Elizabeth Caulfield Felt's Blog

October 21, 2014

Want to write a book? Want to do it fast?  Want encouragement from famous people?  Want to connect with other writers in your local area?


Nano 2014Then you need to join NaNoWriMo! I went to the National Novel Writing Month website and got myself signed up to write (finish) a novel in November.  If you join NaNoWriMo, be sure to make me one of your writing buddies.


This year, my NaNo project is once again The Stepsisters. It feels as if I’ve been writing this book  f – o – r – e – v – e – r .


I’m two-thirds finished with my third revision, and I think this is the one. My goal for November is to finish The Stepsisters.  For those of you who haven’t already heard about this novel, The Stepsisters is a steampunk Cinderella, told in alternating first person by the two stepsisters.  And not to brag or anything, but it is la-la fabulous.  Or will be. When I finish it. In November.


OK, so go do the NaNo thing.  You know you want to. Here’s the link again: National Novel Writing Month website.


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Published on October 21, 2014 11:08

October 1, 2014

jamie swensonToday I’m welcoming Jamie Swenson to my series of author interviews. Jamie is the picture book author of Big Rig, Boom Boom Boom, and If You Were a Dog.


Elizabeth: Can you tell us about If You Were a Dog?


Jamie: If You Were a Dog released yesterday – Sept.30th. jamie book dog


When I think about this book – it makes me smile. The book asks a series of questions for kids to consider about what sort of animal they would be if they were, say, a dog, a cat, a bird, a fish, a frog – even a dinosaur. The book opens with the dog question:


If you were a dog, would you be a speedy-quick,



Lickety-sloppidy,


Scavenge-the-garbage,


Frisbee catching,


Hotdog stealing,


Pillow hogging,


Best-friend-ever sort of dog?


Would you howl at the moon?


ARRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOO!


Some dogs do.



Elizabeth: How long did it take from story idea until the book was published?


Jamie: Sometimes the initial idea for a book just flows from me in a matter of hours. That’s what happened with If You Were a Dog. I’d been talking with a little boy who was pretending to be a dog and I asked him, “What sort of dog are you? Are you going to bark in storytime today?” And that’s really all it took – I practically ran home that day and wrote the first few lines of the book about what type of dog a child might be. I’ve had dogs my whole life – so all the questions are based on the dogs I’ve known.


Of course, a book needs more than just one fun thought … and it took me a little while to focus on only animals – and even longer to get all the descriptive words right. Plus, I believe I spent months putting hyphens in and taking hyphens out again … in total, I think it took over a year to get the text into a form I was ready to submit to publishers.


When I finally did start submitting, I sent it to five open houses that I loved – into slush piles. I didn’t hear anything for months and then one morning I saw that I had an email message from Janine O’Malley at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She wondered if the book was still available and if I would email her a copy so she could share it with her colleagues. That was in December of 2009. I think Janine made me an offer in January and the book was scheduled to release in 2012.


AND THEN … the most amazing thing happened. Caldecott-winning illustrator Chris Raschka signed onto the project. I was stunned when I found out. I knew and respected Chris’ work – it was an unbelievable thought that he would be bringing my text to life. Of course, he’s busy. The publication date ended up moving back to 2014 to accommodate his schedule. So, the first book I sold has ended up being the third to be released. In my mind, Chris’ work was well worth the extra two year wait!


Elizabeth: Chris Raschka! How exciting! Well worth the wait. I’ve noticed that your books are each by a different illustrator. Do you, as an author, have any input on who gets to illustrate your story?


jamie book bigrigJamie: As the author, I have had no say in who the illustrators for my books would be – beyond giving a general “yes” or “no” to the choices made by my editors. So far, I have only said, “AWESOME!” to all three of the illustrators: David Walker, Ned Young, and Chris Raschka.


