Wednesday, May 20, 2020

2020 Tassy Walden Awards

Connecticut’s 2020 Tassy Walden Awards winners and finalists have been announced. This is a significant award in this state, because so many winners and finalists were later published.

The Winners Are

  • Picture Book Text--Natasha Garnett for Daniela Makes Her Way   
  • Illustrated Picture Book Writer/Illustrator--Gabriella Svenningsen for What Is A Memory?
  • Middle Grade Novel--Paula Kay McLaughlin for Renala: Sydney Parks & the Bayab Tree
  • Young Adult Novel--Katie Tietjen for In a Nutshell: The Case of the Lady in the Bathtub 
  • Illustrator Portfolio Finalist--Tessa Griffin

A virtual awards reception will be held on May 27 at 7 PM

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Reading "Boundless Creativity"

You will be delighted, I'm sure, to hear that I am reading a book for us. I’m halfway through Boundless Creativity: A Spiritual Workbook for Overcoming Self-doubt, Emotional Traps, and Other Creative Blocks by Martha Alderson. I was interested in the book because Alderson wrote The Plot Whisperer, which has the best explanation of organic writing I’ve ever seen.

I think Boundless Creativity will be particularly helpful for new writers (or creatives of any type) trying to get started with their work. As in people who are struggling to find time to do personal creative work versus the day job or family work. For instance, so far Alderson is talking a lot about using goal setting to work out a plan for what you're going to do over a specific period of time. You all know how I love goals.

The book has, though, given this more established writer a little jump start for her spring work.

An Inner Spiritual Goal--Finish Something

I have to say that I’m struggling with the spiritual aspects of this book. I sometimes find them distracting. However, there is a section early on about inner spiritual goals that I jumped on.

Alderson describes spiritual goals as "inner goals you decide to address to live your best creative life." Over the course of doing the workbook sections, it came out that spiritually I feel overwhelmed with tasks and that it has a negative impact on my ability to stay focused on any one particular task. I give in to the overwhelm. Yes, that's something I've been talking about here for...ah...probably years.

I was instructed to combine a flaw I'd written about along with a personal strength to create a mantra. Mantras are a spiritual thing that I actually kind of understand. It's a word or saying that's supposed to aid meditation or maybe just in life. The mantra I came up with was "When I am exhausted and overwhelmed from too many tasks, I choose one to complete. One that can be completed."

Or, to put it in a less unwieldy manner, "Finish something."

I tried to deal with the finishing issue a couple of years ago, but, quite honestly, I'm overwhelmed with the amount of time management and productivity material I've picked up since I started this time management feature here at the blog. But now I have this mantra, "Finish something," and that seems to be helping. For the last few days, anyway.

Now by "finish something," I don't necessarily mean writing the next book. Finishing cleaning a counter, the next entry in a trail album, taking care of the clothes piled on a chair, or cooking the eggplant before it goes bad works just fine. Because what I want this mantra to do for me is make me feel less overwhelmed by the multitude of things that go on in life. When I'm not feeling overwhelmed, I can concentrate on work a whole lot better.

Oh, one of the things I finished last week was setting up a private workstation for myself on the main floor of the house. I won't go into the long story of why I needed to do that, but it had been at the back of my mind for a few weeks, if not longer.


So for someone who doesn't totally get the spiritual aspects of this book, the spiritual aspects of this book have helped my creativity this past week.

I will have more on Boundless Creativity in future weeks.

FTC Disclosure:  I received my copy of Boundless Creativity from a publicist marketing it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

May 5 Childlit Book Releases

I've heard about a lot of May children's book releases. Here are just the May 5th releases that have come to my attention.

Do you know of more May 5th books? Feel free to add the titles in the comments. I'll do another May release post later in the month.

 May 5 Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence, Scholastic

May 5 Any Day With You by Mae Respicio, Penguin Random House 

May 5 Ocean! Waves for All by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by David Litchfield, Macmillan

May 5 The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate, Harper Collins

 May 5 Throwback: The Chaos Loop by Peter Lerangis, Harper Collins 

May 5  Frog Meets Dog by Janee Trasler, Scholastic 

May 5  Goat in a Boat by Janee Trasler, Scholastic

May 5 Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Wendell Minor, Bloomsbury

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A New Publication For Me--And Another Writing Analogy.

Today's Coronavirus Walk
I have done snowshoeing/book writing analogies here. I have done a taekwondo/writing analogy. I have done a biking/time management analogy. Now I am going to do a walking/writing analogy.


Given that my husband and I have been biking somewhere around 20 years, you'd think we'd be a whole lot faster than we are. Given how long I've been walking, in one form or another, you'd think I'd be faster than I am.

