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Kidlit Central News brings you the HOTTEST children’s publishing news, reviews, entertainment and more—by and about those involved with children’s literature in and around the Central U.S. Featured states include: Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
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1. Writing is simple, right?


Humans need to simplify. We listen closely to those who explain things easily because we assume they’ve figured it out. Sure, there are things in life that are that simple: You gotta eat, you gotta breathe, you gotta move. Clean up after yourself. Honor your commitments. Wash your hands before you eat.

 But much of life isn’t so delineated. Our values can’t be color coded into Blue vs Red. Morality and ethics exist beyond religious labels.

 The goal for a nonfiction writer is to simplify topics to make them readily understood. We adapt a point of view (often determined by whoever pays us to write it), then research, interview, analyze facts, consider differing opinions, write, strip away half of what we wrote, rewrite some more. Eventually, if we’ve done our job, we make that point so concisely readers will say “Aha! I get it!” And we’ll have taught them something new.

 Fiction, like life, is complex. We still adapt a point of view. We research, eavesdrop, ponder, recall, write, strip away half of what we write, rewrite some more. But instead of making our point in two columns, we must layer in fears, longing, smells, tastes, sounds. We veil an essential truth with all the complexities that make us human. If we’ve done our jobs, our readers will say, “Ah. I get it.” They’ll clutch our books to their chests and sigh. And we’ll have made their word a richer, more complex place.


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2. Writing is simple, right?


Humans need to simplify. We listen closely to those who explain things easily because we assume they’ve figured it out. Sure, there are things in life that are that simple: You gotta eat, you gotta breathe, you gotta move. Clean up after yourself. Honor your commitments. Wash your hands before you eat.

 But much of life isn’t so delineated. Our values can’t be color coded into Blue vs Red. Morality and ethics exist beyond religious labels.

 The goal for a nonfiction writer is to simplify topics to make them readily understood. We adapt a point of view (often determined by whoever pays us to write it), then research, interview, analyze facts, consider differing opinions, write, strip away half of what we wrote, rewrite some more. Eventually, if we’ve done our job, we make that point so concisely readers will say “Aha! I get it!” And we’ll have taught them something new.

 Fiction, like life, is complex. We still adapt a point of view. We research, eavesdrop, ponder, recall, write, strip away half of what we write, rewrite some more. But instead of making our point in two columns, we must layer in fears, longing, smells, tastes, sounds. We veil an essential truth with all the complexities that make us human. If we’ve done our jobs, our readers will say, “Ah. I get it.” They’ll clutch our books to their chests and sigh. And we’ll have made their word a richer, more complex place.


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3. Check Your Facts


I just read a graphic novel that made me furious.  It's obvious the writer had an anti-military agenda.  The author and editor and publisher is entitled to express that.  Whether you or I agree or disagree with their view isn't the point. 

What made me angry were story facts that were flat wrong or didn't make sense.  Here they are:

  • a Marine corporal shows up at the door to tell this teen boy his father has been killed in Iraq
    • FACT - Marines do not send corporals to report a service person's death, but send someone of higher rank. (Only someone familiar with Marine insignia would be able to tell the image is a corporal, but I showed the book to a Marine Sergeant.)
    • FACT - Marines don't go alone to deliver this sad news; they always go in pairs. See 4.f. and page 5 c. (1)  http://tinyurl.com/yf6evfc
    • FACT - any military personnel reporting a death would not tell the teen directly, but would tell the teen's guardian - it's policy.
  • teen boy, who has been practicing boxing and fighting with two other teen friends, overpowers the Marine
    • FACT - Marines are trained in hand-to-hand fighting.
    • QUESTION - Would a teen boy really be able to beat up an active duty Marine?
  • teen boy and 2 teen friends, tie up Marine and haul him into the woods and put him on the edge of a cliff.  It is unclear whether they push him over or just abandon him, but snow is on the ground, so unless rescued or able to free himself, implication is the man will die.
    • FACT - a strong Marine core value is Honor (which a son of a Marine would know) - what this kid did in the story is not honorable.
  • teen boy spends rest of night in regret and next morning decides "only one thing to do"
    • LOGICAL OPTIONS - rescue the Marine, - turn himself in, - tell an adult
    • WHAT HE DOES - signs up to join the military
      • PROBLEM WITH HIS CHOICE
        • FACT - whoever sent the Marine would know that he'd been assigned to go tell this family and someone would follow up - his vehicle would be found at the boy's house and an investigation would ensue
        • FACT - he must be 17 to join (his exact age is unknown)
        • FACT - when the boy is found out, he will receive at the very least a dishonorable discharge. But if the man is dead, he and his friends will have criminal charges of manslaughter or murder pressed against them. Even, if the man lives, they could be charged with assault and battery.
So my challenge to you, and to myself, is CHECK YOUR FACTS!  (Especially those your story's climax hinges on.)

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4. Check Your Facts


I just read a graphic novel that made me furious.  It's obvious the writer had an anti-military agenda.  The author and editor and publisher is entitled to express that.  Whether you or I agree or disagree with their view isn't the point. 

What made me angry were story facts that were flat wrong or didn't make sense.  Here they are:

  • a Marine corporal shows up at the door to tell this teen boy his father has been killed in Iraq
    • FACT - Marines do not send corporals to report a service person's death, but send someone of higher rank. (Only someone familiar with Marine insignia would be able to tell the image is a corporal, but I showed the book to a Marine Sergeant.)
    • FACT - Marines don't go alone to deliver this sad news; they always go in pairs. See 4.f. and page 5 c. (1)  http://tinyurl.com/yf6evfc
    • FACT - any military personnel reporting a death would not tell the teen directly, but would tell the teen's guardian - it's policy.
  • teen boy, who has been practicing boxing and fighting with two other teen friends, overpowers the Marine
    • FACT - Marines are trained in hand-to-hand fighting.
    • QUESTION - Would a teen boy really be able to beat up an active duty Marine?
  • teen boy and 2 teen friends, tie up Marine and haul him into the woods and put him on the edge of a cliff.  It is unclear whether they push him over or just abandon him, but snow is on the ground, so unless rescued or able to free himself, implication is the man will die.
    • FACT - a strong Marine core value is Honor (which a son of a Marine would know) - what this kid did in the story is not honorable.
  • teen boy spends rest of night in regret and next morning decides "only one thing to do"
    • LOGICAL OPTIONS - rescue the Marine, - turn himself in, - tell an adult
    • WHAT HE DOES - signs up to join the military
      • PROBLEM WITH HIS CHOICE
        • FACT - whoever sent the Marine would know that he'd been assigned to go tell this family and someone would follow up - his vehicle would be found at the boy's house and an investigation would ensue
        • FACT - he must be 17 to join (his exact age is unknown)
        • FACT - when the boy is found out, he will receive at the very least a dishonorable discharge. But if the man is dead, he and his friends will have criminal charges of manslaughter or murder pressed against them. Even, if the man lives, they could be charged with assault and battery.
So my challenge to you, and to myself, is CHECK YOUR FACTS!  (Especially those your story's climax hinges on.)

