Showing posts from April, 2008

Kelly Bingham chats with readergirlz

Did you know that author Kelly Bingham (SHARK GIRL) used to write Disney movies -- including Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Atlantis? Or that she finished the first draft of her book just a few days before surfer Bethany Hamilton was attacked by a shark, and then put the book away for a whole year? Kelly's been spending time this month on readergirlz, and here are some great quotes from her live chat last Thursday at our forum.
On books she loved as a teen:Little House on the Prairie books! Trixie Belden, teen detective! This sounds juvenille, but lots of Charlie Brown comic books. I read a lot of animal stories but couldn’t bear to read anything twice where the animal died or was hurt.On researching SHARK GIRL: I started with shark attack facts. Do you know it is actually quite rare to have a shark attack in America? And fatalaties are very rare here. I read all kinds of books about it and looked at stomach-turning photos. Blah. Then, once I start…

Great Women, Great Awards

Let's dream a bit about our posthumous presence in the world of children's literature. If your name were to be affiliated with a book award someday, what criteria would you want to see define the selection process? Stories that feature the empowerment of women? Novels that promote peace or social justice? Or would you want your name to honor books that instruct and delight at the same time, like author John Newbery, who adopted John Locke's motto deluctando monemus as his vocational vision?

It's always an honor when your book is nominated for or wins an award, but this year four kudos have special meaning because they're named after a quartet of my personal heroes -- Amelia Bloomer, women's rights advocate, Jane Addams, founder of Hull House, Julia Ward Howe, abolitionist and poet, and Maud Hart Lovelace, author of my beloved Betsy-Tacy books (I was recently informed that Monsoon Summer is one of Minnesota's 2008-2009 Maud Hart Lovelace nominees -- hooray!)

Rickshaw Girl Wins Jane Addams Honor!

I'm thrilled to announce that Rickshaw Girl is a Jane Addams Honor Book for 2008. I got a phone call last week from Susan Griffith, chair of the committee, telling me the news. 
Here's the official press release:


April 28, 2008 — Winners of the 2008 Jane Addams Children's Book Awards were announced today by the Jane Addams Peace Association.

The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom, the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category, is written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully and published by Farrar Strauss Giroux. Mrs. Washington’s declares that young Oney is just like one of the Washington’s own children, but Oney is not fooled. On the night Mrs. Washington tells Oney she will not grant her freedom upon her death, Oney thinks quickly, acts courageously and flees. Expressive watercolors within this well-researched biography portray the bravery of Ona Maria Judge, an African-American woman who c…

Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship

I had the privilege of serving as one of the judges this year for the PEN Phyllis Naylor Fellowship (along with Sid Fleischman and Christopher Paul Curtis), and our decision was announced this week: This year the fellowship goes to Theresa Nelson, author of the forthcoming novel Julia Delaney: The American Version, to be published by Atheneum Books.

From the judges' citation: “It’s 1910 when her grandmother dies, and Irish-American orphan Julia Delaney and her sister are carted off to a Catholic institution, sustained only by her beloved older brother’s promise to reunite them. This historical novel is told with engaging humor, rich language, and details that are superbly consistent with the setting. From the outset, Julia leaps out of the past, off the page, and straight into your heart.”

It's All In The Pleat: How To Wear A Sari

I like to bring a saree along to school visits and drape it on a student volunteer, but I gleaned some tips on tucking and folding from this rooftop expert:

Kelly Bingham on readergirlz TONIGHT!

Come join us for a live chat on the readergirlz MySpace forum with our April-is-poetry-month author Kelly Bingham tonight, Thursday April 24th, at 6 p.m. PDT and 9 p.m. EDT (you mountain and central people do the math and join us.) SHARK GIRL: A Novel In Verse

What happens when life as you know it is changed forever? What happens when your dreams are snatched away? And how do you move on when you have lost part of yourself forever?

Shark Girl is a story of fifteen-year old Jane Arrowood, a budding artist and junior in high school. On a sunny summer day, Jane goes to the beach with her family and goes for a swim. That's when everything changes---forever.

Now she dreads returning to school, with her fake arm and the stares, whispers, and pity of the students around her.

Told in poems, letters, newspaper articles, and conversations, SHARK GIRL looks at what it's like to find the courage to rebuild the life you thought you'd lost.Here's an excerpt from Kelly's conversat…

Happy Three Year Blogiversary To Me

It was April 23, 2005. I'd never heard of widgets, or YouTube, or blog rolls. Fighting writer's block, bored with my own brain, I stepped out to a place where a few children's book people had started to gather.

The old blogger platform.

Remember that? The whirling wheel that hypnotized you for at least a minute after you hit publish. Syndication and html coding were part of the vast unknown, and blogger error messages became as familiar as my own posts. Nonetheless, I kept blogging. And learning. And making mistakes.

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm proud of my forty-something brain for grasping an entirely new language and way of communicating. It's crazy fun, I've made wonderful friends, and I've blathered on about lots of subjects, blissfully uninterrupted and uncensored.