I accept that we are, and, particularly, I am, slow. You just cannot have as many people pass you as I've had pass me and not accept reality. It doesn't matter whether I am on a bike or on foot, it doesn't matter how old or young the people behind me are, I am going to be passed.

Today's Overlook
But, you know, you're out there on the trail to be out there on the trail. So I have accepted that I am never going to win any awards for my speed. I just want to be out on the trail.

Biking And Walking Are Not The Only Things I Do Slowly

I have also had to accept that I am a slow writer. I'm even slower with getting published. A case in point? My adult short story, When I Have Fears That We May Cease To Be. was published yesterday at The Blue Nib Literary Magazine website.

I wrote this short story a while ago. A long while ago. I won't mention any dates, but I've been submitting--and revising--this story so long that there are copies of it in my filing cabinet that are clearly typed on a typewriter, not a word processor.

We're Not Just Talking Perseverance Here

I could say that this is an inspirational story about perseverance, that I kept the faith and kept submitting and that is why this short story was published. But I think there's something else going on when writing is published after a long period of time has passed. And what is going on is...time.

It's very possible that a piece of fiction needs to wait for publication until a pair of eyes falls upon it that gets it, that understands what the writer is doing. My first novel, for instance, was accepted for publication by an editor who was about fifteen years younger than I was. I was submitting work while she was, literally, still growing up. I had to wait for the right time for us to connect.

It's also possible that a piece of fiction doesn't fit in with the time it was written. It fits in with another time that's still coming up. I have no examples of that. I don't know if that's what happened with When I Have Fears That We May Cease To Be. But it's a big part of the reason that I keep submitting completed and rejected work. The time may not have been right for it when it was written, but it could be right now. Or next month. Or next year.

You Just Want To Be Out On The Trail

Today's Lunch View
Writers can't let the whole it-hasn't-been-published thing become a big issue for them. Writing is like walking or biking. You just have to want to write the way you want to be out on the trail.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

May Book Releases From Two Author/Illustrators

Last Tuesday Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us by Lauren Castillo was published by Penguin Random House.  The book is the story of how Hedgehog comes to meet a number of characters while searching for a lost friend.

Lauren Castillo has written and illustrated a number of books and won a Caldecott Honor for Nana in the City.

Today Fuzzy Baseball Vol. 3: R.B.I Robots by John Steven Gurney will be published  by Papercutz. In this outing the Fuzzy Baseball players take on a team of robots.
Among the books John Steven Gurney has illustrated are the A to Z Mysteries and the Bailey School Kids.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker, a graphic novel by Jen Wang, is a Cinderella-type story with a major and marvelous twist. The wife-seeking prince is a cross-dresser, and the Cinderalla figure is an ambitious and talented dressmaker.

Prince Sebastian seeks out Frances not as a potential spouse but to provide him with the kinds of women's clothes he wants. The two of them become a fashion team.

This story is unique for two other reasons. Sebastian, a character with a secret, is not a cliched, tortured YA male. (Though he's tortured some.) He receives support. And this romance involves two far more equal characters than you usually see in fairy tale-type stories. Frances's skill and drive make her much closer to Sebastian's level. He really has nothing going for him other than the accident of his birth into a royal family.

This is a fun and thoughtful read.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: May Has Thirty-one Days

Remember The What-the-Hell Effect?

It's two o'clock in the afternoon. I haven't done any writing. What-the-hell, the day is shot. I might as well quit until tomorrow. Yeah, you've heard about this before.

The What-the-Hell Effect relates to self-discipline and self-discipline, or lack thereof, has a big impact on managing time. Dealing with the What-the-Hell Effect involves being mindful and always keeping in mind that there's no reason to quit until tomorrow when you have a couple of hours of light left! Metaphorically speaking.

Time is gone. You can still do something with the time you have left.

We've Been Down The What-the-Hell Effect Road Before

I wrote about the What-the-Hell Effect seven years ago in relation to the May Days project I often take part in. And damned if I'm not going to write about it again in relation to this year's May Days.

Seven years ago, I missed chunks of my May Day work time because I was sick. This year we had a modest family health emergency that involved us hauling out of here at five the afternoon of April 30 and spending Friday May 1st helping out with some young relatives. Everything has resolved itself well. But, you know, it was the first day of this new May Day initiative, and I knew I had some other family things coming up I wanted to do and it just seemed like, well, what-the-hell? That's over.

Except that May has thirty-one days. I repeat, thirty-one. I lost two days last week, one of which was a Saturday and, let's face it, I probably wouldn't have worked then, anyway. And, yes, I may lose three to five more work days to family. Out of thirty-one.

Okay, I also have more pandemic work to do, since I need to make some more masks in odd times, and there's always vegetables to cook and freeze before they go bad, because it's going to be a while before I get more food in.

Still, May has thirty-one days.

