The Frame-Up

June 5th 2018

The Frame-Up - Bookcover

Introducing The Quartz Creek Ranch Series!

 

It’s the book birthday of Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser’s four book Quartz Creek Ranch Series!

 

I’ve been so excited about these books because, despite the fact that I haven’s physically been on a horse since the 1970s, I have always loved books where horses were central to the plot: The Black Stallion, National Velvet, Jill’s Gymkhana. All were favourites growing up.

Now thanks to Kiersi and Amber, I get to add four more horse books to my bookshelves!

Before I share the short interview I did with these talented authors, how about a little background?

QUARTZ CREEK RANCH

A middle-grade series by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

About the Series

Every summer, the gates of Quartz Creek Ranch swing open for kids in trouble. Under the watchful eyes of lifelong ranchers Willard and EttyBridle, these ten to twelve-year-olds put their hands—and hearts—to good use, herding cattle, tending the garden, harvesting hay, and caring foranimals. Aided by two teenage horse trainers, the kids must forge a bond with their therapy horses, grow beyond the mistakes that brought themto the ranch, and face unique challenges in the rugged Coloradorangeland

 

About the Authors:

 

KIERSI BURKHART grew up riding horses on the Colorado Front Range. At sixteen, she attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland and spent her young adult years in beautiful Oregon—until she discovered her sense of adventure was calling her elsewhere. Now she travels around with her best friend, a mutt named Baby, writing fiction for children of all ages.

 

 

AMBER J. KEYSER is happiest when she is in the wilderness with her family. Lucky for her, the rivers and forests of Central Oregon let her paddle, hike, ski, and ride horses right outside her front door. When she isn’t adventuring, Amber writes fiction and nonfiction for young readers and goes running with her dog, Gilda.

 

The Interview!

 

I’ve never collaborated with someone on a book before so I’m dying to know what it’s like! How and why did you decide to your books together? What was the writing process like? Was it easy to agree when you were ready for submission?

Kiersi: This has been anything but a traditional publishing journey for me. Before QUARTZ CREEK RANCH, Amber and I were just writer buddies. One day, I was Tweeting about an experience I’d had rehabilitating a horse when I was a tween, and Amber said, “I didn’t know you were a horse person!” She approached me with the idea of writing a Middle-Grade series together about horses. I agreed, of course, because I was hooked on the Misty of Chincoteague books as a kid, and loved the idea of writing some myself. We sat down one day and brainstormed the whole thing in a single sitting, then wrote some sample chapters. Her agent signed me a few weeks later, so now we’re agency sisters!

We sold the books to a European publisher on the chapters alone, so then we had to sit down and write after the deal was made. But co-writing with Amber was super easy, considering we share a brain! We decided to alternate taking the lead on a single book—we came up with concepts and plot lines together, then one of us would write the first draft while the other would read and critiqued it to make sure we had written the characters consistently and in the same voice.

Amber: Everything about these books has been love-at-first-sight! It was as if Quartz Creek Ranch and Ma Etty and Willard were waiting for us behind a secret door. All Kiersi and I had to do was find each other and the door swung wide. One of the most amazing things about the process is that we never had a single moment of conflict during the two years we’ve spent writing four books together!

 

What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

Kiersi: THE NEVERENDING STORY by Michael Ende. Ironic to the title, I could read that book a million times over.

Amber: HATCHET by Gary Paulsen. Appropriate for a survival situation and one of my favorite books of all time.

 

How do you plan to celebrate your books’ launch?

Kiersi: Since we live in different places (Amber’s in Oregon while I’m in Wyoming), we’re planning separate launch parties. Which would be sad, except that it means we get to double our reach!

Amber: My daughter and her horse-riding friends are planning a launch party at a Roundabout Books in Bend, Oregon. There will be cupcakes! There will be horse trivia games!

