#Kidlit writer/illustrator friends! I took the summer off from blogging for my own WIP and the many transitions happening in my personal world, but great books came out all summer long.
Come September, I’ll be Back-to-School Blogging and would love to focus on your mid-list PB, MG, or YA read that didn’t get enough attention because it was a late spring/summer release. I’d like to post interviews, anatomy-of-an-illustration posts with process drawings, what’s-the-seed-of-your-story posts, and more. Ideally, I’d have enough to post M, W, F throughout September starting 9/5/18. I’ll be prepping these in the next two weeks.
If you are interested in taking part, pitch me your book/post idea with a Facebook message or email. annaeleanorjordan at gmail dot com
VCFA alumni get first dibs so mention that in your note.
If I have space for fall releases I’ll add those in.
SCBWI PAL published books only.
I just finished 50 pages of revision which is a pretty great work run for me. I’ve been having such a hard time sustaining the revision. Once I’ve merged onto the internet super highway I can’t stop myself from checking out Facebook and the super good news everyone posts (hooray!) that often makes me feel like gum on the bottom of a shoe (aw!). (An interjection starts a sentence right.)
My usual course of action is to take the dog for a walk and come back refreshed which I have tried, but I’m so sick of the cold. Yesterday we got a hit of 37 wonderful degrees. People came out of their houses wearing their smiles and their short sleeves. Yes folks, 37 degrees is all it takes to make winter-weary Mainers strip. However, the heat wave was over before it really started. Today we are back in the 20’s and the wind whipped a string of curses from my lips.
Too, with all this snow pack, I know we are up for the longest mud season ever. I shouldn’t be cranky. I’ve enjoyed snow shoeing and skate skiing for lo these many months. I’m just ready to be warm and ready to take out the bike instead.
I’m happy to say that I’ve been hired to plan Maine Share’s annual event. If you aren’t familiar with the nonprofit organization, they are Maine’s statewide payroll donation program (similar to the United Way) for forty amazing groups that focus on economic development, education, the arts, and social justice. I’m excited to bring a creative concept to the event and up the fun-factor on what is often the obligatory rubber chicken dinner. More later about the exciting concept!
I have a lot to look forward to…a novel retreat weekend at VCFA, time with dear friends, and some time at Kripalu that I won in a United Way auction. Hooray, yoga and vegetarian gourmet cooked for me!
Spring (ha!) is also full of kid events. My older son is the lead in the local high school production of Legally Blonde and younger son is in it as well with a solo and some lines. Leave me a comment if you’d like to know more about tickets!
Baseball season will start the week after the show and older son is being called for pitcher’s week. I’m supper excited for him.
How does one end a ramble?
With a cute dog of course. Lucy says, “Take me for a walk.”
I use TweetDeck to watch hashtags and I can tell you that the #alayma was cruising! Those tweets were coming so quickly I couldn’t even read them. Good thing I had the live webcast going so I could hear all the cheers and gasps from the audience. It would seem librarians wear their hearts (fave books) on their sleeve. This was way better than the Super Bowl and any of those actor award shows. I also had my Goodreads window running and my To Be Read shelf is overflowing (just when I thought I was getting caught up). What a fabulous morning for readers, children’s books, librarians, teachers, writers, illustrators. I’m overwhelmed by awards. Perhaps the phrase “Sticker shock” should be re-coined?!
The biggest take-away was that #weneeddiversebooks scored a huge win today. It was amazing to see so many diverse books and their creators recognized. The awards to individuals for their contributions to the field went to diverse book creators. The following is quoted from the Children’s Book Council website (which has all of today’s categories and winners):
Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.
The 2015 winner is Donald Crews, whose award-winning works include “Freight Train,” which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1979, and “Truck,” a Caldecott Honor Book in 1981. He has been consistently excellent with a wide range of titles, such as “Harbor,” “Parade,” “Shortcut” and “Bigmama’s,” all published by Greenwillow Books.
Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:
The 2015 winner is Sharon M. Draper, author of more than 20 books, including: “Tears of a Tiger” (1994), “Forged by Fire” (1997), “Darkness Before Dawn” (2001), “Battle of Jericho” (2004), “Copper Sun” (2006), and “November Blues” (2007), all published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site.
The 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture will be delivered by Pat Mora. Pioneering author and literacy advocate Pat Mora has written more than three dozen books for young people that represent the Mexican American experience.
The Newbery was a complete sweep of diverse books. EL DEAFO, by Cece Bell, and BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson received Newbery Honors and the Newbery went to THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander.
It wasn’t the only award for BROWN GIRL DREAMING which also took the Sibert Honor and the Coretta Scott King Honor. These in addition to the already prestigious National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. Good thing the cover was designed with plenty of negative space.
Jacqueline Woodson is past VCFA faculty and VCFA was also well represented by current faculty member Kekla Magoon’s HOW IT ALL WENT DOWN, the audio version of alumna Julie Berry’s THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PICKWILLOW PLACE won an Odyssey Honor, and alumna Jandy Nelson took home the Printz and the Stonewall Honor with her amazing I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN.
Over the last month or so, I’ve been able to make room in my life for reading. It has been so satisfying and fun to attack my TBR pile. STRANGE SWEET SONG has been calling to me since last summer when the author and fellow VCFA Alum, sweet Adi Rule, signed my book. Once I picked it up a few weeks ago, there were no breaks for cheese sandwiches. I’ll even admit that my children had to eat cereal for dinner one night because I could not tear myself away.
I was immediately hooked by the world of Dunhammond Conservatory (DC), a school for elite musicians that backs up against a mountain inhabited mystery, murder, and magic. Soprano, Sing da Navelli, is not only elite in her skill but she has an almost-royal music bloodline. Her mother is famous not only for her diva attitude and operatic achievements as a soprano, but also for the way she died on stage playing the role of Angelique in the opera by the same name. Sing’s doting father is a famous composer and big donor to the DC.
Sing’s bears the weight of her mother’s personality and larger than life last roll. While Sing is good at what she does, she isn’t great. Is she only at DC because of her lineage and her father’s contributions to the school? Sing struggles both to prove herself and to re-become the girl who loved singing for the joy of it. Who is the best person to help her find that joy–the handsome accompanist, Ryan or the odd apprentice Nathan Daysmoor?
Intertwined with Sing’s story is the story of the opera Angelique, written at DC, that tells the fantastical tale of a beast called the Felix that inhabits the mountain behind the school. Sing is driven to find out if the Felix is fact or fairytale. Is it true that its sadness and resentment leads it to tear out the throat of all who encounter it? Is it true that if your sadness touches the heart of the Felix it will grant you a wish? And those odd things on campus… are they the doing of the Felix?
These questions keep the story moving at a clip so it’s hard to slow yourself down to appreciate Adi Rule’s beautiful writing–but you must.The music scenes are so lovely even an opera averse reader will be mesmerized. I was especially impressed by the seamless weaving of plots and subplots: Sing’s journey to be the singer she wants to be, the fantasy/horror/magical realism of the Felix, the opera, and the story of the mysterious apprentice, Nathan Daysmoor.
I found Sing’s friend Zhin a little too convenient at times, and Lori Pinkerton and Ryan a little cliché but other more rounded characters far and away made up for them. Sing is sometimes unlikeable but just when we are about to lose faith in her, she opens in a way that allows us to hear her true voice and humanity sing.
So much of Young Adult is– how do I become the person I want to be–the person I am–while dealing with the expectations of parents, family, community, culture and society. Who am I? Where do I fit? I know that I gravitate to this category of books in my reading and writing because I am still defining my own path as well. Adi Rule develops this theme in all of the interwoven story threads in a lyrical must read. Brava!
This past weekend was wonderfully relaxing. I played catch with my kids, went to see Divergent, enjoyed the spring ritual of going to Fat Boys drive in and binge watched How I Met Your Mother. But March was full of travel for me. Check out the March Round-Ups Part One:The Brunswick Inn and Part Two:Brooklyn & NYC or just read on to hear about Part Three: VCFA Novel Retreat.
