The Final Countdown

I have two weeks left until Book Scavenger will be found on shelves at bookstores and libraries. TWO WEEKS!

Last week, I received one of these in the mail:

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That’s the real, official hardback you will find on bookshelves on June 2!

 

I’m struggling to think of the words for how I’m feeling right now. There’s gratitude, for sure. Excitement. Some stress and anxiety. But there’s something else too. My launch week is going to bring my writing journey full circle in a lot of different ways. I’ll be doing a presentation for 225 4th-6th graders at my former elementary school, where I first daydreamed about one day being an author myself. I’ll be visiting two Creative Writing classes at my former junior high. My first launch party will be held at the Linden Tree Bookstore, a children’s bookstore right by my hometown. I worked at the Linden Tree over ten years ago when I was in graduate school getting my MFA in Creative Writing. My second launch party will be held at Book Passage in San Francisco. The first children’s writing conference I ever attended (back in 2000, I think?) was put on by Book Passage. (That’s where I learned about, and subsequently joined, SCBWI.) And, of course, San Francisco is the city I lived in when I first began creating Book Scavenger.

Is there a word that means nostalgic satisfaction? I can trace the seeds of Book Scavenger through so many stages of my life, all the way back to when I won the bookworm contest in 1st grade and was awarded a hardback of Little House on the Prairie. The aspiration to be an author has always been there. It sometimes became dormant if I felt like I was kidding myself, but it was still there in its brown and brittle form. It feels good to have finally finished a book, this book in particular, and to be happy with its final form. I’ve never been a runner, but I imagine publishing Book Scavenger is how it might feel to do a marathon. A decade-long marathon. Except with a marathon, you get to the finish and that’s the end of the race. And for me, I’m hoping this is just the beginning . . .

 

(If you will be in the San Francisco Bay Area on June 5 and 6, I’d love to see you at one of the launch parties! Click here for more information about the June 5 event in Los Altos, CA, and here for more information about the June 6 event in San Francisco.)

 

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jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Learn more about the book at BookScavenger.com. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.”

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Happiness, Launch, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

When Life Imitates Art… or What Tropical Storm Irene Taught Me

I have written many times about my experience of life imitating art with regards to my debut middle grade novel, Another Kind of Hurricane – how I researched diligently as I wrote and rewrote the story; how I felt like I had done a thorough job of it; how I felt like I had found a deep place of empathy and understanding for Zavion, my main character who lives in New Orleans and who lives through Hurricane Katrina; and how, in one day, everything changed. Tropical Storm Irene swept through my town – and very specifically my block and my house – and I was suddenly and amazingly inside my story.

Another Kind of Hurricane coverI have also written some about what I learned through that odd, reverse process of the art experience coming before the life experience. First, my two main characters, Henry and Zavion, are strangers when the story begins. They are strangers from two very different places – geographic and internal – and yet the only traces of solace they eventually find are in one another. They become connected and they become friends. This happened to me during Irene too. Important lesson #1, a reinforcing lesson: I got that connection piece right in my book. Second – oh boy – the visceral and emotional experience of living through a flood (and the subsequent recovery from that flood) is intense, to put it mildly. And Katrina was so much more…everything…than Irene. Important lesson #2, a reminding lesson: striving for knowledge and empathy, while accepting that I might not be able to totally get it – is truly the best I can do. Maybe another way to put this is knowledge and empathy and a good dose of humbleness is my best practice when I write anything outside of my direct experience.

But is there more to it than that? And how does this all fit within the conversation about diversity we’ve all been engaged in? Does it offer anything new or useful to that dialogue?

Amy Koester, who has a blog called The Show Me Librarian, wrote a post in February of this year titled Selection is Privilege. It’s spot on, in my opinion. In it, she talks about the frustration she feels when colleagues take “diverse”* books out of their libraries, or simply don’t buy them for their libraries because they feel they either a) don’t have enough diverse patrons to read those books or b) their non-diverse patrons don’t have any interest in those books. She then said this:

 When it comes down to it…selection is a privilege. If you select materials for your readers, you are privileged to get to influence not only what children read, but what they have access to in the first place. And when I read arguments against including diverse titles, or questions about why we have to talk about this topic, it puts into sharp focus for me the fact that we have to recognize our privilege as selectors, and, more than likely, as white selectors for diverse readers.

