Showing posts from January, 2006

Kahani Fiction Contest Winners!

Judge Sangeeta Mehta, an editor at Little Brown Books For Young Readers, has made her decisions, and the winners of Kahani Magazine's First Annual Young Writers Fiction Contest are ... Now it's time for young illustrators out there to compete for prizes by illustrating the award-winning stories.

Films Between Cultures Win Awards

Got back from the annual Kindling Words Retreat last night with a horrible cold, but with four solid days of writing behind me. Checked in with the news to discover that two films about immigrants won the top four awards at the Sundance film festival. From an article in the Guardian: QuinceaƱera, which examines Hispanic family culture through the eyes of teenagers living in Los Angeles, won the jury and audience prizes in the drama section, while God Grew Tired of Us took the equivalent awards in the documentary category at Utah's annual celebration of independent film-making. The latter, which took director Christopher Quinn four years to make, chronicles the lives of three Sudanese refugees after they emigrate to the US. Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore said: "This year we've seen a number of films that deal sensitively with the timely and complex issues of cultural assimilation and community. Clearly, these compelling stories along with the quality of film-making hav…

Is Television Fattening?

Definitely, yes. So, if you're in Boston and watching the Boston Neighborhood Network's Literary Limelight Show on Channel 9 at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 25th, remember that I don't have that much "avoirdupois" in real life, okay?

Mother Daughter Book Club

On Sunday, I met with about ten mother-daughter pairs who had read The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen (Here's a nice new review of the book, by the way). I showed the girls how to pleat a saree, fielded challenging questions about plot twists, and discussed my upcoming works-in-progress. It was crazy to accept this invitation as I'm racing to the finish line with Sparrow's story, but as I signed books and chatted with the girls, I realized I was craving a connection with readers to serve as my cheering crowd on Heartbreak Hill. Because that's where I am ... about six miles from the finish line of this marathon. I'll have to take the manuscript with me to Kindling Words this weekend, where I'll continue to be grumpy and detached until I'm done.

Perkins Wins Newbery Medal!

Alas ... it's not this particular Perkins, but a wonderful writer named Lynne Rae Perkins. Here are all the 2005 award-winning books as chosen by the ALA:

Newbery Medal
Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow)Newbery Honor Books
Whittington by Alan Armstrong, illustrated by SD Schindler (Random House)Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Scholastic)Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury)Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott (Putnam)Printz Award (Young Adult Fiction)
Looking for Alaska by John Green (Dutton)Printz Honor Books
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan (EOS)I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (Knopf)John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth by E. Partridge(Penguin)A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson (HoughtonMifflin)Caldecott Medal (Picture Books)
The Hello, Goodbye Window illustrated by Chris Raschka, written by Norton Juster (Hyperion)Caldecott Honor Books
Rosa illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Nikki…

And The Award Goes To ...

From the American Library Association: For the first time ever, the American Library Association (ALA) will pilot a live Webcast of its national announcement of the top books and video for children and young adults - including the Caldecott, King, Newbery and Printz awards - on January 23 at 7:55 a.m. CST. The award announcements are made as part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting, which will bring together more than 12,000 librarians, publishers, authors and guests in San Antonio from January 20 to 25. Online visitors will be able to view the live Webcast the morning of the announcements by following the links that will be on the ALA home page and at High-speed access will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. It's fun to watch the Amazon sales rankings change in response to the ALA's prizes.

The Horror Of A Repeat Dress

At my senior prom, I turned up wearing the same dress as another girl (who looked better in it than me, unfortunately). I spent the entire night avoiding this stranger, my cheeks burning with humiliation. I remembered the intensity of my misery when I read about Reese Witherspoon accidentally wearing the same Chanel dress that Kirsten Dunst wore three years ago. Witherspoon's choice of dress has been described as a "debacle" and a "fashion faux pas." Here are my theories about why being seen in the same dress as another person is such a cultural fiasco for a young woman:

Theory No. 1: Maintaining your cool factor means you must be perceived as trend-setting and unique. Imitating another girl's style exactly is a sign that you're losing your edge. That's why Dunst was probably tickled by what was deemed a disaster for Witherspoon — Kirsten wore it first.

Theory No. 2: A girl's dress-up clothes make a statement about her inner self, and especially a…

Five "I"s of YA Lit

On YALSA-BK, where I lurk and listen to brilliant librarians who know what teens like to read, I learned this morning about five critical developmental tasks of an adolescent: Identity, Intimacy, Independence, Integrity, and Intellect. As I revise Sparrowblog: The Campaign Rant (Dutton 2007), I realized that my own voice tends to skew "middle-grade" rather than YA, so in this revision I've been striving to make Sparrow's expressions of independence and identity more appropriate for a fifteen-year-old.

The problem is ... I'm wondering if these "I"s apply more to WASP protagonists than to South Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Latino, or Orthodox Jewish teens. Will North American teen readers relate to my Sparrow, who is shy and quiet, and not into rebelling against her parents? In Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge 2007), Naima's angst is expressed much differently than her counterparts who don't live in Bangladeshi villages. How do writers from non-Wes…

Kindling Words

I'm dangling the annual Kindling Words writer's conference in front of myself like a carrot as I revise Sparrow's story (due to Margaret Woollatt of Dutton by January 20th). There, I'll refuel creatively and set writing goals for the year ... if I make it through this revision. And am still upright. I hear The Inn at Essex in Vermont provides in-room massage therapy ...