I worked multiple hours yesterday and for maybe an hour this morning. I might be tied up Friday, but I should be able to get some hours of work in tomorrow and Thursday.

After that, there's three more weeks left to May.

The What-the-Hell Effect isn't so much about the time you've already lost, often for legitimate reasons. It's about the time you still have and could lose.

Work some of it. Any of it. That's all you've got to do.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

#ShortStorySunday: "A Mindreader’s Guide to Surviving Your First Year at the All-Girls Superhero Academy"

A couple of weeks ago, I read about something on Twitter called #shortstorysunday, a hashtag people use to share short stories they've read. I thought Yes! I can use this to read a short story on Sundays! That would be great! I would love to do that! 

Though all those thoughts definitely were followed my exclamation marks in my mind, and I was really excited about this whole thing, by the next weekend, I'd forgotten about it.

But I remembered today and read A Mindreader's Guide to Surviving Your First Year at the All-Girls Superhero Academy by Jenn Reese who wrote A Game of Fox and Squirrels, which released last month. This short story appeared at Uncanny.

Back fifteen years ago, when I was trying to define "story" for myself, I read Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular by Rust Hill. He said that a story is about something happening to somebody. It's the only definition of story I've ever found. If something doesn't happen, there's no story.

In a short story, it can be easier to understand in simple terms what the story is, because the story is short. And in A Mindreader's Guide to Surviving Your First Year at the All-Girls Superhero Academy, you can see that. It's not a slam-bam flashy event, but something very specifically happens.

I liked this story, and I think it has a lot of YA appeal.

I'll be reading more of Jenn Reese's stories on Sundays. Unless, of course, I forget.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

When You Have To Read Something Over And Over And Over Again

You have not seen me here this past week, because I just spent three-and-a-half days with a two-and-a-half-year-old boy who has a new baby sister coming home soon. I made pumpkin custard, blueberry babycakes, and  two batches of cupcakes, because I made the first one with the two-year-old and may have left out the baking powder. I  did crafts and learned how to find Little Baby Bum and Super Simple Songs on YouTube.

I  also read What the Dinosaurs Did At School by Refe and Susan Tuma before every nap and every bedtime. And maybe once in the middle of the night. The kid couldn't get enough of it. I liked it a great deal, too. Thank goodness.

I was very grateful whenever I read this book, because there was another one our little guy liked a lot that was a long, heart-tugging poem. He thought the cover illustration for that one was of him and his mother. What the Dinosaurs Did At School, on the other hand, is a very clever and amusing story told totally for laughs. The amount of text is great. The narrative drive is good.

I'm not sure what a two-year-old sees in it, though, because I think to get the jokes and really appreciate the whole situation, you may need to have some knowledge of school. I was concerned I was going to have to do a detailed explanation about the section regarding ventilation, for example, but it didn't come to that. I just had to answer the question "What that dinosaur doing?" a lot.

The illustrations are photos of plastic dinosaurs posed as if they are behaving very, very badly. The combination of the reality of the photos and the dinosaurs raising hell may be an irresistible draw for tiny listeners. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

April 14 Seems To Have Been An Active Day In Childlit Publishing

I did an April book publishing post on Monday, April 13.  The next day I saw a big array of announcements about book birthdays that very day. April 14 is my sister's birthday, and thus a notable day in my family. History fans are probably also aware that it is the day Lincoln was shot and the Titanic hit an iceberg. Both events occurred late in the evening, so, technically, Lincoln died and the Titanic sank on the 15th.

Things turned out much better for my sister. So as a late birthday celebration, here is a list of some childlit books that published on her day in 2020.

Darling Darleen, Queen of the Screen Anne Nesbet Candlewick Press. I see that Nesbet is the author of Cloud and Wallfish.

What Lane? Torrey Maldonado Nancy Paulsen Books. Oh, look. I stumbled upon a review of this book by Ms. Yingling.

A Game of Fox and Squirrels Jenn Reese Macmillan Publishers. Ah, Reese also writes short stories and essays.

Outside In  by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Cindy Derby Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. If I had pulled my act together this month, as I planned to back in January, I would have considered this book for an Environmental Book Club post.

Baby Clown by Kara LaReau with illustrations by Matthew Cordell Penguin Random House. LaReau has the rare author bio that I read all the way through. I could almost hear the narrator of Jane the Virgin going "How did she get the key to the school?" and "Who doesn't?" when she says she has a pathological fear of being hit in the face by a volleyball.

Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened by Emily Blejwas Penguin Random House. Blejwas is also the author of an adult book called The Story of Alabama in Fourteen Foods, which hits on two of my interests, history and food. 

