Author Archives: L.B. Schulman

The Highs and the Lows of the Debut

Being a debut author is oddly similar to being a beginning writer. Most of the skills you learn are new, from website creation to learning the right balance between being proactive and bothering your publisher. I found it so much easier to ride the wave with my fellow Emus sharing their own trials, tribulations, and victories. I’ve developed great friends who listen, support, and offer amazing encouragement and advice. It’s hard to believe it’s time to pass the baton to a new group of talented authors.

I have to admit, this has been a bittersweet debut experience for me.

This year definitely ebbed and flowed

The rollercoaster of reviews has been the hardest part. Becoming a debut author during the height of the Internet has had its challenges. Everyone who has an opinion on the book shares it, and some not so kindly. For the author, our books are our babies, and we hope that it will make a difference in our readers’ lives. Of course, we all know how mothers feel when their kids are treated unjustly. By the way, I’m not talking about all low reviews here. There have been many reviews with solid advice that has helped me grow as a writer. I’m talking about the ones that use language meant to evoke reactions among potential readers, stirring up trouble rather than offering a balanced critique to a piece of work, or that attack an author on a personal level. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to face this. But I do feel it’s become a problem in our community, one that I was not expecting and that saddens me. Fortunately, there have been many positive or constructive reviews to offset the less kind ones. The one thing I’ve taken from this part of my experience is my discovery that I’m truly committed to writing for writing’s sake. There were times, I will admit, when I considered walking away from the teen genre. Luckily, I have a work-in-progress that was so far along that I could not give up on it and live with myself. It got me through the tough times, as did all the support from my fellow debuters. Thank you!

Enough about that. Now for the best moment…My launch party! What an amazing feeling to see over a hundred smiling faces in the audience. Friends from all walks of life showed up to support me. On the drive over to the party, my daughter and I belted out songs from Queen to help me relax before the big event. When we arrived at our independent bookstore, I decided it was too much fun to stop. Book Passage, that cool place, had no problem blaring Bohemian Rhapsody through their speakers, and the audience and I had a lot of fun kicking off the launch party with complete and utter goofiness. I was proud of all the creative details that made my party unique. Instead of reading from League of Strays, I wrote a play based on a scene in the book, starring teen actors from a performing arts school. It was so much fun directing these kids and watching how they brought the pages of my book alive. I also enjoyed thanking people in person for all the time and energy they devoted to helping me realize my dream. Through the launch party process, I learned how much I enjoy speaking, and I look forward to doing more of that in the future.

Emu’s Debuts were there for me the entire way, from important advice like how to write a press release to random advice, like whether or not it was OK to get a Costco cake for my launch party instead of the more expensive bakery version. I love this group! They will always be my writing family, and though I now sign off with Emu’s, I feel like I will always be a debuter here.

Cheers, my writing community!

On this day before Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be grateful for–Thanks for the journey, everyone, and best of luck to the new crew!


Filed under Uncategorized

A Stupendous Glimpse into Fan Clubs

In GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES, by Mike Jung and illustrated by Mike Maihack, middle-schooler Vincent Wu belongs to the best Captain Stupedous Fan Club in the world. While another, more inferior, group carries the title of Official Captain Stupendous Fan Club, Vincent and his friends are the most knowledgeable, and therefore, superior.

I was surprised to find that the “fan club” idea has been around forever. In fact, one site that hosts a bazillion fan clubs,, even has a Dinosaur Fan Club with 1600 members, although contrary to Flintstone reruns, people were not readily available to appreciate the object of their desire. Oh, wait, that’s not what they meant…Let’s rewind a hundred or so years ago, before the advent of social media (remember then?). According to Samantha Barbas’ book, MOVIE CRAZY, the first movie star fan club originated in 1910, almost as old as the movie star concept itself.

My favorite superhero, hands down! She rocks that patriotic bathing suit.

Boy, has idolatry changed over the years. Social media has increased interest in fan clubs, bringing together people from all over the world with similar interests. On Facebook, I searched for a Michael Jackson Fan Club and had to keep hitting See More Results until I got Carpool Syndrome. Oh wait, that’s from all those incessant trips back and forth to the kid’s gymnastics classes….sorry, Carpal Syndrome, I think it is. Anyway, I stopped counting after ninety. They came with all sorts of titles to differentiate themselves, such as the much smaller, but more serious Captain Stupedous-like fan club called The Michael Jackson Real Fan Club, boasting 39 members.

