Category Archives: Books

Help Me With A Title

I received my editorial letter recently and have been planning my revisions. Since today was the last full day of classes, my mind is shifting from teacher mode to full-time writing mode. The new scenes are playing out in my head, and I’m itching to get them on paper. One thing that will change is the title.

The working title has been RESURRECTING EMILY. The reasons? you ask.

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Well, I have a thing for Emily Dickinson (I love her), and she has a strong influence throughout the story. In some ways, I want to help “bring her back” to the forefront with young readers (most of my students know nothing about her). Also, the two main characters are named Emily, although one always goes by her middle name, Elizabeth. One of the Emilys attempts suicide. Which one? you ask. Well, you’ll have to buy the book to find out.

The title, however, has an obvious religious reference and my novel is not about traditional faith. So, I need a new title, preferably a first line or other phrase from a Dickinson poem since her work is featured in the book. I have some possibilities, and I would love for you to chime in and vote. I’d like to send my editor the best ones.

I was able to shorten the list with the help of my family. If you know them, this exchange will not surprise you. If you don’t, then welcome to my world. (All in good fun here. We’re a tight crew.)

Me: How about A CLEAVING IN THE MIND?

Sister: Cleaving sounds like cleavage and it’s on teens’ minds. No.

Me: How about A PAIN SO UTTER?

Sister: It makes me think of cows. No.

Me: How about A FUNERAL IN MY BRAIN.

Brother: Geez, what kind of book are you writing?

Me: You’d know if you bothered to read an early draft.

Brother: I thought it was about high school.

Me: It is, but it’s not a romantic comedy. It’s about more serious issues in high school–teen depression and attempted suicide.

Brother: I missed that part in high school.

Sister: They covered that in health class when you were skipping.

Mom: How about WHEN PAIN HURTS?

Me: It’s not from a Dickinson poem. And, when doesn’t pain hurt?

Brother: Well, I guess if you’re into that kind of thing.

We all look at my sister-in-law.

Sister-in-law: Don’t look at me.

Brother: Call it FIFTY SHADES OF HIGH SCHOOL!

Me: Why do I bother?

Dad: Come on, guys, when you write a book, it’s like your baby. You put a piece of yourself out there. This is serious.

Everyone is laughing too hard to hear him.

Sigh.

Anywho…..please help me. Here are the ones that survived the family get-together. Trust me–they all “fit” the story. Comment here, on my Facebook Page, or on Twitter. If you could rank them in the order you like them (first being the best), that would be awesome!! Thanks in advance for your thoughts!!

WHEN REASON BREAKS

HOW NOTELESS I COULD DIE

MY LETTER TO THE WORLD

STOPPING FOR DEATH

I STOPPED FOR DEATH

My New Facebook Page!

Earlier this week, I found out that my debut novel, RESURRECTING EMILY, will be on Walker’s Fall 2014 list, if all goes according to plan. This may seem like a long time from now, but it really isn’t. So, I’m now panicking…I mean, preparing…and trying to get my name and face on as many social media sites I think I can handle (which isn’t many. Pinterest is so tempting, but I can’t! Not yet!)

So…this is a quick post to let people know that I now have a Facebook Page that can be liked. I added an icon thingie on the sidebar of this blog, and I’ve programmed it so that whatever I post here will go to my FB page and my Twitter account. (Let’s see if all of this actually works.)

My hope is that my original FB account will be more personal and the page will be all things book-related. I’m sure there will be some cross-pollination, but in general, I want to post pictures of my daughter, dog , etc. on my personal account, not the public FB page. (Although Rusty is an attention monger and would love his furry mug posted everywhere.)

See, there he goes again! But, isn't he cute?

See, there he goes again! But, isn’t he cute?

So, go ahead and “like” me if you want ongoing book news. The page is bare-bones right now, but I promise to post all sorts of scandalous stuff there soon (not really).

