Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson interview on The Brown Bookshelf

My friend Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (dedicated librarian, brilliant writer, twice a Newbery committee member) is featured in this lovely interview on The Brown Bookshelf.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

And thank you, Jill Corcoran

For those of us who are worrying about what this uncertain economy may mean for books and writing, Jill Corcoran has compiled links to opinion from a wide range of industry sources. For those still in despair from the recent Harper's Magazine article on the dismal future of publishing, here's what Ursula Le Guin said on the subject of the alleged decline of reading.

People First

Truth. Stories are always about people, however we represent them. Without characters, in whatever ways we choose to draw them, there is no story.

Here's another truth. You have only one mind to work with--yours. Every emotion, every action, every snippet of dialogue is filtered through one set of experiences--yours. Why not use that consciously to create characters that resonate?

During a recent online class discussion on developing characters, I remembered this exercise:

1. Take a sheet of paper. Write down three characteristics of someone you think of as heroic.
2. Now write down their opposites. So you will have 3 strengths, heroic qualities if you will, and 3 weaknesses.
3. Now take one of those weaknesses and give them to your protagonist. Is any of those weaknesses yours? That's the one to use. Then you will have its opposite to shoot for as the emotional space into which she can grow to.

Writing fully rounded characters who also happen to be children or teenagers calls for us to channel our inner youth in a way that no other kind of writing does. We have to be close enough to childhood wants, desires, traumas, fears to give them to our young characters. But the operative word here is "give." You can't let real truth stand in the way of emotional truth. You can't hang onto the people or places who inspired your story.

And then there's another truth. The language you have at your command is not an eight-year-old's. It can't be. No 8 year old would read a story, if it were simply a transcription of reality. So you have to cultivate voices that are believable, but fictional. Experience, age, and an expanded vocabulary all give you story insights beyond that of your character. Use them as tools for building sympathy and empathy. Sometimes, reality is overrated. It's why we have fiction.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Book Trailer for Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Sequel to the polished and macabre Tantalize, Eternal releases February 10, 2009 from Candlewick Press.

[UK] What made you go from picture books to culturally grounded middle grade and tween books, to urban vampire fantasy? Just how many Cyns are there in your head?

[CLS] I started by taking the age-old advice. Write what you know. For me, that meant stories of diverse middle class families in the mid-to-southwest. Daily life stories, some of which were connected to my Native heritage, and all of which were set in today's world. From there, I knew I'd want to continue writing Native stories, but it also was time to stretch my writing skills. So, I began writing the kind of books I loved to read as a teen--spooky ones. Beyond that, the possibilities opened up. My next picture book is an original tall tale, which I can only blame on the influence of authors Kathi Appelt, Anne Bustard, and far too much country music. There's a lot of talk now about branding, but I fret the idea of writers closing themselves off to possibilities. Embarking on a diversity of projects shows strength, adaptability, and builds transferable skills. It's also fun. As for how many Cyns? I could use one more to handle the housework!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Shelley Tanaka and Rita Williams-Garcia, stars both

Vermont College faculty books shine. Shelley Tanaka's Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator wins NCTE's Orbis Pictus Award!

And a starred review in PW for Rita Williams- Garcia's Jumped! Read an interview with Rita at Through the Tollbooth, and an earlier interview on The Brown Book Shelf