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5. Meet and Greet Tim Kehoe


They say “write what you know” and that’s what Tim Kehoe, inventor, did when he wrote The Invisible Mind of Vincent Shadow a wanna be toy inventor. Tim lives in St. Paul Minnesota with his wife and five children.

Q. After being a successful toy inventor, what prompted you to write a children’s book?

I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. In fact, just like in my new book The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow, I had a secret attic "lab" growing up too. But instead of inventing toys, I invented stories in my secret lab. But then I didn't do much writing until Brad Pitt's production company contacted me about creating a children's movie together. That's when Vincent Shadow was born!

Q. When did you start writing this story? And how long did it take you to finish it?

I started in the fall of 2007 and worked on it for about eight months.

Q. What did you find the most difficult about writing your book? How did you overcome that?

I find it difficult to judge my own writing. Toy inventing is much easier. If you set out to build a toy plane that really flies, you know it is working when the plane takes flight. It can be much harder to know when a scene or chapter is working. I rely heavily on my wife and kid's reactions.

Q. I understand you self-published your book and then got picked up by Little, Brown. Can you tell us about that process?

Yes, I originally self-published the book. And I really enjoyed the process. I hired an illustrator, purchased Adobe's InDesign software, and laid out the entire book myself. I printed a few hundred books and started knocking on the doors of local bookstores. I had a lot of support from local bookstores in the beginning, but it was local author Vince Flynn that finally helped me land a publisher. Vince put me in touch with his agent and we received a couple of offers within weeks.

Q. Do you have another book in progress? If so, will it be about the same character or a different character?

Yes, I actually just finished the second Vincent Shadow book. It will be out later this year.

Q. Do you have a writing tip to share with our readers?

I found that I need to develop a detailed outline before I write a word. And then I give myself permission to completely ignore it when the characters decide to go in another direction.


Read all about Tim here: http://www.timkehoe.com and specifically about his books here:
http://www.vincentshadow.com


Attention toy inventors – check this out.

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6. Meet and Greet Tim Kehoe


They say “write what you know” and that’s what Tim Kehoe, inventor, did when he wrote The Invisible Mind of Vincent Shadow a wanna be toy inventor. Tim lives in St. Paul Minnesota with his wife and five children.

Q. After being a successful toy inventor, what prompted you to write a children’s book?

I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. In fact, just like in my new book The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow, I had a secret attic "lab" growing up too. But instead of inventing toys, I invented stories in my secret lab. But then I didn't do much writing until Brad Pitt's production company contacted me about creating a children's movie together. That's when Vincent Shadow was born!

Q. When did you start writing this story? And how long did it take you to finish it?

I started in the fall of 2007 and worked on it for about eight months.

Q. What did you find the most difficult about writing your book? How did you overcome that?

I find it difficult to judge my own writing. Toy inventing is much easier. If you set out to build a toy plane that really flies, you know it is working when the plane takes flight. It can be much harder to know when a scene or chapter is working. I rely heavily on my wife and kid's reactions.

Q. I understand you self-published your book and then got picked up by Little, Brown. Can you tell us about that process?

Yes, I originally self-published the book. And I really enjoyed the process. I hired an illustrator, purchased Adobe's InDesign software, and laid out the entire book myself. I printed a few hundred books and started knocking on the doors of local bookstores. I had a lot of support from local bookstores in the beginning, but it was local author Vince Flynn that finally helped me land a publisher. Vince put me in touch with his agent and we received a couple of offers within weeks.

Q. Do you have another book in progress? If so, will it be about the same character or a different character?

Yes, I actually just finished the second Vincent Shadow book. It will be out later this year.

Q. Do you have a writing tip to share with our readers?

I found that I need to develop a detailed outline before I write a word. And then I give myself permission to completely ignore it when the characters decide to go in another direction.


Read all about Tim here: http://www.timkehoe.com and specifically about his books here:
http://www.vincentshadow.com


Attention toy inventors – check this out.

Add a Comment
7. YA & MG Contest

 Mary Kole, associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary, is sponsoring a contest at her Kidlit blog.
Here are a few of the details:

She is looking for examples of great novel (YA or MG) openings.
Enter the contest via [email protected] with the subject line "Kidlit Contest."
Paste the first 500 words of your completed novel in the email.
Entries must be in by January 31, 2010.

Prizes include critiques of the winning novels.

Even if you don't want to enter the contest, you'll want to visit Mary's blog for wonderful agent and writing tips.

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8. YA & MG Contest

 Mary Kole, associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary, is sponsoring a contest at her Kidlit blog.
Here are a few of the details:

She is looking for examples of great novel (YA or MG) openings.
Enter the contest via [email protected] with the subject line "Kidlit Contest."
Paste the first 500 words of your completed novel in the email.
Entries must be in by January 31, 2010.

Prizes include critiques of the winning novels.

Even if you don't want to enter the contest, you'll want to visit Mary's blog for wonderful agent and writing tips.

Add a Comment
9. Meet and Greet Ronica Stromberg


Ronica Stromberg’s book Living It Up to Live It Down, the second novel in her new series, has been nominated for the Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Award. The book has also been nominated for the Sid Fleischman Humor Award.

Q. Your publisher, Royal Fireworks Press, lists this series as inspirational fiction. What inspired this series?

Like most writers of inspirational/religious/Christian fiction, I like to think God inspired it. :) I have ideas for eight books in the series, and they all came to me in different ways. The second book, Living It Up to Live It Down, was probably the most unusual. I was just going about everyday life when, one day, the phrase "living it up to live it down" popped into my head. I didn't know what it meant—or even if it had meaning—but, as a writer, I appreciate words and different turns of phrases. I kept thinking about the phrase, and over time, it became clear that this phrase was actually a story—about a young teen "living it up" at school and in her community to "live down" the fact that she is a pastor's daughter.

I am not a pastor's daughter. My father was a rough, agnostic Marine. But I felt compelled to write this story, and when I sat at my computer to do so, the words came so quickly I felt as though I were taking dictation. Some writers refer to this as writing "in flow." It had never happened to me before. Most often when I write, I plod.

