Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another Technical Advance For Original Content

Debby Garfinkle got in touch with me today to point out that my blog only allows comments from readers who subscribe to Blogger. She wondered if I had thought of opening up the ability to comment at Original Content. A ha! I thought. This might explain why I don't get big numbers of comments to my posts. There could be untold numbers of people out there who want to communicate with me but can't.

So I put Computer Guy to work on this, because, quite honestly, reading Blogger instructions is beyond me. In just minutes he had worked his magic, and we now can take comments from anyone. I am so excited. I now expect to be getting the kinds of responses Scott Westerfeld gets at his blog. Or maybe lots of SPAM. We'll have to see.

Thank you, Debby. And now go ahead and post that comment you wanted to make.

It's Not A Vampire Story At All

Laura Miller's article, Touched by a Vampire, in Salon is by far the best analysis of the Twilight phenomena that I've ever read.

By the way, there's going to be at least four late-night bookstore or library events here in Connecticut to celebrate Breaking Dawn's publication day. Some of them are going to be in the form of proms.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A New Organizational Plan

I've spent parts of the last three evenings rolling over the thirty-two or three blogs I try to read into Google Reader. (Please, don't anyone tell me there was an easy way to do this because I'm done.) I'm hoping that this will be the device that creates some kind of organizational turning point in my life because Google Reader allows me to organize my blogs by subject, which my former blog reader didn't. So tonight I read agent/editor/marketing blogs.

Some interesting tidbits:

Agent Kristin at Pub Rants reminds writers not to mistake voice for character development. Personally, I think that's a common mistake in YA.

Nathan Bransford tests the waters regarding the phrase coming of age. I won't say that I would never write a coming- of-age novel, but if I ever describe a book I've written as a coming-of-age novel, please, someone take me out and shoot me.

As a result of finally getting to spend some time with the agent/editor (well, mostly agent) blogs I've been trying to follow, I've decided I want to drop one of them. (Neither of the ones I mention here.) Now I just have to figure out how to do that on Google Reader.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Wild Swing Away From Award-Winning YA

I found this under the attendance sheets at my taekwondo school this morning. I don't have a clue what makes for a good intro reading book, but, hey, this is about taekwondo!

Usually martial arts kid fiction tends to be very moral and preachy. With so little text, I sure didn't see any of that here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gail Gauthier Is...The Dissenter

Doesn't that sound like the title of a television show? The Dissenter? Yeah, folks, once again I find myself all alone in my response to a beloved book.

I've seen a few write-ups describing The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie as being based on his life. His bio at his website definitely sounds similar to early events in the book. He most definitely has a compelling, fascinating, and original personal story, growing up on a reservation and making the decision as a teenager to move to a school in a neighboring town. As an adolescent he struggled between two cultures. All great, all interesting.

However, it seemed to me that as a piece of fiction, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian was...choppy. A lot of events are touched upon but not exactly woven into a story. There's a great deal of tell in this book. For instance, three very interesting characters die in the course of the story. However, we see so little of the characters that their deaths don't have the power they could have had if we'd known them better. We know that Arnold, the main character, is torn up about the deaths because he tells us so. But most of what I know is from what he's told me. I never saw a lot in real scenes.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
was last year's big YA book. What I find so fascinating about that situation is that Alexie published another book last year with a teenage main character, a wonderful, unique, magical book called Flight.
Flight, however, was published as an adult book. What's going on here?

I think Part-time Indian could be described as a formulaic YA book. It uses a first-person outsider narrator who comments on life. While I found the voice flat so that a lot of the jokes didn't work for me, others may have found it to be the edgy, hip voice that, again, has become part of the YA formula. As I mentioned before, you have characters dying, which is adored in YA. Part-time Indian could be described as a problem book, for those folks who still like those. (Arnold truly does have problems, what with alcoholic parents and feeling that he's being rejected by his tribe for wanting to leave the reservation.) It has an uplifting ending.

Flight, has a magical realism element as the young main character, who appears to die at the opening of the book, experiences shifts into other bodies. We're not talking another realistic teen school experience here, though the story is uplifting. I definitely didn't feel I was reading formula YA when I was reading it. I thought I was reading something young people would love, if they could just find it, but I wasn't reading another run-of-the-mill YA story.

