Showing posts from February, 2009

Why I'm A Slumdog Fan

I've heard three kinds of complaints about the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire. Here's my rebuttal to each criticism, because guess what? I liked the film.

(1) "Unrealistic."

Of course it was improbable, Mr. Rushdie. Escapist fantasy mandates good triumphing over evil. One can survive a crawl from a toilet through excrement thanks to the power of love, while the love of power leads to death in a bathroom.

(2) "Exploitative."

The torture and suffering of children don't make it an easy view, so did Slumdog use poverty, orphans, and children as lazy storytelling techniques to elicit compassion and connection from rich viewers? What was it like to view it as a resident in Mumbai's Juhu slum, where much of the film was shot?


The "poverty porn" accusation did give me pause, but after reflection, I don't believe the film made this fatal error. The first reason is because it was a fairy tale, which requires an amping up of villainy and…

Is this a Job or a Vacation?

Writers gain an intimate view into communities that others get to visit only as tourist destinations. Take Sandwich, Massachusetts, for example, brimming with outsiders during the four to six warmer months of the New England year. But imagine traveling there as a visiting author on a brisk February day ...

Start with lunch at the high school library, where you and a few teenagers feast on the librarian's homemade meatballs, cheese, crackers, fruit, and spritzer water. The students inform you that most of their parents also went to their high school, and that many adults commute into Boston up to two hours each way just to stay in town.

Watch over a hundred high-schoolers stream in for your session. The poised, handsome sophomore guy who will introduce you tells you the school is mostly white. Some of the Cape communities are more diverse, he adds, with a Wampanoag community in neighboring Mashpee and an increasingly international population in Hyannis. You're impressed that he…

Sandwich Reads Together

What do authors Geraldine Brooks, Alice Hoffman, Allen Say and I have in common? We're all part of Sandwich Reads Together, a month-long celebration that takes place in the small but vibrant town of Sandwich, Massachusetts. (Note to other communities: study the success of this successful public-private literary partnership.)

Today begins with a visit to Sandwich High School, where forty-some students have read SECRET KEEPER and will be armed with questions. Then I'll spend a couple of hours exploring this lovely Cape Cod town, followed by a signing at Titcomb's Bookshop from 4-5. The day will end with dinner at the library with a Mother-Daughter Book Club who have read RICKSHAW GIRL. If a day like this doesn't beat the New England winter blues, I don't know what will.

Writers = Desperate Self-Promoters?

"The best advice for today, and really in any financial climate, is to be fanatical and motivated to promote your book," a Random House editor told debut author Novella Carpenter (Book Publishers, R.I.P?, San Francisco Chronicle). "Do as many events as possible. Become a shameless self-promoter."

I don't know about you, but that job description sucks the creativity right out of me. She's right, of course -- selling books is a bottom-line requirement in the publishing industry. Unfortunately, this focus can lead to a glazed-eyed obsession with Amazon sales rankings and the consumption of massive amounts of chocolate after a not-so-stellar royalty statement.

Not the best atmosphere to inspire the next story.

Career writers have always needed to muster endurance for the long haul. That's why I prefer to stay motivated by a vision statement that reaches beyond a single title or a belt-tightening shift in the publishing industry.

Here's my best advice to the…

Writing Routines and Winter Break

I'm about to escape for winter break, and it feels like I just finished final exams, thanks to Kids Heart Authors Day. I'll be back on the Fire Escape on 2/24. In the meantime, I leave you with my answer to the question asked last week by Shonna Slayton during her blog's Author Crush Month:

"What are your writing routines?"

Long Showers, Lattes, and Permission to Fail

By Mitali Perkins

As a former teacher, it’s helpful for me to think of dividing the year into four academic quarters. I set goals in marketing and writing at the start of each quarter. Fall and spring quarters are busy with school and library visits, but I also try to write as much as possible during those months. During the winter and summer quarters, I slow things down and focus primarily on writing.

I have a writing buddy in town (Karen Day/NO CREAM PUFFS) who meets with me regularly. We tell each other our goals and try to hold each other accountable.

It takes at least a year for me to write a book. …

Fun in Falmouth


Eight Cousins on V-Day

I'm celebrating Kids Heart Authors Day with five other authors at Eight Cousins, a landmark children's bookstore in Falmouth, Massachusetts founded by Betty Borg and Carol Borg Chittenden (pictured to the left).

