Category Archives: Uncategorized

Meet Our Newest Emu: Anna Crowley Redding

 

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Even now, I can still clearly see the view from my windshield as I drove along leafy, tree-lined streets with my three-year-old boy and his baby brother strapped into their car seats, slowly making our way home from the library.

“You can be anything you want,” I promised my sweet boys. “Anything you want. All you have to do is follow your dreams.”

As soon as the words left my lips, I felt a twitch inside.  A pang. A thud of a forgotten memory, the whisper of a long lost dream.

A dream, quieted by the demands of life. School. Journalism Career. Raising Littles.

But, in that moment, after an afternoon surrounded by books, I couldn’t deny I heard it. It felt like an untied shoelace.

You can be anything you want. All you have to do is follow your dreams.

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Anna Crowley Redding, Age 10. That little toothless girl had big dreams (and even bigger sunglasses. Some things just do not change.)

For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be a children’s book author. At 10, I used to a carry a wire bound notebook around with me, filling  the pages with a murder mystery. In my teens, I wrote picture books and poetry. All along, I collected children’s books. Even in my 20’s, my father still added to my collection every year during the holidays. I loved it!

But the dream of actually writing for children slowly, mindlessly, invisibly drifted to the back burner––until that drive home from the library. Until the talk about following one’s dreams. And I realized that if I want my boys to follow their dreams, I had better get busy leading by example.

The next morning, I woke up earlier, made coffee, climbed into a chair in front of my computer, and started. And it felt––ridiculous. I mean, truly, it felt absurd, silly, and small. How could I justify it? The boys, the nursing, the laundry, the schedule, the money, no assurance it would ever go anywhere at all, and on and on and on.

But the next morning, it felt less ridiculous. Defending the time to write came easier, with practice.

And that twitch, that pang, that thud of a long forgotten memory became a battle cry, day in and day out. Something that could only be calmed with writing.

I joined SCBWI and prepared to attend my first conference. Business cards, sharpened pencils, and fresh paper packed into my bag, I walked through the doors with big expectations. After two days of workshops, seminars, and talking to other writers, it hit me: I was standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain. And I had not a single clue as to how to climb it.

I felt defeated.

Until the next morning, that battle cry woke me up and I returned to the computer. The mornings added up. So did meetings with my invaluable critique group. Countless revisions, workshops, seminars, false starts, failed attempts to quit . . . every morning, the battle cry came for me. And I answered.

Nearly five years later, my agent called.

“Hey,” I said. “I’m about to run into the school for a parent teacher conference. I can talk for five minutes now or longer this afternoon.”

“Five minutes should be enough,” she said, “to tell you we have an offer.”

A book deal. A real live book deal.

All I remember after that is crying and feeling extreme gratitude, the kind of gratitude that’s built morning after morning, setback after setback, word by word, sentence by sentence, and draft by draft.

Maybe you, too, are in the throes of raising amazing little people, juggling the demands of an intense career, or fending off the terror of trying to make ends meet (or all three at once.) And maybe you, too, feel that twitch, that pang, or hear that thud of a memory long forgotten.

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up and get started, imagine me there with you, cheering you on . . . no matter how ridiculous it feels. Because actually what you are doing is quite brave.

Write on!

Anna

P.S. As a practical matter, here are some things I did that made all the difference:

  1. Join SCBWI
  2. Attend a conference
  3. Find a critique group (the number of times they have picked me up off the floor!)
  4. Don’t Give Up!

 

About Anna:

_sl13594_lr_2Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids –– which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

Redding’s debut middle grade nonfiction GOOGLE IT! will be published by Feiwel and Friends in May 2018. Anna is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN: interview with Terry Pierce & Carol Schwartz

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I had the privilege of meeting author Terry Pierce a couple of years ago at a retreat. Her new book is brilliantly beautiful–a dream come true for science teachers. This book has gorgeous illustrations, as well as a bit of mystery. Who is lurking? And what is the surprise? Find out in this playful rhyme.

Terry is giving away a FREE COPY!!!  Just leave a comment below to enter.

I chose to ask the same questions to both the author and illustrator, to gain two different perspectives. Terry is the author of more than a dozen books, and Carol has illustrated more than 3 dozen!

