Saturday, May 31, 2008

Almost Like Being There?

My webstats have been down the last few days. Perhaps because of BEA? Those of us who don't venture far from home can try to catch up on what's going on at this year's BEA in LA by reading ShelfTalker for the next few days. Elizabeth Bluemle and Josie Leavitt of The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont are guest blogging there, and they are at BEA. Which makes me wonder who's minding the store.

Speaking of not venturing far from home, I'm considering attending part of this year's Readercon, a conference on imaginative literature. In part because I do have some interest in the subject, but mainly because I can.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The School Year Is Over!

For me, anyway.

Today I did my first A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat presentation for first through fourth graders, with another little presentation for two groups of pre-school and kindergarten students. I have spoken to these age groups before, but not for a long time. Plus the Monster Cat presentation was all new. Not only did I have to come up with material, organize it, and rough out slides for my computer guy to turn into PowerPoint slides, I had to become performance ready. Meaning I had to come close to memorizing the presentation.

I was not at all comfortable about this, but the day went very, very well.

This was the third presentation I'd given this month. Each one was different and to different age groups. That's an unusual amount of public speaking for me.

My first event was an Authors@The Library Programming Showcase. While I was there I noticed another author's really neat slides. When I told Computer Guy about how cool these slides were because they--as I put it--had "parts that moved," he said, "You want animation? I can give you animation."

So today I had slides with animation. I was so happy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Mixed Reaction

The thriller aspects of Edward Bloor's most recent book, Taken, really are thrilling. Teenage Charity Meyers has been abducted for ransom--or so she believes. As a child of a wealthy family in 2035, she is a target for kidnapping and has been trained to deal with being "taken" should it happen to her. In order to keep herself calm, she forces herself to recall better days, which is how we come to learn of the culture she's living in. It's a neat device, and we're whipped back and forth between Charity's every day life and the very grim situation she is presently confronted with. You've got some nice narrative drive here.

But then I began to get the feeling that I had stumbled into some kind of instructive allegory. The wealthy people in Taken are trapped by their wealth and not very pleasant. The poor, who are all Hispanic in this book set in Florida, are both noble and violent, which was a little confusing. The culture is totally polarized and simplistic. A recurring storyline involves reality TV. It's clever, but, come on, reality TV is too easy.

In the climax and denouement the end seems to justify the means, and the means involve fraud and twisted, nasty behavior toward the protagonist and another young character. The protagonist is named Charity, and in an allegory that probably means something. I guess she forgives all. I don't know if many teens would.

I don't know if many adults would.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Do You Want To Be Lucky Number Seven?

Sam Riddleburger just joined on for my blog tour, which is neat because now I have an author. I wanted as many different viewpoints as possible.

Here's the line-up:

June 30 Sam Riddleburger
July 1 Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
July 2 Jen Robinson's Book Page
July 3 Big A, little a (Kelly was the original mover and shaker behind this tour, so it's so appropriate that she be hosting on Three Robbers' publication date)
July 4 The Miss Rumphius Effect
July 5 A Fuse #8 Production

Do you have an interest in chapter books, meaning those books read by younger readers in, say, first through third grade? Would you like to be part of the conversation on the subject and, in passing, my new book A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers? If so, we still have an opening for Sunday, June 29. You can get in touch with me at

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Still Working On The Summer Blog Blast Tour

If, like me, you can only just keep your head above water in terms of reading blogs, you may not have finished with last week's Summer Blog Blast Tour. If you're trying to figure out which ones to catch up on, you might try Liz B.'s interview with D. L. Garfinkle at A Chair, A Fireplace & Tea Cozy. Garfinkle has a new series of chapter books coming out, starting in June.

Also, Betsy at Fuse #8 did an interview with Adam Rex, which is of interest to me because I've just started reading his The True Meaning of Smekday. I'm rather enjoying it, and I'm going to hold off reading the Fuse interview until after I've finished.

By the way, did anyone go to the Smekday site I just linked to? If so, what did you think? I have to say, if I hadn't been reading the book, I don't think it would tell me much. It's clever and all, but I don't think it would encourage me to seek out the book. That would be too bad, because so far it's quite good.