 

So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

Kiersi: My choices would be: Michael Ende, Marguerite Henry, R.L. Stine, K.A. Applegate (just Katherine, though—very important), Catherynne Valente and Christopher Healy! I probably would be too star-struck and nervous to speak to Michael, but I’d have him there just to absorb his genius from a distance. And R.L.—I know he’s very funny on Twitter and I imagine he is in real life, too. I’d want to show Marguerite Henry what we made… I think QUARTZ CREEK RANCH would make her really proud. And Katherine, I know, loves animal books! Catherynne’s imagination simply inspires me—and Christopher Healy has taught me a ton about Middle-Grade humor and absurdity. I’d cook a lovely vegetarian dinner, just to suit everyone’s tastes… probably potato leek soup!

Amber: Kwame Alexander because THE CROSSOVER is a masterwork of language so beautiful I want to weep. Linda Sue Park because the characters in A SINGLE SHARD will stick with me forever. Gary Schmidt because OKAY FOR NOW goes so deep with such economy of language. Rita Williams-Garcia because ONE CRAZY SUMMER is so full of humor and heart. Kathi Appelt because THE UNDERNEATH is other-worldly and magical. Alex Gino because GEORGE is the perfect book about true friendship. I lived in Thailand for a year and so when I really want to impress people I find an international market and whip up a handful of dishes. Plus there is always enough for more people (like RJ Palacio, Susan Cooper, Madeline L’Engle, Rosanne Parry, Heidi Schulz and Rebecca Stead) to drop by. (Do you see how I snuck in a lot more of my favorite middle grade writers? I’m tricky that way!)

What projects are you working on next?

Kiersi: I personally have two YA novels in the works right now—and then I’m hoping to get back into Middle-Grade and write another horse book (in the vein of Black Beauty), or a book about dogs. I adopted my first dog about a year and a half ago, and I want to spend more time exploring the wonderful, magical bonds between children and animals.

Amber: I have two nonfiction projects in the works, one is a history of marriage, and the other is a history of women’s underwear. I’m also launching a YA novel in April. Busy times!

 

Where to Find Kiersi and Amber:

Kiersi:

Twitter/Website/Facebook

 

Amber:

Twitter/Website/Facebook

 

Launching the 2017 Jan-Feb-March Debut Authors!

 

Happy New Year!

2017 has finally arrived and with it, the publication of It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

But I’m not alone.

Along with me, a whole bunch of other really talented authors are going to be debuting their middle grade and young adult novels this year, and I’ll be talking about a lot of them.

And I’ve banded with a number of fantastic middle grade authors whose books are launching in January, February and March of this year!

 

I’ve already read a lot of these and they are fantastic – so stay tuned, as you’re going to be hearing a whole lot more about our books in the coming weeks!

Welcome 2017!

Shine on: some year-end thoughts

 

This post is my last blogpost for 2016.

 

So it seemed apropos to share a few things I’m most grateful about in terms of my writing career this past year. Don’t worry – it’s a short list, but heartfelt.

 

Writer friends

 

Before I became a writer, I hardly knew any writers at all. And now I have a whole community of writers to to turn to for advice, inspiration, and joy.

 

 

Books (and no, not mine!)

I read and I read and I read in 2016. My writing got better because of it, but even more so, I was inspired to reach for excellence. I don’t always achieve that excellence, but I try!

 

Those Who’ve Given Me a Chance & Supported Me

My agent, Lauren Galit, AKA Warrior Princess, who talks me off the ledge and sold my 2nd and 3rd books this year. Agents take big chances on we authors, and I am relieved Lauren’s faith has been rewarded!

The authors whom I admire who were so kind as to read and give blurbs for It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

My wonderful Sky Pony Press editor, Alison Weiss, who taught me how to edit a book. She is so smart and kind I felt no pain, only exhilaration! I could not adore her more than I do!

My friends (old and new) who have stepped up to help support Pig Face’s release!

The folks who have already pre-ordered my book – you amaze me with your generosity!

Readers of this Blog

It turns out a bunch of you actually click and read this blog. Who knew? For that I am eternally grateful. Next year is going to be filled with excitement, and I hope you will be with me every step of the way!

 

The Kids of Garden Creek School

When you write a book for kids, you oddly do so in a room where there are no kids. Last spring, I got to spend two months working with a bunch of wonderful kids from Garden Creek School. They excited me, humbled me, frightened me, and thrilled me. And they are in my heads every day when I write! I can’t wait to get into even more schools in 2017!

