Showing posts from March, 2009

You're A Bit Too Oversensitive

"Why not let kids be color-blind for as long as they can? Let's just let them read a story and enjoy it, for goodness' sake."

I'm predicting this response -- spoken or unspoken -- to my article releasing tomorrow in School Library Journal. And when I blog about these issues on the Fire Escape, I often ask myself whether I'm being "over-sensitive." Who wants to have a chip on her shoulder -- or be accused of having one? Not me.

That's why I was encouraged by the always-brave Debbie Reese's post today, in which she uses research reported in Science Daily to demonstrate how subtle racism in books can take a toll on American Indian children. If an educator asks the hard questions about race while reading a book in the classroom, wouldn't that be a relief to young people who must constantly process such questions alone?

Debbie's post led me to other studies, like this one, showing that children as young as preschoolers tend to follow majorit…

Glam and Glitz at the Library

Who needs a Hollywood red carpet to feel like a celeb? Experience the heady buzz of being fêted at the Newton Free Library's Annual Spring Fling instead ...

You hardly recognize the library. The lobby is festooned with spring colors, flowers, and glittering lights. Caterers from Baker's Best weave through the crowd, holding trays of scallops, satay, and something that looks like spanakopita. The Jane Potter Jazz Trio is playing where the copy machine usually stands.

You're greeted with hugs and kisses by a group of beaming trustees and librarians and ushered into the art gallery. The person assigned to care for you through the evening drapes you with a personalized nametag, and introduces you to the seven other honored guests.

You shake hands, wondering: Are discarded outfits strewn across their bedrooms? They appear relaxed and well-coiffed, so you decide it's just you who stressed over what to wear.

"Want something to drink?" your caretaker asks, and rushes off…

YA Authors On Twitter

Here's the list (in alphabetical order) of published or about-to-be published authors who write for teens should you want to follow any or all of us. Note to new tweeps: this list is now maintained by Alessandra Lee at Blogging YA.
Susan Adrian @susan_adrian
Jill S. Alexander @jillsalexanderTara Altebrando @TaraAltebrando
Laurie Halse Anderson @halseandersonR. J. Anderson @rj_andersonJoelle Anthony @joellewrites
Andrew Auseon @andrewauseonKim Baccellia @ixtumeaCyn Balog @cynbalogJennifer Lynn Barnes @jenlynnbarnesLauren Barnholdt @laurenbarnholdtClare Bell @rathacatRobin Benway @robinbenwayJonathan Bernstein @jbpeevishHolly Black @hollyblackCoe Booth @coebooth
Robin Brande @Robin_BrandeHeather Brewer @heatherbrewerSusan Taylor Brown @susanwritesMeg Cabot @megcabotJanet Lee Carey @janetleecareyCeil Castellucci @cecilseaskullSusane Colasanti @susanecolasantiDeborah Copeland @authorgrlPaula Chase Hyman @PaulachyTera Lynn Childs @teralynnchilds
Cassie Clare @cassieclareEoin Colfer @eoinco…

Poetry Friday: An Original Lenten Poem

by Mitali Perkins

Your head swam with him.
You opened your mouth for the depth of his kiss.
Face to face, side by side, knee to knee, eye to eye.

You passed the place with a shudder.
He tugged you inside.
Scratch it on your skin, he said.

You picked the script, a rose, the heart.
Offering ankle, lower hip, upper arm.
Places easier to hide.
Forever, he said, tapping the hollow of your neck.
You measured his gaze, but complied.

He lied, he left, you lose.
Rose wilts, heart fades.
Scrape the lines of him away.

He was not the one who opened his palms.
See? There you are.
Your name tattooed beside the scars.

I wrote this years ago in response to one of my favorite verses in the Book of Isaiah: “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." Isaiah 49:16, KJV

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Julie Larios.

Photo: "Best Tattoos" courtesy of tantrum_dan via Creative Commons.

One Small Yes At A Time

In the writing vocation, saying "yes" to stuff that's not initially exciting can lead to unexpected surprises. Let me give you a few examples from the last couple of years.

1. It's just one of those not-so-great book signings, right? But you meet Judy O'Malley, who picks up a copy of Monsoon Summer and asks about your future work. You tell her about a picture book work-in-progress set in Bangladesh that's got you stumped. "Send it," she says. You do, and she applies her mad editorial skills. Result: Rickshaw Girl, a novel for upper elementary readers from Charlesbridge.

2. It's just a standard author visit, right? But school librarian Linda Spence Griset Facebook friends you, and encourages you to try twitter because she thinks you might like it. You take her advice and start to tweet. She was right -- you like the challenge of communicating your vision in 140 characters or less. Result: Kids Heart Authors Day and countless other connections, like…

Sites for the Statistically Savvy

Yesterday we noted that less than half of children's books featuring African American content and protagonists were created by African American authors and illustrators.

We also saw that less than a quarter of children's books featuring American Indian content and protagonists came from American Indian creators.

Given these startling statistics, I thought it would be timely to remind my Fire Escape visitors of four great sites to bookmark:
Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature: Critical perspectives of indigenous peoples in children's books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society-at-large.

Oyate: Native American reviewer and reseller of books by and about Indians.

The Brown Bookshelf: dedicated to uplifting African American creators of children’s literature.

African-American Children's Book Writers and Illustrators: encouraging aspiring African-American children’s authors and illustrators in obtaining their literary achievements. Chec…

A Familiar Refrain

"Why are children's books still so white?" we asked on the Fire Escape last year, and the year before. This year, the CCBC released their 2008 statistics about race and children's books, and once again we repeat the question like a mantra.

