March 30, 2007
And speaking of the lunch lady, you know there's something weird about her, don't you? Then it's time to speak up. Check out this short horror story contest at Pinestein Press, which is seeking short stories for kids centered on the lunch room. Deadline is April 25th, so go to the website for details, and have fun.
Meanwhile LAST DAY for the free copy of Margo Rabb's book! To qualify, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been giving away a copy of Cures for Heartbreak every day of her blog-tour.
Illustrators (and book arts people) who love discussing bindings and the artwork that goes into them will enjoy Jill Oriane Tarlau: Embroidered Bindings, the artist's retrospective show in the gallery of Arion Press at the Presidio in SF. I'd love to see what she could do with Harry Potter in embroidery...
Via Galleycat, never turn your back on a publisher with a copy machine. Wow.
Last night at a New York bookstore (where apparently all intelligent conversation takes place), a group of authors who write about young adult issues met to discuss "the difficulties of telling truthful stories about youth in a world that wants to see them either as over-achieving super-kids or dangerous, violent losers and uses either a pious parental perspective or a leering sneer in media coverage." I am verrry interested in the outcome of this conversation, as it does seem that -- like people who condemn books without actually reading them? There are a whole host of people who have all kinds of information on young adults... without actually knowing any or speaking to them. As authors and YA book people, that's worth noting. I still love the idea of the Mermaids going chaperoning Prom. I'm not doin' it, but I love it...(via YPulse.
(Completely randomly, I ran across piece on "this generation" of parents (and teachers) over-praising kids. Some food for thought... lots of thoughts...)
The other day, Bookshelves O' Doom had these really ...nightmare inducing dolls... In response, I give you Gali Girls -- and please note, they're not silver, mustachioed, or sold with knives and shower curtains... nor come with cringe-inducing back story... They're just... dolls. Add culture and imagination and play.
And it's back to work for me, happy weekend, y'all!
March 29, 2007
Toon Thursday: March 29, 2007
Any resemblance to bearded authors living or dead is purely coincidental. As always, the use of Latin is for humorous purposes only and may or may not be grammatical. Heck, it may not even be Latin.
For previous installments of Toon Thursday, click the label below!
Realistic Fiction: Up to date, engaging dialogue, interesting plot line, interesting but age appropriate vocabulary, sensitivity to economic and social diversity.
Historical Fiction: Accurate details relating to the time period.
Fables: The “lesson” or moral can be explicitly stated or implied. Often includes animals with human characteristics.
Folk Tales, Folk Lore, Legends, and Myths: Engaging dialogue, interesting plot line, interesting but age appropriate vocabulary, clear connection to genre
Fairy Tales and Fantasy: Engaging dialogue, interesting plot line, interesting but age appropriate vocabulary.
Rhyming Stories and Poetry: Well thought out word choices. Poems can be any style.
Non-Fiction Articles: A variety of high-interest subjects that lead the reader to new understandings. Science, History, Social Studies, Memoirs.
Biographies: Subjects who are not widely known and have made a significant contribution to society and include the historical and cultural context.
Speeches, Letters, and Other Genre: These can be about a variety of subjects, both fiction and non-fiction.
Directions To Perform A Task: Clear directions and purpose that children can relate to such as, how to condition a baseball glove, how to play a game popular in another country, how to make a craft. Original recipes are also welcome.
New Leaders for New Schools may not pay as much as testing companies, but keeping your rights and, especially for new writers, expanding that writer's résumé is a good thing -- and you know more that you can share with kids than you think. Check out their writer's guidelines and go for it.
CALL FOR ILLUSTRATORS: Via Book Moot comes the announcement that published children's illustrators are being asked to participate in the Robert's Snow fund raiser. Even if you're not an artist, there are ways you can participate.
CALLING ALL YA READERS A Wrung Sponge is currently creating a MG book list comprised of NEW books with "diversity that is not stereotypical; we have enough of the pregnant basketball playing teenagers living in single parent families in the ghetto, thank you." Thoughts? Head on over, s'il vous plait, et merci.
Every year, Writer's Digest has their Short Short Fiction contest... well, I daresay this six word contest would give most of us a run for our money. Try it and see!
Readers of high fantasy who enjoyed the Trilogy will enjoy hearing what this quirky Australian Author is working on now. Incidentally, you might also enjoy this author interview with Hilari Bell, one of the most thoughtful fantasy writers for YA I've appreciated. If you haven't read her books, check out a review or two, and then jump in.
Much like Shelf Talker's Alison Morris, I too am sort of going "meh" about the cover of the newest Potter book. Or maybe my "meh" could be translated as, "Yes, yes, let's just get ON with it already." Either way. Or, it could be that the whole thing just looks too much like somewhere we've all seen before!!! What IS IT with covers? I love the UK ADULT fiction cover, by the way... I will never understand publisher's book cover guidelines, never... (via Fuse# 8.)
Time's rolling on -- back to work.
March 27, 2007
... Later that Same Day
...we've been talking about book covers lately, and Margo Rabb talks briefly about her great one in her interview at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy. I MUST get a cool cover like hers. I want someone to tell me how to do it... do I wrestle my editor into submission, or beg?
I read in the L.A. paper that there's kind of a theme going on right now with apocalyptic novels. Thanks to the whole war-without-end thing, and September 2001, novels are turning pretty dark. I find it interesting that this has long since been reflected in children's literature... we've had that dark world-ending thing going on for quite awhile now. Could it be that adults assume that YA lit would accept that "reality" more readily? Hm.