I know you really want to know what the largest fan club is at this time. Back in my day, not that I will tell you what day that was, David Cassidy held the honor of being the largest fan club in history with more members than the Beatles and Elvis Presley’s fan-base combined. No surprise there. (Yes, I did finally take down my Partridge Family poster.) Apparently, that honor may go to a Korean boy group called Dong Bang Shin Ki, with over 800,000 fans.

As Vincent Wu finds out, there are many benefits to forming a fan club. For instance, you might get to fly around, chasing gigantic robots or something. A current benefit to joining one today is that it’s the secret way to get concert tickets. While Miley Cyrus may be sold out in about negative-33 minutes after you call Ticketmaster, the members of her fan club get to buy them presale. Who knew? Also, by joining Miley’s club, you get access to over 120,000 photos. Didn’t realize there were 120,000 photos of her, so this comes as real news to me. You also receive live Twitter feeds, whereby Miley shares her philosophy, such as this gem:

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving.

Oh, wait, upon further research, that quote’s actually credited to Woody Allen’s film Love and Death. Never mind. Anyway, at least as a fan, you know that’s how Miley truly feels about love.

As you can see, the Captain Stupendous Fan Club originates from a rich and evolving history. You don’t have to be BIG to be important, you just need to have heart. And Vincent Wu, in GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES, has loads of that. Too bad it’s fiction or I’d join. Oh, wait, this just in: Mike Jung has a real Captain Stupendous Fan Club card!

Just print and cut out and you, too, can join the club

Like me…Apparently, Mike thought I was worthy, after all….

Oh, yeah, I’m one of the gang now

This makes me wonder, is it really fiction, or is Mike Jung actually Vincent Wu in disguise? Hmmm, do I smell sequel potential? One can hope….


Filed under Book Promotion, Education, Research

Editor Interview: Heather Alexander, Dial Books/Penguin

Jeanne Ryan experienced a potentially stressful surprise after her book was signed by Penguin: the acquiring editor left! But to Jeanne’s delight, another editor was in the wings, eager to work on her project. To me, this is a story about the wonderment and value of the unexpected…

Today, we welcome Dial Books editor, Heather Alexander, who will fill us in on Jeanne’s journey to publication.

Heather Alexander misses nothing when she edits with these glasses!

1) Emu’s LBS: Hi, Heather. Thank you for joining us today. Since you weren’t the original editor for NERVE, at what point did you become involved and how did that happen?

My dear friend Andrew Harwell was the acquiring editor of Nerve, and to be completely frank, when he was telling me about it, I was jealous.  Like, gritted teeth “I’m so happy for you!” jealous.  It sounded like such an awesome story by a cool writer.  It was my bad fortune that Andrew left Penguin, and my great luck to have this amazing book fall onto my list.  Well, luck and lobbying; everyone at Dial knew I was very excited about the project, so it made sense for me to take it over.  Andrew had given some preliminary notes, but Jeanne and I worked closely together basically right from the start.

2) Emu’s LBS: Did this book change in any major way during the editor-writer revision process?

There were a couple of big changes, like the setting for the end, and how the end plays out, but a lot of the work Jeanne did was expanding character and tightening plot.  Some back story was fleshed out, some relationships were defined and clarified, and there was at least one name-change.  But this was in pretty good shape when I got it.

3) Emu’s LBS: What did you like best about the process of refining NERVE for publication?

Working with Jeanne is a wonderful experience from an editorial standpoint.  She has terrific ideas, and is open to mine, and uses them as a jumping off point for more brainstorming.  We had a lot of conversations that built ideas on each other’s thoughts, which is a very satisfying way to work.

4) Emu’s LBS: Do you think the plot of NERVE could happen in today’s Internet age? 

That’s one of the things I like best about Nerve:  it doesn’t seem like it could happen, but when you break it down, it’s not as far fetched as it seems.  I hope we’re not giving ideas to creepers.

5) Emu’s LBS: What’s it like working with debut authors? How is it different from working with more established authors?