I'm Y.A., and I'm O.K. discusses some of the thinking behind publishers' decisions regarding classifying books as YA or adult fiction. I'm guessing that someone decided that Alexie shouldn't bring out two YA books in the same year. I can understand that. But I also feel...saddened...that the book that followed the recognizable YA format that everyone understands and feels comfortable with was wildly embraced, while the book that was just plain wonderful couldn't even be considered for bigtime YA lovin' because it wasn't published as YA.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Once Again, What Is YA Lit?

Evidently Margo Rabb's NYTimes essay I'm Y.A., and I'm O.K has received responses regarding what an author Margo interviewed describes as "condescension towards Y.A. writing in the literary world." Personally, I'm far more interested in what Margo says about the confusion in the publishing world about what is YA and what is adult literature. She quotes Michael Cart as saying, "The line between Y.A. and adult has become almost transparent...These days, what makes a book Y.A. is not so much what makes it as who makes it — and the ‘who’ is the marketing department." Peter Cameron told her "The line [between YA and adult fiction] has completely blurred."

The publishing world may be confused about just what Y.A. is, but people in the children's literature field have given the matter some thought and tried to pin it down. Patty Campbell wrote on the subject in The Horn Book back in 2003 and again in 2004.

Personally, I think some kind of definition ought to be agreed upon or YA could just disappear altogether, absorbed into adult fiction. While I'm sure there are many who would believe that to be a very good thing, I'm not one of them. Yes, every fifteen year old will one day be fifty. But while she's fifteen, she should be able to read about others like herself, just as her elders do.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Is Culture Destiny?

Mitali Perkins has some interesting thoughts about Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Alex Award winner Never Let Me Go.

Not Reading The Classics

The most fascinating thing about Great Unread Books is that I haven't heard of a single one of the authors interviewed in the film embedded in the article. This means, I guess, that not only have I not read a great many classics (though I don't find that fact at all embarrassing), I haven't been reading much contemporary British literature, either.

Which leaves me wondering just what I do with my time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What Do Young Guys Read When They're Not So Young?

I haven't had an opportunity to look at Guys Lit Wire. However, I just went over to read Kelly Herold's feature Higher Learning, in which she interviews college students and recent college graduates about what they read now as well as what they read when they were younger. I think this is a great idea--watching readers evolve.

The first two interview subjects' comments on YA literature should give kidlit people something to think about.

Summer Book Club Questions

MotherReader's summer book club members sent me questions last week, and here are my answers.

I think this is such a neat thing for Pam to be doing with her blog. And her Girl Scouts, of course. I would think so even if she hadn't included my book. Really, I would.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Aren't You Just Dying To Hear My Story?

Okay, so I'm back in town with weekend junk heaped up all around me and even further behind in life than I was last week. But I always have time to pass on my experiences, so here's the Readercon story I promised you Saturday:

So, I was attending this panel discussion during which the panelists were all going to discuss this book on different types of fantasy. The moderator immediately announces that the book is just wonderful. "You must have this book," he told us and said it would be offered for sale later and we mustn't leave Readercon without it. Then he asks the panelists to introduce themselves. It sounds as if most of them know the author of the book because they all refer to her by her first name.

The last panelist to speak concludes with, "I must say, this is the most poorly edited book I've read in years. It reads as if it had been edited with spellcheck. Be forewarned" and other things of that nature.

Then the moderator acts as if nothing had happened and goes on. He was well prepared and commented on various aspects of the book after which he asked the panelists to respond. Every single time, this same panelist would say something like, "I wish _____ had covered such-and-such a thing" or "I wish_________ hadn't been so judgmental" or "I wish__________ had covered humor."

She wasn't getting a lot of support from the other panelists, but no one was arguing with her, either. Though I have to admit that there was this one guy who I think was some kind of critic, as in Critic, and I couldn't understand eighty percent of what he was saying. He seemed extremely nice, though, so he might have been arguing with Ms. Negativity, and I just couldn't understand him.

I'm finding this all rather odd and uncomfortable making. I start looking around at other members of the audience to see if others are squirming in their seats. I was sitting in the fourth row from the front, so I couldn't see everybody by any means. Still, no one seemed to be laughing nervously or looking shocked.

Finally, the panelist from Hell starts in about how she wished_________ had covered something or other. A voice comes out from the audience, "It was in the section on ___________, Marie!" And the panelist backed right down.