Q. The first book in the series, A Shadow in the Dark, is a mystery. What prompted you to not continue with another mystery in the second book? Or does the publisher’s website just not mention the mystery aspect?

I came up with these books as stand-alones, but when I learned the inspirational market favors series, I stitched the books together with the same main character. The series is unusual because some books in it are mysteries, some romances, etc., but they all are inspirational young adult books about a young teen named Kirsten Hart. And even though the second book, Living It Up to Live It Down, isn't defined as a mystery, it has mysterious elements. One of Kirsten's main quests in that book is to understand her friend Sarah, the pastor's daughter.

Q. In your first book for Royal Fireworks, The Glass Inheritance, the main character learns about the Depression and WW2 and her grandmother’s involvement with a man who belonged to a pro-Nazi group. Can you tell us about the research you did on that project?

I've been fascinated by the Depression Era, World War II, and the Holocaust for years, trying to understand what led people to such depths. Besides reading tons of books about this, I've visited Japan; the Auschwitz, Dachau, and Buchenwald concentration camps in Germany; other German sites associated with Adolf Hitler, including underground bunkers; Pearl Harbor; The Heart Mountain Relocation Center (the Japanese internment camp in Wyoming); and many Holocaust museums around the world. I had researched far more than I was able to put in The Glass Inheritance, but the book gives upper elementary children an introduction to these historical event

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10. Meet and Greet Ronica Stromberg


Ronica Stromberg’s book Living It Up to Live It Down, the second novel in her new series, has been nominated for the Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Award. The book has also been nominated for the Sid Fleischman Humor Award.

Q. Your publisher, Royal Fireworks Press, lists this series as inspirational fiction. What inspired this series?

Like most writers of inspirational/religious/Christian fiction, I like to think God inspired it. :) I have ideas for eight books in the series, and they all came to me in different ways. The second book, Living It Up to Live It Down, was probably the most unusual. I was just going about everyday life when, one day, the phrase "living it up to live it down" popped into my head. I didn't know what it meant—or even if it had meaning—but, as a writer, I appreciate words and different turns of phrases. I kept thinking about the phrase, and over time, it became clear that this phrase was actually a story—about a young teen "living it up" at school and in her community to "live down" the fact that she is a pastor's daughter.

I am not a pastor's daughter. My father was a rough, agnostic Marine. But I felt compelled to write this story, and when I sat at my computer to do so, the words came so quickly I felt as though I were taking dictation. Some writers refer to this as writing "in flow." It had never happened to me before. Most often when I write, I plod.

Q. The first book in the series, A Shadow in the Dark, is a mystery. What prompted you to not continue with another mystery in the second book? Or does the publisher’s website just not mention the mystery aspect?

I came up with these books as stand-alones, but when I learned the inspirational market favors series, I stitched the books together with the same main character. The series is unusual because some books in it are mysteries, some romances, etc., but they all are inspirational young adult books about a young teen named Kirsten Hart. And even though the second book, Living It Up to Live It Down, isn't defined as a mystery, it has mysterious elements. One of Kirsten's main quests in that book is to understand her friend Sarah, the pastor's daughter.

Q. In your first book for Royal Fireworks, The Glass Inheritance, the main character learns about the Depression and WW2 and her grandmother’s involvement with a man who belonged to a pro-Nazi group. Can you tell us about the research you did on that project?

I've been fascinated by the Depression Era, World War II, and the Holocaust for years, trying to understand what led people to such depths. Besides reading tons of books about this, I've visited Japan; the Auschwitz, Dachau, and Buchenwald concentration camps in Germany; other German sites associated with Adolf Hitler, including underground bunkers; Pearl Harbor; The Heart Mountain Relocation Center (the Japanese internment camp in Wyoming); and many Holocaust museums around the world. I had researched far more than I was able to put in The Glass Inheritance, but the book gives upper elementary children an introduction to these historical event

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11. Altitude and Attitude

Recently I’ve had ICL students set at the wrong “altitude” in relationship to their main character. They’ve talked about “little arm,” “tiny mouth,” “short body,” and more. That’s adult-size looking down to see child-size. When we are in a child’s viewpoint, arms, mouths or bodies of kids are viewed as the right size unless part of plot/character issues. In that case the main character likely views his shortness, skinniness or cuteness as a flaw, not a simple description of who he is.

So this got me to thinking. We’re so used to seeing the world at the adult height that it is easy to forget what it looks like from kid height. Recently I experienced a direct example. My six year old grandson looked up at me and said, “you have hairs in your nose.” After struggling with that brief moment of being offended, I said, “yes.” Then I told him everyone did. I explained the purpose of those hairs. Of course, later I checked the mirror to see if, gasp, I needed to trim my nose hairs.

These both have reminded me that I need to think about what my young main character is seeing from her altitude. I may have to walk around on my knees a while to see what the world looks like from that height. I need to dig back and remember when I had to look up at every adult. I need to remember how I had to use a chair to reach the upper cabinets in the kitchen, and sometimes even climbed up on the countertop. I need to pay more attention to kids who are the age of my main character and see the things they have to deal with in an adult sized world and convey that in my writing.

The other thing I sometimes see students do is write with the wrong “attitude.” As an adult we think it is funny or cute when kids do certain things. Unless they are trying to be funny, often what they are doing is very serious business. The two year old pretending to go to work on his ride-upon car is practicing what he’s seen a parent do. The four year old ballerina believes she dances beautifully. At that age anything is possible. The six year old asking about nose hairs is not trying to offend, he’s being honest. Let’s not taint those experiences with adult reality and attitude in our writing.

My adult daughter let me read her sixth grade diary. She wrote about boys, boys, boys, her friends, and her older sister. She wrote about stuff that happened at school. We, her parents, were only mentioned once. That was when her fish died and she said we laughed. I look back and can’t remember laughing. I don’t know why we would have laughed. Whether we did or not isn’t the point. She felt we didn’t care or didn’t care enough. To her that little fish dying was important. Callous parent me, I can’t even remember what kind of fish it was. In my defense, I do remember her winning it at a Vacation Bible School and remember what she named it.

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12. Altitude and Attitude

Recently I’ve had ICL students set at the wrong “altitude” in relationship to their main character. They’ve talked about “little arm,” “tiny mouth,” “short body,” and more. That’s adult-size looking down to see child-size. When we are in a child’s viewpoint, arms, mouths or bodies of kids are viewed as the right size unless part of plot/character issues. In that case the main character likely views his shortness, skinniness or cuteness as a flaw, not a simple description of who he is.