I love working with debut authors.  They’re so enthusiastic and I don’t mind soothing nerves and holding hands along the way.  There isn’t a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Publish)” guide—although maybe there should be—so there is a lot of managing expectations, and explaining the process.  But seeing a new author through it all to publication day (and the accompanying glee) is really fun for me.  More established authors are also great to work with, and the focus might be a little different.  We can dig more deeply into expanding their authorial voice, the reach of their books, and their brand. But everyone was a debut author at some point. 

Thank you, Heather, for allowing us to host you on Emu’s Debuts and for having the NERVE to bring such a thought-provoking, exciting book to readers!


Filed under Book Promotion, Editing and Revising, Editor, Guest Posts

Gotta Do It Write Away

I love Melanie Crowder’s post about the Colorado fires, comparing them  to her own desire to get a draft done in the summer when she is free from school obligations and the forthcoming pressures of having a book on the verge of release. Oh, the stress we place on ourselves! I gather than most, if not all, of us Emu’s are feeling the strain of wanting to get another book done (and preferably sold) before our first one comes out.

Being followed by the countdown clock…

Why is this? Are we afraid of being a One Hit Wonder? Or could it be that the insecure guy on our shoulder is hissing into our ear that our first book might fail miserably, and if we don’t get something lined up quickly, we might not ever get another chance to sell again? OK, so maybe these are my fears. I don’t really believe them, but that insecure guy has a mind of his own and he doesn’t really listen to rational explanations.

Like Melanie, I am in a race to finish a book before my first one releases this fall. But despite my hopes, summer has been a frustrating time to write. The kids are home, with different schedules, making me the official Carpool Camel. Just when I settle into my first paragraphs, the youngest comes up and gives me a sad, “Why are you always on your computer?” look and asks, “Mommy, will you play just one game of Sorry with me?” Working from home is challenging for a lot of reasons, but when the kids are around, too, the laptop becomes a source of jealousy for them. Hence, not as much writing is getting done as I’d like. At one point, I actually had to lay down some serious cash to check myself into a bed and breakfast for three days so I could write for more than an hour without interruption. I wrote more in those three days then I have all summer.

Melanie’s situation is more difficult than mine. She has the added pressure of having time off during the summer with which to work, while also having to balance Real Life. What little time we have seems devoted to preparing for our debut launch, rather than writing. This, combined with an urgency to get something else in the hopper before the debut book releases, makes for some craziness. I get the feeling that most of the pressure comes from a self-imposed state of anxiety.

But yes, the days of leisurely writing for a few hours a day over a period of years seems over. Now we must produce to keep our readers, agents, and publishers happy. Now we must produce to keep that insecure guy as far away from our shoulder as we can get him.


Filed under Anxiety, Book Promotion, jealousy, Writing and Life

Chugging through the Stages of a Writing Career

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how a writer progresses from the beginning stages of a career to ultimately becoming a published author (and beyond.) A few months ago, I attended an SCBWI conference in Asilomar (Monterey, CA, to be specific) and met many writers, most of them pre-published. So many of my writing buddies  seemed to be stuck in a self-proclaimed rut, whether creative-based or psychological.

This comes from thinking too much and acting too little

I thought about the steps that I went through on the very long journey to becoming published. Here is my experience, and what I eventually learned to overcome the obstacles to moving on to the next stage:

Stage 1: As a beginning writer, I started several projects, brimming with confidence in my abilities. Downfall: I didn’t finish any one project. I got to a certain point, then I set aside the project and began working on another idea that “spoke to me” more. A good response: Force yourself to work through the (insert: boredom, frustration, low self-esteem, lack of ideas, etc.) and finish what you start. Meanwhile, start reading every book in your genre that you can, while analyzing what makes them work or not. As soon as you finish your first project, begin the second one.

Stage 2: So now I had one complete project. I was surprised to find that I had to write three or four books before I was competent enough to land an agent. Sadly, this was the point when I began to realize that writing wasn’t as easy as I first thought. The Downfall: It’s hard to be starting on book three, feeling like you’re getting nowhere. You may be worried that no one will ever see your work. A good response: Keep plugging away. Go to conferences whenever possible. Join a critique group if you haven’t by now; they’re invaluable in helping you improve your writing skills. Revise, revise, then revise some more.