Marie is not her real name by the way.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, the audience member who finally stood up to her was none other than the author, herself. I know this because I turned to look (figuring that since I didn't know anybody there, it didn't matter if every single one of them thought I was rude, which, yes, was just awful of me), caught a glimpse of her, and saw her and her name tag a couple of hours later out in the hallway.

I found this whole episode rather disturbing. First off, I've never seen a public pounding like this at any of the kidlit events I've attended. Or any of the other literary events I've dropped in on. I know I don't get out much, but still. The second thing that freaks me out about this is that no one else seemed to think anything at all unusual was going on. When I have told this story to acquaintances, they are quite taken aback. Well, except for the people this past weekend who were bored. I've googled this subject and checked other blogs. Lots of references to Readercon, one from a person who attended the same panel, but no one even mentioned this particular situation.

So I wonder if this kind of thing goes on all the time at some types of conferences, and the more experienced Readercon attendees thought nothing of it. Or, perhaps this is the kind of thing that a gentlewoman should pretend she didn't notice, and here I am spilling the unsavory story for the whole world to see.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

That Didn't Take Long

I went to Readercon yesterday because every now and then I have an overwhelming need to seek some intellectual stimulation. I just don't need very much. After sitting through three panel discussions, I began to feel as if I was listening in on conversations among people I didn't know, some of whom I'd never heard of. So I got up and went home.

This isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened to me. I've gone to a lot of literary-type events, been all excited in the morning, and by afternoon been counting the minutes until I could leave. In fact, I once went to a weekend retreat at which I was one of the speakers. In the afternoon while I had a few minutes free I went for a walk instead of networking. I wasn't being totally anti-social because if I would have let people go with me, if they'd wanted to. Though I can't remember if I asked.

Anyway, this probably takes care of my evidently quite meagre need for stimulation. Last month the Wesleyan Writers' Conference offered a one-day option "for those of you who can only join us for one day." If they do that again next year, maybe I'll go. God knows, I'd never be able to last a whole week.

I do have a very interesting Readercon story to share, but it will have to wait until later this week because I'm getting ready to leave town.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Kind of Subject Matter

Guest blog by Gail’s Computer Guy (while Gail is away at Readercon)

When Gail suggested that I read The Qwikpick Adventure Society by Sam Riddleburger, my first response was “why?” But she said it dealt with a wastewater treatment plant and a fountain of poop and that it might be just the book for me, a civil engineer who has designed septic systems and sewer lines. Sure enough, this is a fun book. Here are some of the things I liked about it:

1. The realistic description of the sewage treatment plant. I have been to a sewage treatment plant or two, and I can say Sam did his homework. You do get different “types” of aromas in different parts of the plant, depending on whether the sewage at that point is aerobic or anaerobic. I have never seen a “fountain of poop” (by the way, the technical term is effluent) type of aeration, but I’d sure like to.

2. The maps. Dave’s map of the route to the treatment plant is every bit as detailed as some of the preliminary sketches our field guys do before they prepare the detailed survey maps. Every book should include a map. I also liked Dave’s quote “a good orienteer looks at his map before he gets lost so that he doesn’t get lost”.

3. The kindly wastewater plant manager and the rational town manager. Too often, municipal administrators come off as evil or buffoons (or both) in books and movies.

Perhaps this could be the beginning of a whole series of civil engineering related adventure books.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Red Letter Day For Original Content

Tomorrow is a milestone for Original Content. For the first time in over six years, we'll be having a guest blogger while I'm out running around.

Who will it be? That family member of mine who teaches elementary school and reads lots of kidlit? That would make sense, wouldn't it? But, no. We're not going there.

Instead, I've asked Computer Guy to say a few words about the technical aspects of a kids' book I've already written about. Part of this book's subject matter is so...unique...that I still haven't gotten over it. And, as my computer guy will explain for you tomorrow, he is unusually well qualified to address that subject. He's going to be hitting you with some professional vocabulary that I doubt has ever been used in a children's literature blog.

As you're reading tomorrow's post, keep in mind that its author is very possibly the only professional working in his field who knows who both Betsy Bird and Roger Sutton are.

A Couple Of Readercon Authors

As part of my preparation for Readercon, I've been trying to read a few of the attending authors whom I'm not already familiar with. I began with two adult books that were pretty much a bust. One had a first-person narrator who was primarily a monologuist and the other had a first-person narrator who was bogged down in trying to sound authentic to his period.

