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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.

So…

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:

Captain Nobody
by Dean Pitchford
Putnam Juvenile
Nominated by: Dawn Mooney

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.
Melissa Fox

Chains
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: melissa

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

Anything But Typical
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Pam W Coughlan

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.
Becky Laney

Heart of a Shepherd
by Rosanne Parry
Random House Children’s Books
Nominated by: jone

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.
Sherry Early

All The Broken Pieces
by Ann Burg
Scholastic
Nominated by: Laurie Schneider

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.
Sarah Mulhern

Operation Yes
by Sara Lewis Holmes
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Laura Purdie Salas

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.
Kyle Kimmal

Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, The
by Barbara O’Connor
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Augusta Scattergood

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.
Abby Johnson

*****

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.

Then I can leave the nights to reading, leisure, and crafty activities. I might “Stay up and make something” as recommended by this poster that glows in the dark and smells like coffee.

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!

What better way to get back into blogging than Lee Wind & MotherReader‘s 2010 Comment Challenge?

Happy 2010! Bring it on!

I’m waiting for the rain and wind to let up and my little one to go down for a nap. Then I can go clean up the many chicken feathers that the raccoon left behind  when he decreased our chicken population from 3 to 2 last night. I’m still getting used to the idea of our chickens being pets/food-producers, and now they’re pets/food-producers/food. Gah!

That’s right! All glamour, all the time.

Let’s just focus on the future, ok?

Tomorrow and Sunday I will be on the Children’s Stage at Seattle Bookfest at 3 for wacky Mad Libs. With prizes! It’s a whole weekend of books and local authors and fun. Say hi if you’re there!

While we’re talking about where I’ll be when… I’ll be at the 2010  SCBWI Winter Conference January 29th-31st in New York City.  I was there last year, and had a great time (here’s the recap). Registration starts on October 28th!

If you have a something that is submission-ready, you might want to seriously consider signing up for the intensives on the 29th. I’m not sure how the illustrator intensive works, but for writers it’s like a group critique led by a mystery editor or agent. It’s not cheap, but if you have the scratch, it’s probably worth it. You won’t find out who you’re with until you pick up your badge at the registration table. Last year I was fortunate to have Michael Stearns and Liz Szabla lead my tables (!). They each gave fantastic, useful, different feedback.  There are many, many publishing success stories that sprung from these intensives (Just ask Jill Alexander or Holly Cupala.)

I eventually scrapped that particular manuscript in June, but I started something new in July and I should be wrapping up my rough draft this week (Wheeee!). Just in time for the revision retreat the first weekend of November and maybe the intensive, too.

Did you nominate books for the Cybils? Nominations are closed now, but there are plenty of recommendations.  First round panelists are super busy narrowing the long lists down to short lists. In the middle grade category, that’s where I come in! I’m a second round judge, and in great company. Look!

Panelists (Round I Judges):

Sherry Early, Semicolon
Melissa Fox, Book Nut
Abby Johnson, Abby the Librarian
Kyle Kimmal, The Boy Reader
Becky Laney, Becky’s Book Reviews
Sarah Mulhern, The Reading Zone
Sandra Stiles, Musings of a Book Addict

Round II Judges:

Kimberly Baker, Wagging Tales
Stacy Dillon, Welcome to my Tweendom
Monica Edinger, Educating Alice
David Elzey, Excelsior File
Kerry Millar Shelf Elf

cybilsbling

Any predictions for the short lists? Share ‘em in the comments!

Lots of good news:

Martha Brockenbrough sold a picture book (This news is a couple weeks old, but still awesome.)!

Author/Illustrator Kjersten Anna Hayes got an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest Writing Competition for Children’s/Young Adult fiction. Congratulations, Kjersten!

And this morning it was announced that Grace Lin’s wonderful Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was chosen for Al Roker’s Today Show Kid’s Book Club! Yay, Grace! You can see my interview with Grace about her process making Where the Mountain meets the Moon here.

I’ll have more interviews featuring fab middle grade authors soon, when things slow down a little bit.

And in the random news category: Ground Control to Major Tom You? Scientists are looking for a few good people to spend 520 days on a simulated trip to Mars.  You get a real trip to Moscow, and after a few days you won’t know if you’re on a real space ship or not.

Ok, it’s time for me to go outside, but first I’m going to watch one of my favorite videos ever. Happy weekend, everybody!

I think YA is well represented in the blogosphere. Lots of YA authors blog, and YA  releases generally get a lot of online buzz .  Picture books and middle-grade don’t seem to have as strong of an online presence (in my opinion, anyway). Why is that?Do you agree?