The first and last sentences in their mission statement might help explain why I'm so excited to drive a couple of hours each way and spend half my Valentine's Day in this charming independent bookstore on the Cape: Eight Cousins presents for sale a distinctive collection of quality children's books, chosen to offer culture, fun, beauty, insight and knowledge on many topics from the world over ... Our collection --- this unique grouping of books --- is the most important thing we have to offer. You can find books to buy anywhere, but this thorough and thoughtfully assembled group of books is one of a small handful in North America. We present it to you with pride. Come and join us!

189 Main Street Map
Erin DionneSalley MavorT.M. Murphy

Happy Valentine's Day, New England!

One 140-character tweet in December, and 171 children's and teen book authors and illustrators visit 44 independent bookstores on February 14, 2009. Can you believe it? And no snow in the forecast to boot!

Contact: Deborah Sloan, 978.684.5005

For Immediate Release

February 14 is Kids ♥ Authors Day in New England

Over 40 independent bookstores and 170 authors and illustrators share Valentine’s Day events with kids and families throughout the region

Andover, MA, January 18, 2009: Shower your pint-sized (or teen-sized) valentines with literary love. On Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14, 2009, from 10 a.m. to noon, independent booksellers throughout New England will host illustrators and authors of books for kids and teens, kicking off a new tradition of signed literary valentines for families.

Over 170 authors and illustrators and more than 40 independent booksellers in Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, and New…

Rita Williams-Garcia on rgz LIVE!

This month's readergirlz featured author is Rita Williams-Garcia, author of NO LAUGHTER HERE, a novel that takes an unflinching look at the effects of female genital mutilation, or FGM. FGM is experienced by approximately 138 million women around the world with another 2 million girls at risk each year. To learn more about female genital mutilation, view this heartbreaking video or visit FORWARD.

Don't miss the chance to chat with Rita Williams-Garcia this Thursday, February 12th at the readergirlz forum, 6 PM PST/9 PM EST. The chat will last for about an hour. Check out these fascinating tidbits about this award-winning author from the readergirlz February issue:
On the nightstand: 2 pairs of glasses, phone, Bible. Pets: I'm grandma to Chase, my daughter's German Shepherd. Place to write: Any outdoor bench under the sun. Inspiration: Fried catfish, nachos with cheese. Can't write hungry. Dream book tour: To all of…

A Graceful V-Day Gift

The love of your life will adore this month's painting by author-illustrator Grace Lin:

The painting is roughly 5X5 inches, gouache on Arches watercolor paper. Estimated value is $450. Includes a certificate of authenticity, signed and dated by the artist. 100% of the sale proceeds of the original artwork will go to the Foundation of Children's Books, a small non-profit organization in Boston bringing children's book authors and illustrators into under-served schools in Boston for visits and residencies. Check out the bidding details here.

This Ship Has Sailed

No doubt about it -- my novel SECRET KEEPER has definitively been launched. Some of you gathered to party on the west coast, wishing the book (and me) well in Bellevue, Washington or joining the harambee in Palo Alto, California.

And yesterday, seventy or so of you showed up to celebrate at Newtonville Books in Newton, Massachusetts. What fun! The samosas were yummy thanks to Punjabi Dhaba in Cambridge, my son made the chai, we raffled off prizes, the girls all sported bindis, and you made bookseller Mary Cotton (and me) very happy by buying quite a few books. (Photos courtesy of Laya Steinberg.)

I wore the same Ann Taylor pants at all three parties.
They were comfy.

My writer's group showed up en masse. From left to right: J.L.Bell, Steve Smith, Laya Steinberg, Mordena Babich, Karen Day, Kathryn Hulick, and Ammi-Joan Paquette. Yes, I'm the most fortunate girl on the planet. Tell me something I don't know.

Here's Yolanda Leroy of Charlesbridge asking sotto voce how
that revi…

Boston-Area Launch Party Tomorrow

You're invited! It's at Newtonville Books, Sunday, 2/8, 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

This is my last solo party for SECRET KEEPER, as next Saturday I'll be at Eight Cousins in Falmouth with five other authors for Kids Heart Authors Day.