However, I found a book from the mid-nineties called Groogleman by two authors I'd never heard of--Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald--and that was impressively well-written. Seriously, this book combined two genres I don't normally care for, and I still thought it was very well done.

Groogleman starts out as one of those scifi stories about some kind of backward pre-technological culture that relies on medicine people in lieu of national health care. As a general rule, I feel that having read one of those books, I've read them all. But in this case, the authors don't drone on with the arty, mystical padding I usually find so trying with that kind of story.

Then Groogleman turns into another type of story that, quite honestly, is probably just a variation on the pre-technological culture that relies on some kind of medicine person in lieu of nationalized health care scenario. I don't want to say too much because it's sort of a twist. I don't care for this type of story because it's really been done a lot. But, as I said, Doyle and Macdonald do it here very well.

And then we have a third type of story thrown into the pot--the pivotal adult character in a children's story. This is a type of story I do like, which is incredibly odd because I don't like to see adults dominating a children's book. Usually the reason these stories work is that the adult character is some kind of outsider or perhaps childlike in some way, like Howl in Howl's Moving Castle. In Groogleman, Joshua is, indeed, an outsider, but instead of being childlike he's just plain mysterious.

I think Groogleman is a balanced book, meaning that the plot is balanced by quickly drawn but well-defined characters and a setting that is atmospheric without becoming overwhelming. It's written in the third person, but two of the three main characters have clear voices. The main character's voice is the least powerful, but that works. I think readers are able to slip into his place because of his everyman quality.

I do think the ending is a bit rushed, and the authors may have given too much away in a couple of the quotations that appear at the beginning of chapters. (But maybe not if you're a child reader.) Otherwise, I have to say that Groogleman was a nice surprise.

One Paragraph! Just One Paragraph!

I'm working on a new revision of The Durand Cousins, and I'm stuck on this one paragraph in the second chapter. I've been stuck there for a couple of days. I cannot go on until it's just right. I've been reading about the Emmy nominations. I've been reading about the Russian royal family. I've been reading about how great Helen Mirren looks in her red two piece. All because I can't think of anything for this paragraph, so I can't move on.

I'm so glad I've got somewhere to go tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Get A Load Of These Cookies!

MotherReader is running a Summer Book Club for her Girl Scouts, and their second book was Happy Kid!. Notice the fantastic cookies they had to go along with their book discussion.

I was a member of an adult book club for many, many years. The level of discussion at most of our meetings was nowhere near as high as at Pam's. I'm not just talking about the meeting for my book. Take a look at the report on the discussion of the first book, Shug by Jenny Han.

One of the most interesting revelations to come out of the first two discussions--some of the club members aren't terribly fond of realistic fiction. Very thought-provoking.

Watch MotherReader for my answers to her club members' questions, which should be up at her site some time next week.

I'm going to remember those cookies.

What's New In SciFi And Fantasy?

Susan Fichtelberg, author of Encountering Enchantment: A Guide to Speculative Fiction for Teens has a page at her website on New and Forthcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Titles for Teens.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If You Don't Care For Werewolves, You Can Always Try Zombies

The New York Times Book Review reviewed a couple of YA zombie books this weekend.

And back in May the NYTBR reviewed the third Fog Mound book, Simon's Dream by Susan Schade and Jon Buller. How wonderful! The first Fog Mound was a Cybils nominee.

"Werewolf Soap Opera"

Colleen Mondor's review of Lonely Werewolf Girl is up at the Bookslut column, Things That Bite. I love her description of the book as a "werewolf soap opera." That's a very good thing for those of us who prefer werewolves to soaps.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Getting Out Of The House

Next weekend I'll be visiting Readercon, a conference on imaginative literature, for one day. I'm going primarily because I can. I like to go to something professional once in a while, but I don't want to have to hop a plane to do it. Even driving an hour to the train station, riding the rails for two hours more or less, and then hailing a cab to reach my final destination seems like an awful lot of work to me. So just the fact that I can get to this place relatively easily was my original motivation.

The Readercon people recently posted the program guides, though, (scroll to bottom of of the page), and I'm much more enthused. I'm not even all that into sci-fi and fantasy, and I still think this stuff sounds great.