Read Roger had a recent post on what he called "lunch books," that is, books only interesting whilst one is eating. It's true -- some books aren't worth reading if you're not otherwise multitasking! I was mostly interested (because my novel is food-esque) in the Simmons Summer Institute in Children's Literature July 26-29th this year entitled Food, Glorious Food. It will be discussing the role of food in children's lit - literally and metaphorically. If I ever wanted to brave Boston in the summertime, that could be fun.
Mitali suggests using children's books as helps in learning a new language. One presenter at the Reading the World IX conference suggested that another use for chidren's books is to help older people come to understand other cultures. Aging people are often put into the situation of having to live with people with whom they would never have otherwise encountered. People working in Residential Care centers are finding that older people feel less threatened by other cultures when learning about them via children's books. Kind of an ingenious idea, really.
Though I am completely late on this, DO read the Cybils interview with Gene Yang. The book is awesome. I love it, love it, and would give it generously to every graphic novel liking kid I met - and even those who don't yet know enough about graphic novels to like them. I was impressed that Mr. Yang was a.) a teacher b.) a Bay Area guy, and c.)drew so creatively. The variously interwoven storylines were just -- delightful. I know I'm babbling, but I really liked the book, and I have never really been able to appreciate graphic novels -- mostly because I was cursed to receive graphic versions of the New Testament when I was a child from some well-meaning adult... the experience sort of soured me on graphic novels in general. However -- good drawing and an intriguing storyline make a huge difference!
Also - again very late - we are all cordially invited to the Cybils post mortem as our noble leaders decide how it's all going to go next time. Speak up!
Via Bookshelves O' Doom, it's death by chocolate -- literally!! Honestly, if you give me this much chocolate, you can shriek Exterminate! Exterminate! and I will really not much care. Where were these people at my last birthday party!?
I never was anyway, but now I am SO not a fan of Miramax. Eejits. (Via Fuse#8, who lit my fuse!)
Because of recent discussions with the Cybil Sisters regarding book covers -- and the weirdness that follows when books go from hard cover to paper back (like this Kitty to this Kitty and this Impossible Life to this Life and then, somewhat randomly, this cover, which obscurely looks just like the newest Life, in what seems to be a copycat cover trend) (Mad link props to LW, reigning Queen of the book cover) and in part of our discussion of the Pretty Girlization of book covers, the book cover site we found via Fuse #8 is a nice find, and will give us more fodder for our conspiracy theories.
Okay, okay, my conspiracy theories, all right? My madness alone. Sheesh.
It was super brave of the Disco Mermaids to talk about their recent drama, even in a lighthearted way. In every critique group I have ever been in, just about every day week (esp. in grad school) there would be rise in the level of tension running through the room from something someone said, and once in awhile groups would gather during our tea break. Phrases like, "did you hear her say..." and "did he MEAN..." would hiss through the hallways, and because we were all so honestly tangled up in our manuscripts, cradling them like helpless newborn blind... er, cubs, we all got our fangs out, our tails lashing and our manes ruffled when anyone said anything that didn't sound quite right to us. (Whew! Nailed that metaphor.)
Sometimes, the whole thing was just really exhausting.
We care so much about our work. We want so much for it to be ...right (which explains my choice of a gift-from-above editor rather than a PR machine, in answer to Justine's question). We want to pull the best out from ourselves, and sometimes it feels like that best is not possible, and we get... frantic. Hostile. Vicious and viciously depressed. And a smaller writing group plainly doesn't mean that there is no aggravation. Just two is enough; you can even get in a snit alone, if you're feeling like nothing is working, and that your agent is going to Barcelona without having read your latest mss. because you simply cannot seem to push through to finish it (thus you are posting to your blog instead of working), and you're afraid that the people who read your work just give you lots of sunshine because they love you, and that nobody is telling the truth, and you really do just suck, and it should really be raining outside instead of looking all Spring-y because everything else is going down the toilet... (ahem.)
I don't want to be with myself when I'm working (or not working) like that (thus I am with you, oh, you lucky few!). Imagine the potential horror of writing with your SISTER!
Randomly: I'm curious about how co-authors write together. Cynthia Leitich Smith has interviewed other co-authors and Cynthia herself and her honey, Greg also write together. How does that work? How do writer's groups and collaborators defuse tension and move forward? What if you have a goddess like Our Jane in your writing group and you've not published as much (and honestly, who has?!) or at all? From what I can see, the honesty of being able to disagree and speak critique truthfully to this issue produces an honesty in writing that is unparalleled. And I need me a dose of that...
All right. Enough with the work avoidance.
March 26, 2007
Blog Roundup for Monday
Firstly, congrats to Fuse #8, Chicken Spaghetti, Bildungsroman, and a few of our other favorite YA/kidlit blogs for being nominated for the Litty Awards at Book Chronicle. Good luck, guys! (Link via Fuse #8.)
Speaking of Fuse #8, there have been a number of great posts over there the past few days--a few of my favorites:
- In response to a recent challenge to Huck Finn at one high school, students created their own Save Huck Finn blog.
- Here's a list of Newbery books that have been turned into movies, in order from best to worst.
- Don't miss Fuse #8's link to a fascinating discussion on Justine Larbalestier's blog about the competing merits of having either a fabulous editor or fabulous publicity. Put in your two cents!
Via the YALSA blog comes news of yet another social networking site, called Virb, as well as news about librarians, teens, and developers creating a virtual library at Second Life. (And if you're ever at Second Life, you can look for me as Aquafortis Swot, though chances are pretty good I won't be online...)
