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I’m going to start an experiment tomorrow.
I’ll wake up at 5 a.m. to write. I’m not a morning person. At all. I’m a night owl. I write in the afternoon while my daughter naps, and I write at night once everyone else is in bed. I like the quiet in the afternoon while the other house inhabitants are off at work and school. And I like writing at night because I can just write until I get tired, without the clock ticking down that my shift is almost up.
But, sometimes my kid doesn’t nap. Like today. She sat in bed singing at the top of her lungs just on the other side of the wall, and for some reason it made my revisions more difficult. Sometimes I go out at night, or get tired, or what have you and I don’t write for the day.
Then I get cranky.
So, I need a new system. I’ve tried writing in the morning before. I’ve tried to sneak downstairs and out the back door to my office/shed without waking anyone, but I have creaky stairs. One or both of the kids will wake up, and in the house I will stay.
Now summer is right around the corner, and those guys will be home all day. I love summer. I like to garden, hike, kayak, and laze around in the park. We go for ferry rides and camp on the beach. Summer is my season. If I can trick my brain into some early bird creativity then I can have that feeling of accomplishment to carry through the day, which is so much yummier than that mild frustration of not having done the work. Right? So, I’m going to try and reprogram myself now.
I’m not the only one. Jolie and Ben came up with the idea, and I’m just tagging along. They’re going to try it, too. Some of my other favorite creative folk like Martha and Jaime already get up early. So, I’ll be in pleasant, groggy company. I may need to pick up a coffeemaker for the shed.
Wish me luck.
When do you write? Why?
This doesn’t have anything to do with publishing or kid lit, but I’m going to blog about it anyway because people have been asking me about it this week. I apologize for the length, and I’m guessing it will be the most personal thing I ever post, but you know. Feel free to skip it.
My youngest kid was adopted from Guatemala about two and a half years ago. When we decided on adoption we knew that we wanted to adopt internationally, and from a Latin country. I have a Hispanic background that I identify strongly with, and I wanted to have that connection. Unfortunately, Mexico (where my mother’s family came from) is not open to international adoption. So, we chose Guatemala. We researched agencies to find one with good ethics and communication, and we started the process.
It took a couple of years. We were matched with a lovely baby girl, but lost the placement when it was revealed through DNA testing that the woman claiming to be her mother was not. I was grief stricken. We hadn’t met her, but something happens when you’re a parent waiting for your child, biological or not. I’ve done it both ways. I know.
We were matched again with our daughter, and we started all over again. We visited while the media was shining a bright light on a few sensational cases of trafficking under the guise of adoption. When we went down for our pick up trip, they advised us to stay in the hotel because of the rising tension (we didn’t). Anderson Cooper was there “reporting,” and I’ve taken anything he’s said with a rock of salt since. The state department warned that adoptions would stop suddenly, without warning. The Guatemalan government granted permission for us to leave after everything had been checked and rechecked, with our daughter. I’ve never been so relieved in my whole life. Guatemala closed their adoption program just a couple of months later, and many friends we’d been going through the process with were thrown into limbo.
It wasn’t an easy transition, but parenthood never really is. She was world weary, wondering why these strange people had taken her from her loving foster family. She wasn’t crazy about me for a long time. Her big brother, warned for years that the day would eventually be coming when he would have a little sister, was gobsmacked. She warmed to her dad and brother first, and then eventually me. When you adopt, any agency worth it’s weight in feathers warns and educates you that it probably won’t be sunshine and rainbows at first. It’s a tough transition. But still, something clicks before you ever even see them and you’re family.
So, last week some idiot woman in Tennessee decided she was unhappy with the child she adopted from Russia and sent him back. Alone. With a note.
Russia is pissed, and rightfully so. So today, they’ve suspended all adoptions. Anyone in the middle of their adoption process is thrown into the unknown. Just thinking about it makes my pulse speed up. It was my worst fear.
Now there will be a slew of articles and experts gabbing about whether parental bonds are as strong for adopted kids as biological kids. It’s sensational. It’s Sneetch-ish. It’s going to be “news” for a bit. I’ve got one of each, so I’m going to go ahead and say I’m a reliable source on this subject.
The bonds are the same. I love each of my kids with ferocity, and I think I can speak on their dad’s behalf, too. That woman who sent her child across the world alone is an asshat. She should be prosecuted for child abuse and abandonment. She’s not a parent. Every headline and news snip that refers to her as an adoptive mother makes me bare my teeth a little bit. My son is the same age, and that poor guy can’t even walk home from the bus stop alone. She is an asshat with poor judgement, not a victim of the adoptive system.