With each project, at some point, I do see rough sketches or early drafts of the art and I am able to give feedback. There were a few instances in each manuscript when I did give feedback that affected the final book. In all cases, I was so happy with the overall style/tone/feel of the book – I really think each illustrator brought exactly what the text needed to the project. When I look at the art in my books – I simply can’t imagine any other style/look. I’ve heard of authors being disappointed in the art in their books – or feeling a loss of control, but I have never felt that way. I go into every book – even in the early writing stage—saying, “I’m leaving space right there for an illustrator to play and have fun creating.” I have never wanted to have too much control – and I try to stay away from exacting illustration directions/notes.


jamie book boomIn my mind, every person connected with the book process knows what he/she is doing and each person adds a richness to the book that wouldn’t exist if I were the one making all the choices. I love how books represent many creative spirits coming together for the best product – because they are created for the best people on the planet – kids.


Elizabeth: Can you tell us a little about your writing process?


Jamie: My writing process is dictated by the project I’m working on. If I need to research a topic – I will spend a few weeks reading or watching everything I can that is connected to the topic and taking notes or just letting it sink into my brain. Finally, I’ll spend two or three straight days writing the first draft (if it’s a picture book) and then I’ll spend days, weeks, months, or years revising the manuscript. Usually, it’s just a matter of a month or two of writing and revising. I often write for about two hours, take a break such as a walk with my dogs, and then come back to write/revise for a few more hours. Breaks are essential – and knowing that I need to find perfect words and not settle for just okay keeps me motivated. Picture books are like a puzzle where you keep taking out and replacing pieces until they all fit together perfectly.


Elizabeth: To write for children, do you think an author needs to have regular interaction with children?


Jamie: No, I do not think that writers have to have regular interaction with kids to write for kids – I think writers have to have once been a kid and be interested in topics of interest to kids. Of course, for me, it certainly helps that I do work with kids. My work is very much affected by my daily interactions with kids, and I would certainly miss that inspiration if I suddenly went to live in a cabin in a forest without any people around me (and believe me, I have considered this – hee hee).


For me, being a storyteller/associate librarian gives me a unique perspective on the types of books that I write. I write books that I would want to use in storytime with preschoolers. My books all have opportunities for the kids to become a part of the reading – be it with howling or clapping or making the “URRRRNNNT-URRRRNNNT!” of big rig’s horn. When I write, I visualize the way the book will work with the kids I will read it to one day.


But, I know many successful authors who do not interact with kids on a daily or even weekly basis. This does not mean they ignore what today’s kids are like or what interests them or what kids need from books – it just means, like any writer – they know their subject and their audience. Some writers write for the child they once were. That’s fantastic!


Of course, if you’re writing for children/teens, it helps to understand their developmental needs. For instance, most two year olds have not yet lost a tooth, been to the principal’s office, or learned to ride a two-wheeler. I wouldn’t pick those topics in writing for a preschooler – on the flip side, most fifth graders are no longer interested in how to tie their shoes, or put on pants, or button a shirt. They don’t worry so much about nap time either. A teen might be very interested in getting his/her driver’s license, but not that interested in stories about spelling bees or first slumber parties. Knowing what your audience is currently experiencing, or will soon experience, helps you write a story that they will enjoy.


My advice to those writing for kids who are not able to be around kids – read books currently published for the age group you want to write for and think about the big emotional issues you experienced at that age. The specifics may have changed since you were a kid (What do you mean you didn’t have a cell phone? How did you text people?), but the emotions haven’t changed. It still hurts to be left out. It’s still scary to be alone in your bed in the dark. And it’s still awesome to find out that a special someone LIKE likes you.


Elizabeth: Can you tell us a little more about yourself?


Jamie: I’ve been writing for kids for about fourteen years now. My early books were certainly inspired by a combination of raising children (my husband and I have two amazing daughters) and working as an associate librarian doing early literacy storytimes. I graduated from Hamline University’s MFAC program in 2009 – that experience remains a highlight of my writing life. Through Hamline and SCBWI, I have been fortunate to meet and be inspired by an array of incredible writers and illustrators.