Any other thoughts?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How Come One Writer Shines And Another Doesn't?

Sometime ago, I met a writer who had just published her first book. I set out to read said book, really wanting to like it. I didn't. It started out with a trite situation about best friends separating when one friend was attracted to a new group of girls, leaving her old friend behind. Nothing about the writing elevated the book beyond that cliche. What I was reading was what I sometimes think of as just words on pages. I had to give up on it.

Last week I read All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins, which is also about a girl left behind when her best friend takes up with someone else. It is not just words on a page. It is a lovely book.

How do you explain why one writer can write something you want to read and another can't?

All Alone in the Universe is not just an "Oh, woe is me. My heart is broken" story. It is the entire story of how Debbie either was cut out by her friend Maureen's new friend or merely felt cut out. (I think the fact that Perkins raises a question in our mind about just what was going on gives the book more sophistication.) It is the entire story of how Debbie either was cut out by her friend Maureen's new friend or merely felt cut out and how she lived through that experience and came out the other side.

She didn't come out the other side better than ever. She didn't come out victorious. She just came out the other side. That's pretty much what happens to all of us when we have a bad experience. Some day we get over it. We're not necessarily better people or happier as a result of what happened to us. We're just over it.

Perkins is the author of Criss Cross, a Newbery winner I loved and Pictures from Our Vacation, a picture book of which I am very fond. All Alone in the Universe is an earlier work. Personally, I think it's not quite as accomplished. The wealthy woman and her employee don't seem necessary to me. And I didn't get the long passage at the end of the book in which the adults in the neighborhood get together at Christmas time and talk about doing things for others. I wasn't sure what that had to do with Debbie and her story. But those stumbles aren't enough to ruin the book, by any means.

Like Criss Cross, All Alone in the Universe isn't specific about its setting, but details suggest the events take place in the sixties, just as events suggest the same time period for Criss Cross. Perkins is just a master at evoking the decade of her childhood. (If Wikipedia is to be believed regarding her birthdate.) Whether child readers appreciate her sense of place in terms of time, I don't know. But as far as Universe is concerned, many children will appreciate all too well the suffering of its main character.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Former Cyblist Makes The Longlist For Guardian Prize

Anthony McGowan, whose first novel, Hellbent, was nominated for a Cybil the year I was a panelist, now has a novel, The Knife That Killed Me, on the longlist for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

Thanks to Kelly at Big A, little a.

Blog Tour Opportunities

I have a lovely blog tour lined up for July 1 through 5. I was hoping to include a blogging bookseller and a blogging classroom teacher, but it appears that won't be happening. If I have any regular readers who I haven't contacted who would like to be included (preferably on June 29 and 30), get in touch with me at If you'd like to be part of the tour, but those dates don't work for you, get in touch with me, anyway. We'll double up on one of the July dates.

I only have a few arcs left, and I plan to send some to some publications. I'll hold off until later in the week to give my readers first shot at them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ah, What We Learn On Blog Blast Tours

Finding Wonderland has a Summber Blog Blast Tour post with Varian Johnson, whose day job is civil engineer.

I've known a number of civil engineers over the years. I don't know where they got the reputation for being mild-mannered. In my experience, these people are wild. In a very subtle way.

Yikes! I Have To Work This Weekend!

Next Friday I have my first presentation developed around A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat. I have a whole new program on a new subject with new slides. The program is written and the slides are made, but I am nowhere near performance ready. I have a lot of memorizing to do, which means rehearsing every day. Tuesday through Thursday next week just won't be enough.

So I'll be working this weekend.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Werewolves In The Twenty-first Century

In Martin Millar's Lonely Werewolf Girl, Verasa, Mistress of the Werewolves, is concerned about bringing her Scottish werewolf clan into the modern world. Werewolves in Millar's urban fantasy live a long time--a long time. They keep their youthful good looks and vigor for many decades but some of them seem somewhat stodgy and middle-aged. They can't even bring themselves to talk about the young orphaned twin werewolves who are intent on becoming successful punk rockers in London when they're not in drunken stupors, which is pretty much all the time. (Much like the fairies in Millar's Good Fairies of New York.) And when the twins show up at the family castle, all the moms and dads are quick to tell their puppy offspring that, no, they cannot dye their hair pink or blue the way their depraved cousins have.