Some great stuff on Jen Robinson's Book Page: Jen will be hosting the 13th Blog Carnival of Children's Literature on April 21st. If you're wondering what a blog carnival is, she suggests visiting Chicken Spaghetti's great post on the subject. There's also a great post, and ensuing discussion, about the compelling nature of post-apocalyptic stories.
Booklists on Bildungsroman: I Am a Dancer contains fiction for children and teens about dancers, and But I DO Want to Be Famous! is a booklist about characters who yearn for the limelight.
Happy blog-haunting! Hope nobody else is nursing a cold (let alone your third bout of crud in two months).
Better Late Than...
Allrighty. Another cuppa tea and back to work...
March 22, 2007
Sugar-Snow, Hitchhiking No-No's, and Voodoo godmothers
Maple Syrup ... $6.75 a bottle
An 11-year old who squeals, "Oh, I remember this from Little House in the Big Woods!" ... Priceless.
Some things money can't buy. One of them is the fun of raising a reader! (Even for those of us who occasionally must borrow random readers to raise.) My snow trip was quite fun, even though there was a bit of web-withdrawal. Sadly, I am no Chicken Spaghetti! Fate decreed no Sugar Snow for us. It rained in Tahoe this last week, and made a slushy ice-pebbly snow that wasn't up to the task of taking on boiled molasses or maple syrup. And, having it boil over while the person meant to be watching it precipitously left the kitchen when it got bubbles on top (and stood staring from the dining room as the pot was quickly lifted it from the heat) meant that we just ate the leftovers on pancakes and called it a day. (Note to self: Next time, remember the candy thermometer...) Still, it was really good fun, and the pancakes weren't half bad either...
Recently, the UK Guardian published a piece on Britain's secretary of education, and his plan to revitalize the education of the working-class children of the UK. His focus is especially on boys, and he says that schools must offer something more than Jane Austen to them, books that put them in the driver's seat in terms of power and adventure; that a generation of "fighting, spying and sporty working-class heroes" would help the boys keep up with the girls scholastically, and the girls would profit because it would keep the boys hushed up reading while they learned.
Well, obviously something about that article set my teeth on edge, but I couldn't write a decent paragraph to articulate why... I mean, it's good to focus on boys, isn't it? But there was something slightly sneering and ...almost condescending when he mentioned that the girls would finally have the peace and quiet they (by temperament and genetics, obviously) cherished when the boys got the bang-'em-up and action they seemed to be genetically inclined to need.
Even as I thought snarkiness at this, I wondered if maybe it wasn't a tad insulting to be sniping at an educational system that isn't even in my own country (not that that ever stops a blogger from kvetching, but one do strive for some veneer of sensitivity. Occasionally.), so I deleted what I'd written. Thank goodness a resident of the UK is up to the task. Do take a gander at Jess McCabe's clearly worded protest, and THANK YOU to CK for the bump in the right direction (and cheers to your new book! The site looks fabulous!).
CHEERS also to the North Carolina boy who read Gary Paulsen's Hatchet and lived to tell about the long lost trek he took in the woods. Okay, All Ye 12-year-olds -- no hitchhiking away from camping trips when you're bored, okay!? But at least the kid survived. To use a Dr. Who quote, "Just this once, everybody lives!" That is indeed a Good Thing.
"Does princess worship hurt a girl's self-image? Are we training a generation of damsels in distress? The jury is out on that, but some experts say the princess marketing overload is actually limiting girls' choices about what it means to be, well, a girl."
Aaaand the Disney rumors continue. Blogger scuttlebutt uncovers that the godmother in the newest Disney "Princess" story is where the voodoo connection comes in. Yep, you got it -- Mama Odie is a "200-year old voodoo priestess," and Dr. Duvalier is a voodoo magician. (There is also a spoiled Caucasian debutante - our "princess" is the chambermaid.)
Now, folks, let's discuss this, um... rationally. 1. Many African American people, in NOLA or otherwise, do not practice voodoo. 2.) EVERY OTHER 'PRINCESS' gets a FAIRY godmother. So the African American "Princess" gets, what, a DEMONmother? I mean, with respect - voodoo is in fact an actual religion (Vodoun), but in the popular culture, which is where this story is clearly placed, voodoo is connected with a.) Elderly and mysterious black women/people from the South, generally who live cut off from society in shacks in the bayou; b.) EVIL scam-running black elderly women/people, who live cut off from society in shacks in the bayou; c.) evil undead black zombies, d.) poisonous love potions, and e.) little voodoo poppet's made up from the skin and nails and hair of the victims by evil elderly black women who make them and give them to angry people who stick pins into them and cause pain.
Of course, there must be magic in a princess movie - we have to have magic, of course, it's Disney, and it's all held together with stardust and spit to make it the "happiest place on earth," and fairytale culture is full of magic and starlight and fantastical dreams... And, our princess must look like all the other princesses -- that means skin and bones and big hair and huge eyes, probably much like the debutante and every other incarnation of "princess" -- but this Disney dream seems just a bit dark to me... and no bad puns intended, either. A chambermaid - a worker - will wait for someone to work magic to raise her status into the world of privilege. I am really dying to know how the frog will play into it. And the singing crocodile -- will he have gold-capped teeth as he 'soulfully' sings?
Incidentally, I wonder if Maddy's magic will come with pastel sparkly lights like Cinderella's magic. I know, I know -- I need to stop making comparisons, perhaps, until the movie comes out, but it's hard for me to reserve judgment after seeing the other "ethnic princesses" like Pocahontas, Jasmine and Mulan... so many people are eager to embrace whatever version of ethnicity Disney coughs up to apply to their little brown girls, so they can feel that they, too, are equitably represented in the great fairytale pantheon. After all, Disney knows EVERYTHING about every little princess in the world. I mean, they know that girls are genetically disposed to like pink and castles. They're just giving every girl what she wants, this time with the addition of curlier hair and darker skin. "Princess-hood" at whatever price...