For me, being a writer isn’t a career as much as it is simply who I am. Words and stories float around me and inspire me. Stories and words make me happy. I love being a part of a world that creates stories for children. Writing for kids and inspiring them become readers is my vocation, I can’t image doing anything else. People ask me all the time what the best part of being a writer is – and I always answer – the best thing about being a writer is the opportunity to meet interesting, passionate, fabulous people: readers, writers, illustrators, editors, agents, book-lovers of all sorts. I honestly believe book people are the best sort of people – and people who dedicate their lives to giving kids the world through books – well, I’m blessed to be a part of that.


Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:


Q: Pizza or salad?


A: Both.


Q: Ocean or mountain?


A: Midwest forest. As northern as possible.


Q: Tree house or doll house?


A: Doll house in a tree house.


Q: Violin or piano?


A: Lalalalala – I’m a singer.


Q: Comic story or learn-something story?


A: Both – I hope to take something away from every story I read – but if there is no comic-relief in a book – I’m not likely to keep reading it for long. That is NOT to say that I wouldn’t read a dark topic or a serious topic – but even in those scary places – there is still joy in this world. So, I do appreciate a little bit of levity with every topic.


Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder or Hermione Granger?


A: Hmmm… both of these characters have spunk and do not take no for an answer. They also both make some big mistakes due to overconfidence… They are smart, brave, women of their time. One, of course is based on a real person – but the two characters are iconic. Too hard to answer –both Laura and Hermione would be preferred over a Bella Swan any day of the week.


For more information about Jamie Swenson visit her website: www.jamieswenson.com


Her books are available at: http://www.indiebound.org/ and other bookstores.


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Published on October 01, 2014 14:28 • 4 views

September 11, 2014

Sometimes I read a book that is so beautiful and perfect that I am inspired as a writer. This happened about twelve years ago with The Girl in the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. When I was finished reading it, I wanted to write again. I’d given up on writing, decided I didn’t have it in me to write an entire novel, but after reading this book, I changed my mind. I wanted to write. I had no illusions that I could write something as beautiful as The Girl in the Pearl Earring, but I wanted to try. I have tried and I’ve been mostly happy with what I accomplished.  I thank Tracy Chevalier for that.


Sometimes I read a book that is so beautiful and perfect that I feel like I should just give up as a writer. I could never create anything that comes anywhere near this, and so why bother?


This happened today when I finished State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. This book is perfection. The prose is both beautiful and clear. Sentences flow like a slow river, peaceful but with purpose. Her characters are interesting and flawed and only knowable in part. The way I viewed them changed as I got to know them better, subtly, until I realized my opinion had changed at some point, but where? The story isn’t a thriller, and yet I couldn’t put it down. What would happen next? I could not guess. The ending is painful and brilliant and beautiful. The parallel stories are so clear at the end, but I never saw the ending coming. And the story isn’t over. More will happen to Marina. And yet the story is over. How she will live her life after the final page is up to her and the reader’s imagination. I don’t like this normally, but it works perfectly here.


I love this book and have already started re-reading it. If you haven’t read it, you need to. As for me continuing to write, I will.  It is probably just a mood thing. My writing hasn’t been going well, so I can’t help but compare Patchett’s wonderful novel to to the garbage I’ve been penning recently.


Patience and practice, Elizabeth! Patience and practice.


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Published on September 11, 2014 17:36 • 18 views

August 30, 2014

Well, a new semester is right around the corner and that means I’ve been looking through the Scholastic catalogue picking the best books at the best prices for my students.  This is what we will be reading this semester:


I always start with fairy tales. They’ll read “Cinderella” by Charles Perrault and “Aschenputtel” by the Grimm brothers and pick two more fairy tales to read.


Next is Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. A great story!


Then we get to the part of the semester where they get some choices.  They must read one book in each genre:


Fantasy


Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White


Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Historical Fiction


Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell


Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan


Contemporary Realistic Fiction


Rules by Cynthia Lord


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg


Poetry


Love that Dog by Sharon Creech


Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse


Mixed Genre


Holes by Louis Sachar


Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo


My students will choose two other books to read as well, based on an author and a theme.


