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Blog: Playing by the book
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, Different perspectives
, Jon Klassen
, Mac Barnett
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Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen is full of near misses but ends up being one big hit. Forget the treasure that may or may not be buried under your feet, pick this book up and you’ll have a real gem in your hands.
It starts like this:
Apropos of seemingly nothing, Sam and Dave decide to dig a hole.
They’re only going to stop when they find “something spectacular”.
They don’t have much luck, but… in a brilliantly crafted piece of drama they come oh so painfully, excruciatingly close.
Many picture book creators have talked about how they see their books as mini pieces of theatre, and this book delivers a very special theatrical experience; like in a pantomime when you might call out “He’s behind you!”, only for the innocent character on stage to turn and see nothing, the reader/listener has special knowledge that poor Sam and Dave do not. With beautifully textured, muted illustrations revealing something quite different to what is known from the text, children treated to this story get a special thrill from “being in the know”, from seeing the truly spectacular buried treasure that the poor protagonists keep missing.
This empowering experience is doubled up through association with Sam and Dave’s little dog. Despite being small and just a side kick (like many children sometimes feel), the dog seems to have all the brains. He is the one who keeps sensing just how close the diamonds are. He is the one who makes the breakthrough, resulting in Sam and Dave appearing to have dug all the way through to …
…well, to what? To where? Although this book was authored by Barnett, the ending feels like classic Klassen: It’s full of ambiguity and multiple possible readings. Have Sam and Dave dug all the way through from one side of the earth to the other? Have they managed through some Möbius-strip-like convolution to dig all the way through to end up back where they started? Or have they discovered something genuinely spectacular – some new dimension where slightly different rules are at play?
Finely honed, pared-back text and seemingly quiet illustrations which actually pack a very funny punch combine to make this a winner. Do look out for Sam & Dave Dig a Hole!
Inspired by Sam and Dave’s digging we decided to do a little bit of digging ourselves. Using these guidelines from Suffolk County Council, we dug what is known by archaeologists as a “test pit” in the middle of the lawn in our back garden.
We marked out a square and I took off the top layer of turf before the girls started digging down, retrieving any “treasure” they found on the way.
They used a large garden sieve to go through the soil they removed, and a toothbrush to wash what they found.
As you can see we found quite a lot of “treasure” including something metal but unidentifiable (top left of the photo below), a section of Victorian clay pipe stem, several pieces of pottery and a surprising number of large bones! (oh, and a hippo…..)
At some point when my back was turned the game developed into something a little different – M made a “time capsule” in an old icecream tub and insisted that it got buried when the time came to fill in our hole.
So I guess this means we’ll be digging another hole at some point in the future. Given how much fun we had with this one, I won’t be complaining.
We weren’t listening to music whilst we dug our hole, but were we to choose some music to match Sam & Dave Dig a Hole we might include these in our playlist:
The Hole in the Ground sung by Bernard Cribbins – I have to admit, a favourite from my own childhood
Diggin’ a Hole to China by The Baby Grands (you can listen for free here on Vimeo!)
Diggin’ in the Dirt by Peter Gabriel
Watching Mac Barnett give a Ted Talk about “writing that escapes the page, art as a doorway to wonder”
Helping Sam and Dave find their way through a maze using this activity sheet from the publishers.
Indoor hole digging. One of my kids’ favourite activities when they were younger, and one which saved my life several times by providing me with a good few minutes to get on with making supper or tidying up, was digging in an indoor sand tray. I had an old roasting tray filled with sand and a few spoons and yoghurt pots which I kept in the cupboard and would bring out for the girls to play with at the table. Yes sand would get spilt as they dug the sand, but all it took was a quick hoover to tidy up.
Taking a look at these VERY big holes around the world….
Reading The Something by Rebecca Cobb, another very lovely, very different book all about the possibilities a hole offers.
Other activities you could enjoy along side reading this hilarious book include:
What’s your favourite hole? A hole you made? A hole you visited? A hole which allows you to sneak through into some secret space?
Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book from the publisher but was under no obligation to review it and received no payment for doing so.
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, Rhetoric & Quotations
, american literature
, American Revolution
, colonial propaganda
, common sense
, fourth of july
, Propaganda 1776
, Revolutionary Communications
, Russ Castronovo
, Tom Paine
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By Russ Castronovo
Ever since 4 July 1777 when citizens of Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary of American independence with a fireworks display, the “rockets’ red glare” has lent a military tinge to this national holiday. But the explosive aspect of the patriots’ resistance was the incendiary propaganda that they spread across the thirteen colonies.
Sam Adams understood the need for a lively barrage of public relations and spin. “We cannot make Events; Our Business is merely to improve them,” he said. Exaggeration was just one of the tricks in the rhetorical arsenal that rebel publicists used to “improve” events. Their satires, lampoons, and exposés amounted to a guerilla war—waged in print—against the Crown.
While Independence Day is about commemorating the “self-evident truths” of the Declaration of Independence, the path toward separation from England relied on a steady stream of lies, rumor, and accusation. As Philip Freneau, the foremost poet-propagandist of the Revolution put it, if an American “prints some lies, his lies excuse” because the important consideration, indeed perhaps the final consideration, was not veracity but the dissemination of inflammatory material.
In place of measured discourse and rational debate, the pyrotechnics of the moment suited “the American crisis”—to invoke the title of Tom Paine’s follow-up to Common Sense—that left little time for polite expression or logical proofs. Propaganda requires speed, not reflection.
Writing became a rushed job. Pamphlets such as Tom Paine’s had an intentionally short fuse. Common Sense says little that’s new about natural rights or government. But what was innovative was the popular rhetorical strategy Paine used to convey those ideas. “As well can the lover forgive the ravisher of his mistress, as the continent forgive the murders of Britain,” he wrote, playing upon the sensational language found in popular seduction novels of the day.
The tenor of patriotic discourse regularly ran toward ribald phrasing. When composing newspaper verses about King George, Freneau took particular delight in rhyming “despot” with “pisspot.” Hardly the lofty stuff associated with reason and powdered wigs, this language better evokes the juvenile humor of The Daily Show.
The skyrockets that will be “bursting in air” this Fourth of July are a vivid reminder of the rhetorical fireworks that galvanized support for the colonists’ bid for independence. The spread of political ideas, whether in a yellowing pamphlet or on Comedy Central, remains a vital part of our national heritage.
Russ Castronovo teaches English and American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His most recent book is Propaganda 1776: Secrets, Leaks, and Revolutionary Communications.
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Blog: Playing by the book
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, Annie M. G. Schmidt
, Books in translation
, Crosscultural friendship
, David Colmer
, Different perspectives
, The Netherlands
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Mr Tibbles – a shy reporter on the local newspaper – has been threatened with the sack. It’s perhaps no surprise: Mr Tibbles is mad about cats, and all his stories end up revolving around felines one way or another. What his editor wants, however, is news!
An act of kindness brings Mr Tibbles into contact with Minoe, a rather strange young woman who appears to be able to talk to cats. Through the town’s network of feline pets and strays Minoe starts starts to deliver interesting titbits of exclusive news to Mr Tibbles; cats across the city overhear all sorts of conversations often revealing juicy gossip and insider information, and when Minoe learns of these pieces of news from kitty comrades, she passes them on to her friend the reporter.
Mr Tibble’s job is looking up until he uncovers information which could lead to the downfall of a local powerful businessman. Will the reporter be brave enough to expose the evil goings on? Will he be believed, when his only witnesses are pussy cats?
A funny and yet quietly profound tale of courage, friendship and what it really means to be human, The Cat Who Came in off the Roof, by Annie M. G. Schmidt, translated by David Colmer is a gem of a story. Ideal for fans of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, or cross-species tales of identity such as Stellaluna or Croc and Bird, this book would make an especially good class read-aloud, with lots of opportunities to discuss what life looks like from different perspectives, helping readers and listeners walk in another’s shoes, as well as perhaps learning a thing or to about overcoming shyness, and how to stand up for what you believe in.
From the mangy, feisty stray cat who you end up rooting for, to the hilarious school cat with a penchant for history lessons and a slight;y different (some might say out-dated) understanding of the term ‘news’, Schmidt has populated her story with a super array of characters. The narrative beautifully unfolds with unseen and fine tuning, climaxing with an exciting and rich ending which is deeply satisfying even though not everything is tied up neatly and not all strands end happily. Despite plenty of kittens and purring, this book never patronises its readership.