Yes, I'm back. Apparently vacation didn't do my snarky-ranting genes any good... maybe next time...
Toon Thursday: March 22, 2007
As always, click the cartoon for a larger view, and click the label "Toon Thursday" for previous installments!
March 20, 2007
If I Were a YA Novel...
Firstly, Fuse #8 has alerted us all to the coolest keyboard ever. Now that I'm thinking about it, if you could remove one key at a time from a standard keyboard (which I think you can), and then find some antique typewriter or adding machine keys and just perform a replacement, you could make something similar...Yeah, I'll get right on that... ;)
Secondly, via the YALSA blog comes a new social networking site called Assignment Zero, which enables anyone to take part in the creation of a news story, from interviewing to writing. Says YALSA blogger Linda: "Assignment Zero is just one of the many examples of web 2.0 social networking that helps support teen learning. It's another example of why social networking should not be limited in the school or the library. Assignment Zero can extend what's possible in the library and classroom. Check it out and think about how the teens you work with might be able to get involved."
This kind of thing reminds me of long-term group projects we did in sixth grade, where we had to be a news team and produce our own newscast complete with anchorperson (me--jeez) and reporters, and videotape it, or we were a trade ship with certain assets and we were posed a particular problem to solve each week that involved economic principles and group decisionmaking, etc. etc. Only it's SO MUCH COOLER because you're actually involved in the world and getting feedback. Fascinating stuff.
Lastly, via Little Willow comes a link to a fun and promising site called memegirls, the brainchild of YA authors Robyn Schneider and Jennifer Lynn Barnes. If you enjoy web memes, try out some of their original, literature-focused games. And on that note, I'm going to end with one:
This is a Meme Girls Original Meme. What's in a name? To find out, use the letters of your name to make a list of book titles. If you want to get crazy, assign a different genre to your first and last names. I tried to stick with mostly YA-type books, and I tried not to repeat authors. You'll notice I was lenient about the use of "A/An" and "The" at the beginning.
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey
Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Nerilka's Story by Anne McCaffrey
Thanks again to Memegirls!!
March 19, 2007
Contest Alert, Convos about Culture, and Conference Stuff Concluded
Anyway, via the SCBWI discussion board comes this Red-Hot Contest Alert: brand-new website YoungAdultFiction.com is sponsoring a First Three Chapters contest. Says the site's founder, Alison: "The purpose of this contest is to generate a bit of exposure to our site and message boards, both of which are dedicated exclusively to YA fiction. The winner of the contest will receive $100 and the submission deadline is March 31st." Get to it!
Some great insights on multicultural children's literature, via Cynsations, from Uma Krishnaswami, who discusses a recent presentation she gave entitled "Beyond Food, Flowers, and Festivals". Definitely a subject we're interested in here at Finding Wonderland. I only wish I'd gotten to see the presentation in person!
Finally, Esther Hershenhorn's Children's Book Creator's Seven Essential Nutrients, concluded (click here for part one).
5. Stay immersed in the Children's Book World. Subscribe to the Publisher's Weekly e-newsletter Children's Bookshelf, or visit back issues online. The Children's Book Council has a wealth of information, including details and submission guidelines for numerous publishers of children's books. Look at bestseller lists on the American Booksellers Association website. Go to conferences, and see what's going on with the International Reading Association. Join writing groups and listservs. Visit blogs--a great place to find more is Anastasia Suen's Blog Central.
6. Don't forget Career Considerations, like business cards and a website. Watch how authors present themselves and their work on Book TV. Apply for grants and enter contests. Network in the Children's Media Professionals' Forum.
7. Stay in tune with The Creator's Story--that is, your story. Ray Bradbury said, "There is only one type of story in the world--your story." As a fun exercise, write the review you want your book to get. Write your answers to imaginary interview questions. Lastly, stay motivated however you can--especially by going back to those books that inspired you.
As for myself, I'm devouring some excellent Cybils YA nominees lent to me by TadMack, and going back to an old book of writing exercises called What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers and trying to brainstorm my revision ideas, working on my characters because I know they need a little help this time around. Starting my beginning earlier in the story, instead of killing the momentum with a flashback (who the heck knows why I even did that? I sure don't). Here's to going back to basics--cheers!
March 16, 2007
I, too, wanted to play the 123 Meme game, but it's not in a spot that would do the book any favors. Bummer, huh? Actually, once editors get a hold of it, it may be perfectly fine -- the first paragraph of pg. 123 may be completely blank...
More girls to watch from Readathon, who suggests 'Girls You Should Know,' and a new blog alert from Publishers' Weekly, introducing us to ShelfTalker.
Chicken Spaghetti is now Chicken Maple Ingalls Wilder. I would live in the deep snow in New England for five minutes, just to do this cool project! And this is a good time to tell you -- going into a seclusion of sorts this next week, half vacation, half writer's retreat. Taking my siblings with me means that maybe not a lot will get done... but hey - a different room in which to stare at my computer screen is always good.
March 15, 2007
I was scanning the March/April edition of the SCBWI Bulletin this morning, and found that SCBWI columnist and PR person Susan Saltzman Raab had helpfully blurbed the Cybils on the back cover. (Raab is also the inventor of Reviewer's Checklist, a service which is designed to promote children's, teen and parenting books to a broad range of media. If you're serious about wanting to be a reviewer, definitely check it out.) She encourages people to read and nominate more graphic novels, and I know the graphics people are looking forward to that. (And don't forget, people: the 2008 Nominations are Now Open...)
