Showing posts from February, 2008

Author Visit Season / Spring 2008

This is my fourth year of visiting schools, and I'm learning that most want to book an author during the fall or the spring. Brookline, for example, invited me to be their Sakar Fund author this March and April in all eight of their elementary schools. The Town of Needham, too, wanted an author to visit every school during April and May so they won a grant and invited me to come.

Schools in my home state are unusually open to author bookings. Brookline and Needham are both twenty minutes away. I drove to Thoreau School in Concord, Massachusetts last Wednesday, and am day-tripping twice to the Pike School in Andover, Massachusetts next week. I do repeat performances every year in my own town of Newton, where you have to be approved by the Creative Arts and Sciences Division to visit schools. So I may be spoiled when comparing the options available to authors based in other states, but I think the school visit soil in most places may be arable if not as fertile.

How does an author g…

Unique to Books: Cogency and Privacy

The argument for us glass-half-full types is that literacy isn't tanking at all. No, these days stories are morphing away from the printed page and emerging from other vessels like screens, or entering our souls through the ear rather than the eye. And it's not just teens -- I do more and more of my reading online and my consumption of podcasts is rising exponentially. We're reading, I scoff at the doomsayers, just differently, that's all.

But then I left my computer for ten days and discovered the truth of Howard Gardner's two sad postscripts in an otherwise upbeat take on literacy: Two aspects of the traditional book may be in jeopardy, however. One is the author's capacity to lay out a complex argument, which requires the reader to study and reread, following a circuitous course of reasoning. The Web's speedy browsing may make it difficult for digital natives to master Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" (not that it was ever easy).

The other is…

Beach Reads

As usual, I read like a deprived addict while on hiatus, which is otherwise known as basking on my favorite Kona beach. Here's the list, not in order of consumption and unexpurgated (a word I've always wanted to use):

Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery (in honor of Anne's centennial) for the twentieth time
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Slam by Nick Hornby
Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman
Entertainment Weekly
Coastal Living
Christianity Today
the Bible
my own manuscript, The Secret Keeper

Paula Yoo on Writing Asian

A former writer for People magazine and the television series West Wing, Paula Yoo had never created an Asian character before penning her debut YA novel Good Enough (Harper Teen).

Here she is guest-blogging at YAYAYAs, explaining how the genre helped her to find her voice. She's the next-gen Asian American writer -- one who can succeed in creating stories within mainstream pop culture and yet also express the view from the margins, moving back and forth so fast the borders blur for all of us.

February Fire Escape Break

I'm taking my annual winter vacation hiatus and will be back 2/26. Peace be with you till we meet again.

I'm So Judgmental

Not only am I serving as a judge for the PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship and for the Cybils Fiction Picture Book Award (winner announced tomorrow!), now I've been asked to judge the Massachusetts School Library Association's Annual Bookmark Contest. Anyone else want to put my discernment skills to the test? Because they are becoming razor sharp with all this practice.

Raising Politically Engaged Kids

Here I am, guest-blogging at Moms Rising, with this post:

Raising Politically Engaged Kids

Posted February 12th, 2008 by Mitali Perkins

By the time the next President is in the third year of his or her term, my teenagers will be eligible for the draft. Believe me, we're watching the candidates' closely when it comes to their views on war -- and arguing about them. If your family's anything like ours, you're probably talking campaign, election, and issues around the dinner table, too.

It can be challenging to discuss politics across generations without someone melting down (usually you) or tuning out (usually them). Here are six tips for parents as we try and inspire our young adults to a lifetime of activism.

Tips 1-5: Habits For Good Conversations

Be teachable. A conversation isn't about one person sharing knowledge and information with another. That's better known as a lecture (or so I've been told). Listen to teens, allowing them and others to inform your opin…

Will REAL sparrowblogger stand up?

Help! I'm having one of those existential "who am I?" moments. Here's the scoop. 
So in First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, a middle-aged marketing guru writes a fake blog for Sameera, and she reasserts her voice by going public with a real blog called sparrowblog.
For campaign '08, I've been tracking the real candidates' kids through, which is basically me (a middle-aged marketing guru wannabe) pretending to be Sparrow. One of Sparrow's fans apparently didn't like that much, so she set up another blog with Sparrow's real blog entries from the book. It's called THE REAL SAMEERA SPARROW RIGHTON.  
I have no idea who this wonderful person is, but I love her spirit.  The problem is that Sparrow's "real" blog entries were also written by, er, me.
My conclusion: we're all characters in a story; nobody is real.