 

Until we talk again in 2017, I wish you all a joyous holiday season and hope for a joyous and peaceful 2017!

This year has been hard for many. I know it has been hard for me. I’ve suffered loss, felt hopeless now and then, felt powerless to help those who hurt.

But I know this: so long as a light shines in the darkness, there is hope. I believe that kid lit is one such light. Illuminating, inspiring, inhabiting, invincible.

I plan to do my best to shine on in 2017. I hope you’ll join me!

Much love, Wendy xoxo

 

 

Want to Win an Advanced Reader Copy of It’s a Mystery, Pig Face?

 

 

 

Lots of people have been asking me when they can get a copy of the book.

 

Pig-Face Cover

 

Well guess what? Now you can! Until midnight December 16th, EST, you can pop over to the Middle Grade Minded blog, leave me a message, and be automatically entered to win! It’s as easy as that!

 

But a book didn’t seem enough…

 

So I’ve included candy, kindly donated by Ganong Bros Ltd and some Pig Face book swag!

giveaway

 

Good luck!

 

My Best of the Rest: other books I read in 2016 that I loved

 

A confession: I have spent 2016 reading middle grade and young adult novels almost exclusively.

Not just because I wanted to improve my writing craft and reading widely in your genre is THE best way to improve your writing skills, but because

THEY ARE SO DARN GOOD!

 

And I didn’t get to half of the books I’d hoped to read in 2016.

 

so-many-books

 

But I didn’t ONLY read kidlit, and the following books rocked my world in 2016:

 

only-street-in-paris

Ah Paris, I will be back soon…

 

sputnik

A gift from my daughter, now I understand what the fuss is all about. Haruki Murakami is a genius

 

my-life-on-the-road

My hero. Always. Her stories will inspire and educate you!

 

mrs-dalloway

Why didn’t I ever read this before? Bah! But I’ve read it now. and will again…

 

devil-in-the-white-city

Evil walks among us – always. A riveting tale of a mass murderer in a bygone era… Kept me up reading, and because I was scared to go to sleep….

 

view-from-the-cheap-seats

The genius. He could write a book about plumbing and I’d read it…

 

essex-county

The best graphic novel I’ve ever read

 

islam

The more you know. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the history of this beautiful faith in simple terms

 

the-purple

No one loves Old Hollywood scandal like I do. This one did not disappoint. The stuff that dreams are made of..

 

revolution

The revolution will not be televised, it will be within. Yup.

The last one is a cheat because I am only 3/4 of the way through but it is already one of my favourite books ever:

 

the-wonder

 

There you have it! And now I can’t wait to see what great reads 2017 will bring me!

 

Happy Reading!

 

I’m guest blogging over at Pop Goes the Reader!

 

It’s that time of the year again!

 

When one of my favourite book bloggers, Jen from Pop Goes the Reader, does her annual Tis the Season series of posts, when authors guest blog about what the holiday season means to them.

 

pop-goes-the-reader

 

And guess what? This year she asked me to participate!

If you want to read my post (and I hope you will!) click here!

While you over, you really ought to follow her wonderful blog!

Thanks Jen!!!

 

 

 

Wendy’s List of The YA she read and loved in 2016

 

Last week we talked about middle grade novels I read and loved in 2016, now it’s time to turn my attention to

Young Adult Novels!

First a caveat: I’ve read well over a hundred and fifty books this year, and there are more waiting on my shelves and in my kindle for me to get to them, but there are many more books I am anxious to read that I just haven’t gotten to yet!  So this list is based solely on what I’ve read so far and loved!

More and more, I live by the motto

So many books, so little time…

 

So now, in no particular order are my recommended YA books of 2016!

 

beyond-the-redthe girl who fell symptoms of being human dig too deepjerkbaitsave me kurt cobainshallow how-to-hang-a-witch the-reader mosquitolandconsidergeminigirl-in-pieceshow-it-endsstudy-in-charlottesummers-of-supernovasthe-first-time-she-drownedthe-loose-ends-listthe-only-thingthe-serpent-king wandering-wildthis-is-where-it-endswhere-futures-endsword-and-versethe-girl-from-everywherecrossing-the-line crowns-gameup-to-this-pointestalking-jack-the-ripperthe-sun-is-also-a-startimekeeper1secrets

If you’re still looking for other great YA to read, by all means, pop over to The Sweet Sixteens website, where you’ll discover all kinds of wonderful books!

