Monday, February 20, 2017

Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar Update

Author Janet Lawler will appear at Ooh La La! Boutique's Gather, Sip n' Shop fundraiser at 80 Memorial Road, Blue Back Square, West Hartford, this Thursday, Feb. 23rd from 5-8 PM. Both Janet and Ooh La La! will donate a portion of sales to the  non-profit Read to a Child. In addition, patrons donating a new children's book to Read to a Child (either one they bring with them or purchase from Janet) will be entered into a drawing for a store gift certificate.

Read to a Child in Connecticut serves over 140 kindergarten through grade four at-risk children in Hartford, New Britain, and New Haven public schools.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Some Speculative Fiction For Black History Month

The Door at the Crossroads by Zetta Elliott was one of the Cybils YA Speculative Fiction finalists this year. Though it's technically science fiction/fantasy (not sure where time travel comes down), it's a good read to consider for Black History Month because it's time travel. Its teenage African American and Jamaican main characters are transported back to the American Civil War. Genna ends up in Weeksville, a free black community in Brooklyn. (I'd never heard of Weeksville, but it sounds pretty impressive.) Poor Judah, however, ends up in a nightmarish situation, enslaved in the south.

Genna moves about in time a bit, getting back to 2001-era Brooklyn. But it's the historical work in Door at the Crossroads that's really impressive. Judah's story in the south is gripping, and the material on Weeksville left me wanting to know more. The book is a sequel, and readers might want to read the first book, A Wish After Midnight, before starting on Crossroads. The second book ends with a cliffhanger, suggesting another book is planned.

Author Zetta Elliott was interviewed earlier this month at Cynsations about one of her most recent books, The Ghosts in the Castle, and being a hybrid author, meaning she's book traditionally and self-published. Also check out her lengthy list of essays, many of which are available on-line.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Feb.13 Edition


I had a couple of appointments planned this week, but what's a couple of appointments in a whole week, right? So Monday started off great with me working on some Goal 2 and Goal 4 and some Goal 7, which involved getting ready for Writers' Group Monday night and then, indeed, going to Writers' Group Monday evening.

And then this happened on my way home.

I was on a multi-lane highway, in the dark, when my car was hit by something. Then hit again. And again. We think from the looks of the car that I was hit three times. And that what hit me was a rogue tire. Though I didn't actually see the tire, either while the accident was happening or afterward, so it's possible that I was being attacked by a giant, invisible creature that had slipped out of another dimension and had no idea what it was doing. We believe it was a tire, though, because of the tire marks on the side of the car, where no tire marks should ever be. The very young state trooper was quite blown away by the sight of it.

Seriously, I was home an hour later, so it's not as if a car accident was all that time consuming. And it was 9 o'clock in the evening when all this first went down. Not my prime work time, anyway.

What happened the next day, though, was I had an appointment in the morning, then I go home with plenty of time to work. But I'd been in an automobile accident the night before, right? So while I did write a couple of blog posts, mostly I spent the afternoon watching two episodes of Fixer Upper, because everyone watches that,  and an episode of Outlander. I'm with Claire about the second season's Parisian setting. I'm not liking it as much as the first season in Scotland. Though I am able to understand a little bit of the French, which is gratifying.

Then on Wednesday I had to go with my husband to pick up a rental car, and then I had to follow him as he drove the damaged car to a shop for repairs. Then one thing led to another, and the only thing I did for work was buy some padded envelopes to mail books in.

And then Thursday I was on the road all day, because that's what I do on Thursdays, whether I've been in an accident Monday night or not.

So that was almost the whole flipping week.

Today is Friday, and I'm back on goal. Hmm. Maybe I'll start using that term here instead of "on task." Yeah, I'm back on goal today, specifically Goal 4.

Two Other Things I Managed To Do This Week


 I managed to share some tweets related to Goal 6
And I won a copy of Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers by Sally Allen through the blog Book Nation by Jen. Which just goes to show that anyone can win a book at a blog giveaway.

You still have time to sign up for your chance to win Fancy Party Gowns. Go for it. Because it is good to win a book. Especially the week your car has been hit by a flying tire. And you never know when that's going to happen.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Environmental Book Club

Haven't heard about the ol' EBC in a long time, have you? Yeah, I just made that up...EBC. Environmental books, particularly fiction, which is my big interest, aren't something I stumble upon regularly, though I have my eye on one now.

What I'm directing you to today, people, is an article in the January/February issue of The Horn Book by Kathleen T. Isaacs. Featuring Wonder deals with encouraging "children's enthusiasm for and connection to nature through the sharing of well-crafted picture books." Isaacs covers specific criteria.

I was particularly interested in some material toward the end of the article. Isaacs writes about the general concern about the environment that "has filtered down from adults to children who learn about environmental issues in well-meant books that sometimes stress the losses more than the wonder that can still be found in nature." She also writes about "'ecophobia,' in which people distance themselves from the depressing news..."

That's the kind of environmental writing I'm not looking for.

Featuring Wonder isn't on-line, so look for the magazine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

And The Cybils Winner For YA Speculative Fiction Is...

