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Look, I’m back. I can stick with it, I can!
The truth is, the one time I put a water bottle in my computer bag- it leaked. My computer spent some time in a box of rice over the heater (per instructions my husband found on the internet) and then it went to a guru. Everybody kept saying it would be fine as long as I took the battery out- but the new Macbook Pros have nonremovable batteries. Gah! We got it back tonight, and it has a couple of permanent water spots on the screen and needs a new airport card- but everything else is superduper. Yeehah! I will never bag a beverage again.
The Onion examines an authors exploitation of innocent, interspecific friendship.
The Longstockings are calling for a new manuscript to critique.
If you just ventured out from your cave, there were some book awards this week. I did pretty well with predictions. How about you?
Congratulations all around! Great Kid Books has the list broken down by reading level.
The BBC has produced a video about the real toy story of what happens when a teddy bear is home alone. Some people might not appreciate the audio at the end, but I am a different sort of people. Thanks to Minor Details for the link.
If you’re going to New York next week for the SCBWI Winter Conference (or if you’re there already), there are a few extra events happening around town you might be interested in.
Once again Betsy Bird is throwing a Kidlit Drink Night to go along with the conference. I went last year and had tons of fun. Her partner in revelry, Cheryl Klein, will sadly be out of town. But, we’ll live it up in her honor on Friday.
And then back at Books of Wonder on Saturday from 12-2 you can catch the opening of illustrator John Rocco‘s exhibition of Percy Jackson art. His editor will be there as well talking about the process of developing the art for the series.
Closer to home- SCBWI WWA’s 19th Annual Conference registration is OPEN! I’m so excited! Peter Brown! Jay Asher! Laini Taylor! Mitali Perkins! and LOADS of other great people. Look! I’m even on there. Under “Distinguished Faculty.” Ha! I’m giving a talk on the very basics of social media for writers and illustrators. People come to the conference from all over, so don’t be shy if you’re not local. Registration is already almost half full- so don’t delay.
Did you register yet??
I had an unplanned blog hiatus there for a while. I don’t know how it is for you, but if I haven’t blogged for a few days I feel like I should post something big, and so I wait for an idea/news/etc. A few more days pass and then it’s been even longer and I get out of the habit. Throw in the holidays, visitors, kittens, flu season- and a month goes by. I’m a girl in a bubble. Or a jello mold. Yes, I’m a pineapple tidbit encased in lime jello.
So, that’s where I’ve been. I’m still overwhelmed and I STILL don’t have anything too important to say, but I want to get back into the habit.
I’m reading the Cybils finalists. So many great stories! I’m a judge for the middle grade fiction category, but I’ve been reading books from the other lists as well. So many awesome stories to be read- like Joni Sensel’s The Farwalker’s Quest! I just read the ARC for the sequel, The Timekeeper’s Moon. Great stuff!
Congratulations to all the finalists for middle grade fiction:
Even though he’s smart and capable, Newt is the neglected younger brother of a high school football star, mostly content with sliding through the cracks of life. Then a couple of events–his older brother ends up in a coma the night of the Big Game and Newt is forced to improvise a Halloween costume–coincide to spur the creation of a new superhero: Captain Nobody. Newt finds that he feels different when in his costume: stronger, more outgoing, more able to handle…well, everything (within reason, of course) that’s thrown his way. Hilarious, fun, and completely charming, this is one superhero that the world can’t do without.
Anderson has taken the historical facts of the American Revolution and given us a new perspective. Chains is told through the eyes of Isabel, a slave girl. Sold after her master dies, Isabel is thrust into the middle of the war where both sides claim they want what is best for her. She passes along messages to the Loyalists only to learn that the only one she can trust to help her gain her freedom is herself. Anderson has presented a story that with the proper foundation can be read, enjoyed and understood by the youngest to the oldest middle-grade student. War is always a tough topic but the details were intricately woven into Isabel’s life. It can be read as a stand-alone book and yet Anderson has left it open enough for a sequel.
–Sandra Stiles, Musings of a Book Addict
There is much to love in Nora Raleigh Baskin’s Anything But Typical. The writing–in particular the narrative voice–feels so genuine: vulnerable and heartfelt; simple yet beautiful. Almost poetic. The book stars Jason Blake, an autistic hero, who loves to write stories and participate in online forums. When his parents surprise him with a trip to the Storyboard writing convention, you might think he’d be happy instead of terrified. But for Jason the thought of meeting his online friend, PhoenixBird, in real life causes nothing but anxiety. Everyone has moments of insecurity and doubt, and to see these reflected so honestly in Jason feels more than right.
Twelve-year-old Ignatius Alderman discovers the “heart of a shepherd” as he helps his grandparents take care of the family ranch when his father is deployed to Iraq. Nicknamed “Brother,” Ignatius is the youngest of five brothers, named for St. Ignatius, and searching for his own gifts, talents and career path. He’s not sure that ranching or military service, the two traditions that dominate his family, are truly his gifts. And although he learns to live up to his responsibilities, it will take a major crisis for Brother to find his own right road to maturity.