Knowing the original Dutch language version as we do as a family, I can also comment on the gorgeous translation. Colmer has wittily and cleverly translated linguistic and cultural jokes. His phrase ‘miaow-wow’ for when the cats meet up for a big parley is genius and has now entered our family parlance. If I nitpick I might personally have chosen -thorpe rather than -thorn for the Dutch -doorn, when translating the town’s name but I feel mean mentioning this as Colmer’s voice is pitch-perfect; at no point will you notice the text as a translation for it reads authentically and smoothly.
This must-read book will make you laugh out loud (whether you are a dog person or a cat fan). It will make you feel like for a brief moment you’ve witnessed and understood the best of humanity. It may also make you rather nervous next time you find a cat sitting ever so quietly next to you whilst you are having a private conversation!
I do so hope Pushkin Press are now thinking about translating Schmidt’s earlier work, Ibbeltje, which shares many characteristics with The Cat Who Came in off the Roof and has the added advantage of brilliant illustrations by another glittering star in the Dutch children’s literature firmament: Fiep Westendorp.
For reasons which will become clear upon reading this charming and magical book Minoe not only can speak the language of cats, she is also known to climb trees when dogs approach. It took about a nanosecond for M to decide she wanted to play-by-this-particular-book by climbing as many different trees as she could one afternoon at the weekend. So, armed with a local map (printed from http://www.openstreetmap.org/) we set off to map all the local trees good for climbing in.
Each tree we climbed we identified (it seems that around us oaks, ash and willow are the best climbing trees).
We remembered the last time we deliberately climbed trees in order to read on location.
Getting out and climbing a tree? Reading a truly terrific book? What more could you ask for as a lovely way to while a way a few hours!
Whilst climbing we weren’t listening to music, but these tracks could go with reading The Cat Who Came in off the Roof:
This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof by Brian Setzer
Everybody Wants to be a Cat from The Aristocats film
The Cat theme from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf
Reading more books in more trees. The very first I’d have to recommend are the Toby books by Timothee de Fombelle, about an entire world of miniature people having giant adventures in an oak tree.
Walking around your neighbourhood and greeting the cats you come across. Could you create a backstory for each one? What are they called? What do they get up to when you’re not there?
Writing a family newspaper. This is potentially a super project for the summer holidays – and you can get some great tips and downloadables to get you going from this post over on Playful Learning.
Other activities which you might be inspired to try alongside reading The Cat Who Came in off the Roof include:
When did you last climb a tree? What secrets might your cat be able to tell me ?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Cat who Came in off the Roof from the publisher.
And briefly…. thank you with all my heart to all of you who commented on my last post, or got in touch via email, phone, snail mail and more. Life goes on and plots are being hatched and plans being laid. As and when I can reveal more I’ll be sure to let you know the latest.
One of the irrefutable facts of life is that cats have secret lives.
There’s Slob Cat who actually spends his day being brave, energetic, and sometimes saving lives. There’s Lionel who paints portraits and drives sportscars when his owners aren’t looking. There’s Sid, who keeps his folk in the dark about just how many dinners he manages to get each night. Fang is a secret super hero cat, and Malcolm parties with the Queen of Cats. Joining this clowder are Fred (a popstar), Mr Tiddles (a genuine cat burglar), and most recently Oscar.
When Oscar’s owners go to work, he loves to dance, and what’s more, he’s really rather good at it. Name any style, and he can swing his hips, tap his toes and boogie the night away.
The Tip-Tap Dancing Cat by Joanna Boyle (@J0anna12) is a lovely, free flowing celebration of the joy of dance, but instead of sparkled-up celebrities, it’s a cat that steals the show.
Twelve different dance styles are highlighted, with Oscar striking a quintessential pose to represent each. More of a beautifully illustrated non-fiction picture book (including a glossary in the final pages), than one with a traditional storyline, this is a sweet and simple introduction to everything from Swing to Samba, and Tango to Two-Step. Boyle’s illustrations are delightful; loose and lively, graceful and fluid, in fact everything you might hope for in a dancer!
I’d love to see this book being used in classrooms and homes to get kids up and moving, trying out the moves Oscar demonstrates. And if you want to get people on the dance floor, strutting their stuff, how about making a disco ball to set the scene?
This is exactly what we were inspired to try after reading The Tip-Tap Dancing Cat.
First we gathered together old, scratched CDs, and I softened them by holding them in boiling water for about 45 seconds.
Next I cut the CDs into small squares with sides of about 1.5cm. I used my strongest pair of scissors for this, and did the cutting whilst the CDs were still warm from their dipping.
I found that some CDs cut much more easily (ie without shattering) than others – I guess this might depend on the sort of backing they have. To allow for the fact that some CDs might shatter, even though you’ve softened them, make sure you’ve got a few more CDs than you think you’ll need to complete the disco ball.
Every day over the course of a week M, J and I stuck a few CD squares onto an old rubber ball. We used regular tacky glue, and just took our time building up the mosaic of squares so that each few had time to dry before we rotated our sphere to add more squares. Finally we hung the ball up, shone a light on it and started it spinning!
(Yes, not very dancey music in the video, but it does reflect the magic of having these little squares of reflected light fill our kitchen!)
Finally it was time to put on some real dancing music and have a ball:
We danced to:
Dancing with My Daddy by Kira Willey (a samba)
Please don’t Polka the Baby by The Mudcakes (a polka, surprise surprise)
Tweet Me Right (The Cairo Tango) by Raffi (you can guess what style of music this is….)
Losing hours to watching clips of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers Gene Kelly and other greats on YouTube. There’s a 2.5 hour long playlist here, or for just 3 minutes of dancing deliciousness try this:
Other activities to go with reading The Tip-Tap Dancing Cat include:
Making rosettes! Oscar the cat wins rosettes for his fabulous dancing and you could make some to award to each other. Dad Can Do has a great tutorial with free printables.
Creating your own top hat to dance with. In one scene Oscar looks extremely dapper, dancing with a top hat and walking stick. Instructables has a top hat tutorial and if ever there’s been a good excuse to visit this favourite (non-book) shop of mine in London, perhaps this book is it!
I haven’t yet read The Dancing Cats of Applesap by Janet Taylor Lisle but it sounds like the perfect follow on read to The Tip-Tap Dancing Cat. Have you any other books about dancing cats or cats’ secret lives to recommend?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Tip-Tap Dancing Cat from the publishers.
By: Laura A. H. Elliott,
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, The Storytellers
, Caribbean Sea
, Yuri Knorozov
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The Storytellers is my latest release and my first adult paranormal romance. It was so much fun to write and came as a bit of a surprise too, when I least expected it. Did you know there are upwards of 50 characters in the book? At E! I had a few opportunities to work on the show E! True Hollywood Stories for eonline.com. I always found the episodes so fascinating. For me it’s really fun to know the story behind the story. I hope you you do too. So, here’s 10 top secrets about The Storytellers, so just keep it between us, ‘kay? At the end of the post you’ll find the list of giveaway winners, congrats all!
1. Djucu nuts appear as lucky charms in The Storytellers and are considered lucky charms in the Caribbean. The nuts grow in tall trees deep in the Venezuelan jungles then float down waterways and into the Caribbean Sea and onto the beaches of Aruba & Curaçao.
2. My dad called the islands just off the northern coast of Venezuela the “A-B-C islands.” This is how I first learned about Curaçao. Ever since I heard Dad talk about the islands they captured my imagination and is one of the reasons why I chose the island of Curaçao as one of the settings of The Storytellers. (A-B-C Aruba, Bonaire & Curaçao)
3. I visited Venezuela as a teenager and my experiences there influenced a few of the settings in The Storytellers and also influence my writing in general.
4. Dr. Alexandra Abernathy’s story line about archeology is loosely base upon some of the experiences my daughter had while she was on archeological digs in Israel and Jordan.
5. Because of my love of jade, I wanted to use jade as an important part of the cursed treasure in The Storytellers. In Central America The Mayans and Aztecs prized jadite jade. The name jade comes from the Spanish “piedra de ijada” — literally “stone of the pain in the side.” Early Spanish explorers gave it this name after they saw natives holding pieces of the stone to their sides to cure their aches and pains.
6. I wrote The Storytellers years ago and put it in a drawer and never thought I’d ever publish the story. It was only after some friends asked if I had ever written anything for adults that I was prompted to dig out the manuscript.
7. I set part of the novel in Georgia because I’ve had a wonderful time on book tours there and I used to love to look at the beautiful red soil out my window every year when we’d road trip from Chicago to Florida when I was a little girl. I remember one time we drive through the eye of a hurricane just outside of Stone Mountain, GA, a place we’d always overnight on the drive down.