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: Spotlight on Jenny Torres Sanchez

In an effort to celebrate Hispanic authors beyond National Hispanic Heritage month, I plan to read and post about YA novels written by Latino/as. You may also want to check out Latina Book ClubVamos a Leer, and The Hispanic Reader.

And, today’s YA author in the spotlight is: Jenny Torres Sanchez. Enjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes directly from the author’s website and her author page on Amazon.com.)

Before writing her debut novel, THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE, Jenny Torres Sanchez studied English at the University of Central Florida and taught high school for several years in the Orange County school system. Her students were some of the coolest, funniest, strangest, and most eclectic people she’s ever met. She’s grateful to have taught every single one of them and credits them for inspiring her to write YA. Jenny also writes short stories–many of which rooted in her Hispanic culture. She currently writes full-time and lives in Florida with her husband and children.

In addition to writing, she likes to paint, take pictures, and listen to music. Her taste ranges from The Smiths to Violent Femmes, to the Beastie Boys, to Lila Downs, to a band called Los Tigres del Norte.

YA NOVEL: THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Charlie is handed a crappy senior year. Despite losing thirty pounds over the summer, he still gets called “Chunks” Grisner. What’s worse, he has to share a locker with the biggest Lord of the Rings freak his school has ever seen. He also can’t figure out whether Charlotte VanderKleaton, the beautiful strawberry lip-glossed new girl, likes him the way he likes her. Oh, and then there’s his mom. She’s disappeared–again–and his dad won’t talk about it.

Somewhere between the madness, Charlie can at least find comfort in his one and only talent that just might get him out of this life-sucking place. But will he be able to  hold his head above water in the meantime?

MY TWO CENTS: Charlie is a high school senior who is returning to school after having shed thirty pounds but few of his social insecurities. He has a hip best friend, a crush on the hot new girl (who is not good enough for him, in my opinion), a mom who is mentally unstable,  a distant dad who is having an affair, and a caring photography teacher who helps Charlie develop his talent and find something good about himself. He also has an eating disorder. He binges and purges in an effort to feel better during highly emotional moments. There’s a lot going on in the novel, but Sanchez does a good job of blending the issues and capturing a struggling male teen’s voice. If anything, I wanted more of the bulimia issue. It’s rare to see a male MC in a YA novel with an eating disorder; it’s worth exploring even more.

TEACHING TIPS: English teachers could obviously pursue themes, characterization, and external and internal conflicts, but this novel also has great cross-curricular potential. An art teacher wouldn’t have to read the entire novel with a class, but could pull out and explore the chapters that deal with Charlie’s photography and how it helps him to address what’s going on in his life. Students could create a similar photography project. Also, health teachers could use parts of the novel to address eating disorders, bulimia in this case. Mixing non-fiction with fiction is a good way to engage students in such topics and fits right into the Common Core State Standards.

LEXILE: N/A

LINKS for more information: Find THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE on Amazon.comBarnes and Noble.comIndieBound.org,  and Goodreads.

Jenny Torres Sanchez also has a new novel being released soon, on May 28, 2013, called DEATH, DICKINSON, AND THE DEMENTED LIFE OF FRENCHIE GARCIA. I’ll be sure to check this one out!

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia

The Calm Before What Comes Next

So, it’s been almost a month since my novel RESURRECTING EMILY was bought by Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury/Walker, and I have been……exhausted. Weird, right? I mean, I screamed and danced and told just about everyone I spoke to, and then I was like, Whew! (wipes brow), and I’ve been  napping a lot since. I like to think I’m recharging during this calm before what comes next.

When I think about it, I tend to work this way. I push  myself for an extended time, and then when a goal is reached, I crash. I remember once coming home from college after finals and a year as managing editor of The Daily Campus. I fell into a dead sleep for so long that my mom came in and put her finger under my nose to check if I was still breathing.

Now, I work full-time as a teacher, I’m raising a 6-year-old daughter and caring for a 15-year-old mutt, I’m writing and attending my monthly critique group, and I’m doing a mediocre job with Weight Watchers (stuck at 11 pounds). So, yeah, I’ve got a lot going on, and I’m generally sleep-deprived.