And speaking of manga, via ChickenSpaghetti, palindromic librarian bloggerTangognaT is celebrating four years of blogging and giving away mucho manga! Congratulations, TangognaT!
It's a comic book kind of day. Buffy Returns! Available in bookstores yesterday, this Dark Horse Comics production of Season 8 of the popular girl-battles-vampire-with-good-one-liners is TODAY in its second printing! As always, Buffy kicks buns!
Toon Thursday: March 15, 2007
Click for larger image...and remember to channel Sir David Attenborough (or possibly Steve Irwin) for the caption...
You'll notice that we're now doing Toon Thursday. Besides being more alliterative, now the cartoons won't interfere with the already-existing Poetry Friday! For last week's cartoon, click here.
March 14, 2007
That's the Sound of a (wo)Man, working on the Chain...Ga-ang...
Oh, did that sound catty? Sorry. Before he goes off to sip wine over business dinners whilst making serious agent-y decisions with the leaders of the children's book World Market. Better?
Sigh. I am SO jealous.
Not that I really want to go to that particular Fair, but I just want to be on vacation. Somewhere...
But no. Long awaited notice from my editor this morning ~ my days of gallivanting and pretending I don't have a major revision facing me are soon to be gone, long gone. Siiiiiiiigh. But it's a happy sigh, kids. A happy sigh. One that envisions me chained to my chair, weeping. With joy, of course.
More signs from the universe that I should really buckle down: The Class of 2k8 is preparing for liftoff, and my editor told me that I should consider getting on board. Two of the original Class of 2k7, whose books were delayed, are heading up the fight, and encourage everyone to pass the word to other middle grade and YA authors being published next year. Because I feel like I already have a blog... pod, or group of friends, I'm not sure I need to blog one more place, but I'm happy to advertise for it and check it out, and I encourage others who are having a book published in 2008 (squeal!) to join the fun. It will be an important year in so many ways! Presidents and Olympics and books, oh my!
Far from being the B-List Blogger (with props to MotherReader) that I should strive to be, this week, I'm... er, a Q-list blogger. I am reading blogs, but not so much commenting, as I am supposed to be WORKING, and I'm sure my agent is wondering how I'm even finding the time to gab now, so I must needs avant...
March 13, 2007
More Media Madness & Conference Chat
I don't have a link for this one--yet (maybe I'll be able to post something in the comments soon)--but tonight's episode of the Colbert Report contained a rather amusing diatribe by Stephen Colbert about Stephenie Meyer's New Moon, which has spent quite a bit of time on the NY Times bestseller list. According to him, teenage girls shouldn't waste their time on vampires. They should go for zombies, because at least the zombies are interested in them for their brains.
Lastly, I just now found out that YALSA has a blog--you learn something new every day.
Okay, on to the conference stuff. I wanted to put down a few notes from Esther Hershenhorn's talk, especially since she provided such a wealth of web links, many of which I was familiar with but some of which were completely new to me. Esther talked about The Children's Book Creator's Seven Essential Nutrients.
- Your current project should always be foremost in your mind. Keep all your notes and drafts--you can always donate them to a good cause when you're famous. If you're a teacher or are planning classroom visits, compile a bibliography related to your book. Come up with your one-sentence description of your book, or your flap copy. Create a website for your book.
- Keep your creative process alive and well. Try freewriting or writing exercises. Try changing your writing tool--if you use a computer, try changing the font, or using pen and paper. Try games like forming as many words as possible using your character's name--some interesting ideas might spring from it. Put gold stars on your calendar for every day you get some writing done. And if all else fails, you can always use the create your own YA novel kit. Or try writing 100 words a day for 100 days, or National Novel Writing Month.
- Craft is always important. Study good examples like The Annotated Charlotte's Web. Read the Horn Book. Visit the Cooperative Children's Book Center website, and learn from all the resources there. Look at others' revisions.
- Read as much children's literature as possible. Again, the Horn Book and the CCBC are invaluable. Esther also mentioned the California Young Reader Medal.
To be continued...
Hitting the Ground Running...
First -- you MUST check out the Canadian Library Awards for this year. You'll know my favorite title when you see it. (ViaBookshelves of Doom.)
Second -- head on over to the Cybils page for a great interview with Laura Amy Schlitz, author of the very funny and sad A Drowned Maiden's Hair.
...and finally, here's a new thought: what if writers wrote books, got movie rights, and then took in some of the loot from the FILM as their pay? Via Bookshelves of Doom, a really interesting discussion of rights and privileges of our own creative work. Phillip Pullman's recent giveaway, and a recent discussion of other sci-fi authors' successes and failures in dealing with movie rights make this a timely discussion. Those authors who buck the trend have to be really big in order to make this work (trust me -- agents and publishers are NOT interested in hearing about what rights you'd like to keep on your first book. TRUST me). Cheers to them for breaking ground for the rest of us.
...and now, to work.
March 12, 2007
Blog Plugs and Conference Lessons
...I have a pet peeve with modern books that have adult characters with names that have only come into vogue in the last few years (such as Madison or Zoe). Even if I like the name in general, I find the mismatch of it very jarring. I mean, really, do you know anyone over the age of 10 with the name Madison? So why should this book character have it when it doesn’t match at all with the generational context?
I have to completely agree with that. I obsess over naming my characters, and I hate using names that are either so common as to be unmemorable or so bizarre as to be laughable. Striking a balance can be difficult.