Who's going to be at Readercon who the kidlit world might be interested in? Ellen Kushner. She had a Cybils nominee a couple of years ago. Holly Black. Sarah Beth Durst. (I wasn't aware that her work was fantasy or scifi.) Kelly Link. I read her collection of short stories Magic for Beginners, and she has a YA collection coming out this fall. Nancy Werlin. I'm sure there are more. The list of writers attending is rather lengthy. (I am, in fact, reading a kidlit book by a Readercon author, which I hope to be blogging about in a couple of days.)

In honor of my upcoming scifi/fantasy excursion to Readercon at the end of the week, I'll be trying to focus on scifi and fantasy here at Original Content for the next few days.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Bet You Didn't Think I Had Anything More To Say.

After seven days of interviews for the A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers Blog Tour, I didn't think I had any more to say about...anything. But Cheryl Rainfield came up with some fascinating new questions, and I started yakking away again. Among the topics discussed in this interview: writing humor and whether or not the Internet is being used to promote books to kids.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Parody For Adults?

I had a difficult time getting into The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry. I definitely appreciated what she was doing--a parody of late nineteenth/early twentieth century children's books--but it seemed very self-conscious. I was aware of all the very clever and amusing bits, but I didn't enter a "world of the book," as you might say. I was just beginning to feel the pull of the story when I came upon an extremely funny Heidi joke, which occurs on the next to the last page of the last chapter. It was just at that point that I started to look forward to what might come next. All that came next was an epilogue and a very funny glossary made up of all the vocabulary from the book that I'd been wondering if kids would understand.

A commenter on one of my listservs noted that the Willoughby children--four siblings who hope to become orphans and whose neglectful parents hope to be rid of them--don't do a lot about their situation. Most of the action occurs because of the intervention of adult characters. I think that was a very good observation. Adult intervention may be a convention of the older books that Lowry is satirizing, but I don't know if passive child characters make for a particularly readable book for early twenty-first century children.

In fact, things were just beginning to happen when I started getting interested. A child character had done something, and the big joke involved the kids doing something more. But they never get a chance to do it because the story is done.

Older kids who've either done a lot of reading or have wicked, dark senses of humor may enjoy a story about children who get down every time they receive a letter from abroad indicating the parental units are still alive and kicking. But I wonder if this book won't end up being a curiousity best appreciated by adult readers well-versed in older children's literature.

You can check out an interview with Lois Lowry about The Willoughbys at the NPR site. (Miss Rumphius tipped me off to that link.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Kidlit Goings-On--Cybils Interview

Kelly Herold and Anne Boles Levy are interviewed at Cynsations regarding their involvement with The Cybils.

Kidlit Goings-On--Summer Reading Lists

Sometime during the last couple of weeks I read--somewhere--that it's one of life's little oddities that when adults think of summer reading, they think of light, fluffy, escapist stuff while kids think of YIKES! Summer Reading Lists! Don't go into the library alone!!! I do wish I could remember who pointed that out to me because it is so true. The summer reading columns for adults in the mainstream press are, let's just say they make it appear as if once the temperature goes up, human IQ goes down. The summer reading columns for children in the mainstream press don't exist--unless you live in England, or Canada. (Thanks to Kelly for those two links.

Where was I? Yes. Summer reading lists. Jennifer Robinson, Sarah at the Reading Zone, and The Book Whisperer all discuss the hellaciousness of summer reading lists.

Modern Library Treatment For Anne Of Green Gables

The Modern Library has just published a new edition of Anne of Green Gables. Slate says this is a big deal.

A Mystery Day

I wasn't just talking about myself these past few weeks while working on the A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers' blog tour. I did some reading, too.

I was a big fan of Peter Abrahams' first Echo Falls Mystery, Down the Rabbit Hole. I'd heard from other bloggers that the second book in the series wasn't as good, and I have to say I agree. I was nearly a quarter of the way through the book before it became clear to me just what the mystery was this time around, and it was so close to the main character and her family that at that point this story revolving around steroid use among teen athletes seemed to be more of a problem novel than a mystery. The plot wasn't nearly as smooth as it was the first time around, either.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, on the other hand, has a very smooth plot and well developed characters. It did seem a little Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time lite with its autistic main character. What are the chances of kid readers being familiar with that book, though? (Yes, it was a cross-over book, but it's five years old and no longer all over the place.) In addition, Ted, of London Eye, has less extreme autistic characteristics than Christopher in Night-time, while at the same time the mystery he needs to solve is more serious--the disappearance of his cousin versus the killer of a neighbor's dog.

