Tag Archives: Melanie Crowder

Wish me Well

The last time you all heard from me, I was busy planning. Planning my blog tour, planning my book release, planning my launch party. I was so busy with promotion and all that, well, planning, that I stopped even trying to write.

More on that later. Let’s rewind to the 11th hour when I’d done everything imaginable to make Parched a success, and it was time for me to enjoy the ride.

First, the reviews came tumbling in. Anyone who says this isn’t terrifying is lying! Don’t believe them! But despite all the nervous-making, the reviews have been great! And if you mash the best bits all together, Parched sounds like the most awesome book ever written in the history of the human race. It’s a fun game, (if you’ll forgive me fudging the strict rules of citation and quotation). Let’s play:

Fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (1987) will want this[1] thrilling, imaginative soul quencher. Crowder’s stunning debut is sure to become a modern classic.[2] The writing, especially the descriptions of the drought conditions and extreme thirst, is excellent[3] all the more impressive for its restraint.[4] Makes one want to love the whole world with more courage, gentleness and hope.[5]  ZOMG. ZOMG. ZOMG. EVERYTHING I COULD WANT IN A MIDDLE-GRADE. OMG.[6]

[1] Booklist

[2] Rita Williams-Garcia

[3] School Library Journal

[4] Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal

[5] Elizabeth Phinney, Amazon

[6] Eden, Goodreads

See—that was fun, right? The thing is, you can’t take reviews too personally—positive or negative—if you want to keep writing. But more on the whole writing bit later.

After the reviews came release day.

Launch Party! (Yes, I was smiling that big the entire time!)

Launch Party! (Yes, my smile was that huge the entire time!)

You’d think that seeing your book on a bookshelf in a bookstore would be the most thrilling thing about that day.  And don’t get me wrong—it was great, really great. But by far, the best thing about launching my debut novel was seeing the community that had built up around me rise up and hold my book high for the world to see. It’s the best feeling, ever.

The Emu crew threw me a fantastic blog party, and my agency mates tossed confetti all over facebook and twitter. Fellow Vermont College alums and students posted pics of my book all over the country and penned swoon-worthy reviews. The Lucky 13s celebrated in their own bomb-diggity style. My launch party at Tattered Cover was packed with teachers from my school, buddies from my tennis and soccer teams, family and a few very supportive local writer friends.

It was amazing. Really. I feel so very honored.

It took me a while to come down from all that excitement. Promoting a book and writing a book use very different parts of my brain, and they don’t always play nicely together. But any writer worth her salt will tell you that resting and thinking and reading are as important to the writing process as actually getting the words down on page.

And I still wasn’t quite ready for the writing part…

My book launch ended in some lovely, surprising news. My next two Young Adult novels were picked up by Philomel Books and I signed on for another middle grade with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. That makes three books on the horizon for me. I always wanted a long and varied writing career, and now, there it is, right in front of me.

So last week, I cleaned my office. I put away all my bookmarks and teacher guides, and I celebrated the last leg of my blog tour. It had been about two months since I had worked on one of my stories, since I had written anything other than a blog post or press release.

It was time. I was rested. My mind was quiet and I was eager to get going again.

I’d love to tell you that the words flowed onto the page, that it was a delightful, inspiring week. It was not. I wrote very little, and not very well. By the end of the week, I had 2,000 words, a quantity some writers can crank out in a morning.

But writing is as much about habit and discipline as it is about inspiration. I know how to get myself back into the habit of writing, so that the inspiration is welcome. I know that the words will come, and that they will be good, if not the first time around, then maybe the second, or the third. I’ve got a great community around me who will challenge me and cheer me on as I write my way through this story and the next one, and the one after that.

I am so very proud of Parched. And I will continue to spread the word about this story to schools and libraries and readers, wherever I can find them. But as people much wiser than I have said, the best part of your writing career should always be your work in progress.

So off I go, to get to work. Wish me well, Emus.

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Parched cover imageThis is Melanie’s last post as an Emu’s Debut. In the future, you’ll find her up in the Emu Emeriti tab, or in the comments section, or at her own website: www.melaniecrowder.net.

She graduated in 2011 with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Melanie is the author of PARCHED (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013) and AUDACITY (Philomel, 2015).