I like to post about general kid lit stuff and random things that interest me, but I’m going to try and have more of a focus on middle-grade fiction as well.

How, you ask?

Weekly author interviews and giveaways, I say!

I’ve asked a few of my favorite middle-grade authors with recent or upcoming releases to consent to be interviewed- and they’ve obliged! So, stay tuned for the first installment next week.

Meanwhile…

CuppaJolie has a contest for bravery on her blog.

Are you in Seattle? Consider a preview screening of Where the Wild Things Are with a Q&A with Dave Eggers to benefit 826 Seattle.

Mitali Perkins wrote an insightful note to young immigrants here.

Darcy Pattison has declared Random Acts of Publicity week starting on September 7. Promote some books!

Intriguing illustrator alert! Marie Desbons has illustrated French picture books, but we need some of that loveliness over here, no? Thanks to Decor8 for the link.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Are there any rules about blogging in a thunderstorm?  I kind of like it.

Holy noodles, that conference wore me out.  I haven’t blogged for two weeks because I was wading through conference prep.  I’ve barely written a thing.  It’s taken two days to get my brain back.  My feet are still sore, but I’m kind of excited about all the newfound free time.

I swiped this picture from Laini's blog.

I swiped this picture from Laini's blog.

I have something to show you from the conference, but someone who had to miss it has to see it first- so you have to wait.  I’ll post it around the end of the week, after I’ve heard this person has seen it.  Is that vague enough?

Let’s see… I think people who saw/met me at the conference who don’t know me might think I’m a little crazy.  I was sooo busy, and I didn’t have time to eat much, and I was drinking A LOT of coffee to keep myself going.  I might have looked a little wild eyed and been a little wound up.  Ok, I know I did.  Try me again on a regular day and I promise to be more serene.

It started with the kid lit drink night, which was a blast.  So much fun, in fact, that I stayed much later than I should have for a girl that had to wake up at 4 am the next day.  Ouch.

I loved meeting so many new people, and seeing friends.  I only caught bits and pieces of the breakout sessions, but the ones I saw were all aces. I did see most of the keynotes by Adam Rex, Grace Lin, Ellen Hopkins, and Jon Scieszka, and they were each unique and inspirational.

We raffled off a free registration for next year’s conference (won by Nuria Coe) to benefit Bridget Zinn, who couldn’t make it this year.  We kept it kind of secret, because I wasn’t sure how it would go- but our lovely attendees raised $1560!  Thank you, lovely attendees! The online auction is growing as well.  Jone added my bag a couple of weeks ago.  There are tons of other items available to bid on like a basket of middle grade books or a FULL manuscript consultation from the blunt (but still charming) Jody Feldman. Go bid on a fabulous prize, and support a writer to boot.

Ok, I have some revisions to get back to- so this is what you get.

Want to read more about the conference from people who could sit down and take it all in? Try here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here.

By the way, a great big congratulations to our portfolio show winner, Jennifer Mann! A big shout out to the first and second runners up, too Lisa Mundorff and John Deininger.

See you in a couple of days!

I met YA writer, librarian, & blogger Bridget Zinn at the Kidlitosphere conference last September.  She’s lovely, so it made me sad to hear that she’d developed colon cancer.  Jone MacCulloch (aka Deo Writer) is organizing a couple of fundraisers to help Bridget and her husband with the expensive treatment.  There will be an online auction starting next week that I’ll keep you posted about, and a silent auction in Portland on May 29th at the Lucky Lab. You can help by contributing something for the auction, or making a bid. Like the Holms!  Jennifer Holm is offering to name a character in an upcoming book after some lucky bidder, and Matt Holm is offering a school visit!

More details on Jone’s blog.

SCBWI’s 38th Annual Summer Conference is right around the corner, and they’ve posted the details.  It looks like a great time! Registration begins on May 5th, and the conference is August 7th-10th.  I will be there, will you?

Ambassador Jon Scieszka is rolling into town in a couple of weeks for our conference.  Have I mentioned that here?  Hmm, I can’t recall.  Anyhoo, if you’re not going to the conference, or even if you are but you can’t get enough of the ambassador (Who can?  He’s delightful.), than you should attend the soiree that Secret Garden Books is putting on with the CBC to celebrate Children’s Book Week.  It’s on May 14th at Secret Garden, and more details are here.

When you see George Clooney, do you think Kermit the Frog?  I did not.  Here’s a little editing exercise, via Michael Stearns on Facebook.