Welcome Terry and Carol. I’m honored to be able to interview the duo that created this delightful book.

🐞 What inspires you?

Terry: Nature. Most of my books have some aspect of nature in them. I’ve always been drawn to the natural world. Whether it’s the mountains, the beach, the desert or simply observing a beautiful garden, nature fascinates me. As a child, I could sit in a tree for hours! As an adult, I don’t climb trees anymore but still find myself in nature for long periods of time. It’s calming, peaceful and inspiring.

Carol: Nature, the endless wonder and beauty of it all, inspires me every day. I take great pleasure in the study and research of creatures and plants. They reveal patterns, designs, colors, texture and uniqueness. There is so much to learn and interpret through my art.

🐞 How long have you been doing your craft?

PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)Terry: I started writing for children in 1999. For ten years, I attended SCBWI events and read books to develop my writing skills. Then in 2009, I began the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, which deepened my craft knowledge tenfold. It’s an amazing program I highly recommend.

Carol: I like to say I’ve been practicing my craft all my life. My mother says that at the age of a year and a half I drew a picture of Mickey Mouse and it looked like Mickey. I started illustrating children’s books in 1989 with a local publisher in Maryland where I lived at the time. Two years later I had an agent and a Hyperion Press trade book, Sea Squares, by Joy Hulme. Now sixty books later, I am still energized with each new project. They are all so different and, fortunately, there are tools I’ve learned throughout my career that help me to navigate the challenges associated with illustrating a picture book.

🐞 What kind of medium do you use?

Terry: I always write my first draft of a picture book with pencil and notepad. I love the feel of writing by hand as the words flow from my brain through my arm to my hand, then finally onto the paper. Doing it this way also slows the process, allowing me to be more mindful of my writing. After the first (very messy) draft, I type the story onto my computer and revise on printed drafts.

carol-schwartzCarol: I work primarily in gouache, an opaque watercolor paint. The opaque or transparent quality, depending on how thick the paint is mixed, make this medium versatile. Gouache is quick drying, which means no waiting time. That comes in handy when working under a deadline, which is most of the time. I also work in Photoshop. It has become indispensable in creating final art for books. I make a high resolution scan of my traditional work and continue to paint in Photoshop. Many details I used to hand render are now finished in Photoshop. In past years I depended on an airbrush for adding large smooth backgrounds or creating smooth textures. Now I use Photoshop to do the same thing.

🐞 How did you get started in the industry?

Terry: I casually mentioned to a friend that I wanted to try writing children’s books. She told me about the SCBWI so I joined. They’re a fantastic organization for anyone who wants to learn to write for kids. They’re what got me started and pushed me in the right direction. If it weren’t for my local SCBWI chapter, I wouldn’t have had my early publication successes.

Carol: I graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, spending my senior year at Rhode Island School of Design in a mobility program. This gave me a good foundation to be an illustrator. When I decided to concentrate on illustrating picture books, I began attending every conference and workshop I could find. At a seminar in Maryland I signed up to have my portfolio critiqued by an artist’s representative. In time she became my agent and I began illustrating a long line of trade books for publishers such as Hyperion, Scholastic, Grosset & Dunlap and Sterling.

🐞 What is a good piece of advice you would give?

Terry: This is the toughest question! There’s so much good advice to give but what rings true to them all is to be persistent. Keep at it even when the going gets extraordinarily tough (and it will!). No matter what phase of writing you’re in, whether you’re developing your craft, submitting your work, or marketing your work, don’t give up! Identify your mistakes, learn from them and keep going. If you learn and persist, you’ll find success.

Carol: Believe in what you are doing. Become a mini expert in whatever the subject matter is you are illustrating or writing about. Find a way to get really excited about the subject. For me, its research that gives me inspiration and lets me know how to illustrate my subject.

🐞 Do you like gardening? Why did you choose to illustrate this book?

Terry: When I was a Montessori teacher, we had a school garden and I greatly enjoyed gardening with the children. There’s something about putting your hands in the soil, being close the earth, caring for the seedlings and watching them grow to maturity that’s amazing for kids. But that’s not what this book is really about…it’s about what happens in a garden! So why did I write it?