I feel like this extends to us writers too. Or I’ll only speak for myself – to me as a writer. If I am to have the great fortune of having any sort of influence over kids, then I must recognize my privilege. In an interview over at CBC Diversity, agent and author Tanya McKinnon cited some neurological research:

“The thing that reduces hate and increases acceptance of diversity is knowledge and rational thought. The more we use our pre-frontal cortex, the seat of rational thought, the more likely we are to reduce hate. That’s why reading about difference, especially at a young age, is so very important. And it’s why racially inclusive children’s books are so crucial for a rational and tolerant society.”

And there it is. If there was ever a reason to use my privilege – as a white, middle class woman, but also simply as a writer fortunate enough to get a book published, really – well, there it is.

To offer a door or a mirror for the child reading my book.

So how do we writers do this with integrity?

By finding the places where we are the same as our characters, and finding the places where we are not. By connecting to our characters where that sameness resides (and connecting our characters to each other in a similar way), and by trusting ourselves to hold an empty space inside that we work to fill by listening and researching and being curious (and allowing our characters to have similar empty spaces inside for the same kind of journey.)

We need to know the borders we are choosing to cross as we make those journeys. The process of that knowledge is fluid and constant. The more we are curious, the more open we are, the more we venture into places that are not our own, the more we integrate all of that into ourselves. We need to integrate, but at the same time keep things distinct. It is a dance of sorts. Am I more suited to tell a story about flood victims because I have experienced a flood? Yes. Am I still a middle class woman who could borrow money from my family when I lost so much in that flood? Yes. Did many of the flood victims in New Orleans not have that privilege? Yes. There is part of that dance right here.**

If I am taking those journeys, then I know it is possible to take them, you know? And thus I am creating the opportunity for kids (my readers) to take their own, perhaps similar, journeys.That means everything to me.

One of my favorite photos from Irene, taken by Jared Katz. Talk about a journey...

One of my favorite photos from Irene, taken by Jared Katz. Talk about a journey…

Back to Another Kind of Hurricane, and Zavion and Henry, and my experience with Tropical Storm Irene: it was all an accidental gift; a humble journey of finding connection despite (and alongside of) differences. Is there a way to consciously leave space inside of ourselves for those kinds of gifts? Is there a way of holding tight, as we write, to the threads that connect us all? Because those are gifts too.

I don’t know if this adds anything new to the diversity conversation. But I do know it’s something I want to continue to explore. What do you think about it all?

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*I am only going to use quotes around diverse once. But I want to use them a lot! It is such a loaded word. Take it to mean many things – racial, social, gender-based, ability-based differences; also differences in experiences and environments and many other things as well.

**This is a riff off of a great essay that Mitali Perkins wrote over at CBC Diversity.

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ImageTamara Ellis Smith writes middle grade fiction and picture books. She graduated in 2007 from Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Tam’s debut middle grade novel, Another Kind of Hurricane will be published by Schwartz and Wade on July 14, 2015. She is represented by the incredible Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and can be found on the web at www.tamaraellissmith.com andwww.smithwright.blogspot.com.

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Finding my balance between promotion and writing

On Thursday, Luke put up an honest, heartfelt post about the realities of being a writer (please go read it right now—all the way to the end!). There are often many years spent waiting—writing, revising, submitting, revising again, submitting again, writing something new, repeat—the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes. We long for that golden ticket, that recognition, that validation that will make all of that effort worth it.

Then, finally, success: we’re published! We think our new status will make things easier for us somehow, like we discovered the secret formula and can just apply it over and over whenever we need to produce a publishable manuscript. In some ways it does: people do take you more seriously when you’re published. But in many other ways, it actually makes things harder.

I’ve seen writers with a successful first book struggle with the second, fearful that it won’t live up to their previous work. Others want to write something completely different, but feel pigeon-holed in a single genre. An unlucky few are so stung by negative reviews that they have a hard time putting themselves out there for more. Still others spend so much time promoting the first book that they simply don’t have time to write another one!