Stage 3: I was finally able to start querying agents. Downfall: At first, I got rejection form letters, and in some cases, no response at all. It was tempting to burrow myself back into the revision cave and stop sending out letters. A good response: Send four queries out at a time, and when you get one rejection, refer back to your list of acceptable agents, then send out one more within ten hours. Be a robot! After about six rejections with feedback, you can evaluate if you need to revise. If you want to progress out of this stage quickly, you must become a steam engine, chugging toward success in a steady way, regardless of insecurities. (Easier said then done, I know.) But this is what I eventually realized, and it did result in getting my first agent.

Become a robot to avoid analysis paralysis

Stage 4: Hey, I wasn’t getting one-line rejection letters from agents anymore. They were longer, more personal. Downfall: Darn it, it’s still a rejection, and because the comments are more specific, you take it to mean your writing sucks. Or, you revise your manuscript to address one agent’s feedback, without evaluating if you agree with his or her assessment or not, or without waiting for more feedback to come in before you crawl back into the revision cave. A good response: Wait for several letters with feedback, then compile comments in common before revising. Don’t get so excited by an agent’s attention that you are willing to turn your coming of age middle grade into a psychological YA thriller. Always be true to your own gut.

Stage 5: I got an agent! Downfall: Don’t make a desperate move. You wouldn’t marry the first person who called you beautiful, would you? If you aren’t sure you LOVE this agent, hold off. I wish I had done this. As a result of not doing this, I had to go through two agents before I found THE ONE. A good response: Have faith that if one agent wants you, someone else will, too. Research your prospective agent before signing. A bad agent can waste years of your career.

Stage 6: My agent is sending out my stuff on submission! Hallelujah! Downfall: You think this means that someone will make you a huge book deal within three or four weeks. A good response: Your agent believes in you, and that should help you get through the wait, but it typically takes awhile to find the right editor for a project. While you wait, get busy on another project. Rejections occur at every stage.

Stage 6.5: (Courtesy of Natalie Dias Lorenzi who defined this very real and hard stage.) My agent and I decide to take my book off submission to revise yet again. I was told to make LEAGUE darker, to define motivations, to make the lead guy much scarier, while still appealing. Ah, nothing too major. Downfall: This one feel discouraging. Just when you thought it was done, you’re told to rewrite again. Making matters worse, it’s now no longer on submission at all. You begin to feel like a yo yo, if you hadn’t before.

Stage 7: My book is going to acquisitions! Downfall: This is a stellar step forward but not necessarily assurance of getting published. Acquisitions involve a lot more than just the editor’s feelings about your project. Also, there is a very good chance that the editor will ask for yet another revision before taking it all the way. A good response: Be excited, but realistic. Know that real live publishers see something in your manuscript, so if they don’t buy it, someone else will. You can be sure now that you have a saleable project.

Stage 8: They say yes!!!! Downfall: None! A good response: Celebrate! Go out to dinner. Take your moment and enjoy it.

Keep working at it and it will happen!

So which stage are you in? Now look at how far you’ve come. Not so hopeless, is it? As long as you’re improving your craft and not letting natural neurosis get in the way of progression, you will find forward momentum. If you find yourself stuck in any one stage for more than a couple of years, re-evaluate what you are doing to help or hinder your career. The best Response: Strive to write four hours a day, go to conferences, share your work, read books in your genre, and get as many critiques as you can. Then read the Dr. Suess classic, “OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!”

To paraphrase from the film Field of Dreams, “If you work at it, they will come.” And that’s my 20 cents for the day.


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, craft~writing, Editing and Revising, rejection and success

Fiction is Sometimes Better than Life

Natalie’s Monday post, “Story Connections” got me thinking about the value of different forms of storytelling. Other than around the dinner table, the art of verbal storytelling seems to be dying out. But I’m fortunate enough to say that’s not the case at my child’s school–where they often resurrect the best of the past and by doing so, are considered “cutting edge.” In their monthly Roots and Wings program, a storyteller regales the audience with tales from his or her life, often with a foreign culture bent. Or special guests might recreate folk tales to entertain and teach the children. My daughter almost always repeats the stories to me as soon as she walks in the door. Another reason I love this program is because it honors the 25 percent of kids who are “auditory learners,” which means they learn best by hearing their education.