8. The name of the mysterious character, Dr. Yuri Knorozov, is a nod to the Soviet linguist of the same name, (Nov. 19 1922-March 31, 1999) an epigrapher and ethnographer who is renowned for his decipherment of the Maya script.
9. Logograms make up the Mayan language and they captivate me. Each script is a little work of art.
10. One of the hardest parts of the novel for me to write concerned the naming and powers of the four idols at the heart of the story: Escrito holds the power of the writer, which we know as the power of the truth; Bailador, the power of the dancer, which holds the power of falling in love; Pintador, the power of the painter, which embodies the power of perception; and lastly Músico, the power of music, which transcends time and space and holds the power of emotion.
And the WINNERS are
KINDLE FIRE : drecordova
2 signed copies of Storytellers and swagpack: qwertzuio789 and grandmatinaof2
2 copies of Winnemuca: ddoan_562 & bobbyehopebooth
YAY!!! Thanks so much to everyone who followed the blog tour and took the time to enter the giveaway. Y’all rock!
I’m super excited about the paperback which will be available in the next few weeks. I’ve gotten lots of requests about its availability. And also, the book trailer is coming soon, stay tuned.
Today's guest shares a nice Q&A with us. Dlesheree Gladden is the author of Wicked Hunger and she wants to tell us a little about it.Q:
When did you first start writing? A:
I first started writing when I was a teen. It was mainly just a hobby at that time, and I wasn't very good. After I got married my husband encouraged me to focus on writing and get into publishing. His support has made all the difference. Q:
Do you read much? If yes, have you always loved reading? A:
I have always loved reading. When my mom would take us to the library when I was little I rarely left with less than twenty books, and I always had them all read by the time we went back for more books. Q:
Who's your favorite author? What's your favorite book? A:
This is always such a tough question because I have so many. Can I pick two? Jim Butcher and Brandon Sanderson are at the top of my list. I love the Dresden Files and the Mistborn Trilogy. Q:
What writers have influenced you the most? A:
Patricia C. Wrede and Jim Butcher. Wrede's books were the first books I really fell in love with. Her characters brought the whole story to life. Butcher's imaginative and unique take on magical creatures and elements inspires me to stretch my mind and be creative. Q:
Do you have a favorite fictional character? Either from a book or movie or a tv show? A:
I think I'd have to pick Mat Cauthon from the Wheel of Time books. Even though 15 rather long books, he always surprised me and kept things interesting. Q:
What are you working on right now? Can you tell us something about it? A:
Too many things at once! I'm working on the sequel to Wicked Hunger, called Wicked Power, which will continue the story of Van and Zander Roth as the explore the world of the Godlings and try to figure out who to trust. I'm also working on a sequel to Escaping Fate. Soul Stone follows Arra as she discovers new abilities. A new project, Invisible, a story about an invisible boy who discovers someone is trying to hunt him down, is the last project I'm focusing on. It will be featured on Wattpad starting in Sept. 2013. Q:
Is there anything in particular that you do to get in the mood to write, or to get in the 'zone'? Any particular pre-writing routines? A:
It just depends on my mood. Sometimes I want absolute quiet, an other times I need to have music in order to concentrate. Q:
Where do you do your writing?
A: I do most of my writing either on the couch or up in the extra room that is my office/sewing room. My computer shares the desk with two sewing machines and a dressmakers dummy, but it works! Q:
How do you approach your writing? i.e. - Do you do outlines? Character bios? Etc.? A:
I jump in and keep writing until I either get stuck or finish the book. I only outline when I absolutely have to and I've never once done a character bio. Q:
Do you have any advice for other writers? A:
Read a lot. There is so much you can learn from reading other writers' work. I get a lot of inspiration from favorite books. Authors I really admire encourage me to keep expanding my abilities and push myself. Q:
Are you a morning person or evening person? Day or night? A:
Night, definitely. I am not a morning person at all, although I taught a seven o'clock yoga class twice a week for over a year! Q:
Do you have any pets? A:
Nope. Between me and my husband, we're allergic to most pets. The ones we aren't allergic to are too smelly. Some day I'm sure my daughter will talk us into a dog regardless of allergies, but she hasn't been successful just yet. Q:
What's your favorite 'I need a break from writing' activity? A:
Reading a good book. I love losing myself in a story and I love sharing my favorites book with my kids now. Q:
How do you approach writing sex scenes? They can range from mild to wild. Where are you on the mild to wild meter? A:
Since I write YA, I don't really write sex scenes. I write steamy scenes when they are called for, but even in the adult books I'm working on, I have a closed door policy. Q:
Do you write in one genre? Or more than one? A:
All of my published books are YA urban fantasy, but I have three adult dramatic romances that I am working on right now. Q:
Are you self-published or with a publishing house? A:
Most of my books are self published right now. I worked with a publisher on The Destroyer Trilogy originally, but after many problems I decided to go back to self publishing. Wicked Hunger was signed with GMTA publishing early this year, and is now available from most major ebook retailers. Q:
What are your thoughts on getting a literary agent? A:
I've never worked with a literary agent, so I don't have a lot to go on to answer that question. I think it depends on their experience and contacts. If they can do more than an author can do on their own, I'm sure it would be a great partnership. The publishing industry is becoming more open to working directly with authors, though, so it will be interesting to see how their role changes in the future. Q:
What about marketing? How do you approach that area? A:
Most of my marketing is done online through social media, reviews, blog tours, workshopping, and participating in giveaways and author related events. Q:
What about beta readers? Do you use them? How many do you have? Where do you find them? A:
I have several great beta readers I work with. I have found beta readers through writing groups as well as recruited a few loyal readers and new readers through mutual friends and social media. Q:
What's your favorite food? A:
Green chile chicken enchiladas. Being from New Mexico, I love green chile! Q:
What's your favorite color? A:
Orange. I love fall colors, the dusty, muted reds and oranges of fall leaves. Q:
Is there a particular website or facebook page or blog that you, as a writer, find very helpful? A:
The Next Big Writer online writing community has helped me connect with so many wonderful authors. Goodreads is also a great place for authors. You can connect with readers and share updates about your writing. Q:
What's your favorite time of the year? A:
I love the fall. Living in a desert, it's always a relief when the heat starts to cool into nice autumn days. Q:
What's your most recent book about? And where can people buy it? A:
Wicked Hunger is the story of the Roth siblings. Vanessa and Zander Roth are good at lying. They have to be when they are hiding a deadly secret. Day after day, they struggle to rein in their uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering in order to live normal lives. Things only get worse when Ivy Guerra appears with her pink-striped hair and secrets. The vicious hunger Ivy inspires is frightening, not to mention suspicious. Vanessa's instincts are rarely wrong, so when they tell her that Ivy's appearance is a sign of bad things to come, she listens. She becomes determined to expose Ivy's secrets. Vanessa tries to warn her brother, but Zander is too enamored with Ivy to pay attention to her conspiracy theories. One of them is right about Ivy . but if they lose control of their hunger, it won't matter who is right and who is wrong. One little slip, and they'll all be dead.
As a writer, what do you feel is your strongest gift or talent or skill that you have, that helps you the most as a writer? A:
One thing readers have told me they enjoy are my characters. I always try make sure my characters are unique. I want them to have a life before the book starts. Their backstories drive the decisions they make in the book. I don't want readers to feel like the character was "born" on page one. Q:
Please share some of your links with us - facebook author page, website, where people can find your books?A:
Readers can find me online at:
About the book: Vanessa and Zander Roth are good at lying. They have to be when they are hiding a deadly secret. Day after day, they struggle to rein in their uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering in order to live normal lives. Things only get worse when Ivy Guerra appears with her pink-striped hair and secrets. The vicious hunger Ivy inspires is frightening, not to mention suspicious. Vanessa’s instincts are rarely wrong, so when they tell her that Ivy’s appearance is a sign of bad things to come, she listens. She becomes determined to expose Ivy’s secrets. Vanessa tries to warn her brother, but Zander is too enamored with Ivy to pay attention to her conspiracy theories. One of them is right about Ivy … but if they lose control of their hunger, it won’t matter who is right and who is wrong. One little slip, and they’ll all be dead.
About the author: I live in New Mexico with my husband and two children. I love expressing my creativity through writing and painting and I get a lot of my inspiration from my family and from the culture and beauty of New Mexico. I write mainly Young Adult urban fantasy, but my writing interests are ever expanding. I am also currently in the Dental Hygiene Program at San Juan College, so 90% of my waking hours are devoted to thinking about teeth for the time being!