My challenge was similar to Luke’s: It’s so exciting to check on the status of your book, so compelling to want to nudge it out into the world a bit more, so easy to pop in and do quick, light promotion. And there’s always more you can be doing pre- or post-launch to get the word out. You’re constantly wondering what else you should be doing, who else you should be talking to. It’s easy to completely lose yourself in the world of that first book.

It’s not so much that you don’t have time to write anymore. You really don’t have to do all of those things. It’s more that all of the checking, nudging, and promoting feels necessary. It seems important. In fact, it feels like a betrayal of your first book—and, heaven forbid, of that first publisher who took a chance on you and made all of your big dreams come true!—to do anything less. It’s exceedingly difficult to switch gears and go back to the waiting; back to the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes; back to the writing.

This was actually one of the scariest and hardest parts of the whole journey for me. For months after Be a Changemaker came out, I worried that I’d never be able to write again, never be able to get myself back into that mindset, back to the focus and discipline needed to dive into writing something new. It was part of the process that I wasn’t at all expecting, and it took me completely off guard. Fortunately, I had other author friends (mostly Emus!) to discuss it with. They all said things like, “Yep, the same thing happened to me. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.”

And, you know what? I did. I’m back to writing, and I’m loving it. I still do promotion, and I’m loving that, too. But, I’m finally starting to find my balance, discovering ways to foster the creative beginning of the process with one project while at the same time managing the more analytical business end of the process on another.

As I told the kids at the school visit I did last Friday: “Writers write. Period.” And, eventually, we discover that the writing itself is what makes it all worth it. We realize that we can’t NOT write. And we get back to work.

Writers write


Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, will be available June 9, 2015, from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan. Maybe then they’ll finally force her to retire from Emu’s Debuts, unless…

Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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What Seeds Do We Plant?

As writers, we love to see stuff blossom. Anything, really.

Flowers? Yes! We want to see those colors, see those shapes, see that–aah, wow, yes!–stunning growth from what was once a tiny seed.

Kids? Yes! We want to see our kids–whether those we parent, those we teach, or those for whom we write–grow into confident, bold, kind, and wise human beings.

Stories? Yes! We want to see the characters about whom we care so deeply, the plots into which we pour our minds, and the conflicts through which we split open our hearts all grow, develop, and yield something beautiful.

And because we are writers, we know that stories need endings. We know that planting a seed–starting something off–can be satisfying in its own way, but were we to always stop at the Starts, we’d feel somehow aloof, adrift, maybe even…angry. (For more on anger, read Susan Vaught’s remarkable post on the emotion here.)

But as writers, our desire for strong finishes, redeeming denouements, blossoming finales leaves us, well, kind of with our hands tied when it comes to one issue: publication. We can create and craft and revise and submit to our heart’s delight, but we have no control over the endings. None.

And if you’re anything like me, this kind of hurts to admit. It feels powerless, scary, and confusing.

So when I found a line from Robert Louis Stevenson that spoke directly to that fear, I wrote that line in my journal, posted it on the wall by my desk in the classroom where I teach 7th grade, put it on a sticky note inside my wallet, texted my friends with the quote, and pretty much repeated it to anyone I met. Even grocery store cashiers.

Stevenson wrote, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

About five years ago, my wife, Jennifer and I decided that we were going to give away most of what we owned, and bring our two-year old son abroad to live in England for three years. She would work on her PhD, and I would be a stay-at-home dad and write. I thought that some of the many seeds I’d planted as a writer would blossom at some point during our three-year excursion, helping us to have a little  more income other than the student loan on which we were going to live.

And I planted a lot of seeds during those three years. I wrote drafts of four middle grade novels. I wrote drafts of 50 picture book manuscripts. I wrote proposal packages for three non-fiction books. I wrote two drafts of literary fiction-esque novels. I wrote a slew of poems.

And then I revised many of these projects, trashed many of them, rewrote many of them.

Hands in dirt! Planting seeds! Going deep!

