The End—Almost

Weighing in a just over 35,000 words, the first draft of my newest middle grade novel is now complete.

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Calm down cute, fluffy, puppy. Complete is a misleading word as there are still many miles to go before it is actually finished.

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No, no. Don’t be a sad panda. Now I’ll set the draft aside to marinade, pickle, steep, sleep (Oh, sorry. That’s what I should be doing now since it is past midnight…). Normally, I’d let it rest for two weeks to a month, but I’d love to get it off my desk by the new year (resolutions and all), so I may speed up the process. Next comes a revision, then beta readers, more revisions, and a thorough edit after that.

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I think so too!

Illustrator Ernie D’Elia chats about #5stonesbooks book cover illustration and the creative process.

Creative Chaos welcomes new readers who are coming here to follow G.A. Morgan’s blog tour for the Kirkus starred review book, The KinfolkThis blog is called “Creative Chaos” for a reason. Not only do creators exist in a world that pulls them in various crazy, stressful directions, but the process of making art of any media is a wonderful jumble of ideas and leads, backtracks and revisions. It’s messy and often—yes—chaotic. Ernie D’Elia is an illustrator who understands the chaos of creation. He fashions three dimensional worlds from nothing. He draws. He paints. He writes. (All images that follow are property of Ernie D’Elia and Islandport Press and may not be used without permission.)

Ernie and I met through New England SCBWI and attended a wonderful intensive by Lita Judge about breaking into kidlit illustration by focussing on book covers. The next thing I knew, Ernie was sharing his cover design for The Fog of Forgetting, the first in the Five Stones Trilogy (#5stonesbooks) by G.A. Morgan, published by Islandport Press. This week, The Kinfolk, the final installment of that trilogy launched. Welcome, Ernie! 
Q. Tell us a little about your professional journey (or chaos) that led you to illustrate the Five Stones Trilogy. Was The Fog of Forgetting your first cover? What other professional illustration jobs did you have before this?
A. Thanks for inviting me to talk about creating the covers for the Five Stones Trilogy, and creating in general!
The Fog of Forgetting was not my first cover. The first was a really fun adventure story called “How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy King.” There was a great up-lit Mayan King with a jaguar headdress, looming over the heroes. 

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Q. Wow, I love the light! In the workshop we took together, Lita stressed the importance of being open to revision and brainstorming a large quantity of cover ideas. Once you got the job, did your first drawing get approved? How did you land on the final art for book one?
A. Fog of Forgetting went through a handful of sketch ideas, then a couple roughs, and one or two changes in the final drawing.
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Sketch #4

My favorite idea (sketch #4) did not make the cut, but looking back, it wasn’t the best fit.