By: Mayra Calvani
Blog: Mayra's Secret Bookcase
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, beverly mcclure
, ya novel
, young adult fiction
, First Love
, teen novel
, teen pregnancy
, Add a tag
When Beverly was a child she hated to read. Even though her eighth-grade teacher sent her poem “Stars” to a high school anthology and it was published in Young America Sings she hated to write. In spite of her rocky relationship with books, she managed to graduate from high school then attended Midwestern State University, where she read more books than she could count. After four years, she graduated cum laude with, you guessed it, a teaching degree. And somewhere along the way, perhaps reading to her sons or reading great Newbery winners with her students, she discovered what she’d been missing: reading was fun. Now she reads most every day. She also writes stories and articles for children and teens. Beverly lives in the country with her husband, two cats, and a variety of wild critters that stop by for a handout or just to peek in the door. Besides writing, she plays the piano, searches for her ancestors, and teaches a women’s Sunday school class. She also has the most beautiful grandchildren in the world. Congratulations on yet another book release, Beverly! How do you keep yourself so productive? Thank you, Mayra. It is fun to see a new book, after so many months of writing and editing, finally in the hands of readers. As for being productive, I think as an older writer, realizing I’m in those supposedly “golden years” motivates me to stay busy. Each hour of every day is precious to me. I hate to waste time. Maybe my years as a teacher helps too, since I’m used to a schedule. Even though I retired years ago, I still write out my plans for each day, not that I always stick to them, but I try. Also, my sons are grown and away, leaving me time for myself, which is rare when you have children at home. I do not see how writers with young kids and even teens manage to write. I write at least two hours every morning except Saturday, which is catch up day, and Sunday, church day. Sometimes, my words are not worth keeping. Other times, they flow onto the screen and a story forms. What was your inspiration for Life on Hold? Sounds like a compelling mystery. One day, I read an article in the local newspaper about a young couple that had a baby while they were still in high school. The girl’s parents made her give the child away. The teens eventually went their separate ways, married others, and had other children. Years later, a chance conversation between the boy or girl (I forget which one) and a friend mentioned an 18-year-old boy they knew that had been adopted when a baby. The article went on to tell how the former boyfriend and girlfriend, who no longer were married to their spouses, found each other again and decided to search for the son they’d given up. And, you guessed it, the teen mentioned was their son. They went on to have a wonderful relationship with him. I love stories with happy endings. I also imagine this story happens quite often. Could you share with us what your process was like during the creation of this novel? Most of the time, my stories start from something I read about, or sometimes a little voice speaks to me, or an event begs to be told. With Life on Hold, I basically started with the plot of a teen discovering her father really was her stepfather. At first, I wasn’t sure how the story would end or even how we’d get there. The characters carried me along, occasionally as confused as I was; other times knowing exactly where they were going. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to my writing and try to write a little every day, as I mentioned earlier. My schedule is flexible, but mornings are my best writing time. It took me a bit over two years to write the story, including many revisions and then more edits with my great editor. Yes, I’m slow, but like the turtle I eventually reach my destination. Did you hit any walls while writing the book? If yes, what did you do to overcome them? Not walls exactly, but the final version had many changes from the original as I got to know the characters better. I keep each draft on the chance an earlier edition might have a scene I’d want to add back in. When a scene wasn’t working, I rewrote it in different ways to see what worked best. Many times the first thought was the best. Did you celebrate when you typed ‘The End?’ I didn’t do anything special, but the words The End are two of my favorite words. They give me a sense of accomplishment, because many times in a story, I’ll wonder if it will ever end or if I should scrap the whole thing. What do you want readers to get out of this book? I’d like for children/teens who are adopted or those that are step children to realize that bringing a child into the world does not make a man a father. (Or a mother, a mother) Holding, rocking, and whispering gentle words to a child when she’s sick make a father. Attending her programs at school, helping her with spelling, taking her to the movies make a father. A father and mother show their love by actions: love, discipline when necessary, and always being there when the child has a crisis, whether big or small. What do you enjoy most about being a children’s book author? The most exciting thing about writing for children to me is when a child or teen says he/she likes my books. What greater reward can an author wish for? Do you have any tips for aspiring authors? You’ve heard it before, but it’s true. Hang in there. Never give up. I have enough “No thank you” letters to paper my whole writing room, but some of them also contain a word of encouragement. Cling to those comments. Use them to improve your story. Keep writing. Learn more. Attend conferences, Online ones if you can’t get to live ones. Keep writing. Yes, I’m repeating myself, but if you stop writing when times are tough, you’ll never be published. If you’re persistent, one day, you’ll succeed. Hint: Don’t expect to get rich, unless you write a blockbuster. Enjoy the writing. For me, the finished story is the reward. My chapter book, Kate, Little Angel Sometimes (title will be changed) is scheduled for a May/June 2013 release from 4 RV Publishing. January 2013 is the release date of my Tween paranormal A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat, MuseItUp Publishing. My orphan train story, Scattered to the Winds, is under contract with Twilight Times, and Guardian Angel has Weird Noises in the Night, no dates set yet. Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers? Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read my thoughts. I hope they help you in some way. Visit me on my blogs. I love comments. If you read my books, please let me know what you think. Thank you, Mayra. It’s been my pleasure, sharing my work with everyone.
By: Hazel Mitchell,
Blog: Hazel Mitchell
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, Jeannie Brett
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, Joanna Marple
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I met Joanna Marple back at LA SCBWI Conference in 2011. As a fellow Brit we connected pretty much right away. It's the tea .. a bonding thing.
Joanna is an interesting individual .. she lives and works in Nice, France and rides a big, beefy motorbike and whenever I catch up with her she is usually in an airport or another country.
This week I am lucky enough to be featured on Miss Marple's fabby blog ....
We get pretty deep into it here, so there are some secrets and DEEP THOUGHT. (OK, fairly deep ....)
She also describes me as 'Highly Relational'. I like this, although not really certain of the meaning, but will store away and utilize at some point, somehow. (Perhaps in discussion with 'im indoors: 'Look, I am Highly Relational, you should know that by now.' GRIN.
In other news from The Wacky Brit I got to visit with the grand folks at Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, Maine and subjected them to a meandering Power Point presentation of my life (so far). They were very kind and even laughed at some bits. I hope they were the funny bits. Afterwards I got to have lunch with the lovely and talented Jeannie Brett who unexpectedly turned up to see what I was on about.
Here are some pics from the day ...
OK ... got thumbnails to work on ... and some exciting news to announce soon! Watch this space.
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5 Stars Skilley is an alley cat that spends his days dodging brooms, trying to grab a morsel to eat. He has one secret desire: to live somewhere warm and safe, preferable in the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese he has heard so much about. This London public house makes the best cheese throughout Europe. It [...]
by Craig Moodie, author of Into the Trap
Writing Into the Trap allowed me to transform many of the coasts and islands and bodies of water I’ve known into the fictional setting of Fog Island.
Since I was a kid, islands in particular have captivated me. All of the islands I’ve set foot on or seen from the deck of a boat have kept me under their spell. I wish I could tell you about all of them, from Vieques to Cuttyhunk, Bermuda to Barra.
But one that I thought about a lot when I was writing the book was called Dobbins Island. My family was lucky enough to own a 35-foot yawl that we sailed out of Annapolis, Maryland. Sometimes when we cruised we would head into the Magothy River and anchor near Dobbins Island.
It was an uninhabited islet covered with woods and thickets atop steep clay bluffs. Its spindly tangled trees looked like the masts of pirate ships. One time when we rowed ashore for a quick walk along the beach, one of my sisters said it looked like a good stand-in for the setting of Lord of the Flies. It was eerie, quiet and watchful and secretive, and that made me want to explore it all the more. But we had to head back to the boat.
I got another chance one muggy evening when we’d anchored off the island again. After dinner I climbed into the dinghy to head to the island alone. Crossing the smooth water, I spooked myself when I looked over the side to see the dark forms of seaweed just below the surface. I crunched ashore on the orange-ish sand and walked past a steep clay bank pocked with the burrows of swallows. The birds swooped and veered past me. I followed the beach and found a path leading up the bluff into the woods.
The woods was dim and shadowy and hissed with the sound of crickets. The leaves laced together overhead to blot out the light. I hadn’t expected to find such a well-worn path, and I followed it at a trot to reach the far headland. At the edge I pushed through the undergrowth to look out through the foliage over the anchorage, where our boat lay among a few other boats on the serene water. Behind me a blue jay called.