Do you recognize some of these books and authors from when you were a child?  They are worth a re-read or a read aloud to your child or grandchild.


See some titles you don’t know?  Check them out! 


These are wonderful books. It’s going to be a great semester!


 


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Published on August 30, 2014 11:50 • 4 views

August 24, 2014

Last month, I wrote about my family’s Little Free Library. I wanted to let you know that my neighborhood is using it!  We average probably a visitor every day or so.  We’ve had many donations, and I’ve been able to tell which books are the most popular (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Babysitters Club) and which books have been borrowed and kept (Divergent, Sushi for Beginners). That’s OK because that is the what the library is all about. Moving books from people to people. We’ve received many, many donations and I spend time once a week re-arranging and re-organizing the titles.  This little library is a delight in my life.


But wait! What if you live in my neighborhood, and it is night, and you need a book, and you don’t have a flashlight? Our Little Free Library is open and lit:


night libraryMy husband and younger son took apart one of those solar lights you can put in the ground to light a sidewalk (an example is in the ground in the photo).  They then attached the solar part of the light to the roof of the library, drilled a hole in the back of the library under the roof, set the light inside the library, and voila: our Free Little Library has a solar-powered light for all your night-time book-borrowing needs.


night library closeI’m guessing that we may have one of the only solar-powered lights for a Little Free Library.  My husband and son are so clever!


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Published on August 24, 2014 12:46 • 3 views

August 1, 2014

kashmiraToday I’m welcoming Kashmira Sheth to my series of author interviews. Kashmira is the author of many children’s books. Her picture books include the recent Tiger in My Soup, as well as My Dadima Wears a Sari and Monsoon Afternoon. For middle grade readers, Kashmira has written The No Dogs Allowed Rule, Boys Without Names, and Blue Jasmine. Kashmira also has two young adult novels: Keeping Corner and Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet.


Elizabeth: Can you tell us about your new picture book, Tiger in My Soup?


Kashmira: Tiger in My Soup came out of my desire to capture the relationship between my brother and me. The narrator of the story, a young boy, is very much like my brother. Growing up, he always wanted me to read to him. Once I took that concept and started writing the story, the imagination of the little boy took over and tiger steamed out of his soup. It was a fun process.


Elizabeth: Can you tell me a little about the illustrations?kashmira tiger book


Kashmira: My publisher wanted to pair this story with an illustrator who could bring the story alive. I can’t imagine anyone better than Jeffery Ebbeler to illustrate this story. Here are his comments about illustrating Tiger in My Soup:


Jeffery Ebbeler:


The main focus of Tiger in my Soup is the interaction between the boy and his sister, and the tiger that only the boy can see. I wanted to keep backgrounds pretty minimal so the focus was on the interaction between the characters.


Most of the book takes place in one room (the kitchen/dining room) inside the house. It can be hard sometimes add variety to a book that only has one setting. Since this book had so much action, that wasn’t a problem.


The first few page of the story don’t specifically mention where the characters are, so I thought I would put them outside to establish a setting for where they live. Since I illustrate books for many different authors, I try to approach each new book with a fresh perspective. I want to imagine as much as I can about the specific world that these characters live in.  Anything that might add additional character or uniqueness, including where the story is set, the type of house they live in, the kind of clothes they wear.


I was working on my rough sketches for Tiger in My Soup while I was on vacation with a friend that I have known since grade school. His extended family owns a small one-acre island, far out in a lake in Canada. The islands in the lake are all bare granite rocks dotted with pine trees. Several years back I had helped build the new cabin on the island that sits high up on the rocks. I was sitting on the cabin’s porch looking down at the old, red-roofed cabin that my friend’s great-grandfather had built in the 30’s, and I thought– why not set the book here? The image of the boy chasing his sister up the stairs with his book was taken from that view from the cabin porch. (I posted pictures of the cabin on my web site http://jeffillustration.com/tiger.html) I did embellish the look of the house to give a more mid-century modern style.


