Showing posts from June, 2008

Colorful People in YA Lit

Thanks to a tip via the YALSA listserv and a quiet weekend, I visited the POC (People of Color) Carnival of YA Lit and followed the links there. (I'm sure how I feel about the label "People of Color," but that's for another day.)

Get yourself to the carnival, friends -- it's your gateway to thought-provoking posts about Jacob Black, the Quileute character in Stephenie Meyer's vampire novels, "beauty" thanks to Disney princesses, and how race can disappear when a story travels from book to screen.

A Keepsake For Rickshaw Girl

My Lupine Honor Book Award for Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge) arrived yesterday. It's a handmade stoneware platter crafted by Portland, Maine potter Toby Rosenberg. Thank you, Libraries of Maine!

A Blogger's Challenge: Privacy Vs. Authenticity

Out here on the Fire Escape, I strive to be authentic, a word defined by Merriam-Webster as "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character." We could use that definition to apply also to an author's voice, and I'm convinced that blogging should offer a sample of that voice.

In this blog, however, I don't share too many details about my private life. I almost never mention church, friends outside the children's book world, or family members (with two exceptions: pets and parents).

The dictionary goes on to discern a difference between authentic and genuine:Authentic can also stress painstaking or faithful imitation of an original (an authentic reproduction, authentic Vietnamese cuisine). Genuine implies actual character not counterfeited, imitated, or adulterated.The blogs of authors Meg Cabot and Laurie Halse Anderson resound with personality that can't be imitated, and they talk frequently about their families, inventing on-line nicknames for the…

Asian Pacific American Literature Awards

The Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) announced the winners of the 2007 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature, one of the few ethnic book awards that aren't based on the race of the author but on the content in the book. The prizes promote Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and are awarded based on literary and artistic merit. The Fire Escape is pleased to present the winners for illustration in children's literature and young adult literature along with the committees' annotations.

Illustration in Children Literature Winner

Crowe, Ellie. Surfer of the Century. Illustrated by Richard Waldrep. New York: Lee and Low, 2007. This book tells the story of "the Father of Modern Surfing," Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, from his childhood on Waikiki Beach, to his participation in five Olympics, through his lifelong promotion and development of surfing, and to his becoming the official State of Hawai'i Ambassador of Aloha. Each page of text des…

Six Questions To Ask About A Story: #2

As I watched CAMP ROCK, Disney Channel's smash hit made-for-television movie, I found myself asking Question Number Two in my on-going series of six questions. (Note to first time Fire Escape visitors: these relate to stuff I notice about a story, whether it comes via screen or in print, because of the strange between-cultures lenses I can't seem to take off.)

Question Two: Is ethnicity used to cue either a “good” or “bad” character trait?

Today's storytellers are spearheading a strange stage in the history of American culture. It strikes me as a correction to the historical overlooking of non-white people in books and movies. What's happening now is that if you're lazy with story, you'll use race, ethnicity, or class to inform a young audience how to feel about your characters. We're trying to train a whole generation to equate WHITE/RICH with BAD, and BROWN/BLACK/POOR with good -- although I'm not sure they're buying it. The problem is that as a sto…

Laurie Halse Anderson chats with readergirlz

Storyteller extraordinaire Laurie Halse Anderson joined us with characteristic energy and joy during her featured month at readergirlz. We discussed her wonderful novel PROM, reminisced about our own proms, and Laurie even posted her junior prom picture on her blog — in which she looked EXACTLY like she does today. Spooky.

Such youthful glam is probably why Laurie's also a movie star (apparently she made a cameo as a lunch lady spooning out mashed potatoes in the film version of SPEAK.) She just finished the draft of WINTERGIRLS, a novel coming out in 2009, and to celebrate and replenish, she did some jam'n, as they say in teenspeak (or used to say, can't keep up to speed.) By jam'n, I mean literally (see video posted below.)

Check out a few of the questions asked by teens, authors, divas, and other fans, along with Laurie's answers at the forum.

Q. What is the easiest thing about writing for teens? The hardest?

Easiest: getting into the mindset of teen humor. This is…

Poetry Friday: Driving Out The Loudmouths

Here's my goal for the summer -- silencing the raucous voices in my head that keep me from writing, as poet Ranier Maria Rilke put it so well: She who reconciles the ill-matched threads of her life, and weaves them gratefully into a single cloth -- it's she who drives the loudmouths from the hall and clears it for a different celebration,
where the one guest is you. In the softness of the evening it's you she receives. Excerpted from Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy (New York: Riverhead, 1996), p. 64.

More Marketing Tips From Mitali

Author Karen Whiting interviews me on the helpful WE CAN! PROMOTE OUR BOOKS blog.

Chat with Laurie Halse Anderson Tomorrow!