Next Week: A few more books I loved this year….

 

 

 

 

Wendy’s Book Shopping List Part One: My Middle Grade Picks

 

Year end is the perfect time of year to reflect on books that have touched us the most.

But given so many of you celebrate holidays that require gift-giving, I thought it might be helpful to suggest some books that would be welcome additions to any bookshelf, beginning this week with middle grade novels, which are so dear to my own heart.

You won’t find my book on this list, even though you can pre-order it (and you really should, she plugged shamelessly!), because I only want to share books you can buy straight away. I’m also NOT including some books that I talked about last holiday season that I read in advance of their release, but I highly recommend you go back and visit last year’s list HERE, because I still love all of those books!

My top Middle Grade Picks for 2016, by theme and in no particular order:

 

Is it Adventure You Seek?

Really, I could almost hear the theme of Raiders of the Lost Arc when I read these! They are thrilling and funny and exactly the kind of books ten-year-old me would have gobbled up!

 

 

 

 warrenthe-adventureres

 

howard-wallace the-nestboundersmomotaro

a-most-magical-girlmonstervilledragons-tomb artifacts haunted-house-project maypop mice-of-the-round-table midnight-war motley poppy the-cartographers-daughter the-rat-prince the-thiefs-apprentice treasure-at-lure-lake voyage-to-the-magical-north

HISTORICAL FICTION:

These books, told from a child’s perspective, caught my attention and my heart this year. These books combined electrifying storytelling with “YOU ARE THERE” historical facts and were amazing in every way.

paper-wishesthe-war-that-saved-my-life The last cherry blossom

 

lizzie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship

We learn so much about how to be friends (or not) in middle grade. These books help.

 

BFF The Friendship Agreement Fenway and Hattie Cover - Lo Res swing-sideways

 

Last boy at St. Edithslike-magic

 

i-am-drumslou-lou-peaseventh-grade

 

 

ISSUES:

These books explored heavy issues and did so amazingly!

 

 

counting thyme Raymie Nightingale

 

hours of the bees charlie price gertielast fifth grade root-beer-candy-and-other-miraclesGeorge wondersticks and stones Bookedthe-lost-celtdistance-to-home

These are just some of the books I read and loved this year! Would love to hear your favourites!

When Your Characters Veer Off Course

 

I was fully prepared to draft my current Work in Progress.

Character Sheets were done.

Scenes were sketched out.

Themes were at the ready.

And then one of my characters showed up on the page and had a secret.

 

via GIPHY

 

A secret they hadn’t bothered to share with me before.

This is both the writer’s greatest hope and greatest fear.

It means that the muse has taken over.

It means your characters have come to life.

It means a major reworking of plot.

 

via GIPHY

Le Sigh.

In the case of my Work in Progress, the character with the secret was a secondary one.

She arrived fully formed, like Mary Poppins answering the Banks’ ad for a nanny, and proceeded to pull her secret out of her bottomless bag.

via GIPHY

It was a helpful secret, so it got to stay.

And it made me happy, because it reminded me of how, regardless how much I prepare in advance, the story will reveal itself as it will.

The preparation was wonderful. I felt very ready to write this book.

But the magic is in the actual writing and editing.

And my secondary character was kind enough to remind me of that!

I’ve now written 51,000 words in 16 days. I fully expect to get to the end of draft one before month’s end.

I expect more surprises in the revision process.

And I couldn’t be any happier! Has that ever happened to you?

 

 

A thank you to Julie and a prescription for hope: books

 

It’s been a long week.

Apart from the election results which shocked me, I was dealing with a death in the family.

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 3:30 to the news of a new President. I was heading to a funeral. I was sad, and mad, and bewildered.

It was like a total eclipse of the sun.

And then I went on to twitter and a tweet by author Julie Leung literally got me through the day.

