Showing posts from October, 2008

India Loves Children's Books

American publishers should be paying close attention to the growing book consuming power in my native land. Most Indian kids who buy books don't need translations and enjoy stories originally written in English. Here's more evidence of how quickly that market's changing:You're invited to a week-long extravaganza of book-related events around the city, culminating in two days of dramatic readings and interactive workshops with internationally-renowned author and illustrators, where children will be inspired to read, draw, watch, question, imagine… to discover new worlds, and rediscover beloved classics.

Our ambition is that Bookaroo 2008 will be just the first of an India-wide series of festivals over the coming years

Bookaroo will help to raise the profile of Indian children’s books within India and abroad. It will help generate sales, ignite media-interest, actively foster links between professionals in the industry, educate and entertain and inform.
… And all over Delhi…

Help Me Renovate in '09

In the voting mood? An artist is envisioning my website's new look for 2009. Below are her rough sketches of three choices. Could you vote for one and help me pick?

Rounded Balcony With Plants

Brick Building With Stairs

Swoosh Through Balcony

Note: I have to tinker with the poll -- on some browsers it seems to be working, on others it's freaking out, so please leave your vote in the comments below if you're in the latter category and I'll add your vote to the poll later on this afternoon when I have time to fix it. Thanks so much!

Children's Books in Many Languages

Looking for a children's tale in Farsi, or a picture book for that Mongolian neighbor across the street? Check out the International Children's Digital Library, a growing source of free multilingual children's literature.

Your Baby's Just Fine

After reading Sarah Rettger's review of SECRET KEEPER (Random House, January 2009), I reacted like an anxious mommy-in-waiting when the OB says, "Hey, you're baby's doing great!"

A sigh of relief, settling back in the chair, a quick, loving pat of the metaphorical tummy.

Although pregnancy's not quite like the pre-publication jitters, is it?

After all, nobody's going to tell a mommy exactly how ugly her baby is in a crisp, well-written paragraph or two, but gatekeepers of literature feel that freedom, and rightfully so.

Smackdown! Librarians Versus Publishers!

How's that for a sensationalist headline? When it comes to age banding in the UK, librarians have picked a corner in the fight to keep publishers from printing suggested age ranges on childrens' and YA book covers.

If age banding goes forward, librarians would "ignore the classifications and shelve the books in the manner they felt was appropriate." Can you hear the cheers from the 800 or so authors who've joined ranks with the likes of J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman?

A representative of the Publisher's Association said they're looking forward to talking, but: "Age banding is there for those people who really don't know [what book they want], and there are a lot of those people out there – a point which libraries have not really taken on board."

As these three groups of adults continue to debate, I'm wondering if children across the Atlantic are seen but not heard. Has anybody surveyed them about age banding? Scientifically, I mean, across…

Ten Tips On Writing Race in Novels

Should an author include descriptions of a character's race in a story?

Well, yes and no. It depends. How's that for a wishy-washy answer?

Here's my attempt to sum up a lively discussion that's taken place here, and here, and also here over the past couple of days. As I tuned into the communal wisdom, I gleaned ten tips for authors about describing race in novels. Please correct, disagree, and inform as we continue the conversation, because I say mea culpa on most of the errors I describe below.

1. Forget about "race."

Identity is actually more about ethnicity, a word that comes from the Greek "ethnos," literally meaning "gentiles" and related originally more to language than skin color or hair texture. There really isn't a generic "African" race, for example -- there are groups who speak Kikuyu, Zulu, Ashanti, Fulani, etc.

Every one of us has an ethnicity. What language(s) did your four grandparents speak? The sixteen great-grand…

Should Authors Describe a Character's Race?

Should an author describe the race of a
character or leave it to the reader's imagination?
During an elementary education class at Boston College, one of the students asked me this question. I shared it this afternoon via my Facebook and Twitter status updates, and here's what people have been saying (emphasis mine):

If a character is of a certain race in writer's mind, why not describe it? Otherwise the reader assumes it's dominant group, right? — Sarah Rettger

I'm not an author, but I'd think that if it's important, then it will come out in other ways, such as in the reaction of others to that character. — Kathy Christie Hernandez

How important is it that the reader understand the author's original intent, and how much can the text speak to his/her experience apart from it? I think details on race, especially in your genre, will help some readers identify with the characters, while other readers may gloss over those details to find something more universa…

How Are They Getting Their Story Fix?

Once they're in high school, most teens stop reading for fun, says a Chicago Tribunearticle about the challenges faced by English teachers:The percent of 17-year-olds who do not read for pleasure has doubled in the past 20 years, according to a recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts. Just 43 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds said they read literature in 2002, continuing a decline that began two decades earlier.

"We're talking [about reading] a play, short story, novel or poem in the last 12 months. . . . It's a low bar. We're not even saying you had to complete the book," said Sunil Iyengar, the group's director of research and analysis.Another article from across the Atlantic presents a theory about why teens aren't reading. They're getting dumber, according to The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future by Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein:(Bauerlein) draws a depressin…

I Didn't Weep During My Speech

The Jane Addams Book Awards ceremony took place yesterday in Manhattan with the flags of the United Nations as our backdrop (that's me, just before entering 777 UN Plaza for the event).