Aware of any other April 14 childlit books? Feel free to add them in the comments.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: A Time Saver In The Time Of Covid

I've often written here about being careful about giving up time to things like conferences and workshops. They can suck up a day or two, not counting any preparation you have to do, and it's a gamble as to whether or not you're going to get anything for your effort. You might be better off committing that time to writing or reading or taking care of some personal business that will then free up some other time for work.

Last week I had an interesting experience with an on-line workshop that I believe proves my point.

All About Me

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is offering a series of digital workshops for its members. The week before last, writer Kate Messner ran a revision workshop. I had the option of signing up to take it live, in real time, so to speak, but for one reason and another didn't. I watched it the next week when I could squeeze it in between, I don't know, my pathetic attempts at making cloth masks and my obsession with working on my grocery order to be delivered to the house.

This was a very good workshop. I've never read anything by Messner, but she's well known and well regarded in the New England SCBWI world. The content, as well as the presentation, of this workshop suggests the buzz is well deserved.

More importantly, though, was how I took this workshop. In addition to taking it in my living room, perhaps in my yoga pants (I can't remember), because this thing was archived, I could go back to repeat things I missed, such as the title of a book she mentioned. I was able to stop it altogether for a while so I could put something in the oven for dinner.

Additionally, I did not have to put in an hour or two of driving to and from a site, which I have sometimes had to do for workshops. I did not have to get up early. I did not have to hunt around the day before to make sure I had something to wear. I did not have to decompress after I got home.

But It's Not Just About Me

A friend from my writers' group attended a day-long NESCBWI event last month that had to be switched to a remote program. She came away with contacts she could make submissions to and, as she pointed out, she saved time and gas money because she didn't have to drive to the southern part of the state to attend this.

The Cons Of Digital Workshops


Yes, I have attended some on-line programming over the years that wasn't terrific. That was even lame. But that's also true of events I've attended in the flesh. I once went to a workshop led by a very famous children's author who clearly hadn't prepared and didn't even know he was scheduled to be there for two hours. I lost the money I paid to see him, but also the time and effort it took to get there and home again. If we'd done that whole thing over the Internet, I would have lost only one of those three things.

"You make connections at real world events, Gail," some of you may tell me. No, I don't. And while it's true there are agents and editors out there who are closed to submissions unless they come from writers they've encountered at conferences, in my experience, they're open to everyone who attended the conference, not just the ones in their workshops. They can still do that with writers who've signed up and paid for virtual workshops. My writers' group friend is a case in point.

I Don't Believe In Predictions

There's no telling what life is going to be like after a few million people have spent six weeks or much, much more at home. It may not be any different at all. But if change does come, it might come because people end up liking some of what they were doing on their own. It remains to be seen how many people like saving time on their professional short-term learning experiences, and if we start seeing more and more workshops and presentations offered on-line.  

Monday, April 13, 2020

Some April Book Releases

A round-up of books that were released or will be released this month. These are titles I've stumbled upon through social media.

April 7, The Elephants' Guide to Hide-and-Seek by Kjersten Hayes with Gladys Jose illustrating.  Sourcebooks is the publisher 
A debut picture book.

April 7, Dive In by Roxie Munro with Holiday House publishing. Munro has written/illustrated more than 40 books for children and has also designed apps.

April 14 Finally, Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett Random House publisher  A debut

I also found The On-Sale Calendar: April 2020 Children's Books published back in October, 2019 at Publishers Weekly. I was blown away by this. Usually when authors or bloggers says something like that, they mean, I was blown away by these wonderful titles! Or I was blown away by the quality of these titles. But this is Gail we're talking about and those kinds of responses are on the warm and fuzzy side for me. When have you heard me do warm and fuzzy?

No, I was blown away, shocked, because the list includes the size of the printing for most of the titles, and they are huge! The smallest number I saw was 10,000. Believe me, the first printings of some children's books are way under that. Then there are a lot of books coming in at 50,000, 75,000, 100,000 and even more. This indicates that last fall, some publishers were feeling very confident.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Easter And Peter Rabbit

Many years ago, when I was doing the Room Mother thing at my sons' school, if you can imagine that, I volunteered to be responsible for the spring party for my younger boy's second grade classroom. Our school wanted to eliminate Easter parties, because observing Easter in a public school was too much like observing a religious holy day. Christmas, it can be argued, is losing its religious connection, but Easter, not so much. Evidently the administrators felt taking away a party was too much to ask of kids and probably their parents. And, thus, the Spring Party was invented.

I went with a Beatrix Potter theme, because her Peter Rabbit stories meant we could still have chocolate eggs and bunnies. But, additionally, there is so much about Potter that can work in a classroom. Someone could do an entire unit on her and include literature, writing, art, nature, women's history, and probably more.

Which brings me to Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit by Linda Elovitz Marshall with illustrations by Ilaria Urbinati, which was published by Little Bee Books this past January. The book deals with Potter as a conservationist, another aspect of the writer that could be covered in a school unit.