On top of all this was the brewing book deal. When emails were being exchanged about the acquisitions process, I thought I was cool, but I was so not cool. I was freaking out inside. So when the deal was done and the excitement was released, I settled into this post-news calm and have allowed myself some time to crash, just like I did each summer after college.

After spending a significant amount of time on a project that required loads of emotional and intellectual energy, I’ve cleared a major hurdle. But the race isn’t over–not even close.

I’ve reached a personal goal, but there’s lots of hard work ahead of me. My editor said I will probably receive her revision notes by the end of April, so soon enough, I will dive back into this project and dig deep to make it even better.

In the meantime, I’m going to allow myself a little mental break. I’m going to enjoy the glorious weather (finally) and push my daughter on the swings. I’m going to spend time with family and friends, and I’m going to nap every chance I get. I’m going to recharge my batteries so that I’m ready for the next leg of the race.

BOOK DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Monday night, I got the okay from my agent to announce that my first novel, RESURRECTING EMILY, has been acquired by Mary Kate Castellani at Walker Books for Young Readers, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing!

I was all…

Jennifer Lawrence

And then I was all…

happy dancing

I want to say THANK YOU! a thousand times to my agent, Laura Langlie, for being so persistent and supportive. And of course a GIANT SIZED THANK YOU! to Mary Kate for saying yes and making a dream of mine come true!

I’ll post more details as I get them, but for now I’ll be busy doing my happy dance!

SCBWI New York 2013

I would have posted this sooner, but I returned from New York to a sick child and then got a head cold. Ugh. Still, I wanted to share some of the highlights of the 14th annual Society for Children Book Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference in New York City.

First, if you write or illustrate, you should be a part of this group. Go ahead, join it now. The group offers local critique groups, and regional and national conferences. This was my second national conference, and I can definitely say the people are the coolest. Really. I attended an educational conference not long ago and one of the big-name speakers was whisked away at the end of her talk, leaving me sputtering a question at her back. Nice, huh? But at the SCBWI conference, I was walking around the evening social, and who was at my regional table? Jane Yolen. And then a woman I met asked, “Would you take a picture of me and Meg Rosoff? She’s right over there.” How cool is that?

The speakers were funny and inspiring. A booksellers panel discussed what’s hot in the market. Meg Rosoff was perfectly snarky when talking about the misconception that writing for children is easy and that “real” authors write for adults. Shaun Tan’s work proved how powerful an image can be and how a story can be told without words, Margaret Peterson Haddix said she’s thrilled that her books appeal to reluctant readers since they are the hardest to reach, Mo Willems encouraged us to dream big. Instead of saying your goal is to publish a book, why not say you want to change the world? And Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton were what you’d expect of Mary Poppins and her child: so sweet and engaging.

The breakout sessions had a common theme this year, with agents and editors answering the question, “What hooks me?” Molly O’Neil, an editor at Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins said she has to fall in love with a project since, if acquired, she’d spend more than a year–at least– on it, reading it multiple times and considering everything from cover art to the marketing campaign. She works on all types of children’s books, from picture books, to middle grade stand-alones, to YA series. Jennifer Besser, publisher at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, talked about writing that pops off the page. She read from Rick Riordan’s THE LIGHTNING THIEF, which was her first acquisition as an editor.

In the end, the answer to “What hooks me?” was the same: good writing. Each editor had criteria for this, but in general, they know it when they see it. Timing is a major component, too. Vampire books may not get as much attention now post-Twilight, but they’d never say never.

The best part of the conference was talking to other writers who are at different stages of the writing-publishing process. Some work full-time and write when they can. Others write full-time. Some have an agent and are on submission, while others are drafting their first novel. What we all have in common is a desire to create stories. Everyone I met was friendly and supportive, regardless of whether they were a beginner or a published author. Again, I say, how cool is that?

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Books are not better just because they are written for adults.” -Meg Rosoff

“You don’t get to be an author without a certain amount of persistence.” -Margaret Peterson Haddix

“Fail big if you have to, but go down trying.” -Margaret Peterson Haddix

“Aren’t we lucky?” -Julie Andrews

And finally some photos and a suggestion: if you haven’t attended a writer’s conference, you really should. You leave all warm and fuzzy inside, wanting to throw your hands in the air and shout, “I’m a writer!” Of course, you don’t do this, but you want to. They are that inspiring.

photo

Me chatting with Meg Rosoff, author of HOW I LIVE NOW

photo (1)

Me and Meg Rosoff

photo (2)

Me and Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of AMONG THE HIDDEN and many other novels.

2013 Youth Media Awards

Earlier today, the American Library Association announced the winners of the 2013 Youth Media Awards, which is–as one person on Twitter put it–the Oscars for book nerds. Book lovers live-Tweeted the results, thank goodness, because some of us could not get the ALA web site to load or the live streaming to work. Ugh!

As the winners were announced an enthusiastic round of applause was deserved by “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz for winning two awards and being named an honor book in a third category.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Sáenz, who has written picture books, YA novels, adult novels, and poetry, is the author of “Last Night I Sang to the Monster,” and “Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood.” On Monday, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” was an Honor Book for the Michael L. Printz Award and won both the Pura Belpré and Stonewall Book Awards.

 

Congratulations to all of the winners! Many of these titles will definitely be added to my “to be read” pile. Below are some of the award winners. For the complete list, click here.

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. Honor Books were: “Splendors and Glooms” by Laura Amy Schlitz; “Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin; and “Three Times Lucky” by Sheila Turnage.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children“This Is Not My Hat,” illustrated and written by Jon Klassen. Honor Books were: “Creepy Carrots!” illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds; “Extra Yarn,” illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett; “Green,” illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger; “One Cool Friend,” illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo; “Sleep Like a Tiger,” illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults“Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America” by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Honor Books were: “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis; “No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award: “I, Too, Am America,” illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Langston Hughes. Honor Books were: “H. O. R. S. E.,” illustrated and written by Christopher Myers; “Ellen’s Broom,” illustrated by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons; and “I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr.” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults“In Darkness” by Nick Lake. Honor Books were: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz; “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein; “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett; “The White Bicycle” by Beverley Brenna.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience“Back to Front and Upside Down!” written and illustrated by Claire Alexander (younger children). “A Dog Called Homeless” by Sarah Lean (middle school). “Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am,” by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis (teen).

Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States“The Fault in Our Stars,” written by John Green, narrated by Kate Rudd. Honor Audiobooks were: “Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian,” written by Eoin Colfer, narrated by Nathaniel Parker; “Ghost Knight,” written by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Elliot Hill; and “Monstrous Beauty,” written by Elizabeth Fama, narrated by Katherine Kellgren.

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience“Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert,” illustrated by David Diaz, written by Gary D. Schmidt.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Honor Book: “The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano” by Sonia Manzano.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children“Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin. Honor Books were: “Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin,” written and illustrated by Robert Byrd; “Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95” by Phillip M. Hoose; and “Titanic: Voices from the Disaster” by Deborah Hopkinson.

Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Honor Books were: “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier; “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Hannah Moskowitz; “October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard” by Lesléa Newman; and “Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie” by S. J. Adams.

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens: “Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman. Finalists: “Wonder Show” by Hannah Barnaby; “Love and Other Perishable Items” by Laura Buzo; “After the Snow” by S. D. Crockett; and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by emily m. danforth.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: “Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon”  by Steve Sheinkin Finalists: “Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different” by Karen Blumenthal; “Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95” by Phillip Hoose; “Titanic: Voices from the Disaster” by Deborah Hopkinson; and “We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March” by Cynthia Levinson.

HAPPY READING!!

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