 

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Filed under Book Promotion, Book signing, Celebrations, Editor, Farewell, Happiness, Promotion, Thankfulness, Writing

The PARCHED Effect: EMUs on Books That Affect Us

PARCHED opens in a dusty, drought-ridden African tundra where children who once enjoyed fountains now struggle to locate life-sustaining water. It’s a book that tackles tough subjects, but one that debut author Melanie Crowder hopes will “cause young readers to grapple with important questions; to weigh the great good and the great evil that humans are capable of.”

In short, this book challenges readers to see the world as larger than the scope of their own experience and to be active in bringing about the kind of world they would wish to live in.

As EMU authors, we are also avid readers. We all recall a book from our childhood that changed our perceptions of the world and shaped who we are today. I asked our EMUs to reflect on books that affected them as young readers and what lessons from those titles have stuck with them.

Joshua McCune
dunctonwoodThe most influential book for me was William Horwood’s DUNCTON WOOD, an epic war story, an epic love story of two moles trying to find their way in a dark world. It touched me b/c the MC was the prototypical loner/outcast who overcame great odds to achieve his dreams. What I most appreciated about it was that the characters were all fully drawn, with shades of gray. These moles were very human!

That, however, was an ‘adult’ book, one that still resonates deeply with me. On a younger level, ENDER’S GAME was the coolest book in the world. That plot twist at the end. Mind blown. Definitely one of those books that inspired me to want to write. The fact that SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD was even better….holy wow!

Adi Rule
There are two books that changed my life as a kid, in two different ways. One was THE CELERY STALKS AT MIDNIGHT by James Howe, which was really instrumental in shaping my sense of humor. American mainstream humor in the 80s was broad and zany, but CELERY—and the other books in the Bunnicula series—exposed me to much drier, language—and timing-based humor, which resonated with me much more and shaped how I write today. The other book that changed my life was RABBIT HILL by Robert Lawson. What I love about this book is that the lives of all the animals on the hill are changed by simple acts of compassion. I read a lot of books with great environmental/social messages as a kid, but RABBIT HILL is a story that, rather than being a call to action on a grand scale, changed me fundamentally as a human being.

thewestinggamePat Zietlow Miller
When I was in middle school, my aunt—who was a librarian—gave my sister and me THE WESTING GAME and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. I was enthralled by both. I loved Turtle and her commitment to winning the game, and Jess and his commitment to being Leslie’s friend. Although I don’t think I knew I wanted to be a writer yet, there was something about those stories that filled me with longing and with a sense of possibility. And when I read those books today, I still feel the same way.

Carol Brendler
In 6th grade, my school held a book fair. All the cool girls were raving about this book called EDGAR ALLAN. You HAVE to get a copy, they told me (a much less cool person). So when it was my class’ turn at the fair, I was determined to find that book. And I did—but my classmates had gotten the title wrong. The correct title was EIGHTEEN BEST STORIES BY EDGAR ALLEN POE. Even though I quickly realized it wasn’t the cool kids’ book I’d been expecting, I dived into “The Black Cat” and seventeen other tales of horror and really hard, long words—and I loved it! Every terrifying, phantasmagorical bit.

areyoutheregodTara Lazar
I was crazy about Judy Blume books as a young girl, but when I moved from TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING to ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, it was a shock! Who knew there was such a big jump in maturity from elementary school to junior high? Not me! I was so naive. I was born a Catholic and baptized, but my Catholic parents were so disillusioned with the religion after spending their entire lives in Catholic school (my dad was even an altar boy), that we never set foot in church again. I was happy that I had my Sundays free to ride my bike, but I was still curious about religion and God. Margaret made me question religion and the meaning of God as she tried to make sense of her conflicting, dual religious heritage. Moreover, Margaret introduced me to bras and periods and boys and kissing and all that girly stuff I was too embarrassed to ask my mom about. That book made me realize I was slowly becoming my own person, independent of my parents. It helped me to carve out my own identity.

Tell us, what book affected you as a young reader?

parched

Congratulations again to Melanie Crowder on the release of PARCHED

And thank you for joining us for the release party this week!

Lastly, drumroll please…

The winner of PARCHED from our launch party giveaway is:

DONNA GWINNELL WEIDNER!

Congratulations!

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Truth vs. Fiction: How realistic is PARCHED?