Author Jama Kim Rattigan has an impressive and extensive post about Saving the Countryside at her personal blog, Jama's Alphabet Soup. In addition to information about and images from the book, she has Potter collectibles to share and a recipe from Beatrix Potter's Country Cooking by food writer and food historian Sara Paston-Williams.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Environmental Book Club

I meant to fire up my Enviromental Book Club feature last Thursday as part of an April-long Earth Day observance. What with collecting info on April and May book releases, so I can mention them at some point here, and obsessing over making cloth face masks, the beginning of April slipped my mind. And by "obsessing over making cloth face masks," I mean that I'm getting close to slipping into a dark, Tana French world and someone from the Connecticut version of the Dublin Murder Squad is going to be sniffing around here soon.

But until then, I hope to get at least a couple of Environmental Book Club posts up on Thursdays this month. And today I can tell you that The Nature Generation has announced the long list for its Green Earth Book Award. A quick scan immediately brings up an interesting point, which is that there are only two YA titles.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Mattie Ross In "True Grit"

On Monday, J.L. Bell of Oz and Ends (and Boston 1775) posted about True Grit by Charles Portis, who just died in February. If, like John and me, you feel True Grit is a masterpiece, you'll want to read his interesting take on main character Mattie Ross. Check out the comments to his piece for further discussion from the two of  us.

In short, John says he "came to view the character of Mattie Ross through the lens of autism spectrum disorder." I view her through the lens of feminism. Yesterday, I read this appreciation of Charles Portis by Kaleb Horton at Slate.  Horton concludes, "Portis’ novels about losers from Arkansas have aged so well because he understood something about America: We’re a profoundly individualistic country." Now I think Mattie Ross can just be Mattie Ross.

Right now you can get the Kindle edition of True Grit for a $1.99. I just bought it, because True Grit is the rare book that I've read and thought, I'd really like to have this. My goodness, you can get all the Kindle editions of his books for $1.99 each. I just bought Norwood, too, because Kaleb Horton says it's Portis' most "joke-dense."

As part of my observance of Original Content's 18th anniversary year, here's a dip into the archive about my read of True Grit back in 2012: Gritty Reading On My Kindle.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

April 7 Book Release: Remembering Ethan

Remembering Ethan, a  picture book by NESCBWI colleague Leslea Newman, releases today.

Remembering Ethan, illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop and published by Magination Press, deals with a child grieving the loss of an older sibling.

Leslea Newman is the author of sixty-five books (if I've counted correctly), thirty-six of them picture books, and her work has been included in nine anthologies. In addition to Remembering Ethan, two other Newman books are publishing this year, Welcoming Elijah (January) and Song of the Coquis/Cancion de los Coquis.

She is also the author of Hachiko Waits, which I heard her speak about many years ago. Because evidently I just keep almost running into this woman. But that's New England childlit for you.

I apologize for not knowing how to insert symbols into Blogger text, so I can't spell Leslea's first name correctly. Here is a sound file on how to pronounce it.

Monday, April 06, 2020

The Incredible Whiteness of YA

I stumbled upon Psych402, creative nonfiction by Lily Watson in an issue of Longleaf Review. Cannot recall how that happened, but it's an interesting piece about an African American college student's reactions to the YA reading list in one of her courses. It's not so much about the books, more about the discussion of these books that were almost all very white.

I've read three of the books Watson discusses.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Watson couldn't relate to the characters in this book. As a general rule, I don't feel a need to relate to characters in YA books, because I'm older than mud and that's just not going to happen. But I wasn't a major fan of this book, either. My issue was that it was just women's stories for girls. If the characters had been adults instead of teenagers, it would have been just another women's book. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Evidently there is, as Watson puts it in a footnote, a tragic love story about people named Brad and Patrick in this book. I have no recollection of that. Watson makes a very interesting point about how white depression and black depression are perceived.  What struck me about Wallflower was the lack of adults noticing anything that was going on with these characters. I found it unbelievable that "Over the course of an entire school year no parents noticed anything, not even that their brandy was disappearing faster than it should have been? Charlie has a history of mental illness and ends up seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication. He also has caring parents. They had a child that fragile and never noticed that he'd started drinking and doing drugs? They never even smelled cigarettes on him and realized he was smoking?" 

We Were Liars. This book I actually liked. Watson found it devastating, which I definitely understand. She mentions racism in the book, something that others have noted. I think I noticed it while I was reading the book last year, but I was reading it as a thriller mentor text, that's what I was looking for, and that's what I recall. I was fixated on the ending. If I had all the time in the world, I would read this book over again as a result of reading Watson's essay.