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Sketch #2
Sketch #2 was too crowded, but the tree, platform and waterfall were on target.
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Sketch #2 Round 2
Sketch round 2 #2 was almost there, but he looked too tentative. In the final art, he’s gripping a sword, looking heroic.
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That’s why flexibility is really important! It’s hard to be objective when you’re in the throes of making stuff. Trust in your editor/art director!
Q. What is your process choosing the scene you’d like to portray? Do you read each of the books before you start drafting cover ideas or are you given a synopsis?
A. I don’t always get the entire manuscript. Usually there are a few select scenes to work with, luckily. I would probably overwhelm everyone with sketches of every scene–“Let’s make this a graphic novel!” written on every page.
Q. Which book cover was the most difficult to create and why? How did you find a solution?
A. The trickiest by far was Chantarelle, the second book. Islandport had a specific set of requirements for this one. The characters are falling into a chasm, an explosion propels them up and out, AND there’s a giant black panther after them. The perspective alone was a challenge, not to mention 5 desperate reaching hands. There were way too many sketches of that cover to share, let’s just say there was a heaping pile of trial and error, and a steaming bowl of failure, until it was all worked out. Creative chaos at its best!
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Chantarelle final painting
In direct opposition to that one, Kinfolk was two drawings, some minor tweaking, and right into the final. It’s my favorite of the three.
Q. Each book features various characters from the stories. Tell us a little bit about your process of character creation.
A. Creating characters from G.A. Morgan’s work wasn’t difficult because they were so well written. I felt like I had a clear idea of each person. I think it was Annie O’Brien that said you shouldn’t draw characters, you should draw people. A character can easily become a cartoon, but a person is an individual; not a stereotype, not an archetype. That’s especially true when portraying people of ethnic backgrounds that are not your own.
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The Kinfolk sketch #2
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The Kinfolk sketch #4
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The Kinfolk FPO (for position only)
Q. No illustrator is an island, and you worked with Islandport Press children’s editor, Melissa Kim. How did Melissa guide you in this process? Was she more hands on or off? Were there any particular suggestions she gave that were especially helpful to you as an illustrator that you’d be willing to pass on here?
A. Melissa was great to work with! Her input was always spot-on. It was her suggestion to change the posture of Chase (on the first cover) from frightened to more bold. She was hands on, as far as being involved in guiding the process, and was always there to answer questions. I had a great time working on these books with her! Like I said before, trust your art director!
Thanks so much for visiting Creative Chaos today, Ernie!
Thanks for having me on the blog! See you soon, hopefully!
If you missed the other blog posts on this week’s tour, I’ve listed them below. Don’t miss the world debut of the book trailer tomorrow!
Monday, October 24: G.A. Morgan Lists Her Top Ten Fantasy Books for Kids on Pragmatic Mom.
Tuesday, October 25: Launch Day! Happy Book Birthday post on Middle Grade Mafia
Wednesday, October 26: G.A. Morgan Interview on From the Mixed-up Files of Middle Grade Authors
Thursday, October 27: Cover Illustrator Ernie D’Elia talks process and book covers on Creative Chaos
Friday, October 28: A debut of The Kinfolk book trailer on the Islandport Press Blog.
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Here’s Kirkus Reviews had to say in their starred review about The Kinfolk:
 
imgres.png     “Morgan holds the complex plot deftly, alternating the third-person narration through the points of view of several main characters (Dankar, Chase, Knox, Evelyn) chapter by chapter. With clarity and economy, she intertwines back story, setting, adventure, and philosophy in convivial balance, and she admirably maintains the individuality of her very large cast of characters (helpfully delineated in a guide at the back). She tests her characters sorely and sometimes violently, but it’s always in service of the plot. Teeming with adventure and philosophical richness, this trilogy closer excels.”
 Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Here’s a link to the Islandport Press bookstore.
Or ask your local bookseller for The Kinfolk today!

 

Books that kept me up past midnight.

As usual, things are busy here at Creative Chaos. The job with Islandport Press that I spoke about here, became a permanent part-time position. My new title is “Editor & Special Projects,” which means that each day comes with new surprises. I love the dynamic nature of my position as well as the creative and collaborative problem solving that goes on every day. I’ve feeling very lucky.

I also feel lucky to be amongst books every day. It often means that there is just one more book to put on my virtual To Be Read pile. (You can see all 403 of them here.)

Most of my reading happens at night once I’ve pulled up the covers and turned on my bedside lamp. It’s a chance to push aside the virtual, plugged-in world for a literary one. Usually I’m asleep after a few pages (sometimes with my glasses still on and the book slipping to the floor) so the reading is slow going. Sometimes, however, a story takes hold of me, and I am transported to those flashlight-under-the-covers moments I had as a child.

Recently, two books made me feel that I absolutely had to finish the story before sleeping.

51h1vdouv6l-_sx324_bo1204203200_The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

From Goodreads: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

My take: I was so moved by Ada’s story, her strength, her heart, her head. Brubaker Bradley is an amazing storyteller who isn’t protective of her characters and we are the better for it. All the female characters are unique and strong (and flawed) in their own way. An argument could be made that even Ada’s despicable mother shows strength against impoverished conditions in the only way she knows how. In addition to well-realized characters, we also get treated to beautiful but spare description of the English countryside.

5138jx-gesl-_sx331_bo1204203200_ Wrecked by Maria Padian

From Goodreads: When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard are pushed to opposite sides of the school’s investigation. Now conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible—especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.