Both these books are being marketed to middle grade readers.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I'm A Little Confused

If I ever write a picture book, I want it to be illustrated the way Matt Faulkner illustrates Laurie Halse Anderson's Thank You, Sarah.His artwork is realistic but witty. It pops and carries some of the story.

The text of the book is a little confusing for this reader, though. Thank You, Sarah is the story of how Sarah Josepha Hale managed to get Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday. That is an interesting take on a Thanksgiving book. Seriously, just how many stories about Piligrims can a kid (or anyone else)take? But Hale comes across in this tale like one of those small town cranks, the sterotypical busybodies who nag and nag until they get what they want. I didn't see exactly how she was "bold, brave, stubborn, and smart," at least, in the context of this story.

In all fairness, kids may not know the nagging small-town gadfly stereotype and may not see it in Hale as she's portrayed here. The youngest readers (the publisher is marketing the book to grades K through 5) may very well appreciate the fact that someone created a holiday for us.

At the end of the book are four pages of an odd assortment of information. The information about Thanksgiving and Hale is appropriate and intereting, but then there's the equivalent of a page on the Civil War that seems out of place, even though Thanksgiving was finally made a holiday by Lincoln in 1863. I felt this section of the book could have been more focused.

Hale is a fascinating figure, having served as an editor of women's magazines back in their very early days. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, women's magazines definitely had an impact on American culture. They are supposed to have been influential in getting controls on patent medicines, for instance. Maybe Thank You, Sarah is a good introduction to Hale for very young children who can't be expected to have much interest in her more significant work, but I'm not sure.

A Word For A Smaller Publisher

Sometime in the last couple of months, I received a catalog from Pelican Publishing Company in Louisiana. I hadn't heard of Pelican before, but it appears to be a regional trade publisher that includes juvenile fiction among its offerings. Some of the children's titles look to have a southern flavor, and the publisher has a line of books in French.

Now I'm Finding Things In My In-box

I'm having a transition day, during which I'm closing the books on the last few months of planning for school appearances, studying, and interviews and hacking away at the undergrowth covering the writing path so I may proceed down it, to mix a couple of metaphors. At least.

I finished reading two of the three books on writing that I was working on during my so-called study month that stretched into...I don't know...a study quarter of a year? (I also waded through a bunch of magazines and articles, by the way.) Anyway, before I put it away on a shelf, I wanted to mention that What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter has a really good (and blessedly short) section on revision.

Then I was cleaning out my e-mail in-box this morning, and I found an announcement informing me that Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Janet Burroway have won first- and third-place in Narrative Magazine's Love Story Contest. But, Gail, you are probably thinking, as a general rule, you're not fond of love stories. Why are you telling us this? And what does this have to do with closing books and hacking at undergrowth?

Well, Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French are co-authors of Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft the second book I read during my study period. A very, very good book.

Look back at that Narrative Fiction announcement. The second place winner is Maud Newton who is...well...Maud Newton.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Conclusion

Well, I'm exhausted. I never thought I'd live to see the day that I'd grow tired of talking about myself, but I am, indeed, weary. I'm sure I'll get over it, though.

I am very grateful to all my blog hosts. Two of them fit their hosting duties in before leaving on vacation. Two worked me around the ALA convention. Two had trouble getting e-mails to me. Two volunteered to host without being asked. One dear blogger contacted me when I was trying to contact a host on a listserv (because of that e-mail problem) to offer to fill in if needed. Seriously, everyone was wonderful. I'm not just saying that to be a polite guest.

If you missed any of the interviews and won't be able to sleep at night until you've read them all, here is a round-up of links:

Books Together
Sam Riddleburger
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Jen Robinson's Book Page
Big A, little a
The Miss Rumphius Effect
A Fuse #8 Production

Tomorrow is another day. I'll be on to new things.

Three Robbers Celebration--4th Of July Weekend Book Giveaway

Here it is, folks, your last chance to win a copy of A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers as part of Putnam's 4th of July Book Giveaway. The first person to e-mail me with their mailing address, saying that they saw this message on Original Content, will receive an autographed copy of the book, which was just published this past Thursday.