As always, thanks for stopping by, and please do keep coming out to the Fire Escape. You're always welcome!

Yet Another Reason To Love Maine

While I was traveling hither and yon last week (New Hampshire, Texas, California, and Colorado), illustrator Jamie Hogan attended the Reading Round-Up Conference in Augusta to accept the Maine Library Association's Lupine Honor Award for Rickshaw Girl. Thank you so much, Pine Tree State!

Mitali on View From The Bay

Whew! I survived my appearance on ABC-KGO's View From The Bay -- in fact, it was a blast. Call me, Oprah, I'm ready for you now.

Happy Operation Teen Book Drop!

Today's the day! I rocked the drop -- scattering books far and wide in places like Dallas, Texas; Springfield, Missouri; Concord, Massachusetts; Winchester, Massachusetts, and of course in the fabulous Children's Hospital in Boston, where Dr. Jessica Daniel coordinates a program called Booking It In The Waiting Room, trying to make sure that teens who come in for stressful appointments can choose and take home wonderful new books.

Jenna Bush And Mitali Speak Simultaneously

That's right. Here I am in Dallas for the GIGANTIC Texas Library Association Conference, and the real First Daughter is speaking about Ana's Story exactly during the hour of my Books Between Cultures session (she's appearing at noon in a huge banquet hall; I'm tucked in a conference room somewhere). Interesting timing, considering that one of the reasons I'm here is to sign and promote my First Daughter novels. There's irony in there somewhere for those of you tracking my pajama publicity efforts. Oh, well. I'm off to the exhibit hall, consoling myself with the super-sized everything here in Dallas -- airport, convention center, food portions on every plate, smiles, and the unsurpassed hospitality of Texas librarians.

Thank You, Charlesbridge ...

... for choosing artist Jamie Hogan to illustrate Rickshaw Girl (which was just named a 2008 Julia Ward Howe Recommended Book and won a starred mention in Bank Street's Best Children Books of the year.) Since our Charlesbridge-arranged introduction, Jamie has lavished me with gifts, like giving me the portrait in my blog header above, and sending me this promotional postcard she designed for both of us:

She also framed one of the portraits of Naima and her sister that she drew for the book, wrapped it, and sent it to my beloved sister in Colorado as a breathtaking birthday present:

And then, at the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference this past weekend, Jamie came up after my session and presented me with another of her gorgeous illustrations -- the one she drew of Saleem and reminds me so much of my father as a boy:

photos above courtesy of Jamie Hogan

Thank you, Jamie, and thank you, Charlesbridge editor Judy O'Malley and Art Director Su…

Live-Blogging From Nashua: Kevin Hawkes' Keynote

The ballroom's filling up, and I'm sitting next to National Book Award finalist Nancy Werlin (new fantasy/romance YA Impossible coming this September). Kevin Hawkes is about to speak, and he'll probably use a lot of slides, so I'll just give you a quote or two to keep you with us.

Before Kevin speaks, Anna Boll gives us a bit about next year's conference, with keynote Cynthia Lord and illustrator Floyd Cooper. It will take place April 24-26, 2009, so mark your calendars. Anna introduces Kevin Hawkes, lauding his ability to make characters come alive.

Our theme this year is stretching our wings, Kevin says, which is risky. Who are the people that gave you your wings? Kevin introduces a few of those important people in his life, like his mother, who taught him to recognize magic, or the absence of it, in art. There were some key risks he took, and they paid off. Moving, for example, to Boston, was a big deal. He visited Little Brown, and an editor asked, "What kin…

Live-Blogging From Nashua: Leda Schubert on Fantasy

Afternoon workshop. Fantasy and World Building. Leda Schubert

I'm sitting in the back trying to keep my blogging low-key, next to writing buddies Wendy Nystrom and Mordena Babich (who knows the correct pronunciation of Rick Riordan), both in my critique group, both authors of excellent stories in the fantasy genre. Leda gets started (I did ask her permission to live-blog, and she graciously gave it, so relax and read on. Here's a disclaimer, though: these are rough notes, they don't include Leda's precise words, and the quotes are incomplete.)

What is the wrong reason to write fantasy? Because it's what's selling. The right reason? It is the best way to tell the story only you can tell. We're born with the need for story.

Leda goes over the classic book, Harold and the Purple Crayon. Study this book! It shows all that's right about fantasy, she says. The heart-stopping moment of fantasy is when you wonder if it's going to be okay. If you scare your…

Live-Blogging From Nashua: Laurie Halse Anderson

Here I am in the ballroom of the Crowne Hotel in Nashua (9 a.m.), waiting to hear NESCBWI's keynote speaker for our annual conference. The place is packed with 500 eager writers and illustrators -- a more diverse crowd than in years past, but still mostly white, middle-aged, and female.

Conference director Francine Puckley is introducing the cadre of hard workers who pull off this huge conference. I'm sitting next to authors Tanya Lee Stone (A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl) and Sarah Aronson (Head Case), who are BFFs, and trying not to miss MY writing buddy, author Karen Day (Tall Tales).