The MacRinnalch's are sort of like any large, well-to-do, conservative family in one of those stories (or TV series) about family intrigue. You've got brother fighting brother for control of the family. You've got an ambitious fashion designer who wants nothing but to forget her relatives and concentrate on her work. You've got an icy academic. You've got backstabbers and hangers-on. You've got a cross-dresser.

They're just all werewolves.

As I always tell the kiddies when I do a school presentation, I find bringing unlike elements together funny. I like this kind of thing. A lot.

Like Good Fairies, Lonely Werewolf Girl is one of those Zenny kinds of books that require the reader to get into the moment. It's made of a whole series of short vignettes about its large cast of characters. It doesn't take long to get to know them and start feeling excited because the story has moved back to the Fire Queen (a former warrior queen from another dimension who now fights all her battles over haute couture) or Dominil, who might be described as a bored werewolf bitch (as in bitchie, not female, though she is). However, a stronger narrative drive kicks in about halfway through when the conservative and violent Sarapen becomes really serious about killing off many of his relatives in his bid to become head of the clan.

I have to say that the book seemed to begin with an odd "telling" type style in places, but either Millar gave it up or I liked what I was being told so much that I no longer noticed it.

Since this is a kidlit blog, I must raise the question of whether or not Lonely Werewolf Girl, published as an adult book, can work as a crossover work for YAs. I think so, particularly for older YAs who will have more interest in adult skullduggery, given that they're closer to it.

Plus there is the Lonely Werewolf Girl, herself, Kalix. At seventeen, she is far younger than her siblings--a sort of menopause baby in werewolf terms--and suffers from depression, anxiety, and what sure looks like anorexia to me. In her early teens she fell in love with the brooding and poetic Gawain, a werewolf not up to her family's standards. After her father, the leader of their clan, banishes Gawain to get him out of his daughter's life, Kalix physically attacks him. Since she could be said to "suffer" from a sort of madness when in battle, she gets the best of that encounter, and injures the old man so badly that he later dies. She heads out for London, and other members of the family want to hunt her down and bring her home for punishment, which may or may not mean death.

You know how a common YA theme is separating self from family? Well, there you go. Kalix is separated and suffering, living on the street, filthy, lovelorn, and drugged up on laudanum.

This young teen character initiates the action--because she killed her father, his position as head of the clan is up for grabs and leads to a war between her two older brothers. Kalix's grandmother wants her dead, and the brother who will kill her will get grandma's support for his bid for leadership. In fact, a lot of people and werewolves want Kalix dead, and as a result, though the action moves to other characters, it keeps coming back to her and the teenage human university students who are helping her. Help, by the way, includes exposing her to cable TV and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

Both in terms of characters and pop culture, there's plenty here to hold a younger person's attention. But Millar has been described as a counter culture novelist. I think that aspect of Lonely Werewolf Girl will also be attractive to teen readers who are desperate to read something off an official school reading list.

Lonely Werewolf Girl was inspired, in part, by the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer , in that Millar has said "I felt such a dreadful loss, I thought I'd have to write my own." I can see the influence in that, as I got toward the end of this quite long book, I felt I was going to miss spending time with many of these characters.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Summer Blog Blast Tour

A Summer Blog Blast Tour got started on Monday, so I'm well behind on reading for that. I'm never able to keep up with these sorts of things, let alone catch up. But I'll point you to whatever posts I manage to hit.

For instance, I have read Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast's interview with David Almond. Almond wrote Skellig, which I remember fondly from my first 48 Hour Book Challenge.

And I have a whole new take on Laurie Halse Anderson as a result of reading Writing and Ruminating's interview with her. I think of Speak and Prom when I think of Anderson, but Writing and Ruminating focused on her historical novels and historical nonfiction, which includes two picture books. Anderson appears to have an incredible work ethic, so I must hate her. But I'm also going to have go out and read some of her historical books.