This was the second year that I’ve driven up to Montpelier in March to meet with writers, my people, in the safe and supportive writing community that is Vermont College of Fine Arts (FMI: Writing Novels for Young People Retreat-VCFA). Last year I signed up for the critique track which allowed me to get feedback from other authors, and industry professionals about my work in progress. This year, I chose the writing track which gave me time to write and revise.
No matter what track one chooses, all participants enjoy lectures from the guests. This year, those guests were author Jennifer Richard Jacobson, author Rachel Wilson, and editor Martha Mahalick from Greenwillow Books. Rachel kicked off the weekend with a wonderful theater-based workshop on allowing yourself to play. I’ve already gotten her permission to borrow some of the great theater games for my “Active Mind, Active Body,” presentation at NESCBWI in May. Jennifer took a wide look at emotion on the page and I ended up with pages of notes. Martha discussed revision, the problems that she sees most often, and ideas about how to fix them. She let us have an inside view to the relationship between an editor and her authors. All the presentations were inspiring!
The change of place, the helpful presentations, the wonderful company all allowed me to write again after an stress-induced hiatus. I completed a the first draft of my WIP, printed it out, and started my read through. The other wonderful thing about the weekend is the public reading. One night, we are all welcomed to take the floor and read 2 pages from our manuscripts. I love reading my work (probably because reading was a part of the VCFA curriculum when I was there). However, I hadn’t read from the work before and found myself nervous and a little breathless. Still, it was well received and it’s always good to take advantage of a chance to read aloud. Especially in such a supportive environment.
This week, my goal is to complete my first read through and to write myself an editorial letter. This is one of my favorite revision techniques. I get to pull back from being an author and just attack the manuscript. Sure, I’m still personally involved, but I try to give the story some tough love. When I read the editorial letter in a week or so, I’ll have the hard job of hating my editor (me) and trying to figure out how to resolve the problems in the manuscript. (A little schizophrenic I know, but it works for me.)
I mention my MFA alma mater Vermont College of Fine Arts a lot. My time at VCFA was a life-changing experience. By 2009, I had already spent a good eight or so years on writing for children. I had a few dollars in my pocket from selling my poetry to wonderful magazines such as Ladybug, Babybug, and Highlights High Five. I was steeped in New England SCBWI and had attended numerous conferences asking many questions of fine faculty. In fact, that year I was the Director for the annual spring conference. (more on that later) But the letters I got from agents and editors were maddeningly similar. Basically they all said… there’s good writing here but you don’t quite have the craft down yet.
VCFA was all about craft and nothing about business. Coming from SCBWI this was frustrating, but eventually it was freeing. After the first residency at VCFA I realized that I hadn’t had enough knowledge to even know what questions to ask. The community, the award-winning faculty, and the program helped me to climb away from my plateau and make my work better. After VCFA, I read differently, I wrote differently, I taught differently, I was supported differently, and I supported others differently.
What is to be done? Many people think that the answer is in enrolling more people of color at great MFA programs like VCFA. To that end, the agent Barry Goldblatt established a scholarship in honor of Angela Johnson, the critically acclaimed African American poet and author of more than 40 books for children and young adults. She has won the Coretta Scott King Award three times, the Michael L. Printz Award, and received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003. Her work explores the lives of characters of color of all ages, in historical and contemporary settings and celebrates a myriad of experiences growing up in America.
In addition to honoring Ms. Johnson, this scholarship will help to fill the void of multi-cultural voices in the world of children’s and young adult literature by providing scholarship assistance to minority students attending VCFA.
The recipient of the scholarship is in no way obligated to submit works to, or seek representation by Barry Goldblatt Literary, LLC.
Here are the details of the scholarship directly from the VCFA press release. If you fit the eligibility criteria, please apply. You have nothing to lose and the world and its children have so much to gain by hearing your voice!
One or two scholarships of up to $5,000 will be awarded annually and will be applied to the student’s tuition costs. The maximum scholarship awarded will not exceed $5,000.