The book is rather quiet, the pacing slow and deliberate, like Brother himself. Even when the crisis comes, it sneaks up on the reader rather than announcing itself with trumpets. In addition to its coming-of-age theme, Heart of a Shepherd also has lots of little details about ranching life and rural Oregon and the life of a soldier in Iraq and even about chess. These will capture the young reader who’s interested in any of those subjects and make him pay attention to the larger themes in the book. This debut novel by author Roseanne Parry is a treat to be savored.
Matt Pin is haunted by his memories of Vietnam. He was born a bui doi, the dust of life — son of an American GI and Vietnamese mother during the Vietnam War. He was airlifted out of Vietnam at ten years old, leaving behind his mother and brother. Through the course of this verse novel, Matt is forced to come to terms with his with his horrifying past and his American present.
The spare, poetic format of the story allows the reader to feel like they have entered Matt’s head and heart. All the Broken Piecesis a gorgeous novel that captures the emotional and physical rubble left in the aftermath of a war. The free verse is incredibly well-written and not a single word is used when it isn’t necessary. This powerful novel will satisfy even the most anti-poetry readers but many of the verses will remain in the heart and mind of the reader for days afterward.
Operation Yes is a story that revolves around cousins Bo and Gari. Bo’s father is in charge of a military base in the south and Gariâ’s mother is deployed to Afghanistan; so Gari must relocate from Seattle to live with her cousin. They are both in the same sixth grade class and their teacher teaches in a box about the importance of life outside the box. What makes this story a standout is how kids can overcome tough times and show adults what they are capable of when they work together.
Popeye is dreading the boring summer that stretches out before him…until Elvis arrives in a broken-down motor home and the two boys start exploring the back woods, investigating the mysterious Yoo-Hoo boats that come floating down the creek. Barbara O’Connor’s book manages to be laugh-out-loud funny and still deal with more serious subject matter without veering into Depressing. This is a rather quiet book for anyone who’s been bored and dreams of having small adventures.
Speaking of great middle grade fiction- do you remember a few months ago when Fuse #8 accumulated that massive list of everyone’s favorite picture books? She’s doing it again- with chapter books! Send her your votes for the best chapter books. I had fun making my favorite picture books list, so I’m going to have to give this some thought.
We are a week away from launching registration for SCBWI Western Washington‘s conference on April 10-11. We just got the poster from the printer yesterday, so I’ll share it with you in a few days, along with more details. It’s going to be a very cool conference.
Did you make any resolutions? I’ve been chewing a few around, but they’re not set in stone yet. Who says you have to start on the 1st? I’m resolving to blog more regularly, and have my primary focus be on middle grade books with author interviews and such. I’m going to give morning writing another shot. I prefer to write at night when I can just go until I’m sleepy, but then I start the next day tired. Maybe if I can get into the groove, it will make me more efficient knowing that I need to wrap things up before the kids need to get ready for their days.
I’m getting excited about the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York at the end of the month. Yay!
Last but not least, my sweet husband bought me an iPhone for Christmas. Great googily moogily, I love this thing. Any apps you recommend? Lemme know!
Happy 2010! Bring it on!
It’s time to nominate your favorite books for the Cybils!
Then, go pick up a copy of Laini Taylor and Jim DiBartolo‘s Lips Touch Three Times, available today. Why should you pick it up? Because I read the ARC, and it’s wonderful. Because their editor, Arthur Levine, spontaneously cheered when reading an excerpt at the YA Buzz panel at BEA. Because Laini and Jim are made out of awesome. I’ll post a little interview with Laini in the next few days.
If you’re in Seattle, mark your calendar for October 24-25 for the newly resurrected Bookfest. I’ll be on the Secret Garden KidsStage hosting some crazy MadLibs on Saturday and Sunday, because Penguin is celebrating 50 years of filling in the blanks with silliness. So, stop by- but leave the rotten tomatoes at home. I hear Martha Brockenbrough is hosting a Grammar Bee as well. Fun stuff!
I have a little bet going with that very same Martha B. to finish my rough draft by the end of the month, so I’ll be going now.
I met Ann this summer at the SCBWI Summer Conference. We started chatting and I really liked her, even before it clicked that she was the fabulous writer that my friend Jolie had been telling us about. I loved Also Known as Harper, and it’s always great to know that authors are just as lovely as their books.
WT: Tell us about your novel, Also Known as Harper.
AHL: Harper Lee Morgan is an aspiring poet, which isn’t surprising, seeing as how she’s named after her mama’s favorite writer, Harper Lee. And life is giving her a lot to write about just now. Daddy up and walked out, leaving them broke. Then Harper’s family gets evicted.
With Mama scrambling to find work, Harper has to skip school to care for her little brother, Hemingway. Their lives have been turned upside down, which Harper could just about handle—if it wasn’t for the writing contest at school. She wants nothing more than to get up on that stage and read her poems out loud . . .it is about perseverance, with some hope and humor mixed in.
