Showing posts from January, 2009

Ethics For Wired Authors

Readers used to hate or love novels without knowing much about the authors who penned them. It didn't really matter if we spoke politely, smiled brightly, or even liked kids or teens.

They focused on our characters instead of on our character.

Things have changed in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. Now readers can follow us and discover if we're naughty or nice. They can like us virtually and be disappointed in our books, or love our books and be annoyed with us on-line.

But what if teens or kids are following and friending us? Can we be candid out here about our joys and sorrows, failures and successes, passions and opinions? What if they turn to us for spiritual advice or send a desperate direct message that sounds suicidal?

All writers wield a certain measure of influence, but the difference in power between an adult author and a child or teen reader makes things even more tricky. I'd like to see some ethical guidelines for wired authors in the world of children…

Ethnic Awards Postscript

Setting diplomacy aside, where do I stand right now, January 29, 2009, when it comes to the discussion about the Coretta Scott King Awards taking place on Roger Sutton's and Esme Raj Codell's blogs?

The reality is that racial classification still exists in the minds of kids and teens. And North American kids who consider themselves African-American are still dealing with white majority default most of the time.

I remember the hordes of kids who browsed books at the Kennedy Center during the Multicultural Book Festival. For once, ALL the covers featured faces resembling theirs. They glanced up from the books to check out the authors, who also ALL mostly looked like them. For once, they were in the majority when it came to children's books.

That's why the CSK awards is still a wonderful vehicle for kids to (1) discover great stories featuring heroes they think of as being like them, and (2) meet awe-inspiring famous authors who they see as grownup versions of themselves.


SECRET KEEPER News and Reviews

The Bulletin enjoyed it:
The characters are skillfully drafted, playing the requisite parts (domineering matriarch, displaced wife, gangly teenager) without becoming caricatures, and the setting is richly depicted. Offer this to fans of family drama as well as those who seek literary windows into other cultural or historical contexts.Blogger Jen Robinson's review was thrilling because she described my dream response from readers:
I read it two quick sittings, eager to know what would happen next. I could practically smell and taste Calcutta in the 1970's, and I loved the characters, especially Asha.
Sherry Early at Semicolon picks it as her favorite among my novels:
Such a powerful story! Secret Keeper is a tale of love and loss, of traditional family and of new ways and mores creeping into and disrupting the old conventions ... I really think that this book is Ms. Perkins’ best book to date, an exploration of cultural norms and changing roles, of responsibility to self and to fam…

Book Reviewer Shakeups

Nervous-making news came this week for mid-list or debut authors. First, venerable children's literature reviewer The Horn Book was snapped up by Junior Library Guild. And yesterday the New York Timesrevealed that Brian Kenney of School Library Journal is now editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly AND Library Journal.

There's more. PW children's book reviewer Elizabeth Devereaux lost her job in the cutbacks (she's reviewed for them since 1989!), Críticas, an English speaker's guide to the latest Spanish titles, was shut down (after 8 years!), and senior editor Aída Bardales laid off. Condolences to one and all. These are hard blows.

Trickling way down through the industry chain, what does this mean for authors already eyeing shrinking print review space? I asked Roger Sutton of the Horn Book this question on his blog, and he gave a reassuring answer about their continued feisty independence when it comes to reviews:
JLG sees books--manuscripts--probably six months to …

Do We STILL Need Ethnic Book Awards?

Today the ALA announced the winners of their awards for children's and teen books published in 2008. Superb African-American authors and illustrators were recognized in many categories outside of the Coretta Scott King award, which restricts the winners to those who are African-Americans.

We discussed the problem of ethnic book awards on the Fire Escape last January, but perhaps with our biracial President in office, it's worth revisiting the discussion. Start with author Esme Raj Codell's grievance over never being able to win the King award. Here's an excerpt:
I have a very hard time with an award that claims to “commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood,” and yet uses the author’s race as a criteria. I find this contradictory.In a culture that's blending and melding at a fast rate, are we ready to move beyond an award based…

My Cover Girl is a Fan

I'd know that face anywhere. I was scanning my page on Facebook when I saw it.

I sent a message right away. "Is it really you?" I asked.