Why I had a feeling I was being watched, I wasn’t sure.
I spun around.
Only the woods lay before me. A blue jay called again. The light was thinning.
I went back down the path to see what was on the other side of the island. The path began to climb toward the other end, tree branches forming a leafy tunnel overhead.
Then I heard a thumping ahead of me.
I stopped to listen, my breathing heaving in my ears.
How close had that sound been?
I moved ahead, slower now.
The sound came again—a thumping of hooves.
I heard rustling in the underbrush.
The path took a sharp turn as it climbed. I came around a bend.
I stopped, my heart jolting, before a pair of large eyes staring at me from the middle of the path. They were the wide-spaced eyes of a goat—a wild goat. The forms of two other goats were behind it. They, too, stared at me.
What was I doing on their island? they seemed to be saying.
I should have known, I realized. Why else would a desert island have such a well-worn network of paths?
The dusk settled deeper as the goats melted into the thicket and vanished into the shadows. How the goats had gotten there I wasn’t sure. Maybe they swam here from the mainland. Maybe their ancestors had survived a shipwr
Before I plunge into my book review, just a reminder of the contest for a free copy of The Fourth Wish, in Kindle or paperback (winner's choice). To read the rules for the contest -- which ends Friday, September 9th -- go here. (Please comment for the contest on that post so I can keep your points straight.)
Many of you know I like to read mysteries and historical novels when I'm not reading children's books. And I indulged in quite a few adult reads (and reviewed them) while I was recuperating from my foot surgery. So this is one last review of a book that combines both mystery and a historical setting: Victorian London, when streets were foggy, and you could hear the clop-clop-clop of horse hooves against cobblestones as doomed victims set off in carriages, and cases were solved without a swat team kicking in a door and waving guns. The book is The Diary of a Murder, by Lee Jackson. I bought the print version, but I see it is also out in Kindle now (in the UK).
A bit of background for this discovery: While gathering information for my middle grade mystery set in Victorian London (which is a tamer tale indeed), I came across Lee Jackson's wonderful website, called (appropriately) Victorian London. In it you will find a treasure trove of Victoriana. He provides a dictionary listing various topics, from maps, to transportation, whatever; and a click on any one topic will take you to a wealth of original sources (including Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, under Diet, where you can see what meals to plan for each month of the year in 1861. Mr. Jackson also provides some of the original "penny dreadfuls" for your reading pleasure. And he has a wonderful blog called The Cat's Meatshop, well worth following. The Diary of a Murder is his seventh mystery novel, and he has also published two nonfiction books: Victorian London and A Dictionary of Victorian London, An A-Z of the Great Metropolis. And renowned mystery writer, Andrew Taylor, has said, "No one knows Vicorian London as Lee Jackson does -- historical fictin doesn't come more authentic than this."
On to the the review:
The Willises are concerned because their married daughter, Dora Jones, has disappeared after planning to visit them in Chelsea. When Sergeant Preston and a constable go to the Jones's home to investigate, they find the daughter brutally murdered and the pages of a diary scattered about. The diary is by Dora's husband, Jacob Jones, a clerk at the Crystal Palace. But Jacob appears to have fled the scene. Detective Inspector Delby is called in, and the story unfolds in chapters that alternate between Jacob Jones's diary, and the investigation by the inspector and the sergeant.
The story that follows reveals a doting husband, a humble clerk, who married above his station (Dora's father is a draper, and rich, and does not like young Jacob). Jacob gushes about his sweet wife, confesses his yearnings to be a writer, admits his frustrations with his in-laws, who seem
5stars Thirteen year-old Jessie lives in an emotionally abusive home with an all but absent father and a stepmother who goes out of her way to make life a living hell for Jessie. With twin stepsiblings thrown into the mix, this is a modern day Cinderella with a twist. There is no prince this time. [...]
More big-time catchup.
As convention season swings into HIGH HIGH Gear (ECCC just past, C2E2, MegaCon, Wondercon, MoCCA, Stumptown, various Wizard Worlds, TCAF…etc., etc., etc.) this photo of gear for SXSW from Film Threat’s Mark Bell seems to sum up the necessities pretty well. Bell also compares SXSW, which lasts well over a week, with various iterations (interactive, film, music) and is still going on, with Comic-Con:
Today was quite different from the calm of yesterday. Upon waking and heading over to the Convention Center, I was met with a sea of people, much like the massive crowds at the San Diego Comic-Con. Still, SXSW could never be Comic-Con (no comics or giant movie marketing presentations and junkets masquerading as “panels”)… but it FELT like it. At one point it was pointed out to me that as long as no one was in costume, it couldn’t remotely be like Comic-Con. So, of course, I saw people in costume, including a guy dressed like a ninja turtle.
BTW everyone who says Comic-Con should last over a week…no, just……no.
§ Jim McLauchlin presents an excellent profile of artist Russ Heath, who is now 84, and needs a new knee.
Jokes come easy. Walking comes hard these days. And that’s odd, because Russ Heath is the last guy you’d expect to slow down. Even into his 70s, Russ was running six miles a day and playing tennis four times a week. But today, as he wears an old pair of tennis shorts, you can see that the right knee is visibly swollen, 50% larger than the other. “It doesn’t hurt that bad,” he shrugs. “It just doesn’t function. I don’t walk too far. Maybe 50 yards at a stretch.”
Knee replacement surgery and the lengthy rehab on the other side are inevitable, but not something Russ is looking forward to. “By the time I get this one done, they might tell me I need to get the other done,” he says. “That’s all I worry about.”
The whole piece is worth a read, both for what it says about artists who don’t have retirement funds, and how fans rally to help these artists.
§ Edie Fake at The Daily Cross Hatch
It was a queer performance tour, Fingers. It was really amazing. There were nine of us traveling in the school bus, and it felt like such a labor of love. It was a vegetable oil bus, so there was a lot of grease thieving, as well.
Those are the ones that smell like French fries all of the time.
Yeah, yeah. Or there was always a greasy sheen to everything in your life. It was good. It was so much work to fill up the tank, so it was good to have all of those people. We each had a performance, but on each tour date only a few of us would perform, and then the rest of us would be relaxed and scrounging grease, doing this and that, and cooking a meal.
§ Rob Clough talks toMariNaomi:
Many times I’ve made the excuse of “being a writer someday” to try some pretty crazy stuff. But I like to think I’d have done it all anyway.
Over the weekend I've been throwing myself back into one of my Moleskines. The travel one, to be precise. It feels like I've been away from my Moleskines for too long a time. And, it would be so satisfying to complete another one of these books.
It's really good to be working in them again. I think this is my favourite place to be. In a sketchbook. And, whilst I diving back into them I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before. It seems, that my Moleskines hold a lot of secrets so, before I post the new drawings, I thought I'd let you into a couple of them.
When I started the travel Moleskine the drawing, above, was the first thing I did. It was the drawing from the inner cover. But as I started to work through the rest of the sketchbook this drawing started bugging me. And I can't live with that kind of thing. I don't know what annoyed me about it the most - I think it might be that it is very pink, and a little too feminine for my tastes. So after an appeal, to you guys, for stamps from around the world it was covered until it became the collage that you can see below. Which, to this day, is still one of my own personal favourite sketchbook spreads.
I do love to know that these lost drawings exist, though. Like when you peel off the wallpaper, in an old house, and find the ghosts of wallpapers past.
Another of the secrets, the travel Moley holds, is that hidden in the drawing, below, is a tiny little cat. Can you spot it?
And, finally, while I was flicking through the book, getting myself all worked up to start drawing in it again, I found this little apparition below. I'd not noticed it before. It seems my sketchbooks hold secrets from me too.
Anyway, from tomorrow some brand new drawings from the travel Moleskine. You can see the rest of the drawings from this book HERE
. And, to celebrate my return to this sketchbook I'll also put a sale on the little zines that were produced from this Moleskine. Hope you come back.
This week the Buzz Girls are celebrating the release of Ghost Huntress: The Reason
by our very own Marley Gibson.
You can enter to win a signed copy of this awesome book by leaving comments each day. Since the main character, Kendall Moorehead, discovers a BIG secret, Marley thought it would be fun to discuss secrets this week, and I can't agree more!