My take: Told expertly in alternating close 3rd person POV Richard and Haley meet, and become close while linked to a investigation for sexual assault at fictional McCallum college. Because neither of them are the victim or the aggressor, the reader gets a wider view of the issue of sexual assault on campus. Whether the character is a hippie, math whiz, bio geek, athlete, Dean, or parent the issue is complex and inextricably linked to narrative. This is an excellent book for starting conversations about sexual assault on campus. It’s one that will keep you turning pages until the story is complete.

What books should I add to my TBR list that keep you up reading?

Join me on Thursday when I interview Ernie D’Elia, cover illustrator of the Five Stones Trilogy. The Kinfolk, the conclusion of the #5stonesbooks, launches Tuesday, October 25th and the blog tour is going on all week long.

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Summer Reading Rocks!

I’ve tried all summer to pull away from the lure of the screen: lap top, desk top, and iPhone. Instead, I spent July teaching horseback riding, taking kids on creek hikes, picking berries, singing and more as a camp counselor at Eagle’s Nest Camp (a camp that I went to as a child and counseled at during my 20’s). June and August were dedicated to my client MaineShare as I helped them coordinate the MaineShare Fair an event that will take place next week (September 9th) in Portland, Maine.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time out on the Androscoggin River rowing and coaching others. Eagles, herons and leaping fish were a gift as I glided over some amazingly smooth water. I slipped my middle grade work in progress into sunny summer slivers of time thinking deeply and working on a revision that amplifies desire, conflict and tension.

Even with all this incredible activity I made time to read. I embraced audio books with the amazing FREE audio book summer reading program at SYNC. These books filled the time on the long drive from Maine to North Carolina and back. And without Facebook, I had plenty of time to sink into a book at night. At the beginning of the year, I’d challenged myself to read 26 books thinking that one every other week would be great, but I’ve already exceeded that goal. Now I’ve increased that goal to 40 (but really I’m hoping for 52).

I have a number of adult and poetry books on my list for fall but I’m super excited about Melanie Crowder’s next (her 3rd) novel A Nearer Moon that launches next week, and Meg Wiviott’s debut novel Paper Hearts that launches TODAY!

      

Congrats to Meg and Melanie!

Now on with my summer reading list! (Books are listed in the order I read them starting in June.)

MONSTER, Walter Dean Myers (audio book). This is an amazing full cast presentation with an extra from the author explaining his research process and his interviews with numerous incarcerated young men. Highly recommended.

BUDDHA BOY, Kathe Koja (audio book). Bullying and acceptance.

MATERIAL GIRLS, Elaine Dimopoulos (eGalley from Net Galley). More on this in a later post. Highly recommended.

CIRCUS MIRANDUS, Cassie Beasley. Gentle, loving, and magical to its core, this book is the one you want to read aloud to your students this school year. It will draw your too-big-for-read-aloud-books back to your embrace. (Evidence: my 6 foot 2 inch high school sophomore beside me nightly.) Highly recommended.

THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND, Dan Santat. Caldecott winner 2015.

EL DEAFO, Cece Bell. Newbery Honor. I was especially interested in this because my major was ASL in college. I wanted to see how Bell handled the Deaf community. The book is about the main character’s struggles to fit in with her Hearing family and mainstream life even though her mother is eager to have her learn ASL. By the end of the book, her interest is piqued and I got the feeling that had the book gone on the girl may have explored the Deaf Community more. There is an excellent author’s note about the spectrum of culture and language in the Deaf Community. Highly recommended.

BROWN GIRL DREAMING, Jacqueline Woodson. What can I say about this memoir in verse that hasn’t already been said? The book won the National Book Award Winner, Coretta Scott King Award, Newbery Honor, an NAACP Image Award, and is featured on many many lists. Highly recommended.

CROWS & CARDS, Joseph Helgerson (audio book). A fun recording that harkens back to pre-Civil War days, river boat scoundrels, and Mark Twain language and humor.

THE CROSSOVER, Alexander Kwame. Newbery Winner 2015.

THE SKIN I’M IN, Sharon Flake. I picked this middle grade up at a library book sale and so glad I did. First pubbed in 1998, if you loved JUMPED by Rita Williams-Garcia you’ll be engaged by Maleeka’s struggle to love herself. Highly Recommended.

STORY OF A GIRL, Sara Zarr. A quiet YA novel that digs deeply into self acceptance, family and forgiveness.