 

She tweeted a passage from Tolkien’s The Two Towers, one of my favourite books, and literally, it picked me up off the ground:

 

 

“Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

 

sam-and-frdo

It made me think of our children, and how books can be such a comfort to them in times that feel dark.

If I was a doctor I’d prescribe heavy doses of C.S. Lewis, I’d toss in all of Tolkien, some Adam Silverman, Jacqueline Woodson, Rita Garcia Williams, Some Louisa May Alcott, some Kenneth Oppel, I’d make sure they had Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, so they could see that even a child can vanquish evil. And Harry Potter, always Harry Potter.

They need those stories. We need them.

I’m Canadian. Heck I couldn’t even vote. But I can send love and hope.

There’s good in this world. And thank god there are books that help us navigate such choppy waters.

Julie didn’t know what she did for me yesterday with her tweet. It reminds me how we can all pay it forward.

And yes, I would love your prescriptions for books that would make me and other children feel better this week.

xoxo Wendy

Science Girls Rule in Middle Grade!

 

There’s nothing I love so much as a middle grade novel in which the main characters – especially young girls – love science.

 

Two books came out this week that are particularly good examples of this kind of book:

 

1) THE FRIENDSHIP EXPERIMENT

by Erin Teagan

 

The Friendship Agreement

 

and

2) NOTHING BUT TROUBLE

by Jacqueline Davies

 

 

nothing-but-trouble-3

A Short Summary of the Friendship Agreement:

Future scientist Madeline Little is dreading the start of middle school. Nothing has been right since her grandfather died and her best friend changed schools. Maddie would rather help her father in his research lab or write Standard Operating Procedures in her lab notebook than hang out with a bunch of kids who aren’t even her friends. Despite Maddie’s reluctance, some new friends start coming her way—until they discover what she’s written in that secret notebook. And that’s just part of the trouble. Can this future scientific genius find the formula for straightening out her life?

What I think:

 

I loved this book so much! Our heroine Madeline is dealing with so much: the loss of her beloved grandfather, facing a new school without her best friend Elizabeth by her side, she and her sister dealing with a potentially life-threatening condition. No wonder she spends a lot of her time jotting down SOPs to help her cope (Standard Operating Procedures) with life. But the SOPs don’t seem to be helping anymore. In fact, they might be making things worst.

Teagan has crafted a beautiful story about a smart girl who loves science (yay), her loving, yet realistic family, the ups and downs of middle grade friendships and learning to cope with loss and change. Wonderful book!

 

A Short Summary of Nothing But Trouble:

Odawahaka has always been too small for Maggie’s big scientific ideas. Between her stuck-in-a-rut mom, her grumpy grandpop, and the lifetime supply of sludgy soda in the fridge, it’s hard for Maggie to imagine a change. 

But when Lena moves in with her creative spirit and outrageous perspective, middle school takes off with a bang. Someone starts pulling the kind of pranks that send their rule-loving new principal into an uproar—complete with purple puffs of smoke, parachuting mice, and a scavenger hunt that leads to secret passageways. Suddenly the same-old football games, election for class president, and embarrassing stories feel almost exciting. And for the first time in her life, Maggie begins to wonder if there might be more to Odawahaka than she ever saw coming!

Humorous, smart, and full of small-town heart, Nothing But Trouble will have mischief-loving readers caught up in the cleverness and determination of two girls who can’t be held down.

 

What I think:

A jewel of a book, featuring two smart girls who use both sides of their brain – creativity and scientific-based – to undertake a series of hacks that will make the school year unforgettable to everyone. Highly recommend! Wonderful characters, rich friendship, intelligent and thoughtful storytelling at its best!

 

Some other books I love featuring girls who aren’t afraid to show their scientific brains:

The Mapmakers Trilogy by S.E. Grove

Patricia Wrede’s Frontier Magic Series

 

 I’d love to get recommendations for other books featuring science-minded heroines! Do share!

 

 

Writing Resources To Help You Prep for NaNoWriMo

 

Most writers benefit from guidance now and then.

And since next Tuesday is the beginning of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d share some great sites that are worth checking out when you have a question, need some prep help, or are just floundering in November!