Teen Book Review Interview

Teen Book Review hosts me with some great interview questions. This fantastic resource for candid takes on YA reads recently reviewed my novels First Daughter: White House Rules and First Daughter:Extreme American Makeover.

Kid Questions and Brain Pings

I love answering questions during author visits. What I've learned, though, is that most questions reveal more about the people asking them (i.e., the kids) than about the person going on and on up front (i.e., me).

After years of fielding questions during my presentations at schools and libraries, I'm finding myself getting pinged by a variety of odd thoughts. Sometimes it's worth listening to those internal noises before I answer. Here are three questions I was asked during a visit with fourth, fifth, and sixth graders last Wednesday, for example, and the corresponding muttering in the strange place called my brain:

Q. Do you feel more at home in the California house you grew up in or in your house here in Massachusetts?

Brain Ping: This kid looks a bit wistful. She might have two homes herself. Divorce? A recent move? Tread carefully.

A. Both feel like home. That's the amazing thing. You can feel at home in many places if you're willing to be flexible and enjoy the…

28 Days On The Brown Bookshelf

The Fire Escape gets frequent queries from educators wondering where to find non-white authors and illustrators in the children's book world. "Is there an updated list of African-American authors and illustrators anywhere on the web?" they ask, and I can hear the frustration in their cyber voices. Well, my good librarians, teachers, and parents, whinge no more.

In celebration of Black History Month 2008, the Brown Bookshelf has gone way beyond a list. They're presenting us with the gift of 28 days later, featuring a different author and illustrator every day in February. Here's the schedule of luminaries and award-winners discussing their work (I've linked to the interviews that took place before today):

Feb 1 — Christopher Paul Curtis - Elijah of Buxton

Feb 2 — Michelle Meadows – The Way The Storm Stops

Feb 3 — Dana Davidson - Played

Feb 4 — Rita Williams-Garcia – No Laughter Here

Feb 5 — G. Neri – Chess Rumble & Sean Qualls - Phillis’s Big Test

Feb 6 — Janice…

Bunches of Book Trailers

Here's a list of YA book trailers compiled by Jonathan Hunt of adbooks:

AIRMAN by Eoin Colfer

INTO THE WILD by Sarah Beth Durst


LEONARDO'S SHADOW by Christopher Grey



I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder

MEGIDDO'S SHADOW by Arthur Slade

THE HARROWING by Alexandra Solokoff

PROJECT 17 by Laurie Stolarz

HALLOWMERE by Tiffany Trent

PARROTFISH by Ellen Wittlinger

Wonder how many of them, besides mine, were completely homemade and cost nothing. Well, at least you can compare the amateurs with the pros.

Super First Daughter Book Launch Party: The Abridged Version

If you didn't make it to my book launch party on 2/3/08 at Wellesley Booksmith, here's a 3-minute snippet (to explain my wardrobe, it was Super Bowl Sunday and the Pats hadn't yet crashed and burned):Attendees included authors Karen Day (Tall Tales, No Cream Puffs) and Anne Broyles (Priscilla and the Hollyhocks), bloggers J. L. Bell, HipWriterMama, and Sarah Rettger of ABA Omnibus fame, Monika Jain, editor of KahaniMagazine, Gail Hedges of the Foundation of Children's Books, a reporter from New Moon Magazine's exciting new online zine aimed at teens, orb28 (scheduled to launch in March), and other friends and faithful family members.

The hospitality at Wellesley Booksmith is unmatched, and I highly recommend it as a venue for any author's book party, along with my other favorite local indie, Newtonville Books.

Don't Know How You'll Vote?

Geeks are jamming the web with tools to inform us about the candidates and their positions. Five websites in particular can help even the most undecided voter make a choice. These are nonpartisan resources, and user-friendly for teens and adults alike.