Dirt in fingernails! Still planting!

And I woke up each morning with that magical thought bubble: Hey, you know, well, yeah…THIS COULD BE THE DAY. 

But it never was. And as we watched electric bills pile up, “Rent Due” notices gather, and as we marked on the calendar when each student loan installment was going to come–itching for that student loan disbursement day with hopeful fear–another thought bubble began to form: Maybe this isn’t going to work. Maybe this was crazy.

And so I looked for a “real” job while my son was in preschool. I applied to janitorial jobs, substitute teaching jobs, grocery store clerk jobs, secretarial jobs.

Hey, more dirt! Digging! Fingernails dirty with job applications! Yeah!

But none of those job applications yielded, well, JOBS. In fact, none of those seeds even yielded an interview.

This went on for a long time, and eventually the only job I could find was to deliver newspapers. So I delivered newspapers. And I was a little angry about it some mornings. (Again, thank you Susan Vaught for your incredible post!) And some mornings I managed to listen to music and see the bright side of it: it was teaching me to wait, to struggle, to hope, to be looked at like I was insane by the tweens delivering newspapers, to appreciate my wife and son who did the route with me some days, hleping me feel like I really wasn’t a complete failure as a father and a writer.

To shorten what may already be becoming a belabored story: nothing happened. All three of those England years yielded no blossoms that would help us make rent, no successes to which we could write home about. And we flew back home humbled, yes, but also more together as a family. More aware of the actual journey of a writer. More ‘okay’ with failure. And more able to be honest about those emotions inside that aren’t always happy and glad and smiley (yup: again, a nod of gratitude to Susan!).

Now, looking back, those three years in England sometimes take on a resplendent glow. When books are under contract and coming out, it feels easier to look back at those three years and say, See! They were all worth it, all leading up to this point! The planting MATTERED! Dirty fingernails, huzzah!

But that would be a mistake. More than a mistake, I think it might be downright wrong–the absolute opposite of what Stevenson meant by his quote. I don’t think the planting is worth it ONLY if / because it reaps a harvest. Instead, the planting is worht it because that’s what good writing and good living are all about.

We cannot control outcomes. We cannot control blossoms and harvests. And if we see seed-planting as worthwhile only because a harvest is reaped, then I think the point of seed-planting is lost. If I go back to those years in England and reconnect with what mattered there, I would see that it was the turning on of the computer after another rejection. It was the delivery of the morning paper after another late bill. It was the relationships that formed between my wife and I, and with our son.

Those were the seeds.

And if a harvest or a blossom ever comes, in a weird way, it carries with it the danger of losing touch with seed-planting, and focusing more on the harvest. If I’m being honest? Right now, that’s my struggle. I need help from friends to go back to the turning on of the computer–to WRITE, not to CHECK on stuff. To plant seeds, not to see what kind of harvest might be reap-able.

If I don’t end each day with dirty fingernails, then am I really living? Am I really writing, after all?

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A Plea for Anger

This is one of those posts where I’ll wear both my professional hats–author, and psychologist. I want to talk about anger as a normal and even positive human emotion that deserves a spot in children’s literature.

Yes, anger. ANGER. The bad feeling! The demonized emotional state! That emotion people are told they shouldn’t feel, or that they should work to eradicate. In today’s world, we have come to a point of teaching people that if they experience anger, there might be something wrong with them (not the thing that made them angry). Worse, I see a not-so-subtle push to hint that everyone, even victims, can choose whether or not to feel anger.

As both a writer and a psychologist, my opinion about that is, UM, NO. <Oops. Did that sound angry?>Mad-Lady

Anger, like fear, happiness, and unhappiness, is a regular, healthy human emotion. Like hunger, excitement, and pain, anger is also a physical sensation with a specific purpose. A colleague of mine in the field of psychology has survived three harrowing battles with cancer (two his own, one his beloved wife), and he said once, of pain, “It’s so simple. Pain is the body’s way of saying Look! LOOK RIGHT HERE! Pay attention to this.” Pain is the body’s alert and cry for help and care.