The sites I’ve list below are excellent resources to help you push through!

I wrote the first draft of the book that I sold to Greenwillow Books earlier this year during NaNoWriMo 2015 and I fully expect to get the first draft of my next book done this year during November. And you can do it, too!

Without further ado, my list:

 

1) One Stop for Writers

 

one-stop

 

I’ve talked about this site before, but really, it is genius and I use it constantly. A writer’s best friend. There is a small subscription fee, but I swear, you will never regret spending that money!

 

2) Patricia Wrede’s Blog

 

 

As far as I’m concerned, Patricia Wrede is a genius and this blog is chock-a-block with all kinds of great writing advice from one of the best MG and YA writers around. And it’s searchable, which makes it even better!

 

3) Writability

 

 

writability

 

Run by the wonderful author Ava Jae, this blog has all kinds of blogs and vlogs about writing. She’s got a great one about NaNoWriMo prep here.

 

4) The NaNoWriMo Site

 

 

nanowrimocrest

 

There is lots of good information on the inspiration section of the website and they’ve been holding lots of great events to get us all fired up. Yesterday, I had the joy of watching authors Stacey Lee and Adam Silvera give us great advice! Go take a look at their awesome YouTube channel and you can watch that video and others!

So start here and then: get writing!

And if you want another NaNoWriMo buddy, feel free to add me: wmm.

Can’t wait until we’ve all got our 50,000 words in!

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy’s Four Stages of Starting a New Writing Project

 

Every time I start a new book I seem to do two things:

  1. I read as much good writing as I can get my hands on to inspire me; and
  2. I review my writing bibles for little nuggets of information that will help me with the task

WAIT!

I need to add the third, the most important, thing I do every time I begin a new book:

 

I feel completely incapable of writing a book

 

It’s a horrible feeling.

In Stage One, I scan others’ books looking for clues.

“Hey,” I think, “Maybe old so-and-so will show me how to write a book.”

This is not a good thing. Because I always come away in awe of old so-and-so’s talent and begin to second-guess every choice I make.

via GIPHY

 

Then I move on to Stage Two of the process:

In Stage Two, I begin to wonder how I wrote other books.

I question the sanity of my agent, my editors. I worry for them. They have made a terrible mistake.

WHO was that person who did THAT? I suspect demonic possession, divine intervention, I am certain that there is another me, living in an alternate universe, who KNOWS how to do this thing.

 

via GIPHY

I look at the other books I wrote and I wonder why and how I made the choices I made.

Stage two is not fun.

Eventually, I pass out of it, only to move on to Stage three:

In Stage Three, I PREPARE

This is like the boy scout section of the process. I research. I write character sketches. I do timelines. I do several drafts of the plot. I map out scenes. I think thematically.

Basically, I torture myself.

But I can’t write unless I know enough about my characters and my story to keep it going. Many a book has never been created because its author got stuck in the middle and couldn’t go on. We’e all abandoned stories midway because we got lost…

via GIPHY

Finally, after all of this, I am ready for Stage Four.

I clean my office.

via GIPHY

I protect my schedule, because I truly prefer to whip up a draft in less than six weeks, four if I can.

via GIPHY

And then I write. And oddly enough, when I begin to write, I remember how to do it. It won’t be like the other projects, but it will be just right for this new one.

Oh and then I collapse. And eat a lot of chocolate.

How about you?

I’d love to hear how you prepare!

 

 

 

I’m Presenting at Pride in Education’s GSA True Colours Conference tomorrow!

 

I love New Brunswick’s Pride in Education.

What is PIE?

Teachers/educators who volunteer their time to help create safe and inclusive schools for students, teachers, staff and their family members.

 

pride

 

This weekend is their annual conference, where students from across the province come together to share, to learn, to support one another.

The theme this year is True Colours.

I’ve been invited, as an ally, to lead a writing workshop.

 

Since I only have 45 minutes, I can’t get too deep into the technical aspect of writing.

Instead, I’m going to focus on tools they can use as they begin their writing journey.

More importantly, I’m going to be talking about #ownvoices and encouraging them to write the stories that they and the world need to read.