2014 BOOKLIST ROUNDUP

This time of year I get a lot of requests for great gift suggestions for children’s and Young Adult books. The thing is, this year has been incredibly busy. My reading has included more nonfiction, personal, and adult titles (read: self-help) and my reviewing ground to a sad halt around Valentine’s Day of 2014. However, there is no need to despair. Below please find a round up of some of the best lists for children’s book in the #kidlitosphere and beyond! (If you have a favorite list that I don’t mention here, please note it in the comments.)

#weneeddiversebooks: Find a plethora of postings about books with diverse characters from characters of color, to those facing disabilities, to characters who are questioning or identify as part of the GLBTQ community.

The Brown Bookshelf: is always my go-to website when I’m looking for books with characters of color. Thanks to Don Tate and others for keeping this blog current and relevant!

Pragmatic Mom: Mia Wenjen is another amazing blogger with incredible multicultural lists. Don’t miss her list for children’s books that feature Asian Americans. She also has nonfiction, biography, and age specific lists.

Sporty Girl Books: Well of course I’m going to mention my group blog. This year, we are soliciting best sporty girl books of the year so add your own suggestions in the comments of yesterday’s post. We always have tabs on the blog menu for books that are age specific.

At Brain Pickings: Maria Popova has gathered a Best Children’s Books of 2014 that focuses on “Intelligent and imaginative tales of love, loneliness, loyalty, loss, friendship, and everything in between.” She has a very extensive post that shows interior illustrations and thoughtful commentary.

The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature: Gave us a long list, a short list, and a fabulous and lovely winner, Jacqueline Woodson for BROWN GIRL DREAMING. Take a look.

Stuff for the Teen Age: The New York Public Library has lists upon lists for teen readers and if you don’t trust the lions in Manhattan, who can you trust?

Bank Street College of Education: Also in New York, this well-known and trusted program posts a link to their BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR PDF. They also sort the books by age.

The New York Time’s Best Illustrated Books: Also and again from New York…read: maybe I should move to Brooklyn… School Library Journal is reblogging this list on their own site.

Buy Books for Black Friday: Ingrid Sundberg has a great post at INGRID’S NOTES that features a number of my good friends and fellow alumni from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fabulously written books. Enough said.

The ALSC List: The Association of Library Services to Children division of the American Library Association creates a list of Notable Titles each year. Award winners are in this list as well. Don’t miss the YALSA (young adult) titles or the Graphic Novels appropriate for teens either. Just be aware that these are chosen at the 2014 Midwinter (January) conference so they focus on books pubbed in 2013.

Whadya think? Enough? I’d love to see more graphic novel lists. If you have or love a “best of children’s and YA books of 2014” let me know.

Ahoy! Magic Marks the Spot is a beaut!

Shiver me timbers! Is it International Talk Like A Pirate Day already? Indeed, Mateys, indeed! Which means it’s time to pull up a barrel and get ready for some of the best middle grade storytelling I’ve seen since Ruthie Bluetooth drank a wee too much grog.


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Caroline Carlson’s debut middle grade novel Magic Marks the Spot is the first in The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates trilogy and I’ll be counting my blessings about that. The action packed adventure is funny and engaging. Caroline’s characters jump off the page and pull you into their watery surroundings. She makes use of her amazing knowledge of the English language (I know. She’s proofread my manuscripts.) to create a send-up of High Society norms and expectations. Main character Hilary, challenges what it means to be a lady, a pirate, and a friend and for that, I admire her. My favorite quote from the book: “Running away and pursuing one’s dream was quite a piratical thing to do.”

Caroline embraces the silly pirate genre but sets it in a world of magic whose rules are well-defined. Letters, articles, excerpts from the Official Very Nearly Honorable Pirate League Guide, and A Young Lady’s Guide to Augustan Society further the plot, provide comic relief and give readers a deeper understanding of the world. The design of the book is incredible. Deckled edges give the book the old world feel. Add to that unique stationary and handwriting for each character, and of course–– a map. According to my children, “If it has a map, it has to be good.” I can tell you that I held 12 children from 8 to 14 in rapt attention as I read the beginning aloud this weekend. As I finish the book, I’m happy to say that there be twists and turns aplenty.

