Tag Archives: Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy

Farewell, Secrets, Memes, Poems, Art for the Sake of Art, Be Who You Are, and Carry On!

The time has come for me to take my leave of this amazing group of debuts, since my Middle Grade debut Foot Davis Probably Is Crazy has been out in the world for several months now! I hope to someday return for a picture book debut, but that may be an impossible dream … (cue wonky music).

imageSo, as I go, I thought I’d tell some not-so-closely guarded secrets. The big one is, writing wasn’t my first love as an art form. No, seriously. It wasn’t! I wanted to paint. I really, really tried to paint. When I was five, I actually had a canvas, and kid paints, and everything, and sat down to copy a Monet, and … well, this went horribly wrong (I think my mother still has lamps with paint flecks on them). I made lots of color blobs, but never anything with a real shape. This type of art, it wasn’t my talent. So, then I took up ballet dancing, and yeah, never mind that, either.

When I did start to wrimageite, it was in third grade, and my first book was of course about horses. The second was about aliens and I still sorta like it, even if it was so totally terrible. In high school, I went through the mandatory poetry and twisty-short-story phase because I absolutely knew everything in the universe and I needed to make ART  (note the big letters, because emo).

I finally came to novel-writing, and young-adult novel writing much later in life, and I have loved it since then. And yet, imagemoments of those earlier artistic dreams sneak in. Lately, I’ve been taking photographs and using quotes from my novels to make memes/posters–not for any reason other than the fact that it makes me happy. Art, for the sake of art. It makes my soul sing. Also–ha–I’m working on a novel that involves horses…funny how that circle comes ’round. Funny, and also wonderful.

So, for all of you coming new to writing, and those of you not new to it, and those of you who are “old heads,” and those of you kind enough to read what we do, I’ll leave you with these oh-so-sage words (excuse the coughing fit as I laugh myself silly):  Come as you are, be who you are–and ART. Just, art.

And, for good measure, here’s a really emo old poem that I used in EXPOSED, in 2007:

AT THE TOP

The rains

Are coming again I can

Feel them

On my shoulders

At my back

Wind

Scrapes my cheek

A cold paintbrush

Stiff

With unknown pictures

Now, carry on with your brilliance, and I’ll see you all soon!

___________________________________________

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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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Creativity, Farewell

From the Files of FOOTER DAVIS (and Friends)

Susan Vaught’s disarming, delightful, devourable middle-grade debut features a trio of young people who are truly worth spending time with. Luckily, in FOOTER DAVIS MIGHT BE PROBABLY IS CRAZY, we get a chance to know these wonderful characters intimately, as Susan lets us peek inside their journals. We get to read Footer’s school papers, complete with doodles, tangential thinking, and teacher commentary. We watch over her shoulder as she lists and crosses out information that’s key to her uncovering the truth about the fire. We keep track of Peavine’s detective journal, where he faithfully records all suspect interviews and makes his personal observations in the form of stage directions. We even get glimpses into Angel’s astronaut journal, when she puts her oar into the investigation.

Susan so deftly uses these devices to draw us ever deeper into the world of Bugtussle that it got us thinking: What other books do we love that make use of characters’ journals and notebooks as central elements of the stories?

From the nifty notebook of Penny Parker Klostermann:

I loved THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson. The main character, Lennie, writes poems on scraps of paper, lollipop wrappers, to-go cups, etc. The poems are interwoven in the story to give readers a glimpse of Lennie’s emotional journey as she deals with the untimely death of her sister. The inclusion of the poetry is powerful and moving.

In EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN by Lindsey Lane, main character, Tommy, disappears. We learn about Tommy from other characters that answer the sheriff’s questions and speculate about his disappearance. But Lane also includes excerpts from Tommy’s journal which add to the mystery of his disappearance.

From the dangerous diary of Mylisa Larsen:

One of my favorite uses of a notebook in a book is Vida’s (“My public calls me Velveeta.”) letters to Calvin in Bluefish.  You’ll have a couple chapters of narration and then you’ll read one of Velveeta’s letters and getting to see what happens to Vida from the outside (narration) and the inside (the letters) is fascinating.

From the marvelous missives of Megan Morrison:

Right now, I’m rereading MONSTER, by Walter Dean Myers – a powerful book about a young, black male who is on trial for murder. The protagonist, Steve Harmon, deals with the surreality of his situation by setting down every word and action of the experience as if it’s happening in a film. The book flips between the courtroom scenes, which are formatted exactly like a screenplay, and Steve’s personal journal, scrawled in his messy handwriting. The journal is where Steve becomes vulnerable and emotional, processing the horror of his situation on a more personal level. The journal is where he deals with the fact that, after court is finished each day, he has to face the realities of jail, where he might well be stuck forever.

From the fabulous files of Maria Gianferrari:

One of the most ingenious ways I’ve seen visuals incorporated into a story, literally, is in Jennifer L. Holm’s Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff. As the subtitle suggests, newspaper clippings, to-do lists, report cards, post-it notes, school assignments, even police blotters about garden gnomes and wheelchairs gone missing (thanks to Ginny’s older juvenile delinquent brother) are woven into the fabric of the story.