Remember, you can't win, if you don't e-mail me.

UPDATE: This copy of the book was won within 5 to 10 minutes of my posting the offer. A response like that is incredibly gratifying.

I do book giveaways here from time to time, so keep coming back.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Three Robbers Celebration--4th Of July Weekend Book Giveaway

The Putnam Three Robbers giveaway has already been won for today. Tomorrow you'll have one more chance. Check back here at Original Content to find out how to win.

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Day Seven

The seventh and final stop on my blog tour for A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers is A Fuse #8 Production. Betsy and I talk about why chapter books don't get more attention than they do and why some of the attention they do receive involves parental complaints.

Betsy had to work in this stop around the ALA convention, plus I was still having e-mail problems at the end of the week, which caused a little flurry of worry for us. So I'm most grateful to her for hosting today.

Tomorrow I'll do a little round-up of blog tour activity for those of you who may have missed some stops or who enjoy reruns.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Three Robbers Celebration--The Hannah and Brandon School Presentation

I've discussed in a couple of my Three Robbers blog tour interviews that I became interested in writing a book for younger readers after talking with teachers at elementary schools where I was doing presentations for middle grade students. Then at The Miss Rumphius Effect I talk a little more about my school visits. So I thought that today I'd say a few words about the presentation I developed for first through third graders around A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat, the first in The Hannah and Brandon Stories.

Teachers suggested that I speak to the littlies about things like characters, plot, setting--what sounded like the elements of fiction to me. So I thought I could try introducing kids to those terms, or, in the case of students who already knew them, reinforce their meaning/significance. But how? I use storytelling in my talk for older kids, which is about writers using their experience in their work. I hardly wanted to stand up in front of younger children and do a literature lecture.

Preparing a presentation was a struggle for me, until I came up with a couple of metaphors. Oh, how I love metaphors--the meaningful kind that explain life. Surely you all have some of those? Mine for this presentation are:

1. Writers are scientists who make changes in their characters, plot, and setting every time they create a new experiment/draft.

2. A story is a jigsaw puzzle, and the characters, plot, and setting are the pieces that a scientist/writer moves around while experimenting, until all the pieces come together into a story.

After that, things fell into place for me. Sort of like a jigsaw puzzle, in fact. My computer guy loved the metaphors and made me a set of terrific slides.

The Three Robbers Celebration--4th of July Weekend Book Giveaway

My own book giveaway closed yesterday. We just did the drawing, and I notified the winners. However, you can still take advantage of the book giveaway my publisher, G. P. Putnam, is offering through my blog tour hosts over the 4th of July weekend. Each day a book will be given away through a different host, and, since the tour concludes tomorrow, I'll offer one here on Sunday so that every day of the holiday weekend is included.

So if you entered my original drawing and haven't heard from me today, or if you've just decided this minute that you'd like to try to win one of my books, you have three more chances:

Today: The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Saturday: A Fuse #8 Production.

Sunday: Back here at Original Content.

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Day Six

On day six of my blog tour, I'm visiting with Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Please note the image of a very satisfied reader at the beginning of her interview with me. In this interview we get into theme (something I've been thinking about more than usual the last month or two), my school presentations, and how traumatized I was when my long-time editor left Putnam for another publishing house. Plus, do I see myself in any of my characters? You'll have to read the interview to find out.

I was having e-mail problems the past week or so (problems I was unaware of), which made for some difficulties communicating with Tricia. I want to thank her so much for her patience and for hosting this stop on the tour.

Tomorrow's the end of the line. I'll be visiting with Betsy at A Fuse #8 Production.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Three Robbers Celebration--A 4th Of July Weekend Giveaway

Those of you who have seen Big A, little a's interview with me, probably noticed a book giveaway sponsored by my publisher, G. P. Putnam's Sons. Putnam is going to continue offering a copy of A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers right through the 4th of July Weekend at different blogs.

Kelly got to make the offer today, my publication day. It will be Miss Rumphius's turn tomorrow, the 4th of July. The blog tour officially ends on Saturday, but Putnam's free book will be offered here on Sunday so that we can cover the full holiday weekend.

This giveaway is totally separate from the one I've been running here for the last month, which will end tonight with the drawing tomorrow. So, in a nutshell, what we're talking about here is...more free books!

