Posts tagged ‘SCBWI’

September 3, 2012

I write in a garbage dump…

…and other information for GUTGAA’s (Gearing Up To Get An Agent) meet and greet. Here are my answers in case you are hopping over from Deana Barnhart’s blog! And if you are not, here are a few things about my writing I’m sharing with some other unagented (pre-published) writers. ūüôā
Where do you write?
Usually (like now) I write at my desk, a huge, heavy wooden ones that movers hate and I love. My mom bought it for me when I was a lot younger than I am now. I did all my high school homework at this desk while listening to the Mariners lose games in the bottom of the ninth. Or sometimes earlier than that. I had a phone on my desk that I sometimes used to talk to this cute boy at school, the one who took the kids to the pool today so that I could get some time to read my book before submitting it to be read for the Highlights Foundation workshop this fall. (Eek!)
Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
This is not pretty. A messy pile of books, an upturned trash can, a closet stuffed with empty three-ring binders and an ergonomic keyboard I should be using right now. In my defense, we moved into this house three weeks ago and mom’s study is last on the list of rooms to be conquered. I’m trying to convince my husband that a great present for the person who unpacked every other room in the house would be having a professional organizer come and unpack my study. So far, it isn’t working. If you have a good argument for me, please include in the comments below.
Favorite time to write?
The mornings, but it’s usually at naptime or bedtime.
Drink of choice while writing?
Iced tea. I wish it was something cooler, like Jack Daniels.
When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Both. I think silence is better, but sometimes I just need the music to keep my brain from running away.
What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
The inspiration at first came from my grandfather, through his introducing me to the Civil War through the letters of my great-great-great grandfather. Those letters have been an important part of my life and they inspired me to write this book. But the overarching theme in the book came from reading Night by Elie Wiesel and Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Both have important things to say about remembering our past, but Primo Levi says something that struck me powerfully: we cannot FULLY remember. If we REALLY remembered, we could never go on. Certainly that is true for a Holocaust survival. Is it true for all of us? That there is some delicate balance between remembering and not remembering that allows us to go on but hopefully prevents us from repeating the atrocities of our history? On an abstract level, my book tries to deal with that question, not only for society as a whole, as the present gets obliterated when people forget the past, but also for the characters on a personal level, as they struggle with the usual middle school issues and learn to embrace themselves and their pasts in their own ways.
What’s your most valuable writing tip?
Delete. Delete. Delete.
April 11, 2011

Turtles, Scorpions, Pirate Treasure, and Diaper Rash

I’ve decided to go searching for some award-winning books, and this seemed like as good one as any to start with. ¬†It won a Golden Kite in 2010, an award given out by the SCBWI, the Society for Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators, which means that it’s a peer award–an award given to writers by other writers. ¬†I like the validation of that, and since I’m a writer and a member of SCBWI, that seemed like a good place to start. ¬†I’m glad I did. ¬†My sister was in town, which meant that I actually had a few minutes to actually read, and this was a great escape.

Title: Turtle in Paradise
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age: Middle Grade

Summary and Review:

Sometimes a book just gets you with one particularly good part. ¬†This one got me near the beginning, when Turtle was dropped off at a small house in the Florida keys to live with her surprised and overwhelmed aunt and cousins. ¬†She is outside the house, meeting her cousins and their friends when she overhears an older neighbor¬†referring¬†to the boys as the “diaper gang”. ¬†Now, as a reader, I assumed this was his way of insulting them. ¬†Turtle does too, and asks them jokingly if they change diapers. ¬†Now they, in turn, look at her like she’s an idiot and tell her that of course they do. ¬†And that’s her first introduction to the group of misbehaving¬†adolescent boys and their secret diaper rash formula.

The diaper gang are the major players in the book alongside Turtle, but the diapering is only a small part of the story. ¬†Turtle’s mom, a housekeeper, had to send her away because her new employer didn’t want children in the house.

In the keys, Turtle meets family members she never even knew about and some she thought were dead.  She has adventures that include crying babies, diaper rash, hurricanes, and pirate gold.  But in the end, this book is all about one thing: family.  And it will make you want to visit yours.