Qualified applicants will meet the following criteria:
A minority, defined as a person of color or a person of ethnic minority in the VCFA community
Demonstrates talent, promise, and commitment to a career as a writer in the children and/or young adults field of literature.
Has strong financial need.
Priority will be given to incoming students.
Eligible applicants must submit an essay (see below) by April 30. Essays are to be emailed to: Melissa Fisher, Director, Writing for Children & Young Adults at email@example.com with the words “Application for Angela Johnson Scholarship” in the subject line. Essays emailed after April 30 will not be considered.
Essay are not to exceed 350 words and should describe the applicant’s:
Commitment and or passion for the literary field of children’s and young adult literature;
Extenuating or financial challenges.
A Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form must be filed by April 30.
When I enrolled at Vermont College of Fine Arts for my MFA I had already had my share of roommates. I had a freshman roommate that was driven, neat, and not interested in staying up past 9pm; I had a “study abroad” roommate at Gallaudet University who was super patient with me as I learned American Sign Language; I had a Three Is Company (one guy, one other girl) experience in my senior apartment and I’m still friends with them today. But at VCFA, well, the roommate gods were looking out for me. That’s where I met talented, amazing author Melanie Crowder.
Melanie and I hit it off immediately. We had similar hopes and fears. We leaned on each other to get through the demanding writing program and now, almost three years after our degree, we still vid chat regularly, share life events, and are each other’s biggest fans.
In ROOMIES, by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, Elizabeth (EB) and Lauren are about as different as two roommates could be. Elizabeth is an only child raised by a single mom looking forward to a roommate and a new friend. Lauren fantasizes about having a single where she can leave the chaos of her five brothers and sisters (one set of twins). The two authors give Elizabeth and Lauren completely unique voices and shift seamlessly from one to the other through back and forth emails. Like rolling out a new poster for a dorm wall where you only see a bit of the picture at one time, they keep the reader engaged by slowly revealing backstory.
“The main characters’ back stories are engaging, and the large supporting cast of friends and family members are well-developed and integral to the girls’ growth….The novel’s deeply embedded theme of transition will have tremendous appeal for any teenager coping with change.” (Kirkus ). – See more at LB Teen.
AND NOW…THE MOMENT YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR,
LB Teen is hosting a ROOMIES “Win One for You and Your Reader” campaign/sweepstakes. Sara and Tara’s first store appearance is on Sunday, January 12th (see below), to celebrate, they are giving away a Roomie survival kit/gift pack including earplugs, home spa essentials, a signed copy of the book, a special note from the authors, and other fun things—all packed in a shower caddy. One for me and one for you! (Edited to add: US Address only please)
Here’s the scoop:
LB Kids is giving me, a copy of ROOMIES to give to one Creative Chaos reader.
You can earn two entries:
1. Share this blog post on Twitter or Facebook. Make sure you tag me @annawritedraw or Anna Boll (Facebook) so I know you’ve done it.
2. Show me some cyber-love by leaving a comment. I’d love to know about a crazy roommate adventure or your roomie pet peeve.
On Monday the 13th, I’ll put your names in a hat and draw a winner with the help of Lucy (the best dog roomie ever!) That person wins the book.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!!!
LB KIDS is going to put my name in a sweepstakes and if I win, I’ll put all the original entries (including the person who won the book) into the hat again and we both have a chance at the Roomie survival kit (including earplugs, home spa essentials, a signed copy of the book, a special note from the authors, and other fun things—all packed in a shower caddy.) One for me and one of you. LOVE.
Here are Sara and Tara’s confirmed tour dates. Go see them. I’ve met Sara and she’s awesome. I look forward to meeting Tara one day and totally wish I was closer to one of these places!
January 12, 2014 – New York, NY: McNally Jackson [venue link]
January 15, 2014 – Salt Lake City, UT: The King’s English [venue link]
January 16, 2014 – Provo, UT: Provo Library [venue link]
February 4, 2014 – San Francisco, CA: Books Inc, Opera Plaza [venue link]
February 5, 2015 – Petaluma, CA: Copperfield’s Books [venue link]
M.T. Anderson, a National Book Award winner, will be the keynote speaker at the Celebration of Writing 2013, co-sponsored by Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) and Young Writers Project (YWP). The celebration will take place Saturday, Nov. 9, at VCFA’s campus with workshops beginning at 9:30 a.m. and the keynote at 4 p.m.