I was also inspired by all the seagulls flying around the island. I wanted to add a background character that followed the boy around through the whole story. The seagull is the only character that can see the tiger chasing the boy around, and I liked the interactions between the two of them, especially the scene on the porch where the two of them are trying to read the book together.


Tiger in My Soup is one of the favorite books that I have illustrated. It’s such a clever and unique story and I’m really pleased with how it all came together.


 


kashmira dadima bookElizabeth: I love the illustrations in My Dadima Wears a Sari and Monsoon Afternoon. Were they done by the same person?kashmira monsoon book


Kashmira: The illustrations for My Dadima Wears a Sari and Monsoon Afternoon were both done by Yoshiko Jaeggi. She used watercolor and captured the essence of saris as well as of monsoon perfectly.  She is also illustrating my next picture book which will be available in April 2015.


Elizabeth: What do you find the greatest challenge in writing picture books?


Kashmira: I think revising the text of a picture book is the greatest challenge. When I first put down the story there is a flow to it that I like. When I revise I may take out parts of it, change words or sentences and yet want to make sure the text has a lilt to it. Since pictures books are read aloud and read more than once, it’s important that they have a rhythm.


Elizabeth: You also write for middle-grade readers and young adults. What different ways do you approach each audience?


Kashmira: I write in the first person, so when I create a story I try to become that person and write from his/her point of view. The most important and challenging thing a children’s writer has to do is to dig down, reach back in time, and think about how it felt when she/he was nine, or eleven or sixteen. All my stories depict an Indian protagonist, so even though the situation, locale or culture is unfamiliar to the readers they must be able to connect with the protagonist at a deeper level. I try to communicate a story that has resonance with young readers by providing emotional honesty so they can read the book and say, “yes, I know how that feels.”


kashmira keeping bookElizabeth: As you’ve mentioned, many of your books take place in India. Keeping Corner is the story of a young woman in India during the time of Mohandas Gandhi’s movement for independence. Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet and Boys Without Names take place in modern-day India. Can you tell us about your own childhood in India?


Kashmira: My childhood was happy but disjointed. I lived in Bhavnagar (a city in the Western state of Gujarat) with my grandparents until I was eight, and then moved with my parents to Mumbai. When I was seventeen, I came to this country to attend college. Leaving places has preserved memories very distinctly in my mind. Imagining and dreaming about those places has kept me connected to them and helped me become a writer.


Another theme of my childhood was listening to my grandparents tell stories. Listening to and reading the great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well getting an education in my own native language, Gujarati, have been among the biggest influences of my life.


Elizabeth: What do you want young American readers to learn about India?


Kashmira: I would like young readers to know that India has rich history and tradition that are passed on from one generation to other. Even though the culture is old, it isn’t stagnant; rather, it’s always changing. I just read an article in The Wall Street Journal about how the stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata are now being depicted with gods and angels who have an updated muscular and strong look. This is just one example of how India has always been able to reinvent itself. It does have its share of problems, including poverty and corruption, but it is also the largest democracy and is a dynamic, multicultural, multiethnic, and vibrant country.


Elizabeth: Can you tell us about some of your school visits?


kashmira boys bookKashmira: In March 2014 I went to Mattoon, Illinois, for their Read Across Mattoon book. Every year 50 students from Mattoon read the twenty books selected from the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award. After much lively discussion, they select one book as the winner. Last year they chose Boys Without Names. They order 1,000 copies to use in their schools and to distribute in the community. They keep the book choice a top secret until their holiday assembly when the principal presents the winner and challenges the students and staff to read the book.  Starting in January the Student Reading Committee gives copies of the book to various service organizations.


kashmira frameWhat amazed me was the dedication and passion these young students had for the books and how much work went in to making the entire community aware of the book. Not only I was fortunate to visit the school and give several programs, including an evening one for the entire community, but I also had the opportunity to have lunch with the Student Reading Committee. There were so many things they had created to celebrate the book, including posters, artwork, maps, a mannequin wrapped in a sari, and a wooden frame with beads, just like the one Gopal (the protagonists from Boys Without Names) and the other boys had to make. They gave me the wooden frame as a gift. I have it on my desk and whenever I look at it inspires me. As an author, whenever I do a school visit I am amazed and humbled by young readers, their teachers, parents and community.