Two Boys For Every Girl?

What's it going to take to raise the value of a girl baby in India? A severe shortage of potential wives in about fifteen or twenty years? I hope the widespread practice of female feticide stops before then. Third daughters like me (that's me with Dad in the photo) in sonless families probably rarely make it to birth these days. I know I blogged about this recently, but today the Christian Science Monitorreported that the decision to end the life of a girl baby is far more commonly (and surprisingly) made by educated women in India.

Blogging For Kids' Books

Chicken Spaghetti writes a great blog about children's literature, and I'm not just saying that because of the nice review she wrote about Monsoon Summer. (Well, let's be honest, it helped spur this post.) I also like to stop by Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations, which features a review of a new "book between cultures," Marina Budhos' Ask Me No Questions (Atheneum, 2006), about a Bangladeshi family immigrating to Canada.

Rickshaw Girl and Jamie Hogan

I stopped by Charlesbridge unannnounced this afternoon to drop off some alpanas (traditional Bengali designs, usually chalked on the floor) that my mother had sketched to help Jamie Hogan, the artist chosen to work on Rickshaw Girl (middle grade novel coming in 2007). Susan Sherman, art director, and Judy O' Malley, editor, were glad to see me because Jamie had just sent some drawings that they wanted to show me. Sap that I am, I got choked up flipping through the illustrated pages of the book-to-be and watching Naima, my main character, come to life. I've never written anything that's been illustrated (except by cover art), and I felt like an architect entering a house after it's been tastefully decorated by a top-notch interior designer: "Wow! I built the place, but I never dreamed it was going to turn out this beautiful!"

High School Immigration Reads

Here's a great list created by Holly Samuels, the librarian at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, on immigration (published with her permission):

Immigration Bibliography

*most popular choices


An American Brat / Sidhwa, Bapsi (Pakistani girl sent to live with her uncle at MIT)

Ashes of Roses / Auch, Mary Jane (Irish immigrant girl in New York in 1911)

Behind the Mountains / Edwidge Danticat (immigration narrative, easier)

Becoming Mary Mehan / Jennifer Armstrong (Irish immigrant, during Civil War)

*Breath, Eyes, Memory / Edwidge Danticat (Haitian immigration)

*Born Confused / Tanuja Desai Hidier (Indian American- contemporary)

Chantrea Conway’s Story: A Voyage From Cambodia in 1975 / Clare Pastore (part of the series “Journey to America”)

*Children of the River / Linda Crew (Cambodian girl flees her war-torn country)

The Dew Breakers / Edwige Danticat (Ex-Haitian secret police living in New York confronts his haunted past)

Donald Duk / Frank Chin (Chinese American life)

Dreaming in…

A World Without Mitali

If I'd been conceived in 2006 instead of several decades ago, I might not be blogging right now. I was the third daughter born to a woman who wanted desperately to produce a son. If the technology had been there back then, she could have discovered my gender before my birth. Would she have gotten rid of me and tried for a boy? According to the BBC, it seems that many mothers in India are doing just that.

Back To School in Cambridge

I'm starting my school and library visits in 2006 with a jaunt to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Daryl Mark, children's librarian at the public library, invited me to meet with their Parent/Kid Book Club on Tuesday, January 10th at 6 p.m. Then on Wednesday, January 11th, she's arranged a visit at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School starting at 11:40, followed immediately by a presentation at 1 p.m. at Graham and Parks School to 5-6th graders. Holly Samuels, librarian at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, has created a wonderful list of books for her students on immigration, that I'll provide in tomorrow's post. I'll be back at the library for Family Night on January 31st at 6:30 p.m. for pizza and a book talk that's open to the community. If you're in the area, call 617-349-4409 to register.

A Teen Writing Renaissance

The Christian Science Monitorreports that pop culture is actually honing the art and skill of young writers: "People are so intent on seeing contemporary popular culture as bad, as lesser, that they can't sort out certain ways in which young people today, because of the Internet revolution, are better at what we used to do," says Al Filreis, director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania, who deals with high school writers as well as college students. In the past 20 years, he's seen "the quality of student writing at the high school level [go] way up, and this is explained by the fact that they do more writing than they ever did..."

Overall, says Dr. Filreis, whatever the worries that teens are morphing into fleet-fingered, e-mail-happy robots, there's a genuine writing renaissance under way. "We lost it in the '50s and '60s," he says, as telephones and TVs poured into American homes and da…

Re-Vising in the New Year

The revision of book one in the two-YA-novel series I'm writing for Dutton is due January 20th. I didn't write much during the holidays, and now I must JAM. It's a good thing that I like revising better than writing the original first draft. The word itself signifies fresh starts and second chances -- "RE-VISION." It's what can happen to human lives, as well, when a narrative arc that's not great to begin with morphs into a tale well-told, a story worth hearing, an unforgettable hero's journey. Here's to a great year of revising and being revised! Happy 2006!

Monsoon Summer As Brit Lit

Here's the Simon and Schuster UK cover of Monsoon Summer. Why is there an elephant on the cover? There's no mention of an elephant in the book. I love the colors, though, and the Eye. It's fascinating that publishers routinely assign artists to design new covers when books cross the Atlantic. Are young audiences in the UK that different than their counterparts in America?