Keep in mind that recent U.S. Department of Education statistics show that whites make up 56% of total school enrollment, Latinos 21%, blacks 17%, Asian 5%, and Native Americans 1%. Okay, ready? Of the 3,000 or so titles received at the Center:
172 books (or only 6% of all books) had significant African or African American content, with 83 books (less than half) by black book creators, either authors and/or illustrators.

40 books (1.3% of all books) featured American Indian themes, topics, or characters, with 9 of them (less than a quarter) created by American Indian authors and/or illustrators.

98 (3% of all books) had significant Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American content, and 77 of these (82% of Asian/Pacific-content books) wer…

Encouragement For Writer Wannabes

I met twitter buddy @mommyniri for a chai and chat. She asked for two-minute off the cuff advice, so here it is -- my three Rs of surviving this vocation:

Mommy Niri (aka Nirasha Jaganath) is giving away an autographed copy of my RICKSHAW GIRL over at her blog.

White Space Needed

I'm commandeering creativity from blogging and status updates this week and next to focus on my article for next month's School Library Journal and my revision of BAMBOO PEOPLE for Charlesbridge. Be back soon!

More White Space Please courtesy of Herruwe via Creative Commons

rgz LIVE! with Mary Pearson

This month's featured novel is THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by the one and only Mary E. Pearson. Haven't read the book yet? Here's why the reviewers think you should:
"Outstanding examination of identity." - Kirkus, starred review"Gripping...seamless..." - School Library Journal, starred review"Expert plotting." - Publishers Weekly, starred review"Quite literally breathtaking." - Kliatt, audio starred reviewOptioned by 20th Century Fox for a feature filmAs part of our readergirlz community, you get to talk about the book and get to know the person behind the work. This month's issue tells us where Mary writes: "In my office, which is quiet and dark with a big leafy tree just outside my window. Sometimes I take my laptop down to the Four Seasons and write in the lobby. Big comfy chairs and no Internet." Her cure for writer's block? "Long walks, music, and driving." And there's more. Listen to the tunes M…

Operation Teen Book Drop 2009

On April 16th, 2009, thanks to readergirlz, GuysLitWire, YALSA, and publishers of YA books, teen patients in pediatric hospitals across the United States will receive 8,000 new novels, audiobooks, and graphic novels as part of Operation Teen Book Drop 2009.

I'll be hauling a box of books over to Boston Children's Hospital and strewing copies of SECRET KEEPER at T-stops and in post offices. You, too, can be a part of this nationwide book drop. Readergirlz is inviting YA readers and authors to leave a book or two in a public place on April 16th. Download bookplates and bookmarks here to put into the books you'll leave behind. Oh, and don't miss the TBD Post-Op Party, open to everyone at the rgz MySpace group forum at 6:00 PM Pacific/9:00 PM Eastern. Plan to rock the drop in 2009!

The Truth About Book Covers

Most authors have little to do with book jackets. It's strange because a good cover can spur sales while a boring cover can kill your book, especially when it comes to teen readers. Not to mention the fear of an artist usurping power by representing a character differently than the author imagined, or adding stuff to the plot that simply isn't there.

But a novel is a collaborative process from start to finish, and authors have to trust editors, art directors, designers, and artists with book covers. While they might seek input from us, the final decision isn't in our hands.

Melissa Walker (rgz diva and author of the VIOLET series) interviewed me about the jacket of SECRET KEEPER (pictured in the sidebar) as part of her Cover Stories series. Here's an excerpt:
"My editor asked for input, and I told her that there were a glut of covers set in India with girls peeking over veils or around sarees ..."
To discover new designers and see a gallery of cover art, visit T…

SECRET KEEPER Reviews, News, Events

School Library Journal liked my newest novel: Well-developed characters, funny dialogue, and the authentic depiction of spunky Asha’s longing for romance and female self-determination, set in a culture that restrains women’s choices, make this book an attractive pick for teenage girls.Thanks, SLJ!

Yesterday, Françoise Bui, my editor at Delacorte, called to tell me that the book has sold nicely (whew) since pub date of 1/16. We expressed our mutual delight that SECRET KEEPER is going to be translated into French and published by Editions Thierry Magnier in Paris. Vive La France!

Last but not least, Françoise asked for updates about my upcoming events and any buzz about SECRET KEEPER. Authors, note that you should be keeping your editors and publicists informed about any and all mentions of your book, as well as your appearances. It helps. Here's what I sent to Random House:

On the Web and in Print:

This month's School Library Journalfeatured several authors who twitter, and the bo…

Vocabulary For Conversations About Race

Lately, it seems that every word or phrase related to race sounds wrong or laden in certain circles. It matters who uses which words or qualifiers, and I worry that I'll get in trouble if I don't know the rules. Who makes the rules, anyway, and why do my teens seem to know them way before I do?

It might seem safer not to enter the discussion, but safety isn't always a good priority for an industry during times of change. The best way to innovate is to give each other freedom to make mistakes, and to trust one another. As artists, publishers, agents, publicists, librarians, and booksellers, we share the goal of getting stories and knowledge into the hearts, hands, and minds of young people. How do we best do that in a society with a heavy past, a tentative present, and an unwritten future when it comes to race?

Yesterday's call for questions about diversity in children's and YA books elicited great responses. I thought I'd post edited versions of the questions her…

Wanted: Tough Questions About Diversity in Children's Books

I'm helping to gather questions for a panel at the New England Society for Children's Writers and Illustrators Annual Conference this Spring. We want the session to be salty, fun, and enlightening, and I need your help. Which changes, trends, achievements, and challenges in the industry would you hope to see discussed? What would you like to know about diversity in children's and teen books? Anything goes, and the harder the question, the better.