Interesting personal tidbit: Lily Watson attended Wesleyan University here in Connecticut. I live about 40 minutes from there. I also live about 40 minutes from the University of Connecticut. I'm not sure if I've ever driven by the Wesleyan campus. I've been to any number of events at UConn, as well as taking a graduate class there. I am definitely a state university woman.

Friday, April 03, 2020

YA Historical Thriller...Ah...Mystery

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines was one of my thriller/mystery reads. Reading it met an objective for one of my 2020 goals. 

The Girl is Murder, published in 2011, reads like the set-up to a series, and a second book about its main character, Iris Anderson, was published in 2012. Iris and her father have hit a bad patch financially. Mom killed herself, and we're not sure what that was about. Pop lost a leg at Pearl Harbor and while the war continues, he is trying to make a go of it as a private detective. Things are not going well with that, and he and Iris have had to board with a nice landlady in a lesser part of town. Iris has also had to leave her private school to attend a public one. She wants to help with the family business. Dad says no. When a hot classmate turns up missing, Iris starts a hunt, anyway.

I didn't find the mystery here that compelling or interesting, particularly since Iris, herself, didn't solve it. And it was kind of anti-climatic.

The historical setting was pretty amazing, though. Haines, who writes adult mysteries as well as the two Iris Anderson volumes for YAs, appears to specialize in the World War II era. Not having been there, myself, I can't say that she's got that period down pat, but she sure creates an impressive world, right down to voice.

I believe that as far as world-building is concerned, historical fiction rivals science fiction. The Girl is Murder proves my point.

When I've been writing here about mysteries and thrillers, I've been using the term interchangeably. Mystery, Thriller, or Suspense: Does the Label Matter? by Stacy Woodson at DIY MFA suggests I shouldn't.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

April 1 Book Release: Hound Won't Go

Hound Won't Go, a rhyming picture book by NESCBWI colleague  Lisa Rogers, releases today.

Hound Won't Go, illustrated by Meg Ishihara and published by Albert Whitman, deals with a 
stubborn dog who won't budge until it starts to rain.

Lisa Rogers is also the author of 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and "The Red Wheelbarrow," which was a Junior Library Guild selection, and magazine profiles focusing on art. Hound Won't Go was inspired by Rogers' experience with her rescue coonhound, and she has a guest post on the subject at the Coonhound & Foxhound Companions blog

Regarding Rogers' first book, 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and "The Red Wheelbarrow": Every time I see something about this book, I think, I've got to read that Red Wheelbarrow poem. Because, you know, it's kind of famous. And then I forget about it. Then I also think, Maybe if I read 16 Words, I could skip reading the poem.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tomie dePaola In Connecticut

Yesterday afternoon, the news that author and illustrator Tomie dePaola had died at the age of 85 after falling earlier in the week quickly took over my Facebook page. I know an impressive number of people who had their picture taken with dePaola and/or have a Tomie story.

Tomie dePaola was born in Meriden, Connecticut and maintained connections with that city and this state. Beginning in 2001 he wrote a series of seven autobiographical books about growing up at 26 Fairmount Avenue in Meriden immediately before and during World War II. In 2011 the Meriden Public Library renamed its children's wing for him, and in 2018 it had to turn people away when he made an appearance there.

In 1999 dePaola donated professional materials to the Northeast Children's Literature Collection at The University of Connecticut. The University celebrated with a day-long symposium-type event. It was probably for educators. Around that time, I managed to attend a number of teacher literary events at UConn, because I had somehow gotten onto a teacher mailing list through a parent/teacher reading group I took part in at my sons' high school. So, yes, I crashed the Tomie party. That fall the William Benton Museum on UConn's Storrs campus also ran an exhibit of his work, The Heart of the Whitebird: The Art of Tomie dePaola. In October of that year, UConn awarded dePaola an honorary doctorate, one of nine he received.

And, finally, dePaola frequently was a featured author/illustrator at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair, most recently in 2018. I saw him signing there one year. The Fair had placed him on the far wall of the ballroom. The line of people waiting to speak to him went through the room, almost to the door. All the other writers signing just sat there and watched.

There was no Connecticut Children's Book Fair last year, and, personally, I have my doubts about whether it will come back, even if the U.S. is back to some kind of normal this fall. If it does, it will probably be a very long time before before the Fair finds as big a draw as Tomie dePaola willing to come out to a remote state university campus to support it.

The Connecticut children's literature world will surely miss his presence.

Edited to Add: Billie M. Levy interviews Tomie dePaola regarding the UConn event in 1999 held in honor of his donation of his archives to the University.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronavirus Cancellations In Childlit

Over the coming weeks I will be covering book launches within the children's literature world and other childlit-related events that are cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in this country. You can help out these authors by spreading the word about their new books, following them on social media, recommending their books to your libraries, and, of course, purchasing them when you can. I'm collecting this information on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Many more authors and illustrators will be affected who you won't see here.