Please spread the word that Laurie Halse Anderson will be chatting live on the MySpace readergirlz forum this Thursday, June 19th. The chat will start at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST and last for about an hour. We're featuring Laurie's book PROM (US cover on left, UK cover on right) in this month's issue but the discussion goes in every direction. To whet your appetite, here are a few things we've found out about Laurie:On your nightstand: Flashlight, notebook, pen (all for middle of the night ideas) and my inhaler.

Favorite drink while you write: Tea or coffee

Favorite bookstore: River's End Bookstore, Oswego, NY

Favorite library: Mexico Public Library, Mexico, NY

Pet: Kezzie (my German Shepherd)

Place to write: The loft of our house

Inspiration: My readers

Dream book tour: One that includes Paris, Edinburgh, and Tokyo

Author-buddies: Sarah Dessen, Chris Crutcher, Holly Black

Cure for writer's block: Run 5 miles

Favorite outfit: Jeans and hoodie sweatshirt, sneakers

Long-hand or la…

The Art Versus Money Dilemma

I know I said I was done writing under contract. My agent's excited about my 2008-2009 goals to hone the craft and write a better story than I've ever written before -- I fear she's dreaming about an auction that makes headlines at Publisher's Weekly. In truth, though, we're both hoping I create a story that readers will check out of the library again and again, and the thought of climbing fresh literary heights is invigorating.

But now I've been asked to write a children's book by a start-up on-line company. They need a story that's a tie-in for merchandise they'll be selling, so they have definite plot parameters along with a deadline. The catch is that they've offered me a fairly sweet financial deal.

Suddenly, I've tumbled from the lofty peaks of art to the desert reality of money -- the two sides of my full-time vocation. What to do? Here's the strange self-talk running through my brain:You're not in your twenties, girlfriend; whe…

Why Are Children's Books Still So White?

When the Cooperative Children's Book Center released this year's Choices, I was curious to see if their data about diversity in children's literature revealed any changes in two years. In 2005, as we noted on the Fire Escape, the Center received 2800 books and discovered the following statistics:
By African or African/American authors 75
About Africans or African/Americans 149

By American Indian authors 4
About American Indians 34

By Latin American authors 50
About Latin Americans 76

By Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific authors 60
About Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific Americans 64In 2007, the Center found the following results among the 3000 or so titles they received:
By African or African/American authors 77
About Africans or African/Americans 150

By American Indian authors 6
About American Indians 44

By Latin American authors 42
About Latin Americans 59

By Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific authors 56
About Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific Americans 68In short, not much has changed. We note agai…

Six Questions To Ask About A Story: #1

I'm presenting "BOOKS BETWEEN CULTURES" to the Waltham librarians today, and as I looked over my notes, I thought my Fire Escape visitors might appreciate knowing the six questions I encourage readers or filmgoers to ask when they're consuming a story. (I'll post one at a time randomly through the summer, so check for the label/tag "Six Critical Questions.")

With my strange between-cultures lenses in place, here's a question that pops into my head while I'm reading a story or watching a flick:

Question One: Are the multicultural characters in the story one-dimensional (ie., only allowed to be noble, good, wise, etc.)?

Meghan McCain's Picture Book

Meghan McCain, First Daughter in Hoping, is trying to emulate incumbent First Daughter Jenna Bush by publishing a children's book of her own. A prolific blogger and Columbia-trained journalist, 23-year-old Meghan has written an illustrated biography of her father. Simon & Schuster will release the book in September, illustrated by Dan Andreasen (artist for American Girl's FELICITY and SAMANTHA along with many other children's books), and the idea originated in the fertile mind of editor Mark McVeigh.
Why is this bit of news on the Fire Escape, you might ask? Only because my fictional character Sparrow has been tracking Meghan along with the other First Kid wannabes, and sparrowblog is averaging about 400 unique visitors a day thanks to google power -- do a search on Sasha and Malia Obama for example. Now if only 10% of those people would buy First Daughter books ...

Outsourced: The Movie

Thanks to a tip from Little Willow, I'm hoping to see this film, which might serve as an antidote to the Love Guru:

I wrote to ask if I could help bring Outsourced to Boston, and of course I'll let you know if they respond.

Britain's Age Banding Brawl

Over 80 authors, editors, illustrators, booksellers, and librarians are protesting the decision to stamp book covers with a sign stating that the contents are for readers aged 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ or 13+/teen.  Listen to their excellent reasoning:Each child is unique, and so is each book. Accurate judgments about age suitability are impossible, and approximate ones are worse than useless.Children easily feel stigmatized, and many will put aside books they might love because of the fear of being called babyish. Other children will feel dismayed that books of their ‘correct’ age-group are too challenging, and will be put off reading even more firmly than before.Age-banding seeks to help adults choose books for children, and we're all in favour of that; but it does so by giving them the wrong information. It’s also likely to encourage over-prescriptive or anxious adults to limit a child's reading in ways that are unnecessary and even damaging.Everything about a book is already rich wi…

Terry's World Café of Books

Check out and add to author Terry Farish's World Café of Books For Kids, a fascinating work-in-progress that's an annotated bibliography of immigrant books for kids and teens, and includes some folktales and stories set in different countries.