WT: Where did the idea come from, and how was your road to publication?
AHL: I volunteer at my local soup kitchen with my family. Harper isn’t based on any one child in the meal center, but more on a feeling I got when I saw the children standing there in line with their parents. I wondered what their lives might actually be like.
I’d love to say, my road to publication, was smooth, without any forks, but I’ve been writing stories since I was about four years old and I have a whole room full of rejection letters! I just kept writing and trying to make my manuscripts the best they could be. I joined SCBWI and tried to listen carefully to comments made in manuscript critiques and workshops. After a while, I started to get some “good” rejection letters with personal notes jotted on them. A couple of years ago, I read an interview with an agent that really caught my eye. I had just finished the manuscript of ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER, and I sent him a couple of chapters. He made some suggestions and when I did some revisions and sent it back to him, he offered to represent me.
WT:How different was your final draft from your first draft? Any big changes?
AHL: Hmmm…that’s a difficult question! The idea stayed the same, for the most part, but I’m very lucky to have a very hands-on agent and a wonderful editor. They are both incredibly good at coaxing more out of me!
WT: Why was it important for you for Harper to write poetry?
AHL: I think it is easy for a child in a situation like Harper’s to feel invisible. Writing poetry was a way for Harper to feel “heard” and worthwhile.
WT: You deal with serious themes of homelessness, alcoholism, abandonment- how have readers responded?
AHL: I am a teacher and I think the most difficult response for me to take came from a student who was in a temporary housing facility. One of the other teachers bought her a copy of ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER. The little girl came into my classroom to ask me to sign the book and said, “Harper’s life is my life.” I had to turn away for a second and pretend like I was busy with something on my computer, because I didn’t want her to see me cry! She was standing there with such a strong, wise look. It was hard to see that in her eyes.
WT: What have you done for promotion- online and/or in-person?
AHL: I have really enjoyed doing blog interviews and bookstore and school visits. A few weeks ago, I went to the library in Auburn, Washington, where I got my first library card. I thought I was going to talk to a teen writing group, but a whole bunch of other people started walking in: my first grade teacher, my third grade teacher, the principal of my elementary school, my middle school English teacher….it was pretty overwhelming!
WT: That’s so cool! What are you working on now?
AHL: I have another middle-grade novel coming out (also with Henry Holt/Macmillan) next year. It is called SEARCHING FOR EZEKIEL and is about two young girls, dealing with a mother who I hope will bring out conflicting emotions in the reader…
WT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
AHL: I LOVE to read. I always have! I also like to run and do karate. My fourteen-year-old daughter and I just took our second degree black belt tests together!
WT: How do you stay in touch with the writing community (e.g. critique group, SCBWI, social media, etc.)?
AHL: I love SCBWI; their conferences and workshops have been invaluable to me. I am a member of two critique groups, and I don’t know what I’d do without them! One of the critique groups has three other members and we have been together for over six years. I also am on Facebook, I just joined Twitter and I have a blog (www.annhaywoodleal.blogspot.com).
WT: What have you enjoyed reading recently?
What a week! My son started first grade at a new school, SCBWI Western Washington kicked off a new season, my in-laws are visiting, and I accepted a little challenge to finish this draft of my manuscript by Halloween. Oof.
My question about middle grade authors really struck a nerve with people. Some readers speculated that YA authors blog more for teen readers- but I’m talking about support in the writing community. I’ve been paying extra attention to the YA and MG blogs I read, and the comments seem to be from the others in the kid lit community- not kids or teens (with exceptions like Maureen Johnson and Libba Bray). YA authors are online talking to each other, promoting each other, supporting each other, and building buzz in a way that middle grade authors just don’t.
So, can we take up the challenge? I think we can! We can definitely do better. If anybody has any ideas, shout ‘em out- or send me an email at kcb at kimberlycbaker dot com. Let’s get organized!
I’m continuing my middle grade author interview series on Wednesday with someone who definitely has her own take on creating a middle grade novel- with beautiful results. You have until tonight for a chance to win a signed copy of Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s The Year the Swallows Came Early by commenting here.
Speaking of interviews and awesome middle grade writers- Kirby Larson interviews Trenton Lee Stewart on her blog. He has a new book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series coming out next month. Yippee!
Robin Mellom is rereading Judy Blume’s books, and sharing her impressions in the Great Judy Blume Experiment.
A house swap resource for creative folk only.
FSG editor (and middle grade author!) Lisa Graff will be on our faculty for the SCBWI WWA conference in April. Betsy at Fuse #8 posted a video Lisa made this morning…and I think we’re going to get along just fine. And Lisa, if this apprenticeship doesn’t work out, I bet we can find you a Washington cow to milk when you visit in April.
One more video, but it’s a doozy.
Insert a metaphor here, or just enjoy the facial expressions.