Sorry for the lack of posts, our family has been under the weather.  And by under the weather I mean fighting the Phlegm War of ‘o9.

Let’s not dwell on that.

There was either a possum or a dog ghost in the garden last night. How do I know, you ask? I let the dogs out, went back inside, and returned to the yard to check on them.  Through the dimness I watched a pale, shaggy rump root around in the bushes.  I assumed it was P.J., until he ran into the house from the other direction.  A couple of hours later he went out again and made an unholy racket, so I assume the dog ghost/possum was still lurking around.

Let’s review the possibilities.

We know it wasn’t P.J.

pj1

So, that leaves either

a) Ghost dog.
ghostdog

Or

b) Possum

terpos1

You be the judge.  For the record, I think possums should be outlawed within city limits.

I missed the SCBWI Western Washington meeting last night on revisions and social networking.  I could use some help with revisions (Boy, could I!).  But with Facebook, this here blog, and now my website and Twitter- I’m not sure I could squeeze any more social networking in.  Maybe I could have learned how to tweak my site. My husband linked the blog to it, but the links in my blogroll still open within my website, which looks a little like plagiarism.  I’m either going to have to figure out how to fix it, or take out the blogroll.

I like My Cardboard Life by Phillippa Rice.

And I want to try making my own handwriting font to with the free font program that Dan Santat blogged about.

Betsy Bird posted a fabulous list of good graphic novels by reading level.

I somehow missed the first pages blog that Editorial Anonymous started.  Behold, the Anonymati.

When you read a lot of manuscripts, you start to notice common problems.  Coe of The Longstockings points a few out.

Whenever a story comes up about racial tension between high schools (like here),  it REALLY irks me.  I went to high school in Albuquerque, where the freeway and Route 66 divide up the town into distinct quadrants of racial and socio-economic differences.  I lived in the poorest, brownest section of town and our high school rivals hailed from the richest, whitest section.  There were big differences between the schools.  We had crumbling walls and water-damaged textbooks.  They had covered parking and a food court.  You’d think they would just leave us alone and go about their business parking their fancy cars out of the sun and deciding between tacos and paninis.  But that wouldn’t be teenager-y, I guess.

The big football game between the schools seemed to be going alright, until halftime. Our cheerleaders shook their pom poms,  and their side of the stands launched tortillas like frisbees.  I’m surprised they could organizing such a massive tortilla-ing before the days of Facebook and Twitter.  The field was covered and everyone was fighting.  The newspaper reported that our students had instigated a brawl, but I think if someone throws a tortilla at you it authorizes a good smack in the chops.  I remember that a few of our students were suspended for fighting, while theirs were not.  There were more oh-so-clever-hijinks that year, but the tortilla incident is the one that still stands out.

I’ve been told my past lends me a treasure trove of rich material to tap into, but if there’s a way to write about shit like that without it reading like bad fiction, I haven’t found it.

Do you know where you will be on May 16th & 17th?  

I know where I’ll be.  I will be at the same place as Ellen Hopkins, Grace Lin, Adam Rex, Ambassor of Literature for Young People Jon Scieszka, and a whole slew of other marvelous authors, illustrators, editors, & agents.  It is truly an amazing line up.  We will all be just across the water from Seattle conferring and having a jolly ol’time for TWO SOLID DAYS of kid lit creativity at the SCBWI Western Washington’s 18th Annual Conference.  We put on a mean conference.  Mean, but welcoming.  We’re very friendly.  Plus, there’s carousing.  I can practically guarantee carousing.

Kevan Atteberry designed this handy dandy poster, with thanks to Adam for lending us his Frankenstein.  

poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

I promise it will be fun.  Go find more information and register here.

I may have been short-sighted when I named my blog Wagging Tales.  It’s a little too cutesy, and there’s an, ummm, animal communication business that has the same name.  I meant to think of something better, but then a few people started actually reading it and I got lazy.  Now, some sort of wires have been crossed and editors are asking me to review dog books.  Not even kid lit dog books- a dog memoir, dog advice, and dog training.  Three different houses.  I somehow got tagged as the go-to dog lady.  But, I am not.

I’m going to reexamine the blog renaming.  Feel free to make recommendations.

We usually spend Christmas in Colorado with most of my immediate family.  It’s a fabulous 5 days of playing in the snow, drinking, laughing, playing board games, drinking, bickering, eating junk food, name calling (hippie/yuppie/liberal cityslicker/etc.),  and laying around.  My dad even dresses up like Santa on Christmas morning when the little guys are there.  Yes, it’s that festive.  