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Publication Day!

Today is the official publication day for A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers. It is very appropriate that I spend it with Kelly at Big A, little a, since she suggested this blog tour. Among the things we discuss are TV's impact on imagination and creating a reading culture.

As I said, this blog tour would never have happened if not for Kelly, and I want to thank her very much. Talking about myself for an entire week has been incredible.

But we're not done yet! We're continuing right into the 4th of July weekend. Tomorrow I'll be at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Get your entries in for the Three Robbers giveaway that I'm doing here through my website. We'll be drawing the winners tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Three Robbers Celebration--What Does It Mean, Mr. Natural?

The term "chapter book" doesn't mean much, evidently. Yesterday at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Jules and I discussed the lack of agreement about terminology to describe books for new readers. "Chapter book" is only one name used to label shorter books with limited text, somewhat easier vocabulary, and maybe some illustrations written and marketed for children, say, 7 to 9 years old.

Unless, you're The New York Times. Scroll down its Children's Bestseller List until you get to the subtitle "Chapter Books" and check out the age designations after each title. Every book there is either middle grade or YA. It appears that The NYTimes considers the term chapter book to mean "a book with chapters."

To find books for kids under eight- or nine-years-old, at least on this week's list, you have to look under "Series Books" where Junie B. Jones, Fancy Nancy, and The Magic Tree House are listed. They are series books, but isn't Diary of a Wimpy Kid, too? There are two Wimpy Kid books under "Chapter Books."

My regular readers know that I crave order and definition.

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Day Four

Today Jen Robinson interviews me at Jen Robinson's Book Page. The two of us get down and dirty about problems with chapter books as a whole and why we don't see more reviews of them. We also talk about what the future might bring for Hannah and Brandon, assuming they have one.

Jen doesn't usually take part in blog tours, so I really appreciate her hosting a visit for me.

Tomorrow is publication day, and I'll be with Kelly at Big A, little a.

And, of course, you still have today and all day tomorrow to enter to win a copy of A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Three Robbers Celebration--Best Poem About A Dead Bunny

Another book for younger ones:
I read one of Dan Gutman's Weird School books (he's written twenty-one of them) back in 2005 and found it well intentioned but written with a run-of-the-mill voice and containing forced humor. I actually liked one of his more recent Weird School books, Ms. Coco Is Loco!, better.

While the first-person narrator still isn't terribly distinctive, more of the humor works, and the school setting is very realistic. The gifted and talented kids being sent out to the gifted and talented teacher who finds whatever they do gifted and talented--yeah, I've seen something like that. Then you've got the older kids sent to the kindergarten class to inspire the little "trolls" (as the main character calls them) by reading poetry to them. Hmmm, yeah, I've seen that, too. The incredibly random responses from the little kids ("Yesterday I ate a booger") sure were realistic. The school setting a goal for the number of poems to be written during Poetry Month...that could happen and probably has.

There was something sort of subversive about this book that I couldn't help liking, too. For a while I thought, Eww, this is going to be a learn to love poetry book. But, no, not at all. If anything, our hero, A.J., makes at least one poetry-loving adult at his school look foolish. He also ends up raking in the old bucks selling illicit poetry. He's the school poetry dealer. I don't know if the kids will get that, but I sure did.

And then there's A.J.s dead bunny poem. I thought it was brilliant.

For a series book for 7- to 10-year-olds, Ms. Coco Is Loco! is deep. It recognizes that, yes, real-world weird things actually do happen at school.

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Day Three

Day Three of my blog tour finds me at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Not only did Jules have the interview up before breakfast, when I saw it around 7:30 there were already two comments. This interview includes a link to my illustrator, Joe Cepeda, a photograph of Sam Riddleburger, who appears to be reading Club Earth in his kitchen (I have read in my kitchen, too), and a photograph of me in a dobok. You won't want to miss that.

This interview also includes a brief discussion of my writing process. This is the first time I can ever remember feeling comfortable talking about my writing process. In the early days, I don't know if I understood what writing process was, and I definitely wasn't aware of having one.

Thank you, Jules.

Tomorrow I will be at Jen Robinson's Book Page.

While you're waiting for tomorrow, you can still enter to win a copy of A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers. My copies arrived yesterday, so I can actually send the winners their books.