Books fill our heads with more experiences than we could ever have

This led me to think about fiction storytelling and how it impacts the lives of its readers. Why do kids read? Here are some ideas that come to mind:

1)   Boredom: Kids might read because they have nothing else that excites them at the moment.

2)   To compensate for an occasional lackluster life: Not old enough to drive, being under parental control, and having to go to school all day and then come home and do homework, is, essentially, limiting. Real life often pales in comparison to fiction, and kids can live vicariously through the lives of their favorite characters.

3)   Escape: One sure way to get the parents to leave you alone is to announce, “I’m reading a book right now.” It’s an easy way to escape to your room for a few hours of uninterrupted alone time.

4)   Connection to others: We are all so busy that it seems difficult to make real connections sometimes. Often, our interactions are through email, texting, and Facebook, rather than old-fashioned person-to-person visits. In Natalie’s post she says this about the stories her father tells: “…it’s in the telling that we feel what he feels; it’s the telling that connects us.” A book provides an instant sense of connection between the reader and the character because it offers a tour through the thoughts and emotions of someone outside of ourselves.

Children and teenagers learn many life lessons through books. A shy reader can learn all about the extrovert’s world simply by turning the pages. There’s an entire wealth of life lessons and themes to explore through literature, even if the reader hasn’t lived through the same experiences first hand.

Fiction can be the best teacher

To me, this brings home the importance of being a writer. As storytellers, we owe it to our readers to treat our themes, messages, and characters with care and maturity.


Filed under Education, Writing, Writing and Life

Finding the Hero in You

“Heroes” is a major theme that runs through ONE FOR THE MURPHY’S. Whether it’s saving someone from a burning building or diverting yourself from the wrong path in life, having courage is what it takes to become a hero. Step up to the challenges that make a difference in your life and the lives of others! To inspire you, here are some children who have risen to a specific “call to action.”

Angela Zhang: On her own, this teenager devised an experiment that could end up curing many types of cancers. Angela mixed medicine in a polymer that attached to nanoparticles, which then attached to cancer cells. Next, she aimed an infrared light at the polymer, melting and releasing the medicine that killed cancer cells and ignored the healthy cells in mice. It will take a few years of research to see how it works with humans, but thanks to Angela’s proactive experiment, the results looks extremely promising.

Eleven-year-old Katie Stagliano donated a 40-pound cabbage to a local soup kitchen that her family had grown in their backyard garden. When she discovered how many people were homeless and hungry, she began two major gardens, including one the size of a football field that she convinced a school district to give to her. She now supplies multiple soup kitchens with fresh produce year round.

Twelve-year-old Matt Norton of Florida jumped into a frigid, muddy pond when he witnessed a truck drive into it. As the vehicle began to sink, Matt swam to the passenger door, which was locked. He then swam around to the other side as the truck continued its descent. He managed to open the driver’s side door, reach in and grab a visible hand, and pull the teenaged driver to safety.

Through relentless fundraising efforts, 12-year-old Rachel Wheeler of Florida raised $250,000 to build homes in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. After using some of the money to build 12 homes, she bought an earthquake-proof cement structure to shelter 27 families near Port-au-Prince. The families that live there deem the housing tract, “Rachel’s Village.” She is now working on rebuilding a local school and has already raised half the funds she needs to complete this project.

Nineteen-year old, Andie Proskus, suffers from a muscle disease that has left her in a wheelchair. She doesn’t let that stop her from a mission to put smiles on the faces of children in her local hospital. Andie turns into a personal shopper for one lucky child at a time, filling “Andie’s Smile Boxes” with toys and other fun items, using gift cards that she receives for herself. Check out the special smile she receives in this heartwarming video!

I bet many of you out there know a few young heroes yourself, so today’s PARTY FAVOR is an easy pattern for making your very own HERO CAPE for that special hero in your life (which might even be you!)

And Now, Here’s a Completely Unrelated Vlog Clip About Famous People Named “Murphy,” Starring Santa Duck and Zombie Buddy

Just so you know, Erin Murphy’s dog is named Lulu. YES, YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS IN ORDER TO WATCH THIS VLOG CLIP…


Filed under Uncategorized

What’s the Deal with the Cover Reveal?