So this got me to thinking. We’re so used to seeing the world at the adult height that it is easy to forget what it looks like from kid height. Recently I experienced a direct example. My six year old grandson looked up at me and said, “you have hairs in your nose.” After struggling with that brief moment of being offended, I said, “yes.” Then I told him everyone did. I explained the purpose of those hairs. Of course, later I checked the mirror to see if, gasp, I needed to trim my nose hairs.

These both have reminded me that I need to think about what my young main character is seeing from her altitude. I may have to walk around on my knees a while to see what the world looks like from that height. I need to dig back and remember when I had to look up at every adult. I need to remember how I had to use a chair to reach the upper cabinets in the kitchen, and sometimes even climbed up on the countertop. I need to pay more attention to kids who are the age of my main character and see the things they have to deal with in an adult sized world and convey that in my writing.

The other thing I sometimes see students do is write with the wrong “attitude.” As an adult we think it is funny or cute when kids do certain things. Unless they are trying to be funny, often what they are doing is very serious business. The two year old pretending to go to work on his ride-upon car is practicing what he’s seen a parent do. The four year old ballerina believes she dances beautifully. At that age anything is possible. The six year old asking about nose hairs is not trying to offend, he’s being honest. Let’s not taint those experiences with adult reality and attitude in our writing.

My adult daughter let me read her sixth grade diary. She wrote about boys, boys, boys, her friends, and her older sister. She wrote about stuff that happened at school. We, her parents, were only mentioned once. That was when her fish died and she said we laughed. I look back and can’t remember laughing. I don’t know why we would have laughed. Whether we did or not isn’t the point. She felt we didn’t care or didn’t care enough. To her that little fish dying was important. Callous parent me, I can’t even remember what kind of fish it was. In my defense, I do remember her winning it at a Vacation Bible School and remember what she named it.

Add a Comment
13. Dear Interviewer, What Questions Inspire Your Subject?

One of the great things about writing YA is that there is a ravenous blog community, eager to pepper the Internet with reviews and giveaways and interviews on top of interviews.

Since HATE LIST was released, I don't know if I could even count how many interviews I've given, especially with YA bloggers. And almost every single one of them has asked the same question:

"What inspired you to write this book?"

It's a great question, and a pretty basic one, really. Of course readers want to know how a writer came up with the idea behind her book. And at first I was really eager to answer it. I love to talk about my process, including my inspiration. But after a while I wasn't sure what to do with this question. Copy and paste from interview to interview? Well, that seemed like cheating. But how many different ways can I explain the same thing? Not to mention I sort of give a 45-minute speech about the inspiration behind my book when I'm visiting schools. It's kind of a long story -- how do I condense 45 minutes into a blog-short answer?

Plus, I really began to crave different questions. And I've gotten a few really different ones:

"Who would win a war between zombies and pirates?"

"What was your favorite flavor Koolaid?"

"What do you think about hot dogs?"

"Do you have a question for my magic 8-ball?"

Those are fun to answer! They wake me up, make me think, let me show a little of my personality in the interview.

So recently I've been answering queries for interviews with a plea to receive unique questions. And so far I've been really pleasantly surprised. I've been asked about the names of my characters, how I personally relate to my characters, what role social networking plays in my writing life, what kind of response I've gotten from readers so far, how I feel about school visits, and how music influenced my book. All questions, by the way, that in answering, I reveal bits and pieces of the inspiration behind the novel, without having to re-create the same answer over and over again.

As a YA author, of course I interview other YA authors for my own blog. And until I began answering interviews I never would've thought to mix it up a little, to stay away from the questions that everyone asks. But now I'm keenly aware of the Unique Interview and how it can feel like a breath of fresh air to the author I'm interviewing. I, personally, like to "have lunch" with the main character of the novel in my interviews. But there are other techniques that are intriguing. For example:

Sarah Ockler threw my main character a debut party, complete with decorations, other literary guests, and food.

Lauren Bjorkman's main character answered a Dear Abby-style question for one of my main characters.

Megan Frazer
entered my main character in a pageant, where she had to show off a talent, pageant-style.

So don't be afraid, interviewers, to get a little creative with your interview questions. You would be surprised just how much you learn about the author, the characters, the storyline, and, yes, the inspiration of a book when you go for a unique interview.

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14. Dear Interviewer, What Questions Inspire Your Subject?

One of the great things about writing YA is that there is a ravenous blog community, eager to pepper the Internet with reviews and giveaways and interviews on top of interviews.

Since HATE LIST was released, I don't know if I could even count how many interviews I've given, especially with YA bloggers. And almost every single one of them has asked the same question:

"What inspired you to write this book?"

It's a great question, and a pretty basic one, really. Of course readers want to know how a writer came up with the idea behind her book. And at first I was really eager to answer it. I love to talk about my process, including my inspiration. But after a while I wasn't sure what to do with this question. Copy and paste from interview to interview? Well, that seemed like cheating. But how many different ways can I explain the same thing? Not to mention I sort of give a 45-minute speech about the inspiration behind my book when I'm visiting schools. It's kind of a long story -- how do I condense 45 minutes into a blog-short answer?

Plus, I really began to crave different questions. And I've gotten a few really different ones:

"Who would win a war between zombies and pirates?"

"What was your favorite flavor Koolaid?"

"What do you think about hot dogs?"

"Do you have a question for my magic 8-ball?"

Those are fun to answer! They wake me up, make me think, let me show a little of my personality in the interview.

So recently I've been answering queries for interviews with a plea to receive unique questions. And so far I've been really pleasantly surprised. I've been asked about the names of my characters, how I personally relate to my characters, what role social networking plays in my writing life, what kind of response I've gotten from readers so far, how I feel about school visits, and how music influenced my book. All questions, by the way, that in answering, I reveal bits and pieces of the inspiration behind the novel, without having to re-create the same answer over and over again.

As a YA author, of course I interview other YA authors for my own blog. And until I began answering interviews I never would've thought to mix it up a little, to stay away from the questions that everyone asks. But now I'm keenly aware of the Unique Interview and how it can feel like a breath of fresh air to the author I'm interviewing. I, personally, like to "have lunch" with the main character of the novel in my interviews. But there are other techniques that are intriguing. For example:

Sarah Ockler threw my main character a debut party, complete with decorations, other literary guests, and food.

Lauren Bjorkman's main character answered a Dear Abby-style question for one of my main characters.

Megan Frazer
entered my main character in a pageant, where she had to show off a talent, pageant-style.

So don't be afraid, interviewers, to get a little creative with your interview questions. You would be surprised just how much you learn about the author, the characters, the storyline, and, yes, the inspiration of a book when you go for a unique interview.