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword. There’s only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.

But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn’t exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

Caroline is another graduate of (NO– not Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies) Vermont College of Fine Arts and their Writing for Children and Young Adults program. I’m happy to call her my mate in the League of Extraordinary Cheese Sandwiches– pirates each and every one. And so, with that in mind, I unfurled me sails and boarded me land cruiser (The Concord Coach & Commuter Rail)

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to Wellesley Bookstore and Caroline’s launch last Thursday. 

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(She might look like a Miss Pimm’s girl but she be pirate through and through.)

Where I helped tote in grog and vittles with Caroline’s mom.

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(Caroline’s mom might look like a Governess but she can throw around the orders like the most vicious scallywag on the high seas.)

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She be makin’ fine sweets though, eh?

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When the place was packed to the crow’s nest with family and friends, Allison, who runs a tight ship, introduced Caroline, captain of the evening.

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Caroline read the grab-you-with-her-hook beginning of the book then told about the process of writing and publishing. It was no pleasure cruise even for an experienced sailor like herself.

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Good thing that Wellesley Books had plenty of stock because the lines were long for Magic Marks the Spot.

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Happily, plenty of VCFA mateys came along to celebrate! Congratulations, Caroline.

Melanie Crowder, PARCHED Visits Creative Chaos!

Today I am thrilled to have my dear friend and VCFA roommate, Melanie Crowder, here at Creative Chaos to celebrate the launch of her debut middle grade novel, PARCHED!


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Link to the first few chapters of the book!

When I was 17 I took a “gap” year and worked for an organization called American Rivers. American Rivers works to preserve 1% of America’s rivers as free flowing, not dammed or channeled, using the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. During my time at the organization, I learned that water for Denver, Colorado came from dammed rivers far away. I was an East coast girl. I had no ideas that there was any problem getting water. Step one. Turn on tap. Step two. Drink, water garden, wash car, etc. Turns out that my experience was not universal. (Figuring this out is part of growing up, right?)

Millions of people lack safe water right now.

Some people see water as a human right and others see water as a commodity. Still lack of clean water affects humans no matter their socio economic level. It is essential. So, I’ve asked Melanie to take a break from talking specifically about her book. You can find SO much more about her book and her experience as an author at other stops on her fabulous blog tour.

Today, we are going to talk about H2O.

Melanie, thank you so much for being here!

Thank you, Anna!

Living with you was such an education. You live right here in the good old US of A, on Colorado’s Front Range and in Colorado, and EVERYONE is concerned about water. What water limitations do you experience living in Denver?

I grew up in Oregon, where between lakes and rivers and the mighty Pacific, there is no shortage of water to dip your feet or your whole body into. When I moved to Colorado over ten years ago, it was the strangest thing—on a summer day nearing 100˚, I couldn’t find a single place to cool off in the water. The creeks were too shallow for swimming, the rivers in town were too polluted (here is an article on the Platte River’s sordid history), and to my amazement, many of the reservoirs were fenced off specifically to keep people out. Sure, I had read Cadillac Desert in college, but now I was living in it, and for a west coast girl with no place nearby to swim that wasn’t a concrete box filled with chlorine, I may as well have been in the middle of the apocalypse!

How is water rationed in drought conditions?

Water isn’t rationed here, so much as divvied up. I can run the water inside my house all day if I want, because I have paid for it. But it is illegal for me to collect water from my roof and use it to water my tomato plants. That water belongs to someone who has a deed for the creek at the end of my street. Colorado water laws date back to pioneer days, when ranchers and farmers diverted rivers into miles of irrigation ditches and dammed reservoirs to keep their crops and herds alive through the scorching summers. Hence, every drop of water that falls from rainclouds or melts from peaks 14,000 feet high is owned by someone.

Unfortunately, old ways die hard. And we’re still making changes in a reactionary way. Rather than enforcing consistent rationing policies, we wait for a severe drought to limit the duration and time of day when people can water their lawns.

Colorado is made up of transplants from all over the country—people who have been drawn here by the mountains and our work hard/play hard way of life. And all of us transplants have to adjust to the fact that it just doesn’t rain here like it does on the coasts where we came from. (And that having a lawn in the high desert is in itself a ridiculous concept!)

