May 2016 Archives

Art is the most intense

Art is the most intense mode of individualism the world has ever known.
Oscar Wilde

In the time of the Dragon Moon

DragonMoon_m.jpgIn the time of the Dragon Moon (Kathy Dawson Books, 2015) by Janet Lee Carey is full of dragons and kings and fey folk, and a young healer's helper.

Uma Quarteney is half Euit and half English. She's been following in her Euit father's healer footsteps, but since she is a girl, she can't be the future Adan. Life changes abruptly when Uma and her father are kidnapped and taken to the Pendragon King's castle to heal the barren queen so she can have a second child. Their Euit village is held hostage. When Uma's father dies unexpectedly, she alone has to heal the mad queen to save the people of her village and her own life.

There's mystery and romance in this story as well as danger and intrigue.

Janet is an award winning author of fantasy and fiction and she's created another believable world with this book. Check her website for a complete list of her books.

The Chance You Won't Return

chance_hj_comp.jpgThe Chance You Won't Return (Candlewick, 2014) by Annie Cardi is a hard to put down story.

Alex Winchester's mother is delusional--she thinks she's Amelia Earhart. Junior Alex is trying to hold things together at home while her father is at work. She makes sure her younger siblings get up for school, fixes meals, and tries to make sure Mom says in the house. She can't tell anyone what's going on. Meanwhile, there's Jim, who's helping her get over her fear of driving, and might be her boyfriend. But as Mom worsens and Alex spends more time with Jim, Alex is disappearing from her own friends' lives. She's got to watch her mother so she won't totally disappear just like Amelia Earhart did.

Author Annie Cardi is also a short story writer. Read more about her at her website where she also has an active blog. Annie is represented by agent Taylor Martindale Kean, whom I met this past weekend. I loved seeing Taylor's enthusiasm for her author's books.

Solitude is as needful to

Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.
James Russell Lowell

The Fire Sermon

thefiresermon.jpgThe Fire Sermon (Gallery Books, 2015) by Francesca Haig is a book that grabs one from the opening line:
"I'd always thought they would come for me at night, but it was the hottest part of the day when the six men rode onto the plain."

It's the story of Cass and her twin Zach. She's an Omega and he's an Alpha. Although she's managed to hide her mutation way longer than most Omegas. Usually, deformities are obvious--missing or extra arm, blindness, deafness and Omega children are taken away after they are weaned. But one in a thousand of the twins, always a boy and girl pair, is a seer. Cass has nightmares of fire and later daytime visions, but has copied the behavior of her twin so as to not appear different. But now at thirteen she's been caught and is being taken away. Her family won't have have the shame of unsplit twins any longer. Although, Zach will never be free of her--what one twin feels, an illness or an injury, the other does. Including death.

This story is action-packed and is the first book in a post-apocalyptic trilogy. I look forward to reading the other books.

For further info about Francesca and the sequel to The Fire Sermon, go here.

The Crossover

CrossoverNewbery.jpgI'm late to the party to celebrate the 2015 Newbery medal book, The Crossover (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) by Kwame Alexander. But actually it's never too late to read a good book.

If you haven't read this believable novel in verse, I strongly recommend it. It'd be especially great for those reluctant readers as it is a very quick read and so accessible. Kids into sports will like it. It's fun to read for anyone!

That doesn't mean it's a piece of fluff by any means. Instead we experience the highs and lows with thirteen-year-old Josh and his twin Jordan (JB). His brother is thinking more about GIRLS than BASKETBALL. Will the brothers even be friends after this year?

booked.jpgKwame is the author of 21 books. His most recent novel Booked came out in April and looks great. Read more about the author/poet on his website.

The words you use and

The words you use and choose not to use do not merely describe reality, they create it.
James Slezak

These are not books lumps

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves.
Gilbert Highet

Do It Myself!

Remember the "do it myself!" toddler stage?wagon-988818_1920.jpg No, she doesn't want help getting dressed. He doesn't want to be pulled in the wagon; he wants to pull it. Ditto, stroller and pushing it. No, she doesn't want to hold your hand. And, yes, he'd rather feed himself despite the mess.

If a child never expresses that desire to learn, to do, to be independent, we'd be worried.

So what happens to us in adulthood? Why do we want our hands held? Why don't we want to do it ourselves?

I was reminded of this recently. I was washing my hands in the restroom at a writer's conference when a gal came in and said something like this, "Why didn't they indicate that she only does picture books? I'm a YA writer and that session was a total waste." When she noticed my faculty name badge, she got embarrassed and left abruptly.

What I wanted to say to her was, "Why didn't you do your homework? The conference website listed faculty bios. The online schedule and the schedule in our conference packets listed who was speaking when on what topic. Didn't you read all that?" I'll admit as faculty, I hadn't paid much attention to the other speakers beforehand. But that day I'd listened and had learned the editor had "a focus on early childhood-from board books to picture books and beginning readers." (Quote from her bio.) The YA writer could have chosen one of the other three breakouts instead of choosing to waste her time.

As an instructor of adults who want to write for children, I see adults who want hand-holding or special treatment. They don't follow the directions for an assignment and when challenged give excuses about how busy they are. Sometimes when we ask a student to redo a lesson, we hear comments such as, "I just want to graduate the course." I want to say, but don't, "So, why did you take the course? To learn to write for children? Or to get a meaningless certificate." If we graduate students without making them do the work, then our teaching, and the course is useless. Hmm, it takes a toddler a lot longer to dress herself than if a parent does it, but she ends up with satisfaction that she did it herself. And the more she practices, the better she gets. I often wonder where the pride in a job well done has gone missing for many adults.

I've also organized a lot of conferences and other events for children's writers and illustrators. Just like there can be deadlines on submitting to editors or agents, we'll have deadlines for early bird discounts, submitting homework or manuscripts, etc. We know everyone is busy, so we send out reminders of those deadlines. But inevitably a number of people miss deadlines and get upset at the organizers, who are volunteers. Keeping track of deadlines is part of the attendees' job--their homework.

Over and over at conferences one will hear attendees asking an editor or agent what type of manuscript they want to see. Often with a laugh the answer is "a well-written manuscript." Yes, the person will usually go on to say what genres appeal the most, etc. But in some ways, what attendees are asking is, "What's the magic to get published?" There isn't any. Just like there's no magic in a baby learning to walk. He tries and fails and tries again. But one day he succeeds and oh, the joy.

Seeing our writing improve because we worked hard can be satisfying. Knowing we did our best to be prepared means we don't have those "if only I'd..." regrets. Doing our homework can help us have intelligent conversations with faculty members. Which reminds me. I have a conference coming up, I'd better get off and do my homework!

Young readers are asking for

Young readers are asking for substance. They are asking for respect. They are asking for books that challenge, and confirm, and console. They are asking for us to listen to their questions and to help them find their own answers.
Karen Hesse