So, we’re staying home in Seattle this year and I’m having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit.  This month has been a little chaotic with colds and non-holiday tasks, and I’ve been distracted.  I have most of the elements.  Small children- check.  Games- check. Name calling- (Thanks, random man on Pine!)- check.  I didn’t have a lot of junk food or liquor, so I stocked up- check.  Things were looking up, but I still wasn’t in the yuletide spirit.  Add a bunch of snow and some nog, and I’m almost there.  

stickers1Ohhh, I got my package today from the Book Bloggers Christmas Swap.  I think I’m only a book blogger in a broad sense, since I don’t review books (and especially not dog books).  Anyway, the package is lovely and  I’m going to try and wait until Christmas to open it.  I’ll take some pictures, too.

 

If I was an illustrator, I would have a PDF for downloadable stickers on my site like this.

I was reading an excellent article on transracial adoption (We adopted our daughter from Guatemala in 2007).  A lot of the issues that come up around transracial adoption are also valid when you talk about mixed heritage, blended families, regentrification, urban settings… you name it.   I have a mixed Hispanic/Anglo heritage.  I don’t look Hispanic.  At all.  But, I was raised predominately around the Hispanic side of my family in Hispanic communities.  I felt caught in the middle a lot.  

The article quoted a local performer named Chad Goller-Sojourner, a black adoptee with a white family.  He gave a pretty good analogy on having a different race than those around you.

“Let’s say I was a gazelle adopted by lions,” he says. “I pranced around happy until I got to first grade and all these lions tried to attack me; it’s like they didn’t get the memo. The other gazelles, they smelled the lion on me and didn’t trust me, so I stood open.”

That’s pretty heavy, right? I think that’s how a lot of kids feel who are not of the dominant race, or who are outsiders in another way.  I bring it up here, because I think it needs to be said.  There has been a (much needed) push towards more ethnic characters in kid lit.  I think sometimes these books don’t connect with the reader because the author fails to tap into that feeling of being an outsider, and how being in the middle somehow taints you a little for either side and takes away the automatic belonging.  We don’t just need characters with different ethnicities, we need characters with the complex emotions and settings that go along with being different.

Nathan Bransford has recapped the year in publishing.

I’m making a resolution to post pictures or a video of the shed in the next ten days.  There, I said it.  It’s been a little hyped up, so bear in mind that it’s a shed.  It’s my shed, though, and I adore it.  I also adore my new video camera, and that is a great motivator.

I hope however and wherever you’re celebrating the season that you have a lot of peace and joy.

Happy Holidays!

My friend Jolie Stekly has some fabulous news that you can read about here. Congratulations, Jolie!  We already know you’re fabulous, and now the world will know, too!

What makes Jolie so fabulous, you ask?  Here is just one example.

A few months ago a gang of us headed south to Portland for the Kidlitosphere conference put on by Jone and Laini.  We had fun.

Jaime enlisted our help to make a sock puppet zombie video interview with Betsy Bird, and we complied.  You might have seen the video.  You might have wondered how many people squeezed behind the bed, and whether or not it was fun.  Now you know.

zombiebedClockwise from the top left: moi, Laurie Thompson, Kirby Larson, Jolie Stekly, Betsy Bird, and Dana Arnim.  

Jaime was working the camera.

Thanks for the picture, Dana!

Speaking of Laini, she’s speaking at the SCBWI Western Washington meeting tomorrow.  Come say hi!

Hey you guys!

Jaime Temairik is having an art show at North Hill Bakery on Capitol Hill.  The opening is this Friday night, and you can read all the details here.  

In other local weekend goodness, Write-O-Rama is Saturday, and Urban Craft Uprising is Saturday and Sunday.  A whole weekend of art, craft, and arts and crafts!  There’s my weekend agenda for you.  If I see you in all three places I’ll have to have an internal debate on whether you’re a stalker or just someone with great taste.

In other news…..

Elizabeth Law from Egmont is interviewed at Cynsations.

Sara Crowe gives a few examples of queries that worked for her.

MotherReader makes a great list on book pairing for giftgiving.

Readertotz!

And last but not least, a pretty solid argument that Emily the Strange is a rip off of Rosamond from Nate the Great.

rosamond1emilythestrange1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I write stories for kids while volunteering as the Assistant Regional Advisor and Conference Coordinator for the western Washington chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

I live in Seattle with my family and a small zoo of animals. I drink copious amounts of coffee and assign complicated life stories to passing strangers. I'm currently working on a middle grade novel.

There's a wee bit more on my website. You can also follow me on twitter.

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