One of the things that struck me most about PARCHED is the love, loyalty, compassion, and friendship that the main characters demonstrate despite the great traumas they go through and the turmoil all around them. I’ve asked Dr. Cheryl Bildner, a licensed clinical psychologist, to join us today to address how realistic some of those reactions would be in the real world. Dr. Bildner provides testing, evaluation, and counseling services for children and adults, so she has experience working with young people in distress.

Cheryl Bildner, PhD.

 

LAT: Welcome to Emu’s Debuts, Cheryl! Thanks for visiting and sharing your professional expertise with us. What happens to children when their region, community, and/or family suffers a major upset—such as happens to Sarel and Musa in PARCHED? How well does the fiction in this case match with reality?

CB: Most children thrive on structure. With structure, children know what to expect, which enables stability, expectation and presence of mind. Children do not have to worry about what will happen next and will understand that a given event will result in a given consequence.

Children seek certainty and often unknowingly prefer rules and order. When crises erupt, rules and structure often break down, leaving individuals vulnerable. Typical rules of conduct, social norms, and typical cause-and-effect relationships no longer apply. Individuals are left with this sense of uncertainty; anxiety ensues.

Without expectations, individuals can no longer predict with any certainty what their experience will be like. There is no prior history to draw from to know how to behave and no anticipated consequences. The script is new.

 

LAT: This matches well with what we see in PARCHED. I don’t want to give away any plot points or spoilers, but the scenes where Sarel tries to deal with a major blow certainly have this feel to me. Sarel basically shuts down for a little while, because she just doesn’t know what to do next. What happens to children psychologically in a situation like this?

CB: Stress. Stress can initially be beneficial to a person causing the individual to respond in unprecedented ways. Stress can elicit a rush of adrenalin enabling individuals to engage in superhuman acts. Stress can drive us forward and enable us to achieve goals previously unachievable and adapt to circumstances that have never before been encountered. Stress can trigger individuals to cope in new ways. Stress can challenge the individual to levels that they have not previously reached. Stress can lead to strength, determination, creativity and development.

Parched cover image

 

LAT: Yes, I think we see this in both Musa and Sarel, as they find the strength and resolve to go on after their initial upsets. I usually think of stress as a bad thing, though.

CB: Although initially a positive force, over time, stress can wear at the psyche as well as the body and result in negative emotional and physiological changes. Stress can be manifested in an unsettled mind, gastrointestinal issues, respiratory issues, immune deficiencies, cardiac issues, pain, and skin issues. Stress can also result in clinical conditions including anxiety and depression. Long-term exposure to stress may lead to poor behavioral choices, negative effects on social relationships, changes in sleep, and changes in mood.

In a time of long-term uncertainty, individuals can establish new patterns and relationships that are not typical of their day-to-day experience. Neighbors, acquaintances and strangers can develop relationships built on their common trauma. Relationships may push into unprecedented realms. Former adversaries may come together and unite to accomplish a superordinate goal, e.g., survival. People can establish new bonds with animals that help them reduce stress and create a fleeting or temporary “normal.” Working relationships may form that may not have been previously imagined or predicted.

Crises may push individuals to their physical and emotional limits. However, once resolved, these crises may elicit growth on many levels and propel one’s human experience.

 

LAT: Oh, yes! I think we see this in the strong bonds between Sarel and her dogs, as well as the way the relationship with Musa and Sarel unfolds and deepens throughout the story. And even though their situation is far from stable in the end of the book, they have both experienced a great deal of growth. I think that is what makes it such a satisfying story, and one of the reasons that it resonated with me so deeply.

Cheryl, it was a pleasure talking with you, and fascinating to hear the “real story” behind a story like this one. Thank you so much for stopping by today to discuss the truth that lies behind the fictional world of PARCHED!

 

Remember, you could win a free copy of PARCHED at the end of the week just by leaving a comment below! And, if you missed the excerpt on Monday, go back and read the first three chapters here.

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Where to buy PARCHED:

IndieBound   Barnes & Noble   Amazon  Books-A-Million   Indigo Books   Powell’s Books

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Celebrating PARCHED: Water Around the World

ParchedCoverMelanie Crowder’s incredible novel PARCHED, which launches this week, is set in a world where water is so scarce that people will kill for access to it. For those of us who live in the USA or another highly developed country—where clean water flows out of taps in our homes whenever we need it—this story may read like highly imaginative fiction. But for people in other parts of the world, it’s already much closer to reality than we might realize.  (In a situation that is eerily parallel to the one in PARCHED, this recent New York Times article reported that people are currently killing each other over water access in the drought-stricken country of Yemen.)