I had decided I wanted to write a cumulative story (where the text builds on itself). I recalled that my Montessori students LOVED Arnold Lobel’s cumulative book, THE ROSE IN MY GARDEN. I looked at that story as a mentor text. Of course, my story had to be different (his showcased flowers), so I pondered how I might keep the same setting, but change the focus, plot and characters. I knew most kids love bugs so I decided to focus on bugs and other animals that inhabit a garden. Then when I got the idea to include the surprise element of the developing chrysalis I was ready to write (which meant a lot of playing with words—my favorite part of writing!).

Carol: I am a long time gardener and much of what I know I learned by illustrating gardening articles for the Home section of The Washington Post newspaper. Much of my gardening has been in the Mid-Atlantic region but I’ve also tended gardens in the South and Midwest. Working to make plants grow and being rewarded with flowers makes me smile. What could be better that illustrating that happy feeling of growing all those beautiful flowers with my paints.

🐞 What are some of your favorite insects?

Terry: When I was a kid, I loved “wooly bears.”  fuzzy
I mean, what kid could resist picking one up one of these cute little fuzzy guys? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out they turn into tiger moths!

As an adult, I think one of the coolest insects is the praying mantis (which also happens to be one of my favorite illustrations in the book!). Praying mantises are the rule-breakers of insects. They’re the only one that can turn their head 180 degrees (imagine the advantage that gives them), and after mating the female bites off the male’s head! And the way they hold their front legs ready to strike their prey, yeah, mantises are pretty cool.

Carol: I love how dragonflies and praying mantises look like big, alien creatures. Beetles are interesting because they come in an amazing variety of shapes sizes, colors and patterns. Who doesn’t like butterflies and moths for their many colors and patterns? I respect ants for their eusocial society but I hate coming in contact with them, especially fire ants.

🐞 As a child, what were your favorite books?

fave-books2Terry: I loved any of Dr. Seuss’s books. CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White was another favorite, along with GENTLE BEN by Walt Morey and RASCAL by Sterling North. Even as a child, books with nature and/or animals appealed to me. Oh, and PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren was a girl after my own heart. Being a tomboy, I saw myself in Pippi. I probably read that book perched in a tree!

fave-booksCarol: I remember favorite childhood books as old friends, there was Charlotte’s Web, Alice in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes. I had a bookcase full of Little Golden Books and two large volumes of nature books, Children’s Guide to Knowledge. That’s where I learned of extraordinary creatures such as giant clams, flying squirrels and a strange bird with an extra long tail called a quetzal. Those books fascinated me and, I believe, were the start of my love of nonfiction.

🐞Terry is giving away a FREE signed copy of MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN. Just add a comment below to enter.

If you’d like to know more about Terri and Carol, please visit their websites:

https://terrypiercebooks.com

http://www.csillustration.com

🐞LINKS TO CRAFTS:

Bug jar:

https://momeefriendsli.com/2013/09/04/diy-bug-jar-for-kids/

Make a footprint grasshopper:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/212935888610838461/

Make a colourful paper chain caterpillar with  wobbly eyes and antennae:

http://www.peekyme.com.au/take-a-peek


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About the interviewer: Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her upcoming book, Blue Sky White Stars is a patriotic salute to the flag and the forces behind the forging of this great nation. Look for it June 13th, in time for the 4th of July. Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson.

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Come Along for the Ride

I’m so ridiculously happy to be introducing myself to you today. Hi. I’m Christina. I love to read and I love to write. And after I rode my bike across the United States, I’ve never been the same.

If I hadn’t pedaled from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco over the span of one crazy summer, I bicycle-girl_smallnever would have become an adventure tour guide, taking other people bicycling and hiking all over the place. If I’d never become an adventure tour guide, I’d never have decided to pedal down the entire span of the U.S. Pacific Coast with one equally intrepid (and equally unemployed) tour guide pal.

If my pal and I had never decided to ride down the Pacific Coast, I’d never have submitted an article about the experience to a magazine, and they never would have published it, and I never would have become a professional freelance writer scribbling and bibbling about the wonders of bicycling.