Her answer winged back. "Yes, it's me, 'Sameera!'" she answered, and went on to tell me what she'd done since that photo shoot for Dutton Books.

I'd been merrily using her fake identity on Sparrowblog and in all kinds of promotional purposes for my FIRST DAUGHTER novels, but I hadn't realized how much that beautiful face had melded with Sameera's in my imagination.

When your own character turns up as a fan on Facebook, the line between fiction and real life feels blurry indeed.

Social Networking Guilt: Get Over It

Writers don't like to admit the growing amount of time we're spending on social networks. We're supposed to be in our hermitages, penning the next acclaimed epic, desperate for the muse, with disheveled hair and unshaven faces (or legs). Is it wasteful to invest creative time in Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or other online connectional activity?

"Tell me about your West Coast events," my buddy Karen Day (TALL TALES and NO CREAM PUFFS / Wendy Lamb Books) asked during our celebratory lunch today.

As I described my book parties in Palo Alto (about 30 in attendance?) and in Bellevue (40 or so?), two cities where I don't live, I was struck by how vital Facebook and Twitter have become in my writing career. I'd say 80% of the participants found my event via those social networks.

I remember the days when I'd sit pathetically at a signing, trying hard to smile as people passed by. Thanks to the power of FB and Twitter, writers who aren't Mo Willems or John Gre…

Book Parties, Convertibles, and Seattle Sunshine

It was almost time for my mini-book tour to the West Coast, and I was worried.

"Old buddies and new friends are coming to the events," I told my sister. "How can I possibly make each one feel loved in a five-minute interaction, especially when I'll be so distracted?"

"It's not about them this weekend, honey," my sister responded. "You have to let them love you."

And so I did.

First it was the guy at the rental car company who, upon hearing I'd escaped the Arctic front in Boston, upgraded me to a convertible so I could relish the Bay Area's seventy-degree weather.

my sister riding shot-gun;
it doesn't get better than this

Kepler's in Menlo Park invited me to take a tour and sign stock, which I did with pleasure, and then I drove around the campus of my alma mater with the top down, marveling at the changed and the unchanged.

Lagunita Hall, where I met my husband

Jennifer Laughran of Not Your Mother's Book Club brought samosas, …

Westward Ho

Buh-bye, Arctic Front! I'm heading to California and Washington for a blur of book events and writing workshops. If you're anywhere near Palo Alto or Bellevue, check my schedule here, and please stop by and say hello. I'll be back on the Fire Escape on 1/21, with pictures, news, and gossip.

Thanks to everybody who celebrated with me as SECRET KEEPER released on 1/13. You made it feel like a party even though I was cloistered in my writing nook most of the day. Check out the yummy soup that author Jama Rattigan concocted:

Five Hidden Kid Lit Treasures in Newton

Last Tuesday, for my first blogging assignment, I posted about five obvious gifts we enjoy in Newton when it comes to children's literature: our library, great bookstores, tech-savvy bloggers, publishers, authors and illustrators.

This week, I shared five hidden treasures that make life even more interesting for any children's book connoisseur in Newton.

#1 Kahani Magazine:

This award-winning magazine for children is edited by Newton's own Monika Jain and illuminates the richness and diversity that South Asian cultures bring to North America.

Completely ad-free, full of great stories, art, activities, and fun facts, Kahani is a must-have for any family, school, or library seeking to empower and educate global citizens.

Okay, full disclosure: I serve on the editorial advisory board, and it's a credential I wear with pride.

#2 The Foundation of Children's Books' events at Boston College:

The FCB hosts renowned authors like David Wiesner (TUESDAY), Br…

Fly, Secret Keeper, Fly!

On book release day, I get a mental picture of myself releasing a carrier pigeon into the sky.

Reading tastes vary, so I know not everybody's going to love my story. But I can imagine a teenager receiving it somewhere out there, and feeling as if this novel was written just for her.

Bon Voyage, Secret Keeper!

Photo Source: Genista via Creative Commons

I'm a Deborah Sloan Fan!

If you're considering hiring a publicist for your book launch, have I got someone for you.

Deborah Sloan, who used to be the Director of Publicity at Candlewick, has been running her own consulting business for two years. She knows the business inside and out, and is dedicated to getting great children's and YA stories into the hands and hearts of readers.