Today I'm writing about anonymous secrets. I remember an episode of an old TV show called Cashmere Mafia, where people were invited to a NY art show and given invisible paint to write their secret on a wall. Then the lights went out and everybody's secrets glowed in the dark. Something else that comes to mind is PostSecret. Have you ever heard of it? According to their web-site
, "PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard." I remember reading something about about it in a fashion magazine a loooong time ago, and when I read some of the postcards people had sent in, I remember being impressed about the quality of the artwork, and as I started reading the secrets, I felt kind of weird, like a voyeur. I experienced a wide spectrum of emotions as I read each secret. Sure, there were weird and gross confessions like "I pee in the shower," but ones to the tune of "I truly think I'm ugly" made me so depressed! Then again, some are inspiring, like this one I read today: "My anxiety is not the boss of me" or snippets of would-be suicides
stopped by a stranger's kind words.
For a chance to win a copy of Ghost Huntress: The Reason and find out what big secret Kendall is going to discover, leave a comment about a secret of yours, a friend's, or a stranger's that lifted your spirits. But do not tell us whose secret it is! Keep it anonymous. Okay, I'll go first: Uplifting secret: I went out with him because I felt sorry for him and ended up falling in love.
This week on the Buzz blog we've been celebrating Marley’s latest release, Ghost Huntress: The Reason. Last week we all dished about lies in our pasts, and this week we're spilling secrets.
While I can't exactly spill any of my secrets (because then they wouldn't be secrets, would they?) I want to talk about keeping secrets in writing. I don't remember where I heard it, but there's an adage in writing that goes something like this:
Secrets from the character are good, secrets from the reader aren't.
Basically it means that if the character doesn't know something that the reader knows, that's fine. It's even okay if the character doesn't know something and neither does the reader. But if your character knows something (like that she's secretly a mermaid or a princess or in love with a particular boy) then the reader should know, too.
Let's take a classic example: Romeo and Juliet. Think about the end, when Juliet has taken the special "poison" that will make her appear to be dead, so she can go be with Romeo forever. Enter Romeo, who has no idea that she isn't really dead. The reader knows. We're practically screaming at Romeo to just wait a few minutes before stabbing himself in the gut. As sad as it is, we love that, because we know something Romeo doesn't.
Imagine if it were reversed. Imagine if we thought Juliet were really dead. Imagine Romeo knew the truth, so he just walks into her crypt, whistling a happy tune, and has a seat next to her seemingly-dead body. We'd hate him in the moment because it looks like he doesn't care at all for this girl who risked everything to be with him. When she woke up a moments later and we discovered the truth, we would be so annoyed that we (or at least I) would throw the book across the room.
It's all about balance, about making sure the reader never knows less than the characters. As readers, we either want to share the big reveal with the character or we want to know what's coming and anticipate their reaction when they find out, too.
Okay, enough of my little rant about secrets in books and onto the fun stuff. The giveaway! Marley is giving away signed copies of her new book all week here at the Buzz blog. To enter today's contest, leave a comment the following:
Share an example (good or bad) of a book in which the writer keeps a secret from the character.
Besides Romeo and Juliet, I would have to say Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I won't share what, because it would be spoilers, but she's brilliant at hinting to the reader about a really huge secret that Katniss really has no clue about. Brilliant, really.
Your turn to share. Check back every day to comment on the other Buzz girl posts for more chances to win and then tune in this weekend to find out who won.
Hugs,TLCOH. MY. GODS.
and GODDESS BOOT CAMP
(out now)FORGIVE MY FINS
(coming June 1, 2010)
Following the awesomeness that was Stephanie's debut week for THE ALPHA BET, complete with lies, lies, lies...I'm here to talk about secrets...and to celebrate the release of my new book, GHOST HUNTRESS: THE REASON.
Here's Buzz Reader Stephanie with her copy:
So...secrets...we all have them, some of us keep them, most of us tell them. But what if a secret was being help back from you by someone you trusted the most in the world? What if that secret changed the course of your life?
Well, for Kendall Moorehead, she's about to discover a secret that's going to rock her world! How will she react? How will she move forward?
In college, I once knew a friend's dirty secret. Not just any friend...but the person I considered my *first* friend in life. We'd known each other since we were five. Her secret was so bad that I still won't reveal it today. I kept it, supported her, covered for her with her mother, and never told anyone else. It was a hard secret to keep because it involved her doing something that I didn't totally believe in. Something she kept from her parents, and other friends, and her boyfriend. But, I was a good friend to her.
Then, we came back from Thanksgiving break and I walked into her dorm room and there was her mother. She was red-faced and angry and she began screaming at me. She accused me of making her daughter "miserable" and "ostracizing" her. She said I was jealous of her daughter. She told me to get out of her daughter's dorm room and never come back. I had NO idea what was going on? How was I making her miserable? How was I ostracizing her? What was her mother on that was making her insane and crazy like this?
I opened my mouth to speak when I saw my friend's eyes. They implored me not to say anything. To just go with the flow. To not tell her secret. It was then that I realized that her mother didn't know her terrible secret and she had used me as an excuse to justify her sadness and depression. I pitied her and I felt bad for her mother. I told the mother that she had no idea what she was talking about and I walked out of the room. My friend and I weren't friends after that. On a big college campus of thousands of people, we went our separate ways and remain there twenty plus years later. But I never told her secret.
Maybe if she ever Googles me and sees this post, she'll know what a good friend I was and perhaps reach out to me. Who knows?
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said: "Secrets are things we give to others to keep for us."
Have you giving a secret to someone to keep for you? Were they true to you? What was the impact of that secret on you? Tell us your experience with keeping secrets. (You don't have to tell us the secret!) Leave a comment in the trail to be eligible to win a copy of GHOST HUNTRESS: THE REASON.
And check back with more books being given away all week long!
Marley = )
Ghosts don't hang up their sheets on November 1st
GHOST HUNTRESS: THE REASON - Available Now!
Louisiana's Song is the second volume in Kerry Madden's charming Maggie Valley trilogy. Set in North Carolina's Smokey Mountains in the early 1960s, Louisiana's Song tells the tale of the Weems family through the eyes of twelve-year-old Livy (Two) Weems.
There are ten children in the Weems family, so when dad is injured in a car accident times are hard. Even more troubling for the Weems family is the fact that Dad's memory has been altered and he's often confused and irritable. Mom and Grandma are worried about money, and Grandma, who has become the de facto head of the household, is threatening a move from the mountains to a nearby town so mom can find steady work.
Before you get any wrong ideas, let me tell you Louisiana's Song is not a problem novel nor is it a tale of rural woe. Instead the Weems family is hopeful, hardworking and full of joy and creativity. The older children find work and extra ways to make money. They band together as a team, make enough to get by, and have plenty of fun in the process. Livy convinces shy Louise (Louisiana of the title) to sell her art. Livy herself works in the bookmobile and tries to sell her songs to an agent in Nashville. (Her letters to the agent are pure genius.) Another sister gets a job in the pancake restaurant, and eldest son Emmett moves away to work at a local amusement park. Along the way, Livy takes her toddler siblings on fairy hunts and creates a beautiful pop-up book for them with the help of Louise and a local Mennonite girl.
Although the Weems family lives in near isolation, it's 1963 and times are turbulent and confusing. The novel ends when Kennedy was assassinated and Louise and Livy take Dad and their younger siblings on a fairy hunt to avoid their shocked mother and grandma. When Dad disappears, Livy and Louise have to find the courage to make things right.
Louisiana's Song is a beautifully written novel for intelligent readers ages nine and up. Livy Two is a compelling narrator with a heart of gold. The novel ends with a big question: Will the Weems family leave Maggie Valley? I for one can't wait to find out, but will have to as Jessie's Mountain won't be out until 2008.
Louisiana's Song will be available on May 17.
I've interviewed Kerry Madden for the May issue of The Edge of the Forest (up May 10).
I'm happy today to present a brief interview with Kerry Madden, the author of the brand new book Louisiana's Song. Louisiana's Song is the sequel to Gentle's Holler, which got starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and was a finalist for the PEN USA Children's Literature Award in 2006.
I first met Kerry almost exactly a year ago in my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. We were both in town to sign and sell books at the Knoxville Festival of Reading on the former site of the 1982 World's Fair. She was gracious enough to join me and Wendi for a late lunch at The Sunspot, where we learned her connection to Knoxville: Kerry first came to our fair city as a teenager when her father was hired as a coach at the University of Tennessee under then Head Coach Johnny Majors, whose tumultuous tenure with the Vols I remember dominating the conversation at every Gratz family gathering for more than two decades. Kerry later attended the University of Tennessee, as did I, and like me still finds herself drawn in to the gravitational pull of East Tennessee even though she now lives in L.A. Given her connections to Tennessee football, I had to throw in a question about her first book, Offsides, even though she's moved on to even greater success with her "Maggie Valley Trilogy" . . .