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15. Perfecting Your Pitch

 Last month I journeyed south to Nashville--no, not to enjoy the music, although I did manage to squeeze in a bit of that as well--but mainly to attend the MidSouth SCBWI Conference. The conference offered many opportunities for writers to perfect their craft. One of the fun sessions was on "Perfecting Your Pitch." Your elevator pitch to an editor or agent you're dying to impress.

This pitch lesson was set up like a speed dating session. Each writer had a minute to present another writer with her pitch, and vice versa. A quick minute of feedback from each writer, and then--as in musical chairs, a new set of writers faced each other and the pitches began all over again. This continued through about 10 changes of writers. By the end of the 30 minutes, I was perfecting my pitch--and getting some exercise as well.

Here's the main points you need to highlight in your pitch:

TITLE
GENRE AND AGE RANGE OF AUDIENCE
NAME AND AGE OF MAIN CHARACTER
HOOK (what makes the story unique) 
MAIN CONFLICT OR ACTION

Condense those elements down into a one minute grabber and you have a perfect pitch.
Sound easy?
Of course it's not, but give it try.

Ready, set, pitch!

*****
Cynthia Reeg is perfecting her pitch for her WIP, a middle grade fantasy with lots of slimy stuff. To find out more about her books and writings, visit www.cynthiareeg.com.

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16. Perfecting Your Pitch

 Last month I journeyed south to Nashville--no, not to enjoy the music, although I did manage to squeeze in a bit of that as well--but mainly to attend the MidSouth SCBWI Conference. The conference offered many opportunities for writers to perfect their craft. One of the fun sessions was on "Perfecting Your Pitch." Your elevator pitch to an editor or agent you're dying to impress.

This pitch lesson was set up like a speed dating session. Each writer had a minute to present another writer with her pitch, and vice versa. A quick minute of feedback from each writer, and then--as in musical chairs, a new set of writers faced each other and the pitches began all over again. This continued through about 10 changes of writers. By the end of the 30 minutes, I was perfecting my pitch--and getting some exercise as well.

Here's the main points you need to highlight in your pitch:

TITLE
GENRE AND AGE RANGE OF AUDIENCE
NAME AND AGE OF MAIN CHARACTER
HOOK (what makes the story unique) 
MAIN CONFLICT OR ACTION

Condense those elements down into a one minute grabber and you have a perfect pitch.
Sound easy?
Of course it's not, but give it try.

Ready, set, pitch!

*****
Cynthia Reeg is perfecting her pitch for her WIP, a middle grade fantasy with lots of slimy stuff. To find out more about her books and writings, visit www.cynthiareeg.com.

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17. Spring Ahead...Fall Back

Here's a great fall motivational tip:

If you're ready to start a new habit...maybe getting up early to write, or trying to squeeze in that morning workout...this is a great time to get started. We change the clocks and "fall back" on November 1st.

Take advantage of the time change! If your body is already programmed to wake up at 7:00 a.m., you should wake up at 6:00 a.m. feeling very refreshed and ready to take on the world. Set your alarm an hour earlier and take advantage of the time change to get something accomplished. If you do this the first few days after the time change, your new habit should be much easier to adopt!

Mark it on your calendar! PLAN to get up early and start a new habit!

Add a Comment
18. Spring Ahead...Fall Back

Here's a great fall motivational tip:

If you're ready to start a new habit...maybe getting up early to write, or trying to squeeze in that morning workout...this is a great time to get started. We change the clocks and "fall back" on November 1st.

Take advantage of the time change! If your body is already programmed to wake up at 7:00 a.m., you should wake up at 6:00 a.m. feeling very refreshed and ready to take on the world. Set your alarm an hour earlier and take advantage of the time change to get something accomplished. If you do this the first few days after the time change, your new habit should be much easier to adopt!

Mark it on your calendar! PLAN to get up early and start a new habit!

Add a Comment
19. Want Success? Take BABY Steps!


For those of you who have followed my blog, or who follow me on Twitter or Facebook...or (gasp!) know me in real life, I apologize. I know you've heard this story too many times to count. I promise: it does have something to do with writing...

This has been a year of changes for me. In many ways, I've reinvented myself, although I didn't intentionally set out to do that. Tomorrow, I will run in the Kansas City Marathon. This will be my second half marathon; my first was just three weeks ago. But, the fact that I'm running tomorrow is not the spectacular part of this story.

The real story (and how it relates to writing) is how I went from total non-runner to half marathoner in nine months' time.

I've always put in a lot of time at the gym--about two hours a day, Monday through Friday. One day in January, I was on the elliptical machine. My friends, who had both run half marathons last year, were red-faced and drenched on the treadmill, while I was barely breaking a sweat. They were (and are) in great shape, and my weight was at an all time high.

At the time, I hated running. I hated it so much, I was going to quit training with my trainer because she made us run. Running hurt my ankles, my knees...my entire body. Although I devoted a lot of time to working out, I couldn't run 1/10 of a mile back then. That morning, as I watched my runner friends, I decided it was time to do something about my level of fitness. That day, I decided to approach fitness and nutrition as an athlete would.

Over the next two weeks, I built up to being able to run a mile on the track. I stayed at that distance for a while...and even when I could run a mile non-stop, I still couldn't run on consecutive days. It  hurt. A lot.

But, I was determined. Eventually, I increased my distance, and eventually my body became strong enough to run every day. (I now run 30-35 miles a week.)

I set a goal of running a 5K, which I did with a friend in March. By then, I was hooked, but I knew I needed a really big goal to work toward. We booked a family vacation to a major 1/2 marathon (which is coming up...but for safety reasons, I will not mention time/location here.) and that gave me the incentive I needed to NEVER GIVE UP.

Since then, I've trained consisently with my group of runner friends. I've run a few 5Ks, 10Ks, and my first half marathon. I did a team run with a group of special running women I've become close to at my gym (we took first place!), and I have plans to run my first full marathon in the spring. (I also lost 45 lbs, a whole lot of body fat, went off all my cholesterol and triglyceride meds, lowered my resting heart rate...)

So...what's the point? I am asked to tell this story several times a week. I was recently at a writing conference with people who hadn't seen me in a long time. I look very different from how I looked a year ago, and people ask about it. The one comment I get all the time is, "I could never do that!"

I'm here to tell you YES YOU CAN! If I can do it, you can too. I didn't run 13.1 over night. I ran 13.1 by putting in the effort every single day this year. EVERY. Single. Day. I didn't take a week off. I didn't take a month off. I didn't decide to run 13.1 in January, sit on my butt all spring and summer and fret in the fall when I wasn't prepared. I worked at it every day.

And that's what this has to do with writing--if you want to be published, if you want to be successful, it takes WORK. Not wishing. WORK.