The Only Black Girls In Town

On March 12th, Brandy Colbert announced that her March tour dates for her  middle grade novel The Only Black Girls in Town have been cancelled.

The Only Black Girls in Town, published by Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers, deals with the only two black girls in town, one a newcomer, who find a box of old journals and set to work to determine what that's about.

Brandy Colbert is the author of five books for young people and a contributor to anthologies. She is also a teacher in a MFA program and a copy editor.

My Life As A Potato

March and April events for My Life As A Potato by Arianne Costner have been postponed.    

My Life As A Potato, published by Penguin Random House, is about a boy forced to become a school mascot. It is Arianne Costner's debut book.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Social Isolation Is Improving My Technology Skills

Thursday night I attended a Greater Hartford SCBWI Meet and Greet. By way of Zoom. Someone in my family decided to memorialize the moment with a picture, which post!

This was a come-as-you-are event. I want credit for having replaced the flannel shirt I'd been wearing for days (and have on as I type this) with a cleanish cardigan. For some reason, I also felt compelled to brush my teeth. However, if you look very closely, you can see I wasn't wearing socks.

In order to take part in this event, I had to learn how to use Zoom. By which I mean another family member got me set up. Remotely. Because he ran through a practice with me, I got to see him, which was an additional benefit. It appears I can take part in Zoom meetings, if someone else is hosting and sends me an invitation. I don't know how to initiate anything myself. (Like I'm ever going to want to initiate a gathering, even on-line.) That's what I mean by having learned "how to use Zoom."

On Monday I'm signing up to try to get into a SCBWI workshop conducted through Zoom. There are a number of those kinds of workshops coming up in the next few weeks I may be able to be part of.

This is a big tech step forward.

But We're Not Just Talking Zoom!

In the last two weeks I've also learned how to insert photos and images into word documents so I can write illustrated letters to family members. This is a ridiculously easy thing to do. I should have tried it long ago.

I also learned how to "show this thread" on Twitter, for a long-involved reason that is also connected to what I've been doing recently. Another ridiculously easy thing to do. Embarrassed I never tried it before.

There Must Be Historical Precedent For This

I am sure there are all kinds of examples of cultures making technological advances, because they needed to respond to illness or war or natural disaster. I'm guessing someone has also written on  individuals who have done the same thing. It's definitely happening for me.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Malka Penn Award Goes To "The White Rose"

The White Rose by Kip Wilson has won the 2019 Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children's Literature.  This is the third year for the award, which was  established in part by writer Michele Palmer who has written children's books under the name Malka Penn. The award also is connected with the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.

The White Rose is a novel-in-verse dealing with the White Rose resistance movement in Germany during World War II. Kip Wilson has published an extensive amount of short fiction and nonfiction. The White Rose is her first book.

Honor Books 


Four Malka Penn honor books were named this year:

The awards ceremony is scheduled for April 23 at the Thomas Dodd Research Center on the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut.

On April 11, 2018: Author of "My Beautiful Birds" Wins First Malka Penn Award

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

March Book Release: When the Babies Came to Stay

When the Babies Came to Stay by Christine McDonnell with illustrations by Jeanette Bradley was published yesterday by Viking.

According to the book description, four unrelated babies arrive by different means on an island. A librarian ends up raising them in the library. Which is, of course, where many of us wish we'd grown up.

McDonnell is the author of ten children's book, across all age groups. Bradley's debut book was published in 2018, and she is co-editor and illustrator of an anthology being published in September.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Good News! I Got A Rejection This Weekend!

I received a rejection late Saturday for an adult novel that I started thinking about, sort of, back in college. And then thought about some more in the '90s. And started working on many years ago and finished last year. I made this submission less than two weeks ago, on the Tuesday of the week everything went to hell.

I assumed that would be my last book submission for years, maybe ever, because I never recovered professionally after the economy sunk into the toilet in 2008. Publishing was hard hit then, I just accepted that the same thing is going to happen as a result of this month's/year's pandemic turmoil. I thought I would shift to short-form work and try to publish with journals, on-line and off, paid or not.

That was my plan to maintain a writing life.

But I've seen a few things on Twitter and Facebook that suggest that there's a little activity going on with editors and agents. And then I got this rejection.

Why Is The Rejection A Good Thing? 


Because that rejection means that agent is working. She hasn't thrown in the towel. And she could. She's in Seattle. But she's still working, and working on a Saturday.

So I will continue to work, too. I just generated half a page of new work!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus Cancellations In Childlit

Over the coming weeks I will be covering book launches within the children's literature world and other childlit-related events that are cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in this country. You can help out these authors by spreading the word about their new books, following them on social media, recommending their books to your libraries, and, of course, purchasing them when you can. I'm collecting this information on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Many more authors and illustrators will be affected who you won't see here.