Expert Voter: Provides a handy-dandy one page matrix of clips with the candidates sharing views on Iraq, immigration, energy, nuclear proliferation, healthcare, education, social security, taxes, and campaign reform.

Fact Check: Monitors the truth of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.

Match-O-Matic: Developed by ABC and USA Today, this interactive site quizzes you on your views to see how you match up on the hot issues with the candidates.

Ask Your Lawmaker: Users submit questions and vote on them, and then journalists track down lawmakers in Congress and on the campaign trail to get those questions answered.

Vote Smart: Volunteer citizens provide biographica…

The Thighs of a Sherpa: SuperBowl Ads

Although I prefer last year's ad, Carlos Mencia and his gang of endearing immigrant geeks managed to pull off another one that comes near to but not quite crosses the line:

Meanwhile, another racist ad angered Asians everywhere. Check out the combo of Chinese accented English, anthropomorphized immigrants eating bamboo, and psychic savior with the "American" voice:

The crazy news is that the ads were designed to be racist. They were conceptualized and written by Vin Gupta, the founder and chairman of the company, in an effort to create the worst ads of the year and gain the company some name recognition. Gupta, born and educated in India before settling in the USA, once served as the ambassador to Fiji.
Since most viewers didn't know that the ads were purposely bad, how did they react to it? Some might not have even noticed the racism while others immediately and publicly berated it, thus fulfilling the company's hopes of spreading their brand. And then there'…

Boston Globe Love

Susan Chaityn Lebovitz of the Boston Globe recently wrote a story about me and my buddy Karen Day (author of Tall Tales andNo Cream Puffs, both from Wendy Lamb Books). And today, the paper's Jan Gardner included the First Daughter books and sparrowblog in her weekly Shelf Life column. The hometown rag's been good to me.

Super Tuesday For Teens and Tweens

John Sellers of PW's Childrens Bookshelf recently compiled a list of books for kids of all ages related to the election in Children's Publishers Stuff The Ballot Box. I culled the list for tween and teen appropriate fiction (you'll notice a couple of familiar titles on the list if you're a Fire Escape regular):As If Being 12 3/4 Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President! by Donna Gephart (Delacorte, ages 8-12).Callie for President (Candy Apple #9) by Robin Wasserman (Scholastic, ages 9-12).George Washington’s Socks by Elvira Woodruff (Scholastic, ages 9-12).First Daughter: White House Rules by Mitali Perkins (Dutton, ages 10-up).First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover by Mitali Perkins (Dutton, ages 12-up).Long May She Reignby Ellen Emerson White (Feiwel & Friends, ages 12-up); also by White: The President’s Daughter, White House Autumn and Long Live the Queen.Soccer Chick Rules by Dawn FitzGerald (Square Fish, ages 10-14).First Boy by Gary Schmidt (Sq…

SLJ February Reviews

School Library Journal's February issue is chock full of reviews, including a nice one about my First Daughter: White House Rules: ... Sameera's world is one of diverse political persuasions, faiths, and ethnicities, where kindness and understanding allow all people to get along. In a genuine online blog, as well as a MySpace profile, Perkins has created a life for Sameera that extends beyond the book. Readers who enjoy Meg Cabot's "Princess Diaries" (HarperCollins) and others of the same ilk will enjoy reading about Sameera.

ReaderGirlz: Featuring Nikki Grimes

The February issue of Readergirlz is up, featuring the incomparable Nikki Grimes, who describes her writing discipline in an interview: I set aside time every morning, six days a week, to work on a project. Usually, it is a work-in-progress: a collection of poetry, a novel, a chapter book, an essay for a magazine or journal, etc. I lay out whatever materials I'm going to need for that project, so that they are handy. (Notes, journals, books I want to quote from, etc.) I try to go for a 3-mile walk every day, so I'll read my notes for a passage or a poem that I want to work on, go for my walk, and work out that piece in my head as I go. When I get back to the house, I grab a pad and jot down whatever I’ve come up with before I forget it. Then, for the remainder of the morning, I continue working on that piece. The work is sometimes dry when I begin, but that's to be expected. That’s what rewrites are for. The early draft is just to get the basic idea down on paper, so that …