"This Guy Is A Master."

That's a quote from a family member. He was talking about another writer. Not me.

I have created a rabid Scott Westerfeld fan here in my own home. I picked up the audio version of Uglies for a car trip a week and a half ago. I'd already read the book, so I wasn't paying that much attention. But the guy with me went nuts. We couldn't finish the book that day, so he continued listening while going back and forth to work, and now he's maybe halfway through Pretties. He knows Reading Fool's library has Specials on CD. He has his commuting time planned for the immediate future.

I keep hearing about "Tallie this" and "Tallie that" and what "Dr. Creepy Person" said. "This guy is a master," my family member said of Westerfeld this afternoon. "He's done it all. He's created such a world."

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

I'm living with someone who's obsessed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Overwhelmed At The Library

Well, except for a trip to Kinko's to see about having some bookmarks made before next week's school visit, today was a bust workwise.

I did hit Reading Fool's library, where I spent some time in the new nonfiction area. They had fourteen--no fifteen--books in that area. One of them had been there over a year, so it wasn't all that new. Nonetheless, fifteen books on writing described as new in one library. Maybe sixteen. I had trouble keeping track.

They had a book on writing in retirement, a book on writing and housework, and a book on writing historical mysteries. I considered taking a book on just general writing home with me, but it looked very heavy and dense, and I've had a bunch of writing books on the coffee table in my sunroom for over a month. If I want to read a book on writing, I should probably finish those.

I did take Novel & Short Story Writer's Market with me. And I stumbled upon and snatched up How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard.

I've been talking about How To Talk for over a year without having read it. I'm a little bit worried about actually trying to read the thing because I believe I've seen Bayard described as an intellectual. A French intellectual.

I'm afraid his book is one of those kinds that it's better to know about than to have really read. But we shall see.

Rest assured. I will keep you posted.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nonfiction Speakers

Last Tuesday I heard a few nonfiction writers speak at an author showcase. I didn't see any of their books, but these authors were certainly interesting to listen to.

Jeanine Behr Getz formed the company Kids Think Big to "Educate, Entertain, Empower" kids about the environment. She publishes environmental books, beginning with her own, Think Green.

Brendan Hanrahan also formed a company to publish books for children. His books deal specifically with Connecticut natural history. He's done a lot of speaking in Connecticut and has some great slides.

Karen Romano Young also spoke about her science writing, specifically the presentation she does around her newest book, Across the Wide Ocean. She talked about the rock and roll lifestyle of scientists.

These people were all very interesting, but in looking back on that afternoon I'm missing other kinds of nonfiction. As I said a couple of days ago, I've been thinking about essays again, specifically essays for kids.

Perhaps some day I could do presentations on the rock and roll lifestyle of essayists. Yeah. And historians. Or the rock and roll lifestyle of historians who write essays.

This Will Make You A Man, My Little Lad

This list practically oozes testosterone. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Notice that many of these titles are classic high school class books. Don't know what to make of that. Hatchet is there, too. I definitely respect Gary Paulsen, but I don't believe I've read more than one of his books because I found it just a little too male for me.

I found this man, man, man, man, manly man link by way of bookslut.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yup. Reads Like A Newbery Book To Me.

Small, small town + eccentric characters + child character (preferably female) who thinks deep thoughts + death = Newbery Book.

I listened to The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron on my trip to Vermont on Thursday. You know--The Scrotum Book.

First, let's deal with the scrotum issue. I thought a young girl being fascinated by a dog being bitten in the crotch and wondering about that part of male anatomy was one of the more realistic aspects of this book.

I found a lot of the plot elements in this book unbelievable and painfully meaningful. But I feel that way about a lot of books that are highly regarded by adult readers. No, I can't begin to guess what that says about me.

For instance, Lucky, the main character, lives with her father's first ex-wife, who he called in from France to come live in the desert and care for her when his second ex-wife (her mother) died. While I do find the scenario of an adult and child who are not genetically or legally related sticking with one another simply because they want to fascinating, this couple didn't do it for me. I didn't believe that any eight-year-old child, (Lucky's age when her mother dies very suddenly) would take to being cared for by a stranger who barely shares a language with her. I didn't believe that said caretaker would have put up with living in that desolate place. Why didn't she pack the kid up and get the hell out of there?