I also wanted to put in a major plug for this month's issue of The Edge of the Forest (which I totally hyped to one of the editors at the conference!). Don't miss the great features: Adrienne's editorial about the sudden popularity of sock monkeys, Kelly's fabulous interview with the divas of Readergirlz, articles by MotherReader and Liz B., an audio interview with Daniel Pinkwater (can I just say I was obsessed with Lizard Music as a kid?), and much more, including a YA book review by yours truly. I'm honored to be in such amazing company, I really am!
So, I should tell you right off that the main reason for my attending this Davis conference was not for what I might learn (because the last time I attended, it seemed that the majority of info was geared toward writers earlier in their careers) but for who was going to be there. Of course, I still found myself jotting down random notes and learning despite myself! The literary agent who attended, Jennifer Jaeger of Andrea Brown Literary Agency (where I sorely want to submit my current novel after revision), had a few illuminating insights into the life of an agent and his/her relationships with the writer. For instance, on the question of whether or not a writer needs an agent in the first place, she says, "Can you ask your boss for a raise? If not, you need an agent." However, she stresses that it's a collaborative relationship, so if you decide to seek out an agent, it's crucial to do your research. A great way to find out about agents, she says, is to haunt discussion boards, something that hadn't really occurred to me but makes complete sense. One of the other speakers at the conference suggested a site called AgentQuery, which has a truly huge amount of resources for writers including agent listings.
The other person I was excited about seeing at the conference was Tim Travaglini, who is an editor at Penguin Putnam, and who sent me a review copy of Monster Blood Tattoo. I'd seen him speak at an SCBWI conference in LA a couple of years ago, too. So, here's my ulterior motive for going to the conference: it was possible for writers submit the first 10 pages and a synopsis of their manuscript (for an additional fee) and get written comments from one of the manuscript editors from Writer's Ink. But 10 (or 10-plus, in this case) manuscripts would be chosen to receive comments from one of the editors or agents at the conference. So I decided to take a gamble that either Tim Travaglini or Jennifer Jaeger would actually see my work and I'd get a professional opinion.
And, YAY! My gamble paid off! Mr. Travaglini was the commenter, and I now have numerous very useful written comments from an ACTUAL BIG-TIME EDITOR, which I will take very seriously and implement as much as possible. I also made sure to speak to him and introduce myself, and thank him for the review copy as well as the written comments.
That's all for today, but I'll post again in the next few days with more conference notes (including some awesome links) and, of course, another cartoon at the end of the week!
Notes From The Knee-High Grass in Left Field
Cheerios and Eric Carle have teamed up to create a fun interactive activity that helps get copies of picture books out to small children from families in need. Of course, these are properly good Carle books... not any of these... (via BookBlog.)
I always like finding out more details about the people in the blogosphere, and this week, it's Chicken Spaghetti's turn in the 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast interview chair. There are so many people who a.) blog more than I do, b.) really KNOW more than I do about the kidlit world -- I'm always so impressed by them, and by their interviewers, too.
Kelly over at Big A, little a has a good discussion going on regarding gender bias in picture books. Interestingly enough, this weekend I was browsing Sheroes, and came across that same statistic, that "80% of children's’ books published today feature male heroes." While they leave no hint of where they get their facts, I got to wondering about the truth of gender bias in middle grade/YA books, and while I did not find a particular study that related to 'children's books' and not picture books, I did find a1994 study of children's chapter books which depicted female characters as ill 80.8% of the time as opposed to 18% of the time with male characters... underscoring that our culture considers women's bodies somehow... frail and apt to break down easily, even now, outside of the Victorian Age. AND, from a study of G-rated kid-friendly movies that took place between 1990 and 2005, come more statistics: In G-rated family films, there are:
More than four out of five (83 percent) of films’ narrators are male.
...And don't let's start on the ethnic deficits. One outrage at a time, I think.
I always notice at SCBWI and other writing conferences aimed at those who teach, write and promote children's books, it's always skewed so that there are more women than men. So... what's up with THAT?! Why are girls and women not even depicted as the wallpaper, the crowd scenery... in family movies and in children's books... how odd that women and minorities rarely exist. It's very strange... People have said that movie-goers and readers pay for what they want to see. I guess one could say that's true. But still...
Full Cast Audio, Bruce Coville's company that produces "unabridged recordings of fine children's novels using a full cast rather than a single reader," has announced a new, "straight-to-audio" book by Tamora Pierce (speaking of Sheroes!), which is 3/4 of the way written, and will be released this summer. I haven't yet heard any of FCA's productions, but I'm looking forward to it!
In their spare time, poets are... whatever else they need to be. William Carlos Williams was a medical doctor, and now an unpublished poem he wrote for a patient is uncovered. Who knew!?
I suppose I also should have already known this: that a task force of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is reexamining the eligibility requirements for the nation's top awards in children's literature and illustration, as well as other children's book awards -- including the Newbery and the Caldecott. In the beginning, these awards were intended to push American authors into writing and illustration; apparently these goals may have been met, so the time to rethink their scope has come. Hm. Does that mean that JK Rowling, who has won everything else, will now win a Newbery?
Awhile back, PW ran a piece about whether or not authors who blog are wasting their time -- as in, does blogging have any kind of payback. Hm. Don't quote me, 'cause once you get into your editorial houses' PR policies, you never know what you may end up doing, but I can't see writing novel blogs AND writing-about-writing-novels blogs. I just don't want to hear my voice that much, and the whole thing seems to be a vicious cycle in maintaining publicity, etc. I see authors with blogs on Amazon, and I cringe for them... not that there's anything wrong with author-blogging, but Amazon can certainly bite back (as many authors know), and I really do think that writing is hard enough without inviting the criticism of strangers... on the other hand, what else is blogging?