I was terrified I was going to lose it during my talk. Who wouldn't get verklempt when given an award for "children's books that promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races?"

To avoid the danger of extemporaneous verbiage, I wrote out the whole three minutes:
Thank you to the Peace Association for your hospitality at this wonderful event and this great honor for our book Rickshaw Girl.

My great-grandmother, who lived in Bangladesh all of her life, was nine years old when she was married. My only memory of her is an old woman sitting quietly in a widow’s white sari.

Did she have power? Some might say not much.

But she taught her daughter how to draw alpanas, the traditional folk art of Bengal. And she told stories. Wonderful st…

Manhattan Is Calling My Name

I'm heading to NY to have lunch with Random House editor Françoise Bui (who worked with me on MONSOON SUMMER and SECRET KEEPER), and to accept the Jane Addams Honor Award for RICKSHAW GIRL with illustrator Jamie Hogan.

I've got my three-minute speech ready, and most of you know that I'm so happy because Jane Addams is one of my heroes. Stop by the ceremony at United Nations Plaza if you're in town, because everybody's invited. Details are here. I'll be back on the Fire Escape on Monday!

Here's To The Obama Family's Librarian

Remember when I sent copies of my books to the McCain and Obama girls as payback for tracking them on sparrowblog?

Well, I haven't heard back yet from Meghan or Bridget, and the padded envelope containing Rickshaw Girl was returned to sender by Obama's campaign headquarters, unopened.

I'd already inscribed the book to Sasha and Malia, so I decided to send it again, this time directly to their school library. Here's the handwritten note I just got from their librarian:
Thank you so much for the gift of your wonderful book in honor of Malia and Sasha. We do already own a copy, but kids love it, and an additional copy, especially as a gift from you, will be treasured. It is a beautiful story, and a glimpse into a world so different from ours. I will also write a note to the Obamas to let them know the book is here. Thanks again for your thoughtful gift.Now that's classy. The hand that chooses the books and checks them out to kids rules the world.

Coe Booth and An Na at rgz Live! Chat Highlights

For those who missed our conversation with Coe Booth (KENDRA) and An Na (THE FOLD) last night at readergirlz, here are a few choice excerpts, reprinted with the authors' permission:

How did you tap into your teen years when writing your novels, KENDRA and THE FOLD? Was there anything in those books that you actually experienced growing up?

Anna: I did indeed have a crazy aunt offer my sister plastic surgery. We all thought she was crazy, but there were girls going through with it.

Coe: My teen years are always right on the surface for me. I feel like it was all yesterday sometimes. All I have to do is close my eyes and remember all that angst.I didn’t have to tap into my own experiences for KENDRA. It’s not based on my life in any way, but the feelings Kendra goes through are definitely the kind I would have had. Like Kendra, I was (and am) very sensitive!

Anna, did you grow up in a mostly-white suburb? Or were you around a lot of other Koreans? Coe, what was it like growing up in the…

Coe Booth and An Na: rgz Live Chat!

As part of readergirlz' celebration of Teen Read Week, you're invited to an hour of great conversation with LA Times Book Award winner Coe Booth (KENDRA) and Printz Award winner An Na (THE FOLD), moderated by me at readergirlztonight, 9 EST, 6 PST.

Coe Booth: Kendra
Kendra's mom, Renee, had her when she was only 14 years old. Renee and her mom made a deal -- Renee could get an education, and Kendra would live with her grandmother. But now Renee's out of grad school and Kendra's in high school ... and getting into some trouble herself. Kendra's grandmother lays down the law: It's time for Renee to take care of her daughter. Kendra wants this badly -- even though Renee keeps disappointing her. Being a mother isn't easy, but being a daughter can be just as hard. Now it's up to Kendra and Renee to make it work.

COE BOOTH has worked in social services, and is currently a teacher in the Bronx. She has always lived in and continues to live in the Bronx. She i…

Poetry Friday: The Storytelling Power of Hair

Hair tells our secrets.

Our thoughts on age, politics, beauty, race, and self can all be communicated by the way we keep our hair.

Check me out with three different dos, for example. If I were to (lie and) say that one of these was my high school yearbook photo, what would you learn about the me I used to be?

For this week's Poetry Friday (roundup here), I give you the last stanza of Karen Craigo's insightful ESCAPED HOUSEWIFE PREFERS THE TERM COSMETOLOGIST:
She came here to verify what she always suspected: that straight hair must be curled, curly hair straightened, long hair cut, short hair extended. That what comes to us by fate is wrong. Source: Poetry (March 2002)
Read the rest here.

Fusion Authors Action Figures

Order yours today!
Representing Fusion Stories, from left to right: David Yoo (STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE), Paula Yoo (GOOD ENOUGH), Me, and Janet Wong (MINN AND JAKE)

We didn't have a huge turnout at our NECME workshop, but had fun anyway, chatting with each other and the educators who came.