In early 2015 I will be traveling to Lacey, Washington for their program called “Lacey Loves to Read.” It is a one-city, one-author program, and I am excited about my visit.


Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:


Q: Pizza or salad?


A: Salad most of the time. Pizza when I am super hungry


Q: Ocean or mountain?


A: Ocean


Q: Tree house or doll house?


A: Tree house


Q: Violin or piano?


A: Piano


Q: Comic story or learn-something story?


A: Learn-something story that has humor in it


Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder or Hermione Granger?


A: First, Laura Ingalls Wilder, because she came in my life first.


Elizabeth: Kashmira, it has been a pleasure learning about you and your books.


Kashmira: Thank you for inviting me to do the author interview and for asking thoughtful questions. I enjoyed answering them.


Elizabeth: For more information about Kashmira Sheth and her books, visit her website:


http://www.kashmirasheth.com and the bookstores hosting her works:


Indiebound:


http://www.indiebound.org/hybrid?filter0=kashmira+sheth&x=0&y=0


Amazon:


http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=kashmira+sheth


Barnes and Noble


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/kashmira-sheth


Thanks!


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Published on August 01, 2014 07:34 • 5 views

July 21, 2014

The first Little Free Library was started in 2009 in Wisconsin.  Since that time, more than 15,000 Little Free Libraries have been built.


I am happy to announce that my family has built a Little Free Library:


lflfar


Our little library is near the end of our driveway (so the snow plow doesn’t knock it over in the winter).  Books are available to anyone who walks by and wants to borrow one.  The Little Free Library works on the honor system.  Readers can borrow and return a book, or swap books.


People ask: Aren’t you worried that someone will steal the books?  The answer is: a free book cannot be stolen!


My little free library is filled with books for both children and adults representing a variety of genres.  My friend Sally helped paint the library and suggested the text above the door.


lflclose


If you are ever in my neighborhood, stop by and borrow a book! To learn more about Little Free Libraries, visit the official website.


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Published on July 21, 2014 14:40 • 23 views

June 20, 2014

Are you an obsessive reader? Do you realize you need to exercise more than you do, but feel like you don’t want to give up your reading time? You don’t have to!


Here are several ideas to keep your body healthy and fit and keep your mind engaged in a good book.


The stationary bike. This is obvious. Reading and spinning. I do this about once a week during the school year—take my book with me to the YMCA, get on the bike, set up the workout, and read. After 30 minutes or so, I close my book and go shower. The exercise happens. The reading happens. I’m a happy camper. But not everyone has access to a stationary bike, so….


Walking and reading, inside. I’ve been doing this for most of my life. As a teenager, I was insecure about my weight, but wanted to spend my free time reading. This activity helped me stay healthy, feel good about myself, and not lose valuable reading time.


How: In a large room, walk in a circle while reading. Don’t have a large room? Create a “track” and walk from room to room on the same path. Have stairs? Walk up and down those stairs while reading.


Warning: If you have never walked and read at the same time, begin slowly and carefully. You need to be able to read while still being aware of your surroundings.


Am I the only one who does this? It seems so reasonable to me, but others seem to find it odd. Inside works for when the weather is bad. It is a good option for those of you too embarrassed to read and walk outdoors.


Walking and reading, outside. First of all, leave the car at home and walk places—even if you don’t take your book. But why not take your book? Combining errands and walking and reading just makes sense.


I often walk to and from work with a book in hand. A grocery store, a drug store, a movie rental place are all within a mile for me, so I walk there while reading.  A thirty minute walk, with a book in hand, feels like about five minutes.


If you live in a big city, you will have lots of opportunities for walking and reading. No need to worry what others will think. Everyone else will be texting and won’t even notice that you are holding a book and not a phone.