Look at some of the key points above:

1) Baby steps.
2) Daily focus on the goal.
3) Never giving up, even when discouraged.
4) Setting goals.
5) Setting bigger goals.
6) Enlisting the help and support of friends.
7) Having fun!

Me after my first half marathon:



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20. Want Success? Take BABY Steps!


For those of you who have followed my blog, or who follow me on Twitter or Facebook...or (gasp!) know me in real life, I apologize. I know you've heard this story too many times to count. I promise: it does have something to do with writing...

This has been a year of changes for me. In many ways, I've reinvented myself, although I didn't intentionally set out to do that. Tomorrow, I will run in the Kansas City Marathon. This will be my second half marathon; my first was just three weeks ago. But, the fact that I'm running tomorrow is not the spectacular part of this story.

The real story (and how it relates to writing) is how I went from total non-runner to half marathoner in nine months' time...and how you can use the same process to reach your writing goals!

I've always put in a lot of time at the gym--about two hours a day, Monday through Friday. One day in January, I was on the elliptical machine. My friends, who had both run half marathons last year, were red-faced and drenched on the treadmill, while I was barely breaking a sweat. They were (and are) in great shape, and my weight was at an all time high.

At the time, I hated running. I hated it so much, I was going to quit training with my trainer because she made us run. Running hurt my ankles, my knees...my entire body. Although I devoted a lot of time to working out, I couldn't run 1/10 of a mile back then. That morning, as I watched my runner friends, I decided it was time to do something about my level of fitness. That day, I decided to approach fitness and nutrition as an athlete would.

Over the next two weeks, I built up to being able to run a mile on the track. I stayed at that distance for a while...and even when I could run a mile non-stop, I still couldn't run on consecutive days. It  hurt. A lot.

But, I was determined. Eventually, I increased my distance, and eventually my body became strong enough to run every day. (I now run 30-35 miles a week.)

I set a goal of running a 5K, which I did with a friend in March. By then, I was hooked, but I knew I needed a really big goal to work toward. We booked a family vacation to a major 1/2 marathon (which is coming up...but for safety reasons, I will not mention time/location here.) and that gave me the incentive I needed to NEVER GIVE UP.

Since then, I've trained consisently with my group of runner friends. I've run a few 5Ks, 10Ks, and my first half marathon. I did a team run with a group of special running women I've become close to at my gym (we took first place!), and I have plans to run my first full marathon in the spring. (I also lost 45 lbs, a whole lot of body fat, went off all my cholesterol and triglyceride meds, lowered my resting heart rate...)

So...what's the point? I am asked to tell this story several times a week. I was recently at a writing conference with people who hadn't seen me in a long time. I look very different from how I looked a year ago, and people ask about it. The one comment I get all the time is, "I could never do that!"

I'm here to tell you YES YOU CAN! If I can do it, you can too. I didn't run 13.1 over night. I ran 13.1 by putting in the effort every single day this year. EVERY. Single. Day. I didn't take a week off. I didn't take a month off. I didn't decide to run 13.1 in January, sit on my butt all spring and summer and fret in the fall when I wasn't prepared. I worked at it every day.

And that's what this has to do with writing--if you want to be published, if you want to be successful, it takes WORK. Not wishing. WORK.

Look at some of the key points above:

1) Baby steps.
2) Daily focus on the goal.
3) Never giving up, even when discouraged.
4) Setting goals.
5) Setting bigger goals.
6) Enlisting the help and support

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21. Meet and Greet Ann Ingalls


Ann Ingalls co-authored LITTLE PIANO GIRL (Houghton Mifflin, January 2010) with her sister, Maryann Macdonald.   Ann lives in Kansas City and Maryann lives in New York.  Ann also writes for children’s magazines.  Read more about her at her new website:  http://anningallswrites.com/

Q. Tell us how LITTLE PIANO GIRL came about.  What inspired it? 

I had written a nonfiction alphabet picture book called J is for Jive. When looking for endorsements for that work, a member of the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors suggested that I change the W in the alphabet book from Work Songs to Williams. The more I read about her, the more intrigued I became. I shared the idea with my dear sister and she wanted to partner for this project. We have co-authored lots of things, some of which have sold to magazines and one that won a third place in Missouri Writers’ Guild’s poetry contest several years back.

Q. What brought you and Maryann together to work on this project?  (Besides the fact that you are related…)

Maryann and I share a love of music, storytelling, and the same ideas about what makes a good picture book. We edit each other’s work and enjoy good music, singing together badly and a serious love of oatmeal raisin cookies.

Q. What can you tell us about collaborating on a project?

This requires respect for the other’s ideas and flexibility. We split up the research and shared what we each learned. We each interviewed prominent individuals in the jazz community, read the same liner notes, Mary Lou’s hand-written notes, interviews in Melodymaker Magazine and Downbeat. I sought out the endorsements. We each looked for agents and we passed the manuscript back and forth or read it aloud to each other about 100 times. No kidding.

Q. Where did you and your sister grow up?

We grew up in the Detroit metropolitan area where Polish food is good and Motown Music is grand. We taught each other lots of silly dance moves and cheers. We were both cheerleaders in high school and can still remember some of them. No more splits or cartwheels for us.

Q. How long have you been writing for children?  What got you interested in writing for children?

I have been writing for children since the first day I entered a classroom. When I started teaching special education in Michigan in the Dark Ages, interesting text was not available for older readers with lower reading ability. That was great practice for keeping it simple but using some high interest words.

Q. Now that you’ve sold a book do you still plan to write for magazines?

Yes, ma’am. I love to write anything that pleases others. I’ve worked with some of the greatest editors at High Five and Primary Treasure (Kathleen Hayes and Aileen Andres Sox.)

Q. Can you tell us about your current work in process?

I am working on about 30 or more projects and crossing my fingers on a couple that publishers are holding. Each of those manuscript has had 3 or more readings by the editorial board but I never count my chickens even after they’ve hatched.

Q. What would you like to tell others about writing a historical picture book?

It took two years to do the research, one year to write it, six months to find an agent ( I need a new one!), six months to get a contract, one year to find an illustrator, one year for her to do the illustrations and one year for Houghton Mifflin to print and market the book.

Q. Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I love to read other people’s work. I love it when they read mine and offer suggestions to make it better.

I can’t eat chocolate because it gives me migraines but take pleasure in seeing others enjoy that. Eat some chocolate for me.