And I’m going to be sharing some of my favorite #ownvoices writers with them.

I’m honored to be part of this year’s conference and cannot wait to meet all the young people who are going to change the world with their truth and beauty!

 

See you there!

 

 

 

Are you doing NaNoWriMo This Year?

 

I love NaNoWriMo.

nanowrimocrest

And since it’s October, that can only mean one thing: it’s time to prep for the big November push.

What is NaNoWriMo?

 

According to their website:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. 

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

 

This year will be my fourth time doing NaNoWriMo.

I’ve succeeded every year, with a three year word total of over 192,000!

This year, I am being VERY ambitious.

It’s my goal to write the first draft of my next Middle Grade Novel in thirty days (or less).

To do that requires a lot of prep:

 

 

nano-prep

So far, I have 50+ cards filled with research, and another 50 or 60 sheets of paper with notes, outlines, character sketches, etc.

I still have a ways to go if I want to hit the ground running.

But I have help:

I have been reviewing these beauties, because really can you read ENOUGH books about plotting or character development?

 

wired-for-story story-genius plot-whisperer2k

I’ve been reading other author’s NaNoWriMo posts, like Ava Jae’s over at Writability for inspiration.

I’m doing yoga, clearing my calendar, getting in lots of Stash Christmas in Paris tea…

 

christmas-in-paris

 

The treadmill is primed.

And I am reading fantastic books in advance, in order to inspire me! This week’s:

 

the-reader anatomy-of-wingsmosquitoland

There is nothing like reading wonderful books to get you in the mood to write wonderfully!

Best of all, I’m not doing it alone. I love the NaNoWriMo Community, which spurs me on!  And if you’re looking for another buddy, feel free to find me there – WMM.

Are you getting ready for NaNoWriMo? Do you have any excellent advice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelf Envy

 

I have been thinking about my bookshelves lately.

 

This is mostly because when I go on Pinterest and Instagram, I see the most gorgeously styled shelves:

shelf-1

 

shelves-2

 

I have a lot of bookshelves. They don’t look like the one’s above – at least not most of the time.

 

Sure I style them now and then. But inevitably, more books arrive at the house and then they begin to look like this…

 

 

img_0967 img_0966 img_0968

 

I have good intentions, and then, like Tribbles, the books spread and spread and spread…

 

via GIPHY

So this week’s question: how do you corral YOUR books?  Because, if truth be told, these aren’t all the shelves….

Houston, I have a problem.

 

We Need Diverse Books!

 

“We must have ideals and try to live up to them, even if we never quite succeed. Life would be a sorry business without them. With them it’s grand and great.”

Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

 

Ah, you didn’t think I could start a post about diversity in children’s literature with a Lucy Maud Montgomery quote, did you?

But as with many things L.M. Montgomery wrote, her words hold true nearly a hundred years later.

The children’s book world in which L.M. Montgomery wrote nearly a hundred years ago was full of books that portrayed a white Anglo-Saxon view of the world.

Sadly, that world is only beginning to change all these decades later.

What’s my ideal? A world where we value diversity, REALLY value diversity.

 

And the only way to do that is if WE change.

Because here’s the thing: literature is how many of us learn about the world.

And if we don’t have books that tell us stories written from the perspective of others, whether based on race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, physical ability or mental health realities, then all we are left with is our perspective of the world.

When we only have our perspective of the world, we are distrustful of others’ perspectives.

 

When a child walks into a library or a local bookstore and can’t find a book that in any way shape or form represents them or their life, we have failed them.

When a child walks into a library or a local bookstore and can only find a book that represents their life, we have failed them.

The beauty of this world is that there are seven billion ways to be.

My book, loosely based on my childhood, is only one way to be.

But sadly, right now our books don’t truly represent the reality of how we are on Planet Earth:

 

infogram

 

But we can change that. We can buy books that support and promote diversity. The book business is, in the end, a business. If we are buying diverse books, publishers will publish even more. If we support authors that provide us with another view of our vast and beautiful world, we are supporting a future where children are not surprised by the different, but delight in it.