From 2009-2011, I was lucky enough to backpack around the world and visit many developing countries. Because of these experiences, Melanie asked me if I would help celebrate the launch of PARCHED by sharing some of what I learned about water around the world: how people use it, what it means to different cultures, and solutions that people have used for centuries to conserve it.

So without further ado, here are some interesting water facts and stories from my travels.

1) Tea ceremonies.

In several of the desert countries I visited, tea ceremonies were popular, but perhaps nowhere as much as in Mauritania, in the western Sahara desert. There, tea was served in tiny glasses after being poured back and forth until each glass had developed a head of foam worthy of a Guinness. Then the entire brewing and pouring ritual would be repeated three times over the course of an hour. I was impressed with how much the ritual accomplished: it brought people together socially, killed time under the hot desert sun, purified water for drinking through boiling, and quenched drinkers’ thirst using relatively little liquid.

Mauritanian tea ceremony

Tiny cups of caffeinated liquid were also popular in Venezuela (tinto)…

Tinto in Venezuela

…and India (masala chai).

Chai in India

2) Water-dependent architecture.

In Mali, another western African nation, many structures are built out of mud bricks—meaning that whether structures stand or fall is dependent on the availability of water. Making the bricks themselves is a weeks-long process that can only take place at certain times of year, when there is enough water to form the mixture but also enough sun to dry them.

Mud bricks drying in Mali

Cracking mud bricks

Structures made out of mud brick—such as the world’s largest mud-brick mosque, in Djenné—are then eroded by the annual rains and need to be repaired when the dry season comes again.

World's largest mud-brick mosque

3) Saved from slavery—by water.

Continuing through West Africa to Benin, 20,000 people live in stilted structures in the village of Ganvié, in the middle of Lake Nokoué. This village was established in the 17th century by the Tofinu people, who were trying to escape slavers from a different ethnic group called the Fon. The Fon’s religion forbade them from entering the water, so by building their homes on the lake, the Tofinu people were saved.

Stilt village in Benin

Today, their descendants trap fish using underwater nets and fences.

Fish traps in Benin

4) Bathrooms that conserve water.

Who says you need water to have a toilet? At the Green Turtle Eco-lodge in Ghana, indoor toilets are self-composting, using pits dug deep into the earth. You keep the lid down when the toilet’s not in use, and further control odor by dumping a scoop of ashes into the toilet after you use it.

Composting toilet in Ghana

In Indonesia, a traditional bathroom looks like this: a squat toilet and a mandi (or water basin). Whether you need to flush the toilet, wash your hands, or shower, you simply scoop the water you need out of the mandi and pour it where you need it. Since you can’t “leave the shower on” while lathering (and probably wouldn’t want to anyway—the water is cold!) much less water is wasted this way.

Mandi in Indonesia

5) Capturing rainwater.

Sri Lanka has an amazing collection of man-made water “tanks,” or reservoirs, that were dug by hand between the 3rd century B.C. and the 12th century A.D., well before Europeans were using similar technology. These tanks were built to capture rainwater and irrigate dry areas, and continue to do so today. (Also, they are pretty to look at!)

Water tank in Sri Lanka

Another water tank in Sri Lanka

6) Natural cisterns.

Madagascar is famous for its crazy-looking baobab trees. Their thick trunks hold hundreds of liters of water, which can be tapped by humans in dry periods.

Baobab in Madagascar

More baobabs in Madagascar

Thanks to my travels, I’ll never again take clean water, running water, or hot water for granted—and I think that the readers of PARCHED will come away with a similar appreciation for the easy access we have to water in the developed world.

Have your own travels or life experiences exposed you to any surprising methods for using or conserving water? We’d love to hear about them in the comments. And remember that commenting gives you a chance to win a copy of PARCHED signed by Melanie Crowder!

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Where to buy PARCHED:

IndieBound   Barnes & Noble   Amazon  Books-A-Million   Indigo Books   Powell’s Books

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Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Stars, her debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com.

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The Longest Journey Starts with a Single Book

Anyone one who has ventured to write a book can tell you it is a journey. A journey with many dead ends, missteps, stomped toes and the occasional rejection-letter mugging.  A journey that, to quote J.R.R. Tolkien, goes ever, ever on. After passing through the Golden Gate of the Book Deal, the debut novelist continues on the journey, through the Quagmire of Revision, the vast, parched Wastes of Waiting for feedback, the foggy, slightly toxic Swamps of Reviewland, and up the blog tour/buzz building slope to the great pinnacle of THE RELEASE PARTY!!!!