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22. Meet and Greet Ann Ingalls


Ann Ingalls co-authored LITTLE PIANO GIRL (Houghton Mifflin, January 2010) with her sister, Maryann Macdonald.   Ann lives in Kansas City and Maryann lives in New York.  Ann also writes for children’s magazines.  Read more about her at her new website:  http://anningallswrites.com/

Q. Tell us how LITTLE PIANO GIRL came about.  What inspired it? 

I had written a nonfiction alphabet picture book called J is for Jive. When looking for endorsements for that work, a member of the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors suggested that I change the W in the alphabet book from Work Songs to Williams. The more I read about her, the more intrigued I became. I shared the idea with my dear sister and she wanted to partner for this project. We have co-authored lots of things, some of which have sold to magazines and one that won a third place in Missouri Writers’ Guild’s poetry contest several years back.

Q. What brought you and Maryann together to work on this project?  (Besides the fact that you are related…)

Maryann and I share a love of music, storytelling, and the same ideas about what makes a good picture book. We edit each other’s work and enjoy good music, singing together badly and a serious love of oatmeal raisin cookies.

Q. What can you tell us about collaborating on a project?

This requires respect for the other’s ideas and flexibility. We split up the research and shared what we each learned. We each interviewed prominent individuals in the jazz community, read the same liner notes, Mary Lou’s hand-written notes, interviews in Melodymaker Magazine and Downbeat. I sought out the endorsements. We each looked for agents and we passed the manuscript back and forth or read it aloud to each other about 100 times. No kidding.

Q. Where did you and your sister grow up?

We grew up in the Detroit metropolitan area where Polish food is good and Motown Music is grand. We taught each other lots of silly dance moves and cheers. We were both cheerleaders in high school and can still remember some of them. No more splits or cartwheels for us.

Q. How long have you been writing for children?  What got you interested in writing for children?

I have been writing for children since the first day I entered a classroom. When I started teaching special education in Michigan in the Dark Ages, interesting text was not available for older readers with lower reading ability. That was great practice for keeping it simple but using some high interest words.

Q. Now that you’ve sold a book do you still plan to write for magazines?

Yes, ma’am. I love to write anythi

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23. fun friday stuff


We at Kansas SCBWI are proud to have kicked off the fall conference season.  If you are among the poor unfortunate souls who missed us,


or you are anxious for more SCBWI conference opportunities, here are a few more Midwest conference opportunities:







The Iowa Region Presents
Its Fall 2009 Conference
Three Days of Exciting Events and Programs
Facebook, Twitter, Websites and More!

The AIRPORT HOLIDAY INN
DES MOINES, IOWA

FRIDAY AFTERNOON WORKSHOP, OCTOBER 23
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25
REGISTER FOR ONE, TWO OR ALL THREE DAYS


Steven Meltzer, Associate Publisher/Executive Managing Editor,
Dutton Children’s Books and
Dial Books for Young Readers

Sara Reynolds, Art Director and Vice President,
Dutton Children’s Books

Yolanda LeRoy, Executive Editor, Charlesbridge

Stephen Barbara, Literary Agent, Foundry + Media

Jenn Bailey, Author and Media Networking Expert

Rebecca Janni, Iowa Member, First-Time Author,
Dutton Children’s Books

Lynn Avril, Illustrator

Register for one program, two, or all three

Friday’s Workshop 2-5 P.M.
Saturday, General Session, 8:30 A.M.-4:30 P.M.,
Sunday, 8:45 A.M.-11:45 A.M.

www.scbwi-iowa.org/Oct.%202009%20Brochure.pdf





Missouri SCBWI Confluence Conference


When:  November 7, 2009 from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm

Where:  St. Charles Community College


Sessions:
The Art of Children’s Books
An Illustrator’s Life
Group Portfolio Review

Floyd Cooper has illustrated more than fifty books.  He has  won a number of honors, including four Coretta Scott King Awards.

Session:
On Egmont Books

Greg Ferguson is the editor at Egmont USA. Egmont is one of the largest publishers in Europe with activities in 23 countries. Their first list of 15 books will publish in fall 2009. Greg’s primary acquisition interests include boy’s adventure fiction, middle-grade ghost stories, horror novel (or series) for tweens, edgy and realistic YA fiction, and humorous stories for middle-grade or tweens.

 Session:  
On Andrea Brown agency

Jen Rofe is an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.  Jen handles children’s fiction projects only, from picture books through young adult, and is particularly interested in literary, multicultural, offbeat, paranormal, and commercial-with-heart material. She enjoys magical-realism and reality-based fantasy; ghost stories (though not gore); stubborn characters who learn lessons the hard way; and unassuming heroes and underdogs.

 Session: 
Establishing a Writing Career

Sue Bradford Edwards is an editor, writer, and book reviewer who lives and works in St. Louis, Missouri.  Sue is the Managing Editor of 21st Century Family, a virtual magazine for families of all kinds.  She is responsible for locating and editing content and now understands the editorial phrase, “I’ll know it when I see it.”  As a writer, her work has appeared in Children’s Writer, The Children’s Writer Guide, Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, READ, Ladybug, Young Equestrian magazine, The Gaited Horse,  and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. 

 Session:
The Business of Writing

Judy Young is an award-winning children’s author and poet who specializes in school visits and writing workshops for students. She also speaks at events such as children’s literature festivals and young author conferences as well as conducting poetry writing workshops for elementary and middle school students nationwide. Judy is also a frequent featured speaker at professional educational conferences nationwide as well as for individual school districts’ professional development workshops and school in-services.

 Session: 
Creative Writing Workshop

Leslie Wyatt is a solid and enduring writer who delights in bringing the commonplace to life and in putting words to the undefined. Leslie has published well over 100 articles for children and families.  Her work appears in numerous anthologies. Her most recent book, Poor is Just a Starting Place.

scbwi.org/Resources/Documents/MOSCBWI_09Brochure.pdf




SCBWI-Illinois’
Fifth Annual Prairie Writer’s Day
Brick by Brick: The Architecture of Our Stories

WHEN:
Saturday, November 14, 2009
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
(registration to begin at 8:00 a.m.)

WHERE:

Harper College
Wojcik Conference Center
1200 West Algonquin Rd.
Palatine, IL 60067

Panelists Worthy of a Pedestal:

Stacy Cantor – Associate Editor: Walker & Company
Nick Eliopulos – Associate Editor: Random House Children’s Books
Alisha Niehaus – Editor from Dial Books for Young Readers
Yolanda LeRoy – Editorial Director: Charlesbridge Publishing
Cynthia Leitich Smith – Award-winning author and Vermont College faculty member
Michael Stearns – Agent and Founder: Upstart Crow Literary

Focus on Formats:

This year’s Prairie Writer’s Day will focus on four formats: picture books, middle-grade novels, young adult novels, and nonfiction.