GI: Give us the thirty-second blurb about your new book, Louisiana's Song, and its place in your Maggie Valley trilogy.
KM: Thirty seconds, Alan? I'm too long-winded with gaps, breaks, and unfinished sentences. . . but here goes: Louisiana's Song is a story of art, auditory hallucinations, music, and family. When Daddy comes home from the Rip Van Winkle Rest Home dramatically different than the daddy the children knew, the kids band together to bring him back to them through murals, flashcards, fairy hunts, and songs. Louisiana "Louise" is the hero despite her terrible shyness - and the story is set against the backdrop of Ghost Town in the Sky, Maggie Valley, and the turbulent history of 1963. (I bet that's longer than 30 seconds.)
GI: That's all right. We forgive you. But points will be deducted from your overall score. Now, did you know when you were writing Gentle's Holler that you wanted this to be a three-part story, or did that come later at the request of the publisher?
KM: No, I didn't know it would be a trilogy. I thought I would write a book from each kid's point of view, but Livy Two is the family storyteller and I'm so glad she is the voice of the first three books. (Thank you, wise editors!) Of course, I still have more Weems' stories to tell, but these three books felt right as a Smoky Mountain Trilogy of Maggie Valley stories.
GI: What is the larger story being told by this trilogy?
KM: I think the larger story is family and imagination and longing - I wanted a big messy family who loved art and music and yet had regular squabbles and longed for adventures.
GI: How do you balance telling a larger, three-part story with the need to make each book work as a stand-alone volume?
KM: Well, I picked three characters I wanted to focus on in each of the books. In Gentle's Holler, the character of Gentle is a huge part of the plot - her eyes - blindness - and the introduction of Uncle Hazard, the dog, who becomes her loyal friend and guide. In Louisiana's Song, I wanted to explore the life of a very tall girl and shy artist who finds her courage and her father, who is lost in his own recovery from the accident. And in Jesse's Mountain, we go back to the 1940s through Mama's diary, her love of birds, and we see the girl she was and how she came to have ten children. So even though Livy Two is our narrator and eavesdropper and plotter, I focused each book on one particular character in the Weems' family. Now I have to decide whether to write more Livy Two stories or write from the point of view of say, Gentle or Caroline or Cyrus or even Jitters - Jitters, though, does get her chance to shine in Jesse's Mountain.
GI: Okay, I can't resist, because I know your connection to UT football. Your first novel, Offsides, was well-reviewed when it came out more than ten years ago. Can you tell us where that story came from, and what happened with that novel?
KM: People have noted Offsides was a lot like The Great Santini, only from the girl's point of view with a football instead of a military backdrop. It was a New York Library Pick for the Teen Age in 1997. The story came from my own life growing up on the gridiron in the world college football, dressing in orange and white, blue and gold, purple and white - and considering myself a Cyclone, Wildcat, Demon Deacon, Volunteer - wherever my dad happened to be coaching. Offsides is the metaphor because Liz Donegal, my alter-ego, is perpetually "offsides" in the world of high-haired coaches wives, locker rooms, Catholic Schools, and constantly moving around from the North to the South to the Midwest - she is swept up in her father's search for the opportunity to win some football games!
Offsides also went through the Hollywood mill, optioned by Jim Henson Productions with Diane Keaton and Bill Robinson of Blue Relief attached to produce and direct. We had meetings in Hollywood for four years - I'm not kidding. It was tossed around as a feature film, a one hour pilot (LIFETIME for a minute), a half-hour sitcom - you name it. We had meetings at Working Title, Jim Henson, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox Family, Lifetime, UPN, WB . . . every incarnation: can the coach be African American? Could it be the Thursday Night Wives Club? Could it focus on Mom and Dad instead of the kid? Diane Keaton did send me chocolate football - a regular football of solid chocolate - and she came for dinner. Here is an essay about her coming to dinner called "Toys in the Crawlspace" from LA Weekly.
My agent is currently submitting Offsides as a YA novel because it was never published YA, so maybe it will have a new life. (Frankly, I think it needs cutting.)
GI: I hope it finds a second life then! Now, I know that your father's occupational wanderings when you were a child eventually led you to Knoxville, Tennessee, my hometown, and that you attended the University of Tennessee. Your own travels have taken you to Europe and Asia, and you now live on the West Coast. What is it about the mountains of East Tennessee/Western North Carolina that won't let you go? Was it love at first sight, or did the mountains have to win you over?
KM: You're right, Alan. They won't let me go. And I never ever planned for that to happen. I left Knoxville never dreaming I'd look back, and I've spent two decades looking back in one form or another. When I got my driver's license on my sixteenth birthday in Knoxville, my mother handed me the keys and said, "Congratulations. Now go pick up your brothers from football practice." From that day on, I drove everywhere, and when friends would come to town, I would drive them to the mountains. Friends were always stunned by the beauty, and I began to feel proud of the mountains - a tiny claim to them - after an itinerant childhood. I was always searching for home with moving so much and being the new kid. We go back every year - we even found Maggie Valley on a road trip when the kids were tiny. When I began to write Gentle's Holler, I picked the most beautiful place I could think of - the Smoky Mountains. My dream is to live there again and teach at a university and write my novels. I have never felt really like Los Angeles is home - I love our friends and our lives, but it's not home.
GI: Thanks Kerry - we hope you come back to stay. In the meantime, everyone here at Gratz Industries wishes you the best of success with Louisiana's Song!
And hey, we're just the third stop on Kerry's Book Blog Tour this week. Check in on her previous installments at Elizabeth Dulemba's blog
and Dotti Enderle's blog
, then later this week on Kim Norman's blog
on Thursday, and Ruth McNally Barshaw's blog
on Saturday. And go pick up copies of Gentle's Holler
and Louisiana's Song!
Kerry needs bus fare back to Knoxville . . .
My friend Kerry Madden has a new book out: Louisiana's Song.
Since she has so much interesting information to give and it couldn't possibly all fit into one interview, I'm helping host her for a book tour through several blogs.
Visit the other blogs
and also read the interview below for a fascinating look behind the scenes in Kerry Madden's gentle world of writing.
- Kerry, please describe for us the world of Gentle's Holler.
Gentle's Holler, along with Louisiana's Song and Jessie's Mountain, the two companion novels are set in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina in the town of Maggie Valley.
The Weems family lives in a holler up Fie Top off Highway 19 between Cherokee and Canton near Waynesville. The books are set in 1962-64 around when GHOST TOWN IN THE SKY opened (1961).
They are a family of ten kids who live without a television even though it's the 1960s. Their daddy is hoping to hit it big with a banjo hit. Their mother holds the family together as best she can and then Grandma Horace comes to visit.
I wanted to write a novel with love - and though these kids bicker and fight and get in trouble, they love each other and they absolutely want to explore world through art and music.
- How do you balance your kids' very different needs, with your writing career?
It's a huge balance, but this year is easier - our son is a freshman in college - so we just have two kids at home...It's been tricky all along though.
My husband, Kiffen, has always been a great support, taking the kids off or cooking dinner or cleaning. (Our house is so messy though, honestly, and cluttered.)
I write when they're in school, and I try to go to everything that they do - plays, sports, gigs etc. When they were babies, I wrote during their naps (nothing I wrote was much good, but I was needing to practice)...I used to write on weekends.
I'm very disciplined, and I feel like the world will end if I miss a deadline.
And from the very beginning, I didn't want to tell people I was writing a novel and then not do it. But it is a balance.
My kids are my editors and inspirations. So I think they feel part of it - they've watched it grow from nothing.
- I love that your website says you're an explorer. Can you tell us more about that?
I grew up in ten states because of my father's football coaching career, and even though I hated moving as a child, it gave me a sense of adventure that lingers to this day. I love going to new places to explore.
Our first year of marriage in 1987 was teaching English at Ningbo University in China - we both wanted an adventure before real life loomed, and after our time teaching we took the Trans-Siberian home from Beijing to Berlin.
When our children were young, we took the kids on cross-country roadtrips twice, and it was hard, but amazing - I wanted to instill in them the same longing for exploration and adventures.
A few weeks ago, I went with my sister to Monroeville, Alabama to explore Harper Lee's and Truman Capote's hometown - I love meeting new people and listening to their stories.
When I teach writing workshops, I tell kids to have adventures and explore the world! I also lived in Manchester, England my junior year in college, and I always tell young writers/explorers to study overseas.