Roland (1)Anger, likewise, is one of the mind’s attention-getters. Consider it your brain’s way of saying, “Hey! Look right here!” Think of anger as a spiritual alert that some essential aspect of you or what you value is being violated. Then find a healthy way to spend the physical energy anger generates, the purpose of which is to allow you to defend yourself or your world when that defense is needed. Yes, anger is very physical, and it needs to be spent, not stored, or it can lead to dis-ease, disease, or even violence.

And there’s the key. While anger often contributes to violence, anger does not equate with violence. Anger isn’t a choice, but usually, violence is. There are many other positive, healthy things to do with anger, like exercise, or write a fiery speech or even an entire book, make a video, paint it out, write a bill to become law, walk away from a toxic person or situation, protest injustice–the list of healthy ways to spend anger is pretty limitless. Put it to work. That’s why you have it, and why you feel it. Identify the violation, and address it productively. Anger doesn’t have to lead to harm to anyone or anything. In fact, anger can herald that historic moment when harm finally meets its match in our will, and ceases.

In the absence of violence, anger itself is not the problem. The violation that sparked it is the problem. Anger is a change agent. Sometimes it’s the situation/violator that needs to change, and sometimes it’s our own perceptions (ooooh, yes, we can ALL get angry over “nothing,” toothpaste in the sink, misperceptions–that list is endless, too).

As writers, especially children’s writers, I think we owe anger some serious attention. I hope we’ll let some of our characters FreakinTroubleget down-and-dirty, white-hot furious sometimes, and do something productive with that emotion. We all know that children need to see themselves on our pages–and kids get angry. Ticked. Pissed off. Cross-eyed, spitting, shouting MAD. Asking them to put the feeling away, to not express it, to become “long-suffering” in the face of obvious injustice and violations–it may just distance them from what we write. It could rob them of vicarious opportunities to practice healthy spending of that energy, evaluating what caused it, and putting their anger to good use to make needed changes in our world.

So, the short version is this:

Mad ≠ Bad!

Give anger a little respect!

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Susan Vaught

Susan Vaught

Susan Vaught is the author of many books for young adults, such as TRIGGER, BIG FAT MANIFESTO, and FREAKS LIKE US. Her debut novel for middle-grade readers, FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY, published by Simon & Schuster, hit the shelves in March, 2015. Please visit Susan at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Oh Ye, Oh Ye, Oh Ye, We Have a Winner!

grounded_cover (1)

On this 4th day of May, 2015, we welcome with humble duty, the WINNER of Megan Morrison’s awesome Grounded giveaway.

The lucky commenter to receive this most excellent treasure is none other than DARSHANA.

May Darshana be long-lived, happy, and glorious, and one day be able read every book that ever captures her interest!

(It’s been an awesome week for princesses, yes? Congratulations to Britain and the royal couple, too!)

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Let Down Your Hair—And Whip It…

grounded_cover (1)I am always amazed and delighted when an author finds a way to take a familiar character and present her in a way that is both recognizable and new. It’s no easy task. But if you’ve been following the blog this week, you know that’s exactly what Megan Morrison does with her new book, Grounded. While the Rapunzel that greets us in Grounded is familiar enough that reading about her makes us feel like we’re visiting with an old friend, her courage, agency, and adventurous spirit inspire us to view our old friend in a new light.

In celebration of all those qualities that Megan surfaces in the character, the EMUs have decided to collaborate on a playlist to accompany us all on our next adventure. Take it with you on your next road trip or enjoy it as you explore a new book (like, for example, Grounded!).

You need to have a Spotify account to listen to the playlists. If you don’t have an account but would like to create your own playlist on iTunes or any other platform, here’s a list of the songs from the EMU’s Adventure Playlist:

Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas (Anchorman Medley)
Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane
Right Now by Van Halen
Where the Streets Have No Name by U2
Inner Smile by Texas
Harbor by Vienna Teng
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
Roar by Katy Perry
Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
Don’t Stop Believing by the Glee Cast
Love Don’t Roam by Neil Hannon

One song remains unidentified on the list but I’ll leave that as a surprise. I’ll just say this: there’s one possible truth about Rapunzel that no writer has explored. Maybe it’s too controversial. But it has been suggested that the real reason Rapunzel grew her hair so long is because she is a HUGE Willow Smith fan. That’s all I’m saying.