ParchedCoverMelanie Crowder’s amazing new book PARCHED is also about a journey. The journey of two kids and a group of dogs that must seek out water to survive, and a landscape made harsh by drought and human cruelty.

Both Melanie and this wonderful book have a journey yet ahead of them as the book enters the world, finds its readers, encounters all the ups and downs a new book and author experience in the world.

But before we go there, let’s reflect on the road we’ve been on shall we? And by “we” I mean Melanie and her book. Okay, actually, I just mean her book. Because while poor Melanie was chained to her desk, slogging through the metaphorical land of Publishatopia, her book was seeing the world. Her ARC (Advance Reader Copy) was too hot to stay put. Much like the characters within its pages, PARCHED ventured out, seeking what it needed to survive:

water

readers

fans.

It seems to have no trouble on all fronts.  It started in Boulder, Colorado, where Tara Dairman  and her cat enjoyed it thoroughly. Given that the one of the main characters is a dog, the fact that the cat enjoyed it is a real testament to the quality of this book! Here’s what Quincy and his pet Tara had to say about the book:

Quincy“Even though a dog is a major character, Quincy gives PARCHED two paws up, with bonus grumpy stare for the water warlords who menace Sarel and Musa. (Please don’t tell him that the dog chapters were his owner’s favorites in the book!)”

After devouring the story in a single afternoon, Tara passed it on to me, Jeannie Mobley. I took it out to the edge of a drought-starved lake and fell into its story of beauty and ugliness, hatred and friendship, struggle and triumph. An amazing, thought provoking read!

IMG_0662

Then I sent it on to a land less PARCHED than my own, the Pacific Northwest, where it was enjoyed by Jeanne Ryan and Laurie Thompson

JeanneSeattle

LauriePacificNW

As for Laurie, she says:

” I have a terrible memory. Most characters and plot lines, however enjoyable and engaging at the time, slip right through soon after I’ve put the book down. Not so with PARCHED. It has stuck with me, and will continue to stick with me for a long time. In addition to the story itself, I think it is because there are so many contrasts in this little book: the violence and brutality of the action versus the poetic, beautiful language; the harshness of the landscape versus the tender love between Sarel and her dogs; the drive toward self-preservation versus the will to be compassionate. I love that it isn’t exactly clear where or when the story takes place, which makes it feel like it could be anywhere at anytime, and somehow that makes it feel that much more real and immediate. I don’t think you can read PARCHED and not have a heightened appreciation for the water, safety, and–of course–dogs in your life.”

After a stint in the cold, moist part of the world, PARCHED decided it needed an environment a bit more familiar, so it set off for San Antonio, where it was enjoyed, along with a little cat poop, by Anubis, Boots, and Josh (although how many indulged in the cat poop I can’t say for certain). Click on the image to read their five star/four paw review.

SanAntonio

But wait, the dogs aren’t the only ones with an opinion! Josh says:

“In a blurb, I read that it’s intended for 10-14 year olds, but this is definitely one of those books that transcends age. Spare yet complex, gut-wrenching yet heart-warming… yeah, it’s one of those books. Plus, you know, it’s got a dog POV in it. Nuff said.”

PARCHED next traveled to New York City, where Laurie Crompton took it out to Time Square. (About this time, Melanie was at her desk writing blog interviews and filling out her publisher’s author questionnaire. Ah, the glamorous life of the novelist.) Next time, Melanie, chain the book to the desk and you take the trip!

NYLaurie

MainLLBAnnaBoll

It continued along the East Coast to Maine, where, unlike it’s main characters, it found ample water in the L.L. Bean fish pond. Anna Boll, it’s hostess in Maine, designed a teacher’s guide.  Of the book, she says

“the beauty of the writing and the characters will hold on to your emotions and not let go until you’ve finished the entire story.”

She, however, did let go of the ARC, which made its way to Claire Caterer in Kansas City, where water lingered in the form of snow.

