls into it. What follows is a mesmerizing journey through the Realm of Possibility where Penelope sets out to find and free the Great Moodler, the one person who may have the answers she seeks. Along the way, she must face an army of Clockworkers, battle the evil Chronos, take a daring Flight of Fancy, and save herself from the grip of time.
Brimming with clever language and masterful wordplay, The Lost Track of Time is a high-stakes adventure that will take you to a place where nothing is impossible and every minute doesn't count--people do. Was there one writing workshop or conference that led to an "ah-ha!" moment in your craft? What happened, and how did it help you?
I absolutely do have a most memorable workshop! It was actually one you gave in 2008 with Jill Santopolo
, author and editor at Philomel Books. Even though it was over seven years ago, I’ve never forgotten it.
The workshop was organized by the Austin SCBWI
and hosted by Debbie Gonzales
, who was regional advisor at the time.
To register, you had to submit three pages of a work-in-progress. A few weeks before the event, everyone received a packet with copies of all the three-page submissions. Then during the workshop, you and Jill went through each submission and discussed it with the entire group.
You were both kind and encouraging, but also very honest. Jill told us that editors were looking for a reason to say “no” when they read a manuscript. Together you discussed each submission and pointed out the potential “no’s.” Meandering openings, overly long backstory, and hazy plot lines were the most common mistakes.
Even though what you had to say was tough, it was clear you were invested in everyone’s success. You wanted to turn those no’s into yes’s.
Here’s the funny thing. I didn’t even submit my three pages. I registered too late to be a part of the critique, but I went to the workshop anyway. And I’m so glad I did! After the workshop I went home, re-read my three pages, and guess what? They were meandering, “explain-y,” and vague. But because of your input, I could see it. And if I could see it, I could fix it.
|Cynthia Leitich Smith & Debbie Gonzales|
The Lost Track of Time opens with an alarm clock going off, “Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.” It’s 6 a.m. and even though it’s summer vacation, the main character, Penelope, has to get up and get busy. Right from the start, you know that the central conflict in the story is time.
I did that because of what I learned from you and Jill.
After I fixed my first chapter, I submitted it to two conferences and had sit-down conversations with agents at both. The first agent asked for thirty more pages and the second one, Marietta B. Zacker
, signed me. There is absolutely no way that would have happened if I hadn’t gone to that workshop. I’ve always wanted to tell you and Jill how much you helped me!As a fantasy writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your novel might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?
From the beginning, I knew The Lost Track of Time was intimately connected to real-world issues. When I started writing it, I was working for an internet startup. I was constantly on the clock, from morning until night and over the weekends, trying to make the company a success. Everyone was fighting for more time—but no matter what we did, there was never enough. And what time we did have, had to be spent Constantly! Achieving! Results!
Not surprisingly, The Lost Track of Time is about a girl who likes to do nothing. Doing nothing seemed to me like a radical and counter-cultural act. I’m not talking about the nothing where you lie around flipping through TV channels because you’re too exhausted to engage in life.
I’m talking about moodling.
I learned about moodling from Brenda Ueland
in her book, If You Want to Write
. She writes:
“The imagination needs moodling–long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”
I agree. When you moodle, you’re quiet, still, and (horrors!) unproductive. You let your mind wander until it becomes calm and curious and open. It’s a space of quiet contemplation and intense creativity.
During this busy time in my life, I had no time for quiet contemplation. But when I discovered Brenda Ueland’s words, I suddenly felt I had permission to sit, stare out the window, and moodle. Not only did I have permission, it was imperative that I do so if I wanted to let my own ideas and stories to “develop and gently shine.”
Ueland’s encouragement that everyone moodle touched me so deeply that she inspired a character in my book. She’s the Great Moodler and Penelope fights the tyranny of Chronos and his Clockworkers to save her from banishment in the Realm of Possibility.
As Penelope faces each trial with both imagination and courage, she moves from being an insecure, apologetic daydreamer to a great moodler in her own right.
Research shows a marked decline in U.S. children’s creativity, due to a lack of unstructured free time to play and, I would say, to moodle.
This is terrible news! Not just because creativity is wonderful and life-giving, but because it’s the best predictor we have of a child’s future success, not just in the realms of art and literature, but in the world of business, science, and technology, too.
I’m not sure if you can teach creativity, but I do think you can encourage it. And that’s what I wanted to do in The Lost Track of Time.
I wanted to hold up moodlers as heroes.
Not because they can wield a sword, but because they dare, like Penelope, to enter the Realm of Possibility—to live in the present, to be creative and contemplative, and to believe anything is possible.
Enter to win one of two signed copies of The Lost Track of Time
by Paige Britt
, illustrated by Lee White (Scholastic, 2015). Author sponsored. Eligible territory: U.S. a Rafflecopter giveaway
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
Check out the book trailer
for Wish Girl
by Nikki Loftin
(Razorbill, 2015, 2016)--now available in paperback. From the promotional copy:Peter Stone is a quiet boy in a family full of extroverts, musicians, and yellers. The louder they are, the more silent Peter is . . . until he practically embodies his last name.