Wow, what a whirlwind week! On March 30th, I was given permission to officially release my cover for LEAGUE OF STRAYS. I’d been staring at it for the previous six weeks (was that all it was?), waiting impatiently for the moment when I could join other authors of 2012 and present my cover to the world. If you haven’t seen it, I will grandly reveal it once more, because it was so much fun to do the first time…

When the cover first came in my email box, I was scared to open it up. My only input on the design had been a vote on model selection. What if I didn’t like it? What if the design was, gulp, boring? I didn’t have to worry. I loved it immediately, though I had to get over the fact that Kade resembled a certain vampire who shall remain nameless (turns out that’s a good thing, according to my daughters.) I loved the purplish/blue starry background, the fact that someone thought to make Charlotte a redhead, even though she doesn’t dye her hair until a later scene in the book, the super scalding choice for Kade, the spot on “girl next door” look of Charlotte, the fabulous large lettering for the title—the electrical wire running through the font really ups the thriller feel. And I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention that one of my favorite features is the large red font of my name! I owe this cover beauty to designer-extraordinaire, Maria T. Middleton, one of the best in the business, and all the Abrams staff who worked so hard on it.

How important are covers, really? I don’t really know. As a teen, I judged the title first (hope you’ve had success in finding the right one, Melanie Crowder!), next the jacket copy, then the cover, and finally, the inside flap text. If I was really on the fence, I’d read a few random paragraphs inside. If those didn’t grab me in some mysterious way, then I didn’t look further. I never read reviews. With today’s blog craze, though, I imagine it’s different for teens. Word of mouth takes on a whole new meaning.

But back to the “reveal.” I was completely taken aback/impressed/floored by the amount of people who commented on the cover, or posted on Facebook, or retweeted my original reveal tweet. I am deeply grateful to the larger writing community, who shared my news as if it were their own. In a blink, my cover seemed to be everywhere.  To my surprise and elation, it even got a design review on blogs like Wefancybooks.blogspotcom.

As for my author website, it went from a daily average of, um, a few loyal readers to 200 in a 24-hour period. (This is similar to the feeling one gets when a good friend knocks on your door and you have to invite them in, cringing all the while because your house is messy. I definitely had my OMG, is my website cool enough to handle these visitors moment?!)

In the end, I realized it’s not about promotion, it’s about capturing a great moment in my life and enjoying every second of the party. Speaking of parties, I can’t even imagine how exciting my future launch party will feel, with real, live friends to wrap my arms around. Then I can say thanks in person.


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, cover art, Happiness, Social Media, Updates on our Books!

Enter to Win Big!

In honor of Cynthia Levinson, our second Emu debut, L.B. and Natalie have a job for all of you out there in Blogland. Pay attention, because there will be a quiz at the end. Seriously. (But a fun quiz! A quiz with prizes!)

First, we’ve got an interview with Christa Armantrout, gifted and talented specialist at Sommer Elementary School in Austin, Texas.  Arnetta, Audrey, James and Wash marched right out the pages of WE’VE GOT A JOB and into Mrs. Armantrout’s classroom, bringing the Civil Rights Movement alive for her students.

We asked Mrs. Armanrout to tell us that, with the plethora of Civil Rights books available for teachers to use in the classroom, why should teachers share WE’VE GOT A JOB with their students?

Here’s what she and her students had to say: 

Cynthia Levinson has brought the real struggles, frustrations, and fears of the civil rights movement into my classroom!  By introducing the four children involved in the Children’s March, my students saw from four different perspectives the challenges the families, the children, and the Civil Rights leaders faced during this awful time of hate and violence.  In WE’VE GOT A JOB, Levinson’s perfect selection of pictures brought to life the issues the blacks and whites faced in Birmingham, Alabama.  My students were moved by the pictures of the children in the paddy wagon, the dog attacking the boy, the use of the fire hoses, the attack at the bus station, the bombed-out church, and many other pictures that spoke more than words could describe.