If I’d never published lots of bicycling articles, I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to sit down and write a middle grade novel called THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE about a 12-year-old who pedals from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco. Or the confidence to send it out to agents until I found one who believed in it like Ammi-Joan Paquette. (And who was tickled to find out big chunks of it are true, based on the real places and people I’ve met on my own rides.) And to have Ammi-Joan’s help to find an editor and publishing house who want to share THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE with the world.

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No, I wouldn’t! I would be someone else. And I’m so glad and grateful I’m me today.

Author Bruce Weber wrote in Life Is a Wheel, “Novelists will say that one reason their work is so agonizing is that no one out here is waiting for what they do; they have to create their own welcome in the world…a cross-country bicyclist feels the same way.”  I can’t tell you what it means to me that I’ve found a welcome in the U.S. many times as a cross-country bicyclist, and now I’ve found a welcome in the world as a children’s novelist.  My BICYCLE will be riding into kids’ hands and homes one year from now.  Whoa.

In case I’m making it sound like the life of a debut children’s author is all kittens and rainbows, let me assure you it resembles my cycling career in many ways: I often gasp for breath and want to give up while others around me seem to be surging ahead. Steep hills appear for me to climb that weren’t on my map. And just when I think I’ve hit smooth sailing, a pack of territorial farm dogs show up.

But today, I’m not complaining. Today, the farm dogs feel far behind. Today I get to introduce myself to you as a debut children’s book author. Hi! I’m Christina. This looks like it’s going to be one heck of a ride.


christina-ussCHRISTINA USS is a bike writer, bike rider, mother of twins and dweller of Massachusetts. Her debut novel THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE comes out January 2018 from Margaret Ferguson Books. Wheee! Visit her at http://www.christinauss.com.

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A Conversation with Vanessa Brantley-Newton, illustrator of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER

I’d like to start this post by noting that the subject of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, the late Audrey Faye Hendricks, was nine years old when she was imprisoned for her civil rights activism. She remained in prison—real prison—for a week. She was locked in a cell. Interrogated by adult strangers. She was in danger, both inside the prison and after her release. She is an American hero. As of this post, she does not have a Wikipedia page.

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“I’d never heard of Audrey Faye Hendricks,” says Vanessa Brantley-Newton, author and illustrator of over 75 books. vanessa-brantley-newton“When I read Cynthia Levinson’s manuscript, it broke me. It made me cry. I became fascinated by Audrey. I read the manuscript to myself and then had someone read it to me. Right away, I could see the pictures—that’s very important.”

Vanessa goes on to detail aspects of her research, “I read Cynthia’s previous book on the Children’s March, WE’VE GOT A JOB TO DO, and weve-got-a-jobwatched the PBS program on the event. I wanted my work to be emotional—to make it clear that Audrey was a child. As I worked, I listened to music from that time, songs like “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” With one exception early in the process, Vanessa and the author did not actively collaborate on the project. “Cynthia wanted to see how I portrayed Martin Luther King Jr.—a friend of Audrey’s family—and once I showed her the sketch, we didn’t need to consult again.”

Like all of Vanessa’s work, THE YOUNGEST MARCHER glows with color and shimmers with texture. the-youngest-marcher“I’m a retro girl, heart and soul,” Vanessa says. “I love the colors of the sixties and seventies, the reds and oranges together.” She scanned vintage fabrics and included photographs in her collage work. Her use of marbleized paper adds swirling atmosphere to the image of a small, beloved child curled up on a prison cot.

Despite her age, Audrey’s bright-eyed conviction is made plain in Vanessa’s illustrations. As she heeds Dr. King’s call to fill the prisons, as she boards the police van in her starched skirt, bobby socks, and pink hair ribbons, she is full of hope and might as easily be headed to school or church. Although younger than the other marchers, she remains stalwart until the prisons are full to bursting and all are released. Hope intact, Audrey Faye Hendricks emerges to her parents’ arms and a changed world, one she helped to create.

“I hope that people can be inspired by my work,” Vanessa says. “As a child, I never saw children of color in books. We have this wonderful ability as authors and illustrators to tell stories that encompass what children go through so that kids feel included, like someone has captured their real world.”