What if you just don’t follow the rules?

You can get a ticket, but honestly, I don’t think people are paying much attention to the restrictions. We’re still a long way from where we should be. It’s going to take a big cultural shift for people here to see water as a thing to be preserved, instead of a thing to be used.

but I am beginning to see more xeriscape cropping up, and the laws are very slowly evolving. And I have to hope that discussions like this will raise awareness, sound the alarm, and bring about change. Here is an article that paints a frightening picture for the entire Western US if we don’t begin to take water conservation much more seriously.

Water in a drought-ridden area could be leveraged as power. How is water used to exploit and control in PARCHED?

In PARCHED, to quote Megan Cox Gourdon of the Wall Street Journal, “fresh water is not so much the coin of the realm as the only thing of value.” To give you a little backstory for how PARCHED’s setting came to be so dire, first mining poisoned the aquifer under the city that the people relied on for drinking water, while rising sea levels turned the coastal river brackish and displaced entire communities. Then a drought hit and wells dried up. Chaos resulted. Anyone with the means to flee did, leaving the city to be ravaged by gangs.

These gangs controlled what little water was left. When a society collapses in on itself like this, it is the children who suffer most. That is where PARCHED begins, with two children whose lives have been utterly devastated; two children who must battle their grief, their instinct to distrust, and the elements if they are going to survive.

I’ll point you to another article, this one about water in Yemen. When I was writing PARCHED, at times it was almost as if I flinched while I typed. I knew, because of the research I had done on my book’s setting, that the premise was frighteningly realistic. I didn’t want it to become real. I want us as a global society to pull back from the edge and set a different course before we go sailing over that cliff.
People who are working in water engineering and education suggest a Multi part solution to bring clean water to those who don’t have it that includes technology, education, empowerment, and accountability. What examples of this do you see in Denver?

Technology: Just this spring, the Colorado legislature passed a greywater bill that is a big step in the right direction. Put simply, greywater is the process by which water at a facility is used more than once before it is sent to the treatment plant. For example, the water that goes back down the drain at a drinking fountain can be used a second time to water the trees at a park. In a home, rinsewater from a washing machine or shower drain (in which biodegradable products are used) could be diverted for landscape irrigation.

Education: Denver Water has been working to change water consumption habits through advertising campaigns for years. Denver Public Schools has an entire sustainability department.

Empowerment: Citizens are working to keep Hydraulic Fracturing at bay, and municipalities are working to ban the practice within their boundaries. (Read more about the issue here.)

Accountability: This is the big question mark. We have a stubborn streak in the Mountain West. As CO State Senator Chris Romer said, after a failed attempt to pass a rainwater harvesting bill, “Welcome to water politics in Colorado. You don’t touch my gun, you don’t touch my whiskey, and you don’t touch my water.”
What didn’t I ask you that you’d like to say?

Only that lately I hear people referencing “first world problems” and “third world problems” i.e. not being able to find the right shoes to go with that dress versus not having access to indoor plumbing. I don’t love these terms (though I think people use them to remind themselves to be grateful for our quality of life; to not sweat the small stuff). I think these terms are one more way of putting people into “us” and “them” categories. But I’ll use those terms now, because I think they fit the way we think about water.

We think of water as a third world problem. A problem that “they” have, “over there.” But water is everybody’s problem. Sure, there are degrees. Many people in the developing world don’t have access to clean running water, which leads to problems ranging from child mortality to a lack of educational opportunities for girls. However, in this country, where access to running water is taken for granted, the purity of that water absolutely should not be taken for granted. Our way of life is poisoning our fresh water supply—from prescription drugs and pesticides to oil and gas exploration. This is a problem for all of us, in every corner of the globe. It’s a problem that deserves our attention.

Get ready for Melanie Crowder’s visit tomorrow!

Tomorrow!!! I’ll be hosting Melanie Crowder debut author of PARCHED (which just received the silver Parent’s Choice Award), so… all this week I’ve been posting about water.


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Water is Life

Want to know more? Visit the UNICEF Clean Water Campaign site.

Read this quick summary of the book and then go HERE to read the first few chapters! Warning: You’ll want to read the whole thing!