In her book of the same name, author Lisa Cron tells us we are wired for story. We learn, process, form values and beliefs, from hearing and reading stories.

Reading diverse books can’t help but sow the seeds of questioning what is and what can be.

Comedian George Carlin once said:

“Don’t just teach your children to read…
Teach them to question what they read.
Teach them to question everything.”

Reading diverse books can’t help but make us better people. It can’t help but make our world safe, more inclusive.

Reading diverse books sows seeds of love and understanding. When we hear another’s story, we hear THEM.

When we hear about their struggle, suddenly it feels like it’s our struggle, too.

Sometimes, someone else’s struggle might make us feel guilty. That’s okay. That’s what’s supposed to happen. That’s what helps us grow as human beings. That’s what starts the healing and the understanding.

So where do you start?

 

I’d start with weneeddiversebooks.org

There are tons of resources on their webpage: book recommendations, program information, a fabulous blog among other things.

I’d also recommend you search for #ownvoices on Twitter.

And then, once you’re armed with your book list, you are set to go!

Buy books that support diversity! Ask your library to order diverse books. Recommend diverse books to your friends.

It’s our collective responsibility to change our world for the better.

We must support marginalized writers wherever and however we can.

But mostly, we must listen to what they tell us, what they write for us. We must listen to THEIR stories.

Those stories will change the world.

 

Some Great Autumn Books!

 

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

 

via GIPHY

 

I love Autumn!  It’s the season of heavier sweaters, scarves and gloves, boots and pumpkin spice lattes.

I especially love books set in the fall, or reading creepy books in the fall. There’s nothing like wrapping yourself up in a cozy blanket and immersing yourself in a book when its cold and blustery outside!

This week I thought I’d share a two middle grade and two YA books that will get you in the mood for fall:

Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production by Sarah S. Reida

 

monsterville

 

The description:

Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is miserable when her parents force her to move from New York City (the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress) to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s nothing to do there, except play her little sister Haylie’s favorite new game, Monsterville, and hang out with her new neighbor Adam.

But when a walk in the woods lands her face-to-face with a swamp monster hungry for brains and then a Sasquatch that moos, even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring. With Adam’s help, she catches the culprit behind the drama: a shape-shifting goblin who’s fled from the monster world of Down Below.

And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? Make monster movies, of course! Lissa is convinced that Blue will be the secret to her big break.

But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and the monster must venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

Monsterville is a fusion of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family, and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice..

Why I loved it:

This book is fun and creepy and I love the imaginative way Reida uses the vocabulary of film production to tell her tale. I see a lot of kids loving this one!

 

The Last Boy at St. Edith’s by Lee Gjertsen Malone

 

Last boy at St. Ediths

 

The Description:

Seventh grader Jeremy Miner has a girl problem. Or, more accurately, a girls problem. Four hundred and seventy-five of them. That’s how many girls attend his school, St. Edith’s Academy.
Jeremy is the only boy left after the school’s brief experiment in coeducation. And he needs to get out. His mom won’t let him transfer, so Jeremy takes matters into his own hands: He’s going to get expelled.
Together with his best friend, Claudia, Jeremy unleashes a series of hilarious pranks in hopes that he’ll get kicked out with minimum damage to his permanent record. But when his stunts start to backfire, Jeremy has to decide whom he’s willing to knock down on his way out the door.

Why I loved it:

Going back to school in the fall is fraught with discomfort for kids for a whole bunch of kids. But never has one boy so desperately wanted to change his circumstances as Jeremy. So much fun!

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Whenever I think of Salem Massachusetts, I think of fall, probably because the story of the Salem Witch Trials was so creepy and awful.

 

how-to-hang-a-witch

 

The Description:

It’s the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

Why I love it:

There were so many things I didn’t see coming here, so many twists and turns that Mather throws at us, that I was giddily exhausted by the end.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

 

shallow

 

The description:

Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.

Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.

Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Why I love it:

From Breezy’s awakening to all the creepy places she goes and the creepy people/things she meets, I was hooked. And I never look at a fresh plot of dirt the same.

 

I guarantee that any of these books will put you in an autumn kind of mood!

via GIPHY

 

Author of Children's Literature

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