Check out these nice reviews from Paper Tigers, All Things Girl, Marjolein's Book Blog (warning: review has a spoiler), and My Friend Amy.

The Life Uncommon

"How did you decide to be a writer?" asked Nacie Carson, author of THE LIFE UNCOMMON. Here's my answer.
When I was growing up as an immigrant kid, reading fiction helped me understand myself as well as gain insight into North American mainstream culture. I kept scribbling stories and poems in my journals and reading children’s books, even while studying political science and public policy, and then teaching middle school, high school, and college.

I wrote my first novel, The Sunita Experiment, for fun after finishing my lesson plans and grading papers, and was stunned when Little Brown wanted to publish it. Although I was teaching at Pepperdine University at the time, I didn’t have a PhD. Was it time to get one? I enjoyed equipping my students with economic and political strategies in the battle against poverty and human rights violations, but was that what I really wanted to do with my life?

I took a silent retreat at a monastery in the Santa Monica Mountains to wrestle th…

Picture Books in Hard Times

As I was writing my essay for PaperTigers about raising compassionate children, Mary E. Cronin asked members of the Child_Lit listerv to recommend picture books depicting families experiencing economic hardship. I thought my fire escape visitors might appreciate seeing her compilation. Interestingly, most of the suggested books focus on life in North America, and shoes seemed to be a common theme:
Adler, David. The Babe and I.Bunting, Eve. A Day’s Work.Bunting, Eve. Fly Away Home.Cooper, Melrose. Gettin’ Through Thursday.Fleischman, Sid. Scarebird.Gunning, Monica. A Shelter in Our Car.Hazen, Barbara Shook. Tight Times.Hesse, Karen. Spuds.Hopkinson, Deborah. Saving Strawberry Farm.Jimenez, Francisco. The Christmas Gift = El Regalo de Navidad.Lindsey, Kathleen D. Sweet Potato Pie.Lipp, Frederick. Running Shoes.Miller, William. Rent Party Jazz.Noble, Trinka Hakes. The Orange Shoes.Palacios, Argentina. A Christmas Surprise for Chabelita.Ringgold, Faith. Tar Beach.Rylant, Cynthia. When I Wa…

Around The World in 35 Names

Did you know that each of us has a unique voice print? That's clear in Teaching Books' wonderful Author Name Pronunciation Guide, where a host of us use our own voices to share the stories behind our names.
Now Teaching Books has gathered 35 of us to help kids connect authors with countries. You may sample the first four authors and countries below (one voice might sound familiar to those who have met me face-to-face): Ashley Bryan (Antigua and Barbuda)Janet Tashjian (Armenia)Mem Fox (Australia)Mitali Perkins (Bangladesh)

How Kids Can Change The World

"Stories are powerful allies as we seek to raise a generation of compassionate children. I distinctly remember the moment when I grasped the beauty of sacrificial giving. I was nine years old and befriending Sara Crewe in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Little Princess for the first time ..."

Read the rest of my essay, Stories Can Shape a Child's Heart, in PaperTigers' February issue, a compilation of reviews, articles and interviews highlighting a "growing global awareness of the power of children to change the world."

Don't miss Children as Change-Makers: On and Off The Pages by Aline Pereira, and the interviews with author Katie Smith Milway about her book, One Hen: How One Small Loan Made A Big Difference and Jan West Schrock, author of Give a Goat and advisor to the charity Heifer International, who describes a childhood filled with inspirational stories of giving.

Photo courtesy of Uncultured via Creative Commons.


Welcome to the first stop on Justina Chen Headley's blog tour for NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL (Little Brown), a novel for teens that's currently featured as a pick of the week on the home page of Barnes and Noble. Justina will be traveling from the Fire Escape to four other virtual venues this week to give us the inside scoop about a novel that has already garnered starred reviews from Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, and Kirkus.

Those who follow me on Twitter or are my Facebook buddies know how often I laud NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL as one of my all-time favorite teen reads -- here's my response to the story right after I read it. You actually have FIVE chances to win a signed copy (details at the end of the post), but for now, let's spend a bit of time with Justina since we're fortunate enough to have her here.

Were you as popular and gorgeous in high school as you are today? What were you like, describe your school, tell us about your best buddies, and give us the inside scoop …