A lot of those plot elements seemed quite random to me, too, as in I missed the causal relationship. All of a sudden, Lucky starts recalling her mother's funeral. It didn't seem to follow what went before. And after she runs away and has the whole town hunting for her, when they find her, she suddenly decides to conduct a second memorial service for her mother, whose ashes she had brought with her. And everyone immediately falls into line with her plan instead of getting hold of her and giving her a good shake for having taken off.

That's what I mean by painfully meaningful, by the way.

I never figured out what Lucky's higher power was, either.

It occurred to me that perhaps this was a Zenny book, that the plot didn't matter because you were supposed to get into the moment of each chapter and that I couldn't do that because I was too busy driving and getting excited because the computer in my car claimed I was getting incredible gas mileage. But I think it's more likely that I couldn't get into the moment because I'm not that crazy for the formula of small, small town + eccentric characters + child character (preferably female) who thinks deep thoughts + death.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Middle School Kids Aren't Bad At All

I'm back from my first presentation to 7th and 8th graders. Though it was a little odd speaking to people who sat in chairs instead of on the rug at my feet, things went very well. I heard one great class trip story, and I got into a discussion of essay writing with a small group of guys, which has given me food for thought. Though, honestly, I've thought about essays before.

I also ate lunch in the cafeteria at the class officers' table. These kids were in leadership groups, student council, and drama club. Also sports, I think.

This was not the crowd I ate lunch with when I was in 7th and 8th grade. Or in high school. Or college. Yes, we are talking a truly unique experience here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Seeking My Inner Warrior

I will be leaving sometime this afternoon for the Great North where tomorrow I will be spending the day speaking to 7th and 8th graders. This is the first time I've been invited to a middle school, though I have led some workshops at a writers' conference for students in 6th through 12th grades. I've been assured that the secret to dealing with young people of this age is to never show fear.

I'm afraid I won't be able to do that.

I will try to apply what I've learned in my martial arts classes to this situation. I will keep my chin down so that I won't appear to challenge anyone and so that I won't be exposing my neck. I will guard my core. I will remember to breath.

Oh, yeah. That's going to work.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's Nice To Be Included

Like everyone else, I enjoy receiving invitations. Kelly at Big A little a invited (tagged) me to take part in a meme. I'll do memes, but only if I can connect them to writing and/or reading. As it turns out, I can (with some stretching) with this one.

What were you doing five years ago

Making feeble attempts to promote Saving the Planet & Stuff, which was published sometime in the first half of 2003 and working on the first draft of Happy Kid!. I also had a few speaking engagements that spring.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?

The day is over, but I can tell you that I: 1. Updated my profile at the Connecticut Library Consortium's on-line catalog; 2. Wrote to my CLC contact to thank her for inviting me to speak at yesterday's event; 3. Prepared the copy for a bookmark that my computer guy is going to lay out for me so I can take the master to Kinko's next week (to give out at an elementary school appearance at the end of the month); 4. Prepared the copy for some of the slides for the same elementary school appearance; 5. Practiced the presentation I'm giving on Friday.

What are five snacks you enjoy?

Okay, these are metaphorical snacks. Mind snacks. 1. The CNN website; 2. The Fox News website; 3. Salon; 4.Slate; 5. The NYTimes Book Review website.

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire? 1.Hire someone to take care of big, time consuming maintenance chores like washing windows and painting. Oh, who am I trying to kid? I'd hire some kind of home adminstrative person to do everything. Someone like Mrs. Danvers, but not creepy; 2. Hire someone to do all my promotional work--someone who truly knows what she's doing (because I often read of authors who hire promo people and aren't happy with them)and will do a far, far better job than I can; 3. Hire some type of educational consultant to help me design my presentations for different age groups; 4. I would subscribe to a bunch of literary journals even though I don't have time to read them just to provide support; 5. I would create some kind of foundation that would support school libraries in poor, rural areas, support agencies that provide books to children and adults in shelters, and provide scholarships to rural students with B-/C averages for all kinds of post-secondary education and training.