On the invisible third hand, I do identify when I'm using blogging to completely avoid any real work, so this is it for me for now.
Cheers... have a lovely Monday, if at all possible.
ps - Okay, one last work avoidance -- THANK YOU Disco Mermaids for today's best laugh yet.
March 11, 2007
Frogs, Rejected Suitors, and things that make you go "Hmmm."
I'm ignoring the "soulful" singing crocodile and the freakin voodoo spells, okay? Let's just not ... even... start, all right? However, despite myself, I will give the Mighty Mouse credit for supporting New Orleans financially, by holding their annual shareholder's meeting there, and setting their animation in that city. My curiosity is, which version of this odd Germanic tale will they use?
Fairytales always are a subject of intense interest to me. Gender and sex roles, cultural mores and more are communicated in a way that seem inherently normalized by the idea that this is a story that "everybody" knows. The 'Once Upon A Time' wraps up the parameters of a world, and years from now will tell others about our civilization... thus I'm also very interested in the choice of " slimy, unwanted suitor being forced upon foolish girl by her father"... as a tale intended for girls to identify with and relate to... especially one for their first African American "Disney princess..."
March 09, 2007
Oxford in the Then and Now
The scene shifts to the rarefied air of St. James College, Oxford, England where we encounter an unhappy boy named Blake, separated from his father by his parent's unhappiness, dragged along on his mother's sabbatical to Oxford. With only his little sister, Duck, for company, Blake finds that he has stumbled upon something deep and amazing. There are strange things afoot in Oxford... secretive book collectors, societies, confusing parents, dusty bookshops, and more.
The storyline of this past and present are intertwined, giving the reader hints and clues that lead to a tumultuous ending. However, characters are only shallowly explored, and myriad questions are left unanswered... is Psalmantzer also Endymion? What will Blake do with the book? Is the Person in Shadow going to be a constant danger?
From all of these, one can only assume that a sequel is in the works, hopefully one that answers the questions of why Blake could read the book and Duck could not, what is Duck's actual name, whether the name of the library cat had any significance, and why Endymion was specially chosen, and his past, etc. This may put off some readers, but if you love English countryside mystery series in which each volume may not be a stand-alone, this is one for you.
Transformative Powers of Art
In the gray, wet, dreary (and did I say gray) town of Manod, once a slate-mining town in the dreary hills of Wales, Dylan Hughes realizes that he's the last boy standing in the whole town. See, there's no money, and everyone is, well... leaving. There's no one with whom to play soccer anymore, and all he really wants in life is have a good kick around. Max, his baby brother, is a year old... six more years before they can kick around a ball. The service station and garage his Dad runs together with the family (as Team Hughes)is slowly going under...so Dad's a bit too worried to play much. Mom and Dad, Minnie, Dylan and Marie all have a plan to save the family business (Max would have one, too, if he weren't drooling). Mom's plan is to serve espresso drinks at the service station. That kind of works. Dad's plan is to buy and restore a Mini Cooper and sell it. That ...doesn't work. Minnie's plan seems to be to lock herself in her room and obsess over not being beautiful forever, which is completely annoying and helpful to no one. Marie's plan is that someone should steal a painting. Unfortunately, there IS a painting around to be stolen... The National Gallery is temporarily storing paintings from London in some old slate mines while an insurances snafu at the gallery is worked out. Dylan, whose affection for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has caused him to name the family chickens after them, catches the attention of one Quentin Lester, the art curator from the National Gallery who is in charge of this Wales portrait expedition. He brings Dylan up to show him the world of art. And art changes ... everything.
A fast-paced, silly and touching book about a loving family and the love of art, Framed will make you open an art book or Google the titles of the paintings in hopes of seeing some of the great stuff that changed Manod from someplace to live, to someplace to be alive.
Art is always something somewhat subjective, and readers will find themselves studying the artwork for links to what the 'real' story might be. The links between the stories and the pictures will keep readers reading, and though they may not care for everyone's interpretation, it's the kind of project that encourages teens to try it themselves.
Well worth reading!
March 08, 2007
I jumped the gun last night, by the way, and didn't post the color version. Here it is.
Thursday Night News Roundup
Okay, on to the news: a little NPR Roundup. Firstly, last week there was a segment on Talk of the Nation with Susan Patron (click for podcast), who spoke about her book The Higher Power of Lucky and the controversy raised by her use of the word "scrotum." (Tee hee! Scrotum!) Next, this past Monday I listened to a California Lectures broadcast of a conversation between Norman Mailer and Joyce Maynard. Their conversation convered Mailer's new book, which, in part, presents a fictionalized account of the childhood and adolescence of Adolf Hitler. I'm sure it's not YA by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought it was an intriguingly controversial idea, and I hope they make a podcast available. Lastly, for those of you who enjoyed Cybil Graphic Novel Award nominee Pride of Baghdad, you might be interested in yesterday's Talk of the Nation segment with an author/environmentalist/animal conservationist who decided to help rescue the animals of the Baghdad Zoo.
Yes, clearly I am an NPR addict! Anyway, I'll be posting a special treat later tonight or tomorrow, plus more news bits over the weekend. Cheers!
It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like...
In my thoroughly half-awake state, I forgot to tell you about some great T-shirts MotherReader has going on that all the smart set will be wearing at conferences this year. I'm SO calling dibs on this one. And isn't it cool how LittleReader is growing up just like Mom? Awww.
Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti for the heads up on the PEN's Children's/Young Adult Book Authors Committee discussion on censorship. I read the three essays by the painfully realistic YA author Robert Lipsyte, thoughtful children's poet and novelist Mary Anne Hoberman and the super creative middle grade author Elizabeth Levy for some prose on writing, censorship, self-censorship, and where to draw the line as gatekeepers of Children's/YA authors. Elizabeth Levy's statement, "my greatest fear, far scarier than vampires, is the one that I somehow haven’t been honest," is reverberating in my head, the pen battling the sword... and will probably provide blog fodder for another day.
Meanwhile, if you've never visited kidSpeak, where censorship issues are talked about by kids... you've got to. It will make you feel like the world just might be all right, because young people are learning to stand up for their First Amendment rights. Huzzah!
Fun with linguistics... okay, maybe I'm the only one who winces when she hears people say 'exspresso'... when it's pronounced and spelled 'espresso'... (I may also be the only one who thinks linguistics are fun...) Here are more entertaining common errors in English usage.
Have a good weekend... starting... tomorrow.
March 07, 2007
Odds and Ends Midweek
(Of course, I say all of this in the wake of my second novel being passed on by three houses thus far. Note I am reminding myself of these things, not preaching to you.)
This is why Phillip Pullman's sharing his work-- free of charge -- with an independent Dutch film company that makes educational films is such a great thing. Most writers seem to be so happy to get paid that it's beyond their ability to think of doing something for free. Free seems to be equated with anonymous and being put-upon... Of course, Mr. Pullman just sold the His Dark Materials works to New Line Cinema, so maybe he's feeling flush... but rich or poor, I thought this was a neat thing to do.
... one can only hope to be as magnanimous in that someday of fame.
Still unhappily imagining the angst of the people in Jackson County, Oregon. I misspoke the other day when I mentioned Jackson County as being a rural town. Um, no. Folks, this is where the Shakespeare Festival is held, yearly. Now I am just bewildered... Politics, shmolitics -- I loved our Bookmobile, but there's nothing like having a library. This really is too bad.
March 06, 2007
Drama and Details
The Willows Theater Company is in search of comedies. Playwrights, start your engines!
And the Celebrity Book Award Goes To...
Today's celeb book author is Jenna Bush! This story was news awhile back, but now the publisher has been chosen. It seems that the daughter of El Presidenté actually worked for UNICEF, and her nonfiction YA book is apparently going to be based on a true story, and comes out in the Fall.
Thought you'd want to know.
At least a few cool people we know like nonfiction; Bookslut in Training lists some great non-fiction options this month.
The Crappy News Award Still Goes To... Jackson County in Southern Oregon. I read this story in the Chronicle this past Sunday, and I thought, "Oh, now that it's public news, somebody will do something about it." Um, maybe not, as Jackson County has lost $7 million in federal funding this year -- nearly 80 percent of the system's budget, and that supports FIFTEEN LIBRARIES in a rural environment. I don't... believe this. I really, really DON'T. I could really rant about it, but I will limit myself to this: haven't these people BEEN to Oregon? Don't they know how much it rains, and how important books are, especially then?! Sigh.
My Other Favorite Topic to rant about...
It's always a good thing when a book becomes a movie. Except when it isn't. It especially happens a lot in fantasy - lots of adaptations, but "...adaptation is not without potential hazards: comically bad acting, stupefying dialog, and a complete and utter lack of understanding of the original book have made their way into the cinema and onto the television…all bearing the name of the author." Uh, yeah. Sound familiar?
Bildungsroman - such a great single word! And now you can check out the great Chasing Ray coming-of-age novels list.
March 02, 2007
I'm proud that this whole thing launched the first of March (on my birthday, because it really is all about ME!) in celebration of Women's History Month and strong young women in the world of fiction and beyond. Like Cybil Sister Jen's Cool Girls in KidLit list, I have a feeling that book salon is going to create an positive and unprecedented response! Go ReaderGirlz!!
And speaking of Jen - do check out her recent podcast interview at Kim & Jason's Escape Adulthood blog. I got advance notice that it would be about Jen from the very cool Jason Himself, and so go enjoy - and be sure to list your favorite children's book! -- just for the fun of it, but you might also win a $20 gift certificate to their very fun Lemonade Stand just for answering the question!
Poetry Friday: Finally!
by Jane Yolen © 2007
Once Upon A Time
there was a Wolf,
but not a Wolf,
and father were others,
who looked not like us,
Republican or Dem
in other words--
They were forest dwellers,
oath breakers --
in other words, Wolf.
So Happy Ever After means
we kill the Wolf,
spill his blood,
knock him out,
bury him in mud,
make him dance
in red hot shoes.
For us to win
The Wolf must lose.
I adore this poem (and the fact that I was four rows back from the Poet I she read still makes me all swoony). It makes me so full... and I want to say about it something brilliant and worthy, but I'm still struck speechless. It gives me so many thoughts that I'm not able to work the scalpel of my MFA and pith it to bits. Maybe next week. Suffice it to say that it is making me rethink every fairytale and fantasy story I've ever read, to try to tease out their hidden meanings. I love this kind of stuff, and thanks to whomever started the Poetry Friday thing to give us all a chance to share what we love.
March 01, 2007
Callooh! Callay! Behold the Day!
Anyway, everyone wants to party with the Cat (Via Lisa Yee), even ol' Bob.
Oh no. Speaking of first books... remember those awful ones that just inserted your name in some generic storyline? They're baaaack. Okay, not really. But ...still! (Thanks to Bookshelves O' Doom for the hysterical snorting laughter.) Also, YouTube + Kids + Books = fun. Don't miss kids rambling on about their favorite books. (Thanks, Book Moot)