I also love the way Abigail, the protagonist in Nancy J. Cavanaugh’s Always, Abigail narrates the story through a variety of letters, both sent, and un-sent as well as her favorite to-do lists. Cavanaugh also does a similar thing to great effect in This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, where homeschooled Ratchet tells the story in journal form where she writes poems and completes her school assignments, making it an emotionally engaging and fast-paced read.

From the authorial archives of Laurie Ann Thompson:

The first one that comes to mind for me would have to be the delightful Ellie McDoodle series, starting with Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel, by Ruth McNally Barshaw. Here’s a bit of that first book’s description:
Twelve-year-old Ellie McDougal, aka McDoodle, is a prisoner. Sentenced to a week-long camping trip with her aunt, uncle, and cousins, she is determined to hate every single minute of the experience. Thank goodness she at least has her sketch journal, in which she records all the excruciating details. Mosquito bites and trips to the Fred Moose Museum she can handle, but how will she keep her journal from falling into Er-ick the Enemy’s hands? And what will happen if-gasp-she actually starts having fun? Part graphic novel, part confessional journal, part wilderness survival guide, Ellie’s story is a treat for young campers, vacationers, or any kid looking for a great summer read.
I loved it, my sketchpad toting kid loved it, and everyone who has met Ruth can’t help but love her, too, so this one will always have a special place in my heart.

 

And finally, from the lyrical letters of Tamara Ellis Smith:

I second Ellie McDoodle!

And we all second, third, and fourth FOOTER DAVIS!

Footer Davis CvrWelcome, FOOTER, to the ranks of these unforgettable books.

 

Don’t forget, to enter the drawing for a free copy of FOOTER DAVIS MIGHT BE PROBABLY IS CRAZY, please comment on any post this week! 

You can also buy your own copy of Footer Davis at The Flying Pig BookstoreIndie BoundBarnes & Noble, or Amazon!

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations

Let the launch party (and book giveaway) begin. FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY is here.

This week it’s our great pleasure to introduce you to Footer Davis Might Be Probably Is Crazy. It’s funny, it’s got heart and it has characters that feel so real that if I met them at the grocery store, I’d just think, “Huh, there’s Footer and Peavine” and wave. To introduce this fabulous book, we have an interview with author Susan Vaught.

Footer Davis Cvr

One of the things that I loved about Footer Davis Might Be Probably Is Crazy is that there’s a strong visual component. In between the narration, we see copies of Footer’s homework, some of her drawings, interviews from her friend Peavine’s notebook, Footer’s lists, photos, emails, all kinds of stuff. All of which is really fun. Is this how you imagined the book from the start? Or is this something that developed as you went along?

Susan: This was how the book started! Before I had any other piece of the story, I made the drawing of the doodelbug and that homework sheet involving how Bugtussle–the town in the story–got its name. Footer’s voice came to me as I worked through that, a strong, funny girl who wanted to draw, loved to draw, really really STUNK at making art, but insisted on doing it anyway! After that, I just drew out or photographed or created any little bit of the story that Footer would want illustrated. Perhaps the funniest moment came when I decided to make a photo of the mysterious shoe in the woods, and I swiped my son’s tennis shoe for the picture. I can still remember his confused, worried voice following me out the door: “Mom, that’s my shoe. Hey, Mom, where are you taking my shoe? Have you lost your mind? Moooo-ooommm . . . !”

Hey, Mom?

Hey, Mom?

Was the title of this book always Footer Davis Might Be Probably Is Crazy? If not, whose idea was that very funny title? And who is responsible for this fabulous cover design?

Susan: I never get keep my original titles, so no. My lame initial title was, The Bugtussle Chronicles: Serial Killers Don’t Wear Plaid. I’ll have to give my brilliant editor, Sylvie Frank, credit for the very funny and much better version. The cover design belongs to John Hendrix. I loved it the moment I saw it!

Now, the book’s quirky inner art and sketches–the things Footer draws herself–were done by Jennifer Reinhardt, who was given the impossible task of drawing like an 11 year-old who can’t draw! 🙂

Something that I love about this book is the wholeness of the characters. Too often, when I’m reading a book that deals with difficult issues, I feel like the characters can become these cardboard cutouts, kind of role players who are just there so that the author can educate me on something they apparently feel I need to be educated about. It makes me a little cranky, because I suddenly start feeling like I’m reading a pamphlet in a doctor’s office instead of a story. And I signed up for a story.

Footer Davis Might Be Probably Is Crazy deals with all sorts of difficult things. It’s also hilarious. And the characters felt like real human beings to me. It’s life—funny, sad, happy, scary, everything all jumbled together and we’re watching the characters try to make sense of it. Since most of the people who read this blog are writers, I wonder if you could talk briefly about how you go about creating these kinds of characters.

Susan: The first component in the realness of my characters is that many of them carry some bit of my own experience, or the experiences of people I’ve worked with over decades of being a mental health professional. “Write what you know” rings true to me in this respect, that knowing many family members and other people who have bravely faced struggles and kept right on living beautiful lives, gives me many ideas, and lends a touch of reality to characters in my story. The second and even larger component of writing characters, for me, is voice. I have to have the voice of a particular character to move forward, and I tend to write in first person, which allows me the reality of that character, and how that character perceives his/her world. That has benefits and drawbacks, for sure, but for me, it allows the character to have a life of their own as I’m working through the writing.