I’d like to thank Vanessa for her time and for all of her efforts to bring Audrey Faye Hendricks and her story to vibrant, visual life. I’d like to thank author Cynthia Levinson for writing the story of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER. I’m glad and grateful to know about this remarkable story of courage.


Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka.
I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Inspiration from Songs, Chants, and Slogans

The launch of Cynthia Levinson’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, a picture book about the youngest civil rights marcher in Birmingham, Alabama, continues today! As Cynthia described on Tuesday, the strength in nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks’ voice was often boosted by music and protest chants. In that spirit, Emus gathered together to discuss different songs, chants, and slogans we found memorable and inspirational in civil rights movements.

Darcey Rosenblatt says that “It Could Have Been Me” by Holly Near was a life-changing song for her when she first heard it, and that it still carries power with her today. Holly Near sang this at a memorial for the four students shot at Kent State University as they protested the bombing of Cambodia in May 1970.

Jason Gallaher says he will never forget the immediacy and the impact of the NOH8 campaign after Proposition 8 passed in California, banning same-sex marriage. Thousands of people came together to get their pictures taken in a silent protest against the proposition. Even though the protest was silent, the amount of photos of people with NOH8 painted across their faces created a sort of hum in the air, moving more and more to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage. While same-sex marriage is legal today, the campaign still serves as a stand against any kind of discrimination.

Hayley Barrett says she thinks it’s hard to top the emotional impact of the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968. The strikers carried signs with the words “I AM A MAN” on them, fighting against dangerous working conditions and discrimination. You can find more information about the strike at the National Civil Rights Museum website. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his last speech, “Mountaintop,” to Memphis sanitation workers the night before he died.

Anna Crowley Redding says that Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” has stuck with her over the years. In addition, she read his “Christ in Alabama” in the seventh grade in Spartanburg, SC, and remembers thinking, “This is the best thing I have ever read. EVER.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus says that “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” is one song she found memorable in the Civil Rights Movement.

This article by Cynthia provides more information about the history of songs in the Civil Rights Movement.

Cynthia’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER is out now and can be found at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite local bookseller.

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From 176 pages to 32 in Five Years Flat

EMU’s Debuts is mostly about The Call for that first sale. After 18 months of trying to sell a proposal for a middle-grade nonfiction book about civil rights in Birmingham, Erin finally called me with double-good news: two offers! But, one was for the middle-grade and the other for a picture book. What did I want to do? My instincts told me this story needed multiple perspectives, and I opted for a book for ten- to fourteen-year-olds. That decision led to We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March.

The idea for a picture book, though, never went away. But, how could I reduce a 176-page volume about four children who protested segregation, a vicious police chief who aimed fire hoses and snarling dogs at them and 3000 others and then sent them to jail down to a 32-page illustrated book for six- to ten-year-olds? What could I leave out? What could I leave in?

One of those four children was only nine years old. With a protagonist the same age as my readership, Audrey Faye Hendricks instantly became the “main character.” So, her experiences drove the story. She didn’t know that Martin Luther King spent time in solitary. She knew him as her parents’ friend Mike, who came for dinner and wolfed down her momma’s Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter. So, the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail got chucked, and the rolls stayed.

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This also meant that Audrey’s voice had to narrate. She and her momma “coo-ooked!” At church meetings, she “sang and swayed…her voice spirited and spiritual.” Marching to protest, she knew she was going “to j-a-a-il!”

And, as you can see, just about everything had to come in the traditional picture-book threes. “Front-row seats, cool water, elevators with white-gloved operators—laws said those were for white folks.”

But, can you send a nine-year-old to jail in a picture book? Yes. Because Audrey was actually was sentenced to jail—for a whole week. She was even threatened with solitary.

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Yet, kids instinctively know that nine-year-olds triumph. And that’s what really makes this a book for them.

