Author Visits: Jumpcut Vs. Animoto

Okay, so I animotoed my author visits, but here's the jumpcut version:

Which video is better? FYI, jumpcut was much easier to use.

Cornucopia Of Columns

That old stereotype about kids and books in Seattle turns out to be true. Tegan Tigani, owner of Queen Anne Books, an indie bookstore, started Children's Books That Don't Make You Hurl. Seattle-based blogger Els Kushner landed a new gig, reviewing books as Librarian Mom over at Scholastic blog central. She joins an impressive roster of Mom bloggers, including Grade School Mom, Preschool Mom, Middle School Mom, Grandmom, Crafty Mom, and News to Use Mom.

Let The Lady Rule!

One of my all-time heroes, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy leader of Burma, is still under house arrest in Rangoon where the military government is shooting at the marching monks parading past her house. A significant, scary number of those soldiers and monks are teenagers, one of the reasons I'm writing The Bamboo People. Listen to this quote from one of this amazing lady's speeches:

It is not the prerogative of men alone to bring light to the world: women with their capacity for compassion and self-sacrifice, their courage and perseverance, have done much to dissipate the darkness of intolerance and hate, suffering and despair.

Free Burma! Let the Lady bring the light. Here's what we can do. Listen to Jim Carrey explain why:

Kahani Magazine: Fall Holiday Issue

The Fall 2007 issue of Kahani: A South Asian Literary Magazine For Children has a holiday theme, and includes details about the magazine's third annual contest for young writers and illustrators. If you're educating and/or raising global young citizens, why wait? Head over there right now and subscribe.

Illustration by Mallika Sundaramurthy, Summer 2006, Kahani.

Edge Of The Forest: September Issue

Via Kelly at Big A little a, here are some fantastic features in the September issue of The Edge of the Forest:

Cybils: Hooray For Picture Books!

The names and (more importantly) the blogs of the 2007 Cybils panelists are up for your purview. I'm judging in the fiction picture book category -- can't wait. Here's our team, organized by Jules of the indefatigable 7-imp dynamic duo:

Nominating Panel:

Julie Danielson (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)
Marcie Flinchum Atkins (World of Words)
Annie Teich (Crazy for Kids Books)
Cheryl Rainfield
Pam Coughlan MotherReader

Judging Panel:

Mitali Perkins (Mitali's Fire Escape)
Nikki Tate (Work in Progress)
Gail Wilson (Through the Studio Door)
Barbara Johansen Newman (Cats and Jammers Studio)
Stacey Shubitz (Two Writing Teachers)

Saying Smackdown: Rhys Versus Rochman

Check out this great interview via Literary Safari with Katherine Applegate of Animorph fame, who released her debut literary novel this month, Home of the Brave (the Fire Escape's glowing review coming soon). My tiny quibble was the attribution of one of my favorite quotes to Jean Rhys, a Caribbean novelist who wrote in the middle of the twentieth century:
“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but most importantly, it finds homes for us everywhere.”
I've used that phrase liberally and always given Hazel Rochman the credit based on her classic essay, "Against Borders," published in the March 1995 edition of the Horn Book.

If you google the combo of Rhys and the quote, you come up with this. But when you google Rochman and the same saying, you get this. Help me, research types who despise google and wikipedia searches: who said it?

NYC Libraries' Favorite Children's Books

From the New York Times Corporation:
A list of New York's Top 20 All-Time Favorite Children's Books was specially selected this year by children's librarians from the three public library systems of New York City: Brooklyn Public Library, The New York Public Library and Queens Library. Celebrities from film, TV and Broadway will read from the 20 books on the list at The Great Children's Read (on October 14th).
Here's the eclectic list of books old and new, penned by authors dead and alive. Note that they're all fiction, except for one book of verse, and although a few picture books are included, the rest are mostly novels. The one quality they share in common is the gift of unforgettable, beloved characters, revealing what librarians value in children's literature:
  • Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger, illustrated by Michael Hays
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Bossy Gallito by Lucia M. Gonzales, illustrated by Lulu Delacre
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Bunnicula by James Howe
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
  • Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
  • The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron
  • The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

Publicist Wanted: Must Work For Food

I'm thinking about setting aside a chunk o' change to hire a publicist — unless I can find one who lives in the Bay Area and agrees to be paid with pots of my mother's cooking. Here are some questions for authors with experience:
  1. Who is your publicist?
  2. Does s/he promote you the package or a particular title?
  3. How much did it cost and what did you get?
  4. What has s/he accomplished that you know wouldn't have happened otherwise?
  5. Is s/he a California-based marketing guru with a penchant for vindaloo?
Email me at mitaliperk at yahoo dot com if you want to avoid leaving details about names and money amounts in the comments. I'll compile (respecting confidentiality and anonymity, of course) and post the info somewhere down the road.