I've been working closely with Deborah to plan Kids Heart Authors Day. While we were on the phone discussing the idea of a regional indie-author-illustrator love fest, she had to put me on hold for a minute to sign for a bouquet delivery from Laurie Halse Anderson. Deborah organized Laurie's recent Chains tour, which was a grand success.

Now Deborah's putting in hours and hours to organize and promote our Kids Heart Authors event, and I've been astounded by her relational skills, wit, and just plain smarts. And can you believe she's doing this FOR FREE?

You'd be crazy not to hire her. But you'd bette…

Registration Closing For Kids Heart Authors Day

It's the last day to be added to the great V-day Indie-Author-Illustrator New England book party site. 110 authors/illustrators and 35 bookstores have joined already (I've got a few more that came in to add), but after 5 p.m. today EST you're on your own if you want to arrange a local bash on Valentine's Day. Feel free to use the nifty personalizable .pdf poster created by generous media maven Deborah Sloan.

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in New England, reserve this in your iPhones, blackberries, or desk calendars: pick up a signed literary Valentine for that beloved kid or teen on February 14, 2009, from 10-12 a.m., at a cozy bookstore near you.

Small Graces: A Painting A Month

The Year of the Ox (starting January 26th on the Gregorian calendar) is bringing us good fortune.

Renaissance woman Grace Lin (Year of the Dog / Little Brown) is going to be auctioning off a painting a month to benefit The Foundation of Children's Books' program of bringing authors into low-income schools.

The first auction starts on Monday, Jan. 12th. (Proverb: "A smile will gain you ten more years of life." So true.) You may find out how to bid here, and please spread the word.

How Does Your Town Champion Children's Books?

As a first-gen American, the passion and support for children's books we enjoy here is breathtaking to me. In every corner of the country, you'll find someone who cares deeply about getting stories into the hands, hearts, and minds of young people. And then actually does something about it.

Okay, so your mind is racing to the complaints, cutbacks, and criticisms you've been hearing (or uttering) lately about the industry, but a New Year is a good time to take stock of the positives. I started a 12-week Tuesday blogging stint at yesterday, and here's my first stab at answering the question in the title of this post.

Admittedly, mine is an extremely lit-friendly town, but I'm fairly sure that every nook and cranny in the U.S.A. is home to someone who is dedicated to children's literature. I'd love to hear about some of your community's book champions, so leave them in the comments section and maybe I'll do a roundup post.

Our Hometown…

Book Trailers Are Fun!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, I'm delighted to present a one-minute book trailer produced by Bethany Macleod for SECRET KEEPER.

The trailer stars Sejal, the daughter of my good friend Monika Jain, editor of the award-winning Kahani Magazine. The voiceover is moi. Enjoy.

Sorry I'm So Secret Keeper-ish

Bear with me for a bit as my novel releases January 13th, and enjoy the gorgeous posters designed by Jennifer Laughran of Not Your Mother's Bookshop and Brenda Gurung of Barnes & Noble announcing my Bay Area and Seattle events.

And don't worry, I'll be keeping an eye on great posts about books between cultures, like this one,"All A-Twitter About Newbery Diversity," where librarian Liz Burns responds to an in-the-news study that lamented the lack of diverse characters in Newbery-winning novels. Definitely worth a read.

Shubho Nobo Borsho!

... or Happy New Year in Bangla.

For me, 2009 kicks off with massive renovations on Mitali's Fire Escape. I'd love to hear what you think, or if you have any suggestions to make the new site more user-friendly.

We're up to 23 bookstores and 85 authors/illustrators over at our New England indie-author Valentine's Day event, Kids Heart Authors Day. Only two weeks left to sign up!

Last but not least, I'm busy fine-tuning my mini-tour for the launch of Secret Keeper on January 13th. I'll be reading, signing books, and offering writing workshops in the San Francisco and Seattle areas, as well as just plain partying in Bellevue, Palo Alto, and Newtonville. I'd love to see you there. Feel free to sign up for the book giveaway over at Goodreads, too.


Book Signing and Chai, Thursday Jan. 15, 2009, 6:00 - 7:00 pm, Not Your Mother's Book Club, Books Inc., Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real #74, Palo Alto, CA. Phone: 650…