Here I am shocked, absolutely shocked, by the contents of David Yoo's new novel (photos courtesy of his sister):

Enjoy the fabulous trailer for STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE, just released from Hyperion:

Fusion Stories Panel in Hartford

Today at NECME in Hartford, Connecticut I'm moderating a panel of three other Fusion Stories authors, Janet Wong (MINN AND JAKE'S ALMOST TERRIBLE SUMMER), Paula Yoo (GOOD ENOUGH), and David Yoo (STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE). We'll be signing books, too.

Here are some of the questions I plan to ask Paula, David, and Janet:
What was your experience growing up as an Asian-American? How did you connect to the "Asian" part of your heritage (if at all)?

What are some advantages of the "multicultural" label when it comes to books and authors?

What are some disadvantages?

How do you feel about authors who aren't Asians writing about Asia or creating Asian characters?

How do American standards of beauty affect an Asian-American child?

Do you see pop culture changing when it comes to being Asian-American? If so, why?

What are you working on now?

BENEATH MY MOTHER'S FEET: Interview with Amjed Qamar

Know a young reader with a blossoming dream to battle poverty? Get her a copy of Beneath My Mother's Feet (Atheneum, June 2008) by Amjed Qamar. Throughout this moving debut novel, we grow to care deeply about Nazia, a young heroine with few choices but immense courage and compassion.

The author honors the culture of her origin and yet unflinchingly etches out in stark detail the chasm in Pakistan between rich and poor and men and women. American readers won't be able to read news headlines about Pakistanis without picturing Nazia and her friends and family living there.

I invited the author out on the Fire Escape to talk about writing the book and share our chat with you here. I also highlighted a few compelling phrases in bold as they seemed to jump out at me ... so, emphasis mine.

So, tell us, Amjed, where is “home” for you?

I was born in Hyderabad, India and came to the U.S. when I was around a year old. My whole life I lived in the midwest, mostly Ohio. I lived in Pakistan fo…

Pura Belpré Medal Award Nominations

It's time to nominate books for the 2009 Pura Belpré Medal Award. This is one of those awards restricted by the ethnicity of the author (you may read my thoughts about that and chime in here). It's given to a "Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth."

The award is sponsored jointly by ALSC, a division of the American Library Association, and REFORMA: Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking. The suggested book must be published in the United States or Puerto Rico during 2008. The award will be announced at the Youth Media Awards Press Conference during the ALA Midwinter meeting on January 26, 2009.

Bubble Stampede's Best Book Promotion Links

Authors Laurie Purdie Salas and Fiona Bayrock are brainstorming about promotion during the nine months before their first books are birthed in Spring 2009. Their livejournal blog, Bubble Stampede, is full of tips and conversation about their trials, errors, and triumphs.

That's how I found them -- they've just shared their favorite links about promotion, included my own Pajama Promotion: Ten Tips For Writers, and Google alerts tossed their post into my inbox. I headed there for a brief visit and discovered a roundup that was so helpful I decided to share it on the Fire Escape.

So here's another on-line tip for authors in flannel clutching a coffee cup: link to posts that catch your attention. Many of us track our online presence, so we'll probably end up checking you out, and maybe even buzzing about you if your content proves to be valuable to our readers.

Poetry Friday: When Autumn Came

Lots of people living in New England gloat over the fall. I beg to differ. That's why I'm joining this week's Poetry Friday with a poem by poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who understands my tropical blood:

by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
translated by Naomi Lazard

This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground ...

read the rest here

From The True Subject by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Naomi Lazard. © 1987 Princeton University Press.

Holly Cupala Makes Her Diva Debut

We at readergirlz are thrilled to announce that YA author Holly Cupala has been appointed as our newest DIVA (the other four are Justina Chen Headley, Dia Calhoun, Lorie Ann Grover, and me).

Holly's debut novel, tentatively titled A Light That Never Goes Out, was sold to HarperCollins in a two-book deal. She won a 2006 SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant, which helped her to finish the book. (BTW, I just renewed my membership in SCBWI, the planet's most helpful and non-negotiable association for children's book writers and illustrators.)

Holly lives in Seattle, where she's already been serving steadily with readergirlz (she designed the brilliant logo above, for example), and she blogs at Brimstone Soup.

Holly Cupala and Lorie Ann Grover at the Kidlitosphere Conference in Portland

But I must share my favorite between-cultures photo of Holly, because we had a virtual consultation from East Coast to West about the pleating and folding of her party outfit, a gift from her in-laws. A…

Cybils Nominations Are Open!

Nominations for the third annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils) will be open Wednesday, October 1st through Wednesday, October 15th. The goal of the Cybils team (some 100 bloggers) is to highlight books that are high in both literary quality and kid appeal. The Cybils were founded by Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold. The Cybils lists, from long lists to short lists to the lists of winners, offer a wonderful resource to anyone looking for high-quality, kid-friendly books. The Cybils team has worked hard to balance democracy (anyone can nominate titles) with quality control (two rounds of panel judging by people who focus on children's books every day). We do this work because we consider it vital to get great books into the hands of children and young adults. How Can You Participate?We think that the Cybils nominations will be of interest to parents, teachers, librarians, writers, and teens. If you have a blog or an email list or belong to…