What are five of your bad habits?

I love this question, because it suggests that we have more than five. 1. Inability to stay on task; 2. Wandering mind; 3. Poor work habits; 4. Lack of organization; 5. Easily distracted.

What are five places where you have lived?

1. Middlelbury, Vermont; 2. Cornwall, Vermont; 3. Sudbury, Vermont; 4. Burlington, Vermont (college); 5. Ripton, Vermont (summer jobs); It's been a long time since I've lived in Vermont.

What are five jobs you’ve had?

I am including volunteer positions because for many years I was a school and community volunteer, and I believe volunteer work is work. 1. Pastry assistant, Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, where I scavenged through the publications for the writers in the lounge and discovered how to lay out a manuscript and essayist Nora Ephron; 2. Administrative Assistant, The University of Connecticut, where I wrote and edited reports and advertising copy and did lots and lots of unpleasant grunt work; 3. Volunteer (3 years) in elementary school classrooms working specifically with the writing programs; 4. Volunteer coordinator for an elementary school literary board; 5 Assistant taekwondo instructor (2 years), research for Happy Kid! and provided material for one published personal essay.

What five people do you want to tag?

I'm going to pass on the tagging thing. It's way too stressful for me. Taking part in memes is a great deal like socializing, and answering the questions is about all I can manage.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Last Speaker Standing

I've been spending a lot of time this past month preparing for a couple of speaking engagements that involve new material. Today I had a speaking engagement at which I speaking engagements.

I was a guest of the Connecticut Library Consortium at its Children's Librarians' Roundtable (Southeast)'s Authors@The Library Programming Showcase. Whew. Six children's authors did presentations about their work and their programs for children.

You know how you go to a social event and you feel that you were either over or underdressed? Well, for once I was dressed just fine. However, all the others kids had great (sometimes really great) PowerPoint-type presentations describing their presentations or they had lovely visuals of other kinds. Like a giant whale, in one case.

I had to try to hold these people with the power of my personality. I began with my Suze Orman impression and later went into my little riff about how I can't understand why other people don't find the Puritans fascinating or enjoy original sin humor.

Yeah, I had them eating out of my hand.

Katie Davis, who I sort of know through the ABC listerv, was there, though I arrived too late to see her presentation. We did get to speak and shake hands, so that we sort of know each other beyond the listserv now.

I did hear Dana Meachen Rau's presentation, though. (We're both on the New England SCBWI listserv.) She gave a very good talk on her school and library visits. What I found particularly notable is that she has a number of presentations for kids in pre-k through grade 2, a group I'm preparing to speak to at the end of this month. (Dana speaks to older kids, too.)

There were three other speakers today, but they were all nonfiction writers. I'm going to save talking about them until next Monday and do a Nonfiction Monday post.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What's A Cord Doing On That Phone?

I think Slate does wonderful slide shows. They are a marvelous innovation, a great use of technology. IMHO.

Right now Slate has a great slide show called I'm Talking to You, Corded! by Erica S. Perl about the "mismatch of technology and picture books."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

To Count Words Or Not To Count Words

Or, rather, to report when you're counting words or not to report when you're counting words. Justine has a post on the subject.

Last year when I was deep into the slogfest that was writing The Durand Cousins, I started posting my daily word count here. I stopped because my computer guy told me reading that stuff was making his eyes glaze over and that that couldn't be good for him.

I liked the idea of posting word count because keeping track of your word count is sort of like taking part in a race or, perhaps, hiking The Appalachian Trail. We're talking a race to the finish line here. People like watching races, don't they? Why wouldn't they like to watch as an author approaches the end of the trail?

Oh. Because it's boring.

Notice that I'm now calling Justine "Justine" even though I've never met her, and she has no idea who I am? It's offical. I am now cyberstalking her blog as I used to cyberstalk Jane Yolen's.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

An Author For Those Younger Readers

I knocked off two Moose and Hildy books by Stephanie Greene a couple of weeks ago. I don't think I would describe them as "hilarious" the way the publisher does in one case or "lots of laughs" as as a reviewer for School Library Journal says of the other. But these were decent little books (with modest lessons) that I think could become "comfort reads" for first through third graders who get into the two characters--a moose and a pig--who are friends in the manner of the immortal Frog and Toad.