KansasCityClaireCaterer

Snow or no snow, PARCHED didn’t leave Claire cold. Here’s what she thought:

“In spare, perfect sentences, Crowder conveys the emotions of these two children and even Nandi, the dog leader who shares in the narration. The detail is sharp, for all its ambiguity. The story is beautiful, for all its stark reality. It’s not a difficult read, but it is a deep one, one that kids and adults alike will not forget.”

After spanning the country, PARCHED was still restless. After all, it had found water, met dogs, and even impressed a cat, but lets face it. The L.L. Bean fish pond hardly seems a worthy body of water for a book destined for greatness. It needed more.

There are TWO great works of art in this photo!

There are TWO great works of art in this photo!

So, here it is one more time, at Rome’s famous Trevi fountain–a water source befitting the artistry of Melanie’s book. What’s that in my other hand, you ask? That is my coin, which I threw, according to tradition, with my right hand over my left shoulder so that my wish will come true.  And my wish? That great things will come for Melanie and her book. Not that magic wishes are needed for that to happen with a book this good!

Congratulations, Melanie, on your stunning debut, a book that will leave readers thirsting for more!

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Where to buy PARCHED:

IndieBound   Barnes & Noble   Amazon  Books-A-Million   Indigo Books   Powell’s Books

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PARCHED!!!!

Want an amazing story? Slake your thirst with Melanie Crowder’s debut, PARCHED, which officially hits shelves tomorrow! We’re gonna be slaking and celebrating all week here at EMU’s Debuts.

Did I say A-MAZING? This book is a master’s class in crisp, evocative prose. Never mind that the story is both timely and timeless. This book is seriously kick ass! But don’t take my word for it. Check out the first three chapters below.

Told you. Kick ass. Want to read more about Nandi, Musa, and Sarel-girl’s struggle for survival? You can find it  here or here or here.

CONTEST ALERT, CONTEST ALERT!!! Comment between now and Thursday, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Melanie’s debut. The lucky winner will be announced Friday!

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Where to buy PARCHED:

IndieBound   Barnes & Noble   Amazon  Books-A-Million   Indigo Books   Powell’s Books

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Teacher Appreciation Week

This is a book I wrote in elementary school. The definitive sequel to Julie of the Wolves, in which the main character travels to San Francisco to live with her pen-pal. Why yes, I did the cover art myself! Don’t you think the dress made out of white-out is a nice touch?cover

My fourth grade teacher really earned this dedication (and not just for saving his laughter for the teacher lounge!)

dedication

Finally, the “About the Author” page.

about the author

(As it turns out, I am much better suited to be a writer than a marine biologist.) —Melanie Crowder

I was very fortunate to have teachers from an early age who encouraged my writing. Mrs. Wandschneider told me to keep writing when I was in fourth grade. In fifth grade, Mr. Holm laughed so hard at one of my poems that he cried. In seventh grade, Mrs. Mueller said something I wrote gave her chills. And, in high school, Mr. Harrell relentlessly pushed me to get better and Mrs. Veidemanis had me read Nora Ephron for inspiration. Thanks to them, I always saw myself as a writer, which made all the difference. —Pat Zietlow Miller

I had so many great teachers, I really don’t want to pick just one. Instead, I’d like to say thank you to each and every one of them. I was always a rule follower who loved school, but I’m still sure it wasn’t easy teaching the shy little know-it-all hiding in the back reading the paperback tucked inside her textbook. These days, my son has a favorite teacher from an earlier grade whom he still talks about nearly every week. In his words, she is the best teacher ever, because, he says, “She never told us what to do, she just inspired us to do it.” Not an easy feat to pull off, but such a lofty goal for all of us to aspire to, I think. —Laurie Ann Thompson

Most of my teachers were outstanding, The rest get to have a villain named after them in my novels. But seriously, having been a teachers’ aide, I can tell you firsthand that teachers are *way* under-compensated for their work and that they deserve those summers off (even though most of them continue working or furthering their education over the summer). —Carol Brendler

My favorite teacher was Cookie Schneiderman, although I never dared call her “Cookie”. I couldn’t figure out WHY her name was Cookie, but I thought it was pretty awesome and I wanted to change my name to Cookie, too!

Mrs. Schneiderman just happened to be my neighbor–our backyards shared a common wooded space. All my third grade classmates thought I snuck over there to steal test answers, but I was invited over for milk and cookies (real cookies) and chats about books and writing.