- How do you handle the balancing act of basing your story on a real person versus respecting her sense of privacy? Do you tiptoe a lot? Is your sister in law proud to be an inspiration for your book? How would you handle it differently if the central story were a negative one?
Well, Tomi inspired the character when I first started writing the book, but I think she'd be the first to agree, she is not really Livy Two Weems.
I don't have to tiptoe, though, because she's proud of the book, and I'm so proud of her music. I wish I could market her voice and songs right off my website. She hasn't read the next two, but she's always been such a support and she knows the books are written with love. I have done writing workshops at a school where she teaches an afterschool program in Nashville. I love her music so much, and she's an artist who believes in other artists.
If it were a negative portrayal, I'd probably not mention the inspiration. I'd lay low. In OFFSIDES, my father inspired the football coach (tough-talking, cussing, ambitious, insensitive, driven and yet loving) and I was terrified of him reading it...After he finished the book, he said, "Took me six months and a lot of scotch to read that sucker. I get to write the disclaimer. But I'm proud.)
- How has your life changed with the success of your writing?
My life has not changed really. I am so relieved to have books published, because there was such a dryspell of just bad writing and rejections - and I thought - what if I never publish again? It was relatively easy to get my first novel, OFFSIDES published, but it was nine years before GENTLE'S HOLLER came out.
I love the opportunties that these Smoky Mountain novels have given me - meeting so many kids, librarians, and teachers...working with a wonderful editor and agent...so yes, that aspect of my life has changed.
I am not nearly as scared as I used to be in front of audience, and I love telling mountain stories.
We have never bought a house, though, as we can't afford to in Southern California...and we're putting one child through college and another will be applying soon...So our day-to-day economics haven't changed much though I don't have to teach quite as much as I used to and that's a relief.
I am also writing the YA biography of Harper Lee, and I know that would not have happened had I not written these Smoky Mountain novels.
- In twenty years, what books do you want to have written?
I hope to have written the biographies of Harper Lee and Truman Capote for kids. I would very much like to continue to write more Smoky Mountain novels of the Weems' family. I hope to write Op-Ed essays and eventually have them compiled into a collection...I love that form. I'd like to see OFFSIDES come back in print as a YA novel.
And I'd like to write a novel (not for kids) about my grandparents in Leavenworth, Kansas and their 63 year marriage...My grandfather played the organ for the silent movies until the talkies put him out of business...my grandmother was a devout Catholic and they were devoted to each other - I'd like to capture it somehow. They loved highballs, roadtrips, crossword puzzles, Johnn Carson, Mass...
Thanks for these great questions, Ruth. Oh...and I want to adapt all three novels - GENTLE'S HOLLER, LOUISIANA'S SONG, JESSIE'S MOUNTAIN - into a musical for kids.
I have no doubt that will come to pass. Best of luck, Kerry! :)
Readers can find out more about Kerry, here:
And please visit her book blog tour, here!
I just finished Louisiana's Song by my Smoky Mountain Soul Sister, Kerry Madden.
I have one word:
Ha! Got ya!
Why am I disappointed?
Because there's only one more book in this beautiful trilogy about the Weems family.
I loved this book. I loved the characters. I loved the setting. I loved the voice. I loved the humor.
I've gotten to know Kerry a little bit online - and I can tell that her spirit shines right through in her writing. Also evident is her love of the beautiful Smoky Mountains that I consider my heart's home, her deep respect for the mountain traditions of family and music, and her admiration of her husband's Tennessee family who inspired these stories.
The main character, Livy Two, is just a great big bundle of spunk. How can you not love a girl who says things like: "I do not sleep when critical eavesdropping needs doing."
Or who tells the teacher that her sister is not at school because of "a sparkly migraine", "dragon flu", or a "close encounter with a water moccasin."
Or who calls someone a "know-nothing flap-jaw."
Louisiana's Song continues the story started in Gentle's Holler.
I can't wait till the third book, Jessie's Mountain, comes out in 2008.
No more stories about the Weems.
But then again - you never know....
Read the rest of this post
Blog: Deliciously Clean Reads
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, Kerry Madden
, review by Joyce Moyer Hostetter
, Gentle's Holler
, Kerry Madden
, review by Joyce Moyer Hostetter
, Gentle's Holler
, Add a tag
Author Historical Fiction
HEALING WATER (Spring 2008)
BLUE (2006)-See the review here
BEST FRIENDS FOREVER (1995)
Twelve year-old Livy Two lives a hardscrabble yet gentle existence. It’s gentle, because her large mostly happy family lives in slow-paced, beautiful Maggie Valley, NC. It’s hard, because Daddy doesn’t work a regular job. Daddy is a musician with a song in his pocket, a banjo in hand, and a plan to make it big one day. Since Livy Two writes lyrics also, she believes in her daddy’s dreams. And she has dreams of her own.
“…I want to see the world beyond the Smokies and I aim to bring my guitar with me when I do.
One day, I’d like to stroll along the Great Wall of China, ride me a camel in Egypt , swim in the Ganges River way over in India , and sip a cup of tea with the queen of England .”
Livy also dreams of helping her sister Gentle (whose eyes don’t work right) to learn Braille. Otherwise they might send Gentle to the school for the blind over in Raleigh . So with the help of the lady from the lending library truck, Livy Two gets a Braille book and begins to learn. Keeping the family together is a high priority for her!
But Daddy comes and goes on his quest to make it big. Mama is weary of his search for fame. She just wants him to feed his family. Grandma Horace with her glass eye (actually, a collection of them in different colors which she wears according to her mood) moves in to help out. And she’s is not the kind of grandmother who makes you feel better because she has arrived.
To make things worse Livy’s brother, Emmett gets fed up with daddy’s dreams and takes off for Ghost Town in the Sky to earn some money. Then tragedy strikes at another level, rearranging the family’s future even more dramatically.
And also leaving room for a sequel.
Fortunately, Gentle’s Holler
(2005) is just the first in a trilogy that takes place during the 1960’s. Louisiana’s Song
(2007) and Jessie’s Mountain
(2008) continue the Weem’s family story. Author Kerry Madden infuses her stories with love of family and an at-home feeling for the Smoky Mountains . These books are populated with distinctive and quirky characters, unforgettable names, and much warmth. They are wholesome, funny, and heartwarming!
Visit Kerry on the web at http://www.kerrymadden.com/
By: Kate Messner
Blog: Kate's Book Blog
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flying pig books
, laurie halse anderson
, jim murphy
, kerry madden
, keeping score
, flying pig books
, jim murphy
, kerry madden
, keeping score
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Sometimes I try to make soup out of all the leftovers in the refrigerator. Today's post is blog soup -- all the little notes I've been meaning to mention but haven't had time.
One of my favorite indies, Flying Pig Books in Shelburne, VT, was nominated for the Lucille Micheels Pannell Award honoring bookstores that "excel at inspiring the interest of young people in books and reading." If you've ever been to see Josie & Elizabeth at Flying Pig, you know their children's section is fabulous, and they have a steady stream of guest authors (I'll be there on April 5th!). The nomination is a well-earned honor! (Congrats are also in order for winning stores, Books & Books of Coral Gables, FL and Wonderland Books of Rockford, IL. The descriptions of these stores make me want to visit them all.)
Laurie Halse Anderson (halseanderson ) and her husband are training tirelessly for the Lake Placid Half Marathon. They're running with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training to raise money for cancer research. Even if you only run when being chased, you can click here to contribute to their efforts.
I've been waiting and waiting and waiting...and this Thursday, the Cybils Award Winners will be announced. I served as a panelist for MG fiction, and I can't wait to see what one of our eight finalists the judges choose.
Kerry Madden (mountainmist) is having a cool school picture contest on her blog, and she's giving away signed copies of Jessie's Mountain. Here's your opportunity to profit from that 3rd grade school photo where your collar was tucked in and your hair looked like devil horns.
Speaking of contests, don't forget that I'm giving away a signed ARC of Linda Sue Park's Keeping Score. Check out this post for the details. You have until 6pm EST on Wednesday to enter. The winner will be announced on Valentine's Day.
And finally, have you checked out Nonfiction Mondays? I love the idea of a blogging day devoted to nonfiction. I missed today's roundup, but I'll be participating next Monday. I hope you'll stop by to check out my interview with Jim Murphy, award-winning author of fantastic non-fiction titles like The Great Fire, Blizzard, An American Plague, and most recently, The Real Benedict Arnold.