When I went to Greene's website, I discovered she describes the Moose and Hildy books as "Early Readers." She also has written books she calls chapter books, including a series about a young man named Owen Foote.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Oh, My Gosh! Shirley Has An Award!

I was just thinking today about how much Shirley Jackson meant to me when I was in high school. Yes, back in the dark ages we didn't have a lot of YA gothie, dark, creepy stuff, so I had to read Shirley Jackson.

Well, Leila reports that there is now a Shirley Jackson Award. And there is a Shirley Jackson Awards Blog! (I suspect it won't be very active.)

Here are the finalists. Notice they don't have a YA category. I so think they should. Seriously, was I the only teenager who read her work?

The award will be given for "outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic." I want to write some of that, so I can be considered for the Shirl.

Looking For A Blogging Classroom Teacher

This post is going to be pretty much a repeat of the last one, but if you're a classroom teacher for grades one through three, or have been a classroom teacher for grades one through three, you may not have read the last post because it was for booksellers. This one is for you.

I'm going to be doing a blog tour the week A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers officially hits its on-sale date. The hosting bloggers will be interviewing me about Three Robbers in relation to early chapter books in general. So we'll be promoting both my book and age group? field?

I have librarians, a professor of teacher education, and a literacy advocate lined up for July 1 through 5. (The book will be published July 3.) I'd like to find a classroom teacher familiar with kids in the early grades, their reading preferences, etc. to interview/host me on June 29th or 30th. My idea (and hope) is that all these different people will come at the subject from a different angle and ask different kinds of questions. It's an experiment. We'll see what happens.

I've found a number of blogging classroom teachers who teach 5th and 6th grade, but I haven't stumbled upon any who work with the younger kids. I can't believe you're not out there.

So if you are a blogging classroom and are interested in being part of this tour on either June 29th or 30th, e-mail me at

If you're interested but those dates aren't good for you, e-mail me, anyway. We'll double up on one of the other dates.

Looking For A Blogging Bookseller

Well, folks, thanks to a suggestion made by Kelly from Big A, little a, I'm going to be doing a blog tour the week A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers officially hits its on-sale date. In order to give the blog a bit of a twist and feed one of my interests, the hosting bloggers will be interviewing me about Three Robbers in relation to early chapter books in general. So we'll be promoting both my book and age group? field?

I have librarians, a professor of teacher education, and a literacy advocate lined up for July 1 through 5. (The book will be published July 3.) I'd like to find a bookseller with an interest in books for early readers, say, kids in first through third grades. Or, you know, those children who are between picture books and middle grade novels.

My idea (and hope) is that all these different people will come at the subject from a different angle and ask different kinds of questions. It's an experiment. We'll see what happens.

So if you are a blogging bookseller and are interested in being part of this tour on either June 29th or 30th, e-mail me at

If you're interested but those dates aren't good for you, e-mail me, anyway. We'll double up on one of the other dates.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Best Reason Ever For Writing Only Positive Reviews

I've written a number of times about the need to do real criticism when writing about books and not limit one's self just to positive responses. However, Justine Larbalestier gives the best reason I've ever seen for tossing all my arguments aside.

She says, "As usual I’m not going to mention the books that I didn’t like because I don’t want the authors to hunt me down and kill me."

Some Positive Thoughts About On-line Reviews

Just last year, we were hearing nothing but nastiness regarding blog reviewers. According to the Denver Post, the times they are a-changing.

Link by way of artsJournal.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Writing For Adult Readers?

Recently I've been wondering if the adult readership that children's literature now has is shaping its content a bit. I've been reading children's books that I, myself, enjoy, but which I can't help thinking are directed just a little too much toward me.