When his family moves to the Texas Hill Country, though, Peter finds a peaceful, mysterious valley where he can, at last, hear himself think. There, he meets a girl his age, Annie Blythe, a spirited artist who tells Peter she's a "wish girl." But Annie isn't just any wish girl: she's a "Make-A-Wish Girl." And in two weeks she has to undergo a dangerous treatment to try to stop her cancer from spreading. Left alone, the disease will kill her. But the treatment could cause serious brain damage and take away her ability to make art.
Together, Annie and Peter escape into the valley, which they begin to think is magical. But the pair soon discovers that the valley—and life—may have other plans for them. Sometimes wishes come true in the most unexpected ways. Trailer: "Wish Girl" by Nikki Loftin
from Dave Wilson
.Cynsational Giveawaya Rafflecopter giveaway
Are you always telling your students to add detail? This book is for you. Enter to win a copy!
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By Hannah Barnaby
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
In early 1999, I was a graduate student in the children’s literature program at Simmons College
I had a work study job at the Simmons social work school, mailing out applications and entering information into a computer, and that’s where I was on the morning of February 16th—sitting at someone else’s desk, collating papers—when the phone rang.
I ignored it. It wasn’t my phone.
It stopped, and rang again, and stopped, and finally the receptionist came in and said, “You need to answer that. It’s for you.”
It was my father, and he was crying, and he told me that my brother Jesse was dead.
I was twenty-four years old. My brother was not even twenty-one.
There is no good reason for why it has taken me seventeen years to write Some of the Parts
(Knopf, 2016), the story of Tallie McGovern, who is sixteen and has lost her big brother and feels that she has no right to still be alive. There is no good reason, except that I was afraid to write Tallie’s story because I knew that it would bring that day in 1999 rushing back like an unstoppable river.
And it did. I remembered things that I was sure I’d forgotten, like the single red mitten on top of a fence that I saw as I walked to the T station after that phone call.
Like the first thing I ate after I found out: a tuna sandwich.
Like the ride home to Albany from Boston that night, like what my mother looked like when I saw her at the door, like the guilt and the aching sadness of an empty chair in our kitchen.
I am often asked about the process of writing for teen readers, about accessing my “inner teen,” about telling stories that they can relate to. But the truth is that the experiences which truly shape us—loss and gain, trauma and victory, love and devastation—refuse to be forgotten.
We have only to glance back at them and they reanimate, like a movie unpaused, and they start to talk and move and sing.
Tallie’s story unfolded that way. I expected that writing Some of the Parts would be difficult, and it was. Nate is not my brother, and Tallie is not me, but much of their story is taken from my own and that is how I wrote this book—not just for teens, but for everyone who has lost somebody important.
I didn’t expect that it would heal me all over again. But it did.
I spoke to my brother’s friends from high school and college. I listened to his favorite music (Charlie Parker
). I read his favorite writers (James Michener
and William Faulkner
). I ate his favorite ice cream (vanilla). I spent time with him, the way that Tallie spends time with Nate. I walked through every part of her story right along with her and when she was finally safe again, I knew that I was, too.
I don’t know if Jesse was an organ donor. He died in a fire and most of his personal belongings were damaged or lost, including his driver’s license. But he cared deeply about his family and his friends and the world we lived in with him, and in that way, he lives on.
As for me: I have a little heart on the bottom of my driver’s license. I am very careful crossing the street, and I always wear my helmet.
I have a little boy now. When Some of the Parts is published—on the seventeenth anniversary of my brother Jesse’s death—my son will be nearly six. He loves vanilla ice cream, and music, and reading. He has brown hair and dark eyes, like the uncle he will never meet.
Before I wrote this book, I didn’t talk about my brother with my children very often, because I thought it would be too sad, and because I didn’t know what tell them. Writing Some of the Parts gave me the words to say, and I hope those words are taken by readers and used in conversations about loss of all kinds.
Sometimes bad things happen, and we are not the same when they are over.
This is the line from Some of the Parts that sums it all up for me. When we lose someone, their empty space doesn’t get filled up. It isn’t like digging a hole in the sand and watching the hole disappear when the tide comes in. It’s more like this:
We grow around the memory of the people we’ve lost, and we carry them with us. And if we’re feeling very brave one day, we write about them.Cynsational NotesHannah Barnaby
is the author of Wonder Show
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), a Morris Award finalist; Some of the Parts; and the upcoming picture books Bad Guy and Garcia & Colette. She is a proud graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts
and a former children’s book editor and bookseller.
Hannah lives in Charlottesville, VA with her family and teaches creative writing to anyone who will listen. Find her on Twitter @hannahrbarnaby
Learn more about Hannah’s upcoming Write for Your Life workshop
at The Writing Barn in Austin.Cynsational Giveaway
Enter to win a signed copy of Some of the Parts
by Hannah Barnaby
(Knopf, 2016) and a sterling silver heart necklace. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. only.a Rafflecopter giveaway