During the intro to Laurie Halse Anderson, we learn that her new YA/MG novel Chains is due out in October.

Laurie starts by showing us her tattoo, and tells us to get one in order to "frustrate the fifteen-year-olds in America." Her tattoo is the first word in Beowulf, which basically means "LISTEN TO MY STORY."
After hundreds of rejections and years, it dawned on her that s…

The Edge Of The Forest

The March/April issue of our favorite ezine about children's and YA literature is live. Here's a snapshot of the goodies awaiting you:

Traveling, Talking, and Television Shows

I'm going on the road next week, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to sneak out to the Fire Escape too often, but I'll try, because I love it out here. Here's where I'll be:

Friday, April 11th - Saturday, April 12th: On Friday, I'm at the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Annual Conference, enjoying dinner and a cabaret presentation by author/illustrator Anne Sibley O'Brien, author/illustrator David Hyde Costello, and Charlesbridge editor Yolanda Leroy called CONFESSIONS OF THE PROFESSION: A STARRED REVUE. I can't wait to see it! I'll also be presenting a workshop on Saturday April 12th from 10:05 -11:00 a.m. called "Pajama Promotion: Five Web-Savvy Ways to Generate Buzz About Your Books."
Wednesday, April 16th: Come join us for my session called "Books Between Cultures," offered from 12-12:50 at the Texas Library Association Convention, (Program CPE#356 in room D 171/173 sponsored by the Texas…

First Daughter Reviews and Interviews

Check out these new reviews of First Daughter: White House Rules at Kahani magazine and Paper Tigers, and a couple of interviews at Harmony's Book Reviews and Robin Friedman's JerseyFresh Tude.

Katherine Paterson: Soundbytes and Speeding Tickets

Last Thursday, I skedaddled over to Primary Source (mission: promotes history and humanities education by connecting educators to people and cultures throughout the world) to listen to one of my literary heroes, Katherine Paterson. The photo was taken last year, and that's author Anne Broyles' hand --  I had to crop her out to preserve the privacy of Ms. Paterson's fridge display (sorry, Anne). 
During the event, I jotted some quotes to share with you on the Fire Escape:
On what she wished she knew during her lonely childhood: Cheer up, little girl, someday you're going to make a mint out of your misery.On the transformative power of bilingualism:The language we speak doesn't just express our thoughts and feelings, it shapes our thoughts and feelings.On the solace of fiction:The consolation of the imaginary is not imaginary consolation.On why media-saturated children need to read:Wisdom comes slowly and quietly, it requires contemplation and silence ... Literature de…

Go Ahead, Judge My Book ...

... by the cover. What do you think it's about?
Coming January 2009 from Random House

A New Writing Season

This week Delacorte editor Fran├žoise Bui told me that a copy editor's working on Secret Keeper (Random House, Spring 2009), the flap copy and author bio are good to go, and she's sending me cover art soon.

I've got one more revision of The Bamboo People due to Charlesbridge, but that feels more than manageable.

And agent Laura Rennert called to chat about future projects.

After almost three years of writing under contract, I'm free! Picture me on the Austrian Alps -- wait scratch that, the Himalayan foothills -- singing and whirling with arms akimbo.

My goal for the next three years? Hone the craft, sweetheart, and no signing on a dotted line before that first draft is finished.

Sarah Dessen chats with readergirlz

Sarah Dessen was our guest author over at readergirlz for the month of March, talking about her forthcoming book, Lock and Key. Here are some excerpts from her chat with the girlz last week:
I get a little crazy everytime I’m writing a book, especially at the end, when I’m so tired and burned out and just trying to finish. Mostly by then I’m just subsisting on chocolate and fear. But somehow, it works out.

I never start a book until I have what I call "the skeleton, " which is the first line, climactic scene, and last scene. They often change from what I begin with, but I like knowing where I’m going. I’ve started books without knowing that and they never work out.I actually had a lot of people say they thought Just Listen was TOO much like Speak. I made a point of not reading Speak until JL was edited and done, but while they have the theme of sexual assualt in common, I thought they were very different. I think it’s never a bad thing to have many takes on an issue that peop…

Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

From Monica Edinger comes the announcement of this year's Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts. Here are the 30 books selected by the committee:

2008 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

Poetry and Drama
Dillons, Leo and Diane. (2007). Jazz on a Saturday Night. New York: Blue Sky Press/Scholastic.Forman, Ruth. (2007). Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon. Illustrations by Cbabi Bayoc. San Francisco, CA: Children's Book Press.Neri, G. (2007). Chess Rumble. Illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson. New York: Lee & Low.Park, Linda Sue. (2007). Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo Poems. Illustrations by Istvan Banyai. New York: Clarion/Houghton Mifflin.Schlitz, Laura Amy. (2007). Good Masters, Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.Historical and Realistic FictionCompestine, Ying Chang. (2007). Revolution is Not a Dinner Party. New York: Henry Holt.Ellsworth, Loretta. (2007). In Search of Mockingbird. New York: Henry Holt.Gifford, Pe…