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Encouraging Early Activists

the-youngest-marcherIt is Martin Luther King’s birthday. It seems particularly important to pay attention this year to Dr. King’s life and the dreams he fought and died for. I have traditions for this day – reading the I Have a Dream Speech – listening to Shed a Little Light at least once and this year I will start a new tradition. It will include a yearly reading of Cynthia Levinson’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER – The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist. It’s so fitting that Cynthia’s story, beautifully illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton would be launched this week as Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest. This book seems a wonderful follow-up to Cynthia’s book WE’VE GOT A JOB which tells the story of the 4,000 black elementary-, middle-, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

Thinking about Audrey got me thinking about other young activists. Many of us know the story of young Malala Yousafzai who was living under Taliban rule in Pakistan, where young girls were at times forbidden to attend school. She started writing a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC at the age of 11, detailing what life was like and sharing her views on education for girls. Her passion and activism earned her several television and print interviews. Unfortunately, in 2012, a gunman boarded her school bus, asked for Malala by name and shot her in the head. Although in critical condition after the attack, Malala eventually stabilized enough to be sent to a hospital in England to recover in safety. She speaks about the rights of women and girls often and won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. She has been nominated twice for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize – the youngest person and only girl to ever be nominated.

Fewer have heard the story of Ryan Hreljac who in 1998, at six years old, learned that kids in Africa often had to walk several kilometers for clean water. This seemed wrong to Ryan. Using money he earned from household chores and funds he raised from speaking publicly at different events about Africa’s clean water issues, Ryan managed to fund the construction of his first well in a Northern Ugandan village in 1999. From there he established Ryan’s Well Foundation, an organization that has helped build thousands of water projects and latrines, bringing safe water and improved sanitation to close to a million people.

As 2017 dawns many of us are feeling the need to do more. As children’s writers we can make sure all children see themselves in the books they read and show them that they’re never too young to make a difference. Cynthia Levinson has raised this bar with THE YOUNGEST MARCHER. Join me in making this book part of your Marin Luther King Day celebration.

darceyhighres About Darcey Rosenblatt
Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in August 2017. LOST BOYS, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and perfect daughter, some fish, and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.

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The Terrible Twos …Book 2, that is.

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What does it mean when a debut author talks about writing “Book 2”? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean that the author is writing their second story ever. In actuality, most people’s Book 2s are their fifth, tenth, or twentieth full novels. For me, it’s my thirteenth. I think. I have sort of lost track by this point.

When an author says they are working on Book 2, they usually mean they’re working on the next manuscript that they plan on publishing. In my case, I have a two book deal with my publisher, so my Book 2 fulfills this second novel of that deal.

It’s intimidating to write a Book 2! Struggling with Book 2 is something that seems to unite all debut authors, more than any other stress of the “new author” process.

It may be because it’s what we’re writing while in the middle of editing our debuts, or in the middle of learning how to do all the other things associated with debuting (*cough*marketing*cough*). It may be because it’s the first new words we have written since our ability as a writer was finally validated–and with first drafts always being terrible, we feel like fakes and failures just looking at our feeble attempts at a new story. It may be because we’re on faster timelines to produce material than we are used to being on. And it definitely may be because the pressure to perform is now on like it never had been before.

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Whatever the reason, Book 2 SUCKS. It SUCKS, man. S.U.C.K.S.

The good news is that most of this is in our minds. The better news is, it doesn’t always suck.

I just finished my first truly solid draft of my Book 2. And guess what? I like it.

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I spent months crafting it, hating almost every second. But now that I’ve shaped it into something resembling a proper novel? It’s not so bad. It’s actually pretty good. Well, I think it is. (I’m sure my opinion will change in a week or two, so I’m soaking in these positive feelings while I can!)

The point of this post is to give hope to debut authors who are in the throes of drafting that dreaded Book 2. First, you are not alone. Second, you are doing a good job. Really. Your Book 2 is wonderful, even if you can’t see that for yourself just yet.

You got this! We got this! Go, go, go!


Katie Headshot.jpgKatie Slivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. She lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or on her website, www.katieslivensky.com.

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We’re All Crazy Busy, So I Kept This Short.

394 words, to be precise. Here goes:

We are each pulled in a million different directions. Someone or something is always clamoring for our devotion, our time, our finite energy. How are we to balance our responsibilities, our commitments, and our creative needs? How are we to lay claim to the time and space required for writing?

There is only one hope and it’s not easy—core strength.