[Edit: It was brought to my attention that the Spotify playlist didn’t appear for all users. I apologize for the error! It should load below. Thank you for your patience!]

Enjoy the playlist. And be sure to pick up Megan Morrison’s Grounded if you want to embark on a real adventure! You can buy it by clicking on any of these links:

Third Place Books

The Secret Garden Bookshop

Powell’s

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

You can also enter to win a copy by commenting on this post or any post this week. Megan has even offered to throw in a sweet chainmail bookmark as part of the giveaway!

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The Truth About Happily-Ever-After

From Publisher’s Weekly about Megan Morrison’s GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL: “Those expecting a Disneyesque Rapunzel in Morrison’s debut, first in the Tyme series, will be pleasantly surprised by the novel’s emotional depth and inventiveness.”

If you’ve seen the play or movie version of Into The Woods, you’ve seen it. The romantic fairy tale tropes have been turned upside down. The prince is anything but charming (in fact, he’s a womanizing cad). Jack climbs the beanstalk and brings back havoc and death. Rapunzel’s witch just wants a little bit of love.grounded_cover (1)

When I was in my tween years I read fairy tales like a fiend. The Red and Blue Fairy Tale books are still on my shelf, side-by-side with Anderson’s. I have an old Grimm collection that is about to fall apart. What I remember is not the Disneyfied version of things: Prince Charming sweeping the poor orphaned-but-beautiful-under-that-ashy-coating maiden off her feet and into the castle. No. I remember dark, scary, terrible things. The witch being shoved into a raging fire. The dancing girl who cuts off her feet so she can stop dancing. The princess who can’t quite finish making her seventh brother’s shirt so he has to spend the rest of his days with a swan’s wing for an arm.

Yeah – scary, dark, and very real, that’s what I remember about fairy tales, not the tropes of sugary romance and happily-ever-after.

Plus, there’s something else about those original tales that has stuck with me. Most of the girls and young women are not bubble-headed bimbos. They are clever problem solvers and thinkers. They are precisely the right role models young girls need, especially to prepare us to face the real world – which is scary, dark, and sometimes terrible.

Which brings me back to Megan Morrison’s GROUNDED. Megan has crafted an original story in which the sweet fairy tale trope has been turned on its head, with a girl protagonist who solves the problem and doesn’t lean on her guy friend to solve it for her. I love it. It’s a reinvention of Grimm with all the right emphasis.

The truth about happily-ever-after is that it’s what we find in GROUNDED. Girls, especially, need stories like this. If a girl wants to wear a princess dress, let’s give her a sword to strap over it. Better yet, let’s give her a copy of GROUNDED so she knows she can chart her own course to happiness.

You’re going to love this new version of Rapunzel! Want to win your very own signed copy of Grounded, plus a cool bookmark? Please leave a comment here, or after of any of this week’s posts, for a chance to win!

You can also buy a copy of Grounded at the following locations:

Third Place Books

The Secret Garden Bookshop

Powell’s

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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Megan Morrison’s GROUNDED book launch and the People Who Have Changed Our Lives!

We are continuing our celebration of Megan Morrison’s incredible GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL with a nod to the people who have come into our lives and changed us – forever. You know who we are talking about. That person who came out of left field, and now you can’t imagine your life without him. Or the person who guided you out of a dark space, and is an essential part of why you live in light. Or the person who stood up to you – how dare you! – and challenged some engrained belief of yours and you were finally set free. Or or or…

That person.

grounded_cover

Here’s what Megan says about Rapunzel’s that person:

Rapunzel lives quite happily in her tower – she loves it, in fact, and has no interest in the ground, where, she believes, everyone is horrible. When Jack climbs into her tower on a quest of his own, he frightens her, insults her, and shakes her belief system. Soon afterward, to protect her Witch, Rapunzel chases Jack out of the tower to get back what he has stolen. Thus begins her journey across Tyme and her first real friendship – both of which challenge her narrow upbringing… and change her forever.