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

Illuminae brings the science fiction thriller to a YA audience. I'm not aware of a lot of real science fiction being written for young readers. Note that all the other Speculative Fiction nominees were fantasy. Illuminae also has an interesting format. Like World War Z (the book, not the abysmal movie), it's an account of a disaster that is already over. The basic premise is that a tech group has collected information about the aftermath of an attack on an illegal mining colony and the ordeal the survivors suffered after they are evacuated . We don't know who is doing the collecting or who the information was collected for. So the story is told with documents--various types of reports, communications, transcripts of videos, etc., and a little commentary from the mystery technician. This can be risky, in my opinion. There's always the possibility that all the shifts will slow down narrative drive. And thrillers are all about narrative drive. No problem here. Drive, drive, drive.

Oh, and there's a plague. That's always good. And some neat plot twists at the end. And I haven't even started on the clever main characters and the little role reversal thing they've got going on, with Kady being the heroic nerd going all out to save Ezra, her guy in distress. Plus there's a sequel, Gemina, which offers a different setting and some new characters. I would read that.

Check out the YA Speculative Fiction Committee's write-up on Illuminae, as all as all the other Cybils winners.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cybils Announcement Coming Tomorrow

The Cybils winners will be announced tomorrow. Before learning the YA Speculative Fiction winner, here's a brief rundown, in alphabetical order, of the finalists.

What I found interesting about this selection was the wide variety of types of writing.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.   Science fiction thriller set on a space ship.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova. Contemporary fantasy that moves its contemporary characters from the real world into a fantasy world.

Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King. A family drama with magical realism.

The Door at the Crossroads by Zetta Elliott. Time travel.

The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neummeier. Fantasy in a magical realm.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. Post-apocalyptic dystopia.

When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. Magical realism.

Check back tomorrow to see what happened.

Friday, February 10, 2017

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Feb. 6 Edition

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. One of the objectives for this involves experimenting with a timekeeping app. I've got to face facts. That's not going well.

Goal 2. Generate New Work Through End Of April--Adult Work. First objective done. I finished the revision of Becoming Greg and Emma.

Goal 4. Make More Than 33 (last year's number) Submissions Of Completed Work Throughout The Year. Got to get cracking on this one. This week I worked on Wee Play World objective.

Goal 6. Support And Promote Diverse Literature, Diverse Culture. 

Goal 7. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Fancy Party Gowns post. Promoted to Google+, Google+ Community, Facebook, Facebook communities, Twitter, Goodreads.  (Also Goal 6, multiplier)
  • Connecticut Book Awards post.  Promoted to Google+, Google+ community, Facebook, two Facebook Communities, and Twitter

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Time For Connecticut Authors To Submit For Connecticut Book Awards

Submissions are open for the 2017 Connecticut Book Awards sponsored by the Connecticut Center for the Book. The awards include a category for books for young readers, both authors and illustrators, as well as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The deadline for submission is April 21, 2017, and the winners will be announced this October.

Eligibility Requirements

Author must currently reside in Connecticut and must have lived in the state at least three successive years or have been born in the state. Alternatively, the work may be substantially set in Connecticut.

Titles must have been first published between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016.

All submitted books must have a valid ISBN.

Authors may enter more than one book per year.

Anthologies are acceptable. Author(s) must have resided in Connecticut for at least three years of have been born in the state. Alternatively, the works must be substantially set in Connecticut.

Books by deceased authors will be accepted only if the author was still living at the beginning of the eligibility year (January 1, 2016).

More Information

More information about guidelines and entry fees, as well as how to apply, is available at the Connecticut Center for the Book website

And Even More Information

The Connecticut Center for the book is the Connecticut branch of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. It is administrated by Connecticut Humanities, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Connecticut Humanities highlights cultural and educational events in Connecticut through its website and social media channels and is an advocate for the humanities.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Terrific Bio And Giveaway

Authors who write historical nonfiction look for stories from the past that haven't been told. A lot of untold historical stories come out of the experiences of groups whose actions have been ignored. African Americans, for instance. For the general public, that's the case with African American fashion designer Ann Cole Lowe, the subject of Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal with illustrations by Laura Freeman.

Lowe is probably known within her field. She got a New York Times obituary when she died in 1981, and some of the clothes she designed can be found at The Met. She also appears to be experiencing a revival over the last couple of years. She's all over the Internet. (Yeah, you can look.) But she certainly doesn't have the same kind of high profile that designers from the same era whose design houses still exist have. Lowe designed for individuals, not the mass market, which also limited how many people knew about her, either in her lifetime or now.

All of which makes her a great subject for a picture book bio. She's not generally known, but at the same time, there is information about her out there, so that when you want to hunt down more info about her, you can.

Okay, Fancy Party Gowns is the story of an African American woman who was sought out by wealthy white women who wanted her to design and make their clothes for important events at a time when people of her race weren't accepted just anywhere. Like design school, for instance. She got in, but had to study separate from white students. So what we have here is a tale of an outsider who makes the insiders come to her. She had something they wanted. They wanted it bad enough to let her in the front door.

Lowe designed one particular gown for one particular person, an act that ties her to history in a big way. I wasn't aware of this when I read Fancy Party Gowns and getting to this part of the book was an eye popper. Hope other readers will have the same experience.

A note about the illustrations: They are both realistic and bigger than life at the same time. Lowe often appears as some variation of the cover image. In my humble opinion, it gives her power.

Black History Month Giveaway

Little Bee Books, publisher of Fancy Party Gowns, provided me with two copies of Fancy Party Gowns to give away here. I'll give away one copy this month for Black History Month and the other next month for Women's History Month. Leave a comment below. When we reach ten comments, we'll pick one at random to receive this month's copy.