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Balance, after all, isn’t the product of stasis. It’s born of movement, moment-to-moment adjustments that maintain equilibrium. The muscles required for physical balance are deep within our bodies, particularly our core. They don’t get truly strong unless we make them strong.

It’s the same with our creative energies. The qualities—determination and commitment come to mind— essential to finding the balance between our busy lives and our creative work are found deep within. They are at our core, and they won’t get strong unless we make them strong.

How? You already know the answer. Practice.

When the world wants us to do literally anything other than write, we need to dig deeply into our core, to what we know matters. We need to assert that creative work is essential for ourselves and, incidentally, the continued progress of humanity. We are the purveyors of story, after all, the Pied Pipers of literacy. Our work is a source— a bubbling, life-giving spring—of connection and challenge, hope and healing. The more that we affirm creative work’s importance to ourselves and others, the stronger it will grow.

But don’t try to force balance, hanging on for dear life until you tip over and chip a tooth. It won’t work. It never works. We have to constantly find and re-find balance. Don’t fear the unexpected shifts. Expect to wobble and make necessary moment-to-moment adjustments.

Go to your creative work when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Treat it like a treadmill, set yourself a laughably manageable goal, say 5 minutes of focused activity, and see what happens. You may find that 5 turns into 20. You may find that you begin to take this prioritized time seriously, and if you do, others will.

So deliberately engage. Choose the deep muscles of purpose and passion and use them with intention. If this is hard, good! You’re getting stronger.

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Enjoy the day,

Hayley


About Hayley Barrett

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

 

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It Only Takes One (Not Really)

It only takes one. From the moment I began writing in earnest, this was the mantra I heard. It only takes one agent who loves your work, the reasoning went. Or, it only takes one editor who wants to buy your story. I heard it at conferences, in critique groups, and at almost every gathering of pre-published writers. I even repeated it, to myself and to others.

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As a mantra, it was supposed to instill hope, to inspire perseverance, to infuse me with faith. And it did. But as I look back at my journey to publication, I realize that the thing about this mantra is that it’s not completely true. To say that it only takes one person to turn a manuscript into a published book is to discount all those who helped me along the way. To even get my manuscript submission-ready took many people: critique partners, mentors, and conference faculty. After I began submitting the manuscript, the rejections I received were painful but necessary and helpful in their own ways. Aided by my agent, The Nian Monster was acquired by Albert Whitman, and then a whole team of people stepped in to breathe life into my book with beautiful illustrations and a physical form. All along the way, I relied on the support of my family and the encouragement of my friends. And I don’t want to forget the publicists, marketers, bloggers, and educators who created resources and are helping to get my book into the hands of readers. Every one of these people deserve credit. It doesn’t only take one; it takes a village to create a book.

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For those just starting out on the road to publication, find your community. Reach out to other writers, get involved in a critique group, go to conferences, start leaving comments on writing blogs, join another writer’s “village” and support their endeavors. Writing may be solitary, but making a book is not. And helping other writers doesn’t detract from your own publishing efforts — it enhances them.

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Having moved from Boston to Denver right before my book released, I fretted that I’d left my community behind just when I needed them most. But thanks to EMLA, I found friends waiting for me in my new hometown who welcomed me and made sure people actually attended my launch party. (Yay! And whew!) And thanks to social media, my book village goes with me wherever I am. I’ve been awed and gratified and slightly surprised by the people who have rallied around me and The Nian Monster. From old friends to brand-new friends to friends that I hadn’t been in touch with since 6th grade — thank you for being part of my village and for sharing the journey with me! I love my book, but the journey itself really has been the true reward.

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Giveaway Winner! Thank you to all who left comments during my book launch week. The lucky winner of a copy of The Nian Monster is Jen Petro Roy! Jen, please email your address to me at andreaATandreaywangDOTcom. Congrats!


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Andrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster (Albert Whitman & Co., December 2016), is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market and is working on a middle grade novel. Andrea is a former environmental consultant and now writes full-time. She recently moved from the Boston area to Denver, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a dog that will do anything for food. That pretty much describes her family, too.

You can find Andrea online at http://www.andreaywang.com, on Twitter under @AndreaYWang, and on Instagram as @andreawhywang.

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