Sounds amazing.

So we decided to conjure our that people (those people?!) – the people who have irrevocably changed us. (You’ll notice we are split about halfway between spouses and writing mentors!)

Adam Shaughnessy:

Given that I am getting married in May, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about my soon-to-be wife Jane as a person who has come into my life and changed it forever! I spent a lot of time hoping to meet that one person who would be the perfect partner in life. I didn’t really expect that she would sit down next to me at a conference for children’s writers one day—but I’m glad she did!

Christine Hayes:

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How cute are they in their matching denim?!

It’s probably cliché to say that my husband is the person who changed my life forever, but it’s true! It’s more than the fact that we have three children and are celebrating our 20th anniversary this summer. So much more. Bryce and I are opposites in many ways (beyond the whole short/tall thing). He’s confident, adventurous, and has crazy good people skills. Me…not so much. But after 20 years together, I like to think that I’ve made positive strides in all of those areas, largely because of his example. We’ve had amazing adventures together, including living in Asia for four years—something I never would have been brave enough to do if he wasn’t by my side. We balance each other, make each other stronger. I can’t wait to see where the next 20 years will take us!

Carole Gerber:

John D. Engle, my high school English and creative writing teacher, changed my life forever. He taught me to write, submitted my work, and helped me get my poems published. He encouraged me to go to college and, because he was a fabulous teacher, my first – brief! – career was as a high school English teacher. Lacking his extroverted disposition, I lasted one year, then earned an M.A. in journalism and began my career as a writer.

John and I remained lifelong friends and I visited him two or three times a year (he lived a couple of hours away). I became part of an informal writing group of his friends and former students. He was a respected and widely published poet (1,000+ poems in magazines and anthologies).

When I visited him a week before his impending death, he handed me Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline” and asked me to read to him, as he was too weak to talk. He did not live to see the publication of my book, Winter Trees, but I sent him the galleys so he could read my dedication:  “To John D. Engle, Jr. – tree lover, poet, teacher, friend.” John departed this world on June 6, 2006 at age 83.

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Here is Mrs. Ferguson. Wow.

Penny Parker Klostermann:

Oh my! It’s hard to pick one person who came into my life and changed it. Many have. My husband. My son. Friends. But I’m going to approach this from my writing world and go with my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Ferguson. I wrote a twenty-six line, rhyming poem when I was in her class. She bragged and bragged about the perfectly metered story it told. She even showed it around to the other teachers. Her words gave me a boost that has stayed with me on my journey as a writer.

Luke Reynolds:

My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Robert Looney, deeply changed my life. I will never forget the day he stood up on his teacher’s desk chair and help up the Spelling Textbook. We all groaned. We had gotten used to the drilling from that textbook version for the previous aces. Different cover now, but same program. But then Mr. Looney broke into this wide grin, and proceeded to dump the thing in the trash. We all looked at one another like, IS THAT EVEN LEGAL!? In lieu of the Spelling program, Mr. Looney introduced us to his self-designed program called FLAIR. We wrote, and wrote, and wrote. We learned spelling and grammar in context, and we crafted crazy stories that year—each time to Mr. Looney’s delight. Whenever I think of writing or stories, I think of Mr. Looney’s big grin, a trash can, and a decision that forever changed my life. Thank you, Mr. Looney.

Maria Gianferrari:

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Anya, Niko & Becca in the Grand Canyon

It may be cliché, but it’s true—my husband, Niko, wandered into my life, and it has now changed in so many wonderful ways—geographically, culturally, psychologically, spiritually. Niko’s a scientist who’s originally from Berlin, Germany. Because of his job, we’ve been very fortunate to be able to visit and live in many different places. During his first sabbatical, we lived in Berlin for one year, which was so culturally enriching, and wonderful for our daughter, Anya, who was only 2 ½ at the time. For his second sabbatical, we lived in sunny San Diego, and drove cross-country from our then home in Massachusetts, and back, with daughter and dog, Becca, in tow. It was such an eye-opening experience for our family to see so many different places in the U.S., especially the many national parks that we visited (since I’m a nature girl at heart).