I'm Feeling Cynsational!

Check out my interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Empress of Author Bloggers.

A Baker's Dozen of Father Daughter Books

Dad and I have always been tight. He taught me how to relish a habanero chili, hit a topspin lob, and tease Mom without getting in trouble. In my book Rickshaw Girl, one of the easiest parts to write was Naima's sweet relationship with her father.  
In honor of Dad and all the other fathers about to eat burned toast in bed on June 15th, here's a baker's dozen of books featuring the special relationship between fathers and daughters, ranging from picture books to middle readers to books for young adults.  Thanks for your suggestions, and feel free to add more titles in the comments below.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems. Trixie, Daddy, and Knuffle Bunny take a trip to the neighborhood Laundromat. But the exciting adventure takes a dramatic turn when Trixie realizes somebunny was left behind.

A Place To Grow by Soyung Pak.  As a father and daughter work together in their garden, he explains what a seed needs to flourish and the reasons their family immigrated to a new …

Costco Rocks My World

Just was cc'ed on this message to Ingram from the assistant buyer of Costco:Can you work on getting a buy placed on (the First Daughter Books) for DC, Virginia and Maryland? Once we see sales in those areas, we can review to see if we should expand. I'd go leaping through the aisles of my local Costco, but I know that so much depends on how they sell. I'd hate for Dutton to get boxes and boxes of returns. Aw, heck. This is amazing news. Let's throw caution to the wind -- anyone want to meet me for a celebratory boogie near the rotisserie chicken in the Waltham store?

Library Thing Is So Into Me

I was amazed by the cloud of tags automatically generated on my Library Thing author page. I'm honored to be defined by this cyber stream of consciousness:acculturation adoption american ar art artists Bangladesh blogging campaign chapter book charity chick lit children's children's literature christianity daughter daughters election elections family fiction friendship fun gender gender roles girl girls grade 4 grade 5 grade 6 identity immigrants india Indian integrity jfic love multicultural new fiction painting politics poverty presidents read realistic realistic fiction responsibility romance social responsibility South Asian tbr teen teen fiction tween Washington DC white house ya young adult young adult fiction

Fusion Stories in Manhattan

News from the Asian American Writer's Workshop:
Next-Gen Asian American Books for Young ReadersThursday, June 5, 7 pm

Parents and teachers, having trouble finding Young Adult novels that speak to you and your kids? Fusion Stories is a new website that aims to tell Asian American stories for this generation of young readers. These aren't traditional tales set in Asia or stories of hard-scrabbling immigrants. Instead, Fusion Stories offers fun, relatable stories about teen-dating, growing up biracial, eyelid surgery, and just feeling like you don't fit in. Fusion novelists Grace Lin, An Na, Janet Wong and David Yoo talk about the next generation of young adult literature featuring Asian American characters. Bring your kids for treats from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory!

Grace Lin is the author and illustrator of Year of The Dog (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2005) and over a dozen books such as The Ugly Vegetables (Charlesbridge Publishing, 1999) and Dim Sum…

First Daughter Interview and Review

Apparently teens are reading American YA lit in Quezon City, Philippines, and First Daughter: White House Rules was recently reviewed at a hospitable blog called "Into The Wardrobe," where I was also asked to give an interview. Maraming Salamat, Tarie!

Shannon Hale chats with readergirlz

We were treated to the humor and heart of Shannon Hale, author of BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS, during her featured month at readergirlz. Here are a few questions from teens, authors, divas, and other fans, along with Shannon's answers during her chat at the forum:

Q. Was BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS based on a specific fairy tale?

(It's) based on Maid Maleen, and obscure but (to me) fascinating Grimms brothers tale ... The story is so strange and yet has such amazing detail and depth, but it was the maid that caught me. After spending 7 years in a tower, she’s dropped from the narrative entirely half way through. That neglect really bothered me. I wanted to hear her voice, loud and strong, speaking up from the dust. I also chose it because of its similarity to The Goose Girl but very profound differences. I loved the dialog the two tales created with each other.

Q. Do you think of BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS as fiction or as sci-fi/fantasy?

I think of all my books as fantasy, and I think of t…

Fire Escape's 2008 Teen Contests Closed

The Fire Escape's sixth annual teen short story and poetry competitions are now closed. I've had a record number of entries in both categories, so please check back on July 1, 2008 for the winners.