I admit, I was the teacher’s pet. It was obvious from the first day of school when she asked me to help pass out name tags. The other kids rolled their eyes and coughed “pet”, but I thought it was a privilege to be the teacher’s favorite. I strove to impress her.

Unfortunately I don’t recall exactly what she told me about writing, but she encouraged me and didn’t laugh when I said I wanted to be like Roald Dahl and Judy Blume. She let me write extra-long stories when the assignments were only 100 words–she knew I wanted to go further.

I’ve been trying to get in touch with Mrs, Schneiderman, but so far no luck. Are you out there, Cookie? Let’s get together for milk and chocolate chip. —Tara Lazar (nee Mahon)

From elementary school through college, I had so many teachers who encouraged my writing that I feel bad singling out just one! But I would like to share my appreciation for my 9th-grade English teacher, Lois Bassen. She was a published and produced playwright, and probably the first adult I’d ever met who was a serious writer. I still remember the big creative writing assignment she gave us for the year: write a fairy tale and then use the ideas of psychologist Bruno Bettelheim to analyze it. It was a revelation to think that something I wrote might be as worthy of close reading and analysis as classic Greek myths and great European novels (which Mrs. Bassen did a great job of teaching us, too). That class was the place where I started to realize that becoming a published author wasn’t necessarily a pipe dream, but something that hard-working real people could accomplish. —Tara Dairman

…and to round it out, Laurie wrote an entire post on the topic here!

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Melanie Crowder Author PhotoMelanie Crowder graduated in 2011 with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the forthcoming middle grade novel, PARCHED (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013). A West Coast girl at heart, Melanie now lives and writes in the beautiful (if dry) state of Colorado.

Visit her online at melaniecrowder.net.

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Filed under Education, Thankfulness

It’s Blog Tour Time

Pat posted on Monday about patience, about the time between stages in the publishing process. I’m on the homestretch with my debut, PARCHED. Under two months to go until release day and, yep, it’s all about patience.

… and promotion

Right now, that means I’m working on my blog tour. While the brick and mortar tour isn’t realistic for most authors today, we can still travel the country, and even the world, virtually.

What is a blog tour, you ask?

Well, a blog tour is a series of interviews, author guest posts, photo blogs, video blogs, reviews and special features where an author hops from one book blogging website to another in the weeks around her release.

There are a few ways you can do this:

1) Let your publicist arrange the whole thing.
2) Contract one of the many children’s and YA book blogs who offer the service for a fee to arrange and host your blog tour for you.
3) Do it all yourself.

Any guesses as to which option I chose?
Yep. Number 3.

The great thing about setting it up all by myself is that I get to choose the sites I think will best suit my story. I get to meet lots of enthusiastic kidlit folks and reach a wider audience than I would otherwise.

So, since nobody really told me how to do this, or what a blog tour should look like, I made up my own rules. They look something like this:

1) Find awesome bloggers who love middle grade lit. Send them an email. If they are too busy, don’t take it personally. If they are interested, awesome.
2) Don’t worry if the dates get a little scattered. Getting that many people’s schedules to line up perfectly is crazy-making (and, seriously, who is counting?)
3) Pick an end point and stop there. Remember, all those posts you line up are like homework assignments –fun and interesting assignments—but work all the same. Don’t sign yourself up for more than you can handle.

So that’s my blog tour plan. I lined up 3 weeks (give or take) of great blogs to visit around my June 4 release day. I think it’s going to be fun. Check back in a couple of months and I’ll post the full schedule. For now though, I have to get going … I have some interview questions to answer.

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MC Author Photo CroppedMelanie Crowder graduated in 2011 with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the forthcoming middle grade novel, PARCHED (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013). A West Coast girl at heart, Melanie now lives and writes in the beautiful (if dry) state of Colorado.

Visit her online at melaniecrowder.net.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Promotion

The Run/Rest Cycle

If you didn’t already know, March is Iditarod season. Mushers and their dogsled teams are racing right now across Alaska. In order to travel over 1,000 miles of mountain ranges, ice cold water, snow-blown tundra and sea ice, the musher has to plan for a sustainable yet fast run/rest cycle. However long and hard the dogs have run determines how long they need to rest to recover for the next push on down the trail.

My writing buddy Hannah with a team of her family's dogs. There is nothing like Alaska!

My writing buddy Hannah with a team of her family’s dogs. Isn’t Alaska amazing!