I know people wonder about how much people love their adopted kids. People ask, and they ask around it, and they don’t ask in that way that tells you that they’re trying very hard not to ask. People from each side of the fence wonder at the mysteries of familial bonds. Strangers in the store ask. Friends ask. Families with only adopted children ask, wondering if they’re perhaps missing out on some essential ingredient that gets thrown in when you have a baby the old fashioned way. There’s still such a stigma around adoption. We watched a movie a couple of weeks ago where the younger brother was insulted and traumatized when his older sister claimed he was adopted. Oh, the horror!
I’ve been rambling on, so I’ll keep the answer simple and concise. The process is different, but the results are the same in millions and millions of cases. Like ours.
Family. A big, crazy, loving family.
And sometimes, zombies.
A friend asked me for a music recommendation recently, and I suggested a band I find myself listening to a lot. While I drive, while I cook, but mostly while I write. Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago.
There was this guy in Raleigh who got mono, got dumped, and broke up with his band. He went to his dad’s cabin in the backwoods of Wisconsin alone for the winter to recuperate. He took some instruments and recording equipment with him when he moved, but just wanted to lay low and have some r & r. But, there’s only so much you can do trapped in a cabin in the winter so he started fiddling around, writing songs, and recording them for a possible demo.
The result was For Emma, Forever Ago. It’s a great, melodic album that I find myself listening to frequently (especially when I’m writing), and I like the whole phoenix aspect of his creative process. Inspiring, I tell you!
You can hear it here:
Do you ever listen to music while you work? What do you find yourself listening to?
Sorry for taking such a long blogging break. I needed it. By way of an apology, please enjoy this new Muppet video (via Neatorama), to go with our musical theme.
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!
I started reading a book with my 6&1/2 year old son a couple of weeks ago. The characters were supposed to be around his age, but it didn’t ring true for me. They were just really snarky and sarcastic in a way that isn’t typical for that age group. I didn’t say anything about it because we like him to develop his own opinions about books, but after a couple chapters he didn’t want to read anymore either. He said the kids were mean. Maybe he and his friends will develop the ability for cutting remarks in short time, but we’re reprieved for now. Right now he still tries to (mostly) be sweet and gets taken aback when people are rude. I know the tide is likely to shift soon, so I’m trying to soak it all in while I can.
It’s not all sunshine and fluff, though. Take Halloween, for example. We had a few years there when he wanted to be nothing more vicious than the cutest of cats. This year he wanted to be a stormtrooper, but his school allowed neither blasters nor masks (or anything “scary”). So, he decided he wanted to be a zombie “With lots of leaking blood! Leaking everywhere! Smeared and dripping!” he said. This from the boy who had nightmares about the chickens in the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie.
He’s afraid of CGI chickens, but this summer during one weird afternoon in the desert he did this-
He’s standing on a big box feeding a big tiger while the other one growled and snarled.
He also did this-
His dad was nearby, ready to wrestle any attacking reptiles away from curious fingers while yours truly watched from far, far away and tried to work out the distance to the closest margarita. Scared of cartoon chickens, not of giant snakes. Check. It’s an age of fascinating contradictions.
The blood-leaking zombie probably qualified as too scary for the delicate nerves of his school administrators, so we compromised with a last minute X-wing flying weapon-less Luke Skywalker costume. Everyone was happy.
Last year I would not have predicted a request for a zombie ensemble, so maybe next year he’ll be spouting sarcastic retorts like a fourteen year old. I hope not, but who knows? Sometimes it helps to have your very own live-in case study kids, but you have to take it with a grain of salt, too. My kids are pretty typical, I guess, but there’s a big wide gamut, even between the two of them. His little sister is three years his junior, but she could be requesting a bloody zombie costume next year. It wouldn’t surprise us at all.
My current WIP is early-ish middle grade, so I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. My point is that even when you live with kids it can be difficult to write realistic characters that appeal to a broad range of readers, when there’s such a wide spectrum of personalities and development. Wannabe zombies may be polite (for now), but they don’t suffer fools.
How old is your protagonist? Do you ever struggle with age authenticity? How often do you stray from the “typical” X-year-old?
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.
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.
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.
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!
Have a great holiday weekend!