Though there are many books about the civil rights movement, none compare to Levinson’s WE’VE GOT A JOB.  She weaves in the many factors that played into the troubles and triumphs of the civil rights movement in Birmingham: the disagreements within the civil rights leadership, the city politics that played a crucial role in Birmingham’s problems, the parents who had too much to lose, and the children who stepped up proudly to fill the jails.  As my student, Sonia, said when asked what she especially liked about the book, “[learning about] All the things going on behind the mass meetings and demonstrations.”

Though the pictures were painful to see, each of my students was emphatic that the book would not have been complete without the visual proof that things were that bad!  As my student, Claire, said, “All of the other civil rights books hide what the police did and what the whites did.  It’s better [to show the pictures] because it showed what really happened.”  Another student, Andy, said, “Some of the pictures pop out and show you the devastating past, like the dog and the boy and the Freedom Riders’ bus.” Keertana added, “I like how Cynthia Levinson mentions the KKK. It’s scary and most [authors of children’s books] don’t mention it.  It’s hard to mention it in a kids’ book.  It helped me understand how the whites were actually treating [the blacks] secretly.  Sometimes the police were in the KKK or protecting the KKK.”

As a teacher of 4th grade gifted and talented children, I know that my students can reach far beyond their peers when it comes to high-level connections, inferencing, and general divergent thinking skills.  I struggle to find literature that can challenge their thinking of historical events and social issues in a way that is appropriate for their level and age.  WE’VE GOT A JOB stimulates my students’ thinking and encourages them to connect with children close to their own ages who are real people with really big problems.

As Cynthia introduced Audrey, Arnetta, James, and Wash in the beginning of the book, my students were interested in understanding the problems and the variety of ways each person faced their challenges. When my students read the last chapter that tells about the children as adults, it hit home that these people are real! Now they could see this book was about real people, not just characters in a fictional story.

Bravo to Cynthia Levinson for writing such an exceptional book!

We here at Emu’s Debuts couldn’t agree more.

Before we say farewell to Mrs. Armantrout and her fabulously articulate students, here’s a quiz with a reward that’s better than any grade you could get: a copy of We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March signed by Cynthia Levinson. We’ve even provided the links to the key pages on Cynthia’s site to help you with the answers. On Wednesday, we’ll have a drawing from all contestants with correct answers to see who’s the lucky winner!

See--look! You've already earned an A+!


1) Arnetta Streeter, a marcher, signed The 1963 Birmingham Civil Rights Movement Ten Commandments. What is commandment #5?

Where to find it: Meet the stories behind the book.

2) In Spring, 1963, approximately how many black children marched in defiance of segregation laws?

Where to find it: Cynthia provides this answer on her presentation workshop page for young readers and writers.

3) Which newspaper began its headline with these words: “Hundreds of hookey-playing demonstrators arrested…”

Where to find it: News from around the world…1963 style.

Class dismissed! Remember to hand in your quiz papers (er, leave a comment in this post) by Tuesday so that we can announce the winners next Wednesday. For more classroom resources, including a shiny new curriculum guide, visit Cynthia’s website.


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Education, Happiness, Interviews

Vlogging Tips from a Newbie Vlogger

Wow, Mike. You may not know this yet, but you’ve created a monster in your Monday post Regarding Physical Evidence or Lookit, Vlogging. Forget today’s To Do List, I just threw the whole thing away and concentrated on making my first video blog and uploading it to Youtube. Always wanted to try vlogging, but never had the guts. Until Mike stepped up and showed me how easy it is. With my MacBook Pro and iMovie, it was a breeze, made even easier with the help of my technologically-savvy ten year old daughter. (Everyone should have one of those…The kid, I mean.) So, folks, here it is. I hope you enjoy it:



Actually the hard part was accepting what I look like on video. I mean, I never knew I had an eyebrow problem. Why does my left one go up so much higher than the right? I just finished revising a book where a character has this very same problem, not knowing all along that I suffered from the same affliction. Sigh. But other than that, it was a fun, rewarding process. Not sure what it will do for the writing career, to be honest, but whatever. Marketing is all a bunch of guesswork, anyway, right?

P.S. Does anyone know why the words are not in sync with my mouth? I’m pretty sure that’s not another affliction of mine.


Filed under Blogging, Book Promotion, Happiness, Social Media