If you live in the suburbs, you might think this option doesn’t work for you. On the contrary! Take a walk and read. I realize many suburban streets don’t have sidewalks, so you’ll need to walk on lawns or the edge of streets. I say, be that eccentric person in your neighborhood. Life is too short to pretend you aren’t different. Embrace your passion for books!


Live in the country? Wander your quiet roads with a book. Look up from time to time to greet the horses or sheep. Fresh air, exercise and a good story. This is what life is all about.


Warning: If you have never walked and read at the same time, practice inside. You need to be able to read while still being aware of your surroundings—don’t fall off a sidewalk or walk into a car!


Audiobooks? Yes, yes, yes. I know many of you are thinking: exercise while listening to a book. For those of you who listen to audiobooks, there are many exercise options. So far, audiobooks have not become a part of my life. I like to see words on a page. But for those of you who do like audiobooks, think of all the ways you can exercise and listen. Don’t limit yourself to listening to your book while driving places.


Do you have other suggestions for combining exercising and reading? Please let us know!


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Published on June 20, 2014 14:27 • 23 views

June 1, 2014

 


gayleToday I’m welcoming Gayle Rosengren to my series of author interviews. Gayle is the author of the middle-grade historical novel What the Moon Said.


Q: Can you tell us a little about What the Moon Said ?



gayle coverGayle: I’d love to! It’s a novel inspired by some events in my mother’s childhood. The story takes place during the early days of the Great Depression and follows ten-year-old Esther’s experiences when her father loses his job and moves the family from an apartment in Chicago to a ramshackle farm in southern Wisconsin. In addition to the challenges of adapting from city life to country life (especially life without electricity or indoor plumbing!) Esther struggles to elicit some expression of love from her undemonstrative and very superstitious mother. Ma emigrated from Russia as a young woman and brought superstitions with her the way many other newcomers brought seeds, and she planted and nurtured them just as carefully as they did, but in her family. As life becomes more difficult on the farm, she clings to them ever tighter and forces Esther to make difficult decisions about her own beliefs.


Q: How long did it take from story idea until the book was published ?


Gayle: Oh dear, this will surely horrify and scare off struggling writers, but in my case it was a ridiculously long fifteen years. However, this is an excellent example of how important timing is in the publishing business. I wrote this story in 1998. Three different well-known editors loved it and wanted to acquire it, but for various reasons their acquisitions committees wouldn’t approve it so they had to pass. I gave up on the manuscript and tucked it away, never dreaming that it would have a second chance years later. But when I was going to an annual weekend retreat three years ago something made me think of it and I decided to submit it. To my shock and delight the editor who saw it fell in love with the character of Esther and her story. She worked with me on some tweaks to heighten the tension, and a year later I had a contract and not quite two years after that I was published. The writers I know all agree that it takes more than a good manuscript to be published. One must get the right manuscript to the right editor at the right time–and all the stars must be in the right alignment!


Q: Do you have any books in the works?


Gayle: I have another middle grade book coming out from Putnam/Penguin Young Readers in the summer of 2015. It’s called Cold War on Maplewood Street. It’s more recent historical fiction set in Chicago in 1962.


Q: Why do you write for middle grade readers rather than YA or adults?


Gayle: Most of the books I read when I was their age are with me still. They opened my eyes to different worlds and my heart to different people. They played a large part in shaping the person I would become. Their impact was immeasurable and lasting. I hope to make the same difference in my readers’ lives as the writers I loved so much made in mine.


Q: How are you able to get into the mind of a child?


Gayle: I have a lot of very vivid memories from the different stages of my own childhood, and I raised three children separated by eleven years, so I had a lot of time to observe two girls and one boy up close and personal; also, I worked as a youth services librarian for several years, which was yet another source of experience; and, oh yes, I was a Girl Scout leader. That totals a lot of my life being in touch with my inner and outer child.


Q: What is your writing process?


