Tag Archives: reading

Don’t Know Who Anna Crowley Redding is? GOOGLE IT!

She’s smart. She’s curious. She’s dig-down-deep determined to get her story. Meet today’s dazzling debut, the one and only Anna Crowley Redding!Google It!

Anna, I’m excited your first book—GOOGLE IT! A History of Google—is on bookshelves at last. Young readers will love learning about how Google—the idea, the software, the company, the verb, the proprietary eponym—began and how it became what it is today.

How did you decide to write this book?

Holly West, my brilliant editor at MacMillan’s Feiwel & Friends, first approached my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. Then Holly called me to talk about her idea… a book about Google! I jumped at the chance! It’s a fascinating company and the people and very human experience behind the company is compelling, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant.

Before you began writing for children, you were a real-life investigative reporter, and I have a picture to prove it!AnnaCR 1

How did you decide to become a journalist?

Becoming a journalist was a path I began walking as a child. I have always loved writing, loved to find stuff out (and tell everybody)! I also have a deep sense of justice and advocacy, a respect for the truth and for fighting for people. That’s a fundamental part of journalism, caring about people and telling their stories in a way that gets others to connect with them.

What education and training did you need to start off in television reporting? 

I earned my journalism degree from Northeastern, and they require students to work in their chosen field as part of the curriculum.

I remember walking into New England Cable News (NECN) for the first time. News was breaking. There was a mad rush to the set, and people were barking information and directions. It was chaos, but it was a special chaos. It made sense to me. Then came the countdown, and on cue, massive professionalism and topnotch storytelling. I knew had to do this work.

Back in the olden days, we had radio, newspapers, and scheduled television news programs. That’s it. Today’s journalists-to-be can’t imagine our limited access to information. We couldn’t Google anything!

What’s exciting for young journalists today, those just learning their craft, is the opportunity to start reporting right now using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.

Can you tell us about what the work was like? What did you enjoy? What was difficult?

There was a lot that I loved. The camaraderie of the entire team, the thrilling pace, those instances where storytelling or digging into an investigation really changed someone’s life were deeply satisfying. And newsrooms are rife with humor. It’s how we got through the raw, emotional intensity of the work. I loved the head-thrown-back belly laughing.

But the schedule is punishing. When you first get in to the news business, the intensity is super fun. Eventually, it can be tiring. The news cycle is insane, and I feel for reporters who sacrifice themselves (time with family, sleep, vacations, you name it) to cover it all. And then to face massive admonition? It’s tough. Balance is not a word often used in newsrooms.

How does your experience with journalism inform your new job? 

Writing nonfiction books is an extension of journalism in a longer format. The years of working on deadline, digging for details and facts, reaching out to people for information or interviews, and finally organizing everything into a cohesive story, all of it helps.

I’m fascinated, but we should get back to GOOGLE IT! *inserts giant picture*IMG_8310

What was it like to retell Google’s history in a kid-friendly, kid-interesting way?

Our middle schoolers and teens are so smart. I tried to approach the subject in a way that really honored that. For me, that meant having fun with it while also being cognizant of making sure I explained terms specific to business or technology.

One of the most important and interesting things I learned from researching Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page is how to take life’s problems, any problems, and look at them as a puzzle that needs to be solved and can solved.

A message we all need to hear and sure to resonate with many readers. Thanks for letting me pepper you with questions, Anna. I have just one more:

What is the weirdest, most random topic you’ve ever Googled, Anna?

Cliffhanger 2

(Cliffhanger! Tune in to Emu’s Debuts tomorrow for Anna Crowley Redding’s answer to this all-important question. There will also be a funny story involving Anna and a baseball.)

 

GIVEAWAY ALERT! To celebrate the launch of Google It: A History of Google,  Teachers and Librarians have a chance to win a classroom set of 25 copies! The lucky winner will also receive a classroom set of Google It! bookmarks plus a free Skype visit. A winner will be picked on September 4, 2018. Click here to enter.

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Hayley's Author Photo-2 MB-JPEGAbout 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. GIRL VS. SQUIRREL, a funny STEM-based picture book illustrated by Renée Andriani, is coming from Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House in spring 2020. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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The Emus’ Favorite Reads of 2015

We’re drawing to the close of 2015, and it’s been another great year of writing and reading for the Emus! Here are some of the titles we adored most this year:

PICTURE BOOKS

archieDebbi Michiko Florence: BUNNIES by Kevan Atteberry. Laugh out loud funny and cute!bunnies

Jason Gallaher: For an Antarctic, Literally Laughing Out Loud PB moment, everyone should read ARCHIE THE DAREDEVIL PENGUIN by Andy Rash. These are the most hysterical penguins you’ll ever see!

Elaine Vickers: My kids and I fell absolutely in love with two Pat Zietlow Miller titles this year: WHEREVER YOU GO and SHARING THE BREAD. Gorgeous and touching for grownups, and tons of kid appeal too.

MIDDLE GRADE AND CHAPTER BOOKS

Debbi Michikechoo Florence: For middle grade, GOODBYE STRANGER by Rebecca Stead, A HANDFUL OF STARS by Cynthia Lord – both are touching and sweet with characters you ache for. For chapter books, CLEO EDISON OLIVER, PLAYGROUND MILLIONAIRE by Sundee Frazier (but it’s not out till January).

Elly Schwartz: THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander and RAIN REIGN by Ann M. Martin. Loved both. PAPER THINGS by Jennifer Jacobson. EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS by Deborah Wiles (not new in 2015, but new to me), and THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE by our own Janet Fox (coming in March!)moonpenny

Hayley Barrett: K.A. Holt’s HOUSE ARREST is dazzling, and I loved Natalie Llyod’s A SNICKER OF MAGIC.

Tamara Ellis SmithECHO by Pam Muñoz Ryan and CRENSHAW by Katharine Applegate.

Sarvinder NaberhausFISH IN A TREE by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Jennifer Chambliss BertmanI bought Steve Sheinken’s MOST DANGEROUS as a Christmas gift, but couldn’t resist reading it first myself. It’s so good , I’m now gifting it to two people instead of just the one, and I’m keeping the original copy I bought for myself. Another favorite was MOONPENNY ISLAND by Tricia Springstubb. Beautiful writing.

YOUNG ADULT

Janet FoxdeathMartha Brockenbrough’s THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH was a favorite, and Laura Ruby’s BONE GAP!

Elaine Vickers: CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman and CALVIN by Martine Leavitt were both thoughtful and powerful novels about mental
illness that were so beautifully written.

Tamara Ellis Smith: THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough, and DIRT BIKES, DRONES, AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY by Conrad Wesselhoeftsimon

Elly Schwartz: FAT ANGIE by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Jason Gallaher: The book that blew me away this year was Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. This is the kind of book that scared-to-come-out 15-year-old me would have felt so comforted and reassured and Holy-Moly-I’m-Not-Alone to have read. Plus, it’s got one of the cutest YA couples ever!

Thanks for participating, Emus! And readers, what were your favorite books of 2015?

 

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Why Writers Should Be Readers

galley box largeAs a writer of books for children, the most difficult thing for me to admit is that I wasn’t a big reader when I was a child (which is very a-typical for kidlit authors). I read and loved a lot of picture books during my elementary school years, and then some Amelia Bedelia early readers, but I can literally name—on just two hands—the novels I remember finishing before I graduated from high school. They were pretty much all by Judy Blume and Roald Dahl.

I look back now and can’t figure out exactly why I wasn’t a big reader—my parents both read incessantly and took me to the library all the time—but I have a clue. Truth be known, reading was difficult for me. More often than not, I felt frustrated because I would read five or ten pages and then realize I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t remember which character was which or how they knew one another. I didn’t feel attached to the story at all. As it turns out, I had a learning disability that I didn’t know about until I was in college. But I won’t put a label on it now because this isn’t the point of my post.

The point of my post is to say this: My writing ability has taken a very long time to develop because I wasn’t a big reader until I was in my twenties. And now I’ve been playing catch up for the next twenty years.

I started with non-fiction (typical for a college student), moved on to the adult market, then finally—for the first time in my life—truly discovered the magic of middle grade and young adult novels. And that’s when I fell in love with reading. It became an addiction.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King says, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Reading is, by far, the best thing a writer can do to sharpen his or her storytelling skills. Yes, you also need to write and write and write, for development, but very little improvement will take place if a writer isn’t learning from others through a process similar to osmosis. Exposure to excellent storytelling, and lots of it, can’t help but rub off.

As a reader, the more books you read, the pickier you become about loving a book verses just liking it. Or even finishing it. Right?

The same thing has happened to me as a writer. The more I read, the easier it becomes to pick out what makes a plot work and what hurts it. The characters in a great novel become my friends, and just like it’s simple for me to tell someone what I like about my real-life BFFs, I can more skillfully tell my readers what makes a person attractive or repulsive (at least to me). And I can also better understand, by reading excellent books, what my own weaknesses are as a writer. I struggle with the details of setting—how to make it feel natural without overdoing it—and transitions. (Why is it so darn difficult to move a character from one room or thought to another?!)

But when I see the masters at work, I learn. And I absorb.

And this is another critical element: A writer needs to know and understand the genre and market they’re writing for. If you’ve been involved with critique groups and read enough pages from beginning writers (and believe me, I was one of them, so I’m not knocking anyone), it’s likely that you’ve heard sample pages that don’t fit the parameters of the author’s intended market. Perhaps it’s a picture book with 3000 words. Or the story is about seniors in high school, who should be thinking about college applications and their unattainable crush, but is instead filled with pranks on teachers and middle grade gross-out humor.

Knowing what works in each market, and what doesn’t, is obviously paramount to your success. And you’ll only know this if you’re intimately familiar with your chosen genre.

And then there is pacing. This is another thing I struggle with. I think of a cool scene that I’m dying to get to, or that awesome moment when my two main characters finally get things right, and I want to make it happen that very moment. I want the plot to move over so my characters can make out express everything they’ve been holding back. But the best pacing uses restraint for a slow burn; it builds up for a worth-while reveal. It makes a reader work for the rewards. And it also knows when to push all the details about the carpet and drapery out of the way and get on with the story.

I love that about reading, because good pacing is something that can only be understood through experiencing it. It can’t really be taught, and it’s certainly difficult to master.

Another benefit of continuous reading is recognizing clichés or overdone plots. While it’s true that there are “no new ideas, only new voices” editors likely won’t even read your first page these days—no matter how stellar your writing is—if your pitch tells them that the new girl in school is unavoidably attracted to a mysterious boy who is actually—gasp!—a vampire/werewolf/dark angel. While this pitch in various forms sold book after book about seven years ago, writers who keep up with the ever-changing trends will likely know better than to spend their time on a similar plot (but check back in another seven years).

And the #1 reason to read: isn’t reading THE BEST THING EVER, anyway?

I’m still not a fast reader, and my struggles with attention haven’t entirely faded, but once I get hooked on a good book, I’m gone. I’m in heaven. And I want nothing more than to help my own readers experience this same emotion.

So tell me, what has reading done for your own writing? Has it helped you avoid overdone plots or character types? Honed your skills? Does good writing put you in the mood to work? It surely does that for me!

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IMG_0723-2Amy Finnegan writes Young Adult novels and is a host at BookshopTalk.com. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, will be published by Bloomsbury, Fall 2014. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, and Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author). She is represented by Erin Murphy.

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Filed under Advice, Character Development, craft~writing, Education, reading, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing and Life

Other People’s ARCs

Well, this is fun and unexpected.

The Emus have a tradition of sending their ARCs around to each other before the release date. So every once in a while, I’ll go out to the mailbox and there will be a package with a shiny, brand, brand new book. The fun element of that needs no explanation.

IMG_3833

The unexpected part may require a bit. For me, learning to write has meant reading. Stacks and stacks of books. But it’s a different kind of reading—a take-this-apart-in-my-head-and-figure-out-how-they’re-doing-this kind of reading. An if-this-doesn’t-grab-me-in-the-first-few-pages-I’m-ditching-it-and-moving-to-the-next-one-in-the-pile kind of reading. Necessary, maybe, but a far cry from how I used to snuggle up with a book when I was a kid.

Reading these books is different. It’s not research. I know the person who wrote it. I’m reading it because I’m curious. Because I’m wondering what story she’s managed to tell. Which is really a whole lot better way to read a book.

There are some writers in this group. They can write a book about squash and make it interesting. And funny.

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

They can get you interested in a little kid who has a thing for Vietnamese cinnamon and whisks.

AllFourStars_FINAL

They can combine freshmen and a conservatory in a mysterious forest and opera and this mythic cat which may or may not kill you and this guy who is the only guy in literature who looks good in green sweat pants and it all works. Really.

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

It’s been a lot of fun to be along for the ride and to be reminded of what it feels like to read a book for fun. To, in a way, be reminded of who we’re writing for. The kid who makes her dad read that picture book to her every night for two months. That ten year old who sneaks the flashlight up to his room and then is so pumped when he finishes the book that he has to come down and talk to someone about it even though it will mean ratting himself out about that whole flashlight thing. The sixteen year old girl on the bus that almost misses her stop because she’s gotten to a really good part.

I need to do more of this kind of reading.

 

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed coming out February 9, 2016 (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Waiting by Rebecca Van Slyke

Waiting

Lord, please grant me patience. And I want it RIGHT NOW!

 

Last month I wrote about getting The Call. As with most deals, I had to wait until it was official to be able to share my joy with my family and friends. When I could finally announce something, I got the same reaction over and over: “That’s WONDERFUL! You certainly have waited a long time for this to happen!”

Yes.

Yes I have.

I’ve been waiting to be a “real author” for a long time. When I was four years old, I discovered that books were made by real people. I wanted to be one of those magical people called “authors” and “illustrators.” So I wrote stories on my Big Chief notebook and drew pictures on typewriter paper.

Skipping ahead to college, I took an educational literacy class where the professor offered us this choice: write a research paper, or write a children’s book. That was a no-brainer for me. I spent happy hours writing and illustrating a picture book. The professor liked it so well that he gave me an A… and passed the book along to his publisher. Unfortunately, they did not publish picture books, but it was all the encouragement I needed. The next thirty-mumble years were spent sending manuscripts out. I started with the first story, but gradually added others. I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I joined SCBWI. I learned. I wrote. I sent out new manuscripts. I read. I went to conferences, to classes, to lectures. I learned more. And I waited. Every time I sent out a manuscript I knew that this could be the time.  And it wasn’t. Again and again it wasn’t.

I just went back and re-read this last paragraph and realize how pathetic it sounds. Good gravy, what was wrong with me? Why didn’t I give up? Thirty years without a nibble? That right there is some special kind of stupid.

Except I was making progress, I could tell. I finally took the plunge and decided to do more than take an occasional class. By now I was a teacher, and I did what teachers do. I went back to school. I got a master’s degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. That led to getting an agent. Now I was guaranteed to get an offer.

But the offers didn’t materialize. I watched classmates sell a book. Or several books. I had several near-yesses. I tried not to be jealous. I kept writing. I kept waiting.

A quote from Anne Lamott’s book, BIRD BY BIRD helped:

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

You wait and watch and work. You don’t give up.

So while I waited, I watched and I worked. I cheered on my published friends. I became more involved in my regional chapter of SCBWI. I started giving talks on writing. I critiqued. I mentored. I didn’t give up.  And the dawn DID come. I switched agents, and, after still more waiting, I got The Call in June.

So now that the excitement has settled down, what am I doing? Waiting. Waiting on revision notes, decisions on illustrators, opinions and decisions on new projects.

I have several friends who are waiting to get The Call. They’re close, I can tell. I know because they’re showing up. They’re waiting, and watching, and working.

Some of you reading this are in “waiting for The Call” mode. I need to tell you not to quit. Keep waiting, but while you’re waiting, keep watching for the next opportunity. Will it be a class? A conference? A chance to help someone else on the journey? Keep working to improve your craft. Write. Read strong literature. Illustrate. Study. Read craft books. Show up. And never, never, NEVER quit. Because The Call could be waiting just around the corner for you, too.

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EMU’s Best Under-the-Radar Kids’ Books of 2012!

Well, friends, it’s February now…which I think means that 2012 is truly, officially over. Best-of lists have been made, many literary awards covering the last year have been handed out, and we EMUs heartily congratulate our fellow authors who’ve been honored (including an impressive slew of EMU Emeriti!).

And yet, we can’t help thinking back on our favorite reads of the year—the ones that we couldn’t put down, the ones that made us swoon. The ones that, months later, we keep recommending to the kids (OK, and grown-ups) in our lives, even if they weren’t mega-best sellers or fancy award winners.

I asked a few fellow EMUs to share their favorite books that were published in 2012, focusing on titles that may have flown under the radar a little bit—and of course, they came through with enthusiasm. Looks like everyone’s TBR pile is about to get a little taller…

Carol Brendler

fitzosbornesI loved The FitzOsbornes at War, the third in a trilogy by Michelle Cooper (Knopf). A sort of alternative history of England in the second world war, the book is refreshingly sophisticated, well written, and meticulously and thoroughly researched. While not exactly ignored in the world of children’s literature, it’s one I felt deserved more attention than some of the top sellers.


Adi Rule

SledMy favorite read of 2012 was a picture book—The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! by Rebecca Rule (my mum) & Jennifer Thermes (Islandport Press). What happens when Lizzie, Patty P, Patty H, the Lapierre brothers, and even Chipper the dog decide to haul the long travois sled all the way up the big hill and ride it down?


Pat Zietlow Miller

little dogI will go with Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer (Atheneum). It’s so sad. But it’s so sweet. On so many different levels. It’s such a moving look at loneliness and longing and love. And the writing? Exemplary.


Laurie Ann Thompson

BIGI loved BIG, written by Coleen Paratore and illustrated by Clare Fennell (Little Pickle Press).

Kids always want to be “bigger,” and adults tell children “you can do that when you’re bigger,” but there are plenty of ways little ones can be “big” in a different and much more important sense of the word. This empowering and inspiring book shows how even little children can accomplish some pretty big ideas—like being responsible for themselves and caring for others—and it serves as a gentle reminder to adult readers as well. The illustrations are bright and fun, and they enhance the text beautifully. This is definitely one of my favorite picture books of the year.

CrowAnd if I can add one more, I’d say As The Crow Flies by Sheila Keenan, illustrated by Kevin Duggan (Feiwel & Friends). This nonfiction picture book about crows is the book I was planning to write next, so I was angry and disappointed when I first saw that someone had beaten me to it. Once I saw it, though, I couldn’t be angry or disappointed anymore. It’s true to my idea and exactly what I wanted to accomplish, and it’s executed so, so well. I’m just happy to see it out in the world. Beautiful art, beautiful text, beautiful subject.


Tara Dairman

imgresIn middle grade, I adored Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley (Dial). Clever, quirky, and often just downright hilarious, I think that any shelf containing Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket books can’t be considered complete without it. Really, I defy any reader not to be charmed by this book—it has a pirate character named Captain Rojo Herring, for heaven’s sake.

FairCoin_250x387And in YA, I loved Fair Coin by E.C. Myers (Pyr). Featuring wonderfully believable teen characters and a just-freaky-enough sci-fi concept involving parallel universes, I couldn’t put this book down. It stands alone, but now a sequel, Quantum Coin, is out, too!


So, blog readers, have you read any of our picks? Or do you have any under-the-radar recommendations of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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