Rickshaw Girl Updates

Lots of good news to share about Rickshaw Girl:

It's coming out in paperback from Charlesbridge February 2008.

The book joins some wonderful titles on lists compiled by Fuse No. 8 and Mother Reader of best books of 2007 (so far).

It's on the Cochecho Readers' Award list for third and fourth graders and recommended for second graders by

Rickshaw Girl is reviewed by Anne-Marie Nichols over at Club Mom's A Readable Feast, who provides links to some great recipes from Bangladesh.

And for those of you in Maine (or those who want a foliage drive excuse), illustrator Jamie Hogan and I will be discussing our collaboration at Graves Library in Kennebunkport on Sunday, October 14th at 3 p.m.

Caroline Cooney Between Cultures

Just read an intriguing starred review about Diamonds In The Shadow (Delacorte, September 25, 2007), a new teen novel by
Caroline B. Cooney of Milk Carton fame in Publisher's Weekly. Here's an excerpt:
... High school student Jared Finch is cranky and skeptical when his mother decides to host their church-sponsored family of four African refugees in their well-appointed Connecticut home. Drawn in (just as readers will be) by the drama of the refugees' acclimatization to American suburbia, Jared soon warms to the Amabos, despite a growing suspicion that they aren't exactly who they say they are ...
Anybody else read it yet?

Paper Tigers Sept/Oct Issue

PaperTigers commemorates Hispanic Heritage Month in the USA (9/15 - 10/15), with a host of fabulous "interviews, articles, books and artwork that capture the Hispanic temper of our times."

Once you head there, after you've clicked around like a maniac through the rich content, I recommend downloading "Notes From Another Country: Tell Me Where Your Country Ends And Mine Begins," a poignant essay by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (author of the YA novel Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood), describing why he considers the slice of territory between El Paso and Juárez his home. Here's an excerpt:
I could say something like this: I belong to the border. I examine the statement—and then decide it’s inaccurate. Then I write: The border has always owned me. I picture myself wearing a t-shirt that reads: OWNED AND OPERATED BY THE BORDER. And then I think: I would very much like to wear such a t-shirt. I am owned by the border. Explaining that harsh and illogical fact to myself has become the core of my thinking, the heart of my writing.
Note: PaperTigers' summer issue featured my list of best books for teens between cultures, which I couldn't tell you about because of this.

ABA's Omnibus

Did you know that the folks over at American Booksellers Association (ABA) have been blogging regularly since February? It's a good one, too, with a catchy title: "Omnibus / a regular update on bookselling, retail, authors, culture, technology, and ..." I'm especially grateful for a recent shout-out to the Fire Escape.

Heat and ICED: Illegal Immigration

Trying to get kids to think through the debate around illegal immigration? To spark the discussion, why not read aloud or listen to Mike Lupica's novel, Heat (Philomel, 2006)? The story features a pair of baseball-loving brothers from Cuba and allows you to live the stress and fear they endure in New York after their father dies.

Then, in November, check out ICED, a free online game created by Breakthrough. The game was based on ideas pitched by about 100 students in NYC schools and uses some of their voice talents. Andres Amerikaner (interesting name) of the Miami Herald reports:

The game lets one player roam a virtual metropolis modeled after New York City. If you make good choices -- for example, not jumping the subway turnstiles or stealing from convenience stores -- you'll earn points that will keep you on the streets.

Players can also boost their points by walking into a language center, by recycling or by correctly answering questions along the way. The more points earned, the fewer immigration officers chasing you down.

Eventually -- it's virtually inevitable -- you'll be arrested and taken to a second level, the detention facility.

Here, players must avoid getting into fights, starting hunger strikes or signing a voluntary deportation letter. At the end, players will face a judge who will determine their fate.

The not-yet-released game is already controversial, as some complain that it portrays the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers as the bad guys. Check out this interview on FOX with Breakthrough's director, Mallika Dutt:

More resources to teach/think about immigration (links via SCORE):

2007 National Book Festival

The 2007 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush will be held Saturday, Sept. 29, 2007, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival is free and open to the public. Here's the list of children's and YA authors scheduled to appear:

Children's Book Authors
Teen Authors

Writing Race: Yellow, Brown, Black, and White

Brace yourselves for yet another superhero movie featuring brown bad guys. Speaking of which, a visitor recently wrote to ask about the YouTube video I submitted for the presidential debates:
I'm wondering why you use "brown" to describe your sons. Color words (red, yellow, black) have been rejected and are being discarded. I'm wondering if it is a term you've chosen or is it acceptable to the Indian American community? I understand that "brown" may encompass several ethnic groups. Because color words have become unacceptable and for the sake of parallelism, perhaps another way of conveying their ethnicity and the dangers of being judged on outward appearances could be used.
Judging by the way they put the word "brown" in quotes, US News and World Report and Newsweek also seemed startled by my choice of words. Here's part of the answer I gave:
Brown does seem to be acceptable to my generation of Indians and younger ... I wonder if color words are being discarded by well-meaning whites, but championed by the next gen who are grappling with race in a way we never did — see yellowworld, ultra brown, and black planet as examples.
But does that mean brown, yellow, and black people can use color words but white people can't? How should authors of any race describe the skin color of our characters? Shaken and Stirred and TadMack raised the issue during the summer, with Tadmack asserting convincingly that "it doesn't make sense to avoid race ... we can't pretend that since it's not directly affecting us that we've somehow transcended it, to arrive on a rarefied, colorless plain."

In the effort to be inclusive, though, authors can fall into a Rowling-esque race-writing trap (elaborately detailing the range of white people's facial hues and expressions-- pink, blushing, pale, etc.,-- while describing her black characters solely as ... black.) But can we blame J.K. Rowling, or is the English language itself over-stocked with the vocabulary, similes, metaphors, and imagery needed to describe white people?

A communal discomfort over race, the desire of well-meaning people to "move beyond it," an in-your-face response by younger people, and the limits of a language with a history of describing European people -- there's only one way for a storyteller to diffuse the tension, in my opinion, and that's through the power of humor. Any other ideas?

First Daughter: White House Rules

The last edits are done, the book is off to press, and the cover is up at Amazon. (You gave us feedback on the artwork, remember?) First Daughter: White House Rules (you also helped pick the title), the sequel to First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, releases January 24, 2008 from Dutton/Penguin. My son's reaction to the cover girl? "Too skinny." True, but that's one of Sparrow's own pet peeves.

Oh, Go Animoto Yourself

Thanks to a link from Alvina Ling's blog, I visited Animoto and spent an hour or so creating this 30-second video to use on the author visit page of my website:

Making the slide show was free, but was it worth the time away from writing? (I'm trying to finish a revision of Asha Means Hope / The Secret Keeper for Random House.) Like a lot of the publicity/marketing kinds of things we authors are supposed to be doing these days, you never know.

I'm a bit confused about that whole aspect of the vocation -- author Jodi Picoult (who needs no publicity) recommends hiring a publicist in the October issue of Writer's Digest, my agent sent a link that might help me make better use of MySpace, Judith Appelbaum tells me to toot my own horn, and Raab Associates just posted an article about the new marketing model on their extremely helpful site. I found their words illuminating when it comes to juggling writing, speaking, and promoting:
Children’s book marketing and publicity have changed substantially in recent years. With more publishers, authors, illustrators and books as well as stiff competition from other media for consumer spending and education and library budgets there’s an increased need to keep one’s name and books prominent. For those fortunate enough to have had specific books chosen for star treatment in-house or who have built a significant track record that has earned them on-going support from the publisher’s marketing team, the work is in balancing marketing time with the creative time. For many more who are striving to achieve that level, the challenge is to figure out what will help raise and sustain awareness of their books and their “brand” both among publishers and in the marketplace to generate demand.
Whew. And they say it's easy to write children's books.

Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan

L’Shana Tova to those of you who celebrate Rosh Hashanah, and Ramadan Mubarak to my Muslim visitors.

Grouchy Grammar Blogs

Does the "overuse" of quote marks make you insane? Join the hate-fest at The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quote Marks.

Can you literally not stand the misuse of literally? Track the abuse at Literally, A Weblog.

Got an orthographic pet peeve? Visit Apostrophe Abuse to find company.

And, finally, if you despise the use of an "l" in an otherwise all-caps setting, vent your frustration at lowercase L.

Boston Globe Book Festival

Come one, come all (if you're in New England) to the Boston Globe Book Festival this Saturday, September 15th, in Copley Square near the Boston Public Library. I'll be (nervously) reading from Rickshaw Girl from 1-1:30 on the Boston Globe stage.

The Saturday Song Sung Blue Meme

What next? Now that cheeky MotherReader wants me to dish about the top 100 songs played on the radio the year I graduated from high school. Since I'm obviously the geezer around here, I'm cashing in on my seniority and changing the rules. Here are five songs from twelfth grade still getting air time on my iPod in 2007:
  • The Rose, Bette Midler
  • Cruisin', Smokey Robinson
  • Let My Love Open The Door, Pete Townshend
  • One Fine Day, Carole King
  • Refugee, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Now, without going to the website, see if you can guess the year. And if you get it wrong, consider yourself tagged.