Gayle: When I get an idea, I mull it over for a while, then I make a really rough outline of how it would flow–just a few words or a sentence about what I envision might happen in each chapter. These ideas often change if I think of something better while writing, but they are my first vision of the story and like sign posts on a road, keep me from losing my focus and direction. If I think there’s enough substance to the idea, I write the first chapter. This is the true test of whether I’ll go forward with the idea or not. I’m very picky about first chapters. To me, they’re like the foundation of a house and must support everything else that will be built on it. I may rewrite a first chapter dozens of times, in different voices and tenses, and starting at slightly different points in order to get everything basic to the story into the chapter and have a good cliff-hanger ending in less than ten pages so it will keep readers reading. If I remain excited–or even better, get even more excited about the story–it’s a keeper. Then my process is to sit down every morning with my first cup of coffee and write until I know it’s time to stop because I’m tired both in body and brain. I keep at it the next day and the next until the first draft is finished–generally this takes about a month. I read it through and self-edit to the best of my ability, and then share it with my critique partners who will see it through far more objective eyes, since at this point I’m so close to the story it’s difficult to see the missteps. A few weeks later when I have their invaluable feedback as well as a little bit of distance from the story, I go back and edit again in light of their suggestions. Then I go through it again line-editing for the tiniest of changes to make it just as strong and beautiful as I can before I send it out into the world to see if it will fly.


Q: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.


gayle dog

Fiona


Gayle: Like my main character Esther I love books, dogs and horses. I lived the first 40 years of my life in or near Chicago, and (again like Esther) then moved to Wisconsin due to my husband’s job transfer. I have lived in Wisconsin long enough now that I feel I can honestly claim to be both an Illinois and a Wisconsin author. I love doing school visits. The kids are so interested in hearing about my writing journey and so full of really great questions, the allotted time always goes too quickly. I love to travel. And I have a Bichon Frise rescue dog named Fiona who always tries to come between my husband and me when we hug.


We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:


Q: Pizza or salad?


Gayle: Pizza.


Q: Ocean or mountain?


Gayle: Ocean. There is nothing more relaxing than listening to the surf coming in…


Q: Tree house or doll house?


Gayle: Tree house.


Q: Violin or piano?


Gayle: Violin to listen to; piano to play.


Q: Comic story or learn-something story?


Gayle: Learn-something story, but a little humor along the way never hurts.


Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder or Hermione Granger?


Gayle: Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m all about realistic fiction.


To learn more about Gayle Rosengren and to win a copy of her new novel, What the Moon Said, visit her website: http://www.gaylerosengren.com


Her website includes a page of discussion questions for book groups and teachers.


Thanks to Gayle for visiting with me today.

 


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Published on June 01, 2014 11:06 • 12 views

May 5, 2014

I’m playing along in the most recent blog tag game. This one has me sharing my main character with you. I was tagged by historical novelist Kim Rendfeld, author of The Cross and the Dragon and the forthcoming The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar.


What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

My main character is Snow White. Both fictional and historic!


When and where is the story set?

Snow White and the Queen takes place in a standard fairy-tale world, with dwarfs, elves, wisps and an evil Queen.


What should we know about him/her?

My Snow White is a more well-developed character than the one you know from the original fairy tale. She is left with the dwarfs as a baby, and as she grows she wonders why she was left there. Who is she? Where did she come from? When she leaves the dwarf kingdom, she is searching for her identity.


What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

We, the reader, know that the Queen wants Snow White dead, and Snow White eventually learns this too.


What is the personal goal of the character?

At first, Snow White wants to learn who she is and why she was left with the dwarfs. When she learns that the Queen is her enemy, she decides that she will defeat the Queen.


Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

My working title is Snow White and the Queen. I have talked about this story in another blog hop and as part of my 2013 NaNoWriMo project.


When can we expect the book to be published?

Snow White and the Queen is being submitted to agents at the moment. A publication date will hopefully be forthcoming.


Now it is my turn to tag some author friends:


Sandy Brehl, author of Odin’s Promise


Stephanie Golightly Lowden, author of Jingo Fever


and historical novelist Rebecca Henderson Palmer .


You can visit these authors’ websites next week to learn about their main characters.


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Published on May 05, 2014 08:04 • 11 views