You may recall that I liked Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer by J.T. Petty, but wondered if the "word play and humor" wasn't a bit too sophisticated. Right now I'm reading Clemency Pogue: The Hobgoblin Proxy. I'm finding the plot a little challenging, anyway, and if the goblin Chaphesmeeso's wit is directed to 8- to 12-year-old readers, they must be very highly educated 8- to 12-year-olds.

In one place Clemency asks Chaph if he is still fast, meaning can he dig through the earth quickly. His response is, "As a hunger artist."

Now, maybe if kids know what "fasting" is, they will get the connection between fasting and hunger. But "hunger artist" refers to performers who starved themselves and charged people to look at them. I only know the expression because a couple of years ago I was part of an on-line reading group, and we read the short story A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka.

Aren't references like this meant for adult readers rather than the children for whom the books are supposedly published?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Older Young Adults

A few years ago, there was talk of extending the YA designation into the early twenties. I haven't heard much about that recently but Justine Larbalestier is leading a little commentary on the subject.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I Am Stunned, Stunned, I Tell You

David Sedaris has finished with smoking! I am shaken to my core. What will he write about? His career is over!

I know that isn't very kidlittie, but, remember, I have my essayist fantasy to take care of.

Link by way of Justine Larbalestier because, come on, you didn't actually think I read The New Yorker, did you? Big magazine. Comes out every week.

How's That Study Month Going, Gail?

Yeah, the study month.

That's been a bit of a disappointment, mainly because I ended up getting two jobs for author appearances. One of them required revising my regular presentation for an older age group, and for the the other one I needed to create an all new presentation for littlies built around A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat. The day I finished the first program, right down to making rough drafts of slides to give to Computer Guy, plans were finalized for the second job, so I had to go right back to work.

You are all aware of how slowly I work, right? I think I just about finished the second program this afternoon.

Then I kind of forgot that now's the time to be promoting A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers. That was kind of embarrassing.

Plus a manuscript was rejected far, far faster than I expected it to be. I thought I had a couple more months, easy, before I heard from that editor. She very generously gave me some feedback that makes me want to do some revision, though wouldn't you think doing a study month first would help with that?

I have managed to get through some of my reading this spring. Over the years, I've found writing books deadly and often useless, covering the same old generalities. But I inherited a just-like-new copy of Writing Fiction A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and after having read a number of sections, I have to say that it is the most marvelous book on writing that I have ever read. I am learning masses of stuff. Masses.

What I like about this book is that the authors really get into nitty-gritty craft. There's none of this "Go forth and write your dream" malarkey that I found in a lot of books I've run across in the past. Burroway and Stuckey-French truly deal with problems I've had as a writer. I recognize a lot of what they talk about because it's stuff I've had to do or tried to do in my own work.

That does make me wonder if I would get as much out of the book if I wasn't a somewhat experienced writer. But I am a somewhat experienced writer, so I'm loving the book. In fact, it makes me feel embarrassed about a lot of manuscripts I've mailed out to editors over the years.

But, hey, Zen tells me that those are past moments and I should live in the present ones--the present moments being ones when I should be doing much better work because I've read Writing Fiction.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Did They Come To A Decision?

The Publishers Weekly article “Think Future” Panel Debates What Makes a YA a YA has been getting some attention at listservs and elsewhere. My own first (bitchy) thought when I began reading it was, Sherman Alexie has written one YA book and that qualifies him to sit on a panel discussing YA?

My second thought as I moved toward the end of the article was that he had some interesting things to say. I was particularly taken with what he said about being "reservationized."

"An audience member, agent Rosemary Stimola, observed that a key issue in the debate is, Are these books for young people or are they books about young people? Alexie addressed her question, commenting, “If the former, a more conservative point of view comes in. If they are about young people, it’s more about respecting and not protecting. As an Indian I’m used to being what I call ‘reservationized.’ There can be a sense of the category, instead of elevating us, doing the reverse.”"

I think the analogy he was making was that YA books end up being placed in their little category or "reservation" by the nonYA (meaning adult) gatekeepers who control what is published, reviewed, purchased and on and on as I am always droning on about here. And then the YA books become about what those nonYA gatekeepers think they should be because it was the nonYA gatekeepers who created the category or reservation.

The same could be said of all children's books.