Another great thing about the book is its subtle historical setting. ¬†You get a good feeling for the poverty and hopelessness of the Great Depression, of the stories of Little Orphan Annie and the stardom of Shirley Temple, but it isn’t rubbed in your face. ¬†An adolescent reader who would turn away historical fiction just because of the word “history” need not shy away from this book. ¬†In fact, don’t even tell them–they might not even notice.

The writing in the book is great. ¬†I love all the little details–the kids who don’t wear shoes, Turtle’s sarcastic cracks at the boys, the nicknames of all the characters (Beans, Too Bad, Slow Poke–almost no one has a real name). ¬†It all just fits together perfectly. ¬†I’m pretty sure that if I headed to South Florida now, I might find this family there, eating Turtle soup, chasing scorpions and running around barefoot.

Follow-up with the kids:

It can’t hurt to bring up the history piece after the fact, can it? ¬†It’s a perfect read in today’s times as a lot of families are feeling the same sense of poverty–that mix of hopelessness and dreams that comes with not having a lot of money in a country where others still have it.

Also, read the afterward with the historical details. ¬†I liked that part a lot, and it gave a lot of context to the book. ¬†I appreciated that it was in the afterward and not stuffed into the book, making it unwieldly like some historical fiction can be. ¬†I also liked the part about the pirate treasure. ¬†Without giving too much away, I can say that the pirate treasure storyline in the book didn’t really sit right with me, but the afterward put it into better perspective.

Another great conversation would be about Turtle and how she never cries anymore–she has to be the tough one in her family, her mom the weaker link. ¬†But then something near the end makes the tears flow freely. ¬†What is it and why was she finally able to cry? ¬†Was it only the sadness of the event, or was it something more, maybe something that finally gave her the courage to show her emotions?

March 14, 2011

Eating your way through high school

In a world of flashing television screens and internet news that comes before the actual event is finished, the subtle is often overlooked.¬† Which is why SCBWI’s Sid Fleischman Humor Award is so refreshing.¬† SCBWI is a horrid acronym that stands for the “Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators”.¬† The Sid Fleishman Humor Award honors the author of the same name, known for books that were both humorous and poignant.¬† My latest read was the 2010 winner, and I definitely understand why.¬† It’s not funny-ha-ha, or LOL funny, but it’s definitely a funny book.¬† A really well-written funny book with a strong, character with a great humorous tone and a good message for its readers.¬† So thank you SCBWI for honoring this book so that we would all know about it, and thank you Allen Zadoff, for writing it in the first place.

Title: Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have
Author: Allen Zadoff
Genre: Fiction
Age: Middle School and High School (book takes place in a High School)

Summary and Review:

Andy is an overweight–read really overweight–sophomore who doesn’t see a lot of upsides to his life.¬† His dad ignores him while his mom, a caterer who tries to get him to eat less (while getting his skinny sister to eat more), overprotects him.¬† His best friend is his model UN partner and he is picked on, shoved, or overlooked by most of the rest of the school.¬† Until he is not.

One day he does the impossible–makes friends with the star football player and, on what seems like a whim, tries out for the football team.¬† He starts living the high school equivalent of the high life–with parties, girls, and football player friends.¬† But just when you are about to put the book down because it all seems so unreasonable, the dreams begin to unravel.¬† There’s his mom, who never signed the permission slip for him to play and yanks him off the team when she finds out.¬† There’s the girl he loves but might be dating someone else.¬† And there’s the football players he thought were his friends.¬† But are they?

The book is at once sweet, funny, and a rich portrayal of high school.¬† At its heart, it’s a book about being true to who you really are.

Follow-up with the kids:

This book strings you along for quite some time in the fantasy-like atmosphere of the popular realm.¬† I think it would be great to talk to your kids when they are still being strung along, talk about the changes that Andy makes when he joins the football team and why they’ve been good or bad for him.¬† And then find out if they still feel that way in the end.¬† My guess is that a lot of teens and preteens who read this book won’t necessarily love the ending.¬† They might not understand the decisions that Andy makes.¬† Having that conversation with them would be an important step in understanding who your child is, where they fit into the crazy social strata of high school, and what hopes and dreams they might be harboring–dreams that might show them more heartbreak than happiness if they were to really come true.¬† Andy is a great character who gives us a fun ride through his high school days.¬† He’s a fun guy to spend time with, an as a result, so is this book.