Today's author info relates to events that appeared on the March Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar and includes nonbook launch appearances. These are followed by some Massachusetts news.

Amphibian Acrobats

R. J. Julia Bookseller's (Madison, Ct.) Event Calendar has been cleared until the end of the month. Leslie Bulion was to have appeared there on Saturday, March 21. Her March 22 Byrd's Books (Bethel, Ct.) appearance has been rescheduled to June 5, 5:30 to 7:30
Both dates supported her book, Amphibian Acrobats.

Amphibian Acrobats, published by Peachtree Publishing Company and illustrated by Robert Meganck, is a nonfiction book dealing with amphibians around the world.

Leslie Bulion is the author of six other books for children, which have been named to lists sponsored by such organizations as the NCTE, Bank Street College, and Book Sense.

A Galaxy of Sea Stars 


The Barnes and Noble in West Hartford, Ct. has no events listed for the rest of the month. Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo was to have appeared there on Saturday, March 21 in support of her latest book, A Galaxy of Sea Stars.

A Galaxy of Sea Stars, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux,  involves an eleven-year-old American girl whose family sponsors a family from Afghanistan that includes a girl her own age.

Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo is also the author of Ruby in the Sky, which won a number of awards before publication.

Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale With A Tail

Leslea Newman's March 29 appearance at the River Bend Bookshop in Glastonbury has been cancelled. She was to have read her new book, Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale With A Tail.

Welcoming Elijah, published in January by Charlesbridge and illustrated by Susan Gal, is the story of a young boy celebrating Passover with his family while a kitten observes from outside the house.

Newman is the author of numerous books that have won multiple awards. More importantly, she was at the University of Vermont around the same time I was. Seriously, we overlapped on campus two years. Additionally, she was at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference as a participant the year after I finished my three summers there as the pastry assistant in the kitchen! This is amazing! (I feel that I may have noted this info sometime over the years in a post about Newman, though I can't find it. Well, if I have told people about this before, all I can say is that it is well worth repeating.)

Other Cancellations

The Public Library of New London, Ct. is closed as of last Friday, March 13. Katie L. Carroll and Patrick Scalisi were to have appeared at the library's Local Author Fest on Sat., March 28.

The Storytellers' Cottage in Simsbury, Ct.  is closed for the rest of the month. Joyce Lapin was to have appeared there on March 21st.

The New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators spring conference on May 1   through May 3 has been cancelled.

The New England SCBWI art show, Art From the Heart, at the Wedeman Gallery, Lasell College, from May 8-30, has been cancelled.

La Francophonie Day: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

Well, mes amis, we have reached the official La Francophonie Day, and my final La Francophonie Day post. Today I am discussing an American book written in English but set in a Francophone country, Haiti. French is an official language there, but, significantly, so is Haitian Creole.

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite starts out with a lot of humor about a Haitian American girl, Alaine Beauparlant, working on a Latin American history project on Haiti's history. Two of my favorite things--history and humor. I was psyched. The story veers off to dealing with Alaine's mother's health, her aunt's high-level work in Haitian government, a family curse, and a college boy. It was a little trop pour moi. But on the other hand, that's how a lot of YA books are. They're piled with many elements.

As exposure to another culture, though, Dear Haiti works very well. There's some French, there's more Creole, there's food, there's a lot of beautiful scenery. There's good presentation on the wealth versus poverty aspect of the country. The book definitely left this reader interested in Haiti.

Since my focus this week has been on language and culture, I'm going to bring up a point about the main character's last name, Beauparlant. I read that as meaning something like beautiful talk. And, sure enough, it's a surname meaning "fine speaking." Alaine is the daughter of a well-known on-air journalist with plans to become a journalist, herself. An excellent name for her. I spend a lot of time sweating over the names for my characters. I found this one very apt.

A La Francophonie Day Roundup

Links to this week's La Francophonie Day posts here at Original Content:

A Break From Angst To Celebrate La Francophonie Day

La Francophonie Day: Manon Gauthier

La Francophonie Day: Who Left The Lights On?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

La Francophonie Day: Who Left The Light On?

Today's La Francophonie Day post features a book from Restless Press, a company that publishes English editions of books from around the world. Who Left the Light On? is a picture book written by Richard Marnier and illustrated by Aude Maurel. It was translated by Emma Ramadan.

Who Left the Light On? is described by its publisher as being "about a uniform, monotonous village where all the neighbors follow the same rules of how their homes should look and when it’s okay to turn on the lights—until one day someone decides to turn on the lights at the “wrong” time."

Emma Ramadan wrote Five Translators on the Joys and Challenges of Translating Children's Books for Words Without Borders. She begins the piece discussing her own work translating Who Left the Light On?