In each of these formats, the essential building blocks are character, plot, and voice. Yet each format is constructed differently. Issues such as space restrictions, language, and pacing require writers to wield their tools differently. Our distinguished panel of speakers will help us to explore the construction of each format.

Cynthia Leitich Smith, an author who is published in a variety of formats herself, will share her writer’s story and provide us with blueprints for the day.

Then each editor, in a keynote speech, will address the unique demands of a particular format: Yolanda LeRoy (picture books), Nick Eliopulos (young adult), and Stacy Cantor (nonfiction). Michael Stearns will speak to the joys and challenges of representing authors across formats.


www.scbwi-illinois.org/Programming.html#1stDate




AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, ADDED SUPER-DUPER BONUS!!!

The Missouri Literary Festival

  The Missouri Literary Festival, a celebration of arts, literature and literacy, will be held October 2, 3 and 4, 2009, at Hammons Field and The Creamery Arts Center in downtown Springfield, Missouri.

Tickets are $5 for ages 11 and up. Children 10 and under get in free.

Stuff for writers, stuff for readers, stuff for kids, teens and adults.

A marathon reading of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Singing, dancing, dogs, and a ukulele.

www.missouriliteraryfestival.org/




Lisha Cauthen knows too much for her own good. Check her out at lishacauthen.wordpress.com or  sunflowerscoop.wordpress.com or @lishacauthen or Twitter, and you'll see for yourself.



 







































































































































































































































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24. fun friday stuff


We at Kansas SCBWI are proud to have kicked off the fall conference season.  If you are among the poor unfortunate souls who missed us,


or you are anxious for more SCBWI conference opportunities, here are a few more Midwest conference opportunities:







The Iowa Region Presents
Its Fall 2009 Conference
Three Days of Exciting Events and Programs
Facebook, Twitter, Websites and More!

The AIRPORT HOLIDAY INN
DES MOINES, IOWA

FRIDAY AFTERNOON WORKSHOP, OCTOBER 23
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25
REGISTER FOR ONE, TWO OR ALL THREE DAYS


Steven Meltzer, Associate Publisher/Executive Managing Editor,
Dutton Children’s Books and
Dial Books for Young Readers

Sara Reynolds, Art Director and Vice President,
Dutton Children’s Books

Yolanda LeRoy, Executive Editor, Charlesbridge

Stephen Barbara, Literary Agent, Foundry + Media

Jenn Bailey, Author and Media Networking Expert

Rebecca Janni, Iowa Member, First-Time Author,
Dutton Children’s Books

Lynn Avril, Illustrator

Register for one program, two, or all three

Friday’s Workshop 2-5 P.M.
Saturday, General Session, 8:30 A.M.-4:30 P.M.,
Sunday, 8:45 A.M.-11:45 A.M.

www.scbwi-iowa.org/Oct.%202009%20Brochure.pdf





Missouri SCBWI Confluence Conference


When:  November 7, 2009 from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm

Where:  St. Charles Community College


Sessions:
The Art of Children’s Books
An Illustrator’s Life
Group Portfolio Review

Floyd Cooper has illustrated more than fifty books.  He has  won a number of honors, including four Coretta Scott King Awards.

Session:
On Egmont Books

Greg Ferguson is the editor at Egmont USA. Egmont is one of the largest publishers in Europe with activities in 23 countries. Their first list of 15 books will publish in fall 2009. Greg’s primary acquisition interests include boy’s adventure fiction, middle-grade ghost stories, horror novel (or series) for tweens, edgy and realistic YA fiction, and humorous stories for middle-grade or tweens.

 Session:  
On Andrea Brown agency

Jen Rofe is an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.  Jen handles children’s fiction projects only, from picture books through young adult, and is particularly interested in literary, multicultural, offbeat, paranormal, and comm

Add a Comment
25. Ban a Book, Ban Inspiration

Like many writers, I've been taking advantage of Banned Books Week to make my thoughts known on the subject of book banning and censorship in general. I participated in a lengthy (and at times quite heated) discussion on a local mom site about the pros and cons of banning books (are there pros? They tried hard, but they never convinced me). I tweeted and Facebook statused about it, encouraging friends and followers to support banned books by reading one this week, and also making my outrage over Ellen Hopkins' recent banning from a Norman, OK school known. And I blogged about my own brush with banning.

I wasn't banned. Not technically. Because I think, in order to be considered banned, you have to first be on the shelves or in the curriculum, and then challenged and unceremoniously booted out. But it doesn't sound as glam to say, "I was pre-selected out." But I guess that's what I was.

The long and short of it is this. I received an email from a junior high school teacher, informing me that she read my book and really enjoyed it, but that she would not be able to share my book with her class, because parental pressure in her school district disallows books that use the f-bomb. She said she had to "eliminate" my book, which sounds very final, does it not?

Okay. Fine. I'm out. Nothing I can do but move on.

But as ridiculous as I think it is for a parent to assume that a 12-year old is not familiar with the f-bomb, that's actually not the biggest concern that I have over this issue.

The bigger concern is this -- Hate List uses the f-bomb exactly five times, all in places that are wholly appropriate places to use the f-bomb (in other words, I'm not just detonating them here and there and everywhere for shock value). But the overall theme and message of the book is very positive. The tone is hopeful. The message is about acceptance and reaching out and courage and friendship and all that good stuff that, generally-speaking, parents don't mind their kids reading about. So in 400 pages of good message, there are five "bad" words... and yet some parents are okay with keeping the good message out of their children's ears for fear that they may only hear the five f-bombs.

Ridiculous.

As if to confirm my thoughts on this subject, over the weekend I received an email from a student who used Hate List for a book report assignment. She sent me the report she wrote. It was beautiful. Spot-on. Lovely. Perfect. She really got the point of the book. But what's even better... she also said this:

"...I had to express this beautiful connection I had with your character. And you've really inspired me to go with my gut about my career choice. I want so badly to write. And if I can make the difference you and Hate List made for me, i may feel as if I've contributed something to this messed up society."

Hmmm... sounds to me like those f-bombs didn't exactly corrupt this child. In fact, I would venture a guess that they may not have even really been noticed.

I wonder if she'd be pursuing that writing dream if her school had pre-selected Hate List out because of a few bad words. I wonder how many parents would change their minds about those five f-bombs if they talked to her about her experience. I wonder if any parents might regret that their child had missed an opportunity to be inspired because a bigger, stronger, louder parent decided for them that the book was unacceptable for their child to read. I wonder if they would realize that you never know what book will have this effect on their child. That you never know, it may be one of those "naughty" books that really speak to that child, and in a positive way.

Hmmm... I wonder.

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