Using multiple narrators, Melanie tells the story of two children, Musa and Sarel, who struggle to find water, forge a friendship, and survive in a land stricken by extreme drought. The book is a beautifully written, slim volume. In addition to the themes of friendship and survival, the two children and a pack of dogs, lead by the third narrator a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Nandi, delve into issues of family and loyalty. Did I mention beautifully written and wonderfully paced? Oh yes, and beautifully written. You MUST read this book and give it to teachers and librarians and middle grade students.

Water week on Creative Chaos: Melanie Crowder visits on Friday

On Friday, I’ll be hosting Melanie Crowder debut author of PARCHED (which just received the silver Parent’s Choice Award), so… all this week I’ll be talking about water.


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I do not consider Melanie’s book a dystopian or alternative world story because millions of people lack safe water right now.

42 million in Latin America and the Caribbean

355 million in Africa

551 million in South, West, and Central Asia

210 million in Southeast, East Asia and Oceania

See this map. http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water/

If you’d like to follow Melanie Crowder’s Blog Tour, take a look at the schedule below:

Melanie Crowder’s PARCHED Blog Tour

Book Review Wednesday: Deadweather and Sunrise, by Geoff Rodkey

If your brother is named Adonis, your sister, Venus and you are named Eggbert, you know you are starting out life at a disadvantage. The disadvantaged youth in this situation is the main character in DEADWEATHER AND SUNRISE (G.P. Putnam, March 2013), Book One of Geoff Rodkey’s, The Chronicles of Egg trilogy.


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Egg lives on Deadweather Island. Yes, the name does say it all– hot, heavy air is stalled above his volcanic island home. His father runs an ugly fruit plantation with pirate laborers. Egg aches for intellectual stimulation, which he fails to get from the new tutor who is almost as obnoxious, dumb, and lazy as Egg’s siblings. The pirates that populate the waters around the island and the port towns are thieves and murderers, and I appreciated that Rodkey maintained their nefarious ways.

Across the waters is the island of Sunrise where the weather is as beautiful as the people who live and visit. Most beautiful to Eggbert is Millicent Pembroke, 13-year-old daughter of local businessman, Roger Pembroke. Pembroke’s wealth and adoration of Eggbert’s father quickly endears him to their family, but the reader comes to understand that Pembroke’s friendliness may be a cover for a hidden agenda.

There is plenty of humor in Deadweather and Sunrise. At the “street meat” vendor, Eggbert is stuck eating the cheapest fare while his tutor, brother, and sister use most of the money. The following exchange between the tutor and the street vendor had my kids in stitches:

Percy turned his head to look at me. I tried to seem bored, because I knew the hungrier I looked, the crueler his order would be.
“Got any pickled rat?”
I must have looked like I was starving to death.
“Sir, this is a reputable establishment. We serve no rat.”
“What’s your bottom shelf?”
“Innards.”
“What kind?”
“It’s a mix. Brains, pancreas, bit of spleen–”
“Give us that.”
“Comes on a bun.”
“Skip the bun.”

Say “Bit of spleen,” out loud. Okay, now say it to an 11 and 13-year-old boy. I swear you’ll get belly laughs.

The beginning of the book is a little slow to start. Rodkey is a seasoned screenwriter, Daddy Day Care and RV, and for me the first act included too much scene setting and backstory. Once I got caught up in the story, Rodkey had me rooting for Eggbert. Throughout his journey, Egg meets with all kinds of people. He loses his family, is threatened with death, meets vicious pirates and even more vicious cruise boat tourists. He makes friends, falls in love, finds treasure, and battles the bad guys.

Eggberts growth comes in part from his realization that all of us– wealthy, worker, or pirate– are human and as such, we all have a dark and often self-serving side. At least, he notes, the pirates are what they say they are.

From the Chronicles of Egg press release:

Egg - Rodkey head shot 1Geoff Rodkey grew up in Freeport, Illinois, a place with no ugly fruit plantations, volcanoes, or gainfully employed pirates, although someone did briefly want to kill him when he was a teenager. He currently lives with his family on an island just off the coast of North America.


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The second in the trilogy, NEW LANDS (May 2013), has already been released.