I find that the same is true for writing. I have my own patterns of run and rest times. I push through a draft, or revision notes, waking up early before work every day to get in an hour of that great clear-headed first-thing-in-the-morning writing time. But when the draft is off, to beta readers or just sitting in a drawer for a few weeks, I take a much-needed rest. I read books, I watch TV, and I catch up on laundry and exercise.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I need space from my manuscript. We need time away from each other for ideas to simmer, for problems to rise to the surface, and most importantly, for me to regain objectivity.

But there is another thing that happens when I allow myself to rest. When my active mind has stopped working on the story, my subconscious mind gets going. I’m not sure how to describe what happens next for me . . .

It’s like I’m in a tunnel on a mine cart, sitting comfortably, looking at my lovely story. But then the cart begins to move out of the dark tunnel and into the sunlight. I’m on sensory overload: the sounds and smells, the depth of vision, the contrast of light and dark.

Suddenly, the possibilities for my story have blown right open. The bar has been raised, and a new goal for the project (a goal I wasn’t even aware of being able to reach for before) materializes.

What would happen if I didn’t give myself that rest, if I didn’t take long, intentional steps away? I believe that my stories would be doomed to mediocrity, that I would be severely limiting myself and my work.

It’s hard. It’s really hard to get going again after a rest, once I realize all that needs to be done. I know how difficult that work is going to be, and often I’m not even sure how to go about it.

Just like the mushers, I’d imagine. The trail ahead might have strong headwinds or glare ice, or soft, deep snow that slows the team down. You’re sore from ski-poling and your voice is hoarse from cheering on your dogs through blowing snow (and this year, rain!) But you love the unexpected journey, the rugged trail, or you wouldn’t be out there. So you push through. And when you finally reach the finish line, all that hard work is worth it.

Right now, I’m resting. Soon, my readers will get back to me, and I’ll start running again. But for the next few days at least, I’ll be watching the race up north, cheering on my favorite team, and gathering strength for the next stretch of trail ahead of me.

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MC Author Photo CroppedMelanie Crowder graduated in 2011 with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the forthcoming middle grade novel, PARCHED (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013). A West Coast girl at heart, Melanie now lives and writes in the beautiful (if dry) state of Colorado.

Visit her online at melaniecrowder.net.

12 Comments

Filed under craft~writing, Writing and Life

Zen and the Art of Book Promotion

The whole point of Emu’s Debuts is that we’re beginners here. We’re figuring this out as we go. No matter how long we hoped and worked and dreamed that we would be published, for all of us, this is our first time out of the gate.

It’s like parenting. You can’t practice, not really. You can’t prepare, though countless self help books and seminars would have you believe otherwise. There is a steep learning curve. For everyone.

These days, authors are expected to be very active in promoting their books. This introverted, often painfully shy sector of society is supposed to suddenly transform into a dervish of charming, bubbly wit. There now, I’ve made writers sound dull, haven’t I? It’s not that—it’s just that sometimes we are more comfortable in our imagined worlds than we are in the real one.

There are plenty of informational articles and even entire blogs that spell out exactly what an author should do in each of the 12 months leading up to launch day. Here is a short list, just to give you an idea:

  • sign up for twitter
  • contact book sellers
  • print bookmarks
  • design catchy tie-in temporary tattoos
  • build a website
  • tweet
  • make a book trailer
  • plan a cover reveal
  • arrange a blog tour
  • make a press kit
  • host giveaways
  • tweet
  • contact media outlets
  • present at conferences
  • sign up for ARC tours
  • plan a launch party
  • schedule school visits
  • tweet some more

Really, I could go on. And on. And on. If you let it, promotion can completely take over.

The thing is, nobody is going to remember my fancy press kit. And those temporary tattoos are going to fade after a shower or two. But our young readers will remember our stories.

I have just over three months until Parched hits the shelves. In that time, I’ll pick and choose from the list above, doing the things that will connect me with bloggers and teachers and librarians, with the kids who have been craving a story just like this one.

But most of the time, I won’t even be thinking about marketing and promotion. I’ll be writing.

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MC Author Photo CroppedMelanie Crowder graduated in 2011 with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the forthcoming middle grade novel, PARCHED (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013). A West Coast girl at heart, Melanie now lives and writes in the beautiful (if dry) state of Colorado.

Visit her online at melaniecrowder.net.

13 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Book Promotion, Promotion, Social Media