Susan Vaught

Susan Vaught

We’ll be celebrating Footer Davis Might Be Probably Is Crazy all week on Emu’s Debuts. To enter the drawing to win a free copy, please comment on any post this week.

And if you can’t wait that long, treat yourself to your own copy right now at Square Books Jr., The Flying Pig Bookstore, Barnes and Noble or at your own favorite bookstore.

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations

The Ever-Expanding Table by Susan Vaught

image1

On October 11, 2013, my son wrote an article for Corrine Duyvis at Disability in Kidlit, entitled JB Redmond: What You See . . . And What You Don’t See. JB talked about being a children’s author with a neuromuscular disability (in his case, Cerebral Palsy), and a reader looking to find accurate and compelling representations of himself. Some highlights were, living in his man-cave on a farm in Western Kentucky, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, Twilight, a full-sized suit of armor in his bedroom, 600 movies in his collection, coffee, publishing his first epic fantasy in 2009, and this:

 

“…I’ve never found too many disabled characters in the books I enjoy, unless they’re villains or buffoons. In fantasy, disability tends to equate with evil or sainthood…In science fiction, disability usually gets cured by technology, genetic manipulation, robotic implants or exoskeletons, or advanced surgical techniques and medicines. Disability never seems to be okay, or allowed to exist in futuristic worlds, unless they’re dystopian.”

 

I know what you’re thinking. Wait—what? He has a suit of armor in his bedroom?           image2

 

Why, yes. Yes, he does. This is Sir Rusty. And yes, he’s holding a brand new Nimbus 2000, because, why not, and Harry Potter forever!

 

If you got stuck on the 600 movies, it’s probably closer to 800 now, and he can tell you which numbered slot in his 2 400-DVD jukeboxes you can find every single one of them.

 

As for the epic fantasy, it’s a two-fer, Oathbreaker: Assassin’s Apprentice and Oathbreaker: Prince Among Killers, co-written with me and both published by Bloomsbury, USA

 

The very welcome groundswell of discussion about diverse characters, and how children’s literature might be taking a strong lead in transforming the literal and figurative “face” of what we’re reading to include everyone in our amazing world, brought JB’s article to my mind again. It’s a year later. I know there’s at least one book about to enter the world with a character who has Cerebral Palsy (Peavine Jones in Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy), where the Cerebral Palsy isn’t the focus of the story—in fact it’s barely mentioned. I know this, because I wrote the book. Sadly for JB, Peavine has no magical rocks, doesn’t ride a Pegasus, can’t shape-shift or live forever as a vampire, and hasn’t (yet) visited other planets. Footer’s story isn’t JB’s style. If it doesn’t have robots or a good spell or two, he’s probably giving it a pass. Someone please write a book with people who have Cerebral Palsy in it, living life and being a part of the world. If they could have light sabers or magical powers, or be the long lost ruler of some kingdom in a far away galaxy, that would be seriously peachy, too.

 

image1Which brings me back to this. We do need diverse books. We need diverse books for so very many reasons, not the least of which is, my 30 year-old son has been reading book after book and watching movie after movie, since the moment he understood what swords were, and uttered his first curse in Klingon (he was 8), and more than anything else, he wants to find himself in the pages. He wants to see a true reflection of his life, his hopes and dreams, his experiences, and his stories—just like everyone else.

 

But I also know this: it’s hard to write about his world, in real and accurate ways, unless you’re in it, or unless you share it, or unless you take a lot of time to understand it. Case in point: When JB was 7, I had a real learning experience when I asked him what he wanted more than anything in the world.

 

What I was expecting:

To walk

To be healthy

To marry his then girlfriend (even though she tended to bite)

To rule a sister-free planet full of Mutant Ninja-Turtles

 

What I got:

“To be able to whizz off the porch outside, like Dad.”

 

And, more recently, when his first and only nephew was on the way, and the whole situation got a little scary with his sister and the baby in some distress, I asked him what he was worried about.

 

What I was expecting:

His sister

Anthony (nephew)

Sleeping in the hospital for three solid days with no shower

Indigestion from eating vending machine food

 

What I got:

(Solemn, almost tearful) “I’m afraid I won’t be strong enough to hold him. What if my arms don’t work, and I drop him?”

image3

(No worries, we got this puppy sewn up with magic thread!)

 

Obviously, we don’t just need diverse books—we need diverse authors, too!

 

Diversity isn’t just about color or culture or size or beliefs or religion or gender or any one specific variable. It’s about everything, and everyone. To me, writing books is like bringing people to a beautiful table to share the best meal ever, whatever food they would like, however they would like to eat it.

 

If we bring more people, and more people, a miracle happens…

 

The table just keeps getting bigger.

 

There’s room for everyone.

 

And we gaze around in amazement, wondering why we didn’t realize that all along.

 

Susan Vaught

 

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Filed under Diversity, Writing and Life