Madeleine In Kairos

This excerpt from a 1979 Christianity Today interview with Madeleine L'Engle might comfort some of us who are grieving her loss:
The two words I like are kairos and chronos. We live in chronology. Kairos is eternity, which has nothing whatever to do with time. An artist is free to know kairos. The person who prays is free to know kairos. We are literally free from time ... Eternity, in which we will live ultimately, has nothing to do with time at all. It isn't endless time. It isn't time going on and on and on. It's a quality that we don't know, because we are in chronos. But we have these fleeting glimpses of kairos ...
Now she sees it face to face.

You Bet I'm Indian

"Mee-ta-lee. Now that's a pretty name. Are you Indian?"

I tried to hide my surprise over her ethnic savvy. We were checking into an RV park in a one-gas-station town, and the only other brown face I'd spotted for miles around was Michael Vick's on the flickering screen behind the desk.

I couldn't stop myself: "How did you know?"

"We got a reservation fifty miles down the road, sweetie."

No, I didn't shame her. I didn't even gently correct. After all, a Wampanoag man had once asked me the same question in my home state of Massachusetts. Truth be told, I was grateful yet again that my appearance allows me to be perceived differently than white folk visiting brown-skinned nations.

When you drive across the United States, you're almost certain to pass through at least one of our country's 300 or so reservations (not all of the more than 550 recognized tribes have a reservation, and some have more than one.) We stayed with friends in Apsaalooke (Crow) nation, near the site of the Battle of the Greasy Grass (aka the Battle of the Little Big Horn). I'd read about the suffering endured by this country's original inhabitants and their descendants, and been educated about dangerous stereotypes. Nonetheless, my heart wasn't prepared for the vibrancy of the cultures, the everyday use of Indian languages, and the strong sense of pride and community. Why did I only know bad news?

Thanks to sites like Oyate, blogs like Debbie Reese's, and YA novels like Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (which earned starred reviews in PW and Horn Book, among others, and has moved to the top of my nightstand stack), I'm hoping for a more accurate picture of reservation life to replace my mistaken perceptions. PW's review of Alexie's book includes this intriguing quote:
Unlike protagonists in many YA novels who reclaim or retain ethnic ties in order to find their true selves, Junior must separate from his tribe in order to preserve his identity.
Separating to preserve instead of reclaiming to find? Now there's a different between-cultures experience; tell me more, please.

BookScan Versus Amazon

Book promotion guru Bella Stander recommends that authors forget about sales rankings on Amazon, and de-stress over the NYT's recent announcement that the Giant's no longer revealing stock numbers. She suggests having an agent track your books via BookScan, or better yet, stick to the old-fashioned way -- frowning over those twice-a-year, mysterious royalty statements.

Writing For The Horn Book

The current issue of the Horn Book includes reflections on gender and reading penned by several children's and YA book authors. How in the world did that Mitali wangle an invitation to contribute, you might ask (secretly, of course)? Heck, I wondered myself. Roger Sutton reveals the truth: it's all about the blog.

Grace For Grace

Came back to heartbreaking news -- the death of author-illustrator Grace Lin's husband, Robert Salvatore Mercer. Robert and Grace founded Robert's Snow, auctioning off snowflakes created by children's book illustrators, in a valiant, on-going fight against the C-word. We can join their battle and show our support by sending a donation, in Robert’s name, to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. Make a check out to "Robert's Snow," and send it to Lauren Nash, 10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor, Brookline, MA 02445-7226. Peace be with you forever, Robert, and with your amazing Grace.

Illustration by Grace Lin from Robert's Snow, Viking Books, 2004.

No Place Like An RV

It wasn't the ideal holiday for a writer who requires copious amounts of solitude and space. Time: two months. Mode of Transport: Fleetwood Tioga Recreational Vehicle, 29', no pop-outs. Companions: one husband, two sons, and two labradors (both male). The testosterone level was high, high, high, and the space was small, small, small.

But as we drove through 25 of the United States, visited nine national parks, hiked, biked, and tasted small town hospitality, I began to see that the trip was the perfect gift for a zero-gen American like me. From sea to shining sea, the splendor of this land (is my land) was ... overwhelming. I felt much like I did when I walked into that Flushing, Queens library for the first time years ago and saw shelves of books waiting for me: "All this, for me?" Correct answer: "For us, beloved, so borrow, enjoy, but leave no trace."

It's good to be back on the Fire Escape.

Photo: Arches National Park, Utah.