The day will highlight publication of YWP’s latest anthology, Anthology 5, a collection of the best writing and photographs drawn from 14,000 submissions.
The event, held at VCFA’s main building in Montpelier, features a day of workshops led by prominent writers and artists in digital storytelling, poetry and prose. Each workshop is 75 minutes long and all are free. A special workshop for parents begins at 2:30 p.m.
Workshop leaders include actress Robin Fawcett, poet Reuben Jackson, slam poet Geof Hewitt, digital storytellers Barbara Ganley and Bryan Alexander, poet Kerrin McCadden, and novelists Sarah Stewart Taylor and Jo Knowles.
At 4 p.m., M.T. Anderson, winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, will talk about how, as an adult, he resurrected a novel written as a teen into a series of novels. VCFA President Thomas Greene will also welcome young writers and their families to the college. Several writers featured in Anthology 5 will read their work as part of YWP’s continuing Millennial Writers On Stage series. A reception, formal release of Anthology 5 and author book signings will follow.
Young Writers Project is a nonprofit dedicated to building a generation of better writers. Each year it publishes 1,000 students’ work in 19 newspapers and on Vermont Public Radio and vtdigger.org. It operates a civil teen writing community, youngwritersproject.org; works with 63 schools through its YWP Schools Project; and holds community events and workshops. This year’s anthology was drawn from 12,000 writing submissions and 2,000 pieces of visual art.
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.
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)
to Wellesley Bookstore and Caroline’s launch last Thursday.
(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.
(Caroline’s mom might look like a Governess but she can throw around the orders like the most vicious scallywag on the high seas.)
She be makin’ fine sweets though, eh?
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.
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.
Good thing that Wellesley Books had plenty of stock because the lines were long for Magic Marks the Spot.
Happily, plenty of VCFA mateys came along to celebrate! Congratulations, Caroline.
September started with a sprint that included sending my oldest to his first year of high school, both kids auditioning for school productions, my husband off to a full-time masters program and me trying to turn around edits on a manuscript. It is only now, that I’m finding time to update Creative Chaos. Thanks for your patience.
If you are anything like me, amazing fall releases are pushing your “professional books” budget to the limit. I’ll be posting about two over the next two days!
Last Thursday was the book birthday of A.B. Westrick’s, BROTHERHOOD. I was lucky enough to receive and advanced readers copy of the book from the author. From the website:
The year is 1867, and Richmond, Virginia, lies in ruins. By day fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother to the meetings of a brotherhood, newly formed to support Confederate widows and grieving families like his. As the true murderous mission of the brotherhood—now known as the Ku Klux Klan—emerges, Shad is trapped between his pledge to them and what he knows is right. In this unflinching view of the bitter animosity that stemmed from economic and social upheaval in the South during the period of Reconstruction, it’s clear that the Civil War has ended, but the conflict isn’t over.
Shadrach is caught between being a boy and a man. He is caught between the needs of his family and his own needs for self-actualization. He is caught between his allegiance to old ways and his desire to be educated, and forge a new world. He is caught between hating others and being able to live with himself.
This in-between place is the place of the Young Adult and A.B. Westrick writes it beautifully. I felt her characters and their conflicts deeply. My empathy for Shadrach fought with my own sense of right and wrong.
The setting, despite its grit and tension, is beautiful. Geographical details coupled with vernacular and emotions of the period bring the reader squarely into 1867 Richmond. The reader clearly experiences the “tensions ordinary, impoverished, and poorly educated white Southerners might have felt during the period of Reconstruction,” as A.B. Westrick writes in her author’s note.
I urge teachers to add this book to their Civil War & Reconstruction units. Will there be hard questions and difficult discussions? YES! But this is the purpose of good literature.