But he’s changed my life in more personal ways too. Through his steady love and support, he’s helped me to peek, even sometimes wholly emerge from my introverted shell, to learn to better argue and disagree without necessarily fighting, and to be more Zen and less reactive—things that have just made me a better person and partner. And it goes without saying that Anya has also enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined before she was born. I feel so lucky, and grateful to have them both in my life!

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman:

I can’t think of a more apt choice for someone who came into my life and changed it than my son. I have wanted to be a mother since I was a little girl playing with my Cabbage Patch Kids. It was something I took for granted would just happen one day. Becoming parents proved to be a difficult road for me and my husband, and it wasn’t until the third trimester of my pregnancy with my son that I let myself relax and finally get excited about becoming a mom. We celebrated my son’s third birthday this past weekend, and I never thought I would be so happy and thankful to spend my days doing the voices of Sesame Street characters and brushing up on my Thomas the Train knowledge.

Do you think he likes books?

Do you think he likes books?

Tamara Smith:

I’m kind of balking at the idea of picking just one person who has changed my life. There are so many! But I’m sure every single one of us thought that – and everyone else dutifully chose one person – so I will do the same. When I was an undergraduate in college I thought I wanted to be an actor. I spent two years taking acting classes and trying out for plays. Then I went to a college in Alabama for a year—don’t ask, I followed my boyfriend!—and while I was there, I was in a play by Maria Irene Fornes. The minute I opened the script to read at my audition I was flooded with this sense of…familiarity, maybe? This sense of amazement. Fornes’ voice spoke so strongly to me, and made me want to use mine. I truly think it was in that moment that I decided I just might be able to write the way I wanted to write, and to say what I wanted to say.

Laurie Thompson:

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So beautiful!

I have to say my husband is the person who entered my life and changed it completely (for the better!). We met at a time in my life when everything was changing for me and I was sort of just drifting. I didn’t know what I wanted from life or even who I really was. I had a pretty poor self-esteem and low self-confidence. I felt like I didn’t really fit in anywhere and never would. From our first conversation, I admired his self-awareness and integrity. I liked that he was such a hard worker yet had an easy-going attitude and never took himself too seriously. He didn’t worry about making mistakes, and viewed life as an adventure. He taught me not to worry so much about what others thoughts of me and always made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted to. Our early conversations really opened my eyes to possibilities that I’d never imagined for myself and gave me the courage and confidence to go after them. I am sure I never would’ve become a writer without him in my life and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done (besides marrying him, of course!). :)

Who is YOUR that person? Who is the person who changed your life?

Want to win your very own signed copy of GROUNDED, plus a cool bookmark? (It might just be the book that changes your life!) Please leave a comment here, or after of any of this week’s posts, for a chance to win!

You can also buy a copy of GROUNDED at the following locations:

Third Place Books

The Secret Garden Bookshop

Powell’s

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Thanks for joining us here at Emu’s Debuts!! Be sure to visit again tomorrow and Friday for new and exciting posts on Megan Morrison’s GROUNDED: The ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL!

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Megan Morrison’s Grounded Launch Party-Flow it, show it, long as I can grow it, my hair!

If you give an EMU a Rapunzel book,
they’re going to want a tower.
If you give an EMU a tower,
they’re going to want some hair.
If you give them some hair,
they’re going to want to show it off.

You know the drill :-)

So what’s a blogger to do but give them what they want? After all, we’re here to party.
Because today . . .
YES . . .
this very day—
Megan Morrison’s debut novel,

grounded_cover (1)

hits the shelves!!!

So the EMUs are here to show off their newly styled hair as we celebrate with Megan. That’s how excited we are about this book!

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Yes, it took a lot of dye and a lot of hair stylists, but this book deserves all of that! And now you have a chance to win a signed copy of Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel, plus a handmade chain mail bookmark! Just comment on this post or any other post this week to be entered in the drawing.

You can also buy a copy of Grounded today at the following locations:

Third Place Books

The Secret Garden Bookshop

Powell’s

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch