Jan 31, 2009

My Favorite Childhood Author

“If you have no imagination then you have no wings.”
~African Poverb

I will always be in debt to Ann M. Martin for making me a reader. Without her books to guide me through the difficult years of early reading I would have simply given up.

But it is Cherie Bennett who I credit with broadening my reading world beyond the Baby Sitter’s Club. After buying Sunset Island in late elementary school I was seduced away from the babysitting life to the exotic world of an au pair. I was the first one in my grade to move away from Ann M. Martin and my copies of the Sunset series were quickly circulating around; through all the girls and even some of the boys.

I admired Cherie and wrote her countless letters. The amazing thing was that she always wrote back. Just a few handwritten lines at the bottom of a form letter, but they meant the world me. (Between 1991 and 1998 Cherie received over 12,000 letters. It is an honor to know some of them were mine. It takes a special kind of author and very dedicated person to answer all her fans personally.)

Recently I was able to reconnect with Cherie briefly and thank her for the joy I felt in receiving her letters. She responded to thank me and shared some sad personal news. I decided to read the book that inspired me to reconnect with her in honor of her news and encourage you to keep her in your thoughts and hearts.

Zink is a powerful novel with a touching back story. It is dedicated in part to her parents and is defined as her by written by her mother. The dedication reads:

“For my parents – Roslyn Cantor, who loves me as much as Diane loves Becky, and Dr. Bennett H. Berman, whose love from a world far, far away inspired me to create Papa Zeke.”

But the book is also dedicated to the memory of a very special little girl. A little girl whose mind and story grew into a play, followed by a novel. Cherie talks about this girl in the Acknowledgements of Zink,

“In 1982, a girl name Kelly Weil was born. In 1991, she was diagnosed with cancer. Two years later, despite spectacular advances in childhood cancer treatment, she was dead.

A few months before her death, Kelly wrote a one-page story about a polka-dotted Zebra named Zink.”

This story was very moving and a great honor to the memory of Kelly. The book is illustrated by various children who have been affected by cancer. It adds yet another layer to the story. And their bios are also included in the back of the book.

Even though I have never met Cherie personally, she is one of the warmest and most generous people I know. As a young adult I even considered her my hero. Thanks again Cherie for all you have given me.

Tags of Happiness

Here are the rules:

Link to the person who has tagged you. The ever awesome Rebecca made me very happy by tagging me…..Wait did I just use one up?
Write down six things that make you happy.
Post the rules, tag six others and let them know you did it.
Then tell the person when your entry is complete!

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1. The way my 3 year old says, “You rock, mom!” out of the blue and all I can do is throw my head back and laugh at her. Then she does the same. Both my kids throw back their head and laugh in an imitation of me which just makes me laugh harder. Incidentally her first word was “dude” so she is all with the cool lingo!

2. I bet you guys are surprised this wasn’t my first answer. BOOKS!!! More specifically when someone is talking about a book and I feel really excited about it and maybe also a little disappointed because the library doesn’t have it and I know I won’t be able to track it down and by then I will have forgotten about it but then like a day or two later I go book shopping and I find the book sitting there waiting for me!!

3. Coffee!

4. When your phone rings and it is an unexpected person who cares about you on the other end and not some telemarketer or someone asking you for money.

5. Christian Bale.

6. Getting to meet new people and especially authors and readers through the internet. I love talking about books and writing with all different types of friends. Thanks to all of you who enrich my reading life.

Tags:

Chelsea
Perpetual Student
Topsurf
Melissa (on facebook)
Patricia (on facebook)
Shalonda (went to tag her and she has already been tagged)
Lauren aka Shoot Stars Mag

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Katie and Kimble Review

I wasn't expecting much out of Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story. Okay honestly, I was expecting a lot, a lot of really bad stinky smelly poo. I don't know exactly why I expected this book to be bad. When I first staring reading it, it seemed to be confirming my suspicions. But as I moved into the story more I ended up really enjoying the story and the idea of friendship between Katie, a little girl, and Kimble, a ghost. Linda focuses on making this a non scary ghost story and I like that positive take on this type of story.

Linda Thieman had done a great job creating support materials for her books. My kids really like the cover (though I am not crazy about it myself) and would really enjoy doing coloring pages relating to the book. I have not read Katie and Kimble to them yet, but I think that they would greatly enjoy it. With all of the great things available on Linda's blog, I think the fairly low price of this book (just under $6) could easily be worth it it and be an enjoyable family reading experience.

You can read Linda's guest post and my interview with her in the archieves of my blog. Be sure to check out the Katie and Kimble blog. (But make sure your sound isn't too loud. Learned that lesson tonight. TWICE.)

Jan 29, 2009

My Favorite Book Club

I talk about my friend Chelsea quite often on my blog. We mostly met because last year she started a book club and we exchanged instant messenger IDs and have been chatting ever since. After a brief book club hiatus we are back in full swing and just completed our first chat of the year. The book club focuses on young adult literature and young adult crossovers, though the members are a variety of ages.

Chelsea is stopping by today to share a bit of the experience. I want to thank her for so accurately expressing what a fun time we had and I hope to see you guys next time. Check out her blog at http://thepageflipper.blogspot.com/

Cover of "The Adoration of Jenna Fox"

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Today was our first book club chat, discussing The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. The first half was spent talking about identity, souls, and what it means to be human. Heavy stuff. Everyone really got into it, and it was a ton of fun dissecting the book and our opinions on it. Science and it's limits was a topic that came up frequently; how far is too far? And who should have the final decision on morally-tough decisions: the government, or the public?

Then, Mary Pearson herself stopped in, and let us ask her a few questions! It was great getting a bit of an insider scoop on a book we'd just been discussing for the past hour.

Two hours later (after some members left), we were fizzling out over the book and switched to zombies, as any sane book club would. We talked about our current reads, our TBR list, and future book club picks. Among many, many other things. Mountain Dew was spilled,

Mountain Dew

souls were sucked, and the nocturnal bonded over caffeine. AND we managed to be productive and strengthen our brains and debating skills.



Next month, we're going to meet again to chat about The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things
by Carolyn Mackler. If you're interested in joining us, or meeting for any future book club chats, just email me (thepageflipper@yahoo.com) expressing your interest, and I'll get you set up for the newsletter. :)
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Linda Thieman Interview

Children’s book author Linda Thieman writes the Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story chapter book series for ages 7 to 10, and runs the Katie & Kimble blog. http://www.katieandkimbleblog.com

Why did you choose to write books for kids?

I worked for years as an English language teacher. During that time, I wrote a lot of low-level materials for adult learners. At the same time, I was getting into fiction writing, so writing books for kids just seemed like a natural outgrowth of that.

At first, in Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story, Kimble, the ghost of a ten-year-old girl, was going to be kind of impish; a mischief maker. The books were going to be more along the line of picture books. But once the story started developing, I knew I’d have to expand beyond that into the realm of chapter books. So, I did some research and chose to write the Katie & Kimble books at RL3, or reading level 3, a loose system based on grade levels. That allowed me to tell more sophisticated stories and really delve into character development.




What advice do you have for young writers?

This is something a writer can do at any age, no matter how young. One thing I did starting at age 12, which I think turned out to be great practice, was to write stories with neighborhood people as characters, and then later, I did the same thing using TV characters. Since these people or TV characters already exist, it saves a step. You can try to capture their personalities on paper instead of having to create characters completely from scratch.

What authors inspire you?

When I was 11, my teacher read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle aloud in class. I never knew, up until that point, that such fiction could exist. Over the years, I have read and re-read the book, and I am particularly moved by the way L’Engle handled Meg’s grief. At the start of the book, Meg’s dad has been missing for over a year, and that really backs up on Meg. She has problems at school because of it and feels the local gossip keenly. It is that kind of realism that I think is lacking in so much of the children’s literature out there. So, in Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story, I wanted to deal with the topics of death and grief in a realistic but non-fear-based way. If Kimble does not have her grief over the loss of her mother addressed, then I’d just be cheating the reader.

I’ve also been inspired by Georgette Heyer. She was an English author who lived from 1902-1974, and she wrote an enormous number of historical Regency novels. Her characterization is awe-inspiring, and it’s something she is really known for. So, as I was beginning to work on the third Katie & Kimble book, Katie & Kimble: The Golden Door, I was sort of at a loss as to how to portray the character of Danny Garcia, a ten-year-old boy who will be a continuing character. But then I read Heyer’s novel Frederica. In Frederica, Heyer has a character named Felix, who is a 12-year-old boy. He’s bright and enthusiastic and he just lights up the whole book. And then I realized that some of those qualities would work well for Danny and it solved a huge problem for me.



Share a favorite childhood memory with us.

Gladly. On the right sidebar of the Katie & Kimble blog, have written three funny stories about my childhood: one from age 7, one from age 8, and one from age 9. When I was 8, we got a piano for the first time, and I always loved to play songs a little bit differently from how they were written. I relate one story about a joke my dad and I played on my aunt that year. But, since then, any piano just attracts me like a magnet. One Christmas season when I was 14, my mom, my sister and I walked into this nice department store. There, right in the middle of the floor, was a big grand piano! My mom and sister walked away to do their shopping, but I could not move from that piano. There was a very nice young man playing Christmas songs there, and at that moment, he was playing some kind of jazzed up version of Jolly Old St. Nicolas—just my cup of tea! So I waited until he was done with the song and then I asked him if he was playing that as written or if he had improvised the flourishes himself. He told me that he was playing it as written and showed me the little book of sheet music he was using. I memorized the cover and before long, I was at home, at my own piano, playing Jolly Old St. Nicolas to my heart’s content. It was, by far, the best arrangement in the book. That was a beautiful experience.

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Linda Thieman has a master’s degree in applied linguistics and is a former English language teacher who has created a set of reading skills activity packets and classroom materials that teachers and homeschoolers can download free of charge from the Katie & Kimble blog. These materials are guided by the national standards set for third grade reading and language skills. Linda lives in Sioux City, Iowa .

Jan 28, 2009

Inside The Writer’s Studio – The Working Author

Last week we were once again given a peek Inside the Writer's Studio. Author Tina Ferraro shared a picture of her writing space which is in the corner of her family room.

It has been fun getting to know Tina over the past month, and knowing her really helps me to see how much of her personality shows in her creative space. Tina agrees! She told me, “It's basically organized chaos, which rather describes my brain, as well!”

The amazing thing about Tina’s writing space is that it shows the life of a working author. To be a successful author you generally have to do a lot more than just write. We can see in Tina’s space all the things she is doing besides writing. She said, “You can kinda tell I'm in promo mode for my new book, huh?” and that is exactly what is so compelling about this space. A day in the life of the writer is more than lattes and laptops. Tina’ shows a real slice of life into being a true author.
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So what’s the first step in book promotion? Building a shrine to yourself.

(Anyone shocked that Devyn thought this was a great idea?) So, actually, it turns out that isn’t a shrine. But I wanted to bring attention to this element of Tina’s experience as an author. She told me she almost took these photos of herself down and I am so happy she didn’t. Being an author is about more than just what picture you like the best of yourself, but also about how everyone else sees you. That is why Tina has these pictures up. She asked every single person walking through her house to vote on them.
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Tina was generous to answer questions that were posed in the comments. I will be sharing the questions and answers throughout the post.

Sarah asked:
“What advice do you have for young people who want to write a book?”
Tina answered:
“To answer your question about advice for young people who want to write a book...it's never too early to start. I was writing short stories as early as 7, and "officially" started my first book (title page with title and author) at 17. None of these early attempts were very good, but I am one of those people who learns more from doing than from studying, and some of the things I picked up back then I still employ in my writing today! Good luck!”

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One of the first things that caught my eye in Tina’s picture was this Bungalow sign. First of all, I just happen to find the word bungalow extremely fascinating and amusing, but secondly what exactly is it doing there over the desk? I wasn’t the only one to wonder this.
Chelsea asked a question about the sign as well. And Tina knowing how great minds work had already prepared an answer.

“People might wonder what the "The Bungalow" sign over my computer desk is. It's sentimentality. My mom, who died many years ago, was a literary agent, and shared an office space other individuals and businesses, and a few years ago, this sign was found and given to me. It brings back wonderful memories and inspires me!”

It is interesting to learn that Tina’s mother was a literary agent; clearly the literary blood courses thick in those veins. I really enjoyed reading the story of this sign and found inspiring to myself, so I am sure it is overwhelmingly so to Tina.
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Thao asked:
“Do you write on laptop or on notebooks?”
Tina answered:
“I do have a laptop, but I only use it for traveling. I do absolutely everything on my full-sized computer. Even grocery lists!”

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Tina provided you all with an eye spy list of items to look for in her office.
“You may spot my glasses, hand lotions, comics and newspaper interviews, writing awards, conference badges, notes from my editor, several printers/scanners, books, office supplies, and the box for my new Kindle. And a huge pile of paperwork which has to do with all my local volunteer work...trying to keep it all straight.”

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Devyn asked:
”Do you write your book in order, or do you write the part of the story that sounds most interesting at the current time?”
Tina answered:
”Lots of writers jump around inside a story, but I am a beginning-to-end writer. I am "living" the story with “my main character, and although I have wisdom that she doesn't have (for the most part, I know what's going to happen next), we BOTH get surprises along the way, and that's part of the fun.
For instance, in THE ABC'S OF KISSING BOYS, there's a scene out by a lake where main character Parker and her neighbor, Tristan, are "practicing kissing." I knew someone would interrupt them, but was totally surprised by how Tristan reacted. Impressed, even. Sounds weird, but it's part of the fun for me, and I think it shows in my writing.”

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Shooting Stars Mag asked:
”What song would you pick to go with The ABC's of Kissing Boys?”
Tina answered:
"Hall and Oates, YOUR KISS IS ON MY LIST"

Jan 27, 2009

Trailer Tuesday – Nineteen Minutes

 

Nineteen Minutes is Jodi Picoult’s 14th novel.  Jodi is a best selling author possibly best know for the emotional roller coaster she takes her readers on.  Jodi even talks about this in the trailer itself.  Is this trailer from an established and best selling author different from others we have seen? What do you like about it?

While the trailer is narrated by the author herself you do not get the same peek into life as was saw in The Professors' Wives' Club trailer.  Do you like this approach better or worse?  Are there any weaknesses in this book trailer? Does it make you want to read the book?

Jan 26, 2009

Mailbox Monday

This past week brought a lot of joy to my mailbox.  Well, really, I don’t think my mailbox has feelings and I was the one filled with joy.  I got a grand total of 4 books.  Yes, count them, 4!!

Today’s book was the most exciting. You want to know why? (And this will come as no surprise to you…) It used to word “awesome” in reference to ME!!!



“To Megan -

(who is
awesome!)

xoxo

Tina Ferraro”


And what book does this amazing personalized autograph adorn? Why none other than The ABC's of Kissing Boys. You may have noticed Tina’s name popping up on the blog a few times this month.  And I am sure this has absolutely nothing to do with why she adores me.  Rather she sees my inner awesome as it permeates through to interwebs into the cockles of her heart.

If you would like to learn more about this amazing young adult author please check out the profile I did on her or take a peek Inside The Writer’s Studio.  The follow-up post with answers to all your questions will be up on Wednesday so be sure to come back and check it out.

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I was fortunate enough to win two contests and the books for those have arrived.

The first contest was hosted by author Ann Aguirre.  She recently read and fell in love with The Eye of Night and offered up 10 copies of it on her blog to host a book club with.  I am absolutely thrilled that I won a copy.  In part because I love book clubs and talking about books and also because it is a fantasy novel which I usually struggle with.  It will be great to have an excuse to read it.  There is one thing I am worried about…  The invoice said one date, the box said 2 day shipping and I got the book almost 20 days after the date on the invoice.  That is a major chunk of reading time and I hope I will be able to finish the book in time.  If you enjoy fantasy Ann highly recommends this novel so consider picking it up and joining us for the club meeting. (I don’t know the details yet, but look for updates or contact Ann directly!)

The other book I won was from author Catherine Ryan Hyde.  She held in contest in which you shared ways you would promote her book Becoming Chloe and I assured her I would be more than happy to talk about it on my blog.  This is not the only time you will be seeing the cover;  I feel strongly about living up to my end of the bargain.  I know what you are thinking though… You think you have never heard of Catherine Ryan Hyde, but I bet you have heard of Pay It Forward .  Catherine wrote the book that inspired the movie.  Pay It Forward was an adult novel with major cross over success.  Becoming Chloe is Catherine’s first fully intended young adult novel and she is extremely proud of it.  I will be donating it, and a few other Hyde titles, to the library when I am done with it.

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The final book I am going to talk about is actually the first one I received.  Wayne M. Roseberry contacted me to review Millicent Marbleroller and the House of the Toymaker. The title itself caught my attention and middle grade books are where my highest passion is.  When it arrived there was something I loved about the cover the moment I saw it.  I cannot wait to dive right into it, but I am reading way too many books right now that need to get finished.  I have even picked this up a few times trying to read it.  But I know I have to put it off for another week.

I could only find a little tiny thumbnail of the actual book cover, but this is the cover illustration done by the author himself.  If it is catching your eye too, I have good news for you.  Wayne is still looking for a limited number of bloggers to review his book.  Please email him, (wayne_roseberry @ hotmail.com) stating why you are interested in reading his book and providing a link to where you intend to review it. If you have any problems contacting him, feel free to email me and I will pass the message on.

Jan 25, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Epistolic

"An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic "documents", such as blogs and e-mails have also come into use. The word epistolary comes from the Latin word epistola, meaning a letter." - Wikipedia

The Sunday Salon.com

I have been reading two epistolary novels and have more sitting on my shelf. There is an interesting way in which the story unfolds through letter, a sort of slowness. Wikipedia suggest that this form can add a realism to the storytelling. I think part of that realism comes in the delay of information between letters, while writing one and not knowing what is happening on the receiving end at the moment it is being written. There is a level of spontaneity in a lot of the letter form novels I have read. Even though this might connect to the reality of life, I am not sure it totally reflects the reality of letter writing. In the epistolary novel a story much be arced through the book. With natural letter writing would this naturally occur? What about the normal blather about the weather? There seems to be a truth that always finds itself being sent between parties in a novel when it would just end up crumpled up in the bottom of the trash bin in real life. Why is it exactly that an epistolary novel has always held my interest? Is it simply the realist? The slice of life?

The Year of Secret Assignments
is a epistolary novel embracing most of the elements outlined in the Wikipedia entry which adds a lot of depth (and occasional confusion) to the novel. The Year of Secret Assignments is a young adult Australian novel written by Jaclyn Moriarty about a pen pal exchange between two rival schools. The Australian title of the book is Finding Cassie Crazy, and I must say I like the American title quite a bit more. I find the title unbelievably appealing in it's own right, and when I found out the story was about pen pals, I knew I had to read it. I lucked out when I found it at the library and promptly checked it out. And then it sat around my house for a few weeks until this weekend. I read it in about 3 days and not picking up another book in the meantime. If you know anything about me, that says quite a bit for how good this book is.

The teacher who assigns the pen pal assignment says the following, "...it will be out stand against the tyranny of technology! By sending letters, we say not to e-mails! No to mobile technology and texting!! And yes to the Joy of the Envelope!" And while this is recalled in a mocking way by one of the students there is very much truth in this statement. All over we hear of the death of letters, and even the future death of all print media. Think of all the ways technology has changed the way we communicate in the past 100 years. Maybe, in part, my draw to books written in letter form has to do with my own desire for a pen pal growing up, and now as a lament for the lack for the need of one that technology brings along with it.

The other novel I have just barely started but a friend recommended it to me a while ago and I was totally bummed out when the library didn't have it. But last week I found it at a thrift store. Which is totally validating for me. And also feeding my incessant urge to go book stopping. And actually that second part is kind of bad. Anyway it is called Ella Minnow Pea. And that is a totally cute book title.

Do you get it? LMNOP? I have only read a few pages. (Yes, you caught me, I didn't read The Year of Secret all the way through. Once when I was in the bathroom I had Ella Minnow Pea sitting on the counter and I picked it up and read a few pages. And I know you are wishing you hadn't caught me, cause you so didn't want to know that.) But my point is, in those few pages I could tell it would be a really fun read. I am looking forward to reading it soon/next.

What are some epistolary novels you have read or want to read?

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